Chapter 941: Laying the Foundation

Sun let out a soft sigh as she leaned back in her desk, stretching her arms out. She had just finished reviewing the last of the reports to be sent her way for the day, and was ready to relax. As she rose from her seat, she began to debate internally about where she wanted to spend her free time. There’s apparently a nice hot spring that they just finished in Gandor’s dungeon. I could go check that out…

Naturally, she’d have to rush back if something urgent came across her desk, but she had long set up alarms for things like that. As she walked out of her office, a dark-skinned AI ran over towards her. Her brows furrowed at the sight. “If this is another stray slime, new dungeon, or a void beast turning people’s hair yellow…”

“No, ma’am, nothing like that.” The AI quickly explained. “I have a message for you from Dana’s line.”

Sun blinked at that, reaching out to accept the message. She opened the digital folder, pulling up its contents.

The Keeper said he would like to own an empire in Fragments of Acidia. You in?

The message was signed with a C, causing Sun to furrow her brows in thought. Clara… that was one of Dana’s familiars. That would explain how she had access to this channel. Still, running an empire in the game?

A small smile spread over Sun’s lips. For so long, she had just been monitoring the emergency channels for the Citadel, and now Olympus. Granted, she took plenty of personal time to relax, but it was still a rather tedious task.

Sun tracked the message back to its source, opening up a door in front of her. When she stepped through, she found herself in an isolated conference room. The only other being in the room appeared to be Dana, only she had a silver streak going through her hair.

“Oh, good, you got the message fast!” Clara responded to Sun’s arrival with a cheery attitude. “I take it that you being here means that you want to participate?”

“You would just ask one of the others if I didn’t, right?” Sun asked with a slight chuckle. After so long, the ‘secret’ of creating a divine AI was not only in the hands of Ashley anymore. Instead, there were a number of Ai that had achieved godhood without her intervention. Very few had managed to do so on their own, but the fact that they existed meant that more could be made.

“Hey, don’t be like that!” Clara shook her head as if to deny Sun’s words. “You’re the Goddess of Maps! That’s not easy to replace, you know!? Besides, as a subordinate to the Goddess of Technology, you can play a huge role in what I’ve got planned!”

Sun’s brow arched up at those words. “Is this about that automated mining facility you started?”

“Wow, you do get intel fast.” Clara was clearly impressed that Sun knew about that. “But no. Well, sort of, but not at all really. Right now, I’m drafting up a plan to create my own galactic empire within Fragments of Acidia. I tried to get Chelsea to help me just take over an empire, but she said that would be a ‘gross misuse of void properties’ and ‘potentially cause cataclysmic damage on both the game and real world’. So, that plan went out the window.”

Sun blinked, caught off guard by the comment. “Okay… so what’s your plan?”

“Well, I’m glad you asked! With you as the in-name Empress of the empire, I want to build a machine nation based around automation, capable of covering a corner of the galaxy and be recognized as a major force!”

When Sun heard this, she let out a long sigh. “The technology in Fragments of Acidia is well ahead of our own. The concept of a machine empire appearing so suddenly relies on the idea that the empire’s technology is more advanced than their neighbors. If this is not possible, a large population will be needed to substitute.”

“Correct! That’s why I’ve asked for two other people to join us here!” Clara grinned knowingly, two more doors appearing. Through one, a female figure composed of smooth silver stepped through. Through the other, a blonde human with a radiant smile.

“Was there really a need for us to wait so long?” The High Mother asked after moving to take a seat at the table.

“Dramatic timing!” Clara answered simply. “Anyways, these are the other two assistants I’ve asked to help with this problem. Out of all of our races, the Metong undeniably have the highest level of technological advancement. Additionally, they have experience managing a galactic empire.”

“My other guest here is the Queen of Hanbei, Elisae. She agreed to participate under the condition that the people of her nation be allowed to register as citizens of the new empire.”

Elisae waved a hand as Clara let out a long sigh. “Originally, I intended to invite the Fallen God of Unity, and the recently ascended Sylvan Goddess of Song. Unfortunately, they denied the request, citing that they did not want to rule such a large territory.”

Sun turned to look at Elisae. “You are the Queen of Wishes, as I recall. I expect that you’ll be using that power to help us start this empire?”

“That’s right!” Elisae nodded with a cheerful smile. “I’ve managed to get a lot of lucky opportunities in Fragments of Acidia when I play in my spare time. Some of the equipment I’ve gotten are actually relics of old machine empires.”

“…Your karma is just way too high.” Sun said, complaining with a small grumble. “Okay, then what exactly do you need me to do? It looks like, between the High Mother and Elisae, you have everything covered.”

