“M-miss Leyla?” A bulky demon man announced himself as he knocked on the office door of his boss. He had been called in to see her, and he was terrified. After all, the entire company knew who she really was, now.
“Ah, yes Hal. Thank you for coming here so quickly.” Leyla answered with a polite smile as she sat behind her desk. “Please, take a seat. I don’t think that this should take very long.”
Hal nodded his head, moving to sit in one of the chairs opposite of her. “You… wanted to see me?”
“That’s right. I wanted to ask you something. I’ve noticed that your contact with Malara stopped a couple weeks ago. Are you not intending to continue working with them?” There was a genuinely confused look on Leyla’s face, but Hal’s went pale at the reminder. He had been a corporate spy, spying on a literal goddess.
“O-of course not!” He shook his head profusely. “I can’t spy on you. I may not be much a religious man, but I know when something’s a bad idea.”
Leyla shook her head with a sigh, her smile dropping. “Hal, I never meant to make you stop. I want you to keep doing what you were doing. I only called you out at the meeting because I couldn’t have you leaking my identity.”
“What..? But… why would you want that? Why would… a goddess want someone to spy on them?”
“Well, it’s certainly not for any of the reasons that just went through your head.” She said with a somewhat stern look towards the man. “I want this technology to be shared. The more people are working on it, contributing new ideas, the faster it will grow.”
“Then… why not just tell people directly?” This was something that had confused Hal a great deal. If she truly wanted people to work on something, why not tell them? Most companies would rush to obey her just for a chance to earn favor. Others would act as a way to avoid retribution.
“Simple.” Leyla shrugged her shoulders. “I want them to come up with the idea themselves. I don’t want to impede on the free will of my people, Hal. Take you yourself, for instance.” She leaned back in her chair, waving a hand towards Hal.
“You look as you do, making people assume that you are wealthy and well-fed. But in truth, you suffer from a gland disorder. You can barely afford to feed yourself, let alone your family. I know that you’re lacking in funds, and that’s why Malara’s executives approached you. While you were working your double life, you were able to take care of your family, and even build up a little extra.”
“But now? It’s been two weeks since you checked in. They’re already considering striking your deal. The extra money you saved up won’t last you very long, and you’ll be back in the same position that you started in. And if I hadn’t appeared, you would have continued to work for them. But because I did… your family is at risk of going hungry.”
“If my mere presence could potentially destroy one family, then what would happen if I made a public command to focus a new technology? People from every field would attempt to contribute, causing every other field to suffer. Transportation, medicine, education, these are all incredibly important parts of our society. But if I gave a command for people to start working on developing the entertainment industry, they would decline.”
After saying all of that, Leyla took a deep breath. “So I want them to decide for themselves. Those companies who are already inclined to do this kind of work are also the ones that would show the most promise if I made that kind of declaration anyways. So, why not just let things play out? I’ll be revealing myself eventually… but I hope that by that time, this technology would have reached the standard where I wouldn’t have to try to coerce anyone anymore.”
Hal sat in his seat, lost in thought as he listened to the words of the goddess. He knew that she was right, at least about his own financial situation. His family would be able to live happily for a few more months if they were careful with the money, but after that..?
When he lifted his head up, and saw the gentle smile of Leyla looking back at him, he felt as if his soul had melted in her gaze. He knew that she was trying to help him. That she was a gentle goddess, caring for her people. “Okay… I’ll get in touch with them again.”
Today, I was using a pool of golden water as my ‘divination’ medium. Through it, I watched Ashley meeting with someone in her office. In truth, I had only wanted to take a look at her to see if I could use the various cable gateways in the citadel to extend my scrying reach. And of course, one of them led straight towards Darkflame Technologies.
I waited for the man to leave before I spoke up, still staring into the pool. “How does it feel to be back in the business life?”
Ashley, or rather Leyla, jumped from the sudden voice, glancing around to try to find the source of it. “Ah, hold on. Let me see if I can get this to work.” I hadn’t really practiced making the viewing two-way yet, but this was a good chance to practice.
Closing my eyes in focus, I reached for another strand of my soul, sending it through the pool I had created. On the other side, I willed it into a circular shape, and imagined the two connecting. Once my eyes were opened, I could see Leyla’s eyes focusing on my own.
“Someone learned a new trick…” She muttered softly, before shaking her head. “It’s fine. Honestly, it has been so long since our old Earth, I thought I would have lost my touch. Actually had to attend business school all over again to remember some of the basics. But then… that happens when you spend fifty years just trying to learn how to act naturally in a new body type.”
I couldn’t help but give a small nod. “This invasion looks like it was a pass, so Vision Expanse is sure to be released by the time the next one happens.”
Leyla had a rather… odd look when she heard that, gazing at me through the pool. “You’re… going to be staying down the entire time?”
