chapter 189: the end of the beginning

I watched in surprise as I quickly reviewed the past events of the beastkin war, and the landing of the unified party of the three races at the continent of the centaurs and halflings. Each one had caught me off guard in their own ways. Some good, some… not so good.

For the beastkin war, and the way that the ninjas handled the matter, I could only say that it was brutally efficient. Although they sacrificed the druids, as well as the dispatched soldiers, they had forced the war to an abrupt halt. It took years just to bring their power structure back to a stable point.

As for the humans… well, the war was not quite over. They still had that last fort to deal with. Though, without the ability to bring in reinforcements, the ‘Fort of War’ quickly fell. At that point, the humans were left with no idea as to what had happened. Their ancient invader had simply stopped attacking them.

The humans couldn’t tell if they had severed the link between the beastkin and humans by taking the fort, or if some higher power had interfered. But quite frankly, they were relieved. The endless struggle against an enemy that they didn’t truly understand had finally ended.

Over the next few years, powers began to rise. There were those that demanded to press the advantage to attack at the home of the ancient foe, yet that simply could not be done. The humans didn’t know where they came from, or if they were even of the same world.

Then there were other powers, who sought for peace. Not with the invaders, but with each other. The long war had brought them together against a common foe, and showed them that their different countries could indeed work together. Yes, there had been skirmishes among the kingdoms during the war, but they had decreased significantly compared to before the ‘invaders’ had arrived.

Only allowed on

Once the war had ended with the beastkin, the human kingdoms started fighting less and less with each other. There were those of course that wanted to continue the bloodshed, but they were drastically outnumbered and overwhelmed by the others.

As for the other meeting, I was surprised by Alme’s actions. From how it appeared in the beginning, she seemed to want to be in the spotlight for the event. However, once she had paved the way for the first meetings between the village and the travelers, she disappeared.

I saw her trotting through the meadows, moving to meet Tryval’s current incarnation. They exchanged a few words, before simply moving on to live in another area. Meanwhile, the group she had left behind began their own negotiations.

On the subject of the races moving to inhabit the lands of the centaurs and halflings, potentially establishing their own cities, the local kings joined the meetings. The elves, dwarves, and beastkin had been declined the rights to settle, as the centaurs and halflings highly valued their wide open territory. They could inhabit the existing cities, but not form one of their own.

On the other hand, the local kings did agree to setting up a trade route between the two continents. Each had exports that could be valuable to the other. And since the gateway had been established, the vast distance could be covered in merely a few simple steps.

Like that, the two issues had been splendidly resolved. And at the same time, the third domain slot unlocked for the beastkin goddesses. For now, I decided to wait until the other goddesses all had their third domains as well.

Next to me, Aurivy was laughing and cheering, throwing her hands up into the air. “Alright, that was awesome!”

As she launched herself back to the bed, laughing at herself and sprawling out, I lifted a curious brow at her. “You aren’t upset at the bloody way that they accomplished the mission?” I had expected Aurivy to be at least slightly mortified, given the way that they had acted. Yet, reality spoke to the contrary.

“Of course not! That’s just how a ninja is! Brutal, efficient, accomplishing their mission with a single stroke!” She grinned, sitting up in the bed to stare at me. “Did you see how that guy snuck through the most secure place in the kingdom like it was nothing? He even made it right up to the queen’s bedroom without a single person seeing him!”

“And you don’t mind that he killed himself afterwards?”

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“Eh, that part was a bit sad. But he knew going in that would happen.” Aurivy answered with a small shrug. “His silencing ward was about to wear off, which meant that the guards would have been able to hear the queen and come find him. The only way to complete his mission and not risk leading them back through the traps of the forest was for him to die there.”

I gave a small nod at that, though the fact that someone could just casually consign themselves to death like he did was disturbing in a different way. “Alright… I wonder if–”

“Yeah, I’m done, lad!” A voice came from the doorway, and I turned to find Tubrock standing there, his goggles down over his eyes. “Managed to get done about ten years early, with Ryone’s help! Now, I can walk you through the features of the Citadel later, but what say ye we get this show on the road?”

Having a pretty good idea about what show he was talking about, I chuckled, nodding as I rose to my feet. “Alright…” It was time to install the gates… and make my grand introduction.

In three different regions of three different worlds, the landscape experienced a sudden change. Only on Desbar, this change was actually witnessed. In a small city in Nemra, a small convenience store vanished in a burst of golden light from the sky. In its place was a smooth stone platform, fifteen meters across and full of concentric circles.

