After stopping to check in on Lorek for a few moments, I decided to go ahead and return to the citadel, which was still positioned over the island on Desbar. When I arrived, I found that Tsubaki was still immersed within the game with Aurivy. It wasn’t really surprising, since there was only a couple of weeks until the big launch of the game. Even I was excited to give it a try.
But first, there was something that I had to do. Closing my eyes, I sent messages to the different deities to relay my words. I had a message that needed to be sent to everyone.
People, hear me. I am the Keeper. There is another force which is approaching our worlds, much like the former invasions. However, this time we have the chance to attack. I will not force anyone to commit to this attack, but know this. This force is one which does not hesitate to wipe out any world that they come across.
If you volunteer, then this will likely be a one way trip. Only by conquering the opposing world will you have the chance to return home. Knowing this, the choice rests in your hands. Whoever chooses to volunteer, you have almost half a year to prepare.
After finishing the message, I cut off the communication with the gods, and opened my eyes. I was briefly startled to find that Tsubaki was now kneeling in front of me at the base of the steps before my throne. “No, you’re not going.” Tsubaki may be insanely powerful, but I didn’t want to lose her like that. Not to mention, she was an incredibly valuable ally during an invasion, and sending her on an attack would be tantamount to throwing her away.
However, she shook her head. “I was not going to request such. I have a different wish. Please allow me to train your volunteer troops until they depart.” When she lifted her head to look at me, there was a powerful determination in her gaze. One that even caught me by surprise.
“You want to train them?” I furrowed my brow a bit when I heard that. “What do you hope to accomplish? There is, after all, less than half a year before they depart.” I could extend the time longer if I returned to the Admin Room. However, for the moment, I had no plans to do such. If I give them too long, the sense of urgency will fade and they will become less motivated.
“I believe that there are those within your people who I could elevate to a new level of power. I will not grant them the secrets of the Perfect Self, as you once requested of me. However, I will give them training that will hone their combat instincts such that they would make their enemies fear them.”
I leaned back in my throne, sinking into thought. Before I could answer, she followed up her request with another condition. “Unfortunately, it means that I will be unable to assist you in your own combat training, until the army has left. I will also not likely be able to join you in Vision Expanse very often while overseeing their training.”
My brows furrowed when I heard that. Neither of those were too incredibly important to me right away. Tsubaki and I could train ourselves later, and we could similarly play the game after the invasion force had left. But I knew that the game was likely Tsubaki’s only real source of enjoyment lately, and I didn’t want to arbitrarily strip her of that.
Eventually, I gave a long sigh, looking down towards her. “What do you want to do? I will leave this decision in your hands, Tsubaki. If you wish to train them, you have my permission and may do so in my name. But if you are simply doing this out of a sense of obligation…”
“It is nothing like that, my Keeper.” Tsubaki shook her head heavily. “I was there for the first invasion. I understand that these external forces are powerful and terrifying. Perhaps even… a foreign Keeper?” She glanced towards me curiously as she asked that.
I couldn’t help but blink in surprise, looking down at her. “You suspect foreign Keepers?” I wasn’t intending to deny the suggestion if she could present her reasoning, I just wanted to know what led her to that conclusion.
“Apologies, my Keeper, but I have suspected their existence for a long while. While you may hold absolute dominion over your own world, we know that there are worlds outside of your direct control. The other worlds that the Fairy Gate connect to are a good example. However, you have never issued warnings about those forces, seeming to regard them as trivial existences that can be handled with the use of Lord Tubrock’s cannons.”
“Yet, you warn us in advance when it comes to these other forces… This means that you regard them as a serious threat. They did not arrive by the gate when they invaded, instead seeming to just one day appear. This leads me to believe that a force of equal power to yourself opened the way for them, possibly while your deities held off some other force to make the invasion easier for the world to handle.”
“Especially now, when you announce that another force has drawn near, and it is our chance to attack. Putting all of this together, the only answer that I can come up with is that our opponent is another being like yourself, another Keeper. And if such is the case, our troops must be capable of fighting above their level.”
I paused, thinking over her reasoning, before giving a slow nod. “Well, you’re not wrong.” Given that she had pieced it together through so many clues, there was no reason to lie to her about it. “Our opponent is indeed another Keeper. However, I would not say that he is like me. From what I know, all Keepers possess intelligence like you or any other race. Yet some Keepers choose to devote themselves fully to monsters.”
