Jake appeared together with Villy inside a new, far smaller hall. A few seconds later, Vesperia also popped into existence.

“I greet the Malefic One and my sire,” she bowed towards the snake god after she oriented herself.

“Hey again,” Jake said with a smile. “Say, what have you been doing during this gift exchange?”

“I simply went back to the waiting room,” Vesperia answered. “My presence would have caused undue issues if I had been there, and I would personally want to avoid it. This choice did allow me to converse with Sandy, and I must say, they are quite interesting.”

“Yeah, Sandy is a character,” Jake agreed wholeheartedly.

“Ahem, not to interrupt, but we got gods waiting,” Villy cut in.

“Oh, right,” Jake said. It probably wouldn’t be a good idea to make them wait longer than necessary.

The hall had a long table, and Jake promptly took a seat towards one end, with Vesperia sitting next to him. The Viper took the seat at the end as he allowed those waiting to enter.

Presences descended one after another. In total, nine figures appeared, split into groups with three gods in each. One group consisted of three beastfolk and had two women and one man among them. The man was big and brawny, and Jake guessed he was descended from some kind of bear, while one of the women had cat-like features. The final one had feathers covering parts of her body and looked a bit like a harpy, if barely.

The automata looked a lot more alike, with none of them having discernable genders. Their designs were all slightly varied, but they mostly looked the same on the outside. All had silvery metal exteriors, and the only big differences were their heads.

Finally, there were the representatives of the Endless Empire. Jake instantly felt it as he looked at them. All three are True Royals.

Needless to say, all three of them were also women, and they all looked remarkably similar to Vesperia. True, there were natural differences, but they were all tall and looked mostly human, except for some small insect-like features. One of them had a third compound eye on her forehead and wings on her back, another just had two feelers, and a third looked significantly more muscular and wore what looked like natural chitin armor.

The three groups barely teleported in as the lines were formed just from where they appeared. The Endless Empire on one side, the Automata Legion on the other, with the United Tribes clearly neutral and in the middle.

“I welcome the three of you to our little private chat. I hope I don’t need to say that any hostilities will not be treated kindly,” the Viper said as he looked at the nine of them.

Jake knew just from feeling what little leaked of their auras that none of them were at the level of the Viper. He did find it interesting that all nine subtly leaked their auras, almost competing with each other, and from what Jake could see, the two strongest ones were the True Royal with the compound eye and the bird lady.

“I, too, hope all that transpires today will be peaceful,” the bird lady said, speaking for her group. “And excuse me for the late introduction, Chosen of the Malefic Viper. I am known as the Blazeheaven Phoenix Goddess.”

“A fire phoenix that attained godhood, and a quite strong one at that. One of the elders of the United Tribes with power surpassing that of a Godqueen,” Villy quickly briefed him.

“A pleasure to make your acquaintance,” Jake nodded, looking her in the eye.

She smiled in response and raised an eyebrow. “I had heard of your resistance to the presence of gods… and if I didn’t know better, I would have taken you for one in disguise.”

“I do have my talents,” Jake answered with a shrug.

“That you do,” she nodded, giving space for the other groups to talk. Especially one group seemed at the edge of their seats. The Endless Empire had been patient and, upon seeing their chance, jumped in.

“We of the Endless Empire also greet the Chosen,” the three-eyed True Royal said before turning to Vesperia. “And we greet our long-lost little sister.”

“Thank you,” Vesperia said with a genuine smile. “It is good to finally make contact with you all. I have heard the call of home during this wait.”

The True Royal smiled even more. “That is good.”

Yet she still seemed a bit hesitant for some reason, and Jake was happy that Villy came in with the quick assist.

“She is cautious because of you, or more accurately, what you may have done with her during this past month since her birth. They can all feel she has some level of attachment to you, and the cause of this is unknown. It would not be a stretch to say that they did not just come here to convince Vesperia to join them but to convince you to let her go. Their guess would likely be that she is currently under some kind of contract forced upon her shortly after birth. Be it a slave contract or one less intense. As for why they would think this, well, we already told them that creating her and others like her isn’t easily done, so what kind of moron would do that and just let the creation go without any precautions? Oh, right, you would. Should probably make them aware of how much of a moron you are before a too big misunderstanding is formed.”

Jake hadn’t even considered that angle. Maybe it was because putting her under any kind of contract hadn’t occurred to him. Logically, he could see why others could think he would have done that, and it was probably a good idea to dispel any upcoming issues before-

“No need to worry, my sire has not placed any restriction on me or forced me into any agreements,” Vesperia said before Jake even had a chance to say it.

He saw the three True Royals look visibly relieved while a faint shift in the auras of the three automata made it evident they did not approve.

