Magnus: Explanations for the delay will be added at the end, for now, here is the set up for the next arc. This story will be getting more updates in order to finish it.

Disclaimer: I will not reply to flames on early chapters, is just not worth it.

Edit: This chapter was Beta'ed by Vandenbz.

Chapter 21

A Humble Scheme

Chris the Thief knew that her mission wouldn't be easy despite having a full week of preparation. Even when liberally using her influence as the goddess Eris.

"We are almost there." Chris announced to her entourage, seven priests and priestesses of varying ages and ranks, "I hate to repeat myself, but we cannot afford to fail; lest we tarnish the name of our beloved Goddess…"

"We understand, but…" The senior priest, a handsome and young looking High Elf, replied. "Just give us a few more minutes to ready our hearts. We have to… accept a Harpy, after all."

Taking a moment to look at the manor now in sight, Chris nodded to her entourage. No matter how desperate she was to set the plan into motion, she had to make sure that every little step was secured before proceeding. If even one of the zealots she was guiding screwed up, everything would be for nothing.

For a while now, Eris had been sending prophetic dreams to key people from the church. The Archbishop, all the Bishops and local head Priests, the most trusted freelancers working for the church, and even local celebrities that had enough influence.

The beloved Goddess had chosen a Hero. Of humble origin and demeanor, friend to the scorned and pure of heart. His deeds would prove his worthiness, his path contradicting all notions of justice, and his voice heralding the dawn of a new era.

"Chris… you have met this man before." One of the priestesses called for attention while the rest muttered prayers to steel themselves, "What can we expect of him and… the Harpy?"

The prophetic dreams had been vivid and rather direct. The Chosen One would carry the voice of the world, making his class rather obvious, emphasis was made on the scorned, sparing no detail on the hated Harpy and the feared Gator-girl; even nods to his achievements had been thrown out, like being able to redeem a Lich, and of course, bringing back a fallen beloved.

That Izuku managed to take down the Mobile Fortress Destroyer just cemented the picture quite nicely.

"The Harpy is surprisingly tame, more so considering she is a wild one; she talks and acts like a ditz, but is unerringly cunning. Don't start any aggression, of any kind." Chris' report earned grim faces from everyone, even when this wasn't the first time she'd warned them, "Izuku is quite unlike anything you could expect though. He is kind to a fault to the people around him, but will retaliate with a cold fury towards anyone who even tries to harm them. This includes the Harpy… and you know what happened to the Destroyer."

Chris took one final look at her entourage, the hand-picked group that would herald the new age of the Eris Faith.

To be honest, the seven Bishops had been flabbergasted at the selection process; none of them believed how six of their rank and file could carry such an important mission. They were not only lowly novices, but had even been marked to never advance due to their radical ideals. Three men and three women, most human and only one male Dwarf, had been ostracized due to their approach to Demi-humans; the lot of them didn't even bother to hide their favoritism toward such lowly races, to the point of condemning those who abused them.

All of them claimed that the beloved Eris wouldn't take delight in the suffering of any race. Their enslavement was meant to uplift them from their heretic ways, and to bring them into the light of the Faith. They even declared that the Harpies had long passed the point of atonement, as too many generations had perished in ignorance while paying for the sins of their ancestors. Their demands for a change of the paradigm had resulted in multiple cases of admonishment, scandal and censorship.

And now… they were the last hope of the church.

Eris didn't care much though; having to balance her divine duties and her life in the mortal world had left her with little time to pay attention to all the details. The mistreatment of the Demi-humans as a whole had been a thing from her senpai, not her; although she resented such brutality being tied to her dogma. She would have liked if the Harpies had gone extinct, but if forgiving them was what it took to revive her beloved race, she could be very forgiving!

"You think we can finally be friends with the Harpies?" The hopeful question was thrown in a hushed voice.

"I hope we can at least stand together with non-hostile terms…" Once heretical words were the fountain of hope today.

"Oh, Benevolent Eris… Give me strength to face this hurdle today…" And then the prayer of the main actor of the day made Chris nervous yet again.

