150 Chapter 147 A New Fores
If only the rune hadn't started drawing mana from the area near the nursery and where the toddlers were, there could have been more time to think of an answer. If he could have gotten even one rune to mastery, he was sure he might have had a glimmer of insight on how to stop it.
"I gave up 9 years of my childhood to be stronger and came back, and still couldn't beat one corrupt rune set up by a master. Shavist!"
"Maybe it was a grand master?" wondered Joe, just as upset.
"I feel like it's a game of dominoes, if I can get one rune into mastery, the rest would follow. And it's not just about study; I've done plenty of that! Even stealing some of Selena's insights about FIRE weren't enough. Maybe having magery at 4 will give me enough power to get over the hump, but it doesn't do much good after I had to destroy the rune. I'm not even sure how to survive visiting the wastelands to search for the mage city, even if I knew where it was. META was supposed to teach me. Shavist!"
"It has to wait anyway," said Joe.
Stella looked at him, not realizing that both Joseph and Joe were talking to each other out loud, "Joseph?"
"Even with mana coming in from outside, the forest is so weak, the recovery will take too long. Joe, let's do this. I'll take this side."
There were two Joseph's standing before her, and she seemed to understand, finally, that he hadn't lost his mind when he lost the rune. The new Joseph, Joe, nodded at them, then teleported back to the reactor. They were about to do big magic.
"If I manage the spells directly at the reactor, the efficiency increases, but I don't want to be chained to the reactor. I've never spread area mana so wide before. The constant stream of mana from the reactor is in the hundreds, maybe thousands," explained Joseph to Stella, seeing her confusion disappear.
He wasn't casting a spell, he was drawing mana from the reactor and forcing it into the forest. Stella placed herself behind him, then closed her eyes, to shield them from the immense light of his mana. The king and the other elves, who had just entered the room to see what was going on, turned and ran back out.
Joseph was injecting his mana into everything that it could touch, recharging the stale mana and replenishing the creatures that had struggled to survive for so long. Magery 4 allowed him to handle so much more mana than he had ever had before.
The entire elven palace lit up like a beacon as jets of blue and gold mana rushed out of every opening. Everywhere it touched, the land grew green and healthy, and the red and green dead mana rushed back at him. He didn't have to just push living mana into everything, he had to keep the cycle of dead mana up too. It was intense.
He was at his limit, draining mana from the reactor, when the old dead mana rushed at him. There was just too much. He couldn't convert it at the moment, so it built up around him. He had to do something.
There were spirits in the forest, ancient spirits that had been sleeping for a long time. Countless tendrils of red and green dead mana began to burst out of the castle along with the giant jets of gold and blue. Joseph hunted for those spirits and shoved the dead mana into them. When they couldn't hold anymore without bursting, he went in search of others.
Great beasts that had walked with the elder elves, those that came before these current elves, and young spirits that had formed since the creation of the barrier, dryads that had lost their trees and withered, treants who died trying to save their sproutlings, wolf pack leaders from a more primal and ferocious era, that had died in battle; they were all sought out and stuffed with mana. Joseph searched for those who had fallen in the history of the forest, and tens of thousands of spirits bathed in the mana, changing and growing stronger. There was still more than half of the dead mana left, and more still rushed towards him. He needed another source to send it.
Then he found it. A spirit that could hold all of the dead mana. Tendrils converged on the last spirit in the whole of the elven forest. The heart of the forest itself. It had been slain when the world tree had been corrupted. It had given its life to protect the dryads, treants, and all the other children of the forest. After he had shoved every last speck of dead mana into the heart of the forest, he muttered one word.
The spirit of the forest never had a body; if it could be said to have had a body, then its body was the forest itself. Either way, the spirit, along with all of the dead mana within it, was revived, forcefully. The clouds above began to circle and turn black. Lightning bolts as thick as buildings flashed in the sky. With a tremendous boom, the clouds broke apart and rushed to the edges of the forest, as the forest spirit once again took control over its domain.
Joseph felt Joe pass out, and the second body disappeared. Maybe he was passing out? He had stopped drawing mana from the reactor… The elves would be okay for now. He could head for the gnomes when he woke up…
(YOUR UNDERSTANDING OF MANA CONTROL HAS REACHED THE ADVANCED LEVEL.)
Joseph woke up slowly. The pillow felt weird, and there was the smell of vanilla cookies in the air.
Opening an eye, he saw Stella looking down at him. She was playing with his hair.
