Jake looked on as the scientist worked.
Arnold kept looking at the necklace a bit more and took out some measurement tools again to try and take a few more looks. He frowned a bit more as he did so and just shook his head again. “I can determine this is also a case of an item purposefully downgraded by design to allow it to be used at a lower level. Sealed off effects and features exist within, and I would assume a skilled jeweler would be required to unlock it as well as catalysts and items to facilitate an upgrade. I theorize someone familiar with the crafting method would be beneficial to accomplish this, if not mandatory. I must, however, emphasize these are mere postulations.”
Jake nodded again. That kind of made sense. Jake had gotten it at a low level, and it would have been overpowered if it gave a shitload of Wisdom right off the bat. The spatial storage was already pretty damn great to begin with, even if he had started to run into some limitations. Examples such as how it was unable to store liquids, not in containers, or how he couldn’t store certain items that were too large or too heavy, like the Suncore Fragment. That last one could also be due to it having mana that radiated out of it.. but he wasn’t sure. All he knew was that the legendary storage box could store it.
“Would you mind me investigating this rune a bit further?” Arnold suddenly asked, already having turned his attention back to the cauldron. “I find myself fascinated with the methods of the Altmar.”
“Sure, go right ahead. I can even come back a bit later and do another infusion for you to observe,” Jake agreed. Arnold had already helped him a good deal, so this was the least he could do.
The mad scientist nodded and barely acknowledged Jake’s presence anymore as he went over to what looked like a large MRI scanner and placed the cauldron within. Jake just smiled as he headed off towards other engagements.
But… he did not fail to address a certain someone, as he finally answered Villy.
“Totally couldn’t have told me about that rune at any fucking point?” Jake sent towards his dear Patron god.
Clearly still amused and clearly knowing Jake would answer eventually after fucking with him long enough, the Viper answered, half-laughing, finding the entire situation far funnier than it was.
“I could,” Villy answered. “I just didn’t.”
“Rude,” Jake commented.
“But funny,”Villy countered.
“This is why I am a heretic, you know that, right?” Jake communicated as he exited Arnold’s workshop.
“But also the reason you are my Chosen,” Villy joked back. “Anyway, you have had a lot of fun recently. Big fan of the cursed weapon, very on-brand for my Chosen to walk around swinging a cataclysm given form.”
“Thanks, I do like it myself. But, now that I have you, how do I upgrade my damn necklace? Was Arnold on the money with a part of it being sealed?” Jake asked, guessing it only made sense to ask the source itself.
“Partly, but I guess you will find out when you enroll, then you can go to one of the jewelers and ask them to help you,” the Viper answered, Jake, catching onto one of the words.
“Soon, the gateway between worlds shall open as the stars align, and the monument stands complete. As the void bends to your will and you find yourself in new lands, may you find the path towards greatness as an opportunity unlike any other is now before you!” the Malefic Viper said in a holier-than-though kind of tone, being all dramatic.
“What the hell are you on about?” Jake asked, actually confused.
“I think it’s time you go check out what that little builder I blessed a while ago has been up to.”
Jake got an ominous feeling from those words, as he could only fear the worst as he took flight towards where Chris was.
Jake didn’t know what he should have expected. Miranda had already mentioned that Chris was making something, so he wanted to check it out anyway. He had known it was related to the Viper due to some vague words Miranda’s Patrons had told her, but she had no details. Was it a surprise of some sort? Something Villy had purposely not wanted to share?
But when he saw Chris excitedly explain the monument he had spent months of blood, sweat, and tears on – a monument Jake had never asked for or wanted – he could only stand there and nod while being happy the mask was hiding his true facial expressions.
It looked like someone had taken five Stonehenge’s, stacked them on top of each other, put metal pillars down randomly throughout, as well as drawn magic circles and runes that covered all surface areas. The entire “monument” was spread out over an area more than fifty meters in diameter, and to Jake, the placement of all the objects held no rhyme or reason.
