"Mm." Medula looked unfazed, but her eye did twitch in reaction. "Did I hear that right? Service? Me under you?"
"Hoh, you wish to take Medula?" said the Death Lord. "Well, if ever there was one I was loathe to be parted with, it would be her. She does manage quite a bit around here."
"It wouldn't be permanent service," said Aldrich. "I recognize how important Medula is to maintaining the Necropolis. You mentioned before you could lend some of your troops to me in temporary service, right? That's what I want here."
"Temporary service? Yes, indeed, but for what, a meagre ten or so seconds?" said the Death Lord. "Did you forget what else I said, Death Walker? There is a great degree of separation between this realm and the one you call home. So long as Medula remains under me, she cannot manifest for long in yours, even with temporary ownership under you."
"If even I will allow that," said Medula. "I am spending quite a bit of time away from my research with this child already. To accommodate this usurper as well would grate on my nerves quite a bit."
"Ten seconds is more than enough," said Aldrich.
"Oh, is it?" The Death Lord smiled coyly at him.
Aldrich ignored the innuendo behind that and continued. "Tell me, would the troops you give temporary ownership to me over be weakened away? Incapable of using some spells, for example?"
"No," said the Death Lord. "Their spells come from their own mana reserves, after all. It is in materializing them outside of my realm in the first place where the difficulty lies."
"Then there's no issue," said Aldrich.
"There is an issue," said Medula, annoyed. "My consent."
"Of course, I'll get to that later." Aldrich crossed his arms as he flung an accusing look at the Death Lord. "You do owe me, after all."
"What? How?" The Death Lord raised a brow.
"My divine class artifact – it's useless at this point." Aldrich manifested his [Restorative Flask] and held it out towards the Death Lord. She recoiled in disgust at the faint golden light emanating from it.
"You never even relied upon that vile thing in the first place!" protested the Death Lord.
"No, but that was just because I was careful. Losing a contingency feels pretty bad, you know? And a divine class artifact at that? I'd like some level of compensation here," said Aldrich.
"We have already fashioned that throne for you," said Medula. "Do you understand how much effort that took me? Connecting that throne to the Necropolis and the warpways that I so carefully weaved across this realm? If I had connected that throne to the warpway with even a miniscule amount of error, all of it would have come crumbling down."
"And in recognition of that skill, I want to hire your services," said Aldrich.
"I shall allow it." The Death Lord nodded.
"And you are certain?" Medula looked incredulous. "I know that look in your eyes. You find this thoroughly entertaining, do you not? What part of letting this realm crumble without my expertise is so amusing, hm?"
The Death Lord laughed and slapped Medula lightly on the back. "Lighten up, Curator. A ten second absence is not enough to collapse this place. I do not think the Death Walker's request is unreasonable. And I find it quite interesting as to what he plans with you."
"I will not go unless I have a clear idea of what this 'favor' entails," said Medula, conceding some ground.
Aldrich lifted a single finger into the air. "All I want you to do is cast one spell."
"Mm." Medula cocked her head and slowly nodded in understanding. "I believe I do understand where this is leading."
"[Outworld Imprisonment]" said Aldrich. "Cast that, and you can return to your research or whatever it is that calls to you."
"Perhaps the strongest spell in my arsenal. Though if you wished to obtain the most from a minor few seconds of my service, then I expected no less," said Medula. "Tell me, why do you require a tenth circle spell far beyond your current capabilities?"
Aldrich briefly pondered the question.
[Outworld Imprisonment] was an immensely powerful spell that trapped a massive location in a huge void from which there was no escape. One needed to have incredibly powerful anti-magic or an equally powerful warp magic user to counter it. It was a useful spell for completely negating large swathes of enemies for periods of time or forcing favorable duels.
The imprisoning void even lasted for an entire hour after being cast regardless of whether the caster was there or not.
A spell like this of the tenth tier was absurdly useful on its own, and Aldrich would have liked to keep it in his back pocket. But there was another, more specific reason he wanted to use this spell.
"There's a place I'd like isolated. In exchange, to sweeten this deal for you, you can take most of the Alterhumans there for experimentation," said Aldrich. "You just have to leave one for me."
"Mm." At the mention of potential test subjects to learn about the new world, Medula's pointed ears twitched in curiosity. "Fine. I will agree to this. Now do not waste my time any further. I want to get this lesson over with as soon as possible."
Aldrich watched Medula and the Chrysalis train. He stood with back against the wall of a circular stone room. Though technically a room of Medula's study and library, this place had no books. Just stone walls inscribed with demonic runes here and there that absorbed and nullified magic.
This was where Medula went to test out spells or volatile magics. A blast room of sorts where any unwanted explosions would get dampened.
