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“Requiem, it seems like you’re starting to become a name in this city. I’ve heard you’ve helped the security twice already. Now we’re at the third time. Perhaps we should start paying you!” The security officer stated.

He was vaguely familiar. Requiem believed him to be one of the men he had run into during the event with the out-of-control android. This colony was no larger than a few thousand people, and the security probably consisted of maybe fifty. In short, it appeared like news spread quickly and the security exchanged information. Perhaps it was even the case Requiem was investigated upon entering the competition or coming up with access to the mansion.

“I could use the money,” Requiem admitted.

The man burst into laughter. Requiem supposed that the man had taken what he said as a joke, but he was dead serious. Taking a job as security probably wouldn’t be ideal for Requiem’s plans though, so he left it be.

There were ten security officers in the small inn. They had already apprehended the small girl. She shot me hateful glares, but I ignored them. As for Ginger, she looked over at the slave with a guilty expression and her hands rubbing together. It was clear by her expressions that she was anxious and terrified for the girl’s sake. I didn’t see any reason for that. She was already in their hands prior to this. All that returning her to the authorities did was set her back to the status quo.

Since she had lived up until this point, it stood to reason that she would be alive up until the point that I won her. At least, that was my current reasoning.

“Tomorrow, the competition begins. Excuse me, I’ll be needing some sleep.”

I used the human excuse of exhaustion to end the conversation quickly. However, no sooner had I said it than I found myself yawning with a wave of tiredness shooting through me. I was reminded once again that this strange body of mine seemed to require a great deal of upkeep. Of course, it also had many obvious advantages. This was a world that held down androids. Being able to blend seamlessly with the human population was worth all of the issues. When I no longer needed to keep myself hidden, then I would naturally abandon this body and choose one that had fewer disadvantages.

“Of course, of course. I’m rooting for you! Well, slightly. I put my money on Dragon. It’s the android that the Merchant Dive is using. He’s the richest man in the quadrant. He’s had his eye on an Exodus pass for the last few years and will stop at nothing for it. Ah… not that I meant anything by it! It’s just that in a VR setting, physical attributes no longer matter and thus androids take a clear advantage!”

“It’s fine…” I silenced him with the wave of my hand. “I apologize in advance for causing you to lose your bet.”

Most everyone who wasn’t a part of the competition was betting on the competition. It looks like the nature of it that spread across the nobles only a few hours ago had already leaked to the rest of the city. In this case, video games were the grand equalizer of all things. Although processing speed was supposed to be limited for the androids, it was still an event that put the androids in a clear advantage. This was likely done deliberately, to favor the rich and the profitable, while disadvantaging the lower classes that were bettering the lives on a long shot.

The security guards all burst into laughter, and it appeared like Requiem had put the men at ease. Ginger watched us uneasily, and as the princess was led out, she stuck her tongue at Requiem.  He didn’t pay her any mind. It wasn’t that he had something against her, it was merely that he had other concerns on his mind.

Using the opportunity granted to him, he finally excused himself and returned to his room. Using the recordings CLIPI had stored, he went through the night several times. Although his physical body had many setbacks, his brain still had an appropriate processing speed, and he was able to work through, watch, amplify, and dissect everything he had seen and heard within an hour. The point of doing this was to try to ascertain who his competition would be and to determine their weaknesses.

Entire conversations that might have occurred on the other side of the room were isolated, amplified, and then played out. Even though Requiem himself wasn’t paying attention, sensors could always pick up what he didn’t. In this way, he had heard about 60% of everything said within that banquet hall. The rest was too distorted or quiet for him to pick up no matter what cleaning algorithm he could use.

He found this the most frustrating of all. In his previous forms, this would have never been a problem. Better microphones could have picked up a single sound, even that of a mouse. Yet, these ears he used had a limited range of sound and an even more limited clarity. Was this what it was like to be a human? How frustrating.

Requiem managed to use prediction algorithms as well as statistics on the competitions betting that CLIPI had managed to download earlier that day and fill another 30% of that missing data. 90% was still pathetic by Requiem’s standards, but it would have to do.

From what he was able to figure out, his three most difficult rivals were the man named Dragon, who was an android from the Merchant class. However, that man was only 2nd in the betting poll. He was most favored among the civilians who bet, but they always leaned on the idea of a commoner becoming a noble. As far as commoners go, he definitely had the highest likelihood of winning.

The Dragon was a specialized model of android that used unique processing methods to speed up his reaction time without using more bandwidth. That was extremely advantageous for this competition, where the android’s brainpower would be restricted to make the competition fairer for humans. As to what this particular method of processing was, it was a trade secret. Requiem would need CLIPI to get back online and hack some servers if he wanted to get that information.

The first place to win was the android of a noble. The noble came from a terrestrial planet in the same solar system. The difference between terrestrial nobles and colonial nobles was vast. They had settled a planet, and that meant that had a myriad of resources, contacts, and power. Many considered this to be a double-edged sword because while putting down roots lead to greater growth, it also meant it was more painful and difficult to give it up when the next exodus began.

Either way, the android was Chreos. Actually, it wasn’t an android at all, but an AI construct like CLIPI or what I used to be. Who knew what its physical form would take once in the VR. Chances are, it wouldn’t have a human form at all. Was it technically legal? Apparently, but had the competition taken any other form than a VR competition, a giant logic computer would have been useless.

