Nova was waiting for Tinle to tell Mortimer to not be so dramatic but the merchant was just staring in shock. It hit Nova that maybe this was a lot more important than she thought. Nova tried to wrap her mind around it. She could pour mana into objects and no one else could. That meant what? She already knew the answer. Even a rock could be a bomb in her hand. Mana crystals were also expensive and mana types rare. The opportunities that she had access to were enormous.
“Oh,” she said, leaning back against the table.
Mortimer grinned like he discovered a million dollars and she supposed in his case he had. “I see you’re finally comprehending just how extraordinary you are. Even the King himself would want to recruit you.”
“No,” she said sharply. “I don’t want anyone to know about this.”
Mortimer nodded. “Of course, of course. We have an agreement.”
Nova let out a breath, but there was one question still on her mind. “Does that mean I won’t ever be able to do natural magic?”
“Honestly, I don’t know,” Mortimer said. “Artifactors are almost mythical in their rarity. Obviously, they existed because artifacts exist but it has been centuries since one was born. The information is lacking and some even discount their existence at all, stating that the artifacts were created by humans possessed by the gods.”
“But there is information, right?” Nova asked, latching on to that and preventing Mortimer from rambling on too far.
Mortimer nodded. “Nothing in depth. It’s hard to go into depth when there is nothing to study. Most of it is theories and tidbits here and there.” He clapped his hands. “But now we have the ability to change that.”
“Can we look at the information now?” Nova asked, excitement bubbling up inside her.
“I like your enthusiasm!” Mortimer said. “Yes, I can see what the library has and we should also run some tests.”
“You should talk to Olivia,” Tinle said, finally shaking himself from his daze.
Mortimer’s face scrunched up. “I don’t want to.”
“She’s the expert on artifacts,” Tinle said.
“She’ll try to steal the credit besides she has connections with the Sanitation Guild,” Mortimer said, crossing his arms. The man was clearly pouting.
“Nova is already involved with the Sanitation Guild,” Tinle said.
“Not by choice,” Nova said quickly. “And I would prefer to keep them out of it.”
Tinle rubbed his forehead. “It might be too late for that.”
“Maybe but I would like to keep it a secret as long as I can,” Nova said stubbornly. She didn’t bring up that Oren already had suspicions that she was an Artifactor but if he knew about the studies, he would either block them or try to get involved.
“I concur!” Mortimer said.
Tinle sighed. “All right but I still think you should bring Olivia in. You can have her sign a contract. She doesn’t even have to meet Nova.”
Mortimer frowned but gave a reluctant nod. “She is an expert but she’s not allowed any contact with Nova.”
Tinle looked at Nova. “Do you agree?”
Nova hesitated. It wouldn’t do her any favors to ignore a resource just because she was connected to Oren. She nodded. “I agree as long as she doesn’t work with me directly.”
“Then let’s begin!”
After that, it was a whirlwind of activity. Tinle and Mortimer raided the library on Nova’s insistence. Most of the books were referenced in Professor Olivia Melio’s book, ” The History of Artifacts.” Nova would’ve joined them but she didn’t have permission to enter the library. Mortimer would have to put in a request which could take several days to get approved.
They ended up bringing several books to the workshop. There were too many titles to get through in one day so they decided to set up a time for her to visit. Due to her schedule, finding a good time was difficult especially since the Academy was 3 hours away. In the end, they decided to meet once a week on her free day. Though Nova was loath to give up her time, the other option was to use her limited time training with Tinle to come to the Academy.
It made sense since it was basically a continuation of her apprenticeship, but Tinle had mentioned starting her with weaving magic training while she continued working on learning crystal crafting.
“Weaving magic is how we embedded the mana crystal with purpose. Putting the mana in the crystal is only one part of crystal crafting, mana weaving tells the crystal what to do. For example, we might embed a mana crystal with fire mana but a weaving tells the crystal whether to use it as a light source or to use it to heat up a room.”
