As we plowed our way through the crowds in City Square, I overheard various conversations about the Lances. These Six Lances were more than just a group of overpowered mages; they would soon become the very symbol of this continent. Composed of two lances for each race, they were impartial towards all humans, elves, and dwarves. I had to hand it to the three royal families for coming up with such a bold plan. With such a glorified incentive—or rather, goal—I wouldn’t be surprised if this stirred up a new era of mages.
It was fairly obvious that the kings purposely put a bad light on this new continent so that this mysterious potential common enemy would become the reason for the three races to unite. Looking at it logically, there could be great advantages, such as trading raw material, knowledge on magic and artifacts, and different technology, but this could also potentially create a competition between the humans, elves and dwarves—each of them trying to get to the new continent first to claim the new resources. While this propaganda-esque manipulation didn’t quite sit well with me, it beat the consequences of going with the latter choice.
My father stepped into the carriage, waiting for us at the edge of City Square, instructing the driver to first take him to the Helstea Auction House.
“I have a few things to take care of so I’ll meet you guys back home later tonight. Don’t cause too much trouble, Son.” My father gently gripped my arm and patted Sylvie, who was on top of my head.
At the sight of my father’s carriage leaving our view, Vincent beckoned for a public carriage with a wave of his hand. Finally, an unpainted, wooden carriage pulled by two horses stopped for us with the driver tipping his hat as a silent introduction.
“Please take us to Gideon’s facility,” Vincent prompted, directing the driver to our next destination. About thirty minutes into the drive, the scenery shifted from tall buildings into small houses with signboards reading “Artifacts” and “Elixirs” on many of them.
I stared out the carriage window, making a mental note of stores that I would want to visit later on, until Vincent’s voice stirred me out of my daze. “We’re at the part of the city where all of the artificers gather. You’ll see a lot of neat gadgets and other useful aids for mages if you guys want to check it out sometime.”
This had sparked Elijah’s interest, apparently, because he asked the driver to stop at the nearest artifact store. “I’m going to look around for a bit and see if I can find anything worth buying,” he informed before excitedly stepping out.
‘Sylv, go with Elijah while I visit Gideon with Uncle Vincent,’ I transmitted to Sylvie, who was on my lap. Tilting her fox-like head, she gave me a curious look but didn’t complain, hopping out of the carriage after Elijah; I might be just overthinking, but I didn’t want a genius researcher like Gideon eyeing Sylvie.
“Do you have any money?!” I shouted out at him from inside the carriage as we leave him, realizing that normal twelve-year-old boys shouldn’t have that much money.
“Unlike someone, I’ve been saving the money we earned from the dungeon!” He patted his chest pocket and shot me a smug grin.
“Well, no need to kiss and tell,” I shrugged, leaning back in the carriage seat.
About an hour later, after we passed through the densest part of the city, we arrived at a fairly large building. This building was a single story but was quite large in width, which was rare to see in a clustered city like Xyrus.
“We’re here!” the driver announced as he opened the door for us.
Hopping out of the carriage after Vincent, we made our way to the unadorned front door. After a few firm knocks, an old man with a handlebar mustache and dressed as a butler appeared, not opening the door completely.
“Greetings. Master Gideon is not—ah, hello, Master Vincent, please come in,” he greeted, motioning us inside. Judging by the stern expression the butler had for a split second before realizing who we were, I’d have to guess that this Gideon person wasn’t very welcoming of guests.
As we stepped inside, a foul mixture of metal, herbs, and rotting material bombarded my nose. While the exterior of the facility was hardly grandiose, the inside was even less appealing to look at. The whole place was a mess with tools scattered with no order, piles of discarded clothes and other miscellaneous items littered across the floor, and rather intriguing and unfamiliar raw materials stacked high atop shelves. There were also microscopes and other tools that appeared vaguely familiar to the ones in my old world.
“Himes! I told you not to let anyone—Oh, it’s you, Vincent. I see you’ve come to bother me again.” From the dim corner of a back room, a very short, hunched man made his way over.
Taking a closer look at the supposed genius inventor/researcher/artificer, I could say for certain that he definitely looked the part. His curly hair that looked like it’s been struck by lightning more than once complimented the beady eyes with dark bags under them. His complexion was pale and he had a pair of goggles hanging on his neck paired with a dirty lab coat.
“Haha! As welcoming as ever, Gideon.” Vincent shook his head, giving his acquaintance a helpless smile and handshake.
“Bah! Don’t even start! This past year, the Royal Families sent in over a dozen messengers asking for a way to start traversing the ocean to reach the new continent! I haven’t had a chance for a decent sleep in months!” The hunched eccentric flailed his arms in disgust as he started pacing around.
“Is it really true that they found evidence of another continent, Gideon?” Vincent asked quietly, leaning closer to the inventor.
