There is a space at the bottom of the world, where Earth and Ice and Shadow meet. It is cold, but not cold enough to kill; dark, but not too dark to see. A small round room, made of chilly black marble, lit by a dim and sourceless glow, with a spiral stair climbing the curve of the wall and a shallow circular recession in the exact center of the floor. The recession is maybe six feet wide by six inches deep, lined with something resembling pale frosted glass, and there is nothing in it.
Riale emerges onto the roof a minute later and climbs into the swoop to sit at the controls.
"Highpoint, here we come," he says, guiding the vehicle into the air. "There's food on board, or I can make you something with the book, although my selection's not great because I've only had it for a day."
"I have not had time to become bored of book food."
Giggle. "Okay, here," and he puts a hand on the book and a tray of food appears in front of Cor. It may possibly be the same tray from last night's demonstration.
"Thank you." Nom.
"So, any new thoughts since last night?"
"I really don't know how to solve your problem, but if we can send a message back to my world and they can find more worlds, maybe one of them can."
"Maybe, yeah. If your world finds more worlds to evacuate to, I'd consider sending everybody out of this one, in case I can't save it - but that would involve a lot of your magic unless you got really lucky at scouting and found a different way to move between worlds, and it doesn't sound like it's a good idea to use a lot of your magic. And from everything I've heard, there's supposed to be a built-in way to make this world not end. I've got a whole year to find it; if I can't manage that, what am I even doing?"
"Drawing food?" suggests Cor. "Uh, it's fine to use a lot of my magic as long as you have a stupidly large quantity of stuff and space you don't mind being destroyed, it took a long time to go through our planet with a lot of casual use. Roasting chicken and so on."
...he laughs. "Well, fair enough. If we can afford to preemptively evacuate this world, then we should do it, assuming we haven't figured out how to save it by then. But I think your world should be the evacuation priority."
"Yeah, everyone there is - already aware the world is ending, people here are mostly doing okay seems like."
"They'll start getting upset when word gets around that the Emperor is dead. But yeah."
"Maybe I'm underestimating how alarming that is."
"He was immortal, he'd been around since the beginning of the world, he was - a constant, a background fact. And then he just died for no reason."
"What does it mean to have been around since the beginning of the world? Did a bunch of fully grown adults wake up and go 'gosh golly, a world'?"
"...yes? And it is now three thousand six hundred and forty-five years - and one day - after that."
"And they were all normally mortal except the one guy? What else was in the world with them when they started, did you go from stone age on up in this time?"
"All the geography was there from the beginning, and the middle bits of First City, the palace and some outlying stuff and houses and so on."
"Most iterations of the cycle start with less than that. The creator from the previous world was very thorough."
"Did people wake up knowing how to do things? Did they have names? Did they find suddenly existing unsettling?"
"Kanero said everyone started with the language and he in particular woke up knowing it was his job to run things. And they could all walk and move and eat and stuff right from the start. Everything else they learned from the library."
"It sort of makes sense, if the book can put people in the next world but can't put them in with memories, that that's how they'd show up... and I don't know what trick the last creator pulled to make Kanero immortal but I'd love to find out."
"Yeah, nice trick if you can get it."
"With an obvious flaw, though. He died right at the beginning of the Last Year, which suggests to me that he was tied to the lifespan of the world. If I can make the world undying and then figure out how to make everybody immortal that way, that'd definitely be better than nothing, but I'd rather not tie everybody to the world in case something happens to it one day, you know?"