82 Side Story 1 - Andrew Eridan (2)

I remember being in silent awe of the scenery of Greenwood City as the three of us walked to the City Hall, guided by Master. The walk was short compared to the distance I had expected, but, considering that the teleportation array was placed only a stone's throw away from the Spring Hill, it made sense.

The sudden appearance of what I can only describe as an illusionary board that could rival the size of an adult Giant was my first interaction with Greenwood City's brilliant AI, Zero. Honestly, it was the astonishing amount of information that it could process and maintain that thoroughly amazed me. According to Master, the entire city and all of its information, both internal and external, was completely stored and managed by the spiritual AI. If one had to get technical, only two people and one group held more power than it: Master, his father, Etienne, and the Elder Council. By that fact alone, Zero was essentially akin to a prime minister.

Being scanned on a very, very deep level by Zero was a novel experience, one I would remember forever and yet sort of wished to forget permanently. It felt like my entire existence, soul and all, had been examined by its processing powers. My everything was exposed to its mind, something that made me feel... violated, for lack of a better explanation. Thankfully, Master explained that it would only be required again for extreme circumstances, such as unique plagues or space beast magic. Otherwise, I wouldn't be able to handle that feeling, even infrequently.

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Then came the idea of being set free, albeit only on an identity basis, of my imperial status. With Master and Zero together, Rexus and I could set aside our original identities and become, for better or worse, regular people. Master stated that I could attend school and make friends, I could be a normal boy for once. The idea of those imperial 'shackles' being removed, allowing me to chase after my long-buried wish of a normal civilian childhood, was... well, it was emotional. I wholeheartedly agreed without a second thought. Only Rexus needed a few more pushes to accept the idea, mostly due to his long-ingrained Imperial Guard lifestyle and attitude. We all knew it would be some time before both of us could fully integrate with our new identities as Rexus and Andrew Kingswell, but that would come eventually.

Afterwards, we went to visit Lady Khloe, the legendary guardian spirit of Greenwood City. I had not expected a child-like form, but this was explained by Master later as the result of his bestowal of [Physical Manifestation], an ability only possessed by the strongest of Demeter's spirits. Despite that, she was just as beautiful and kind as I'd envisioned. If anything, the beauty part would better fit the description of 'cute' rather than 'beautiful', but I could only chalk that up to her physical form. Master explained our circumstances after introducing us to her, mostly after causing poor Lady Khloe to be exasperated at his unmatched ability to do outrageous things. She had no issues whatsoever with our arrival, even welcoming me to her spring whenever I was free.

Master wasn't done laying out more heavy subject matter, even after causing several headaches along the way. His discussion with Lady Khloe, after introducing us, consisted almost entirely of his adventure into Blood Bone Cemetary for his Undead Extermination Quest. The Elder Lich was not new to me, as I'd gotten the opportunity of learning about it after several conversations with both my father and my ancestor. As she was not only the sole being on the Western Continent with a greater status of Demeter's kin than both Barnett and Eleanor, Lady Khloe was also capable of direct conversation with the Goddess of Nature, a feat neither Blessed One could match. Because of this, Master decided to fully lay out his entire experience with the Elder Lich, including the tomb of the legendary hero Eric Astheme.

I was surprised to learn that [Assassin King] Eric Astheme's primary identity was that of the Fairy Prince, an unfortunate person who witnessed the fall of his entire species, all the way down to his own sister. When [Beast Emperor] Miriam Astheme fell, Eric became the last Fairy in existence. While Fairies were capable of sexual reproduction, they were also similar to spirits in that they can also be born from nature over time. The Fairy Race was debatably Demeter's most beloved race, as Fairies are famous for being even more in tune with nature than Elves, and by a vast difference. When Eric Astheme sacrificed himself, it was said that the Goddess of Nature wept for seven days in deep sorrow, with the first Oracle herself being bedridden afterwards due to her extremely sensitive connection with the deities. The intensity of Demeter's grief was said to be enough to overwhelm the barrier between the deities realms and the mortal realms, causing those seven sorrowful days to be called Nature's Mourning Week. Following this week, the Goddess of Nature's rage caused all life, sentient or not, to feel a wave of unifying anger towards the Devils, with many mortals that had once been fearful choosing to take up arms to fight back harder than they had before.

Lady Khloe was thoroughly relieved at the news of Eric Astheme's remains having outlasted the attempted corruption of the Elder Lich that had taken residence in his tomb. The spring spirit hadn't even existed at the time of Demeter's immense wrath, but the eldest of Demeter's kin had been at the time. He instilled in every spirit that followed Demeter afterwards that, no matter what, never let Mother Nature's ire flare up again. The amount of power that flowed through the eldest spirit at the time nearly caused him to collapse and implode from being incapable of bearing it. If the strongest of them couldn't hack it, then Lady Khloe certainly wouldn't be able to.

However, once again, Master wasn't done with his story.

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