During my whole time in Yew-Kay, I had been running all over the place investigating and fighting and Gate-ing people back to Granbold and otherwise exhausting myself. But now, I was facing my most difficult and exhausting task- doing nothing at all.
I could exercise, but I couldn’t engage in any sort of useful sparring. After all, the power of a mage came from mana. Unlike other classes which might develop their bodily abilities for long-term power, pure caster types relied on the mana they had at their immediate disposal.
Combined with an unfamiliar gym- Crown Forces was nice enough to give us access to their facilities- I really didn’t feel like doing what few things I could. I couldn’t even read my books on magic, trying to pick out new secrets, because they were in Storage. I knew how reliant I was on magic, but it still really sucked to be locked out of it. But it was worse to feel like I was going to explode, so I had to make the choice to avoid magic.
I noticed Midnight outside my room. I don’t know if I missed his knock or if he simply hadn’t, but I got up to let him into the room with basic furnishings and not much else. Theoretically Crown Forces members were supposed to customize it, but I wasn’t going to stay here long term.
“Hey buddy,” I said.
His tail swished back and forth. “Hey.”
“You know, you can still train magic right now.” Though that probably wasn’t the reason he was despondent. And it wasn’t simply a reflection of me, either.
“We should probably be happy,” Midnight said. “We saved a lot of people.”
“I’ll be happy when things don’t hurt anymore,” I said. “And we’re not really done yet, are we? We’ve got a lot of people to bring back home. Including yours.”
“It’s not so easy to reach Celmoth,” Midnight said.
“Well, not from here no. But maybe from my world.”
“… that doesn’t make any sense,” Midnight said. “Isn’t a parallel dimension further away?”
“It might not be enough,” I said. “But it should be easier from there. That’s what Gate is for. Well, planar travel but that’s basically the same thing.”
“But it’s further away…” Midnight said.
“Is it?” I asked. “If we bring up a galactic map, with Earth here and Celmoth here… where is my world?”
“Well, uh… somewhere near Earth, right?”
“I’m not from a parallel Earth like Khithae,” I pointed out. “The only connection is that some of the places on Earth are more suited to interdimensional travel and the like.”
Midnight hopped up on the arm of the couch I had moved to. “But there isn’t anywhere like that on Celmoth.”
“Isn’t there?” I asked. “Because you somehow ended up on Earth.”
“That was an anomaly. A teleporter accident.”
“Sounds like teleporters might be a good place to look, then. But also, what about the rest of your people? How did they get here on Earth?”
“… It shouldn’t be teleporters. My incident was an exception.”
“Okay,” I said. “I just thought you would have talked to them already.”
“… It’s difficult.”
I tilted my head. “Why? I thought you were better with people than me.”
“Uhh…” Midnight’s emotions didn’t provide a clear answer, just a bit of chaos and uncertainty.
“I figured you were talking with them a lot already. They’re probably pretty worried.”
“… I told them we would find a way to get them back home. Eventually.”
“That’s not super reassuring,” I admitted. I snatched him up, placing him on my shoulder. “Come on then. Let’s go talk to them.” I had a vague feeling of where they were, most likely through my bond with Midnight. Presumably, his connection was stronger. It seemed they were all in a single room, and the door was propped open with a door stop. That made sense, given that doors were rather troublesome for the felines. I knocked on the door. “Hello, may we come in?”
“Of course,” came the response from inside. “The prince and his wizard are always welcome.”
I suppose it made sense that they could feel us too. But… “Prince?”
“I’m not a prince!” Midnight said, half to me and half to everyone else. “My family doesn’t even run for political offices anymore!”
Upon entering the room, I was greeted with the sight of a wide variety of cats. It was possible that someone who actually knew about animal breeds could tell the difference between them and house cats, but the large physical features and general patterns all seemed pretty similar to me. That was odd, because as far as I knew Celmothians weren’t from a parallel universe or anything. Or maybe it was cats that were the odd ones…?
“That does not make you any less a prince,” said a striped cat that was only missing the bright orange to truly look like a tiger. “You have powers and a wizard companion that speaks fluent Celmothian.”
“To be fair,” I said. “That’s magic. My vocal chords can’t do this,” I pointed out.
“Speaking our language through magic is no less impressive,” the cat said.
“If you say so,” I replied to the spokesperson. “Do you have a name…?” The response wasn’t something that translated to a meaning. So I decided I would just think of this guy as Steve. I could still say his name correctly, but it was weird to think cat noises. “Nice to meet you, Steve. I’m Turlough.”
Obviously they would have trouble saying my name as well. Unlike Midnight, they didn’t have the benefit of Translation magic. Fortunately for my current state, he was able to cast that on me so I could participate here.
“So… we had some questions.”
“Of course,” Steve said. “We will happily answer anything you ask.”
I seriously doubted that, but I also had no intention to ask anything personal. “Do you recall how you ended up here, on Earth? How much do you remember?”
