The Novel's Villain - Chapter 176
51. Gift (2)
The New World Universe expanded The Maze. However, though currently a huge topic of discussion, it was only a small part of its actual universe.
When an official announcement about it was made, the players couldn’t help but get excited. Articles speculating what other worlds would be added in the future began to pop out as well. It wouldn’t be strange no matter what form the new ones appeared in, at least, considering they were now playing in outer space.
Since the New World Universe launched, the number of people traveling around the globe had declined sharply. After all, it was way more fun to go out into space and look at a giant gas planet than to visit a tourist attraction.
What the vast universe had to offer could never be found on any one planet. That made even just mining exciting.
Several large corporations had already posted job offers revolving around that activity, with some of them even providing huge mining boats. As a result, ships bearing companies’ trademarks and logos had become common.
If there was one trend among players these days, it was finding new planets and setting up landmarks that symbolized each country. Hence, whenever coordinates of new solar systems were released, everyone jumped into exploring it.
It was the era of pioneering the grand universe.
This provoked nations to set up their own landmarks on habitable planets.
Initially, only guilds did it, but a phenomenon soon occurred where people gathered together according to their countries. Though it started as a game, it soon became a battle for pride. The moment Chinese players went bankrupt while trying to recreate the Great Wall even became a famous event.
Moreover, with companies starting to step into marketing, planets with large resources often became exposed to broadcasts, and new businesses had begun to pop up.
That wasn’t all.
The Sci-Fi World’s technology and the Maze’s magical construction technology exhibited tremendous synergy.
The universe was free.
[Title: [Advertising] A new place in Gangwon-do?
Author: STK Director Lee Min-soo
Galactic exploration will always be fun.
After the release of certain coordinates, my team and I immediately headed to it, becoming the first to explore it. What we found is a solar system with a relatively young star at the southernmost point of coordinate A21. Everyone knows that its habitable planet has been named Gangwon-do!
Gangwon-do is about 1.5 times the size of Earth and has an average temperature of -60 degrees Celsius. It has lots of steep terrains and is always covered with snow and ice, allowing everyone to ski all year round!
I’ll get straight to the point!
Gangwon-do Winter Park is now open!
Enjoy various winter activities in its mountain ranges, which are twice as high as Mount Everest!
[1,500km Beginner Course.jpg]
With the portal provided by the Magic guild, everyone will be able to reach the summit with ease, providing you with a thrill that can’t be attained on Earth!
If skiing isn’t one of your interests, then fret not!
[Planet Gangwon-do Resort.jpg]
A state-of-the-art hotel created by STK and several partner companies and guilds is waiting for you.
It is equipped with a mana-engine-powered spa, the universe’s largest swimming pool, and special Maze meals!
Of course, we also have amenities for couples! Come with your loved one, and enjoy a romantic room and a spa for two! Leave all birthdays, anniversaries, and events to Director Lee Min-soo!
Visit now and enjoy our discounts and promos!
*Admission fee (special discount from Director Lee Min-soo!)
100,000 → 70,000 dimension gold coins!
*Underway hotel specials! (Excellent proposal from Director Lee Min-soo!)
Double Mountain View: 2 million → 1.5 million!
VIP Suite: 3 million → 2.2 million!
We come fully equipped with planetary shuttles! (Long-distance warp possible)
*Transportation fee not included. However, if you find Director Lee Min-soo driving it himself, it’s free!
Rabokki: I’ve been here once. It’s a nice place.
└STK Director Lee Min-soo (Author): Thank you, Rabokki! We aim to please!
Bottomless: I heard they’re also building a casino, and they’re making quick progress at it.
└STK Director Lee Min-soo (Author): It’s scheduled to open in a month! We can confidently say that it’s better than any other casino in the universe. You’ll soon be able to enjoy the hot thrill of gambling. We’re even planning to include Russian Roulette as one of its games, where you bet on your avatar.
└Dragging: Huh… Do you have wrists?
└STK Director Lee Min-soo (Author): If you joke around, yours might be cut off. But don’t worry! If you find me, I’ll reattach it to you myself.
Leisureman: I took the 1,500 km course… It was crazy. I almost died, but when I asked for help, Director Lee Min-soo drove the shuttle himself to reach me. He’s definitely reliable.
└STK Director Lee Min-soo (Author): If Leisureman calls me, I’ll go anywhere. Haha. I’m really glad you’re safe.
Dresser: The Dark Empire soldiers also visit it secretly. I’ve seen some of them skiing wearing nothing but underwear. They’re really crazy.
