Chapter 316: Somewhere Else (7)
According to her map, she should have come across Epsilon already, but she kept traveling through an almost primeval-looking landscape filled with all kinds of giant and lately mutated seeming beasts and lizards.
At first, they had simply strong bodies and some had poisons but now more and more often they showed magical and mystical abilities that made her fights harder and harder.
She still had not found where the flying person had come from and the doubts in her kept growing. Had she lost her way? She had been sure of her way before, but if she had not made any mistakes, she should have reached Epsilon by now.
Deciding to trust her navigator skills she thought of other possibilities.
There was another possibility. Looking at the surroundings it seemed like she had entered a different world. Maybe she did somehow stumble through a portal?
Either that or someone had stolen a whole district? She had heard about how the empire was able to shift a Starta Village to Urth. Had somebody maybe shifted Epsilon to a different world and left this unfamiliar piece of land in its stead?
The Rakshasa decided to continue for a few more days in this direction and if she found nothing she would turn around and journey to the west.
Pip had shown great talent in the Seven Serras and quickly mastered the seven games.
Today was her big day. She was going to become an apprentice of Karina today. Wearing a new robe, she walked up the path toward the great tree that protected their little world.
She had seen this ceremony a few times ever since she had come to Karinas Grove. The happiness of finally wearing the robe of an apprentice was overwhelming, The Dryad herself had given the robe to her. The fabric was incredibly soft and looked like a blanket of green and white leaves.
Once she entered the great hall and completed the ceremony, she would enter a true connection with nature and be able to learn magic like the other apprentices.
Pip walked through an alley by already established apprentices whom all greeted her with smiles. They all knew each other in their small community. She entered the hall, which was a circular room in the trunk of Karinas Tree.
She entered through a gate at the foot of the tree. In the middle of the tree hole was a great basin filled with transparent green liquid. Karina already waited for her in the middle of the pond. The dryad waved her closer with a welcoming, motherly smile.
The girl slowly descended the steps into the emerald waters and walked over. The warm liquid rose up along her legs all the way to her shoulders and drenched the new robe. She reached for the dryads stretched-out hands. Karina embraced her in a tight hug.
“The ceremony will now begin. I will submerge your head. Take a deep breath and try to hold it for as long as you can, okay?”
The girl nodded and took a deep breath before she descended into the depths. It didnt feel like she had just entered a pool of water. She was suddenly surrounded by a deep emptiness. As if she was floating just above the ocean floor.
Fortunately, it didnt say empty, or she would have become scared. A familiar warmth approached her cautiously. A presence she knew from the Seven Serras. Something she touched upon every time she spoke one of the spells.
She felt a deep connection with nature. She felt Karinas great tree and the meadows below it. Her mind reached further to the thick jungles outside and even further where … a dark entity was gnawing away at the light of life. A corruption.
Coughing and gasping for air she surfaced again.
“T-The darkness! I saw-!”
“Psh, its okay. The darkness is locked up in a faraway place dont worry.”
“But! But-” She cried with tears streaming down her face. She had felt the pain of the plants that were swallowed and corrupted by whatever the darkness was. Their howls of pain in the darkness.
Karina looked at the girl in surprise.
“Its okay. It is something far away and will never be able to hurt you. Stay calm now.” she kept stroking her head in her embrace. Her other hand held her wrist as all the green pigment in the pool suddenly rushed towards Pip.
Where Karina was holding her wrist appeared a green mark, like the tattoo of a vibrant flower. Every apprentice had a different tattoo which would grow as their connection with nature grew.
With this, her ceremony was finished and Pip could continue to become a witch of nature.
“Go, Pip. Come back tomorrow for your first lesson.”
“But what about the-“
“Tomorrow, my child.”
“…Okay!” the girls said with a smile and left.
Pip left the tree confused but was soon distracted by the feast they held to celebrate her inauguration. She didnt want to talk about what she saw and used to chance to distract herself.
It wasnt every day that they could eat so much as during the celebrations for new apprentices. She decided to trust her Master and wait until tomorrow.
The next day in the morning she arrived to her private lessons with the dryad. Every apprentice was personally guided by the Dryad as their connections to nature were all unique. What magic to learn and how to strengthen their bond all depended on the aptitude and goals of the apprentice.
Karina had a small abode grown from roots and leaves at the foot of the tree where people could find her for lessons or to ask for advice. The girl bowed to her master when she entered the small hut.
“Hello, Pip. You are quite early for your first lesson.” she greeted her apprentice.
“I was too excited for today. And also I…” Pip didnt know how to continue.
“You were worried about what you saw?”
“You should be. It is a terrible danger, but you do not need to worry. All apprentices have seen this horror, but there is nothing to be afraid of. Ever since I have awoken as the spirit of the tree, the corruption was locked by a strong divine power.
The darkness can never tough you here.”
The young girl smiled relieved when she heard the dryad assure her.
“So, have you already decided on the direction of your path, Pip?” Karina asked
“Ah, yes! I would like to focus on Growth and Control.” the girl said a little embarrassed.
The dryad looked at her little confused.
“You never struck me as the type to seek battle or become a builder?”
Pip blushed a little as her reason was only partly that she wanted to be able to protect herself.
“I-Its the superpower of one of my favorite comic book characters,” she admitted fiddling with her fingers.
“What?” the dryad looked at her questioning. Obviously, she didnt know what a comic book was.
“Errm, like a role model from a fairy tale?” the young girl somehow tried to explain.
“Oh, I see. Well, lets see if you have the aptitude.”
Karina took a looked at her mark.
“A bittersweet vine? You might be more suited for the path you chose than you thought, Pip.” the dryad smiled at the girls cheering.
The days to come were filled with training. She would often sit for hours to meditate and deepen her bond to the plants around her. Through her mark, she was able to communicate with nature and she needed to learn the will and preferences.
It was the first step of Grow and Control. As her own mark was the bittersweet, she started off with similar creepers and climbers. She needed to know the plants needed and wishes to grow them. Once she could grow it, came how to “control” it.
The practice was less forcing ones will onto another and more like coaxing a friend to do you a favor. It was very similar to the Seven Serras. Never were they to harm or force anything.
Pips talent that showed in the games also came through in this practice. She was soon able to grow and control vines and she happily kept training it while taking cool poses and calling out names.
It was the first time she heard the systems voice and just a second later her face was bright red.
She had made sure nobody was around to see her, but she was still being watched?! She wanted to just die then and there out of embarrassment. It was only after she calmed down a little, that she realized how great the title actually was.
If one ignored the actual title.
She was in a great mood just before her world started crumbling again. The bell called everyone to assemble. When she ran back a big crowd of everyone currently living in Karinas Grove was already waiting.
Pip arrived just in time to hear the word that ended her happiness.
“All of you have to leave as quickly as possible!” the dryad exclaimed.
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