The following tests were similar in many ways to the first. Each one tested a Keeper’s ability to judge what needed to be done. For instance, in the second test, what threatened the world was an ice age. This test was actually fairly simple, as there was a God of Fire listed as one of the assets. I simply instructed the god to guide people to shelters while offering them a blessing of warmth to help them survive.
Other tests included things like droughts, famines, or even plagues. In some cases, I was able to get through it without spending any points at all, whereas others I was forced to spend a few. And, as the tests progressed, new and difficult trials seemed to appear. For instance, the first one that made me really pause…
For this trial, the world I was in charge of was still young, far too young to be able to get rid of a meteor hurtling towards it. At most, they could be considered in the bronze age. Throwing swords and spears would do nothing. And there was no God of Space, or even a God of Stone that could take control of the meteor to move it away.
The only gods I had to work with were gods of Medicine, Crafting, Magic, and Fire. Although fire was often associated with shooting stars, that was really only after they entered the atmosphere… and at that point it would be too late. As for the God of Magic, the level of magic in the world was not enough that even a god would be able to stop the meteor.
In the end, I could only come up with a few options. I could either purchase an entity from the market like Alkazar to get rid of the meteor, or take care of it myself. Out of the two, the latter was far cheaper. Purchasing a Time Zone, I surrounded the meteor with it and simply paused it in time while the world moved on, until it was no longer in its path.
But this wasn’t the only trial that made me pause. Immediately after that was a trial where a demon lord had arisen in my world. The system warned that its combat ability would be greater than my own, and would likely be able to kill me if we fought. This time, I couldn’t avoid bringing in the dragon.
By the time I hit the fiftieth trial, I was beginning to wonder just how long this would take. Since I took my time answering each test patiently, I had already been in here for several hours. In fact, I had already gotten another thousand points from Bihena winning a game, though I did not know what she had won.
As for my own score in the exams, I had managed to use only twelve hundred points from the ten thousand total after the fiftieth trial. At this point, I couldn’t be sure if I was doing good or not. However… I had the feeling that I was on the right track.
From my understanding, there were no take-backs in these exams. If you spent points on an answer that turned out to be wrong, those points were still spent. Sometimes, the wrong answer might even make the problem worse. With my philosophy of not acting until I had an answer I was sure of, I avoided wasting points. Especially since I didn’t ask for any hints.
And then there were tests like this. Things that I was not even really ready for, because my worlds were not advanced that far. I knew that there was one easy answer, which was to completely reset the world and start from scratch. And, call me stubborn, but that’s not an answer that I wanted to choose.
Thankfully, this one had a plethora of gods at my disposal, so I had another alternative. In the list of resources, the enemy remains were an option. With the use of the gods, I had commands sent down to the world to salvage the remains and study them. After that, I chose to fast forward.
Each trial was making me take longer to think it over, to make sure that I got it right on the first try. At the same time, there were fewer and fewer tests where I could avoid spending points. At one point, I started to believe that even asking for one hint might make the entire trial impossible to pass.
A war wages among the stars. Civilizations spanning countless systems have become hostile to one another on the eve of an invasion, with one side blaming you for the invading forces. Your goal is to ensure the fighting potential of your world before the invasion begins, or the invading forces may ally with those hostile to you.
I was starting to feel tired at this point. Not physically, but mentally. Looking at my balance, I still had seven thousand, two hundred out of the original ten thousand remaining. I had lost track of the amount of time spent in this trial, and was almost positive that Kathy would not still be waiting outside the room for me anymore. If she didn’t have the patience to complete the trial herself, then surely she wouldn’t be able to sit around and do nothing for all that time.
Shaking my head, I looked at the list of assets I could use for this test. Given the scope of the problem, the assets listed were simply enormous. If I took my time to read through and understand each one, I might be here for days. So instead, I looked at the list of deities available to me.
Thankfully, there was a long and extensive list of deities for me to use as well. Any type of domain I could wish for was represented. The only problem was how to use them. If the world involved knew about the existence of Keepers, then there was no doubt that they also knew about several things that Keepers could do.
If I tried to take the slow approach, and get the gods to try peacefully resolving the situation, the hostile faction wouldn’t listen. After all, the gods are under the command of the Keeper themselves, so why would they listen to the enemy’s words? Similarly, if they knew about the Keeper’s ability to influence culture, then they would be suspicious towards anyone born with different beliefs.
