Chapter 91: Setting Policies
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“That went better than I thought.” Lia said. “I’m kind of surprised he agreed, though. He seemed against it and then just…suddenly changed his mind.”

“One of the gods probably said something.” Amelia said. “We know they’ve been watching us, so it’s plausible. Maybe they want her there so she could be used to test methods to unconvert people? It’s not going to work, sure, but they can try.”

“Couldn’t they just use mental magic to put her into a state of mind similar to how she was before conversion?” Izumi asked.

Amelia shrugged. “Again, they can try, but they’re going to have to put in a lot of work if they want it to be effective. They’re going to have to overcome the conditioning I made, and I worked hard to make sure it wouldn’t come undone with some half-baked hypnosis.”

“Half-baked by your standards, or by the standards of a regular person?”

Amelia frowned. “Is there a difference? I mean…yeah, people aren’t as good at magic as I am, but their standards being different doesn’t make their work any less shoddy.”

“Humor me.”

Amelia rolled her eyes. “If they want to temporarily put someone under mind control, they’d need to be able to cast a spell as strong as that Garden of the World Tree spell you cast. They’ll have to do better than that if they want to make the hypnosis last indefinitely.”

Izumi raised her eyebrows. “And if they wanted to undo the changes completely?”

“They’d have to be able to mess with things on a system level. Like I said, I worked really hard to make sure this wasn’t easy to get rid of.”

“So…effectively no one can put swarm members under any form of mind control, then.” Izumi said.

“I’m sure there are a couple of people who can manage an indefinite hypnosis, but not many.” Amelia replied.

“No, I’m pretty sure no one else can even come close to the strength of Garden of the World Tree.” Izumi countered. “I had to dip heavily into Hero strength to get that to work.”

“Back me up here.” Amelia said, looking at Lia and Rose. “Surely there are some archmages that can do it, and Rose can even break it sometimes.”

“Um…” Lia said. “I think she’s right, Amelia.”

“Agreed.” Rose added. “Garden of the World Tree is stronger than any spell I’ve seen that didn’t come from you or the Lord of Monsters. Unless the power level of the world has greatly increased since my past life, no one else would be able to cast a spell of that magnitude alone. As for me, I could only break Lia’s conditioning because her conditioning had been weakened by the…unique power she possesses. The reality is that what you consider ‘half-baked’ is on a level that only Heroes and the supremely talented can reach.”

Amelia paused, frowning. “That…would explain a thing or two.” She said. “I had always wondered why everyone I met was so bad at magic.”

“No, it’s just a product of you having a literally godlike level of talent.” Lia said. “You know, what with…everything.” She paused, looking over at Izumi. “But I need to get back to talking with Lily, so I’m afraid we’ll need to cut this conversation short. I’ve kept her waiting for far too long already.”

Lia sat at the head of a sleek table, gazing out of the window to the land below. On the very edge of the work floor, Rose had hollowed out a branch, creating a meeting room within. It boasted large windows on three sides of the room, and a setup significantly more…professional and expensive looking than the one they had been using.

It was mostly due to the quality of the wood that was used in the construction of the chairs and desk. The wood from Rose’s tree was a deep, rich color, the type that Lia associated with nobles or even royalty, and the desk was almost supernaturally smooth, as if it was polished stone. When she had asked Rose about it, Rose had just shrugged and said that she was just picturing “a nice desk”, and the rest must have been properties of her wood.

Lia looked at the gathered people, and once she was sure everyone was there, she began. “Alright everyone, we’ve got quite a few items on our agenda today, so you’ll have to forgive me if this runs a little longer than usual. First off, homeland security.” Lia said, looking up at her parents. “Have you noticed anything concerning since we moved to this tree?”

“Not yet.” Mia replied. “But it is our opinion that we will need to look into building fortifications soon. Not only will we need to be concerned about attacks from the other nations, but we are also no longer within a dungeon, so monsters will likely be willing to cross through the portal and into our city proper.”

“How many architects have we received from Aura?” Rose asked, looking over at Alisha, who had taken human form and was seated in another of the chairs.

“We were able to bring three without being noticed, Mistress.” Alisha said. “I believe Lily is currently overseeing them.”

