Chapter 133
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Alice spent the next day skipping school and observing the Church of the System’s reaction to the increasingly noticeable crisis of the System’s disappearance. She also took the time to use pure mana and unclog what parts of her class seeds she could unclog, although it was a very frustrating and tiring process.

You have leveled up!

Kinetic Manabinder 42 -> 44

Alice learned that nearly two levels of [Kinetic Manabinder] had been ‘stuck’ trying to integrate with the wrong class seeds, although none of her other classes levelled up this time. Which made Alice nervous about just how much worse people’s minds and Status Screens were going to get before the crisis was resolved. Alice at least had some tools to combat the issue of her Status Screen getting frozen and her class seeds failing to process the mana they needed to. Despite that fact, at least right now, Alice’s pure mana seed was frequently overtaxed dealing with minor issues she noticed cropping up in her class seeds. If she didn’t have {Lesser Organic Vision} and {Intuitive Magic Modelling}, Alice would have struggled to even maintain her own class seeds, since she would have had a hard time ‘looking’ at her brain and moving around chunks of mana as needed.

She was getting the feeling that the System’s collapse was going to be even more of a mess than she had imagined.

At the very least, Ethan’s subordinates and the [Enchanters] at the palace had been working to churn out as many rings of mana-blocking as they could reasonably make per day. The number of rings they could make at once was pitiful compared to the number Illvaria as a whole would need, since there were around a million inhabitants in the country, and pure mana seeds weren’t a very popular magic seed choice for most Mages. When Alice and Ethan had originally discussed the use of mana-blocking rings, they had assumed that it would only be needed for children below the age of six, to prevent them from absorbing mana they didn’t have a way to get rid of. Even creating enough rings for all of the children in the country would be practically impossible, although making as many rings as possible would at least help.

However, given what Alice had learned about Class Seeds getting clogged up after the System collapsed, it was obvious that Illvaria’s supply of mana-blocking rings was going to be so utterly and completely inadequate that it would barely make a dent in the pool of people who would need one. And even the people who managed to get ahold of a mana-blocking ring would stop levelling up, which would certainly make the ring less popular. People in this world highly valued gaining levels. Even if it was ultimately the best way to safeguard their mind from corrosion, there would certainly be some people who refused to wear mana-blocking rings because they wanted to keep gaining levels.

Alice felt an even greater headache coming on every single time she thought about the aftereffects of the collapse of the System.

She took a deep breath, and tried to calm down. At the very least, rings were being made. Even if supply would be nowhere near what was needed, it was better than nothing.

Alice also briefly wondered if she was being selfish, by continuing to level up and sort out her own mana instead of spending all of her time constructing anti-mana rings. Each anti-mana ring would be one more person who would be safe from the aftereffects of the System collapse, after all.

When she shared her concerns with Ethan, he flatly stated that the ‘best’ thing Alice could do with her time was to find a permanent solution to the problems caused by the System’s collapse. The rings were just a stopgap measure – ultimately, the main issue hadn’t been dealt with at all. Which, after some thought, Alice realized was probably a logical statement, even if it felt wrong to be wasting her pure mana levelling herself up and unclogging her class seeds, instead of just grabbing an antimagic enchantment ring and then churning out as many copies of the enchantment as she could manage.

However, Ethan’s argument was that if Alice got a few more Perks, that might allow her to fix the System, or find a way to make class seeds artificially and get them to filter mana on their own, or… something. Alice wasn’t really sure what a ‘permanent’ solution would look like yet, and it seemed that while Ethan had some ideas, he wasn’t sure what the best option was either. However, Ethan still made a good point. Every single Perk Alice got was an investment in fully solving the problem, instead of just treating a few of the symptoms. Alice couldn’t say she felt great about that, but she had to admit that it made sense.

Apart from waiting for more news about the Church of the System and unclogging her class seeds, Alice took the time to work on some enchanting. Even if it would clog up her seeds for her enchanting classes, Alice was mostly sure that she could fix the issue, even if she had no way to make the solution widespread right now. And she really needed to be using every possible moment she had to level up. For now, Alice just made a few mana-blocking rings with the pure mana she had left(while leaving a bit of mana to unclog her class seeds again), as well as making a few more offensive kinetic bracelets. Since the Society could attack her at any moment, she wanted to have as many disposable magic items on hand as possible.

