Year 82 Month 8
The fact that the rod worked made me ask more questions about the nature of these ‘mana sources’. Why were my normal [subsidiary trees] able to tap into the magical leyline, yet it didn’t work on the volcano?
What made the rod special?
I made a few theories, but I must admit these are shaped by my experiences with my own games.
The first possibility is that there are compatible and incompatible 'colors' for mana, and so, if my base color is blue, then red is therefore an 'opposing' color. So, I would have to go through a lot more steps and upgrades to assimilate an 'opposing' color mana, hence the [Forest Rod].
That, of course, is just a theory. I had asked the Wisp, but the Wisp is surprisingly clueless about such things, and I suspect only other Tree Spirits may be able to answer me.
The second but not mutually exclusive theory, was that there are 'tiers' to the mana. In this theory, the dungeon core and leyline beneath constituted ‘directly accessible' mana, and the volcano's natural mana constituted 'mana that required processing'.
The mental model I had for this theory, similar to the oil & gas industry, which has different types of rigs and mines, like regular pumps, deep sea rigs, oil sands, or shale oil, each with different rates of recovery, at different kinds of technological difficulty. I built this theory on the knowledge that heroes and myself have 'star mana', and the sick princess was exposed to 'void mana', so it may not be too hard to then theorise 'star mana' is like nuclear fuel. So, if we were to lay down the types of mana on a scale, there would be an increasing difficulty?
Of course, the fact that I have the ability to produce star mana challenges this theory, like... if I can make star mana, why is the volcanic mana a challenge?
Anyway... whether these are 'types' of mana or 'tiers' of mana, or even both, I frankly have no proof. Or maybe I’m just imagining things.
The rod is able to circumvent the tiers, or whether it is the colors, but other than it worked, I have little insights into the underlying mechanics of how it took the volcanic mana and made it usable to me. So, what I can do, is to keep expanding and growing, use the rods in different circumstances and then observe the outcomes.
Meanwhile, somebody important came. We knew its important, because that person came in a rare airship. Apparently, after some sniffing, daemolite-powered airships are quite sensitive to the magical interference by the demon king, and so many, many fleets has been grounded. This airship, is powered by Quantium, an expensive and rare crystal. The fact that it is deployed, meant a lot.
“The Kingdom of Takde summons all high level individuals to assault a demonic fortress. It’s located in the ruins of a once-large city. All individuals above level 50 are invited to participate, and Takde will bear all lodging and costs.”
The demons have managed to take down a large city, and a rod has been planted. In the ruins of a place that witnessed intense death, the rod’s magical harvesting ability mixed with the residual death energy, and as a result, they started producing special kinds of demonoids.
The envoy described it as an upgraded version of demon knights. Bound to the ground, without wings, but they are twice as large as any regular demonoid. The size of a troll or a large ogre, these demons are equal in strength to a regular demon knight, the equivalent of a level 30 to 35 captain. Not a problem per say, but the issue is really about numbers. This rod produced these demon ogres by the hundreds every week.
“Fascinating.” Alexis mused. “It’s like these rods have some kind of natural-adaptation ability to produce special kinds of units. Like an... adaptive breeder.”
It’s expected. The volcano’s ‘conversion’ created special giant beasts. Looking at this sort of trend, the former snake-dungeon might be spitting out snake-demons very soon. I should look into that.
“But why didn’t these sort of special units appear earlier?” I wondered. Perhaps it’s a condition for unlocking the next tier units, that requires the presence of the demon king. Or like Queens in a hive, it is the demon king who introduces genetic diversity into their population?
A few adventurers in New Freeka agreed to join. I had the impression adventurers avoid participating in such high profile demon-related matters unless the heroes were involved, but I suppose some people are going to bite, if the rewards are good.
“So... that snake-dungeon, are you just going to leave it?” Alexis asked. Well, no.
I looked at Stratreegy’s overlay, showing a large map, split into numerous hexagons. It’s an overlay and presentation resembling Age of Wonders, with my main body, at the center. There’s five straight lines of trees, one to the volcano, one to the south-forest, one that goes all the way to Ransalah, one that leads close to the former snake dungeon, and another one that’s headed south, towards where the other demon-walker was once spotted.
