Jake had done something he had never thought he would do. In fact, he was pretty sure no one would have ever thought the current situation that was currently playing out as possible.

He stood in a dressing room as an elf wearing a fancy robe scrutinized his appearance and talked to an attendant about getting a new type of cloth Jake had never heard of. The attendant quickly ran for it as the tailor spoke.

“No, no, you need something to truly bring forth that ferocious look of yours. One that can emphasize those wonderful eyes and mask properly!” the elf said with much fervor.

“I did like the first set quite a bit, and to truly show his personality and interests, how about embroidering the cloak it with mushroom symbols?” a fourth person said. It was a scalekin with dark green scales and a cheeky smile that looked on as Jake was getting outfitted.

“Yeah, that is never going to happen,” Jake rejected instantly.

“I must agree; it would not at all go with his style!” the tailor said, fully backing up Jake. A smart man, it seemed.

The scalekin, who also happened to be the leader of the Order and a Primordial, just scuffed in disappointment as he held up both his hands. “Fine, but at least keep the snake symbol on the back of the robe.”

“Naturally, anything else would be blasphemous as he holds the Blessing of the Malefic One!” the tailor said, looking offended at Villy like he had truly spoken out of turn.

“Yeah, Villy, don’t act all blasphemous,” Jake agreed teasingly.

“I would never! None is greater than the magnificent Malefic Viper! I cannot imagine anyone acting blasphemously, or even worse, heretically towards such a being!” Villy practically yelled, earning a satisfied nod from the tailor.

“Well said! But who would even dare to be a heretic?” the tailor said as he shook his head, chuckling.

Villy and Jake exchanged a look and a smile just as the attendant returned, bringing a rectangular piece of cloth. It was to be made into some kind of shawl, but Jake quickly rejected it. The tailor was a bit disappointed but relented as he agreed on going with what he called a “warrior look” rather than a sophisticated hidden hunter with a slight desert theme.

As for how Jake had ended up in this situation… well, the answer naturally lay with a certain snake god. Villy had told Jake he needed to look “proper dapper” if he was going to his first party and that he should go out and get a new party outfit.

Jake had agreed as, quite frankly, he did feel a bit out of place, always wearing his full equipment no matter where he went. While it didn’t exactly attract attention as people honestly dressed weirdly, he would prefer to wear something more casual at times. He was lucky he at least wore lighter armor, as he could already imagine if he was a warrior walking around in full plate armor going to lessons – something he had seen dozens of times within the Order.

The set he was getting currently consisted of a pair of nice dress pants and a weird shirt. He called it weird because while it had buttons, it also didn’t have buttons. Whenever he closed a button, the cloth just melded together, while it stayed visible and open if he opened one. It was honestly odd.

Over that, he wore a weird mix of a trenchcoat and a normal cloak with a large motif of a snake on the back. He came to learn only those with a Blessing were allowed to even have this specific symbol on their clothes, and the tailor was visibly excited at being allowed to make such a piece of clothing.

His shoes were the biggest thing that needed changing, at least according to the tailor. Jake didn’t know why old scuffed leather boots weren’t in fashion, but they clearly didn’t sit well with the fancy elf. He looked like Jake was committing some cardinal sin just by wearing them, especially when Jake said he had originally planned to wear them to a social function.

The entire set wasn’t actually considered equipment, even if it was high quality. If he wanted to have it be made into actual equipment giving stats and such, he would have to pay extra as the items would need further energy infusion and crafting time.

By paying extra, Jake naturally meant having Villy pay extra. Not that Jake was poor, but more on that later.

He exited the shop looking pretty good, in his own opinion, even if he did have to discuss getting a hood added to go with the mask – yes, he would keep using the mask. The compromise they reached was the hood becoming able to meld into the rest of the neck of the coat. Jake still had no idea what kind of sorcery was going on, especially considering it wasn’t even considered equipment.

“The life as a sugar daddy is hard,” Villy sighed as they entered the street.

“Poor you,” Jake smirked. “I have to ask, are you planning on attending the party too?”

“Nah, that honestly sounds boring. While it may look like I enjoy fucking with people for my own entertainment, I only bother to mess with people I find entertaining to do so with. A bunch of random D-grades does not fall into that category,” Villy shook his head.