You have leveled up!

Careful Enchanter: 27 -> 29

Finally, on Tuesday, as Alice ditched school for the second day in a row, reports started coming in, and Alice finally got an idea what the Church of the System was doing.

And after reading it, Alice felt… depressed.

There were several smaller churches dedicated to the System in Metsel. After all, the capital had over a hundred thousand people living in it. It would be almost impossible for one church to meet the needs of the entire populace. However, there was still one ‘main church’ that acted as ‘main church’ for all smaller System churches in Illvaria. Basically, all churches of the world fundamentally responded to the main headquarters of the Church of the System, but since that was located on the Central continent, it was rather impractical for nations like Illvaria to receive news from there in a timely manner.

So most countries had a smaller, local System headquarters that managed smaller, day to day administration, such as replacing heads of smaller churches when they died, recording new Immortals after reaching Immortality and becoming a saint of the church, and so on. And local headquarters were usually tied to the crown or the local nobles in some ludicrously tangle web of politics, which Alice was admittedly unfamiliar with. For now, it wasn’t that important.

What was important was that the local headquarters of the Church of the System seemed to have totally melted down in the wake of the ‘silence’ of the System.

The main [Priest of the System] had retreated to his quarters yesterday, in wake of the strange, garbled Perks and Status Screens that were starting to show up. He had not left his quarters since then. He had not issued any words of comfort to the believers of the System, or come up with any idea why the System had suddenly glitched out, or even told people to ‘have faith.’ Instead, as more and more people stopped by the Church of the System to ask what the heck was going on, the head of the Church of the System decided it was a good time to have a crisis of faith.

In other words, in the wake of bad news, the first person that should have stepped up to start controlling people’s anxiety and handling the situation had instead collapsed like a house of cards.

This was a very unpleasant surprise for Alice. For the most part, she had been rather pleased with how competent the people of this world were. Many of them frankly surpassed the people of Earth in work ethic, probably due to the fact that the System constantly gave them rewards for working hard and even dangled Immortality in front of them as the ‘ultimate’ reward for their efforts. Despite the lack of universal education and the scarcity of books, the people of this world were well informed and intelligent.

And unfortunately, the exceptional work ethic and competence many people of this world had was somehow missing in the head of the Church.

In the absence of the head of the Church of the System, the local [Priests of the System] had started going in very different directions when preaching to their people.

Some of the [Priests of the System] had been shaken by the [Leader of the Church of the System]’s collapse, and had followed suit, basically refusing to provide any sort of statements on the collapse of the System at all. They withdrew from public life and stopped functioning.

Some of them had instead stated that the collapse of the System was a ‘test of faith’ for the followers of the System. Some of them started demanding that they appease the System, although they didn’t seem to have any idea how to do that. Some of them started taking advantage of their position to put forth some truly bizarre ideas, such as the notion that the System was about to usher in a golden age of prosperity for those who remained true to the faith.

The exact responses from [Priests] in the second category were all over the place, and most contradicted each other.

Finally, some [Priests of the System] tried to sidestep the issue, or put it aside until they got more information. They didn’t state that this was a ‘test of faith,’ and they also didn’t melt down. Instead, based on the reports falling onto Ethan’s desk, they almost seemed to be… waiting for something. They focused on doing whatever they could to help the people that came to their churches. They continued to help form [Trade Agreements] between people, convert Primary Classes into secondary Classes and swap out Perks when desired, and otherwise perform the functions of a [Priest of the System]. In Alice’s eyes, it seemed like they were waiting for a more telltale sign about what was going on before they said anything.

The first two kinds of people, at least in Alice’s eyes, seemed hard to work with. People that melted down in a crisis were unreliable, and as much as Alice sympathized with their meltdowns when their ‘god’ suddenly spazzed out without warning, they simply weren’t what she needed if she wanted to corral the mess and get everything back under control. The second kind of [Priest of the System] also seemed hard to work with: people who just started making stuff up when things started going wrong seemed dangerous to her. Maybe Ethan could figure out a way to work with them, but Alice had no idea what to do with them.

