Reborn as a Demonic Tree
Chapter 304: Roots of the World

Ashlock didn't even have a chance to agree to begin his ascension before multiple-system messages abruptly appeared.

[WARNING: Formation of Inner World and ascension to Nascent Soul Realm will shake the realm. The host is advised to take defensive measures as the process will take a week and there is a recovery time]

[WARNING: Soul damage (32%?) detected. Formation of Inner World is ill-advised due to potential corruption]

[WARNING: Qi reserves at low levels (27%?)]

[Generating solutions...]

Ashlock stared at the system message and let out a long sigh. As the sun crested the horizon and the gentle morning breeze rustled his canopy, he realized he was rushing things and calmed down.

His once-blazing Star Core was a flickering flame as his Qi flowed back into the root network to pay back the offspring he had drained, and his allies were off recovering. The mountain peak was desolate, covered in splatters of dried blood and dissolved human gunk, along with a few piles of corpses, including the Lunarshade Elders, with which he hadn't done anything yet.

Willow was still out of commission, and he was missing two of his strongest Ents. Meanwhile, Titus and Geb were slowly healing as he fed them Qi. Larry was in fighting condition, but Kaida was about as helpful in a fight as the Mudcloaks without his scales.

Ashlock realized that ascending now was almost suicidal. Even if the process took only minutes, there was no way he wouldn't earn the attention of the Blood Lotus Sect's Patriarch Vincent Nightrose, who was apparently strong enough to defend the Blood Lotus Sect until now by himself.

"If I started ascending and he showed up, that would be the end. But I can't hold my ascension off for long, as news of my existence is likely to reach the higher-ups of the Blood Lotus Sect within the next few days." Ashlock cursed his fate and hoped his system could generate some suitable solutions.

[Solutions found:

Activate the skill {Nocturnal Genesis} for three continuous days and nights. Result: Soul Damage reduced to acceptable levels.

Reduce Ethereal Root expansion toward the north and focus on growing down to meet the leyline. Result: Immense Qi regeneration from the leyline]

Ashlock was surprised at how helpful his system was for once. It had even called him 'host' earlier and seemed hellbent on ensuring his ascension went as smoothly as possible. Maybe it was really eager to upgrade?

"Mhm, three days and nights seems rather risky, too, but there's no helping it if the soul damage I incurred while saving Willow will corrupt my Inner World." Ashlock mused, "Meanwhile, reducing my expansion toward the spiritual spring to hit the leyline earlier seems like a good idea. That leaves the problem of defending myself for the next few days and during my ascension."

Ashlock's spiritual gaze drifted to the Lunarshade Elder corpses. Having been stripped of their spotless white robes, which had exuded arrogance and reduced to nothing but a pile of hairless men and women with empty eyes, they were an unsettling sight, to say the least.

"I suppose I could make them into lunar affinity Star Core Ents to guard me during the nights," Ashlock hummed in thought as he floated the corpses with telekinesis and began to line them up, "Actually, now that I think about it. Shouldn't I eat some corpses before my ascension to maximize the number of credits I get from them? I will get a few hundred credits for each of these corpses, but after reaching Nascent Soul Realm, I might only get a hundred at most."

After some debating, Ashlock decided to turn four corpses into Ents and devour the rest for credits alongside any other bounty hunter corpses he had lying around. He could have turned them into Ents, but any Star Core level threat shouldn't be able to get through his sect members once they have recovered, and no number of Star Core Ents would be able to defeat Vincent Nightrose if he showed up.

Idletree Daily Sign-In System

Day: 3606

Daily Credit: 43

Sacrifice Credit: 13743

[Sign in?]

Having finished his hearty breakfast, Ashlock stared at a very big number.

"You know they say 'what is war good for', and it turns out the answer is a shit load of sacrificial credits," Ashlock whistled in awe, "Though I do wonder if the system is trying to get me killed? It rewards me for killing things that are stronger than me... wait, is that so I am incentivized to keep my sect members stronger than me?"

Ashlock grew more suspicious of his system with every passing day. He was sure the dreams of the past world tree or perhaps the nine moons would one day lead to answers regarding its origin, but for now, he could only trust and rely on it to help him survive.

