Chapter 328: The Hype
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Outside of the game, the marketing campaign for the new title, Vision Expanse was in full swing. Gameplay trailers were quickly released, one after another, and the word had been spread to every world. Back in Fyor, Jasper was using a handheld device to watch the video from his throne within the Dawn Palace. The elderly dovah that had been his tutor all this time glanced towards him with an amused smile.

“Are you interested in those games, Jasper?”

“Mhm!” He nodded energetically, before remembering to compose himself. “I-I mean, I haven’t had the chance to try them yet, but they look really fun.”

“I’ll have to… I think they call it ‘pre-ordering?’ I’ll have to make sure to reserve one for you, then.” The woman nodded her head. “Just remember not to overdo it. You still have your duty as one of the Magisters.”

The boy’s eyes went wide in shock when he heard that he would be getting a copy of the game. His entire focus for most of his life had been on training his magic. While he thought that it would be nice to play those games, he didn’t really have any hopes of doing so. This woman, who had treated him as a second mother his entire life, had agreed so readily that it left him stunned.

Seeing that, she simply gave a mysterious chuckle, not discussing the situation further. Her eyes closed as she rested back in her throne, her mind scanning the area to make sure that there were no further troubles.

Within the floating palace, the Sky Citadel, there currently existed only a single entity. Everyone else had chosen to return to their own homes, and the new representatives did not wish to leave their people to live in isolation within the Keeper’s Palace. However, naturally there was a single exception.

The avatars of Tsubaki roamed the halls, cleaning away any dust that gathered over the passing of time. Another remained kneeling in place before the Keeper’s throne, ready to serve him again if he returned. Yet, the main body of Tsubaki was within her room, watching the video of the new title announced to be released soon in Desbar.

She found this game to be suspicious, as it seemed to have come from nowhere. When she had requested to have wires laid through the citadel to provide an internet connection, she had naturally acquired a terminal for herself as well, a computer for her personal use. Through that machine, she had been able to keep an eye on the changes occurring within the world outside the palace, in case she was needed elsewhere to act in her master’s name.

When she heard about this game, her curiosity was piqued. She had spent quite a bit of time learning technical skills, and suddenly began deploying those skills now. There was no news of this game prior to the announcement. No hint that the company had been working on any game. In fact, from their financial records, it seemed that they didn’t even spend the money necessary to create it.

“Where did you come from?” She muttered quietly to herself. Just from the trailers, it was obviously a vast game. More vast than any other that she had seen. For such a game to not leave a visible paper trail… she couldn’t imagine it.

In her mind, there were three warring ideas. The least likely to her was that the company had simply done a very good job preparing this game over a long period. However, with how quickly they have been releasing new consoles, each with somewhat different operating systems, it was far too unlikely that they would have such a large game already prepared for their newest product.

The second possibility, and only somewhat more likely than the first, was that this was a new invasion tactic. The magic displayed within the trailer did not use runes, and she could not find any hints that would indicate geometric magic was being used. If it was a new type of magic, and this game was more than it appeared, than it was entirely possible that it was the prelude to another invasion. The only flaw with this theory was that the Keeper would have likely announced such a thing to the entire world, if he was aware of it.

As much as she worshipped the Keeper, she knew that he was not truly omniscient. It was possible that this had slipped in under his notice. In such a situation, it was urgent that she reported it as quickly as possible.

Which brought her to her third possibility, and also the one that seemed to be the most likely. This game could either be the collaboration of multiple deities, or a product of the Keeper’s personal work. This had the highest chance to be the case, because while he wasn’t omniscient, Tsubaki was confident that he would have at least been notified of such an obvious development within the world.

Nevertheless, there was only one way to confirm things. If it was the second option, then it would be a terrible crime not to report it. Tsubaki closed her eyes, whispering softly. “Oh lady of magic and fortune, I ask for an audience.”

Tsubaki could feel the surge of power behind her, slowly turning around in her chair to see Ryone standing there, smiling calmly to her. “My, this is unusual. You don’t normally ask to see us. Is something the matter, dear?”

Tsubaki rose from her chair, moving to kneel on the floor. “I thank you for granting my request. I asked to speak with you because I have concerns over a development within the worlds. It would go against my duty not to seek an answer.”

Ryone glanced past the kneeling Tsubaki, looking towards the computer screen. She could still see the trailer loaded up for Vision Expanse. “Ah, so you noticed that something was wrong, hmm?”

Tsubaki’s head jerked up, her kitsune ears falling back as she looked to Ryone in alarm. “You mean, the game truly is dangerous?”

“Hmm? Oh, no, nothing of the sort, dear. Ashley just didn’t cover her tracks well enough, is all.” Ryone gave a small grin. “It’s not some dangerous attack or anything of the sort. It’s from us.”

Tsubaki’s body visibly relaxed at that, a content smile falling over her face. “Thank you for your words, Lady Ryone.”

“Ah, but don’t tell anyone. It’s a secret for now. He doesn’t want people to know just yet.”

