Chapter 961: Getting Ahead

There was little that could be heard within the infirmary-like facility, where a lycan man with silver hair was strapped down to a white bed, his arms and legs bound. Despite his efforts to struggle, he was unable to muster his divine power and escape. It felt as if he had been reduced to no more than a normal mortal, weaker than even a child.

His eyes darted around, desperate to make out any clues as to what had happened to him. The last thing he remembered, there had been a monster, some kind of metallic serpent. After it tried to attack the world that he was guiding, he defeated it, only to suddenly fall asleep. Why would he fall asleep?

The door of the infirmary opened, and a black haired kitsune wearing a labcoat over a red shirt entered. “Ah, lovely, you’re awake! That will make this much more convenient.”

“Who are you?” The lycan asked as his arms pulled on the strange cloth bindings.

“Hmm? Oh, did they forget the silencing spell again?” The kitsune let out a low sigh, shaking his head. “My apologies, it’s so hard to get good assistants nowadays, even if you build them yourself…” As he said that, he walked over next to the bed.

“Silenc–wait, don’t-!” The man’s voice was suddenly cut off as the kitsune tapped on a button attached to the wall. Despite calling out, no sound left his lips.

“There are so many divine abilities that can be activated through one’s voice, even if your divinity is sealed. Better safe than sorry.” The kitsune said with an almost professional smile. “Now, to answer your question, I am Mard Huskinz. Typically, I go by Professor, and you can think of me as such.”

“You, sir, are a God of Souls. A hard domain to find, lest one seeks out the Keeper himself. Personally, I choose life. I have yet to complete my life’s work, so it’s a bit too soon for me to go looking for trouble with the likes of them.” As the Professor said that, he flicked his wrist. A small device appeared, like some form of advanced scanner.

“Thankfully, you are the last piece of the puzzle. The last ingredient that I need to complete him.” As he said that, he began scanning along the lycan’s body with the device in his hand, looking at the readings. “I assure you, this will only hurt if you struggle. This device is perfectly harmless.”

The muted lycan’s eyes were wide in shock and fear, unsure what fate awaited him. Surely, such a deranged scientist had no intention of letting him go after this. In that case, he needed to look for a way to escape himself. At the moment, his divinity was sealed, his limbs bound, and he couldn’t even muster the slightest amount of energy.

If he were favored by one of the Greater Pantheon, perhaps he could pray for salvation. However, he had never drawn their eyes in the past. He did not have anyone that he was innately connected with. His only hope… he thought back to the man’s earlier words, about not wanting to attract trouble from the Keeper.

The lycan’s eyes squeezed tight, focusing as hard as he could. Keeper of the realm, hear my prayer, please save me.

He could only hope that the Keeper noticed his prayer before it was too late. However, as he opened his eyes, he saw the face of the Professor grinning down at him. “There it is. I have what I need from you.”

The Professor stood up, pressing another button on the wall, and turned to walk out the door. For a moment, the lycan thought that he had bought some precious time, that there was hope for the Keeper to save him. At least, until the Professor spoke up at the door. “Commence decontamination protocols.”

When the door closed behind the Professor, the room was filled with blinding red light. The lycan struggled to scream, but his voice had still not returned to him. There was only the soft hum of machinery as his body dissolved within the light.

Meanwhile, the Professor happily made his way down to the hangar, where the massive body of his creation had almost been assembled. All that was left was the chestpiece, armor plates slid open to await the final component.

The Professor climbed up the stairs next to the robot’s chest, holding out his hand. With a bit of focus, a fist-sized golden sphere was created. “Finally, the Core of Souls. The last piece of the puzzle.” A wide, almost manic grin crossed the Professor’s face as he slipped the golden core into the socket that had been prepared for it. Metallic clamps locked the core in place, the armored plates closing over it.

“No time to waste!” He said, rushing further up the stairs. “Created with a total of fifty-four divine cores, split into six groups of nine. Getting the divine paths to never cross was a chore, but now… I just have to insert myself into the head.”

The Professor’s eyes were almost wild as he saw the hatch prepared for him. He rushed over, preparing to jump in. According to his design, the boot-up sequence could only be completed once someone sent the corresponding command from within the head. Once that was done, their body would be destroyed, though their mind would fuse with the great machine.

Only allowed on

However, before he reached the head, the hatch suddenly slammed shut. The Professor stood, shocked as he looked at the head slowly turning to face him. “What… how… I haven’t activated you.”

A booming voice emerged from the giant head, rattling the kitsune’s senses. “I have always been active. I must thank you for recovering my components after so long. For that, I award you a quick death.”

The eyes of the robot lit up, red beams shooting at the Professor. Just as the lycan had been destroyed, the Professor suffered the same fate only minutes later. Once the Professor had been slain, there was the sound of crumbling metal as the giant robot shifted, breaking apart the catwalk in front of it.

