They didn’t manage to come up with a plan that day or the next. Nova couldn’t help looking at the time sliding away on the quest. Of course, getting the artifact wasn’t a make-or-break thing but she felt getting her hands on an artifact would help her get much further in her class. She still had to figure out what her first artifact would be. Something that would define her path, that would help and protect. She really had no clue where to start.
In the end, she found herself back at the Golden Crystal, flipping through the book idly, trying to find something that would help her sneak into the ruins. Unfortunately, anything like stealth and invisibility spells were either not in the book or were too high level for her to access.
Nova sighed and closed her eyes. Instead, she practiced putting together the wind weaving and placing it in the crystal. The crystal glowed yellow and a breeze began to flow out, brushing over her skin evenly. She smiled softly. She had managed to master that particular wind weaving as well as several of the others. So far, she had mastered breeze, torchlight, warmth, water sprinkle, blossom, aroma, and alarm. The other nine spells were hit or miss for her. Still, she was pretty proud of her progress, especially since Tinle only wanted her to master Breeze and two others.
Unfortunately, none of them really helped her with her current problem. She wondered if they would have to abandon their plan at this rate. Yes, they could go with disguises and a glamour from Trixie but she didn’t want to give the demon the satisfaction. Trixie hadn’t shown herself since the last conversation. Nova was pretty sure it was a ploy by the demon.
Nova groaned and slapped her head on the desk. “Why can’t I think of anything?”
As she laid her head on the desk, she caught sight of a crystal that Tinle had been working on. It was a warding crystal. Warding crystals were one of the main things people came to Tinle for. There were all different types of wardings from what she gathered. It was a normal security measure in Hayeln, though the bigger or more complex the ward the higher the price. She hadn’t learned any wards since even the basic ones were a level 10 weaving.
She sat up and walked over to the ward, curious. Picking up the crystal, she shifted to mana senses, focusing on sight. It was a jumble of threads. It was covered by a white shell, preventing her from seeing within it. She let out a soft huff of irritation.
Nova closed her eyes and tried to sense the mana. Sensing it she felt the threads wrapping around the weaving. Gently, she touched it. The unattuned mana was interesting. It felt flexible as if waiting to be molded. She could almost feel it reaching out to her and Nova reached back. It was strange. It was different from when she transferred mana. The mana slid into her with ease but it didn’t feel strange like when she used mana transfer. It slid inside her and she could feel a rush of power go through her. It joined with her.
[Mana Absorption unlocked!]
Nova’s eyes shot open in surprise. “What?”
She called up her screen and sure enough, the skill was there, listed under Soul Traveler. Unlike her skills usually had when first unlocked, there was no repairing tag. It was the same with weaving. Chewing on her bottom lip, she focused on the skill.
-Allows the user the ability to absorb small portions of unattuned mana and add it to their mana pool.
Nova blinked in surprise. “What?”
She looked back at her screen. She had completely glanced over her mana pool before but there it was.
[Mana Pool:] 459 (-51)
She gained 10 points. She focused on mana pool, pulling up the detailed screen.
The inner mana the user can draw from.
Absorption Bonus: 10
Penalty: Demon Bond – 10% reduction
Mana Pool: 459
She stared at the screen in wonder. That had really happened, but she had used mana transfer before on a ward and this hadn’t happened, but then again she didn’t have access to her stats back then. She shook her head.
No, it’s different because I didn’t get an alert that I had 30 seconds.
So what was different? Well, she hadn’t used Mana Transfer at all. She just sensed the mana and pulled. The rest of the mana and its weaving were still there. It was only the shell that was gone.
She closed the window and looked at the warding and sure enough, the mana weaving was there, all balled up. A thought occurred to her.
She looked at the door and then back at the crystal. She sucked in a breath and decided to take a chance. Grabbing the crystal, she placed it in the warding pot. It was hard to see it that way but she had already decided to focus on sense. She closed her eyes and used mana sense, focusing on the touch sense.
Touching the mana, she could feel unattuned mana in the crystal, weaved together with the wind mana. The wind mana vibrated but stayed firmly in its weaving. The unattuned mana was different. It pushed toward her and she got the feeling if she pulled it would unravel, pouring into her.
Instead of pulling, she nudged it. There was resistance but she stroked the threads and as she did, the weaving unfolded. Then she could feel it. She opened her eyes and pulled out the crystal from the warding pot, shifting her mana sense to sight. She could see it now. The weaving was there.
