“Are you sure that’s what happened?” Mary asked as she dropped the duffle bag onto the bench she had in her apartment, “That my decision to trust D was influenced by you? I never pegged you for the trusting type; especially so from what you said about your upbringing.”
Abe mentally nodded along with her as she spoke and she felt his gaze sweep over the bag, [Kind of. I never really liked strangers, but if I knew the person, then I wouldn’t really mind. It may be a stretch, but why else would you trust her?]
Mary scoffed, “Maybe because she was one of the few people I know won’t turn me into the Purity Union. She was always distant from most others, so we made a good fit,” she remarked, opening the bag and dumping the contents onto the table.
[Hmm… You never really did tell me how you grew up. I know that your dad, Ar… Ar-something or other, died and was a big deal. I also know that you knew that this D character was a criminal before all of this Day of Purity stuff happened. That’s really it.] he sighed.
Mary slowly nodded as she rearranged the mess that was the workbench, “Yeah, that’s true. I never got to tell you about it,” she said, “I’m actually an orphan, you know.”
[That’s kind of what happens when your dad dies, yeah.]
She shook her head, “No, I was an orphan before the Day of Purity. When I was, like, 3 years old my real parents abandoned me in the slums. I can remember walking through the dark alleys for hours looking for them, but never finding them. That was when I met the man I can really say is my parent: Arthur Grant. We lived in the good part of the city, in the northern residential district, in a manor passed down through generations.
“The Grant family’s members were cyclops, one eye, strong, intimidating, all that, and had a legacy of fighting against the Sect of the Divine Mechanism. I got obsessed with that and trained throughout my childhood in both enchanting and swordplay. Because of that, I never really had a good friend and D was the closest thing to one. She didn’t mind just doing her own thing if we were in the same place and didn’t take offense to that. After the Day of Purity… well, that’s a story for another time, but the gist is that I ran from the Enforcers after the Sect blew the manor to the void and got captured by the bastards a bit after that,” she retold.
Abe went silent for a few moments, [I… don’t really know how to react to that. You had it pretty good until it all went catastrophically wrong, but I never had it that good or bad. I don’t know, your life seems to have been on a rollercoaster.]
She shrugged, “Mundane suffering has a horrifying quality all its own; getting used to it and not batting an eye to someone suffering is quite a thing. Anyway, let me explain all of this to you. Unless you got the information from the Sect database?”
He mentally shook his head once again, [Not really. All that was in there was what mana is, a map of the Va’at strait, and a metric ton of religious documents I never got around to ‘absorbing,’ for lack of a better term, all of it.]
She nodded and picked up a cloth and metal glove, “This is a metal-crafting tool. It’s a pretty complicated piece of equipment, but essentially allows anyone to melt, shape, and forge metal as if it were clay. The only real drawbacks are that, one, it can get pretty hot while in use, two, you need to supply your own mana, which isn’t a problem for us, and three, it’s illegal to own,” she cheerfully explained.
Abe groaned in her mind, [When will you get something that isn’t illegal to own?] he asked, earning silence from Mary, [Is anything in there legal to own!?]
“The runic paint is, but all the other stuff is… pretty illegal to own. Why are you going on about it anyway? We’re doing all of this to fight the government anyway!” she questioned.
[It’s just…] he sighed, [Not even a day ago I was trying to not get struck by lightning and now I am a metal ball fused with someone’s body who looks kind of like a dead childhood friend and also wants to destroy the government who can kill without a second thought and… It’s all a lot, okay? I just don’t want to get used to breaking the law all the time. What’s going to happen when we go back to normal life? Will we be so used to being criminals that we can’t adjust?] he wondered.
Mary sighed and thought about it for a moment as well. She then immediately disregarded the notion, “I’m not doing this just for fun or for money, I’m doing all of this to get back at the Union,” she declared resolutely.
[That’s the worst of motivations, you know?] Abe asked.
She shrugged, “Whatever. I have my goals and you promised to help with them.”
[Fine, I won’t judge you or your sassy attitude. Just know that I wonder about this stuff because I care. Anyway, what are the other ones? Actually, I can guess: the case is the tinkering tools we need, the bars of metal are the stuff we’re using for the electric pylons, and the yellow paint is the runic paint to enchant the gun.]
She nodded, “Yeah. The strong sky steel is a strong and conductive metal, the tools can be used to tinker with this,” she said as she placed the ‘armtaker’ on the bench, “and the runic paint we can use to make runes and enchantments. Do you know how runes work?”
[Nope. I’ll have to absorb the texts later, but I assume that they thought I have some different method of using mana. I do, but still.]
