“I take it you succeeded already?” said Ella, a few moments after I started grinning to myself and looking at her soul.
“I got my attunement!” I said happily.
Ella chuckled. “I’m quite impressed. I honestly thought that you finishing today was a bit unlikely. I wouldn’t have been surprised if you took up to a week to form your attunement, although it’s obviously better to form it quickly so that we can move on. I heard that you broke the record for fastest to change your cube’s color during the test too?” Ella’s eyes actually seemed to glitter as she looked at me.
“I might have gotten an unexpectedly good deal when I picked you up as an apprentice, Miria. Your talent in shaping is truly something to behold. I myself took three days to get my attunement built.”
I felt my smile widen at Ella’s praise, and I noticed Ella’s soul bobbing around excitedly inside of her brain. Even if Ella was trying to only sound mildly impressed, I was pretty sure she was far more excited than she let on.
I was becoming increasingly certain that people’s souls moved more in response to strong emotions, which meant that I could get some idea what people were feeling based on context and observation now. It was another minor unexpected benefit of my new attunement.
“What did you form your attunement based on? You said you were thinking about madness and the ocean. What did you settle on?”
“The ocean,” I said. “However, the ocean I based my attunement off of is… a bit different than one might expect. It’s also closely related to life and death. I was thinking about how we need water to live, and how we can also drown in the water.” Even though I couldn’t directly say that my attunement was based on the ocean of souls, Ella had mentioned that I needed to interact with whatever my attunement was based off of if I wanted to develop it and make it stronger. I was pretty sure life and death would work well with my image of the ocean of souls, and as long as I also exposed myself to actual water I could probably piece together the interactions I needed to improve my attunement substantially. I hadn’t figured out where the ocean of souls itself was yet, or how it worked, and so I needed to provide my teacher with as much information as possible so that she could help me grow.
Ella nodded. “Good, good. Either ocean or madness would have worked for you, but interacting with the asylum is a bit of a miserable experience. It’s much less of a headache to take a dip in the river than to interact with the asylum if you want to build up your attunement. As for the life and death part… I’ve never heard of an attunement that encompasses so many things at once. But there’s a lot of information we lost during the fall of the second Orthan empire, so perhaps I’m simply ignorant. I can find ways for you to interact with newborn children and attend the funerals of those who pass of old age. Do you think that would be helpful for your attunement?”
“I think so?”
“We’ll try it out, and we’ll adapt if it doesn’t work,” said Ella, bulldozing forward like a runaway train. “Now, what does using your attunement actually look like? Once I get a feeling for how you use your attunement, I might have some other ideas that you could use to grow your attunement,” she said, giving me an excited grin.
I saw no reason not to oblige her. First, I used general shaping to imagine one of the bowls I had seen in Ella’s dining room, and quickly used ‘timeline alteration’ to move it into my hands. I was still pretty sure that the entire general shaping system was wildly inefficient and questionable, but I intended to use it a little longer before I started changing it.
Then, I used general shaping to transport a small pebble I had seen outside of the house into the middle of the bowl.
Finally, I started converting the stone into water, one drop at a time. Watching the stone… melt into water from the ocean of souls was a strange experience, since it almost looked like the stone was melting, even though I was distinctly aware of the fact that it wasn’t. As the water from the ocean of souls started to build up, I could feel a mild connection between me and the water I had created.
I quickly noticed that the water didn’t react to inorganic things at all. Even though the ocean of souls had a nasty habit of melting souls it came in contact with, it just sat in the middle of bowl doing nothing.
“Is it drinkable?” asked Ella, giving my water a curious glance. “You mentioned the water was somewhat attuned to the ideas of life and death. What happens if you drink the water?”
“Definitely don’t drink it,” I said. “This water is more mixed with the idea of death, so if you drink it, I don’t know exactly what would happen, but it would probably involve horrific pain or possible death.”
Ella laughed. “Fair enough. Do you think it’ll react to the presence of life itself?”
“I… don’t know,” I said.
