Nova sat there with her mouth open as she let what Mathius said sink in. The gods in this world were trying to erase Soul Travelers. Suddenly it became clear why she was attacked when she first arrived in Gailus. Beings of nature rose up to attack her because she didn’t belong.
“What the hell!” Nova shot up from her chair and began pacing. “Why was I sent here if your gods don’t want me here? Who was it that sent me?” She turned and glared at Mathius. “And you summoned me?”
Mathius backed up. “Wait! You said you were already here when I summoned you.”
Nova pinned him with her gaze and then gave him a clipped nod. “I was, which is lucky for you or I would be whooping your ass right about now. You seriously summoned someone to come here knowing the gods would be actively trying to wipe them out.”
“It was important and besides I have a theory,” Mathius said quickly.
“A theory?” Nova said, crossing her arms in front of her.
Mathius nodded his head. “I don’t think all the gods are against Soul Travelers, otherwise you wouldn’t be able to enter Galius at all or be given such power. I think it must be only some of them.”
“Some of the gods. Right. How is that any better? I am a human. How am I supposed to fight a god or several gods for that matter?”
“You can’t at least not at first. Since you haven’t been attacked since you arrived then I think you’re safe. Perhaps someone is hiding you from the gods. So, this is your opportunity to get stronger.”
Nova paused at that. “You think another god is shrouding me?” The thought was a curious one. It would explain why she hadn’t been attacked since the first time. Still, it was just a theory and she wasn’t sure what to make of it all.
“On top of that, the Explorer’s Guild is the perfect way to get stronger.”
Nova narrowed her eyes. “That sounds like a pretty weak excuse for putting someone in danger.”
“Perhaps I was a little impulsive but I really do think the Explorer’s Guild can make you stronger. Traveling around the world, discovering new creatures and magic, learning and fighting. It’s the best way to hone your skills.”
Nova looked doubtful. “Even if I do get stronger, that really doesn’t explain how I’m supposed to fight a god.”
“You’re a Soul Traveler. One thing the lore about Soul Travelers states clearly is that you have the power to change the world.”
“Change the world?” Nova flopped back down in her chair. She rubbed her forehead. “I’m not sure I want to do something like that.”
Everything Mathius said brought up several issues. The biggest one being surviving a god wanting to eliminate her from reality and the other being Miko. If she brought Miko to this world would she also be hunted?
Mathius cautiously walked back behind her and after a second began fixing her hair again. “You’ve been chosen, Nova.”
Nova frowned. “No, I chose.”
“What?” Mathius said but she ignored him. She was still pretty pissed at him. He was planning to summon someone to Galius knowing they might be killed. Sure, she was already here when he did his summon but what if it had been someone else.
“Why were you so desperate that you were willing to risk someone’s life?” Nova asked.
Mathius’s hand stilled. “It’s hard to explain.”
“Try anyway,” Nova said, her voice cold.
“There’s something I have to find, something I can’t do on my own. I needed someone strong, someone who could change the world. I needed you.”
Nova didn’t say anything to that.
Mathius cleared his throat. “All done. We should get ready to head to the market.”
Nova sighed and then nodded. “Do you have a mirror?”
Mathius nodded and he came back with a small piece of polished metal. She could see her reflection but it was warped. She didn’t say anything, just looked at her hair. It had been split down the middle into two braids that were then pulled into one braid that was twisted into a spiral bun. A simple pin with a hanging flower kept it in place.
“Sorry if it is a little sloppy. I’m used to helping my mother with hers. Still, I think it came out quite good.”
It was nice. Nova set the mirror down on the table. “Thanks. Shall we head out?” She turned to the cup Briney had settled in. “Briney, time to go.”
A squawk came from the cup followed by several tentacles grabbing the edge of the cup. The purple kraken heaved itself out of the cup. Nova held out her arm and Briney wrapped a tentacle around it and climbed up until he had made himself comfortable on her shoulder. She chuckled to herself as she grabbed the cloak Mathius had lent her earlier. She would need to eventually find a better way to carry Briney.
Mathius gave her a worried look but didn’t say anything as he led them out of his home. Nova couldn’t build up the energy to say much to him. After his revelation, she was even more sure she couldn’t trust him. How many other things was he keeping secret from her?
His whole talk about why he was so desperate didn’t measure up. It sounded more like he was kissing up to her more than anything. He never explained why exactly he needed her. In the end, she was still here, and though Mathius had summoned her to his city she had already entered the world at that point. What all this had made clear to her was that finding a way to make money was going to be her number one priority. She didn’t want to depend on Mathius more than she had to.
“Wait,” Mathius said, interrupting her from her thoughts. It was only then she noticed she had been walking on autopilot. Mathius gestured to a wagon against one side of the tunnel. “We can ride into the market. The walk is pretty lengthy.”
Nova looked at the wagon Mathius pointed to, her eyes widening at the sight. The wagon looked like an ordinary wagon, like the ones used in hayrides. The only difference is that instead of being harnessed to horses the cart seemed to be harnessed to air.
