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449 Up The Arid Mountains, A Way to Power Up Our Little Friends

 Day 93 - ▮▮:▮▮ ▮▮ - Arid Mountains, Spirit Dimension

The soil, the trees, the grass, and even the small rivers around the area described how the place was not suitable for habitation.

At each step, the surface of the soil would turn into a clump of fine dust. In the slightest touch, the leaves and stems of the dried grass and plants would snap and fall to the ground. A push enough to make a regular human make a step back was enough to uproot a large tree and break its trunk.

From a close observation, they all concluded a reason for this to happen. It was very likely that the nutrients and water in the area were somehow drained out. The most concrete evidence that proved that were the rivers that did not have a single drop of water left. All that remained were the river bed, dried up mud, and all the dried up rocks in the vicinity of the river.

It made them look at the sun, thinking that the heat coming from the sun caused it. However, the heat of the sunlight could barely be felt as the temperature around them was rather cold.

The temperature was even getting colder as they went up the mountain.

While traveling, it was not hard to get the attention of the now infected creatures in the area. It was because with the trees and plants did not have many leaves left at all, there was barely anything they could hide into. Furthermore, the steps Chaflar and Gifre made, although not too loud, would topple dried trees from time to time, causing more noise than necessary. After all, there were no pathways for giants up the mountain or even for humans. They would demolish everything blocking their path, whether they wanted it or not.

Luckily, while there were nowhere to hide from the enemies, it was the same for them. Incoming attackers were easy to spot and were dealt with before they could do any harm.

The most annoying things, though, were the magical infected.

Small infected Sylphs were hard to hit from a distance and were too agile. After two to three missed shots from their crossbow, one could already be flying on their faces trying to bite a nip of their flesh off. Although it was hard to say if the bites from their small mouths could really infect others, Mark's team would not dare try it even once.

There were also a few infected Duende's running around the dried grass and bushes. It would have been hard to find them if the area still the same lush forested mountain. However, now that almost everything was dyed with a brown or gray color, their differently colored clothes stood out.

The Duendes and Sylphs were not the most common, but there were surely a lot of them lurking around. Some animals, insects, and birds looked similar to their Mortal World counterparts. The differences though varied. Like swallows with gold-colored wings and tails, four-horned ladybugs, or wild saber-toothed cats.

Mark's team was being attacked from time to time, causing them to deal with the situation as soon as possible. It would be easier of Chaflar could just breathe fire over the enemies. However, a single spark of flames touching a single tree in this dried land could cause a massive forest fire. Everything was dried and could easily catch and spread the fire.

As for Mark, he was fine. As long as within a radius, he could extinguish the black flames he caused as it was partly made of miasma. He could not use the normal flames he got from Ignis, though.

Even though the Spirit Dimension was mostly depicted similarly to a paradise, it was not always the case. Even without the Demons and Evil Spirits that constantly fought with the Elementals and Good Spirits, their world had its fair share of dangers.

Most places of their world was an untouched land. The main reason being the population of the Spirit Races was not comparable to humans. In exchange for their long lives, the chance of a husband and wife of a race to have children was too small. The time they spent in before becoming an adult and being able to procreate was also too long.

Even a thousand or more years passed, these races would not be able to occupy the whole Spirit Dimension, which was the same size as Earth.

And because of that, animals and insects, especially the dangerous ones, managed to thrive. And now, most of them seemed to have turned into infected.

Mark could still see a few birds flying at the sky, which looked normal. Unfortunately, all of them were being chased by their infected families and friends.

As for the encounters with these infected races, Mark realized he could not absorb the ability of a race in one go, and at times, get nothing at all. The best example was the Infected Sylphs. Even though Mark and the team already killed quite a number since they arrived, Mark was not able to store their ability to control the wind. It was the same for the Berberoka and the Duende.

What Mark found out, however, was that he could use the [Psycrystal] to absorb the magical energy of the infected races they encountered after killing them. And thus, he mostly ended up with three-millimeter bead sized crystals with different colors depending on what race it was taken from.

From the Sylphs, it was green, brown for the beads that came from Duendes. As for the Berberoka, he got nothing but an oddly sized [Mental Crystal]. I was more than half smaller than a regular marble but a bit bigger than the colored crystals.

"These crystals look cute, doesn' it?"

Mark said as he showed the twenty-five bead-sized crystals of assorted colors on his palm to Mei and the little girls.

"Yes, these looked cute and pretty."

Mei replied while the little girls also looked.

"Gege, what can you do with these?"

Mei asked. She knew about the [Physical Crystals] and [Mental Crystals]. These bead-sized crystals were, surely, different from the two.

And Mark's answer to that...

"I don't know."

He shrugged and looked at Iola.

Knowing what his eyes meant, Iola shook her head too. After all, even though she had memories of Keeper, even Keeper never encountered something like this.

That was when an idea popped into his mind.

"Aephelia, Iola, Malaya. Come here for a bit."

Mark called for the two and a half sylphs who were hanging around on Chaflar's head. Malaya was quite confused as to why she was called. As for both Amihan and Aephelia, they immediately flew over without asking. Because of that, Malaya could only follow.