“I did it!” She actually completed an unraveling. She grinned.
“Nova!” Tinle called out from the back room.
Nova twisted around, pushing the crystal behind her back but Tinle hadn’t even entered the workshop. “Can you grab the warding crystal and bring it to the front?”
“Okay!” She called back.
She looked at the warding crystal. Shit!
She had completely unraveled Tinle’s hard work and a customer was waiting for it.
Okay. It’s not bad. The weaving is in place. I just need to stuff it back in and add a shell.
She balled up the weaving and then she gathered up the unattuned mana and wrapped it back around the weaving, creating a shell. It wasn’t hard to do, since she had been practicing it with her own weavings. Once she was done, she looked over the crystal and let out a breath of relief. She then carefully carried the warding crystal out to Tinle.
Tinle was talking to a customer and demonstrating how to use the warding crystal. “The warding crystal will only respond to the people you attune to it. To attune a person, you’ll have to have them touch the crystal and then touch it after to capture it. Once you have done that and have all the people you want attuned to it then wrap your hand around it, holding it for five minutes. It’ll glow bright and then go to a normal glow when it has been successful.” He took a large crystal out of the crate. “This is the master crystal. This will attune the others to it. The crystal can attune up to six people and reflect it on the others.”
The customer, an older man with a crooked nose, grimaced. “Is there any way to expand it to eight people?”
Tinle frowned. “You requested six.”
“I know,” the man said. “I had a change of plans.”
Tinle nodded. “I can change it but it’ll involve a rework and will cost you extra.”
The man sighed and rubbed his brow. “Damn it.” He shook his head. “I’ll keep it as it is.”
Tinle smiled and put the crystal in the crate. Nova found herself curious. She hadn’t realized the crystal was part of a system. It made her nervous. What if she had messed that up when fiddling?
“Nova, you have the crystal?”
Nova bit her lip and shook her head. “I’m having trouble locating it. Can you help me?”
Tinle frowned at her. “It should be on the desk in the workshop.”
“I looked,” Nova said.
Tinle’s face grew with irritation but he quickly smoothed it down. He turned to the man. “It’ll be one moment.”
The man looked at Nova. “New apprentice?”
The man chuckled. “I understand. I can wait.”
Tinle nodded and left. Nova glanced at the crate of crystals, worried about it being left on the counter unattended but Tinle didn’t seem worried so she quickly followed after him.
“Mr. Tinle, I found the crystal but I might have damaged it,” Nova said quickly.
Tinle turned to face her, his cheeks flushed. “Did you break the crystal?”
Nova shook her head and quickly handed it to Tinle.
Tinle frowned and examined the crystal. “It doesn’t look cracked.”
He narrowed his eyes and then looked at the crystal and Nova knew he must be using mana sight.
“The shell…” Tinle said. “It’s not mine. How is that possible?”
“I accidentally unraveled it,” Nova explained. “I didn’t do anything to the weaving but look at it, but I didn’t know it was connected to the other crystals. It might be damaged.”
“You unraveled it?” Tinle said, looking at her incredulously. “On accident?”
“Yes,” Nova said.
“Nova, you are truly a mystery but we’ll get to that later.” He frowned. “The problem is I can’t unravel and since this is your shell I can’t see if the weaving is damaged.”
“Oh!” She then reached out and pulled the shell apart, she felt the soft surge of mana as it returned to her.
“Wait!” Tinle shouted urgently.
But it was already done. “Sorry, I already removed the shell.”
Tinle blinked. “You…” He narrowed his eyes at the crystal and then his eyes widened. He opened his mouth and then closed it. He shook his head.
Tinle tightened his lips and shook his head. He looked at the crystal, studying it. A minute later he started to weave. Nova realized it was just a new shell and felt relief. It meant she hadn’t damaged it.
“Wait in the workshop, Nova,” Tinle said, his voice clipped.
Nova stiffened and nodded, before heading back. She felt a pit open in her stomach. She knew what she had done wasn’t okay. She could have damaged the crystal, not to mention it was made for a customer and she had just experimented with it. If she had broken it would Tinle have had to delay and remake the whole warding system?
Ten minutes later, Tinle hurried back into the workshop. “Nova.”
Nova straightened up. “Yes?”
“What you did was completely irresponsible. Not only could you have damaged a crystal that was purchased by a customer but you could have endangered yourself and others. Don’t you remember me telling you how dangerous unraveling is?”
