710. Phoil’s Request
Most of the night was filled with sleeplessness. And in-between bouts of sleeplessness, there’d be brief periods of nightmares, lucid to the point that it was impossible to tell whether they were real or not. In all instances, Dallion would witness the Learning Hall destroyed by waves of emerald shardflies. In some he tried to reason with them, in some he tried to fight, but the outcome was always the same. The creatures were like a tidal wave, sweeping over everything in their path. They knew no pause or mercy, slicing everything to bits until nothing remained.
“No!” Dallion rose up in his bed.
His face was covered with sweat. Everything in the room remained still and quiet. Ruby was on a wall, wings folded. Gem was nowhere to be seen, probably floating about in Dallion’s personal realm. Only rays of moonlight shone in from outside, adding color to the darkness.
Why’s this happening?
It wasn’t the most devastating event he’d witnessed in his life, nor was it the most traumatic. Yet, for some reason, it had such a great impact that one would think it was the most devastating.
“Unpleasant, isn’t it?” a boy around ten in dark clothes asked, standing a few steps away from Dallion’s bed.
Dallion was just about to ask what was going on when he noticed that he too was in his child’s appearance.
“I’m still dreaming,” Dallion said. “Aren’t I?”
The other’s clothes and hair turned green, glowing as brightly enough to illuminate the rest of the room.
“That’s part of the curse. Something of a reminder to keep people from getting too comfortable.”
I was getting too comfortable?
“Yes.” The boy’s eyes glinted as he shot an angry glare Dalloin’s way. “All the “hardships” you’ve experienced were while pursuing personal objectives. Did you ever consider what you’ve done to be cursed? Did you try to take any steps to rectify it?”
It was difficult to deny that Dallion hadn’t given the matter any consideration. To be honest, there were times when he’d forgotten about it entirely.
“That’s part of the problem, and the reason punishment is required. You’re amusing and you’ve done some good things, for which you were given a lot of leeway. Clearly, that was a mistake.”
“No one ever told me what—”
“Some things you’re supposed to figure out for yourself,” the Green Moon interrupted. “We could have warned you before and you still would have done it. You’d either claim that you had no choice or you’d be able to handle the punishment, or maybe ask to make it up to us. It’s all been done before by your and others. In the end nothing would change.”
“So, I get nightmares until I figure it out?”
Dallion felt his hair stand on edge. What if it was more than nightmares? If an item got upset with a person, it would make its handling difficult; if an area was mad at someone, it would try to trip him every chance it got. However, what happened if the whole world was displeased?
“Is this my final warning?” he asked.
The Moon chuckled.
“Of course not. You’ve seen all the warnings you’d get. I’m here because of your current problem.”
“My current problem?” Dallion blinked.
“Just because you’re cursed, doesn’t mean you aren’t my favored. I’m just here to say you’ve made a mess of things.”
“Not with us. Rather on a far more local level.”
That was a surprise. Dallion went through everything important he’d done since arriving here. Was getting the Moonstone a mistake? Or maybe he wasn’t supposed to get involved with Raven? Or with Katka?
“Did I cause the shardfly infestation?” he asked.
“Do you really want to know the answer to that? Ignorance can be bliss.”
“I’ve already heard that once today.”
“The question remains.”
“I want to know.” Dallion replied instantly.
“Then the answer is yes.”
Dallion felt the weight of a mountain on his shoulders. He was responsible for all this?
“That’s not something I can tell you. I’d like to, but there are rules in place and I can’t go beyond them.”
“What about the Purple Moon? Can he tell me?” Anger and desperation exploded in Dallion’s mind sweeping through him like a wave.
“Definitely not. He still doesn’t like you. Even if he did, there’s no going around this one. It’s only partially your fault.”
“Then why tell me at all?”
“Because you asked me to.”
The same old story. If this was the Moons’ standard method of interacting, no wonder that many had found the Star so alluring. The Moons didn’t have to be nice, they were right and objective. The Star was neither, but was always so pleasant about it.
“Is there a way out?” Dallion stood up, taking a step towards the Green Moon. “Something I could realistically achieve?”
“Yes, but that’s not the question. What you should be asking yourself is what way out you must follow.”
“There are more than one?”
“Once you figure things out, it’ll become clear. Then, with luck, you’ll remember this conversation and it’ll help you decide what to do.”
“What if I make a mistake because of it?”
“That’s always a possibility.” The green boy clapped his hands, turning into a silhouette of green dust that floated gently to the floor. “Either way, it’ll be fun watching.”
In Dallion’s experience when someone said that it meant they had little faith in the person—in this case him—succeeding. There had to be a reason for the Moon sharing what he did. As to what that reason was… it was safer to guess by throwing darts at a wall. This was no longer the case of debt or favors. Dallion was left to his own devices, free to figure things out or create a bigger mess of the situation. Was that what being past level forty was about? Possibly. It would definitely explain the chaos caused by the noble’s actions.
Is everything alright, dear boy?
I warned you it would be better if you focused on what’s in this building. There are plenty of problems here for you to be searching for more.
What if the outside problems come in?
The echo couldn’t answer.