“Well, unless something big comes up. Or until it’s time for me to take the next step in my training. By the way, how are our beta testers doing?”
“Tsubaki and Aurivy?” Her expression turned into one of amusement again. “They just found their third new city. According to Vivi, at the rate they’re going, and if she keeps guiding Aurivy, they might unlock the second starter zone before the public release. Which is great, because I was worried how we would handle the traffic.”
“Couldn’t you just ask Vivi to open up more spawn zones? Do they really have to unlock manually?”
Unfortunately, Leyla shook her head at my question. “Part of the rules to reduce the cost of the systems, apparently. She has to choose a single spawn location for the start of the game. Only when a player account has entered another valid starting city will that city be unlocked for other players. And Aurivy is being stubborn about using her admin powers to transport Tsubaki to different cities quickly for now.”
I nodded at that, leaning back in my throne. I could tell that the two of them were in the game again, since Leowynn was still watching them in Tsubaki’s room. “I’m surprised that Tubrock hasn’t joined the test. I mean, I saw the magic of this world. If there was anything that was a fit for him, this game is it.”
“Yeah, me too…” Leyla agreed after a brief moment. “I made the offer, but he turned me down. Said he’d rather wait for the game to launch, so that he could test his skill against the true smiths. If they start at the same time, the only thing that determines who is on top is how good they are. And… he is surprisingly prideful.”
My head tilted back, my eyes going to the ceiling as I thought back to my conversations with Tubrock. It was true, when it came to his ability in the forge, he had always been prideful. He hated the idea that mortals might be able to invent something before him, and when I had fast forwarded the world to rush advancements, he had put everything he could into making sure that he stayed one step ahead of everyone. “Yeah… I guess I can see that from him. Udona, though?”
“She has pre-ordered a hundred copies of the game. They’re going out to a group of people that she is wanting to establish a guild with. And because she wants to play with them, she doesn’t want to have any firsthand experience in the game herself before release.”
“A guild?” I glanced back down towards Leyla in surprise. “Wait… don’t tell me it’s a bard guild?”
“Got it in one. She created a gaming group in Deckan a few years back, and everyone is excited to play this. Apparently, she even revealed herself to them after they were all good friends, but they haven’t treated her any differently.” There was a touch of envy in Leyla’s voice as she said that, clearly wishing that people acted the same way with her.
“Huh… well, I guess the release day is going to be pretty major for everyone.” I could already imagine Keliope and Accalia eagerly awaiting the game to battle or explore new areas, or Bihena simply taking the chance to enjoy herself. Irena… with how devoted she was to her incarnations, she would almost definitely be playing it. The only one that I was really unsure about was Tryval. Given his personality, he didn’t really seem like the type to care about games, even ones as realistic as this.
Well, unless Alme joined. Then he would probably play it to spend more time with her. But, given what I saw of Alme’s meeting with the queen, it didn’t seem likely that she was in a hurry to play the game. If she did, it definitely wouldn’t be on the day it came out.
“Well, thanks for the update. Let me know if there is anything for me to take care of while I’m down here. Otherwise… well, I’ll be doing a lot of practice like this.”
“Well… now that you bring it up. There is something that you could help with. Either you or Tsubaki.” Leyla had a somewhat troubled expression on her face as she stopped me from ending the call.
Seeing my curious expression urging her on, she continued. “A pair of disasters were born on Desbar. One is a scorpion monster, the other a dragon. For now, they’re claiming a large, uninhabited jungle island off the coast of Ashara. The dragon is still just a baby, but the scorpion… it’s not only fully grown, but looking for a mate.”
“I was planning to have Accalia take care of it quietly before it left the island. If that creature is allowed to reproduce, and we don’t act, it could wipe out Ashara.”
When I heard that, I immediately thought back to the world wolf that Tsubaki had hunted. “It’s not also an anomaly, is it? Or is it playing by the same rules as everyone else?”
“Same rules. It’s just as big as a truck, and its venom could kill even the strongest bodied demon in under a minute. Assuming, of course, that the forearm thick hole it left from its stinger didn’t do the trick first.”
“And changing the topic right off that, what about the dragon?” I gave a violent shudder as I imagined the pain a scorpion like that would be to deal with, let alone a bunch of them if they were able to breed.
“So far, the dragon hasn’t been violent. It was a random mutation from a wyvern coupling, as they’re a fairly common monster type in Desbar now, gaining the ability to breathe fire and use more powerful magic. Unfortunately for it, it also began aging far more slowly. From what Accalia said, this should be one of the first true dragons to appear in any of the connected worlds.”
Well… at least it wasn’t violent, so maybe there was still hope of peaceful relations with it in the future. “Alright… I’ll look into dealing with your scorpion problem.”