Tree wants more trees
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Year 78 Month 1.

An eruption.

A fine way to start the new year, really.

The damned volcano erupted and destroyed every single thing near it. Close to half of my beetles failed to escape, so they died, all buried under debris, dust, lava, rocks and well, all the other things that volcanoes tend to spit out.

I mean, I sorta figured that volcanoes, especially one still pumping out lava would be somewhat dangerous, but I guess after not seeing any major eruption, I thought it’s one of those ‘stable’ volcanoes. To some extent, I guess I’m a little complacent there…

But still, why didn’t my roots sense anything? Don’t volcanoes have tremors or minor quakes before going off like that? Or does the magic in this world messes with such processes?

Oh well, this is a minor setback, a bit of delay to my volcano expansion plans. If life went too easy, I’d probably think something bad is gonna happen real soon. Probably pushes the plans back by a couple of months, to let the environment settle down and also rebuild my forces, since I do need to regenerate the beetles before attempting my assault on the magma golems, that spawn closer to the now partly exposed caldera. I’m rather eager to test out the new large beetles in combat, since they are bigger, and have bigger legs and horns, to see how they perform against those golems.

So, I turn my attention to the next few things I have in mind.

In New Freeka, there’s a massive hall with a few [external biolabs], and Jura is helping to guide the Valtrian soldiers. The hall itself is filled with animals… and plants, gathered from the region, an exercise we started last month.

The men were sitting idle, so, we sent them out on missions to collect different kinds of plants and animals. As many as they could find, whatever they’ve not seen before, or whatever they notice that’s different from New Freeka, and bring it back. Thanks to this exercise, I’m now going through all the plants and animals they’ve brought back. 5 biolabs, side by side, and the soldiers, under Jura’s supervision, help to put all the specimens in.

After the analysis, some soldiers are tasked to bring them to a patch of empty land and pass them to a different group, those with [farming] or [planting] skills, for them to plant.

The intention is fairly simple, there’s a lack of plant diversity in the valley, and that needs to be addressed. Secondly, I’m hoping to somehow unlock more [unique trees], like the [ginseng trees], such that I can produce new items. Third, new species of crops would lead to me having more [subsidiary tree - crops] variety.

And now, I have the manpower to push these guys out on a regional ‘harvesting’ mission.

The process of analysing the plants took 5 days, and the animals another 4 days. The reason I asked for the animals, is actually just to throw off whoever’s watching us, but it’s a waste to not analyse the animals after collecting them, so after the animals were ‘scanned’ by the biolabs, they’re placed in an area that’s meant to be a menagerie.

[New crop species unlocked - Wheat, Jackfruit, Light Corn, Blackpotato, Rye, Red hops, Blueberry, Fireberry]

[New Tree type unlocked : Common herbal bushes. Bushes containing a wide variety of herbs. Herb varieties appear at random]

“How’s the register coming along?”

“It’ll take some time, Supreme Counsel.” The young man, a junior [herbalist] bows when responding to Jura’s question.

“It’s something the Tree Spirit wants done as soon as possible. This is a big task.”

Well, actually Trevor and Dimitree already built a compilation of the plants we now have in the valley, and their characteristics that they can identify using the data from the biolabs. But, I had Jura hire a herbalist to start work on a physical copy of a register. Just to compare the kind of information a herbalist would normally take down, and one prepared by my tree-minds.

The young man bows. “I’m honored, and I can tell it is an important exercise.”

The herbalist, together with the ‘gardeners’ and other farmhands, will be the ones managing the ‘garden’ in the compound of the Valtrian order. It’s one of those odd jobs.

As for the animals, I’ve left them to some of the rangers to care for. In the town of New Freeka, there are some rangers, and some [flock tenders] or [herders] that have some skills with animals, so they are the ones looking after the collection of animals.

It’s not a perfect match in terms of skill and job class, but oh well. Maybe they’ll gain the class someday.

Year 78 Month 2

The Valtrian Order separation exercise this month. The military force that’s transferred to us is a little too large to my liking, and their competencies a bit lacking, so, like what companies do when their staff size is not optimal… we have… retrenchments!

I kinda feel like walking up to guys and tell them, “You’re fired!”

