Metaworld Chronicles

by

Wutosama

Chapter 207 - Where the Side Quests Roam

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“The Tyrant came upon Myăma some two decades ago,” Maymaruya began, his countenance the manner of one delivering a eulogy. “At first, like the fabled Yinglong, it desired only a mountain upon which to nest. As a remote Frontier city in the 1980s, Yangon did not possess a Tower capable of defeating the tyrant without crippling our city-state. We asked for help from the British Mageocracy, though as expected, no help came; the newly formed Commonwealth was too busy establishing its Towers all over the world to oversee the problems of a deserted colony.”

“Not Smaug then. Still, I am guessing it came…” Gwen dug through her long-term memory for what she could recall of Burma. “For the Jade, and the gold?”

“Yes.” Maymaruya nodded. “It came for the jadeite, the gems and the gold.”

Gwen was happy to know that at least some of her old world knowledge still held up. British Imperial Burma, now officially known as Myăma, had once been a thriving kingdom. Like all medieval kingdoms, it fell to decay and internal strife and was conquered by the British Empire during its Pax Britannica days.

Despite its infamy for poverty, Burma was in fact, one of the wealthiest regions in the world when it came to natural resources. The struggling nation possessed an untapped trove of exotic animals, lumber, natural gas, oil reserves and native fisheries. Most notably, however, British controlled Burma was infamous for its blood-jade and gem trade. No other place on earth could produce jadeite with the clarity and hardness of Kachin’s excavated stones. It was no wonder then that a Dragon had taken an interest. In a world of Arcana, Jadeite could substitute for Creature Cores, being itself a form of congealed mana formed of the Quasi-elemental Plane of Minerals. Though Gwen herself had little longing for jade, she had seen the Chinese Mages donning their jade pendants, earrings, thumb rings, belt buckles and waist-danglers.

“The House of M was called by another name then,” Maymaruya continued. “We were the lords of Tawmao and Khansee, the heartland of Myăma’s jade trade, inheritors of the old kingdom.”

“I see.” Gwen paused. "Did you dig too deep looking for the wonders of Myăma and then awoke a nameless evil?"

"You are too perceptive, Gwen. Yes. It was in 76' that we unearthed the Jade Pillar, an enormous lode of Jadeite of the highest purity, possessing an incredibly dense core capable of serving as the basis of a Tower’s nucleus.”

“So, a Dungeon Core?” Gwen wasn’t up to date on the matter.

“Indeed, that would be the name for such a thing in today’s parlance,” Maymaruya affirmed her suspicions. “A Tower needs to tap into geo-dynamic Ley-lines, and only a Dungeon Core possesses the density and size necessary for channelling the earth’s natural energies.”

“What IS a Dungeon Core, if you don’t mind me asking,” Gwen implored. “I am only a student, Magus Maymaruya. Please excuse my ignorance.”

“I take no offence,” the Magus replied. “Mayuree, are you listening?”

“Yeah, yeah.” Mayuree battered a hand.

Gwen gave Mia a comforting smile, which she returned warily, unsure of where this was all going and fighting the urge to find out.

“You must know about Creature Cores.” Maymaruya raised the Pangolin core.

“Yes.”

“Good. A Dungeon Core is not so dissimilar; it is a solidified mass of condensed elemental material, buried deep down in the earth where subterranean Ley-lines meet. Did you know that the PLA Superstructural Tower has at its heart the King-Stone of the Huang River? I was a part of the team that excavated it.”

Magus Maymaruya mimed his incredulity with animated glee.

“Three storeys high it was, big as a skyscraper, entirely consisting of condensed Earthen mana. It took the team six months to move it to the construction site, and another two years to carve the glyphs necessary to channel its latent energies.”

Gwen made an ‘O’ with her lips.

“But I digress. As I was saying, having found the Jade Pillar, our city-state was readying itself for building our Tower. We had even invited the Mageocracy’s Magisters to aid us in our endeavour.”

“But the Dragon had other ideas.”

“Indeed. The 70s was a time when unified magic was young, Miss Song. You must understand that our nation struggled with Western Spellcraft, possessing only six Magisters and no more than three dozen Maguses. There was no way we could have fought the Tyrant to a standstill. Even if we had won, there wasn’t enough of us left to rebuild Yangon.”

“We attempted to placate it at first. The Tyrant had remained on Mount Arakan, in the Golden Valley, minding the territory and warding off lesser beasts. It had even made the region safe for human habitation. We were wary, and so was the Tyrant. But of course, human nature prevailed. A few of the local Lords thought the creature Divine, though I could hardly blame them. After all, our Goddess is a Naga, a form of Dragon-kin. They approached the Tyrant with carts of polished jadeite and nephrite, stoking the creature’s insatiable greed. Over time, the Tyrant grew more and more voracious until it caught news of what we had unearthed in Tawmao.”

