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16th of Planting Month, 12:25
Yakumo House, Gensokyo’s Border
“As fun as it sounds to spar for another whole day, I think it’s about time I got back to Yukari.” I tell her. “After all, I came here to train under her.”
The fox closes her eyes and hums to herself a bit. “Lady Yukari should be in her study right about now.”
“Thank you.” I give her a small polite bow. “I’ll be sure to get back to you once I have some more free time. Learning to use shikigami would be incredibly useful.”
“Paper shikigami are tools.” The other Ran adds in. “Use them right and they’ll be helpful. But use them wrong and they’ll only get in the way.”
“For example,” The first Ran holds up a finger. “By deploying multiple shikigami, I have the ability to be in several places at the same time. And while each shikigami is weaker than my main body, they’re more than capable of doing the tasks I need them to do.”
“Figured.” I shrug. “Even a weak copy of yours need to hold back to come down to my level.”
“There’s nothing to be ashamed of, Ryuko.” She smiles widely. “I’m old enough to soon lose my ninth tail again. No normal human would be able to spar with me, even with my power fragmented like this.”
“Most people aren’t dragons either.” I comment as I walk over to the faucet.
I turn it on and take seat right underneath the water stream, just to get the worst sweat off me.
I can almost hear the heat leaving my body, as I let the cold water soak me completely.
Typically, I have talismans attached to my back which help me regulate my body’s heat. I’ve had to take them off seeing as they were getting unstable after a lot of use. And I don’t make these in bulk like most other talismans.
Having cooled off again, I turn off the faucet and stand back up.
Water - Repel
I focus the enchantment into the palms of my hands, and as it’s completed, I yank my hands down to my sides. For a lack of a better description, the water explodes off me and my clothes, flying out in every direction, leaving me completely dry again.
When Yumemi talks about the benefits of magic, I think it’s small things like this she imagines. Because it’s moments like this I’m glad I’ve learned enchantments.
When people think of enchantments, they typically think of granting a sword an elemental attribute or a piece of clothing some amplifying properties. Both of those do fall under enchanting, since they alter the properties of something, but they lack the imagination to truly use this school of magic.
Of course, the use of enchanting, like any magic, the way you use it depends on the catalyst chosen. In my case, I use words as a catalyst for enchanting. This means there are things I can do which other catalysts can’t, such as masking my enchantments with different languages or even inventing my own language to use. But it also restricts me in several ways, like being unable to create advanced enchantments. I’m restricted to three words, where single words create powerful but often unpredictable effects, while chained words have a more controlled though weaker effect.
The effects of the words depends on the caster’s understanding of the word. Like the word, “Weight” on its own would increase the weight of the targeted object, but with additional words the enchantment can be modified to lighten the weight, both relatively and absolutely.
Of course it’s not that simple, or anyone could master it. Most enchantments depend on the target as well, and how the caster relates the word to the target. This can be a strength of using words as a catalyst, since it allows for some complexity despite the initial lack thereof, but if this aspect is not understood, it can be quite problematic to use single words.
Take “Purge” for example. “To get rid of the undesirable. To clean impurities.” If I were to use that on a glass of water, it would become everyday tap water, by removing anything that would change that, though it can’t add anything to the water. Using Purge on a rock would effectively just clean it, remove moss dirt and bird shit.
Using Purge on living beings is remarkably safe despite how powerful the word is. It removes all foreign substances and objects from inside the body. Which include poisons like alcohol, parasites and implanted objects like screws and stitches, in case you’d had a surgery.
Now, the enchantment I used, “Water, Repel.” Being only two words, it’s a powerful enchantment which temporarily repels water from the surface of my skin. The base word “Repel” is placed as the second word in the chain. This is only allowed because the first word isn’t a property or action of some sort, and this has the effect of weakening the enchantment below the two word chain to a three word chain, while turning the first word into a target modifier. It would have been possible to add a third word, weakening the spell to a four word chain, which has virtually no effect.
And while I’ve been monologuing about things I clearly know and have no real reason to go over again, I’ve made my way to Yukari’s study.
I knock on the door.
“Come in, Ryuko.” She replies almost immediately.
As I slide open the door, she folds in a scroll she’d been reading, from the looks of it.
“I’ve confirmed it with Ran.” I state. “My body has recovered fully, with the exception of my eye.”
Storing the scroll in the cabinet behind her, she stands up. “Then let us get started.” She says, mildly enthusiastically. “Follow me outside.”
“So, where are we going to pick up?” I ask her.
“Little old Junya told me you learn best when you learn on your own.” She answers. “So I tried to just push you in the right direction, but otherwise leave you to yourself.”
