117 Chapter 117 System IOU
"The trees are behind you," she said, lifting an arm heavily to point.
She had carried him all of the way out of the forest and past the barrier!
Turning his head the other way, he saw elves standing just inside the forest, watching from a distance. They were scared.
"I'm sorry, that must have been hard."
"I thought you had died," she said, a small hitch in her throat. He turned back and saw those tears swimming in her eyes again.
"I didn't because of you. Thank you."
Over the next two days, nothing happened. He explained to her how the rune they were using collected the mana to make the capital a high mana area. It also drew mana out of people. He thought it was also meant to kill the royal family.
"Why would someone be so slow if they wanted to kill them?" she asked.
"I'm not sure that just killing them is the goal and not a side benefit. I don't know what the rune is doing with the mana it is absorbing."
Both of his minds had been strained from what they had done to the royal twins. Stella seemed pretty happy with him taking a slower life.
He didn't say anything about it, but he definitely heard her humming something as she cooked one night. They talked about a lot of different things while he was down. He didn't even practice any of his magic. By the second day, he was probably recovered, but Stella seemed so happy with him resting, he decided to wait to inform her until that second evening.
"What's up with the elves?" he asked, taking the bowl of stew she offered him for supper.
There was a small group of elves keeping a distance from them still. Stella looked down at her bowl.
"I may have injured some of the elves when I was running out of the castle with you. Like on purpose. Most of them," she grumbled. "But they were in the way," she said more loudly.
"Well, I'm sure they got to excellent elven healers quickly enough that it's fine."
"Uh. Yeah. We can go with that."
Joseph knew he was unconscious and she was trying to save him at the time, so he didn't really have a right to complain about her methods. He wished the elves a speedy recovery, if that was still possible.
"Also," Stella continued, "we are banned from the forest until we find a way to break the barrier without killing the royals."
"Well, the kids aren't tied to the barrier anymore, so we're banished for what, seeing the queen naked? I saved the royal twins lives."
"You may not have noticed, but normally people don't bleed that much during deliveries. She was probably pretty out of it. She is convinced you did something to the children, but doesn't remember they were dying."
"Oh, wow. She must have been out of it. And no, I haven't really seen any deliveries, even if you include before. No girlfriends much less wives."
"Having someone's child doesn't mean you are in a relationship with them, Master Joseph."
"Technically no, but I doubt I would have been invited to any delivery rooms after a one-night stand."
Stella looked at him sharply, "So, you did…?"
"No, I didn't. Not even once. Now you stop that."
She grinned. She was his best friend, but sometimes she really confused him.
'System, did I earn anything special for saving the twins?'
(…. I'M STILL WORKING ON IT.)
(WELL, ENACRA GAVE YOU A BLESSING, SO IT BECAME COMPLICATED.)
'What did he give me?'
(NATURAL MAGE. ITS EFFECT IS NORMALLY TO PREVENT LASTING DAMAGE IN THOSE MAGES THAT USE ALL OF THEIR FATIGUE. YOU WILL RECOVER WITH NO ILL EFFECTS, NO MATTER HOW MANY TIMES YOU DO SO, THOUGH RECOVERY CAN TAKE A WHILE DEPENDING ON THE SEVERITY OF YOUR CONDITION. HOWEVER, WHEN COMBINED WITH MANA CONTROL'S SACRIFICE, THE SYNERGY IS…EXCEPTIONAL.)
(YOU WILL BASICALLY NEVER BE ABLE TO BE HARMED BY SPELL BACKLASH AGAIN EXCEPT FOR TRIGGERING A SPELL THAT DELIBERATELY ATTACKS YOU.)
'Is that what happened when I broke the twins free of the barrier?'
(YES. IT IS GOOD THAT YOU DID THAT LAST. THE BARRIER AND THE MANA ABSORBTION RUNE UNDER THE CASTLE WERE BOTH BOOBY-TRAPPED. ANYONE WHO TRIED TO INTERFER WITH THEM WAS HIT WITH A DEADLY CURSE THAT CAUSED THEIR BRAIN TO BLEED. HAD YOU NOT BEEN GIVEN NATURAL MAGE, THEN YOU WOULD HAVE DIED. ENACRA STEPPED IN TO SAVE YOU AS WELL AS REWARD YOU.)
