Chapter 87: Updating Statuses
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Lia sat awkwardly as the guest of honor at the banquet, unsure of exactly how to act. This was all very far outside the realm of normalcy for her, and she had thought that being treated with deference by the civilians they brought to the dungeon had prepared her for the royal life, but couldn’t have been more wrong.

Back in the dungeon, it was sort of like what she imagined a frontier town was like; everyone was pitching in and doing their best to build out their society. Lia was in charge, yes, but she was in charge the same way a construction foreman was in charge, not…not someone to be bowed down to, someone out of reach of the average person.

So it came as a relief when a massive surge of energy flared to life in the direction of their rooms before quickly fading into nothingness. This might have been a cause for concern if Lia couldn’t somehow sense that the energy was Rose. It was strange, she couldn’t put her finger on why, but it just felt…familiar, warm and…Rose-like.

Even stranger, no one else seemed to have sensed it, they kept dining without so much as missing a beat. “Please excuse me.” Lia said, pushing her chair back. “I, um…”

Lia floundered, looking for an excuse, but Alisha just gave her a bemused look. “You don’t have to make excuses, my Queen.” She said. “No one here will question you.”

“Sorry, um, I…I just felt Rose wake up, and I need to make sure she’s okay.”

Alisha rolled her eyes. “My Queen, you do not need to apologize to us. You are perfectly within your rights to leave at any time you desire. You are Queen here, and if you need to retire early, then that is your right.”

“Sor– I mean, right. I’ll, um…be going then.” Lia said lamely, hurrying out of the dining room and back into the halls. And, as she hurried through the halls, she realized that she had no idea where she was going, the mess of corridors she found herself in more like a maze than a reasonable way to navigate a building.

Seriously, why was it so hard to just pick a direction and have one hall going that way? It was like someone had purposefully made the palace’s layout as nonsensical as possible; she would encounter things like halls that ended abruptly, only for another hall to continue in the same direction, divided from the first by only a wall.

She was so distracted trying to figure out how to get back to the guest chambers that she didn’t even hear the footsteps of an approaching person, not until she rounded the corner and ran headfirst into something very soft.

“Woah there.” Rose said, grabbing Lia and steadying her. “Be careful, Lia.”

Lia squirmed in Rose’s embrace, pulling her face out of Rose’s chest so she could look up at her. “Rose, I’m so hap…” Lia trailed off as she took in Rose’s new form, her brain short-circuiting as she looked.

Rose was…was…it was like…like she had become a goddess. But not…really, not an actual goddess like Connie, but the idealized version you would see in pictures. She had lost her greenish tint and gained a perfect tan, though the tan was barely an afterthought when compared to the pulsing white light that shone from beneath her skin. It was a gentle sort of light, one that made Lia feel comfortable and safe.

Aside from that, Rose was…big, larger than life, even. She was a whole head taller than Lia, and big…everywhere. Lia’s eyes roamed over Rose’s body for a few moments, before she eventually managed to force her eyes to meet Rose’s. “I…I’m so happy you’re awake.” Lia breathed. “And…you look incredible.”

“Thank you.” Rose said bashfully, looking away. “I’m glad you think that.”

“So…what happened?” Lia asked. “I can tell that something big happened, but I don’t know any details or anything.”

“Um…” Amelia said, peeking out from behind Rose. “I kind of made her a Hero again?”

“Amelia, you’re awake too!” Lia said happily disengaging from Rose and running to give Amelia a hug. “We weren’t sure when you were going to wake up, and were getting worried, so it’s a relief to see you up!”

Amelia blushed fiercely, looking away. “I, um, I mean…Rose woke me up, and then she, um, uh…”

“I told her I loved her, and that I was ready for her to join our relationship if you were.”

“What?” Lia said, releasing her hug and looking at Rose in shock. “Since when? Why bring it up now?”

“I’m not sure myself.” Rose admitted. “Somewhere along the line her earnestness really charmed me. And…I brought it up now because…well, the conditioning she had built into the swarm wasn’t powerful enough to keep up with my new form, and…it broke entirely.”

Lia took a moment to process that, then grinned. “That’s great!” She said. “You’re…fully free from any mental tampering for the first time, and, well…I’m just happy for you!”