“For now, let’s assume it will. You need to make sure to dispose of it properly after making it. It would be bad if someone else stumbled across it. I’ll teach you which companies cater to hazardous material disposal later. There are some special caverns the city uses to get rid of waste products. I’ll help you get used to the process of dealing with it. Later on, let’s test how it reacts to other things, all right?”
“That sounds good. Thank you,” I said.
Ella happily nodded. “Don’t worry about it. You’re my apprentice. This kind of thing is what I’m here for. Even if it doesn’t react with life now, learning to handle hazardous materials will still be useful if the water changes as your attunement grows. So I want to make sure you have this nailed down.”
After that, Ella quickly wrote a letter, before it disappeared, presumably moved to some other part of the city. About half an hour later, a couple people came over to deal with the bowl of hazardous water. They also gave me some information on how to contact them myself in the future, although I couldn’t send a letter halfway across the city yet because I didn’t have enough practice moving objects out of my sight. However, I vowed that would be one of the first things I worked on; the ability to send objects from one corner of the world to another would be incredibly useful in the future.
Then, Ella set me loose to experiment with my new abilities on my own, though I was pretty sure she was still keeping an eye on me using her shaping somehow. I could sense a faint prickling sensation at the edge of my skin, as I realized that I could feel her using very small amounts of alteration to sense the area around her in a way I didn’t quite understand. Just another thing I needed to learn and master.
I decided to go into the small chunk of property just outside Ella’s front door, since it had access to a few plants I wanted to run some experiments on.
Once I saw a patch of glowmoss, I took a moment to admire it. I had never really thought about it before, but now that I could see souls, I was distinctly aware of the fact that even plants had some form of soul. In fact, basically everything alive had a soul; it seemed to be the very thing that distinguished things that were alive from things like stone.
However, the souls of the patch of glowing moss in front of Ella’s house were incredibly different from the souls I recognized.
Based on Sallia, Felix and I, as well as occasional random passerby on the street, all humanoid souls were close to indistinguishable from each other. They were silver-shaped blobs that resided in the brain, with a few bits and pieces of the soul scattered throughout the rest of the body. I found it interesting that Orthanoids and Humans had indistinguishable souls, which probably indicated that on the level of souls there wasn’t much difference between the two species at all.
However, the patch of moss had a much smaller, green-colored soul. It was completely and utterly different from a human/orthan soul. I kind of got the impression that the moss soul would be destroyed the moment it returned to the ocean of souls, probably since moss had no real way to get Achievement. Which made me wonder where plant souls came from. If most plant souls couldn’t survive the process of returning to the ocean, where did their souls come from? Did they get new ones somehow, or did they have their own separate ocean of souls?
I knew far too little about how interdimensional geography worked, and thinking about it was starting to make my head spin. I had too many questions, and not enough answers.
So I decided not to think about it. If any place had the answers to my questions, it was probably the Market. I just needed to find the right information sources. For now, I had magic ocean water to test. So I tried splashing the patch of moss with some ocean water.
The result was… interesting.
The moment the glowmoss patch made contact with the ocean water, the soul of the patch of moss started to shrivel up, collapsing under the influence of the ocean water as the ocean of souls corroded the thoughts, memories, and very existence of the moss soul.
However, the ocean of souls water also dissipated as it made contact with the moss, slowly turning back into regular water. It seemed that since I was creating water from the ocean of souls, it could only do a certain amount of soul-eroding before my alteration essence ran out, leaving behind completely ordinary ocean water afterwards. This was also quite different from how most alteration attunements worked, since changes made with alteration were permanent. This left me scratching my head for a while, but I chalked it up to another oddity of my attunement for now. Since my attunement was already unusual in a variety of different ways, one more oddity was to be expected.
The patch of moss eventually died, before its green soul slowly peeled away from its body. I watched in curiosity as the soul seemed to float in midair for a couple of seconds, as if not knowing what to do, before something started to pull at it. The moss soul started to drift away, moving faster and faster before it zoomed into the distance.
