Interlude: Nora be A-Packing

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Stretching in bed, Nora awoke from a gentle dream of what had happened the night before. It all still seemed like a dream that she had yet to wake up from. She had always wanted to be with a man, and neither what she had previously done in the privacy of her room nor taking a secret trip to the water fields had helped cure her urge. The first had quickly become dull, and the other had failed to stimulate her. After centuries of careful breeding, the monsters there had become too docile to truly try to ravage her, and it was during her first time that she had almost been recognized. After that, she’d never returned again to those fields to fulfill her desires. To be fair, it was not because she had been almost caught that she avoided the place, but the fact that almost getting caught had been the most exciting part of the experience… It just hadn’t been any fun. In fact, she’d been afraid that she might just not be a very sexual being and had almost resigned herself to a life without sexual fulfillment. However, seeing the strange causality machine that James had termed the “Rube-Goldberg Machine”, a name already being degraded as others were already calling it simply the causality machine,  had excited her. It was new, well not exactly, since the concepts used had been basic, but the way he had linked them together had made her feel like a youngling again looking up as her father created a siege tower. The same father who had died not so long ago. As a youngling, that tall structure had towered over her imagination. She snorted upon remembering that she’d feared the tower would scrape the sky. As she had grown older, she’d gradually outgrown the idea, realizing the mundane techniques used in its creation. She shook her head, but that amazing machine of James had opened her eyes to a new world once more, a creation that had torn apart the curtains of her imagination, revealing the brilliance that awaited beyond the horizon. A man with such fabulous ideas… surely, they’d extend to beyond the workshop? Glancing at the sleeping human by her side, Nora smiled. Reality had not failed her expectations. 

Quietly rolling out of bed so as not to disturb James, Nora began to get dressed as she started to think of what she would pack. After all, she’d have to settle all her affairs within a few days as James had stated that they planned to leave within the week. A hint of sorrow rose in her chest. She would be leaving her home for the first time. After so many years, she felt a bit uncomfortable about leaving, but it would be worth it. Making herself part of the prize had been a daring move, since she had chosen skill and ability over personality or even financial sustainability, but she had quickly judged James to be more than sufficient in the latter two traits either way. Nevertheless, she would’ve anyway had to find someone sooner or later. After all, she was already in her mid-twenties, still young but fairly well into her marriageable years. Most of her friends already had children, and she would be lying if she claimed that mounting pressure had not factored into her sudden decision.

Pausing a moment before leaving the guest room, she decided that she would need to speak to her new husband to learn what tools she should bring. In fact, she knew little of her new husband. She blushed… Well, she did know a lot about his skill beneath the covers. Surely, James had some type of Skill for it? She’d ask her friends later whether such a thing existed. Focusing on her new husband, she knew he was fairly new in the crafting industry since his name had just spread to their mountain home a few months before his arrival, but what was his class? Was he a [Crafting Master]? Some type of [Master Mechanic]? She ran through any clues about his Class she knew of. She had seen the heater and lights he had brought along as his wares. They had been intriguing, to say the least, but they didn’t match any Class she was familiar with. She had watched her father Kornor disassemble one of the heaters while waiting for the contestants to complete their designs in the contest, and he had definitely been interested. Using powdered mana crystals in something beyond enchantments was unheard of. Normally, it would require a skilled [Scribe] to draw runes and glyphs or whatever else in various inks created from processed mana crystals. Many times the ink would run too rich or poor, messing up the enchantment, so they were only rarely worth attempting. Enchantments would normally adopt the element of the ink’s component mana crystal and use a variant of the element to do something, usually limited to being an attack or defense. Then again, some of the work of [Archmage]s and the like could go far beyond this, creating marvels such as talking weapons, golems, and more. Still, generally, enchantments were merely mediocre individual substitutes for Spells and, rarely, Skills by channeling parts of the System. As enchantments were good for allowing the use of mid-tier magic without the years of experience, grinding, and learning, they were still popular among the rich and powerful who also happened to be physically or mentally inept or, in some cases, just plain lazy, which is why most [Enchanter]s spent a significant amount of time marketing toward rich and incompetent Lordin human nobles. Back to the machines, Kornor had suspected James had somehow channeled mana through his systems to power them. What James was employing mana crystals in a raw form, creating the effect of the respective element. The difference was essentially that between using a fireball spell until you run out of mana or using all your mana on one fireball spell, which would deplete the crystals much faster and more importantly, not allow the spell to be recharged. While this seemed frivolous and wasteful, there was an extremely useful trade-off: you lost none of the power. This was why his devices worked even in null void zones. The zones would bleed the power from the impure ink, so mana would dissipate too quickly, but the powder James used was consistent and pure. There was still some bleed off, but the output of energy trumped this bleed on a level that allowed the effects to still be noticeable since rather than guiding ambient mana, James used crystals to directly power his spells. 

