It took us a while to find where Bihena had gone off to. With nearly forty rooms to check, it wasn’t until we got to the one labeled ‘World Champion’ that we finally found her. With the amount of time that had passed, several Keepers seemed to have already cleared out of the meeting. This made the population of each room barely half of what it had been before.
So, when we saw that Bihena was in a room with only five other people, it wasn’t all that surprising. Though, I was somewhat confused by the name of the game, since it seemed quite similar to the fighting tournament that I had been a part of. And to my surprise, the companion managing this even did not stop us from approaching Bihena, which likely meant that this was one of the games where it was possible for the Keeper and Companion to act together.
“Huh?” Bihena seemed to notice our approach, likely through the clicking of Kathy’s pointed feet against the ground, and turned around to look at us. She was standing at a stage, much like any of the other games that were played. Inside the stage, we could see two people battling. Both seemed to be human, though one was clad in armor and the other a cybernetic suit. “You found me, huh?” She asked with a small smile.
“Yeah. Sorry, was in the middle of a very long ‘game’.” I groaned, shaking my head. “Mind explaining what’s going on here?”
As the fighters in the ring continued to fight, Bihena nodded her head briefly. “Alright, that shouldn’t be too much of a problem. This tournament is designed to test your ability to raise a group of fighters. You can select or design a race, adjust the systems of the world that they live in, and then the game produces six fighters that represent the strongest force that the world would have to offer once the world reaches a certain level of power.”
“And then you have them fight in one on one matches?” I asked, raising an eyebrow as I saw the armored soldier send out a golden wave of energy towards the cybernetic human, tearing the man’s arm from his body. Sparks, oil and blood washed down onto the stage as the now crippled fighter let out a pained scream.
“That’s right.” Bihena agreed, not seeming to mind the scream. Or maybe she had gotten used to it by this point. “This is my second time through the tournament, and I think I should be able to bring us a prize this time.”
I gave a small nod as I heard that. “Alright. After this tournament is over, we can head home then. Between this and the royalties we should have gotten, we should have enough to take the final steps now.”
Bihena let out a relieved sigh, her shoulders sagging slightly. “Oh good… I don’t think that there are any other games that I would be able to win in. It took me over an hour just to find this one.” As she spoke, her armored soldier cleanly decapitated the cybernetic combatant.
“And EarthForceOne will move on to the final round!” The companion, a winged female that looked similar to a harpy, spoke up. Her hands and feet were talons, and her arms had her white wings attached to them. Her outfit was a simple golden dress that fell loosely over her body. “Their opponent will be… StarKiller!”
I blinked in surprise when I heard the familiar name, turning to see the same bashful looking, white furred rabbit that had won the glorified game of hide and seek. Her head was lowered when her name was called, one of her ears twitching as if to show her embarrassment. Quietly, she walked up towards the stage that Bihena was at, waiting for her previous opponent to move before taking his place.
“U-uhm… take care of me, okay?” She asked, looking up at Bihena and offering a nervous smile.
Bihena simply sighed, shaking her head as she turned her attention back towards the match. “Let me guess, you’re going with the same setup as last time?” She asked dryly, showing that she had encountered this StarKiller in the last tournament already.
“W-well… it’s all I really know, and it works really well with them… Should I do something different?” StarKiller looked at Bihena hopefully, as if trying to earn some advice from her.
“It’s your decision.” Bihena told her plainly, and I could see her quickly navigating her way through a menu that appeared with a practiced ease. It seemed that she knew her way around the controls after having played through the tournament once before. And although she was moving too quickly for me to properly make out everything she chose, I was able to get a few pieces of information.
For instance, the race that she chose was human, like she always did in the Keeper Sim matches. For the setting, she chose a game world, which brought up a window with a number of templates for her to choose from. However, rather than going with a template, she simply selected ‘import owned system’ at the bottom. That likely meant that she was bringing in the game system from my own Earth.
Aside from that, she selected all of the various systems that we had in place on Earth, such as achievements and quest scrolls, and even the guild and kingdom systems. Everything that she picked actually seemed to be an option already present in our own world. At least, until the end, where she chose a system that we didn’t have yet.
This final system was called Parties. Although I did not have time to read through the description that the game offered, it should be the same type of party mechanics that are found in most games. I’d have to take a look at it later to figure out exactly what it had to offer that made Bihena add it to the world she was establishing.
However, once she was done, she immediately hit the ‘Ready’ button. Across from us, StarKiller was still fumbling through the menu. It didn’t seem that she was having a hard time deciding what to choose, but trying to find where the options were… At least, if her quiet mumblings were any indication.
“Don’t mind her.” Bihena said with a sigh. “She’s always like that.”
“You know her?” I couldn’t help but ask in surprise, seeing how this was Bihena’s first time meeting other Keepers. Logically, she shouldn’t be so familiar with any of them.
