It was roughly a month after the return of the halfling scouts that the leaders of the various cities had all convened in the city of Sharak. The various representatives had all agreed to use this as the staging point for the upcoming war, as it was the closest city to the southern edge of the forest.
Although I didn’t pay too much attention towards the contents of the meeting, I knew I wouldn’t have to wait very long. After all, from the viewpoint of the accelerated time, the entire meeting took less than a second, and within minutes the various representatives had all gone back to their own respective cities. From there, I watched as a swarm of halflings began to converge in the center of the forest.
Each halfling scout was accompanied by a group of fifty battle-hands, the name that they had given their soldiers. The battle-hands themselves could be warriors, monster tamers, archers, rogues, any combat class. But, with over three hundred scouts, that meant that there was over fifteen thousand battle-hands in all. Even looking at the force that the centaurs invaded the forest with, I could only see this as stronger. Especially since almost every halfling had with them some form of monster or animal companion, further bolstering their numbers.
I half expected them to pour out of the forest like a tide, wiping out everything in their path. However, that is strangely not what happened. Instead, they scattered, with each unit leaving the forest at different points guided by their scouts. In this manner, they were entirely undetected by the centaurs as they did not allow themselves to be spotted.
And, perhaps they knew that they were unable to take out the cities. Or maybe, they just wanted to target the easier prey first. Either way, not a single unit moved towards the cities, instead carving a wide path around them, ensuring that they never so much as saw a city on the horizon.
However, doing that also got them to their targets much faster, because the wandering herds also tended to take paths that led them far away from the cities. If they wanted to be close to them, they would simply join the cities themselves, after all. Thus, the first battle was only two days after the first group of halflings left the forest.
I could see as the halflings stealthily hunted the first herd they came across, waiting until it was deep in the night before they attacked. Even then, they did not get away without losses, despite the herd not being too large. One of their assassins did not kill the person keeping watch in a single strike, and it resulted in the rest of the herd waking up.
Ultimately, two halflings had died in the ambush, and the group immediately returned to the forest. However, by that time five other groups had already left, scouring the plains to search for their own targets. Little by little, more of the wandering herds fell in silence, taken out by the halflings.
However, at the same time, the halfling units only stayed in the plains until they had someone suffer a serious injury or death. As soon as that happened, they returned to the forest like the first group. While they wished to kill the centaurs, they were not seeking to simply throw their lives away.
Still, no matter how one looks at it, the halflings were simply killing too many centaurs to go unnoticed. With them not knowing how to hide the bodies, it quickly led to other herds finding the remains of the battles. Those that did made their way to the nearest city to beg for shelter, warning them of the impending threats.
Like this, the news that the war had not truly ended had once again spread throughout the plains.
Halaran Earthshaker stood atop the round court. As the king of the centaurs, naturally there was information he was able to see that nobody else could. And this very knowledge made him question himself for the first time in his reign.
Back when the previous battle occurred, and he had sent his armies to wipe out the forest folk, the system had acknowledged it. First, at the start of the battle, it told him that he had officially declared war on an unknown kingdom. However, mere hours later he also received news that he had won that war.
There were several things that he could learn from this. First of all, there was no such thing as a secret war. He had no idea when the fighting was about to begin, yet received the report immediately. He could only assume that the enemy king had also received that information. Thus, he assumed that any hostile attack from an army on a different kingdom would have the world declare a war.
Then, why was he receiving no such message now? It was clear that his people were being slaughtered. More and more centaurs ran to the cities, seeking shelter from the forest folk. They spoke of mangled corpses, and some even found the limbs of the smaller race at the site to prove that it was them.
So why was he not receiving the declaration of war? Was it possible that this group was not associated with a kingdom? If that was the case, then how could they assemble an army able to wipe out so many so quickly.
Still, whether or not this was an official war, there were steps that needed to be taken. The plains were no longer safe to roam. Thus, Halaran spoke from atop the court, his ki spreading his voice far across the city. While he was not a variant, he was still one of the most powerful monks known to the centaurs.
“Heed my words. Assemble the defenses. Archers, mages, and druids, man the walls. Shamans, conduct regular scrying. I want ten pegasus variants to deliver message to the other cities. We must protect our people. Protect our cities, and do not allow the forest folk to enter. Grant shelter to any of Tryval’s children, and keep a watchful eye. I fear that this is far from over.”
I couldn’t help but chuckle as I noticed the king atop his ‘castle’. I observed his thoughts, and saw his worries. From what I could tell, there was actually a very simple reason why the system didn’t notify him of any war. Not a single one of his citizens have been killed yet. While he may consider himself the king of all centaurs, and many others do as well, it is not really the case.
Using the map, I could clearly see that his kingdom only covered the three cities. The wandering centaurs were doing so mainly because they did not accept his rule, and were thus not included in his kingdom. So really, it was only natural that there was no war declaration yet. Though, this did show something interesting.
“Terra?” I called back to her, rousing the catgirl goddess from her state of half-slumber.
“Is it possible to do a covert war?” I asked curiously, rather keen on finding that out. There have been many wars in history that were conducted without the knowledge of the general public. Sometimes, even without the knowledge of the leading powers themselves. All it took was one influential person.