With a greedy ear, Gwen eagerly consumed every word.
The Enchanter’s alternative-history of a colonised nation was music to her ears!

“That was the beginning of the end for our city-state.” Maymaruya shook his head wistfully. “Arriving at our capital, the Tyrant destroyed the construction site, chased off the Mages, then carried away the Jade Pillar, calling it the cornerstone of its unholy palace. Surprised and beaten, we desperately attempted to retrieve the Pillar. Without it, we could not construct our Tower. We asked for help, but once more we were outdone by human nature. Factions within the Mageocracy took advantage of our weakness. Old allies and new enemies from China, India, Japan and Britain flooded the country under the guise of ‘aiding’ our city, only to pillage Tawmao of its jade, leaving our people to rot.”

“After that, those of us who survived fled the country. We smuggled out what we could and established a trade consortium with our shamefully gotten gains, amassing wealth and waiting for the day when we could raise an army, gaining enough influence as to invite a tier 1 city’s leadership into helping us reclaim Yangon.”

“What’s happening with Yangon now, as we speak?” Gwen enquired.

“It survives, barely. Until the Tyrant is removed, I fear, we will never have our Tower. Without a Tower, we are cut off, unable to join the ranks of even minor Frontiers like Chittagong, or compete with our neighbours in Bangkok.

Gwen turned to Mayuree, who’d been silent the whole time.

“Was I supposed to hear that?”

“Was Miss Song not in the know?” Magus Maymaruya coughed gingerly. “At all? You had spoken of her so dearly that I’d thought…”

“It’s fine.” Mayuree visibly relaxed, as though a weight had been lifted off her shoulders. “The Goddess willed it. I was no more than her instrument. Well, Gwen, now you know about the House of M!”

“So the M stands for Myăma?”

“Close enough.” Mayuree smiled. “It stands for our country, of course, but also for our displaced House and home. There’s a symbolic significance as well. The M stands for Mü, nothing. Until we recover Tawmao and restore Yangon, we are the house of ‘Nothing’.”

“The House of Moo…” Gwen rolled the words across her tongue. “Yes, the House of M is definitely what I would have stuck with as well.”

Mayuree, who must have been well versed in English, wouldn’t have it.
The two girls had a pleasant chuckle, offsetting the heavy atmosphere.

“So, what can I do to help?”

“Nothing.” Mayuree rested her hands on her honeyed thighs. “It’s not your problem.”

“But?”

“There is no but,” Mayuree insisted. “Come back when you’re a Tower Master. We can pay to fly your Tower over and fight this dragon, haha.”

“Alright, I’ll keep foreign aid as a top priority.” Gwen grinned. “So, tell me about this gift. Why are you giving this ‘tyrant’ of yours Magical Items?”

“It’s a Trojan gambit,” Mayuree divulged readily. “Maymaruya says that the Pangolin Core contains traces of the Yinglong’s essence. Dragons are extremely territorial. Mixing items like this into the jade we send it will make it think that another Dragon is encroaching on its territory. If nothing else, it’ll be losing sleep - and Dragons love to sleep.”

“What if you well and truly piss it off?”

Mayuree tilted her head.
Maymaruya explained for his young mistress.

“Not even the Tyrant can detect the whereabouts of a thing like this if we embed it into a procession of jadeite Bodhisattva. It would have to destroy the visage of the Naga Goddess to get at the Core, and the Tyrant is too superstitious a being to do that and too greedy a drake to relent a priceless carving of Imperial grade jadeite.”

“Eek, the woes of being a Dragon,” Gwen mused. Like a starving man eating raw turnip; the stinging acridness of the bitter flesh made one vomit, but the hunger disallowed such a meal to be forsaken.

“There are worse things.” Mayuree stretched. The girl was impressively flexible, reminding Gwen of her cat. "As the Tyrant's essence pervades these statues, they will subsume and 'erase' the essence of the Earthen drake. A land God as powerful as the Yinglong would certainly sense such a thing. Maybe it'll stir the pot for us, dislodge the Tyrant?"

Gwen wondered if she should say something like they were playing with Dragon-fire, but she was too uninvolved to start telling people how to recover their long-lost homelands. If Thorin could have been persuaded, the book would have ended differently.

“So, the House of M will pay in currency, favour, or service; up to you. What do you say?”

