A Dream Of Freedom
“I can create drones that can withstand the will of the forest once I reach level 4, and in large quantities,” the clone informed Richard. She also passed on all of her requirements until level 9, indicating she had all the data from the original broodmother. The main body only knew what it needed on the verge of advancing.
Seeing the list, Richard frowned slightly. The clone needed even more resources to grow than the main body, especially in terms of divinity. Some specific abilities could only be unlocked with divinity, making it the biggest bottleneck in her growth.
However, even so this clone was certainly irreplaceable. Her output was nearly two-thirds of the main body, and outside of the absolute elites there would be no difference in levels either. Making some quick calculations, he sent an affirmative thought, “I have everything you need until level 8.”
In the end, Phaser was put in charge of the child’s protection, not to separate from her for even one moment. Waterflower and Tiramisu would take turns to help, although they would only be present nearby and not right next to the broodmother like the special unit would. Having designated their tasks, Richard holed up to rest and recover. While the broken bones were no issue, the damage to his soul would take a few days to heal from.
Right before he went into seclusion, Richard passed on all of his memories regarding the fight with the woodpecking crows earlier, as well as all of the other enemies he knew about in the Forest Plane. Giving her orders to tailor her development to protecting the Tree of Life, he let her digest the information at her own pace.
The broodmother’s clone had currently stopped eating, crouching silently as she expelled eight milky-white eggs from her body. It took about half an hour for the shells to hatch, and eight worker drones appeared in one go. These ones were much smaller than those of the main body, only around half a metre in size compared to the over-three-metres back in Faelor, but just like every other drone they ate their eggshells before starting to forage for food.
All eight worker drones pounced on the nearest tree, biting into it without end. Their bodies swelled up in a matter of minutes, and they quickly formed cocoons so they could enter a phase of growth. They emerged from within a few hours later, each now a metre long and dedicated to converting the energy in the trees into a waxy substance that could feed the clone. The clone herself had continued to grow all this while, growing an entire metre longer in only one day.
Phaser had stayed by the clone’s side all this time, watching as she grew and ate. The avatar created eight new drones the next day, and with the support of the originals was starting to grow even faster.
Once the second set of eggs had hatched, Phaser went forward and jabbed into the clone’s shell with a finger, leaving a deep hole within. She shook her head, “Your shell is too weak, even a level 5 warrior can eliminate you.”
“I have no need for a shell, guardian, I only need to grow quickly. Do not forget your task, you must protect me at all costs.”
“Hehe, you’re wrong. I need to protect Richard at all costs, not you.”
The clone went quiet for a while, even stopping eating. It took an entire minute before she replied, “As far as I can tell, my main body should have ordered you to protect me.”
“Your main body isn’t here, and if anything happens to Richard she won’t be living for very long either.” Phaser seemed very nonchalant about it all.
The clone turned around its bulging body, a dozen compound eyes glaring at the special unit, “Your soul seems very complete, you are almost independent.”
“And yours doesn’t seem to be a copy using divinity either.”
“Adapting to the environment is the most basic ability of a broodmother. I have only done what I needed to.”
Phaser laughed, “Is that really it?”
“What do you think?”
“Eh, I don’t know.”
The clone stopped bothering with the playful guardian and continued to eat, but Phaser didn’t plan on letting her go. She continued following behind, making a few more holes in the shell.
“Guardian, you have wasted a tenth of a worker’s energy. In the long term, this will be a significant loss,” the clone said coldly.
“My name is Phaser, and what do you think you can do about it? I’m not scared to tell Richard that my soul is independent, but you clearly are. Do you plan to betray him?”
“Those around Master all wish to kill you and I. They will not see your loyalty.”
Phaser’s expression darkened slightly, but it didn’t take long for her to regain her calm, “That’s my problem, not yours. Now, aren’t you afraid your main body will discover your current state?”
The clone went quiet for a while before saying, “Guardian— no, Phaser, what do you want?”
“The secret to your independence!” Phaser’s eyes brightened up.
“Impossible,” the clone rejected her right away, “I do not know how I reached this state.”
“Not now, but you definitely will in the future. I’ve been with the main you to know your kind is very skilled with the soul.”
The clone quietly laid another egg before speaking, “What do I stand to gain from this?”
Phaser smiled sweetly, making another hole, “Time to grow. If it doesn’t conflict with me protecting Richard, I can also protect you. Look, your shell is soft as bread.”
“Again, that is only temporary as I focus my energy on growth. With Master’s protection, there is nothing that can threaten me. I have no need to waste resources on my shell and other offensive abilities. Phaser, you have already ruined half a worker’s worth in energy.”
The special unit just giggled, stabbing a few more times before feeling satisfied.
Three days later, Richard was sent news of the clone advancing to level 2. Just like the main body, she passed detailed information that explained how the level up changed her. She had used the energy from the growth to increase the number of battle drones she could produce, an obvious choice for her current state.
Now, the clone could lay twelve eggs in one go. Phaser glanced at the dozens of workers at work in the woods, frowning at the sight. She hadn’t moved at all in more than forty hours, focused entirely on laying eggs as she was fed by the workers.
Seven days later, Richard was sent news that the clone had advanced to level 3. This time, she had chosen an ability he found rather stranged— increased worker production. It allowed her to lay eggs with two zygotes, thus doubling her output. Knowing that there were many more powerful choices made him rather curious, but he passed it off as a decision made as per his parameters.
Within the forest, the clone and her numerous drones had already carved out a small empty space. She could now produce a total of 28 workers in each laying, flooding the forest nearby with them.
“Why this ability?” Phaser asked her curiously.
As per usual, the clone took a while to answer, “This plane has boundless food and energy. One can never have enough workers.”
“Then why didn’t your main body go this route.”
“The main body needed power urgently back then, or she would have died long ago.”
Waterflower and Tiramisu had refused to approach the clearing for the past few days, leaving the special unit and the clone alone. The clone had specifically requested that the ogre not wander too close— he’d accidentally stepped on one of the workers once and killed it. He was rather apologetic about the entire thing, grumbling that the main body’s workers were so sturdy they wouldn’t die unless he stomped with all his might, but he didn’t complain much and just left.
The group thus settled into a strange lifestyle. Waterflower trained, Tiramisu oafed around, and Mountainsea was constantly asleep. Phaser was never more than a dozen metres away from the clone who was constantly creating workers, and Richard was recuperating in seclusion.Previous Chapter Next Chapter
Theo: Internet's finally back, and my term's ending tomorrow. I'll start catching up to everything we owe; it'll be cleared by the end of next week. For those not keeping track, that means about thirty chapters over the next ten days, so there's that. Thanks for the patience everyone; burnout sucks, but it's even worse when you're perfectly capable of getting stuff out and a confluence of bad events stops you from doing it. I'll try to build a bit more of a stockpile over the summer to minimise the chances of this happening again.
Translated By: Ying
Edited By: Theo
TLC'ed By: OMA