Chapter 283: 283
Thankfully, the section of the dorm that they lived in was still in one piece when he arrived, although there was a fair amount of smoke leaking out from the doorway to Lily's room .

Sighing again, Mike went in and surveyed the damage . As usual, it looked like something she was experimenting with had detonated . Fortunately, it only caused a small explosion, which failed to destroy even the other tools at her workbench . Of course, this might have more to do with the enhanced durability of Lily's equipment (a product of William's efforts to cut down on regular replacement costs) than anything else .

The woman in question was still sitting in front of her station, looking unharmed for the most part . Her hair was a bit frazzled and standing up in a weird way, and she was coated with more soot than usual, but otherwise seemed fine . At the moment, she was attempting to cut a clear, crystalline rock with a knife .

"Everything alright?" He asked after a few seconds, when it didn't seem like she was going to acknowledge him .

"Hm?" She asked without looking up .

"I was just checking up on you . I heard an explosion . "

"Only a little one . No reason to be worried . "

[Right . Only a small explosion . Nothing to be concerned about…]

"Okay . . . . well, then can I ask what you are working on?" He murmured while examining the rock out of curiosity . A quick Appraise answered the question for him .


Crystallized Water

Alchemical Item (Tier 2, Rank 1)

Created through the refinement of a particularly pure source of water, this crystal contains roughly 400 liters of water in a reduced state . It is fairly unstable, and can be returned to its original liquid form by a sharp impact, such as being thrown onto a hard surface . Due to the conservation of mass, the crystal retains its original weight .


After reading the description, Mike looked back at the work table with a critical eye, and noted that it was slightly bowing in the middle . Which was pretty impressive since it happened to be made of massive wooden boards reinforced with steel .

"Solution to water problem . " Lily responded quickly while still working on the crystal with her knife . So far she'd barely made any kind of indentation .

"Um . . . what water problem are you talking about?"

"In the demi-realm . There's no water there, right?"

Mike felt touched that the ordinarily clueless and spacey woman was going out of her way to try and help the group, but he still thought it would be better to explain it to her . "While I appreciate the effort, I think it will be okay . I can use Water Magic after all, so I can just create some if I end up needing it . "

For the first time since he entered the room, she looked up at him, a blank expression on her face . After a few moments, she frowned and muttered, "Hm, that makes sense," before returning to work .

He watched her for a bit, until a rather unpleasant thought occurred to him . "Out of curiosity, what are you trying to do?"

By this point she'd given up on cutting the object with a sawing motion, and had resorted to stabbing the crystal with her knife point . "Trying to cut off a sample, but the material is a bit too hard . Might have to use a bigger knife . "

"Are you sure that's wise?" He asked while channeling a bit of mana in preparation for taking action .

"Hmmm . . . yes?" Lily replied .

[Why is it a question?]

"Wouldn't trying to cut it while it's in an unstable state cause it to return to its original form?"

She started to reply, but her words were overwhelmed by the rushing sounds of water as her knife punched into the protective layer of the crystal, causing it to explode in a wave of fluid . Ordinarily, this would have led to most of the room getting soaked, but Mike acted quickly to hold it in place .

They both stared at the large sphere of clear water that was now resting on the worktable's surface .

"Hmm…" Lily frowned . ���That shouldn't have happened . Did I fail? Maybe I needed more salamander gall . . . "

"Was it not supposed to do that?" Mike asked as he moved the water into a nearby empty barrel . He guessed that it was the source of the original ingredients of the crystal .

"I don't think so . The process was supposed to be slower . " She muttered, more to herself than to him . As she returned to her notes, it was clear that the conversation was over .

[Well, whatever . At least this was less dangerous than her usual foibles . . . Actually, now that I think about, I'm fairly certain that this is the first time I've seen her make something that wasn't technically some kind of explosive . I guess that means she's improving, right?]

Feeling a strange sense of pride in Lily's accomplishment, he moved back to his own room and started working on acquiring Tailoring . As a Tier 1 skill, it didn't take much to unlock it, and after a single attempt at making something resembling a scarf, it popped up on his \u003cStatus\u003e as a Secondary Skill .


Tailoring (Tier 1, Rank 1)

The practice of turning cloth into clothing . Users of this skill can produce cloth items using a variety of methods and stylistic choices . Provides a minor system correction when crafting items primarily made of cloth . Higher levels of skill increase the correction and improve crafting efficiency . The correction does not apply to aesthetic choices .


[ . . . The fact that the System needed to include that last bit is rather depressing . ]

Deciding to put his new skill through its paces, he moved on to the slightly more ambitious project of making a linen shirt . Based purely on his understanding of the clothes manufacturing industry from his old world, he chose to cut out four separate pieces of cloth, two for the front and back, and two for the sleeves . It then became the simple matter of sewing them together .

