A mere flash of Odis’ malevolent gaze was enough to burn it into the hearts of the Botanians below. Overwhelming fear started to bubble from the depths of their soul, reducing them into a trembling mess.
On the Fertilia continent stood White Chirp Mountain, where a lean but powerful Botanian lived in seclusion. He was one of the few level-three lifeforms of Botania and looked oddly like a banana. He held a handle apparently made of the most common wood. However, its rounded edges and yellowish tint was a clear sign of its frequent usage.
The banana Botanian, Arnold, was Botania’s unrivalled genius three hundred years ago. He had advanced as a level-one lifeform at the tender age of twenty and was hailed as a leader when he became a level-two lifeform in less than a hundred years. Arnold was regarded as the brightest of Botania and his outstanding talent had even shocked the World Tree tremendously.
Just when everyone hoped that Arnold would remain active and continue to pen his own legend, the genius announced his decision to enter seclusion. With that, Arnold was gone from the public eye for the last two hundred years.
The Botanians had last heard about him two hundred years ago so naturally, no one was aware that Arnold was now a level-three lifeform. His current battle potential was no less weak than the sunflower high priest. Despite centuries of radio silence, the brilliant prodigy of Botania had exited the mountains today with his harmless wooden handle.
Arnold was acting strange. He caught a clear glimpse of the massive red eye that flashed across the sky and the worsening crack in the plane’s barrier. Based on a level-three lifeform’s judgment, he should start running as fast as he could. Yet, he had done the very opposite; he began to sprint towards the direct bottom of the crack, driven by a strong subconscious will. The plane was calling its inhabitants to fight for their motherland.
With his unyielding fighting spirit that lasted three hundred years, Arnold lunged towards the unknown enemy.
Similarly, many lifeforms above level one were forced to end their seclusion or training to participate in the resistance force. After all, nothing could be more pressing than the current situation.
Black spots began appearing in the sky. The first batch of slaves was approaching Botania’s outermost atmosphere layer, closing in onto the opening. Despite being competent creatures of level one or two capabilities, they dared not steal a glance at Odis, who was still holding the crack open. Their soul imprints were urging them to enter Botania and that was all they could think of.
Lifeforms above level one were capable of building energy shells as protection against the high friction caused by entering the atmosphere. Streaks of colour lit up the sky as the first group of slaves plummeted into the dense foliage.
Most of the slaves were captured from planes conquered by Zauberia. Regardless of their diverse identities and varying intelligence, they were just slaves. Gazes maddened, they landed with a crash. They sensed the inferiority and fear of the native Botanians clearly. Their remaining rationale allowed them to remember that their planes were similarly invaded by Zauberia. However, anguish and other emotions were privileges that slaves couldn’t enjoy. While their consciousness should be long gone due to the soul imprint, they did know one thing clearly: as long as they obeyed the casters and knights who controlled their soul imprints, the scalding sensation could be alleviated.
Botania was too peaceful. The plane hadn’t met any major disasters in the last thousands of years and its solid barrier had protected them from alien attacks. Its minuscule size and erratic spatial coordinates had further aided them in concealing their presence in the astral realm.
Plus, the Botanians were simple beings that favoured harmony. They had nothing to worry about as their sustenance, soil and sunlight, were limitless. All was well if they could swim in the swamp once a week. Save for a few individuals who were keen on cultivation or possessed impressive talents, anyone who could become as strong as a low-rank Zauberian Knecht was already considered impressive enough.
In the face of the rain of slaves, the only thought that struck the regular Botanians was to run for their lives. Resistance wasn’t even an option at this point as malice was universally understood. The Botanians may be simpletons, but they could feel the deep animosity that radiated off the strange aliens with hideous faces and an unsettling presence.
“Run for your lives!”
Crowds of Botanians began to flee from their mushroom huts and treehouses. But of course, there were always exceptions.
An army of two thousand Botanians went into battle formation. They were determined to not back down against the approaching slave army. Before long, more Botanian soldiers were gathered by many level one and two leaders across Botania. The size of their population was decent; if they had more time, they would’ve assembled enough numbers to stand a chance against the invading force. Unfortunately, the casters and knights of Zauberia wouldn’t allow that.
Flaming balls began to crash down from the sky like asteroids, leaving behind huge indents in the soil that were at least ten metres in diameter.
A squad was rushing over from the Wilderness continent under the leadership of a level-one tomato Botanian. There was a huge pit of a thirteen-metre diameter ahead of their path, so a smaller cucumber sentry was sent ahead to assess the situation.
The cucumber sentry was scrawny. Be it a result of poor genetics or malnourishment, the green wooden gun in his grip looked bigger than him even, which made for a pitiful sight. The soldier reached its head inside the crater but the dust had made it difficult to make out anything worthwhile.
Unbeknownst to him, danger awaits. There was a tyrant dragon with maroon scales waiting at the bottom of the pit.
The cucumber sentry could feel goosebumps rising along his skin. It felt as if something horrible had locked its eyes on him. Yet, he tightened his hold around the wooden gun and ventured deeper.
A few hundred soldiers waited outside the crater, not daring to move. The stretch of silence was odd and the level-one tomato Botanian, Gaston, was running out of patience. He huffed repeatedly and scratched his head. His temperament was just as red and bothered as his body.
“How long has it been?” Gaston asked a nearby soldier.
“About five pulses, Sir.”
Pulses were the fundamental unit of time in Botania. Five pulses were equivalent to three minutes in Zauberia.
The tomato Botanian huffed and began to consider if he should send another sentry down the crater. Lord Houth of the nearby Watermelon city had given them urgent orders to assist with the current resistance, which had corresponded to the Holy City’s orders that asked for the cooperation of all continents to solve the unrest.
Before Gaston could even do anything else, a shrill scream pierced the air. “Aaaaah!”
It gradually died down. That voice belonged to the cucumber sentry!
“Alert! Alert!” Gaston barked. In that split second, he sensed a powerful presence at the bottom of the pit. The unknown enemy was at least one rank more powerful than him. He barked orders and the soldiers began moving into position to form a wonky circular formation around him.
Gradually, the dust dissipated and light could finally reach the bottom. All the Botanian soldiers could see was a gigantic creature. The tyrant dragon was at least seven metres tall! Worse, there was a touch of emerald green fluid clinging onto rows of its messy jagged fangs.
That was the blood of the cucumber sentry. Judging from its colour, the sentry was killed just a moment ago but his body was nowhere to be seen. A few fast-thinking soldiers immediately made the connection between the sentry’s death and the dragon’s wrinkly stomach.
The slaves had been starved for a week prior to the planar war to force out their primal instincts. Creatures above level one wouldn’t be too badly affected by prolonged lack of nourishment to the point that it would affect their capabilities. Yet, the torment was certainly more than enough to drive them insane. Blinded by their hunger, the ferocious beasts would claw for anything other than casters and knights to fill their aching stomachs.
“Damn you!” Gaston clenched his fists. Botanians fed on sediment and the act of devouring their kind would trigger its wrath. Before the enraged soldiers could do anything, a deafening roar escaped the tyrant dragon. It dashed into their formation, eyes fixed on the tomato Botanian.
The tyrant dragon was a level-one lifeform and one of the strongest drake species enslaved. Its considerable intelligence was telling it to devour the tomato Botanian; the rich nutrition and energy would definitely help lighten the doubling pain on its soul and stomach.
And so the massacre began.