Tinle sat in front of her looking thoughtful. Nova stared back. She had gotten the day off from working in the ruins due to having to clear out some of the debris within. Oren also wanted to make sure to put safety measures in place in case the ceiling came tumbling down. She was expected to return tomorrow. So, it meant she ended up here. She had wanted to practice in the workshop but instead, she found herself sitting in front of Tinle.
“I didn’t mean to disturb you,” Nova said. “I know you have a shop to run.”
Tinle waved his hand. “Nonsense. You must have noticed there is hardly anyone that comes in here.”
She had but hadn’t wanted to bring it up. She wondered if it had to do with him being on the lower docks instead of the upper ones with the rest of the crystal crafters. She glanced away, not sure what to say.
“It’s fine. With you being here, that will change soon enough,” Tinle said.
“Actually, about that,” Nova said. “I’ve been thinking that if you suddenly started selling lots of different crystal types people were going to realize that it must be me. I’m trying to avoid that, especially with Oren already watching me closely.”
“Yes, I had thought about that but I believe I might have a solution,” Tinle said, clapping his hands together.
Nova tilted her head in curiosity.
“The auction house.”
“There’s an auction house?” Nova asked.
“There are two auction houses, actually. The first is the Pomlan. It’s more of a general auction house where people bring in surplus goods, high-quality crystals, and new inventions.”
“Inventions? Isn’t that strange for an auction house?” Nova asked.
“It is definitely a unique feature of Pomlan but it will allow you to possibly gain the interest of a sponsor.”
“I’m confused,” Nova said. “Sponsor?”
“Well, you can’t just go up to a noble and ask them to sponsor you,” Tinle said. “You have to gain their attention and the Pomlan is the perfect way to do just that. Sometimes the nobles visit there specifically for the inventions, in hopes of nurturing some new idea that will make them even more rich or fashionable. But nobles wandering about there are rare. What we’ll be focusing on is the Royal House curator. They send curators for every auction, hoping to either buy a rare item or find an invention that would be sought among the nobles. Once they do, they bring it to the Royal Auction House where the nobles bid on it.”
“And that’s better because instead of just one noble offer you have several,” Nova said, catching on.
“Exactly,” Tinle said. “If we get a sponsor rich or powerful enough, they would be more focused on protecting their investment and therefore you. It would allow you to work without fear of the Sanitation Guild taking you away.”
Nova found herself getting excited at the thought but a trickle of doubt went through her. “Are you sure that will stop Guildmaster Oren? I saw what he could do and honestly, I don’t see many people who would be able to stand up against him.”
“You can,” Tinle said and then immediately clamped his hand over his mouth and looked around him as if he expected Oren to pop out somewhere. “I shouldn’t have said that.”
Nova’s eyes widened as she fully comprehended what Tinle said. He was right. She had all the mana attunements including the Void attunement that Oren had. She was still at a disadvantage since he had years of experience and could do natural magic but the mana was there, waiting for her to use if she could figure it out.
Tinle cleared his throat. “The point is that no matter how powerful Guildmaster Oren is, the King is more so. The nobles are directly under the King’s protection and cannot be acted against so easily. It is true some nobles aren’t as protected but that is why we would need a noble that is rich or powerful. Both would be even better.”
Nova nodded, turning over the possibilities. She would have to still be careful. Being enslaved by a noble didn’t seem any better than dealing with Oren. It gave her a lot to think about.
“But none of that matters if you don’t actually learn how to attune mana crystals.”
Nova winced and sighed.
“Don’t be so glum. Due to your abilities, you must have your own unique way of handling crystal crafting. We just have to figure out how it works. Now, switch to your mana sight.”
Nova did and as she did so, Tinle raised his hand. Wind mana rose from his hands. As Nova watched the mana clustered together, forming a thin cylinder.
“Mana, in its original state, wants to exist. It moves in the form that feels natural and can be quite independent. Mana is tied to the thing or person it resonates the most with. It is why we cannot control other people’s mana or take it from outside sources.” He paused. “Well, except in your case.”
Nova smiled but continued watching.
Tinle pulled another string of mana forward. “Your own mana is easier to manipulate because it belongs to you but even so if not firmly gripped it will try to always return to you, its source. To put it in a crystal means learning to control and guide it.”
