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183 What Are You Doing Here?

    "We haven't done anything to anger you! Why are you threatening us?!" Asked the town chief with clear anxiousness. One could feel the exasperation built on days of fear towards his people.

    The Queen of the Dryads looked at the town chief with a blank expression, yet, after she started speaking, people started to realize how shocked by the words of the town chief she actually was.

    "Done nothing!? He has been killing the members of our kind for months now! HE EVEN KILLED OUR YOUNG ONES! We weren't even aware of your existence until you came into the depths of the forest!" She responded after pointing at the stranger who had offered his help to them.

    "Don't listen to her. Dryads are known for trying to manipulate the minds of humans.. They separate a group and kill each part individually.." Responded the stranger with a reassuring tone.

    Not knowing what to do anymore, the eyes of the town chief shifted between the stranger and the Queen of the Dryads.

    The moment his eyes landed on the queen, he heard her voice once again say "Lying?.." She then turned towards the town citizens, and asked "Did you encounter any dryad in the forest since you have entered it?"

    With a hint of caution, the town chief said "We have engaged in battle with less than a dozen of them."

    "Are they dead?" Asked the queen in response. Her tone was calm, as she already suspected the answer to her question.

    "They were dead when we arrived.. Along with thirty of our people." Responded the town chief while adding a hint of anger to the last part of his response.

    The queen did not take the town chief's tone to heart. Instead, she asked a question that sprouted a seed of doubt in the mind of each cultivator.

    "Did our dead have their hearts ripped out of their chests?.."

    A few of the cultivators from the town immediately understood the meaning behind the words of the Queen of the Dryads, and turned to look at the stranger, which in response, said "It's true, I have collected their hearts because I happen to be an alchemist.. But the rest is false! I was never here before.. And they were planning an attack on your town! Why would I put myself in such a risk otherwise?"

    The queen saw how confused the town cultivators were, but did not care. "It does not matter now.. While you have been fooled by this man, you will all die here regardless." She said with a matter-of-fact tone.

    She then lifted her green arms, causing hundreds of roots to move out of the ground, and form a barrier all around the group of cultivators.

    "See? She is trying to disturb our harmony as a group! We have to fight back!" He said while making a long red whip appear in his hand, and lashing it against the blockade of tree roots.

    A large opening appeared in the barrier, with its borders covered with fire.

    Unable to understand what was happening anymore, the many cultivators had no other choice but to fight the party that had the most evident intention of killing them.. The dryads.

    They quickly unsheathed their weapons, and followed the stranger out of the hole he had created with his fire whip.

    In a matter of seconds, an all out war started between the humans, and the dryads.

    As a warmongering race, the humans had a cultural advantage in creating strategies for war, but this was the territory of the dryads, and their number was slightly higher than the humans.

    The attacks of the dryads were wood-based, and arrived at impressive speed from all directions.

    Being entities that were born in a forestal environment, the dryads had a perfect control over wood essence, along with a very high comprehension over it.

    The unique type of essence that they produced, was an halfway between beast essence, and wood essence. Its close relationship to wood essence made the transition to pure wood essence much easier, and helped them with controlling and manipulating the forest that surrounded them.. Unfortunately, it was near impossible to turn into different types of essence.

    This was also the cause why it was very rare for dryads to reach a perfect comprehension of wood essence even if they possessed a high intelligence. Their race was extremely antisocial towards any other race, and they would usually attack them on sight if they entered their territory.

    Due to this, it was safe to assume that, even if the stranger was lying and the dryads had no intentions of attacking them before they came to the depths of the forest, the reason was more likely to be that the dryads were not aware of their presence, than that they did not want to attack them.

    If they knew that humans had created a town right at the edge of their forest, people would have probably started to disappear long ago.

    The town had been built due to the proximity to a now dismissed crystal mine, and had been built near the forest, because it would be easier for its citizens, which were previously workers for the mining company, to gather resources.

    Now that the mine had been dismissed, instead of going back to living an hectic life in a large city, the ex workers had decided to stay in the town permanently, and try to slowly build a new city.

    This was not something rare, and it would often happen with many temporary outposts or towns in history.. Unfortunately, in order to survive and prosper, the town would always have to endure a certain amount of years that people used to call 'infant stage'.

    The major risks during the infant stage of a town were caused by its distance to government governed cities, causing the town to be under threat of bandits, or hostile races groups like, for example, the dryads.

    Another reason why these towns had little chance to survive, was due to the low power of its inhabitants which, due to it being formed by previous workers, was usually pretty low.

    Luckily the dryads weren't much more powerful than they were. They had survived inside that particular forest for numerous millennia, but due to the lack of enemies in their territory, their power had stayed at the fourth stage of cultivation.

    The most powerful amongst them, was the queen, which was currently at the late fifth stage of cultivation.