Not that he could voice any of his thoughts with the young believer at his side.
“Once the final part has been charged, and the connection gets just a little bit stronger, it should be activatable and be used to establish the gateway! You should be able to travel to the Order and even brings others with you easily using this!” Chris explained, incredibly excited.
Jake just nodded. “Good job, I had not expected to see something like this made so soon… did the Viper direct you on how to make it?”
“Not only that, the Malefic One gave me a skill to allow me to!” he said with a starstruck attitude.
Oh god, why did you corrupt such an innocent one, Villy? Jake asked himself as he saw Chris truly was awe-inspired by the Viper. Definitely not in heretic-territory, that was for sure.
“I am sure this will be useful… when is it ready?” Jake asked.
“Oh, I don’t know, only the Malefic One does; I just made it,” Chris answered unbothered. “I am certain our Patron will tell you when it is time for you to use it.”
“Yeah, honored Patron, do tell me when it is time to use this damn monstrosity you had this innocent young man build? And why was it built? Are you that excited to see me again?” Jake asked Villy through their connection.
“That is indeed the reason. For every moment we are apart, my heart aches, and my only consolation is that you have a part of me inside you at all times…” the Viper answered creepily. “Okay, okay, anyway, this was the easiest way to establish a connection between your universe and the Order. Pretty complicated magic that I won’t even bother to explain to you, but just know that you being my Chosen allows me to tap into that blessing’s innate power.”
“Still doesn’t answer why it was needed to begin with. Like, I get it is nice to have a way to travel, but didn’t you say most space mages would figure it out anyway with due time? Why the rush?” Jake asked again.
“Oh, for you not to miss too much of the school year and get too far behind in your classes,” the Viper answered with a serious tone.
“No,” Jake answered back.
“Yes!” Villy answered, cackling. “Are you really going to give up on a chance to study at the illustrious academy run by the Order of the Malefic Viper?”
“I will need a lot of information before answering that question,” Jake countered. Was Villy being serious? Jake didn’t even remember the Order had an academy. Not that he knew anything about the Order to begin with.
“Sure, sure, it isn’t fully ready yet anyway; we got time,” Villy answered dismissively. “But I am just going to say, I think you will like it; it isn’t like the institutions of learning you are used to, and the Order of the Malefic Viper is one of the premier schools of alchemy in the entire multiverse. Always has been, always will be. I don’t see any negatives from you attending at least, and with the teleportation circle, you can come and go as you want to.”
Jake sighed. “Fine, we can discuss it a bit more later.”
“You should go either way just to chill and get your necklace upgraded,” Villy added convincingly.
Once more, Jake agreed, finding Villy oddly dedicated to convincing him. It wasn’t like Jake was entirely against going; he just wasn’t really sure it was something he wanted. His studying days hadn’t exactly been the best, and while he doubted an ancient order of poison alchemists would be like the finance faculty at his old university, he was still confident he would be forced into meeting a lot of other people.
Jake didn’t like meeting other people that he couldn’t just avoid, ignore or at the very least keep at an arm’s length. Especially when it was people he had to get along with whether he liked them or not.
I’ll deal with it when it happens… Jake just told himself as he moved on with his day.
He kept chatting with Chris a while longer, hearing all about the young man’s crush on Louise and how they had gone on a “date” that even Jake was pretty certain was just two people eating together while discussing work. Not much different from what he and Miranda were doing.
After talking with Chris, Jake headed back to Arnold for another round of cauldron reconstruction, the entire process naturally meticulously recorded by the scientist.. or engineer… machinist? Robotics expert? Jake wasn’t sure what Arnold actually was besides being a bit of a madman.
The good kind of madman.
He stayed at the workshop to look through stuff as Arnold researched before heading back to Haven again, leaving the cauldron with Arnold to study a while longer. Even after two infusions, it was still not fully repaired. During the repair, Jake even discovered a bit of curse energy embedded in the cauldron, forcing him to extract it before he fixed it. That, or see the cost skyrocket as the rune sought to outright destroy the curse energy, which was no simple task.