The six radicals were the key to fixing the bridge between Izuku and her faith, but the Elf was the central piece to bring the Avariel back. Handsome, pious, and absolutely compatible. He also used to take pleasure in torturing Harpies in the name of Eris…

"Let's get going." The Elf finally stopped praying, standing ready to bring glory to his beloved Goddess, "We were all blessed with this new era, and we must ensure that we accept it as our Beloved Eris accepts us… even if it's difficult."

Chris certainly hoped the plan would go through without issue. She also hoped she didn't need to kill this priest to prevent a mishap; finding another compatible Elf was going to be absurdly difficult.

One minute later

Standing at the gate of the manor, Chris realized the truth behind the human saying:

No plan survives first contact.


The shout felt like an under-reaction for the sight before the religious group. The way it was glaring at them with emerald incandescent eyes wasn't just intimidating, it would have sent them fleeing if they didn't feel like their goddess was protecting them.

Even with the first snow starting to blanket the road, with the cold wind starting to make people want to avoid the outside. The creature was just there, standing menacingly as if daring everyone to even attempt to take a step into the territory where its master was resting. The antlers alone promised far more than a world of pain to anyone fool enough to challenge its might or non-existent patience.

Then another couple reached the gate.

"M-My Lady! I understand that I made mistakes and…" The armored woman was trying to apologize to a rather annoyed looking young lady.

"I gave you very specific instructions. I gave you direct orders to follow on each of the scenarios that we went through…" The young blonde interrupted, the sword sheathed by her waist making her look surprisingly intimidating, "And you failed at everything. You better not shame me today too."

The young Lady in question was not what she appeared at first glance. She had been given a very important mission, and while her unfortunate accident looked like an obstacle at first, it ended up helping said mission, if only by proxy.

Slightly caressing the ring in her pocket, she mentally prepared herself for what she knew must be done.

Her mission was to meet the potential heroes, souls touched by the Goddesses and destined to fight against the Devil King. She was meant to judge these people, and if found worthy, offer them the incentive: A ring for betrothal.

"Excuse me!"

A cheerful voice called for the attention of the noble Lady. Looking forward, the pair noticed the group of priests and priestesses.

"Are you here to seek Izuku too?" Chris asked, waving her hand in a friendly manner, but still keeping her distance, "We were wondering if you knew how to pass… that?"

Following the pointing finger, the noble Lady and her bodyguard finally noticed the first obstacle.

"M-My Lady…" Claire was quick to take a step back, "We may have to rethink our visit. Maybe wait for the Sage to visit the Guild?"

"No need." The young Lady sighed as she fearlessly approached the gate, "We'll do this now, because this had been delayed beyond acceptability."

"Please reconsider!" Claire finally got a hold of her lady, going beyond rude; her demeanor though, spoke of true distress, "That Behemoth looks ready to trample us. This gate may be the only thing keeping us safe…"

There was a long sigh of exasperation coming from the noble lady, and a couple of facepalms from the group of clerics.

"No Claire…" The Noble Lady politely started, "That is a Behemoth. If it wanted us dead, we would be dead. Not even the adamantine gates of the Royal Palace would be able to stop it, so this flimsy gate may as well not be here for all it cares."

Chris swallowed a sigh and an insult. As the goddess Eris, it was pretty clear to her that these mortals had never seen a real Behemoth. Of course, the last activity from a Behemoth happened thousands of years ago, when the beast woke up from its slumber and decided to walk to the other side of the continent to change its bedding.

That walk destroyed three kingdoms and moved five frontiers. Nearly no one alive remembered that the holy mountain at the edge of the Empire was in reality the sleeping Behemoth, who had allowed dust and time to cover it in its sleep. Hopefully, it'd never wake up again.

"What I asked for…" Chris interrupted the pair, trying to sound as meek as possible, quite ready to throw the Knight girl under the Guardian Beast to test if it was hostile by nature, "Is if you had a letter of summons, or if you had asked the owner of the mansion how to call for someone to open the gate."

Chris already knew the answer. The owner was the once troublesome Lich now reincarnated, and it irked her that he had retained his foul class. She wasn't like her Senpai though, she wasn't going to demand his head for the sole crime of being a Necromancer. She was going to try to convert him first, and if that failed, leave him alone as long as he kept away from raising undead.