“Correct.” Lily said, pushing her glasses up. “I had them drawing up city plans before Yggdrios grew, but we have unfortunately had to scrap those and start anew as the land has changed. On the bright side, the new lay of the land is significantly better to build a city on, so it’s not much of a loss at all.”

“Um…” Rose said awkwardly. “As you might have guessed from the state of the farms, the city needs to be designed with wildly accelerated plant growth in mind. There’s a good chance you’ll have extra-strong trees and plants trying to break through the foundations of buildings.”

“The architects have been debating about that very problem.” Lily said. “But I believe I can spare one of them to look into fortifications. Of course, it would be ideal if we had some sort of military architect here instead, but I suppose that is a large ask.”

“I can bring a couple, actually.” Alisha said. “At the behest of the Queen, I have been looking into ramping up the speed at which we convert Aura, and am currently drafting orders to drum up the entire army for “drills” and convert them in that time. Getting an architect or two from the army will be no issue at all.”

“I’ll prepare portions of wood from my tree for them to experiment with.” Rose volunteered. “I’m sure it’s likely to be significantly more effective than traditional wood, and might be easier to work with too, if we convert it to modeling wax. I can’t be sure without proper testing, but I feel that making the wood into modeling wax won’t have a detrimental impact on its performance.”

“Thank you, Rose.” Mia said.

“Of course, Mom. Let me know if you need anything else.”

“I will.” Mia replied. “That ends our report for the time being. If something major happens, we’ll be sure to notify you immediately.”

Lia gave a nod. “Thank you, Mom.” She said. “Lily, how are things looking on your end?”

“I already mentioned how we’re tackling city planning, but here’s how we are in our other industries…”

Lily proceeded to give a detailed report, which ended up boiling down to “everyone is still settling in”. Their work had indeed been interrupted by the reorganization of their facilities and the shuffling of their storage, but Lily was confident that the long-term effects of the change would be positive.

The report dragged on for quite some time, but it eventually ended, and they were able to move to their last order of business. “Finally, we need to talk about Aura.” Lia said. “Specifically, the conversion of Aura, our policies regarding it, and our emergence onto the world stage. We wanted to hear everyone’s thoughts on when we should do this, and how we should go about doing it. First, Alisha, would you please restate the situation, so everyone here is aware?”

Alisha gave a summary much the same as the one she had given Lia the day before, but the ending was different. “The other monarchs have, of course, taken note of our battle with Izumi, and Brom would have updated them on the route she was taking. Given the fact that Izumi is nowhere to be found, they are assuming that she has been at the very least captured, if not outright converted. We are convening to meet about it tomorrow, so I would request that we don’t begin operations until after. If I can get us more information, or even sway the proceedings, that would be ideal.”

“Good call.” Lia said. “Rose, what are your thoughts on the matter?”

“I see no reason for us to rush this further.” Rose said. “Did something happen?”

“I…well, I feel bad for all the wives we’ve converted, who no longer love their husbands romantically.” Lia admitted. “I don’t want to leave them in that state for longer than is necessary.”

Rose gave Lia a sad smile. “Lia, I love that you’re thinking about our people like this, but when managing a country, you sometimes have to make sacrifices.” She said. “If we wait just a few short weeks longer, we will have the numbers necessary to make the mass conversion almost completely without casualties. The people know we aren’t planning to leave them like this for longer than is necessary, and I’m sure they would rather their loved ones don’t get injured or run away. Alisha, if we continue at the current pace, how long do you think it would be before we could execute a smooth takeover?”

“No more than two months, Mistress.” Alisha said. “If we convert the army as I mentioned, the upper bound becomes a month and a half.”

“Then I think that’s the best choice.” Rose said. “We can keep our options open while we build numbers, and if something happens, we can always kick off the conversion early. I know it’s a slightly distasteful option, but in the long term it has the most benefit.”

“Very well.” Lia said. “Now…while we’re here, let’s take a moment to talk policy on our territories.” She said. “We are in the uniquely difficult position of having our capital completely isolated from the rest of our holdings, the only easy way to go between the two being Amelia. This, of course, does not work on a national level, and while I would eventually like to make a road to Aura, we need to decide how to go about things while that’s still in progress.”

“I have been wondering a few things myself, my Queen.” Alisha said. “What are we setting the tax rates to be?”

“I dunno.” Lia admitted. “I was sort of thinking we would just accept whatever surplus people have, is there a need for taxation?”

