Chapter 132
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Alice quickly dealt with her level-up notifications before she went to sleep.

You have leveled up!

Survivor: 56 -> 58, Kinetic Manabinder 41 -> 42

Both her [Kinetic Manabinder] and [Survivor] Class seeds got clogged up after her level up notifications, meaning that if Alice wanted to level up again, she needed to unclog her [Survivor], [Kinetic Manabinder], [Explorer of Magic], [Scholar], and [Scientist] classes. In short, literally the only Main class seed she had that wasn’t currently clogged up was [Careful Enchanter]. Alice had no pure mana left over right now, and some of the types of mana stuck to her class seeds were Classes she didn’t have a seed for. Which mean that she would have to wait for a while to deal with the leftover chunks of [Survivor] mana stuck to her [Kinetic Manabinder] class and the [Kinetic Manabinder] mana stuck to her [Survivor] class seed. And then she would need to figure out how to deal with the various other kinds of mana that had gotten stuck to [Kinetic Manabinder], since there were apparently several subtypes of [Kinetic Mage] and Alice had just gotten access to several of them that she couldn’t use until they got converted to [Kinetic Manabinder]. She was probably missing at least one level in [Kinetic Manabinder], possibly two.

She sighed in frustration before she looked over her other System notifications.

Through Training, you have increased an attribute!

Magic 164 -> 165, Endurance 134 -> 135

 The point in Endurance must have come from when she got punched in the face by the [Organic Mage]. It had been a very minor injury, since her [Endurance] was pretty good by this world’s standards and unenhanced [Organic Mages] were basically just mediocre pugilists. Alice was very thankful for her high [Endurance] stat, despite how much muscle pain and cold, hungry nights she had endured to raise the stat to this point. It was more surprising that such a minor injury had actually managed to push her up a point in the attribute.

She also noticed that, unlike her class seeds, her attributes didn’t cause any noticeable clogging when they converted themselves into mana-flesh. However, her body seemed to have a harder time ‘digesting’ the new mana and turning it into mana-flesh. Alice suspected that she had probably gotten slightly less progress towards improving her attributes than she should have. It wouldn’t have been enough to boost her up another point in any of her attributes, but if she didn’t figure out how to deal with the issue, she would certainly notice the effects over time. It wasn’t a big deal, but Alice certainly still wanted to raise her stats as much as possible when she had the opportunity.

Alice felt the urge to rub her temples in annoyance.

She really needed to fix her class seeds and mana filtration somehow. She would look into it when {Seeds of Ambition}’s cooldown ended next week. There was probably some way to do it using just pure mana manipulation, but Alice wasn’t at that skill level yet, and there was probably a filtration magic seed that would solve her immediate needs until she got better at manipulating mana.

After finally looking over her System notifications, Alice spent some organic mana healing up the bruise on her face, and then went to sleep. There was nothing else she could do for the day, and she was exhausted after the Society attack.

The next day, Alice had a quick breakfast, before Ethan called her into his study. There, Ethan handed her a stack of reports.

Alice scanned one report after another, and started frowning. What she had read didn’t make sense to her.

Through the reports, Alice learned that the attack on Ethan’s manor wasn’t an isolated case. In fact, it wasn’t even close.

Several towns and cities that could get news to the capital quickly had sent reports of a Society attack on four other important researchers, three of which had been kidnapped in their sleep. The final Mage had managed to flee for his life in his nightclothes and made it to the [Guard], before they managed to just barely fend off his attackers. All four attacks were centered on other prominent research-based Mages in and around Metsel.

Alice had originally thought that the Society knew something about her research. She had assumed that perhaps they knew she was researching the System, or perhaps they knew that she was from Earth, and had explicitly launched an attack against her because of that.

However, while the Society clearly knew something if they were willing to devote several dozen Mages to attacking her, it was also clear that the Society hadn’t targeted her because they discovered just how important her research was. They weren’t targeting Alice individually at all: they were targeting every single Mage with good levels in researcher classes. They were looking for some sort of information, and they were desperate enough to find that information that they didn’t care what they risked in the process.

