Chapter 135
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After the meeting with the [Priests], a few more days passed. During that time, Alice had numerous smaller meetings with [Priests of the System], all of which included both Ethan and Cecilia. Alice clarified and reclarified what she had seen of System mana, what specifically it did, and her understanding of how to handle the effects of its disappearance.

Most of the [Priests] seemed open to continue talking with her, which was a relief. Apart from the few [Priests of the System] that had seemed disgusted with her for the very act of treating the System as an object of study, the rest seemed much more worried about evaluating what Alice’s information meant to Illvaria and the innocent citizens of the area than worrying about how Alice had gotten that information. The one time her research methodology was questioned for morality, Alice had willingly read through several lists of statements under the watchful eyes of a few lie-detectors, which seemed to ease most of the remaining concerns about her experiments. Alice wouldn’t say that the [Priests] were happy about her experimenting on the System, but they weren’t angry, at least. She could live with that.

The 38 cooperative [Priests] also seemed more than happy to spread a limited version of Alice’s information to the people who frequented their church.

While the [Priests] and Ethan had both agreed that telling people absolutely everything was probably a bad idea, through a mixture of mail and in-person visits, the [Priests], Ethan, Cecilia, and Alice worked out a full idea of what to tell people about the System.

First, the [Priests] that were keen to work with Alice fully acknowledged that the System was ‘damaged’ right now. The [Priests] stated that they weren’t quite willing to discuss how or why the System’s ‘divine mana’ had been injured with any of their followers, which Alice was fine with. Frankly, Alice suspected that the [Priests] who were working with her believed that the System had ‘dumbed down’ what was happening in order to reward Alice for her efforts, creating some sort of unique worldview that Alice could use for her experiments without telling her everything. That was the impression she got after talking with a few of them, at least.

As long as the Church didn’t push a narrative that was actively against her and didn’t hurt people, Alice was fine if they refit all of her explanations into something that made more religious sense to them. Normally, she would have been a lot more worried about giving people accurate information so that they could expand on it in the future. However, right now they had much bigger problems to deal with.

After all, people’s lives came first. If this was what it took to get the cooperation of the [Priests], then so be it.

The [Priests] also revealed the existence of Class mana to the people who followed them, and taught people about the help the System usually gave people when forming magic seeds. The [Priests] seemed quite gleeful to learn just how critical the System was to Mages everywhere, although they were slightly less pleased to hash out the exact details of how class seeds worked. This information ensured that people were aware of the danger of collecting any kind of mana from their surroundings, and also to ensure that as many people as possible were informed of the dangers of forming a new magic seed. It would take time for this information to spread beyond Metsel, but Alice hoped that the more people were talking about it, the more likely someone would be able to avoid ending up in dangerous situations. They could at least keep the injuries and deaths to a minimum this way.

Apart from that, the Church of the System actively told people what they could do to help themselves stay safe – which mostly boiled down to getting ahold of the rings that blocked mana from their surroundings.

Apart from that, with Ethan and several [Guards], Alice and Cecilia also ended up meeting with a few Mages who had Classes that gave them lots of Magic seed slots and had recently passed another Perk level. This was for the explicit purpose of helping them form a pure mana seed, so that they could help pump out more anti-magic rings. Cecilia took over part of that project after Alice used her Display Mana to help them figure out what their Perks did and choose the ones they wanted – it was the biggest part of the project Cecilia could help with, and it was also a load off of Alice’s shoulders to delegate that to someone else.

Of course, when the Mages in question actually got around to forming Seeds, Alice would still need to be ready to step in and shatter their magic seeds if something went wrong. For now, Cecilia was leading them through visualization exercises and teaching them about her and Alice’s experiences forming Magic seeds without the help of the System – while under heavy guard, of course. Alice also used {Shared Memory} a few times, to share her own experiences with forming magic seeds without the help of the System. It wouldn’t completely cover the experience these Mages would be missing, but hopefully it would keep mistakes to a minimum.

Apart from the cooperative [Priests], there were still the three disgruntled [Priests] to deal with as well, in addition to the attention some other people were starting to pay to the [Priests] talking about the weakened System and the need for more pure mana seeds.