I shrugged, and decided to change the target of my next experiment. The water of the ocean of souls had a corrosive effect on souls it touched, but it was very slow. If I was going to use it in combat, I needed something that dealt damage much more quickly. Therefore, I quickly found a few insects crawling up the side of Ella’s house.
I decided to try something rather… unusual. It wasn’t something I was sure would work, but I wanted to see just how far I could take my idea of ‘alteration’ and how much I could push the boundaries of this spellcasting system.
Thus, I tried visualizing life itself, in addition to the souls I saw in the world around me. Specifically, I tried imagining them as if every single ‘life’ in the world around me was a candle.
I had heard plenty of people refer to life using candle and fire-related imagery. Those that were weak were said to be like candles on the verge of guttering out, their life flickering as it tried to burn for just a little longer. I had heard people refer to exceptional people as raging bonfires, casting light onto their surroundings as they strove for greatness.
None of these people meant it literally, of course. Comparing life to fire was just a metaphor people used sometimes.
However, alteration was all about visualizing something, and then making reality bend to your visualization. I intended to see if I could make this interpretation of life as a flame… a little more literal.
After all, the best way to put out a candle was to drown it in water. And since I had access to magic based on the ocean of souls, I was exceptionally good at controlling water.
I squinted at the insect, feeling my concentration start to reach a new height as I tried to bend my alteration essence to my will.
And because of my extreme affinity, my alteration essence was more than happy to oblige. Instead of fighting me as I tried to visualize the insect’s life as a small, fragile candle flame, it took to my image like ink on a canvas.
I could suddenly see another image overlaying the insect and its tiny dark-gray soul. In addition to its body and its soul, I could see a faint flame resting on top of its limbs.
I pointed at it, trying to put out the candle of its life with my soul-ocean water, and after I felt my brain struggle to enforce my will, a single droplet of soul-ocean water appeared a few centimeters above the insect. Then, it crashed down onto the insect.
This time, the water from the ocean of souls didn’t impact the insect’s soul at all. It directly attacked the candle I had visualized.
The insect died. It didn’t die of anything in particular; the life in its body simply sputtered out. One moment, the insect’s soul was tethered to its brain like any other creature. The next moment, it was just dead. The body died instantaneously, severing the connection between the two. The insect’s soul was quickly dragged away, just like the soul of the glowmoss patch.
I felt a surge of triumph as I realized that my new idea worked. Not perfectly; I had chewed through an absolutely ridiculous amount of alteration essence in my body, and I was also pretty sure that a stronger creature would have a more powerful ‘flame,’ making them harder to extinguish. However, even if my newly created attack was clunky right now, I could definitely make it faster, cheaper, and more effective with practice. A lot of the alteration essence I used had been wasted because I wasn’t quite sure how to turn my imagination into reality. Worse, I had fumbled a bit during the process of extinguishing the insect’s life, and had nearly missed the creature with my drop of water. However, the more I practiced, the easier and faster I would get, and the less difficult it would be to use in a practical combat scenario.
For the first time in both of my lives so far, I had a proper method of attack. I wasn’t just stuck tossing around illusions and healing anymore, or tricking stronger creatures into attacking for me. I wasn’t relying on a weapon anymore. I finally had a proper magic attack.
I could now just kill things purely using my alteration essence. And better yet, I could probably use this attack no matter which world we ended up in.
I didn’t know how effective it would be against the skeletons and wooden butterflies we had seen in the Market yet, but I guessed that with the right method of visualization and some practice, I could probably make my new attack work on them too. After all, Alteration was about visualization.
I decided on a new name for my ability. It was based on extinguishing the ‘candles’ of life in my surroundings. Thus, it deserved a fitting name for my first ‘spell.’
“Henceforth, I shall call this the ‘extinguish,’ spell,” I said, grinning to myself. Sallia and Felix might make fun of the name, but I felt that I deserved to be proud of what I had achieved using my extreme affinity and my practice.
Imagine the mentor's reaction seeing a little girl staring at small animals until they died
Oooo creepy imagine the trope of little children with wide smiles and eyes in anime.
@EthanPeh Ah swirly eyes