But that’s not exactly a nice way to do things.

Jura and the captains identified those who are not so good at their jobs, based on their performance during the collection exercise, spoke these non-performing soldiers whether they have other secondary talents they want to share, whether they want to take part in the other roles happening in the Order, or take the money and go find another job.

I mean, if I’m going to be hiring herbalists and all those other ‘specialists’, I need money, and money isn’t free, so, gotta reshuffle them around. Priorities!

One must cut away the rotting branch for a new one to grow. Of course, there is plenty of crying, plenty of anger, and plenty of cussing.

Maybe some retaliation.

"Ivy."

"Yes, master."

"Monitor those we have fired. See whether they do anything unusual. Let me know if there are any attempted retaliation, but do not interfere unless I instruct you to."

"As you command."

My new tree mind, and unlike Trevor or Dimitree who has responsibility to watch the valley and the forest, Ivy's task is focused on the Valtrian Order, observing the citizens and reporting any unusual matters. I also task her to play a hidden watcher, on all financial transactions and trade transactions.

Watching the movements of some 3,000 to 4,000 employees of the Valtrian Order is a laborious affair, even if there are trees everywhere, and Ivy pretty much has little capacity to do anything else

A part of me feels like I have become that which I hated in my past life, the "big brother" who intrudes in on everyone's privacy, that overly micromanaging boss that looks through everything I do with a fine-toothed comb, but… this is a magical world, and I have to pick the bigger baddy here.

Curbing corruption, finding traitors take priority here.

Even in their somewhat-perilous situation, people will find ways to cheat, or steal, to take a little more for themselves. So, I thought I would be ready, since I know about it and know it exists. Nobody’s innocent. But Ivy's report still stunned me. The extent of it.

All of the employees engage in at least one minor misconduct.

It's usually relatively small, like a coin or two per transaction, or a little slip of coin to move up the queue in the burial services. Some soldiers would steal utensils from the mess hall, and bring home for their family. Or intentionally tearing a piece of uniform so that they can use the cloth for something else. Or administrative staff stealing paper or writing equipment.

I sigh. When Ivy first reported the extent of such things, I just froze. But before I could lash out in anger and kill all these people.

"Were you expecting saints from these former refugees? The fact that they adapted to a new way of life so quickly is already admirable.” Meela sometimes dispenses a bit of wisdom.

Well, true. This world has no proper regimented education system to teach a sense of ‘morals’, and parents trying to survive probably have a different set of ‘morals’ than me. If there is, there isn’t enough time or stability for it to really sink in, since the world gets hammered by the demon king every now and then. If there’s anywhere with a proper education system, it’s probably in those cloud cities, or the moving giant-turtle islands, or the walking towers of the great deserts.

I wonder how many years of formal education to the citizens of New Freeka have? Ah, some other day’s worries.

Ultimately, I decided to just have the worst offenders retrenched, and decide to just put up with the minor ‘infractions’ among the rest. Perhaps some day I would get a group of morally upright employees, but for now, this is the cards I have.

“Should I continue monitoring them, Master?” Ivy’s not fond of the task, but she still obeys me.

“Well… yes.”

“It’s taking up most of my processing ability, master. Filtering through all the language and smalltalk is really challenging.”

Ah. Well…

“Fine, will it help if you restrict the scope to within our compounds and just the area around them?”

“A lesser area would mean less to monitor, yes it will help a bit. But I estimate it’ll still use up 70% of my available processing power.”

“Unfortunately I’ll need someone to watch these guys… please bear with it. Maybe it’ll get easier once you gain some levels.”

“As you command, master.”

Year 78 Month 2 Week 3

The first large beetles emerge from their pods. The volcano kind of started to stabilise, so I send the large-volcano-adapted beetles on their first missions. This is why they are created, after all. They easily dispatch any of the lesser monsters that appear, but their first encounter with the massive magma golems is disappointing.

Though they now have the size, they still lack the necessary firepower to take out the golems. At least they can take three punches from the large golems before dying, unlike regular beetles, who just get squashed underfoot.

According to Jura and the data gathered from the adventurers guild in New Freeka, magma golems are considered monsters for adventurers around the level 50-60, and with suitable gear. A person with suitable skills could possibly take one out at level 40.

