I watch as Safyr flies out to Urolon, who takes a humanoid form with strong facial features, pointy ears, short hair, and a muscled build wearing blacksmith leather clothes.
They talk for several minutes, during which Safyr clearly threatens the Spirit before Safyr lets Urolon into the Nexus.
The god quickly finds my house and lands in front of my door, politely knocking; any hint of his encounter with Safyr is hidden behind a poker face.
With me being in the dungeon, I feel relatively safe for this encounter and send one of the clones I left at home to answer the door.
“Greetings, I am Urolon, the God of the Forge and Craftsmanship” Urolon introduces himself with a boastful tone in his voice.
He cannot learn that I have recovered my memories. I activate [Acting] assuming the role of a liar, con artist, politician, and any other deceitful role I can think of, with different minds.
He knows that we have enhanced [Sense Mana], so I can’t act surprised. I’ll just show him what he’s looking for, and he’ll be on his way.
“I am Alysara; what brings you to me?”
Urolon narrows his eyes suspiciously for a moment. “You can’t lie to me, I know you have recovered your memories. Safyr wouldn’t threaten me like that if she didn’t know what some of us wanted, and the only way for her to know is if you told her”
So Safyr gave it away…
“According to our deal, you need to show us your memories.”
What?! Panic rises in me. I am not ready for this!
“We didn’t make a deal,” I say, thinking quickly. “I made one with Myrou, no one else.”
“Fair, but I’ll be telling Myrou so she can retriev e you.”
[Inventive Perfection] nudges me, pointing out that something doesn’t quite add up.
“Then why are you here?” I ask cautiously. “You won’t take me by force because of Safyr, so why stay around?” I carefully watch the god, but his poker face remains stalwart; however, he doesn’t retort. Becoming more confident in my hunch, I press further, “Go on then, tell Myrou, or is there some other reason why you are here?” Something tells me I can’t be reserved; if he’s going to tell the other gods, then he will tell them no matter what I say.
Urolon finally breaks his stoney expression, grinning. “A little bold, aren't you? Well then, let's bet, and settle this like the crafters we are. If I win, you must come with me, and if you win, I’ll not only not tell the others, but I’ll even vouch for you and side with Myrou on the stance of not using your soul as material.”
This is what he wanted all along. Normally I won’t agree; he’s a crafting-type god with tens of thousands of years of experience; I don’t stand a chance. However, what do I have to lose by declining, Gaining a few more days? I have a few tricks up my sleeve that might give him a surprise; plus, as I do this contest, I can talk with Kayafe and prepare an attack in the event that I lose.
He’s a Spirit, effectively an elemental, so all the craftsmanship essence that is covering the whole village is actually all him. This also means he is very weak to my manipulation if I transform his mana into another type. With Kayafe and the Mana Arc, I doubt he can resist our combined efforts. However, at my current power, I won’t be able to defeat him on my own; I’m not even sure if I can delay him for long.
Can we defeat him? We will have to slay him, not just drive him away. However, if we do that, the world notification will just alert the other gods and possibly scare them into ganging up on us.
It seems my hands are tied, no matter what course of action I take.
I inform Kayafe what’s happening, explaining the options I have.
“You’ll have to tell me the full details later, but for now, we should be ready at the Mana Arc. We have a major home advantage, and there’s Safyr; she won’t let them take you because she seeks your knowledge. You are not alone in this.”
“Yup! I’ll give you my support too! Those Great Spirits are in for one hell of a fight!” Yrania says.
Somehow it is only now that we notice her; however, the massive form she previously had now appears only a little bigger than a Felin.
Kayafe frowns, and [Inventive Inspiration] works overtime to figure out how I somehow didn’t see her.
She used a Jedi mind trick on us!
“I did warn you that just because you have a hundred levels in a resistance skill doesn’t mean some might not have a way to pierce your resistance,” Yrania says, sensing my realization. “Count this as part of your resistance training.”
While that conversation is going on, I give Urolon my reply.
“I don’t have much choice; either way, I accept your challenge.“
“Excellent! We will be making a weapon with this material,” Urolon reaches into space itself and withdraws two roughly equally sized lumps of metallic ore completely saturated with mana and coated with magic. “The one who makes the stronger weapon wins, simple as that. You have three days to complete your work.”
I take the piece he offers me and [Analyze] it.
The information is blocked?!
That must be what the magic is doing. Can I remove it?
I try but am unable to pry it off with [Manipulate Magic].
“Both of our materials have been information blocked; not even I know what it is. This is to ensure we are on equal footing. Any other materials you wish to use, you can do at your own discretion.”
Urolon flies off to the middle of the sea, where he compresses his mana into matter, forming a floating platform with a workshop on it.