While lost in thought, four explosions of death Qi washed over the deserted mountain peak as the final four Lunarshade corpses rose to the sky as twisted abominations of white wood. They all had a similar appearance to the other Lunarshade Ents he had raised, except they had functioning legs instead of needing to use roots to shift around. Rivaling Titus's size at twenty meters each, the white wood Ents' empty eye sockets ignited with white flames, and the black flowers running down their backs glowed with power.

"Protect me," Ashlock instructed his newly made Ents, and the monsters shook the peak as they trudged to their positions. Feeling a little safer being surrounded by Star Core Ents, Ashlock then spoke to Quill, whose job was to handle the defenses of Red Vine Peak from the ink affinity Bastion.

"Quill, I will be sleeping for three days and nights. If anything bad happens, shock me awake with as much Qi as you can muster. Otherwise, I leave the defense of the peak in your capable branches."

The tree wrote, 'Okay, Dad' in ink on its bark.

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Hoping everything would be fine, Ashlock returned to his trunk.

"Are you Going to be sleeping?" Stella asked, appearing from thin air on her bench beneath his canopy.

"Yes... how did you know?"

"My brother told me."


"Yep," Stella gestured to the library, "Quill told me."

"How did he even... you know what, never mind. Yes, I will be asleep. Look after the peak in my absence, okay?"

Stella gave him a cheeky salute and smile, "I'd do it even if you didn't ask."

"That's why I didn't bother to inform you," Ashlock chuckled as he brought up the system's suggestions to accept them. "Good night."

"Night? It's morning, Tree. But have a pleasant sleep! You earned it." Stella grinned and patted his bark—though, despite her upbeat mood, there was concern in her eyes.

Ashlock hadn't told her the reason he needed to sleep for so long, but historically, he only slept like this when he was severely injured and needed to heal quickly. So, her unsaid concern made sense.

"Thank you, Stella, and don't worry. I will recover soon," Ashlock said as the world flickered and he was forcefully dragged into the dreamscape. As usual, the nine moons dominated the sky, and he felt their healing energies caress his fractured soul.

Before succumbing to sleep, he traversed the dreamscape and found Nox in a field of jasmine flowers.

"We won. The Lunarshades are no more, and your sister is finally free."

Looking around in confusion, the shadow dryad under Nox's canopy glanced toward Red Vine Peak. "That's a relief," the dryad cupped her hands before her chest and seemed to say a silent prayer, "Evelyn is finally free from the life I forced on her. That makes me happy."

"I'm sure you will meet her soon enough."

"I hope so," Nox agreed, and Ashlock felt his consciousness drift off to sleep.


[Time remaining: 00:00]

Ashlock jolted awake to a system notification. His body felt... refreshed. His Star Core was blazing like a godly furnace and glowing with divine energy. Just like that, he had fallen asleep, and three days had passed.

Idletree Daily Sign-In System

Day: 3609

Daily Credit: 46

Sacrifice Credit: 13743

[Sign in?]

The temptation to sign in was indeed tremendous, but he resisted.

"System, what is my soul damage now?" Ashlock asked in the darkness of his mind. He had already noticed that many memories had returned, and it was honestly terrifying how he felt no different despite missing a third of what made him... him.

[Soul Damage: 0%]

"That's a relief," Ashlock sighed as he cast his spiritual gaze beyond his trunk to see if his mountain had been destroyed during his slumber. To his pleasant surprise, it was almost as he had left it, except the blood stains had been cleaned up, and there were people.

As if feeling his attention, Stella glanced over her shoulder, "Oh, Tree! You're awake."

"I am," Ashlock replied, "What are you two up to?"

Beside Stella was a blob of green hair with a cute white flower nestled behind her ear. It was Stella's beloved disciple, Jasmine. The little girl had her hands on Willow's trunk, and her eyes were closed as Qi wreathed her hands.

Stella grinned, "I am teaching Jasmine how to speak to a tree."

"You can teach such a thing? I thought you could speak to trees because of your bloodline?"

Stella shrugged, "Who knows? I thought that because Jasmine has nature affinity, she might be able to talk to Willow and even help him heal with her Qi."

"I see. And how are the others?"

"Everyone has recovered by now. Though I heard Amber is still rather shaken by the whole thing, and Kaida has retreated into his ink lake—refusing to see anyone despite Diana's best efforts."