“It is?” Rose said. “I thought you might be, you know, a little concerned, since I’m not…safe anymore.”

“Rose, if you wanted, you could have broken free of the conditioning ages ago.” Lia said. “And…well, you deserve it. And deep down, inside of me, I think I’m happy that you’re still choosing us, even without the conditioning.”

“But…I could be lying to you.” Rose said weakly.

“If you wanted to deceive us, you just wouldn’t have told us.” Lia said. “And…um…do you think there’s any possibility of breaking my conditioning, too? Everything aside from being attracted to girls, that is.”

“You don’t need to worry about the attraction thing.” Amelia said. “I made that particular change on a physical level, and baked it into evolutions, so even if it somehow disappeared, it would just come back. I, um, really wanted to make sure it stuck.”

“I…believe I can break the conditioning.” Rose said. “Your conditioning, at least; it’s…frayed, I think the portion of power that Amelia transferred to you has been eroding it.”

“You can?” Lia said, surprised. “Even Amelia couldn’t undo it completely.”

Only for you, since it’s nearly broken anyway.” Rose emphasized. “And…not Amelia? No…she’s just…not under any conditioning?”

“I exempted myself from it.” Amelia said. “The conditioning was already based on my thought patterns, and I was afraid of a negative reaction with the Urge.”

“Oh, right!” Rose said, clearly remembering something. “Jerry left me a note. He upped the power of what Amelia did, but he also said that he’s not using the Urge anymore, so we don’t need to worry about it.”

“Um, to get back on subject, because we strayed a little, I think we should break Lia’s conditioning now?” Amelia said, fidgeting nervously. “And then, um…”

“I broke her conditioning while I was talking about you not having any.” Rose said.

“You did?” Lia said confusedly. “But I didn’t feel anything.”

“That probably means you’re just aligned with this point of view anyway.” Rose said. “That’s how I was. I…basically just became able to see converting other people as potentially wrong, and…well, it got rid of something that was keeping me from truly seeing us as equals. So, I…kind of had love on the brain when I was going to Amelia.”

Oh, right. They had sort of moved on after Rose had dropped the bomb that was her loving Amelia. And Amelia was clearly waiting anxiously for an answer, so Lia wasn’t going to keep her waiting any longer. She turned back to Amelia, pulled her close, then leaned in and gave her a kiss.

She let it linger for a few moments before separating, giving Amelia a smile. “I love you too, Amelia. Welcome to the relationship.”

“You really mean it?” Amelia asked, tears beginning to leak from her eyes. “This isn’t a dream?”

Lia nodded. “I mean it. As long as you keep working to improve yourself, we can be together.”

Amelia opened her mouth as if she was going to respond, but she wasn’t able to get anything coherent out through her sobs. Lia just gave her a hug, waiting until Amelia eventually had the strength to respond. “Thank you.” She whispered. “I…I’ve wanted this for so long, long enough that it doesn’t feel real that it’s happening. It makes me feel like everything was worth it, even more than I already felt that way.”

That sparked yet another twinge of emotion in Lia, a slightly more confused one. She…she was no longer as absolutely sure about their cause as she had been before, not certain if the ends really justified the means, but…when she looked back to how happy people were, she decided that yes, it was. She would just have to resolve herself to never, ever become a power hungry monster like Alisha had been, to keep the wellbeing of her people foremost in her mind. She knew what it was like to be on the bottom…and she wanted to make sure she kept that in mind as she moved to the top.

Lia’s attention was brought back to Amelia as, to Lia’s surprise, Amelia disengaged from the hug first, turning and giving one to Rose. They stayed like that for a while more, then Amelia let go of that hug as well, wiping her eyes as she straightened back up. “We…we should finish our conversation.” She said. “We may have been underselling Rose’s changes.”

“How?” Lia said, taken aback. “You said you made her a Hero again, there’s no world in which that is an understatement.”

“Um…” Rose said embarrassedly. At some point she had stopped glowing, though Lia hadn’t noticed when. “I’m…a lot stronger than I was in my past life. I mean, I’m bound now, but my unbound stats…I might even have a sliver of a chance against an unrestricted Amelia. Probably under one percent, but still a chance.”