Hovering in place above the platform, suspended in a golden glow were two circular discs. Each had a different image on the front. One was a rectangle with a symbol of fire inside of it, while the other was a whirlpool.

Moments later, a voice spoke out in everyone’s head at once, and they saw a vision in the back of their minds. Whether they were sleeping or fighting, talking, laughing or playing, this message went out across the three worlds, and even to the underworld. An image of a man sitting in a silver throne.

“Hello, everyone.” He said simply, though his words weighed down on the minds of all who heard it. They could feel an invisible power from him, something that they had never felt from anyone in their lives. “My name is Dale, and I am the Keeper of your world. I have been managing your world since its very creation, alongside my host.”

The image in everyone’s minds expanded, showing eleven other figures seated in a row. Their own thrones were positioned on thick stairs, one level below the ‘Keeper’s’ own. Nearly everyone instinctively recognized at least one figure, the god or goddess that their race served.

“My goal was not to interfere. To allow you all to develop on your own as much as I could, so that you could grow stronger. But now, that strength will be needed.” After he said that, a scene flashed through everyone’s minds. Horrible creatures with black chitin for skin running across the land.

“Our world, our worlds are facing a new threat. Beings that come from beyond the scope of my creation. Some will offer peace, and join us in our lives. Others will bring only war, seeking to destroy everything to make it their own. For this, I have chosen to grant you the greatest strength I can. The strength of solidarity.”

“On each of your worlds, there lies a gate. This gate can take you to either of your neighbor worlds through the use of the two keys that lie with it. I urge you to explore these worlds, meet your fellows and grow together. There is much for you to learn from one another, and I have high hopes.”

Finally, the scene began to shift again. The image of the man on the silver throne was gone, and in its place was a mountain. A mountain which began to shake and crack, before it exploded like a destroyed shell. From within, a great castle rose into the sky, rings of light surrounding its base. “This is my Sky Citadel, my home among your worlds. In the future, you may find me there, should you have the permission to enter, and the ability to locate it.”

As if to show his point, a golden fog rose up from the rings of light below the Sky Citadel, lifting up to engulf the towering structure. Elsewhere on Earth, above the lands of the humans, a similar cloud formed. Moments later, it blew away like smoke, revealing the Sky Citadel hovering high in the sky above the human cities.

Next, the transmission cut off for the residents of Earth, though continued broadcasting to the minds of residents of Desbar and Deckan. “In order to strengthen you for this struggle, I offer you the power to grow stronger.” Dale’s voice spoke into their minds, and a blue panel of light appeared in front of everyone hearing the message.

Welcome to the World System

“Explore the new gifts you have received, but be wary of the dangers that come with them. I hope to see all of you achieve great things. To defend the world, you must unite.” Finally, with those words as the end, the message cut off.

Across the three worlds, people were confused. Aside from those in the Underworld, nobody had even seen all of the races that were shown in the eleven thrones. And for two certain races… they had never seen any of those races before. Whether the heroc or the merkin, they were thrown into disarray. They were confused as to what their existence even meant, before a new message came out, one exclusive to them.

“Do not be afraid.” The voice spoke to them, and they felt their minds begin to calm down. “I will explain now. Although you were not in the initial design, your race has risen to a point where you can stand as equals with any of the others. You have fought and struggled, faced obstacles that they were simply guided through. And because of that, you have grown strong.”

Then, the voice suddenly took on a warning tone. “But you must not let your strength consume you. Although you are strong, that does not mean they are weak. As I have said, we must all stand together. In the coming days, I will invite those of every race into my citadel, so that we may discuss as one.”

And with that, the voice faded away. The minds of the heroc were still in chaos, though of a lesser degree. Rather than feeling like they were outsiders, they felt more like an unwanted child, not knowing if they truly belonged. Only time would tell how their thoughts would change, or how the world would change as they appeared.

I let out a long sigh as I ascended back to the Admin Room after delivering the speech. For the purpose of the performance, I had every god descend in order to put on a show. However, many of them did not have anything tying them to the Citadel, so they used a lot of divine power by simply being there. While I believed it was worth it, that left several gods and goddesses exhausted upon our return.

I went back to my computer, looking for the long awaited message that I knew deep down would be there, waiting for me. The blinking notification light in the top corner drawing my attention.

Welcome to the Keeper Games, EarthForceOne.

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