Aldrich recognized those runes as belonging to the demon god of war, Carnassus. The fact that Medula, who most decidedly was not a war demon judging by her personality, had these was a curiosity, but when he thought about it, it did make sense.
Medula had probably been a follower of Velen, the demon god of knowledge who sought to learn about civilizations he encountered before destroying them by exploiting their own greed with cursed pacts that seemed sweet on the surface but had poisoned pills within. Velen and his demons also were not above harvesting the knowledge of other demons.
"Focus and release your mana. Feel as if you're reaching into your heart and taking it out with your mind," said Medula. She knelt behind the Chrysalis, watching intently. The Chrysalis's brows were knitted together in sheer focus, her little lip trembling as she thrust her hands out to channel her magic.
The Chrysalis nodded. Colorless magical energy that looked like it distorted space emanated from the Chrysalis, wreathing her arms in little tongues.
"…" Medula looked briefly surprised before maintaining her usual calm. "Good. Very good. How does it feel to release that mana?"
Medula placed a hand on the Chrysalis's back and fed magical energy through it. The Chrysalis lost mana by releasing it, but with Medula replaced what the girl lost as soon as she lost it.
"Keep releasing your mana. Don't worry about getting tired. I shall assist you. Simply focus on the feeling of releasing that mana. How does it feel?" said Medula.
"It feels…feels warm. Like a good hug," said the Chrysalis.
"Good. Then that is your Trigger. To cast magic is a deeply personal endeavor. A Trigger is a set of feelings and sensations uniquely important to you that you call upon to release the flow of mana." Medula spoke softly. "Now try to shape that mana."
"I-into what?" asked the Chrysalis, nervous.
"Anything you want. A simple ball will do," said Medula.
The Chrysalis bit her lip as she exerted serious concentration. She glanced at Aldrich, trying to gauge what he expected of her.
Medula put her bandaged hand over the Chrysalis's eyes. "Do not look. I am sure he simply wants you to try your best. And to do that, you need to shut everything out. Everything except that feeling in your heart and the image in your head.
Visualize what you want to shape. Focus."
The Chrysalis nodded, and after a few seconds, managed to make a tiny, unstable bubble of mana that looked like a little ripple in space.
"Good, good." Medula nodded. "It has been an hour. Take some time to rest." She took her hand off of the Chrysalis's back, and the Chrysalis sighed.
"Phew. That was hard." The Chrysalis wiped sweat off her forehead with her small arm. She looked up at Medula worriedly. "What you said before…am I a bother?"
"You take up my time, that is undeniable," said Medula, and the Chrysalis looked down in sorrow. "But you are no bother. I enjoy teaching others. Particularly those with talent. Now go rest. I will need to talk to your father for a bit, so if you want to say anything to him, make it short."
The Chrysalis nodded enthusiastically before she hopped over to Aldrich, going as fast as her little legs could carry her.
"How did I do!?" said the Chrysalis. She was starting to become more and more expressive now, a solid smile beaming on her face.
"You did well. Very well." Aldrich patted the Chrysalis on the head. "Now go rest, like your teacher said."
"Okay. I'll look at the shiny books!" The Chrysalis ran out of the room, a stone door automatically sliding open for her when she got close enough.
When the Chrysalis was gone, Aldrich to Medula as she stood up, patting dust off her coat.
"You're quite good at teaching children. I didn't expect that. Or were you just keeping up good behavior because I was here?" teased Aldrich.
"Nonsense. I enjoy teaching when it is worthwhile. When there is truly talent to sculpt. When there is nothing, I simply do not bother," said Medula. "And I loathe practically every species in existence, including my own demonkin, but children are different. They are refreshing to see, largely untainted by the filth of the world around them. Thus, they are easy to shape and to feel kindness for."
"They're innocent. I understand what you mean," said Aldrich. He had a soft spot for children because they were a reminder of the innocence he had lost. And the innocence he would like to protect.
As a Lich, he knew that he was separated enough from humanity that he would not sacrifice himself over children, but he could still find it in him to treat them kindly.
He imagined it was the same for Medula as an Archdemon; a species that generally did not see humans as much more than food or playthings.
"I suppose that is one commonality between us," said Medula.
"I'm sure if we tried, we could find much more than that," said Aldrich.
Medula cocked her head. "Are you…flirting with me?"
"Hm? What, no," said Aldrich. "I was being literal. I can sense that we might have some more things in common, not that I'm flirting with you. Where did you get that nonsense?"
"Perhaps the Death Lord was right. It comes naturally to you, without you even knowing," said Medula. She shrugged.
"I usually file away anything she says about that topic into the nonsense section of my brain," said Aldrich. "Now then, judging from what you've said, it looks like the Chrysalis is worth teaching, no?"
Medula nodded. "She is a prodigy."