    She was currently facing off against the stranger, which while brandishing two scythes, was managing to hold his ground relatively easily.

    On the other side, hundreds of dryads were slowly and steadily suppressing a just as large group of human cultivators, which couldn't compete only thanks to their sheer physical power, and steel weapons.

    Wood was an highly defensive element, and it was especially effective against weapons. If that wasn't enough, its maneuverability made it extremely effective to disarm or impede a human cultivator's movements.

    What the dryads lacked though, was the motivation that humans had. They had found themselves between the hammer and the anvil, and had no choice but to give their all to survive.

    They had completely lost trust in the stranger, which was simply focusing on battling against the queen.

    -----

    The battle went on for a full hour, and after so much time had passed, one of the two side of the battle had started to go against everybody's expectation.

    While humans had lost a good twenty percent of their members, the stranger had gained the upper hand against the queen of the dryads, which now had numerous wound on her body from which dark green blood flowed constantly.

    This sight was what the humans were hoping for.

    They used the anxiousness that the dryads were feeling for their queen to counter attack. The few of them that could use fire essence started to direct their attacks at a single point in the encirclement, creating a passage from which they could push through.

    "FIRST, SECOND AND FOURTH GROUP ATTACK FROM THE RIGHT! THIRD GROUP, WATCH OUR BACKS!" Shouted the town chief with new found vigor.

    Three of the four groups immediately dashed towards their right, and started to attack the unprepared semi-circle of dryads, which unable to defend against the human's onslaught, started to die at a much faster rate.

    The increasingly worse state of the dryads had worried the queen just as much as her sorry state had worried her troops. Both of them had gotten distracted, allowing the humans and the stranger to score more and more hits.

    After another half hour of fighting, the stranger was finally close to killing the queen dryad, when out of desperation, the queen used her last resort.

    A faint blue smoke started to emanate out of the purplish veins hidden underneath her bark-like skin.

    The stranger reacted to this blue smoke by ingesting a small green pill, while the various cultivators could do nothing but let this large blue cloud wash past them.

    There was no doubt in their mind. They had been poisoned.

    The Queen of the Dryads looked at the pill that the stranger ingested with shock. She could feel a hint of dryad poison in it, and that was the indisputable proof that this man had come here to hunt for them.

    Unfortunately, the poison that she had emanated had taken the majority of her remaining strength. This last resort attack could only be used in desperate situation, as she used her own blood which, in contact with the air, turned into a gaseous state to poison her enemies while leaving her gravely weakened.

    The stranger immediately used the occasion to finish her off by stabbing her shoulder with one of his scythes, and while keeping her still, decapitated her with his second one.

    After the queen died, the rest of the dryads lost their will to fight, causing the humans to emerge victorious in a matter of minutes.

    The town chief was now looking at the stranger, which was busy extracting the heart of the Queen of the Dryads. He then approached him from behind.

    "Mister Tera, what was that blue cloud that engulfed us?" He asked with clear worry.

    Without even looking back, the stranger said "A poison. Don't worry, it doesn't work unless the dryad is alive to add in her own unique essence to it."

    All the town chief was able to hear, was the word poison.

    "Why are you lying to them?" Said a voice from about fifty meters above the ground.

    Without anyone noticing, three individuals had appeared in the air. A young platinum blonde woman, and two more young men. One lean, with an athletic build, and one tall and stout.

    These three individuals were, of course, Alesia, Daniel, and Serf.

    The person who had talked, was Serf.. which was currently looking at the stranger with a clearly angered expression.

    What had caused his anger to appear, was not only the fact that this so called benefactor was about to let these people die, but the fact that he recognized him.

    "Serf.. what are you doing here?" Asked the stranger with eyes opened in shock.

    The various cultivators looked at the flying figures of Daniel, and his party with worry.

    It was the town chief that interrupted the silence by asking "What does that mean.. What is he lying about?"

    Serf turned to look at the town chief, and said with a matter-of-fact tone "The dryad's poison is a slow effect toxin that makes your brain degenerate.. It will start showing its effects in a matter of hours, and will kill you in no more than two days."

    At this point, the human cultivators had lost all faith in the stranger's words. Instead, they looked at their leader, which asked in response "Is there a cure?"

    "There is.." Responded Serf before pointing at the stranger, and saying "The blood of young dryads, along with the heart of adult ones, can be used to synthesize a cure."

    The stranger looked at Serf with anger, and said "You are playing a dangerous game serf.. Contrary to your family, mine deserves our title.." He already knew what Serf's words implied.

    Just as his last few words reverberated through the air, a small talisman appeared in his hands.

    He was about to crush it, but before he could put any power into his fingers, he was forced to dock backwards in order to avoid a horizontal slash that, if successful, would have cut his head clean off.
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