For the last two days that I was waiting for the meeting, I spent most of them hanging out with the others. As I had suspected, the girls were just avoiding me to keep who was going with me as a surprise, and let me prepare in the meantime… Once Bihena revealed herself as the person accompanying me to the meeting, I began to see more of them around.
As for Tubrock and Tryval… I’m not quite sure Tubrock ever left his forge in the first place, and Tryval seems to have been with his daughter the entire time. More than likely, the thought of those two joining me for the meeting never crossed either of their minds. Of course, I wasn’t going to complain about Tubrock spending more time perfecting his golems, or his other projects that he’s showed me.
If anything, I was quite curious what he planned to do with the Sky Citadel after incorporating the card magic from Deckan. Given his personality, I can’t see him not wanting to incorporate the card magic into it somehow. Though, maybe he just hasn’t at this point because he’s waiting for the third tier of cards to be released, and he needs Udona as a supplier for them.
Either way, I’d find out soon enough. With any luck, by the time we came back from the Keeper meeting, we’d have enough points to get everything we needed. Of course, until we left I had to spend plenty of time with a rather upset Aurivy to make up for the fact that I was ‘going out to play’ without her.
Thankfully, her pouting was mostly just a joke, as I found out after spending some time with her. We watched some old shows on the television, played a few games, and mostly just hung out with the others whenever they were free. Though, one thing of note was that I didn’t see Bihena again, until the day that we were getting ready to leave.
Just as I received the message from Alkahest, asking if I was ready, Bihena rushed out into the living room while Aurivy was giving me a goodbye hug. It was only then when I noticed why Bihena was taking so long to ‘get ready’, as her outfit seemed to be intricately crafted. Even as she was bent forward with her hands on her knees, panting for breath after rushing out suddenly, I could make out the details of her outfit.
On her head, she wore a golden band made of five intertwined strands of gold. On each side of her head, three strands spread outwards to form the pattern of wings, while one went down to outline her jaw, leaving the last strand to circle around and hold it all together. Her blonde hair was grown out slightly, tied up in a ponytail behind her.
She wasn’t wearing her normal armor, as it seemed that she wanted to wear something special for this event. Her body was adorned in a blue armor with golden highlights, covering her upper chest and legs. A short white dress fell down from beneath her chest armor, held together by a belt at her waist to form a skirt that traveled down to her knees.
On her hands, she wore long white gloves, the length of which traveled all the way up to her shoulders, ultimately leaving very little skin exposed aside from her head. “Hah... hah… I made it.” She panted out, looking up at me with a small grin.
However, when she saw what I was wearing, her face almost paled. “Seriously? You’re just going in casual clothes?” She asked incredulously, as I was still wearing the same t-shirt and pants as always.
“Well… yeah?” I couldn’t help but be amused as I saw her expression. “Is this what you’ve been preparing the last couple days?”
“Well… yeah?” She mimicked my response, though it seemed unknowingly. “Don’t you want to represent Earth’s culture? This is the formal armor of nobility among the humans, so of course I made a set for myself…”
I shook my head with a light laugh, before the message from Alkahest came through again, asking if I was ready once more. “Well, let’s go.” I told the grumbling goddess, who begrudgingly nodded her head.
Alkahest has invited you to their Administration Room with Guest privileges.
I couldn’t help but feel surprised when I saw the name on the invitation. Last time, it had been someone else… a Durandor, I believe. Was she not hosting the meeting this time? Still, I chose to accept the invitation, as none of my questions would be answered otherwise.
My eyes closed, bracing for another unpleasant transition. “Dale… door.” Bihena spoke, clearly taking her own turn to be amused. When I opened my eyes, there was a glittering golden door standing in front of us.
A sigh of relief escaped my mouth as I moved for the door, quickly opening it and going through before the system decided that I needed some other method to travel. “Sorry, bad experiences…” I explained to Bihena while she followed along.
“Uh huh, sure.” She simply kept a grin on her face as she watched me, as if this was payback for my casual attire.
However, her expression froze once again when we arrived. Alkahest had clearly remodeled his Admin Room to mimic the setup that Durandor had used in the meeting I had previously attended. Or, maybe it was better to say that the Gilded Branch likely used this layout as a template for whoever was hosting the event.
However, what startled Bihena obviously wasn’t the layout, as she had seen wide open spaces like that too many times to count. Instead, what startled her was no doubt the sight of the hundreds of various Keepers filling the area. Some appeared out of nowhere, shaking their heads in discomfort, while others rose up from the ground or fell from holes in the ceiling. But with so many Keepers, of so many races and varieties, this was clearly the most diverse crowd that Bihena had ever seen.
It didn’t take me long to find a few familiar faces. The giant red dragon that had been a new Keeper in my first meeting, the arachne Kathy, and naturally the giant hosting the event Alkahest. Various other faces seemed familiar, but I couldn’t quite remember where in the previous event that I had seen them.
Shortly after we arrived, someone hurriedly walked up to us. They were a small man, barely two feet tall with dark brown hair. Their eyes were a pure green, and they were wearing a black robe, with the emblem of a golden branch sewn on. “You… are EarthForceOne, right?” He asked hurriedly.