Nova listened in fascination. “I did wonder how that worked. It’s a fascinating process.” She touched a potted plant Mortimer brought to her. She tried pushing mana into it but all she got was a sharp flash of pain in return. She immediately transferred the mana to a rock and threw it into the boom jar or warding pot as it was officially called. They had done it so many times, that they didn’t even flinch when it exploded and the jar shook.
“Hmm, that didn’t work,” Mortimer said, scribbling the results down.
Nova huffed. “I told you, it doesn’t work on organic material.”
“But you refuse to explain how you know it doesn’t work on organic material.”
Nova shifted uncomfortably. “I just know.”
Mortimer tilted his head. “An academic doesn’t take just knowing as an answer. We must study and gather information.”
Nova sighed but even so she did realize that Mortimer was right. Even she hadn’t known the limit of her mana transfer. Rocks, stones, and things that hadn’t been alive before were guaranteed to allow her to use mana transfer. Things that were alive wouldn’t. The questionable part came with things that were once alive. Wood was tricky. The longer the wood had been separated from the living piece the more susceptible it was to being used. If it was a newly fallen branch, it wasn’t likely to allow the mana transfer. How long before the separation was considered viable was something that would need further study.
“Do you think my Weaving mana has to do with weaving magic?” Nova asked.
“It’s a possibility,” Mortimer said. “It is interesting that the unknown mana type you have has appeared with the same name used for weaving magic. We’ll have to test it as well as the others. I’m particularly interested in your Royalty magic.”
Nova tilted her head, curiously. “What exactly is Royalty magic?”
“Royalty mana is defined as mana unique to the individual. Sometimes it is a combination of mana attunements reformed into a magic that is rarely repeatable in others. Sometimes people are even born with royalty magic. It is the only mana type that can be created.”
“On that note,” Tinle interrupted. “I think we should be heading back.”
“But I wasn’t done,” Mortimer protested.
“And we would be here until the next morning if you kept going. It is already quite late.”
“It is?” Nova asked.
“The sun has already set,” Tinle said.
She wasn’t sure how he knew when there weren’t any windows in the workshop but she took his word for it. A streak of guilt went through her. She was supposed to meet with Mathius for their question session but she wouldn’t make it in time and she had no way to call and let him know. She really missed cell phones.
I might be able to get to fighting practice if I leave now.
“I’m going to have to agree with Mr. Tinle. I should get going but thank you for all your help, Professor Keven.”
“Mortimer,” he said and grabbed a book and then two more. He handed them to Nova. “Read these and make sure to bring them back next week.”
Did he just give me homework? Another thing to add to the list.
Nova took the books solemnly. She honestly didn’t mind the reading. It was mostly the knowledge that all her time was being stolen away. She would be lucky if she had even a few hours a week to herself. Still, everything was important.
“Thank you,” Nova said.
“It is the very least I could do, Nova. You really don’t understand the significant opportunity you are presenting,” Mortimer said and there was a seriousness in his expression.
She figured he must feel like a researcher that had made a new scientific discovery. She eyed him as that brought images of secret organizations kidnapping people and doing illegal experimentation. She wondered if it was something she would have to worry about. She realized every choice she made was a balance between risk and caution but she wasn’t sure if she was doing a good job at balancing things. She looked at Mortimer’s sincere face and she decided she would just have to figure out an escape plan just in case.
After that, they both headed out of the tower which took a lot longer since they had to wait for it to land. The ride back on the wagon was mostly quiet. Tinle’s face was creased in concentration. It wasn’t until they arrived at the market that Tinle turned to her.
“Nova, are you sure you want to continue your apprenticeship?”
Nova swallowed. “Yes…but I understand if you don’t want to continue. Guildmaster Oren-“
“Yes,” Tinle said, cutting her off. “This isn’t the best place to discuss such things.” He hesitated. “I want to continue but we both will have to be careful.”
Nova nodded. “I know the Sanitation Guild is powerful but why are so many people afraid of them?”
“That question is the opposite of being careful,” Tinle said with a frown.
