Chapter 130
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Neither Alice nor Ethan said much on the way back to Ethan’s manor. The [Guards] also remained fairly silent, simply leaving Alice to stew in her thoughts.

Now that she wasn’t worrying about her new Perk, or the disappearance of the System, Alice spent a few moments thinking about the woman she had failed to save earlier.

Alice sighed, and for a moment, she almost wished for the comforting presence of Ethan’s emotion-deadening Perk. Then, Alice shook her head.

Trying to run from her emotions certainly wouldn’t make things better.

“Ethan? Do you think there’s anything I should have done better?” She asked.

Ethan paused for a moment, and the group of [Guards] and the two Mages simply stood there on the street near Ethan’s mansion. A burst of rainbow mana flickered into existence around Alice and Ethan, preventing others from eavesdropping.

“Alice,” he said, sighing. “A lot of [Organic Mages] and [Doctors] start to lose confidence when their first patient dies. It’s less common for patients to die in big cities, since there are more [Organic Mages], and thus there are more Perk setups available to deal with unique illnesses. But in smaller towns and villages, losing patients is something a lot of medical practitioners go through.

“It would have been better if the second patient hadn’t been treated in a way that left him in a great deal of pain and future medical complications, and it’s unfortunate that the third patient died, but… keep in mind, you only have an apprentice healer’s license right now. You’re… what, level 20 in [Organic Mage]?”

“Level 17,” said Alice. “And it’s a secondary Class.”

Ethan nodded. “So not even a real level 17. You’re basically a level 5 [Organic Mage], for most intents and purposes right now. You don’t even have a level 10 Perk from the Class yet. And despite being a level 5 [Organic Mage], you managed to save a patient’s life when I’m pretty sure almost nobody else could have saved him. You also healed the first Patient using a Perk or Achievement I’ve never even heard of, and that gives you access to unique tools for handling problems like this.

“I said this while you were actually healing the patients, but I’ll say it again. These people were dead without your intervention. You did everything you possibly could have, and you’ll be able to do better next time. The biggest issue you ran into was that you were low on mana for the final patient. You did extremely well given the limited resources and knowledge you had available at the time. And now, you’ve levelled up a bit more, and in the future you’ll continue to level up more. You aren’t even a real medical practitioner, and yet you still managed to save two people’s lives today. You’re doing a lot of good.” He gently reached down and patted Alice’s shoulder a few times. “Don’t worry too much about what happened. You lost a patient, but it was due to factors entirely out of your control, and you’ll keep saving people’s lives just by experimenting with the System and learning more about our current situation. Even though you might feel like a failure right now, you’re doing better than I did when I was learning organic magic.” Ethan gave her a gentle smile.

“Did you ever lose a patient?” asked Alice, despite herself.

Ethan paused, and for a moment, a dark grimace caused his lips to twist into an ugly frown. Then, he sighed.

“I did. When I was younger, I was very confident in myself. I was, to put it bluntly, arrogant. I was a young Mage, the child of two Immortals, and I was making excellent progress towards Immortality. I thought that I couldn’t do anything wrong, and that every action I took was a guaranteed success. I tried to treat a rather complicated issue when I was way too low level to handle it, and… well, I messed up,” he said. He shook his head. “I don’t want to say anything else about the issue, but it was a big wake up call for me. I slowed down a bit in levelling, and started thinking a lot more about how to improve as both a person and a healer after that. I admit that I also didn’t want to practice using my Organic Magic for almost an entire decade after the incident. Obviously, I can use my organic magic just fine now, but at the time, it felt like the sky was falling. It took me a long time to move past it.” He sighed. “Sometimes, I wonder if I still haven’t fully moved past it.” Then, he gave Alice another more relaxed grin.

“So you’re not alone. Even I’ve lost patients before. And while I lost mine because I thought I was arrogant, you lost yours because you didn’t have enough mana. So whatever you did, it’s still far better than the reason I lost my patient back when I was younger. All right?”

The rainbow mana in their surroundings disappeared after that, and the group started walking again. Alice thought about Ethan’s words.

The fact that Ethan had lost a patient as well made her feel oddly better. She was used to seeing Ethan as some sort of half-invincible person. Most Immortals that were old enough seemed to be nearly omniscient, at least within their respective Classes. The idea that Ethan, a Mage focused on combat magic and, to a lesser extent, things like organic magic…

It didn’t make everything fine, but it made her feel better, at least. Some of the pressure in her heart felt like it was dissolving, even if it wasn’t completely gone.

