We sank deeper and deeper into the water, until soon the light from the surface no longer reached us. At that point, I was forced to cast a pair of spells. The first spell was a simple light spell to grant us vision over an area. The second, however, was more complicated. Since the monsters within the ocean were fairly quick, and we were now a giant beacon of food, I also prepared a detection spell to help me keep an eye on anything approaching us.
Next to me, Thessa for her part was still fairly calm. On the other hand, Rache could no longer be considered so. Rather, as she looked out at the dark, mostly empty waters, she would flinch at every vague shadow.
“Scared of the dark?” I asked curiously, making sure to use my world sight as a third layer of security to scan the area. I already knew where the stone was that we were traveling towards, so it was just a matter of getting there. Theoretically, I could simply teleport… but I had heard stories of what happened when divers went up or down too quickly. I didn’t know what my tolerance was with the strength of my body, but… better safe than sorry.
“Not the dark…” Rache muttered, clinging to her staff. “This incarnation… she has a thing with the deep ocean. Trying to keep it covered, but her brain… let’s just say that it’s not an easy thing to control.”
I gave a small nod when I heard that. I considered slowing our descent to give her more time to adjust. But, if it was a pathological fear that her host had, then that might only make it worse. So, I continued our steady drop, until finally we reached a sandy ocean floor.
As we ‘landed’, the sand scattered around us in a cloud, eventually revealing a rough rocky surface. Of course, doing so obscured our sight by surrounding our bubble, which made Rache scream in a brief panic. I reached a hand over to gently place it on her shoulder, feeling how she trembled.
I could understand a fear of the ocean. I still remembered my time on that boat… when I saw the shadow of the giant beast that lurked below. Logically, I knew that I could likely kill it. But when I saw how large and imposing it was, it triggered an innate fear.
“It’s okay. We won’t need to be here for long.” I whispered to her while deploying my world sight to scan the area, finding the exact location of the mineral vein. It wasn’t far away from us, which was nice. Just a few steps off, and hiding beneath a giant manta-ray like creature that was using the sand as camouflage.
Okay, maybe that could be an issue. “Recall location, force enemy teleport.” I spoke in the runic tongue, pointing my finger out towards where I sensed the creature. As the white beam of light shot out, the manta seemed to sense something, lifting its body up abruptly. However, it was simply too large to fully evade the spell.
When it hit, I focused on the nest of insects in the twentieth floor where they had found the elementalist orb. My mana decreased by a rather surprising amount for a teleportation spell, likely due to having to break the boundary between layers, but soon there was a collapse within the water, the pressure sinking in to fill the empty space where the manta had previously been.
Looking back, I saw Rache crouched down, practically crying as she hugged her staff to herself. Thessa gently hugged her side, comforting her silently. Note to self, don’t bring Rache down here again.
If I had known that she was this bad with the ocean, I wouldn’t have brought her in the first place. Speaking of… Aurivy, why didn’t you mention anything if it’s this bad?
I heard a mental sigh at the question, moments before the prayer was answered. I had been managing her fear pretty well up till now. I didn’t think it’d get so much worse, or I would have said something. Sorry about that.
I nodded quietly when I heard that, silently waiting for Aurivy to get control of Rache again. There weren’t any other dangerous creatures around that I could sense, but that could change at a moment’s notice. While I waited, I decided to ask Terra a question that had been bugging me. Terra, you have a minute?
Sure. Her response came fairly quickly, though for once it didn’t seem like she knew what I wanted to ask her about.
If the tidestones create water out of mana, and that water doesn’t dissipate over time… that should be breaking even this world’s laws of physics. Conservation of mass goes right out the window when you can create water from mana without end.
There was a brief pause at my question, before Terra began to explain. You’re absolutely right. And… technically, the water isn’t limitless. It is just practically limitless. To say that the tidestones create water from mana isn’t exactly correct. Rather, they use the mana much like the fairy gates, connecting to an elemental plane of water.
So, theoretically, if the stones were to constantly pour out water till the end of time, they would eventually hit a hard limit? I couldn’t help but ask, closing my eyes in thought.
So what we need is a way to reverse the process, to send water back to this elemental plane. That way, the water will never be able to become too much of an issue.
After sending that thought to her, an idea occurred to me. Leowynn, I need you to brace yourself. This… could get strange.
Taking a deep breath, I lifted my hand once again, pointing my palm out towards the water. “Banish.” I spoke the runic word.
Like with the manta-ray, the water suddenly collapsed in on itself, a brief void having opened up outside our bubble. Holy hell, it actually worked! I thought to myself, feeling the strain on Leowynn’s control as the water tried to crash down against us, having to push it back with her will alone.
But wait… if these oceans were formed by the tidestones... then what about all the aquatic life that lives in this world? I asked, a sudden realization dawning on me as I glanced through the murky waters. Terra… the level limit of monsters on this floor isn’t really four hundred, is it…?
Well… I mean, technically? She replied, a difficult to explain tone to her voice. No monster greater than level four hundred can be born on this floor. And they can’t come through the gates between floors.
