Distracting myself from the fact that I did indeed have a cult of ninjas worshipping me, I once again returned my attention to the war, curious to see how things were progressing. And again, I had time speed up drastically, watching them scurry around the plains like a long montage. Even after another five years passed, they had not returned to the forest.
However, by the end of that five years, they had apparently scouted as much as they had hoped to. Perhaps if they had split up and all gone off on their own, that period of time would have been enough to scout out the entirety of the plains, but they had to stop before even getting halfway done. As for the reason why…
“They got homesick.” Aurivy spoke up, once again acting as Terra’s hug pillow, though she sported a wry smile on her face. I couldn’t help but notice a faint giggle as she seemed to think about it. “Even if they are a traveling people, they’ve gone five years without any contact, trapped in hostile territory. I guess the stress was just too much for them.”
I could only nod my head slightly at that. I really did not know how much the halflings had planned to scope out. Simply telling them to investigate the entire area that the centaurs occupied without knowing how large of an area that was would be an assignment that could easily last for generations. Looking at Aurivy, I expressed that concern, earning me another laugh from the young goddess.
“They were simply told to map as much as they could before returning. They weren’t really given a time limit, though… Anyways, if they took too much longer, then it is possible that their mission would be entirely forgotten by the people that sent them there in the first place.” She explained, shrugging her shoulders.
I nodded my head slightly at that, before turning to Terra. “By the way, there was something that I wanted to ask you before.” I saw the catgirl’s ears twitch, though she kept her eyes closed. “With your incarnations, what are you able to do? I imagine that there must be rules or something, right? Surely, you wouldn’t be unable to tell me information, but could still act on it with your incarnation.”
There was a small whining purr from Terra as she heard that, before one of her eyes opened up. “Yeah… that’s why I can only handle two at once…” She admitted. “I have to devote extra effort to sealing a portion of my mind that handles the advanced information in the incarnations… I can’t even do as much with that system as the others can.”
Seeing me look at her curiously, she cuddled up to Aurivy a bit closer, nuzzling her head into the top of the halfling goddess’s. “I can’t act on any information unknown to the world and its inhabitants, unless you give me specific directions to do so. Of course, that means you would also have to know that information to give me those directions. That’s why my incarnation is able to play a part in the war, because you are directing it through me.”
Saying that much, her lips pouted cutely. “The others can all use their own knowledge to advance various fields, but me who knows all of the necessary information can only do so much.”
I couldn’t help myself but chuckle at that thought. “And let me guess, the first thing you taught the ninja village was about elemental ki, and ki paths?”
Terra’s eyes opened wide for a brief moment, before slowly closing again. “Nuh uh… they actually started to figure out elemental ki before I was old enough to reasonably help, but abandoned the research for it because it interfered with their ability to create chakra. As for ki paths… I considered it. Maybe after they advance a bit further in their chakra research, so I don’t distract them. I like the direction they are going in.” She spoke with a content smile, her eyes fully closing.
Now, that was a small tidbit of information I found interesting, and very relevant for me. “You can’t make chakra with elemental ki?” I asked doubtfully. It should be possible, right?
Terra smiled a bit more, her eyes still closed. “Not the same kind of chakra, at least. Once you add elemental energy to ki, the balance becomes wrong. It’s like trying to make the same dish with a big extra ingredient. For you personally, it won’t be much of an issue. You can rely on your Keeper abilities to either give yourself a body with normal ki, or take normal ki from your Keeper reserves when needed. But for a normal person, once they become an elemental monk, they can’t easily become a ninja.”
I nodded my head slightly as I considered that. It did make sense. “Is it possible to have both normal ki and elemental ki, without having to manually replenish it? For a normal person, I mean.”
When I asked that, Terra’s face became… unusual. She knit her brows together, as if she was deep in thought, and frowned slightly. She opened her mouth to speak, but then abruptly closed it before speaking in a somewhat bitter tone. “I… can’t tell you how. I’m able to tell you that it is possible, because even saying that I can’t tell you confirms that. But, your world hasn’t gotten close enough to that answer for me to help you with it.” She explained reluctantly, an apologetic smile on her face.
I let out a relieved sigh hearing that it was possible. Eventually, I would want to be able to use my ninja class without relying on my Keeper reserves. After all, accessing those reserves causes a rather unpleasant situation where everyone immediately feels my power. I’d rather not have that happen when it is possible to avoid. “Thanks.”
I turned my head back to the computer screen, and saw that the halflings were still slowly making their way back towards the forest. Although they had spent over five years exploring, they had been exploring in various directions, and were now able to travel in a straight line back to the forest. By my estimate, it would only take them another six months to reach the rest of the halflings again, as long as they were careful not to meet any herds.
My mind briefly flashed back to the little experiment that I just saw with the ninja clan, and I once again turned to look at Aurivy. The little goddess looked at me curiously, noticing my gaze on her. “Yes, bro?”
