Reborn as a Demonic Tree

Chapter 13: A Tree’s Evil Plan

Stella's heart beat loudly in her chest.

Maple's silky fur helped calm her mind somewhat, but it was still racing. 'What was that portal? That eye? I have never heard of such a thing.' Stella sat on the oak bench with her back leaning against the tree. 'Why did the tree grow rapidly upwards to try and get inside that fracture in space? Does tree want to escape here?' Stella hummed to herself as she gave Maple head rubs. The little squirrel was also a mystery, appearing only moments after the rift had closed.

Stella had naturally checked the squirrel for Qi, but it had none... Which made no sense. Everyone and everything should have some Qi. Because without Qi... there is no life. Qi is the soul's will to enact change in the world, so without any Qi, did Maple not have a soul? Was it even alive?

Stella let out a sigh. At the end of the day, her useless thoughts meant nothing. Maple was friendly, and so was the tree. Whatever secrets they held were none of her business. Stella was glad the pavilion was vacant in moments like these... silencing the maids about such an event would be troublesome.

Shaking her head, Stella decided it was time to go out and train. Her cultivation had soared since she assimilated her Qi with the Dao of lightning—but there was still a long way to go until she could pass the Grand Elder examination looming over her head. 'Maybe I should just give in and practice those demonic cultivation techniques like the others...'

A cold shudder went down Stella's spine—she rarely left the Red Vine peak or interacted with other sect Elders. They hid it well, but their heart demons were festering and slowly devouring them. Any quick and easy path to power was bound to have some devastating drawbacks, ones Stella wished to avoid.

"Tree, I have three years until the Grand Elder examination. While you were sleeping, I reached the 5th stage of the Soul Fire realm. I may need to leave here for a year or so to train. Will you be fine here?"

Stella naturally didn't expect an answer, so she stood up to leave. However, to her surprise, Maple began tapping her shoulder. "What is it, little guy?" Stella asked while stroking his head.

Maple gave a thumbs up.

Stella tilted her head at the odd gesture.

Maple pointed to the tree and then did another thumbs up.

"Tree... thumbs up?" Stella stroked her chin, "Are you telling me Tree is fine with me leaving?"

Maple seemed frustrated with her answer but nodded his little head anyway.

Stella shrugged at the squirrel's bizarre behavior, but it was a wild animal, so it would know more about a tree's mood than her.... wait a second. "Can you understand the tree?" It was well known that the most powerful spirit trees had spirit beasts or guardians that kept them safe as they often couldn't defend themselves.

Maple nodded vigorously.

Stella furrowed her brows as she tried to process the strange situation. She had debated many times if she was crazy for talking to a tree all day, but now she was communicating with a mystical squirrel. Then, a possibly silly thought crossed her mind.

"Does the tree... like my company?"


"Tell her yes you little bastard," Ashlock pleaded with the squirrel. Since the little thing wasn't an actual summon but a creature he had made a mutual pact with, he couldn't demand the squirrel do anything; he could only politely suggest and hope it complied.

Maple looked at Ashlock with a grin and raised his little hand and, like a roman emperor, had a thumb to the side. He then slowly tilted it downwards...

"I will make you some acorn-looking fruit? How about it?"

Maples little thumb changed direction and turned upwards and then gave Stella a nod.

Ashlock breathed a sigh of relief as Stella's eyes lit up in excitement.

"The Tree likes me?!"

Relief seemed to wash over the young woman, and a bright smile appeared. "I'm so glad. Does he want more food? I can get him some while I train outside."

To Ashlock's surprise, Maple nodded without Ashlock begging him to—had the squirrel just been messing with him this whole time? To be fair, Ashlock had only known the little guy for a few minutes. Not even an hour had passed since he had attempted to summon an S-rank existence from an alternate plane of reality.

"Well, that settles it then!" Stella stood up and started to leave the courtyard.

"Wanna come with me, little guy, or stay here?" Stella asked the squirrel while patting his ear.

The squirrel vanished from her shoulder, reappeared on Ashlock's trunk, grabbed a cluster of red fruit, and then rematerialized on Stella's shoulder. Maple then lay happily over Stella's shoulder while casually scoffing the fruits, causing his cheeks to inflate like a hamster.

"Are those travel rations?" Stella giggled, "Guess you are coming with me then."

"Keep Stella safe and bring some corpses for me if you can..." Ashlock said as the pair left the peak—Maple gave him a little thumbs up as they shut the door and descended the mountain. Despite Stella's surprising speed with purple flames erupting from her feet, Maple seemed very chill with the whole situation, not even needing to hold onto her cloak to stay attached.