Uh-huh… and what about gates to the elemental plane of water? My eyes caught sight of a small fish that seemed to swim up out of the surface of the water. I knew that the location it emerged from was the tidestone vein, which only made me focus even more on it.
Level 621 Deep Sea Minnow
My eyes went wide when I saw the level of the small fish, before Terra’s answer came in a moment later. If it makes you feel better, the size of the gate is directly dependant on the surface area of the tidestone vein connected to the water, fueled by ambient mana. TYPICALLY nothing big can get through.
There’s a big vein somewhere on this floor, isn’t there?
Oh, it’s fucking massive. Her blunt answer came immediately after I voiced my question. Down in the deepest brine lake, surrounded by the city of scattered lights that the aquatic race created.
And you didn’t think that this was something I needed to know before!? I fired back in a brief moment of panic before cooling my head. Sorry, sorry… I know, you couldn’t tell me until I had already figured out that something was wrong with the tidestones themselves, right?
Pretty much. She said with a sigh. And I’ll have you know, Aurivy’s been eavesdropping. She’s currently searching frantically through the oceans to make sure that there hasn’t been anything coming through that vein yet.
“Styx… I think I’m good now.” Rache said shakily from behind me as she stood up, her knuckles white as she tightly clutched her staff.
“Okay… Thessa, you’re in charge of breaking that vein.” I told her, quickly walking towards it. “No matter what, you can’t use any kind of mana to do so. You can use ki fine, but no mana.”
Thessa looked towards me in confusion, before glancing towards her pick. With a sigh, she caused it to vanish into her bag of holding, cracking her knuckles as she approached the vein. “I don’t want to know, do I?”
“That depends, how much do you like sleeping?”
“I am the incarnation of a cat, sir.” She said as she crouched down, placing her left hand on the rock while her right began to glow a faint gold. “I love sleep.” I could already see drops of water starting to pool up from the vein as her fist slammed down, clad in ki.
There was a great crash from next to me, and I could see Thessa’s health bar appear within a cloud of smoke. When it cleared, I saw her hand bloodied, several large stones broken off from the vein. I reached over, putting my hand on her shoulder and letting my ki of beginning wash over her to fix the damage.
“Really…” She muttered, seeming to take that as a signal to gather more, her fist slamming down again.
“I… was just trying to heal you.” I admitted, healing her once again while she blinked her eyes in confusion, her face covered with a layer of sand now.
“Oh. Does that mean I’m done now?”
“Please, I want to get back onto dry land.” I nodded my head quickly, and she began to gather up the stones that she had collected, putting them all in her bag of holding.
Enchanted bag, stones that create water based on mana… well, that’s going to be a great big bag of water soon. I thought to myself, reaching over to grab Rache and Thessa’s hands to begin our ascent. Leowynn, how are you on energy?
I’m fine for now, Father. But you should hurry… I imagine that the air inside the bubble won’t last too much longer.
...Oh right, that’s a thing I have to worry about too. I may have sped up our ascent just a tad bit beyond what would normally be considered strictly safe. I estimated that we were around six hundred meters below the surface of the water. That meant that normally, I would want to give us around an hour to ascend.
Fifteen minutes later, I was seeing the light from the surface again, and I could feel that it was starting to become difficult to breathe. Twenty minutes, and I saw that the other two were having the same issue. At twenty-five, we were close enough to the surface that I simply told Leowynn to open a path the entire way, so that we could have a literal breath of fresh air.
Watching the ocean split open around us, the blurred sky now clear and visible, I took a deep breath, sighing in relief. The last thing that I wanted was for this whole plan to go down the drain because the girls ran out of air during a dive.
Once more, Dale and the others found themselves walking into the large meeting room, taking their seats at the table. They didn’t remember how they had found themselves in the room, or why they were there in the first place, but they seemed to accept it rather easily. “Fanmail reading, again?” Dale asked as he took his spot, glancing towards Terra.
“Yup! Glad to see that you’re getting used to the whole thing.” She grinned mischievously towards Dale as the rest of the gods, goddesses, and semi-divine spirits took their seats.
“Third time’s the charm?” He shrugged his shoulders, while Accalia was practically bouncing in her seat.
“Hopefully someone’s got a question for me this time!” She remarked excitedly, remembering how she had been left out from the last meeting.
“Well, we’ll see.” Terra teased, opening up the box that she had brought with her so far to every reading. There was a small stack of letters within, and everyone was relieved to see that the stack did not seem to have diminished since the last time. Well, everyone but Tryval, who seemed rather annoyed by the whole affair.
“Let’s see… thirteen this time! Slowly but surely, guys.” Terra laughed as she reached in to pull out the first letter, an old, dusty envelope. “And this one is from… that smiling sentient ball guy.”
“He was in the last one, wasn’t he?” Ashley spoke up, unable to stop herself from sending a glance towards the envelope.
