Nova grabbed the miniature kraken barely stopping herself from strangling it. She glared down at it. The kraken glared back at her.
“Come on now, Nova. I hope you’re not blaming Briney. It’s not his fault you’re in a foul mood.”
“Briney?” Nova asked.
The kraken looked at her and then slowly blinked. She could feel the judgment.
“I’m not angry at Briney,” Nova growled out. “It’s you I’m pissed at.”
“That’s no way to be. You safely got to Gailus and I even sent Briney here with you. I figure you could use an extra pair of hands or eight,” Jace said with a chuckle.
“You sent…” She shook her head. “Stop distracting me. You yanked Miko back. She’s trapped there because of you.”
“No, Miko was already trapped,” Jace said, his voice growing serious. “I stopped you from getting trapped along with her.”
Nova grew quiet, turning over his words. Miko had told her if she didn’t go through the portal Nova would be stuck in the Paths, but she had been halfway through the portal.
Jace sighed. “I know you tried to get her through but the portal wasn’t going to let you. In the end, it would have spit you both out.”
“You don’t know that,” Nova said stubbornly.
“That’s what I saw from my side. I made a choice. Better you get out of the Paths than be stuck in there. At least this way you can help.”
Nova wanted to argue but his last words got her attention. “I can help?”
“I think so. I’m not sure exactly how but you’re a Soul Traveler. You types are usually given some special abilities. Some kind of system.”
Nova turned that over. “Does that mean only Soul Travelers have systems?”
“You hit it right on the nail,” Jace said. “Now you just have to tell me what abilities you have and we can start figuring out how to get Miko out of here.”
Nova hesitated. She didn’t trust Jace. She wasn’t sure she bought what he said about pulling Miko back. Still, she had promised Miko she would help her out and she didn’t want to hold back from saving the girl due to paranoia.
“Let me talk to Miko.”
Nova figured Jace would complain but there was only silence. A second later a shy feminine voice spoke. “Nova?”
Relief flooded Nova at the sound of the girl’s voice. “It’s me. Are you alright? You’re not hurt?”
“I’m not hurt. I was sad and angry and I kicked Jace, but I’m a little better now.”
“You kicked Jace,” Nova said. She couldn’t help grinning. She was still a little pissed at him for what he did even if he claimed it was for her own good. “Good for you.”
“It would have been better if my foot didn’t go through him,” Miko admitted
“What?” Nova asked, confused.
“I know you’re both enamored by my devilish good looks but you can’t spend all day gossiping about me,” Jace interrupted. His voice sounded a little further away. “Briney has only so much juice in him.”
“Is it true you’re going to come back for us?” Miko asked quickly.
Nova wasn’t sure what to say. She wanted to reassure the girl she would but she didn’t want to make any promises she couldn’t keep. “I’m going to try my hardest.”
Miko was silent. “I trust you.”
The words pressed a weight on her, leaving Nova unsure what to say. Silence drifted between them but Nova could tell there was something else Miko wanted to say.
“What is it?” Nova asked.
“Can we talk more? I mean not now but tomorrow?” Miko asked, hopefully.
Nova realized the girl probably didn’t have anyone to talk to besides Jace.
How long has she been stuck in the Paths?
“Sure we can. I’ll see about setting something up with Jace.”
“Okay!” Miko said and her voice had a hint of a bounce to it. “Jace wants to talk to you.”
“Put him on,” Nova said.
“I’m here. Did you miss my beautiful voice?” Jace asked.
“I thought you said we have limited time to talk.”
“You really know how to take the fun out of a moment.”
She didn’t respond.
He sighed. “Fine. Down to business then. What’s your ability?”
Nova shoved down her doubts and spoke. “My system says I’m an Artifactor as well as a Soul Traveler. It came with Mana Sight and Mana Transfer.”
“An artifactor. That’s pretty damn rare, though it doesn’t really lend well to our issue unless you have an artifact laying around.”
“Not that I’m aware,” Nova said flatly.
“Do you have some sort of artifact-finding sense?”
“I don’t think so. Give me a second,” Nova said. She then tried to think about her screen.
It felt like she was tugging on something but it was moving through molasses. She gave it another mental tug and the screen popped in front of her.
[Name:] Nova Davis
[Secondary Class:] Artifactor
Summoner’s Deal – Stage 1
Nova winced as she looked at all the error messages. “Shit.”
“What’s wrong?” Jace asked, worry in his voice.
Nova was surprised at the concern but pushed it from her mind. “My system is broken. When I was attacked by whatever those things were they did something to my system.”
“Golems. That’s what they were,” Jace said and then grew quiet. When he spoke again his voice had grown serious. “You need to be careful. It’s clear someone doesn’t want you in Galius and they can track you and move fast.”
Nova blinked. She hadn’t thought of that. She felt a chill crawl down her back and she looked around but everything was silent. No golems were forming from the tunnel.
“I’ve been here for a while and nothing has shown up.” Nova considered the possibilities. “Maybe they were tracking the portal and lost track of me.”
“That’s possible,” Jace said. “But I suggest you keep a low profile if you can.”
“I was planning to anyway,” Nova said. The thought of being hunted made her feel queasy. She quickly changed the subject. “Anything useful I can do with these skills?”
“Plenty but I’m not sure if it’ll help us get Miko out,” Jace said and she could hear the frown in his voice. “Still, you wouldn’t have shown up in the Paths the way you did if you couldn’t help her.”
“Why do you think that?” Nova asked.
“Simple. Miko asked for help and you came,” Jace said.
“That doesn’t prove anything,” Nova said.
“It doesn’t not prove anything either,” Jace retorted.
Nova sighed and rubbed her forehead.
“You want to help her, right?” Jace asked.