“I am fine with it,” Gwen conceded. She wouldn’t know the first thing about hawking the Core of a Sapient Earthen Dragon-kin, but she could trust Mayuree on offering a fair price. “Myăma, huh? A House of Nothing. I am so sorry, Mia.”

“It’s been like that since I was born, so I don’t feel the loss, not like Maymaruya here.”

“You would have loved Yangon, young Mistress.” the Magus' voice was pregnant with nostalgia. “It would warm my old heart if you could see it one day, the city that is - the avenues abloom with Dendrobium, Frangipani and Cherry Blossoms; the Sule Pagoda resplendent in gold and ivory, the saffron-clad monk boys, walking to morning prayer beside the cafes of the Yangon Riviera. We had all of that before the Tyrant usurped the city’s jade, gems, ivory and gold.”

“That sounds nice.” Mayuree closed her eyes. Imagining the serene scenes of the Riviera.

“One day.” The Magus sighed. The Enchanter then turned to Gwen. “Miss Song, are there any items you wish to craft right now?”

“Honestly? I have no idea.” Gwen smiled politely. “Mayuree, any suggestions?”

“Not unless you want to disclose your spell-list and talents.” Mayuree put up her hands before Gwen could respond. “No, no, don’t do that. Trust me. Just tell us what you need.”

“I don’t know what I need.” Gwen faced the dilemma of a high-maintenance girlfriend being asked what she wanted for dinner.

“Our in-house Crafters specialise in Ioun Stones, pendants, rings, earrings, precious stone bracelets,” Mayuree informed her friend expertly. “Maymaruya, can you give Gwen a few recommendations.”

“Our most popular products are Contingency Rings.” The Magus smiled. "But I can see you have one already."

Mayuree glanced at Gwen’s fingers.

“An exceptionally master-crafted device.” The Magus begged for her permission. “May I take a closer look?”

Gwen extended her lithe fingers, fancying herself performing the mafioso gesture of one looking to have a signet ring kissed.

A brief glow flashed across the Magus’ eyes.

“From the Royal House of Asscher!” The Magus snapped back, punctuated by a sharp intake of breath. “Mistress Mayuree! Is your friend of noble lineage? Are we in the company of a noblewoman?”

“No, no!” Gwen withdrew her hand quickly. “I am just a nobody from Sydney’s redneck south coast!”

“Impossible! You are too modest.” Magus Maymaruya was shaking with excitement. “The Royal House of Asscher are jewellers given the title by the Dynasty of Queen Juliana herself! They were and continue to be the foremost Enchanters in the field of Gemmology! They pioneered the Spellcraft behind Contingency Magic, the basis of which is the Royal Asscher 17-facet algorithm! Yours is an incredible collector's item. From the cut, the clarity of the Core, and the glamour applied to it, Goddess, it could be worth a hundred thousand, without question!”

OH FUCK. Gwen felt her hand immediately grow sweaty, as though the ring might slip from her fingers at any moment. GUNTHER gave her a ring worth enough currency to buy… God knows, a lot of things! Hadn’t Jonas and Paul, Alesia’s crew, joked that Gunther’s ring was like 15,000 HDMs? Why is it worth ten times the amount now?!

“Maymaruya…” Mayuree coughed.

“Of course, you may trust my discretion - on my life,” the Magus announced, placing a hand to his chest. “By the Naga Goddess, I will keep your heritage a secret, Mistress Song.”

There’s a terrible misunderstanding, Gwen wanted to say. Having the Magus in awe, however, wasn't a bad thing. She had told the truth - the man's opinion was his own business.

“Thank you, Maymaruya.” Gwen smiled regally. “Now, your suggestions?”

“We possess several useful patents,” the Magus continued. Swiping his hand across the table, the Magus produced four intricate jewellery boxes.

“Oo~.” Gwen’s eyes sparkled.

“The first is a Band of the Lamassu.” Maymaruya opened one of the boxes, revealing a ring in the form of a lion biting its tail. “It performs several auditory functions. The first is the ability to project your voice, which can be used at will. The second is the ability to generate a tier 3 shatter effect against hard-Shields, three times per day. Finally, once per day, it can be used to project a sonic Cone at tier 5, as per Cone of Cold. Used with Lightning, I would mark the Shatter at tier 4.”

“How useful is it?” Gwen turned to Mayuree.

“There’s no casting cost, no need for incantation, and the effects happen at-will,” Mayuree advised her friend. “It’s for use in one-two combos, for example, a shield-shatter effect, followed immediately by one of your Void-Bolts.”

“Oh, ouch.” Gwen made a face. “That’s a little lethal for my taste. Are there items made for Monster hunting?”

