chapter 33: like herding centaurs

Fifty years passed in the blink of an eye. For the majority of the centaurs, that fifty years did not amount to much. However, I checked the population statistics for the variant races, and discovered something. First, the pegasus centaurs. There were actually two that had been born and were still alive. Looking into it, they were each still treated as outcasts within their herd, but they had not been trampled. 

Now, for the unicorn centaurs… Tryval has been busy… I let out a small sigh as I looked at the numbers. There were a total of fifty-seven unicorn centaurs now, and all of them were in his herd. One of the variants that I had been worried about not having the ability to establish a stable population had started to do so thanks to divine intervention. 

Of the unicorn centaurs, all were at least a level five Mage, while some even climbed to level ten. In this age, that gave them a considerable advantage. Sadly, there had still not been a qilin centaur born yet, and aside from the unicorns that Tryval was personally raising, there hadn’t been any more of those yet, either. 

Finding Tryval, I sent another message for him to come up to meet me, and paused the world again. This time, I shared with him the knowledge of stone age tools, and instructed him to tell the centaurs about it. He could treat it as a reward for them following his orders thus far. With the benefits of actual weapons, centaurs should be able to better defend themselves if attacked. 

Tryval seemed to appreciate the information I gave him, and immediately spread it out as ordered. For now, let’s just watch how things go. It should be almost time for his grand reveal of the variants to a few herds. 

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Tristan was racing through the fields, his herd following behind him. Behind them, a series of growls echoed out. “Hurry, just a little more!” 

The group of centaurs had been running for nearly an hour to escape their pursuers. Black creatures coming just above their waists, with needle-like spikes coming from their backs. The grue, terrifying creatures to the centaurs. Too tall to trample, to short to punch, and too fast to kick. Their only hope was to run, run until the grue were tired out, and then turn around to attack. 

However, at this time, a barrage of fire and ice sailed towards the grue from the distance. Tristan and his herd skidded to a stop, eyes wide as they looked at the source of this mysterious power. They could hear the sounds of explosions behind them, and the pitiful cries of the grue as they succumbed. 

At the horizon, there stood five men, all with pure white hair. Their hands were extended to point towards the grue, watching the red bars that represented their life falling to nothing. However, that wasn’t what truly caught their eyes. Rather, it was that each of the men had a shining, spiral horn protruding from their head. The lengths of these horns varied, with the shortest being just over a foot long, and the longest being nearly three feet. However, it was enough to confirm one thing for the centaur herd. 

The outcast… That thought rang through the minds of each centaur, and many felt a sense of disgust rise up with it. It did not matter that they had been saved by an unknown power. The mere existence of that power confirmed for some that the outcast would never belong in a herd. 

However, their next action surprised the herd. Rather than staying to celebrate their kills, they lowered their hands and backed up. Then, a pitch black centaur, one who struck an innate awe in everyone present, walked in front of them. “We’re done here.” He said calmly, looking to the herd that had recently been fleeing. 

Together with the five outcast, this new centaur ran back into the distance. With that, mixed feelings were spread throughout the rescued herd. Some still viewed the outcast with disdain, while others were silently thankful. Still more were thankful that the outcast did not turn their hands towards the herd. 

This scene repeated itself dozens of times. If a herd was about to be in mortal peril, a barrage of fire and ice would arrive from the distance. Among two of those herds, there were outcasts within the herd, as well. These outcasts did not possess horns, but rather wings. 

When the horned outcasts arrived to save these herds, they did not immediately leave as they did with the others. Rather, that black-haired centaur strode forth, straight towards the winged outcast. Aside from the outcast, everyone else felt an invisible pressure forcing them to back up several paces. 

“My child.” He spoke in a soft voice. “Among your own herd, you are unwanted. You are not treated as their equal. If you wish, you may come with us.” 

Among the two winged outcast, one chose to remain with his herd. Whether or not they treated him fairly, they were family, and all he has ever known. However, the other had been scorned all his life. Seeing the chance for happiness, he easily accepted the offer. 

When the winged outcast left the herd, some felt remorseful. Either for disappointing this powerful figure in front of them, or being so unkind to a member of their own herd that that person willingly chose to leave it at the first opportunity. Others, felt joy. Joy that they would no longer be ‘held back’ by the outcast. 

Which side was right, and which was wrong, they would learn soon enough. 

I nodded my head in satisfaction, watching Tryval deal with the various herds. Although he was blatantly using his god powers to transport people, it still got the job done, and left a heavy impact in their hearts. I sent another message to Tryval when he was done with the final herd, though this time I was not summoning him. 

You can stay with them for another hundred years. After that, you should only get involved if things become dire. Let them rely on themselves for a while. After sending the message, I saw that Tryval looked towards the sky, but did not send any direct replies. He could watch over his people as long as he wanted, but leading them directly like this and putting so many empowered unicorns in the ranks will only unbalance things even further. 

With that taken care of, I glanced to the underworld, to see how Irena was handling things. I had to admit that this would be an extra burden on her, due to so many souls appearing from various times all at once. Ultimately, I was unsure what she would do about it. 

What I found was thousands of centaurs, spread out around the outermost areas of the underworld. Each one seemed to gradually be moved closer to the center, likely meaning that once the Time Zone caught up with the rest of the world, they would be appearing alongside the rest of the spirits. 