“Kinda…” She said with a yawn. “If the leader of a kingdom orders any directly hostile action on another kingdom, then the war will be declared when those orders are carried out. However, if… say, a general of the army sent his troops to attack of his own initiative, then it would not be a war. Likewise, if other people of influence gave the orders without the king’s knowledge, then there would be no declaration. Though, I imagine that any ruler who found their people trying to incite war without their approval would not take kindly to that knowledge once it was discovered.”
I paused for a moment to consider that. It left quite a lot open to be misused, but at the same time this was a system designed by another Keeper. I didn’t expect it to be completely perfect. As such, I could only nod my head.
Once I looked back to the computer, I decided to take a look at some of the other races. I hadn’t been able to pay as much attention to them lately as I would have liked, due to this war. However, now that things were pretty much decided, I could spare a few minutes to check up on them.
The first target of my observation was the dwarves. To my surprise, they had actually spread out to cover a considerably distance. The original seven cities had now become nearly a hundred, though most of them were positioned either near mountains or ore veins.
Judging by their positioning, I had to assume that they used a shaman to find an ore vein. Though, I was still not entirely clear on how shaman magic worked. All I knew for certain was that they were not a combat or crafting class. Rather, like scouts, they focused on getting information. The only difference was that they gained their information from nature itself.
Either way, closer observation showed me that the nearly one hundred cities of the dwarves had all become three kingdoms. The first was the Iron Dwarf Kingdom, the ones who lived near the mountains and devoted themselves to the forge. Their king was currently the highest level blacksmith in the entire world.
The next was the Hill Dwarf Kingdom. As the name suggests, these dwarves made their home among various tall hills, using the height advantage to keep watch for monster threats. Among the three kingdoms, they were the most combat oriented, with many of their soldiers armed with metal hammers or maces. Well…. I call them hammers and maces, but they are basically just misshapen lumps of metal on a metal stick.
The third kingdom was called Finra… And I honestly wasn’t sure what to make of that. To be fair to them, they were quite a distance away from either of the other two kingdoms, and only had a dozen cities under their rule. As for their specialty, they didn’t really seem to have one. They were weaker than the Iron Dwarf Kingdom in the forge, and weaker than the Hill Dwarf Kingdom in battle. If anything, I could praise their culture. So far, they were the only dwarf kingdom that had actually built facilities for public entertainment.
Shaking my head, I went to look at the next race, one I was actually rather interested in checking up on. The humans had expanded almost half as much as the halflings, which was already quite an achievement. They had various cities spread out throughout their explored territory, numbering almost three hundred.
However, unlike the dwarves, there were far too many human kingdoms to take the time to explore the specialties of each one. At least, I couldn’t take the time to do so without pausing the world, or else the war might be over when I was done. However, I could tell that there were nearly thirty kingdoms, with each one controlling an average of ten cities. This number went up and down depending on the kingdom, but it mostly stayed the same.
One thing that I was surprised to see was that there was only really one war going on between any of these kingdoms. I had expected almost every kingdom to be in some kind of war, but after taking a look at the kingdoms involved, I began to understand why.
The two warring kingdoms of the humans were known as Hanbei and Krilla. While Krilla seemed to be a very ordinary human kingdom, though one highly focused on its fighting force, Hanbei was a different matter. Hanbei did not have many archers, mages, or druids. But, what it did have was monks.
From what I could tell, over half of Hanbei’s population had gained access to ki. Not only that, but many of them had gained another class, one almost exclusive to their kingdom. The martial artist class, something that did not even exist yet the last time I had descended. And naturally, the highest level martial artist was their queen, one who had the same name as the kingdom itself.
….Okay… I reached over, and grabbed the piece of paper, writing a message to Bihena. ‘Did you just rearrange the letters of your name when you made your incarnation?’ When I looked at the name of the kingdom and its queen, I couldn’t help but immediately assume that it was Bihena, especially since she should be the best martial artist among the humans.
A reply quickly came back to me through the paper. ‘It’s not like that! I didn’t get to choose the name, they picked it for me!’ I could tell by the handwriting that she was giving a rushed response. That, or she really needs to practice her handwriting. ‘Apparently, Hanbei is supposed to be a lucky name to them, so my mortal parents called me that.’
‘And your kingdom?’ I felt my lips tugging up into a smile as I wrote that down, planning to tease her a bit.
‘Okay, that one is also really not my fault. The last king tried to push himself on me when he saw how strong I was. After I took care of that old man, everyone just made me queen… They even changed the kingdom’s name! That’s fucked up, right!?’
‘Uh huh…’ I wrote, nodding my head silently. ‘So, why is the goddess of peace currently waging a war in the mortal world?’ This was the main part I was curious about. The rest of it was just me wanting to tease her.
‘Ah… you found out about that, huh?’ That response came rather quickly, before more words began to appear below it. ‘First, I’d like to say that they attacked first. They wanted to enslave my people to learn how we got so strong. That’s why that war was declared, but I’m keeping on the defensive. From what I can tell, the other kingdoms seem to be pretty interested in it too, and are just waiting to see what happens.’
