Nex suddenly stopped running and whipped his head towards the northern direction. He had a strange look on his face as he kept staring there for quite some time before shaking his head and resume his running.
"I must be imagining things."
The capital is towards that direction but he didn't know this and what it implies. So, the only logical thing to do is discard such disturbing thoughts off his head. He focused his attention to the area as he increased his pace. It took him 4 hours of running and he could almost reach the Spirit Zone.
This Spirit Zone is a little out of the way from his route to the Dwarf Settlements but with fast speed, it will just take him less than an hour and a half to proceed there afterwards. With 14 hours left till his deadline, it was more than enough.
Soon, he could feel the sensation of breaching a barrier and in the next moment, the view in front of him changed. He found himself inside a magnificent forest with beautiful tall trees, luscious green grass and glamorous streams of light flying in the air.
'This is a Spirit Zone, alright.' Nex thought.
He could feel the rich mana and the high concentration of Nature energy all around him. While comparing this Spirit Zone to the ones he's familiar with, he suddenly heard a bunch of excited little voices.
Countless of small creatures flew towards him. It didn't take long before he was surrounded by this motley of baby creatures which varies from humans to cubs, kittens, calves, lambs, foals, puppies, infants, joeys and a lot more.
"Hooo! Who is this?"
"I don't know! But he seems really kind!"
"I know! This is a super good friend!"
"A super good friend?"
"Yep! A super good friend is someone reaaaaaally nice who plays with us and helps us whatever we ask of him!"
"Whaaaaaaat! Really?! I wanna play with him!"
"I also heard that a super friend gives candies too!"
"...Also tells stories."
"...Gives back rides."
"...Gives hugs and tummy rubs."
"Hello, super friend! Can we play?"
"Can you tell us a story about the outside world?"
"Can you rub my tummy?"
Being bombarded with questions, requests, and affections from the Spirits, Nex smiled wryly, 'It seems that those traits will follow me even in this game.'
"That is enough, little ones. It has been a long time since a special guest like this one has arrived. What is your name, oh virtuous one?"
The sudden intrusion of an ethereal voice of a woman disrupted Nex's thoughts of pacifying the little kids. The age of the speaker was indiscernible but it did the job. The little ones were now a little more settled.
The smile in his face distorted slightly when he heard how he was addressed by the woman. Nonetheless, he replied politely.
"My name is Nexus, but you can call me Nex. I assume that you're the Mother Spirit of this place."
"That is correct." The voice answered with a slight surprise.
"It has been a long time since an uncontracted human has known the existence of the Mother Spirit."
"You can say that this isn't the first time I met one of your kind." Nex nodded.
"Is that so? Considering your affinity with us, meeting another one is indeed logical." The Mother Spirit agreed before continuing, "Oh where are my manners? Welcome, Nex, to our home. Is there something we can help you with? I'm assuming there is a reason for you to seek us."
"In fact, there is." Nex agreed. He liked this trait of being straightforward of the Spirits.
"I want to have a [Mana Link] with you through touch. Of course, as an exchange, I will play with the children here for a few hours and fulfill any requests that you have, as long as it is within my capabilities."
"W-what?" The previously ethereal and regal voice of the Mother Spirit became coy, greatly resembling that of a teen-aged girl's.
"You want to do [Mana Link] with me with t-touch? Do you realize what you're asking for?"
"Yes and I'm sorry if I seem to be presumptuous, but this is something that I must accomplish," Nex said with honesty and sincerity.
"B-but! Still! This is---"
Desperation painted Nex's face but he was being eaten by guilt inside.
The Mother Spirit wasn't acting coquettish in a sexually-romantic way. Like most spirits, she is not susceptible to these kinds of emotions. It's just that, this request is too much and he knew how it is for them. He, being a stranger, is asking the Mother Spirit to divulge her innermost secrets on their first meeting. This is just plain wrong on so many levels.
"Ahhh! I don't care anymore!" The Mother Spirit finally reached a decision.
"Kids, please escort Nex to my place."
"Okay, Mommy!" The curious little Spirits chorused and they started to guide Nex deeper into the forest.
They arrived in front of a very large tree, probably the largest inside this forest. There, a pregnant middle-aged lady sat on a chair made of flowers. Despite her aged face, she managed to maintain a pure complexion that made her look exquisite.
She looked at Nex with a complex face that quickly turned surprised, which caused her to inelegantly blurt out her next words.
"You not only have a [Crest of the Chosen] as an Explorer, but also have the [Affection] of a baby Innate Spirit?!"
"So this is what this thing is called?" Nex looked at where his tattoo was with slight annoyance.
"All I did was to kill an annoying corrupted and suddenly I got this weird---"
"Fine! Not weird, but still unexpected thing."
"No. No. To get this crest, what you have slain could not have been just an "annoying corrupted"." The Mother Spirit quickly figured out this young man's personality and could only give out a sigh. She didn't linger on the topic and voiced out her curiosity.
"What truly gave me shock isn't this crest, but how you met a baby Innate Spirit and got their [Affection]. Moreover, you managed to hid the signs for that so well."
"Oh, that?" He stared at the hand that he had used to pet Maple back then, while he smiled fondly at the memory.
