Chapter 122
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The second [Princess] nodded at Alice and the other [Nobles], who stopped chatting amongst themselves. The [Nobles] who weren’t seated already quickly made their way towards their seats, and Alice saw a little flicker of rainbow mana activate near their ears. It seemed to somehow inform them that the tea party was starting?

A few [Servants] standing to the side waited a few moments for the [Nobles] to take their seats. Then, they quickly began pulling out various pots of tea and pastries, as well as other light snacks. The moment the last [Noble] sat down, the [Servants] began gently pouring cups of tea and offering guests food. The tea was maintained at the perfect temperature using Perks, and the miniature cakes, cookies, and other snacks all seemed as if they had just come out of the oven moments ago.

And at the same time, one of the [Counts], who Alice realized had spoken with the [Princess] just before the tea party started, was the one to raise the topic of conversation.

“Recently, I have been thinking about the prices of enchanting materials. In my county, there has been a notable increase in the price of various goods related to enchanting, despite the influx of materials as the southern recolonization effort progresses. This is because more Mages are learning how to enchant. More [Enchanters] are ultimately good for my territory, but training expenses are harming the new wave of [Enchanters]. So I want to build an enchantment-focused magic school. Subsidizing the costs new [Enchanters] face would help this growing industry along, even if it would cost some money right now.” the [Count] began to go into a long-winded discussion of his topic, such as where the academy might be established, the benefits of it, and so on. Alice was pretty sure that the topic would feed nicely into the main topic of the tea party, which was the recolonization effort of the south. However, she was also surprised by how detailed and specific the [Count’s] opening topic was. It was detailed enough to be a topic of discussion on its own, even if it wasn’t linked to a bigger topic.

Once he finished talking, a [Baroness] leapt into the conversation and began discussing the potential demerits of establishing a new magic academy, such as the increased drain on manpower. She argued that right now Illvaria was already short on manpower, it would be difficult to find good teachers for a new academy, and so establishing a new academy might do more harm than good. Then, a [Viscount] weighed in by stating the issue could likely be resolved by hiring retired Mages, though the expenses would likely increase even more.

The discussion went on. No direct resolution was reached about the initial conversation, although Alice was fairly certain those in favor of establishing a new magic academy would meet after the meeting and possibly work out an agreement of their own. However, as time passed, the topic started to veer more and more towards the recolonization effort as a whole. Alice was happy that she had properly understood the biggest focus of the tea party: she had been a little worried she might get it wrong, since she wasn’t very familiar with the political scene.

She found herself listening attentively to the meeting, even though she wasn’t familiar with all of the information the [Nobles] were tossing around during the discussion. She was still able to pick up a surprising amount of information about the current state of Illvaria from the conversation.

Mixed into the conversation were also a lot of odd tidbits of discussion, especially debate about the recolonization effort as a whole. Some [Nobles] who were present seemed on the fence about whether it was a good idea for the country as a whole to keep supporting the recolonization effort. One or two [Nobles] seemed staunchly against the recolonization effort, claiming it was too expensive to even maintain it at its current level. They instead advocated dialing it back a little bit, and only recolonizing the northernmost fringe of the old south. A few other [Nobles] seemed in favor of expanding the recolonization effort even further, due to the massive potential for enchanting material harvesting in the future.

She learned a lot more about the espionage war the Sigmusi Colonia had launched against Illvaria last spring, as well as some of the more detailed problems the recolonization effort was facing. Monster attacks disrupting supply chains, mismanaged cities that dragged down the reputation of the recolonization effort as a whole, and the ever-increasing need for money and manpower seemed to be like black holes. No matter how many resources Illvaria put into the effort, it was difficult to wholly meet the needs of the recolonization effort. The conversation went on and on, with [Nobles] weighing in on how some problems were more solvable than they seemed to be, or why some part of the recolonization effort was too expensive, and should be dialed back to free up resources.

The conversation continued for a few hours. Alice didn’t have much to say herself. On the topic of Illvaria’s future, she wasn’t in control of many resources, and she didn’t know enough to weigh in on the subject. Because of her lack of knowledge and power, Alice found herself unwilling to interject too much. However, she could also see why Ethan wanted her to attend this meeting. It was easy for Alice to make connections between the discussion she was seeing in front of her eyes, and all of the books she had read about the current state of Illvaria. Naturally, this meant that it would be much easier for Alice to integrate herself into future conversations, and if she ever had to weigh in on a decision related to Illvarian policy in the future, she would have a much better idea what might be a good or bad idea.