Just what happens when I’m not looking? I thought to myself incredulously. Apparently, Bihena had managed to not only become a queen, but gathered the attention of the other kingdoms on her and made herself a target. ‘I thought you were planning to spread your martial arts teachings through your priests?’ I couldn’t help but ask that after giving it some thought.
‘I tried… most of them couldn’t understand my explanations. Right now, once I finish this war, I’m planning to send envoys from the kingdom to spread the teachings. I think that they will accept and understand it if I use both the priests and the envoys.’
She’s totally going to go down in human history as a demigod of Bihena or something… I shook my head with a sigh. Thinking about it, Tubrock might even be an official of the Iron Dwarf Kingdom. The only reason that I didn’t think he was king was because the current king looked way too old to be him.
‘Well, let me know if you need any help.’ I wrote a final message to Bihena, before turning my attention away from the humans. Next up on my world tour was the elves, though for this I really didn’t expect there to be any progress at all from Ryone. Her incarnation should still just be a kid, after all.
What I found was… pretty much the same as the last time I looked. Although they had added a few more cities, the elves had done very little in the way of exploring their territory. They appeared to be even less nomadic than the dwarves, which made me briefly consider that there may never be the appearance of things like wood elves or dark elves in this world.
Still, the specialty of the elves had remained magic, and they had the strongest of almost every class dealing with either mana or natural energy. Although they did not have the same understanding of those energies as the ninja cul--village, the ninja village… Anyways, though their knowledge about the nature of the energies was a bit lacking, their research into the various symbols that make up spells had gone far ahead.
The elves, like the centaurs and halflings, only had one kingdom, the same one that had existed since the dawn of their civilization. Although the royal family of Gandor had been replaced at some point, they had never lost the name, nor their focus. There were wide buildings devoted to the practice and study of magic, and within those I could see a few higher class spells being used.
Although I did not know the spells themselves, their quality was easy to recognize by the fact that the spell formations appeared in the air around them. According to Ryone, that was a unique phenomenon that only happened when an element of a spell passed a certain quality. And going by the variety of spells being shown, they had discovered a few new patterns that I need to talk to Ryone about next time I see her.
Finally, I turned my attention towards the beastkin. Their change was perhaps the most drastic since my last look at their civilization. They had over five hundred cities, with a total of four kingdoms. However, these kingdoms did not seem to have any sort of aggression towards each other, and would freely trade between them.
To my surprise, the kingdoms were not separated by race, but by distance. Each kingdom spanned a wide distance, before another kingdom appeared. However, there was something strange about this.
Each kingdom had an identical structure for government. All four of them were theocracies, worshipping the Faith of the Sister Goddesses’, or simply the Sisters’ Faith. The temples for this religion appeared in almost every beastkin city. From what I could tell, every kingdom’s ruler was chosen by this religion as well. This made me wonder something… “Okay, Terra. Question time again.”
“Hmm?” She once again asked in a groggy voice. Looking back, I saw that Aurivy seemed to have dozed off in Terra’s arms. Though, I wasn’t sure if she was just pretending this time.
“How come all of the beastkin kingdoms follow your religion, and the religion basically controls everything? Wouldn’t that really make it just one kingdom, not four?” I asked, my brows knit together.
“Ahh… They decided to do it like that.” She spoke with a tired smile. “The kingdoms were starting to get too big for one ruler to manage it, so they came up with that idea. So, they split it into four. Terraria, Udonia, Accal, and Kelios. Each country worships all four of us, but focuses specifically on one of the goddesses for its main teachings.”
I nodded my head slightly as I heard that, easily able to guess which country worshipped which goddess. “Do you have something like a pope to oversee the four kingdoms?”
When I asked that, Terra shook her head. “They haven’t really thought of anything like that, or asked us for any help in structuring their organization. Right now, the four queens are treated as equal representatives of us four goddesses, and so far that has led to a friendly relation between the countries.”
“I see… and the reason why Terraria is the closest one to the ninja village’s forest?” I asked, a wry smile on my face.
“Heh… I don’t want them getting found too fast. It would ruin the whole secret village thing. Give them a few more generations, and they’ll be old enough to take care of themselves.” She finished with a slow, confident nod before closing her eyes again.
Well, I could understand her reasoning for that. Anyways, the four kingdoms really did have their specialties, though they seemed to be connected in pairs. Accal and Kelios were the fighters and the hunters, defending their own kingdom and their neighbors from monsters. They worked to train their bodies to the limits. And, like with Hanbei, martial artists had begun to appear among the two kingdoms, though they were mostly limited to the ursa for now.
For Terraria and Udonia, they focused more on culture and entertainment, while each also held a specialty of their own. Terraria had the most shamans, and Udonia had the most alchemists. Udonia also had the only three clerics that currently existed in the world. Throughout these two kingdoms, there were many small theaters built to entertain the masses with regular performances.
Altogether, the four kingdoms of the beastkin held a special kind of balance where each supported the others. Honestly, if they really did come up with all of that on their own, I was impressed.
Now, we return to our regularly scheduled viewing of midgets and horsemen killing each other...