It would have been nice if everything was resolved with a nice chat. Elyver and the rest had been confused about us and it was all just a big misunderstanding. While that might have been true, it wasn’t sufficient to explain away their actions. In addition to that, while the truth magic made people talk more, it wasn’t necessarily completely reliable. It wasn’t down to the integrity of the user, but more the complexity of people’s brains. It could be resisted, allowing people to still be untruthful, among other things.
Besides, there were still many things that they had yet to account for. Why they didn’t look more deeply into otherworlders, if they hated them so much. Where they learned the magic that could steal our bonus points. While I didn’t necessarily need them, at the very least they were given to me as a gift. Stealing from someone who has more than they need doesn’t necessarily make it right.
My declaration that I really did have a Blessing of Strength had thrown them into confusion, but people’s thoughts weren’t changed that easily. Certainly now, in the morning, they were probably thinking that we set up everything to try to trick them. If they wanted to actually be in the right, they would at least think about everything that was said and try to come out with the truth- the truth we said, but that would be hard to come to terms with given details of their history that hadn’t yet been exposited on.
I sighed, and Kantrilla patted me on the head. “Sometimes it’s hard to be right, isn’t it.”
I nodded. She understood. The actual points of Strength… those didn’t matter to me much at all. It was that some people I had considered friends betrayed me. Me specifically, and not even the whole party or all of humanity or anything like that. While in a way it was a smaller crime, it felt worse. “I’m not going to try to take responsibility for everything people from Earth do…” I shook my head, “But I can’t help but want to do something. I just don’t know what.”
“The same things we’ve already been doing, I think.” Kantrilla nodded, “They’re right to despise all the work of the heretical attributists. We haven’t managed to find anything with them lately, but we need to keep aware. As for whoever put the idea in their head that all otherworlders are evil…” Kantrilla frowned, “They seemed very resistant to speaking of it. It had to be a person, though. Its strange, though. Acting so unlike themselves. I know people have different sides but…”
“Right,” I nodded again, “They did seem… quite different. I wholeheartedly believe the people we knew as friends were really them… this side of them is too far off. If they won’t tell us anything, though, I don’t know how we can find anything out. Do we just search the whole country?”
“Not on our own,” Kantrilla pointed out, “But that’s what other people are for. People we still trust. There are people we know, other parties we met and people who attended the academy, others from this expedition… we’re not looking for just some unknown person, either. They have to be an accomplished magic user to come up with and teach that ability. They must have done it themselves, as well. They might even be part of the same cult of heretical attributists masquerading as a righteous force.”
I pondered for a few moments, “You think this group was looking into them, whoever it was? They noticed some strangely high attributes, and their eagerness was deflected…”
“There’s a good chance if we study their history we might find something,” Kantrilla nodded. “At least Sage Norwood is out of the picture, right?”
I thought for a few moments, trying to think of what sort of insane multilayered plan involved him getting his bonus points drained- or pretending to have that happen- along with me. It would have been no trouble at all to get me somewhere alone instead- and not including him even though it was a bit easier to figure out he was an otherworlder… that could just be proper caution. He was the Great Sage, afterall. He knew something was happening and set up a trap for them- or for me, if I had actually been the one in the wrong. “The chances of that are… extremely, extremely low. If Sage Norwood had any intention to harm me, he could have done it long ago.” Kantrilla agreed.
I let my reasonable paranoia overcome me and cautiously observed Sage Norwood. Using my Analyze Attributes, I wasn’t able to conclusively determine that he’d lost points to his attributes- but if they were spread out throughout a handful of already very high mental attributes then it made sense. What I was really cautious about was his Strength. In theory, if he was involved then he would have been in a prime position to receive my Strength. While assuming those bonus points would necessarily be distributed to Strength just because I did that wasn’t guaranteed correct, I knew one thing. Sage Norwood’s Strength was exactly the same- and Elyver’s was a hundred points higher. I hated that I even had to consider someone I trusted for years of foul play, but that was where I had ended up.