However, Alice was quite surprised when one of the [Nobles] at the table directly addressed her.

“What do you think about the recolonization effort, Lady Alice? I hear that you spent at least a few months in the south, and that you even got caught up in part of the Sigmusi espionage war behind the scenes. What are the biggest issues you faced during that time, and is it worth solving those issues for the entirety of the south?”

Alice was honestly surprised that the [Noble] asking her knew so much about her. It seemed that her past had been dug up by at least a few people after she had become Ethan’s apprentice. She could see why Ethan’s mother felt that the ruse of claiming Alice was a ‘combat’ Mage was becoming less relevant by the day. Considering how much she had focused on her research during her time in Cyra, anyone who seriously investigated her past probably knew she was much more specialized in research than fighting. And if the people here at the table knew it, the Society of Starry Eyes probably also knew it, if they had any interest in her at all. She did her best to maintain a polite [Noblewoman’s] smile, despite her spike of nervousness, and focused on the [Noble]’s question.

“I did, indeed, live in Cyra for a few months,” said Alice. “It’s a rather promising town run by Illa Weissaurus. It’s also where I underwent my mana baptism. I ran into a few pretty major key problems during my time there.

“Construction issues were one of the big issues. There aren’t enough [Kinetic Mages] to properly support the construction of new buildings. In addition, there are occasional undocumented bubbles of broken mana, which can create massive monster swarms. These can be rather risky for nearby towns to deal with, and the military power needed to fend them off can be draining for the settlements in the area. Finally, the Sigmusi, obviously, posed a major threat to the region during my time there. I was actually caught up in an assassination attempt aimed at Illa…” said Alice, as a memory came back to her.

A spear, rammed through her stomach. Bright pain…

Alice winced, rubbing at her stomach again. Due to the power of [Organic Mages], there wasn’t a scar left on her skin, but she was surprised by how vivid the memory of getting stabbed was.

“I nearly died during that assassination attempt.” Alice paused, thinking over the conversation, and her own experiences. “I would say most of the issues faced by the south could be dealt with if more Mages moved to the south, since they’re the strongest individual members of the military, and also very important for construction and healing in new towns and cities. Of course, [Soldiers] are also needed, but I would say the Mage shortage is the biggest real issue the south is facing right now. As for whether it’s worth solving those problems…” Alice paused, seriously considering whether it was worth it for Illvaria to throw more Mages at the south. “Solving those issues would probably require a heavy investment of manpower, and ways to tempt Mages into moving South. That might be difficult. Since the shortage of manpower in the north is already noticeable, especially given the actions of the Society recently, there might not be enough manpower to move to the South in the first place, unless we want to compromise the security of the north. At the very least, I don’t think expanding the recolonization effort further than it has already spread is a good idea.”

To her surprise, the [Noble] who had asked for her opinion seemed to really think about Alice’s words, before eventually nodding. “Thank you for your advice, Lady Alice.”

After that, the conversation pivoted away from her again. Alice was more than a little surprised to hear someone mention the kinetic plates that she had spent months designing with Ezrien as her Patron, before Ethan had taken her as an apprentice. While most [Nobles] seemed dubious about its practicality right now, it was briefly tossed around as a solution to the construction Mage shortage in the south, before a few [Nobles] decided to give it a trial run and see how useful it was.

If Alice was still associated with Ezrien’s research team, she probably would have been excited, but now she felt a little weird about how quickly her position in society had changed. She didn’t have long to consider it, though. After discussing Alice’s thoughts about the Mage shortage for a bit, the second [Princess] started to discuss more practical exchanges of benefits. She explicitly brought out a list of potential benefits that she could offer in exchange for increased support for the recolonization effort, such as tax breaks starting in five years, and crown assistance with various administrative and military issues. The group’s discussion as a whole seemed to be moving towards an agreement to keep the cities and towns that had already been established, but request that the king drop support for new cities and [Baron] titles sometime within the next two years.

