Chapter 141
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After Alice finished processing the information from her new Perk, she took a few moments to realign her thoughts with the present again.

Originally, she had been wondering if there was a reason to go to Cyra with Ethan. After all, going to Cyra would represent a huge time commitment, and during that time, Alice wouldn’t be in Metsel.

She had also been trying to find a Perk that would make it easier to test new materials, since Alice would be able to use that regardless of whether she went to Metsel or Cyra. She had gotten something much, much better than a Perk for testing materials, but she still hadn’t gotten what she was originally looking for. And while she now knew that the System had a physical mainframe somewhere, she didn’t have any idea where it was yet. Was it in a location with dense mana? Thin mana? Was it on land, or in the ocean?

Considering how good the System was at hiding itself, any irregular phenomenon related to mana could potentially represent the physical location of the System. But there were so many irregularities related to mana flow around the world that Alice could probably spend decades examining each mana irregularity, if that was the only thing she had to go off of. Alice sighed, and realized she had gotten distracted.

Alice returned to her original question. Should she go to Cyra with Ethan? Did she provide anything that Ethan’s subordinates couldn’t make up for? Also, what opportunities would it cost her if she went to Cyra instead of staying in Metsel?

Alice hesitated, mulling over her options again and again.

She had just established some level of cooperation with the local Churches of the System, which could provide a pretty hefty incentive to stay in Metsel. But Cecilia was taking over most of the important aspects of that cooperation. And right now, the cooperation mostly boiled down to the church sending along potential [Enchanters] to get trained by Cecilia and Alice. Alice could simply take Cecilia and the trainees with her when she went to Cyra if needed.

Meanwhile, going to Cyra, at least for a while, seemed like a reasonable way to solve the enchanting material problem. The [Enchanter] who lived in Cyra wouldn’t be able to test for everything Alice needed – after all, they likely didn’t have a display mana magic seed or filtration magic seed. This would make it hard for them to test how compatible new materials were with those magic seeds. If Alice could test things personally, she would have a much easier time figuring out what materials Cyra needed to prioritize.

As she mulled over her options, Alice started to come to the conclusion that going to Cyra, at least for a while, might be for the best. Even though there might be a few [Enchanters] among Ethan’s subordinates who could fulfill some of the testing needs Alice had, since she was the only person in Illvaria with a filtration magic seed she should do her testing herself.

Of course, that would happen after Alice spent a few more days in Cyra. Her {Broken Seed} Perk had just come off cooldown, so one of Cecilia’s students could try to form a magic seed safely. Alice didn’t think that anyone would succeed in forming a magic seed without the help of the System the first time they tried it, but they needed to get people started as soon as possible. The collapse of the System was creating problems much faster than Alice could solve them, and having Mages with useful magic seeds would go a long way towards alleviating some of the problems of the System’s collapse.

“I think it’s best if we go south for a while,” said Alice, finally turning her attention back to Ethan. “There are a lot of things that would go much faster and smoother if I personally test them. We should spend a few days in Cyra to handle your enchanting material samples, and do some magic seed testing – but unless we find a cheap and useful enchanting material from your samples, going to Cyra for some material searching is probably for the best,” she said.

“Also, there are a few things we should talk about later,” she said to Ethan.

Ethan’s eyes narrowed for a moment as he processed Alice’s words, before he nodded. At Alice’s final comment, Illa gave Alice an appraising look, before she tactfully ignored it.

“That sounds reasonable,” said Ethan. “As long as you’re sure that heading to the South for a while is for the best, we can leave the moment it’s convenient. I’ll arrange for transportation and [Guards]. You also mentioned that we should do something involving magic seed testing?”

“Yes. {Broken Seed} is off cooldown, and I currently feel that I should be using that Perk the moment it comes off cooldown, since it’s so important for getting more useful Mages that can help us. I think that the most promising of Cecilia’s Mages should try forming a magic seed without the System, so that I can break down the seed once it starts to catastrophically fail. It takes several tries to successfully make a magic seed alone, and the sooner we get the best Mages started, the sooner they’ll succeed,” said Alice.