“They live as monsters themselves, raising and evolving them to be the greatest killing machines that they can think of. Imagine… imagine a world populated entirely by disaster level monsters. That is what these troops will be sent into. It’s a world full of monsters who exist to kill Keepers.”
Tsubaki’s brows furrowed as she listened to that, before lowering her head. “Forgive me, my Keeper, but why would your people be so hostile towards one another?”
I gave a small smile when I heard that. “Because, if one Keeper kills another in these invasions, they gain all of that Keeper’s worlds. Simple as that, really. Just like if someone in my own world killed me, they would become the Keeper while the rest of the world was destroyed with me.”
Tsubaki’s ears visibly twitched at that, and she gave a small nod of her head. “I understand, my Keeper. I will do my best to train any volunteer troops.” She slowly stood up, moving to walk out of the room.
Once I could feel that she had left the room, I stretched my hand out, creating a tall mirror floating in front of myself. “Let’s see what they think of this…”
However, as I was about to command the mirror to show me the reactions of the demons below, a face appeared within it. The face of Leowynn, blinking in confusion and glancing around. “Huh… Well, this is happening. Hello, father.” She spoke from within the mirror, her head bobbing as if in a quick bow. “I seem to be a mirror, now.”
“...And why are you a mirror?” I could feel my eye twitch as I looked at the reflection of my daughter within the mirror.
“I was getting ready to leave your body, and felt some of your soul being withdrawn. I decided to follow it to help me get out faster, and well…. I am a mirror, now. Could I perhaps stop being a mirror?”
I shook my head with an exasperated sigh, drawing on a bit more of my diviine soul to modify the mirror, changing it into a doorway. As soon as the change had been made, the door was opened, and Leowynn stepped through. “Thank you.” She offered a small smile.
“Were you coming out to visit Tsubaki?”
Hearing my question, Leowynn waved her hands to deny it. “No, I saw the conversation between the two of you. Even if I wanted to watch her play the game some more, it doesn’t look like I’ll get the chance for a little while. I was thinking we could maybe watch some TS together?”
I chuckled softly when I heard that, rising from my seat. “Alright, let’s go.” I let her lead the way, instead deploying my world sight to check the reactions of the people I had been planning to see through the mirror.
Throughout the worlds, there were mixed responses to the Keeper’s new revelation. They would be fighting another world again, but this time attacking? And participation was optional? Naturally, few saw the merit in taking the fight to the enemy world, when they had the choice to stay safe at home. Few indeed, when you weren’t looking at one race in particular.
When the heroc heard the news, their bodies seemed to heat up. A passion for battle that had gone too long without being properly sated now rose within their chests. They had not fought a proper war since the reveal of the Ancestor Fox, and could only settle for smaller skirmishes against monsters.
“Finally, our chance has come!” The leader of one heroc city, a small village when compared to some grand kingdoms, called out to his people. Such scenes were easily found in any of their settlements. “For too long, we have stood idle, training ourselves in seclusion. The other races view us as godless, unworthy of the Keeper’s love. What use have we of their gods!?”
“If not for the benevolence of the Ancestor, we would have swept over this world like a storm.” The chief’s third eye scanned the faces of the growing crowd around him. “Now we are given the chance at a new world. One where nobody will stop us from battling to our heart’s content. We will live and die by the strength of our bodies, and the depth of our will!”
The herocs cheered for their leader’s words, before a voice filled their minds. People of the heroc, hear me. My name is Tsubaki, and I speak on behalf of the Keeper.
The voice shook their minds, not because of the strength behind it, but because of its identity. This was their Ancestor Fox, the sole representative of the herocs for hundreds of years. The one who had asked them to show kindness to the other races, instead of war.
I have been granted permission to train the Keeper’s troops for this upcoming battle. I know that your people no doubt wish to send as many as possible to this battle, but I must impose a limit. If too many are sent, the species will be unable to continue within this world. To prevent that, I ask that no more than half of the heroc people participate in this battle.
As one might expect, there was a mix of emotions present in those that heard Tsubaki’s words. On the one hand, she was granting permission for half of the entire race to participate in this battle, and even saying that she would personally oversee their training until they left. This was a great honor for the herocs. However, it also meant that half of them would have to stay behind. Naturally, they couldn’t just leave the sick and the old, for that would not meet the condition of allowing the species to continue.
Yet how could they fight this ruling? Was it not the Keeper himself who had the final verdict over who left for this attack? And if the Ancestor spoke for the Keeper, then that meant her word was as good as final. Although they did not enjoy that many of their people would be left behind, it was a result that could not be argued with.