Chapter 18: the great leap forward

I decided to ‘take a break’ for the next few days, not fast forwarding my world or making any big changes. There was, however, a reason for this! I now had several systems uploaded to the Keeper’s custom content, and only needed to wait for them to be sold. Whether it was the World Host, Community Afterlife, or the Trinity’s Sin, I expected each would become fairly popular in worlds that qualified for them. 

To prove this point, after waiting for just a day, I had sold enough World Hosts to bring my point total back up to 25. After that, Trinity’s Sin started selling slowly. So, by the end of the second day, my point total was now 50.

As for what I was doing during these two days? Mostly, I was just sitting on the couch with Terra, in the living room for our Admin Room. We were conducting ‘research’ on systems that could potentially be invented for the Keeper system. That’s right, we were watching TV shows and movies from the previous Earth incarnation. Terra had them archived in her head, so recreating them like this wasn’t a problem for her.

For the last couple days, Terra had kept Aurivy close, ignoring the fact that the halfling goddess had no personality yet. To Terra, she still seemed adorable, and she refused to simply stick her in the same room with all the other deities. I made a mental note to have Aurivy be the next goddess to get a personality, if for no other reason than to give Terra someone to play with. I mean, eventually they’ll all get one, so it’s just a matter of the order.

I could probably wait for a week or two and get enough points to buy the last two goddesses I needed, and personalities for all of them. But first, there was something else I needed to do. After two days of ‘research’, I bought the Level Limit system for 25 points. There were a few options within the system itself, which let me limit either individual class levels, cumulative levels, or some combination of the two.

For now, I set a cumulative level limit at 30. That should be plenty of room for them to grow, while also keeping the monsters a challenge to help develop them. As for when I’ll increase the level cap? I don’t know, it depends on how far they get with this. I also still need to save up points for the next tier of monsters before then, but that didn’t look like it would be too much of a problem.

Anyways, after the level limit was put in place, I didn’t have to worry so much about the world spiralling out of control. At this point… it should be fine to do my first big fast forward. Well, first one since the elves established their kingdom. But first, I decided to consult Terra on the matter. I mean, she’d know more than me whether it would be a horrible idea, given past experiences.

“Terra?” I asked, finding her on the couch nuzzling against the vacant Aurivy.

“Hmm?” She looked up to me, only half paying attention. 

“Wanted your opinion on something real quick.” I sat down on the couch beside her. This was a red leather couch, which was almost as comfortable as the bed that Terra had created in our room. So, it was no real surprise to find her here.

“What’s up?” She asked, closing her eyes for a moment, probably to see if anything had happened with the system. When she found nothing unusual, she looked at me more curiously.

“I was thinking about doing another fast forward. This one by a thousand years or so. Wanted your input on the matter.”

When she heard what I had said, she nodded her head slightly. It seemed like a small smile appeared on her face a moment. “Ah, is that it? Well, let’s see… most of your races would be just fine with a thousand year advancement, or even ten thousand years. But, the halflings.. They haven’t made nearly as much progress, or established a clear sanctuary.”

“Without supervision, forget a thousand years, they might not last a hundred. So… if you’re going to do it, I’d suggest making an ‘emergency’ alarm. That way, if their population falls by a certain amount, it will alert you and pause the world.”

Her suggestion was reasonable, and entirely valid. Aside from the halflings, nobody else was in immediate danger of extinction. “Could Aurivy start directing some halflings to gather together and form a community?”

Terra thought about it for a moment. “She could, but at the moment it’s unlikely that most of them would listen. They have a strong spirit of exploration, and if a voice appeared in their heads telling them to go back, they would probably shrug it off. Right now, two small populations, averaging a thousand halflings each, have come together to make villages. Most of those are children or elderly, so the vast majority is still exploring.”

I nodded my head at that. “Alright, I’ll go set it to fast forward, then. Hopefully, more villages form, or the current ones grow.” I got up to head to the room, but Terra grabbed my hand to stop me, pulling me back down on the couch. I yelped in surprise, nearly falling onto her, before looking at her curiously.

“Why not just do it from here?” She asked as she lifted Aurivy to put her between us, then leaned over. “More comfortable.”

“Huh?” I couldn’t help voicing my confusion. “I thought I had to use the computer now?”

Terra shook her head, closing her eyes as she cuddled up against Aurivy and I. “Nope, can do it wherever.”

“Isn’t that just something you can do as a system companion?”

Her answer was simply to shake her head again. “Nope. You’ve got the same power. You just never bothered trying to test it. Only a few things companions can do that Keepers can’t.”

