Prime Originator - LightNovelsOnl.com
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The tree roots weaved around each other struck down every single ant that got within a distance seamlessly with great coordination, never tangling itself and created an impenetrable line that could not be crossed no matter the numbers.
At this moment, some ants managed to avoid instant death and latched itself on the tree roots. It nibbled away at the tree roots with its strong mandibles, but the elder tree retaliated in kind with its tenacious roots. The ant ridden roots slammed into the ground, crus.h.i.+ng them like pulverized eggsh.e.l.ls and kicking up a cloud of dust that obscured the eyes of the spectators.
The two sides appeared to be caught in a stalemate as they fight a battle of attrition to see whether the roots give out first, or the ants run out of cannon fodders first.
A battle of this scale wouldn't happen often, but it did happen at this moment. The group can only blame their own luck for the bad timing.
While the group appeared to be safe, they were also trapped so long as the situation persists.
"Isn't this actually pretty dangerous? The tree roots are slowly being worn out by these low-level ants. What will happen when the stronger ants come out to attack? We won't be able to escape since we are trapped here."
"Doesn't that mean we are doomed if we can't escape?"
The palace guards started to become concerned. Anyone with some knowledge on ants would know that soldier ants don't operate on their own. They have a queen, and there would be a group of royal guards under the ant queen.
These soldier ants weren't much weaker than them. How strong would the higher-ranking ants be?
"Ah… we shouldn't have come here. We are all going to die…" A palace guard said depressingly. His words were contagious and affected the mood of the rest of the group.
Leon frowned. The situation was nowhere close to being dire, but the group was already full of negative vibes. It was too disappointing if the elites of the kingdom were truly like this. He expected them to be more steadfast and strong-willed.
Did they buy their way into the elite team with connections or something was affecting their state of mind? The royal family had spent a lot of effort cleaning the kingdom of its corruption in the past month or two. The latter possibility seemed more likely.
"Be careful of the artificial spirit energy! It's affecting your state of mind!" Leon warned. He had already warned them not to absorb the energy beforehand but to think that they would still be affected by it.
How pervasive this energy was!
Luckily, he noticed the problem early and the current symptoms were only mild. If they noticed the problem much later, it could've caused them a lot of trouble.
Leon didn't know what kind of an effect artificial spirit energy had, but the fact that it slightly resembled demonic energy was enough for him to keep his guards up. It was unfortunate that he still underestimated how pervasive the energy could be.
When the group received the warning, they sealed off all their pores and used their own methods to ward off the energy from drawing to them.
"Your Highness, I would like to interrogate the two men." Zorbek requested.
Leon gave him the affirmation. He was also interested in why the two palace guards left the designated area.
They couldn't be blamed for getting themselves captured by the elder tree, but it wouldn't excuse their insubordination. Without a doubt, they had left the area before getting themselves captured.
It was impossible for them to be captured straight from gathering point soundlessly without alerting anyone. It was even less likely for the tree roots to stop midway to let them chuck a s.h.i.+t before bringing them back to the foot of the elder tree itself.
Damir and Lutheran stuttered when Zorbek stern face frowned upon.
"Why did you leave you the designated area without order?" Zorbek interrogated the two, who were still trapped in their binds like wanted criminals.
"We're actually not sure ourselves. We were already here when we realized it. We don't remember what happened before that." The two shook their heads.
"Bulls.h.i.+t!" Zorbek roared. Upon hearing their excuse, he was angered. "Are you telling me you don't even remember going to chuck your own s.h.i.+t!? Who are you trying to fool!?"
The two palace guards, Damir and Lutheran immediately became startled by the Zorbek's outburst.
"What we said was the truth, Captain. We really don't remember!"
Zorbek frowned as he tried to verify the authenticity of their words through their expressions. Their expression didn't show any signs of falsehood and appeared genuine.
"Don't be too harsh of them, Captain. We should be celebrating that we found them here alive and in one piece." A palace guard tried to plead of their behalf.
The previous traces of the two had ended near an ant hole, making one naturally a.s.sume that they got dragged into the ant hole. However, there were no further traces that indicated that they entered the ant hole nor traces that they were dragged beyond the ant holes either.