“Which really only works if I have more of an idea where I’m going.” I reply. “Without knowing where to even start, I ended up going nowhere.”
The sage looks back up at me. “Wrong.” She states, looking back ahead to where she’s going. “You actually ended up going backwards, from where I wanted you to go. Which is entirely my fault.”
She slides open the door outside, revealing a scenery entirely different than the grounds the house is built on.In fact, stepping outside and looking back at the house reveals nothing but a door by its lonesome self.
The location itself is a flat mountain top. I can see the human village off in the distance, but it’s far, far away.
“This here,” she draws a line in the dirt with her parasol, “is one of Gensokyo’s entrances to heaven. I’m sure you can feel it, right?”
“Yeah, this place is charged with spiritual energy, beyond what even Inari’s shrine can manage.” And she’s one of the more visited shrines too, because of the unique entrance. “You’re not asking me to go to heaven, right?”
“No.” She shakes her head. “Without the Yama’s pass, you’d walk endlessly towards heaven without getting any closer, yet still get further away from earth.” She steps over to my side of the line she drew. “I’m going to have you rediscover the nature of spiritual energy, of this higher dimensional power we can tap into.”
Without warning she grabs my collar and with inhuman force, drags me towards her before letting go.
“What the hell?” I protest. “Warn me before you do stuff like that.”
“Take a look behind you, if you would.” Yukari instructs calmly.
Behind me? There’s nothing behind- is that me? Or my body, rather.
I look at my hands.
Transparent. Jade. Liquid. Embers.
My hands, no my entire current body is made from this, these burning watery embers.
“What’s going on, Yukari?” I turn back around to face her.
“I’ve extracted a large portion of your spiritual energy and linked it directly to your consciousness.” She states, as she walks through me to my physical body. My god, that’s a strange feeling. “The energy you’re attached to right now will slowly disperse, naturally. Once it’s all gone, you’ll wake up back in your own body.”
I take another look at my hands.
So this is what my spiritual power looks like? Burning green water? Normally, you can’t see your own spiritual power, since it’d cause an effect similar to light pollution, making you unable to detect anything but yourself.
“Until you can create a barrier, no matter how small, or until your spiritual power runs out, you’ll be staying on this mountain.” My body disappears into Yukari’s gap. “With your power, that could take a few days. Until then, we’ll be keeping your body safe.”
“Wait. You’re doing it again.” I stop her just before she steps into her gap herself. “Where am I even supposed to start this training?”
“Start by trying to create a barrier.” She states. “Then ponder the results. Consider why I took you here of all places. Then try to get a feel for spiritual energy again.”
With that said, she disappears, closing the gap behind her.
I swear, if this is how we’re going to keep training, then I’ll be better off going back to the shrine. At least she gave me a hint this time.
Anyway. Since she implied creating a barrier would be tougher in this state, I should do it properly instead to taking all the shortcuts I’ve learned.
I straighten out my stance, standing tall as I start spooling up my spiritual energy.
And to my surprise, I can actually see it moving inside of my immaterial body, bubbling up as it moves around.
I clap my hands together, pressing each finger against its opposite as I spread them out as far as I can before I fold them into each other. With my hands intertwined, I press my thumbs against each other and channel my spiritual energy into the space between my palms.
“Curabitur, bibendum, eu.” I chant.
It’s a foreign chant, obviously. This one is the easiest barrier in my entire arsenal, creating a simple flat surface exactly one meter ahead of me, centered and angled relative to my hips. The simplicity comes at the cost of strength, though. It’ll be enough to stop the average human, but anyone worth their salt can break it.
Yet nothing happens.
I felt the spiritual energy leave me like usual, yet nothing happened.
Just as I pull my hands apart again, a sphere falls out from in between them, dispersing before it hits the ground.
I repeat the spell and the same thing happens again.
This has never happened before.
I do it again, this time pushing the ball up before it has a chance to fall, though it disperses regardless as soon as I’ve completed the spell.
Mountain top, Gensokyo - 16:18
Are you fucking serious?
I march to the other end of the small plateau, running both hands through my hair.
How can it be so fucking simple?
“Fuck!” I yell out and start stomping back to the other end again.
I’m missing something. I gotta be. I need to be.
I hold out both my hands, imagining a perfect square filling the space between them. As I start to pour spiritual energy into it, the cube appears.
It worked. Fuck.
I throw the cube on the ground, shattering it.
Thirteen years. It’s taken me thirteen years to master barrier crafting, to understand the underlying formulae, why they’re used and how to mix and match to get the desired result.
And all of that can be ignored just by imagining it.
I kick a rock with all the anger in my nonexistent body, only to pass through the small stone.