“Vesperia, what are your plans following this?” the center True Royal asked before regarding Jake and Villy. “And what are the intentions of the Order of the Malefic Viper?”

“I believe I already made my stance clear. I am making no decisions here, simply backing up those made by my Chosen,” the Viper said in a relaxed tone.

“And what does the Chosen intend?”

“Nothing,” Jake shrugged. “I didn’t do any of this with any ulterior motives in mind, and as the Viper also said during the opening speech, I didn’t even intend on creating a True Royal in the first place. Not to say her appearance didn’t thoroughly exceed any expectations I could have had, and I am proud of her. This is also the exact reason I have no interest in limiting her Path.”

“Truly?” the goddess from the Endless Empire asked skeptically.

“Truly,” Jake nodded.

“I believe you also asked me of my intentions, and as my sire said, then I am fully capable of making my own decisions,” Vesperia cut in once more. “I wish to return to the Endless Empire and reclaim that which is mine. I want to return home.”

“Malefic One, are you truly just going to sit back and allow this to happen?” one of the three automata finally made themselves known, speaking in a clear male voice. “Will you simply watch a valuable asset leave your purview without any objections or compensation?”

The True Royal frowned. “Stay out of this cursed metal. Even if compensation was being asked, we of the Endless Empire would gladly match any offer your kind could ever present.”

“Oh? Who do you think the Order would rather deal with? A group of insects that would swarm and consume this entire planet the first chance they get, or a fellow Primordial’s faction?” the automata shut back.

“How about neither, as I am not the one you are here to talk with,” the Viper cut in again in a stern voice. “Tell me, how many times will I have to explain this before you get it? I am not making any decisions here. Jake is.”

The ectognas and automata both seemed to frown, and Jake honestly got it. Their skepticism was rather obvious. Most would believe that when the Viper said Jake made all decisions, what he actually meant was that the Viper would still make all the decisions, but Jake would be responsible and get any blowback and benefits of whatever happened. Even if Jake wanted to make his own decisions, and the Viper allowed it, what Chosen would not, at the very least, consult their Patron? Consulting, in this case, often just resulting in doing exactly what your Patron told you to do while claiming it was your own decision.

These gods probably just wanted to cut through the red tape… not knowing that this wasn’t some political game. Jake and Villy were just genuinely weird.

“The Malefic One speaks the truth,” Vesperia once more added. “While I cannot claim to fully comprehend the nature of their relationship, the decisions of the Chosen are his own, unaffected by the Vipers in most cases.”

Scrutinizing eyes landed on Jake as he shrugged. “One of the benefits of my Bloodline allowing me to resist presences is my ability to also resist the pressure usually exerted by a Patron. I value the Viper’s input, but I make my own choices.”

“There you have it,” the Viper said once more. “Part of why I like him.”

“Very well,” the automata nodded, finally looking at Jake. “You claim to have created this True Royal on accident. Are you now aware of the danger she represents?”

“Danger?” the three-eyed True Royal scoffed. “Oh please, we of the Endless Empire have no negative inclinations towards the Order nor the Chosen himself.”

“I do know the significance her presence has to the multiverse and the wider implications, yes. I didn’t know before I made her, but I do know now,” Jake cut in, not wanting to listen to two gods bicker. “Not that it changes anything.”

He looked at the automata in charge and leaned forward. “Let me make one thing clear. Vesperia makes her own choices, and unless Vesperia decides she wants to be exterminated by the Automata Legion, that isn’t going to happen. So if you hoped to come here and buy her death, you might as well leave now. Even if it was something I wanted and was able to decide for her, the answer would still be no.”

Villy nodded at his side, giving Jake the extra confidence to directly confront the god.

The automata clearly did not like what he was hearing. “Your answer indicates you do not truly comprehend the impact. While the Vespernat True Royal is a problem in itself, it is not the core issue. Your ability to create a True Royal in the first place is. What is to happen if you decide to repeat your feat and create another? Create five more? Ten? All of them? Are we of the Automata Legion to simply sit back as the Order of the Malefic Viper, and you, as their Chosen, strengthen the Endless Empire?”

“I never said that either,” Jake shook his head. “That would only be a problem if I made more True Royals, wouldn’t it?”

“Are you not capable of that?” the True Royal leader asked with a deep frown and a tone filled with worry.

“I never said that,” Jake clarified, seeing relief among both the United Tribes and the Endless Empire. “What I am saying is that I can’t just affect the evolutions of creatures like this whenever I want. I will not disclose my limit or if I even have one, but there are restrictions.”

“If I may ask,” the bird lady from the United Tribes reentered the conversation. “I noticed the Sylphian Hawk, and am I right to assume you had a hand in her evolution too?”

Jake nodded, seeing no need to hide it.

“The Sylphian Hawk is at the very least part elemental, so… does that mean your abilities are not limited to flesh and blood lifeforms?”

