"I can talk while I do this, you know." Mana said with a smile. Even as she turned to look at the others a glass pan appeared and half of the mixture was poured out of the bowl into it. Another bowl appeared and more ingredients poured into it.
"I know you said you were going to make desert, but I figured you'd just bring it with you, or conjure it or something." Tiffany said.
Mana shrugged, "I could, but where's the fun in that? Besides, it's tricky to get it to come out just the way I want if I conjure it already made."
"But, you can do anything, can't you?" Mike asked.
"More or less, yes." Mana agreed. "But having the power to do a thing and having the knowledge are two different things. True, I can figure out how to do just about anything given a little time, but it's not always worth the trouble. For instance; I could analyze the exact chemical makeup of all the ingredients that go into making this turtle cake, and trace the Weave to find the exact natural laws that this universe is built on to figure out how to make this cake magically without going through the intermediary steps. Or I could bake one and analyze it's composition down to the molecular level and store that information in my memory so that I could remake it at will.
Either approach would give me the knowledge to conjure a completed cake whenever I wanted to. The problem with that is that each and every cake conjured that way would be exactly the same. I could probably vary things a bit with the first method, but it would be difficult to anticipate how those changes would affect the finished product. By actually baking the cake, however, I know that each one will be a little bit different. Which makes them that much more enjoyable, in my opinion."
"And this way you're freer to experiment, right?" Sarah asked.
Mana smiled, "Yes, exactly! The more I bake, the more I learn when I need to follow the recipe and when I can make changes. It's often easier to learn by doing things the hard way than by simply conjuring up whatever you want. That's not to say I don't use that approach at times, of course."
"Like with your clothes?" Tiffany asked.
Mana nodded, "Yes. I can do a better job with magic than any seamstress could ever hope to do by mundane means. Also, I don't carry luggage around with me. I simply make and unmake whatever I want as I go. Back in Avalon I maintained a wardrobe, but it's not very practical right now."
"That's the second time you've mentioned Avalon. Is that the name of the world you lived in?" Mike asked.
"No, that's the name of the country I founded. I used it as a buffer to help the world get accustomed to magic. I invited anyone who wasn't afraid of magic, or had developed magical abilities, to live there. This helped to give magic users at least some chance of a normal life or, in many cases, any life at all. When magic became so commonplace that it couldn't be denied anymore, we had an entire country full of people who could help the rest of the world learn how to use it. It wasn't a perfect solution, by any means, but it was the best I could come up with at the time." Mana replied.
"Is that what you want to do here, once magic becomes a little more prominent?" Tiffany asked.
"I honestly don't know. You know your world better than I do. That's why I was hoping to leave that task in your hands." Mana replied as she poured the new mixture over the first in the pan, and then the rest of the first on top of that. Both bowls disappeared without a trace and the pan floated into the oven, which opened to receive it and closed again.
"What?!" Sarah exclaimed.
"There are many worlds awakening to magic as this one is. I planned on setting up local people in each world to get their own world in order so that I could move on to the next. It's just a little easier here, because you have several powerful magic users already on hand." Mana said.
"So you're not going to stick around to help?" Jill asked.
"I'll stay for a little while, but then I have to be moving on." Mana replied.
"In that case let's get to our questions." Erica suggested. Mana nodded. "You said that there were two reasons I wouldn't age. The first was the chrysalis, but what's the second?"
"Oh, that's because of your Oversoul." Mana said.
"You mentioned that her Oversoul was 'absorbing souls', whatever that means. Does that have something to do with it?" Tiffany asked.
Mana nodded, "Yes, that's exactly it. It's a phenomenon I've only seen once before, though that doesn't mean it hasn't happened more than that. Erica's Oversoul, recognizing her soul bond to an Omnisoul, is becoming an Omnisoul. But it's not willing to kill off Erica's alternates, so it's simply waiting for them to die naturally. However, there are an infinite number of alternates, so they are dying all the time. Normally there would also be many new ones being born all the time, but Erica's Oversoul is instead absorbing the spirits of the dead back into its souls. Once all the spirits spawned by a soul have returned, that soul then returns to the Oversoul and is absorbed as well."
"Alternates?" Mike asked, confused.
"The people spawned by a soul from Erica's Oversoul in a different dimension. They are often very similar to each other so are referred to as alternates. Many are virtually identical and could swap places without anyone realizing it, including them! Others are vastly different, but the term is an easy way to refer to all of them." Mana explained.
"So what happens when they're all absorbed and Erica's the only one left?" Jill asked.
"At that point her Oversoul will meld with her soul, and from there with her spirit. And then she'll be an Omnisoul, just like Sarah." Mana replied.
"She won't...change, will she?" Sarah asked worriedly.
Smiling, Mana replied, "No, she won't even be aware of it, except that she will get more powerful very quickly. In the meantime, she will grow stronger more slowly. Since she's a Null, her powers will be different from yours. For now they'll be focused in her chrysalis. Eventually she'll develop abilities similar to Jill's, most likely. Once she's an Omnisoul those abilities will develop far beyond what Jill will ever be capable of."
"Wow! I wasn't expecting that!" Erica exclaimed.
Sarah nodded, a little shocked by this revelation. "How long will all this take?" she asked.
Mana shrugged, "It's hard to say. Some of Erica's alternates could be immortal. In which case they'll only die when something kills them. That could take decades, centuries, or longer. Most will die off within a couple of hundred years, though."
"So she'll be getting stronger for a really long time then." Mike said.
"Yes, as will Sarah. Erica's more aggressive, so she'll develop her abilities faster. Sarah's abilities will develop more slowly, despite her full power being available at any time." Mana replied.
They lapsed into a silence broken only by the sounds Jill and Sarah were making for several minutes before Jill asked, "What were the other distractions you used to keep Marvin from bothering us?"
"The first was an SUV thrown through the wall of a bank by a solid illusion I created." Mana said.
Mike frowned in thought and said, "I heard about an SUV crashing into the wall of a bank downtown, but I didn't hear anything about it being thrown."
"That's because Marvin covered it up. But it had the effect of getting his attention, which was the idea. For my second distraction I grew white feathered wings out of my back and clothed myself like an angel. I flew down Main Street in such a way as to be seen by various cameras in the area, and then healed a woman who was confined to a wheelchair for life. Then I flew away." Mana said.
"So that was you! We were wondering if that was real or not!" Tiffany exclaimed.
"Yes, it was real. Of course Marvin hid the fact that there was video coverage of it, so it was easy to explain it as a hoax. My third distraction consisted of teleporting a corvette onto the roof of the police station. And the fourth was the fire elemental." Mana said.
"You teleported a corvette onto the roof of the police station?!" Mike exclaimed. "How did Marvin take that one?!"
"He'd already figured out that it was a distraction at that point. That's one of the reasons I went with something more dangerous for the next distraction." Mana replied.
To Be Continued…
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