Just thinking about all the possibilities I’ll have with this fills me with as much excitement as frustration. And I have no idea how to describe this feeling which only makes it worse.
But why the hell does it work? It’s never been this easy when I had a body. Is it because I’m a spiritual being right now, or a pseudo spiritual being at least. I’m still attached to my body.
Does it have anything to do with this place? Yukari did say it was special. One of the entries to heaven, a place brimming with spiritual energy.
The relation to heaven doesn’t matter, since Yukari can do this too wherever. Is it the spiritual power? If so, why could she do it back at her place even though I couldn’t?
I’m exhausted. Yet I’m not tired.
This body doesn’t feel exhaustion the same way my physical body does. Rather, I can feel I just need a break, a good few hours to just relax. The problem is, there’s nothing else to do up here, so I get bored out of my mind as soon as I try to stop thinking about anything.
Normally, when I need a break from thinking, I just work out, lets me go on auto-pilot. If I could at least start a fire, I’d have something to distract me visually. All I have is the clear night sky. And as beautiful as it is, it never changes so there’s nothing new to spot.
So I’m starting to notice patterns with what I can and can’t do with spiritual power by just imagining it.
Pattern one. There’s literally no shape I can’t create, as long as I have enough spiritual energy to form it. I can even determine the density of objects, which will obviously impact how solid they are.
Pattern two. Animating these objects requires focus. If I focus on an existing object, presumably one I’ve created, I can alter its shape. The problem arises from the fact it takes the shape that dominates my mind. So to animate it, I have to imagine every step of the animation from shape A to shape B. Skipping back and forth in my thoughts causes the shape to skip back and forth too, making it unstable and breaks.
Pattern three. All these objects have a relative anchor point, which seem to default to my primary hand, though it can be changed easily. The shapes aren’t bound to this point by default either, but is another things that can be changed relatively easily. Using this point, I don’t need to actually touch the shape to create or manipulate it.
I might have gotten little carried away when experimenting, but I can create and maintain about twenty of these shapes at once, if I keep them all simple. I need them all within my field of view, otherwise I’ll lose track of it, because each of them require their own image, meaning I have to multitask to do this.
Enchantments works too. Though this requires the dual casting skill I picked up a few years back.
Since I usually have to use a formula to create barriers, weaving enchantments into them usually meant adding a few variables into the mix. But if I do it like this, I have to cast the enchantment on the energy itself, which was a challenge by itself, but oddly interesting.
I haven’t been able to casts enchantments like this either. Those require a catalyst regardless.
Something’s off about the barriers created like this. I tried recreating a tried and true barrier type using this spiritual shaping skill, and something seems very off about it.
Actually, it looks like a brute-forced version of the barrier, which is unlike the weaving required to shape it using the spell.
So that’s it. I still have to weave the barrier to make it work. I just have to do it manually while keeping the barrier as a whole in mind.
Seems unreasonably hard. It’d require an inhuman level on concentration and memory to keep track of this level of detail.
To try and visualize it, imagine a rope. In order to make a rope, you have to wrap a bunch of thin threads together. Then wrap those threads together. And then those, and so on until you have a nice and thick rope. A lengthy piece of work that produces a solid result.
But then we have machines that can do the same exact thing, but quicker, of better, since they can weave the threads in a more entwined manner, allowing them to use each other for more strength while being thinner.
It’s the same difference there’s between using this shaping skill and using standardized spells.
Sure, an inherent flaw of the spells is the need for an underlying structure, dictating it’s pattern and giving it a sense of uniform and reusability. I mean, that’s not a bad thing, but it means you need to generalize a way to calculate all of that on the fly before you can create it as a spell.
Shaping is far less restrictive, since you can shape it anyway you want. The problem arises from the fact that you need certain aspects for the barrier to be stable. Creating that manually takes more time, though it’s something that will get easier with practice, as you can generalize that part of it. Of course, doing that means you restrict yourself on the type of barrier based on the foundation, but more so is that you start moving back to the spell based creation instead of the shaping.
Combining the two is an obvious choice too, which doesn’t seem unreasonable after a bit of practice.
Though that line of thinking has gotten me curious.
Took some trial and error, but I somehow managed to anchor the shape to the earth, making it stationary in the air. I mean, that in itself was easy, since I can just anchor it to something obvious.
No, the hard part came afterwards as I started to play with the restrictions of this.
Anchoring the shape to something means that whatever force is exerted on the shape is transferred to the anchor. Meaning, if I anchor a barrier to myself, I’ll be able to walk around with it, but all force the barrier will experience, such as incoming attacks or thrown objects, will be transferred to me. In theory, of course; I don’t have a body to test it on currently.
