Jake couldn’t help but reflect on what exactly Helen and the Emberflight Clan tried to accomplish by outing him. It was clearly a tactic of theirs, and Jake seriously doubted it was something the young mistress had suddenly decided on doing herself. It was deliberate and with a goal.
Irin decided to stick around Jake and Draskil, so he asked her some roundabout questions to get an idea, and he came to a rather quick understanding. In fact, Irin straight-up told him that he would probably be smart to make sure he had some kind of backing after today. Not to avoid getting kidnapped or some other stuff, but for anyone to want to back him.
When Jake said he already had a backer, Irin nodded in understanding and said: “Being pieces in the games of the powerhouses is never fun.”
Jake had taken a bit to understand, but it soon clicked… the Emberflight hadn’t done what they did today to get a response out of Jake; they wanted one out of his backer.
They were running with the assumption Jake had a powerful backer behind him, and that backer had to have influence over Jake, right? Helen showing up to a public meeting with several representatives from factions also clearly communicated the Emberflight Clan were interested in Jake, which would lead to two potential outcomes.
If a stronger faction became aware of Jake through the actions of the Emberflight, it would only reflect well on them. They would lose nothing besides recruiting Jake, something they maybe didn’t view as that high of a priority or as having that high of a probability. Or, maybe they just didn’t think a more powerful faction would bother.
The weaker factions would back off to not offend the Dragonflight or potentially harm a future working relationship. Jake had gathered that the Emberflight truly was considered a top-tier faction of the multiverse. They were not a peak-tier such as the Holy Church, Court of Shadows, or Altmar Empire, but were still not someone easily offended by any but the biggest of players.
They had just made one miscalculation… the Order of the Malefic Viper was considered a peak faction. The power of a faction was not decided by their size or area of influence but by their power. More accurately, the power of the god at its helm.
Now, if he thought about it, they had clearly never considered it possible the Malefic Viper was his backer. That made sense as that was so astronomically unlikely, so what they probably believed was that Jake had a powerful S-grade master who was a member of the Order. Either a true member part of a Hall or a normal member, but either way, this backer or master would no-doubt view Jake as a way to get in the good graces of another faction. Why else would an S-grade bother with a weak D-grade whose biggest redeeming feature was his Bloodline?
The backer would be made to choose, and the Emberflight were confident. Of course, not choosing would be an issue too. It would result in Jake being hounded until he made his position clear, and the backer would also find himself revealed soon enough and be pressured himself. Perhaps not directly, but indirectly. Moreover, this backer would get nothing out of Jake if he didn’t become part of a larger faction.
All of this boiled down to the basic assumption that Jake was nothing more than a chess piece in the game of powerful experts. A chess piece holding a valuable commodity to be traded away sooner or later, with the backer being the primary decider of how this would be done. This was naturally completely wrong, but if that is what they believed, the Emberflight Clan’s actions made a bit more sense. They never considered if offending Jake mattered or not, and even if they offended his backer, it would just be a measly S-grade.
Irin’s initial interpretation of the situation seemed to be identical to Jake’s, and she even admitted something as they spoke.
”I will be honest, my clan was interested in potentially recruiting you as an auxiliary member even before the Bloodline. Just due to the fact you had a Blessing, we believed it worth it. Now, with a Bloodline and a Dragonflight showing interest, I firmly believe they will back off. Our Matriarch is only A-grade, so offending the Emberflight Clan simply isn’t something we can afford.”
Draskil had just shrugged as his input boiled down to not caring about factions at all besides the Order of the Malefic Viper. The guy really looked up to Villy and was a true believer.
So… to summarize, the Emberflight Clan believed that what they had done today would put pressure on Jake and his backer to decide on a faction to join. As the backer would pick the faction that could offer the most, the Emberflight naturally assumed they were a popular choice.
Too bad for them. They were as wrong as can be, and Jake decided to stay away from any factions for now. Did he have the choice of joining the Order of the Malefic Viper for real in one of the Halls? Sure, but he also had the choice of just going ”Oh, by the way, Chosen of the Viper right here,” to get everyone off his back. If he said that, Jake would be viewed as not only a true member of the Order but the most important member besides a few people.
”Villy, any thoughts?” Jake asked after reaching his own conclusion.
”On what?” the god answered promptly.
”You know, the Emberflight putting pressure on me, my Bloodline being public knowledge within a few days, and the issues that are to follow?” he asked, knowing full well the Viper knew all this.
”Oh. That. Seems like a you-problem last time I checked,” Villy said cheekily.
”So you would be fine with me revealing my identity as your Chosen and using that to make everyone back off and be treated like the second coming of you?”
”Jake, Jake, Jake. I was always fine with that. I wanted to help you hide your identity for your own sake, not mine. I picked you as my Chosen, and of course, I stand by that choice. One day it will be revealed no matter what, and when you choose to do so is up to you and you alone. You can invoke my name whenever you feel like it, as long as you want to deal with what it will bring. I will support you far more openly if you choose this, not that I think it will be needed or even wanted,” Villy explained, getting a bit more serious.
Jake was silent for a bit. ”So, just for advice then, any way to get around this entire Bloodline thing without revealing myself as your Chosen and not joining a faction outright?”
”Plenty of ways. All for you to discover yourself,” the god answered as his presence slowly faded away.
This left Jake sitting with his own thoughts as he thought of a solution. Because damn, did he need one. He felt hundreds of gazes upon him at nearly all times from attendants all-around, as well as other students who looked like they really wanted to go up and talk to him.
Right now, he had Draskil as a shield as the dragonkin had shown himself to be less than approachable. He tolerated the presence of the scalekin groupies and Irin, but Jake knew that protection would only last for this party, so for now, he just leaned back and enjoyed his drink.
