I didn’t bother to stick around to watch the final round between MeanGreen and MissTery. At this point, there wasn’t a lot for me to gain from watching fight anymore. I had already experienced firsthand the level of power that a first rank Keeper was expected to have, and then some. I’d have to ask Grimor, but those two were likely at a significantly higher rank than that, and just participating in this tournament for fun.
Instead, I went back out into the hall. It was hard to tell whether the fighting tournament was considered long or short compared to most games, but it was definitely shorter than the Keeper Sim game that I played before. After all, that one was a round robin style tournament, with each match taking nearly an hour. Naturally, it would take longer than a tournament with a brackets system, and each round taking a total of no more than half an hour.
So I started looking through the door titles again. By now, there were far less people in the halls, giving me more room to examine each game taking place. In total, there were twenty doors along each wall, with one door at the very end, for a total of forty-one different games. If I thought about how many points the Gilded Branch spent every month on these meetings… the number is simply astronomical.
Thankfully, there was one familiar face out in the hall. Grimor himself stood at the entry point, watching over everyone that was walking between the doors. When he caught my gaze on him, he offered a friendly wave. I had some questions to ask, so I walked over to greet him.
“Saw that you got a prize already. Aronia… she should be in charge of the fighting competition, yeah? Good job there.” He greeted me with a smile and a nod as I approached.
“Thanks. Why aren’t you in any of the games, though?” I couldn’t help but ask, glancing back towards the doors.
Grimor put on a bitter expression as he heard that, shaking his head. “One of our rules. The host of the meeting can’t participate in any of the competitions. It’d make it look rigged if we won.”
“Ahh… makes sense. Mind if I take some time to ask you a few questions that have been bothering me lately?”
When he heard that, he gave a brief, polite nod. As such, I didn’t hesitate. “What sort of benefits does being in a guild offer? I know you invited me to yours, and another group did the same for my first meeting. But nobody has really explained that bit to me yet.”
He seemed surprised when he heard my first question, glancing at my curious. “You never asked that cat-eared Companion of yours? She probably could have told you.” I gave a small sigh at his response, shaking my head. The question hadn’t really occurred to me until we got here, after all.
“Well, it’s pretty simple really. Guilds are another system that the Keepers themselves added into the overall foundation of the bigger governing system. Like with the Standard Time or the Keeper Titles, enough Keepers petitioned for it that we were allowed to form groups within the system.”
As he explained, Grimor crossed his arms in front of himself, leaning against the nearby wall to his side. “There are only really two benefits to joining a guild. First, and perhaps most importantly, members of the same guild will never be matched up against one another in a fight. Though, this has its limits. For instance, when we discovered that, we tried to get as many people into one guild as we could to end the games entirely. Wanna guess what happened?”
When he saw me shrugging my shoulders helplessly, he continued with a small chuckle. “The system made it so that everyone in the guild was matched against someone else within the guild for the next several months. Far as we can tell, there is a guild member cap of ten percent for every Keeper Rank. So we can only have ten percent of the first, second, and so on before the system gets mad.”
I nodded at that. It was still a huge benefit to not be forced to fight your friends, even if there was that limit. “And the other benefit?”
Grimor shook his head, closing his eyes for a moment. “The second one isn’t so special. We are able to exchange points with other guild members without directly visiting their Administration Room, or vice versa. That’s how we host these meetings, shifting our points around every month to make sure that the host can afford it.”
“We even have a few Keepers who have made it their sole purpose to farm for points by mass producing worlds and stopping them a few years before they get to the games. They just have to send off the points before the system matches them up with the next invasion.”
I couldn’t help but raise my eyebrow as I heard that. “Doesn’t that seem a bit like cheating? I mean, by that logic you could just transfer a ton of points to your guildmate after they’ve been paired with an opponent, and they use those points to enhance their world enough to overwhelm the enemy.”
Grimor laughed lightly at that, shaking his head. “Yeah, some people try to exploit it like that. And every now and then, it works. But it also backfires, just like the other benefit. After all, in order to raise their strength enough to dominate their opponent like that in a short time, they would have to buy extremely powerful systems or worlds.”
“And those would permanently increase their Keeper rating, making it so that they would always be set up against more powerful Keepers unless they completely reset and start from scratch.” Saying that, Grimor simply shrugged his shoulders. “Once that was found out, people stopped trying to take advantage of it. Though, we still do every now and then with our Avenger branch.”