“Very well,” said Ethan, after a few moments.

“If you two are planning to go to Cyra, and bringing along a contingent of important Mages, I will excuse myself. I need to send a few messages to Cyra, to make sure that it’s prepared for your arrival,” said Illa. “Honored Immortal, Lady Alice, thank you for being willing to see me. I know that this must be a very busy time for  you, and I appreciate you taking time to meet with me and discuss the future anyway. May we find a solution to this crisis as soon as possible.”

Ethan nodded, and a few moments later, Illa left.

Afterwards, Alice waited a few moments.

“Are we alone?” asked Alice.

Ethan paused, and then motioned towards the wall.

A [Spy] that Alice had somehow failed to notice melted out of the wall, and quickly left the room, before Ethan turned back towards her. “We are now,” he said. “What did you need to talk about?”

“It’s very important,” said Alice, doing her best to emphasize her words as much as possible. “When I picked my last Perk, I didn’t get anything that would make it faster or easier to process and interact with enchanting materials. Instead, I got a pretty… interesting Perk. Let me show you what I found,” she said, before extending a hand towards Ethan.

Ethan seemed to realize what she wanted, and a moment later, stretched out a finger. Alice immediately used it to activate {Shared Memory}, and showed Ethan what she had seen while using her newest Perk.

After seeing Alice’s memories, Ethan frowned.

“That is… not what I expected to see,” he said, finally. “The System has… a physical body? That idea is very… I don’t…” for once, the Immortal seemed completely at a loss for words.

Alice felt a flicker of amusement at Ethan’s expression. She didn’t see Ethan so totally lost for words very often, and she was rather enjoying seeing him so baffled for once.

After several seconds of long, drawn out thought, Ethan shook his head.

“For now, tell no one about this,” he said. “Besides Cecilia. She is trustworthy, and might be able to offer useful insight. But no one else. Considering what has happened recently, with the System collapsing, we can infer that something has probably gone wrong at the System’s mainframe recently. What, exactly, has happened is unknown – but we should find the System’s physical framework and see if we can figure out what’s wrong. I will personally go through every scrap of data I can find and see if I can make any educated guesses about where the System might be. And I will also consider who might be a good idea to tell about this information. Until then, don’t say a word about it to anyone else. We’ll talk about this more in a few days, when I have some time to look through the data available to me and I have some time to think about this. All right?”

Alice nodded. The idea of the System having a physical framework was a bit too bizarre and outrageous, and it was also information that could be heavily abused. If people with bad intentions knew that the System had a physical location, it was likely that it would spiral into a much bigger set of problems in the future. She had hesitated to even tell Ethan about it. If the System was a massive enchantment, Cecilia might still have useful input – since she was a competent and trustworthy [Enchanter], and those were very valuable traits right now. She might spot something Alice and Ethan missed.

But the potential for abusing the System was also very much present and dangerous. And it was something that sent chills down Alice’s spine.

The two of them simply sat in silence for a few more minutes, as Ethan simply processed the information Alice had given him.

Finally, the two of them also left Ethan’s office.

* * *

A few hours passed, as Alice updated Cecilia on what was happening and about her and Ethan’s future plans. Afterwards, Alice retired to her room for a bit to decompress, until Cecilia let her know that one of the Mages she was teaching had come to the manor. A few minutes later, Alice, Cecilia, a few [Guards], and one of the Mages Cecilia was responsible for met in a room near the front of Ethan’s manor.

“So this is the most promising Mage?” asked Alice, looking at the middle-aged man sitting on the chair in front of her.

“Yes, he is,” said Cecilia. “I don’t think he will actually succeed in forming a seed without the help of the System on the first try, but he has proven that he has at least some idea what the process of forming a magic seed without the help of the System looks like. I’ve drilled every single scrap of information I have about the process into his skull, and he understood it the best of the Mages I’m training.”

Alice nodded, and gave the man a curious glance. He seemed to be about level 60, which was a bit above average, but didn’t seem to have any other particularly outstanding characteristics. When he saw Alice, he gave her a respectful nod, and didn’t say a word.

