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I awaken, the shift happening in the near mana apparent even while I slumber.

The rustling of my emerald leaves and the deep creaking of my old brown trunk stir my surroundings. Small critters tremble and scamper into their burrows and lairs. Millions of different colored birds take flight in a panic, feathers falling everywhere. Hunters and prey are terrorized as my powerful presence races with the wind, declaring me alert.

They feel me conscious for the first time; their lives so brief most were not even born yet when I went dormant. Only the older guardians recognize me, dipping in respect.

My true children pulse in joy. Trees, Treants, Dryads, and other nature creatures welcoming me into the waking world. Life mana swirls and hops around and inside me, more energetic and lively than before since I am conscious. I reach out, content to spend this last moment with them.

I would have stayed inert for a few more decades if not for what I felt coming. However, I desire to see what will unfold. To witness our end.

My magical senses extend for hundreds of kilometers in every direction, taking in my birthplace and home.

I reach inside myself while I wait, something I do every time I awaken from a long slumber.

Aaravum The Immortal

Species: Verdant Elder Tree - Legendary

Age: 1002 years

Titles: Expand!

Traits: Expand!

...

Requirements met! Evolution Available! Begin?

My displayed title changed as I reached my thousands while I slept.

Immortal. Ironic. I don't even check the Title description. I know a single Title could never help with what is coming.

I sigh as I notice the last line, the creaking sound echoing for kilometers. No matter my age, I'm still a fool. For a few moments, I allowed hope to surge within my core even if I perfectly know it is a false dream. I push my will on it anyway, merely to crush that hopeful part of myself.

Requirements Met. Starting Process.

I feel something transcendent grip my core before letting go.

Accumulated Mana Insufficient. Process Suspended.

I'm so close I can almost taste it with my roots. If only I had a few more decades to absorb mana. Not that it would matter. Another evolution would not save me from what is coming. Everything will burn, especially us.

Only ashes and seeds are left in this part of the world after the Azure Scorching. I know that better than anyone else. I was one of those seeds. One of the first to grow here after the last fires a thousand years ago. I was simply lucky to sprout when I did, some years after the fires. My siblings all withered away before I took my first sunlight.

I quickly close my status without checking anything else, knowing I tend to lose my sense of time while I ponder. My trunk deeply groans as I understand I lost myself for at least two hours. The amount of fire mana much denser around me now.

It will be here soon.

At last, I utter aloud, my voice creakings and rustlings to be heard, 'Children. The Blue Fire is upon us. Hide and burrow, those who can.'

Life ripples into action as my voice travels in every direction. Each critter instinctively understands my words and tunnels down. Even the small birds disregard their natural advantages and follow the rodents, the underground their only chance. Only we were inevitably doomed from the start, unable to move and hide. My true children sing together in sorrow.

I concentrate my senses on the Northern part of the woodlands. My sight different from a mortal one, unable to see over my boundary.

I can only wait. Powerless.

It's hard for me to stay here, in the present. My awareness is already skipping small moments, already inviting me to sleep. I resist the urge as I feel the waves and waves of fire and destruction mana reach my senses. How many will burn in the North before the fire will overtake me? How much will burn after passing us?

I almost lose myself in my thoughts when I see it for a single second, a rushing tide of azure bright fire coming for us, invading and searing even my ethereal and magical senses.

I go blind everywhere it passes, my last visions of trees and creatures that did not or could not take shelter withering instantly. Only those powerful enough can resist slightly more, just to suffer for longer.

It moves much quicker than a common or magical fire. And I mourn as it reaches what I acknowledge as my territory, my woods. This closer, I witness how it burns life mana, growing stronger for it. How it uses my children to blaze hotter.

That view snaps something inside myself.

How dare you?

I roar in rage for the first time in my life. Hundreds of years of resentment and fears kindled by those flames.

Pain invades my thoughts as the fires reach my distant exposed roots. My children around me are consumed in seconds, leaving behind pure life mana that the tide of blue fire swallows greedily.

I fight it with everything I have as it burns my trunk, taking the life mana away from its jaws. I forcibly absorb it myself to not allow it to use it, something I would have never done in any other circumstance. For us, the highest corruption to kill and devour someone else's life mana just to grow stronger. And at that moment, I understand there is a dormant will behind the blue fire. Limited, unfocused, not really alert, but it is there.

I oppose it with everything I have.

This is not a natural event. Something, someone originates this event every time it happens. Hot fury burns through me as I reach that conclusion, the blue fire solely adding to it.