Seeing that she might doze off using Aurivy as a hugpillow if I didn’t say something, I prompted her for an explanation. “Like what? This is something rather important to know.”

Terra let out a grudging sigh, looking up at me with half-lidded eyes. “Obviously, you don’t have all of the system information in your head like I do. The others don’t have that either, since they are custom companions. Keepers also can’t interact with the world while it is fast forwarding like we can, because your minds aren’t made to handle that. Aside from that, you can do anything I can do.”

Finishing her explanation, she closed her eyes and laid her head back against Aurivy’s. Although I was still tempted to go do this on the computer, I wanted to see if what she said was correct. So… how do I do this. System Menu, open! World Map! … Options? I tried going through various commands in my head, all of which proved futile.

Next, I tried to be more vague. Maybe the windows didn’t open by thought commands, but by some other means. This proved correct, because I tried imagining what the Map of my world should look like, but kept the image of my world blank. Sure enough, it was quickly filled in. I saw the eight massive continents, the thousands of islands, and could even make out the shapes of the mountain ranges.

Focusing on one area, I found my mental view of the map zooming in, further and further until I stopped focusing. What I ended up looking at was… a single leaf, atop a tall tree in the center of the forest on one of the uninhabited continents. Okay, maybe I zoomed in a little too far there.

Next, I ‘closed’ the map by mentally moving it out of view, and tried something else. This time, I tried to imagine what the options menu would look like, though as before I left the details out. Like with the map, the different choices filled themselves in without me even really trying. Huh… that’s handy. Though, this level of control was likely only available in the Admin Room. Otherwise, the last Keeper wouldn’t have been hit by a truck before he could think about logging out.

Only allowed on

Anyways, I focused on the option to fast forward, and chose the conditions to stop. If the halfling population ever fell below ten thousand, or if a thousand years passed. Whichever came first. With that done, I decided to take a moment to relax against Terra, since I apparently didn’t need to get up after all.

In the Plains of Beginning, the reign of Mara proved a prosperous one. On her deathbed, she had elected a Lycan girl named Thalia to take her place. In secret, she informed the girl about how the goddess Terra had chosen her, and how she must always listen for the words of the goddess. Thalia didn’t have time to question, before the gentle voice floated into her mind. That was one of only two times that Terra ever spoke to Thalia.

The second time was when Thalia herself was about to pass away, telling her to appoint an Ursa girl. Unlike the previous generations, Terra did not specify who among the race to put in power, only what race to choose. In the end, it was a young warrior named Grella.

With each generation, Terra’s influence grew less and less, simply ensuring that the beastkin maintained the cycle of leadership. Felyn, Kitsune, Lycan, Ursa, this cycle repeated again and again, until the tradition was all but set in stone. Within a thousand years, the people prospered with this system. No race felt excluded, or underprivileged. And at the same time, the territory of the beastkin continued to expand. From two cities came five, from five came ten.

By the end of the thousand year cycle, there were fifteen cities of beastkin. Each one possessed both strong warriors to hunt, and wide fields from which they would harvest crops. And, thanks to the goddesses providing them information all those years ago, their technology had further improved.

Now, the Felyn and Kitsune, less suited for frontal assaults than the Ursa and Lycan, carried bows on their backs, as well as leather quivers full of arrows. The vanguards wore thick hides, taken from their prey and sewn together with ivory needles. Like this, they were able to hunt even the strongest of foes that appeared.

It had been a thousand years since the discovery of stone tools, and the people of Gandor had made great strides in their development. Aside from the spells granted with the increase in class levels, they had even developed nearly a dozen of their own spells. Using stone knives, they began carving out small medallions for spells onto wood that people would carry with them. This made defense easy to maintain, and their city began expanding outwards.

Although Gandor was still only a single city, it seemed to have grown massively during the last generation of elves. Some elves had even begun to develop a written language, although it consisted merely of vague images at this point. Julian and Therna, Eldwynn Ryon’s daughter and granddaughter respectively, led the kingdom to prosperity. Although the strength of the monsters continued to increase, so did the power and knowledge of the elves.

Among the Seven Tribes of the dwarves, the former Mountain Tribe suffered the most. When their god made himself known by warning them of the dangers in their mountain, they were forced to flee their home. Barely five years later, they watched in horror as liquid fire spewed forth from their mountain, ending the lives of the few dozen dwarves that stubbornly stayed behind.

However, there was a silver lining to this, as they saw the liquid fire harden into stone. The thoughts they had before about melting stone proved to have some truth. They saw the stone melt in the liquid fire, and now they saw the liquid fire return to stone. For them, this was amazing, something that they had never even been willing to believe to be true.

