A low sigh sounded in the grassy plains, a single woman standing alone. She lowered her hands from the translucent keyboard that hovered in the air in front of her, it disappearing along with the screen that had existed above it. Slowly, her feet began to lift her up off the ground, flying gently into the sky.
The woman’s body seemed to be crafted from silver, with glowing blue lines running along her joints. Yet despite her wholly artificial appearance, there was a strange sort of feeling about her. The soft glow of her body seemed to blend with the world in an odd way.
She rose higher and higher into the sky, her speed gradually increasing. In just a few moments, she had appeared above the entire world, able to look down on it. Despite the distance, she could see the various demons standing on the ground below. “Modifying script to compensate for a nocturnal race.” She muttered, her pure white eyes shining.
The woman lifted a single hand, her palm turning upwards. An hourglass appeared floating above her palm, oddly empty of any sand. “Accelerating time flow by thirty one and a half million times.”
Below, the world burst into motion, rotating rapidly. She was both within the time field and outside of it, able to perceive the accelerated world without being swept away by it. She could see the demons one moment, roaming through the mountains, and then as the world turned she saw the humans, the halflings, the kitsune.
Every second of accelerated time that passed caused a single grain of sand to appear at the base of the hourglass. She gave a small nod as she saw the world shifting past the stone age, before turning the hourglass upside down. Suddenly, the world froze, every creature within it held in place. Only the woman herself was able to move freely.
“Next up… insert the foundation of magic.” The magic within Vision Expanse was not any of the basic types. As one might expect of a world designed by a high ranking Keeper, they used a more advanced magic system, Structural Magic.
The woman, Vivi, lifted her other hand, and a shimmering blue seed appeared within it. This was the crystallized seed of magic, held in stasis by a system of its own. The reason that structural magic was treated as more advanced than any normal arcane system was due to the fact that the world itself was treated as a structure. If the proper measures weren’t taken, it was possible to end up with a planet-sized spell that doomed the entire world.
To prevent this, Sarah had used a system to suspend the magic. Only objects created after it was implemented would be imbued with the arcane energies, leaving the world itself unharmed. When Vivi clenched her fist around the seed of magic, it shattered. Its energies spread out, engulfing everything. Only then did she turn the hourglass back over and allow the world to resume its accelerated time.
Even with the coded template governing the minds of the people, there was a chaos when every item forged suddenly carried a strange magical property. Though this chaos felt muted when the inhabitants weren’t capable of expressing true emotion. Vivi sighed, shaking her head as she watched the world develop more and more.
Soon, magic came to be understood and wielded. Blacksmiths developed a specialty field known as spellmasons, a craft devoted to mastering the art of shaping the magic in every item. Mages, on the other hand, were those who trained the skills to draw out the magic in the items they carried.
Thus was the way of Vision Expanse. The foremost crafting and exploration game world that Vivi had been made aware of. She watched the world developing again, and could feel when it had been first plugged into a computer. Her mind was immediately connected to the machine, able to read through it as easily as if it were a book in her hands.
Through that computer, she was able to understand the language of the world, and her eyes glowed. A burst of energy swept over the land, inserting the language into the ‘script’ of the NPCs evolving below. Now, they would be able to develop towards this new language.
Once again, Vivi raised her hands, and the same screen appeared in front of her as before. What she saw displayed on it was the laughing face of a female demon. “You should be Ashley, correct?” She asked professionally, causing the woman to stop her laughing and look at the screen in shock. “Please don’t be alarmed. I am merely trying to take this time to become better acquainted with you. I have already sent strands of my consciousness to converse with the minds of the other deities.”
In fact, this avatar of Vivi was only one of several dozen, all acting in unison at different points around the world. When the demoness learned this, she gave a slow nod. “Ahh… alright. Sorry, but who are you?”
Vivi gave a small, soft smile. As much as it pained her to admit, she did enjoy simply getting these sorts of reactions out of people. The standard ‘please identify yourself’ that the NPCs responded with was grating on her mind. “My name is Vivi. I’m the intelligence controlling the world you just plugged in to your computer.”
“Ah!” Ashley exclaimed, leaning forward in her chair. Her eyes gleamed in a way that no NPC ever could. “So you’re like a little goddess for that world? That’s really cool.”
Vivi nodded her head. “If need be, I am able to insert myself in the role of a deity. However, I try not to do that. It is more enjoyable to let those like yourself maintain their roles. Now, from what I am seeing, the company you wish to release this game on is known as… Darkflame Technologies?”
When Ashley gave a small nod, Vivi continued. “Would you like me to leave your company logo at any points within the world, as a form of advertisement?”
“Wait, you can do that? Of course you can do that… Sure. Ancient civilizations, places where it won’t disrupt the activity of the current world. So… is there a manual for this game, or would we be creating that ourselves?”
