In Another World With Just Monika Chapter 72
The [Boom Tube] closed with a final air-snapping hiss. Charlotte collapsed to her knees with her right hand outstretched, and wailed "NOOOOOOOOOOO!"
"Well, this is about as good as I expected," Alan said dryly.
Charlotte slumped into herself like a puppet with its strings cut. "Why am I so unwanted?!" she cried out some more.
"What, aside from your extreme lack of self-awareness?" Alan snorted out.
Charlotte had carelessly ignored so many attempts at wooing her, and left an impression of being aloof and arrogant among her peers because she had nothing in common with them to converse about. She was largely inured to all social intrigue due to her power and position. All the influence she ever needed came from being able to interrupt the King.
Alan continued "I could say that you attract people until you open your mouth and show your true self, but a certain someone would make me pay for that. So I'll just say that not everyone has as much free time as you. You are expecting more commitment from random people than what they have the personal energy to give."
She sat there on the floor for some time. The Duke sighed and escorted Sue out of the room, bidding the servants to clean up.
"I just want to go home now" Charlotte whispered in a dead voice.
But as Belfast's Court Magician her home was actually in the palace.
She shambled past all the checkpoints and the guards, listlessly walked past a good-looking young noble carrying a bouquet of flowers, magically floated up the spiraling staircase rather than spend the effort to climb, , and flopped face-down onto her bed. Her bedroom was just a small room behind her laboratory in the Magic Tower. Her predecessor, the old mage Harlan, had set up all this space. It suited her own ascetic life just fine.
Charlotte actually had her own small estate nearby, and her family while not nobles they were actually quite comfortably rich. Rich enough that they would rather send their daughter away rather than have her be kidnapped or taken advantage of by court nobles before they could secure her safety.
"Blooorgh," Charlotte moaned into her pillow in frustration and humiliation. "Why don't you ever learrrn?! Charlotte, you dummy! You can't just force people to like what you like, friends friends don't come that easily."
She shivered again as she remembered a slim young-looking figure, with her face cast in shadow and her white hair shining in the darkness under her umbrella. Her grin would be too wide and a have a little too many teeth.
/"Friends? You don't need to wait for friends. Go on, make friends. Take friends. Don't stop, seize them, hammer down their resistance and make them yours!"/ she imagined her teacher saying to her.
"That's just /conscription/, Master Leeeene!" she moaned.
/"And if getting them to sign shady contracts doesn't work, then you're going to be just fine alone!"/
Suddenly her door was kicked open. "Court Magician Charlotte! Is Court Magician Charlotte heeere?!"
"Noooo" she moaned.
A tall, green-haired woman with her hair tied up in a bun swiftly appeared by the doorway to her bedroom. She looked very similar to Charlotte, with a classical beauty, but somewhat more marred by a tall bony cheeks and a severe expression on her face. Whereas Charlotte had a soft, demure sort of charm that intensified to almost humping herself on whatever caught her interest, Rosette started with all the grandeur of a fully armored statue of the goddess of victory and could only intensify with stabbing with swords.
She was an intimidatingly beautiful woman. Fortunately she was a ruthless businesswoman, so no literal sword stabbing.
"Goddess of mercy, it's worse that I thought?! Who was this man that crushed my poor innocent younger sister's heart?! I will destroy the scum!" She could just hire people to do that for her.
Rosette paused, and shrugged. "Ehh, there's nothing more I can possibly do to make Alan suffer in any special way after what I did to him when he got me pregnant with twins. Y-you know he means well, he just doesn't know how to say it well."
Going from a place with emotionally unstable fey to a family filled with nothing but tsunderes didn't help Charlotte's awareness of a healthy loving relationship any. Rosette however had been tremendously impressed by Alan's forlorn bravery in being willing to bitch to anyone about anything, even in the face of the nobility.
"No, it's something it's someone else, isn't it?" she added.
Charlotte moaned again. "Just don't let me talk to any more people. I'm fine with my research I can die here happy."
Then she felt a pang in her heart, because obviously she needed the help of that someone to finish her research. "GAAAAAH!"
"M-my normally composed and overfairly powerful little sister is so flustered," the older sister with a villainous face muttered. "The little sister who doesn't depend on me anymore. I kind of like it."
She sat on the bed and began to stroke Charlotte's hair. "Charlotte I know you're strong. But you're not alone, you know? There are a lot of people who care about you not Charlotte the mage, not Charlotte the advisor to the king, not Charlotte who is the daughter of the Lotte trading company but Charlotte the girl that we missed for so long.