As if sensing that I was looking at her domain, a voice suddenly appeared from behind me. “Can I help you with something, Dale?” Turning around, I found Irena standing there, her wings tucked in behind her back, arms down at her sides. 

“Ah, sorry… I was just wanting to make sure everything was going alright on your end.” I looked over to her, and saw her furrowing her eyebrows. “You are okay, aren’t you?” 

She hesitated for a long moment before nodding. “The extra work is not a problem. As long as I place the older souls further away from the center, they can be seen as having wandered in over time, rather than every generation appearing at once.” Her voice was softer when she spoke this time, compared to our previous encounter. 

And now, it was time for me to make the most amateur mistake a man can ever make. “So, what was the matter earlier? You were acting different before…” 

Irena’s eyes flashed with a cold light, but she restrained herself, taking a deep breath. “It is… not your fault, Dale. You are… not used to speaking to us, I believe.” 

“What do you mean?” Okay, now I was confused! 

“The meeting.” She said, her bottom lip curling into a cute pout. “You paused the world, so I didn’t have anything to do while you were gone, and later found out you went to some Keeper meeting by yourself.” After saying that, her expression quickly returned to normal. “I would have appreciated an invitation, is all.” 

“Ahh…” Wait, that was it? Well… true, I didn’t think to invite her. Or Aurivy, for that matter. Out of all the gods and goddesses, Terra is definitely the one I am most comfortable with. At some point, I should take the time to improve my relationships with Irena and Aurivy, and maybe even Tryval. So far, Terra is the one that Aurivy has spent all her time with since she was created, so she has barely talked to me outside of asking me to save her from Terra. 

“I’m sorry.” I shook my head, accepting that I was wrong this time. “Like you said, I’m not used to talking to you guys. How about this… once the centaurs are caught up with the rest of the world, I’ll go spend a little while in the underworld.” 

Irena’s eyes lit up, her wings shaking slightly as she looked at me. “A-are you sure, sir?” Her voice was trembling, her lips curving upwards. 

I smiled, nodding my head. “I need to learn the spirit classes at some point, and can you think of any better trainer for me than you yourself?” I asked with a small grin. “Besides, I want to see what you’ve done with the place firsthand.” 

Irena immediately shook her head. “No, of course not! I’d be happy to help, sir! I’ll make sure everything is ready for you when you arrive!” 

After saying that, she turned around and happily skipped out of the room. I smiled wryly as I watched her, before turning my attention back towards the centaurs. I was tempted to buy more systems, but I wanted to wait until the world was moving along the same timeline. As the level restriction was in place, and only set to level thirty, I knew that the world was working to synchronize. 

Another fifty years, and I checked their progress again. Another unicorn centaur had been born to one of the herds, but this one was accepted, even after the horn began to show. Five more pegasus had been born, but they were not so lucky. Maybe it was because the pegasus were so much more different, but the ones born to normal herds were still prejudiced. 

Finally, something that seemed to be even more important happened. Among the normal herds, a qilin centaur had finally been born. A lone male, with antlers on his human head, and scales along his horse body. He was even more of an outcast than the pegasus, but I could already see Tryval heading to greet him. Truly, among the centaur, the qilin were the rarest. And, in this early stage, they could easily be considered the most powerful. 

I wasn’t sure what the results would be if a qilin centaur bred with a unicorn centaur, aside from the one in a thousand chance for the horned qilin to appear. It could be that the unicorn blood would be dominant, as it is the more common variation, or that the qilin blood is dominant. It might even turn out that the mixed variants can’t successfully breed, except for that one in a thousand chance. 

Only allowed on

I flipped forward another fifty years, to the time that I had given Tryval that he would have to leave that herd. By now, they had actually split into four smaller herds, each one following his lead. The original unicorn twins had long since passed from age, and all that was left was the descendants that Tryval had granted them. 

Today, what I assumed to be the leaders from the four herds were all gathered in one place, meeting with Tryval. 

“Do not fear, my children. Though I will not be guiding you in body, my eyes will always be watching you.” The god of the centaurs spoke to his people, the four horsemen he had appointed to lead his people in his stead. Of the four, two were unicorns, one was a pegasus, and the last was the sole qilin. 

“If ever there comes a time when my people face true danger, I will be there. But, until then, it has been decided that I shall leave.” His choice of words caused confusion to appear on the faces of the centaurs. If it was not his decision, then who? Though, none could voice this question. “For you to grow on your own, and become strong as a group, it is best to do so on your own.” 

Tryval took a deep breath, looking at each of the centaurs. “I have done what I could for you, as a father and as a leader. But, from now on, I can only give simple guidance to those who call for me within their minds. There will be hardships, and you will lose family. These trials may harden your heart, but I ask that you keep my teachings in mind. The other herds, those who may have earned your ire in the past, you must not harm them. Avoid them if you must, but do not let them see your rage. For the sake of all our people, you must always follow this rule.” 

Taking a step forward, Tryval addressed the lone qilin centaur. “Kryon, I will place you as the leader of these herds, to care for and protect them. Remember, I am always watching.” He said with a gentle smile. “Do not disappoint me, my child.” 

The four leaders all bowed their heads at his words, feeling a gentle breeze sweep over them. After several long moments of silence, they lifted their heads, only to find that their ruler, their god, had vanished without a trace. Again, their heads lowered, and the four of them decided that they would cherish the memories of their time together with Tryval. Their god had spoken, and they would obey. But, deep in the backs of their minds, they still questioned his choice of words.

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