Nova didn’t hesitate. “Yes.”
She knew Miko wasn’t technically her responsibility but she wanted to help. Though she had expressed doubts about Jace’s reasoning she was just being realistic. It didn’t mean she was willing to give up on Miko.
“Good. Then we’ll figure something out. Let’s both have a think on it.”
Nova nodded her head and then realized she wasn’t sure if Jace could see her. “Are you able to see me?”
“Not exactly. Briney can transfer some images across but it costs a lot more mana, so I have him focus on sound.”
Nova made a note of that. “There’s something else. Miko, how long has she been in the Paths? Does she have food and water?”
“You don’t need food and water in the Paths,” Jace said. “As to how long she’s been here…too long. You should probably talk to her about it.”
Nova wanted to ask how long Jace had been in the Paths but she held back. “Miko wants to talk tomorrow.”
“You’ll need to let Briney rest before we can talk again. If you can get the poor fella some mana crystals that’ll be even better.”
Jace laughed. “You certainly got a mountain of dung to dig through. Good luck with that.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Nova asked, annoyed.
Her question was met with silence. Briney let out a tired screech and then slapped one of its tentacles across her hand. She loosened her grip on it and the tiny kraken scrambled its way up her arm and then down her shirt.
“Hey!” Nova said but Briney ignored her and snuggled under her shirt on her left shoulder. Nova sighed but decided to let the creature be. He was probably worn out after being used as an interdimensional telephone.
Nova plopped down on the ground. She was just as worn out but she didn’t relax. She had some privacy so now seemed as good a time as any to look over her system as Jace called it. The screens had faded away after a while. If she was not actively concentrating on the screen it grew dimmer until it finally vanished. She called it up. Again, it felt like dragging something through molasses before a final yank made it pop up.
Once again, she was faced with a screen half-covered in error messages. She focused on her name and a screen popped up. She smiled a little. The screen gave details about her age, weight, race, and nationality. But what was more interesting was that there was a rotating avatar of herself with everything she was wearing. The avatar flickered in and out of existence but mostly held. It felt weird looking at a mini-replecia of herself. Her long curly brown hair was up in a ponytail. She was fit, with a bit more muscle in her legs from her daily runs. Her light brown skin spoke of her mixed heritage. She thought she was pretty enough. Not a world shattering beauty but good-looking enough to catch an eye or two. People said she looked like her mother, but her mother said she had her father’s eyes. Her heart clenched at the thought of her parents and she quickly looked away.
On the side was a list of inventory followed by a plus sign next to it. When she clicked on the plus the screen expanded showing additional storage. Currently, her storage was made up of her pocket and listed the items held within it. In her pocket were a check and some candy wrappers.
Nova closed the screen out. It looked like it could be useful. She wondered if her purse would have been considered a storage area. Unfortunately, she had no way of testing it out since her purse got lost in the shuffle from Earth to Galius. At least it was progress. Maybe if she was lucky, she’ll have some magic pocket universe to keep stuff in like she did in her video games.
She turned her attention to the first error on her screen. She was pretty sure that was where her level had been. She focused on it as she had with her name. She felt something pop and then her head was jammed with static. It was like someone had dragged their nails across a chalkboard and the chalkboard was her brain. She closed it out as fast as possible.
Unfortunately, it didn’t stop the throbbing of her head. She decided to skip over the other error messages. Nova had no desire to give herself a migraine without any painkillers on hand. Scanning the screen, she focused on the next item that wasn’t covered with errors – artifactor.
A blue screen popped up.
This class allows the user to make artifacts.
That’s it? Real helpful.
She tried concentrating on the description but nothing else popped up. She expected at least a bit more detail about how to use the class but there was nothing. She closed out the window moving on to the skills.
-Allows the user to see mana directed at them.
-Allows the user to actively focus on mana in a single object or person.
It seems like the skill worked both as a passive and active skill.
She looked around her but she really didn’t see anything she could focus on. She tried the torches in the wall but they showed her nothing. She frowned but remembered Briney. She looked at the lump on her shoulder where Briney was.
Nothing happened. She tried again but still nothing happened. She groaned. Maybe Briney wasn’t a good subject. She wasn’t sure why. It could be because the miniature kraken was out of mana from her conversation with Jace.
There has to be something.
Then a new thought occurred to her. She raised her hand and focused on it. Before she could even think the words ‘Mana Sight,’ her vision changed. Long threads of pale blue light slid through her fingers. She twisted her hand, mesmerized.
“So this is Mana,” she said softly.
It threaded through her body like a tapestry of blue. It reminded her of the ball of golden threads she pulled from the stone golem. It was interesting to see it wasn’t a ball of light but actual threads weaving through her. A layer of the threads covered her skin while another layer threaded through her body. How she could see it past the layer on her skin she wasn’t sure. It wasn’t like she was seeing through her skin. The best way she could think of it was like when she raised her hand up against the light and was able to see through the thinnest layers of her skin. Except the mana was the light shining through.
She smiled and lowered her hand. Somehow, seeing it felt comforting. Mana sight at least would be useful in allowing her to be able to see the mana she wanted to transfer. She closed out the window and turned to the next skill.
-Allows the user to pull mana from an object and transfer it to another object.
-Skill is currently limited to non-organic lifeforms.
-Mana can be held by the user for 30 seconds before eruption.
Nova closed her eyes. Her headache grew worse as thoughts of her battle with the golems came back to her. Mana Transfer saved her life but she had been lucky. If the creatures had been organic, she would have died. She bit her lip as a wave of uneasiness went through her.
Golems. That meant someone had made them. Someone had known she had entered Galius and was trying to kill her. Nova turned it over in her head but her thoughts came back to one question over and over.
She didn’t know but she was for damn sure going to find out.
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