"So don't worry about anything. Just do what you want. If you feel you can't be strong, we'll be holding you up. If you feel like the world is pressing down on you, we'll hold the whole world back."
That was what a family was about.
"I heard about it from Alan. If that boy dares to run from you again, tie him up and make him regret rejecting you! I'll break his knees so he can't run away!"
For mysterious reasons, despite her very comely body and highly practiced refinement, Charlotte was such a total dork with no idea about healthy human relationships. If she actually had to try to deliberate seduce someone she wouldn't even know how to start.
Slam. "Sir Zah Playah of Chara! Is there a Sir Zah Playah of Chara here?!"
The person in question screamed back from the other side of the dining area "Ghosts of Solomon, woman! What are you doing here on your official work hours?! Don't you have a job to do?!"
Alan was not accompanying her anymore, since he and Rosette said they were due some hubby-wifey-kiddies time instead of Charlotte dragging him all over the place just as a shuttle service. Being her personal attach was supposed to be for his tactical utility - being able to bring back the court magician to the capital in times of emergency - but Sir Playa now had his own similar teleportation magic.
(He still charged her for the service, of course, which was something Charlotte respected.)
And so she noticed that the more she talked with Playa, the more and more he was starting to act and talk like Alan.
Sir Playa also looked mildly terrified, which was again as she was used to seeing from Alan.
He was also still staring at her body like most men she encountered, but less and less so, he focused on her face when talking. And even though she couldn't see his eyes, she could tell when he was genuinely angry and when he was just shiftlessly trying to avoid work.
"Umm. Don't you? I'm sorry to say this but I always seem to find you inside the inn no matter what time I arrive."
Playa glanced towards the red-haired woman by the bar counter, who shrugged. "I'm working here now," he said flatly.
"Surely we could offer you much better employment for an adventurer of your caliber than as a servant, Sir Playa."
Playa, who was still a Purple-ranked adventurer, looked away in shame. "Um, by that I mean I actually have 12.5% stock in this here inn."
Charlotte stared blankly in return. It was a pity that Charlotte only had a brain for magic, because anyone else from her family could probably give Playa that animated discussion on economic skullduggery he was craving in this parallel world.
At no point did Playa ever ask for more of her time away from work or to take liberties with her body, or to ask her to intercede with the king. While at times it was clear he wanted her to just leave him be, the same way she always wanted others to leave her be with her own thoughts, at least he gave her the proper bribes to get her to go away.
She could almost hear her teacher's voice echoing in the back of her mind /"Wait aren't you just a puppy being told how to play fetch?/" A sigh. /"Well I suppose I expected no better from you."/
Charlotte clutched at her head and hunched over. "No that's not it at all!"
"No, of course not. This is just the frame, I'll be explaining the next part about how to solve all our translation problems now."
"Eh?" Charlotte looked up to see that Playa had placed some sort of empty pyramidal frame on the table.
"So the problem is that you can bring all sorts of documents here, but I only have two eyes. You're wasting my time having to open books, look at them, translate them, and then store the translated images to be printed out later. Remember, it's not ME that's doing the translation. It's Monika's own magic my personal translation magic is to understand spoken languages, not written languages.
"If your own personnel could just give me prepared images, they could all be done literally as fast as Monika could read through them inside her own world, which progresses at a much faster rate than outside reality.
Zah Playa then showed her a black cube, somewhat smaller than what they called the [Projector Cube] that Monika used to appear out in the mortal world. It had a small flat-ended bulb on one side and a pane of glass about two inches on the back side. Playa pressed a button and then first a flash of light, then some mysterious symbols, and then the glass side became transparent? No, it was a lens!
"What is this magic tool?"
"It's I'm going to call it a minicam for now. This magic tool goes here, at the top of the frame, perfectly located to see a whole two pages of text. Now, look here" Charlotte approached to be able to see the screen properly, having to touch cheeks with Playa to do so. "Once you have adjusted the book or manuscript to fit, press this red button."
Charlotte did as instructed, and there was a soft click. The image on the small screen froze for a bit before it began to shift again with subtle shades of sunlight for a live image.
"How interesting! It is like an image crystal there is this magic tool that can place images onto small panes of glass, which you can then shine a light through for a much larger image." The camera obscura (://..//_) was a very old concept that Charlotte was already well familiar with, but what mystified her was the source of the light. "So what happens now?"