“Yup. Let’s see what he has for us this time.” Terra waved a hand, the letter opening and revealing the paper within. “Hmm… This one’s for Dale.” As she read through the question, her expression seemed to harden. “Congratulations, you have fought off your first invasion! You must have experienced life and death multiple times by now right? So why don't you have the courage yet to answer the simple question of who was better in bed? S.M.H, what’s the answer Dale?”
“Okay, really?” Dale lifted his head up. “This again? Anyone who’s ever been in a relationship with multiple people knows that it’s not that simple.” He let out a low groan. “To say that one is better than the other would be both unfair and untrue, and I’m not about to cause a divide between my girls over some fanmail.”
“Good answer.” Ryone winked playfully, reaching one hand out to gently take hold of Dale’s, looking towards the letter. “Anything else?”
“Thankfully, yes.” Terra nodded. “This one’s for Grimor, so…” Terra snapped her fingers, the three-eyed giant falling down abruptly from the ceiling on the far side of the room. “Fanmail.” She spoke up, before he had the chance to question things.
“What the--oh… someone must have annoyed her.” He grunted, moving to a more comfortable sitting position, his head bumping against the ceiling. “Alright, let’s get on with it. I take it they want to know something more about my past?”
“How you doing, Grimor?” Dale suddenly asked in concern, glancing over towards the giant, who waved him off.
“No harm to me. Just been taking care of business. Heard you’ve been getting along with Balu, though. Good to hear.” With that, he let out a deep, rumbling chuckle as his attention turned back towards Terra.
“Right. Anyways, who and what were you before you became the Keeper of your world? How and why did you kill your old Keeper?” Terra read off the question, glaring rather fiercely at the letter.
“Oh, that?” Grimor’s eyes opened in surprise. “Well, there’s a bit of a story there. In all honesty, I’ve almost forgotten who I used to be. After a few hundred years, the details just start kind of blurring together.”
“The world that I was born on was a cultivation world. And, as you might expect, I was one of the leading figures there. The Three-Eyed Demon God, they called me.” He smiled fondly at the memory. “I may not have always been the most upright of character. In fact, it was to such a point that the old Keeper actually descended herself to take care of me. Now that was a battle. We each had to give it everything we had, and I still only won because of a fluke.”
“One of my lackeys arrived at a crucial moment, using his body as a shield to defend me. My old Keeper, she wasn’t the heartless type. When she learned that she had killed someone by accident, it left her with an opening. According to my companion, her gods were too afraid that distracting her with warnings would get her killed, so by the time I acted there was nothing that they could do.”
“Next thing I knew, I was going through the Keeper tutorial.” He gave a small shrug at that, the muscles of his shoulders rippling from the movement. “Over the years, I started to grow fond of my world, and even ended up joining the guild. But, that’s my story. Satisfied?”
Dale, as well as most of the others in the room, were staring at Grimor in shock while Terra simply nodded her head. “Yup, works for me. Now, last question. This one’s for Kathy…”
Terra sighed softly, snapping her fingers again. There was the click-clack of pointed feet hitting the wooden floor as a certain arachne walked into the room, waving excitedly at everyone. “Hi! I’m here! Someone wanted to ask me another question!?” She was almost dancing in place, her body swaying side to side as her eyes zeroed in on the letter.
“Seems to be the case.” Terra nodded her head. “Anyways. This is the question for you. Generally, after mating the male arachne is eaten by the female. But, did you know that in Russia, the male eats the female?”
“Ooh, what’s a Russia?” Kathy asked, before abruptly shaking her head. “Wait, no, question! Uhm, really? Well, that’s neat? I mean, sexual cannibalism is really common among Arachne. Typically, it occurs when the mating pair becomes excited, and loses control of themselves, with the larger specimen eating the smaller. So, I guess if it happens that way in Russia, the males are typically larger?”
“Did… Kathy just give a scientific explanation?” Dale asked, seeming even more shocked than to discover Grimor’s history.
“Hey! I know a lot of stuff, too!” Kathy puffed her cheeks out in response, her eight legs all stomping in a circular motion. “That’s all really common knowledge. You have to use protection to avoid stuff like that, right?”
“Don’t wanna know.” Ashley shook her head, her face seeming a bit of a paler red at the thought. “Really don’t wanna know.”
“Ooh, I don’t think I met you!” Kathy smiled towards Ashley, waving happily. Ashley’s wings simply wrapped around her chest, almost like a security blanket.
She seemed to be whispering to herself quietly. “She didn’t notice me last time… we can just get through this, and then it all goes back to normal.”
Terra looked in concern towards Ashley, but quickly tossed the paper to the side, the letter bursting into flames and scattering across the floor as ash. “Next up.” She hurriedly spoke, seeming to want to help free Ashley from her living nightmare.
“This one is from a ‘Chinboogie’. Well, that’s a new one. And it is… for me, I guess? Has there ever been a Keeper that shared his story about how he defended or attacked a world because of how weird or funny it was?” Her eyes focused a bit in concentration as she thought about that.
“Well, a Keeper can’t really defend another Keeper’s world. So if their world were weird or funny, it would be because they made it that way. However, there have been some that have attacked other worlds because they found them to be strange. Typically, these are the case for your normal tyrant Keepers, who care more about battle than anything else.”