“Huh, not even that guy you gave a Divine Blessing? I assume you did have some interest in him,” Jake asked. He knew Divine Blessings were considered high-tier, so Jake would find it weird if Villy had just given it out willy-nilly.

“Not particularly, no. He is a good seed but is ultimately just one gamble of many. If he manages to reach A-grade or maybe S-grade, I probably will begin paying attention, but he isn’t worth my time as he is right now. Chances are he will die before I bother,” the god casually said.

“You say that talking to a mere D-grade,” Jake chuckled as the two of them reached a wall with a teleportation gateway on. They were scattered throughout the entire city and were honestly just so damn convenient.

“No, I am talking to a friend,” Villy answered. He did sigh and looked a bit more serious as they went through the gateway and appeared in Jake’s mansion.

“I am currently just running with the assumption you will become a god and thus immortal, and with that assumption in mind, treating the current you as immortal already makes sense, doesn’t it? And who’s got time to bother with mortals?”

“A bold assumption based on what you yourself said in the past about the chances anyone has of reaching godhood,” Jake shook his head. “Not that I necessarily disagree. Dying to old age certainly doesn’t seem like a possibility.”

“Exactly, and gods can die fighting too, so it’s the same thing, right? You are just a bit more fragile, that’s all,” the snake god laughed. “Speaking of being fragile, I have an appointment with Duskleaf, and he is gonna get mad if he finds out I split my attention between the two of you and didn’t fully assist his experiment…”

Jake looked at Villy with exaggerated surprise. “You actually have productive things to do? Also, how is Duskleaf fragile?”

“How is going shopping for new clothes not productive and imperative to running the Order of the Malefic Viper? No, let me rephrase that. How is making sure my Chosen presents himself the best he can not important? As for Duskleaf, well, his poor ego would suffer, so that counts as fragile.”

“Yeah yeah, now get going. I have to leave soon too, but need to make my gift first,” Jake said, waving his hand.

“Sure thing. See you around,” Villy said as he disappeared.

Why did we bother using gates when he can just teleport us around casually? Jake questioned as the god left.

A few seconds passed before he saw a head peek out down the large entry hall, as Meira had finally dared come out, having no doubt been waiting for the Viper to leave.

“Hey Meira, did you get the ingredients I asked for?”

As she had seen the coast was clear, she came out and went up to Jake and summoned three glass boxes with herbs in each. “Yes! They were all widely available.”

Meira had summoned the items out of her spatial necklace, as, of course, Jake had gotten her one of those. Seeing her try and stuff items into a damn oversized satchel just got silly. She had protested a bit, to begin with, but Jake had insisted. Besides, he had found out he was loaded.

You see, not all Credits were created equal. Or, well, all Credits were besides for the Credits of the ninety-third universe. Jake could not have Credits transferred to him, but he could spend it. At the same time, the Credits from his universe apparently were incredibly valuable for those walking a merchant path due to opportunities given by the integration. Especially merchant gods. This meant that the Order offered the transfer of Credits to contribution points of AC at a way higher rate for those of the ninety-third Universe.

Jake’s Credits had roughly a 1-100 exchange rate compared with other types of Credits. Jake had found the rate a bit weird in that it was so straightforward, but Villy had told him the exchange rate was set by what was essentially a council of merchant gods or something to make sure competition didn’t go crazy. Yep, it appeared the entire multiversal financial industry was effectively run by an oligopoly of powerful gods.

The ingredients he had asked Meira to help him procure were for a very specific kind of poison that one just had to bring when invited to a social function within the Order. Anything else than bringing a good bottle of tasty poison would just be straight-up rude.

Jake went into his laboratory after swiftly changing out of his new clothes and back into his usual getup as he did some alchemy for the next one and a half hours. He had been mentally planning this poison since the moment he got the invitation, and he was already looking forward to the effects it would have. Of course, he didn’t try to make it lethal, but it surely wouldn’t be a good time if their Palate was lacking.

Once he was done, he quickly got on his dapper outfit and prepared himself to go. He went to the living room where Meira was already waiting as Jake flopped down on a couch. Jake sighed a bit as he looked up at the floor.

“Is anything the matter, Sir?” Meira asked.

