Chapter 142
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One day later, Alice, Cecilia, Illa, Ethan, and the five Mages that Cecilia was training set off towards Cyra. The last day was mostly filled with packing bags, stuffing bags into storage Perks, and arranging last-minute guard details. Even though Ethan and Illa were both competent combat Mages, it was never a bad idea to have more eyes to watch out for potential threats, especially since it was unknown when the Society of Starry Eyes would strike again. The Society of Starry Eyes seemed to have entered a period of silence following the attacks on the cities of Illvaria, but with how utterly bizarre their recent behavior had been, it was best to remain as cautious as possible and be prepared for anything.

After that, the group boarded a ship that Ethan’s mother had, at one point in time, used to level up her [Admiral] Class, and which had been stuffed inside of a storage Perk and left to gather rust for over a century after Ethan’s mother had reached level 50 in [Admiral]. The ship had been created by Doll, Illvaria’s fifth Immortal, and was more suited for deep-sea travel rather than river travel. However, thanks to Doll’s exceptional craftsmanship, as well as a healthy number of high-level Perks, the design of the ship would somewhat adjust itself to fit whatever body of water it was travelling through.

When the [Blacksmith] who doubled as a human storage locker for Ethan’s mother pulled the ship out of his storage Perk, Alice was more than slightly surprised to see a massive wooden boat quickly shrink itself to a much smaller, more river-worthy vessel.

After that, the group quickly boarded the ship, along with a crew of hastily-assembled [Sailors] and [Soldiers].

Unlike Alice’s journey to Metsel all those months ago, this time, she didn’t need to keep an eye on other passengers, or worry about other stops. The ship was filled with [Sailors], [Soldiers], and Mages directly under Ethan’s command, and the ship travelled as quickly as possible to cross the distance between Metsel and Cyra. This time, Alice felt like she was travelling on a floating wooden fortress. It felt oddly reassuring, especially since she knew that the Society of Starry Eyes was aware of her.

The first three days of the journey were uneventful. Alice tested ways to make her enchantments work while she was asleep, and when she was awake, she played board games with Cecilia and Ethan. Illa even joined them for a few games of The Settlers, although she usually preferred to do her own thing instead. Alice also helped Cecilia’s Mages analyze Alice’s memories of forming a magic seed without the help of the System. One of the Mages even joined in for a game of The Settlers, although the other four seemed a bit too intimidated to join in. Which made Alice feel faintly amused. The idea of someone feeling intimidated by her struck her as incredibly bizarre – however, as an apprentice of an Immortal, it made sense that ordinary people would feel a bit nervous around her.

It didn’t make it feel any less weird for Alice, though.

On the fourth day of travel, Alice and Cecilia once again sat down with the Mage who had nearly succeeded in forming a seed without the System’s aid last time.

Unlike the first time, this time, the middle-aged man succeeded in forming a magic seed without the help of the System. It was a near thing – Alice was pretty sure the magic seed the man had formed barely worked. It probably had all sorts of issues, such as leaking broken mana everywhere, having problems regenerating mana efficiently, and other general issues.

However, the seed wasn’t harmful to the man, at least. {Safety Analysis} didn’t detect any problem at all with leaving the magic seed intact inside of the man’s body, and the man didn’t state that he felt any discomfort after forming the magic seed, either. Furthermore, once the man finished forming a seed, Alice got a surprising Achievement.

You have gained an achievement!

System_Teacher (Rarity:7)

You have le@rned and ta__ught about collapse of System, and its imp@ct on the world. YYYYY have taken variety ____ other steps to mitigate the impact. Of the collapse of the System.

++50% class experience for all main classes that Research, +15% class experience for all secondary classes that researrch, +100% teaching Experience classes. Support from the SY@@@TEM increased Further.

Error – cannot connect to mainframe of System. Support from System weakened.

Alice frowned after reading the new Achievement.