“I’m thinking.” It takes one beetle pod, one month to regrow one beetle. So theoretically, I can lose about 5,000 beetles per month with no real ‘loss’ to my force. I could consistently assault that location with 5,000 beetles, but it’s probably better to hammer it with a larger force.
Unlike the humans, or the elves, or any other nation who man their force with non-renewable lives, my beetles essentially allow me to fight the demons with their own strategy, a war of attrition.
Outside of my own extremely overpowered abilities against demons, this is my second advantage against demons.
“How about your spiders? They’ve not been seeing use. Outside making webs here.”
“They’re anti-air... and are campers. They’re not suitable as an invasion force. Beetles, being a mobile unit, are kind of like... cavalry.”
“Your other beetle-variants? The dungbeetles, or the spear-beetles?”
I looked at the map again. Visibility is still crap. A comparison to age of wonders would be being able to see only one or two 'hex' away.
“So... TreeTree, would you want to send anyone to join the Takde’s force?” Jura interrupted my thoughts, the envoy met a whole load of other adventurers and fighters.
“No.” I’ll deal with them separately. “Get me a map of where that location is.” I’m still very happy that I can actually ‘see’ now, instead of just ‘spirit vision’. I can read maps! Apparently Takde’s airship is already filled with other adventurers the envoy picked up. It’s going to be a rather massive force, and the Takde High-King intends to use a large collected group of high leveled adventurers as a sledgehammer. “What about the coalition army that Salah’s leading? Or was it Nagra?”
“It’s participating, of course. But to minimise casualties, they need this high leveled force. Every week delay increases the demon-ogre force by a few hundred.” Jura explained.
Alexis magically created a floating, holograph-like map. “So, either strike early with a smaller force, or strike later and face a bigger standing army. Sounds like fun.”
From Ransalah, a chain of trees up to the Takde Demon Fort wouldn’t be too far. I want to see the demon-ogres for myself, whether they really are the threat that the envoys say it is.
“So... you’re going to sweep in to save the day?” Alexis asked.
“The beetles won’t get there in time. Not with that kind of distance.”
“Even with your new ability?”
“It’s a pulley system based on vines, it’s better for goods, and it's not fast.” Pulley systems exist in this world. Many ports have engineers who design large contraptions to help with moving goods. It seemed one of the heroes, a long time ago, did manage to introduce some rudimentary container system, though the practice is competing with magical holding bags.
“So what’s your plan? Just create a chain of trees and watch the battle?” Alexis didn’t seem too impressed.
“Honestly, yes. I like seeing new types of demons. I think it’s fascinating, and it gives us insights into how intelligent this demon king is.”
Alexis frowned. The airship with the adventurers left. There’s some information trading as well.
Some of the adventurers we hired did come back with some targets. And after a few battles with smaller demon bases, this is where I made a discovery.
The rods must be collected, either when they are unused, or still under construction or in transport. Once fully channeled and transformed into a ‘base’, or a ‘fort’, most of that mana-corrupting ability is lost. Left untouched, the fully channeled rods can still continue to generate ‘small’ amounts of demonoids, but they lose most of their ‘base-creation’ ability.
In short, a single-use item. Ugh.
I had the idea of smashing some demon bases, and stealing the rods, but it makes more sense that the rods are mostly a single-use item.
Back to the drawing board.
Year 82 Month 9
[Completed The Grand Mind Tree project]. The grand mind tree resembles a bunch of walnuts stacked on top of each other, the entirely of the Mind Tree is wrinkly, with multiple branches twirling around.
Located just next to me, the moment it’s fully completed, I could see it glow a faint greenish light.
And then I had a massive, massive headache.
For a good... one hour.
But only one hour. I've had worse headaches.
[Mind Control resistance significantly increased. Each of your artificial minds will now act as ‘counterchecks’ against attempted mind control attacks. Mind control must now apply to more than half of your artificial minds to work.]
Ah wonderful. The blockchain node approach to mind control resistance.