'Shavist. I didn't realize that.'
(THE BARB SPELL WAS MEANT TO BE UNDETECTABLE TO THE ELVEN MASTER MAGES THAT EXISTED IN THE PAST. IT IS MORE SURPRISING THAT YOU WERE ABLE TO BREAK THE CHILDREN FREE OF ITS CONTROL, THAN THAT YOU DIDN'T NOTICE IT.)
(ALSO, THE GODS HAVE NEVER INTERFERED WITH ONE OF MY HOSTS BEFORE. THEY FIGURED THAT THEY DON'T NEED TO ESPECIALLY BLESS SOMEONE GIVEN POWERS BY ME. HOWEVER, NOW I NEED TO REWARD YOU FOR THE FEAT YOU PERFORMED AS WELL. IF IT IS A SMALL GIFT, ENACRA MAY BE ANGERED THAT I RATE YOUR FEAT SO LOWLY. HE GAVE YOU AN EXTREMELY POWERFUL GIFT THAT WOULD TAKE AN EXCESSIVE AMOUNT OF RESOURCES FOR ME TO MATCH.)
(THIS HAS PUT ME IN A DIFFICULT SITUATION FOR WHICH I HAVE NO PROTOCOL TO PROCEDE. I NEED TO COME UP WITH A SOLUTION THAT WILL WORK IN FUTURE CASES AS WELL, BECAUSE SEVERAL OTHER GODS ARE PAYING ATTENTION TO YOU NOW AS WELL, SUCH AS THE ELVEN AND GNOMISH GODS WHO HAD BEEN SLEEPING.)
'Um, that sounds kind of tough actually. You could just award it to me when I do the next thing I suppose.'
(THAT WOULD BE AGAINST MY POLICY. I SHOULD HAVE ALREADY AWARDED YOU HAD I NOT BEEN CAUGHT IN THIS QUANDRY. EACH ACCOMPLISHMENT DESERVES ITS OWN REWARD. I MAY HAVE TO ISSUE YOU AN IOU. IT WOULD BE A FIRST FOR ME. MANY OF THE THINGS I THINK ARE SUITABLE DO NOT FIT A BASIC HUMAN TEMPLATE.)
'Why were the gods sleeping?'
(THEY WERE INJURED AND RECOVERING WHEN MOST OF THEIR FOLLOWERS DIED. TO SAVE MORE OF THEIR FOLLOWERS, THEY OVERSPENT THEIR POWERS. WITH THE SUBSEQUENT LOSS OF MUCH OF THE MANA, THEIR RECOVERY HAS BEEN EXTREMELY SLOW. YOUR ACTIONS HAVE ESSENTIALLY AWOKEN THEM DESPITE STILL BEING VERY SLEEPY.)
'How many points do I have now, and what's available for purchase?'
(A LOT. I'VE ALSO NEVER HAD ANYONE ACCUMULATE SO MANY POINTS SO QUICKLY OR AT SUCH A YOUNG AGE.)
"Ok, Stella, I'm ready to go back. Let me test it out to see if I'm recovered properly."
Joseph shot a one-point FIREBALL.
Stella jumped. "What Are You Doing?"
"Uh, starting off with a little spell before I try and use TELEPORT? It's expensive and I don't want to have issues with it."
"You could have given me warning first," she grumbled
"Okay, I'm going to do a three-point and then a five-point."
He cast FIREBALL again. No issues. He cast a FIREBALL using a rune with-in a rune. No issues.
"Well, the elves have started making a fuss, but we don't have to care about them."
He took Stella's hand.
They were standing where the gate had been when he brought everyone from the barbarian lands. The barbarians patrolling noticed them and the gate was opened as they approached. It wasn't until people started to come out to greet them that he let go of Stella's hand.
She went back to being a proper guard. He wasn't sure how a girl her age could project such an image, but she did a fantastic job of it.