+50% Experience points for research-based classes was certainly nice. Since Achievements were weakened due to the collapse of the System, Alice was probably getting something closer to +25% experience points, but it was still better to have it than not have it.

+15% class experience for secondary classes focused on Research meant very little to her, and she doubted it would make much of a difference now or in the future. Similarly, Alice didn’t have any teaching-based Classes, and so she doubted she would benefit much from getting an extra +100% experience points to those kinds of classes. Perhaps it would matter if she ever felt like picking up a [Teacher] class or something, but Alice didn’t really find the boost that important.

However, the ‘Support from the System increased further’ line caused Alice to raise an eyebrow after reading it.

When Alice had first arrived in this world, she had gotten the {Outworlder} Achievement, which stated that Alice got ‘increased support from the System.’ Alice had never figured out what ‘increased support from the System’ meant. It was one of the points of curiosity that Alice still hadn’t found any strong hints about since arriving on this world. Did increased System support make it easier for her to see and interact with System mana, compared to other people? Did it somehow make it easier for Alice’s body to adapt to mana, thus improving her survival odds during a mana baptism? Was it some sort of hidden levelling speed boost, that enhanced her attribute and levelling growth? Did it do something completely different?

Alice had absolutely no idea.

Alice spent several minutes after getting the Achievement trying to find something different. Anything at all. The Achievement mentioned that ‘Support from the System’ was weakened since the Achievement couldn’t connect to the System’s mainframe – but Alice was still hoping she would notice something unusual. Even if it only gave her a vague hint about what was different, Alice wanted to know what ‘support from the System’ was.

Her ability to interact with mana felt exactly the same as before.

Her body felt exactly the same as before. Her magic seeds seemed no different than usual, and her class seeds were also completely unchanged.

Alice spent half an hour trying to find anything at all that was different, but couldn’t find anything unusual at all.

Eventually, Alice gave up. Since she couldn’t find anything different, she would just keep living her life and keeping an eye out for anything different than before.

In the meantime, the Mage who had formed a Display magic seed reported that even after Alice finished looking for oddities, he still didn’t feel anything wrong with his new magic seed. Which put Alice and Cecilia into an interesting position.

On one hand, keeping {Broken Seed} ready for any potential problems made a great deal of sense. It would let the man safely experiment with his seed and immediately give the two a way to fix things if stuff started going wrong. However, it also meant that Alice’s Perk was tied up preparing for an eventuality that might not be relevant – and in the meantime, they would be wasting time that other Mages could use to start practicing forming seeds of their own. As a third option, they could let the man experiment with his new magic seed for a while, and then break it down. Alice certainly noticed that the man’s new magic seed was rather inefficient, and giving him time to practice and play with his new magic seed would probably make it easier to form another one in the future.

Alice and Cecilia hesitated for a while, and ultimately decided to let the Mage keep his magic seed for 24 hours before breaking it. Then, the man would hopefully create his final display mana seed next time. Even though it meant that Alice would waste a day of cooldown of {Broken Seed}, it seemed like the best way to keep Cecilia’s students safe and still prepare for the future.

The next twenty four hours were largely consumed with Alice and Cecilia observing the Mage as he messed with his magic seed. He tested how quickly it regenerated mana, how effectively he could use it without producing broken mana, and how effectively he could view Perk choices using his new magic seed. The three of them quickly realized that the new magic seed was horrendously inefficient – perhaps 70% of the mana the man attempted to use from the magic seed turned into broken mana. However, the magic seed seemed to have normal mana regeneration, and worked normally apart from the broken mana production and inefficiency.

Before breaking down the man’s seed, Alice decided to test something, after verifying that it wasn’t a terrible idea using {Safety Analysis}. Alice asked the man to help one of the other Mages take another look at the Perks they could grab from their [Student] Class, which they had levelled up a few times by interacting with Cecilia recently. At the same time, Alice tried using her own Display mana to look at the man’s Perks, and then had the Mage [Student] record what he saw both times.