I lose myself in the struggle, life mana and fire my only thoughts as my leaves wither, as my branches burn, as my roots die. The will behind the azure fire slightly stirs as I hold on, the flames only growing hotter and hotter around me, seeking my heart.

I cannot do anything else.

I keep struggling in furious hate as everything withers in my surroundings, releasing more and more life-attuned mana, the lifeblood of my now deceased children.

In a few minutes, my awareness starts to waver. I'm so tired, insidious thoughts of surrender sprout inside my mind. For what I'm fighting for anyway? Everything is dead around me. I am the only one left alive.

I'm about to give up and let death take me when something overflows inside my core, and I instantly reach for that part of myself, starting my evolution again, knowing this time it will succeed. This is only possible thanks to all the life mana I absorbed from the cerulean fire. My children's own life.

Yet, I understand I will die anyway. I'm only a scarred trunk now, my bark is scorched away, and the fire is still seeking my life mana. Not even an evolution can save me from the flames burning me. I'm just doing this out of spite, to not leave this precious mana to the fires to swallow. Wasting it to develop myself before I die, to reach what I have longed for centuries.

Requirements Met. Starting Process. Accumulated Mana Sufficient. Supporting Awareness. Reaching for Akashic Records.

Everything goes black as my consciousness is snapped inside my essence.

 


 

I awaken in the darkness. I am much more here. Everything is much clearer, and thinking is much easier.

I know not even a second will pass outside, no matter how much time I spend here. However, I will not remember anything; I can't plan or speculate. And only pain and death will await me when I decide.

I reach for my options, not willing to mourn my children when I know I will forget even doing it.

Choose your Evolution!

Please determine your future wisely! You have met the requirements for:

Lateral Evolution - Scorched Elder Tree (Legendary): Elder Trees are the living soul of every true magical grove. Gifted with everlasting life, incredible regeneration, and mighty defenses, those immense trees do not grow older or weaker. Time can only offer them more strength. If directly matched against other legendary beings, their magical and physical prowess in battle is lacking. However, they compensate for that flaw with their incredible aura of life and growth. Within their proximity, they stimulate the development of others around them, plants and creatures alike, and beckon powerful and faithful protectors.

This variant is slightly more resistant to flames, and its aura is slanted to enchant and beckon fire-attuned creatures.

Useless.

I quickly skim over the tens of other Lateral or even Descendant evolutions, knowing nothing will be able to help me against that flame, not even a fire variant of my current life-attuned species. Almost at the end, I reach something. And I see what I was looking forward to for centuries, yet, absolutely different.

Upward and Lateral Evolution - Corrupted Father Tree (Mythic): Father Trees are incredible beings, viewed as sacred every time they arise. Very few mythical creatures can generate mana, yet, Father Trees are among those rare few. Springs of life mana and growth, these gargantuan trees are often perceived and sometimes even worshiped as life itself. As they are the direct evolution of Elder Trees, they possess every talent those have and much more. They are capable of growing endlessly and support huge magical woodlands with just their presence. Their trunks are nigh impenetrable and invulnerable to any common magic. They can use their sorcery to subtly influence their surroundings, manipulating the flows of mana and terrain.

Yet, this variant goes in the opposite direction of everything a regular Father Tree stands for. Losing the ability to generate mana, Corrupted Father Trees specialize in the absorption of others' life and mana instead. These powerful beings leave only devastation and death in their surroundings, their mind twisted and warped by the single desire for more life. As they grow stronger, they can awaken and dominate those they suck dry, husks manipulated to gather mana the Father cannot reach with its twisted roots.

What?

This makes absolutely no sense! Where is the standard evolution as a Father Tree? Variants are always after the standard ones, not before. If I have this...abomination, the standard one should be available as well.

There is no way the Akashic Records concluded I was unfit for it. Even if I absorbed life mana, it was from the fire, not from a living being. I didn't wantonly kill anything to devour their life. Every Wizard and Sage I met in the centuries told me intentions are extremely important in evolutions and class upgrades. My experience told me the same. The standard alternative should be here!

I send my will to the Records, requesting the requirements list of a standard Father Tree. I don't know if I did this the other times I was here. I never could remember what happened during the various evolutions.

I skim over the tens of requirements I already met, looking for what I lack.

...

While you evolve, have at least fifty kilometers overflowing with life related to you in every direction.

...

Why, why that damned fire had to take even this for me? It already took everything else. I just yearned to become a Father Tree before my death, nothing else.

Damn it...

After some time, I admit defeat, lost, knowing death is inevitable. I will select the Scorched Elder Variant. I will not die as a Corrupted being.

