Author’s Corner: I have no idea what I’m about to write, but I hope you guys like it! \o/
[su_accordion]Chapter 158: The Next Stage[/su_accordion]
As the days passed, we made sure to keep regular tabs on all locations that Ackbar was sensing the New Human Empire from. It got to the point where Celeste set up a holographic star map with Ackbar standing at our position. Then, he would point in the general direction of each reading from the spell. Repeating this process every day, she took the information and began to triangulate regions that the empire was likely hiding in.
Naturally, this method was ineffective at pinpointing any moving targets, but for stationary ones we were able to narrow them down considerably. Assuming, of course, that this spell was as accurate as we hoped. If not, then this will end up being a great big waste of time.
Oh, and another thing… about five days before we arrived in the Gerin system, I was greeted with a message window appearing in front of me. I had half expected it to be a call from Talia updating me about the war, or a random message from Malthan, but instead this is what I was greeted with.
Galactic Grove conditions have been met!
Number of solar systems inside the Nebula Grove has reached 1,000. Gravity Affinity is greater than 50%.
It is suggested that you get to a safe location for the upgrade process. Upgrade will last 5 hours.
Seeing that message, my mind instantly went into panic mode. The later parts of upgrading to the Nebula stage already caused damage to the area around me due to excessive mana absorption. “Drop out of subspace, and hurry!” I called out on the comms, running towards the airlock.
I could hear the groaning of metal from around me as mana began rushing towards my body with every step I took. In an attempt to alleviate the pressure to the surroundings, I pulled out the Staff of the Minor World, and tried to pull mana from that instead, but it still seemed to want more. Light seemed to distort around me as we dropped out of subspace.
By the time I made it to the airlock, I had already shifted to my void elf form. While waiting for the airlock to depressurize, I could hear the groaning of the metal trying to cave in on itself. Inside my grove, more and more stars were being created. Within ten minutes, I had ten new solar systems, and it was only speeding up.
The moment the airlock opened, I flew out into the empty space, my staff in hand. Looking around, I was glad to see that there were no planets or anything nearby that I could accidentally affect with my upgrading process. Instead, I closed my eyes, and focused on the changes happening inside my grove while I slowly drifted away.
Well, that was the plan at least. “John? What’s going on?” I heard Sharon’s voice in my head, transmitted via Celeste due to the absence of proper comms. Instead of focusing on my grove, I decided to partition my mind again, so that I could still talk to her.
“Sorry, there was no time to explain. My grove is upgrading now, and I was afraid the process would damage the ship.” Inside my grove, at the very center, a single massive star was forming. At the same time, everything else in the grove moved further away from the center, as if fleeing from it. This star was not a miniature version like most of the others, it was a true star.
I could feel the plasma of the surrounding space being sucked into my body, as well as a great crushing pressure. Out of the desire to not turn into a ball of elf-paste, I hardened my skin and muscles to resist the pressure. After a moment, I heard Sharon’s voice again. “Oh… Is everyone going to be okay?” I could tell she was still worried, but this time it was for all of her animal companions currently residing in my grove.
I turned my attention towards the planet they were occupying, and was glad to discover that it had been pushed towards the outer areas of the grove, furthest away from the forming star. “They’re fine, I’m keeping an eye on them.” I sent back to her, trying to reassure her.
By now, a new star was appearing every second, faster than the planets could be formed around them. At the same time, the central star kept growing and growing, until I could feel it tremble. Worrying about Sharon’s animal companions, I focused on that planet, ready to deflect any energies that may be emitted in their direction.
All of a sudden, a mist of light erupted around the central star, the star itself shrinking drastically. Several of the closer planets were enveloped by this mist, their atmospheres bursting into flames and turning the planets into giant balls of molten slag. Thankfully, the planet I was safeguarding was too far away from the center to be reached by this blast of ionized gas.
“Good… We’ll need to have them all evacuate if this is going to be as bad as we thought.” Sharon’s voice came in again as the star at the center trembled once again. This time, however, the light seemed to fade from the star as it collapsed in on itself. I could feel the gravity within the grove slowly start to shift, and knew it was only a matter of time before everything would be pulled in. How long, though, I had no idea.
Dammit, I didn’t want to form the black hole now of all times. I grimaced as I watched the cloud of cosmic gas slowly form into a spiral shape, guided by some unseen energy. As time passed, more stars and planets began forming, faster and faster until the five hour period was done. At that time, I guessed that I had roughly fifty thousand solar systems in total now. Granted, that was still extremely small for an entire galaxy, but far larger than I previously had.