“Sorry,” Nova said but she was burning with curiosity. She gathered that Oren was dangerous but a part of her wanted to know just how dangerous.
For a while, they walked. The market was closing down and the Skylift had already shut down for the day. It made her curious about where people lived around the area. She didn’t think Tinle lived in the Caverns and that was confirmed when Tinle stopped at the road that went to them
He faced her. “One of the books Mortimer gave you was about mana types, correct?”
Nova nodded her head.
“Make sure you read that one in detail. It will be especially useful during your apprenticeship.”
A wave of relief went through her at his words. So he is going to keep me on.
“I will do so.”
Tinle nodded, turned, paused, and then turned back. “All mana has a color. The color lines up with the mana type.”
Nova nodded though she was a bit confused about the sudden topic.
“Have you seen Guildmaster Oren use mana?” Tinle asked.
Nova shook her head.
“If you get the opportunity…” He shook his head. “I’ve said enough. Good night.”
“Good night,” Nova said back and she watched Tinle walk away. She frowned and began making her way to the Caverns.
It was strange how Tinle hedged around the topic. Obviously, the man was just as afraid of Oren as everyone else. It fed her curiosity as well as her fear. She turned over the events of the day as she walked as well as the last conversation. She was almost at the entrance of the Caverns when she spotted a familiar figure.
“Mathius?” She called out.
The man looked at her and then rushed over. “You’re back!”
She nodded. “Sorry, I missed our session. I went to the Academy. I stayed there much longer than I planned.”
Mathius nodded his head. “That explains it.”
Even though he seemed reassured by that, the anxiousness on his face didn’t vanish.
“What’s wrong?” Nova asked, starting to get worried. “I really didn’t mean to not show up.”
Mathius sucked in a breath and then let it out slowly. “I have news.”
“Okay,” Nova said, things were always a little awkward between her and Mathius after everything.
Mathius stopped outside of the Caverns entrance and Nova followed suit. He tugged lightly on the rope around his waist.
“Guildmaster Oren has informed me that the floor will be completed soon.”
Dread and fear swam in Nova’s stomach.
“They’ll be heading down next week. He wants us both to be there.”
Nova knew that was coming but she couldn’t help a wave of panic sweeping over her. Images of snakes surging towards her, the feel of teeth burrowing in her back, her blood dripping on stone floors.
She jerked her head up and Mathius was holding, his eyes wide. Nova looked around her to see several people staring at her while Mathius held onto her. She was shaking.
Mathius looked at her in worry and confusion. “You started shaking and then just sort of collapsed. I caught you before you hit the floor.”
“Oh, that’s…weird,” Nova said numbly. Her mind felt fuzzy and everything sounded off. “I think I need to lie down.”
“I’ll take you,” Mathius said quickly.
Nova started to say no, wondering if this was a ploy just to find out where she lived but the look of worry and fear on Mathius’s face changed her mind.
I must have really scared him.
Her legs felt weak but she made herself stand up. “It’s fine, you can let me go.”
Mathius seemed reluctant but he did. Nova took a few cautious steps. When she didn’t fall over she nodded and they started to walk. As they walked, Mathius kept trying to reassure her while sneaking worried looks at her. Nova tried not to think about it but it was hard to do with Mathius constantly talking about it. Finally, they arrived at Helena’s. She was waiting for Nova. She looked surprised that Mathius was with her.
“I’m going to lie down,” Nova said before Helena could start asking questions. “I don’t think I’m up for practice.”
Helena nodded and then Nova quickly went to her room to lie down. She knew Helena and Mathius were probably talking about her but she pretended not to care. She slid into bed and tried to sleep but her mind was turning over Mathius’s words.
A week. A week. We’re going to the ruins in a week.
Her breathing grew faster and she could feel herself shaking. She closed her eyes and tried to breathe slowly.
I have a week to prepare. I won’t die there.
She knew that Oren was going to clear out the ruins but the fear was there. What if he missed something? What if something worse appeared? She needed to be prepared. “I’ll get stronger. I have to get stronger.” Nova balled up her first and started to plan.
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