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Requiem remained hidden behind a console, but he still peeked out to see the woman named Darcy as she made her bold declaration. Lord Saphire was staring at her from the screen. After a moment, he cocked his head.
Lady Darsis’s face grew flushed. “Dreadpirate Darcy! I’m Dreadpirate Darcy! I’m the most feared Dreadpirate across the seven galaxies!”
“What is a Dreadpirate?” He gave an incredulous face. “And what seven galaxies? Our empire only exists across this galaxy though.”
“Hehehe…” She chuckled. “This is why we’ll never be a thing. A man like you is far too boring! You have no vision, no presentation!”
“Woman, give over. I have my hackers tracing you at this very moment. I don’t know how you made it into my private server, but once you’re found, I will have you disemboweled.”
“Ooo… I’ll have to take a raincheck on the disembowelment. I’ve already left the colony, and I don’t intend to stick around either. As for how I’ve broken into your server, that’s my own little secret. So, how do I steal the prize? Just grab this?”
“You… that isn’t intended for you! Don’t think I can’t strip those keys off your corpse!”
“Sticks and stones, love.” She reached out to the panel.
Requiem, who was still watching this, made a judgment call of his own. Leaping over the console, he jumped toward Darcy. Her hand touched the orb first, but he slammed into her, shoving her aside and touching it.
“Master, the transfer is going to her!”
“Redirect it!” Requiem hissed.
At this point, Requiem no longer cared about playing it safe. Since she had appeared and killed Adento, the entire game was upset. At this point, the only one who was seeing anything was Saphire, and if he tried to give Requiem trouble, Requiem would make him pay for them.
Dreadpirate Darcy was rather spry, and even as they both glowed with a white light, she spun around and managed to stand back up. Her hand immediately went for her hip, but what she was looking for wasn’t there. Requiem’s hand that wasn’t on the orb pulled up the gun he had swiped from her. He pointed it at Darcy.
“It looks like we have a cheater here,” Darcy smirked. “That grenade should have killed you. Only some very quick hacking work would have spared your life just then.”
“I don’t think we should discuss who is cheating and who is playing fair,” Requiem responded.
“Master, the transfer is finished, but then I wasn’t able to get the entire key. Part of the key ended up in her, and part in you. I can put it back together, but only if we can get a body scan of her.”
Darcy couldn’t hear Clippy, but she seemed amused by Requiem’s comment. “Love, I’m stealing, not cheating. Completely differenent.”
“Understood,” Requiem responded without taking his eyes off her. “Surrender now.”
“Sir, you are the winner of this game.” Saphire declared. “If you kill her, the money and the slave are yours, I promise.”
Requiem didn’t have any desire for the genetic keys. The exodus token meant nothing to him, and the slave control was excessive and unnecessary. If it was destroyed, then so was the little slave girl’s enslavement. That suited Requiem just fine. Although he wanted her army, there were other paths toward dominating the galaxy that was faster and more reliable.
“Ooo… about that, love.” Darcy chuckled while lifting her hands in a mock capture. “I’ve already transferred all of your funds to myself. As for the slave, I’ve taken her off your hands.”
“You!” For the first time, Saphire finally looked enraged.
“Then, we’ll just have to take them off your dead body.” Requiem pulled the trigger.
“Biometrically locked.” Darcy gave a little wave with one hand. “Better luck next time.”
Her body disappeared just as quickly as she arrived.
“Someone find that woman!” Saphire bellowed behind Requiem.
“And don’t forget, you were robbed by the Dreadpirate Darcy!” A disembodied voice came out across the room, and the text began to flash on the screen over Darcy.
“Sign me out.” Requiem declared.
Requiem barely reacted as the world around him began to melt away to darkness. It was only a few moments later when his eyes snapped open. Two people were looking down at him with worried expressions on their faces. That would be Miai and Ginger.
“D-did you win?” Ginger asked nervously.
“Adento didn’t wake up. He flatlined suddenly.” Miai added.
“That’s yet to be seen,” Requiem responded as he sat up, pulling off the equipment that had brought him into that virtual world.
He didn’t need to ask about the situation, because moments later a group of armed men entered the room. “Requiem? Come with us.”
The two women looked at the guards nervously, but Requiem stood up. “You should come as well.”
He didn’t know why he invited them along. They hadn’t seen what had happened after being transferred to Saphire’s private server. They didn’t know about Darcy or how Adento had died. Requiem also didn’t know how hostile the lord would be to him. He wasn’t the one that they originally wanted to win. Although he hadn’t acquired the awards, it was still possible they might decide to kill him just to silence things. By bringing the pair along, he was only putting them at risk as well. However, he felt like he wanted them near him. Was that a product of this body of his? He was unconsciously attracted to women? How irritating.
However, by the time he realized that he had already invited them and started moving forward. He decided rejecting them on principle wouldn’t do him any favors. As they reached the guards, they began to lead the small group away from the private VR chambers. These chambers were kept mostly out of sight from the spectators, who likely had viewed everything on broadcasts sent out to viewing screens.