"That child was in trouble, so I saved her and for some reason, both she and her Spiritualist have established a good rapport with me, so for me to get her [Affection], is quite expected."
When it comes to Spirits, [Affection] is something that they will give to a person whom they have gotten close with. Unlike [Blessing], it is only a way to show others, mostly Spirits, that this person is trustworthy enough to have an affinity with a Spirit.
Furthermore, a young Innate Spirit is aloof and usually doesn't get close to anyone other than their Spiritualist. To get their [Affection] is not an easy task.
"Is that so?" The Mother Spirit who didn't sense any deceit in his words gave him a grateful gaze.
"I must thank you for helping that child, but I still have to know why and how exactly did you hide the [Affection]."
"It's simple. You know very well what the value of a young Innate Spirit is to those with bad intentions. If they find out about the existence of that kid, she may find herself in trouble once again. I will not allow for that to happen. And as for how I did that..."
Nex smiled slyly.
"You will find out when we do the [Mana Link]."
The Mother Spirit looked at him before giving in.
"Okay. Then, let's do it."
Once she learned about the crest and the young Innate Spirit's [Affection], she decided to invest more trust in this silver-haired man.
"Don't worry, I promise it will be okay." He reassured her before going in front of her. He then held his hand out.
Slightly reluctant, the Mother Spirit reached out her hand and grabbed Nex's palm.
"Here I go."
He began to stream mana mixed with soul force into the other's hand. In response, she did the same for him.
This process of linking each other's mana enables the participants to communicate, share thoughts and sensations. For species such as humans, this technique is mainly used in conversations where language can't be used to express oneself. The usefulness of this doesn't mean much, in this case.
In the case of Spirits, however, where such beings are made mostly of mana, soul, and Nature energy, linking with others means exposing the very essence of their being to another. The gravity of this process to them is very heavy and it is not something they do on a daily basis as even they, who lack common sense in that department, feel embarrassed by the exposure.
And so, as Nex and Mother Spirit shared mana and soul force to each other's body, the pair became more and more aware of each other's mind and soul. They slowly learned more about the other's true self. At least, it was like that, for one of them.
'How is this possible? How could one's Soul Depth be so... Unfathomable.'
The Mother Spirit has never been flabbergasted like this before.
Normally, a person's soul has three parameters. First is Strength, which decides the power and capacity a soul can exhibit and handle. This parameter is limited by a person's overall strength and his ability to develop it.
Second is Purity, which is responsible for the power and capability of the mind, especially its ability to think. It also affects the explosive power of the soul. This parameter can only be raised through specialized training that most of the time only people with high enough level of strength are capable of doing.
The third and final one is Depth or more commonly known as size. Not much is known about this parameter and what exactly it entails. It is not limited by power level, as weaker people can have deeper souls than normal; nor is it limited by a person's mental capability.
In fact, no one is really sure what exactly one can do when they have deep souls. One thing is for sure, although not every great person is the owner of a deep soul, all the greatest people are!
To raise this parameter, it can be summed up to one word, comprehension. Only by learning and understanding more about one's self and the world around him can they slowly deepen their souls. Experiencing what other people normally can't, taking risks to know more, enlightening their minds, broadening their horizons, such things take a lot of time and unimaginable effort but necessary for the improvement of this parameter.
What Mother Spirit is seeing right now, is an endless pit that seems to go down forever, with no more than a few sparks that barely made light here and there.
To have a clearer picture about the current state of this parameter of Nex's as compared to a normal person's, the comparison could be made between a plastic drinking straw and a country's water system. There is no point in comparing at all!
'Just what has he gone through for his soul to become like this?'
Before her unsettlement could begin to subside, she suddenly felt that Nex's soul begin to retract and go back inside his body. She was once again, back on her chair with him looking at her with the same gentle smile. All she can do is to stare back at him with a completely different look.
"Y-you…" She stuttered, both in awe and nervousness.
"May I know exactly what is esteemed Sir's age?"
As if expecting this question, Nex chuckled gently while he patted her head like she was like one of the curious baby Spirits from before. She could only flinch to this gesture, which he never noticed.
"That, little one, is a secret."
If it was before, she would have become angry at his actions, but now? Although he was much weaker than her, all she dared to do was to meekly let him pat her like an obedient cat.
"Well…" Nex retracted his hand.
"Now that we are done with that, it's time for me to do my part of the deal. Is there anything that you would want me to do?"
"No. No." She quickly shook her head.
"This one does not dare to---"
A loud sound of an explosion shook part of the barrier of the Spirit Zone.
"Oh no! They are here again!" The Mother Spirit's face changed and become filled with distress.
Nex looked towards where the sound came from and the warmth his face held, all faded.
"It seems that there are those types of fools here, as well." He muttered with undisguised anger. He turned to look at the Mother Spirit with a reassuring smile.
"It seems that there is something I can help you with now, does it?"
His next words were heard but he could no longer be seen from where he was just standing at.
"Don't worry; all you need to do is watch."
Should I add a title to each chapter?
Author: matanman. Proofreader: bet2z.
Open to any review and will be open to questions on my di*cord channel: https://discord.gg/TXFKER6.
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