The next couple of days passed by rather quickly, with Aurivy and Leowynn pulling me into one game after another. Sometimes, we’d play the pre-installed games that had come with the new system, and other times they would have us play a game that they created or brought from the world below. Eventually, even the other goddesses became interested and got involved, until finally Tubrock couldn’t hold back his curiosity as well.
Right now, we were in the last game that we all were going to play before I went back down to be Tebor once again. We were playing Keeper’s Cards, which thankfully allowed for any number of players. Which was good, because there weren’t a whole lot of games from the world below that could work for twelve players.
The premise of the game was actually pretty simple. As part of everyone’s ‘deck’, they set aside cards to determine the stats of their world, such as culture, magic, technology, and so on. Then, when the game began, there would first be a preparation phase and an invasion phase.
In the preparation phase, the players would be matched up in pairs randomly for the invasion, and the roles for it would be set. Then, each player could play five ‘action cards’ for how they prepare for the invasion. This could range between fast forwarding to recover a lost population, training heroes, or discovering new technologies.
Finally, the invasion phase began. This was where the real meat of the game took place. The invading player would choose whether they wanted to go all-in, use an elite strike, or take a pass. If they chose either of the first two, then they play whatever cards they ‘invest’ into their attack.
For each invasion, the defender has a large advantage, because they have all of their cards to play to fight back. Furthermore, if they defeat the invasion, then they get to keep any cards that were not destroyed in the process to strengthen their world. However, if they lose the invasion, then their entire deck goes towards the invading player.
Right now, most of the players had been eliminated, with only Bihena and Ryone left in the finals. Each one had acquired a total of six worlds, so they had a lot of options for every attack. At the same time, though, that made it harder to determine a victor.
“Alright…” Bihena took a deep breath as she organized her cards. It was her turn to attack, so she reached down for her action card. “I go all-in!” They had been going back and forth for a few rounds with no clear winner, so while all-in was a risky tactic that could leave her open for a counter on Ryone’s next turn, it was the only chance either one had to win.
As she made her decision, the cards laid out before her began to float up into the air, forming a wall between Bihena and Ryone. These were all of the cards Bihena could invest into her attack. However, Ryone didn’t panic. She smiled calmly as she declared her first line of defense, a move that she had used to defeat most of the invasions so far..
“I activate the runic colossi.” Six cards floated up to meet the wall that Bihena had summoned. However, Bihena simply laughed in response.
“Figured as much. Let’s just see how this goes then.” She grinned mischievously, as one by one the six cards that Ryone had played dimmed, falling helplessly to the floor. They weren’t alone, however, as several cards from Bihena’s wall fell as well.
“W-what? How’d you do that?” Ryone’s expression changed, showing the shock at her defensive line being taken down. Only now did she notice one card near the center of the wall, realization dawning on her. “You cheeky girl… you got a magic disruptor…”
Bihena smiled knowingly, nodding her head at that. “That’s right. This has gone on long enough.”
As if of their own will, cards from Ryone’s side began shooting up, one by one to try to fight back the invading wall. However, each card dimmed like the last, helplessly falling back down. Soon, even the final cards, the ones that represented her world itself, began to dim. When the last light went out, all of the cards began to neatly arrange themselves, sliding along the floor to join Bihena’s own cards.
“Good game.” Ryone gave a soft smile as she extended a hand towards Bihena, who happily shook it.
“I’m not the goddess of battle for nothing, you know.” She teased lightly, shaking her head. With the game officially over, the cards faded away as if they had never been there. The rest of us gave a round of applause, and I stepped forward to join the two of them.
“Well, everyone. As much fun as this has been, I’ve got to be heading back now.” My words were met with a few nods, some more reluctant than others. Leowynn in particular gave a sad sigh as she stepped forward, walking towards me before turning into a grey mist to enter my spiritual world again. “We’ll be back to play again later. Hopefully sooner this time.”
“Just make sure to keep yourself safe.” Irena said softly from the group, shaking her head. “We’ll all be watching over you.”
“Well, they will, at least.” Tubrock huffed with a light laugh. He lifted a hand, and one of the Keeper’s Cards appeared in it. “‘Dis little thing gave me an idea, so I’m gonna go see ‘bout makin’ it myself.” Before he turned away, I was able to get a good look at the card.
Automated golem crafted from available resources. Durability dependant on material used. Attack strength dependant on material used. Population cost, 0. Material cost, 2.