In a way, Alice was actually a bit surprised by how openly [Nobles] in Illvaria talked about exchanging benefits and assistance with projects. Given the stories she had read on Earth, she had expected things to be a bit more… veiled. She had expected every word to have five meanings.

However, at least in this part of the discussion, people were quite open about what they wanted and what they were willing to offer the crown. The second [Princess] was more than happy to negotiate with them, and for the better part of half an hour, Alice almost felt like she was listening to [Merchants] haggle over prices, instead of listening to [Nobles] discuss the future of the biggest project of the country in the last seventy years.

After the conversation started to wind down to a close, the second [Princess] smiled happily. Almost two thirds of the [Nobles] who had come to the tea party had ultimately offered more support for the recolonization effort, and the second [Princess] was clearly pleased with the result.

Alice got a rather unexpected notification afterwards.

You have unlocked the class [Courtier] as a result of spending at least 20 hours learning about matters pertaining to [Noble] society, having an {Etiquette} Skill of at least 10, and attending a [Noble] event. Would you like to make this class a primary class?

You do not have any primary class slots available. Class automatically added to secondary classes.

Alice glanced at the System notification for a moment, before she shrugged.

Ultimately, she doubted she would get much use out of this Class. However, she was still happy to get it. After all, now that Alice knew the behind-the-scenes mechanics of how mana types related to Classes worked, Alice was happy to have as many Class seeds as she could possibly get her hands on. Even if Alice was pretty sure her [Willpower] would help her fend off any unwanted influence on her mind, the idea of mana warping who she was made her deeply uncomfortable. Every single Class Seed was another layer of defense against erosion of her personality, and Alice was more than happy to have as many defenses as she could in that regard. And maybe she would get a few useful Perks out of the Class someday, even if she kind of doubted it.

Then, still happy with the outcome of the tea and snacks part of the conversation, the second [Princess] declared that dancing and conversing could commence, ending the tea and conversation phase of the tea party.

Many of the [Nobles] took the opportunity to stand up and stretch their legs. Some guests moved to the side and started talking with each other, discussing various extra deals and more personal interactions. Ethan’s mother and Ethan also moved to the side to talk, with the second [Princess] accompanying them as they conversed about… something. Alice remembered that the second [Princess] had expressed interest in talking with her later, so she decided to introduce herself to a few other [Nobles] and check back on the second [Princess] later.

But before she could start moving, she was once again surprised when someone spoke to her.

“So you’re Lady Alice? Might I interest you in a dance?” asked a young man. Alice paused, swallowing a mouthful of mini-cake, before giving the young man an appraising look.

He is… [Count] Alrind’s third son, and will most likely become the [Count]’s heir, if nothing goes wrong. His name is Orin. He’s known to have a few pretty good Achievements and an above average levelling speed, and his oldest brother seems more interested in chasing women than becoming a proper heir. His second brother is mostly focused on learning to be a [Spearman], and has no interest in the title either. Alice managed to dredge up some basic information about the boy, and gave him a more curious look.

Like Alice, he was a teenager. He looked to be around eighteen years old. He also had a pretty decent Mage core, identifying him as a Mage. It was obvious he had put effort into his training, both as a Mage and a [Count]. Alice pegged his level at about fifty, which was pretty good for an average 18 year old.

Alice nodded, as she quietly hoped she didn’t trip over her feet later. Her {Etiquette} teacher had briefly shown her a few dances, but considering how much information Alice had already been trying to cram into her head in the past two weeks, she hadn’t had time to pick up a dedicated {Dancing} skill. She hoped her memory, and the small dancing boost {Etiquette} gave her, would be enough. “I would be honored.”

Orin quickly led her to the dance floor as the next song started. Alice dreaded the feeling of clumsily trying to follow the movements of the dance. She heard the first few musical notes start to drift throughout the hall, and felt a breath of relief as she realized it was one of the dances her {Etiquette} teacher had mimed for her.

The {Etiquette} skill began to feed Alice some basic information on how the next dance began. It was a slower song, and Alice realized that her dancing partner had been more considerate of her potentially low {Dancing} skill than she had thought. It was clearly a song meant to be easier to handle, with low enough skill requirements that an {Etiquette} skill would be able to keep up with the song without too much strain. Alice could also see that Orin’s Perks seemed to make it easy for him to guide her during the dance. It was subtle, but by placing his feet in certain positions, he was able to guide Alice through the dance, even though she only somewhat remembered the steps.