After she had given that answer, Terra gave another look at the paper, shrugging and tossing it aside. “Only one question on that one.” She explained, before moving to pull out another envelope. “And now, from SunGato. Huh, he’s been in all three readings now.”
“First question, for Dale. No, it’s not a ‘torment the Keeper’ question.” She hinted, seeing that Dale tensed up when his name was called. “What other programs are there on your computer? Map with statistics, notepad, design, chat, and browser… solitaire?”
“Solitaire, huh?” Dale looked a bit thoughtful at that. “Can’t say it has that. Though, if I wanted to play, it wouldn’t be too hard to get myself a deck of cards. No, Terra set up that computer for me back in day one, and it has the entire Keeper interface on it. Anything that I can do on the computer, I can also do without it, it’s just… harder?”
“It usually takes a fair amount of practice.” Grimor nodded his head. “Especially for detailed searching through the map.”
“Right, that.” Dale pointed appreciatively towards Grimor. “For some of the things, I’ve stopped focusing too much on the computer, and have learned to do it on my own. But some of it, that’s just not an option for me yet. The last thing I want is to accidently relocate a mountain because I got distracted while going through the map. That’s… not something that could really happen, right?”
Seeing that Dale’s eyes had turned towards Terra, she let out a light laugh. “Well, I mean, it could. But you’d get a prompt for the point cost. So you’d just have to immediately accept that as well.” Satisfied with the answer, she looked down towards the paper. “And next is… another question for Kathy?”
“Oooh, I’m getting popular over here!” Kathy chittered with glee.
“Seems that way. Now, why don’t you ever invite Dale to visit your Admin Room?” Terra gave a knowing smile, looking up towards Kathy.
“Because my companions are all so boring!” She gave a huff at the question. “None of them really have a sense of humor. And the one that does is really sick. Like, I’d be worried that he would try to wrap Dale up in a web and pin him to the wall while he was there. No, it’s much more fun to hang out here!”
Ashley’s face seemed to only grow more and more pale with each passing word, her body starting to actually tremble. Aurivy reached over towards her, putting a gentle hand on her leg, but even that caused her to look up with a start, almost jumping out of her seat.
Terra, reading the mood again, quickly tried to hurry things along. “And last up is… Balu? Wow, this should just be the guest episode of fan mail.” She snapped her fingers again, and a pair of fluffy white ears seemed to sprout up from behind Grimor’s head, a furry form slowly climing down his back.
“Hey, what’s going on--huh?” She looked around in confusion once her feet were on the floor. Balu was wearing a black robe with a red ribbon tying it closed, the loose-fitting fabric reminiscent of a monk’s attire. “I didn’t get called here, right? ...Fanmail?”
As soon as Terra nodded her head, Balu jumped up and let out a shout. “Oh it’s been so long since anyone had a question for me!”
Terra’s lips curved upwards at that. “So, Balu… how big is your noteboard, and can we look at it?”
Balu’s excitement immediately deflated, sulking down towards the floor. “They always wanna know about my noteboard… I can’t show it to people, alright? It’s like… a thing! My people have naturally bad short-term memories, okay? To counter that, we set up a tradition. Everyone would have some kind of object that they put their essential memories on, to make sure that they’d never forget.”
“I know it doesn’t make sense, but the idea is that you put this object somewhere where you’ll often see it, reminding you of those memories so much that they actually stick. But my board has a bunch of information that I can’t show to other people. I’d get in trouble with the boss if I did that.” She sulked, glancing towards Grimor. “Hey, boss.”
“Hey.” He responded with a wry smile, it seeming to take Balu a few moments to process his presence. She let out a small yip, moving and sitting on the floor quietly next to him, looking as if she were afraid she had already gotten into trouble.
Terra nodded her head, tossing aside the letter and pulling out another. “This one is from Vorquel… think I remember that name from the first reading, though I wasn’t ‘quite’ here for that part.” She grinned at that memory. “For Dale. Are you aware of a certain yandere in your pantheon? She seems to be helping you, uh, a bit more enthusiastically than you intend.”
Dale’s eyes immediately went towards Terra, who lifted her hands innocently. “Hey, I didn’t do anything wrong. Just taking out the trash and making sure that nobody does anything that they’d regret.”
“Like the D’ka Sha?” He asked in a knowing tone, making Terra grin, her eyes looking off to the side.
“You, uh… noticed that, huh?”
“I looked back and found out about it a bit later. But yeah… I know that Terra has her… let’s call them ‘tendencies’. Being protective of certain people is one of them. You don’t want to cross her bottom line.”
Terra whistled innocently, moving on to the next question. “One more on this. And it is for… oh… well, this will be interesting.”
Terra closed her eyes in focus, and the room seemed to darken. Kathy’s feet stopped tapping against the floor, and Balu seemed to curl in on herself. Even Grimor stiffened up as a dark roar came from the wall. A sickly black substance seemed to bleed out, congealing on the ground to rise up into a humanoid shape.
