38 – Actionable plan
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38 – Actionable plan

Melina surveyed the room but was still within earshot of the other two as they cast the modified spell together. It was not lost on her that both Ishrin and Lisette had performed sophisticated math calculations in their heads in a matter of seconds. She tried to do the same math herself, but the numbers felt all twisty and slippery, coming in and out of focus as she tried to manipulate them. Eventually she gave up, trusting them to handle the matter. However, she was very impressed with Lisette, a very capable adventurer in her mind for sure, but she had never thought of her as something other than that. Now, she was beginning to understand just how special she was, and she felt a bit guilty for dismissing her after a superficial assessment.

It really did clash with what Ishrin had said about her. Even Lisette seemed to believe that it was in her nature to help people, and Melina felt that it was indeed true but… then why did she dismiss Lisette after only a superficial assessment? How come had Ishrin managed to get to know her better in a matter of days than she had in a matter of years?

She mulled over it for a while, but she tried not to let it distract her from her task.

“Did you do it?” she asked for an update after surveying the room, coming back to see Ishrin and a blur of a person where Lisette was supposed to be. She seemed to be mostly sitting still but even then, her facial features were completely blurry and unreadable. Every now and then she got up and returned before anyone could see where she went, before spending a few seconds hunched over the papers spread out on the ground where there was enough light to read.

“Yep.” Ishrin said, “as you can see, she is under a time dilation effect. I needed her to study a ritual so we can leave after you destroy the cube.” Ishrin said.

Melina nodded. This was known information. “Do you think she’ll be able to do it?”

“I believe in her.” Ishrin said. He was sorting through the crystals he needed to power the rift.

“Why did you have entire stacks of paper filled to the brim with dimensional calculations in your inventory?”

Ishrin grimaced. “A theory I was testing. The data was… inconclusive, but I kept the scrolls and various sheets filled with equations just in case. Turns out my hoarding was actually useful.”

He did not mention why he was testing the theory, however. The calculations were leftovers from when he had tried to do the math to figure out just what kind of power had caused his old ritual to fail, leading to his demise and resurrection by Albert. The data was not inconclusive per se, but it hinted at powers beyond Tier 16, leading him to think that his wife had not been who she claimed she was.

That particular train of thought led to dark spirals. The anger had simmered long enough, perhaps enough to even concede that she might not have been playing with his feelings in the end, but the question remained about what the heck she was doing in his life in the first place. Even if he conceded the fact that she might have fallen in love in the end, what was her agenda that led to her meeting him at all?

Nasty thoughts, but he couldn’t help it. Neither his advanced age and maturity, nor Albert’s modifications of his psyche seemed to be enough to cool his temper.

“We figured out a way to blow the cube up as we leave.” Melina said. “By targeting the…” she paused, looking for the right words. Beside her Liù was bobbing up and down in the air, drawing circles and shapes with her tiny hands. “…main power conduit.”

“…power conduit?” Ishrin’s eyes lit up. “That’s it! We use the power from that conduit to keep the rift open! You are a genius!”

She smiled, hiding a blush. “I just listened to you explain how the cube worked… and then used Appraisal on everything that I could see. Any adventurer worth their salt knows that spell, and that it should be used on anything.

“Huh, nice. Here, help me out.” Ishrin said. He rushed to the cube and began to set some strange wire from the conduit to his ritual circle. “One-time use magic fuse, made from string and ground monster cores. You see,” he said as the two fastened the wire to the floor. “Most adventurers are all brawn, no brains. At least, this is what I saw at the guild in Noctis.”

He pointed, and Liù went to fetch some brown powder from a pile.

“They remind me of cultivators back in my own world. Place this crystal there.”

Melina did so. “How was it, your world?” she asked.

“Nice. It was… nice, I guess. Lonely, you know? It is lonely at the top.” His eyes seemed to lose their luster.

“Didn’t you have any significant other? A friend maybe…”

“I did.” He paused, and Melina immediately regretted asking. “I did. Long ago. She’s gone now.”

The small pixie chirped. “I know, cutie. You’re here now, and it’s all that matters!”

The pixie smiled.

“You two are so cute.” Melina gushed. She was glad that the little pixie could somewhat distract him from his dark thoughts, whatever they were. She didn’t know, of course, that in truth the pixie was a constant reminder of Ishrin’s lost wife, from her name to her very being.

“Let’s focus now.” Ishrin said, getting up from the floor. “Lisette is coming out soon and I need to be ready. How are you on your part of the plan?”

“I only need to expose the main cable. It carries the energy, right?”

Ishrin nodded.

“It should work then. Liù will target the point where the cable meets the cube, right below the vat.”

“Why not target the cube directly?” Ishrin asked.

Liù shook her head, and it was then that Ishrin finally understood why he was hearing explosions and flashes of light while he was working with Lisette on the spell. “Oh,” he said. “It’s that indestructible, huh? Good plan, I like.”


“There’s movement.” Said the spectacled man, waving his magical contraption in the air of the glade. “The realm is starting to collapse.”

Syrma yanked the device from the man’s hands and studied the symbols being projected in the air above it. All around, in tents and sitting around the fire, dozens of adventurers were waiting orders, their heads turning towards the new Guild Master and to the opening in space in the middle of the circle of statues.

“This data can’t be correct.” Syrma said.

“I double-checked sir. It’s collapsing. It was about to eject up to five minutes ago, but then something changed, and it started to deteriorate.”

Syrma grunted.

“Sir, if I may, isn’t this a much better outcome?”

A hand, gilded and golden, suddenly was around the spectacled man’s neck. “I get to decide what’s better and what’s worse. No, you may not.”

The man tried to plead, but no voice came out. He was released soon after but fell to the ground heaving and vomiting. Syrma turned around to call one of the newly promoted C-rank adventurers who he personally allowed to retain their rank.

“Take him away and clear the camp. We are going back to the guild. Notify all adventurers that the crisis is over.”

“Sir!” the man nodded and left at once.

In the distance Goddard observed and listened.

“Fuck.” He thought he could hear Syrma say, by looking at the way his lips move. “The Dynasty will not be distracted by the Volcano rift until it poses a danger to Guild property, and with this rift here closing… there’s nothing stopping him from going after the guy before I get a chance to do so.”

Even though he was pretty sure he knew who the person was, until he was 100% sure about it he was still under the protection of the Guild, which had regulations in place exactly to prevent greedy Masters from exploiting adventurers under their command. He could not simply walk in and take Ishrin by force, not yet.

Then Syrma’s eyes shone evilly. “However, there are more pawns to move before I can call myself defeated.”