Back in Haven, he got kinda busy. Jake checked in with the troll, went out and got something to eat, played a bit with Sylphie, who showed off some new wind magic tricks, and even found a magazine of sorts with furniture ideas for the laboratory. After finally checking by Sultan’s boat and having him be on the lookout for some herbs, he headed back to the lodge again. The merchant himself was going to the dungeon again with Miranda, Lillian, Roman, and Felicia, which was quite an interesting party. Finally, he could settle down and begin some preliminary research into the ritual to properly hatch the Pollendust Bee Queen after all that other stuff.
Reika had changed her clothes and taken a shower as she knew they were soon at their destination. The others had also cleaned up after they had stopped by a lake on the way to make everyone presentable. It was fortunate they had found it, for even with the system and armor with Self-Repair, people still got dirty and needed a good cleaning once in a while.
Taking a look out over the barge, the alchemists looked presentable, and the guards stalwart. Their group was powerful, and on this final trek, they had picked up another merchant who wanted to travel there. The diplomatic work this journey had already done was staggering, and they had even charted the entire way between Haven and the Noboru territory.
As a final thing, she inspected the goods they had brought as gifts, including several herbs to give to Jake directly. All of this was naturally to make the best first impression. Many items brought were also naturally for the de-facto leader of Haven, Miranda, whom she knew held most of the formal power, so getting in her good graces was in her best interest.
“I see it in the distance, I believe,” the Pathfinder said to her side as he used some skill to see further. Reika turned and looked forward but saw nothing quite yet due to the rolling hills of the plains blocking her view and them flying only a few meters above the ground at most times.
“Is it the Fort?” Reika asked the man as she noticed his expression being a bit off.
“I… am uncertain. It appears to be, but there is also a giant dome of metal of some sort? It looks like an old observatory, perhaps?” the Pathfinder said, confused.
“Based on our information, the Fort should be an old medieval citadel that used to be a tourist attraction; I have heard nothing of there being any old observatory on the grounds,” Reika answered, equally confused.
“No, this looks newly built, and I think smaller buildings are surrounding it,” he said after using his skill a bit more. “I do not have the ability to discern what is inside the dome; powerful enchantments are blocking all of my skills.”
Reika considered his words for a while as she suddenly remembered something. Jake had mentioned during the Auction event that he was getting a laboratory built to do alchemy in, and even a bit on how as an alchemist focusing on poisons, he would need it to be a sealed-off space.
That must be it, she thought. There was still a lot of uncertainty, but as they got closer and the Fort entered her line of sight, she became absolutely confident in her assertion. The metal dome was huge and using her identification skills, she could detect the sheer level of craftsmanship required to construct the entire dome.
Jake had mentioned it was close to his home but was also a bit hidden away to avoid killing the trees and nature around it. To place it here did make some sense, even if she didn’t agree on putting it in the middle of a population center… then again, it was a valid strategy to openly display the level of power of the city owner.
For similar reasons, the courtyard belonging to the Sword Saint was placed in the middle of Saya. When he trained, the ripples of mana and pure energy would vibrate out to the surrounding area occupied by many high-level officials. It served as a constant reminder, and of course, being next to the true city leader made work easier.
“Head straight for the Fort; I believe that may be the property of Lord Thayne,” Reika said, the Pathfinder leaving to relay it to the captain of their vessel.
Reika remained as she made sure everything was ready. She did wonder who had constructed the laboratory before her, but she wasn’t that aware of all the notable people in Haven. If she had to guess, then the man known as Arnold was likely involved. He was quite a famous figure in many circles due to being the premier supplier of communications tools through the System Store and subsequently through merchant caravans.
She smiled as everything was ready, and they soon crossed into the area surrounding the Fort and were spotted by a few guards on duty. They stopped the barge where they were upon being sure they had been seen as they waited for the welcome party to arrive.