“Of course there is!” Alisha said. “No one place is entirely self-sufficient, and if we wish to implement your dreams of ending hunger and improving the quality of life for everyone, we will need to obtain goods from somewhere!”

“Why not meet in the middle?” Rose asked. “We can set production goals for territories based on what we would normally feel is a reasonable tax, and give out extra currency to those that meet the goal. If they fail to meet the goal, we can investigate and determine if we need to send aid or adjust the target. This way, we can still gather those resources, while not being an undue burden on the people.

“Of course, we need to be wary when introducing new currency to the economy, but I think if we’re careful about it we can think of ways to gain back the currency we inject. For instance, we could set up a system where people could pay the government to get extra food if we have surplus. This way, those who want to eat more can, and we’ll recover money that can be used to pay out extras to those who meet or exceed their production targets.”

“A fascinating suggestion, Your Majesty.” Lily said, eyes glinting. “Of course, I cannot help but wonder how this will apply to those whose careers are not directly tied to production, such as artists or scientists. Will they receive a part of their territory’s production bonus?”

“Ideally, people who make art would receive that money by way of purchases from other citizens, but I see your point.” Rose said. “I’ll brainstorm some ideas that would help them out. Scientists and inventors can obviously receive funding from the government provided they show earnest efforts to understand more about the world or create helpful things, artists we can fund by decorating government buildings with their works…there are options.”

“Let’s discuss taxes more later, but for now we’ll proceed assuming we’re implementing Rose’s suggestion.” Lia said. “More pressingly, I believe we should talk about the army. I have no wish to conscript anyone if we do not have to, but I also understand that we will need numbers. As high as the individual power of some of our members is, we cannot be everywhere.

“To that end, I was thinking of opening up the option to enlist to everyone on a volunteer basis. Should we not have enough people after that, we may have to start offering some sort of reward to entice people to join. And…should worst come to worst and the army is fatally small, we can look at conscription. My hope is that most of Aura’s army will be willing to stay on as soldiers, but I don’t know how realistic that is.”

“Extremely.” Alisha said. “The vast majority of soldiers we converted are more willing to fight than ever.”

“Yeah, you might find yourself with too many volunteers.” Amelia added. “Foreseeing this problem, I made sure to decrease people’s aversion to combat upon conversion, provided you are the one giving the order. We shouldn’t be low on numbers unless most of the swarm is dead, and that doesn’t even take into account the monsters we’ll have converted.”

“Speaking of, could I ask that the units of Aura’s army that have been converted focus on capturing and converting monsters?” Rose asked. “I would prefer to use non-sapient creatures as our front liners, to reduce the casualties to actual people.”

“I will send the order at once, Mistress.” Alisha said. “It shouldn’t be much of a deviation from how they are currently operating, so it will be no problem at all.”

“Thank you, Alisha.” Lia said. They spent a while longer talking about other boring but necessary topics regarding the management of the Aura Duchy, making sure they were satisfied before moving on. “And, lastly, foreign policy. I would like to draft an announcement we will give as we fully convert Aura, explaining our mission, our ideals, and stressing that everyone is welcome.

“If possible, Alisha, I would like to have a team dedicated to propaganda. The conditions we offer are better than any a normal country could give, and if we press that as much as possible, we might even find people willing to join us without even fighting. Is that something you can take care of?”

“Of course, my Queen.” Alisha said. “I will set my people to it.”

“Good. As for negotiations with other rulers…I am open to them. I will hear their concerns and attempt to negotiate peaceful takeovers when possible, but I doubt any ruler would agree to that. I am sure many will sue for peace, but peace is, unfortunately, not an option.

“At very best, it would be a temporary peace while the current rulers reign, but eventually someone who will take issue with our very existence will come and war will start anew. So, we will rip the bandage off now and make sure the world is entirely ours before we truly commit to peace.”

Lia paused, waiting for someone else to speak, and when no one did, continued. “And that was the last thing I had to say for now, so everyone is dismissed. Go get some rest, we have a busy few years ahead of us.”

Another chapter I don't have much to say on. It's a bit dry, but sometimes dry chapters are necessary. Anyway, next time we're going to check in on Izumi and Meg, so look forward to it!

And, as always, thanks for reading!