Ultimately, there were a number of general answers that could be used here. Since the hostile faction is against the gods, pull all the gods back to stop them from helping that faction, and instead help the others. With all of the advancements in technology from the hostile party being fed to their enemies, they couldn’t gain a technological advantage. Then, with the help of the gods, relay the hostile faction’s battle strategies to allied commanders.
The main problem with this was resources, as the map provided showed that the hostile faction had secured several key worlds rich with rare materials. Even if the designs for new technology were passed along, the allied troops might not be able to take advantage of it without the proper components.
However, having all of the gods actively favor one side was definitely a critical component of this test. If a peaceful answer couldn’t be reached, then what was needed was an overwhelming victory. And even with the help of the gods, although this would be a surefire victory, it would not come without the loss of overall power in the world.
With an invasion just around the corner, and the opponent paired up for the world at its strongest, any such drop in power could prove fatal. So, I had to turn to the market for additional help. I needed to get a new technology or magic that was able to give the allied troops a new edge, strengthening them enough to balance the loss of power that would come from destroying the hostile forces.
What I chose in the end were blueprints for a powerful shield for vehicles, utilizing both magic and science. The strength of the shields should prove enough to nullify the weapons that the hostile faction possessed. However, buying those blueprints cost me a full two thousand points…
I closed my eyes, praying that my answer had been good enough for the system, and more so praying that I would not have to spend any more points on the rest of the tests. With my new balance down just above five thousand, I couldn’t spare anything else while still keeping a passing grade.
Passed. Through the use of overwhelming defenses and the aid of the Keeper’s Companions, you have eliminated the rebel faction without causing a large decrease in the overall level of the world.
You have passed the 99 Trials of a Keeper with a total score of 5200/10000.
I nearly fell back into the chair and passed out from exhaustion when I read the final announcement. However, I soon realized that I was no longer alone in the room. The toga-wearing companion that had been the one to send me into this game was now standing in the far corner of the room, her eyes locked onto me.
“Congratulations, EarthForceOne.” She spoke without a hint of emotion in her tone. “You have passed the trials, and are eligible to receive the reward. I have already logged your success with the Gilded Branch, so future attempts will not yield additional prizes.”
As she spoke, she walked closer, extending one slender hand for me to grasp. With a tired nod, I reached out to grab her hand. Though, the message that appeared next surprised me.
Caretaker has transferred 5000 points to your balance.
I blinked in surprise, looking up at the woman I thought had been a Companion for Grimor. However, it turned out that she herself was a Keeper. Yet, by the time I was able to look up, I was standing once again in the hallway outside of the room.
Off to my left, I noticed that Kathy was indeed waiting… in a way. Her eight legs were splayed out on the ground, her feminine upper body laying flat on the floor with her eyes closed. Her body rose and fell slightly with each breath, showing that she had passed out while trying to wait for me.
Shaking my head, I reviewed the points that we had acquired so far. Bihena had won a total of two thousand points while I was in the Trials. Combine that with my five thousand, and the points we had earned before, and we had gotten a total of eight thousand five hundred points so far in the meeting.
“Kathy, wake up.” I spoke to the sleeping spider girl, knowing that it would be incredibly rude for me to just walk off and leave her sleeping there.
She stirred at my words, her legs seeming to flex back up before relaxing once again. “Kathy, it’s Dale. Time to get up.”
“Mmm… Dale… Just a few more minutes.” She murmured, shaking her head slightly and burying her face in her arms.
“If you don’t get up, I’m just going to go find another game to play while I wait.” I couldn’t help but smirk as I said that, looking down at the large arachne.
“Ugghhh… Fine, I’m up…” She whined pitifully, pushing her upper body back up with her hands while her legs got below her to lift her up. “How’d you do?” She asked, wiping at her eyes before letting out a small yawn.
“I passed… eventually. It took a lot longer than what I had expected.”
When I answered honestly, she nodded as if she knew all along. “Yeah… they get really boring… But you did good, though. You passed, and that puts you closer to what you want… right?”
I gave a brief nod to answer that. “Now I just have to find Bihena. With any luck, we can go home soon.”
Kathy lowered her head slightly when she heard that, a downcast expression on her face. “Home… right. Once you qualify for the games, maybe I could come visit?” She asked in a hopeful tone. “The companions in my place are all super annoying, and I’d love to get the chance to meet the rest of yours. If it’s alright, of course…”
I recalled Grimor once telling me that there was no charge for Keepers in the games to invite others to their Admin Rooms. “I don’t see why not.” I nodded, before turning around. “Let’s go find Bihena first, though.”