Ethan had [Spies] keep a close eye on the three [Priests] who were less willing to play along with Alice’s program. And he also started keeping an eye on every single person who seemed to question the wisdom of claiming that the System was in any way damaged or weakened. Keeping an eye on every single person of power who was even mildly dissatisfied with Alice’s program was a massive drain on manpower, even when compared to the resources one of Illvaria’s six Immortals could mobilize. It was also a time where it became clear to Alice just how much Ethan was giving to her to make her as safe and efficient about levelling up as possible – she had always known that he was helping her, but to have the completely ludicrous costs of keeping a spy network active over the entirety of Metsel metaphorically shoved into her face during the entire fiasco really showed just how much Ethan was helping her.

The [Priests of the System] who were willing to work with Alice also started sending reports and pages of statistics to Ethan, which was a huge help for Alice. Even if the [Priests] might not have the memory or mana-sensing Perks she had, and might not have the ability to precisely quantify how much mana someone’s class fractals absorbed, they could still roughly gauge how quickly some of their more well-known members were growing, and quantify some of their Stats and note changes in personality. It wasn’t the most precise information ever, but it was at least good enough that she could work with it. With this information, Alice was able to start checking some of her previous assumptions and guesses about how the broken System would interact with things like people’s levelling speed, personality corrosion, and the impact of Achievements when the System wasn’t around to mess with them.

Alice didn’t even have to go over the data entirely on her own. Ethan had pulled a small team of high-level [Mathematicians] and [Analysts] to go over any information collected by the [Priests of the System], and then put them under Alice’s direct command. Alice didn’t know how Ethan had convinced a bunch of high-level people to follow the commands of a teenager, but suspected her title as the apprentice of an Immortal and hefty paychecks were a huge part of it. Instead of pushing through every speck of data herself, Alice was free to try to put together the big picture.

For example, Alice could now confirm that [Willpower] was a Stat that actively fought against the personality corrosion of unfiltered class mana. The higher one’s [Willpower] stat, the lower the reported influence of one’s unfiltered class mana on one’s mind and personality. This was at least slightly reassuring to Alice – evidently, the System hadn’t left people with no defenses against its collapse, even though people were still pretty screwed in the long run.

Combined with the increasing awareness of people regarding the catastrophe, as well as the knowledge and cooperation of many [Priests of the System], most people began putting aside some of the more traditional exercises of the Church, which usually focused on helping children get some of their early Skills, Attributes, and levels, and instead focused almost exclusively on Willpower training. And through Alice’s own experiences, she could confirm that there weren’t any problems with levelling up Attributes, even if Class levels all carried some danger with them.

By Thursday, the cooperative churches of the System began targeted [Willpower] training, with a plan to keep it up every single day of the week. The exact nature of these [Willpower] training sessions varied from one church to another. Some of the more extreme churches subjected people to relatively painful situations, while forcing people to work through the pain to accomplish some sort of ultimately unimportant task that the church assigned as the objective of the exercise. Even though it was done with people’s full knowledge and consent, it still made Alice flinch a bit when she thought about what some of those churches were putting people through.

Most churches chose much less extreme methods, though. After explaining the situation, they would encourage people to take part in tests that would give them some sort of reward – and then delay that reward, explicitly withholding it and asking people not to ask about it in exchange for a larger reward later, as a method of training their willpower.

It strongly reminded Alice of some sort of bizarre version of the Marshmallow test. She wasn’t sure how effective it was as a training method for [Willpower], but it would hopefully be somewhat useful for the people who were a bit less willing to subject themselves to agony in exchange for improved future safety.

Apart from that, through the information the churches managed to collect from cooperative citizens, Alice confirmed that her messed up Achievement wasn’t unique to her at all. When Alice had gotten the {Creative Healer} Achievement, she hadn’t been entirely sure what to make of it – however, she had confirmed that it was only giving her around 50% of the boost it was supposed to give her. Which wasn’t that important, considering how minor the Achievement’s boosts were. But it still definitely sucked that she was only getting half of the benefits she was supposed to get, especially when every drop of mana and every level could mean the difference between Alice getting a more permanent solution going.