Suddenly the Automata Legion looked a lot more interested.

“I can’t see why it would be, though with my current use of it, I cannot make any guarantees,” Jake shook his head.

“If I may give my insight?” Villy asked Jake.

Seeing no harm and trusting the Viper, Jake nodded. “Go ahead.”

“What Jake does is related to the Truesoul and Origin, which is also why you see no innate karmic link between him and the three creatures he helped evolve. He does not forcefully do anything… he simply leads something down a Path,” the Viper explained.

The automata leader looked in thought for a while as he summoned a small silver sphere.

“Could you examine this?” he asked as he threw it to Jake.

Jake caught it and studied the silver sphere.

[Automata Centurion Core (C-grade)] – The core of a C-grade Automata Centurion. [Redacted].

He was surprised at seeing the description redacted, but even if he couldn’t see any details on the item, he could feel enough.

“Does it have Records?” Jake just asked as he threw it back.

“Naturally,” the automata answered as the core disappeared mid-air.

“Then the answer is yes.”

“Are you saying you can affect all Records?” the True Royal leader asked before any of the others had a chance.

“I won’t say all Records… but I see no reason why there would be any creature with a Truesoul and a Path I wouldn’t be able to affect. Well, outside of the known enlightened races, of course,” Jake said in a joking tone.

Yeah, revealing he could potentially do that, too, wasn’t gonna end well. Technically also wasn’t a lie either, as he only knew he could affect himself, and his own enlightened race wasn’t known.

“Well, there you have it,” Villy said with a smile. “Now, no more questions about the ability itself, alright? Just know it has limited usage, only Jake here can do it, and the scope of what it can truly do is as of yet unknown. Ah, and of course, if any of you deem it necessary to kill him as you find the ability too dangerous… I would take that as a personal slight.”

After a brief pause, they all nodded as the True Royal added on. “To clarify, the Endless Empire would also demand an explanation.”

“The United Tribes, too,” the bird lady said.

The automata leader said nothing but just nodded in acknowledgment. He seemed to be quite deep in consideration before he spoke.

“We of the Automata Legion would like to, at the very least, request a potential agreement to limit the creation of any more True Royals. We would also gladly offer assistance in exploring ways for a potential partnership to form,” he said instead.

“Pathetic,” the True Royal scoffed. “We of the Endless Empire would like to discuss a potential repopulation effort towards the unjustly slain True Royals of the past to once more bring the ectognamorph races to balance.”

“Rather than make such contentious uses of your ability, we of the United Tribes would love to discuss the possibility of allowing some of our long-lost ancestral races to once more see the light of day,” the bird lady also chimed in.

All three of them looked at Jake expectedly, but he could only shake his head. “Right now, I can make no commitments. I am unable to repeat a similar feat for now, and I want to focus entirely on my trip into Nevermore. But I will reveal that I have no plans on creating any more True Royals for now, but I would rather explore the full extent of this ability before I do anything deliberately. Anything that comes out of it will be purely accidental.”

That was the best Jake could come up with to not promise any of them anything. Not directly saying he would create more True Royals, but not cutting off the possibility he would make more also helped appease both the Automata Legion and the Endless Empire.

“Hm, very well,” the automata leader said. “We shall take our leave for now, temporarily satisfied with the response, though we do find it regretful to see the True Royal being allowed to remain alive to spread more needless destruction in the multiverse. To thank the Chosen and hopefully establish a positive rapport, I would be honored to offer a parting gift.”

The leader went forward and handed Jake something that looked like a small metal figurine of a futuristic-looking spaceship, the entire thing no bigger than what could fit in the palm of his hand.

“Thank you?” Jake said, looking at the figurine. With his Perception, he could see it was damn well made and filled with details. It looked straight out of a sci-fi movie and had a long slick body. As for what he would use it for…

“Here is the controller, remember to bind it,” the automata god then handed him a small box.

Jake took it and realized what he was dealing with after infusing a bit of energy. It wasn’t a miniature… it was just shrunk down.

He had just been given a damn spaceship.

Arnold is gonna love this.

“I will be sure to put it to good use, I thank you and the Automata Legion,” Jake answered.

The automata nodded and looked at Jake one more time. “The ship includes the ability to communicate directly with the Automata Legion and has no tracking features, nor will it attempt to track you even when using the communicator. Once more, I wish the Chosen and the Malefic One a good day. May your trip to Nevermore be bountiful.”

With that, the three automata gods teleported out, leaving just the United Tribes and Endless Empire.

And from what Jake could see… they had been doing a bit of their own talking as Vesperia was staring at the three-eyed True Royal, and his intuition told him they were having a secret talk through telepathy.

I hope they aren’t talking smack about me…