Idle Mage: Humanity's Strongest Backer
Chapter 194: Pact with the Devil

The old man at least had some shame in him.

He was flustered as he slowly backed away from the office table, rearranging the stack of papers on the desk in his poor attempt of trying to make it look like he didn't touch anything, though he also realized that this is useless since he was already caught red-handed.

He lowered his head in embarrassment as Ashton walked past him. He saw him looking at the papers, then he said:

"Oh, so you've read through the files I suppose? Great! This makes it easier for me. Please, have a seat."

"I-I'm sorry know..." Manny awkwardly said while sitting down.

"Hm? Ah! No, it's fine. I was supposed to show this to you anyway. Like I said, you knowing its contents makes this easier for me." Ashton replied, "If you don't mind Mr. Crossford, can you let me know your thoughts about this certain project? Feel free to be candid, I specifically asked you here for a reason."

"'s very ambitious," Manny said after a brief deliberation. He adjusted his glasses and briefly recalled the contents of the papers, causing him to feel amazed all over again. "Very ambitious but also inspiring."

"Care to elaborate on that?" Ashton leaned forward, showing an interesting expression.

"This...'ARC City Project', it's something that I personally never seen before."

"A City that can practically survive any climate and adjust to all kinds of environment while also staying strong and self-sufficient...pardon me but this sounds like a pipe dream to anybody that hears it, especially if they don't know how this was supposed to be done and they haven't read the files yet."

"But...since I read through the files and I have a good background when it comes to technical stuff, I can safely say that, while this project remains quite ambitious, it's plausible. I believe that it can be done."

Manny paused and looked at Ashton who was nodding in encouragement for him to continue.

"I've seen some methods in the files that I've never heard of before." He said, "Initially, I thought they were just some random scribbles but the more I look at them, the more I find them highly logical and inspirational."

"What an innovative set of methods..." Manny softly exclaimed to himself, his mind turning back to when he was engrossed in learning more from the files. "Although I am largely unfamiliar with the processes stated in there, I believe that each one has its own merits and could potentially work."

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"However, my opinion still stands." Manny sighed, "This is a highly ambitious project. Mostly because it is a construction of a whole city. It will be labor intensive and time-consuming."

"Although it is appealing on paper, it'll be extremely difficult to execute it. After all, we are lacking the resources needed to build it."

Manny's expression turned lamentable by the end. Ashton on the other hand wanted to grin from ear to ear but he controlled himself.

'As expected, I've called for the right guy.' He told himself inwardly.

It had to be known that Ashton did not include the list of materials needed for the construction of the city. There's nothing in those files that stated what kind of composition should be used in order to ensure that the foundation of the city would last for an eternity.

Manny guessed most of it on his own. While he might not necessarily know the exact resource that the project was lacking, the fact that he could point that out just from the first glance at the files is a testament to his expertise.

Now, Ashton was even more convinced that he's got the right person. And he really wants to recruit him now.

"I see." Ashton rested his back on his chair and maintained a flat expression. He then brought something out of his pocket and placed it on the desk. "Check this out."

Manny stared at the object on the desk. A frown appeared on his face as he adjusted his glasses to take a better look.

The object was a smooth black crystal ball. At least externally, that's what it looks like.

It was compact and its surface was completely smooth that one could even see their reflections in it. It's also the size of a basketball.

Manny looked at Ashton and asked: "M-may I...?"

"Go ahead." Ashton gestured, "Just make sure to not drop it, it'll be dangerous if that happens."

Manny kept that in mind and then he began inspecting the black crystal ball.

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He silently admired its appearance and even touched it a bit. Initially, he didn't feel anything amiss. It seems like it was just an ordinary crystal ball, but for some reason, Manny felt that that was not the case either.

There's more to this than what it looks like. So he was determined to find out! Meanwhile, Ashton openly used his smartwatch to kill some time.

A couple of minutes later, when Ashton peeled his gaze away from his smartwatch to look at the old man, he was shocked to see what happened.

Out of nowhere, a pile of tools appeared, forming a small mound beside Manny - who was glaring at the crystal orb with bloodshot eyes. He's holding a screwdriver so tight in his grip that Ashton felt wary that he might actually stab the crystal ball.

"So uh...any luck? Tell me your thoughts, please." Ashton asked, startling Manny out of his stupor.

And just like what happened before, he acted like a cat whose tail has just been stepped on. As if he was caught doing something illegal.

He coughed in embarrassment and silently placed the screwdriver down. He then gingerly kept the tools he unknowingly took out just now, adding more to the embarrassment he was already feeling.

It was only then that he remembered that Ashton just asked him a question...honestly, what a bonafide mess he is.

"This crystal ball...may I know where did you get it?" He asked.

"I believe I asked you a question first, Mr. Crossford. Do tell me your thoughts first and depending on what I hear, I might just answer your question too."

Ashton firmly planted his place in this conversation. He didn't want to lose the initiative since he want things to fall in his favor. He doesn't have anything against the old man but from what his ex-wife told him, this is the least he could do to ensure that he emerges as the overall winner of this meeting.

Manny visibly hesitated at first but he relented in the end...he might want to gain some foothold here but his curiosity was getting the best of him.

"'s something that, in theory at least, shouldn't be possible. Like, this is a piece of technology from afar, far future which got sent back in time and somehow landed in your care."

"It is a power source..." he stated, "An incredibly potent one at that. The fact that it could also recharge itself by absorbing mana and other types of energy that already exist around it, makes this thing even more amazing. In theory, it should be a self-sufficient power source that can be installed and be forgotten about unless the situation specicially calls for it."

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After saying his piece, Manny looked at Ashton who was smiling down at him.

"Do you know what I call that?"

"..." Manny didn't say anything but it was obvious from his face that he was interested to know.

"ARC Core. That's what I call it." Ashton stated.

"ARC Core...wait! ARC—!!"

Ashton smiled even wider when he saw the look of understanding on Manny's face. He also saw how the old man's hands trembled as he caressed the core with almost a worshipping gaze.

From a certain standpoint, Ashton can understand what he's feeling. The core resting on the old man's hands isn't just some random power source.

It is a power source that could potentially run an entire city for ages with barely any maintenance.

While it's somewhat unbelievable that this tiny thing could do wonders like that, judging from the tests Manny had done with the core so far, he didn't have a choice but to believe it.

Actually, to think that he just used some crude tools to inspect and test this marvel of a thing felt like blasphemy. That is mainly the reason why his hands were trembling, aside from the obvious awe and disbelief on top of that.

The old man's heart rumbled with this discovery. He felt as if he was having a heart attack but in truth, he just felt excited and hot-blooded.

When was the last time he felt exactly like this? Manny couldn't even remember anymore. He had been jaded with too many failures that he didn't even realize how hopeless he looked.

But now...this thing in front of gave him hope.

Hope that was brought on to him by this strange young man in front of him.

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"What do you need me to do to involve me in this?" Manny decisively asked.

"Very simple, Mr. Crossford." Ashton took out a stack of papers and pushed it onto his desk. "All you need to do, is to sign this contract and you'd become the leading figure for this whole project."

Sufficed to say that, on that day, Emmanuel Crossford signed a pact with the devil.

Idle Mage: Humanity's Strongest Backer Chapter 194: Pact with the Devil
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