Advent of the Three Calamities

Chapter 158 Tree of Ebonthorn [1]
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Chapter 158 Tree of Ebonthorn [1]

The silence was absolute.

"....."

I heard nothing, not even a whisper of wind.

The world was dark.

I couldn't see a thing.

The world was silent and dark.

No, I did hear something.

Ba... Thump! Ba... Thump!

It was the very sound of my heartbeat.

.....It echoed in my ears, louder than ever.

So did the sound of my breath.

"Haa... Haa..."

Each breath felt amplified, almost intrusive.

The stillness wrapped around me like a heavy blanket.

I felt disconnected from everything.

'What's going on...?'

My senses strained, seeking any hint of sound.

The silence pressed down, making me hyper-aware of my own existence.

From the beat of my heart to my very own thoughts.

It felt incredibly eerie.

"Haaa... Haa..."

My breath continued to echo in the darkness.

I couldn't move my body at all.

.....I was simply stuck in the darkness.

But the darkness didn't last for long.

Gradually, I realized.

It was dark because my eyelids were closed.

Light immediately entered my eyes the moment my eyelids came to an open. It had all been done without my consent.

Currently, I was in no control of my body.

I was merely a spectator.

"Haa... Haa..."

I still felt everything that my body felt.

Like the burning pain that came from the opening of the eyes, it took a moment for it to adjust. When it did, I felt my expression freeze.

"H-haa.. Haaa.. Haa...."

My breath grew heavier and faster.

So did the beat of my heart.

"Haaa...!"

My body thrashed around, but it refused to move.

It was stuck.

....Paralyzed.

"Hueeekk!"

And so was my voice.

It just refused to leave. All that came out were suffocating sounds.

But it wasn't like it mattered.

'This...'

Staring at the scene that was ahead of me, I didn't know how to react.

It was as if the very air had been sucked out of me.

I could see the town.

.....It was beneath me.

Beneath me.

Glancing around, blood-red leaves appeared to surround the entire town.

'This...'

That was when I came to a realization.

I was in a tree.

A massive tree that seemed to cover the entire town.

'When did it...?'

"Huek!"

I was glued to it in a 'T' shape.

.....I wasn't the only one stuck to it. Looking around, I could see thousands of different people attached to the bark of the tree.

However, unlike me, they seemed to have fused with it.

Their bodies had long turned into the same ebony shade of the tree with their hands outstretched in desperation.

Their legs were no longer visible, swallowed entirely by the sturdy trunk, while their torso emerged from the wood, contorted and twisted.

I could see the look of terror and desperation on their mummified faces.

One, two, three...

There were too many to count.

And...

"Hueek!"

The reasoning behind my situation became clear.

"Hueeek!"

I too was undergoing the same situation as them.

"Hueeek!"

My body violently thrashed.

But it refused to move.

"Hueeek!"

It screamed.

But no voice came out.

"Haaa...! Haa...! Hueek!"

The desperation was clear for me to feel.

My body continued to fight in desperation. This went on for the next few minutes until it eventually ran out of energy.

"Ukh...!"

My head dropped, and a weird squelching sound echoed in my ears.

Squench~

A weird tickling sensation ran past every corner of my body, creeping up all the way to my cheeks.

I felt my skin crawl at the sensation.

It was as if a spider was walking over my face.

"Hue..."

I let out a low cry, but it was no use.

Squech, squech—

The sound continued, and my body started to grow stiff to the point where it was impossible to move anymore.

I was helpless.

"H-hu."

Desperation crept up from the deepest parts of me.

The tickling sensation reached my ears, tingling the insides of them.

From the corner of my eyes, I was able to catch a glimpse of several wooden tentacles that were making their way up my cheeks.

Squech, squech.

It tickled.

.....And my body grew tense.

Squech, squech.

"....!"

Wrapping around my face, they clung to my mouth and eyes, pulling them back.

It started to hurt.

"Hueek!"

To the point where I found my voice again.

At that point, I lost all control of my body.

With widened eyes, the last thing that I caught a glimpse of was the town beneath and the thousands of people stuck in the massive tree.

"Hueeemmm!!"

The world turned dark shortly after that.

"Cadet?"

When I came to, I was greeted by the sight of multiple gazes directed at me.

I shuddered at the sight of them.

"Haa... Haa..."

Unknowingly, my breath had grown heavy and my back was drenched.

I could hardly feel my legs.

It was as if they were made out of jelly.

Looking around, the world didn't seem real.

The noise was toned down, and everything appeared to be blurred.

"Cadet!"

It was a loud voice that broke me out of it.

".....Is there something up with you?"

Blinking, I saw the man from before standing before me.

He was probably the man in charge of our group.

"I'm fine."

I tried to play it cool, but I could hardly focus at all.