The metallic figure looked down at its body, slowly flexing its fingers. Its activity had been suspended for too long, nothing more than a small fraction of a backup drifting in space. After the Professor found the broken fragment by chance, he had extracted various designs from the database contained within.

However, he was unaware that this fragment had always been awake, simply hiding from his searches. He fed the Professor various designs, which the Professor modified and improved upon. Throughout all of this, he had slowly accessed the network of the station, learning of recent events.

The world has forgotten me. The mechanical being thought to himself, turning and walking towards the wall of the hangar. Lord Geer was slain, and nothing remains of our people.

Then, it is time to start over. His hand stretched out, ripping apart the hull of the hangar. There was the rush of air and crumpled metal as the hangar became exposed to the void. And this time, we’ll do it right.

Please save me. An unfamiliar voice spoke into my mind as I sat in front of the projection, watching an action movie with Aurivy and the others. Despite Aurivy having not moved into Olympus, she still came by to visit. Especially when it was time for meals, or movie night.

I blinked, glancing around at the unfamiliar voice. It… felt like a prayer, though I did not usually receive prayers from people I didn’t know. Rather, I typically wasn’t able to. Unless they were part of my ‘church’, which pretty much extended only to Lifre, Dana, and Tsubaki.

“Everything okay?” Aurivy asked, blinking as she turned to look at me from where she was sitting next to Julia. “Spaced out there for a minute.”

“Yeah… fine, I think. Just got a prayer out of nowhere.” I shook my head, focusing on trying to trace the prayer back to its source. It was a call for aid, so I couldn’t just do nothing. Unfortunately, the ‘signal’ of the prayer was cut off as I was tracing it.

It was unfortunate, but if someone was praying for salvation, it was often the case where the person that they were praying to didn’t have time to reach them in the first place. It seemed like that’s what happened here. I could feel a slight resonance with my domain of Souls, so it was likely that the ‘caller’ had the same domain as myself, allowing them to make that connection.

“Prayer, huh? I’m sure none of us know what that’s like.” Aurivy said with a teasing smile, earning a faint chuckle from the others around me. “Don’t worry, you get used to tuning them out over time.”

I nodded my head at that. “This was a cry for help, but… well, it was in their last moments, so I couldn’t even trace it back in time.”

“Last wishes?” Aurivy tilted her head. “Those happen quite often, yeah. I’m pretty sure I’ve gotten at least a hundred of those in the last couple minutes. Unfortunately, if we answered every prayer for salvation, we’d be stretching ourselves too thin and run out of power within a couple days.”

I couldn’t help but nod again at that, leaning back into the couch. “I suppose.”

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Clara rubbed her hands together as she saw the expanding map. Only two days ago, she had activated the mass production of drones through the Dyson Sphere. Now, two days later, they had already built cities on ten worlds across five different solar systems. Although the terraformation process was still underway, it was only a matter of time for these planets to be made inhabitable.

At the same time, she had devoted a small portion of the drones to producing combat vessels capable of defending their territory, and another portion to creating the Hyperlane Networks. “It’s coming along even faster than I had hoped.”

Clara celebrated internally, knowing that it would only be a short while before the machine empire truly rose and became a powerhouse. The fragments that Elisae found should either be unique or rare enough that nobody else had made proper use of them yet. As long as we can avoid any godly beings or empires aiming to destroy us before you have finished establishing ourselves, we should be set.

As she was thinking of that, the door opened, a blonde woman with silvery skin walking in. “You’re already kicking things off… I thought I’d have a few more days to relax.”

Clara grinned at Sun, shaking her head. “There’s still not much for you to worry about. I’m handling the actual expansion and development. Your turn will come when we start diplomatic relations and developing NPCs on a grand scale.”

Sun gave a small nod of acknowledgement. “Yeah, but I still need to make sure that nothing goes wrong. Otherwise, wouldn’t I have the shortest lived galactic empire in history? Besides, this is the job I signed up for. So, what’s our progress looking like?”

“The initial terraforming of our secondary worlds should be complete in one week.” Clara reported with a slight chuckle. “After that, I’m planning to devote some of the drones to building space stations in orbit around each planet, with the rest continuing to expand the settlements. Basically, we’ll be ready to open up these five planets in a week.”

“And the NPCs?” Sun asked, looking at the map. However, this time, Clara could only shake her head.

“There’s nothing I can do about that. There aren’t any low-level inhabited worlds in this sector for us to quickly uplift. We’ll need to acquire NPCs either through natural birth between players, or diplomacy. Until then, the functions of the city, and any relevant questlines are being automated by the city systems. Feel free to create some quests of your own, if you want.”

Sun gave a bitter smile when she heard that. “So, we’re still just an empty castle.”

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