“Well…” Clara reached back, lightly rubbing the back of her head. “Honestly, neither of them wants to manage the territory. The High Mother already has her empire, and Elisae’s not interested. That is why you’d be the in-name Empress. You already work for the boss, and your Maps domain would really help with managing a large territory.”

Sun’s eyes narrowed slightly at that. “So… you want to give me extra work…”

“There will be perks!” Clara promised, holding her hands up to stop Sun from immediately rejecting the proposal. “First of all, you can handle your work for Olympus from the game. Secondly, I’ve made arrangements with Fifi to get you some extra assistants to help with the management of the territory. Third, you will have the ability to command the players of the empire and issue exclusive quests. And…”

It was clear that Clara was having difficulty coming up with incentives to entice Sun to take the position. Still, seeing how hard she was trying, Sun let out a long sigh. “I want a private hot spring, and my own arcade.”

“Deal!” Clara agreed instantly. These were rather easy for her to arrange, with or without Fifi’s help.

Tsubaki narrowed her eyes as she looked at the expanse in front of her. It was hard to imagine that this landscape had been created via a simulation in the real world, without needing to enter virtual reality. Everything around her, for all intents and purposes, appeared completely real. She could see and feel the bark on the trees, and even break it off with a bit of effort.

Is this created through the power of void conversion, nanomachines, or is it truly being created via Digital Conversion? Tsubaki couldn’t identify the mechanisms behind how the forest appeared around her, just knowing that it had in some way.

Furthermore, the body that she was in right now was far weaker than her prime, with barely a hundred levels scattered throughout a variety of classes. She circulated her ki, focusing on establishing a basic ki path that this body would be able to handle.

I haven’t seen any monsters yet, but I shouldn’t let down my guard. This wouldn’t have been advertised as a suitable Trial of Blood if it were incapable of producing monsters. Though Tsubaki thought that, she kept her eyes observing the landscape warily.

There was a flicker of movement, and Tsubaki disappeared from where she was standing, landing on a branch a dozen meters above her previous position. Her eyes narrowed as she focused on the shifting bush, watching a small animal crawl out from it. The animal was truly one that Tsubaki didn’t know, having a fat body covered in matted fur and a stubby face. It looks like an herbivore, but I shouldn’t be careless.

As with any of her trials, Tsubaki had not come in with any equipment other than her basic clothes. Even those, she expected that they would be torn to shreds by the time that she had finished her trial, should she manage to survive long enough to do so.

While Tsubaki was watching the innocent creature below, a snake suddenly lashed out, swallowing it with one bite and making her body go stiff. Of course, it’s always the serpents. Serpents, spiders, or wolves.

As Tsubaki thought about that, there was a rush of movement, a flash of red moving past her, and the giant snake was picked up by a sharp pair of talons that quickly ascended to the sky again. Or birds. Birds are also a valid threat.

Thanks to this brief interaction, Tsubaki had gotten an idea of what the ecosystem was like in this instance of the trial. I need to move. The first thing that I have to do is secure a source of drinking water. There should be enough edible fruits along the way, but I can’t go without water for long.

With the knowledge that the biggest threats she had seen so far came from the skies, Tsubaki moved to run from branch to branch, careful to avoid any openings in the canopy. Of course, she also had to watch for any of the large serpents at the same time.

As she moved, she began to fill the familiar thrill she always felt when participating in a trial, her blood beginning to boil. To her, there was no greater challenge than reliving that hellish trial. Every time she did so, she would aim to complete it faster, to do just a little bit better. Even a lowly being could fell a dragon if they had enough experience.

Just as Tsubaki thought of that, she heard a deep roar overhead, a surge of heat washing over her. Her movements halted, and she peered up through the canopy. One of the massive, red birds that she had seen earlier was locked in battle with a flying, scaled beast. …That was just a figure of speech, Athena.

My apologies. The ecosystem of the trial was generated as soon as the trial began. I do not have the authority to change the trial content without an express command. Athena’s voice responded in Tsubaki’s mind. The clone that the trial provided came with a small implant that allowed for direct communication with the AI governing the trial. All things considered, this was rather convenient, as it would give away her position if she had to verbally call out for Athena to halt the trial for whatever reason.

It’s fine. Tsubaki shook her head, her eyes alight with determination. She had decided that she must kill a dragon before ending this trial. She glanced down at the jungle floor, her gaze sharp. Such a beast would be easy for her main body to kill, but an almost insurmountable challenge when it came to this weaker body.

Her lips tugged upwards in a smile as she thought about that. It was an almost insurmountable challenge. If it was possible, she would make sure to see it through.

- my thoughts:
Thank you to Scott Nagle and Thedeathnote for joining the Patreon!

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