“Ooh, let me help!” Ryone shot up to her feet and rushed off after Tubrock, clearly excited by the idea of creating something like this without the system’s guidance.
I could only chuckle as I watched the two of them walking off, shaking me head slightly. “Alright. Well, I’ll head back down then.” In truth, the voyage had come across the island that we were heading towards a couple of hours ago while we were still playing the game, but we simply paused the world instead of cutting the game short.
“See you in a second.” Keliope grinned, with Udona nodding next to her. Irena just smiled at me, while Bihena let out a sigh of relief at being free from guiding the ships now. Terra and Accalia seemed more interested in discussing different cards and strategies than seeing me off.
Aurivy ran up to me, wrapping her arms around my waist. “Come back soon, bro.” She muttered softly, making Ashley laugh and step forward to pry her off of me. I shook my head again with a small grin as I operated the menu to descend down to the world.
Like the first time that I came down as Tebor, I felt my joints briefly stiffen up, groaning as the pains of old age hit me again. Even though it was not as bad as if I was a normal person, it was still uncomfortable to go from twenty years old to sixty in the time it takes to blink. I found myself sitting on top of my bench again at the front of the Jolly Dodger, the ocean air at my back.
As if it had been timed for my arrival, Emona’s voice rang out from behind me. “Drop anchor!” Glancing around, I saw that the ships were arranged in a line, side by side, rather than the circular formation before. And in front of us, close enough to easily swim, was a large island. Or at least, I knew it was an island.
The giant mass of land extended far beyond the horizon in both directions, making it easily mistakable for a continent of its own, if you didn’t have an aerial view of it. In truth, the island was roughly three hundred kilometers across, covered in a dense forest. If we weren’t aiming for the elven continent, this island wouldn’t actually be a bad choice to settle on and create a colony.
“Druids, ye’ll be makin’ a portal on this land as well.” Emona called out, her voice echoing into my mind. “If’n we need any more supplies than we can carry this time, we’ll return through the portals before we get too far away. For now, everyone choose who to send ashore!”
After she said that, the mana reverberations stopped, showing that she had ended her magical conference call. “Alright, everyone! I need one scout to volunteer to go ashore, and three combatants to volunteer to stay behind! Aside from that, all of the combat staff are going to gather supplies!”
Almost immediately, Saru jumped to attention, volunteering to join the expedition. This was the first chance anyone had had to get off the boat since the dungeon, aside from jumping from ship to ship to socialize with the other crews. For the ones that stayed behind, there were two mages and an archer, with everyone else jumping from the ship to head ashore.
Next time, please remember to add a dinghy or something to these boats. I prayed inwardly, knowing that at least someone would be listening while I slid along an ice platform towards the land. Yes, my way was faster, but I could see several people that simply sank like a stone and had to jump up repeatedly to get a breath of air while they walked under the water.
Sorry, Dale. Surprisingly, it was Accalia that answered me. Guess she got done discussing strategies with Terra, or was multitasking. There just wasn’t really a way to do so with what we have. A dinghy would be too fragile, and get destroyed against any random monster that got near the ship. We’re working on alternatives that we can achieve with our current means, though. It should be implemented by the next trip.
I nodded my head at that, at least they were considering these things. I was pretty sure that once I lifted the level cap, there would be fewer and fewer people that were actually able to swim. Though, that did make me wonder about several things, but we’ll see how it all plays out later.
Once we got to the island, I glanced around and saw the various people walking up from the water, their fur completely drenched. In total, around a hundred people had come to the island, but we weren’t planning on moving together as one unit. And just as the thought came to my mind, Emona’s voice sounded in my ears, which was disorienting since she remained back on the ship with the rest of the captains.
“Alright, everyone! Spread out and find anything that looks salvageable! But, make sure ye keep yerselves safe. If ye get into danger, join up with the others to fight it off, or head back to the ship. Do not, and I repeat, do not eat anything until it has been appraised. Aside from that, go and pillage to yer heart’s content!”
There was a brief round of laughter before several people dashed into the forest. Surprisingly, Kelly did not join them, and instead walked over to stay near me. “Don’t suppose you’d mind having a partner for this trip? The others would kill me if I let anything happen to you.”
I chuckled softly, smiling towards her and nodding. “Alright. Let’s just try to be careful.”
Kelly nodded as well, patting the metal shield that she had gotten from the dungeon. “Yup, that’s what I brought this bad boy for. Finally getting the chance to properly test it out.” She had a wide grin on her face as she led the way, pushing aside bushes and branches to advance past the beach and into the island’s jungle.