Seeing my curious expression, Grimor continued his explanation. “That’s what we call the ones that are specialized for that. We build them up from scratch, and wait until they are paired with one of the more monstrous Keepers. Then we funnel as many points into them as we can afford so that they can rapidly raise the strength of their world. After they send in their troops, they reset their worlds to start over from scratch.”
I found myself feeling a bit of pity for those Avenger branch members… Resetting their worlds over and over meant that they had to live through the more boring parts of the Keeper process repeatedly. Given the Gilded Branch’s philosophy, I doubted they would simply fast forward through the entire process.
“I see… That’s terrifying in a number of ways. Though, it does make me want to join up with a guild sooner or later. If only for the first benefit. Are there any other restrictions on guilds that I should know about?”
Grimor seemed to give it a moment of thought, before shaking his head again. “Not really. You can leave or join guilds as often as you like. You just aren’t allowed to be in more than one guild at a time.”
Well, that was a relief. The fact that being in a guild didn’t restrict my freedom helped. “Thanks. One last thing. Is there a trading platform aside from the market? For instance, if I wanted to sell a system I invented directly to another Keeper, I could give it to them at a discount, but still ultimately make more than the normal royalties?”
Hearing that, Grimor actually let out a loud, roaring laugh. “Hah! Everyone ends up wanting something like that sooner or later! Believe me, Dale, we tried. We petitioned for it like we did everything else, but the system wouldn’t budge. At one point, we had over six thousand names on the petition, a full two thirds of the entire system. But there wasn’t any change.”
“How do those petitions work?” I couldn’t help asking that, since he kept mentioning them. It didn’t seem like anything too important, but every bit of information could be useful eventually.
However, Grimor only gave a light shrug, shaking his head. “It’s nothing special. Someone just makes a forum post to petition for something, and people could respond to vote for it. Every now and then, something manages to go through. I think that’s what gives so many people hope that there is a True Keeper, and that he is the one reviewing everything to see what to approve.”
So either a True Keeper… or just an extremely intelligent system. My head shook from side to side as I thought about that. I glanced up towards Grimor and offered a small smile. “Thanks for the tips. I should get back to the games, though. Still got a long ways to go to hit my goal.”
Grimor nodded his head, staring down at me. “Well, the offer’s still open if you want to join the guild.”
I chuckled, but didn’t say anything. While the idea of joining a guild was more appealing now, I would have to make sure that I chose carefully. After all, if I joined the Gilded Branch and just used their points to elevate myself to the Games, it might turn into a situation where I become indebted to them. I would rather not have something like that happen.
I gave Grimor a small wave as I turned around, once again looking for the next game that I would compete in. This time, I actually made my way towards the Keeper Sim room. Now that I had learned a bit more about the games held here, I felt ready to tackle this game. The fact that I had actually won points already surely made me more confident as well.
When I entered the Keeper Sim room, I was not surprised to see that a tournament was already well under way. Going by the scoreboard projected on the far wall, they were six matches in out of twenty, showing that it was less than half over. However, I was a bit surprised when I saw the name EarthForceOne listed on the scoreboard.
MissBehave - Six Wins
Naturally, this meant that Bihena was taking part in this tournament. More to the point, she was actually tied for first place. Though, that wasn’t saying much since there were still so many matches left to go, just that those three had yet to suffer a loss.
“EarthForceOne?” A voice spoke up from behind me, catching me by surprise. Behind me, I saw a man in a black suit, his skin a solid white and his eyes black. When I nodded my head, he turned to look towards one of the stages. “In order to prevent cheating, you aren’t allowed to directly observe your companion competing. However, I can send you to a special viewing area where you can watch her match without the risk of intervening.”
Hearing that, I couldn’t help but hesitate. If Bihena did get a prize from this tournament, then sticking around wouldn’t serve much purpose. I couldn’t even be a proper cheering squad. After all, there was likely a similar rule as with the other tournament, and we wouldn’t be able to play the same game after winning once.
However, I ultimately ended up nodding. If Bihena didn’t win, then we could tackle the tournament again and I’d be here from the start. That, and I really didn’t know what other games that I could feasibly play and didn’t want to go looking for another one right after I settled on the Keeper Sim.
Seeing me agree to the offer, the white-skinned man nodded his head. My vision was briefly obscured with a fog of black before I found myself standing alone in a small room. There was a single chair in it along one of the four stone walls, while opposite to that was a large display.
The scene displayed was clearly a Keeper Sim match, going by my memory, but there was also a second screen contained within it. The second screen focused on Bihena, letting me see her expressions and reactions, and hear the different commands that she gave out. Giving a small nod, I moved to sit at the chair, propping my chin on my hands as I watched her play.