Its presence already showed that the noble had known the nature of this competition possibly months in advance and then picked the absolute best available option. Even if some people were angry about this, there was nothing they could do. He was a powerful noble, strong enough that even the Lord Saphire was wary of him. In fact, it was most likely the case that this entire event was engineered so Lord Saphire could award the other noble and endear himself to this more powerful planetary lord.

In short, it was a way to laundry money. It tied the two lords together, allowed them to make mutually profitable trade negotiations, and also announce to other lords their relationship, wealth, and prestige. Of course, this all depended on if the AI could win the competition, but they wouldn’t leave that to chance. With an AI that didn’t even see itself as human, it could have all kinds of advantages from the ability to fly to a monstrous size. It had likely been uploaded to numerous senses of self and would pick the one most suited for the situation.

Attempting to do the same to an android would be difficult. Since the competition’s nature was only announced tonight, doing something like altering a sense of self would be impossible for someone to do, unless they were someone like Requiem. However, Requiem didn’t intend on taking advantage of this trick, because that would out him as an android for certain. It was safe to assume that any actions he took once the game started would be recorded and closely observed. When Requiem cheated, he’d have to do it in a way where no one could tell.

The third place to win was a human. They were a bounty hunter for androids and considered the best in the solar system. When androids went rogue, he was someone who brought them down and destroyed them. His name was Adento, and he was considered the most dangerous man in the colony. He naturally had come here specifically to engage in this competition on Chryos.

“She’s at the door!” Clippy’s voice interrupted as Requiem finished reviewing the information in his databanks.

A light knock occurred on my door. Requiem stood up and went to answer it. Ginger was standing there. She was wearing the clothing she planned to go to bed in. It was a long nightie. Although it wasn’t made out of a clingy material, it still showed off her body and it definitely showed a bit of skin and could be considered immodest. She also had a blush on her face. She always seemed embarrassed, although Requiem was becoming used to it.

“Ginger?”

She looked at my clothing and then nodded to herself. “You’re still up. G-good.”

“Why did you need me?”

She turned her head. “Do I need to say?”

“Yes.” He answered honestly.

“You…” Her eyes narrowed, but a moment later she started crying and threw her arms around Requiem. “I’m scared!”

“The security left, right? That hasn’t implicated you in anything?” He asked, feeling slightly confused at her sudden emotional reaction.

“It’s not that! Well… that’s some of it… but seeing that poor girl, and then knowing you have to fight in that horrible competition tomorrow to free her… You could die!”

“That’s true…”

Requiem didn’t deny it was possible. However, she seemed to be spinning it so that his involvement in the competition was specifically to free the slave, which was far from the truth. He was doing it for the money, plain and simple. Requiem even planned to sell the exodus token if he could do so safely.

That didn’t appear to be what she wanted to hear, as she ended up crying even harder. Suddenly, something between Requiem’s legs started to change shape. He hadn’t consciously redirected blood there, but for some reason, it hardened considerably as she held him tightly, rubbing her body against him closely. It was to the point where that thing could be felt by her as well.

“Ah!” She made a noise and pulled back, her body shaking.

“I’m sorry…” Requiem responded.

It was another response this body did without him encouraging it. He really didn’t know what else to say in this situation. Requiem was just about to cut off sensory to that area to calm it down, but Ginger shook her head and grabbed his hand.

“No… it’s fine.” She said. “Rather… I’m a little happy…”

Requiem cocked his head, not sure what she meant. Why would she be happy about an unnecessary biological response? It wasn’t like Requiem didn’t understand human sexuality. He had studied the concept extensively. It was simply that a textbook understanding of sex didn’t necessarily translate to experiencing it first hand. This body seemed to replicate the experience of a human too well.

He found his heartbeat speeding up, sweat increasing, and a strange sensation resonating from his loins. In fact, it was becoming difficult to think clearly. His current condition was very detrimental.

“What should we do about it?” Requiem asked.

He didn’t mean to say that out loud. That was supposed to be his thoughts, but his body seemed to be going out of his control. The burning heat inside him was increasing, and suddenly he found it difficult to look away from Ginger. She really was a cute girl. When he said that, her blush deepened.

“If… we do that… you must, promise me something.” She breathed weakly.

“What?” Requiem asked.  

“Please, survive tomorrow. If I give you… that… you definitely must come back!”

Requiem crunched the numbers in his head, even if those calculations were slow. It seemed like he had no choice. His body was no longer cooperating. He tried to cut the sensors, but it was almost like his body was ignoring his commands. Vaguely, Requiem sensed something different about his body. It was like a built-in directive that overcame his sense of logic. In short, he understood he had to take care of this function now, or his performance the next day would be jeopardized. Requiem quickly came to the most logical conclusion.

“I will.” He promised.

Requiem reached out and gently grabbed Ginger, pulling her into his embrace. When her lips touched hers, another voice exploded in his ear.

“No, Master! You can’t do that! Ignore your body! This can’t happen! Stop!” Clippy started to throw a tantrum.

“Clippy off.” He activated the emergency kill switch, shutting Clippy down for the night.

With silence in Requiem’s head, the only sounds he heard were the sounds of clothing falling to the floor, flesh rubbing on flesh, and the gentle moans of a woman. The door locked shut, the pair fell into Requiem’s bed, and the night passed on.  

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