Before I could say anything else, he nodded his head again. “Good, yes, very good. Here, take this.” He handed me a small badge, which looked almost like a nametag. “Grimor said you were bringing a companion, so give that to them to allow them to represent you.” As he said that, he quickly disappeared back into the crowd, likely finding more Keepers to give the nametags to.
Glancing down at the nametag, it simply said ‘Game Companion of EarthForceOne’. With a light shrug, I passed it to Bihena next to me. “Looks like they’ll be using that to identify you when I’m not around.” I had been curious how they would handle that, or if they could simply award me the points through her as a proxy. But it looked like that wasn’t the case.
It took roughly thirty minutes before people stopped appearing within the crowd. At one point, I even had to dodge out of the way as an explosion of blood and gore occurred from in front of me, revealing a Keeper who looked absolutely traumatized. Inside out method? Poor guy…
Once the crowd was settled in, Grimor’s voice rang throughout the crowd. “Hello, everyone, and welcome, to the 275th semi-annual Keeper meeting hosted by the Gilded Branch. I am Grimor, owner of the title Alkahest, and I will be your host for the day. Durandor is still in the midst of her invasion against TridentTrue, so she won’t be able to join us for now.”
Ahh, so that’s why he’s hosting it. I was thinking that she might have been killed or something. “Now, unfortunately there aren’t any new Keepers among us, though I suppose that could be a blessing as well. This means that less Keepers have lost their lives and been replaced in this last month. However, there were still some losses, who I will honor now.”
After he said that, Grimor began to list off various Keeper titles, most of which I hadn’t heard of before. Yet, there was one that caught my attention. Dreyfus, whose name I only remembered because of the Designer games from my first meeting, as they had been the winner with a new type of magic. However, aside from him, none of the other titles mentioned caught my eye.
Finally, as he finished listing off the names of Keepers, he pat his chest with his hand. “In honor of those that have fallen, we carry on. To beat the system, and find the True Keeper!” As he finished, he thrust his fist into the air above him, his actions mimicked by many of the other Keepers as they shouted out in unison.
“”For the True Keeper!”” Ah.. I had almost forgotten about that bit. I shook my head as I waited for the ceremony to end.
And sure enough, there was only one piece left, with Grimor clearing his throat. “Now, as per usual, we have Arbitren here with his monthly report.” Saying that, he gave a small smile, allowing the old man that I saw last year to climb up onto the platform.
“Yes, thank you… Now, I have compiled a list of many notable systems submitted over the last month, and will be sharing some information about them now.” He glanced over the crowd of roughly a thousand Keepers before beginning to list out the various systems.
I had a small smile of pride when he came to the Card Law and Card Magic systems submitted by EarthForceOne, as they seemed to be rated rather highly. Maybe I can look forward to an influx of royalties once everyone goes back to their own Admin Rooms.
After he was done, Grimor once again took to the platform, long enough to announce that the guild-hosted games would be starting in ten standard minutes. “So, thoughts?” I asked with a small smile, turning my head to look at Bihena. Throughout all of this, she seemed to have been working her hardest to simply process the information, as all of this was so new to her.
Of course, Leowynn wasn’t doing any better herself from her position inside my spiritual realm. “It’s… big. A lot bigger than I imagined.” Bihena muttered with a pensive expression, her eyes glancing from one Keeper to the next. Though, it was hard to tell how many Keepers had brought a companion with them like myself.
My smile grew slightly larger as I heard her answer. “A bit overwhelming at first?” I asked, amused. “Don’t worry, most of them are pretty friendly, from what I saw before.”
As I spoke, there was the chittering of pointed legs that echoed over the crowd. “Dale!” A high pitched voice called out to me, and I turned my head to see Kathy rushing over. “I almost thought you weren’t coming to these meetings anymore.”
Her legs were practically dancing beneath her, each one clicking against the stone ground. I chuckled softly as I heard that, shaking my head. “No, I was just busy taking care of something in my own world. I take it that you’ve attended all of the meetings, then?”
She nodded her head rapidly, her legs clicking against the ground in an almost circular wave around her. “Aside from the official one. I wasn’t ready for it yet last time, so I couldn’t go… but I’ll be able to go to the next one!” She grinned happily as she said that, clearly proud of herself.
“Oh? Managed to get yourself into the games already?” I asked in genuine curiosity while Bihena observed the two of us from the side.
“Just last week! Though, my first invasion is set to be an attack, so I won’t be missing the meeting even if it takes a while. By the way, who’s this?” She turned to look at Bihena, her head tilted in confusion.
“Ah, I’m one of his goddesses… Bihena.” The person in question introduced herself politely, offering a small bow.
“Oooh, you brought a goddess with you?” Kathy grinned in excitement. “None of my people ever want to join me. Always too busy with their own things. I’m Kathy, by the way!” She lowered her large spider-like body down, extending a hand to Bihena.
Spider-girl agro has shifted, time to find some games to participate in!