Chapter 21 | Dungeon Raid 2
Over the next week, Alisha practiced her casting in the forest with Samuel and or Tasha accompanying her. Since Reinold was busy with his job in the tavern, she didn’t want to trouble him. Nighttime training was also inconvenient for everyone but Samuel had a lot of time with him while recovering from his injuries. Tasha was working a part-time job in the hospital so she had hours to spare.
Samuel and Alisha were beside a lake in the woods a few miles outside of Riverside. From the singing birds and rustling trees to the rodent-looking things, it was a tranquil place.
In her human form, she heard the wind rustling trees branches as cool air began to change the season. She smelled the scent of the lake as the water sprinkled across her skin. This was probably the only place they could practice in peace without running into Imperial patrols.
Unfortunately, Alisha was disturbing the tranquility.
It was tough to release mana from your body, especially for beginners. This was the reason why all children, regardless of race or culture, were required to have their Restriction Seal tattooed on their person which restricts the mana from exiting their bodies.
Mana was very energetic and contacting the air would ignite it. Alisha’s human mana pool was almost useless. It didn’t matter that she understood the magic circle formulations or had good creativity if she didn’t have the mana to invoke the spell.
Every time she shapeshifted out of her human body her human mana pool resets. She would then need to wait nearly the entire day for her mana pool to recharge to maximum capacity. Or, she could use a mana gem to recharge. Since she couldn’t stay in her human form for a long period of time, this happened every day. Using mana gems for spells was very limiting because of the time and cost necessary for acquiring the gems.
One mana gem on the market could recharge everyone to maximum capacity and cost a quarter of an average worker’s daily salary, or fifty Seutarian Pents. This was because infusing mana into crystals to make the refined gems took a lot of time. The people of this world founded methods to extracting mana from mana wells but refining it for casting still needed the human touch.
The gems were definitely worth it but after a certain casting level or amplitude, the benefits dwindle. For example, Reinold and Samuel could cast dozens of spells a day on one charge. The mana cost for a spell was the same regardless of level. What mattered was the efficiency coefficient for a caster which was typically measured in spells per day. Right now, Alisha only had three spells per day while using her human mana. It was a miserable amount. What determined this Casting Coefficient was the skill of the caster and the amplitude of the spell.
Her monster mana pool had much more mana, enough to destroy a platoon of their soldiers. When she tried to incorporate her mana into her human body…
Alisha’s arm was literally blown from the inside out. Don’t try this at home, kids.
“Okay! Alisha! That’s enough!” Samuel stopped her before she could lose another arm. He grasped her shoulder. Alisha was regenerating her arm in full view of Samuel. He seemed fascinated by the sight rather than disgusted. She brushed him off. “Don’t be stubborn.”
“I just really wanted to use magic,” she said sadly.
“Your magic is still very strong. Many mages have trouble using their mana within their bodies. But you’re a natural.”
“Thanks.” Her eyes were down casted and they were silent for a while. To be honest, using her internal magic didn’t make her happy. It’d be a different story if she was human and it could be considered remarkable. This was what Reinold probably meant. Besides human magic being all but incompatible with her monstrous body, her technique for creating this body was hindering her further. There was nothing she could do to improve her casting ability.
“Come on. Practice with me.” Samuel tossed Alisha a wooden sword, making her catch it while off-guard. “I was meaning to teach you some swordsmanship.”
Samuel picked up his wooden sword and faced Alisha, “Do you know how to handle a sword?”
“In a general sense. The people from my world doesn’t use swords at all in battle. They haven’t for centuries,” she answered in telepathy.
“Swordsmanship here depends on the use of internal magic and infusing your weapon with mana. I believe you’re going to be a natural at this too.”
“Okay then,” Alisha said. She examined the wooden sword and found it had a mana gem on the base of the handle. Within the sword, the gem was actually melted and a long string extended to the length of the weapon. This allowed mana and spells to be enchanted onto the sword without a magic circle. “Do all swords in this world have a mana gem like this one?”
“Yes, they do. How did you know that?”
“I can see through the wood with my Monster Sight,” she said. Alisha already saw many examples of spells being casted with their weapons. The party from the cave use their swords to blast a projectile at her. This design was the cause.
“Now, BLOCK HIGH!” Samuel suddenly and rushed her. She was instantly knocked back and blown off her feet, hitting her back on a tree behind her. “Are you alright?”
Alisha got up quickly and didn’t look frizzled by the attack, “That’s the same move you used on me in the forest.”
Samuel still seemed guilty for what he did, even if he was possessed. That day still haunted him; his best friend died by his own sword. But he was sure that Alisha didn’t mean anything insensitive about that comment. “You see? Your abilities with internal magic are very valued in our society for this reason. Now, come back at me.”
