After Grimor jumped down from the stand, Seraphine once again stood on it, to call another Keeper up. This one was a blue-skinned man with a very thin body. He was dressed in a simple green suit, and his large, black eyes scanned the crowd as he spoke.
“I have compiled results from the testing of several systems submitted over this period, and will now share these results.” The man spoke monotonously, reviewing several systems that had apparently been submitted since the last meeting took place. To my surprise, the World Host was among the ones he reviewed, albeit near the end of his speech.
Still, the advertisement of the World Host here would likely cause more people to buy it. According to him, it was a good alternative for long term plans, with minimal risks. Though admittedly, he had not had the time to properly study the system, since it had been released so close to the meeting time.
Out of the other systems he listed, there were not many that caught my attention. Many of them were for advanced technological worlds, so there was not much use for me to look into them just yet. Others were for ‘profound arts’ worlds, which seemed to be his name for your standard cultivation setting. I wasn’t sure if I would ever make one of those worlds, since it seemed like it would take too long to get anything done.
After he stepped down, Seraphine again took the stand. “With that, you are all dismissed to commune amongst yourselves. The games for this evening will be starting in ten standard minutes.” Saying so, she lowered her stand down to the ground, and was lost in the crowd of Keepers.
All of a sudden, the Keepers began moving, some finding neighbors to chat with, while others walked off into the distance. Thankfully, Grimor made his way back towards me. “So, what do you think?” He asked with a smile.
“Questions. So many questions…” I said, shaking my head. Getting the nod to continue, I asked the most pressing one. “What is the ‘True Keeper’ you talked about, and why didn’t you mention it when we met before?”
Hearing my question, Grimor chuckled slightly. “It’s really nothing more than a legend. One I am not too fond of, personally. Many Keepers are under the impression that the reason there are 9,999 users registered in the Keeper forums rather than an even ten thousand, is because one Keeper is the admin for the forums. That Keeper could be said to be the game master for the entire Keeper System. Thus, earning him the title of the True Keeper.”
“However, I have a different theory. Maybe the number is just a coincidence? Maybe the system did not use a base ten system of math like most worlds when it was first conceived. Maybe it used a base nine system, instead? Or, maybe it actually originally measured in a base 9,999 system of math? To me, there has never been evidence of the True Keeper’s existence, outside of that number.”
Going that far, Grimor gave a bitter grin. “As an experiment, I made a world where there was only one sentient race, but that race only had four fingers on each hand, and four toes on each foot. What they developed was a base eight numbering system. So, I did not mention the True Keeper because I do not believe in it.”
I could only nod at his explanation. Really, I didn’t blame him, but I still wanted to know more. “Then, why are so many other Keepers sure about it? And what do they hope to achieve by finding the ‘True Keeper’?”
“They just need something to believe in, I think.” He explained with a solemn face. “Most of them came from worlds with some kind of religion, and they still cling to the idea of a higher power than themselves. To them, the True Keeper fills that role. As for what they want to achieve, answers maybe? Why are we here, why do we have to fight each other, and why do we have to live on after everything we know and love is erased?”
I… couldn’t say anything for several long moments, unable to wrap my head around those thoughts. To me, the loss of the Earth did not mean much, because I did not have anyone I really cared for. Rather, it would mean more to me if I lost what I had now, because I actually have people close to me. Right now, my life has meaning where it didn’t before.
“Any other questions?” Grimor asked, snapping me out of my thoughts.
“Uhm, what is a ‘standard minute’?” I figured it would probably be similar to the amount of time for a normal minute, but if movies have taught me anything, a ‘standard’ week could be as short as an hour.
“Oh? Well, I guess you haven’t been introduced to the ‘standard time’ used by the system. Really, it’s more of a convention the Keepers implemented to keep track of time, that got approved by the system. Basically, one hundred seconds in a minute, one hundred minutes in an hour, and ten hours make a day.”
I am really glad I asked that. Doing some math in my head, it seemed like it would take about fifteen or sixteen minutes for that ‘ten minutes’ to pass. “And, how many ‘standard’ days are in a year?”
“Five hundred.” He answered without needing to give it a moment of thought. My head hurt trying to work out that math. So, one standard year was nearly double the Earth years that I was used to?
“And… how often are these meetings held?” I needed to get some kind of calendar set up. Maybe there was a cheap one in the system that could be of help.
“Every month, or one hundred days. Though, the first meeting of every year is the ‘official’ one set forth by the system itself. The other four are all handled by the guild.”
And this was the 271st… “So, you guys have been doing this for almost seventy standard years?”