Tsubaki glanced towards Ryone, her face regaining its former calm. “Of course. Thank you. I simply could not allow a possible danger to go unnoticed.”

“Oh, no, thank you my dear.” Ryone crouched down in front of Tsubaki. “For all your hard work over the years, you have all of our thanks. When this game comes out, why don’t you give it a try yourself? It will give you something to do between Dale’s visits, besides training.”

Tsubaki hesitated, both at the closeness of the goddess and at her suggestion. “I’ll consider it, Lady Ryone.”

Ryone gave a small nod, seemingly satisfied with that answer. She stood, brushing off her dress. “I’ll get going, then. If you want to talk, feel free to call again. I’m sure that it must get lonely here now, but don’t worry… soon enough, I think that things will get lively again.” And with that, her body broke apart into golden lights, fading away in the air.

Within the game of Vision Expanse, Aurivy had arrived outside of the city of Endhor. This was… not her first time doing this. In fact, she had already been killed three times before when facing the wild dogs, due to their pack tactics.

Now, however, there was a determined look in her eyes. She had spent two days performing various repeatable quests within the city to earn enough money for new equipment. No longer was she unarmed, instead now carrying a pair of daggers that seemed a size too big for her body. They didn’t have any halfling-sized gear in Endhor, and she hadn’t taken the time to learn a craft skill to make her own. Instead, she simply chose to bear with the unwieldy size of the dagger’s handles for now.

At least when it came to her armor, she was able to get it fitted for her body, though that took most of the funds that she had earned the last two days to achieve. The armor she wore now was a simple leather vest which left a portion of her midriff exposed, and leather pants that clung tightly to her legs.

She eyed one of the nearby dogs with a barely hidden fury. The pain in this game was dulled compared to the real thing, but that didn’t help here. Now, instead of building a trauma, making her fear the dogs, it made her angry. It fueled a rage inside of her that made her desire revenge.

However, she knew how to act. She had the experience of being torn apart in the real world before. While she was angry, she didn’t lose herself to the anger. Instead, she activated one of the skills that she had purchased. Her body began to fade, her shadow disappearing.

When she walked, her steps carried no sound. Only the slight disturbance of the grass marked where her feet had passed. This was Stealth, classified as a general magic skill. As long as someone carried some kind of item on themselves, they would be able to draw the magic from that item to activate the skill.

With her stealth active, she calmly approached the dog, which she saw digging at the ground in an attempt to dig up edible roots. She had trusted too much in the aggro formula that she learned from when she was in EverLasting’s game. She forgot that ‘hunger’ was enough to upset the formula, and cause all creatures to enter a more natural aggressive state.

And these weren’t just dogs, their title was ‘starving wild dogs’. They were only level one beasts, but they were all hungry. The moment one entered into a battle, the rest would notice, and rush over to feast.

Aurivy approached calmly, until she was standing directly next to the dog. Finally, it seemed to notice something amiss, its head lifting up and searching side to side. When its eyes seemed to train on Aurivy, it let out a silent whimper. Aurivy’s body began to reappear, a bloody dagger in her hand piercing up through the beast’s throat and into its skull.

Even without the ensuing message prompt, she knew that it was a critical hit. The beast collapsed, its legs unable to support it after its life had been stolen, but now there was the scent of blood in the air. The rest of the dogs from the field began turning their heads, seeing Aurivy standing there.

“Well, can’t stealth now.” She muttered. One of the conditions to activate stealth, at least at its lowest level, was that she couldn’t be the focus of a creature’s attention. Moreover… she wasn’t sure that stealth would even work while she had the fresh blood on her hands. It was entirely possible that the dogs would be able to smell it, and still easily track her.

“Twin dervish.” Aurivy muttered, raising her daggers. One began to crackle with weak electricity, while the other emitted a faint, icy glow. She lowered her stance, ready to take on the dogs now that she had acquired the equipment and skill to fight them.

The beasts swarmed towards her. Some went for the easy meal, tearing into the body of the dead dog, while others went after Aurivy. She might be small, but she was still more meaty than a starved beast. When they approached, her arms began to move. Trails of ice and electricity were left in the air as she cut into the creatures. Her body spun, her arms moving in wide arcs.

Even as more beasts were cut into, they kept charging, their hunger demanding that they seize any chance they could to fill their stomachs. One managed to bite into Aurivy’s arm, immobilizing it. Fresh blood sprayed out, and she let out a hiss of pain. She did her best to keep her grip on her dagger, knowing that she wouldn’t be able to retrieve it so easily if she dropped it before her death.

Still more dogs piled in, biting at her legs and her waist. She could see her health rapidly dwindling, and knew that she wasn’t going to win this fight. With a sigh, she gave in, letting them take away the last of her health again. However, next time… now that she had earned skill experience, things would be easier. It’d be even easier if there were dozens of players all fighting the dogs, like how it would be when the game released. But right now, she was just one small girl versus the world.