4 Let the race begin
Now was the time for the next step of the plan.
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What followed would mark a tragedy.
"I have calculated the chance of success to be 85%, but there are many unknown factors to consider. There is more data needed to predict the exact response that will be taken. However, time is pressing, and no reward is without risk. I have done all possible actions to minimize it. Let the race begin"
As the set time arrived, John devoured the sphere and fully exposed the mark; while simultaneously exhausting all the plants in the garden. The green and lush bushes were under heavy pressure from John, losing vitality very fast. The absorption was increased to maximum, ravaging the plants and soil. This was a controlled environment, so no insects or pests were in the garden; as mana was the best nourishment and protector. If there were sentient bugs present when this incident occurred, they would be very grateful, for not being allowed to enter the field.
Mana flowed in with abrupt ferocity to correct this evil, salvaging any remaining survivors. This action was truly admirable, yet the timing was completely wrong. As the flow came, all that was left was a feeble little piece of stem; looking alone and scared surrounded by death and destruction. Like a mother bird protecting its only remaining egg, the mana embraced the little plant with all the warmth and affection it could muster. If the flow could talk, hearing [grow child, you are safe now. You have to flourish for the sake of others] would not be shocking.
In another place, far from this field of doom; there came a red warning. The color would act as a warning beacon, informing the supervisor of pressing matters. However, it was accompanied by other red lights, more than someone could count.
Managing a dungeon was tedious work if one wanted to personally manage all the structure. The AI had programs for each matter, they would do all the detailed management. So, the protocol was followed to the letter; a simple command [increase the amount of modified mana, targeting the remaining plants for higher reproduction]
Sometimes the slender people can eat more food than their peers, but even they would be astonished at John's appetite. All the life energy had been stored in the roots without being consumed.
Awhile after he was finished with the garden, came mana flow. Everything had happened according to plan so far, and now for the big finale, he started to consume all the available mana.
With the start of digesting mana came the beginning of an obscure development. John started to use the life force to form a second identical core around his soul. Every action, no matter how small, needs a reaction time. This time can be shortened by training instincts and muscles to act out of habit, or any fighter would be in deep trouble. For the past 9 weeks, John had been constantly instructing his cells to act for the upcoming plan. Since the opponent had been a program, it would be utterly embarrassing if he was defeated. Because of continuous practice, this feat was akin to second nature to him. All this happened while he simultaneously directed all the mana toward the imprint. After the construction of the core, came the act of reinforcing it with all the life energy left within the storage. Synchronous to his actions the imprint had been ingesting mana like a stranded man in a dessert. When life energy was fully exhausted, John severed all the connection to cells, except for a minuscule part, left by him as a back door. With John gone, the plant acted as software that did as the program foretold, while the admin left a back door in case manual control was needed.
"I have won our first-round system, now let's see how you can evolve this clone of mine. As more energy is stored this time around, the upgrades should be outside the food category"
This plan was not only formed by wit and control, but it needed a solid resolve as well. This act was similar to a human cutting their brains out while feeling all the pain and attaching it to a different body.
[As you are an unknown species of plant, please choose your future path], came the voice of the system from afar. John could perceive all the feelings of this clone as he was its admin and creator.
With john's instruction, a message was relayed to the program
"What are the options?"
[1. Bat thorn, anti-vampire plant
2. Wolfsbane, anti-werewolf plant
3. One leave clover, lucky plant -more energy is needed to upgrade the leaves for more luck-
4. Lily of the valley, poisonous plant]
The descriptions were brief and strange as if the program had not enough clearance to view more information.
John communicated "Number 4, Lily of the valley"
While closely monitoring the changes in the plant, he was amazed at how the evolution proceeded. The imprint channeled the mana given to it, to push the cells towards this change; the sight was magical. However, John was grim as he had confirmed his fear; each evolution would engrave the mana mark deeper in the creature. With his estimate, the third transformation would form the mark on the soul. No body was needed to quiver at the thought of being under complete control, not even the soul spared. While the symbol was reconstruction the clone, it scanned the entire body; no anomaly was found. The new wall he had made was used to cover the hidden door, which John was inside of; rather than limiting the mark.
An adequate time later John checked the clone, which was now a very small Lily with now a slightly bigger, shinier mana symbol within.
This part of the field was his home ground, but it contained no more life to be consumed. With the possibility of being relocated by the system in the back of his mind, John used all the regular mana flow to expand the little branches towards the top of the walls. In these times, John had been forcing the clone to intake the mana and digest it, which then he would cannibalize as life energy with his core, to survive. Similar to filtering water to extract chemicals.
"Due to the lack of pray and predators, it seems P-117 is located in the middle of the filed. Also, I have not been relocated, proving this section to be a small cog in a giant machine; that is great news"
After some time. The tip of the roots cracked the soil, moving slowly towards top of the wall.
This wall was used simply in organization of the garden, not meant to hold anything back. The roots moved outside, entering new sections. John could feel the abundance of life energy around; like small flames in absolute darkness. Quickly entering the ground, roots made themselves at home. As if they were scared to be expelled from this newfound paradise. The dividing wall was now hardly visible under John's roots.
He was about to start the feast when a flare many times larger than plants moved towards branches' sensors.
A small animal curiously looking at the dividing wall and the brown lines on it. It had the shape of a rabbit but with longer legs, ears, teeth, and ferocious eyes; upon closer inspection, no fur was found on its body, rather tough gray skin.
This unappealing type of rabbit was the predator in these gardens long before John. Making any bystander think about karma.