Every single other person who got an Achievement was reporting much the same thing Alice had noticed – Achievements weren’t giving quite the bonuses they claimed to anymore. Most people noticed that they got somewhere between 40 and 60 percent of the bonus they were supposed to, and the [Analysts] and [Mathematicians] Ethan had hired claimed that it seemed to correspond to what the Achievement did. People that got an Achievement that essentially gave them a new Perk usually had a lower percentage of their Perk working, while those who had boosts to their raw Attributes tended to be closer to 60% of their new Achievement working. Achievements like {Creative Healer}, which dealt with things like mana, or had unusual effects on Stats, usually fell in between the two numbers. It was harder to quantify how much the ‘levelling speed’ component of Achievements were impacted, since there hadn’t been enough time to collect data yet, but Alice had told the cooperative [Priests] to keep an eye on it, at least.

For now, Alice theorized that giving people new ‘Perks’ via Achievement was probably more complex than just buffing a few numbers, which was why they were more prone to messing up than Achievements that just boosted strength or something. Alice really did want to figure out how to fix her Achievements at some point in time, but for now she only had one broken Achievement, and it didn’t seem to be causing any immediate problems.

The response of the other churches was, at best, anemic. The churches led by [Priests of the System] who had basically had mental breakdowns when the System collapsed had further subdivided into three categories – one group that supported the actions of Alice’s churches, one where the [Priests] still hadn’t recovered enough to do anything and were starting to lose adherents, and the final category composed of those who decried any claim that the System had fallen or was in any way, shape, or form weakened or injured at all.

The third group was the most annoying, and seemed to be merging with the group of churches that had started making absurd claims once the System collapsed. Alice had the distinct impression that these people were going to be a major headache in the future, but Ethan had promised that he would take care of them. Alice was more than happy to fob off the thankless task of wrangling stubborn people to Ethan. Even though it would probably be valuable experience for if-when she became an Immortal, Alice would be happy to learn how to manage people when Illvaria wasn’t in the middle of a major catastrophe.

She and Ethan had also had more time to check up on the man who Alice and Ethan had only partially healed over the course of the week, and had found that, whatever was going wrong with his mana-flesh, it wasn’t getting much better on its own. So Alice and Ethan spent a bit of time each day stabilizing more of his mana flesh, which did seem to at least moderately reduce his pain. Instead of needing to be unconscious all the time, due to being unable to even sort of function, the injured patient could now move around with some painkilling Perks – which were quite rare, since [Organic Mages] usually just healed the problem away. However, a few [Doctors] in the city had access to them, since their means of curing wounds were usually slower than those of an [Organic Mage].

This treatment work also led to a few levels in Alice’s [Student of Organic Magic] Class.

You have leveled up!

Student of Organic Magic: 17 -> 22

If circumstances were different, Alice would have felt excited by how quickly [Student of Organic Magic] was now growing, despite being a secondary Class. With all of her Achievements and other modifiers stacked together, as well as the current circumstances, the class was levelling up more quickly than a regular person’s main classes usually did. It was a bizarre but interesting thought.

Alice didn’t have to think too much about which Perk she would take, once she used her display mana to figure out what her New Perks did.

Perk Selection: ----- Contact with main System lost. Loading from last previous record…

Perk_Name: Patients_Yes

Requirements: Host Meets Requirements: Achievement Organic Level 10 (Error: secondaryclass need_Level20 or seed implosion. Requirement met!)

Cheaper heal when Patient yes. Perk fail on malicious magic – must use user benevolent intent or no Perk.

The broken grammar in the System message was still hard for Alice to adjust to, but she was pretty sure this Perk was one of the many, many variations of {Patient’s Consent} that [Organic Mages] had access to. It was one of the most valuable Perks that [Organic Mages] who wanted to heal people could get, because it made healing much cheaper as long as the patient agreed to be healed. Most versions of {Patient’s Consent} could knock the penalty for pushing mana into another living being down by somewhere between 20% and 50%, depending on how limiting the requirements for the Perk were and how high level the Perk was. After testing it on the patient, Alice had confirmed that her Perk was close to 25%. But even a 25% reduction in mana cost to heal future patients was huge, and with the help of the Perk, Alice was finally able to finish stabilizing the patient’s mana-flesh the following day.

