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Roland sat at his desk in the office building that he had created as the headquarters for his gaming guild, Legion. Although the key players each lived in their own worlds, and their own countries, the headquarters still housed several secondary members. They also handled tasks outside of the game, such as speaking with the press, handling sponsorship deals, and things of that nature.

Currently, he was in a call with a science and exploration institute from Desbar, known as LSE. Their chairman, an elderly gentleman with wrinkled red skin and weathered horns, smiled politely towards Roland. “I hope that you’ll be agreeable on this matter, young sir.”

Roland returned the smile with one of his own. “Of course. Legion is prepared to take on additional parties for the maiden voyage of the citadel. It’s our duty to do so, now that we have gained such a treasure, is it not?”

This seemed to please the businessman, before Roland continued speaking. “However, there is a matter of cost for such a thing. As you know, there is no real concept of hunger within the game, so there is no need to charge for food provisions. Similarly, there is no need for sleep.”

“There is, though, the matter of protection. Players who are not part of the guild cannot bind their resurrection point to a guild’s base. That’s just a simple and common mechanic to prevent griefing. Therefore, it is only natural that the members of Legion will have to put our own lives on the line to protect any accompanying members, should a situation arise. We may be able to revive at the base, but consider this.”

Roland sat back in his chair, clearly having prepared for this and talked it out with others. “In order for Legion to make this journey, which will last an unknown period of time, we will be relinquishing the lead we have in the leaderboards for the game. The vastness of space is something that someone in your position is surely aware of, so you no doubt know that we are unlikely to find a suitable hunting ground before arriving at our first destination.”

“Now, on top of this, if we do encounter some danger, and are forced to spend our own lives to save the members of the expedition, that will lower our experience even further. On behalf of the guild, I am fully prepared to agree to your conditions of bringing an individual for the expedition. But at the same time, you must understand that we are putting our own livelihoods at risk by doing so. There is no guarantee that we will be able to recover from this expedition in any swift manner, and I have to consider the well-being of my guild members.”

The chairman furrowed his brows when he heard that. Naturally, he wasn’t one to take video gaming seriously as a career. If not for the words of the Keeper when he had revealed himself as the true creator of the game, then he would not even be speaking to Roland right now. But, as it stood, there was a high chance that space travel within the game would mimic the same conditions as in real life.

As one of the institutes participating in the ‘space race’, aiming to design their own interplanetary travel methods, it was imperative that they get this ‘real world experience’ for themselves. That was the best way for them to know what to expect and design around in the future.

The man had expected to offer a modest sum to Roland in exchange for the inclusion, but… It seemed like the young prince was going to ask for even more. “Try not to go overboard, young man.” The elder said with a reluctant sigh. “There’s only so much that can be spared, and I am quite certain that this is not an ‘exclusive’ deal that you are making.”

“And you are right to say that!” Roland nodded his head. “In fact, most companies that I have spoken with so far have sought just that exclusivity, and are even preparing a quite astronomical sum to ensure it. As I said, I must consider the well-being of my members. As long as the information is spread, I am still doing my duty. But, if it becomes more financially beneficial to take an exclusive deal over multiple smaller deals… I have to do what is best for them.”

The LSE wasn’t the only company aiming to be the first to travel the stars. They weren’t even the only ones in Desbar, and the old chairman knew this. In fact, it only added another layer of pressure to ensure that his group was represented. Anyone that missed this chance would suddenly be decades behind any other group when it came to the research and development they needed.

With a reluctant sigh, the chairman nodded his head. “I’ll speak with our board, and get back to you.” After that, the call ended. He clearly knew that the sum he had prepared wouldn’t be enough, so he now had to renegotiate with his company to determine a more suitable amount. Because, as much as he hated to admit it, Roland was the one with all of the power in this deal.

He could pick anyone he wanted to go with his group, or he could take nobody at all. The concept of ‘duty’ was just a facade to show politeness. If he truly did not want to take others with him on this expedition, there was nothing that anyone would be able to do about it. These companies did not have the ability to pressure the players who lived in so many different countries and worlds.

The gods were even less likely to punish him. There had been no command for him to take others with him, not even the suggestion that he should. As such, there was no true duty at all, just the foreign prince providing a service that could not be found anywhere else.

Once the call had ended, Roland sat back in his chair, letting out an exasperated sigh. In all honesty, he did have some form of duty, but not the kind that the chairman would likely understand. The moment that the repairs had been completed on the Sky Citadel, Legion received a new quest. They were to take players to another world.