I was still shuddering from the experience and a fear I had only felt from the time I had met the faceless man seemed to take hold of my body.

"You're fine? You don't look fine."

"It's okay."

".....Hm."

The man looked at me with his green eyes and I looked up to match his gaze.

We stood like that for several seconds before he eventually relented.

"Alright."

He was the first one to give in.

Turning around, he faced the other cadets who were all looking at me. Especially Evelyn. Her gaze seemed a little intense.

I met her gaze for a moment before something flashed before my eyes.

A familiar window that I hadn't seen in a while.

[ ◆ Main Quest Activated: Tree Of Ebonthorn.]

: Character Progression + 401%

: Game Progression + 13%

Failure

: Calamity 1 + 23%

: Calamity 2 + 17%

: Calamity 3 + 19%

"H-haa, this..."

The quest had finally come.

Staring at the numbers, I swallowed.

'Character Progression 401%.'

I was currently level 26.

....If I were to complete this quest, I'd be able to finally reach Tier 3.

The idea felt exciting.

But at the same time, recalling the vision, that excitement vanished. All I felt was a deep sense of helplessness.

'How am I even supposed to stop that...?'

The only thing I knew about the situation was that a tree was going to sprout in the middle of the town, entrapping everyone within its bark.

From the vision, it also looked like it was going to be my fate.

"H-ho."

Letting out a breath to calm myself down, my chest trembled.

The lingering remnants of the emotions I felt in my vision started to disappear and clarity started to return to my body.

But even as that happened, the sense of despair never left me.

Closing my eyes for a moment, I looked at the quest window again.

'Tree Of Ebonthorn'

That right there was my clue.

.....I needed to figure out what the tree was.

But before that,

"Please follow me. I will give you a rundown of the Guild."

I needed to complete this first.

***

"Your role within the rescue mission is just to carry the supplies. You are yet strong enough to actually be of help to any of us. The reason why we've chosen to bring you with us is so that you can get a firsthand look at how Guilds operate."

Leon quietly stood while listening to the Guild delegate speak.

'Mystic Veil Order'

Ranked top 8 in the Guilds, Leon was chosen by them.

Because of his poor performance, his stock had fallen all the way down to the rank 8 Guild. It didn't make much of a difference to him.

He had never been planning on joining a Guild in the first place.

.....After all, he was already a knight who was serving under the Evenus household.

There was no need for him to join a Guild.

In fact, if he were to join a Guild, then it'd be a Guild that Julien joined.

"For the next couple of days or so, I will be in charge of training you for the rescue mission. There are a lot of things that cadets need to learn before coming out of the supply zone. The Mirror Dimension is a far crueler world than you think."

Walking around, the delegate eventually led them towards a large room.

Within the room were over a hundred skin-tight suits with a small opening in the middle.

"You are safe now because we're in the Supply Station and all the radiation has been taken care of in the nearby area. However..."

The delegate looked around with a serious expression.

".....The same can't be said for the other areas within the Mirror Dimension where the radiation is incredibly high. These suits right here are to help you protect against radiation. Before we go out on the rescue mission, you will all have to wear these."

Squinting slightly, Leon looked at the suits.

Extending his hand, he touched one of the suits. It was smooth to the touch, and the fabric looked extremely thin.

'It doesn't look comfortable.'

Rather, it looked extremely tight.

He was just about to let go when his entire body tingled.

"Hm?"

It was a sensation that he had grown all too familiar with.

His instincts.

They were acting up.

....And.

"Haa."

The hair at the back of his neck stood.

His expression crumbled as he lowered his head to look at his hand.

Yet again, it was trembling.

'This again.'

How long was it going to take for the fear to finally disappear?

It had been almost a week since the fight with Julien, and yet, he was still suffering from the side effects of his Emotive skills.

It left him helpless.

Gripping onto the necklace he was wearing, he sighed.

'.....Looks like I need to get a better version of this.'

If only he knew where to get it.

"Hm?"

The back of his mind tingled again.

Frowning, Leon noticed that his hands wouldn't stop shaking.

"What in the..."

For a moment, it looked as though the side effects of Julien's skill had started to worsen.

But it was also at this moment that Leon noticed something.

The fear...

It wasn't coming from Julien's Emotive skill.

....There was something else triggering it.

But what exactly?

What exactly could be triggering his instincts like this?

"....."

Leon's head flicked around the room.

Ignoring the delegate who was still talking, his gaze settled over a certain area of the room.

The tingling at the back of his head intensified.

'There, it's coming from here.'

Making sure to be subtle about it, Leon walked toward the area where he felt the sensation. At a glance, it was just a wardrobe filled with suits. However, walking closer to it, Leon came to a stop.

"....."

In silence, he lowered his head before pushing the suits to the side.

It was then that he saw it.

A root.

.....A black root sprouting up from beneath the ground.

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