“Savage.” She said, looking at the shape. Accalia growled viciously at the newcomer, while the black slime shifted, lines of white forming along its surface. It seemed to be growing clothes, a black and white striped suit. Its frame still only vaguely resembled a human, its head bubbling endlessly.
When the figure spoke, it was a long, drawn out speech, as if talking was a thing it had nearly forgotten. “Whaaat aarre… fan maail?”
“That’s right. Someone wanted to know, what is your end goal, exactly?” Terra asked, and a dark laugh rose up from within the figure, black sludge flinging off, only to be sent flying back at it.
“End goal… theere is no end. Only the cycle. Eat… be eaten. Grow... die. I will grow, and yoouu will die. The black floood shall consuume the land.” No sooner had he finished his sentence than he vanished, as if erased entirely from existence where he stood.
“I think that was a satisfactory answer.” Terra nodded her head, tossing that letter aside. “Hopefully we won’t have to see him again.”
“Chekov would like to have a word with you.” Udona spoke up with a wry grin. “He said you’re stealing his gun.”
“And I’m loading it with blanks.” Terra fired back with another affirmative nod, reaching for another letter. “Next up is another familiar name. Dking, appearing for the third time. And his first question goes to Ashley.”
Ashley’s head rose at that, looking desperately towards Terra, happy to have something to take her mind off of… the giant spider in the room.
“How are you, is everything okay, we don’t get to see you that much lately? I want to ask if you ever just live on Desbar as a normal average girl, or a not-so-average one.”
Ashley gave a small, soft smile at the question. “Well, thanks. And, there’s nothing really wrong, I guess? I just haven’t really been needed since the invasion ended. He kind of jumped straight into this new adventure after his training, so I haven’t had the chance to be around. Not that I was really much use in the invasion.”
“As for the incarnation stuff… I’m not all that great at it. I have tried a few times, but I always end up having to give the incarnation more personal freedom, because I have a hard time splitting my mind that much. Too much of my normal human mind, I guess?”
Terra nodded at that, relieved that the question seemed to help calm Ashley down, and muttered a silent thanks of her own. “Next up is for Udona.” A pair of golden fox-ears perked up when her name was called. “Let’s see… how similar do you think that the original Earth’s culture is, compared to Dale’s current worlds? As an example, are there things such as manga or anime, or fantasy and sci-fi books, shows, and movies? Or has the actual existence of magic and monsters lessened fantasy’s influence as a genre?”
“Ooh, now that’s a good one. Well, let’s see. First of all, I can’t say that there is manga on Earth. However, it is quite popular on both Deckan and Desbar. Earth simply didn’t devote as much focus into printed materials as those two, with Fyor falling even further behind there.” Udona smiled, leaning back in her chair and crossing her arms beneath her bust.
“On Deckan, I might have played a role in helping it grow, but it was all natural for Desbar. Anime, on the other hand… Earth has a large market for animated shows and movies, creating them through recorded illusions. Now, as for the genres? If anything… science fiction is the one that you tend to see less of when it comes to movies or shows.”
“Originally, Desbar held an interest in exploring the heavens, just like the original Earth. However, this interest was quietly removed with the appearance of the Fairy Gate and the other worlds. Why would they look to the stars to find worlds beyond, when they can look so much closer? People still put fantastical gadgets in their artwork, but you hardly ever see any space-age epics.” She gave a small, sad sigh at that fact, shaking her head regrettably.
“I’m sure it’ll get there eventually.” Terra reassured her, before moving on. “And this last one is for… me, again? Alright. As a system companion, I should know everything about the system. Am I able to spill some truths about old Earth legends such as ghosts, aliens, bigfoot, or the Loch Ness Monster?”
“Well first of all.” Terra looked down at the letter. “Most of those are just fantasies of people wanting to get rich. I mean, there was that one alien crash landing, but it mostly burned up on re-entry. Nobody ever realized that it was anything more than a meteor while the government cleared up the site.”
“The one thing that is true, however, are ghosts. Have I ever mentioned how the last Keeper was a lazy slob? Well, he was. Originally, he used the influx of points he had from his predecessor to buy a bunch of random systems, trying to use them to influence culture in different parts of the world. Heaven and Hell, Reincarnation, you name it.”
“But, once he decided that the world was ‘ready’, he sold all of them. Along with the gods that had been managing those systems for him. Meaning that there was no longer an afterlife system in place on Earth. This meant that the fallen spirits had nowhere to go, and steadily started to build up.”
“Sometimes, they would become strong enough to appear as what people commonly saw as a ghost. Normally, they just tried to cling to life however they could. Hanging onto someone as they go about their day to day, but being too slow and weak to do anything. It was pretty common for them to be stuck on a bit of laundry as it was thrown into the wash. Yes… ghosts are responsible for your missing socks. You’re welcome.”
With a faint chuckle, she discarded the letter, moving onto the next one. “Now, who’s this one? ‘FeelTheRussianStyle’? Huh, wonder where he’s from.” She asked with a sarcastic smirk. “Anyways, this first one seems like it goes to me again. Why are so many Keeper names in English?”