The Magus chuckled, then opened the second box.

“A Dungeon Earring,” he announced quickly.

Gwen burst into snorting laughter at the 'pun-ishment’.
Who’d thought the Magus was into fatherly humour?

“Great for dungeoneering, I bet.”

“Yes, indeed.” The Magus laughed. “These come in sets of five, a Master and four Slaves. The Master, when attuned to a Diviner, boosts the Diviner’s Message Range. When used by a non-Diviner, it generates a Message Relay at tier 1, with an effective range of twenty meters without LOS and up to two hundred meters with LOS. It allows free communication between the master and the slave units.”

“VERY USEFUL!” Gwen picked up the scintillating, ruby-like Creature Core, mounted atop a sterling silver setting.

“Indeed. Here-“ The Magister opened the third box. “A staple - A Ring of Mind Shielding, with Mind Lock, Resist Glamour and Resist Illusion. It will vastly improve your resistance to Mind Magic, Suggestion and external Glamour. Works against both human and non-human phenomena.”

“I could use one of those.” Gwen pinned the tear-drop crystal against her ear. “Mia, how does it look?”

“Beautiful.” Mayuree beamed. “It brings out your eyes.”

“Aww, thanks.” Gwen gushed. Who’d knew having a family jeweller was so awesome?

“And the big one.” The magus opened the final box. It was a necklace pendant with a thumb-sized opal.

“Oh…” Gwen’s eyes sparkled. The stone was breathtakingly beautiful.

“Crafted from the Core of an elder Foglet.” Maymaruya allowed the light to play through the stone, showing off every facet of its scintillating beauty. “A Ghosting Amulet - it's a contingency item. Should you suffer a catastrophic Shield Break or become injured, you will be Dimension Doored to a safe location. At the same time, if you are an Illusionist, it will further draw upon your Sigils to create two mirages per tier of illusory simulacrums who will ‘fight’ your opponents while you escape to safety.”

“WOW!” What else could Gwen say other than being awed? She was a simple country girl. The Ghost Amulet was the Mercedes S-Class of Magic Items.

“The rarity of Foglet Cores aside, that one consists of Maymaruya’s blood and tears. Took him close to three months to craft,” Mayuree added. “Also, it’s mine…”

“Oh?”

“He asked for to to be used as a sample.”

“Ah~.” Gwen returned it to Mayuree awkwardly.

The Magus as well, seem embarrassed.

“Those cores you brought can be used to make the Earrings, the Lamassu Ring, and the Mind Shield. If you want an Amulet, we’ll have to barter for one from the Eastern European Foglands.”

Gwen ruminated her options.
The Shatter-shield ring was useful, but she could manage without it.
The dungeon-earrings were very useful, but she had so far managed without them.
The Mind Shield was a godsend. She never wanted to be Dominated or have her mind invaded again, ever, by anyone.
As for the Ghosting Amulet, Gwen felt very much tempted. In addition to her Contingency Ring, it could serve as another buffer. If her ill-gotten wealth can save her from expending Gunther’s Ring, it could be well worth it.

“I want the Mind-Shield and the Ghosting Amulet,” Gwen declared.

“Would you accept two tier 3 Draconic-deer cores for the Mind-Shield? As for the Ghosting Amulet, I knew you were going to want one, so how about a one to one trade with the Earthen Core from the young drake?”

“Sure?” Gwen did a few quick calculations in her head. She was trading away about 30,000 HDMs worth of Cores for a 'rare' and a 'near unique' magical item that could save her life. Money was a priority - but one had to be alive to spend it! She was also glad that Lulan wasn’t here to witness her spendthrift. The price of these rarified items alone would drive the girl into a berserker frenzy.

“Deal.” Mayuree struck out a palm.

Gwen offered her companion a low-five, then the two shook on the deal.

“I'll leave the rest up to you,” Gwen suggested. “Sell it or make items with it. I'll trust your best judgement.”

“The two draconic-carp cores should sell well,” Mayuree noted with a smile. “If you need currency. Deductions will be taken from your account with the House of M, where all your future proceeds will be deposited.”

“Future proceeds, huh?” Gwen mused. "Am I a part of your elite Clientelle yet? Do I get a black card?"

“Of course!” Mayuree hugged her friend by the waist. “As someone in our 20,000 HDM Club, you’re now a VIP! What's a black card?”

It was now Gwen who tilted her head.

“The House of M has spending strata for clients but no executive service branch?”

“Well, not formally.” Mayuree laughed. “We can do front-row seating at auctions, priority bidding and all that, as well as offer advice on items and ingredients. What else do you want?”