Irin still seemed genuinely concerned and continued to talk to Jake until he shot the topic down and told her to relax. He didn’t know why she cared, but he did appreciate her advice that may even go against the interest of her clan.
With the matter shelved, the rest of the party went by as Jake just sat back and drank with his new dragonkin buddy and Irin, who decided to stick around throughout the entire day. Politics went on all around them, but they managed to make their small oasis of relaxation where the word ”World Congress” wasn’t mentioned at least every second sentence.
Not that Jake had forgotten. In only a few hours, it would be World Congress time.
Jacob sat at the high seat of the massively expanded conference room. Golden projections of men and women lined the seats all around the room, all of them nobles of different kinds, with many of them being City Lords.
By now, the Holy Church controlled close to a hundred Pylons of Civilization. They had more people within their territories than any other faction on the planet, and their strength had only consolidated and grown. Yet they knew they still faced many challenges on Earth.
The Great Famine, as the crisis was dubbed, had been a major setback. No one knew what had been the cause of the event either, and Jacob had tried to use his divination skills to find the cause but always came up blank. This made him believe it was somehow system-imposed.
Certain members of the Church came forward who specialized in curses and said they felt a powerful pulse of curse energy that day. The Church had looked into it, but it didn’t appear the Risen had done anything as Casper was naturally the first suspect when it came to anything curse-related.
In the end, they quickly shut down all theories that this event was man-made or even caused by any being on Earth. The power involved, if it truly was caused by an individual, would be very concerning. That is why they had officially stated it was system-caused, the same as most other factions.
Because the alternative would only cause panic.
Jacob shook his head as finally all the seats were filled. This would be the last meeting before the World Congress and had all of the people present who would attend.
The Augur stood up as he regarded them all with a bright smile.
”Welcome to the assembly where we will discuss the Holy Church’s approach in the Second World Congress.”
A congress Jacob firmly believed they would gain more influence in than any other faction.
Miyamoto stood covered in sweat as he swung his blade again and again. The pressure upon him was unlike anything a human could normally survive, but he persisted as the nearly twenty mages all around him focused on the formation beneath his feet.
Soon enough, they ran out of mana as the pressure disappeared, and an attendant walked up to him with a towel.
”Thank you,” he said as he wiped his face clean. The rest of the sweat turned into droplets that floated off his body and formed a small bubble of water that rapidly evaporated.
”Patriarch, are you ready to meet the ministers?” another attendant came and asked. Several more also entered to help the mages out of the courtyard to recover.
”Lead the way,” Miyamoto smiled as he got handed a robe to cover his bare upper body. As he walked, a certain vampire also appeared and walked beside him. ”It will be interesting to see what this World Congress is all about.”
The former Monarch of Blood, Iskar, was a constant companion for Miyamoto and seemed especially interested in the political side of things. Far more so than the Sword Saint had ever thought. His vast knowledge had helped in places nobody in the Noboru clan had ever expected, and by now, Iskar was beginning to hold some influence.
He also helped by training those who had chosen to become vampires. It wasn’t many so far, but a few hundred who felt stuck in their paths or simply hadn’t found a place they felt they belonged had chosen to embrace vampirism. The clan had a stringent screening process, and far from everyone were allowed to choose this path.
”The World Congress always comes as an impetus of change for our small planet, so I too hold interest in what it will bring,” Miyamoto simply said to the vampire. The two entered a large meeting hall with all those present from the Miyamoto Clan who would attend. They had shown up either in person or communicated from afar, some only using voice due to the distance.
The Noboru Clan were ready for whatever was to come, and with their expansion, the Sword Saint believed they should now be the second-largest faction after the Holy Church.
Valhal, the Court of Shadows, the Risen, Haven, and a plethora of other factions made their preparations for the upcoming World Congress. This time they knew what to expect and were far more ready than the last time. Plans and strategies were made, and new forces would participate that had never been there before. Alliances had been struck between factions all across the planet.
Arthur, Jacob’s father, and the leader of a large alliance, was one such force no one knew how powerful it truly was. In pure numbers, perhaps their alliance could even match the Holy Church, while they had many experts who before never worked with others but chose to stay independent.
Eron, who none knew what was truly up to, prepared too, as even he understood the importance of the World Congress.
Every single force on Earth, small or large, prepared. Near-anyone who had gotten the invitation planned to attend, and they all were ready.
Unknowing that there was one more faction. One that no one but a single person on Earth was even aware of. And it was questionable if even he had predicted what was to happen.
The mountain range spanned into the horizon as winged beasts patrolled the area. To one side were infinite mountains, the other the endless ocean. Monsters of legends and myths were gathered towards a certain mountaintop as even the oceanic creatures made their appearance to show respect.
Powerful beast lords, creatures no human on Earth would feel confident challenging all gathered towards a certain mountain as on the top stood a structure of what looked like golden wood. A testament to the monster that lived there and one whom they all feared.
On Earth, beasts had fought for territory, and this area was one of the most sought-after. It led into the human lands while still connecting to the ocean and was part of the area C-grades were allowed to roam freely at the current time.
A land of death for most humans… yet on the mountain, several buildings were made. A small city was under construction in the valley below with no beasts harassing the humans working away. Occasionally a human would look towards the peak above with the golden temple and be in awe at the Lord who lived up there… no, the King.
System notifications were not a new thing. Quests were not new, but this was indeed a first. With an ivory claw, the Unique Lifeform waved his hand as the door was opened, and he stared out over the land that was his.
Behind him stood two humans who were to assist in this ”World Congress” that was to come.
The Fallen King had to admit, it did indeed seem interesting.