“You know… I was the type to never want to go to the bar after a house party ended, but would rather just head home and chill… and as I sit here, I remember why,” Jake said.

Meira went over and sat across from him, waiting for him to continue talking.

“I don’t like it. I don’t like these damn social events that you can’t avoid getting into. I always feel out of place, like my presence is somehow contrary to what the event is all about. There are so many norms, spoken and unspoken, making it feel like an arena with poorly defined playing rules,” Jake began venting out of the blue as Meira just sat there listening patiently.

“I began to understand why I always felt so out of place all the time only after the system arrived… well, one of the reasons anyway. You see, my Bloodline is quite peculiar… I am quite peculiar. I don’t tend to deal well with rules in general, and reflecting back on everything before the system arrived, I understand that it wasn’t just dealing with rules, but dealing with rules set by those I considered my lessers. Subconsciously, at least, I viewed them as such. Like I was surrounded by weaklings who told me how to behave. Of course, it wasn’t like that, but that is another part of me. I tend to boil things down till they become simple to the point of oversimplification, even in too complex situations.”

“Sir, if I may?” Meira finally asked.

“Yeah?” Jake asked, feeling a bit embarrassed at his ramblings.

“Norms and rules only apply to those it is applicable to. I do not know how the world worked before, but at least everywhere I have been, the norms and rules are decided by those with the power to do so. If you are strong enough, no one complains. So Sir shouldn’t worry, but just act like himself, and if any such norms are broken by doing so… well, then Sir can just change the norm,” Meira said encouragingly.

Jake listened to her words and smiled a bit. “You do make it sound simple. While I am sure people like the Viper can do that, I am not quite there yet unless I want to reveal my identity. I have no interest in leveraging that unless I have to.”

“Sir is plenty strong on his own,” Meira said assertedly.

He knew she didn’t truly know how strong he was. She probably didn’t even know his level, yet she seemed so convinced in her belief. It was a bit flattering, and Jake had to be honest, it did help cheer him up a little bit.

“Well, complaining won’t change the fact that I am going,” Jake ultimately just sighed. This was just like every time he had to go to a gathering before the system, where he always considered just canceling last minute. Usually, he at least had Miranda to lean on and shield him, but here he would go alone. Reika was the only one he truly knew there, and he knew she had enough to deal with herself.

Meira shifted a bit in her seat, clearly still feeling his discomfort. “Sir, is there anything I can do to assist?”

That part of her had never changed. In fact, it had gotten worse. Meira always felt like in any situation where any issue existed, she had to be the one to fix it. If she could or not didn’t matter as she would at least ask if there was anything she could do.

Taking Meira along to the party was obviously not an option. She was not from the ninety-third universe, and he was sure she would be even more out of place than himself. Jake wasn’t a saint, but he sure wouldn’t put her through that.

“Just your encouragement is good enough,” Jake smiled at her as he finally got up. He stretched his back as he finally stopped delaying more than necessary and headed for the hall with the gateway circle on it.

Meira followed him, trying to be encouraging. When he looked at her, he honestly found his own social discomfort silly. She had to deal with being thrown into an entirely different world where she suddenly served the Chosen of the Malefic Viper with the god himself sometimes coming by. She had to deal with knowing Jake was both a heretic and a Chosen while also just learning how to deal with Jake as a person.

Jake could deal with a damn academy party if she could do that.

Let’s go,Jake thought as he activated the gateway, and with a final “good luck!” from Meira, Jake went through.

He appeared in a massive hall already filled with people, and as Jake looked about, something quickly became clear. This wasn’t just a party just for the new members of the ninety-third universe but something far more as he felt over a hundred C-grade auras scattered throughout the utterly humongous hall.

As he stood there, someone approached him, and Jake turned to see Irin. She wore a low-cut red dress that actually managed to cover more than her usual outfit, if barely.

“I am glad you could make it, and may I say, you are looking even better than usual,” she said flirtatiously.

Jake regarded Irin and smiled beneath his mask as he returned her compliment.

“Thanks, you look great too. Now, this is quite a gathering, but can I ask you just one thing?” Jake asked.

He knew exactly what he needed.

“Where is the alcohol?”

A note from Zogarth

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