The three arrived, hovering in front of Mark.

"You three, try absorbing these."

Mark said as he handed each of them a green bead crystal.

The three carefully grabbed the crystals in confusion. Aside from Aephelia, the two did not understand what Mark meant by absorbing. When Amihan and Malaya touched the crystals, however, they shivered.


Amihan made another look at Mark and finally grabbed the crystal off his hand. Sure enough, she finally understood what Mark meant by absorbing.

"This is pure magical energy our race had, isn't it?"

Malaya asked Amihan as she picked up hers. Her expression surely depicted excitement.

Amihan and Malaya landed in front of Mark and relaxed their bodies. The two closed their eyes. Their wings released a bit of a greenish glow. The crystals on their hands burst into glowing dust, that was absorbed by their bodies. Their bodies were coated with a green glow. The glow lasted a few seconds before vanishing.

When they opened their eyes, the two looked refreshed and comfortable.

"That felt good."

Amihan said.

"Me too." Malaya agreed and asked. "Do you always receive treats like this? No wonder you became strong. I'm feeling a bit jealous."

"I don't. This is the first time! Just being around master makes me strong!"

Amihan replied with confidence, which made Malaya feel even more jealous.

Seeing what happened, Mark nodded as his assumption was right on point. These bead-sized crystals were made of the magical essence of the dead races. And thus, it could be used to strengthen those that absorb it that belonged to the same race.

Then, they looked at Aephelia. She was still holding unto the crystal.

"Not working, Aephelia?"

Mark asked her.

Aephelia dejectedly shook her head in reply. She then returned the greed crystal back to Mark's hand. It was understandable as only her body was of sylph and not her soul. There were some sayings that Magical Psychic Abilities dwell in the soul and while the Energy that was needed to use it dwells in the body. It might probably be true.

Seeing her dejected, Amihan and Malaya felt bad for her. Malaya always stuck around Aephelia most of the time when she arrived at the base. At some of those instances, she would drag Amihan with her. They saw how Aephelia was training her psychic powers secretly so that she could be more of use to Mark. After all, she already used up all her slots to control the infected with Gifre and Logan alone, with only a bit of space left. She wanted to improve more so that she could control more infected.

Although she was improving by staying around Mark and absorbing the leaking energy from the Psycrystal, it was slow for her as her ability was already strong in the first place. Being able to control a dozen normal infected or a few strong mutated infected was enough to annihilate a small military base.

Of course, it was not enough for her.

At another try, Mark changed the green crystal to another one. It was clear and a bit larger. As Mark handed the crystal to her, her eyes lit up.

Grabbing the crystal, Aephelia flew and sat unto Mark's shoulder. There, she closed her eyes and tried to absorb the crystal. Different from Amihan and Malaya, the crystal started to glow a bit instead of her wings or body. Furthermore, it took longer for her, about four minutes. That was when the crystal burst into glass glitters that were absorbed in her body.

Opening, her eyes, the first thing she said was...

"Master, thank you."

She smiled.

"How is it?"

Mark asked.

"It's not much, but I can probably control another two or three regular infected."

"That's good."

Mark patted her head. Just like how Freed did when he praised her back in Eriellis.

This made Aephelia a bit teary-eyed. But the loyal maid held it in with pride.

Mark, on the other hand, was quite excited. He might not have that much advantage of absorbing the essences from the infected folklore creatures. However, he found a way to increase the power of those that followed him. That enough was a great thing.

A few minutes later, Mei who was surveying the area tapped on Mark's shoulder. They were already at the altitude that allowed them to see the foot of the mountain to the south where the Agos River should be.

"Gege look."

She said with urgency.

Mark looked at the foot of the mountain and frowned.

There, he could see the transition of the dried barren land unto a fertile lush forest, just before the wide river. There were not able to see it before as even though the trees were already dried and many had fallen because of the wind, they were still deep within the forest filled with thousands of years old trees.

Mark and Mei also kept flying to a minimum to protect everyone below from unexpected attacks.

Seeing the scene oat the foot of the mountain, Mark realized that not all of the Spirit Dimension was turned into something like a mountain desert.

And by the looks of it...

They were actually heading towards the center of this barren place.

With those in mind, they continued halfway up the mountain. There was no need to climb up to the peak as they only needed to reach the other side.

And there... They witnessed...

"Pefile, that is not the kingdom, right?"

Mark asked Pefile with a frown.

And the latter's reply...

"Unfortunately, it is..."

Pefile was also in dismay.

From what they heard from Pefile, it was a forest kingdom filled with large trees inhabited by Sylphs. A beautiful paradise filled with greeneries and flowers centered on their Wind Drizzle Spirit Tree.

But that was not what they were currently looking at.

What they were seeing was a colony of pulsating flesh draped over a dried forest like a blanket. It was all centered on a majestically shaped giant tree that was all dried up.

Of course, there were still remnants of its previous inhabitants. Like buzzing flies, Sylphs were everywhere. Of course, they were literally behaving like flies as they land on the pulsating flesh from time to time, taking a bite, before flying again.