Today would be the day mine and Gaerien’s mother was supposed to visit. Over the past few days since we got here, we had gotten into a pretty regular routine. Ether guy brought us our meals, then went down stairs for a while and let us “have our space.” Well, the “have our space” portion had started diminishing lately since I had decided to make contact with him. Yesterday, he had tried to chat us up quite a bit and go back to how things were in the nursery. It was a little annoying and we wound up giving him the cold-shoulder somewhat. He was sorta interfering in what had become our normal routine.
Since I had let the boys know about Gaerien and I being reincarnators as well, we had started them on a similar training regime to ours in order to get them to start mastering their new bodies. We had pretty much free reign to do this all we wanted while he was being stand-off with us, but now he seemed to take our discussion from the day before as a proper mending of the bridges. Well, it sorta was actually, but it also had some obvious unintended consequences. I do not regret the decision, but this change in the status-quo is still a bit frustrating. At this rate, we may have to fill him in on what we are just to get our freedom to train our bodies back.
We were not really able to risk training much yesterday, but now Rolwen had said he looked down and saw Ether guy was doing one of his meditation things. We are assuming it has something to do with magic stuff or something that we don’t understand very well, so we really just don’t bother with it. The important thing is that he will be at it for a while which means we can train ourselves in the mean time. Even better, since our mother is coming, we should actually hear something this time before they come up the stairs.
I have told the boys to keep their workout light today. It’s Gaerien and I who are supposed to be sick, not them, so it might be noticed if the boys are all sweaty or something. They are focusing on a coordination exercise. I have them in a partner training where they are touching the tips of their fingers to each other. The same finger of the same hand.
For now, I’m keeping it easy. They just have to touch all 10 fingers together without allowing their palms to contact, then return their hands to their laps, then do it again. Eventually, they will have to upgrade this exercise to touch the fingers one at a time. After that, they will not be touching all 10 fingers, it will just be one finger called out by me or Gaerien. It may seem like a simple exercise. That usually is with these sorts of things. This is an exercise meant for someone who has some kind of impaired motor functions to be able to get back to moving like a normal person. Or, in this case, for a toddler who’s motor functions are still developing to be able to develop their motor functions properly.
This one isn’t even all that advanced for a couple of 2 year olds like them. Well, unlike Gaerien and I who have been doing this stuff for months now, they’re just starting. It won’t be long at all before they’re well ahead of their development curve as well. If any toddler were to practice exercises like these, they would definitely be walking, talking, and moving about well ahead of the age they should be doing it. The only difference between a normal baby and us really is attention span and direction. We have the attention span to keep up with these exercises far longer than a normal baby would, and thus get better results from it, and we also have the knowledge to give direction to our developmental exercises. That is all the secret there is to our absurd neurological growth. Now, if only we had a way to do the same with our physical bodies.
In the case of Gaerien and I, our exercise is a lot simpler but also a lot more strenuous. This serves the double purpose for us of both the training which is our actual intent, but it also has the bonus of making the act we have coming up more convincing.
Gaerien had about mastered crawling earlier in the week, finally able to practice thanks to the freedom she now had. Her neck muscles seemed to be holding her head up well already, excellent progress for only about a week. It may just be because she’s physically older than I was when I did it, but she reached that point a whole lot faster than I did.
Her speed still left something to be desired, but she was making good progress. More importantly though, she had managed to make her motion fairly smooth. It was not a jerky crawl where her entire body seemed to freeze after every large motion she took. She was able to simply lift an arm, place it in front of her, and then just have the opposite leg come forward in a reciprocal motion without dragging her legs behind her. Then, the next arm just smoothly lifted up afterward. This meant her neural pathways had full control over her arms and legs, and her cerebellum had developed and adjusted to these motions well.
Since she was progressing so well on crawling, I decided to push things up to the next level. This was even something I was struggling with, so it would be good practice for both of us. We were going to try out walking. We both got up with the help of the nearest piece of furnature for support, and then we turned to one another and held hands. After we were standing, we would coordinate with each other to step one leg out to our sides, and then bring up the leg from behind. We were going sideways, so it was definitely not true walking, but we were able to practice this with each other’s help.
Again, this was probably pushing Gaerien a fair bit, but I was growing impatient with my own progress. Besides, when I mentioned what I wanted to try, she seemed to be completely on board with the idea, saying she was also very annoyed only being able to crawl around on the ground. She seemed to rather like the idea of learning to walk in these bodies.
