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There’s been triaaaaaals and triii-bulations,
You know I’ve had my share,
But I’ve climbed a mountain,
I’ve crossed a river,
and I’m al-most there.
As the last note fades into nothingness, I stand in the void with arms outstretched, ending my impromptu song and dance with the gusto it deserves. It’s a catchy little tune which fit my current situation and I needed the break from meditative contemplation, but I should really stop fooling around and get back to work. The imagined spotlights and instruments disappear the moment I stop thinking about them, and I’m returned to my bedroom within my Natal Palace, seated on the bed as if I’d never left. This is my throne from which I do all my best thinking and oversee my personal Domain, though truth be told, it’s not exactly a great viewpoint. My Keystones and their respective areas are situated lower than my bedroom so I can watch over them from above, but while sitting on the bed away from the windows, all I can see is the darkness of the void. Besides, there’s nothing directly in front of me because it’s still empty real estate for my next Keystone, whenever my Core gets large (or whatever) enough to fit it.
Should I plan things out and remodel? Ugh, it takes so much effort though. Sure, it’s mostly mentally imagining things, but it’s not as simple as it sounds. I’d have to re-imagine everything from every angle and keep the new perspective in mind at all times instead of slipping back to the old one. It’d be like walking into a house with the same layout and decor, then looking out the window and seeing a whole new view. The similarities make it harder to keep the differences in mind, and since the view isn’t too important, I might as well keep things as they are. Then there’s all the Chi shenanigans happening in the background, being that everything in my Natal Palace isn’t merely a mental construct, but have a specific tie to my Core and Chi, meaning it really isn’t as simple as imagining things. I wish I could ask the Legate about it, but his price is too high.
Besides, I enjoy looking out into the void. When the Spectres are there, they remind me of the stakes at hand, and when it’s empty, it tells me my thoughts are my own and I have no one to blame for the fucked up shit passing through my brain.
Taking a deep breath, I clap my hands and unleash my Aura in the standard, inspirational variety. It’s limited to inside my Natal Palace and not out in the real world, as I’d hate to sit through another of Guan Suo’s lectures about disturbing his sleep, but for these purposes, it’s more than enough. Since I have complete control, I confer colour to my Aura, steeping it with a warm, red glow to signify courage and determination. The glowing Aura adds a crimson tinge to my Natal Palace as it sweeps out into the far reaches of the void, an all-encompassing shroud of presence and influence. My presence. My influence. As Yan so aptly explained, Chi is only one half of the Aura equation, with the other half being my emotions, and when mixed together, I unleash the resulting product into the world.
Kyung said Aura wasn’t an External usage of Chi, but rather it was using Chi Internally to do something Externally. It sounds silly at first, but there’s a kernel of truth there, one which thankfully wedged itself between my teeth and refused to dislodge itself until I thought things through. I’ve been too fixated on results, but like Yan said, Chi is Chi whether its Internal or External, so instead of trying to turn the former into the latter, I should instead look at what makes Chi, Chi. I take Heavenly Energy into my Core and turn it into Chi. When Chi leaves my Core, it turns back into Heavenly Energy, but why? I’ve said it before, Heavenly Energy is borrowed, not owned, so what differentiates Heavenly Energy from Chi?
In short, I do. Me. I am the defining factor. Chi is me plus Heavenly Energy, so remove me from the equation and Chi goes back to being Heavenly Energy. When I said Martial Warriors seize Heavenly Energy to use for ourselves, it was more of a tongue in cheek comment, but it turns out I was closer to the truth than I thought. For Chi to remain Chi whilst outside my Core, I must make it truly mine, brand and chain it to my existence. Defy Heaven and seize power, but how? Well, probably the same way I do everything else: become one with the Chi, and the Chi must become me. That’s how Aura works, I think. I take my passions, my fears, my sentiments, and sorrows, use them as a vessel and infuse them with Chi, which then manifests as Aura. The supplied emotions are a part of what makes me, me, and keep Chi from dissipating into Heavenly Energy.
