Chapter 89: Izumi
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Rose gave a huge yawn as she awoke, turning over to find her wife snoozing peacefully beside her. She snuggled up closer to Lia, and was about to go back to sleep when she realized that the bed wasn’t their bed at home, it was much softer and far more comfortable. Right, she had just planted her other body, and had collapsed out of exhaustion. Begrudgingly, she got up, feeling the odd sensation of her feet impacting her own body as she touched the floor.

Yeah, that had to go. She could vaguely feel the other parts of herself, people milling about, the wind on her trunk, the sun shining down on her leaves…it was distracting. Fortunately, blocking those sensations from her consciousness was as simple as closing her eyes, and she was, blessedly, back to only having her main body’s senses.

Even so, her connection to her tree-body was as strong as ever. Out of curiosity, she tried to form a simple chair out of her wood, and marveled as it obediently rose out of the floor, taking only a small amount of her Mana in her process. She admired it for a moment, then removed it, and stealthily began to make her way towards the door, very carefully trying to avoid waking her sleeping wife.

As she walked, though, she realized a paper was stuck to the door, one which read “wake me up when you get up”. So, Rose obediently returned to her bed, and began to gently shake her wife awake.

Lia woke quickly, smiling in relief as she saw Rose’s face. “Oh thank goodness.” She said. “I was getting worried, but since you took us to this bed, I figured you were probably fine? What happened?”

Rose began to think back to what had happened after she had planted the seed of…herself? And, as she thought back, she relayed her experiences to Lia, who listened patiently until the end.

“I see.” Lia said. “Amelia did check out some of the tree while you were asleep, made sure everyone was safe, scoped out our location, but we didn’t take too deep a look into anything. We wanted to make sure you were okay, first.”

“Did you figure out where we are?” Rose asked. “I couldn’t see much outside my trunk, but I’m pretty sure we’re not in a dungeon anymore.”

“We’re not.” Lia said. “We’re right on top of where the portal used to be, but the area has turned into a valley of sorts so the top of the tree…err, your body, is as high as the mountains nearby. There are a few steep paths out into the Spine proper dotted around, so we’re not totally cut off, but…yeah, your body is that giant beacon showing our position I was sort of afraid of, but hopefully we can handle whatever comes looking for us.”

“Let’s just call my tree body Yggdrios.” Rose said. “It’ll be less confusing that way, and it’s not like I’m particularly attached to the tree or anything.”

“You sure?” Lia said doubtfully. “The way you’ve been talking about it, it seems like another arm or something, and I’d feel weird giving my arm a name. We can just call it “your tree” or something.”

Rose paused, thinking on that. Lia had a point; Rose wouldn’t have suggested the name if the system hadn’t stated that her tree was called that, but…she didn’t really have to listen to the system for everything, did she? “Yeah, you’re right.” Rose said. “If it becomes a problem we can revisit it, but ‘your tree’ works just as well for now.

“But, back on topic, I’m sure we’ll be capable enough if any monsters come knocking. Between our more capable fighters, we could probably handle any one threat. And…speaking of capable fighters, have you started Yamamoto’s conversion yet?”

“No.” Lia said, shaking her head. “We didn’t want to try and cut any branches or anything in case it would hurt you.”

“That’s sweet, but it’s fine.” Rose said, conjuring a flowery spear and forcing it into the wall. “See? Perfectly okay, no pain whatsoever. I don’t think my tree can feel pain.” She withdrew her spear and healed the wall back up before growing a branch out of the floor and snapping it off.

“Here you go.” She said, putting the branch in a cocoon and handing it to Lia. “I’m guessing we don’t want to convert him here, right?”

Lia accepted the cocoon, placing it into her dimensional storage. “Yeah. I was planning to find Meg and Neph and have them watch over him until he finished converting. Want to go give him to them and then check on everyone else, maybe let them know that we’re dating Amelia now?”

“Sounds like a plan.” Rose replied.

Ichiro woke with a start, heaving a sigh of relief as she realized that she had simply been having a bad dream. After all, there was no way she would lose to the Queen, and the idea of someone being able to steal a spell as powerful as Garden of the World Tree was ludicrous. It was –

Ichiro froze. She…she had just thought of Lia as “the Queen”, and was thinking of herself as a woman. It had felt so natural, so right that she hadn’t even questioned it. Shaking slightly, she looked down and found that she was…different.

Aside from the obvious fact that she was now a woman, her skin tone had changed dramatically, moving from a somewhat pale hue to a deep tan, as if she had spent her entire life working in the sun. She was wearing a traditional shrine maiden’s outfit, though for the life of her she couldn’t figure out why she was wearing one.