"Yes, Captain. If they had been taken into one of those ant holes back there, I'm afraid there wouldn't have even been any bodies left for use to pick up." Another palace guard said.
"What was the last thing you remembered before waking up here?" Leon suddenly asked.
The two palace guards frowned and try to recall. "We seem to have been helping out with the loot count?"
"Anything else? Think harder."
"We… seemed to have smelt something weird before our memories went fuzzy." The two answered.
"Something weird, huh?" Leon pondered. So there really were hallucinogens? No that shouldn't be possible.
It was impossible for any other plant to survive in the underground if they have such an overpowered compet.i.tor like the elder tree. The elder tree would have wrestled all the resources and left them no room for survivors in order to save itself. Perhaps that's why there weren't any wood element crystals?
Leon suddenly became cautious. If it wasn't caused by a plant, then there was either an insect with hypnotic effects they had to fail to discover or someone on the team was sabotaging them. Was the team infiltrated by a spy from the Illusory b.u.t.terfly Sect? Leon smelled a rat.
The tragedy of 17 years ago was likely the doing of the Illusory b.u.t.terfly Sect, but the sect members involved were never caught. Leon had a hunch such a person must have disguised themselves and blended into the team.
Perhaps the culprit had intended to kill off the two palace guards silently but never imagined the two men's urge to s.h.i.+t was stronger than the unknown spell cast upon them, which in turn attracted the tree roots to kidnap them.
Leon mentally sighed. Truly nature's providence. When a man got to go, he got to go.
Leon immediately labeled everyone as a suspect, except for Lilith. It did not cross his mind once to suspect Lilith. Could the art of disguise allow a human to grow wings? Surely not.
Even the two bound palace guards were not outside of his range of suspicions. Perhaps the spy intended to kill one person instead, but pretended to be a victim after the plan went awry. There were many possibilities at this point.
However, despite figuring out that there was a rat in the team, Leon remained calm and kept silent on the matter. Informing the team of his discovery will cause unnecessary panic and distrust. The spy would also be alarmed and become harder to catch.
It was easier to work under the radar. Although this puts other's lives at risk, their safety wasn't guaranteed so long as the spy remains unknown either way.
"There might have been small flying insects, capable of spraying hallucinogens back there. Be careful." Leon said calmly. By saying this, the spy would not suspect anything.
"Yes, Your Highness." The palace guards all answered.
"Can someone help free us from these roots now?" Damir requested.
Zorbek looked towards Leon.
"You can try, but you cannot harm the roots. We are all f*cked if you anger the elder tree." Leon stressed, but he had zero expectation that they would be able to succeed in free the two men.
Looking back on the battlefield, Leon concluded that they would be stuck in this situation for a long while. He had no intention of doing nothing during this time, especially not when there was such a rich source of wood energy in front of him.
The only problem was getting the elder tree to be willing to spare some of its valuable wood energy to help him form his woodcore without angering it.
"All of you will stay here and observe the battle. Report to me if the situation changes." Leon ordered, before pulling Lilith along with him towards the elder tree.
"What are you planning to do?"
"Communicate with the tree spirit to free my two men. I need you to guard me and wake me up if you sense me losing myself." Leon said.
"Why should I? Anyone can do that." Lilith frowned.
"Please." Leon pleaded earnestly.
Lilith softened her stance and pouted, "I guess I don't have a choice, seeing how earnest you are. Hmph, hmph!"
Leon said sincerely.
His sincerity seemed to have reached Lilith. She felt her heart slightly race and blushed.
'What is wrong with you, Lilith? How can your heart race for a human? Don't forget that they shot down all your loyal clansmen.' Lilith mentally spoke to herself and shook her head.
Suddenly, she thought how Leon might have read all her expression and panicked.
Seeing that Leon had already had his eyes closed with a serene expression while leaning against the foot of the elder tree in a meditative position, she sighed with relief.
For some reason, she felt also felt disappointed by this and became grumped.
"What is it?" Leon's eyes snapped open with a questioning gaze after suddenly getting kicked by her.
"Nothing." Lilith pouted.
Leon was confused.