We had each been at our respective training for a few hours. Gaerien and I had fallen several times, but every time we both crawled over together to the nearest handy object, picked ourselves back up, and started again. It hurt sometimes, and we had to force down our baby reflexes to start crying, but we ignored it and pressed on.
We trained in my best estimate of 5 minute sessions, and then we took rests in between that were about 10 minutes. These long rest sessions were important. Our muscles were not the thing that was holding us back. Just like with the boys, our issue that made it difficult to walk was entirely related to our neural pathways. These 10 minute rests gave our brains a chance to process and start to form new synapses.
The hour or so we will be able to do this training would not be enough for a single one of those synapses to finish forming, but the repeated training sessions would help to re-enforce the growth in order to speed it along. If this works out, then in a day or two when we try this again our performance ought to improve a lot.
Suddenly, from down stairs, we begin to hear Ether guy speaking and inviting someone inside. Rolwen and Levin, who have already naturally developed the ability to walk due to growing up and it being the proper on-schedule time for them to have that ability, are able to move much faster than we can. Therefore, it is them who immediately stand up and run over to where we are near the center of the room. Rolwen grabs Gaerien away from me in the rush, causing me to immediately loose my balance and fall hard on rear end. Since I sorta saw it coming this time, I am able to slow my descent just a bit with my tiny quad muscles, but I do still hit the ground and my butt is already tender and probably bruised from all the falls I had over this past hour.
I bite back the pain as Levin plops down behind me and, not even concerned or seeming to notice the pained expression on my face, he begins just grabbing me and dragging me into his lap. I certainly feel a little annoyed at the rough treatment, but I’m able to quickly recover as I remember the plan. I’m the one who came up with it after all, it wouldn’t do for me to be the one to drop the ball on it.
Since we had started on this plan, Gaerien had started giving me some interesting bits of information about how to make it work. We had discussed quite a bit about my meditation before. According to her, it was a powerful meditation developed back when the world barrier around Earth was first being formed. Back then, when the mages and the magical creatures of the time were struggling to find a way to survive and continue their craft under these conditions, this was the very meditation they had come up with. There are a few specifics that may vary from one group’s meditation to the next, but all the ones that could actually work had a few things in common.
They could all call in energy from an outside source at a rapid pace, far beyond any meditation that ever preceded them. They all accomplished this by abandoning the previous wisdom that you had to suck in energy and store it in your body. Instead, this meditation used something akin to the principal behind a vacuum cleaner. Instead of sucking in energy, it ejected energy from your own body in order to make a vacuum space. Once this energy vacuum was created, energy from outside the body was only too happy to immediately come in and fill that space. As the spirit density of Earth began to increase, this method for meditation actually became more and more potent.
The second common feature was some method to create your own mana. As soon as the last of the fey on Earth died off, there would be no more mana in the air. Therefore, the mages of Earth had to find a way to convert spirit energy into mana using their own meditation.
Finally, and most importantly, all the mage’s meditations of Earth had to have the ability to pierce the world barrier. This, according to her, was what was so different about my own meditation and that of the rest of the people who practiced the same style of Taijutsu that I did. Apparently, the method to pierce the world barrier was left out of our meditation that was otherwise complete. However, I had managed to re-discover the step necessary to do this on my own. All I knew was that it made my meditation feel like it was more complete somehow and more efficient, I had never actually tried to use it to cast a spell. It was a good thing I hadn’t though according to her, otherwise apparently I would have been marked for death by god himself.
My meditation though had other things that made it significant, even in this world. I hadn’t just rediscovered the method to pierce the world barrier. Something very special and unique about my meditation that differed greatly from the early mage’s meditations of Earth that Gaerien was familiar with was the source of the energy I pulled in. No, actually, it was more likely that after Gaerien had fallen as a goddess, the mages of earth all developed this as their source as the spirit energy of Earth became increasingly more and more dense and this caused the use of magic to become increasingly difficult. They had to search for more potent sources of their spirit energy.
The source of energy for my meditation was that it pulled its energy directly from heaven. On Earth, this was just a slightly more dense source of spirit energy. And, because it was more dense than the already thick spirit energy of Earth, it allowed a practitioner to actually feel something different happening when they used the meditation. It was not especially significant however, just enough to make you feel a little bit lighter. However, in this world, that difference in source made a HUGE difference in outcome. This was because, unlike the case with Earth, the heaven of this world appeared to be outside the world barrier. Or rather, that’s what Gaerien said.