Given that my regular beetles are a match of soldiers around level 20-30, I guess the large beetles still need a lot more upgrades to give those magma golems a good fight.

Ah. Back to the research queue.

  • Eye-Tree Stage I research option unlocked - 13 months remaining
  • Beetle - anti-magma armors stage 2 - 4 months remaining
  • Tree - volcanic adaptation stage 3 - 13 months remaining
  • Roots - Volcanic mineral harvesting - stage 1 - 3 months remaining

Following the acquisition of the various new plant species, I had both Dimitree and Trevor attempt to use their abilities to improve the plant diversity in the valley. To some extent, the valley in both sides is largely dominated with my type of tree, though at least the ThreeTree of mana grants some visual varieties.

I may need to look up some pollens and bees, and flowering plants as well.

Oh well.

Well, at least with the improved inflow of gems and rare crystals, I’ve managed to upgrade the [rootnet] to support a larger capacity of tree-energy. The upgraded rootnet will take up to 100,000 normal trees, which also means more artificial souls. I’d probably like to make some more tree-minds, to take some load off Ivy, since the task of monitoring so many people is a monumental task.

“TreeTree. I’ve got a proposal.”

Huh. A proposal from Alexis. “Well, let’s hear it.”

“I’ve been talking to Meela, and I’m thinking of using the biolab to make a body. Not a full flesh and blood kind of body since it’s clearly not at that level, but, I’m thinking of experimenting with Treefolk corpses, as a transition between regular sentient species, and well… trees.”

Huh.

“Well, my theory is that Treefolk exists as some kind of magical evolutionary-in between, between a tree, and regular humans. So, looking at treefolk is a good starting point to figure out what are the magical mechanics within their body which allows them to do what they do…"

“So you’re asking for my permission to do this experiment?”

“Yes. The goal is to be able to create flexible wooden… uhm… armors, as a vessel for souls.” I think she meant robots. Huh, she wants to create a body for herself, well, there is still that dryad body that's formed from her corpse… Maybe she forgot about that already?

"I am rather fond of the treefolk. They give me no trouble, have shown willingness to defend the valley when instructed, and have been polite and respectful whenever contacted."

"Ah… so that's a no?"

"I will ask the treefolks for their permission. Conducting autopsies on the dead should be approved by their kin."

"...that makes sense." Well, Alexis seems to understand that, at least. "Ah, there is also one other thing…"

"Huh?"

"I am thinking of expanding. I'll need space… and materials… and some of your beetles."

"What do you mean?"

"Ah, I reached level 30, and I have this new skill called [Locational Survey Tools]. It… allows me to take control of a few beetles and place research equipment on them, and this will speed up research on environment-resistances. Kind of making a… a research-oriented scout out of the beetle. I can operate 2 at any one time."

Hmm. Actually I think that sounds a bit like the Moon Buggy, but an actual bug! Or perhaps the Mars Rover. Fascinating. She's going into the whole science route, which makes sense as a spirit haunting a massive research biolab. Would a flying bug with this be essentially a flying science vessel?

"Fine, you get 2 beetles. Let me know of the materials."

Alexis claps her ghostly hands in joy. "Thank you."

-

The treefolk chiefs visit a few days later. Three of them, one from before, and two I have not met. It seems their number has increased over the years, as immigration brings more and more treefolks to the valley.

"It is an honor to be summoned by the tree spirit..." The three treefolks prostrate before me… I had forgotten that treefolks revere tree spirits. "Your presence bathes the entire valley in a warm energy, that fuels our health and gives us strength."

Wait, do my powers work on treefolk? Why does he talk like it does?

Holy cow, if it does that opens up a big, no, giant can of worms I need to explore.

"You feel my presence?"

The oldest of the treefolk, the one I met before, still prostrating on the floor, is the one to speak. "We always have, the energy and radiance through the roots, each step we take, we feel your growing dominion. Even in the depths of winter, we feel and share in the warmth through our rooted feets."

Wait, is he trying to just suck up to me? Hmm… Anyway, let's get down to it.