The third group of people, however, seemed like logical targets for cooperation. In Alice’s eyes, they seemed like they were still working hard to improve people’s lives and help the people around them. In other words, they hadn’t abandoned the people of Illvaria completely. At the same time, they weren’t making bold and incorrect proclamations or melting down.

Thus, once the [Servants] of the manor finished sending Alice reports on behalf of Ethan, Alice decided it was time to start organizing. She moved to Ethan’s study, and then started by outlining what she had tried so far regarding System mana and Classes – especially the fact that she had been successful in swapping out which mana was absorbed by which seed, letting her at least partially resolve the issues caused by her Class mana going to the wrong Class seed. Now that several days had passed without anything going horribly wrong, Alice was pretty sure that there was nothing wrong with sliding around where each kind of mana ended up, which meant that it was safe to use on other people. After that, she let Ethan know that she wanted to meet with the  [Priests of the System] she thought she could work with, if they were willing to see her.

“Are you sure?” asked Ethan. “Exposing your research into the System probably won’t be the end of the world, but… the Society will definitely target you even more if word gets out.”

Alice paused, hesitating for a moment, and then sighed. “If you tried to pass off my research as your own, would anyone even believe it?”

“I… suppose not. I’m known as an Immortal who specializes in combat, and while this isn’t completely accurate, it’s definitely what I’ve spent most of my time and Perks on. Sometimes I make a small discovery here and there, but I doubt anyone important would genuinely believe that a comprehensive analysis on a previously undiscovered kind of mana, which happens to be what the System runs on, was made by me. Since you’re here, people would pretty quickly figure out who was in charge of all the research.”

Alice nodded. “Then I’ve decided. The Society is coming for me either way – it’s just a question of how much importance they assign to me. Besides, I have a powerful and competent Immortal protecting me!” She said, trying to squeeze out a grin.

Ethan sighed. “I mean, I will do my best to protect you. But the attack on the manor a few days ago should show you that while I’m strong, I’m far from perfect, especially because I simply can’t be everywhere at once.”

Alice thought about it for a moment, and then sighed.

“While it’s impossible for you to perfectly protect me, I also don’t think sitting around and doing nothing is an option. The Society is coming for me either way, and a lot of Illvarian people are going to have their personality scrambled if I sit around and do nothing,” said Alice. “And that’s the best case scenario. I’ve spent a lot of time researching the System, but the ‘mana-clogging’ issue still caught me totally off guard. There are probably other health problems that will start cropping up that I will be totally unprepared to handle in the future.

“With that in mind, I’m not even sure if I have the tools to keep myself safe from the collapse of the System right now. Sure, I’ve handled most of the effects of the collapse so far. I can use pure mana to rearrange where my mana goes and protect myself from a lot of the buildup of the wrong kinds of mana, letting me level up with fewer problems. I can probably create a magic seed to purify the kinds of mana that I currently can’t absorb, too. However, any new unpredictable problem that shows up might incapacitate or kill me, along with anyone who could realistically help me. Just because they haven’t shown up yet doesn’t meant they won’t. Since I don’t know if new problems will appear, I need to have as many tools as possible to keep myself safe – and it looks like Perks are the best way to acquire those tools.” Alice shrugged. “And I can help other people, too. So I think that exposing my research might be the best way to move forward, even though it feels dangerous. Working with these [Priests of the System] is the lowest risk way I can think of to mitigate the impact of the collapse of the System. I’ve never actually seen how their Class demotion and Perk removal Perks work, but with any luck, it’ll prove an effective tool to combat the collapse of the System,” said Alice.

Ethan sighed, and then nodded. “Your words make sense, even though I’m still hesitant to expose you to the level of danger you’re proposing to put yourself in. But I also suppose that saving millions of people from the effects of the collapse of the System will likely be worth a few excellent Achievements,” he said, giving Alice a weak grin. “If you don’t get killed by the Society, this should probably single-handedly guarantee that you’ll become an Immortal. I suppose we can do it. Will Cecilia be helping you explain your research?”