He found the process significantly easier than his previous clumsy attempt, and noticed that his fingers were moving like he'd been practicing this kind of thing for months .

[Gotta admit, there are times that this whole skill system thing is a bit eerie, despite its convenience . Not sure if I should feel comfortable with something that can even manipulate my muscle memory . ]

Disturbing thoughts aside, the resulting shirt turned out to be adequate . So much so, that even the System recognized his efforts in its trademark way .


Linen Shirt

Common Item (Tier 1, Rank 1)

A shirt made out of linen .


[Yeah, not sure what I was expecting . ]

He spent the next few hours working on improving his skill and ended up with a wardrobe's worth of linen products, but had trouble advancing it farther than Rank 2 . Figuring that he probably needed to use better materials in order to level up more, he decided to hold off on making anything else until he got a chance to do some more research on the skill .

After listening to the clock tower ringing in the distance, Mike determined that the cooldown period on the doorknob should have come to an end . It seemed like the others were of a similar opinion, since, based on the sounds coming from the common area, the rest of the party had already returned .

[Moving on to task number two for the day . ]

"About time you came out . We were about to go in and get you . " Sera commented as soon as he'd left his room .

"You could have . I wasn't doing anything too important . " He replied casually . Not letting her slightly caustic comment get to him . Based on his understanding of her personality, he guessed she was excited about visiting the demi-plane for the first time, but was trying to not be too pushy about it .

"Ready . " Tal announced, perhaps as a way of forestalling any argument . She was carrying a bag of what was presumably seeds in her hands .

A quiet Lily was standing next to a slightly apprehensive William . While she appeared to be distracted by something, the simple fact that she had left her experiments to visit the demi-realm was impressive enough .

Without further ado, Mike pulled out the doorknob and, after a brief moment of thought, walked outside to stand next to the pile of 'fertilizer' he'd helped unload earlier . Affixing it to a nearby wall, he activated the portal and led the way inside .

They emerged into the small, sunlit clearing next to the waterfall . For the members that had not visited before, this was evidently quite impressive .

"It's like something out of a painting . " Sera was muttering .

"Indeed," William chimed in, "this place is quite beautiful . " The butler frowned . "Although . . . there is something not quite right about all this . "

"That's because it's all illusory . " Mike commented while stacking the sacks of fertilizer near the portal . "Pretty much everything here, with the exception of the dirt under your feet and the air you are breathing, is all fake . "

"I see���" Sera gave the waterfall one last look before turning back to the rest of the group . "While it's a fairly convincing illusion, once you know the truth of the matter, the flaws become obvious . "

"Oh?" William asked, a speculative look on his face .

"Well, take that dragonfly for instance . If you watch for a few seconds, you'll quickly see that it's following the same pattern of flight in some kind of perpetual loop . While it might be possible for them to fly the same way a few times, I can't imagine them doing it repeatedly with such precision for any length of time . "

"The birdsong, too . " Lily spoke up suddenly, her head cocked to one side and eyes closed in concentration . "It replays the same sequence every three minutes . "

[ . . . Definitely didn't notice either of those . . . I should probably start working on illusion countermeasures sooner, rather than later . For some reason, I get the feeling that I'm particularly vulnerable to them . ]

After moving the fertilizer in, Mike led the group through the woods and towards the cabin, where they were greeted by the sight of Reber relaxing on the back porch .

He'd somehow converted one of the patio chairs into something that would look more at home around the edge of a pool, and was leaning back with his hands behind his head, looking for all the world like he was sunbathing . A tall glass of a clear liquid was sitting on a nearby table, complete with a strangely thick brown straw . If he had a pair of sunglasses it would have completed the slightly unusual sight .

"New visitors!" The tree man exclaimed once he noticed them . "Come on in! Mi casa es su casa, and all that . Can I get anyone a drink? I've got cold water aaaaand slightly warmer water . Not the best selection, I know, but I can guarantee you it's freshly poured . "

"Thank you for the offer, but that's alright . Most of us just had lunch not too long ago . " Sera replied politely in a slightly stiff tone . Judging by her body posture, she didn't quite trust Reber just yet .

[Or maybe she just finds him odd and doesn't quite know how to respond yet . ]

"Are you sure? It's pretty good stuff . It has a nice mineral balance, and the pH is just barely on this side of acidic . " The tree man replied jovially while taking a sip from his own glass .

"Pea Ach? No, no thanks, I'm fine . " She replied flatly .

"Suit yourself . Anyway, do I have something impressive to show you all . " Reber exclaimed while standing . "Since I no longer have to sleep due to that whole being a plant thing, I took the liberty of doing a little experimentation, and I came up with some amazing results . Let me show you . "