└STK Director Lee Min-soo (Author): We are basically neutral grounds. Many Dark Empire soldiers visit us, yes, and that’s why we also sell T-panty swimwear for Elonti warriors.
Gangwon-do was extremely popular. Its hotel was quite expensive, though, and only those with reservations could go there.
Companies were flocking to the Holy Union since paying taxes meant they’d be free from its laws. In fact, they could just kill rude customers to lessen the stress on their employees.
The planet where American companies invested was famous for its casinos. Various dangerous gambling activities that couldn’t be done on Earth took place in it, with some even putting the participants’ lives on the line. However, it was precisely due to that that its financial worth grew at a tremendous rate.
‘Earthlings prosper wherever they go.’ Jin-woo thought as he received a report.
They built entertainment-based cities on hot and barren planets, and on frozen planets, resorts were created. Those with deep seas and waves as high as mountain ranges turned into tourist attractions for surfers.
Since it was still just a game, they could commit deeds here that would be considered illegal in the real world.
In the Holy Union, one would be untouchable by the law for as long as they paid their taxes, and the Dark Empire Army took money from players in the name of protection. Places both sides spent their money on became neutral zones.
To date, 224 planets had been discovered, and 64 partner companies had entered the New World Universe. Since G&P held an investment briefing, the number of partner companies had been increasing.
Jin-woo was currently on Gangwon-do.
He had dominated many dimensions and had experienced a lot of situations. However, now that he had thought about it, he had never held a workshop. Hence, Se-yeon gave a suggestion, which Yoo-na and the general manager agreed to.
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The general manager, Golden Women’s Association members, and key executives from each dimension all gathered and came to Gangwon-do’s workshop.
He had no intention of doing anything in particular. The workshop was only nominal, and they could just consider it as playing or working as a group.
He rented a VIP swimming pool.
A huge snow-capped mountain range could be seen through its window, but the pool was warm since it was constantly being heated up.
Members of the Golden Women’s Association were wearing swimsuits, making them look quite desirable.
Yoo-na’s were quite provocative in particular, which wasn’t like her. Jin-woo pretended not to be, but he couldn’t help but feel a little concerned. When she came to his side, her ears turned red.
Arcana and Hee-yeon also looked great.
Se-yeon was… just floating in the water.
“Uh… I never thought I would be doing a workshop on another planet.”
“Well, I’m just here to play, but this reunion isn’t so bad. What about the Maze, though?”
“I went skiing with Heo-yeong. She said she would try to finish 1,500 km. So far, it has killed 143 people.”
Sipping a can of beer, Luna was surprisingly calm. The Archangel Chief followed her around, nagging her constantly.
“The goddess drinks alcohol in such a frivolous manner…”
“It tastes so much better like this. Would you like to try it?”
“I will teach you how to drink.”
“Oh! I want to go swimming!”
Luna started to swim using both her arms and legs as paddles, making her look like a dog. When Dae-jin saw her, he put his hand on her forehead.
“… I’ll teach you how to swim in a way that befits your elegance, Luna.”
“But this is comfortable…”
“Great Emperor! Come here!”
Luna ran away to Jin-woo’s side. As the archangel and the angels chased after her, he grinned.
“There’s no one else but us here. Try to take it easy. Well, there’s a zero-gravity sauna over there… Since it’s weightless, wouldn’t it make you a little taller?”
The archangel and the angels flinched.
“Hey, if the Great Emperor thinks so, then… Maybe we should try it…”
There were already golden angels in the zero-gravity sauna. When the angels joined, a fierce battle of nerves unfolded.
Luna could finally feel at ease.
She dipped her feet in the warm water as she chewed on her squeed and drank her beer.
“This is heaven!”
She didn’t seem to be talking about Heaven.
Yoo-na also took a leisurely rest next to him.
Everyone stared at Jin-woo.
‘I think I forgot something…’
He couldn’t quite remember what it was.
Jin-woo suddenly looked down, finding a strange-looking insect below him. It wasn’t a bug from this planet. Rather, it looked like it had been buried in a spaceship.
He turned his gaze and looked at the huge mountain range outside the window.
When he heard someone call him, he moved his gaze back onto the insect again.
It jumped up, waving its legs.
[So that’s what your Majesty likes! Their forms are inefficient, but if that’s what the Great Emperor desires…]
He could feel the Cockroach Queen’s energy from the little bug. It was probably one of the many she ruled.
According to his Magic Eye of Information, she was close to becoming an emperor, perhaps because she had devoured the power of the Machine Emperor. She also gained [S+] Insect Domination as a special skill, which allowed her to manipulate or modify any insect.
He released the Cockroach clan on the Machine Emperor’s planet and left them behind.