She wasn’t happy that the woman had died. She wasn’t happy that she had failed someone and that someone had died as a result.

But she also realized that she had no idea what she could have done differently. Perhaps if she had been smarter, and quicker on her feet, and made different choices during her Perk selections, there might have been a different outcome. But she had no way of knowing that what would kill this woman today would be lack of pure mana, and she had genuinely done her best to keep her alive.

The incident wasn’t entirely behind her, but she could at least push it behind her for now.

She would never forget the woman she had failed to save – later, she would ask Ethan to look up every single detail about the woman’s life, history, and who she had been. She wanted to know who the woman was, and who she could have been if she had lived today. Alice felt that it was the best way she could honor the woman’s death.

But she could at least function again.

A few minutes later, the group arrived at Ethan’s manor.

Even though Alice felt exhausted, she still needed to tell Ethan about what she had seen today. Since she had told Ethan everything about her experiments on the System, System mana, and how this world’s magic worked, she didn’t need to try to solve every single problem on her own.

Even though she wanted nothing more than to sink into her mattress, fall asleep, and forget the world for a few hours, she knew that those hours might be the difference between hundreds of people living or dying as the collapse of the System and its aftereffects progressed. Right now, as the effects of the System’s collapse slowly made themselves evident, she needed to make sure that the relevant people knew everything she could possibly discover if she wanted to mitigate the effects as much as possible. She groaned, but waited as the [Guards] started to disperse.

Then, Alice quickly shared all of her memories about what had happened during her Perk selection with Ethan, as well as her thoughts and assumptions about what everything meant.

She also requested that Ethan keep an eye on the Church of the System for her, as well as to look out for any reports of people behaving oddly  after levelling up or seeing strange Perk and Achievement notifications.

And then Alice felt that her duty was done. She stumbled to her room, half-asleep by the time she got there, and collapsed onto her bed.

She was asleep before her head even hit the pillow.

* * *

Several hours passed. Alice used her {Sleep Reading} Perk to read a few lighthearted adventure stories she had laying around in her storage Perk. She also discovered, for the first time, that she had a little more control over her dreams than she thought she did. Since she was technically asleep and dreaming, it was easy to conjure up a cup of warm, soothing tea, for example, even though the Perk said absolutely nothing about anything other than reading. Alice could even imagine an entire, rather comfortable library while in her dreams, and then relax in a comforting environment for a while.

She felt that she might have missed a few other ways to exploit her {Sleep Reading} Perk, although she didn’t feel like thinking too much about new, innovative ways to use her Perks right now. That could wait a few days. For now, she simply did her best to relax and work through her emotions.

And then, as she was starting to properly put her emotions to rest, she was abruptly awoken by a massive burst of mana ripping through the world. She spent a few moments floundering between her dream and reality, before her mind finally caught up with the fact that something was terribly wrong.

She spent a few moments trying to figure out what had happened, before her eyes opened wide.

The mana in the world around her was in chaos.

The previously calm night air was now filled with distorted, jagged lines of rainbow mana. Alice was used to seeing rainbow mana exist in her surroundings: after all, the System was usually present everywhere, at all times.

However, right now, the System was broken. There hadn’t been any System mana in Alice’s surroundings for nearly 36 hours. Normally, Alice would have found the return of the System to be incredibly comforting. After all, if the System returned, a massive ticking time bomb in everyone’s Status Screen would be fixed. However, this System mana didn’t look anything like the System mana Alice was used to seeing.

This System mana that Alice saw right now looked more like someone had taken a giant bucket of System paint and then just dumped it onto the rest of the world. There were massive spikes of rainbow mana that stretched into the sky that looked so densely packed she could almost mistake them for real, physical objects. And there were also huge patches of air that were completely untouched by the rainbow mana in her surroundings. Instead of the even, organized chaos of the System that she was used to, the System looked like a giant patchwork quilt of mana.

As Alice was blinking in confusion, the uncontrolled spray of System mana started to peter out. The random patchwork quilt of mana simply fizzed out, vanishing almost as rapidly as it had appeared.