Terra gave a small shrug at that. “Well, the easiest way to answer that is… translation-sama. Just like how everything auto-translates for Dale, the Keeper titles similarly translate to other Keepers. Since most Keepers had their titles picked with some meaning within their language, that meaning becomes the translation that gets carried over.”
“Up next… a question for both Dale and Ashley.” She glanced towards the two former earthlings. “Do you know that fanmail actually comes from Earth? I mean the Earth where the two of you used to live. And what do you think about it?”
Ashley and Dale just sort of… stared at the letter in confusion. “What, but…” Dale began.
“Earth was erased, right?” Ashley finished his obvious question, unsure what else could be said there.
Terra simply grinned, not offering any further comment on the matter. “And for his final question, to the same people… Do you know that you are characters in a webnovel?”
Dale’s mouth seemed to hang open at that, not knowing what to say. After a moment, a sound like a dull whine came from his lips. Possibly the sound of his brain melting. “...Eeeaaahhh...”
The felyn goddess let out a laugh, dropping that letter off to the side as well. “Ah, I love a good paradox. Now, what’s next?” She picked another letter out of the box, plucking it more happily than her last few had been. “This one’s from Capung.”
“Leowynn.” The elven spirit turned her head with a gentle smile as she was addressed. “Are you not jealous to see your father having two or three lovers, while you have none? Because my prayer to Karami seems unanswered, I want to see Dale flustered.”
“Why would I be jealous of father?” She asked in a confused tone. “If he loves these women, is it not right for him to be with as many as love him in turn? I had been courted back when I was alive, suredly, but I had no interest in finding a lover. Especially after knowing what my final fate would be.” Rather than her tone matching her melancholic words, she seemed rather content.
“Spoilsport.” Terra teasingly scolded her, before moving on. “Everyone. If Karami granted my wish and set you a stage, would all of you compete in a game tournament format, with the winner getting two Standard weeks of vacation time? That way he can set up a proper war story that I want?”
“Why would I want a vacation?” Aurivy asked in confusion. “I love being a goddess! Not just because of all the power, but because it lets me help everyone, and I always get to see new things.”
Irena nodded her head in agreement. “There are not many among us who would be that happy with a true vacation. While helping to manage the world may come across as a chore at times, there are also many wonders to see. With every new being born, another perspective is added that can shape the world.”
“I wouldn’t mind a break, honestly.” Bihena spoke up. “But that’s only if the worlds were paused for that time. Much as I’d like a chance to stretch my legs without worrying about everyone praying to me for aid in battle, I wouldn’t really be able to enjoy it if the world kept going. I mean, I’d constantly be thinking about everything that might be going wrong without me there to answer their prayers.”
“Good enough for me.” Terra nodded, getting ready to toss away the letter, only for Keliope to suddenly speak up.
“Who’s Karami, anyways? His questions keep mentioning that guy.” The ursa goddess looked towards Terra questioningly.
“Nothing you all need to worry about.” Terra gave a mysterious smile at that, noticing that there was still one question left. “Whoops, not done here yet. Okay, this one is for Dale. Apparently, he wants you to know that he hates you for not making a Gundam world, and because you’re the main character.”
“...Eeeaaahhh…” The high-pitched whine simply continued for a long moment, Dale not seeming to recover from the previous ‘damage’.
Terra simply gave a small grin, nodding her head. “Message delivered. Alright, then.” She tossed out that paper, it joining the others in a pile on the floor. “Next up is from ‘ImJustTesting’. One word names for five hundred, Alex?” She muttered to herself, before shaking her head. “Aurivy, did you ever want a little sister? And no, Leowynn doesn’t count.”
“Nope!” Aurivy spoke up immediately. “I like being the little sis of the family. Even Leowynn is my big sis!”
“That’s right she is.” Terra nodded approvingly. “Accalia--”
“Yes!” Accalia raised her fist up to the sky happily, hearing that she had been asked a question as well. “Ah! Sorry, go on!”
Terra simply rolled her eyes playfully. “Accalia, as the goddess of the hunt you know the most about all manners of creatures. Is there one that you would call your favorite, not wanting to hurt it unless absolutely necessary?”
“There’s this cute little breed of mana hounds.” Accalia spoke up wistfully. “They’re not nearly as big as their counterparts, about the size of an old Earth puppy. They are adorable. If they’re trained, they can tune into the mana signature of the person training them, and find them from anywhere in the world. They’re so loyal, and always try to find their way back home when they can.”
Accalia gave a small sigh at that, looking up at the ceiling as her tail wagged behind her. Terra gave a shake of her head, moving on to the next question. “And… hold please.” She snapped her fingers, and the golden-haired kitsune maid appeared standing next to Dale. “Tsubaki. This one’s for you.”
Tsubaki blinked in confusion, first noticing the ‘distressed’ state that Dale was in, before her ears twitched and she turned her attention towards Terra. “Is the Keeper well?” She asked, a trace of concern in her voice.