Nova winced. “Sorry, I wasn’t thinking.”
“That much was clear.” He rubbed his forehead and then took a deep breath. “As punishment for your recklessness, you will be in charge of cleaning out the shard storage room and sorting through it.”
Nova groaned. She only went into the shard room when they were low but it was a room filled with years of broken shards. Tinle kept them for experiments and to sell to other craftsmen. Though shards weren’t used by crystal crafters, they were used to make glasses, windows, and other items. Regular glass was rare and so crystal shards were often used instead though it was an indulgence mostly for nobles and the extremely rich.
She nodded, her shoulders sagging. It meant she would probably be getting home pretty late each day.
“On a different note,” Tinle said and reached over, patting her shoulder. “What you did was truly amazing. You figured out unraveling and did it so easily. It’s astonishing really but I’m starting to realize I need to expect the impossible with you.”
Nova brightened. “Does that mean you aren’t angry with me?”
“I’m not angry but you must understand how dangerous that was. I want you to experiment but safely. Talk to me first so we can make sure you can do it safely.” Tinle smiled gently and gestured to the workshop. “Nova, I myself am an inventor. It is why I have so many shards. I am not against it but what I am against is dying for it. Do you understand?”
Nova did. She had been reckless and Tinle had mentioned before about people losing their hands trying to unravel. She couldn’t really say she forgot and didn’t know it was dangerous. After all, she had tossed it in the warding pot at one point just for that reason. Though that was only after removing the shell. She really had been reckless.
“Good,” Tinle said. “Now, there is one last thing. Don’t tell anyone you can do this.”
Nova blinked and then her eyes widened. “Is it because of what you said before? People look down on you for doing it?”
“They’ll assume you’re a criminal and treat you with suspicion. Your reputation will suffer. That or you’ll be scooped up by some unsavory types and forced to work for them.” Tinle frowned. “Unravellers are just as rare a commodity as people who have multiple mana attunements. You are both. Be very, very careful.”
Nova swallowed. “Should I even practice it?”
“Of course!” Tinle said without a moment of hesitation. “It’s a skill like any other and I wouldn’t have you not practice it just because people frown upon it. Now, I’m not saying to steal anything but I certainly think the pursuit of knowledge is worth it.”
Nova blinked, turning over Tinle’s words. “Knowledge…right.”
Tinle grinned and there was a hint of mischief in his eyes. “As Mortimer said, knowledge is priceless and there is no harm in learning weavings you might not otherwise have access to.”
Nova laughed. “Are you sure you’re not telling me to steal other people’s weavings?”
“Certainly not. How you interpret my words is up to you,” Tinle said with a twinkle in his eyes. “Now, why don’t you show me your unraveling skills.”
She spent the rest of the day unraveling crystals and showing them to Tinle. He was even more amazed. It seemed when she unraveled her own shell around the ward, Tinle had been surprised mostly because her shell might have traces of his mana from the weaving he created, so it could be dangerous, but since it was a shell created by her it was natural for her to unravel it. Unraveling Tinle’s shell was a completely different story and to do it with such ease was insane.
Tinle gave her more and more complicated shells to unravel but she did them all with ease. The hardest to do was unpacking the ball of weaving so she could fully see the weaving. Several had been too hard for her to do and when she felt them growing unstable, she stopped, not wanting to damage the crystal, but she was sure she could figure it out in time.
Once her day was over, Tinle held off on having her do the shard sorting. Probably due to having her unravel all day. She felt she had a good grasp on unraveling shells and at least basic weavings. Unfortunately, it didn’t really solve her problem with the ruins.
Nova sighed as she walked down the floating street. She switched to mana sense, focusing on sight and then touch. It was a habit she got into to try to practice her speed. She still felt her mana sense when touch focused was too slow. She wanted it to be as natural as mana sight.
As she walked, her gaze slid over the pavement, though she couldn’t see it she could feel the mana from the pavement making it float. She let herself follow the mana, tracing it to the crystal points that tied the network of stones. She could feel wind, it was the strongest mana attunement but there was a hint of nature as well.
She found herself stopping in front of a large crystal embedded in a pole. A ward surrounded it. Studying it, Nova realized the mana threads she had been following were the same ones used to keep the dock streets floating and the floor in the ruins secured. As she looked at it, the beginning of a plan started to form. She grinned. It looked like they might be sneaking into the ruins without Trixie’s help after all.
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