Alice, finally realizing that it must be some sort of aftereffect of the System collapsing, peeled her eyes wide open to memorize every single detail she could get her eyes on. She was having a hard time concentrating already, since she wasn’t fully over the effects of losing a patient yet. But she needed to seize the opportunity to grasp any information she could get her hands on. Her feelings could wait: the information she needed would not wait.

The rainbow vomit of mana lasted for about thirty more seconds. And as Alice watched the System mana slowly vanish from existence, she started to frown.

She had gotten this feeling a few other times before, when she had observed System mana. It was a strange sensation that she had started to pay less attention to once the System disappeared, but she was pretty sure the System mana in her surroundings reminded her of… something.

She couldn’t quite put her finger on what, and the moment Alice noticed that there was some sort of pattern or something in the System mana that seemed familiar.

Before she could finish working out  what she had seen, the deluge of System finally disappeared.

Alice sighed.

Then, she checked her Status Screen.

The short-lived spurt of System mana had been rather unexpected. She had no idea what it meant, and she also wasn’t sure if it had changed anything. But if it had changed her Status Screen, either by making things worse or fixing things, she needed to know now. If all of the erroneously sorted mana and errors in her Status Screen had been fixed during the burst of rainbow mana, it would almost make up for the patient who had died earlier.

Or it might make things a hundred times worse. If the System’s weird burst of mana really patched up every single problem that had come from the System, Alice realized that her intervention might have killed the woman when doing nothing at all would have saved her.

Alice checked her Status Screen, trying not to pay attention to the fact that her hands had started shaking.

Her newest Perk still had a name that looked more like an error message than a real Perk name. The Perk description was still filled with grammatical issues.

Alice felt a burst of relief crash into her body, and realized, with horror, that right now she felt relieved that the System hadn’t been fixed.

Because if the System was fixed, she would have really killed an innocent person with her meddling.

She took a deep breath, and tried to stabilize her emotions. After a few moments, she succeeded in pushing her thoughts away.

She needed to focus on things she could do right now. Not what-if scenarios.

She needed something to distract her.

She decided to take her pure mana seed and try to sort out the clogged bits of mana that had been incorrectly sorted earlier. She still vividly remembered that there was a bit of [Scientist] mana stuck to her [Scholar] class seed, and a bit of [Scholar] mana stuck to her [Scientist] class seed. Not to mention several globs of totally different kinds of mana that had been thrown together while she was levelling up earlier.

That was something that she would need to fix sooner or later. And it would also take her mind off of her uncomfortable emotions.

Thus, after several checks using {Safety Analysis}, Alice tried to create a pair of ‘tweezers’ with her pure mana. She wanted to use her pure mana seed to pick up the clogged bits of mana, and then shove the mana into the correct magic seed.

It took several minutes of fiddling around to get it right, but eventually, Alice succeeded in picking up the chunks of [Scholar] mana that had tried to integrate with the wrong class seed. The biggest issue she ended up running into was that mana proved unexpectedly ‘slippery’ inside of her body. Every time she tried to grab the bits of disorganized mana, it ended up falling again. It was like trying to hold on to a greased pig: no matter what she did, it slipped out of range of her mana tendrils again. Even more frustrating was that the tactile senses provided by her mana tendrils were very vague, making the whole endeavor about ten times harder than it needed to be.

Eventually, Alice used all seven of her mana tendrils to create a kind of net, which she used to trap the disorganized mana. It took a great deal of time and concentration, and she accidentally dropped the disorganized bits of mana several times, but eventually, she succeeded in dragging the [Scholar] mana over to the correct seed.

There, she ran into another problem.

Much like a clogged drainpipe, now that Alice’s [Scholar] mana seed had a bunch of the wrong kind of mana stuck to it, it simply didn’t want to absorb the [Scholar] mana she had dragged over to it. Instead, the Class seed was insistently trying to suck up all of the nearby [Scientist] mana, and completely ignoring the mana it was supposed to eat.

Alice grimaced.

She had a hard time grabbing hold of one of the two chunks of misplaced mana. If she was supposed to grab both and move them at the same time, it was going to be several times more difficult.

Not to mention, her pure mana reserves were starting to run low.