That didn’t mean there weren’t those that had come in person to support their competitor of choice, but they were all placed in an arena with massive theater monitors, commentary, and multiple points of view. In the end, Requiem imagined that the winner was supposed to be brought before them to strut his stuff, but Clippy had already downloaded the schematics of this entire colony, and the location they were heading wouldn’t have the room to support an arena.
Requiem predicted they were being taken to the private chambers of Lord Saphire. He prepared multiple plans depending on how this meeting went. As predicted, factoring in Miai and Ginger only made those plans more difficult, but Requiem didn’t feel bothered by this. The girl’s eyes were filled with questions, but they read the mood and kept their mouths closed. It wasn’t long before they were brought before a large wooden door and brought inside.
In a world like this, the growth of trees was difficult, and thus wood was a clear sign of wealth. Most structures were composed of metal and ore, things that could be easily extracted from any given asteroid. To grow, chop down, and treat wood was a process that likely wasn’t easy for a space-faring humanity on permanent exile.
As I entered the room, the man who had previously shown himself on the monitors appeared just as he had then, but his expression was filled with frustration and anger.
“Hello, Requiem,” the man tried to keep his tone cordial as he stood up from his chair. “I am Lord Saphire, the ruler of Chryos and 118th in line for the throne.”
“Let’s cut to the point. Have you located Darcy?” Requiem declared.
His lips tightened slightly. “Yes, she had managed to hide a wireless relay in my server. She had connected to it from a ship she had already launched prematurely. While we were watching everything unfold, she had already kidnapped the young princess, cleared out my treasury, and launched her ship. She had just been waiting for me to unlock the codex transfer, and then she jumped in and intercepted it.”
Ginger gasped, covering her mouth. “Not her!”
Lord Saphire glanced over at Ginger, his expression flickering slightly. “Ah… yes… the 2nd place contestant. Your codename was Sparrow, yes?”
“I never thought I would meet a psydric here.”
She jerked. “Y-you found out…”
“It wasn’t hard to guess. As soon as you plugged into the VR, your unusual brain activity was detected. Your use of the bird symbol, was that your family totem?” He didn’t wait for an answer. “The psydric followed the Nightborn line. They were supposed to be wiped out by androids. The Tridon went to great effort to build a mechanical army. It’s the only thing a psydric is vulnerable against. The only remaining psydric are slaves. Yet, some families occasional escape servitude, hiding in plain sight.”
“Th-that was my parents. They gave their lives so I’d be free.” Ginger responded shakily.
“And yet, you were still drawn to the princess. Were you the one who helped her escape the previous night?”
“Cippy?” Requiem demanded more information in his head.
“The psydric were an order of bodyguards tasked with protecting the Nightborn line. They were created back when genetic modification was still legal. They were noted for having mental abilities. Clairvoyance, psychic ability, even psychokinesis were on the table. They were said to be unbeatable among genetically modified humans. Many now believe their powers were exaggerated, and current psydric don’t show particularly much talent.”
“I see…” Requiem didn’t need any more to reason out the rest.
The Nightborn family thought themselves in a safe and lofty position, but androids were developed as warriors en masse to bring them down. Then, when the androids served their purpose, they too had to be taken care of. This was the nature of humans. This also explained Ginger a bit. Her parents were former slaves, and her grandmother, possibly from a non psydric line of the family, also resented androids that caused so much death in her family.
Ginger had grown up with at least some combat training, and whatever family skills she had been taught. When she had learned about the Nightborn princess, her family pride forced her to act, despite the fact she was still just a young girl with minimal training. Not only had Ginger lied about just finding the girl in her trash, but she had probably kidnapped her, and then panicked when she didn’t know what to do with her. Once Requiem had let her get arrested again, she had done the only thing she could think to do and joined the competition.
Maia looked a bit surprised, and she seemed to glance at Ginger with some sympathy, but it was also guarded. From Requiem’s guess, psydric and androids would be the closest one might come to mortal enemies, especially from the psydric’s side. Yet, Ginger had still teamed up with Maia. Personally, Requiem found it a bit ironic that even among groups that were subjugated, enslaved, and controlled by a ruling class, they still found room to turn on each other. Requiem would have mocked them, but his unique body likely belonged a bit to both groups, as he was simultaneously an android with genetically modified human parts.
“Wh-what are you going to do about it?” Ginger asked in the lingering silence, looking like she was about to cry.
“I’m very far from the main royal line.” He sighed. “Whether a single psydric lives, I don’t expect that to mean much in the grand scheme of things. However, all psydric must be enslaved. This is the law.”
“I-I understand.” She looked down, her body shaking.
“She’s mine.” Requiem declared.
“I claim her as my slave,” Requiem repeated. “Given the circumstances, it’s the least that you owe me.”
“I suppose there is nothing written against that.” Lord Saphire shrugged.
“Requiem…” Ginger gave Requiem a wide-eyed look with teary eyes before blushing. “If it’s you…”
“Master, your body is acting-”
“I’m well aware of my bod- ahem… thank you, Clippy.” Requiem had an uneasy feeling his female problems were only just beginning.