[The prey the Great Emperor gave us is trying to escape. It seems to have gone out into space. We can track it, but we need your Majesty’s permission.]
[It has infiltrated and captured a total of 126 planets, all of which are inhabited by humans.]
It seemed to have reached all the galaxies dominated by the Delox Empire.
[On your command, I will go and destroy it myself. Your will is my life and my light. Your shadow, my sanctuary. Please give the order.]
The benefits of MAX favorability were scary.
“It must have gone to another planetary system, though.”
[Studying the warp drives of the machine fleet you dominated, we created similar organs.]
Jin-woo remembered leaving the fleet conquered by the power of domination behind as well.
The Cockroach clan was a lot smarter than he thought.
He decided to leave this to the Cockroach Queen. Since her forces had eaten much of their enemy, they could now detect it with certainty.
After all, if not firmly rooted out, another could be born in the future, even if they could slay it right now. For as long as any of its data survived, it could resurrect its former glory by fusing with humans again.
“I’ll leave the Machine Emperor to you.”
[We shall carry out your will perfectly.]
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“Don’t harm humans. Protect them.”
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[As you wish. However, I would love to be rewarded. Even if it’s just for a moment, would it be alright to meet you?]
Her voice was hoarse and blunt but quite elegant and noble. When Jin-woo nodded, the bug looked quite delighted. He found its reaction so adorable that it made him feel happy, but he didn’t show it.
“I’ll be going out for a while.”
It was strange to see things like this happen while trying to relax.
“The Dark Emperor is now equipped with a warp system! You can now work without sacrificing your mobility.” Se-yeon shouted as he walked away.
Jin-woo boarded the Dark Emperor for the first time in quite a while, then moved to where the Machine Emperor was.
The sight that dawned upon him rendered him speechless.
The Machine Emperor’s planet was covered in brown slime, and in the stellar light, numerous cockroaches wriggled.
In addition, there were more of them in planetary orbit. Their transformation looked bizarre, perhaps because the power of domination was instilled in them when they assumed such a form.
They had essentially become cosmic cockroaches flying freely in outer space.
Carrying out his orders, their army flew towards their target, their sizes ranging from mothership-class to escort-class.
There were also some that served as large transports with many battle cockroaches on board.
‘What… Ah, they’ll be fine.’
He knew it would take a long time for him to search and destroy the machines one by one, which would ultimately mean he’d fail to get rid of them completely.
On the contrary, since she could dominate over any kind of insect, it would be best to leave this to the Cockroach Queen and the network she had formed.
Jin-woo just calmly waited for the Machine Emperor to escape.
The planet’s surface soon opened, and a sixth of its core quickly detached. It was so large that it looked slow, but it was pretty fast.
Its voice no longer sounded like the Machine Emperor. Rather, it now seemed to harbor intense desperation. Enduring the pain as much as it could, it accelerated with all its might while building an escape engine.
It definitely seemed to be having a hard time. It was tortured and eaten alive, after all.
Still, it couldn’t go crazy because it was a machine.
The Machine Emperor managed to escape from the cockroaches that clung to him. The sight made Jin-woo realize why humans craved freedom and made decisions based on emotion.
The cockroaches stopped pursuing it since he had appeared. This would be the first time it’d experience hope turning into despair.
When he blocked its path, its red eye glared at the Dark Emperor.
“I think I can dominate you at that level.”
Its power had been decreased so much it was even difficult to call him an emperor. The Dark Emperor quickly approached it and pierced through its red lens.
Black smoke-like tentacles spewed out of the Dark Emperor’s arms, clinging to the surface of the Machine Emperor, causing it to scream. By the time it had calmed down, its gigantic core-like body was already covered in black smoke.
Several giant pupils rose from its surface, all of them more akin to monsters than machines. Its red lenses turned golden as well, making it look terrifying enough to give anyone goosebumps.
[You have completely dominated over the Machine Emperor. A large amount of experience has been acquired.]
[The Machine Emperor’s program has been reset. The Delox Empire disappears into history.]
[All areas of the Delox Empire have been absorbed by the Dark Empire.]
[A dark star is born!]
*[S+] Dark Star
An artificial planet about 1/6th the size of the moon.
It had its own research and production facilities. Combined with the Dark Emperor, Jin-woo could unleash energy capable of destroying planets. The AI, previously known as the Machine Emperor, controlled its main system, which would prove quite helpful in the Dark Empire’s operations.
*[SS+] Planetary Annihilation Cannon (Dark Emperor only)
*[S+] D Dark Empire Operation
*[S+] Planetary Supercomputer
*[S+] Planetary Resource Mining Machine
The area under the Delox Empire’s control was far too large.