It’s similar to a Spiritual Weapon, except instead of steel and Spiritual Hearts, the vessel is made of feelings. Less awesome, but still cool nonetheless, because I’m literally putting myself out into the world and weaponizing it. While, I’m still not entirely sure how emotion and Chi produce Aura, I think that’s how Aura, an obvious External application of Chi, still works even though I have no idea how to use External Chi. Regardless of the specifics, now that I have an example of working External Chi usage, all I need to do is apply this knowledge in different ways. For once, I’m fairly confident I’ll succeed considering I already have, vis a vis my specialized Aura and how I use it to convey emotions other than courage or fear. Beyblade Aura too, but that’s too abstract for now, so best to follow this ‘emotion’ thread first before branching off to study other matters.
My first order of business is to figure out what makes my specialized Aura different from generic Aura. Still seated on the bed, I manipulate my Aura and cycle through the different emotions for testing purposes and assign each one a different colour based on intuition. As my room lights up in light pink for love and muted yellow for cheer, the first thing I note is that my specialized Aura is much more limited in scale than the generic one. Where the latter reaches all throughout the void, the former barely extends past my immediate surroundings. The Chi seems thicker in my specialized Aura, the difference between water and molasses, though what that means, I can only guess. More Chi to do less means specialized Aura is more resource intensive, but I already knew that. Generic Aura doesn’t take much to keep up, because… I dunno. Because it’s a standard skill and mine is a fancy unique one? An Aural Talent, I suppose, though I’m still not completely convinced I’m not a Demon in human form.
Yan’s story about Demons and Defiled not really belonging on this plane of existence is a little heavy on the theology and light on the facts, but it brought my old fears back to the forefront. Even though I now know Baledagh was merely a split personality and not the original host of this body, it still doesn’t rule out me being a parasitic body-snatcher. Not only can I dive into other people’s Natal Palaces, my Aura can also cover the whole spectrum of emotions, including the unsettling Defiled wrongness. I never use it because it’d make people think I went full Defiled, but I can, as evidenced by the time I accidentally used it in front of BoLao and Laughing Dragon.
So what does this mean? Nothing definitive, but that’s because I don’t know enough to even guess.
Going back to my Specialized Aura, I can’t really think of anything else that makes it stand out from general Aura, but I continue studying and categorizing all the different emotions I can convey through Aura. I’ve had the idea percolating about for awhile now, but could never figure out how to implement until now. Every time I assign an emotion a colour, I sever a small section off and affix it to the ceiling, creating an emotional colour reference chart for me to cheat off of. This way, I can differentiate the love for my beloved brides-to-be (bright hot pink with a tinge of red for passion) from my love for family (a darker pink than general love to show the depths of my affection), or the cold disdain which arises when I’m speaking with an idiot (dark blue) from the burning hatred which consumes me when I see someone abuse a slave, child, or animal (black to rival the void).
There’s also the bitter, vitriolic antipathy I sometimes feel for this world, an emotion I keep locked away out of sight. It’s corresponding colour was easy to assign, the sickly, greenish yellow of Demon Ichor, and I immediately lock this emotion inside a dark steel container which has been welded shut so I never have to look or access it ever again.
Unwanted introspection aside, the colour chart helps mostly because when I need to pick out a specific emotion, I don’t have to stop and think about it. I only need to find the right colour, and I’ll never have another traumatic miscommunication with Sir Inky ever again. That said, parsing through emotions isn’t exactly my forte; in fact, I’m something of a savant in the opposite direction, suppressing my emotions deep within my psyche until they express themselves in unhealthy ways, such as multiple personality disorder or a crippling dependence on floofy cuddles. Either way, it soon becomes apparent there are way more emotions than I thought there’d be, possibly more than there are colours in the visible spectrum. How do I differentiate between my distaste for mushrooms and the disinclination to dress up? What about the joy I find in battle versus the bliss of a nice, relaxing family dinner? What’s more, I’m essentially creating a brand new Keystone, one more complex and extensive than any of the others, so trying to complete it in one sitting is far too ambitious. Before I’ve even made it through the various types of love and hatred, I’m all pooped out from feeling stuff and need time to recharge.
