Once I was fully logged into the game, I made a quick check to see how many people were online, not surprised to find that the guild was still rather active. Nearly a quarter of the guild’s players were online, which was quite high for a period when there wasn’t an active, ongoing event. What did surprise me was that I had not been immediately swarmed with messages the moment I logged on.

Did I have messages waiting to be read? Yes, naturally. However, that was somewhat expected. Once again, I had the fairy delete those messages, not particularly having the time or patience to read through hundreds of letters asking me about the meaning of life. I mean, I could just give them the textbook definition, but I doubted that’s what they were really after.

I had logged in just outside of the workshop I used to rent with the guild’s help, having not really gone anywhere the last time I logged out. Noticing that I was not in a safe zone, I did a quick check of my inventory, letting out a sigh of relief that everything was still present. It would not be strange if I had been robbed blind during this period, but it seemed like I lucked out there.

Focus, Dale! I shook my head, remembering that I did have a purpose for wanting to visit this game today. Admittedly, it was a purpose that I could quite easily achieve by abusing admin privileges, but… where was the fun in that? If I just abused my way into getting what I wanted here, I wouldn’t have the experience to let me know how it all worked in the future.

Once again forcing myself to focus, I began walking out of the building, and towards the busy streets. I knew that it was possible to do what I wanted right now, even without buying the skills for them. Tsubaki had already shown me that. I just had to put theory into practice.

Are you doing what I think you’re doing, Dale? Terra asked in a curious tone as I made my way for the exit of the city.

If you mean introducing world spirits to Vision Expanse? Yes. Yes I am. And I’m probably about to explode a good dozen times or so in the process.

There was a light laugh in response to my joke, before she let out a long breath. Alright. Want me to have her show up to make sure you’re not disturbed?

It would be appreciated. I nodded my head slightly, seeing the gate within sight. I wanted to talk to Tsubaki anyways.

An elven woman stepped out of her bedroom, her feet all but dragging against the ground. Her eyes were half-lidded and bloodshot, her hair an absolute mess. Even her attire was only half-done, her robe hanging loosely off her body. She walked out towards the living room of her house, where she heard that incessant, infernal ringing, and practically snarled. “Answer. But I swear to Ryone, if this isn’t important, there will be hell to pay.”

“It’s important, Julia.” A voice spoke up urgently from the other end of the call, the image of a human male appearing with short, black hair and angular features.

“Did you find us another game?” Julia grumbled, moving to sit on the couch and slowly fix her robe, offering herself at least a modicum of decency.

“We’re not leaving Vision Expanse, yet.” He sighed, shaking his head. Ever since the incident with the Mad King, Julia had been rather sore about the game. She continued to play it, and continued to play the part of the enthusiastic adventurer, but more and more it was starting to grate on her nerves. The sense of accomplishment, the thrill of a final boss… she just didn’t feel it in that game anymore. She knew that it was still the best game on the market, in terms of their business plan, but that didn’t mean she had fun with it.

“Then what is this about?” As she spoke, she began running her fingers through her silver hair, trying to comb it somewhat.

“There’s a report that’s gone viral on the forums.” The man waved a hand, and another screen appeared next to his face, showing an image of what appeared to be the Sky Citadel. Only… less perfect, less real. The graphics of the image just a little distorted, as if…

“So the Keeper made a proper appearance in the game, finally?” She asked, not seeing how this was worth waking her up in the middle of the day.

“No, he didn’t. This is a dungeon.” Her interest was, admittedly, piqued when she heard that. “And it can be captured.”

Okay, even more interested now. But still… “What’s this got to do with us? Legion’s never gone after unique bases before. I mean, we’ve still got the Mad King’s Palace up on the market, right Roland?” As it turned out, that had also been a capturable dungeon. But since it had no crafting workstations, and served as nothing but a large barracks and bragging rights… the group had decided to sell it.

Roland simply chuckled. “It’s not that easy to meet our asking price. It is, after all, a one of a kind historic site. Even if it doesn’t currently have practical value, the significance of it can’t be undervalued. But no… this is something way bigger. Remember, Julia, the Citadel flies. It is fully shielded from all sides once completely operational.”

“Get to the point, Roland… You just woke me up, I’m not in the mood to think.” She grumbled, finding a snag in her hair that she had to fix.

Roland shook his head as he explained. “There’s a theory popping up that this is a way to expedite space travel, and increase interest in visiting other worlds. I thought you might like to finally get your ‘rematch’.”

Julia’s hand suddenly stopped, her eyes gaining just a bit of clarity. Her head turned towards the screen. “When are we gathering?”

“Leon’s grabbing up all his reserves. Get yourself pumped, the group’s assembling in half an hour.” After he said that, his face vanished from the screen, the call ending.