Today was very instructive.
She spent her nights at the Altons’ Manor in the room they prepared for her. However, since Alisha couldn’t maintain her human body throughout the night, she would either dissolve on the bed or form into her wolf body. Therefore, the fate as Yuli’s plushie was inevitable. It has been a month since she arrived at Riverside and Alisha had learned a lot.
After given the time to heal, Yuli removed her bandages and no permanent damage was dealt. Alisha spent most of the daytime with Yuli in school and hanging out with the townspeople. It was interesting to see everyone going about their day. Many adults wanted their chance to watch over Yuli, the lively daughter of the man who funded their businesses, on the weekends. However, they had to compete for time with her friends, Emre and Winston. They were children of other merchants in the same commerce guild as Benas.
The Free Association wasn’t just home to the freelancer and mercenary guild, they were also home to many industrial and commerce guilds. These guilds were decentralized in the decades prior to the Guild Wars to be regional entities. Usually, this meant guilds were named after their trade and location. Such as the Freelancer Guild of Riverside or the Seafood Guild of Riverside. These were formal names and were hardly used colloquially.
The guilds were a collection of businesses and people forming a larger organization to better facilitate businesses through trade or connections. They were instrumental when the Empire began colonizing the north of the Nortsek Mountains. The mountains and the desert, known as The Waste, prevented the settlement of the northern half of the Margaris Continent by humans until a century ago.
After the Guild Wars, the guilds created an alliance and formed the independent Seutaria city in secret. Now, the Free Association was acting more like a government entity. They appointed Merchant Lords to administrate their holdings across their territories.
Alisha also learned about the overwhelmingly dominant religion of the world. The name for it in the Common Tongue was the same word for religion and unity. The Scripture was the religious text and it outlined the general rules for morality and human decency but it mostly had other non-religious information.
The source of the unusual leaps in humanity’s innovation came with the Scripture. Other than the ridiculous story of how humanity once lived on the three moons, which represented the three races of this world, it also came with instructions and knowledge like a textbook.
Old-World Technology was the electricity-based devices of the Old Gods used on the moons. Once they landed on Theia, they were useless. Very accurate descriptions of scientific theories about the physics and the concepts of the tools and machines humans once had had been illustrated. Even the units of measurement and time were the same as they were on Earth. This whole book was suspicious for anyone who reincarnated here from Earth because of how they used the names from her previous world to describe theories and implied those people were gods themselves.
Besides her doubts about the legitimacy of the Scripture, it was very useful and helped her learn many things about the world and its nature. Monsters, for example, couldn’t see through their physical eyes because they couldn’t interpret visible light in their mind. They solely used their Monster Sight. She knew how to interpret visible light so she could use the eyes from her meatsuits.
Monster Sight relied on gravitational waves which monsters sensed by passive magic in their souls and crystals. All matter created these gravitational waves so she could sense everything around her to a certain range. A perfect three-dimensional recreation of the area around her and within her slime. This extended to four-dimensions in her Expanded Space.
The Disruption Spell that she was having trouble with negated these gravitational waves. Unfortunately, there wasn’t a viable workaround for it. As for the tracking spell, she disabled the spell the Imperials were using against her without realizing it. The spell relied on a different type of wave, the oscillation of her aura or lack there-of.
Every living thing had a mana pool and therefore had an aura that always changed with the outflow of mana from their mana pool. Monsters were the exception to this rule so humans created a spell to detect a certain aura signature at a long-range. Her aura didn’t vary and had a constant outflow of mana which could be identifiable like a fingerprint.
Having Jun’s soul within her and tucked next to her own crystal varied her aura just enough for her aura to be masked. The Imperials were still hunting her and apparently knew she was currently in the area so reviving Jun may not be an option at this point. This was unless she replaced it with another living soul but that would be cruel. In fact, it was bad for Alisha to be holding onto Jun like this. However, the warmth from Jun’s soul comforted her in her decision. They both didn’t want to lose each other.
The best solution was to find a new solution and for that, she needed to test her theories. She also didn’t want to involve Yuli or the Altons in too much of her troubles so she would only stay in the house for a few days of the week.
She decided to follow her instinct. She wanted a dungeon.
Alisha was helping around the manor and got to know the servants. After a while, some of the maids were brave enough to cloth her into different dresses and other cute outfits. Sophia and the two elves of the house encouraged this heavily.
“You look so cute, Alisha!’ Yuli said enthusiastically.
“Aww,” Sophia sighed in affection. “You just look so cute. If you get any smaller, I might just eat you up!”
“Here Yuli, this top will look adorable with this skirt!” Julie said with dedication while handing over the new arsenal to Sophia. They were really enjoying her suffering.