Galactic Grove has successfully been formed!
08:29:23:21:20.50 until total grove collapse.
Galactic Grove Ability Acquired!
Black Hole of Mana
By borrowing the strength of the black hole within your grove, you are capable of quickly absorbing massive amounts of mana in your surroundings.
Well, at least they let me know how long it would take before the grove was completely destroyed by the black hole… So I had nearly nine months to get everything ready. I could work with that. Pulling my partitioned mind out of my grove, I took a look around to see how far away I had drifted. “I’m done now, heading back.”
Sadly, I had no idea which direction ‘back’ was, until Celeste pointed it out for me. As such, I turned myself that way and began flying. At the same time, the ship seemed to be moving towards me as well, otherwise it would have taken another five hours of flying to get back.
When I got back on the ship, I was met with a rather upset Sharon, an annoyed Yin, and two smirking parents. “So, any other surprises you have in store for us?” My dad asked while crossing his arms over his chest.
“Uhm… no? Not right now, at least.” I suddenly realized how fortunate I was that some random space monster didn’t decide to munch on me while I was drifting away from the ship. At least they aren’t THAT common yet.
“Good.” He said with a nod. Afterwards, he took my mom and wandered off, while she gave me a friendly wave. Meanwhile, the two girls closed in on me.
“John…” Yin began, giving me a smile that was very much not a smile.
“I think you like worrying us, don’t you?” Sharon said, mirroring Yin’s expression. I felt a cold sweat form on my back as I tried to back up, only to find that the airlock had closed behind me.
“Uhm… we can talk about this, right? Heheh… no need to be hasty?” I chuckled awkwardly. Any man that has ever been in a relationship can tell you, the most fearsome being they have ever known was the person they were in that relationship with. In my case, it was these two beauties. They scared the ever-loving daylights out of me sometimes!
“Sure, we can talk…” Sharon grinned, grabbing me by one hand while Yin grabbed the other.
Distractions, distractions, what could I use for a distraction?! “So, are you two ready for the ceremony when we get back to Gerin?” John has used Distraction!
Yin froze for a moment, looking at me in confusion. “Ceremony?” She asked as she tilted her head.
I nodded my head rapidly in response. “Right, the ceremony! Didn’t we agree that we’d have a nice wedding after we got away from Kithorun? Where better to have it than Gerin, since that is where you evolved, and Sharon and I are both elves now?”
Distraction is critically effective! I watched as the two girls’ smiles grew much softer. I mean, really, why would we want to have the wedding on Kithorun? Do you even know what their customs are? When Qu’Lopti marry, it’s not a nice, romantic ceremony. Instead, it’s a dramatic battle of husband versus wife to determine the ‘fate of the world’. In other words, they fight with fake weapons, until one of them admits defeat. The ‘loser’ is the one that has to pay for the refreshments afterwards.
“Okay… fine. You’re off the hook, for now.” Sharon gives me a wry smile. “But I’m not forgetting how you didn’t keep track of your grove and let all of this erupt so suddenly. We’ll have to find a planet that we can safely put everyone, or distribute them out through different groves until the final evolution. Which is how long…?”
I glanced back to the timer, and nodded my head. “Just under nine months. After that, I guess we’ll have the questions to life, the universe, and whether or not your grove will be able to survive this…”
Sharon’s lips curved downwards at the mention of that. We still didn’t know what would happen with her grove, and Malthan wasn’t wanting to tell me. So, she simply sighed and shook her head. “It doesn’t matter. If the grove is destroyed, I’ll just try to make another one. With everyone’s help, it won’t take long before it is at a level where they can live in it again. It’s not like I’m losing my druid abilities either way.”
I smiled, grasping her hand lightly. “It’ll be alright, one way or the other.” Hearing me say that, Yin nodded her head as well, pulling Sharon into a comforting hug.
Now I needed to add this to my list of things that we had to do over the next year. While it wouldn’t be that hard to simply move everyone from my grove into different groves of Sharon’s other animals, it’s a different matter for trying to move all of the animals in her own grove, since many of them required special habitats. Did this seriously have to happen while we have a war going on?
Yes, yes it did.
Oh hush, you. I grumbled mentally to the new window that appeared, and began sending messages quietly to Talia, asking to arrange for our ceremony. Now that I brought it up, I definitely had to go through with it. Of course, I had planned to do this at some point while we were at Gerin anyways, I just figured it would be after the war. But desperate times called for a desperate distraction!
Pulling the two girls along, I returned to our room for a while. The captain was taking a break for a few minutes to cuddle his future wives!