Bihena’s response was to groan, shaking her head. “After you went to play that game with Kathy, I saw her in the Keeper’s Cards tournament. Since then… I guess that you could say she’s become my Kathy.”
“Oh… I see.” I had a feeling that I knew what she meant, but when I glanced back Kathy was just tilting her head in confusion. “I take it she tends to stick to the same routine, then? Going by what you said before…”
“Yeah.” Bihena nodded her head in agreement, her lips pursed slightly. “She always picks the same race as her, which she calls a Fert. She uses a cultivation system that combines the four basic energies, and it’s actually quite powerful in the card game. She managed to get the championship there, but waited for me to finish so that we could play together again. If I had to guess, she’s probably looking for the ‘profound laws’ of her system.”
“I can hear you, you know!” StarKiller called back, a pouting expression on her face as her ears bent low, one foot stomping against the ground.
“I told you last time, the import option is at the very bottom.” Bihena replied, shaking her head.
StarKiller blinked, glancing down to her own menu before lowering her head. “I knew that…” She weakly lifted one of her furred hands up to press a button, and a moment later more options began appearing on the screen.
“At this point, we are given various ‘side quests’.” Bihena explained as she read through each window that appeared before quickly selecting an option. “These are development choices that occur throughout the world. Things such as wars or famine. You can choose to get involved or to let them handle it themselves.”
“Typically, letting them handle it lets them grow stronger. However, if you leave it up to themselves too many times, they could simply go extinct, and you automatically lose the game. Interfering with each choice is the safe option, but your forces will come out a bit less skilled.” As she said that, Bihena pressed the last option on the final window that appeared.
Surprisingly, StarKiller was already done by the time Bihena finished. It was hard to tell if she just read the options faster, or just picked the same thing for every choice to speed things up. Next, six blue screens appeared each in front of StarKiller and Bihena. Although we couldn’t see what was on StarKiller’s, Bihena’s each contained a differently dressed human.
“And these are the fighters that I have to work with.” She explained again, motioning an arm towards the screens. Each one had a basic list of stats for the combatant, as well as a brief summary of their skills and specialties. “At this point, I just have to decide which order they will go out.”
Saying that much, Bihena went silent, quietly debating the various options. First, she selected a warrior armed in silver-colored gear, listed as a Templar. Second, a female wizard with an aged face. Third, an elemental monk with a peaceful expression. Then fourth and fifth she placed a warrior and druid respectively.
For the sixth slot, she placed what was obviously the strongest of the six. Someone whose main class was listed as Hero. In his description, he was listed as ‘The Hero that has entered the realm of the Perfect Self’. I couldn’t help but be surprised, as that no doubt meant he had unlocked the advanced class that nobody in my own world had gotten yet.
Once again, StarKiller was already done choosing her arrangements long before Bihena. As soon as her sixth fighter was chosen, the match began immediately. Bihena let out a brief sigh as she saw the rabbit-looking person appear on StarKiller’s side of the stage, walking on air. “Alright, this should go pretty quickly.”
Bihena crossed her arms beneath her chest as she watched the match. The Templar in silver was wrapped in a golden light as he struck out at the flying Fert. “Her cultivation techniques are pretty strong. In a game like Keeper’s Cards, she pretty much can’t be beat if you give her time to build. But in a game where the level of power is even, it’s a different matter.”
The Fert casually blocked the first strike of the Templar with the back of his hand, though a bloody mark appeared on it. When he lashed out, his fist flying forward, the air seemed to buckle around it. “Because the system focuses on the systematic development of all the energy types, there’s a limit to what she can do here.”
“If I had to say it… her fighters are stuck in their second cultivation stage. They have mastered the use of their ki sufficiently, and have started to cultivate natural energy. But in terms of spiritual energy or mana, most haven’t touched it.” As she spoke, the Templar raised his sword to the sky, a golden barrier surrounding him to block the force of the Fert’s punch.
“Most?” I asked, curious exactly how much she knew about this. It seemed that she had the time to study StarKiller’s system quite a bit, or had been told about it in conversation.
“Well, there are rare cases where someone is born with difficulty cultivating ki. Instead, they begin with mana, which is normally the last step for someone cultivating normally. Similarly, there is the very rare case where someone takes both paths at once, though she won’t have anyone like that. Although those people are strong enough to be considered a force themselves in the card game, they don’t have enough time to grow here, and are less capable than normal cultivators.”
As she explained things, the Templar burst forth with a wave of energy, launching himself at the frustrated Fert. When he swung his sword, golden light filled the sky, and the Fert’s body was cut in half. Across from us, StarKiller stared at Bihena with watery eyes, stomping her foot on the ground again. “You don’t have to criticize it so harshly, you know!” She complained. “It’s a really cool system! Really! I spent a lot of time fine-tuning it!”