Also, my awareness of soul matters suddenly took a giant leap. If I focus, I can now observe greater details in the folds of my [soul realm]. And most importantly, the processing power to alter souls at a fine level. It’s been something that I wanted, something I figured might solve what I have been facing with Jura.
After a string of successes with smaller rats and animals, I tried moving onto bigger things, and realised... I just couldn't.
I had ‘resolution’ issues. Because I couldn’t create a ‘canvass’ big and detailed enough. That meant, I would work halfway and realised I couldn't copy more. Even with a live version as a reference.
It was like working with a forced 600x480 resolution when I needed ten times that.
This [grand mind tree] is kind of like a massive RAM and solid state harddisk.
“Jura. Soul forge, now.” With the grand mind, I now have what I needed to create a functional copy of the ‘hand.’
He looked puzzled, but he’s not one to challenge me that much. So he agreed. I had Lausanne and Laufen gather all sorts of materials, animals and place them around my main tree.
With all three [soul forge : red, blue and black], I draw the mana from all over my network of trees, and they appear as three separate balls of energy, one blue, one red, and one black. This distinction is also made possible by the improved mana-manipulation ability from the [grand mind tree].
And from the [soul realm], I took a bunch of the soul fragments, and started to form the shape of a hand.
Jura’s now asleep inside, the vines pumped nutrients and mana. And three viney feelers, ethereal, both ‘physical’ and ‘spiritual’, reach into his body, and pulls his soul out. Just partly.
It revealed an elf-shaped soul, but with one hand gone. A gap. It’s rounded now, like a soul-version of a stump.
Two more feelers appear and touch the other, still present hand. The Grand Mind Tree glowed, and in sync, another feeler started to work on the floating hand, formed from the broken soul fragments of the dead. With the mental processing and storage power of the grand mind tree, the necessary ‘mental’ capacity to copy all the details of his existing hand. And we started to work.
Ivy and Trevor acts as my assistants. They helped maintain some of the mana flow, and regulated the [soul forge].
Cocooned in mana, it took a good four hours, and the floating hand now resembled the other, with the necessary corrections. Previously I could only do 3 hours. It had all the vessels, muscle strands and bone shapes, a perfectly flipped copy of the other hand.
Then, multiple ethereal feelers appeared, and it cut into the stump on Jura’s soul. It’s a slow process, slowly, using the fragments of souls to create all the components, and joining the existing soul to this new hand. Bit-by-bit, vein-by-vein, bone-by-bone, strands of muscle joined their counterparts on Jura's soul.
This took another four hours, and day had now turned into night. There were people looking for Jura, but Laufen sent them off.
The three glowing mana balls entered the ‘new’ hand, and then, the energies mixed and bound them together. Before I woke Jura, I checked.
And double-checked. I made sure I fixed every part of the connection. Trevor and Ivy helped to check as well.
Checking my own work took another two hours. I had to be sure. If I lose Jura to my own mistakes, I'm not sure how I can forgive myself.
But after that, I felt I was okay. Jura's body is stable. Gently his soul returned back to his body, and then I used the [biolab] functions to check another time. 15 minutes. He's alright, soul spring appears stable. There's a new section in there.
I injected something, and roused him from his slumber.
Jura woke up and shouted.
He felt immense, immense pain. Because what was once a ‘stump’, was now something he can feel in his soul. The loss, the lack of a hand, the pain that once was, all of it returned.
He shouted. But now, I can apply healing magic.
With more... surgery. And I sent him back into sleep. I had to wake him to check his response.
This time, with real physical feelers, inside a biopod, I cut into the physical stump on his body, and started to apply [healing]. And instead of healing back to a stump, it started to form a hand.
I did it slowly, making sure the recovery of the hand didn't cause any cuts or gaps that would leak blood. Trevor and Ivy helped monitor his vital stats.
And after another two hours of slow ‘reconstruction’, Jura woke up to find that he had... both his arms.
Jura was speechless when he saw his returned hand.
He touched it, and he felt it. And he just stared at his ‘new’ hand for a good 15 minutes, just moving his fingers, his wrist, his muscles.
I decided to just let him have his moment. He sat, and he cried for a while.
“TreeTree... you... fixed my hand. Only gods and their miracles can do such things. Maybe... maybe heroes too.”