Turning to the side, Dallion closed his eyes and tried to get back to sleep. Unfortunately for him, he succeeded, which brought a new series of nightmares. By morning, Dallion had seen a wide variety of chaos and destruction. Still, as any diligent student, he spent a minute burying it deep inside him, then continued with his daily routine.
Spelling came first. The mage was in a particularly foul mood, for some reason. Three novices were kicked out of class for failing to do their spells up to his standards. Cheska and Raven were not present, so they avoided the yells, insults, and sarcasm. Dallion, though, wasn’t as lucky.
Despite performing the spells requested quickly and efficiently, the mage wouldn’t stop nitpicking. If it wasn’t the position Dallion held his hands in, it was his overall posture, the clothes he wore, even the length of his hair.
Knowing when to act and when not, Dallion took the abuse, then sat back down to go through the rest of the lesson.
Once over, Dallion was about to rush to gather more magic threads so he could teach the rest of his echoes and familiars a few skills, when Phoil blocked his path.
“Hey,” the large boy said. “Got some time?”
“No.” Dallion tried to pass by.
“I need a favor, okay?” Phoil grabbed him by the shoulder.
Normally, Dallion could consider that as part of Phoil’s typical bullying. After their experience in the Purple Moon’s realm, he wasn’t so certain. The boy had seen firsthand what Dallion was capable of with and without magic. There was no way he’d mess with him… unless it wasn’t Phoil messing, but the echoes within his realm.
“You’re still good at focused improvements, right?” the boy whispered.
“It’s not something you forget.” Dallion crossed his arms.
Not in a few weeks, anyway.
“I want you to upgrade something for me.”
“Phoil, I really don’t have the time to—”
“I’ll give you artifacts!”
Splitting into instances, Dallion looked about. Most of the other novices had been quick to get out as quickly as possible, expecting a scene. The few that remained didn’t seem overly interested, although looks could be deceiving. Thankfully, there didn’t seem to be any curiosity emanating from them.
The classroom disappeared, changing into a large padded room.
“Where are we?” Phoil asked.
The SHIRT is level 2
A blue rectangle emerged.
You are in a large cotton hall.
Defeat the guardian to change the SHIRT’s destiny.
“A shirt?” the large boy blinked.
“Was the first thing I could think of.” Dallion shrugged. Currently, he was twice taller than Phoil. The change of perspective was rather appealing, urging Dallion to grin. Despite the urge, he managed to resist. “So, what’s this about artifacts?”
“I can get you some. Several of them!”
“Riiight?” Dallion nodded.
“I just need you to improve a sword I bring you to quicksilver then to something else.”
Already there were warning flags. The “something else” aside, turning whole weapons into mercury, wasn’t either particularly safe or simple. And that didn’t even touch the big question: what did Phoil need such a weapon or? Weapons were discouraged. True, novices with influential parents could take advantage of an exception or two, but why would a child bring one to the Academy?
“Shapeshifting weapons, mirror shields…”
There was a moment of silence.
“Err, yeah. Disfocus items can be arranged.”
Now Dallion was all but certain that an echo was talking.
“What about magic items? Can you get me a few of the things we used in class back when we were rank one?”
“Err, sure? How many?”
“Ten.” If he was going to ask, he was going to ask for a lot.
“Sure. After you get it done.”
“I’ll need to know what the something else is.”
“Because I’ll be the one improving the weapon to that.”
Fear and confusion sprouted within Phoil, filling his entire chest and head like clusters of grapes.
“Why can’t I tell you when you start?”
“You’re the one asking for a favor. I don’t need the artifacts that much. Good luck trying to find someone else to improve your stuff.”
Despite the echoes advising him, Phoil was a terrible poker player. Even without having music skills, Dallion could tell he’d agree to the demand. It was beyond apparent that the boy had no choice; his face twisted, trying to cover up the fact, quickly giving up in a few seconds.
“Fine. It’s silver glass,” he said with a pout.
“It’s like quicksilver, but solid. Very rare, but it’s possible to make by improving quicksilver.”
Heard of this, Nil?
As a matter of fact, I have. It was a popular material for noble weapons a few centuries ago. Very shiny, quite durable, but utterly useless. The common rumor was that it could be used to kill mages, but that’s rubbish.
Dear boy, everything can be used to kill mages. Silver glass doesn’t have any effect on spells, barriers, or even armor. It can kill a mage the same way a sharpened stick can.
What’s so special about it?
Did I mention that it’s shiny?
Nil let out a dry laugh.
Other than that, absolutely nothing. It’s not even transparent.
“When do you need it done?” Dallion asked.
“I’ll need a few days to get the artifacts. Maybe a week. I’ll tell you when everything’s ready.”
At least Phoil’s echoes meant business. It was nice for someone to have the payment ready in advance for a change.
“Alright. You have a deal.” Dallion nodded. “Do you need a Moon vow?”
“No, just the improvement.”
Dallion narrowed his eyes. Was Phoil playing dumb all of a sudden?
“Alright, see you in a week, then.” Dallion returned to the real world.
A note from Lise Eclaire
Book 1 of Leveling up the World
chapters will be taken down in roughly a