The Society launching attacks on almost a dozen Mages over the course of a night wasn’t just stupidly courageous. Illvaria had already been working to root out the Society of Starry Eyes and drive them out of the country, but the crown had never forgotten that its first priority was to further the recolonization effort of Southern Illvaria. Everything else had been treated as secondary. Not to mention, Society Bases were very hard to find, so unless the crown got lucky, it was usually pretty hard to retaliate against the Society of Starry Eyes on a large scale. It was difficult to attack a foe that couldn’t be located, after all.

However, if the Society of Starry Eyes attacked several different researchers in the country, the Illvarian crown might very well drop everything to exterminate the Society no matter the cost. Not only that, but organizing five different large, coordinated attacks against prominent researchers around Metsel had to have left behind some trails that competent [Spies] would be able to follow. Meaning that directly after this, the Society would probably lose at least a few of their hidden bases, and they would possibly lose several of them. The Society’s actions tonight had basically directly sacrificed several Society Mages and research bases to steal some research notes and kidnap some resaerchers.

Alice couldn’t fathom why the Society was taking such extreme actions. The Society was behaving as if it had no sense of self-preservation at all. And for an organization that had survived decades, this made no sense to Alice.

“What do you make of all of this?” asked Ethan, putting the reports back on his desk before turning to Alice. He seemed genuinely curious about what her opinion was, rather than as if he was testing her.

“Well… I doubt all of these people were secretly researching System mana,” said Alice. “The rarity of the Achievements I’ve gotten for studying System mana strongly imply that it’s unusual for Mages to study System mana. And the Society is clearly desperate to find out something. Otherwise, they wouldn’t have done something so harmful to themselves. What were these Mages studying? If we can figure that out, maybe we can figure out what the Society is so desperate to learn.”

“Hmm… Two of them had dimensional mana research licenses, and two others were focused on fairly exotic research on pure mana and how it interacts with other forms of mana.”

Alice nodded thoughtfully. “Both branches of research are somewhat in line with their interests. But I just can’t figure out why they’re so willing to pick a fight with the Illvarian Crown. If a real ‘war’ between Illvaria and the Society broke out, the Society might win, but it would be a pyrrhic victory. And the other nations of the Shil Confederacy would probably help Illvaria out. Right?” asked Alice, turning towards Ethan.

Ethan nodded. “The Shil Confederacy barely ever unites unless a massive external threat invades. However, I seriously doubt that the Shil Confederacy would ignore massive Society activity, especially if it looks like they’re directly challenging the authority and power of the Illvarian crown. Most of our ‘allies’ are happy to see us face some problems, but if those problems look like they might spread to their lands, they will help instead of taking delight in our suffering. And the Society going all out to launch suicidal attacks definitely qualifies as a weird and dangerous threat that might spread out of Illvaria. So I’m also baffled. The Society shouldn’t be behaving like this, but they are. I mean, I know that the System broke, because I’ve seen your memories. But after looking through the research we stole from the Society base, as well as my own information channels and other reports, I’m not convinced that the Society knows much about System mana. And if they don’t know anything about System mana, why are they panicking and going crazy?” Ethan shook his head. “Thus far, there aren’t any major signs of the cataclysmic results of the System breaking. There hasn’t been enough time for things to go horribly wrong yet, unless you know exactly what to look for. Right now, we’ve just had a few isolated cases of Mages forming seeds incorrectly and getting hurt because of that. But the Society is acting like a beehive that was lit on fire, and I don’t know why.”

The two stared at the stack of reports in silence, losing themselves in thought.

“The question is why they’re so desperate, I suppose,” said Alice. At the same time, she couldn’t help but think of the Society base that she and Ethan had attacked a few months ago.

During that battle, they had recovered a wide variety of research notes. One of the most odd types of research note that they had recovered was about the Society’s devotion to researching floods of dimensional mana.

The Society was mostly comprised of [Organic Mages] who wanted to do human experimentation. The Society had dimensional magic researchers, but they seemed to be a minority.

Despite that fact, the leaders of the Society of Starry Eyes had been forcing the members of the illegal Mage society to devote an absurd amount of resources to studying the strange floods of dimensional mana that had been appearing recently. It was a decision that was terrible for the long-term growth of the Society of Starry Eyes, much like the consecutive attacks on several prominent Illvarian Mages.