The two threads began to float around each other, twisting in a dance. “When we weave, we shape mana threads into symbols. Some symbols are widely known, while others are invented. A symbol isn’t just a letter or picture but has weight. We shift the thread so it’s thinner in some places.” Tinle thinned out one end of the thread while thickening the other end. “And thick in others. It’s about weight, magic density, merging threads, and then weaving those symbols together to make a whole.”
He took the thread and moved it into a squiggle that floated in the air. He then turned to the second thread, peeling back a layer of the thread. As he did the mana floated in the air before sliding back into his body. “Too much mana can also change how a symbol works and even cause the symbol to break or overload the crystal.” Once he thinned out the remaining thread, he looped it in the air and then spun it through the first symbol, until the threads weaved together, making a cohesive whole.
“This is a weaving,” Tinle said, and then fished out a crystal. “Now, you have noticed that there are quite a bit of shards in my workshop. This is due to crystals breaking. Creating a weaving is only the first part of crystal crafting.”
He spun out another thread. “Most crystal crafters hide their weaving. It’s to protect the secrets of their trade, but some will even do it to the ones publicly available because it is better to have it as a habit and also was once a way to help keep hidden which crystal had a unique or secret weaving within it.”
She watched as he basically balled up the weaving he made and then took what looked like white mana and haphazardly wrapped it around the weaving.
“What is the white mana?” Nova asked, confused.
“This is unattuned mana. We all have it and can use it. I take the unattuned mana and wrap it around the weaving. Doing so protects people from reading the symbols without damaging the weaving.”
As she watched she saw the unattuned mana slowly grow yellow, making it hard to discern it from the weaving within.
“As you see, unattuned mana tends to take on the attunement of the mana it encounters but because it was layered on unattuned it becomes a separate item. You make sure that when you layer it, it’s spread apart and very thin and it works as a shell.”
Nova wondered if that was why she had seen the mana as just balls of thread. The shell must have been hiding the weaving.
“Most people will be unable to get to the weaving underneath, but there are certain people that specialize in breaking shells. They’re called Unravellers. It’s a specialized skill and can be very dangerous since the crystal can blow up in your face.”
A lockpick for crystals.
Nova found herself fascinated. “Can you unravel?”
Tinle shook his head. “I can of course unravel my own work but that’s because the mana is mine and will naturally want to return to me. But Unraveling others, no. It’s a skill not looked upon too kindly outside of the Academy. Besides, it’s far too dangerous for my taste. At least a few merchants have blown off a hand or part of a face in the attempt.”
Nova shuddered, still she couldn’t help finding it all fascinating. She wondered if unraveling might be less dangerous with her ability to use outside mana. It would at least allow her to collect more symbols.
“The final part of crystal crafting and the most volatile is inserting mana into a crystal.” He walked over to a warding pot and lifted a crystal. “There is only so much mana you can put into a mana crystal. Most you won’t know until you are trying to insert the mana. In the best case, you manage to withdraw the mana before breaking the crystal, in the worst case it blows up in your face.” He pushed the weaving into the crystal and it started to glow. He gently placed it in the warding pot. “There is some time before a crystal could blow up, sort of like you with the shards. So, it is best to put the crystal in the pot and wait a minute for it to stabilize. If it doesn’t blow up, you are successful.”
“But how are you putting it in the crystal?” Nova asked.
“I just slide the mana in. Sometimes, as you do it, you can feel the space inside and pull it out quickly and reabsorb it. But that takes time and experience to get the feel for it. A crystal crafter who has been doing it for a long time can often eye a crystal and know what will fit but even then, mistakes happen.”
Nova took everything in, wishing she had a notebook to write everything down.
Tinle took the crystal out of the warding pot and handed it to Nova. As she took it, she felt a soft breeze slide over her. She chuckled.
All that to make a fan.
“Now, I would like you to try,” Tinle said.
“What?” Nova asked in surprise. “But I can’t do natural magic.”
“That’s true,” Tinle said. “But that doesn’t mean you can’t practice your weaving until we can find the best way to use this mana transfer ability of yours.”
“Try making the symbols within yourself. Just because you cannot manifest your mana doesn’t mean you can’t manipulate it. Now watch carefully.”
