The residence of Xiang Le, the glorious elected leader of the Final Republic of Earth, was wide and spacious. The compound was about the Peerless Capital of Zone Seven, surrounded by layers of guards, barbed wire, and finally marble. Within an outer compound was the inner housing facilities where the dozens of servants who kept the compound running lived.
Often, these families never left the compound. Words exchanged the servants were related to work, never Xiang Le directly, and were often quick and quiet. It as on these quiet backs that the huge area actually used for living by Xiang Le was balanced.
It was a dream of many within Zone Seven to be invited to visit and speak with Xiang Le in an intimate setting. Mostly Xiang Le only spoke during the daily broadcasts, announcing the glorious direction that the people will proceed in for the day.
Today, there were no guests. The huge halls were empty. So much so that it was a wonder that a single person would need a home so large and opulent.
But their house needed to be extremely large, after all. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be able to disguise the fact that “Xiang Le” was actually three very different women.
Xia stared at the throne sent by Donnyton that was clearly intended for her. It was a clockwork thing, with an intricate and beautiful clock face as the back of the throne. Despite her suspicion, she loved it. The brass, the copper, the moving parts…
Yet she kept her face carefully schooled into a neutral expression. “How did they know?”
Neither of the other two women standing with her answered. Again, as she had countless times in the past, Xia examined her throne.
The Throne of Clockwork Precision (L) Lvl 69: A throne made with common materials by a master craftsman. A throne that is extremely uncomfortable to sit on yet is a seat of power nonetheless. Only one can claim this throne at a time. While nearby, the owner of the Throne will gain +30 Perception, Reaction, Focus, and Control. Inexorable Time III. Panopticon IV. Unity of Ten Thousand III.
Inexorable Time III: The powers that animate the chair will always march forward. As such, the chair brings the promise of growth. Increase the experience and Skill Level gain of the owner of the throne by 9%.
Panopticon IV: The seat of the throne is important. As long as the owner of the throne is within a certain distance of her seat of power, she may monitor the actions of all within a four-kilometer area. Perception +40.
Unity of Ten Thousand III: Many parts have joined together to make a cohesive whole. That strength flows through the throne to the owner. Strength and Willpower +15.
Xia hissed in annoyance. This was an extremely useful item. For many reasons. So useful that it would seem wasteful not to take advantage of it. Especially the Panopticon function… she would finally be able to sniff out the agents of the Nemesai that were active in their Peerless Capital.
“Huuu…. Well, I like it,” Ann said as she grinned at her own silk and gold throne.
Xia pressed her lips into a line. Of course, Ann would like it. The androgynous featured 30-something was the face of Xiang Le. Despite the arrival of the System, theirs was a culture where the male heir was expected to lead. They were already dealing with so many incessant problems, it had seemed at the start of their revolution too much to also handle the dismissive backlash for their genders as well.
So Ann had become their male-enough face. She also served as a tiebreaker when the other two women couldn’t agree on how to proceed.
“Your throne certainly is… lovely,” Xia said, forcing her tongue to behave itself. As if sensing Xia’s internal struggle, Ann laughed. Xia examined the description of Ann’s throne as well, annoyed by how useful it will be.
The Throne Moved by Wind but Unaffected by Truth (Ru) Lvl 67: A throne made with no expense spared. Opulence and class emanate from the valuable silk construction. Only one can claim this throne at a time. While nearby, the owner of the Throne will Experience +30 Vitality, Resistance, and Willpower. The Touch of Silk II. Beguiling Sparkle V. Strength in Fragility II.
The Touch of Silk II: This throne is a thing of finesse and light touches. When speaking while upon the throne, the first sentence you speak to an individual will leave the strongest impression on their mind. Willpower and Control +10.
Beguiling Sparkle V: Such is the allure of the throne that those that attempt to peer at the owner of the throne will instead find themselves carefully examining the throne. To the owner of the throne, the glittering silks will become their symbol, just as they become glittering silks. All Skills relating to deception and subterfuge will experience a Twenty Five Level increase in efficacy.
Strength in Fragility: Should the owner of the Throne ever need to fight, their first attack will give them +10 Strength and Agility.
Forcibly, Xia suppressed her frown. There was no point in wasting emotion on these things. It was disturbing how well each one was tailored to each of them, but that could be rather easily explained by an information leak. Would Han Yazhu have betrayed them? Or purposefully leaked the truth of their existence in order to obtain such useful thrones?
But no, he wouldn’t. If he had, he would claim responsibility for these very appropriate gifts. He wouldn’t have returned shaking and immediately spoken out about Donnyton as a potential threat.
“So,” Xia finally said. “We must vote. I say we make preparations to attack immediately. Nothing overt, but damage their interests. They have a magical mine, do they not? Striking there will shake them, and prove we shouldn’t be messed with so casually.”