Perhaps something had gone wrong when it came to dimensional mana, as well? Alice hadn’t had time to form a dimensional mana seed yet, but she had a dimensional mana license now. Combined with the strange village disappearance that she and Ethan had investigated a few weeks ago, Alice started to wonder if something was going horribly wrong on the dimensional magic side of things.

Because on top of the System collapsing, of course there would be something catastrophic happening that involved dimensional mana.

Alice quickly outlined her thoughts to Ethan, who thought for a moment, and then nodded.

“It seems likely,” said Ethan with a sigh. “I’ll see if any of my [Spies] or anyone from the Crown Estate has found a lead to a Society base yet. If we can steal more of their research notes, we could probably learn more.” He shook his head, and then scanned over the reports of Society attacks again. Then, he frowned and turned back towards Alice. “That reminds me. We need to bring miss Cecilia to the manor now. Frankly, you’re too valuable, and the Society is clearly targeting you. I will also be tripling the [Guard] here, and finding a few more [Hidden Guards] for you and Cecilia. If the Society’s actions are this erratic, your safety needs to come before everything else.”

Alice paused. She didn’t like the idea of forcing her best friend in this world to come to the manor. Not to mention, Cecilia’s Classes were all devoted to making enchantments and selling products. If she wasn’t running a shop, her levelling speed would definitely suffer, which would make it harder for her to reach Immortality. Alice’s odds of reaching Immortality were pretty good. And if she became an Immortal, she definitely didn’t want her best friend to die of old age. It would be better if the two of them became Immortals together.

But at the same time, Cecilia needed to actually live in order to reach Immortality. And with the Society of Starry Eyes going completely nuts, there was no guarantee at all that Cecilia’s [Hidden Guard] would be enough to keep her safe.

Finally, she nodded.

“Bring her here,” said Alice.

Ethan quickly called over a few [Guards] and gave them orders to tell Cecilia that Alice and Ethan needed to see her immediately, and to bring her over. The [Guards] immediately left.

Then, the two simply waited. Alice felt bad for taking away Cecilia’s right to make decisions on her own, but she also didn’t want to find out that her friend was dead or had been kidnapped by the Society.

About an hour and a half later, the two [Guards] returned, along with Cecilia. The two [Guards] left almost immediately afterwards.

“Alice,” said Cecilia, nodding. “The [Guards] said you and your mentor needed to see me. And you missed board game night yesterday. What’s happening?”

Alice winced. She had forgotten about board game night with all the chaos going on. She sighed, and handed Cecilia the stack of reports she and Ethan had been reading through.

Cecilia started scanning the reports, and her face started to turn whiter and whiter as she read through each report of the Society’s actions.

“Uhh… this is…” Cecilia shuddered, before she glanced at Ethan. “This is quite scary. Am I here for protection?”

“Yes,” said Alice. “Ethan and I are worried that the Society may target you in order to target me, so the [Guards] brought you here. I know that having your freedom taken away won’t feel great, but…”

“Don’t worry, I get it,” said Cecilia. “After reading this, I’m not exactly enthusiastic about wandering around without a platoon of [Guards] either. I like being able to walk around and I value my freedom, but getting kidnapped and tortured definitely isn’t on my to-do list.”

Alice relaxed. She had been worried Cecilia would feel bad about the situation, but she seemed to be taking it in stride.

Then, Ethan looked at Cecilia. This time, Alice could see a hint of disapproval in his gaze.

“I’m glad that you’re willing to analyze the situation and make the best decision. Now…I hear that you knew about my apprentice’s research into the System?”

Cecilia’s gaze turned blank for a moment, and her eyes flicked towards Alice.

“You told him?”

Alice nodded. “We’ll talk about that in a bit. Some things have happened, and I haven’t had time to talk to you about it. This week has been… very chaotic. And terrifying.”

Cecilia turned back towards Ethan, and shivered under Ethan’s gaze. “Yes, honored Immortal, Alice has told me about her research, and I have participated in it,” she said. “Alice originally asked me for help with creating enchanted items when she was doing her research. Nowadays, she doesn’t really need my help as much as she used to, but we still talk about her research, and I occasionally help her.”

“Have you told anyone else about Alice’s research?” asked Ethan.

“I haven’t, honored Immortal. I would never betray my friend’s confidence like that, and Alice’s research might get her hunted down by the Society if they learn about it. There’s no way I would ever willingly leak that secret.”