"No." The Knight answered.

"My bodyguard failed to even set a request for an audience." The noble Lady added, making the knight flinch.

Of course, Chris knew how to get such a request. Unfortunately, the damned Necromancer would not hear a single blip from her or the Clerics without kicking them out of his shop… Admittedly, that may be because certain priests had demanded his head when he first arrived…

More shame on her followers, and more penance to pay. But her beloved were worth far more than that.

"Why did she fail?" One of the priestesses asked.

"As a faithful follower of the benevolent and all loving Goddess Eris, a necromancer is just…" Claire started to get into her prideful tirade, but suddenly got stomped on her foot by her Lady.


For someone wearing armored boots, the scream seemed to indicate an awful amount of pain.

"You will bow down and apologize to that respectable man and his wife." The Noble Lady commanded, "And you better hope that the Sage accepts your apologies as well, lest you have to explain my father why the mission failed."

"Yes…" The Knight answered as she did her best to stand up straight, "Lady Iris…"

Chris' nervous laugh was seemingly taken as a reaction to the scene, rather than a preemptive celebration for the first success of the day. She knew who this noble lady was, and thus she knew that she had to do everything in her mortal frame's power to prevent her untimely demise. Addressing the duo helped immensely in buying time, which had just paid off.

"Why are you lot in front of my home?!"

The slightly irritated male voice forced everyone to turn to the source, just to see a Dark Elf holding a couple bags with what appeared to be groceries. Keel the Necromancer had arrived.

A quick side-glance gave further peace of mind to the Thief, as the only probable source of animosity on her group was too busy being gobsmacked by the presence of the other arrival. The Wife of the Necromancer, Sasha the Alchemist, looked exactly like a High Elf Princess of the old legends… even in her humble dress and apron combo.

"Ah! Good sir, if you were to spare a moment?" Iris began to take the lead, "Could it be possible to request Master Izuku for an audience?"

Keel looked confused for a few seconds, but then he pieced together what was being asked of him. This was surely the noble lady that Izuku saved, partially confirmed by the presence of the rude Knight girl.

"I can ask, sure." Keel calmly replied, knowing very well that the servant not always represented the master, "I make no promises though."

"Ah! We would like to ask the same!" One of Chris' group suddenly joined in, barely able to keep her voice down, "We are here to make a formal apology to the savior of this city, and to make amends for the wrongdoings of the members of this town's temple!"

At her words, the rest of the assembled clergy began to politely voice their own plea. It was surprisingly civil, although the Necromancer didn't seem too keen on giving them any ground.

"We'll see what Izuku says…" Sasha was the one to reply this time, although she sounded far more annoyed than her husband.

Ten minutes later

Chris looked at the scene before her in stunned silence. Everything she had planned, everything she had worked really hard for; all of it reduced to… this…

Denied from meeting Wiz.

Forbidden from going anywhere close to the Harpy.


"Alright." Izuku replied after hearing the group of clerics' message, apologies, and the request for a new beginning, "I accept your apologies."

As agreed, and rehashed, the six previously heretic clerics had led the charge in the apology. Chris had banked on the fact that Izuku, being of Japanese descent, would feel inclined to a diplomatic solution. But the event had been astonishingly anticlimactic. Where the Thief had expected some sort of resistance, of being berated for their unjust attack, the boy had merely allowed things to deescalate, and open the possibility of a friendly relationship.

"As long as none of your people try anything against my family, I'm happy to leave this feud behind us." Izuku's words came as soft and forgiving to the clerics, but Chris knew that they were still a warning, "Was that all?"

Chris had to pinch her own arm to stop herself from saying something stupid, like requesting a meeting with Wiz, or suggesting he join her religion. Izuku had to be carried to the sofa in front of the fireplace to meet them. Darkness glared at them the entire time, even now serving as a bodyguard for the verdanette. Anything could be taken as an act of aggression right now.

The door opened, allowing the petite Crimson Demon entrance. She no longer had her arm restrained, and looked ready to go on an adventure with that odd cat resting on her head. An Axis priestess followed behind her which turned the atmosphere tense.