It seemed better to entrust its operation to the Dark Star rather than handle it himself.
The biggest reason was the hassle.
[Welcome, Great Emperor. I am the Dark Star AI. Please grant me a name.]
Jin-woo roughly decided on a name.
“If you’re a computer, does that mean you can run games?”
[Searching for games.]
[There are 321,327,561 computer games registered in the Delox Empire database.]
“That’s a lot.”
[Requesting permission to access your mana to provide personalized recommendations.]
When he nodded, Dhaki analyzed his taste through his mana.
[I recommend ‘Thumping Harem Town.’ Upload to Dark Emperor?]
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A screen appeared in front of Jin-woo, its background music echoing from all directions.
Since it was actually a pretty decent game, his return got delayed.
Nevertheless, Jin-woo had now gained a supercomputer with unmatched performance.
* * *
The Lainez Kingdom gathered fleets from all the galaxies they ruled over. The Space Federation signed a mutual defense treaty with them, which made them gather their forces as well.
This was all to fight the Dark Empire.
Hundreds of battleships gathered around the planet Lainez, the capital of the Kingdom. However, since many of their vessels were lost in the war against the Machine Fleet, their power had plummeted.
Still, many thought they would give the Dark Empire a run for their money since Count Lear had developed a new weapon.
Lear filled up with happiness when she thought of him.
The mana crystal he gave her inspired her tremendously. She couldn’t fully analyze the mana it contained or collect it, but she was a genius.
With enough hard work, she created a quasi-mana engine. Although its output fell significantly compared to actual mana engines, it was far superior to the previous engine they were using.
Queen Leona Lainez III declared the Holy Union as an ally and expressed her deep gratitude to them.
It wasn’t known how far the machines had reached, but they at least wanted to protect the planets on the edge of the Delox Empire. They couldn’t let the many people there get eaten by the machines.
The will of the Queen became the will of the Space Federation as well, all in hopes of mending the broken hearts of the people through political means.
“Count Lear, you have done a great job.”
“I was just doing the right thing, your Majesty.”
“Your research has given me the strength to fight that horrendous army of machines.”
“However… The Dark Empire…”
The Dark Empire was a faction beyond imagination.
Having seen them in person, she knew that well.
“When humans with good souls come together as one, they can face any foe. The history of the universe proves that.”
Queen Leona had always been elegant and an amazing leader.
Never showing hesitation or embarrassment, she decided to direct this operation herself.
She stretched out her hand from the Main Bridge of the Royal Lainez battleship, causing all of her fleet to move to the Delox Empire’s outskirts.
[The warp to the Delat Galaxy Z11 coordinates is now complete.]
[Our operation will now begin… Huh?]
[What is that… Aaaah!]
Queen Leona looked in front of her, finding a blue planet with a total population of 3 billion.
However, something was obscuring it.
She showed surprise for the first time since she was born.
Leah had a blank expression on her face.
Like a battleship, a giant bug was chewing on the satellite bases around it.
Just then, the communication came in.
[This is L-l-lazra from the Satellite Defense Headquarters! G-giant bugs are… Aghhhh!]
[Huh? No! Please!]
The disgusting insect’s mouth opened and swallowed people whole. Long tentacles then spewed out of it, tracking and devouring all that had gone into hiding.
They faithfully followed the Great Emperor’s orders.
This planet and its moons had already been infused with the Machine Emperor’s code. Instead of a fusion device, it used a brainwashing device for AI development instead.
Hence, it required planetary purification.
The cockroaches planned to leave the humans in the empty space of their stomachs for a while and release them when things were safe.
Once they entered their stomachs, they fell into a state of deep sleep. Tentacles would then provide them with plenty of nutrients and dissolved pollutants, allowing them to stay healthy. They even provided free health checkups and treatment for incurable diseases.
But to others, they appeared to be eating them.
The giant cockroach turned its head and looked at the Lainez Kingdom’s fleet, causing its eyes and Queen Leona’s to meet.
The cockroach’s mouth tore open, revealing its sharp fangs. Even in outer space, thick liquid that did not freeze could be seen dangling from it.
“Don’t worry! We’re on your side! We’re here to eat all the bad machines! Just stay safe inside us. It won’t hurt, I promise.”
It gave her the purest and kindest smile it could muster.
Queen Leona slumped down and fell to the side.
“Y-your Highness has fallen! Whoops!”
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The others around her also began to fall.
This was the first time such weak humans had encountered them.
It was natural for their mentality to break just by looking at them.
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They didn’t even know what they were.