He repeated the symbols he had shown her before, doing them multiple times and having her repeat back what he had done so she could get the feel of the symbol correctly. Of course, without actually manifesting the mana there was no way to know for sure she was doing it right but he seemed to take it in stride.
“Now go ahead and try.”
Nova looked at him doubtfully but she closed her eyes. She focused on her mana senses but this time instead of searching outward she delved into herself. Now that she had the mana sense evolution, feeling the threads were easier and faster. In a way, the mana touch sense was perfect for weaving because she could feel the weight of the mana.
She pulled at her mana and found it strange. It wasn’t just a cluster of multiple color threads as she had visualized when she was trying to do natural magic but felt more unrefined. Like just power waiting to be molded. When she thought of her different mana attunements the mana split apart, becoming different types. Some were easier to grasp than others.
She focused on wind but this time thought of everything as wind and her mana shifted.
[Mana Shift unlocked! Mana Shift repairing.]
Nova was startled and she opened her eyes.
Tinle frowned. “Was there a problem?” He looked worried.
She shook her head. “Sorry. I was distracted. Let me try again.”
Honestly, she was curious about what the mana shift thing was about but she decided to wait on it since Tinle was waiting for her to do the task he set for her. She closed her eyes again and this time she focused on a strand of mana, pulling the thread.
She focused on the length, making it the same length as the one Tinle had shown her. To her surprise, cutting the length down was much easier than when she pulled mana from an outside source. A wave of excitement went through her.
Maybe I really can do this.
She then carefully began to shape the thread, making it thin on one side and growing the density on the other. She then moved it into a squiggle. She let it go, floating inside her. She waited for the mana to unravel and she could feel that it wanted to but for now, it stayed.
Nova created a second thread, thinner this time. She looped it and then weaved it with the other thread until they came together in a weaving. For a moment she could only stand there, feeling the thread. It was unusual. It wasn’t that she could see it in this state, mostly she felt it, but it seemed to glow in her mind and somehow she knew it was right. Not perfect but right enough to work.
If I could embed it into a crystal.
But she never had a problem putting things in crystals, just manifesting them. Well, and blowing stuff up. A wave of excitement went through her as a thought occurred to her. She silently commended the weaving to stay put and then opened her eyes.
“How did it go?” Tinle asked.
“I think I got it. it’s not perfect but it’ll probably work.”
“Usually, I would tell you to manifest it to help you make corrections, but since we don’t have that option we’ll have to figure out a different way.”
“Actually, is it possible for me to use a crystal?”
Tinle frowned. “You want to insert a weaving?”
“I think I can, even without mana manifestation,” Nova said excitedly. “I would like to at least try.”
Tinle’s lip tightened. He seemed conflicted but then nodded. “Only this once. Blowing up shards is one thing but crystals is completely another.”
Tinle left to get the crystal.
Nova was both excited and nervous. She completely believed Tinle. If she blew up this crystal, he wouldn’t allow her near another one until he figured out a way to make sure her weavings were perfect.
A moment later, Tinle returned and almost reluctantly handed her the crystal. Nova took it from him quickly and then she immediately closed her eyes. The weaving was still there, waiting. She scrunched up the weaving and then pushed it toward the crystal. Immediately, she hit a wall.
No! I thought I had it.
She could do it when she used mana transfer, why not her own mana?
Come on mana transfer.
Then to her amazement, the weaving slid from inside her and poured into the crystal. For a moment, Nova was confused, and then she realized why. It was like playing a game and forgetting to push X. She had to use mana transfer, even for her own mana.
In front of her, Tinle stared at the crystal in surprise as spurts of wind came out. It wasn’t the smooth breeze Tinle had done but it was still recognizable.
“Amazing. Can you pull the mana out as well?”
Nova reached over and pulled the mana back into herself. It was a bit different from her usual mana transfer, since it was her personal mana she didn’t get a 30-second warning like usual and she could feel it settle inside her.
Tinle shook his head. “You know no one can do that, not without shattering the crystal in the process.” For a moment, Tinle could only stare at the empty crystal in amazement. “Truly extraordinary. I think there’s a lot I’ll need to teach you.”
With that Tinle hurried out of the room, leaving Nova standing there. Nova didn’t mind. She couldn’t stop grinning. She was finally a crystal crafter.
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