Hesitantly, she opened her status.

Name: Yamamoto Ichiro

Race: Priestess of the World Tree/Acolyte of Yggdrios/Rootborn Defender/Otherworldly Invader (Cait Sith)

Level: 1/50, 0/1,000 EXP

HP: 1,500/1,500

Stamina: 1,5000/1,5000

Mana: 3,000/3,000

Strength: 100

Defense: 500

Dexterity: 300


Magic Defense: 500

Mental Fortitude: 750

Title: Chosen of the Goddess of Commerce (Sealed)

You have been Blessed by the Goddess of Commerce, granting you the ability to determine the worth of anything you look at. The effects of this Title are currently sealed, and cannot be used until the Goddess of Commerce lifts the seal.

List truncated. Open ‘Titles” for more.

List truncated. Open “Skills” for more.

Ichiro frowned. She had clearly become part of the swarm, but why had Connie withdrawn her Blessing? She had said that they could work something out when Ichiro had joined the swarm, so becoming a member of the swarm wasn’t the reason, so…why?

Because I wanted to talk with you first before you did anything.

Is this about that deal you mentioned?

Sort of? I just need to get a feel for things before I let my Blessings go back into effect.

Ichiro’s frown deepened. What kind of things?

First off: you’re a woman now. How does that make you feel? Instant responses please, don’t even take a moment to think about it. I need your raw, unfiltered feelings.

It’s better than being a man. Ichiro replied, eyes widening as she said it. She…she really did feel that way; even the thought of becoming male again was off-putting.

Good, good. Have you thought about a new name for yourself? You can take time on this one, since it’ll affect you going forward. I just wanted to give you the opportunity now since I figured you don’t want a man’s name anymore.

I don’t. Ichiro confirmed. Um…She thought on that for a few minutes, then came to a decision. I think I like Izumi. She said.

It’s nice. You might want to tell Lia that it’s your given name, though; everyone in the swarm thinks your given name is Yamamoto. Speaking of Lia, how do you feel about her?

The Queen? She’s the rightful ruler of the world, of course. Izumi froze once again as she said that. It…it was true. The mere notion of anyone else being in charge seemed ridiculous, as ridiculous as putting a rock in charge would be.

That checks out. Finally, what are your thoughts on the swarm now, and about conversion in general? Do you still think it’s an abomination?

I…probably not. I mean…I’ve yet to see much of the swarm, but based off of what you and the Queen have told me, it truly is better for people, and there’s no reason for either of you to lie to me. But…I’ll have to reserve my judgement, I think.

Fair enough. Alright, one last thing before I let you loose – you’re not a Hero anymore. Amelia transferred your power to Rose, Lia’s wife. You get to keep your Blessings, and we even adapted one, so you have four races instead of four Jobs. You just don’t have the base stat increase from being a Hero, or any of the Hero-specific Skills you got.

Is that…possible? Izumi asked. You can’t make a new Hero, or remove someone’s Hero status, only the gods can do that.

Amelia’s abilities are almost godlike; she has the capability to alter the system itself, and though we have restricted that, an exception was made in this case. Rose was formerly a Hero, one who united the world and worked tirelessly for its betterment. As an apology for some of the more…cruel things her position forced upon her, we have returned much of her ability, as well as some extra. Don’t worry about the power being misused – she is a very good person, and likely the most fit for Hero abilities of anyone in the swarm, even you.

Izumi didn’t feel nearly as offended by that as she might have before. I…see. Well, stats are just stats, I’m sure I can make up for them in other ways.

That’s the spirit. I’m unsealing your Blessings now, so go get out there and see what life is really like in the swarm. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

Thank you, Connie. Izumi said. Waving away a notification informing her that her Blessings had been unsealed, she got out of bed, moving in her shrine maiden outfit as naturally as if she had been born in it.

She opened the door to her room, walking out into the hall and turning towards what she assumed was the living room. Upon entering, she was greeted with the sight of Meg sitting on a couch, reading a book. She was much…calmer looking than she had been during their fight, though; she no longer glowed from within, and the color of her hair was no longer changing as frequently as it used to, the oranges and reds moving only slightly.

“Oh, Yamamoto, you’re awake.” Meg said, looking up at Izumi. “Have you calmed down yet?”

“I…” Izumi floundered, not sure what to say. “I’m not freaking out over everything, if that helps? I want to see everything for myself first, but it’s…probably fine?”