Alice paused. She hadn’t thought of including Cecilia in her conversation with the [Priests]. “Should she come?” she asked.

Ethan shrugged. “The Society might not target her if she doesn’t publically help you. On the other hand, if Cecilia helps mitigate the impact of the collapse of the System, she would definitely get an excellent Achievement out of it. Right now, her odds of reaching Immortality are atrocious. I mean, she’s not bad for her age, but… If I were to quantify her odds of reaching Immortality, I would guess that she has maybe a 2% chance right now. And that’s including future help that I assume you will give her. As compared to you, where I would currently put your odds of reaching Immortality at something like 80%, if you don’t get killed or kidnapped by the Society first. And that’s before including any Achievements you would get out of this incident, if it works.”

“I understand. I don’t think I’m qualified to make decisions for Cecilia, though. She’s her own person, and she should decide whether she’s willing to bear the risks associated with trying to get good Achievements like this,” said Alice. “Being targeted by the Society is nothing to scoff at.”

“Fair enough,” said Ethan. “I’ll arrange a meeting with the [Priests] for tomorrow. Cecilia can come or not come as she prefers. And for now, I’ve sent your magic academy word that you’ll be taking a leave of absence for some ‘special training.’ Given the fact that the Society attacks aren’t too difficult to learn about, most of your [Teachers] will probably decide that you’re being placed under house arrest so that I can keep you safe until further notice,” said Ethan. “You can still attend classes if you want to, but I do suspect that this is going to take up most of your time in the future.”

Alice sighed, but nodded.

She had fought tooth and nail to get into a magic academy, but only got to spend most of one semester inside before moving on. In a way, it felt strange that something she worked so hard for would be placed on the sidelines so easily. On the other hand, it also represented her growth, and her larger and larger impact on the world. At the start of summer, she had been unimportant enough that she could barely get a sponsor to help her attend a magic academy. Now, she was arranging meetings with a third of the [Priests of the System] in Metsel, and was the apprentice of an Immortal.

Life was strange.

Alice shook her head, brushing her thoughts away, and started walking towards Cecilia’s room.

* * *

After knocking on the door, Cecilia opened it and gave Alice a quick glance.

“Come in,” she said.

Alice quickly entered the room, and looked at Cecilia. Alice tried her best to smile at her best friend in this world, and realize that her lips weren’t moving quite as fluidly as she wished they would.

She felt… nervous?

Very nervous.

Alice realized that she was very worried about how Cecilia would answer her question. On one hand, Alice was worried that Cecilia would die if she joined Alice in talking about researching the System. After all, the Society would definitely target Cecilia if it was known that she was involved in Alice’s research. And while Ethan was trying to protect Cecilia, Alice was very sure that Ethan would prioritize her over Cecilia if push came to shove. Ethan’s primary goal was to add a new Immortal to Illvaria’s ‘family’ of Immortals – and Cecilia was currently highly unlikely to join that family. While Ethan might feel some sadness if she died, it seemed to be mostly in relation to how it would affect Alice’s mental state.

On the other hand, Alice also didn’t want to see Cecilia get older and older and then pass away. Alice was growing more and more aware that her odds of reaching Immortality were excellent, if she could survive the Society of Starry Eyes. And if she reached Immortality and Cecilia didn’t, she would ultimately have to watch Cecilia die of old age sooner or later. No matter what Cecilia chose, it had a chance of backfiring horrifically.

She took a deep breathe, trying to push her erratic thoughts away, and then looked at Cecilia. She realized that after entering Cecilia’s room, she had simply stood there, lost in her thoughts, and snorted.

“Cecilia, how do you feel about going at least somewhat public about researching the System with me?”

Cecilia looked baffled, and stared at Alice.

Alice started explaining her reasoning to Cecilia.

“I think it’s a good chance to really reach towards Immortality,” said Alice. “It would give you an excellent Achievement, and it would also really help me to have someone there to back me up. I mean, you know me – I’m good at research, but my people skills are definitely on the weaker side. Having you there would help a lot,” she said.

Cecilia seemed to consider Alice’s words, mulling them over. Eventually, she sighed.

“All right. Let’s explain your research to the church members that it seems possible to work with,” she said.



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