She had sensed that there was indeed a world barrier around this world as well. It was nowhere even close to the same level of power as the one that was around Earth, but it was still enough to limit what a person trying to cultivate their energy could do. She had been trying to work on her own since coming here now that she was not confined by Earth’s barrier anymore, but she said she’d been having difficulties with it because of that barrier. However, she could tell I seemed to be pulling energy from outside of it. Since I stated the mental image for the meditation was pulling energy from heaven, this lead to the conclusion that the heaven of this world must be outside the world barrier, thus making it so that the gods of this world did not need to be bound by that barrier.
All of this stuff was meaningless to me though. Or rather, it was up until today. Up until now, all I knew of my meditation were the benefits it gave me in my previous life that was in a world devoid of magic. I had used my meditation not to “cultivate” the energy I was taking in, as Gaerien called it. What I was doing with my meditation was simply to keep myself in a meditative state. In this state, I was able to better focus my mind and make my physical movements smoother. I was able to expand my awareness, and make myself conscious of all the tiny movements and imperfections in my own body.
If anything, it was actually a huge problem for me that there was such an absurd thing as energy being pulled into this world from heaven every time I was in the middle of my meditation. Ever since I came up with this plan of feigning illness, Gaerien was all over me about how I was going to have to do something about my meditation and cut it off or else my performance will not be believable at all. There was no doubt that Ether guy could probably sense it when I was using my meditation and calling in all that energy, and since elves feed on spirit energy they would also notice if I seemed to be producing the stuff.
Nobody was going to believe I was sick if my body was actually ejecting huge amounts of spirit energy as though I was a human instead of an elf. So, in order to go with this whole feigning illness thing, I was going to have to cut my meditation.
I relaxed my body and lay limply in Levin’s lap, and then I started trying to focus on how to emulate the conditions of being sick. However, this posed a problem. I was in such a habit of disciplining my mind, everything had become part of a form of meditation to me. I had trained myself for decades in my previous life to be in a constant meditative state and maintain my zanshin, my sphere of personal awareness. Zanshin was the principal of Japanese martial arts that described always being aware of everything happening around you, especially things that could be potential threats. This zanshin required you to be in such a constant meditative state, and for me it had become such a habit that every time I tried to mentally think about something it put me into such a meditative state immediately. In other words, meditation had completely become the natural state of my mind.
No, I’m not going to just be able to stop my meditation, but maybe I can consciously cut off that connection to the heavens thing. So, I focused on cutting the source of the energy rushing into my spirit. It did not take me long to feel it, and then I imagined myself pinching the source closed like stepping on a garden hose. The result was immediate. It actually DID make me start to feel sick as soon as I cut this off.
I recall breaking my meditation before in my previous life, and it did make my body feel heavier by contrast since being in a meditative state made me feel lighter, but this was the first time I had ever actually felt sick as a result.
‘It’s probably because I’m an elf now,’ I reasoned. It made sense when I thought about it that way. Elves actually consume spirit energy to survive, and my body had grown used to one of the densest and richest food sources that could ever possibly exist the likes of which no other fey on this planet had access to. Of course suddenly cutting it off is going to make me feel bad. My body had grown dependent on that incoming spirit energy, it was like cutting off a drug addict.
Well, it would only be for a little while I guess. So, I simply kept my mind on making sure that heaven energy stuff wasn’t coming in and looking even more miserable than being cut off from it was making me feel.
I heard footsteps coming up the stairs. One set of footsteps. I knew Ether guy walked incredibly lightly, so those footsteps must belong to my mother. She needs to work on her walking a bit I guess. I limply turned my head toward the top of the stairs and actually found I was having a hard time getting my eyes to focus. However, I did eventually make out Ether guy standing there. He shook his head and started looking us over, but I could not really make out the expression on his face. Suddenly, he gave a shout of surprise.
Well I guess that confirms that he has some way to be aware of our spirit and mana energy, just like Gaerien said. I chuckle to myself slightly and thank Gaerien in my heart for the timely info she had given me on this subject.