But now, they had seen it. And, after moving to a new mountain, they began their new mission, a way to reproduce this. Liquid fire could melt stone, so why not normal fire? With that thought in mind, they erected stone pits, carved with the simplest of Mage spells. One dwarf fed in stones, while ten others channeled their energy to maintain the flame.

This experiment was unsuccessful for many years, to an extent where the other tribes all laughed at their foolishness. However, nearly fifty years later, their first success was achieved. With ten people standing around a wide stone pit, carved into the earth with their own blood, sweat and tears, they saw as one of the stones began to melt. Then another, and another, until the liquid rock had seeped into the carved lines of the spell, obscuring it enough to forcefully cancel it.

But, nonetheless, this was a success. They had melted stone, watched as it once more hardened. There were many dwarves that did not know what to do next, now that they had achieved their mission. The answer the tribe came up with? Do it better! Their mountains were safe, as few monsters were willing to climb it. That gave them the security to continue their experiments happily.

And so, the years went by, the dwarves rejoicing at each success. They found that certain rocks melted more easily than others, and began to use those in their experiments. Six hundred years later, the first Blacksmith class was awarded. This happened when one dwarf carved a stone mold, shaping it to look like a long block. Then, he drilled a hole in the bottom of his fire pit, and put those same special rocks in the center to melt and drip into the hole. By the time he was done, and his mold was full, he emptied the block to find that the contents did not splash out. They stuck together, harder and stronger than the mold itself.

Sadly, his work was hard to reproduce, and it was another hundred years before the birth of another Blacksmith.

The Bihendor clan of the humans had long since established themselves as the rulers of the human clans. This was not from diplomacy or trade, but from conquest. Their family was one of strong warriors, and they used that strength to subdue the others. When the knowledge of weapons was granted to their people, they were the first to fully utilize it.

With stone spears, bows, and knives, they increased their control of the other families, expanding their territory. Unlike the dwarves, they had no interest in melting stones. They watched as other families created bowls out of water and spoiled fruits. The process was fascinating, but not something the Bihendor family took part in.

They had their sights set on the distant horizons, wanting to control all that fell within their grasp.

The beasts grew, the dwarves smithed, the elves learned, and the humans fought. But what of the halflings? How could they, with the greatest population of the races, not evolve with the passing of time? Although their nature made this process slower, it did not halt.

While the other races built villages and kingdoms, the halflings wandered. While the other races fought to survive, the halflings stayed out of sight. They explored more of their land than all of the other races combined. They formed families that traveled the plains and hills, the mountains and rivers.

With the knowledge of stone tools, their safety grew. They would leave behind carved images in stones or trees, telling those that came later what they had seen or where they were going. Rather than the elves, it was the halflings with no kingdom that advanced the furthest with language.

The halflings had another remarkable field of advancement as well. While the other races hunted the animals and monsters of the world, the halflings saw no need to. With their stealth abilities, avoiding monsters was easy. They would often climb trees or pick berries to serve as their meals, only rarely eating meat.

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Instead, they would often play with beasts, purposely letting one notice them and then letting it chase them around. Though a risky game that claimed the life of more than a few halflings, this yielded unforeseen benefits. Some of the monsters and beasts that encountered halflings in this way more than once would seem to enjoy the chase. Even if they caught their ‘prey’, they would not attack. And, when those halflings began feeding them, they earned new classes.

With the Hunter class, they could befriend animals, follow tracks, and learn things about the terrain. With the Monster Tamer class, they could similarly befriend monsters, turning them into fighting and traveling companions. These two classes were almost exclusive to the halflings during this period, showing that they prospered more when given the freedom to make their own way.

Now, there is still one last area left to discuss. After Irena returned to the afterlife, it underwent a shocking change. Wooden buildings began springing up out of the misty ground, solidified from the grey vapors of the world. Between them, grassy fields and dirt roads manifested, leaving the various daeva and spirits amazed. 

What Irena had created was the first city of the underworld, with her seat of power placed directly in the center. Although she had to leave once every day to retrieve new spirits, she kept the area of her city small enough that she could maintain easily. If she truly exerted herself, she could reshape the entire afterlife to suit her designs, that would require her to focus fully on that every day. It was much easier to just create a single city to serve as an important landmark for the spirits.

Doing this, the spirits and daeva discovered the ability to manipulate the mist around them. They earned the unique classes available to them, playing with the mist to make it form various shapes. Although ironic, it was only after death that the spirits truly felt that they could live safely.

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