Julia took a deep breath, closing her eyes for a moment. Her ki briefly fluctuated, speeding up within her body before her eyes shot open, a pulse of energy seeming to radiate off of her. “Oh, Lady Aurivy~?” She spoke up in the sweetest voice she could muster, looking up towards the ceiling. “You said I could call you if I needed something, right~?”

Eheheh… yes? A childish voice spoke up in a somewhat nervous tone, as if the Goddess of Love herself had reservations about what Julia might ask for.

“If we get this Citadel… and we will get this Citadel… we’re going to come looking for you. And if we find you… when we find the Mad King… I want a real fight. Win or lose, no running away. No secret third act, no hiding away within the cosmos to recharge for the ‘true’ fight.” There were very few people who would ever talk to a Goddess the way that Julia was. But she was hurt by Aurivy’s last performance, and it had been eating away at her for too long. Finally, she had the chance to vent. “Whether you wipe us out, or we kill the Mad King… I need this fight to happen. I’m sure you understand, right?”

There was a long sigh that seemed to echo around in Julia’s heart. Alright. I guess that was kind of my bad for how that last fight ended. Didn’t mean for any hard feelings or anything, I know how important the game is to you. After all, that’s also a form of Love. I suppose it wouldn’t exactly be right for me of all people to ruin the thing you love.

A small, genuine smile appeared on Julia’s lips. “Thank you. And… perhaps try and pretend like you don’t already know every countermeasure we’ve been preparing for that eventual encounter?”

Oh, don’t worry! This time, Aurivy’s voice was far more clear. I didn’t want to cheat, so I’ve been making sure to not watch any of your private ingame activities. If you broadcast it, that’s totally fair game. But it wouldn’t be right to build up for a final, climactic battle, only to already know everything you’re going to pull out!

Julia gave a small nod, happy that their battle would be the fair and final fight she had wanted from the start. With this, the shadow in her heart had started to lift, and she was already starting to feel like she could enjoy herself. She would do everything in her power to ensure that Legion gained the Citadel. Furthermore, Aurivy’s agreement was a form of confirmation that it truly was capable of finding her.

As she was thinking that, she heard Aurivy clear her throat, having thought the connection was over. So… after this is all over, wanna be friends?

“Huh?” Julia blinked, staring at the ceiling rather dumbly. “You realize I just all but threatened a Goddess, right? Normally, you’d be wanting to smite me, almighty smiter.”

You kidding? You have any idea how few people are actually willing to stand up to us and talk to us like that? Aurivy let out a light huff. Sure, if everyone did it, we’d get annoyed pretty quick. But there’s only so much ‘Lady Aurivy, please bless this union’ or ‘Lady Aurivy, I ask for your favor in my journey’ a girl can take before she wants to be talked to like an actual person.

“Figured you’d have all the ‘friends’ you needed with the other gods, to be completely honest.” Julia said, still not quite sure what she had gotten herself into with her moment of impulse.

Well, yeah. But they’re all also busy doing their own things a lot of the time. And besides, there are eighty-seven billion people spread out throughout the four worlds, and I’m pretty much in all of their heads at once. Can you blame a girl for wanting to get a bit more friendly with some?

“I… guess I never thought of it that way? So… friends, then?” She asked after a moment of hesitation.

“The best!” Julia yelped, all but jumping out of her skin as a pink-haired halfling manifested on the couch, lunging over to wrap her in a hug.

“Uhm… hi. This is weird.” Julia chuckled, reaching up to nervously pat the Goddess on the back. “Yeah, nobody would ever believe me if I told them about this… So, does this make me a Priestess or something?”

“Nope!” Aurivy giggled, shaking her head against Julia’s shoulders. “No divine favors, no special fortunes, outside of maybe the help here or there if it’s really important. No actual benefits at all! Just friends.”

“So you’re not going to tell me who my soulmate is?” Julia asked with a small smirk, clearly teasing the young-looking Goddess.

“Oh, please.” Aurivy rolled her eyes with a laugh. “We both know that gaming is your only true love. Well, that and Roland, but let’s keep that little bit to ourselves.” She winked towards Julia, who suddenly had a very red face.

“I-it’s not like that, really!” She shouted, even as Aurivy continued to laugh, fading away in a cloud of golden smoke. “Really, it’s not!” She wasn’t even sure at that point who she was trying to convince.

Uh huh, I’m sure it isn’t. Can’t lie to me, dear, even if you can to yourself. Now, you should get going. They’ll be expecting you soon. And I’ll be watching to see how you claim the Citadel.

Julia let out a huff, standing up and marching towards her room. Now, she had even more of a reason to want to fight the Mad King, to wipe that grin off Aurivy’s face!

...Ah, who was she kidding, the little halfling would probably find a reason to be happy either way.


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