But that will mean I can have my body remain unharmed through my barrier, though I won’t be able to stop anything with more force or mass than my own body. The same thing applies to all anchors. If I use a tree, then the barrier’s location will only be locked as firmly as that tree’s resistance to outside force.
The shape itself also has a limited resistance, meaning if the force is too great for the shape but not the anchor, then the shape will break. Factoring this in when creating the shape should allow for a great shield, maybe even a great weapon despite the fact spiritualism is generally reserved for support in terms of combat. That will just make it a surprise attack the first time I use it. After that, the word will have spread and people will be on guard for it.
Can I layer shapes anchored to the same object? If that’s the case, then I might be able to use Newton’s second and third law to my advantage by progressively chipping of velocity with a bunch of weak shapes.
That might not work as well as I hoped, on second thought. Maybe if it’s possible to anchor a shape to multiple objects at once?
Short answer; yes and yes.
It is in fact possible to layer shapes onto the same anchor. How that impacts the overall force resistance is still undetermined.
It is also possible to anchor a single shape to multiple objects. How that impacts the force resistance has yet to be theorized.
I mean, obviously, with multiple anchors, the overall force will be distributed across all anchors, meaning the resistance of each anchor will come into play. But how the distribution happens, as in how much force each anchor has to cancel out and what happens should one break, is still unknown.
It’s going to be a pain to remember all these questions for Yukari, and I’m frankly having too much fun experimenting and playing around with this skill to really remember them since I just move on to the next question I have right at that moment.
The next thing I know, I’m staring into the ceiling of the room Yukari lets me use.
I sit up, only to realize how stiff my body’s become and how much it hurts to move before I ultimately just fall back onto my bed.
It’s a western style bed too. Yukari has a surprising taste in decoration, mixing both new and old designs from both the east and the west. My room has been designed to look like a modern single room apartment, without the toilet and the stove, of course. The door, strangely enough, is an eastern sliding door, as opposed to a western style swing door like modern apartments. And then there’s the back wall, which leads directly outside. It mixes the western style of the adjacent walls into the open Japanese style via finely carved wood patterns that progressively get more open the further back they go.
The furniture is all western, though. A wide makeshift table, which is really just a wooden tabletop placed on two small dressers. It’s all made from the same type of dark wood, so it blends nicely.
The door slides open, drawing me out of my thoughts.
It’s Ran. She’s carrying a big bowl of water. Her sleeves rolled up to her shoulders.
“You’re awake already?” She asks, walking in and placing the bowl on the table. “We first expected you to wake up tomorrow.”
“I might have gone a little overboard.” I admit, trying to sit up again. “What did you do to my body to make it this stiff?”
“You’ve lied there for two days straight.” Ran explains. “Anyone would get stiff after that long of doing nothing.”
Right. I’m not used to being motionless. Especially not under these circumstances. I mean it’s not like I spent the last couple of days doing nothing. I just did it without my body.
“So, did you learn anything?” She wrings up a piece of cloth she took from the water.
“I might have discovered something amazing.” I tell her. “Once I get my body started again, I’ll see try to see if I can replicate it.”
She presses the cloth against my forehead- and my god it’s freezing cold.
I flinch back out of reflex, but Ran follows the motion, keeping the cloth pressed against my face.
“Careful.” She instructs me as she pulls me back up sitting. “You’re burning hot. You’ve been so since yesterday.”
I grab my own nape, and sure enough, it’s hot. More so than it normally should be.
“Ran, in my bag, wherever it is right now, there should be a bundle of spell tags like the ones taped to my back.” I tell her. “If you could bring it here and help me swap out the ones I have with new ones from the bundle, I believe it should fix it.”
“If that’s all, then it should barely take a minute.” She says, removing the cloth to dip it in the water again. “Might I ask what they’re for, these tags?”
“They help regulate my internal body heat.” I explain. “This is likely a sign that the cold ones have expired.”
Though it’s odd I didn’t notice it myself. Maybe because it happened while I had my out-of-body experience? In that case it should have hit me like a brick when I woke up. It’s hard to say how the body actually works sometimes, since it seems to have a life on it’s own.
Another Ran walks into the room, carrying a plate. “I’m afraid I couldn’t prepare anything warm to eat on such a short notice.” She says, putting the plate down next to the bowl. “I imagine you would be hungry, since you haven’t had anything to eat since the other day.” She wipes her hands in her apron. “I’ll prepare a little more for you for tonight. Meanwhile, be sure to drink.”