I have to check at least once every option, and fortunately, I instinctively understand I have only a few left. For me, after Mythic, there are only Uniques, and I know they are almost always a trap. Taking that option would mean losing everything I have accumulated for thousand years, making me even weaker than I'm right now. And if I have to die anyway, I want to die as I was born, as a tree.

It would also mean losing the ability to Evolve with the Records help, searching for growth only with Traits, Titles, and the new species way. A wizard begging for one of my leaves once told me that Unique beings are not truly unique, but cannot follow another's path, and they have to develop their own.

I will the list of requirements for the Father Tree away and start going through what is left. I almost skim through all the useless options like Beautiful Sapling or Persistent Vine when two strange options make me stop. My consciousness only recognizing the opportunity because I am in this place where my thoughts are supported.

Leap Evolution - Dungeon Core (Unique): Dungeon Cores are truly peculiar beings. Not alive, nor dead, nothing in existence is similar to those little gems. Not even golems, which may look related, have anything in common with them. Dungeon Cores are sapient jewels able to produce and manipulate mana, modify their surroundings in incredible ways, and even create life and unlife itself. However, they are fragile, cannot move on their own, and cannot use magic on their own. Dungeon Cores are crucial to every single planet in the universe. They boost the density of mana in their surroundings. They operate as repopulators when a magical or mundane catastrophe occurs, whether it is local or planet-wide. And are the primary source of new paths of evolutions inside the Akashic Records.

Leap and Lateral Evolution - Viridescent Dungeon Core (Unique)- A leaf amongst thousands: ...Variants of a conventional Dungeon Core do not grant additional strength or potential as variants for other species do. Instead, they trade strength or potential for special Traits. This specific variant permanently loses the potential to generate, absorb, and manipulate chaos, corruption, and destruction mana. For this sacrifice, it gains a hidden and passive Trait: A leaf amongst thousands.

I will the description of the trait up.

A leaf amongst thousands: The reality domain of the dungeon is undetectable, and its main body is shrouded until every single dungeon creature of Common or higher grade is slain. The shroud shields the core and dungeon itself from every investigation method, magical or mundane.

I have heard of dungeons in my long life. And perhaps indirectly assisted in destroying some of them too. Sometimes, a hero or powerful wizard reached my domain, asking for boons in exchange for knowledge or aid, and I usually allowed those barters. Perhaps some of them were used to slay a dungeon or two. Even now, knowing they are not truly evil, I don't regret it. In the end, that traded knowledge, and this clearness of mind, are giving me a chance. A chance to survive in a way or another, a chance to find a way to keep at bay the next blue tide, and maybe a chance to gain revenge.

I have no idea why I can choose to be a dungeon core, and knowing I will forget, I do not even look at the requirements. Instead, I think deeply, trying to remember everything I have learned about dungeon cores and the fires in those scant few seconds. The flames seek life like wolves seek a bleeding elk. And the description says dungeon cores are not alive, not really.

I would probably die anyway if I was another creature like a bird or mouse, but an Elder Tree is its heart, not its trunk or roots. My heart is where all my magic and essence are, the only part of myself that will evolve. My trunk is not gone yet, and it will protect me until the fire goes away, having lost its prey.

This should work. And it's not like I have any other option; I have to try. Survival is all that matters.

I quickly check for any other evolution, but all of them are alive, beacons for the fire seeking to burn me.

In the end, the only thing left to decide is between the two alternatives, and I have no reason to think about it twice. I don't like those types of mana anyway, and a Trait is always good to have.

A Leap evolution will reset Name, Age, Titles, and Traits. As a radically different species, your instincts and mentality will be adjusted to fit your new role within the ecosystem. As a Unique Species, you will lose the chance to Evolve again.

This decision is irreversible. Begin?

Yes.

Congratulations! You have chosen your new existence: Viridescent Dungeon Core (Unique)- A leaf amongst thousands!

I feel myself being sucked out, and everything goes black.

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A note from BlurryDreams

Hello lovely people! If you have any comments, advice, or criticism, do not hesitate to let me know. Everything is appreciated.

I am going to say this from the beginning to avoid confusion. I want this story to be focused on the dungeon and its creatures, with sprinkles of world-building and invaders later. This will most likely be a classic core story.

I should be able to guarantee 2 chapters in a week, and I will decide later on which day. Maybe I can do a poll and let you people choose? We will see. 

Have a pleasant day!


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BlurryDreams

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Bio: In my dreams I found a little of the beauty I had vainly sought in life, and wandered through old gardens and enchanted woods. - Ex Oblivione, H. P. Lovecraft

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