“Are you planning on forming a pure mana seed, or a display mana seed?” Alice asked the middle-aged Mage.

“I am going to try forming a display magic seed, Lady Alice,” said the man.

“Oh?” said Alice. She had only started talking about possibly expanding the use of display mana into enchantments recently. Had Cecilia already integrated it into her lesson plans?

She turned towards Cecilia, who gave her a grin.

“I did my best to generalize my lessons about forming magic seeds,” said Cecilia. “I figure that we’re going to need a lot of weird enchantments to get through all of this, instead of just pure magic seeds. So I tried to make the lessons as general as possible.” Said Cecilia. “Of course, I have also done a few more specialized lessons on certain kinds of mana. Right now, I’m running them through introductions on what pure mana seeds, display mana seeds, and filtration magic seeds look like. That way, the moment you find compatible enchanting materials, we can start the mass-production of the enchantments we need.”

Alice nodded.

“On that note, I think you should also use {Shared Memory} to walk this mage through your memories of creating a magic seed without the help of the System before we start,” said Cecilia. “I’ve shared everything I remember about forming a magic seed without the System, but I think it’ll still help if you actually show people what it’s like.”

Alice paused. She hadn’t actually thought about using {Shared Memory} as teaching material, but in hindsight, it seemed obvious that the Perk was useful for this purpose. It just felt very… personal to share her memories, so she hadn’t shared with anyone besides her close friends and mentor.

However, these were definitely extenuating circumstances. And now that knowledge of some of the behind-the-scenes mechanics of the System was out, there wasn’t anything too dangerous in her memories of forming a magic seed without aid from the System. Alice sighed and nodded.

Alice turned back towards the middle-aged Mage. “Give me your hand, and give me permission to share some memories with you,” she said.

The Mage nodded, and extended his hand towards her.

Alice quickly grabbed his wrist, and used {Shared Memory} to share her recollection of creating a magic seed without the help of the System.

The Mage spent several minutes sorting through his thoughts and Alice’s memories, before finally, he nodded. “I think I’m ready to start, Lady Alice. I give you permission to destroy any of my magic seeds as needed within the next hour. Thank you for watching over me.”

“It’s what I’m here for,” she said. “Just make sure to help with the crisis once you have the ability. You can start.”

The man nodded at her one last time, and then started pulling in mana from his surroundings.

Alice carefully started assembling the mana fractals for magic seed filtration, the same way she had done when she herself was forming her electromagnetic seed without the help of the System. It probably wouldn’t be enough for the man to succeed, but Alice still wanted to give him every possible chance of success. If the mana actually managed to form a display magic seed today, Alice wouldn’t need to use her {Broken Seed} Perk on him – which meant that someone else could also try to form a new magic seed. In theory, if everyone formed a magic seed safely on their first try, Alice wouldn’t need to use {Broken Seed} at all today. Of course, that was a pipe dream, but it would certainly make things easier for her and Cecilia in the future.

The man drew in the mana Alice had filtered greedily, as though he were a sponge soaking up water. For several minutes, Alice and Cecilia watched in tense silence as the man tried to absorb mana and compact it inside of his mage core.

Second passed by, as little pieces of mana-flesh inside of the man’s body and the mana inside of his mage core reacted to each other, slowly arranging themselves into a mage core… but Alice was already starting to notice that the magic seed the man was forming wasn’t quite right. Despite the memories Alice had shared with the man, despite the classes he had spent trying to understand the nature of seed formation and display mana, the man’s magic seed was clearly messed up.

Alice quickly used {Safety Analysis}, confirmed that this magic seed had gone wrong, and used {Broken Seed} to remove his failed magic seed.

The man blinked, before opening his eyes and sighing.

“My apologies, Lady Alice,” he said.

Alice shrugged. She had been hoping to get lucky, but she hadn’t really expected a success.

“Not bad for a first attempt,” she said. “Keep it up. You’ll get it within a few tries.”

The man nodded and left.

