At first I left a gap of Rottedlands between the wider uncorrupted world and my recovered areas, as I expanded.
Beneath all the once corrupted lands were normal lands, and some of them had minerals, or had geological features that were once hidden by the sludge.
Clearing the land meant all these were revealed, and the new trees used to clear these spaces discovered the higher concentration of certain minerals when their roots extended into the ground.
Some of these were common minerals, like regular iron, or copper.
Some areas were just certain types of soil that were suitable for making pottery or clay.
I’d imagine these resources would be suitable for construction or allow the creation of certain industries.
Though our population is still only about 3,000ish, if the refugees come along, I would see this amount increase over time.
There will be refugees.
“How would they get past the Rottedlands” Jura asked.
point.” That was when I realised my idea of creating a moat was quite stupid.
Sure, the moat makes it harder for enemies to come in, and it also helped to thin any army’s numbers by having to fight the demons, but, it almost completely denied the refugees or anyone who wanted to live in my domain.
And that meant I would forever have a far smaller army to work with.
Refugees in this world are mostly escapees of war, though they are desperate and may have levels, they are mostly unarmed and would not survive a whole month through the Rottedlands.
Since any army that wants a piece of me would march through the Rottedlands anyway, with all the necessary logistics to survive the journey, I decided to make smaller paths to the outside world, which would then be fortified with walls, various tree-defenses, and a huge bunch of beetles.
That way, prospective refugees can still get a safe path in.
I can’t do the same things as expect a better result.
An expansionary approach is something I didn’t try, though I am fond of the turtling concept.
In fact, maybe that’s why I’m even a tree.
A tree by nature is a immobile, but perhaps I should embrace rapid expansion of weeds.
“We’re already drawing attention.” A few of the survivors said.
“Aeon’s expansion has made our lands very attractive.”
“There’s so few of us.
We can’t hold off those lands.”
Jura shook his head.
“Aeon has decided to hold on to those lands.
Anyone who wants it will have to go through his army.”
In fact, a nearby kingdom officially launched an invasion force of 30,000.
They would cut across the small strip of Rottedlands and then start to settle in reclaimed areas closest to their kingdom.
It wasn’t much of a battle.
By the time that army did cross the Rottedlands, they lost about 2,000 people.
They gained levels, though.
When they emerged from the Rottedlands, Jura helped make an announcement that they are invading my lands.
Of course, they ignored it.
Then, they were attacked by hidden beetles, scattered across the newly made forests.
There were some high leveled individuals in there, perhaps around level 50 to 80, and for those, I dealt with them personally.
Mostly by just harassing them with [serpentine rootstrike], and a volley of poisonous fruits from everywhere.
Didn’t take long for the 30,000 to become only 20,000, and then deciding that it’s better to just run away, since they soon realised the army of beetles is a lot bigger than they were prepared for.
I have 100,000 subsidiary trees, and that meant if I ever max out on beetles, that’s a total of 500,000 beetles.
500,000 beetles that regenerate 100,000 beetles per month.
I could zerg-rush the nearest kingdoms.
How many kingdoms can fight off 100,000 beetles each month anyway
Of course, I can’t practically max out beetles, since I have some dedicated for other roles, like housing, like training areas, or some as defenses.
There’s also the issue of levels.
I mean, if someone kills 100,000 beetles, I’m damned sure the system’s going to give him some super beetle-immunity, or beetle resistance, or beetle-slayer abilities.
In fact, this very issue is why it’s better to have a diversified army, because if at any time your opponent ever gains a skill advantage, it applies over the entirety of the army.
Imagine if a [general] had [beetle slayer general] or something like that.
That would mean my beetles are effectively useless.
Or maybe some mage gets [Bugspray] or something.
After that defeat, there was no more invasion for the rest of the year.
I count that as a yay, because obviously now the other kingdoms realised it ain’t easy trying to take land away from a tree.
Trade and commerce is gradually returning, and so the survivors reorganised themselves as a new administrative body for the entire land, once again, with me as the spiritual leader.
There’s no large scale refugee movement yet, not with the land being relatively peaceful.
The demonic rifts have yet to reopen, and the hybrids of the Rottedlands don’t seem to stray far from their native environment.