The man was able to see the Perk descriptions for his new Perks, regardless of which person used display mana to show his Perks. However, the wording of the Perks the Mage could see were different.

Specifically, there were small, subtle differences in word choice.

Alice’s version of the bugged out first [Student] Perk looked like this:

Fast_Learnor

Requirements: Student Level 10 or more, Int 100 or greater

Increases learn_experience speed for all class by 5%

Meanwhile, when the other Mage used his display mana seed to help the younger Mage view his [Student] Perks, the result looked almost the same, but was subtly different.

Sp@@d Learner

Requirements: Student Level 10 greater, 100 or greater Int@#$nce

Increases g@#$th by 5% for Classes.

The actual meaning of the Perk was the exact same – it increased leveling speed by 5% for all classes. Hardly an impressive Perk, but it was about par for the course for a level 10 [Student] Perk. However, Alice found the minor differences in how the Perk was displayed to be fascinating.

When she used her Perk, the glitched out parts of the Perk looked more like… well, underscore signs and abbreviated grammar. Weird underscores and misspelled words were a common feature in most of the messed up Perks that Alice had ‘translated.’

Meanwhile, the middle-aged Mage translated the glitch Perks in a slightly different way. The Perk still had an abundance of glitch signs and minor oddities, but the name of the Perk was {Sp@@d Learner} instead of {Fast_Learner}. Furthermore, based on the [Student]’s drawing skills, the misspelled ‘Sp@@d Learning’ looked like a child had taken a crayon and scribbled over the two ‘e’s’ in the middle of the word ‘speed.’ Meanwhile, Alice’s misspelled version of the Perk had neat, concise underscore lines added to the Perk. It was a small, but interesting difference that Alice suspected originated from two different understandings of what mana and the System were and how they worked. Alice, being from Earth and having some familiarity with computers and robots, tended to visualize the System as something more like an incredibly complex magic computer. Meanwhile, the Mage from this world that she and Cecilia had taught tended to view the System as a more… divine entity. Even if some of that view had been shaken by recent events, it probably wasn’t possible to totally shake off a lifetime of beliefs in only a few weeks.

Alice also wasn’t sure if her assumptions about why each version of the Perk was slightly different were correct. But it was an interesting topic to think about.

At the end of the day, Alice didn’t think it was actually that important of a distinction. However, it was another hint that right now, display mana was using the magic-user’s interpretation of what the Perk did and was translating that for the viewer. Whereas when Alice had first arrived on this planet, the System had used Alice’s understanding of numbers and language to show her her Status Screen, rather than relying on the System’s understanding of the English Language. Which was obvious since the System had taken a few days to translate the word ‘English’ and fix her buggy Skill name. It was even more evidence that Alice needed some kind of mana to translate System messages into some kind of ‘universal’ language, or something of the sort.

After that experiment, Alice helped the middle-aged Mage who was learning from Cecilia shatter his defective magic seed. Based on her and Cecilia’s assumptions, the man would probably form a fully functioning display mana seed next time he tried – and Alice was looking forward to seeing if she got any new Achievements from the whole ordeal. Even better, Alice might finally get the fifth tier of {Scientific Exploration}, the Perk she had picked up a long time ago. The Perk mentioned that the Achievement related to the Perk would undergo an evolution at the fifth stage, and she had been stuck at the fourth stage of the Achievement for a while now.

Of course, that was simply Alice’s hope. It was hard to say exactly what benefits Alice could get from Achievements in the future, for the simple reason that Alice still wasn’t entirely sure how Achievements worked behind the scenes.

Another day passed. The group was nearing Cyra when something unusual happened.

As Alice and Cecilia were quietly finishing up another game of The Settlers, Alice saw a spigot of rainbow mana wash through the world. She frowned. She had noticed another random wave of rainbow mana over a week ago, right before the Society had attacked Ethan’s manor.

She wasn’t quite sure what to make of the random wave of rainbow mana. The random wave of mana didn’t seem to be doing… much of anything, really. Now that Alice strongly suspected that there was a physical System mainframe somewhere in the world, she suspected the System was probably just vomiting energy into the void as it tried and failed to function.