Opening the void to the world around me, I Devour Heavenly Energy to replenish the Chi lost from creating my emotional colour chart and do a little light musing. Though my Core is a closed system, the Keystones seem to… consume the Chi used to create them, meaning I no longer have access to that Chi. I mean, it makes sense. If you build a house out of gold, you can’t really spend the gold anymore if you want to keep your house, but I haven’t noticed a decline in overall Chi at my disposal. The shimmering colours suspended on the ceiling give my bedroom a beautiful glow, though it’s mostly pinks and blues. Needs more comfy browns, regal purples, comforting yellows, and fresh greens, but this is a work in progress.
Eventually, my procrastination comes to an end and my mind drifts back to the topic at hand, using emotions to help with External Chi. I’m worried all this effort will be for nothing because it doesn’t fit with my previous theory, how the next step would somehow build upon the previous ones. Then again, maybe it does in a roundabout way. My Core supplies the Chi required, while Aura taught me to use Emotions to keep Chi from turning back into Heavenly Energy, and my Natal Palace is where I use Chi Internally to do something Externally. I expected them to combine into something new and exciting, called a Domain or something, but maybe I’ve been overthinking Spectre word choice. Besides, Yan can use External Chi even without an Aura or Natal Palace, which means neither of them are required, they only make things easier because you already understand the basic concepts.
So where to start?
Emotion alone isn’t enough, not for what I’m intending. Visualization is also required if I want to conjure water… and Intent! Maybe that’s why my External Water Chi reverts back to Heavenly Energy so quickly after spitting it out, because I never gave it any purpose besides ‘become water’. Okay, this is good, I’m making progress here. Moving myself out into the void, I hold one arm up with palm facing out, as if telling the void to stop. Summoned with a thought, Water Chi shimmers into existence as a flowing shield of water, the most practical usage I can think of. Then again, maybe I’m being too ambitious and should take a few hundred steps back. Dismissing the shield of water, I instead opt to work with a small pool held in my cupped palms, less than a mouthful but enough for my testing purposes. All I need to do bring this minuscule amount of Water Chi out into the real world and have it stay there for… I dunno, a minute? Anything over two seconds would be an improvement, but how long does it need to last for it to be useful? Let’s shoot for the moon and if we fail, then at least I’ll land amongst the stars. Indefinite water, or until I… release it, or whatever.
Visualizing the water in my hands, I return to the real world and find my cupped palms conspicuously dry and empty, marking the first of many failures. No problem, that was a test run which I didn’t expect to work, so I could check the baseline and find the bare minimum requirements for success. Returning to my Natal Palace, I start over again, but this time, instead of only Visualizing the water, I also provide it with Intent. This water is meant to sit there and keep my palms wet. Be water. Be wet. Be… cool and refreshing, I suppose. Again, when I open my eyes, my hands are dry and empty, but I persevere and try again.
Why can I make Water Chi in my mouth but not my hands? Well, my mouth is wet and it’s normal for water to be there, so how would I go about getting water in my hands? Well, I could scoop it up, but that’s not exactly useful in this scenario, nor do I want to be limited to only creating water with my mouth because it severely limits what I can do and is incredibly embarrassing. Oh, condensation! I can draw water straight from the air around us and collect it in my hands. Visualizing the process of humid air meeting a cold surface, I collect the droplets of water into my palms from within my Natal Palace, then bring it out into the world at large where I am once again met with failure.
This is fine. I can do this. Lemme think. Why didn’t it work? While I haven’t gotten to the emotion part yet, theoretically, I should at least see a bit of Water Chi before it dissipates. Hmm… Maybe I’m overstepping the limits of the Blessing of Water. I would assume air falls under the domain of Wind, and temperature control probably belongs to Fire, so I need to find a concept which belongs to Water and Water alone. I suppose this is why people bind physical water to use instead, because of strict limitations over what one can do, though why it matters for Water Chi more than the other Elements, I still don’t know. Hmm… What if I used something which was naturally cold? Drawing Peace from its scabbard, I lay it across my knees and return to the void, where its spiritual equivalent sits waiting for me to take in hand. I’ve tried this before in the real world, but never from my Natal Palace. Besides, it was a long time ago before my second Awakening, so maybe things will be different this time around.