Julie was a distant cousin of Yuli’s family and came to Riverside with Yuli’s mother, Emelia, Selina, and Aunt Elise. She was a cheerful and energetic girl even when compared to Yuli.
Being treated like a girl at home was a unique feeling for Alisha. It gave her gender this sense of normalcy that Charlotte never got at her previous home.
The head butler, Hans, was a middle-aged man with a serious demeanor. He was a strict boss but gentle at times. But Hans was always cold to Alisha. Everyone got along fine with him. With her, he ended their conversations early and tended to avoid contact. This detail wasn’t lost to her.
“Did I do something wrong, Hans?” Alisha asked of him one day.
He turned his head back to her and said, “Nothing. You’ve done nothing wrong.”
“You lie,” she said and blocked his retreat. “I sense it’s something more than just me being here.”
Hans looked at Alisha and saw that she wasn’t going to let it go. “…As a butler, my job is to not complain but to carry out my orders without question.”
“Yet you feel burdened. Please tell me.”
He paused only for a moment before speaking again, “…When you first came here, Master Reinold told us that your presence here puts the family in danger. Do you know that the hunt is still occurring?”
“I’ve been informed by Samuel of what’s happening on the council,” she explained.
“Ms. Alisha wouldn’t know but the situation is much more complicated than that. The hunt is bound to be handed off to the Association in the coming days, which means more trouble. Do you know who's keeping you safe from these developments?”
“Lord Benas, of course,” he said, irritably. Hans wasn’t just the head butler of this manor, he was also Benas’ enforcer in Riverside. The Altons’ interests were protected in large part due to Hans’ efforts. He explained to Alisha how he has been delaying and redirecting resources on the hunt for her sake.
However, this maneuvering placed undue pressure on the family and caused them a lot of trouble.
“I had no idea Benas was doing this for me…” Perhaps she should’ve treated him better, letting him touch her fur and such. “I understand, I’ll talk to him.”
Alisha turned away to leave when Hans spoke, “Ms. Alisha, I didn’t mean what I said in that way. We don’t want you to leave. That includes me.” Hans smiled but Alisha couldn’t return a convincing one. She knew Hans was upset with her.
The next day, Alisha was eating breakfast with the family in the dining room. The food tasted like ash in her mouth but didn’t show it. The usual banter was going around the table.
Reinold was still enjoying his job at the tavern, a friend of his was going to be in town soon. Yuli was playing with her friends Winston and Emre though she seemed to have a disagreement with one of the older students the other day. Sophia went to town as usual and talked with the misses and townsfolk. And Benas was working hard as always.
This was the simple family dynamic Alisha wanted in her previous life. Her previous family didn’t care much for her. Her other brothers and sister were much closer to each other in comparison. There was a short time when she ran away when she was nine and they didn’t notice she was ever gone.
“Alisha, is there something wrong? You’re less talkative than usual,” Sophia said. Her comment hit their mark and caused Alisha to tear up. Seeing this, Yuli became very worried. Alisha got up and walked quickly from the dining room, wiping her tears on her shelve.
Compared to when she was a boy, she became a lot more emotional. Female emotions were strong and frightening. Alisha hadn’t had much experience with dealing with them.
She walked out the back door which opened up to the farms, the plains beyond, and the forest. Alisha stood there for a while, calming herself. It was these moments of uncertainty that she mediated and looked up into the sky for either the stars or the blue hue. The sight, the sound, and the feel of the outside were serene.
This felt like nothing she could ever find on Earth. Was this happiness?
Alisha gagged a little and she wiped her mouth with her handkerchief. There was blood.
The family stood behind her, silent as if they knew she could crumble if touched or spoken to with the wrong words. She hid the bloody cloth from them and stuffed it back in her pocket. Alisha looked back at them. She took a long look at everyone. “I’m going on a trip. I’ll be away from Riverside for a week at most.”
“Away? The Imperials are still out there looking for you. Let me come with you,” Reinold suggested. Alisha didn’t respond to him. He took her silence as rejection.
Yuli stepped forward, “Just be careful and stay safe!”
Alisha formed cupped hands and created a meatsuit of a large bird within them. It was light and free and looked strong enough to carry her anywhere. She transferred her slime and her crystal into the body of the bird. “I’m off,” Alisha said with a happy smile.
The bird meatsuit took off and her human body turned back to slime immediately afterward. The family looked off into the sky until she was out of view. They stood there, wondering what happened but knew in their hearts that Alisha would come back.
“I’m sorry, Lord Alton,” Hans broke the silence. “Ms. Alisha pressured me and I told her about my activities.”
“You could’ve lied,” Benas said.
“Would you have, My Lord?”