"Now, the image is stored in a small memory card here. You don't have to bring the whole thing back to me, just this memory card." He popped out the SD card and slipped it back in. "Monika, what's five hundred gigabytes divided by about two megabytes?" Playa asked.
After a moment, he gave the answer "Two hundred fifty thousand pages or so."
Charlotte recoiled. "Two hundred fifty- ! That's a quarter of a million pages!"
She gasped and began to breathe so quickly she could not take enough oxygen and was about to pass out. Playa jabbed his fingers to her neck and cast [Resuscitate].
And then continuing on as if nothing strange had happened, "Now, this magic tool is not actually powered by ambient magic. It runs on say, captured light. You will have to use this separate magic tool."
He then showed her a power bank with a solar panel on one side. "Leave this out in the sun for at least six hours. The minicam should be able to last for one whole day of straight use, but use it only through daylight hours and then overnight allow it to recuperate by inserting this wire into this socket."
"That's strange. It's almost like a living creature. But I understand! I'll be careful and do as you ask!" Charlotte nodded eagerly. "I would do anything for quarter of a million pages!"
Playa's right cheek twitched. "Right. Ahem. Anyway, this means that your own people can scan pages into the thing, and so you don't have to send me wagonloads of manuscripts anymore. Seriously, please take them back. I'm having to rent another whole room just to store them."
He took out another micro SD card and slid it over on the table towards her. "You can just have a messenger send me a memory card instead. I'll lend you two so that you can keep working while the other is on the way."
Charlotte stared down at the black sliver only about the size of one of her fingernails. She hesitantly reached down to pick it up and winced at just how flimsy the plastic felt in her hands. "Half a million pages! This... this is too precious! I don't understand, how can you bear to lend this to us? It's too risky! What if the messenger is waylaid?!"
He sniffed, "Some things are priceless because they are so unique they literally CANNOT be priced. These magic tools are the only ones like them in the world. And because of that, anyone stealing my equipment would find them spectacularly useless."
Playa tapped at the thing on his face. "Knowledge is power, but there can be no freedom without understanding. Iron bars do not a prison make, nor stone walls a cage."
Charlotte stared at the 500GB micro-SD card with something approaching reverence.
Playa stared at her quiet face, and felt a pang in his heart. He recited the rest of the stanza:
"Minds innocent and quiet take
That for an hermitage.
If I have freedom in my love,
And in my soul am free,
Angels alone, that soar above,
Enjoy such liberty."
He smiled gently. "Richard Lovelace, written in sixteen-forty-two."
"A book is a conversation across the centuries, a thought frozen in time held in the palm of one's hand," Charlotte replied softly.
Then she looked up sharply. "Wait! If you can do this do you does this not mean you have a whole library of your people's knowledge and culture with you AT ALL TIMES?!"
Her eyes blazed with renewed fervor.
"Oh I have a made a terrible mistake," Playa breathed out.
But fortunately he was saved from being molested some more by another disturbance by the door.
"Zah Playa! Is Zah is still here? Is there a lazy ass that needs to be kicked?!"
Elze, Linze, and Yae had arrived. Charlotte greeted them with undisguised friendliness. In truth, she liked these girls they had the sort of energy and bravery to be themselves that she wished she had known in her own teenage years. All her life she had been shuttled to and fro, learning and improving, but always in other people's terms, too afraid of failing to meet their expectations.
The girls, as Adventurers, had such freedom and daring and independence at such a young age that she was just honestly jealous.
And to her pleasant surprise, they actually had enough in common to talk about. While she was not a registered adventurer, her youth and training in Mismede and then her efforts to be recognized as the court mage put her in many interestingly dangerous situations. She had fought a great variety of monster beasts.
They chatted nicely over mediocre tea served by the Silver Moon Inn's proprietress. Until after a while, Linze suddenly interrupted with "Um excuse me! Miss Charlotte! Please!"
"I would like no, I... I challenge you to a duel!"
Phrfffft. Zah Playa spurted tea across the table, to Elze's aggrieved "Hey!" of disgust and dismay at her now wet clothes.
"Why," Playa moaned. "Why, Linze, whyyy?!"
But this time Linze could not be flustered by his attentions. She simply nodded and stared up at Charlotte with a disturbingly serene gaze. "It's just something that I have to do for myself, I'm sorry."
Charlotte slowly put down her teacup and smiled kindly. "I understand. I accept."