Ether guy rushes over and I can feel his hands helping to support my tiny body on Levin’s lap. [Levin, did you and Rolwen actually switch the girls!?] He demands. That’s a pretty amusing thing for him to wind up thinking. I honestly was not expecting that one. I was starting to get a picture of exactly what Gaerien had been talking about. Had it been that conspicuous, the fact that I was radiating that energy of heaven stuff? All this time I had thought that at most I was just showing how I was a bit ahead of the curve in my mental development. Well, more than a bit I suppose. However, I never realized I was doing something this attention getting all this time.
It seemed like meditation really was something noteworthy in this world. Noteworthy to the point that people could detect when you were doing it. Well, when I was doing it in particular, since it seems my meditation is kinda absurd in its own way.
I had to keep myself from laughing and cringing at the same time as these thoughts ran through my head. More to the point, I had to focus to actually keep the heaven’s energy part of the meditation shut off. But then, Ether guy said something that completely shocked me out of the whole thing.
[I don’t know which one of you is Aerien, but whoever it is, I want you to stop this right now! She’s seriously not doing well, and if you don’t fix this problem if you can, then she might be in serious danger!] He said. His voice as he said these words was heavy and very serious. I knew doing this was making me feel sick, but I didn’t really think I was doing THAT bad. However, as my eyes began to focus on the finger pointed straight at the center of my chest and the hawk-like gaze he had up toward Gaerien, I was just shocked out of my efforts to cut off that heaven energy from my meditation.
I do not know whether it was the energy returning to my body or the shock of Ether guy’s tone that made my entire body jerk and jump. The two events were so close together that it really could have been either one. At any rate, I immediately felt like I was at perfect health again as soon as the energy returned to my body and I looked up at Ether guy in confusion. [Aerien!?] He responded the very second I returned my meditation to its normal state, and in the process further cementing it into my mind just how exposed my unusual meditation was to him this entire time. I was starting to feel seriously humiliated, I was not even aware at all that I had essentially been announcing how crazy of an existence I was this entire time. All this time I had been trying to keep these things secret, but something this big about myself was completely and plainly displayed for all the world to see.
To make matters worse, now he started to scold me. [I don’t know what it was that you just did, but NEVER do that again! Do you understand me? That was dangerous! That was very very bad!]
The actual words he said were not actually even registering anymore. I just heard “don’t do that,” and “it’s bad,” out of the entirety of what he said. I drowned out the rest. I wanted to cry after all of this. Well, I was a baby anyway. It may have been a little while since I had cried regularly, but I could still get away with it, right?
Well, aside from that, gotta remember to maintain my cover. [(Wh... what!? But... but you said!)] It actually took a fairly large amount of effort to remember the Elven necessary to even say that much under these conditions. But, with that out, I was free to start crying. Immediately after this, Levin decides to play hero and cradles my head to his chest, putting his shoulder between me and Ether guy, and then he yells back at Ether guy to defend me. This just redirects Ether guy’s anger toward Levin, and I’m able to catch something about him saying how we don’t have to pretend to be sick in front of our mother, along with the reminder about who’s the person at the top of the stairs.
I realize I should probably feel more curious about seeing my mother for the first time, but right now I’m literally ashamed to tears. The only thing I’m interested in right now is burying my head inside Levin’s shirt. As I start to calm down a little and remember the way Ether guy was shouting a moment ago, it just scares me even more. He was clearly far more aware of this energy stuff than I was, and he had sensed something when I was deliberately messing up my meditation that scared him. He had also said things that indicated he was incredibly concerned about me doing something bad to myself. This all just makes me shudder, and I decide I will absolutely not repeat what I just did, at least until I can understand exactly what it was a little better.
Alright, I finally get to reveal what the real nature of Aerien's "cheat" is. This is actually quite likely the most important reason why this story had to be set in a cultivation world. If this was a game mechanics world, this would be a horridly OP cheat beyond belief. The dynamics are very VERY different in a cultivation world though. As for why? Well, if you can't see it yet, I guess you're not quite up on how cultivation worlds tend to work yet. Just remember that WMW is one of my inspirations for this series, and ask what Leylin would do if he ever came across Aerien with the power she has.
In other news, I have finally got my pre-release done. Chapter 19 is up and available on my subscribe star page for subscribers. At present there is only one subscriber level available at $2.99 / month. More levels will be added as I manage to write more advanced chapters. Chapter 19 is going to be the last chapter of the first arc, and then I will go into a lore chapter or two before starting on the next arc which, as you can see being set up, will start to focus a bit more on the cultivation aspect of this world.
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