A third Ran enters the room, twirling the book of spell tags from my back around her finger. “I took the liberty of glancing over the spells you have prepared.” She notes, flipping through the many tags before stopping on one. “These are the ones you mentioned, right? They appear to have something to do with temperature from what I could glance.”
“I will go fetch something to drink.” Apron Ran declares as she leaves the room.
“Yeah, those are the ones, Ran.” I answer her. “You’ll find the other set ten pages ahead. I need you to pull off the ones I have on me currently and replace them with one of the same type, alternating between them.”
“Alright.” The Ran holding the book rips out the tags from the collection. “Turn around, if you would.”
I shuffle around the on the bed, turning my back against the two of them.
Without warning, she just rips one of them off.
“This definitely looks worn out.” One of them comments. They have the exact same voice, so I can’t tell the difference. “How often do you change these?”
“Four to six times a year.” I reply. “Given how much spiritual energy I can pour into them, they last quite long.”
She tapes one to my back, rubbing it to make sure it sticks properly.
“From what I can read, they consume quite a lot of power.” She comments. “A normal human would suffer spiritual depletion within minutes.”
“The amount of energy I produce easily surpasses that of most youkai.” I state. “Yukari is one of the first youkai I’ve met to actually surpass me.”
“Too bad spiritual energy isn’t as viable as mana.” She chuckles to herself. “If you had half as much mana, I’m not even sure I would be able to match you.”
“Yeah. Sadly, I had an unfortunate encounter that meant I either had to expand my spiritual energy pool at an alarming rate, or die.” I tell her. “This sadly prevented any further growth in both my mana pool and ki pool.”
She rips another one off, and plasters a new one right back on. “I’m sad to hear that.”
“Nothing you could have done about it.” I assure her. “Just a dumb little kid being dumb. I’m just glad I survived.”
“Is it okay to ask about this, or?” She trails off, leaving the rest of the question remain implied.
“I’d rather not talk about the event itself, to be honest. Too unpleasant to remember.” I tell her. “I can say it wasn’t the event itself that caused my spirit pool to expand. The event forced my production to go through the roof. Afterwards, it just wouldn’t stop, which then forced my pool to expand. I was bedridden for days as my body tried to adapt and compensate.”
“I sometimes forget how fragile you humans can be.” She replaces another tag. “Most I meet are like you. In the sense that they stand above the rest of humanity as combatants. You know, people who can take a punch or two before going down.”
“So far I’m at two punches.” I brag. “I can take two serious hits from most youkai before I go down. If it were someone like you, on the other hand, I probably wouldn’t die after one punch, but I certainly wouldn’t be able to fight.”
“Then it’s simple. Don’t get hit at all.” She declares in an equally playful tone as mine. “Problem solved.”
“I’d be the world’s best fighter if I could avoid taking a single hit from anyone.” I argue. “And while I’m certainly great, I’m not quite that good.”
She chuckles as she rips another one off. This one with a little more force than the previous ones, almost causing me to flinch. She applies a cold talisman, causing any pain there might have been to fade away quickly.
“I think that was the broken one.” I note. “The new one seems a lot colder than the previous one. In a few minutes I should have cooled off to my normal body temperature again.”
“Sounds fantastic.” She says as she rips off another. “After this there are just three more to go.”
“There’s only eight?” I ask.
“Should there be more?” She stops her motion to ask.
“No. The current amount is the right number.” I assure her. “It’s just that I keep remembering the number I miscounted instead of the number I corrected it to, so I keep confusing myself.”
She replaces another tag. “I see. That’s not something I’m familiar with myself, but I can understand the concept.”
“Considering how many shikigami you work at once, that’s rather impressive.” I tell her.
“Maybe.” She replaces another tag. “Though I’ve worked like this for centuries, so it’s not exactly something new to me.”
With nothing left to say, I let her replace the last one without interruption.
“I brought the water.” Apron Ran comes back. “It took a little time to freeze the ice properly.”
I shuffle back around on my bed, so I face them.
“Where’s the last one of you?” I ask, glancing over the room. There were three Rans just a minute ago, but now there’s only two.
“We merged.” The Ran that’s been here the whole time says. “I took the remaining energy from her to extend the remaining time of this shikigami.”
I take the sizeable cup from Apron Ran and down it. Didn’t realize how thirsty I was. Guess it’s going to take another moment for my body to wake up completely again. Sitting around here is not going to help in that matter.
[ ] Find Yukari
- [ ] I need to get back to that training to test some more things
- [ ] Have her confirm the fruits of my training
[ ] I want to try this skill while in my physical body
[ ] Request a spar with Ran, to get my body moving again
Next update is likely first coming at new years. In case you care, my challenge entry is >>/shrine/41087