"Ah… the reason I wish to speak to you, is to talk about the dead and the deceased. I'd like to first understand about cultural norm, where the body of the deceased treefolk is normally split into many parts, some as tools, some as fertiliser, and some as ornaments… is this, an unbreakable rule, and is there any taboo around giving it to me for my… studies?"

The treefolk chieftains all share a glance, and then it is the same elder treefolk, he raises his head to respond. “It’s a cultural practice, most families will want to keep their deceased family members’ bodies, to assimilate into their own. If you want a body… we would have to provide one without any family members, as I doubt any of our own would part with it. Every bit of a treefolk should be recycled.”

I see. Interesting. “Very well then,, that will have to do. And you can stand up now, you’ve prostrated long enough.”

“I’m not sure whether Vice Counsel Laufen has relayed our message previously…” One of the other treefolk chiefs speak.

“Oh, what is this about?”

“It’s regarding the recent gifts to the young children. While the rest of the population do benefit from it, we, the treefolk, do not really benefit from them.”

“Ah.” So, is this a complaint?

“We’re wondering whether we… we can get something more suited for our young saplings.”

Oh. Customer feedback. Now why didn’t Laufen tell me about it. “When was this message delivered to Vice Counsel Laufen?”

The three chieftains look at each other, “Uh… last week perhaps? When she came to deliver a gift for our newest sapling.”

Speaking of Treefolk mating and childbirth, they’re actually really interesting and different from the rest of the humanoid races, although they also have humanoid like appearances. There’s actually a few ways treefolk mate, and it depends on the male, female, or whether the treefolk is a hermaphrodite, ie contains the mating organs of both. In short, treefolk retains their own plant-like mating systems, yet, also incorporate the mating systems of humanoids.

Their available ways of mating include actually having intercourse, a form of pollen-fertilisation where the female organs open up for the male organs to fertile, or oddly, and perhaps unique to treefolk, is via third parties, usually an insect or a ‘carrier’, like a bee or a butterfly that carries the fertilised pollens from the male organs to the female, who then, if he/she judges the pollens to be suitable, then allows it to fertilise him/her. Apparently it’s taboo for a treefolk to self-fertilise, for the hermaphrodites, but in times of great disaster, it is permitted to keep up the treefolk numbers.

There’s also another external variant of mating, in which the female organ produces ‘empty seeds’, something like an unfertilised egg, which, she can leave in a specified location for any interested male treefolk to then leave their seed. Most sub-species of treefolk are able to produce large quantities of such unfertilised eggs, and the decision to either go for an external or internal mating variant is a choice of the treefolk, whether the female wants quantity, or quality, because internally-carried treefolk will emerge much stronger, bigger, and longer lived. If the male or female is strongly magically attuned, internal mating and carrying the baby within the female also has a higher likelihood of passing off the magical talent to the child.

The only plant-like reproduction system not retained by the treefolk… is the grafting or cutting methods, since the soul cannot be severed in two. Only one part of the body will retain the soul, and the part without the soul will wither away without the sustenance of the soul’s presence.

So, given their huge variety of ways in which a baby is carried or the condition of which a new ‘sapling’ is created, I could see why the humanoid ‘childcare’ center is not suitable.

I mean, I would have to figure out how to adapt-

*ding*

[New subsidiary tree type unlocked : Treefolk Incubation Pods. A subsidiary tree filled with multiple pods, used to incubate and nourish fertilised and germinating external seeds]

[New subsidiary tree type unlocked : Treefolk Nursery. Makes sapling-friendly nutrient rich foods. Can also make special sap for pregnant treefolk mothers or females to boost quality and health of their fetus or eggs]

Uh. Dammit.

I keep forgetting how much the system likes these kind of stuff. I’m even betting there’s extra points because they are treefolk. Maybe I’ll also get new biolab equipments when I put the treefolk under the biolab.

At least I have something. “Chieftains, I’ll have something for you soon.”

 

Shorter chapter as I'm out of ideas. *faints* Also, hope the part on treefolk-reproduction doesn't creep you out.  

natural disasters happen, well.. because they do. I mean, a volcano or earthquake, or tsunami, or wildfires, well, shit like that happens, don't they, especially when you talk about timescales of years? what is remote becomes certain over the ages. I should add a supervolcano eruption someday. There should be at least one somewhere on their world. 

Thanks for reading! 

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