“Okay then. Here’s the thing about enchanting that makes it so difficult: cost. Everything in it costs mana. Moving mana through a device costs mana. Activating a rune costs mana before it even takes effect. All of it costs mana. That’s why a good enchanter will always look to make a device that can make an explosion cheaper, not bigger. It is for this reason that debates exist about where on the weapon is the best place to have runes and what they have to be and whatnot. If I wanted to take this mace, for example,” she said as she pulled the mace from her back, “and make it conjure a barrier when I bashed the pommel into the ground, then it would take a ton of work. I would need to know where the barrier would come from. I would need to know how the signal from the ground will get to the runes making the barrier system. I would need to know where the mana will come from, even. I could feed it manually, but at that point it would be easier to just make it switch activated, or I could have it absorb mana from the air, which would add complexity to ensure I don’t make it explode in my hands. It’s all a lot, which is why it takes so long for anyone to make a seriously good enchanted product that won’t short circuit with one use and has more effect than a lighter.”
[So… long story short, efficiency is key.]
“Basically. So, with that said, the first step is to come up with the structure of the runes,” she said as she began to unpack the gun-tinkering kit, “We could enchant the paint before engraving the runes, but it is much easier to simply make the runes, paint them, and then enchant the paint. So what kind of runes should we make? Or, should I say, how should we funnel the mana?” she pondered.
[Well,] Abe began, [The point here is to reduce the recoil to the point where we don’t have to worry about your arm, so not much fancy has to be done with the runes. You said that runes needed mana before they took effect, right?]
She nodded, “Yep. So no matter what you do, you need to kickstart the process.”
She felt him pause for a moment to think, [Alright, is there a way to store mana? You were talking about the mace blowing up if you put too much mana into it, so how’s that work?]
“Well, the way mana works is… kind of weird. Mana can do three things: one, it can seep into materials to make them stronger, two, it can be made into runes that will have an effect when given more mana, and it can be used to fuel runes. Some of the abyssal species are able to make runes in the air, which act like unbound, temporary enchantments, but in the end, mana is used to strengthen, create runes, and activate runes. However, strengthening requires time and a lot of mana, so people are able to inject some mana into it and take it out again without strengthening the material with runes. People call those mana batteries. Why? Are you- Wait! I get it! You want to transform the… uh, whatever you’re doing, and take the mana and put it into a battery to use for later!” she said excitedly, “That’d be perfect! I think I have some spent batteries around here somewhere.”
[Okay, that’s good. We can use the mana to do other stuff as well. I have a question though.]
“Hmm?” she mumbled as she took out a few batteries with the words ‘mana batteries’ on their front.
[Are there certain materials that hold mana better than others? Because, by this logic, wouldn’t people just use dirt or something to make all of the components?]
“Yeah, some are better than others. Surprisingly enough, mud is a pretty good material to use as runic paint if you’re without other options. Especially depending on what area you get it from. It’s also one of the reasons that enchanting safety is practically imprinted onto the minds of toddlers; it’s not that hard to make something that can hurt someone else, so…”
[I get it. So, let’s get started, shall we?] he prompted.
“You bet,” she responded as she took some tools from the tinkering kit. The ‘armtaker’ itself was a very simple gun. It was a single-shot, bolt action rifle with a long barrel and extremely cushioned stock. There was no scope on the top, but Mary knew that her enhanced eyes could see far enough for the iron sights to be effective. Disassembling the gun, she placed each part on the bench and stared at it for a while. “Hmm,” she eventually said, “I think the way to do this would be to… actually, how does the mana type you’re thinking of work?”
[The idea behind it is that both mana and force are types of energy. That means that it is possible to swap between them through one means or another. You know what a steam engine is? That’s when you, roughly, switch heat energy to kinetic energy. I’m thinking that it would be possible to use the rune to swap kinetic energy for mana, store it, then use that mana for other things. What that means is that we need to find where the kinetic energy is the strongest, stick the rune there, and then we’ll, hopefully, stop the recoil from being present. The only problem is the strength of the gun. There’s a very real chance that the rune will be overpowered by the sheer force behind the bullet. Is there anything we can do about that?]
Mary pondered for a moment, “Not really, no. Other than increasing the amount of runic paint, and therefore the size of the rune. I don’t think it’ll be an issue though,” she guessed.
“Because look at that bolt! It’s as big as a quarter-dollar!” she remarked.
[Yeah… that just means more force behind it. Also, why is the money system here almost identical to the US?]
She shrugged, “I don’t know, but I’m excited. Let’s get started indeed.” she said, grinning.
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