"Healing is done!" Cecily happily proclaimed, a sharp contrast to how tired she looked, "Her arm is as good as new, but I'm out of mana…"

The blond Priestess had been healing Megumin nearly every day, which is why she was able to heal so fast from a compounded fracture. It irked Chris to no end that this zealot had been allowed to make her move before her own followers. It never occurred to her that this meeting was made possible only due to the actions of this rival priestess.

"Much appreciated." Izuku replied without taking his eyes away from his girlfriend, who almost shyly moved to sit by his side, "Please take a bottle of wine before you leave."

The Clerics from Eris' church fully expected the weirdo to start the mad ravings typical to those belonging to the Axis cult; instead, the nun-dressed girl gave a gracious nod and moved out of the room. It was shocking, to say the least.

For her part, Cecily had been doing what she thought was right. Her fellow believers, those residing in this town, had hurt who she was completely sure was a true champion of the beloved and caring Aqua. Since words and excuses would not heal the rift, she had made it her mission to change the Arch Druid's mind with her actions. She had a lengthy discourse ready for when he felt ready to listen to the holy message too.

"If you allow us, we would like to heal your wounds!" One of the priestesses suddenly offered. Chris felt surprised and grateful for this chance.

"It would be the least we could do to start with the reparations." The Dwarf added, nodding to himself at his idea.

As the goddess Eris, Chris felt proud of her followers who showed such dedication to the goal of bringing back the Avariel.

"That's…" Izuku seemed surprised by the offering, he also looked reserved about accepting, "Surprisingly thoughtful, especially if it's free?"

Izuku's guarded approach was understandable as he had been exposed to the worst of their religion; the clerics back then were not shy about showcasing their greed. Chris really wanted to go into a lengthy declaration about this being pure goodwill, to show that they wanted to make things right, and that the Eris Faith was changing for the better.

Alas, she was just a Thief, and had no way to state anything about the changes she was putting into motion.

"Healing you should have been the very first thing done by our peers when you saved everyone." A priestess went further, bowing her head as if she had been at fault for such a thing, "Your injuries, your fatigue, such things should have been our priority since you did more for the world than all the saints we preach about. We cannot ask for anything from such a savior!"

Izuku tried to squeeze Megumin's hand for support. He really wanted to believe in the best of everyone, he also felt somewhat guilty for being so intolerant of the local religions. On the other hand, these psychos had actually declared their intention to mutilate his beloved Chika, and had done just that to countless Harpies over many generations. His hand couldn't muster much strength though, and Megumin's cute smile was enough to melt his nerves.

"I think it's a good idea." Megumin suddenly conceded, "I can finally move freely, and I would love for you to do the same."

The coy smile sent his way made Izuku smile. The only reason he hasn't become any grumpier was because he was getting increased playtime with his girls; what little shame he still had was being quickly eroded by the pleasure of spending time with Megumin, Chika and Liza. Being free to move his hands would mean even better playtime!

"Very well, I accept the offer." Izuku finally replied, earning smiles from the group of clerics, "I still want you to stay away from Chika. No amount of assurances will convince me you all are honest about no longer oppressing her kind."

While the clerics voiced their agreement, Chris took the entire ordeal as a big win. As she watched her followers work their healing magic on the Arch Druid, and recoil in horror at noticing the extent of the damage, the Thief couldn't help but to recount her losses too.

Despite her best efforts, Izuku completely denied her group meeting Chika or Wiz. Paranoia and over-protectiveness aside, the verdanette had explained that they weren't pets to exhibit to an audience or animals to parade around. Her group had relented, but not without voicing their regret; they really wanted to meet a Harpy and take the chance to make a good impression. The High Elf had been a bit more vocal, although he thankfully limited himself to state how much he wanted to fulfill his goddess' vision of meeting and serving her beloved Avariel.

Izuku had visibly frowned at that, but a quick jab to the ribs of the elven Casanova was enough to avoid an altercation. The Arch Druid didn't seem ready to let others seduce the Avariel, and the Thief didn't want to test if the branches growing out of his head were as feeble as they looked.

All in all, ending up on neutral terms seemed like the best she could hope for. From here, some subtle and open support would have to do. Once he became more open to negotiations, then bringing Wiz to the temple would be possible.