“He’ll be fine. Just got a piece of information he’s not able to process just yet. But we have another fanmail reading, and a question came in for you.” The felyn explained, earning a nod from Tsubaki. “Are you still the representative for the herocs, or have they grown strong enough to keep their own?”
“It was never a question of their strength.” Tsubaki began with a shake of their head. “They have always been a powerful race. However, their interests do not lie in governing. Politics for the heroc are simply a contest of power. When I demonstrated my ability, at first they respected my strength, believing that I was the only one fit to lead them. Then later, when I tried to return the position, they explained to me that it was still the case. Not simply because I was stronger than them, but because I was a better representative than they could offer.
Terra nodded her head, happy with that answer. She tossed the letter aside. “Alright, most of the way done now. This next letter comes from someone by the name of Morphmaul.” As she said that, she opened up the next letter, her eyes widening in surprise. “And the first question is once again for Tsubaki.”
“If you accidentally killed Dale--put the knives away, I’m not suggesting I’ll make it happen. If you did, would you recreate Dale and have him live in a simulation where he believes that he is still the Keeper, so that you could continue serving him?”
There was a brief flash of steel as a dagger disappeared into Tsubaki’s arm before she answered. “I would never knowingly harm my Keeper. If, for whatever reason, such an event did take place, I do not believe I could find it in myself to lie to him. If it were possible, I would likely revive his memory and soul in some way. Then, as this question implies that a death passes along the title, I would attempt to orchestrate an event where he would take my life, in order to return him to his position.”
That seemed to snap Dale out of his mental crash, his eyes snapping to Tsubaki in concern. However, she quickly spoke up. “As Lady Terra said, this is not a situation that will actually happen.”
Dale hesitated, while Terra nodded in satisfaction. “Okay, next question. For me… what would you need to do to get your own system companion? You… had a great question for the fanmail, but forgot it, and need one like myself to help you remember it. Well… become a Keeper? That, or just take notes when these questions pop into your head.”
“Notes help!” Balu suddenly shouted out from her spot along the wall. “Always carry a notepad!”
Terra gave a chuckle, nodding her head. “And lastly, for Aurivy. Not Auvry, Aurivy. Since you are the goddess of dungeons, has anyone ever tried to use a dungeon for an… unintended purpose? Like turning rope into a whip or a candle wick.”
“Yes!” Aurivy groaned, shaking her head. “And it is really weird having people trying to host a wedding in a dungeon, let me tell you! I have to keep sending messages through priests to remind everyone that dungeons are meant to be dangerous locations, not a romantic spot for a wedding!”
Terra smiled, not saying anything as she tossed yet another letter off to the pile. “Now, this one is from ‘not fake’. That seems like a fake name to me. Dale, are you planning to do anything with the Forgotten race that you made so long ago?”
“Nope!” He answered quickly, turning away from Tsubaki to face Terra again. “Honestly, I forgot all about them. I would need a really specific kind of world to make them useful, so I’d rather just not take the risk with them.”
“Makes sense.” She agreed with a small shrug. “Next one is also for you. Are you ever going to do a pure technology world, with no magic at all?”
“Probably… not.” Dale’s expression turned a bit complicated at that. “That would mean that it would have to be a world completely separated from all of the others. That makes it really hard to defend in the Keeper games. Especially when you consider that Keepers don’t actually get that much of a power boost in a pure tech world. There’s just too many reasons not to go for a pure tech route.”
Terra nodded her head again. “Alright, and this last one is to me again. What makes someone a monster Keeper? Is it due to race, personality, or something else?” As she asked that, she shot a brief glance to the spot where Savage had been standing a short while ago.
After a moment, however, she sighed and answered. “Personality, a hundred percent. Most Keepers can’t handle a monster world. They try, but their combat abilities aren’t enough to match up to beings who have lived their entire lives on the same level of power, with a viciousness that won’t allow someone stronger.”
“Keep in mind that a monster Keeper is also trapped within their own world during an invasion. That means that in order to survive past their first game, they have to be the best. While having the same level of power as the other monsters, they still dominate, becoming the king of those monsters. That’s what makes someone a monster Keeper.”
With the question answered, Terra gave a shrug of her shoulders, her tail offering a small flick behind her as she tossed the letter away. “This one’s from Quadrum.” She read over the first question, a wry grin coming over her face. “Ashley. Why are you nearly never present? Really long time since you did something, I think?”
Ashley couldn’t help but laugh, receiving practically the same question again. “Well, I’m glad that people are concerned about me. But like I said earlier, I’m fine. I just haven’t had a good reason to appear recently.”
“And Tubrock.” Terra spoke, immediately moving on to the next question. “Since when did you have the idea to create an ancient civilization in your world, and why?”
“Oh?” Tubrock opened his eyes wide, surprised to get a question. “Didn’t think I’d be gettin’ one of these. Well, let’s see… honestly, the idea hit me back when the fox lass was settin’ up her world.” He waved an arm in gesture towards Udona. “There be a sayin’ in the old world. If ye don’t learn from the past, ye’r doomed to repeat it. So, I wanted to give ‘em a past to learn from. Cultivation world just happened to fit my needs perfectly, as it gave me a nice, big planet to work with. More room than I could ever need.”