Between the dozen or so Celmothians, the answers were widely varied. From ‘stumbled into a weird portal in an alley’ to a few whose ship had fallen into a wormhole to some who had been captured by Bunvorixians at some point and two who couldn’t remember, it seemed there wasn’t a single cause. At least there didn’t seem to be some portal to Celmoth the Grey Gunners or Doctor Doomsday or someone related had. Instead, they had mostly been abducted while on Earth, usually during their early confusion. Most of these had ended up in London, though there were two who apparently ended up in New Bay and were brought here later.
“Do you know what they wanted?” I asked.
“Vaguely,” Steve replied. “There was one lady who tried to mess with our memories. No… she was succeeding rather slowly. We did our best to work together to fend her off… but we were being worn down. Until you arrived and defeated her. Now… the false memories are unraveling, with the prince’s help.”
Midnight nodded, intentionally speaking in English. “I did help with Mental Freedom cast on them one at a time over the last couple of days. I couldn’t manage Multicasting on my own…”
I nodded. “That one is too expensive for either of us alone.”
Steve continued. “We were told there might be a way to get back…?”
“That’s right,” I confirmed. “It might take a while though.”
The cat nodded. “If we had access to our fallen ships, we might be able to help with construction… but the good news if such things are made for people like you they won’t have to be very big by your standards.”
“I don’t think we could make a ship capable of reaching your home in any reasonable amount of time,” I admitted. Though maybe the martians…?
“… Another sort of device that can bring us home seems like it would be more difficult,” Steve said.
“We should be able to make some portals,” I said. “But I need to recover first. It might take a week. I know it’s-”
“So fast,” Steve said. “I shouldn’t have expected less of the prince.”
Considering that the actual time to use the Gates was one or two minutes, a week was rather long. But I suppose given other options, it did seem rather quick.
“Our methods might not work,” Midnight said cautiously. “But we can make the first attempt then, and test out the safety and viability of our strategy.”
“Most of us were worried we would never be able to get home,” Steve admitted. “So any chance is astounding.”
“Why did you promise we could do it in a week? We don’t know it will work!” Midnight complained when we were alone again.
“It’s good motivation to try, then,” I pointed out. Besides, I think it should. You just have to take over the majority of the spell to guide us. You’re our connection, after all. You reached level 21, right?”
“Right,” Midnight confirmed.
“Well, that’s not quite enough to do two-thirds of the spell… unless we we let it settle on the natural mana limit. But I think for stability it would be best for you to try to use your maximum of 13 mana. Or we could do a 12-8 split, for a more approachable proportionality.”
“… I’ve never used 13 mana before. I don’t know if I can do that consistently.”
“It’s easy. Just max out Chain Lightning. You can do that now,” I pointed out.
Midnight’s eyes sparkled. “You’re right, I can…”
“Twice, even. Though uh, don’t forget to rest in between or you’ll wipe yourself out completely. Anyway, about the final spell, we can also upgrade Assistive Familiar Casting to get greater efficiency from… Gate…” I frowned.
“What’s wrong?” Midnight asked.
“Well, I have 50 points so I thought I would just buy that upgrade. But I can’t spend points on it.”
“Maybe because it’s not a spell?”
“Maybe,” I said. “But even Mana Crystal Deposition allowed it.”
“But that still does something on its own,” Midnight said. “It makes a crystal. Assistive Familiar Casting modifies something else.”
“I suppose so. By this world’s game terms, those would be metamagic…?” I tilted my head. Something I couldn’t spend points on at all, that felt extremely unnatural. I really needed to talk to an experienced wizard about this. But Master Uvithar was missing and I didn’t know how much I could trust Zenfer. Though he did know about me going extraplanar, so if he knew the associations with that he might already know most of my secrets. But maybe people didn’t always discover the results of extraplanar travel. Or was it only extradimensional? “Multicasting doesn’t work either. Spending more points on Gate won’t help because we can’t make use of those levels without a greater rank of Assistive Familiar Casting.”
“I can do it,” Midnight said. “I have time to get used to using my new limit. You just focus on recovering.”
“Oh yeah,” I said. “Not much luck with that so far. What about you?”
“What do you mean?” Midnight asked.
“Well, you did use a couple mana crystals for the first time. Any success in removing the built up gunk?”
“I didn’t overuse them,” Midnight pointed out.
“Which gives us a perfect opportunity to test this from both sides.” I patted the couch next to me. “Probably best to get off my shoulder. We’re going to try to feel that stuff and get rid of it.”
“Or… I remain in contact and help you?” Midnight asked.
“Maybe,” I said. “Just be careful about using mana in me, okay? I don’t know if it would just be me using it that would be a problem.”
“Noted,” Midnight said.
With that, Midnight balanced on my shoulder in a precarious position only a cat could manage while meditating. I had gotten used to such activity when trying to improve my mana regeneration rate- and I had achieved small success. No skill in my screen, though. I wasn’t quite sure what that meant. Either way, I could feel the tiny remnants of the mana crystal absorbed into me, clinging to my veins and arteries. They were slowly breaking down, but perhaps I could speed up the process… somehow.