“Any opinions” Jura went and met Yvon in her training tree.
Yvon gained a wooden form that can talk and communicate with people, but unlike Meela or Alexis, her wooden body remained stuck in her tree.
Quite strange, and I reckon the heroes just have special treatment.
“Strategically, Aeon should communicate with all the nearby kingdoms for alliances, and since the land is unoccupied, perhaps he could arrange some kind of lease or vassalage system.
Maybe work with some unhappy nobles in the kingdoms who’d be happy to defect over to Aeon’s side, since Aeon would probably allow for a wider range of flexibility than some insecure King.
In short, an arrangement similar to New Freeka, but open to the rest of them.”
“There’s going to be conflict.” Jura shook his head.
“You’ve seen how sensitive Aeon is with certain matters.”
“It can be managed.
I personally have begun to realise it’s a question of distance.
Aeon cares a lot less about what the kingdoms do, when they are far away.
I suggest declaring this entire valley some kind of Holy Land.
Then all the cities that spring out around the valley to be the Holy Land’s Defender Nations.”
Jura just paused, and stared at Yvon’s wooden face.
“It’s what the human kingdoms did a long time ago.
The lesser human vassal nations around the main human country were referred to as the Paladin Kingdoms, the capital was the Sacred City of the Hero King.”
It tells us what has been done before, and what we can do again.” Yvon nodded.
“I would definitely recommend this strategy to Aeon.
Lesser nations under one Spiritual Protector.
Aeon’s already worshipped back in the days of New Freeka, a returning deity surely can sway the minds of many.
He should very much take advantage of his past reputation, and his now-public relationship with the hero.”
The hero, Harris.
Harris’s visit was widely publicized.
The affairs of Harris, the Harem Hero Emperor was tabloid fodder.
They speculated whether there’s a woman waiting for him at my place, or perhaps an illegitimate child.
Harris has quite a special position according to the merchants, as he built his empire by reclaiming vast amounts of Rottedlands.
In fact, his entire territory sits on reclaimed Rottedlands, with his army of summoned knights to patrol and fight off any monsters.
Each time one of his many women has a child, he would reclaim more land, which would be awarded to that newly born child, though still managed by the crown.
I can’t help but mentally laugh at the idea.
I mean, he’s like totally living the life of many isekai main characters, and the consequences of that sort of lifestyle, such that he has to reclaim land to secure the future of each of his many children.
As it turned out, heroes’ children actually do not inherit any of their father or mother’s special blessings, so their children are absolutely ordinary, except for their special station in life.
Of course, their special station in life means they get the best trainers, teachers, equipment and gear, which, if they use it properly, that’ll be good.
But his oldest child, a teenager at 17 years old, is rumored to be arrogant, abuses his status as the prince and like his father, a womaniser.
I mean, he had fun during the years having so many women, so now he has to deal with the consequences of having so many women, right
Once he passes away some day in the future, maybe his kids will squabble and a war will break out among their children over the land.
Since all the children all receive special star-mana weapons, extra enchantments and stuff, surely there will be perceived inequality and there will be war.
I’ve seen it in telenovela, or even business empires!
In a way, maybe Yvon is right.
I am in the unique position of being a nigh-immortal tree, surely any empire I build will last longer than one of human heroes.
It’s a norm that few empires survive their founders.
I spent some time thinking about it, and I think it’s a good idea, and totally worth trying.
Let’s try an expansionary strategy, and I do like the idea that this entire valley is sacred land.
The survivors grouped together and split the territories around us into ten parcels, for now, with more to come as I expand further, and a declaration was made.
Ten parcels of land awaiting for settlement, a constitution drafted, with terms closing resembling that of the old New Freeka, but with some modifications.
A map was made, areas marked as ‘protected’ territories, where no large scale settlement or logging can be made, and areas where the settlers can build their own homes.
Each of the ten parcels were to determine their own rulers or governors, but they would have to operate under my umbrella, provide a contribution to the overall military and magic defense, and accept instructions that I may periodically bestow.
In short, I’ve become the tooltip or foreign monarch that’s now going to handout duties to my new vassals.
Kind of like Tropico.
Then, with the aid of some merchants, an invitation was made to everyone on the entirety of our continent.