However, now that Alice knew there was a System mainframe somewhere, she paid very close attention to the giant wave of rainbow mana. Even if she didn’t understand everything she was looking at, she faintly hoped that she could get a clue about the physical location of the System’s physical location through this giant wave of rainbow mana.

Sadly, if there were any clues about the physical location of the System inside of the giant wave of rainbow mana, Alice couldn’t pick them out yet. She still memorized everything she saw, but at least right now, she simply didn’t have the skill needed to make use of her observations.

At least, that was Alice’s thought until she heard Cecilia’s awed gasp.

“Is that what the System always looks like?” asked Cecilia. “It looks so strange when I see it in the real world and not just your memories.”

Alice blinked, and then turned towards Cecilia.

“Wait, what?” asked Alice. “What do you mean?”

“The giant wave of rainbow mana,” said Cecilia. “Is that what the System always looks like?”

Alice felt rather surprised. This had been the first time someone other than her had seen System mana, at least without her help. Usually, if Alice wanted to talk about her observations during a specific experiment or event, she needed to use {Shared Memory} first so that the other person could actually see what Alice was talking about.

The idea that someone else would actually see System mana was strange.

“You can see the System mana?” asked Alice.

Cecilia nodded.

“That’s… odd,” said Alice, narrowing her eyes as she glanced at the giant block of rainbow mana hovering in midair.

Cecilia seeing the System and its mana wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. Cecilia was both a friend Alice trusted, and somebody that was developing into a useful ally for trying to contain this mess. Her learning and seeing more was a good thing.

That being said, Alice couldn’t help but feel rather gloomy when she thought about the fact that people had seen System mana in the real world. Alice and Ethan had been working to make people aware of the dangers in their surroundings, but System mana exposing itself to the people around her was evidence of the further deterioration of the System. Alice wasn’t sure what had gone wrong in the System’s mainframe, but it must have been something horrendous if the System had accidentally made its own mana obvious to other people.

“Well, as someone more experienced in enchantments than me… do you have any guesses where the System’s mainframe might be?” asked Alice, trying to push aside her fears and dark thoughts for the moment. “I can’t find any clues about the physical location of the System based on the giant wave of rainbow mana, but as an experienced [Enchanter], do you have any ideas?”

Cecilia sighed, and shook her head. “None. It’s too complex for me to really understand.”

Alice sighed, but nodded.

“Hold on, let me see if other people saw it too,” she said, before making her way out of the cabin she and Cecilia had been playing board games in.

She started moving through the boat, listening in on other people as they talked. And to Alice’s growing concern, she could hear other Mages talking about the giant wave of rainbow mana they had just seen.

Clearly, she and Cecilia weren’t the only ones that had noticed the System mana this time. Everyone had seen it.

Alice frowned.

Something about that idea bothered her, beyond just the fact that the System was clearly deteriorating further and further. However, the exact problem wasn’t springing to mind immediately.

* * *

Deep within the woods of Illvaria, pack after pack of monsters hungrily tore into the air in front of them, where a giant feast of mana had suddenly appeared without warning.

The mana was rainbow in color. The monsters had never seen such a strange kind of mana before. If they had the intelligence to remember their own past in any level of detail, they probably would have found the feeling of the rainbow mana to be familiar, even if they didn’t have enough intelligence to properly recognize that they had seen it before.

However, monsters weren’t a particularly intelligent species.

All they knew was hunger and desire. With the sudden, miraculous feast of rainbow mana appearing in front of them, they didn’t think about how the mana had appeared, or why it had appeared.

They simply ate. And ate. And ate.

Of course, this phenomenon wasn’t limited to the monsters within Illvaria.

Throughout the world, Mages were wondering why a random tidal wave of rainbow mana had suddenly appeared in the air in front of them.

And all of the monsters in the world had noticed it too.

 

 

 

 

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