Ann harrumphed in displeasure as she threw herself on her new throne. She stretched her legs upward, lounging across it. Immediately, the air around her seemed to shimmer, and Xia found herself blinded by the strange movements of the silk chair. “But isn’t it a good gift? They certainly have proven themselves worthy of being an ally.”
To Xia’s disgust, it was only by relying on the Panopticon function of her throne that she was able to pierce through the glittering illusion around Ann and see the other woman’s pleased expression. “Indeed, it was a valuable lesson in the power of crafting, given in exchange for the finest weapons we were able to make. Honestly, considering the rarity of the Thrones, I cannot help but feel our gifts were insufficient. Which is why-”
The final of the three women finally spoke. “Have we had any other successes from the forges?”
Xia turned to look at Le, the youngest of the three that were Xiang Le. Le was standing in front of her Throne that was not a Throne, considering it from every angle. Le was a rather bookish and reserved girl who had spent her time before the System arrived obsessively reading Web Novels.
Strangely, that time that so many considered to be a waste ended up being the greatest weapon that Zone Seven possessed. It was Le that taught them about Classes and min-maxing in a fantasy world. She was the one with the grand plans, while Xia injected rationality into their governance. Ann served as the necessary tiebreaker between them.
Xia shook her head at Le’s question. “Nothing that is above Level 61. And generally, the items are Uncommon or Rare. It seems… those three early successes… you were right. A fluke.”
Le nodded absently. “Nothing good comes from relying on others in a world like this… it is your own hard work that you need to rely upon in order to build a future…”
Xia’s gaze sharpened. “So you agree that we shouldn’t take these tools? Do these amount to a threat?”
Ann rolled her eyes. “Whaaat? They are just chairs.”
” Xia hissed. Then she sighed. “I’m sorry, it’s just- they fit us perfectly. Too perfectly. That means-”
“That means it might be Protagonist Correction,” Le remarked, still circling her Throne.
Xia’s hands tightened into fists. But she forced her anger down.
I thought we were past this.
“We performed the experiments. No special power appeared when we left you alone in front of monsters. There exists no Protagonist Correction in the System.”
“You saved me. In a way, you could be considered the correction,” Le pointed out. Ann began to chuckle even as Xia wanted to tear Le’s hair out. This was a conversation they rehashed over and over, every time some chance happened to go their way.
But to Xia’s surprise, Le then sighed. “…but there is another explanation; we aren’t the protagonists. Which means… I think I would quite like to meet this Randidly Ghosthound.”
“He didn’t make the chairs himself,” Xia pointed out waspishly. Then she shook her head and walked over toward a small table. She picked up a teacup filled with hour old tea and took a long sip. The bitter flavor danced across her tongue, calming her immensely. That was how long they had been stuck here, frozen by indecision.
An hour. An hour was a long time for a country.
There is no point in getting angry. Caution is practical. Balance is desirable. Temerity is dangerous in this new world. Like all others, I am flawed and can be mistaken.
Since she was nearby, Xia examined the final Throne given to them by Donnyton, her eyes tracing the curving jade.
The Jade Throne to be Coveted and Never Held (L) Lvl 65: A throne made by combining elemental energy with jade shaped by a master craftsman. This Throne will never have an owner, although all may covet it. Those that view it will be able to partake in its strange and wondrous energies. The more individuals who view it, the more the effect received is diminished. When viewing, individuals can receive +1000 in Health, Stamina, and Mana regeneration. Bones of the Earth III. Object of Desire II. Secrets of the Ancients VI.
Bones of the Earth III: This Throne cannot be ever seized, but it will provide some defensive bonuses to those who grasp at it. +35 Endurance. In addition, it is easier to gain Skill Levels in earth-related Skills.
Object of Desire II: All who view it for a prolonged period of time will come to covet this Throne.
Secrets of the Ancients VI: Hidden within the elemental energies of the throne there lies a powerful secret. After sufficient study, a viewer will unlock Paths that will lead themselves closer to power.
The most confusing and most dangerous of the Thrones, Le’s throne certainly had some very strange functions. Besides opening up Paths for her, it would allow her to train almost constantly. Who wouldn’t desire such a totem when the Regeneration boosts were so ridiculous?
“It’s dangerous,” Le finally said with a sigh, tracing the lines of the throne with her soft fingers. “This… will be a hard cross to bear.”
“So?” Xia prompted. “The attack?”
After a brief hesitation, Le shook her head. “I’m against it. We need more information. We should open an embassy, both in the Peerless Capital and in Donnyton. Use that to find out… how this sort of construction is possible.”
“If its a tie, I vote no attack,” Ann commented.
Xia sighed. “Fine. Then let’s establish the embassy. But I get to pick the personnel. We can’t have any mistakes.
The other two women nodded. Each one of them was consumed by their Throne and the possibilities it opened for them.
Xia hoped they wouldn’t regret this.