“Hoho! That, my lad, is actually a truth those snobby Royal Families are telling for once. I was the one to study the evidence! All I’ll say is that the new continent has better artificers and perhaps even better mages than ours.” His beady eyes disappeared as his wicked grin widened to reveal a set of yellow teeth with remnants of whatever he had eaten for his last meal.
“What makes you say that?” Vincent pushed, taking a seat on a stool besides Gideon.
“The Royal Family took back the evidence for safe-keeping, but that ‘evidence’ was an artifact. Even I couldn’t figure out everything it does, but this artifact was attached to a bird-like mana beast that had never been seen in Dicathen before. This bird-like mana beast had the ability to camouflage almost completely against its surroundings. The only way we were able to catch it was because an adventurer accidentally shot it down while he was actually aiming for a nearby squirrel he was hunting to eat. Not only that, but one of the functions I was able to figure out from the artifact was that it was able to record and store moving images. The artifact was the size of my palm and it could do what four big magic projection crystals could and more! Tell me, why would someone from our continent need to record videos?” He leaned towards Vincent too so that the two of them were only a hand’s width apart.
“Fascinating!” Vincent sighed as he rubbed his chin.
“So… who’s the little bugger you brought? Your mistress’s son?” Gideon waggled his eyebrows lewdly at Vincent.
“Oh God… Don’t even make jokes like that. Tabitha would kill me… quite literally, I’m afraid. No, this is Arthur. I consider him a nephew of mine.” He placed a hand on my shoulder.
Giving a respectable bow, I introduced myself. “Arthur Leywin, son of Reynolds Leywin. Hello, Mr. Gideon. Uncle Vincent has told me many great things about you and your work.”
“Quite the etiquettes for a little booger. How old are you?” he mused, studying me with his beady eyes.
“I’ll be turning twelve in May,” I answered simply.
“I see… So, why did you bring him here, Vincent? I don’t take on students or disciples, you know.” He puffed his chest out condescendingly.
“Actually, I would like to know for myself why he wanted to come.” Vincent turned to me.
“Mr. Gideon, the fact that you have messengers from the Royal Families visiting you, I can assume that your work is quite influential, correct?” I put on the air of a respecting young lad.
“Of course! They’re a pain but I receive quite a lot of money from them!” He stuck his chin out and I could almost see his nose getting longer from his pride.
“Perfect.” Without saying anything more, I pick up a large piece of parchment lying on the ground and sketched out a blueprint. It took a while for me to think of an idea to sell without it changing the world too much. This world relied heavily on magic for a lot of the bigger tools and machines. That was primarily one of the reasons they couldn’t build a ship capable of travelling long distances. No mages had an infinite source of mana and trying to carry along enough mages to power up a big ship would be impractical.
I could feel both Vincent and Gideon’s hot breaths on the back of my neck as they peered closely at my drawing.
After about half an hour, I finished drawing a rough draft of a steam engine. I didn’t draw in some of the key components so that Gideon wouldn’t just steal my idea; I would draw those in after the negotiations were complete.
“Th-This is…this…” His beady eyes widened two-fold as he snatched the paper away so he could study it in depth.
“Of course… why didn’t I think of this? There was this solution as well!” I could see his hands trembling as his nose practically touched the parchment.
Suddenly, his eyebrows furrowed and his gaze darted all around the paper. “I feel like something’s missing…”
I gently took the paper back and rolled it up. “I did leave out some key details that I will more than happily include… once our negotiations are over.” I put on an innocent smile.
“Are you really just a twelve-year-old?” His gaze became sharp but after a few seconds, he let out a helpless sigh. Even Vincent looked baffled by the turn of events but he handled it better since he knew what kind of person I was.
“Yup! Can you show me some of your most precious artifacts? Uncle Vincent told me you make some of the best!” I smiled, tucking the parchment inside my robe pocket.
“Himes! Bring my latest works!” Gideon barked. Soon after, the poised butler with the handlebar mustache appeared, with him, a protected case the size of an adult, sealed with something even I didn’t recognize.
Gideon whispered something into the lock while placing both hands on it. After a brief moment, the lock glowed and folded itself into different shapes before opening. Inside the case was an array of various enchanted weapons.
Gideon spent some time going over each of the weapons and what they were capable of. The quality of these items were several levels above the ones sold at the auction house. I knew that each of these weapons were invaluable and incomparable to the ones sold in shops and forges, but they didn’t quite fit the bill. I looked at some of the wands to maybe get for Elijah but none of them suited him.
As I shook my head, the mad scientist grumbled something foul.
Gideon eventually led us into a hidden storage room with precious gems and raw material that made even my eyes twinkle in greed. “This is an ironite diamond, one of the most valuable gems found on this continent. It has properties capable of storing a lot mana to use in case of an emergency.” Gideon studied my face, hoping for an expression of satisfaction to appear, but it never did.
Gideon let out a defeated sigh. “Himes, can you bring me the pendants?” he asked, rubbing his temples.