Terra nodded, looking back towards the letter. “Oh? Looks like there’s only two for this one.” She shrugged, tossing the letter away before reaching into the box, her eyes glancing down. “Almost done, just two left everyone.”
As she spoke, she retrieved the next letter. “This one is from Nizen. His question is for… okay, really?” She sighed, closing her eyes and focusing again. Immediately, everyone began to tense up, worried that she was going to summon Savage again.
However, with a pop, there was a low yell, someone falling down from the ceiling. A dark-skinned human with heavy black goggles, wearing a pair of blue overalls and holding a wrench in his hand. “Huh? What? Where am I?” He asked, jumping to his feet and quickly looking around.
“Sorry, James.” Terra waved. “Fan mail.”
The man looked towards her, his eyes hidden behind his goggles. “I died, huh?” She nodded her head. “Well, that blows. Alright, hit me with the question. I guess I can mourn when I’m back to being dead.” He told her with a small huff.
“Is it possible to create a companion out of a previous Keeper, such as yourself?” She asked, gesturing her hand towards the former Keeper.
“Well, yeah. Same way you do it with anyone.” He nodded. “As long as they were a part of your own world lineage, and your world hasn’t been conquered by another Keeper since then. I wanted to do that, but my… well, my ‘you’ advised against it. The guy before me was the blank slate, and ended up making some crummy decisions that got him killed.”
Terra gave a bitter smile at that. “Hey, when you accidentally give yourself the ability to self-destruct… you earn the right to be criticized.”
“True enough.” James agreed. “But yeah. That’s my answer. Need me for anything else, or is it back to Limbo?”
“How low can you go?” Terra joked, James’s body seeming to break apart into large clumps of dust, scattering on an unseen breeze. “Okay, now that that morbid meeting is out of the way. Dale, you can stop staring, you won’t remember any of this anyways. Tubrock, did you manage to replicate anything from the meeting you attended?”
The dwarf gave a low chuckle. “Two questions, eh? Well… reckon that I can’t say I did. Wasn’t really goin’ to steal their work. Just wanted to use it for inspiration. Been workin’ on a new hammer based on a design someone showed me. Focuses energy evenly along the surface, and can be flipped to have it all focus on a single point. Good for craftin’ with ki or divine energy.”
Terra nodded her head, moving on to the last question of the letter. “And finally, another question for Tsubaki. Wow, people really like you girl.” She teased the kitsune maid, who simply stared back at her with a straight face. “Don’t think I can’t see that you secretly like it. Anyways, if given the opportunity, would you have children with Dale?”
“Only if that were his wish.” Tsubaki responded with a nod. “However, I do not believe that my current form is capable of providing anyone with children anymore. Unless they are referring to creating children in the manner of the martial spirits. That may still be possible.”
“Way to take the fun out of it, Tsu.” Terra shook her head with a small sigh. “But thanks for not just jumping at the chance.” As she said that, she tossed the letter away, reaching into the box for the final one.
“Now, to wrap things up, we have Neidan.” She began, only for a new voice to speak up in the room.
“Terra, did the letter just…” Dale looked towards the paper, a bit of worry on his face.
“Yes, Dale. The letter just talked.” Even Terra seemed a bit concerned at this.
“You misread my name the last couple times, so I felt the need to point it out this time.” The letter spoke again, causing people to slowly scoot back away from Terra.
“Well.. uh… sorry?” Terra said, glancing down to the letter in genuine confusion.
“It’s fine. Anyways, for my first question. If Earth were ever in a state where Dale had to reset it, would he be able to turn Leowynn into a goddess to save her?”
“Sis, the letter is asking the questions now…” Aurivy trembled, leaning back against Ashley.
“I… I would?” Dale didn’t seem quite sure what else to say. “I mean, of course I would?”
“Very well. Next question. This one is for Terra, Irena, and Ryone. When you incarnate, did you ever have s--” The letter suddenly found itself sandwiched between Terra’s hands as she glared fiercely down to it, its voice muffled.
“Yes, we all have. No, it wasn’t the same. Moving on.” She said with a somewhat dark tone, eventually pulling one hand off of the letter, leaving it to cough up what looked like latin alphabet characters from its surface.
“O-okay, then. This last one is something lewd, so if you could, please cover Aurivy’s ears, or have her leave the room.” By the time the letter had finished speaking, Aurivy’s ears had been covered by Ashley.
“Hey, I wanted to listen!” She whined, flailing her arms pitifully.
“Good, now, my question. This one is for Leowynn. When you were alive, did you ever hold someone’s hand? Aside from Dale’s, of course.”
There was the sound of crashing, several people falling out of their chairs, while Terra huffed, simply throwing the letter at a nearby wall. “And that’s it for this episode, everyone.” She turned, crossing her arms beneath her chest, her back to the group. “The next fan mail reading will be in one standard month. For those that have trouble keeping track, that puts it at June 27th. This is Terra, signing off~.”
“Hey, I didn’t get my ans--”