Alice started to hurry up, because she was starting to get nervous. Every time she ‘dropped’ the chunk of displaced mana, it would get dragged back to the wrong seed, where the incorrect seed would continue to fruitlessly try to absorb it. If she messed up, she would have to start over again next time.

She resisted the urge to growl in frustration. She had felt bad and wanted to distract herself, but she might have ultimately ended up wasting several hours of pure mana without accomplishing anything if she couldn’t get rid of some of the excess mana in her body.

Alice split off three of her mana tendrils to keep the chunk of [Scholar] mana next to the [Scholar] seed, and then used the other four mana tendrils to try to grab the [Scientist] mana that was clogging up the seed. It took a few tries, and at one point, Alice was dangerously close to letting the [Scholar] mana slip and return to the [Scientist] seed. But after a particularly close call, she succeeded in nudging the [Scientist] mana out of the way and getting the [Scholar] mana to the correct seed.

The class seed greedily absorbed the correct kind of mana, and Alice let out a sigh of relief. Even though she was still in an awful mood, at least she had accomplished something worthwhile today.

You have leveled up!

Scholar: 56 -> 57

A few seconds later, before Alice could bring her [Scientist] mana over to the [Scientist] seed, Alice ran out of pure mana.

Instantly, the chunk of [Scientist] mana was dragged back towards her [Scholar] seed, where it once again got stuck. Most frustrating of all, Alice could still see multiple chunks of [Doctor] mana and a few other types still laying around in her body. They were much smaller in size, and they weren’t really a big problem yet, but Alice definitely felt that they would become an issue if she didn’t deal with them eventually. But she didn’t have a [Doctor] Class seed, meaning Alice had nowhere she could go to remove the [Doctor] mana from her body. And as she had already discovered while trying to move around the [Scholar] mana, anytime she wasn’t actively pushing mana away, it would fly right back to its starting position. Meaning she couldn’t just push it out of her body.

A few moments later, another few globs of mana from her surroundings started to flow towards her class seeds. Most of it was [Explorer of Magic] mana, which meant that at least there wouldn’t be any other problems after absorbing this mana.

You have leveled up!

Explorer of Magic 76 -> 77

And then, a few new types of unidentified mana quickly made their way into her body, and Alice resisted the urge to curse.

Apparently, in addition to one level in [Explorer of Magic], Alice had gained some mana for [Pure Mana Manipulator], [Esoteric Mage], and some more misplaced [Scientist] mana. Some of which had promptly gotten stuck trying to enter her clogged-up [Scholar] magic seed, and some of which had gotten stuck trying to enter her [Explorer of Magic] seed. The amount of [Scientist] mana that made it to the correct seed didn’t even give her a new level.

Alice felt an increasingly large headache start to form near her forehead. She took a few more deep breaths, and tried to quell the increasingly high level of annoyance she was feeling. Annoyance was not a productive emotion, and she hated feeling it, but after everything else that had happened today, it was just so easy to be frustrated by small problems, even if she had the tools to resolve most of the issues she had run into after waking up. She took a final deep breath, and tried to focus on her new observations.

She had a much better idea of just how important some of the steps the System usually took when people levelled up were now, and had a budding theory to go along with her new observations.

Alice now suspected that any time anyone did any action that was related to a specific ‘idea,’ they would get a huge hodgepodge of different mana types. For example, if someone healed someone, they would get a bunch of different kinds of mana. [Organic Mage] mana, [Doctor] mana, and perhaps a few other similar kinds of mana, because those were the classes people associated with healing. Despite that fact, when the System was still around, most people didn’t have dozens, or hundreds of classes. It was pretty unusual for someone to have more than ten in total.

Why was this?

It was likely because the System converted various similar kinds of mana into one, specific kind of mana, thus concentrating people’s benefits for performing specific actions into a few categories they could make the most use of. There was probably some way to convert similar kinds of mana into each other, although there might be restrictions on the exact nature of these conversions.

This might also be why there were requirements for people to get new Classes: they acted as a way for the System to understand what people wanted to prioritize.

Of course, there were still some oddities with this theory. Alice had looked it up before, and knew for a fact that nobody had ever observed a decrease in levelling speed for their classes, even if they had several similar Classes. If somebody had twenty different research related classes and then made a new discovery, each class would level up just as quickly as if the person only had one research-related Class. However, Alice also knew that magic probably didn’t follow the law of conservation of energy, so maybe this observation was simply because conservation of energy didn’t always work in this context.

