Chapter 350 Relationship Progress
Aldrich watched from top his control tower as settlers in the central district were whisked away by Casimir's men and support from the nomads. It was just starting to turn into daybreak, the early dawn rays illuminating From this high up, through clear glass walls, he saw the people like little ants, all scurrying about, carrying their meager belongings with them on their back.
Very few had cars that had survived the attack. On this front, the nomads helped out.
If Aldrich was down there, he had no doubts that he would have seen quite a few begrudging looks. Or worried ones, worried that they would have to leave yet again.
The central district was the wealthiest, filled with high end apartment complexes that had largely stayed untouched during the Haven attack. That was the point, after all, by being in the center, where the forcefields were the strongest, buildings in the central district housed the wealthiest by virtue of being the safest.
In contrast, the people that lived in these buildings now were people from Haven's poorest districts. The Outskirts, as it was called. The ones that had been the first to weather the storm and the ones who had lost the most.
Telling them to leave did leave a bad taste in his mouth, but in the end, what had to be done had to be done.
Aldrich had sent Arcadia the Arsellis Treeseed, and she had confirmed that the seed could, in fact, be cultivated. It would, however, take a tremendous amount of her power, so much so that she would have to become dormant within the base of the tree itself to continually grow it.
The seed would essentially grow around her much like how she had been encased in a giant tree beforehand. But instead of the tree nurturing her like an egg, she would be the one feeding the tree nutrients.
Once finished, Arcadia would emerge in an extremely weakened state, but the tree would be almost fully grown. It was essentially an exchange in life force.
Perhaps life force was similar enough in both Elden World and this world that such a transfer could take place easily. Whatever the case, Fler'Gan would be on standby to get valuable data about the process.
Aldrich did not know exactly what stage of growth the Arstree would end up as. From what he knew, the Arstree had four stages: sapling, juvenile, adult, and elder.
A sapling Arstree was already fifty meters tall, slightly taller than the control tower Aldrich resided in now. A juvenile was 500 meters tall. An adult was 1000. And an elder had no definite growth limit, reaching past the clouds themselves.
So long as the tree grew to the sapling stage, he was content. At that point, the tree could emanate a passive aura of protection that would shield the entire city of Haven, adding yet another layer of defense on top of the forcefields.
The shield was not physical in nature but rather more spiritual. It prevented magical intrusion which sounded useless in the Alter world, but in theory, it would completely shut out the Stranger and any other demon from trying to break into it.
This was the reason why Deimos had burned down the Arstree in the third trial quest. With it still standing, maintaining a Flame Arc to call in more demons was impossible.
This was just speculation, but Aldrich theorized that the barrier, called the Arstree Veil, would also stop surveillance as it was meant to shut out any form of prying eyes from seeing into it.
"Seeing the humans with such weary looks in their eyes, knowing not of the world shattering danger that lurks beneath them, it does remind of something my father once said," said Valera, watching beside Aldrich. "That mortals are blind to problems larger than themselves."
Aldrich had briefed Valera about the entity and how he was now on a race to control humanity before the world ended. She had taken it well, affirming once more that she would stand by him to the end.
In hindsight, he wondered why he ever doubted that she would say anything else. A part of him still found it hard to accept unconditional love, especially after losing it from his parents and never getting a hint of it again.
"That may be true, but put enough disaster in front of them, and they'll rally," said Aldrich. "It's how humanity has survived up to this point in the first place."
"I hope that is true. It will be unwieldy trying to command such an unruly species elsewise," said Valera.
"You seem quite calm about this. About taking over and, well, everything," said Aldrich.
"Why would I not be calm?" Valera smiled. "I believe in you, after all."
"Now that's more pressure to add on to my shoulders." Aldrich sighed.
"Ah, do not take my belief as pressure. Take it as comfort. That I will ever be here to shoulder any burden you have."
"Thanks." Aldrich mulled his thoughts over in silence for a bit. He voiced a feeling he had let sit for some time. "You know, I've thought about this, but there's some part of me that feels...awkward having your unconditional support."
"Oh?" Valera's pointed ears perked up.
"It feels unearned. It makes me feel as if I'm in debt, and I don't like that feeling," said Aldrich.
"Ah, but it is earned. You have done so much for me in the other world-," began Valera, but Aldrich cut her off.
"The other world is the other world. The me of now is of this world."
"Right. Sometimes, I forget that," said Valera. She cocked her head and put a finger to her lip. "Hm. Is that a problem? I believe quite a few men would love to have an ever faithful woman by their side."
"Don't get me wrong, I do appreciate it, but I think it's part of the reason why even now, I'm still not able to break that boundary between 'master and knight'," said Aldrich.
"I understand now. This still feels like 'master' and 'knight' to you, and thus, you find it difficult to find something..." Valera blushed faintly. "More."
Aldrich nodded. "Basically, I want you to voice what you want more. I want to feel like there's some give and take."
"Then shall I stop calling you 'master'?"
"That would be a start."
"Hmm." Valera nodded. "It is almost habit to me, especially as a guardian knight, but I can handle that."
"Is there anything you particularly want?" said Aldrich.
"A date," was Valera's simple answer.
"How long have you been wanting one?"
"Ever since you first mentioned it."
Aldrich paused. He had promised her one but had never ended up fulfilling it. He had been too busy. He felt bad about the whole ordeal. He had said he would commit to something more for her, but in the end, he had not even been able to give her one date.
It made him realize he himself was not putting in the grandest of efforts. Granted, it was by necessity as there were so many things happening, but the end result was still the same.
"Alright, a date...I will absolutely promise," said Aldrich. A lightbulb lit up in his head. "I'm having Casimir plan a party in a few days, we can go to that."
"Ah, another night of massacre?" Valera bared a fanged smile, remembering the first party.
"No, not like that. Zero fighting involved. Just festivities," said Aldrich.
"Oh." Valera looked mildly disappointed for a second, but her face quickly brightened up. "Then a date it is! So long as I can be with my mas-, I mean, you, I will be happy."
"Good, hopefully, it doesn't end up a disaster. With so many things up in the air, I wouldn't be surprised if U.S. doesn't bombard us from orbit when they see a giant tree popping up," said Aldrich.
"I have studied these terms, and I now know what 'orbital bombardment' is!" said Valera. "And I am confident I can deflect any such attack."
"Not on our date, you won't," said Aldrich. "I'll try to arrange everything so that we can take it easy. Volantis will pose as me the best he can."
"Can that orc really do that?"
"Believe me, that thought did cross my mind, loud and cheerful and entirely not me that he is. But I figure all he has to do is memorize and read a speech and then stay silent for most of the night."
"If that orc is the reason why our date, finally come to fruition, is ruined, he will hear no end of it from me." Valera clenched her fist, her battle aura surging red around her.
"He may enjoy the prospect of fighting you, so you'd have to find a different punishment than that." Aldrich smiled, but his smile started to fade as he saw a commotion occur on the ground.
There was a park in front of the control tower, and there, someone was getting in a scuffle with some of Casimir's men, obviously refusing to be evacuated.
Upon closer inspection via linking with Valera's sharper sight, Aldrich could see that it was Alan, Randall's adoptive son and Elaine's adoptive brother.
Aldrich sighed. "I'll go ahead and deal with that."