It seemed that luck was not on their side this time.

* * *

A day later, Alice looked at the massive tray of enchanting materials in front of her, and grinned. Ethan had managed to put together a huge number of enchanting materials in just a day. Such was the influence of an Immortal. Alice had a sneaking suspicion that a lot of these materials had previously kept around in various collections as novel items, which would make collecting more of them rather difficult. However, it would still be better than nothing.

She also noticed that at least a few of the enchanting materials seemed to be covered in rainbow mana. Having only recently thought about the {Kinetic Enchanting} Perk from her [Kinetic Manabinder] Class, and how it allowed Alice to improve the maximum capacity of enchanting materials, Alice suspected that these materials were probably man-made. They would probably take a fair number of man-hours to create more of them, but it would also be much more possible to acquire a steady stream of manmade materials.

Ethan had also sorted the enchanting materials into different rows. Alice looked over some of the labels, before nodding to herself. Ethan had sorted the materials based on how easy it was to acquire more of the material. The enchanting materials at the top, while not exactly common, were at least possible to acquire more of on short notice. Meanwhile, the enchanting materials near the bottom of the case of enchanting materials were hard to acquire more of. In other words, she needed to start testing from the top, and then work her way down, and hope that something from the top of the case of enchanting materials worked.

She sighed, before stuffing it all into her storage Perk and then going to sleep.

It was time to do some dream testing.

It only took Alice a few moments to reappear inside of the dream library, before she made her way to the enchanting room and got to work.

The first material Alice tested was a kind of white plant. Frankly, it looked like a human finger bone, and it took Alice a few moments to confirm that the item wasn’t an actual finger bone. After making sure she wasn’t holding on to part of a human skeleton, Alice tried injecting a little bit of filtration mana into it, as well as a bit of display mana into it, before shaking her head.

This material was useless.

The next item was a type of reddish-green moss. It looked almost like someone had bled onto a patch of moss, and then collected it for some reason.

This one also didn’t work.

Alice didn’t say a word, and simply continued working in her dream. Like a machine, she grabbed one material after another, injected the relevant types of mana into it, and tossed it aside after confirming it was useless.

The first forty-two test materials were all completely unable to interact with the necessary kinds of mana. However, when Alice got to the first artificially made enchanting material, she was pleasantly surprised to see that it was able to hold on to some filtration mana. This was the kind of mana that she had been most worried about, since it was very important for people to avoid getting hurt by mana. She grinned to herself.

Finally, a successful test result.

Alice continued testing materials, but unfortunately, didn’t find very many more materials that were actually compatible with the mana types she needed them to be. The other artificially made enchanting materials were usually at least somewhat usable, but only just. The most useful material she found, out of the one hundred and sixty two materials she tried, was material one hundred and forty seven. It was an amber-colored rock. But more importantly, it was an artificial material that could hold four enchanting instructions instead of one, and was compatible with both display and filtration mana. However, since it was an entirely man made material, and seemed to require a fair number of specific Perks to create, it wouldn’t be easy to mass produce. If Alice wanted to create large quantities of class-related filtration rings, she would need a better option than this.

Alice sighed.

At least it was better than nothing, for now.

After that, Alice started toying with the actual process of creating a filtration enchantment. After all, figuring out how to create an enchantment that actually did what she wanted it to do would be a slow, difficult process. Alice wasn’t bad at creating enchantments, but she wasn’t amazing, either. And there were several difficulties in the process – first, Alice needed to get the enchantment to find and ‘hook up’ with the appropriate magic seed. Getting an unintelligent enchantment to sense which magic seed was which was surprisingly difficult, and this was the part of the process Alice got stuck on that night while.

She woke up feeling rather frustrated by how poorly her first attempts had gone, but she also felt relieved. At the very least, there were a few materials that she could use to start implementing her enchantment plan. They might be rare and hard to make, but it was better than there being no options at all.

After that, she quickly rubbed the sleep out of her eyes, got dressed, and went to meet up with Ethan.

It was time to head back to Cyra, where she had begun her journey in this world.

 

 

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