She was also surprised by how firm her feet were when she tried to move. When Alice had first arrived in this world, most of her physical Stats had been below 50. Now, most of her physical Stats were hovering around 120, and she had percentage multipliers kicking them up to around 150. She suddenly realized that it was hundreds of times easier to keep up with the rhythm of music than it had been back on Earth. Instead of desperately trying not to trip, Alice found herself quickly and easily settling into the rhythm of the music. It was almost like she had been learning to dance for several weeks now: even if there was still an obvious skill gap between herself and the high-level [Nobles], it wasn’t to the point where Alice was embarrassing herself.

“So you’re learning under Honored Immortal Ethan? What’s it like?” asked Orin, breaching the strange silence that had fallen over the two as Alice got lost in her thoughts. Alice was surprised to hear a trace of true curiosity in his tone.

“It’s… interesting. Honored Immortal Ethan has spent a fair amount of time trying to teach me what I would need to know if I successfully ascend to Immortality, and providing me with resources, should I need anything to enhance my learning speed or make the most of my Perks,” said Alice. “It is sometimes frustrating, to be forced to justify and explain every action I take, but I appreciate the amount of work Ethan is putting into ensuring that I make the best of each minute, and teaching me how to handle the consequences of my actions. If I become an Immortal, such skills will be invaluable”

Orin chuckled. “Honored Immortal Ethan would not put so much effort into ensuring you were ready for Immortality unless he felt that you were truly likely to reach it, Lady Alice. I’m sure that Honored Immortal works so hard to teach you because he sees great promise in you.”

Alice simply nodded, not quite sure whether Orin was simply flattering her or meant what he said. This was a little bit more of what she had been expecting from [Nobles], rather than the [Merchant]-like haggling earlier. Words that made her think twice, compliments that might or might not be empty, and words she needed consider carefully.

She smiled at the thought, a little amused by where her train of thought had taken her.

“I certainly hope to reach Immortality in the future. However, many people have struggled to reach Immortality in their lifetime, and plenty of them have failed before reaching their destination. I won’t be presumptuous and say that I’ll definitely reach it until I actually reach Immortality,” said Alice.

Orin considered her words for a moment, and then smiled. Alice wasn’t sure if she was imagining it, but this smile seemed a little more genuine than some of the other practiced grins he had flashed at her during the dance. “Plenty of Ethan’s apprentices have failed to reach Immortality, but most of them still ended up as exceptionally high level Mages. And it sounds like he is putting a great deal of emphasis on your training. Your odds seem to be much better than you might think.” Then, he paused, as if searching for a conversation topic. “So what did you do before you were apprenticed to Immortal Ethan? Is it too presumptuous of me to ask? I’ve heard that you went through a mana baptism…”

Alice nodded. “I underwent a baptism mostly by accident, honestly. I ran into a clump of broken mana that was too dense for my body to handle, and I managed to walk out of it as a Mage. I was lucky.”

Orin winced. “I’ve heard the survival odds are much worse for broken mana baptisms. And that they’re much more painful.”

“Is that so?” asked Alice, genuinely curious. She had never heard that broken mana baptisms were more painful than regular baptisms. Then again, broken mana baptisms were a somewhat neglected field of study, since most people went through normal mana baptisms instead of broken mana baptisms.

After that, Orin started asking about more facets of Alice’s life. Putting all of her {Etiquette} to the test, Alice managed to deflect any questions about her life before Cyra, since directly lying might have tripped a lie-detection Perk, and talking about Earth was a poor decision. However, she was more than happy to chat about some of the more interesting things she had seen and experienced in Cyra, as well as her time at her Magic Academy. She was a little surprised to hear that Orin was also a student at a magic academy, although the academy he was attending was instead focused on the military.

After a few minutes of chatting, the song ended, and Alice was surprised to see that she had gained the {Dancing} skill and raised it to level 3. However, she grinned to herself.

She had survived her first personal conversation with a [Noble]. It seemed more like a simply case of someone trying to get to know her, likely due to her status as [Ethan]’s apprentice, but she was glad that she hadn’t completely botched the whole thing.

Perhaps attending this party wasn’t as bad as she had thought it would be.

 

 

 

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