Gwen blinked.

She knew that this world’s financial practices were well repressed. The methods of her old world had yet to penetrate the virginal econonics of Shanghai. To Gwen, it was the symptom of a market where inter-continential economic imperialism never quite took hold. There was no stock market for her to navigate per se, but surely she could make a few dollars elsewhere, such as HR and Business Structuring.

“Mayuree, I wouldn’t normally ask this. But how big is your organisation? What’s your turnover? Do you have lots of clients who break 10,000, 50,000 and 100,000 HDM strata?”

Mayuree turned to regard Maymaruya.

“I cannot provide an exact figure, Miss Song.” The Magus cleared his throat. “Our clearance from our auction division alone is almost a quarter of a million HDMs, last financial quarter.”

“Who are your largest competitors?”

“That would be the Hong Kong Shanghai British Corporation, the Dai Nippon Trade Consortium, and the state-sponsored Shanghai Wildland Auction Commission.”

“Is there a… Citibank? American Express?”

“The Americans do not operate within our sphere,” the Magus replied. “Too far, not to mention they have their hands full. Last I heard, the Mayans of Chichen Itza are not taking the American's Southern expeditions lying down.”

Oh yes, of course, Gwen reminded herself. Thanks to limited communication and the fragmentation of human city-states by Frontier zones, globalised banking had been stunted. The lack of a Cold War, deferred by the common threat of Magical Beasts, prevented a global dissemination of Social Democracy, Laissez-faire Capitalism and Communism. Had the Tower System not been established, there would have been no coalition of humanity.

Gingerly, Gwen stood from her chair, pried Mayuree from her waist, then squared her shoulders. Her expression grew severe and serious.

“Is the House of M looking for a Business Consultant, by any chance?”

Mayuree and Maymaruya looked upon Gwen as though she had suddenly gone off the deep end.

“Don’t answer yet. Just give me five minutes. Promise me that whatever I tell you won’t leave this room - and if you choose to take on my advice, I would like a stipend, assuming my proposal is successful, which I am confident it will be.”

“Okay, sure.” Mayuree gazed upon her friend with as much perplexion as admiration. More often than not, Gwen said the strangest things. But then again, anyone who liked Gwen's company would soon grow accustomed to her 'Gwenisms'.

“Miss Song. I am listening.” Maymaruya played along out of curiosity if nothing else.

“Thank you.” Gwen took a deep breath. She channelled a little Draconic Essence into her presence.

Her two captive audience members inclined backwards as though Gwen had suddenly grown in stature.

Then she began, her voice commanding and assured. The young woman in the navy blue dress moved with such conviction that Mayuree and her Enchanter felt compelled to listen.

“Mia, Magus Maymaurya. I want you to imagine yourselves attending an auction organised by the House of M. It’s 7 PM on a Saturday, and we're deep inside the historic Waldorf Astoria. Tonight is going to be an amazing night. Rumour has it that there are Draconic-cores for sale."

"The rich and the famous are gathered to see who’s who and what they’re willing to pay. They turn to see you, a vaguely familiar face. You know of them, and they know of you. For now, you're just one of the many faces here.”

“…”
“…”

“That is - until you reach into your breast pocket. Slowly, meticulously, without excessive endearment, you produce an I.D card, it's 'invite only' and made from anodised Orichalcum, darker than black, so dark that it sucks in all light. A single imprint, briefly visible, displays your personal Glyph.”

Mayuree and Maymaruya regarded one another.

Gwen opened her hands, as though unleashing an unholy power.

"But that's okay, because after tonight, everyone will know your name - and the fact that you're a rare member of the Centurion Club."

 

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A note from Wutosama

Chapter Ref :: Nothing, certainly not referencing Wild Things. 

Bonus ::  Gwen's Outfits
Character Summaries :: Character Summary
Glossary and Magic System :: Glossary

Voting for the novel :: Voting button 

December is here. I am starting the manuscript - Vol. 1 CH 1 to 49. 

I think I'll make a few changes to the early CHs to smooth out the plot and address Yue + Elvia a bit more. 

Someone Also pointed out the the School Awakening CH 1- 3 is really similar to a book called Versatile Mage. I am going to remove the random instructor thing. It really doesn't serve any purpose. I was originally going to do sorting hat wrong House as a gimmick but with Spell Schools... yep. 

I'll post the Edited CHs as they're done.
There's no Plot Ret-Cons, but I will be fixing the glossary. 

New CHs will be slower between DEC and Jan.  
Book cover is almost done, finishing touches. 


About the author

Wutosama

Bio: I write on the phone and edit at home. Times are tough!

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