The reward for the quest? It rewarded experience based on the distance from the home world and the amount of people that they took, and offered a ‘mysterious’ reward that was not clearly listed. But, he doubted that this experience would make up for the amount of time that they would lose clearing content and grinding, unless they took a large number of people with them.

Thanks to that, he had strictly told the team members not to let the information about this quest leak out to the public. If it did, then companies would no longer be willing to offer enough to join. He really was taking their own financial well-being into consideration, as they would be forced to simply rely on their previous gains during this time.

Only if they encountered some astronomical anomaly, or space-faring monsters would they be able to publish new content for the media. Because of all of that, it was important that he engineer the situation such that companies were willing to spare no expense to be included in this voyage.

“Call Julia.” He muttered, his eyes closed. As usual, the call went through right away, and the elve’s charming appearance was displayed on the wall in front of him, were the old chairman had been just moments ago.

“Another one?” She asked with a knowing smile.

“Lenan’s Space Exploration…” He groaned with a nod. “That makes eighteen.”

“So, only another fifteen more to go, then?” She asked mischievously, earning a much louder groan in response. Going by the number of offers he had received in game during the process of conquering the tower, there truly could be that many yet to come. And so far, the only real ‘exclusivity’ that they had agreed to had been with their media liaison. Her company would be the only one allowed to broadcast the events.

“This is why I got out of politics…” He was excited for the potential rewards that could benefit both him and his team with this mission, but at the same time… he didn’t like handling the negotiations so much. He’d rather make friends and play in the game, having fun with everyone. Everything else came after that.

“Are they still wanting to go to the same planet?” Julia asked curiously. So far, most of the companies that had taken the proper steps to research had discovered that there was a green planet in the same solar system as the world of Vision Expanse… which was apparently known as Vespa.

“Yeah. Here I thought we’d be traveling to other stars. But, I guess that would probably take a lot longer, wouldn’t it? I wonder just how different this world will really be.”

Julia shrugged her shoulders, before offering a small ray of hope. “It might turn out to be a leveling field that we can claim all to ourselves for a while.” If that was the case, and they were even temporarily able to claim an exclusive location to grind, they might really be able to climb the leaderboards again.

“Either way, there should be an achievement for being the first to reach a new world.” Roland himself spoke up, as if trying to cheer himself up. “Hopefully, the game will reward us for the time we spent traveling between worlds.”

“I have it on… good authority that there will be something.” Julia spoke, glancing off towards the side. “I just don’t know what.”

Roland looked towards the screen, raising an eyebrow. “Good authority? This have something to do with you confirming the rumors about the citadel earlier?”

Julia gave a small nod of her head at that. “I can’t say who it is… but yeah.” Julia glanced towards a pink-haired halfling girl sitting on her couch, just out of view of the call and waving her hand energetically. The moment that Roland had mentioned a reward, the girl had nodded her head firmly.

“Well, I guess we’ll find out soon, won’t we?” Roland asked, shaking her head. “Though I doubt we’ll find ‘him’ on this journey. Once we’ve got the whole exploration thing down, and figure out a plan for our growth in the future, promise, we’ll go looking.”

“It’s fine.” Julia shrugged it off, which surprised Roland rather greatly. “We’ll meet him when we meet him. I’m sure that it’ll work out.”

This was the first time that Julia had spoken about the Mad King with anything short of absolute venom since the event, so Roland wasn’t immediately sure what to make of it. But… if she was getting over it, at least she’d be able to enjoy the game again, now.

Just as he was about to speak up, there was a chime from his communication crystal, causing him to let out a sigh. “Incoming number nineteen. I’ll talk to you later.” He said before answering the call, his figure vanishing from Julia’s wall.

“So… there is a reward?” Julia asked once the call was over, glancing over towards Aurivy.

“Yup!” She nodded assuredly. “Well, maybe not for each time you make the trip… but obviously the first space travel is a grand achievement, right?! That’s not even really spoilers, just common sense. Now, telling you what the reward was, that would be spoilers.”

Julia furrowed her brow, letting out a long sigh. She glanced towards the table between their seats, where two decks of cards had been laid out. The two of them had been in the middle of a Deckan card game when Roland called. “Alright… whose turn was it again?”

“Yours!” Aurivy reminded, beaming a smile at her, causing Julia to chuckle slightly. It appeared that Aurivy had been entirely serious about wanting to be friends with Julia, dropping in to chat after the citadel had been conquered, and even teaching Julia how to play this game.

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