"I see the scars of war continue to haunt us despite our victory," Ashlock sighed, "And what about Albis's bounty? Have you handed it in yet?"

Stella shook her head, "No, I was waiting until you awakened before doing something likely to cause issues."

"Well, you will need to wait a little longer."

"Why?" Stella tilted her head in confusion, "Are you still hurt?"

"Quite the opposite, actually, I am finally ready to begin my ascension to Nascent Soul Realm, and we don't have much time. News of our battle with the Lunarshades has likely spread and soon—"

Ashlock was cut off as a notification flashed in his mind, and he felt a tingling sensation rise from below.

[Assimilating with leyline...]

"Go gather everyone quickly," Ashlock said before his vision shifted. The rock and dirt blurred as he plummeted through the realm, eventually arriving at the tips of his deepest roots. There, he found something he hadn't been expecting.

At first, he thought it was a massive layer of gold glowing with untamed Qi that rushed across its surface, but as he looked closer, he saw the texture and indents in the gold were rather familiar.

"Is that a... root? A giant golden root?" Ashlock muttered in awe as he saw his own roots, which were thick enough to allow people to use them as tunnels, look like strands of mycelium compared to this tree root, which had to be many miles thick.

"Hold on, the Celestial Empire happens to be built on the intersection of the three largest leylines known to the cultivators. I thought it was a coincidence, but what if those three giant leylines aren't the world's spiritual veins but rather the world tree's roots."

Ashlock was stunned as many things began to fall into place. The Celestial Empire wasn't 'lucky' that the Beast Tides rarely hit them. The World Tree decided the path the beasts took as it casually led the monsters around by their noses with its own Qi.

His roots met with the rushing river of untamed Qi that wreathed the seemingly endless surface of the golden root, and Ashlock saw arcs of Qi manifest between their roots like two live wires getting too close.

"System, are you sure this is a good idea?" Ashlock asked with concern but received no response except for a status report.

[Leyline assimilation at 42%]

Qi rushed up his roots, and moments later, he felt his Star Core being flooded. Unable to convert all this untamed Qi into spatial Qi, he redirected it into his root network toward his forests of trees spread throughout the realm. Red Vine Peak also began to undergo changes as whisps of untamed Qi leaked from gaps in the rock.

Ashlock panicked. He had no idea if this was a good thing or not. On the one hand, if he didn't link up with a leyline, his progress through the stages of the Nascent Soul Realm would take far too long, but surely leaching Qi from the World Tree was a bad idea.

"Maybe she will forgive me because I raised her daughter..." Ashlock chuckled nervously. Seeing a single root that was likely a hundred miles wide, so deep underground and overflowing with enough Qi that a light touch was enough to make his Star Core become overwhelmed, really hammered home the difference between himself and a Monarch realm existence that stood at the pinnacle of this realm.

[Leyline assimilation at 74%]

He was nothing but a peak Star Core tree atop a mountain out in the wilderness, while the World Tree was the strongest being in the realm.

"What is happening?!?" Stella shouted from below his canopy. Rifts she had created surrounded her, and people of the Ashfallen Sect poured through. Some were even wielding their swords or resting their hands on their pommels as they glanced around nervously.

"It would appear I am meeting your mother sooner than I had hoped," Ashlock replied, "I dug my roots down far enough to hit the leyline, and it turns out to likely be a root of the World Tree."

Stella's eyes widened as she looked to the floor, "Mom is down there?"

[Leyline assimilation at 100%]

Ashlock went to look and saw his ethereal roots had phased through the world tree's bark and dipped into the rivers of golden sap that flowed through the roots alongside divine Qi.

"This really is the World Tree... it's just like in those dreams." Ashlock muttered and slowly retracted his view, but he dared not take any of the divine aura or golden sap. The last thing he wanted was to earn the ire of a realm-spanning entity. "Let's just leave real slow. Nothing to see here, just a little shrub trying to siphon a smidge of Qi."

Returning to the surface, Ashlock waited a moment to see if there were any signs of the World Tree noticing.

"It seems I am in the clear—"

[A Monarch Realm entity has taken notice of you]

Chapter 304: Roots of the World
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