Either way, at least for now, she had to find a way to copy the System’s filtering ability. She had a huge amount of mana her Class seeds couldn’t absorb properly, and if she didn’t find a way to deal with it, it would cause huge issues for her mental stability sooner or later. Especially right now, when she already felt bad, she didn’t feel like trying to manage an increasingly strong desire to act like a [Doctor] or a [Scientist].

The biggest question was what kind of magic seed she needed to properly convert mana from one type to another. She spent several minutes tossing ideas around, trying to figure out what magic seed she could form with {Seeds of Ambition} once the Perk came off cooldown in about a week.

As she was lost in her thoughts, she heard a sudden crash in the distance. It was loud enough that it threw her out of her thoughts, and she immediately started scanning the place outside of her window.

What was that sound?

Moments later, Alice began to pick up an increasingly noticeable set of clanging and scratching sounds, as metal clashed against metal in the distance.

She frowned.

Something was very wrong.

She immediately started preparing her magic tendrils. The sound of metal ringing against metal could be the sound of some [Guards] training, but it was very late.

Suddenly, Alice thought of the hostile gaze that had been centered on her earlier that day, and a chill ran down her spine.

She wasn’t entirely sure if the manor was under attack yet. However, she suddenly felt as if the night was filled with hidden eyes, hungrily gazing at her from the distance.

She quickly moved away from her window and began heading towards the hallway.

Alice wasn’t terrible in a fight, but she wasn’t great either. If something bad was happening, the first thing she needed to do was find Ethan or her [Hidden Guard]. Preferably both.

As she was moving through the corridors, the sound of metal clashing against metal became increasingly obvious. Someone was attacking the manor, and they were getting closer by the second.


Author’s Note:

NOTE TO SELF: CHANGE COVER ART FOR STORY. (Don’t forget today… unlike yesterday and the day before).




I made a really important announcement two days ago. You should go read that if you haven’t seen it already. Also, I did get the e-book link, for those interested in that and not the audiobook. That is linked below.

Something else interesting: for literally the first time ever, I am doing a shout-out to another story. This is entirely umprompted by them, but is mostly due to a string of rather absurd coincidences. I think it’s a funny story, so I’ll share it.

Yesterday, I felt rather tired. I effectively wrote an extra ‘chapter’ for Budding Scientist last Wednesday, when I wrote the announcement. It was a rather more emotionally draining process than the normal chapter-creating process – and I also put it together pretty quickly, basically within a few hours of finishing up emailing my publisher back and forth. So I wanted to unwind a bit. I gave myself permission to be a little less productive on some projects that don’t immediately impact you guys, and decided to unwind by bingeing a story with (several cups) of tea.

And after catching up to the current chapter of that story, the author of that story gave me a shout-out. Which caught me totally off-guard. I usually sort of assume that most people don’t know I exist outside of the comments section for my own story, so to see a shout-out to my story in the author’s note of a chapter for a story I had been enjoying was pretty shocking. Even more so since while a few people have messaged me about shout-outs, it’s always been a rather ‘hey, I could shout out your story if you shout out mine’ sort of deal. And while I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that, I refuse to shout-out a story I haven’t personally read and enjoyed. The story doesn’t have to be perfect, but I need to have enjoyed it enough to recommend it to other people.

The fact that I binged the story and caught up with 700 pages of words in one day is a pretty good indicator that I enjoyed the story, at least in my eyes. And they gave my story a shout out completely unprompted. So I figure fair is fair, and I’ll also give them a shout-out completely unprompted, since I did enjoy their story and I just find the coincidence factor incredibly amusing.

With all that said, if any of you want something to read, is a pretty amusing story. My TLDR: is that it’s about a girl who’s obsessed with magical girls trying to assemble a team of magical girls to beat up the demon king before even being born. The story is mostly a comedy, and it’s written quite well. I chuckled several times while reading the story. It’s just serious enough that the ‘main plotline’ doesn’t feel like it’s total nonsense or only played for kicks, which is a hard balance to strike. My own attempts at incorporating my humor into my writing never quite seem to go well, and I usually end up removing it from the story before any of you see it.

If that sounds amusing to you, go check it out. Or don’t. You do you, I guess. XD.

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