"May I take this as the end of your conversation?" Iris loudly asked from her spot.

She and her bodyguard had patiently waited for their turn, and while she could wait for as long as needed, she could tell that her savior was starting to get restless.

"Yes." Izuku replied for the clerics, clearly wanting to return to his room sooner rather than later. "Glad to see you better, by the way."

Izuku tried to be polite, he really did, but his reasoning was getting weaker, and his need to shower his girls with love was getting stronger. He was way too close to start groping Megumin's tiny breasts already.

Megumin didn't really know what she wanted. She was scared of going further beyond, of finally climbing the stairs to adulthood, as her peers often said. She was also eager to tie the knot and officially claiming her rightful spot as Izuku's wife. To make things worse, she knew that the longer this visit dragged on, the higher the chances for Chika and Wiz to enter the room due to their usual antics got. Should the zealots happen to try anything on the winged pair, Izuku would most likely murder everybody, putting him in a mood poorly suited for romance.

"Let me start with a proper introduction." The noble lady began as she instinctively elbowed her bodyguard, who looked just about to stand up and do something unnecessary, "My name is Iris Belzerg, the princess of the Kingdom of Belzerg…"

The declaration froze not only Izuku, but everyone else. They were before royalty, and none knew how to act, or even react. As the Princess began to explain her mission, and why she was looking for the young Arch Druid, Izuku began to feel a bit of apprehension.

He had rudely rejected the artifacts that the Knight tried to give him. Were they royal treasures? Would the Princess feel offended by his intolerant actions? Would he be allowed to retire to his room to play with his girls already?


Clemea the Thief knew a good opportunity when she saw one.

After a lot of planning and researching for their joint venture, she and Chris had ironed out most of the details and preparations required for their investigation. She, of course, knew that once they started working together they would start competing to gain brownie points with the cute Arch Druid.

Or at least that was the case yesterday.

"Just a little more…" Clemea muttered to herself as she climbed the Titan's husk, being especially careful to avoid damaging the foliage now covering most of the target, "Careful… careful…"

Just that morning, a couple hours before starting, Chris had announced that an emergency job needed her expertise in a rather mandatory fashion; apparently the higher-ups in the church demanded her to do something outrageous and she had no way to refuse. While details hadn't been given, Chris had merely suggested that she waited for either the next day, or a night raid, so they could tackle their job together.

As if she would ever agree to that…

Stealing the church's contract was impossible; that was Chris' and no one else's. However, stealing credit was pretty much a given. Chris would get the reward and the completion mark, while she would get in Izuku's good graces for protecting his secret… or disavowing his connection to the Titans. It was a win for everyone. Especially for her!

"Yes! Made it!" The Thief quietly celebrated as she finally made it to the opening from where Izuku came out at the end of his battle. It was pitch black inside. "Now, let's take a proper look and see what's really in here."

According to Chris, there could only be two possibilities. Either this was just a remnant of the cute Arch Druid's super wild shape, in which case the inside should be empty, or just be more wood; or, if this was a sleeping Titan, a heart or core should be resting within.

The contract demanded getting inside and reporting her findings. Chris of course had suggested that neither of them could be held accountable if, due to lack of experience with Titans, they mistook the heart for a wooden or stone wall.

"Ok, no fire." Clemea muttered to herself in an attempt to ease her nerves; she knew that any sort of fire source would be bad, so she'd brought a simple magic item that produced light, "Time for a quick look!"

When the light activated, she was able to notice a couple of things. For example, the inside of the opening was quite spacious, like a room in a commoner's house; there was a well-received lack of Titanic beating organ, and…

She wasn't alone…

"And so, a human is the first to arrive…" An elderly voice sounded, the woman it belonged to seemed upset too, "How disappointing…"

Quickly focusing the light forward, Clemea found the source of the voice, and then some more. The one who'd spoken was a Dryad, hands and feet made of roots or branches giving her race away, however her features were those of a really old woman; her stance and demeanor, though, painted her as being more vigorous than a healthy adult; stronger too, considering where they were standing.

"Disappointing, but not unexpected." A second voice joined in, this time sounding young and prim, but carrying just as much strength as the older one, "It is her trade as a Thief that makes her despicable though."