“Yup.” Amelia agreed. “Look at her status, you’ll see.”

“Is that alright with you, Rose?” Lia asked.

“Didn’t I give you permission to look any time you wanted?” Rose replied.

“Uh…maybe? I forget. Either way, that was still when you were, you know, still under Amelia’s conditioning.”

“Well, I’ll just repeat it; you can look at my status any time you want, no permission needed.”

“In that case, you can look at mine any time yo–” Lia cut off mid-sentence as she pulled up Rose’s status. “What? I mean…what?”

“Check her Titles and Skills, and make sure to read the full race description.” Amelia said smugly.

Dazed, Lia did as instructed, each successive item a further blow to her already overwhelmed state of mind. “I…what…I…I mean…Rose Mios?”

Rose froze, then burst out laughing. “That’s what you comment on?”

“I…I don’t even know where to begin with the other stuff!” Lia said. “And…I mean…are we sure I shouldn’t be taking your last name?”

“Yes.” Rose said immediately. “That name is dead and buried. I’d much rather be known like this. The less like Reuben I am, the better.”

“Do you really hate your old life that much?” Amelia asked.

Rose hesitated for a second. “Only sort of.” She admitted. “I mean, don’t get me wrong, I despise Reuben, but only on a…personal basis. He represents everything I hate about the way I used to be, and I want to distance myself as much as possible. But…it’s not like everything from that life is bad; Chrys is my greatest joy, and if I had to go through it all again just to keep her in my life, I would.”

“I’m not against it, I was just surprised, since we hadn’t really discussed it.” Lia said. “And…besides, this proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that you’re not lying about anything; you truly, deeply want this, or it wouldn’t reflect on your status.”

Rose perked up. “You’re…right!” She said happily. “I hadn’t even thought about that before. But…um…the rest…”

“Is fantastic.” Lia said. “If there’s anyone who deserves it, it’s you. Um…is Jerry’s buff just limited to your stats or…?”

“He didn’t specify.” Rose said. “It just said I had been given all the power of a summoned Hero, and he said he made that stronger? We won’t really be able to know until we ask, there’s not a Skill or Title for it or anything.”

“Summoned…that’s it!” Lia said, eyes widening. “That’s why none of Yamamoto’s conversion options mentioned anything about Heroes!”

“Huh?” Rose said. “They didn’t? But…” Understanding dawned on her face. “Oh. When Amelia called her spell “Transference of the Tree of Life”, the transfer part was literal.”

“That’s what it was called?” Amelia asked. “I wasn’t paying attention, I just said something that felt right.”

“That makes a lot more sense.” Lia said. “I was worried something was broken due to him being from another world, so I was holding off on doing anything until Amelia woke up. Well…you know what, Rose deserves this way more than he does, so I’m glad it was transferred. If we were only getting one more Hero, I would much rather it be her, not some kid who apparently gets blinded by rage after one simple setback. Who knows what sort of damage he could have done if he went off on some crusade of in the middle of our campaign.”

“Speaking of…how do we want to proceed with that, now that Yamamoto has been dealt with?” Amelia asked. “Just…same as we have been?”

“I want to get Aura fully converted as soon as possible.” Lia said. “On our way over here, I realized just how many families we’ve interrupted by converting so many women, and the sooner they can love each other in a romantic way again, the better. I was talking with Alisha about it, but we were somewhat unsure, so we decided to wait until you’d woken up to make a decision.”

Rose stroked her chin thoughtfully. “Let’s hear about the details when we’re back home.” She said. “This isn’t a decision to be made on a whim. We have the unique advantage of being undetected at the moment, and the longer we have to grow our numbers, the better. We want to reduce the death count as much as possible, to provide the most long-term happiness we can.”

She paused, looking around. “Where is everyone else, by the way?”

“We were having a banquet when I felt you wake up.” Lia said. “I slipped out to come find you, so they must still be eating. Um…do you want to come to the banquet, or would you rather rest a little more?”

“Some food sounds good right about now.” Rose said. “Let’s go.”

Okay, okay, the title is uninspired but I couldn't think of anything so I just went with it.

I don't have anything else to really say about this chapter, though, next time we're going to probably get back to the dungeon, so...look forward to it!

And, as always, thanks for reading!