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Just the amount of brilliance put into these mana power cores that James had invented would’ve created a revolution across Cespes. The genius used this power to create even greater things. For the lights, he had made a loop of power, or as enchanters would call it, a circuit. The power from the core would then circulate until it hit a switch that would determine whether to power the device or not. Next would be a safety point. Had Kornor been from Earth, he might’ve recognized it as a fuse since it would allow the circuit to automatically blow in cases where the circuit risked overloading. Marvelously, the entire circuit was easily modifiable since one could easily add parallel circuits or even adding them in sequence without having to go through the pain of remaking the whole enchantment pattern like other [Enchanter]s would have to. Then, there was the actual light itself. Nora tapped her chin, her tail waving behind her as she speculated about how he had made it. It ran on some principles that neither she nor her father could quite understand. After that, there was another small design along the circuit on the way back to the power core. Based on how James’s design had reacted with excessive ambient mana, Nora suspected it acted to decrease ambient noise in the background. She’d actually asked James last night in the middle of their lovemaking… which had kind of spooked him, but he’d called it a capacitor. With it, the power would return to the source… Nora blushed, remembering when she’d been terrified that she’d broken the design when she’d scratched the circuit until it broke. Still, it meant that there was something beyond the power returning to the source. She pondered on it. Maybe it had something to do with the gradient of mana around the light device? Amazingly, this return of power allowed cores to still last quite a bit of time instead of running out of power within a day like the constant use of mana would suggest. Actually, now that she thought about it, she could probably make the device last longer by preventing mana from escaping the circuit with some type of mana resistor. She hurriedly grabbed a bag of holding and stuffed some of her more valuable materials into it. Then, she grabbed some tools for processing materials. Perhaps, she’d be able to help her new husband with these. Heading toward the family’s kitchen, which was as large as some poorer people’s homes, after all, her father was the head [Craftingmaster], she found her father at the table of the estate looking over some blueprints as he grabbed his grubs. She glanced at the roasted bugs and felt her stomach gurgle. A night of lovemaking did require a lot of energy… She took a few from the bowl as well. She had never realized how much energy was required to be with a man until she had been with one. Blushing, her mind flitted back toward all those various poses James and she had made from that strange book James had called the Karma Sutra… She rubbed her butt: she was still a little sore. She had just finished swallowed the grubs while she examined what her father was leaning over when he turned toward her. “Your new husband will be in the city until he finishes his deals, which should be in the coming week. This is what you wanted, wasn’t it? To sell yourself off.”

Nora started to open her mouth to retort but stopped. She could see that her father was angry, but she could quickly tell he was just lashing out at her due to something else. She frowned before asking, “Is it my new husband’s backer?” 

Her father moved away from the plans and closely stared at her face before nodding. “He tried to act clever and take my fortune from me. My nephew is so foolish. Other than the house, I used most of my assets as the prize to your groom. To James, I have given my store of elemental crystals, mere Seedz compared to the fortune of resources that should have been your groom’s present. The mithril alone…”

Her father put a hand on his face as a sigh escaped him, and Nora could not help but move to his side to give him a hug from behind. “Why must there be a man with such a pure heart? I could have done something if your new husband had actually been greedy, but he willingly let it all go to my arrogant nephew and kept to his original agreement with that bloody [Merchant], with the exception of you.” Nora felt a burst of happiness well into her. To James, was she truly worth more than a king’s fortune? Shaking the thought away, Nora glanced at the plans while her father relaxed. Kornor chuckled once he realized what she was doing. He pointed to the design for the power core plans. “I spent a whole week coming up with this from his designs. They were quite fascinating. Want to know what he told me I was?”

Nora looked over the plans. At a glance, they seemed reasonable. Most of the design changes from the default core revolved around changing materials, mainly the circuit and powder casing. Instead of employing iron and lead wrapped in rubber as part of the circuit conduits, the materials had been switched to more expensive but efficient alternatives. Nora felt a bit of disappointment; after all, she had just been thinking of using similar designs with mana-resistant encasings to make James’s systems more efficient. Even now, after a decade, her father could still beat her in designs. Perhaps then, she could find some way to amplify the mana source once a signal became too weak? That would go beyond making the circuit more efficient. She ruefully realized that any decently Leveled [Mechanic] designer could come up with such a simple solution, so based on this and her father’s tone, James had not called his designs anything good. She asked, “How bad?”

He could not do much other than shake his head. “I failed to see the finer details of the devices. I followed the logic of conventional [Enchanter] weapon designs, but these are not enchanter circuits. James quickly explained to me that a higher yield of energy coursing through the device would be bad for the device as it could explode the circuit or even blow the fuse.” Kornor pointed to the small design James had talked about last night. Then, Kornor continued, “Honestly, his reasoning is quite solid. Had he wanted to make that lantern into a lightning shield, then using mithril and other better metals would have been preferred as they can last longer and would better conduit the mana, but what he made was a light. He explained to me the logic. Why would he even need to risk the chance of lightning sparking off the lantern while he was using it in his home? Why would he need such power? I was so engrossed with trying to improve the device that I overlooked the application the device was designed for. But that was not the truly interesting part.” Kornor paused, hesitating, wondering whether he should tell his granddaughter about it. “The scary part was what he asked to keep as the prize, not even Gorgox or my [Assistant]s knew I had such a thing. He asked to keep my greater angel femur because he needed it for a project he was working on. If he used that for a circuit, I would hate to face whatever he uses it on. After all, he only believes in matching materials with use… a weapon with that much energy… For a man who loves peace, your husband is a dangerous man.”

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Her curiosity was peaked toward her father’s words. Being the daughter of a weapon’s artisan, Nora found herself drawn to a well-designed weapon. Although she might never reach his heights as a [Weapons Craftingmaster], the thought of one of those power cores designed to have greater angel bones as the circuit materials still exhilarated her. In fact, if she was being honest, the idea strangely fueled her lust for her new husband to heights she had never before reached.

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