Though I suppose the message first got to the rich and powerful, eventually it’ll spread to the common folk.
Join the Rottedlands Restoration Effort! Open up New Lands! Rebuild the Lost Cities of the past! Be part of Aeon’s Domain.
Aeon’s Frontier! Be, a pioneer! Ten largely self-governing parcels for the taking! Come!
And I waited.
Of course, this decision rather surprised Yvon and Jura, both didn’t think I would do something like that.
I probably wouldn’t.
But my old strategy was not working, I want to grow! If it didn’t work, I can just crush them with my army of 500,000 beetles!
With that settled, I moved on to other matters.
Harris was supposed to return with a bunch of artifacts that could store my skills, but he didn’t come this year.
A messenger came and notified us that procurement of the necessary materials took far longer than expected.
And Eriz’s transformation into a [nursery tree] was quite interesting, and fascinating.
She’s essentially a large tree that’s like a childcare center, and like Yvon, she too can take the form of a tree person.
Interestingly, she can make multiple copies of herself within the childcare center, and her mind somehow allows her to do all the things together.
A part of her tree is able to produce all sorts of milk and saps to feed the young children, some even directly via vines that are shaped like milk bottles, or for the centaurs, udders, or for the treefolk, thick sap-like drops.
It’s really cool, and she gained level quite quickly.
“It’s quite surreal to still see you, mom.” Roma said to Yvon, he sat inside her tree, practicing.
“I mourn your death, and yet, here you are.”
She tapped Roma on the head.
“Well, looks like fate has other plans for me.”
“More like Aeon had other plans for you.
And I’m not quite sure if I like it.”
As the year slowly reached it’s end, after all that fighting and expanding, I got something I wanted.
[You have gained a level.
You are now level 153]
[Your skill - Natural Mana Overwhelming has been upgraded].
I hoped for a new skill, but it seemed the system was more keen on just upgrading my skills.
Still, it made it easier for my mana to push back and put out the demonic mana.
Next year, I would be closing in on the volcano and the Southwest Forest.
I’d hope to see how the rod and Dimitree’s artificial mind is holding up.
I had the notification that I lost my connection to Dimitree, but not one that indicated that he died.
Perhaps, with the use of the magical leyline, he was able to use it’s mana to push back against the demonic corruption.
That would be great, since I wouldn’t have to rebuild that entire Southwest forest.
I would like to start reconnecting with the Lilies again.
I have a lot of questions, and I think only great old beings like them can answer it.
“So, we need to brainstorm a name for our new city.” The survivors reconvened.
Apparently it was an important matter, because they didn’t know how to describe themselves, and they didn’t want to use the name of New Freeka, which was destroyed.
The conversation went somewhat like this.
“Neo Freeka.” “Too similar to the old name.” “Freekabaru.” “Eww.” “Free-la” “No.” “AeonFreeka” “Sounds too much like a bad nickname.” “Aeonland” “No!”
After days, and I think weeks of numerous meetings, no one could settle on a name, because everyone wanted something else, and in the end, they voted as a whole, to force me to name the area.
I didn’t have a good name either.
EvenBetterFreeka Freeka 3.0 Nope.
In the end, because we are deep in the Rottedlands, I decided something that opposed the meaning of ‘Rotted’.
The City of Freshka.
I felt numerous facepalms in the entirety of the valley, as if a million dreams were silenced and crushed all at once.
I thought I was quite clever, but everyone else didn’t.
But, they reluctantly accepted my proposed name.
Because Freshka is Fresher! Fresh! Like new, but Fresh! It’s like a bad cringey commercial.
If Meela was here she’d say my naming sense is atrocious.
Freshka! The good thing is, it’s just going to be the name of the new city that’s going to be built at a new location, quite a distance from the valley.
I mean, now that large areas are back to their normal, forested ways, not everyone wants to live near a giant flaming tree anymore.
So, they found a place where there’s a river, a nice slightly sloped flatland to start their new city.
3,000 people made the move there.
The second new capital of the other restored lands.
The other being Harris’s empire, of course, which is on the other side of the continent.
If the entire Rottedlands was an apple, his empire would be shaped like a bite into the apple.
Should I call the general area Freshlands, then Freshans.
Freeshans don’t sound that bad either.