“Is it magic?” Nova asked.
Mathius chuckled and shook his head. “They’re wind sprites. Many of them are drawn to the city, I’m guessing because there are so many people with wind mana here.”
“There are?” Nova asked curiously, peering at Mathius.
Mathius nodded. “Hayeln is known for producing wind mana. Supposedly, there are areas all over Galius where certain mana types are richer.”
He led them toward the wagon, pulling out a few bronze coins. Nova looked around and noticed that most of the wagon was made up of the elderly and one pregnant woman and her friend. She worried that she might be taking a seat better used but realized the wagon was only half-full. She settled into a spot and Mathius joined her.
“So different areas specialized in different types of mana?”
“Sort of,” Mathius said. “Some areas have strong mana essence and that mana can be naturally attuned to a particular type of mana.”
“What attunes it?” Nova asked.
Mathius shrugged. “I’m not sure. I haven’t really studied the subject. You would have to visit the academy to get better knowledge on that.”
Nova perked up. “There’s a magic school?”
Mathius gave her a strange look but nodded. “It’s not entirely focused on magic but it does have a devoted mana department.”
She tilted her head. “Do many people know how to use mana?”
He shook his head. “No, and those that do are often attune to only certain types of mana, usually one or even two mana types. There are the rare people who are attuned to three mana types but that is extremely rare.”
Nova turned that over and then lowered her voice. “Are you sure I can use multiple mana types? I know I can see it but I haven’t really used any magic.”
“Have you tried to?” Mathius asked.
Nova shook her head. She had only tried using the skills listed in the system. Since it never said she could use any other magic she assumed she couldn’t. Then again it was covered in errors so maybe she could and just didn’t know it. It made her realize it might be a good idea to try to do the diagnostic check sooner rather than later. For a while, she grew lost in her thoughts but she was broken out of it when the wagon pulled into the crowded streets of the market.
Nova watched in wonder as the crowds milled about. An entire shop floated through the air, slotting into a square like it was a piece of a puzzle. As they moved further into the city, she saw a mass of people gathered on a large platform. A man zipped around the people, lifting up a gate before letting out a sharp horn. A moment later, the platform floated up, stopping at each level of the floating shops.
A magic elevator, huh? She chuckled to herself at the sight.
Then something else caught her attention and she gasped. She leaned back, peering into the sky. There were people with wings. They flew through the air. The rays of sunlight that weren’t blocked out by the buildings glinted off their wings. The feathers of the wings were all different colors. One of the winged people cut through the air shooting down to the ground. Their teal feathers spread out around him just before he reached the ground. People parted for him and he slowly descended in a perfect landing right in front of their wagon.
“Whoa there!” The driver said, yanking on the reins. A sharp screeching sound spilled from the invisible wind sprites. The driver reached into a pouch and threw a white powder in the air above the sprite that looked suspiciously like sugar. A sudden gust of wind rushed over Nova’s skin and the scent of gumdrops and honey filled the air.
“This is as good a place to get off as any,” Mathius said, standing up.
He wasn’t the only one to have that idea because several people were getting off but Nova’s attention was drawn back to the man with the wings. His landing had caused a bit of chaos and a pair of guards ran toward him. If the man was worried about the guards she couldn’t tell. He was smiling and greeting the people around him who smiled or nodded back, eyes shining with respect.
Just from a glance, Nova could see the man was wealthy. He wore a green doublet with elaborate stitching that stood out in stark contrast to the dull colors of the people from the Caverns. His blonde hair was immaculate despite having been airborne just a moment ago.
“Apologizes. It wasn’t my intention to cause a stir.” The man reached in his pocket pulling out a coin purse and a monocle. He placed the monocle on his nose and then pulled out a few coins from his purse, tossing them to the driver. “For your troubles. I didn’t mean to startle your wind sprites.”
“Thank you, Guildmaster,” the driver said, stuffing the coins in his pocket.
The guard had reached the Guildmaster through the crowd. They nodded politely to the man. A female guard stepped forward. “Guildmaster, I don’t mean to disturb you but did you miss the official landing platform?”
Nova could practically hear the annoyance in the woman’s voice.
The Guildmaster simply chuckled. “I did! I must have been thrown off track. I always have such a hard time with this contraption.” As he spoke the teal feathers faded away leaving behind a silver jacket. “You’ll have to forgive me for the miscalculation. Miss?”
“Cadet Jercari,” the woman answered.
Beside Nova, Mathius stiffened and then he grabbed her hand. “We need to go. Now.”
Nova looked at Mathius. The man’s eyes darted around him, looking for an exit. She nodded and Mathius immediately began dragging her through the crowd as quickly and as quietly as he could. She wasn’t sure what was going on but, though she was curious, she didn’t like the idea of lingering around the guards either. Still, she glanced back and as she did she was surprised to see the Guildmaster staring at her. His green eyes were fastened on her with a strange intensity. A chill went through Nova and she quickly turned away. As Mathius pulled her deeper into the crowd, Nova silently made a note to avoid the blonde man in the future.
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