Changing the setting of the magic item to shed light around her instead of just forward, made it possible for the Thief to notice even more details. The first Dryad was dressed, and not only in a makeshift dress made with foliage as seen by those that helped Izuku; she was dressed in what appeared to be woven black silk, a one piece dress that didn't impede her movement. It was a dress designed for elegance and modesty, rather than seduction. The hair, made of leaves as it was expected, looked muted red, like the leaves in autumn.

The new one was indeed younger, mature just like Luna, but far more exuberant. While her dress was identical, her hair was an ashen tone, like leaves touched by winter, and yet strong like in the cusp of life.

"What brought you here, human?" The old one asked, full of animosity.

"What do you expect to gain?" The young one seconded.

Under normal circumstances, this would be the point when Clemea the Thief would make use of her tricks to escape and let someone else deal with the situation. Under normal circumstances, she would make a last-ditch effort to lay the blame on someone else and leave before anyone could bring up the idea of capturing her.

These were no normal circumstances though.

"I was sent here to search for evidence that discredits this… tree?" Clemea almost lost steam as she failed to give a word for the Titan's husk. Still, she carried on before things could go south, "That it disproves it being a Titan or any other type of enemy of the world."

In a sudden burst of intellect, Clemea avoided mentioning mankind, and just focused on the world as a whole. Dryads weren't that fond of humans so that they would never side with a Titan.

"So Izuku will have to deal with less bothersome people?" Clemea threw out an extra reason, hoping that the Dryads would want to do some favors for the cute Arch Druid.

"Then, even a despicable being like you can be of use for HIM." A third voice joined, sounding like a child, yet was still regal and imposing.

Focusing behind the previous two Dryads, Clemea noticed that her hunch was right. The third Dryad indeed looked like a little girl; leafy hair cascading down in vibrant green, and even the roots serving as hands and feet showed flower buds ready to open.

Rather than looking at her, the child-like Dryad was focused on a wall. Said wall, however, was covered by a mass of writhing fluffy-pillars.

Clemea had to bit her tongue to stifle her surprise; the shout of joy would have probably ended her luck right there and then.

The ugly insects were the size of a domestic cat and were mostly harmless until one manhandled them, in which case the hair would turn into quill-like spikes and cause a minor rash on those afflicted by the sting. The meat was inedible, but the blood was a valuable alchemical ingredient; additionally, the fur was actually a coveted material for insulating coats and capes, especially those used by nobles. Each one was worth a hundred thousand eris, and she was looking at no less then a hundred of them!

"Shall we really trust this lowly creature?" The young Dryad asked, helping the Thief look away from the gold mine that had her attention sequestered.

"Let her own mission prove her worth." The old one replied, her derisive eyes being quite clear how she expected the Thief to fail, "Let's give her a chore, see if she can at least serve as a messenger."

For a moment, Clemea feared that everything was going to go wrong. Her mind conjured countless tasks both dangerous and detrimental to her life just for the chance of completing her mission. She could already hear the venomous words of these…

"Let's begin by giving you what you came her for, the answer to the question." The young Dryad began, catching the Thief flat-footed, "This magnificent body you have stepped in, this monument to the will of the world… is not a Titan."

Understandably, Clemea blinked in confusion. Taking the word of a group of Dryads as evidence would probably mean nothing before the church, but at least she could say there was no evidence of this being the Titan everyone feared.

"This is no sleeping monstrosity." The old one added, snorting in obvious mockery at the pensive greenette, "It won't suddenly wake up and wreak havoc upon your settlements."

"That's reassuring…" Clemea answered, failing to hide her smile at the thought of her target actually being thankful for her unrequested service.

"And now, for your task." The young one called to attention, just as the child-like Dryad stepped in front of the Thief.

In her hands, there was a cluster of knotted roots, the hollowed interior had tiny fireflies seemingly asleep; hugging the cluster was a particularly fat fluffy-pillar. Clemea was understandably baffled when both were handed to her.

"You will give these gifts to the one you know as Izuku, and will pass our message to his ears." The child-like Dryad spoke, her commanding voice absolute, "You will tell him… that we hope he can visit us before leaving on his journey."