“Good enough.” Meg said, said, closing her book and standing up. “Let me go give you the tour, and then we need to go find the Queen. She’s going to get in touch with my father and see if we can negotiate passage for me back to the Glens.”

“You’re going to be a spy?” Izumi asked, walking over to her. “Will that…work?”

“Not a spy.” Meg said, leading Izumi over to the front door of the house. “Just as his daughter. I probably won’t be able to convert anyone unless they ask me, and I might not even be able to talk about how good life is here, but that’s fine. I just…the thought of potentially being at war with Dad is sad. At least this way, he’ll be able to see that I really am still his daughter, just…stronger.”

They exited the house, stepping out into what seemed to be an entire city made of wood, the substance making up the floor, the buildings, and even a roof over their heads, evenly lit by some strange glow. Izumi would have assumed they were underground were it not for the fact that she could see the sky through windows at the end of the street, something which left her utterly stumped.

“Where…are we?”

“We’re inside Yggdrios, the World Tree.” Meg said. “After your power was transferred, Rose became the World Tree itself, changing the name to be both hers and the Queen’s. She still has her humanoid body, of course, just…this too. It was quite the shock when she planted the seed; it grew and grew and consumed the entire dungeon we were in, then made this city for us and put us here.”

“How…how do you guys get food or water?” Izumi asked. “Do you have to bring it in from the outside? That seems really inconvenient.”

“We have tools that Amelia built that dispense food, and all the plumbing still works fine, so water isn’t an issue. And if the dispensers ever become unable to keep up with demand, we have a farm in the level below this one. It seems they’re growing way faster than they used to as well; it’s only been half a day or so, but the seeds look like they’ve had a couple weeks of growth in that time.”

“And that’s just…free for everyone?”

“Yes. The basic necessities are considered to be fundamental rights, and no one has to pay for them. The only things people will have to pay for will be luxuries, like art or games.”

As they walked, they came across a group of little girls, playing in the street. They were laughing and smiling, looking for all the world like they were having the time of their lives, all while their mothers watched from the sides.

“Um…this might be a strange question, but…do you know why I was made a girl? I’m not complaining, just…curious.” Izumi said. “Especially since I don’t think I’ve seen any men here.”

“Oh, that.” Meg said. “Yeah, there are no men in the swarm, everyone’s a woman, and everyone’s attracted to women exclusively.”

“What? How are we supposed to…have kids, then? Does the magic to let same sex couples have kids even exist on this world?”

“We have some bees that can provide a service that will let us have kids with another member of the swarm.” Meg said. “They give this sort of honey, you eat it, and then you and your partner…mix fluids, and the magic takes care of the rest. No muss, no fuss, no risk of accidentally getting pregnant ever. It’s honestly more convenient than how we used to work before, and…” Meg blushed, looking at the children before leaning in close to whisper into Izumi’s ear. “We don’t get periods anymore, either.”

They kept walking for a while, chatting more about life and looking around the city, only stopping when they were interrupted by a beautiful foxkin girl. “Hey, Meg, is that Yamamoto?” She asked. “She’s not giving you any trouble, right?”

“No, Princess Chrys.” Meg said. “I’ve just been showing her all the benefits we have here.”

Princess Chrys? “It is a pleasure to meet you, my lady.” Izumi said. “My name is Yamamoto Izumi.”

“I’m Chrys Yggdrios.” Chrys said. “I’m technically the crown princess, but it’s not like Lia or Mom are ever gonna die, so it’s basically a ceremonial title. Anyway…why’d you change your last name and not your first name? That seems a little odd.”

Ah, Connie had warned her about this. “Izumi is my given name.” Izumi explained. “Yamamoto is my family name.”

“Weird. Well, I think Mom and Lia are down on the work floor, and I think they wanted you to go talk to them or something?”

“That is correct, Princess Chrys.” Meg said. “Could you give us directions to them?”

“Please stop calling me “princess”, it’s embarrassing.” Chrys said. “And I’ll just take you to them, it’ll be easier that way.”

“Thank you, Pr– Chrys.” Meg said. “We’re much obliged.”

“Alright, follow me.” Chrys said. “And Izumi, you better be respectful when you talk with Mom and Lia, okay?” With those words she took off, Izumi and Meg following close behind.

I debated for a while on how much I wanted Ichiro to be able to resist, and in the end decided that the answer was "not much". Ichiro wasn't trained like Ophelia or Alisha, nor was he particularly strong willed. And, without his status as a Hero...well, it was basically a foregone conclusion.

Anyway, that's all from me, next time we're gonna have a brief conversation with Lia and Rose, and then call Brom, so look forward to it!

And, as always, thanks for reading!