1 Prologue: A System
My name is James Hues. It has now been five years since I came to this world or rather, five of this world's years. With nothing to track my old world's time, I go by native timetables. One year is two hundred and fifty-six days, one month is thirty-two, a week is eight and, each of the four seasons run an average of two months. You also have days spanning about sixteen hours, and hours are sixty-four minutes while minutes are one hundred and twenty-eight seconds. A second here is around the same length, but I can't estimate it well.
See the pattern? Here's a hint: 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, 64, 128, and 256. I've noticed that this world was built on these kinds of patterns. Children's names often begin with the same letter as their parents'. Prices are always the same, no matter the shop, and they buy items at exactly 1/4 of what they sell them for. There is magic, monsters, miracles and… a System. Yet, for all that, they lack the advanced technology of Earth.
Perhaps, I should begin with how I came here. The year was twenty-two fifty-six. Mankind had breached beyond its solar system but not yet expanded far beyond it. We had neither made contact with new species of sentient life nor found any grand-AI civilizations, which was probably better for us. Then again, given all the wacky movies we produced and how the signals carried those movies into the unknown, I'd be disturbed too if I were some god-like alien species watching over us and shirk contact.
I am an Earth-born. I was an obsolete engineer from a long lineage of engineers in an age when most things were automated. Thinking back on it, my father rigging a live-feed camera capturing the leader of the Humanity Space Regulatory Committee engaging in a back office deal did not help either. I spent most of my youth on a fringe world colony, so I had an average upbringing. People out there were both poorer and more open-minded. It was a bit ironic that the outcasts would be more accepting. They appreciated someone taking the time to fix their stuff; only the wealthy could afford the automated systems. Now there I was, twenty-three and inheriting my dad's shop after an accident in the factory took his life, dreaming of a girl named Skinny Jenny, a dancer at the bar. One moment I was signing the paperwork, the next darkness. I don't really know what happened, but from that moment, everything changed.
Not only did the grid die, but also the backup lights failed. After an hour tumbling in the dark, some armored soldiers in crude sheet metal and animal leather dragged me away and ruffled through my stuff. I would have fought and taught them a lesson, but they got a lucky blow to my temple. It's not like I was afraid or anything.
Next thing I knew, I was kneeling in front of a goddess on a throne, my nose bare inches from her crotch. Not that she was hiding much, dressed in a robe that failed to cover even the area between her neck to her thong. After a period of speechlessness, I was led to a sex dungeon. I don't like thinking about that. There, the questioning began again. Her voice had been strong and commanding, but she had seemed a bit bewildered as if something had been off.
Somehow I eventually conned my way into making lights without using magic or fire in order to light up the queen's castle in exchange for my freedom. Apparently, it was a security concern to the queen. While gathering materials, I met my first housemate, Kira, a rather bewitching catgirl. A very fine golden fur coat made her almost seem human except for her sharp nails, her gleaming, cat-like pupils, her whiskers, and her cat ears. Like all of her kind, the Hersha, her fur was almost unnoticeable, easily passed off as above average body hair. Otherwise, she looked almost exactly like a human. She even had blonde hair that went just past her shoulders. Oh, I almost forgot about her tail. Hmm… Okay, maybe she did look more like a cat-girl than a human, but she was very cute and kind in a human-like way.
Originally Kira had belonged to an item-shop owner. Her former owner had traded her for provisions and a rare sword. She was only a child when I met her, but the shop owner knew that would have soon changed. The shop owner was a traditionalist and preferred that his three teenage boys did not break her in. As the first to, well, mate with her when she was in heat, would become her life-long master, a fact that I had not known.
Back then, I was swamped with order after order for lights and automated cooking pots and bard machines, also known as radios. On my one day off, she was all over me the entire day. Rubbing my back with her slender but strong hands, making sure I was well fed and quenched of thirst: I had thought she was being cute. That night I went to bed feeling hopeful working on something or another when she snuck into my room and climbed into my bed. I'll just say I was not asleep that night, and it remains a great day in my mind. Her one downfall was she had only average intelligence. She could talk, read, and even write fine, but if you tried to explain advanced physics to her, you could see her brain overheat trying to understand after a few minutes as her eyes glaze. In general, she performs her System Main Class as a [Maid], but she also acts as my secretary, reflected by some of her skills such as |Scheduling| and |Emergency Contact|. I believe and hope that she's very happy because I treat her better than many others of her kind I have seen.
My other housemate was an old [Knight], Sir Howard something-totaling-a-long-name the third, a wandering gent whose heyday has passed. He's well into his seventies at this point. I found him over a year ago after a winter snowstorm. Basically, he felt uneasy about his family just waiting for him to die, so he left. That was ten years ago. Like most fit old people he's as tough as they come. After wandering the world, becoming a teacher to some and a freeloader to many, he arrived at my place. At first, it was merely to save him from freezing to death after he lost his horse to the storm; however, as he recovered, an inexplicable decrease in theft occurred, so I offered him a job.
I was not sure of his exact reason for accepting the job. I've narrowed it down to repaying a debt for saving his life or the fact that I make him feel useful. Still, I suspected that in his prime he had been a fearsome [Knight]. Occasionally, I would observe him wield high-leveled skills like |triple-slash| and |indomitable strike|, but I never bothered asking his exact level. He seemed to be a man wanting to escape the past—or forget it. Most days he taught young kids how to fight, even succeeding in teaching Kira a few things.
Now, you might be asking what was the old [Knight]'s job. He was a guard for my shop, one of the highlights of the capital city, a place of marvels according to the locals. I sell items never before seen or even imagined by the denizens of this new world.
I've lost count of the number of adventurers and heroes who've beseeched me to give them advanced weapons. It became obvious from Day One that I should never build a weapon for anyone in this world. Not only would people pester me endlessly for more, but I could also unbalance the very world.
Thus, I limited what I make to three things: useful items that made daily chores easier, unnoticeable commodities, and festive delights. And that was my life.