With Peace in hand, I envision its cool metal surface drawing moisture from the warm air around us, forming a shifting pattern of transparent droplets which adhere to the flat of its blade. That’s all it needs to do, stay on the sword, so holding this image in mind, I return to reality and see the tell-tale beads of water fade away into nothingness before my eyes, my Chi returning to the Heavens and leaving no trace behind. Giddy with success, I stifle a giggle and summon the water again to familiarize myself with the process, all the while celebrating this momentous step forward which will save me from so much humiliation. Spitting or vomiting water is fine and all for turtles, but I am a human man and would rather not be seen spewing internal fluids all about the battlefield, not to mention how this is the first step towards making an awesome Water Blade like Elder Ming.
It worked! This is going to be so awesome…
Energized by my progress, I move on to the next step after about an hour of practice. Visualization: Check. Intent: Check. Now all that’s left is emotion, but what emotion do I instill into water? What is water? No, better question: what emotions does the thought of water evoke from my subconscious? How do I feel when I think about water? Disregarding all outside factors, water is… peace. It’s the calm, silent serenity out on Nan Ping Bay, so grand and reassuring it makes my fears and worries seem minor in comparison. It’s also dark and foreboding, with countless dangers hidden within it dark depths, a duality I often see in this strange and dangerous world I live in.
Struck by the sheer coincidence of it all, I sit in the void and stare at my sword covered in a sheen of dewdrops, reflecting on the steps which have brought me to this very moment. Years ago, I named this weapon Peace, because it represented the peace of the sword, a peace found in strength and death. Now, this same sword is the key to using my Blessing of Water, a power which I associate with peace. Is this merely a coincidence or have I been moving towards this goal ever since I first stepped foot on the Martial Path? The Peace of the Sword, the Shield of Tranquility, and Unity through Purpose, these are my weapons, physically and metaphorically. I fight to find peace, whether it be peace from my enemies or the peace in death. I hide from my friends, family, and even myself to keep my mind tranquil and untroubled. Lastly, without purpose, I would fall to pieces pondering who I am and what purpose my existence serves, so I keep busy and work myself to exhaustion so I have no time to worry.
The coincidence is so uncanny it’s almost enough to make me believe in a higher power. Almost.
Correlation doesn’t equal causation, so regardless of how eerily things line up, I push past it and move on. What is water, emotionally? Water is Peaceful, Water is Tranquil, and above all, Water is United, connected not only by raging rivers and flowing streams, but also in a never ending cycle of evaporation, condensation, and precipitation. Physically, water can take many forms and is utilized in a myriad of ways, but it always returns to water as one part of a whole, regardless of the path it takes to get there. This is how I think of water, and it is this emotion, this all encompassing serenity and unity, which I instill into my Chi.
Visualization, Intent, and Emotion. I am one with the Chi, and the Chi is Me. I am One with the Water, and the Water is Me. Water is life. Water is death. Water is sustaining. Water is smothering. We cannot live with too much, nor can we survive with too little, which means it all comes back to Balance.
Opening my eyes, I blink as the glaring sun reflects off of my sword’s shiny, reflective surface, the light broken apart into a thousand shimmering rainbows by the beads of water sitting atop it. No, not water, but Water Chi, firmly affixed to the cold metal by my will and Intent. Counting beneath my breath, my heart swells with pride with each passing second as the water remains in existence, the Chi tethered by Emotion and unable to return to the Heavens. This Chi is mine to wield until I allow it to return, a tyrannical way of going about things which fits with my new outlook on life, my Dao if you will. No surrender and no embrace, I make demands and my Water Chi will carry them out until completion, making it as reliable as any of my Spiritual Weapons.
Well… it’s about fucking time. I thought I was gonna be stuck here forever…
Rains Song: https://youtu.be/irEBOfv4Ug4?t=110
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