“But Master, this was made so that—”
“I know! Just bring it!” Gideon interrupted the baffled Himes.
Eventually, Himes comes back holding a small case with an even more intricate lock on it.
“These are some of the products I made for the Royal Family. They’ve been asking for life-protecting artifacts in case of any danger.” He just shrugged his shoulder, any sense of confidence he once had nowhere in sight.
I picked up one of the two identical pendants to take a closer look. The main jewel was a very soft, yet radiant pink color carefully ornamented and decorated in a thin white-gold chain.
“I had some of the best designers work on the actual piece itself so it would be err… ‘suitable’ for the Royal Family,” he clarified.
I willed a bit of mana into the pendant and when I did, I was vaguely able to see the outline of a mana beast I’d once read about. “This is made from a phoenix wyrm,” I muttered.
“You were able to figure that out?” Gideon became even more intrigued as his eyes carefully studied me, trying to figure out exactly what more I was capable of.
Continuing on, Gideon explained, “While the phoenix wyrm isn’t nearly as rare as the dragon species, this particular breed is still a high S class mana beast. They aren’t really known for their power and combat capabilities but their unique ability to preserve their own life. When the phoenix wyrm is attacked, its pink scales will elongate and harden around them, forming a sort of cocoon.”
This caught my interest.
“However, that’s not even the best part. When the super hard cocoon they’re protected in breaks, they deplete all of the mana in their beast core to instantly transport themselves to wherever they know they’re safe. It’s a very unique ability that I’ve only seen in the phoenix wyrm. These two pendants are probably the most valuable artifacts I have. The jewel itself is made from the beast core of the phoenix wyrm and also small fragments of its scales, allowing it to reproduce the life-preserving effects of the beast, to a certain degree,” he continued.
“How many times will the user be able to utilize the effects?” I asked, studying the pendant even more closely.
“Honestly, I’m not too sure. The Glayder Family presented five of these beast cores that had been kept over time for generations. However, they didn’t know what exactly these mana cores were capable of; they only knew that they were extremely valuable. They had already been studied and none had the beast will, but still, the value of just one of these beast cores cost more than normal S class cores. The first of the five I made was a failure, not showing the ability at all. The second and third showed its ability once before turning to dust. I imagine since the mana core doesn’t completely deplete itself to transport a human, it’ll work at least twice like the previous two cores I used to make the pendant did.” He shifted his gaze from the pendants to me with hopeful eyes.
“These are for the Glayder Family, right? Is it really all right for me to take these when the Glayder Family provided the raw materials for it?”
“Well, like I said, they don’t know what exactly those beast cores could do so if I just make a good replacement life-preserving artifact, I think it’ll be fine. Of course, if you choose to trade your blueprint for something else, that’d be even better,” he revealed another toothy grin.
“Haha! I’m not that nice, Mr. Gideon. I’ll take these two pendants.” I unrolled the blueprint and filled the rest of the key components that I had left out.
“Sigh…you’re putting me in a tough position but I know that you’re doing me a charity by giving me these blueprints. With this, I imagine that our people will be able to reach the new continent before they reach ours.” He studied the blueprint before folding it and carefully putting it in his pocket.
He turned back to me, his gaze not looking at me as if I was a child but more so an equal. “Where did you come up with this idea, though? What are you really planning, Arthur? Did you want to speed up the process for the voyage to the new continent?”
I only laughed and headed out the door, the silent Vincent, who was still bewildered by the turn of events, trailing behind me.
“Like I said, Mr. Gideon, I’m not that nice of a person. I only wanted to get my little sister a good birthday gift,” I answered without looking back, waving the small case that had the two pendants inside before getting into the carriage.
The journey back home was silent for the first half until Vincent finally spoke. “Not only a genius augmenter but a brilliant inventor? What exactly was it that you drew out for Gideon?”
I explained in simple terms. “I drew the blueprints for a steam engine, which is capable of producing quite a lot of power by using steam produced from specific material that exists on this continent. With that and some modifications so that it could be interchanged with fuel powered by mana, traversing a long distance shouldn’t be a problem.”
“From what magical star were you born under?” Vincent shook his head.
“Please, this was an idea I got from somewhere else and I just tweaked it a little to make it work better. Please don’t make too big of a deal out of this to my parents,” I begged, looking at the two beautiful pink pendants again.
“Well, your parents probably wouldn’t even make a big deal of something like this considering how abnormal you are,” he shrugged, chuckling to himself.
Luckily, no one was home, so I carefully hid the case after wrapping the two pendants individually. My sister’s birthday was next week and then there would only be a few months left until my twelfth birthday, and eventually, the new year of Xyrus Academy. Even though I wouldn’t be that far from my family while I was at school, I would certainly be limited in how often I could visit them, so my main goal during this time was to ensure that my family could take care of themselves in case anything bad happened.
I knew I was probably overthinking everything but I preferred to be on the safe side when it came to my family. For that, I was willing to sell even my soul.