“How’s your dungeon doing? Those slimes probably died a long time ago, right?” A thought had occurred to me when I remembered those slimes.
Aurivy suddenly grinned broadly at my question. “With the dungeon expanding slowly, they were able to get quite a lot of insects and stuff to eat. Although the original two died, it wasn’t before they left descendants. Right now, there are already over a hundred slimes in Danny.”
“Yup! Danny the Dungeon! It’s the name I gave him. Though, with how many slimes there are, they’ve pretty much become the only monster in the dungeon, and will even eat anything else that tries to enter…” She explained proudly.
“Did they ever show any signs of having ki?” The blood of a monster capable of using ki was the key component to chakra storage, so if those slimes could produce ki by now…
“Yup!” She declared again. “About three generations after you dropped them off, I noticed their acidic properties had gotten stronger. Worried that it might have been a mutation, I did a bit of checking, but found that it was because they had ki flowing through their bodies. It was enhancing their slime coating, and thus their acid. That’s how they’ve been able to eat other creatures that wander into the dungeon.”
Note to self, do not underestimate ki-slimes, got it. “Okay… I might need to take one or two of them for testing myself, eventually.” If I could get rid of the acid, then those slimes would make the perfect ink for chakra talismans and things like that in the future. There might even be other uses for them.
Aurivy nodded happily at my request, and I turned back to once again look at the screen. Since things were going a bit too slow still, I increased the speed further. Now, it was only a few more minutes until they reached the edge of the forest, and I reduced it to the normal accelerated rate.
Within Shara’s Forest, as the halflings came to call it, sat the first true halfling city of Sharak. Although Savir had been a kingdom, but it had still been built mostly in the style of a Rest. With Sharak, they made it bigger, safer, and able to hold vastly more people. But even so, an unusually large crowd was beginning to gather within the dirt paths of the city.
Earlier in the day, the scouts reported a large group of halflings had entered the forest from the enemy territory. Deciding to give them a name, the halflings called them the charun, named after a vaguely similar creature to the north. The charune was a large scaled lizard that ran around on four legs, but had the upper body of a scaler. Take away the scales, and replace the lower body with that of a horse, and the charun strongly resembled the charune.
Habak, the village chief, was the first to greet the scouts as they entered the village. “Welcome, welcome. It has been many seasons since we last laid eyes on you.” He spoke warmly to the Probing Fingers. In all truth, some had even thought that these scouts had long since perished within the charun territory. Habak himself had been concerned, and often wondered if that had been the case.
“Many thanks, brother.” The appointed leader of the Probing Fingers, Jalvak, answered. “It was a long journey, but we kept our wits about us.” From the appearance of the scouts, there were almost no injuries. And those that were injured had only been so by monsters.
Habak nodded his head repeatedly. “Yes, very good. Tell me, how was your mission?” When the village chief asked this, everyone in the vicinity stopped what they were doing to listen. There was a mix of opinions on the next step of this plan, but the vast majority of the halflings had still not forgiven the charun for the events that led to Shara’s Forest receiving its name.
Jalvak smiled in response. “We have scouted a large amount of the charun territory. In it, we managed to find a total of three cities. However, there did not seem to be signs of further settlements south, so we returned. Apart from the cities, there are only the wandering herds.”
The smile on Habak’s face grew three sizes that moment, obviously pleased with the report. “Very good indeed. I’ll send word to the other cities and Rests. Now that you have returned, we can begin our plans for the next step.” After saying that, he ordered one of the nearby halflings to bring him something to write with.
Meanwhile, Jalvak glanced around the surrounding wooden buildings, taking in the scenery. “This place has changed so much since we left.” He said under his breath, catching Habak’s attention, who only smiled slightly.
“No, my friend. I think you have just been away too long.” He joked, shaking his head. “Now, let us spread news of your return.”
“Yep, they are still going through with it.” I said with a sigh, having not really expected anything else. I at least had an idea for what to do, once the situation became grave for the centaurs. However, if I acted too early, then it would have some rather bad results. As such, I could only wait, knowing that the wandering herds would be easy pickings for the organized halflings.
Seeming to understand my thoughts, Aurivy spoke up from the bed behind me. “I tried getting Tryval to move the herds into cities, but most of them didn’t listen when his priests spread the message. According to him, they are the ones who are still set in the ‘old ways’, and saw that message as an attempt for the variants to control them.”
Okay, so the ones in the cities are the ones we actually like. Though, there are probably also those herds that just haven’t happened upon one of the cities to hear that message as well…
“Well, either way, this war isn’t going to last much longer.” I was thankful to that, at least. The centaurs likely considered the war over twenty-five years ago when there was no further signs of activity from the halflings. Little did they know, they provoked some fierce midgets that knew how to hold a grudge.