On Saturday, after a week of Alice’s excused absence from her classes, analyzing the movements of the church, and running through data with Ethan’s [Mathematicians] and [Analysts], something Alice had been waiting for was finally ready.

Her {Seeds of Ambition} Perk had finally come off of cooldown – which meant that Alice had work to do.

She needed a way to clear out the personality-altering mana that had started to build up in her body, and was also clogging up her Class seeds.

And Alice’s best guess for how to do that was to create some kind of mana conversion seed. For now, Alice was planning on focusing on the idea of filtration and conversion to create something like a ‘filter’ magic seed.

So, the moment her Perk came off cooldown, Alice spammed {Safety Analysis}, and after confirming it was fine, she started going through the usual process of making a magic seed without the help of the System.

She spent a few hours carefully thinking about exactly what image she was planning on using to build the seed, and exactly what she needed out of it. Then, she got started.

She almost expected something to go horribly wrong. In the week after the System had collapsed, Alice had gone through a slowly escalating series of catastrophes, all of which needed to be dealt with before they spiraled out of control. So part of her expected that something would just fail to work while she made her new magic seed.

And nothing did. For once, things went exactly as she hoped they would.

Alice spent several minutes after she finished just using {Safety Analysis} over and over again, trying to figure out if she had missed something. Finally, she accepted that things had actually gone according to plan. After that, she grinned, and started working on filtering away several kinds of mana that had gotten stuck to her magic seeds.

[Doctor] mana became [Student of Organic Magic] mana. Newly built-up [Scholar] mana became [Scientist] mana. [Scientist] mana became [Scholar] mana. All of the incredibly random miscellaneous types of mana that Alice had collected over the past week started to melt away as she purified and filtered them, turning them into the correct kind of mana to meld with her Class seeds.

She was gratified to see that her new magic seed was doing exactly what it was supposed to – and she was equally pleasantly surprised to see a new wave of level-up notifications, as all of the mana types that had previously been unused got converted into the appropriate type of mana, before her class seeds ate them and converted them into parts of her class fractals.

You have leveled up!

Survivor: 58 -> 59, Student of Organic Magic 22 -> 24, Scholar 57 -> 58

The leftover chunks of mana weren’t quite enough to level up all of her Classes, and it didn’t bring her to a point where she unlocked any new Perks. However, four of her Classes were now only one level away from getting a new Perk, which made Alice very excited. Soon, she would probably have a new wave of Perks to use while trying to put things together in the aftermath of the System’s collapse.

As an added bonus, moments after Alice finished dealing with all of the leftover mana, a final wave of mana came and rushed towards her [Explorer of Magic] class fractal. After Alice used her filtration seed to convert all of the [Scholar], [Arcane Researcher], and [Organic Mage] mana into [Explorer of Magic] mana, she just barely got one, final level.

You have leveled up!

Explorer of Magic: 77 -> 78

The levels in that Class were still excruciatingly slow right now, but the boost from Ethan’s mother she had gotten from the tea party, as well as the fruits of her own hard work, were beginning to pay off.

After that, Alice spent several minutes thinking about what she wanted to do with her second class seed, before she eventually settled on dimensional mana.

Less than a month ago, she and Ethan had gone to a village that had been strangely flooded with broken dimensional mana. The Society was also one of the major institutions in the world that focused on studying dimensional mana, and for some reason they were losing their minds recently.

That seemed like pretty good evidence that there might be something going horribly wrong with dimensional mana, somewhere in the world.

And Alice already had a license to form a dimensional magic seed laying around, although she hadn’t taken advantage of it yet.

Besides, if Alice ever wanted to go back home, she definitely needed to understand how dimensional mana worked.

Those seemed like pretty good arguments to prioritize making a dimensional magic seed over anything else. If a crisis involving dimensional mana popped up, Alice wanted to have some way to respond to it.

Therefore, with a mixture of excitement and nervousness, Alice finally started forming a dimensional magic seed for her second magic seed of the month.



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