If I even have a chance at winning, I’m going to need all the help I can get, and he never said I couldn’t have help. I’ll need a ritual, powerful materials, and Inscriptions.
I take a peek at Urolon’s materials that he is laying out to get an idea of the competition I have to deal with.
The endlessly burning heart of a Phoenix.
Cinder Treant Root:
The smoldering root of a powerful Cinder Treant.
The horn of a fire dragon.
The more I see, the more my heart sinks. I can’t win this. I have the Heart of Brimora, but should I bother? Can one legendary material, even if it was a god of destruction, compete with all Urolon has?
He may have a material advantage, but I have ritual mana, ritual spells, inscriptions, and advanced mana materials such as super-solid mana. Arguably these have the potential to be equal to legendary materials.
I already have the ritual mana centered around beauty from the first ritual that upgraded my Kyhosa. Now I need mana for destruction to lean in on the ‘destruction’ aspect of Brimora’s heart, and what better place to cast that than the risen city? It was destroyed once and rose during a massive battle between dragons and a cursed being. An illusory reenactment and some sacrifice of dragon mana, if Yrania is willing to give me some, and I think I might be able to cast a powerful spell, and hopefully, I should be able to get a ritual mana sample from that.
I tell Yrania and Kayafe my ritual plan, and if anything, it lets us test to see if we can use it against Urolon if we need to.
Yrania agrees to let me gather some of her mana for the purpose of casting this ritual, but it seems like she is mostly interested in seeing what will happen.
We fly to the city, which is almost entirely empty of people, save for a few visitors, and set up the ritual. I form a statue of mana depicting the battle between the dragons and the cursed being.
“Oh?” Yrania notices one of the dragons depicted in the statue. “Father fought this cursed being? How long ago was this?”
I had no idea that fire dragon was Yrania’s father, but if Safyr summoned Yrania, then it makes sense that Safyr, Yrania’s grandmother, can summon her son.
“About four years ago,” I answer, making a brazier of Ice mana applying some magic so it will transform mana in it to Fire mana.
Once everything is ready, I start humming the melody the cursed being was humming and place the mana silk I had woven from Yrania’s mana into the brazier. The mana silk instantly goes up in flames, and the released mana starts to turn into ritual mana.
Mana begins to gather around us and swirl into a sphere above that starts to produce the same musical tone that I am humming.
Something inside me tells me that I need to cast this spell now; otherwise, it will be too powerful. I first gather a small sample and then release the ritual spell into the sky.
Flames and ice engulf the sky, and a shockwave sweeps over the clouds blowing them away. It is like a second sun has appeared in the sky that freezes over, casting snow all over the city.
No harm is done to the city or the nearby villages. Was it because I didn’t want that to happen or because the spell was based on an event that was in defense of the Nexus?
An irritated roar comes from Temple Island, and Safyr flies over, hovering in the sky.
“What are you three idiots doing?! Magic is not a plaything; you could have blown yourselves up! Yrania! Kayafe! You know better than encourage this behavior!”
“Normally, I’d agree, but with Aly’s title, I believe that she can safely cast ritual spells; they won’t have a chance to backfire,” Kayafe says calmly.
“Hold on!” I interject, “‘Rituals can backfire?!”
“Ritual spells, yes, but you have guaranteed success at casting them, which I assume means that also won’t backfire. If the backfire is the result of magic rebelling attempts at controlling it, you metaphorically have magic’s permission to use it.”
“You assume. You could have at least warned me of that risk!” I chastise Kayafe.
After a short lecture from the elder dragon, she huffs and flies back to her resting spot, grumbling. In the end, no harm was done, and now we know of a ritual that can be used to defend the Nexus if need be, and we got the ritual mana sample for future crafting efforts. However, we still don’t know if a ritual spell can harm me. We might have just gotten lucky with this one due to history, but I may not have that same luxury next time.
With the ritual mana samples now secured, I have to research a new inscription. All I have are mana-gathering and mana-transforming inscriptions. Both are coreless, so they technically don’t use magic. To get anything more, I need a core inscription and one with destructive abilities, but what form should that take?
I need to play to what I know. How can I adapt my current inscriptions to make a powerful one? I have twenty minds, Kayafe, and three days to figure this out.
If the mana transformation is the majority of the inscription, then what happens if I add a random core to it? What will happen?
Naturally, I do this far away from the village, and my caution proves right as the inscription sample explodes.
First down, only a few thousand more.
I don’t have to find the core that works, I just have to rule out all other ones that don’t work, and with twenty minds and [Multitask], I can test hundreds of samples a minute.
A full day later, I found an inscription core that works with the mana-transforming inscription. It only shines a magical light, but it’s a start. Now that I know one sample that works and several thousand that don't, I can start piecing together the puzzle and really start learning how inscriptions work.