Great, I took so long to do something a hero probably could do in his sleep.
“I didn’t know I could too. So... uh... be gentle with your new hand?” I wasn’t sure whether everything’s fine yet, even though all the stats from [biolab] are positive.
“Yeah.” He stretched it. “It... It still feels kind of strange to be having my own hand, and not Bamboo’s wood hand. I’ll be careful.”
When he stepped out of the biopod room, everyone gasped. Jura smiled, “Hey. TreeTree made a hand.”
“So... that tree makes you smarter?” Alexis asked. “Is it like your brain, but... bigger?”
“No. It’s just a special-tree type I have, increases research, and improves my mental resistances.”
“Huh. For something that takes up so much resources, and almost two years to grow, I expected it to be more... impressive. Like, warp space-time or something.”
“I believe there are abilities that I have yet to discover.”
“But I guess you needed it to fix Jura’s hand. That’s pretty good.” Alexis mused, and looked at the magical labs. “Too bad you can’t fix this magical interference. Could it create like a psychic bubble to push back the demon king’s interference? You know, like erm... Professor X’s ”
“Why?” How’d that link
“Well, you can fix this newsless world for a change.”
“Hah.” I’m a bit torn. Should I care about the outside world? I like just caring about growing more trees, spreading trees from place to place. I like just looking after what’s mine, my forests, and my valley, the trees that I have.
Wait. Was that me?
But then, the world’s never going to just let me be. A part of me, echoes the words of Gewa, that I have great power, and I should use it to fight the demons. The lives that could have been saved if I did something.
Yet, that earlier part of me resists that notion. I wonder whether this is the 'tree' part of me that just wants to mind my own business, and focus on just growing trees. Helping trees. Trees are my friends, my family, and they are mine, in a way these elves and humans can never be. Maybe a part of me feels that they, these trees are... me. I sometimes think about where all these come from, a yearning for self preservation?
A collective instinct for self-preservation, drawn from the thoughts of all the trees?
Is this world, and all these artificial minds and grand mind tree, unknowingly influencing my thought processes? Is it deliberate? Or is there something like how the gods can subtly guide one' thoughts in a particular direction without one knowing?
Again, why do my mind wander like that? I was having a discussion on the demons, was I not?
"TreeTree, you... okay?" Alexis seemed puzzled. “You just stopped... talking.”
"I... have a lot on my mind."
"Ah, because you actually have a mind, now." Alexis pointed to the mind tree. She laughed. "I was wondering where you did your thinking, like... is there a brain in your tree? Or are you like jellyfish and the roots in the ground function like some neural network?"
"Uh." Well, I’m beginning to suspect it is some kind of neural network. Or is it overstimulation from all the data coming in from all those other trees?
"Never mind. I often make jokes that only I find funny." Alexis shrugged.
"Yes. Back to subject. Demons." There's a big fight with the demon ogres.
The Takde's force of 1,500 high leveled adventurers and fighters was super impressive, and it managed to crush the force at the demon city. The battle lasted for about half a day, and they were successful.
Of course, I had some trees nearby to watch the action. The demon ogres are just giant versions of their own demonoid soldiers, nothing much to be afraid of, and their combat ability is less than a captain. The kingdom of Takde exaggerated the threat, but I suppose that helps to ensure a smooth defeat of the demons.
The adventurers and generals did have to work a bit harder against the few demon-generals, but they still vastly outleveled most of the demons.
And, as a bystander, I witnessed many high level skills used by some of the higher leveled adventurers.
Yet, even the best of them are just about level 80 to 90.
I suppose its a bit of a letdown, on both the adventurer and demon fronts, but hey, guess the variants the demon-rods make aren't that overpowered, unless the source itself is powerful. Or maybe... there are more powerful variants?
Maybe the demons capture a dragon cave or cemetery and start to spawn dragon-demons?
That, would be a hell of a sight.
Update for 28/11/2019. I've started advance chapters on Patreon. For $3, read one chapter/one week ahead. Regular chapters will be released on 4 Dec 2019.
Why? Because I'm temporarily jobless (between jobs) XD