"Sleep Joseph. You aren't ready to move yet."
It was a soft voice and he did still feel tired. It would be fine to sleep more if Stella told him to.
Joseph had been infusing the forest with mana for four days, and was sleeping now. She looked down at him, not sure how he had survived channeling so much mana. She had been terrified he would burn out, or explode in the first hour. It was a good thing she took that advantage right before jumping into his shadow.
As long as she was close to him, within his mana territory, his mana control would be more stable for big magics, like what he had just done. The frequency that these things happened in, were far more than she liked, and always seemed to place his life in danger.
The elven king returned, right after Joseph passed out, asking questions.
"What did he do?" he asked, too afraid to get close.
"He seems to have fixed your forest," she said, glancing out the doorway as if it were obvious.
"Yes, but…how?" He couldn't seem to get his head around what he had just witnessed.
"Would you understand if I explained it to you? Are you a great mage, that can comprehend the mage runes as he does?"
"No, I guess I wouldn't. I've just never felt such unbridled anger before…"
She knew he was talking about the rage that had emanated out from Joseph right after he had gotten rid of the rune.
"If you knew what he had gone through, to try and get a peek of that rune, you would have understood his rage," she said softly, brushing a wisp of hair to the side.
The king stood there for several moments, starting to ask something, then stopping as he thought of something else. After fifteen minutes, Stella stood up, and picked up Joseph. She wasn't sure if the gate would still be open or not, but if it was, she wanted to get him into his real bed.
"Thank him, when he wakes?" asked the king, as she walked past him, stepping back out of her way. His guards also stepped back, as if afraid of her. She supposed after the last time she had left with Joseph in her arms, that was an understandable fear. She had killed four of them, of course. The gate was still up, but collapsed as soon as she stepped through it.
It took a week for Joseph to wake the first time. He didn't eat. He didn't drink. She could tell that he didn't need to anymore. Something had happened, changing him. He wasn't human anymore.
When his mother came to talk to her about dresses for a wedding, she was shocked to find Joseph in bed. Apparently, when Stella came through the town, carrying him, her aura of hiding had been too strong for anyone to notice them. And since she didn't need to leave to fetch food or water for him, everyone assumed they were still gone.
"Why are his eyes glowing?" asked his mom, drawing near to him.
Stella watched her touch him gently, and knew that his mom truly did care about him.
"He absorbed too much mana; I think. As soon as he recovers, he will wake up."
"My poor boy, I wish the world didn't force you to work so hard. I fear you may die young."
"Not if I can help it."
"Stella, I am sorry for the way I acted towards you, all those times. I can see that you truly love my boy, and it breaks my heart. He shouldn't be old enough to leave me, but he is. I truly don't understand all of this magic and mana stuff. He starts to talk about things I've never heard of, and it just goes right over my head. Will you do me a favor?"
"Depends what it is," answered Stella guarded.
"Take care of my little boy. He's the only thing that kept me going, all those times his father left. I tried to travel with him, to stay close to the man I married, but seeing those people being so willing to become slaves, it just broke my heart. I couldn't do it. If anyone could keep my boy alive and well, I know it would be you."
"That is a promise I don't mind giving. I have already decided to stay by his side until the day one or both of us dies."
"Then, why are you so against marrying him?" asked his mother, puzzled.
"Because, my mother married a man once, and I was the result. But when I was born, he left and broke her heart, and my life became a nightmare. While I know that my fear is irrational, and Joseph has offered to remove the instability associated with it, I would rather deal with it myself. I fear…that after we are married, and I have a child, that he will lose interest in me and leave. The thought of him no longer wanting me, for whatever reason, keeps me from agreeing."
Nadette nodded. "I understand now. I knew that you had a horrible childhood, from some of the slaves I had spoken with, but I had no idea it was like that. I am sorry."
"Do not feel sorry for me, it was that trauma that forced me to cross paths with Joseph. While I would not wish that life on anyone, it gave me him, and that made it worth it."
She stood there, looking down on Joseph for a minute more, then turned to leave without another word. Stella watched her go, relieved she hadn't asked about wedding dresses again. Maybe it wouldn't be so hard, getting along with her after this.
Nobody else came to visit them, not even his father. It wasn't until he woke up that she learned why. His aura had become too powerful. Only those with absolutely no magic could stand to come near the room, which raised a lot of eyebrows when people found out his mother had come to visit. How could a woman with absolutely no magic, have him for a son? It must have come from his father.