Ethan gazed at Cecilia for a few moments, and then nodded. The disapproval in his eyes faded.

“That’s good to hear. I thought it was likely, but I needed to make sure.”

“But do you happen to know why the Society is going nuts right now?” asked Cecilia. She looked baffled as she pored over the reports of the attacks. “Their actions are… inconsistent with their own long-term survival. This doesn’t look like a crazy plan that will get their organization exceptional benefits if it succeeds… it looks more like the Society has just randomly decided to commit suicide for some reason. And I can’t figure out why.”

Alice paused, and then reached her hand out. “We don’t know for sure. As far as we can tell, the Society didn’t seem to know about System mana. But we could be wrong. Alternately, something has gone horribly wrong when it comes to dimensional mana, which we are currently unaware of. Regarding System mana, I want to use {Shared Memory} to show you something. Are you willing to let me use it on you?”

“Go ahead.”

Alice immediately touched Cecilia’s hand, and then shared the memory of the System and its mana collapsing into thin air.

Cecilia turned even paler than before.

“When did this happen?”

“About two days ago.”

“That’s… fuck. No wonder you said this week has been chaotic.” She paused. “So… the two reasons that the Society seems to have lost its mind are both horrible. Either the Society knows about System mana, meaning that they’re reasonably likely to discover your own research into the topic and then target you… or they have discovered some sort of horrifying secret about dimensional mana?” Cecilia shuddered.

“It certainly appears that way,” said Ethan. “Of course, even if our assumptions are wrong, the Society acting like a horde of lunatics is cause for concern.”

“At the very least, I doubt they discovered my research specifically,” said Alice. “Which is something. They’re probably just targeting me as a matter of course, since it’s not really that hard to figure out I’m a research focused Mage if one pays attention to the details. And if an Immortal is paying attention to my research, there’s obviously something special about it. Which is pretty much the only bright side about the current situation.”

Cecilia nodded, and then took a deep breath. She turned back towards Ethan. “What about Alice’s classmates? The ones that come to board game night every week? I mean, I imagine the Society would try to target me first, since I’m Alice’s closest friend that is actually targetable… but they could be targeted too.”

“I’ve instructed Alice’s magic academy to up their security quite a bit once I realized just how dangerous her research is,” said Ethan. “I will probably need to upgrade it a few more times, but I don’t know if the Society would be quite as keen to target the classmates Alice is close to. Since they seem to spend most of their time at school or at home, I intend to get the [Guard] more active in those areas.” Ethan paused, and then narrowed his eyes. “However, ultimately, while I intend to upscale the defenses in the city, defending alone will not protect everyone. The Society dared to attack an Immortal’s Manor in the middle of the city. They attacked my apprentice. There will be consequences,” Ethan said, his voice practically a low growl. Then, the ice-cold rage in his eyes dissipated. He turned back towards Cecilia, and adopted a somewhat gentle expression, as if the earlier suspicion towards Cecilia and anger towards the Society had been a lie.

Cecilia absorbed Ethan’s words for a moment, and then sighed softly. “I suppose that’s everything, then. Should I go and pack my things?”

“I’ll send a few [Guards] to grab everything for you, if you don’t mind. No sense in having you wander around the city right now. Even if the presence of the [Guard] will increase drastically within the next few days, for now, it could still be dangerous before the commands are given and work schedules adjusted.”

Cecilia nodded, and a few moments later, another [Guard] was sent to retrieve Cecilia’s things.

When the [Guard] returned, Alice quietly helped Cecilia move to a room right next to her new room – her old room had been abandoned, due to having been trashed during the Society attack and for having a window, which now seemed rather dangerous. The two of them were located basically down the hall from Ethan’s study, where he spent most of his time, and so that they could immediately find Ethan if the Society managed to attack the manor again.

Less than five hours later, another report came.

True to Alice’s suspicions, people were now flocking to Churches of the System and trying to figure out what the heck was wrong with their Status Screens. And while Ethan had given orders for [Enchanters] to start manufacturing as many anti-mana rings as possible, many, many children were unlocking their Status Screens far before they were supposed to, and more and more people were beginning to notice.

It had been three days since the System disappeared. And the first effects were finally starting to ripple through Illvarian Society.

The collapse of the System, and its effects, was now fully underway in Illvaria.

 

 

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