I didn’t have a chance to see Sinilae using magic- where I could judge her mental attributes- but theoretically Sage Norwood’s points had gone to her. Sage Norwood had been spending his time carefully studying the magical runes they had placed in the trap room, with intensity that would be hard to fake. He occasionally had me come in, to stand in a similar position as before. Other people were around observing too, keeping track of everything. Finally, he declared, “Well, that’s it.”
“Did you figure it out?” I asked.
He shook his head, “Nope. I’ve decided I have no idea how this works. Parts of it are missing, as if they erased themselves. As well it might, because otherwise the signature style of the creator would be discovered. Not to disparage those young fellows… but it couldn’t have been any of them, or even them as a group.” He clapped his hands together, “Anyway, since we’ve copied down everything here, it’s time to return to Ekralas. I had planned to stay here a bit longer, but we need to escort some people back to the capital… and look into some mysteries there. I assume you’re interested as well?” I nodded. “Excellent.”
About half of the expedition force escorted the group back to the capital. They never tried to escape or cause problems- either because they knew it wouldn’t work or because they understood they were in the wrong. It wasn’t clear what sort of punishment would await them- or when it might be- but they weren’t just going to be let go. However, nobody had been able to get information about who made them so strongly believe otherworlders were evil. They seemed to think they came to that conclusion on their own, but when asked to piece it together they were missing some steps. People could make logical leaps to come to incorrect conclusions, but as a group it was quite strange. They also wouldn’t speak of who taught them the magic. Quite a problem.
Along the way, there were no issues- not that I would have expected any with so many strong adventurers moving together. Anything that could cause trouble for us would have been extremely obvious- like an army or another equally sized group of adventurers that somehow wanted to kill us. It wasn’t that soldiers didn’t get strong… but most higher level people stayed out of the military when they could. In fact, the military of Othya was rather small, since there weren’t any conflicts with other countries happening any monsters were dealt with by adventurers. During times of war the country would prefer to have loyal soldiers, but countries had enough problems with dungeons and wild monsters that taking each other’s lands seemed to be a secondary concern.
Losing a couple hundred points of Strength at once really changed my training. Of course, I only actually lost a hundred bonus points… but my All In skill had stopped functioning. It wasn’t gone– it still showed up in my list- but I also didn’t have the 10% bonus. It made training different- but saying it was harder wouldn’t be right.
Since I wasn’t as strong, it took less weight or other complications to strain me… and therefore my base attribute grew easily enough. Did it still require intense workouts? Absolutely. I just lowered the weight involved by about a sixth.
I tried to incorporate training other attributes into Strength training, because I already had to spend so much time on it. Constitution was fairly simple- it was more or less how long I could exert maximum force from my body. Thus, all sorts of exercises contributed to it, and to train Strength I just made sure there was weight or resistance involved. Dexterity was a bit more complicated, but sparring helped with fine movements… and weights technically made that harder, so it worked out. Toughness was the same as always, unpleasant.
Mental attributes I incorporated by using subpar equipment, in a way. For example, if I had a big weight on a stick that was too long, the stick would snap as I moved it around. At high enough weights that included metal, though it might bend instead of snapping. However, if I used reinforcement magic… that could train what I needed. Intelligence was power, and that was easy enough. Wisdom was finesse, and that could be trained by reinforcing more complicated shapes, or varying placements of necessary reinforcement. Focus just required expending all of my mana.
Besides training, I also helped with the investigation… though most of that just involved looking through papers that had been found. Activities Elyver and the rest had been officially involved in as well as lists of various powerful magic users- alive, missing, and officially dead. After all, we didn’t want to miss a possibility, though it would have been easier if we were just told who it was. However, that might not be possible, either through some sort of magical compulsion or just some sort of personal stubbornness and morality- even if it wasn’t quite pointed the right direction.