"That's it?" Clemea asked, wondering when the hammer was going to fall on her head, or the axe on her neck; she only got nods, "Ok, I can do it!"

With that said the Thief left, happy beyond reason at how lucky she had gotten today. It was an easy task and a perfect excuse to get near the Arch Druid, success in this would paint her as trustworthy, and no doubt help in her mission to get under Izuku's command. For such a goal, she was willing to lose any potential profit with the little bug, and was even willing to let Chris take the glory of the official mission!

Little did Clemea know that the apparently worthless cluster of knotted roots was actually a Spriggan's heart, and that it was so valuable that some alchemists would not hesitate to kill a noble to get their hands on it. And as she left, the Dryads couldn't help the snorts escaping their throats.

"A Titan?" The old one scoffed.

"It shows how pitiful these mortals are, their ignorance is almost endearing." The young one added.

"Perhaps it is better this way?" The child-like one proposed as she returned to her dutiful watch, "Not being able to recognize a nascent God may help him in his travels, after all."

As she finished, the bugs moved away from the wall, revealing a core that may as well be a massive heart. Rather than an audible heartbeat, mana was visibly flowing through it, slowly and steadily traveling through the entire body.

"So when the time comes, our dear Father will be returned to us." The three spoke as one, loving smiles adorning their faces as they all looked fondly at the living heart before them.

Magnus: Ok, I'll try to keep this short. The main reason for the extended absence is that WotC and GW have been absolutely greedy bastards. I've heard enough rumors and warnings, as well as witnessing some of the idiotic acts, to have to put many of my upcoming stories to the axe. WotC doesn't seem to bother with fanfiction, but my original story was going to use some of their lore and mechanics, and since that was plenned to be monetized, I decided not taking the risk of a lawsuit. GW, however, has been harassing anyone they even perceive is using their IP without paying them money, this included taking tiny companies with no ties to their business to court and bankrupt them, forcing content creators to basically sell their souls to them, and sending letters of cease and desist to people that try to use their IP under rules of fair use. I don't have either the money or the health to deal with that.

Thanks to this I had to spend more time than I wanted trying to salvage what I could, then I had to deal with the depressing aftermath of not being able to salvage much of anything. The current voting will have to be scrapped and restarted.

For ffnet: A New poll will be posted along this chapter to vote for the next story, descriptions will be published on the profile page.

For Ao3: A separate "story" will be published, comments there will be counted as votes, but only proper accounts will be taken into consideration.

Sorry for the inconvenience.

Omake The end of the road.

Aqua and Kyouya had finally reached their destiny, the gates of the Town of Beginners were in sight, merely at half an hour of distance, and now the sum of all the rumors they had been assaulted with through the entirety of their journey were confirmed as true.

"There is no way…" Kyouya gasped at the scene, eyes and hands trembling at the impotence he felt at that moment, "Impossible…"

Through the entire voyage, other passengers and cart drivers shared tales about the exploits of a certain green-haired Arch Druid. Tales of an ancient and powerful Lich being redeemed and reincarnated, Beldia exterminated, a mighty golden tree now becoming the symbol of the city, and the last rumor, added by a caravan coming from the city of Axel no less, stating that the enemy of the world, the monster not even the Devil King dared to oppose, the Mobile Fortress Destroyer…

To hear that such an ancient foe had fallen to the verdanette was just…

"Why…" Aqua muttered in absolute distress, "How?"

She had been enjoying some degree of success during the trek. Even with a black mark on her adventurer card, she could still lend her services dealing with the hordes of undead that attacked the caravan at night. No one seemed to suspect that the abnormal amount of undead was the result of her presence, and the swordsmaster was in dire enough straits to swallow what little remained of his pride and accept the money offered for the "help".

She was so ready to wield these achievements to impress Izuku, to showcase her usefulness to the nerd and gain access to his no doubt gigantic fortune. She was quite ready to convince the stubborn boy to help her cute worshipers once more, even at the cost of throwing the rotten apple under the bus.

Seeing the kneeling Titan had changed her views and mission. Now, she needed to first make sure that her fears were just a case of paranoia. She had to make sure that such an ancient being wasn't returning to this world!