"As expected from a squirrel that could survive in such a place." Ashlock sighed and hoped he would never have to feel fear like he did today ever again. The whole situation had tired Ashlock, so he decided to nap.


Ashlock awoke to some light rain—with some excitement, he looked to the sky in search of angry clouds that would strike him down with their wrathful lightning. Sadly the clouds seemed relatively tame, more gloomy than black.

"Oh well, a bit of rain is always nice."

Although Ashlock used Qi to speed up his biology and supplement nutrients that he would be lacking due to the scarcity of nutritious soil, receiving things like rain and sunlight helped a lot.

Ashlock felt much better thanks to his three-day nap, and his mind was now clear. Without the distraction of Stella or Maple, he could now process the events.

"Right... where to even start? I guess the first thing to acknowledge is the ability to summon things. So I can gain new skills, acquire items that I can store in my inventory, and now I can even summon things." Ashlock wondered what other great mysteries he had yet to discover regarding his system. "Well, one thing I can add to my list of system knowledge is that 2600 credits gave me my first S grade draw..."

A tingling feeling ran through Ashlock's sap as he remembered that alien eye gazing at him with curiosity. "The summon failed... which brings a whole new question. Will I never be able to get anything S grade until I have upgraded my cultivation?"

Since the S grade sign-in reward failed, would he also be unable to use an S grade skill if he unlocked one?

"Luckily, Maple came through the rift and formed a pact with me, so it wasn't a total waste of points... but what if I got an S-rank item that was impossible for Stella to use? Maybe I should stick to A-grade draws for now."

Deciding that was a good idea, Ashlock chose to pull up his stats to check on his increase in cultivation. "Devouring that many monsters should have led to an increase in my cultivation stage..."

[Demonic Spirit Sapling (Age: 7)]

[Qi Realm: 8th Stage]


As expected, his cultivation realm had increased from the 7th to the 8th stage of the Qi realm. "So I only have one more stage to go until the Soul Forge realm?"

If Ashlock remembered correctly, a cultivator creates their Soul Core at the Soul Forge realm.

"So once I reach the 9th stage of the Qi Realm, I will attempt to form a Soul Core, and if I am successful, I will be considered a Soul Fire cultivator..." Ashlock then thought of Stella mentioning her realm. "Then, after the Soul Core has been formed, a cultivator can climb the next nine stages in the Soul Fire realm."

Simply put... at the Qi Realm, before forming a Soul Core, a cultivator can only harness the Qi within themselves to empower their muscles and live longer lives. If Ashlock wanted to cast external spells with his Qi, he would need his own fire. Just like Stella's purple flames or the Grand Elders' white flames. So to obtain a personalized fire, Ashlock needed to form a Soul Core.

"But the system lets me cast skills... but now that I think about it, these are closer to magic than those fire-based abilities I've seen Stella use."

Ashlock hummed to himself as the rain drizzled on his leaves. "All this cultivator talk is rather hard to wrap my head around... but the last thing to note is that Stella is at the 5th stage of the Soul Fire realm—below the Star Core realm of the Grand Elders."

Another bird landed on Ashlock's branch to shelter from the downpour. "If I was in the Soul Fire realm, I could cook this bird in the flames of my soul!" For fun, Ashlock tried to fry the bird with his Qi realm cultivation, but all that happened was his Qi became chaotic and rushed around the bark just below the bird. "If this pest would land on the ground and stay still, I could cast {Devour} but up here is out of the skills range..." Ashlock then looked closely and saw the bird nibbling on one of his fruit.

In pure spite, Ashlock summoned his {Qi Fruit Production} menu, selected the cluster of fruit the bird was happily eating, and planned to alter the taste to be as bitter as possible.

But then Ashlock paused. "I have {Basic Poison Resistance}. Shouldn't I be able to make my fruit poisonous since I consumed poison to gain resistance?" Ashlock chuckled evilly as he found the option to add poisons. "Finally, I can fight back! Hahahha!"

Ashlock calmed down—it was time to formulate a battle plan. "The birds seem to like the red fruit." There was a slider for the fruit's poisonous level on the menu. "I assume the highest level would be the same as the poison the servant tried to use to assassinate Stella... If it can kill a Soul Fire cultivator, surely it can kill a stupid bird."

Mashing the slider all the way to the maximum, a prompt appeared.

[Time for completion: 3 days]

Ashlock hit accept and then patiently watched the bird. "Enjoy your last few days, you parasite! Soon you will fall into my waiting clutches! Just stay for three days...alright?"


The bird had its fill and left a few hours later once the downpour ceased—leaving Ashlock to curse the bird's nine generations for making him waste Qi. But more victims would arrive eventually... all he had to do was be patient. Something he was a self-certified expert in.

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