Vivi gave a small shake of her head. “I can upload a simplified tutorial codex to your terminal. For something more detailed, the information can freely be given by the fairies. As soon as the game has finished downloading onto your servers, I will provide you with an admin account and let you see for yourself.”
“Sure, that sounds fun. Anything else that I need to know in the meantime?”
Hearing that, Vivi hesitated before answering. “There is, Ashley. According to the records I’m seeing, your company has been primarily focused on developing and releasing virtual reality devices. However, it was other companies that supplied the games for your products. May I ask… what do you plan to tell your employees now that you suddenly have a fully developed game of your own?”
Ashley raised a hand, as if about to speak. And then she lowered it. She opened her mouth… and closed it. “Well, that’s a bit of an oversight on my part. Guess we’re going with Dale’s plan a bit early. I’ll reveal myself to my employees, and swear them to secrecy.”
By now, Vivi had finished exploring Ashley’s computer, and had branched out. Now, she was looking through the internet itself. Her mind was naturally used to being in all places at once, so this did not feel strange at all for her. “Do you have any questions for me, now that we’re talking?” She asked patiently, offering that same gentle smile to Ashley.
“Actually, I do. Though, they’re mostly about the technology that we’ll be using to connect to your world.”
As one might expect, the Council of Fyor did not wish to conduct a simple trade agreement. No, they drafted up a plan of their own. After sending a messenger to Dawn, they agreed to purchase the mining rights for a single vein of void concealing stones. Unlike most of the other resources within the Great Blue, this was one that truly could not be found on any other floor. Only this and the tidestone had proven to be truly unique to this region.
Once they had the rights to mine, they sent a team to carry out the task. However, this team was a bit more than one might expect. There were craftsmen hidden within their ranks, with the intention of creating more mining vessels in secret once they had managed to hide themselves within the giant ocean.
Unfortunately, they underestimated the new strength that the mages had been able to achieve after their isolation. Scrying spells were no longer so easily blocked by those stones, and their ploy was discovered before they managed to finish their first ship. Moreover, it was discovered in such a way that it forced the Council to realize what they were up against.
As the training crew hammered away at their boat, dry-docked in a small cave, they didn’t notice the soft footsteps approaching. It wasn’t until the dock manager looked over that he saw a halfling walking over, a pale blue staff in one hand. His arms appeared to be covered with arcane runes, and the manager could tell at a glance that this wasn’t one of his workers.
“Who’re you?!” The human shouted, moving to stand between the halfling and the rest of the workers. His shout alerted the others, and the sounds of hammering, the sawing of wood, all stopped. Silence filled the cave as the halfling looked up at him, his face neutral.
“Jasper Fallows.” He introduced himself. “I am a Magister of Dawn, and you are in direct violation of the trade agreement. I will be taking you all in for questioning.”
“Just you?” The manager raised his eyebrows. Most of them may be craftsmen, but there were a fair few seasoned warriors on their side. Furthermore, even if he was a halfling, Jasper was obviously young. Yet he simply nodded in response to the question. “Dammit, I don’t know how you found us so quickly, but we’re going to have to get you to stay here for a while.”
Seeing the man slowly beginning to advance on him, Jasper lifted his staff just slightly off the ground, and then tapped it once against the dock. The sound that echoed out was light, yet a deafening roar followed after. A dark shadow filled the cave as the water rose up, forming the shape of a giant serpent.
Jasper was the product of a new method of training. He had easily managed to climb the ranks due to his talent, but it didn’t take him long to hit the ceiling that was created when one reached the level limit. Even then, he continued to train, practicing the methods learned by the Magisters in the Age of Night. His mana continued to grow steadily, even if his level remained stagnant.
“Bind. Shatter.” Two of the many runes on Jasper’s arms lit up as he activated two of his prepared spells. Strands of water shot out from the mouth of the great beast, each one homing in on one of the dock workers. With the second spell, he cast a brief glance to the side, and the wooden vessel that was under construction began to shake violently.
Within moments, planks began to fall off, those who had been standing on the deck crashing down onto it. Loud cracks rang out as a crevice formed within the boat itself, rising up from the center to break it apart.
The dock manager stumbled back, charging his ki to forcefully break apart the binding spell. “What…” He looked at the kid in shock, before narrowing his eyes in anger. No matter what, it was still just one boy. He lunged forward, gathering his ki in his palms. If he could end this quickly, he could not only save his people, but get them away to safety.
“Body.” Five runes along Jasper’s right arm lit up at the word, five spells bound to the same trigger. Speed, strength, defense, reflexes, and flight. The manager’s eyes widened as Jasper moved just as quickly as him. What surprised him even more was that the halfling wasn’t dodging, and instead charged right in.
Just as the palms were about to connect with his body, Jasper lowered his posture and spun, his staff twirling in his hands. It came down, sweeping through the man’s feet before batting his hands to the side. When he tumbled to the ground, he would find the tip of the staff presented directly in front of his face, glowing faintly. “You are under arrest.”