Grimor nodded at that, smiling slightly. “Little longer, actually. At first, we only held the meetings once a year, but the demand for them grew over time. Before that, the only chance Keepers had to interact with each other on a scale like this was the yearly meeting. Some of us like to socialize with others in the same situation, so these events are a welcome relief.”
Saying that much, he looked around me as if noticing something for the first time. “Did you not bring your companion with you? I had expected to see both of you here today.”
I shook my head. “No, she wanted to stay at the Admin Room today to play with one of the gods.”
“Ahh, I see. Well, no harm in that.” He laughed, tilting his head back. “No matter what personality settings the system assigns the companions, there has never been a case of a companion being hostile towards their Keeper. At most, frustration, even if the companion themselves think it would be better if the Keeper died. Yours seemed to like you quite a bit, though.”
I felt the corners of my lips turn up in a small smile. “She’s pretty cool, yeah. Anyways, should probably get to know some of the other Keepers here, huh?” I looked off to the side, and there were actually a few different Keepers watching us, though there wasn’t the expected hostility in their expressions. Rather, they just seemed to be waiting for their turn to introduce themselves.
Grimor only grinned in response, turning and walking off. As if that was the signal, five Keepers rushed over to me. Of them, four were human, and one was a bird-man, whose entire body was covered in feathers.
“Hey!” One of the human Keepers, a man with blonde hair, spoke first. “You’re one of the new guys, right? Nice to meet you, I’m Dalar.” He extended his hand in greeting, and I shook it. Seeing that the greeting was accepted, he gave a relieved sigh. “These are Sarah, Talon, Mapan, and Jare.” He pointed to the other four as he introduced them. Surprisingly, the bird-man was the one introduced as Jare, rather than Talon, who was a young woman.
“We’re a small guild, and were hoping to have a few words with you.” Again, it was Dalar that spoke. Either because he was the leader, or just the one with the biggest mouth.
“Uhm, alright. But I’m not really looking to join a guild at the moment.” I was still too new to this whole thing to even know what the benefits for being in a Keeper guild was.
“That’s fine.” This time, it was Sarah, a brunette woman who barely came up to my shoulders, that spoke. “It’s enough just to get to know the new people, and help them get to know us. Our guild is a small group of friends, really. We’re not looking to meet the True Keeper, or defeat the Dread Eye, or anything like that. We just want to have a group of people we can talk to when we need to, and keep in touch when we need advice.”
Okay, so maybe Dalar didn’t have the biggest mouth. “I see. I’ll keep that in mind.” I looked to the five of them, and thought of something. “Any advice you can give to a new Keeper, then?”
They looked at each other, trying to figure out what to say, but it was Sarah that spoke again. Do only those two ever speak in front of strangers? “Diversity, and participation. Those are two really important points, I think. When you participate in your world, you are helping to steer it on the right path, and earning some nice rewards along the way. And, if the residents of your world are diverse, they will be inspired to create more as a culture.”
Talon suddenly started talking, nodding her head as she did. “I have three races on my world. Arachne, humans, and avians. Although it took a while for them to get along, because of their differences, once they did their culture really boomed.”
Puffing out her cheeks at the interruption, Sarah hastily continued. “Culture is really important for Keepers. An advanced culture means that your residents might come up with ideas for things you never thought of. You can then turn those ideas into systems or items to sell on the Keeper market. I’ve heard that some of the advanced Keepers have worlds dedicated purely to raising culture, so that they can harvest those ideas for systems.”
Okay, so culture good. Though, looking at the races on my world, there really wasn’t that much diversity. They all looked pretty human, but with different traits. For instance, halflings were midget humans, the beastkin looked like humans with animal traits. Maybe my last race should be something that isn’t a standard humanoid? Closest to that I have right now is the Daeva, and that is purely because of their wings.
“Oh, one other thing!” Sarah said, her face breaking into a grin. “If you like crafting, try to make whatever you can without the system’s help. Most of the things easily crafted are already on the market, but having a secret or two is sure to help.” Well, I already figured that out recently, but thanks.
I thanked them for their help, and got their Keeper titles to exchange contact information. It would be good to have another source of information than just Grimor, just in case. After I broke off from them, I walked into the crowd. There were still people introducing themselves to me, but nobody actually tried to hold a conversation. It was more on the level of just greeting the new guy.
I saw one Keeper that seemed to be trembling, looking left and right with nervous eyes. The other Keepers seemed like they were avoiding him, giving a wide berth as they walked around. Curious, I was about to approach him when Seraphine’s voice rang through the room.
“The evening’s games will be starting soon. Any Keeper wishing to participate, please proceed to the designated area.” Not knowing where the designated area was, I saw golden arrows forming on the ceiling, pointing all in one direction. Well… might as well. I gave one last look to the nervous Keeper, before making my way to the game area.