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Chapter 6


“It is written, in our most ancient of texts, that when our realm was first ordered out of the infinite nether by the First Gods, and all of life seeded upon its surface, that each and every living thing was born whole. Born with both their body and soul interwoven with one another, a perfect a union as could ever be. Because of this, there was little as to age, infirmity, disease, or any of the other countless maladies of the flesh and mind that we know of and suffer through today. Yet as the ages wore on, something abruptly changed, something that angered the First beyond all reason. Something that caused them to sunder all living things into two halves, that of flesh and that of spirit.” 

—Part One, The Origin of Incarnation, Gaesen Reed,The Age of Tyrants, circa 3638

One by one the teeth on the platter vanished as Vincent unbound them, taking the virtues he needed from each of them, shredding apart what remained until it turned to dust.

Then, when the last tooth was gone, he reached for the tongue and did the same, though this time the process took slightly longer, thanks to the virtue he was seeking within. Notably more potent and evolved, it attempted to resist his efforts in shearing it free of its home, but no avail. Vincent’s Will was simply unstoppable against the feeble effort that it was able to raise in comparison, and less than a three count after he had set his effort against it, did it surrender, the entirety of the tongue unbinding itself. Feeling a shiver pass through him as he drew the manifested concept into his inner body, he pinned it in place along with the other virtues he’d collected so far and paused for a moment to inspect them, his Insight immediately leaping to aid him.

Currently Ensnared Virtues:

  • Lesser Manifestation of Hunger — Quantity: 1 — Grade: B
  • Lesser Manifestation of Cutting — Quantity: 12 — Grade: C

Plenty enough to take care of a single meld to start, Vincent thought as he looked at the handful of manifested concepts that he held within his body, tightly ensnared by his Will. For anyone else without a formed Nexus to safely store them in, holding onto the virtues with just sheer mental focus would have been an extremely dangerous thing. One small slip of concentration could easily set them free within his body, which in the case of the two that he held would be all guaranteed to be fatal.

Representing their respective concepts in the truest sense, the two virtues would instantly shred and devour Vincent’s body from the inside out should he have lost control of them. The hunger would simply latch onto the closest thing that it encountered and simply chew it until only a pulpy mess remained. Then, and only then, would it continue on elsewhere to do the same. As for the other, the virtues of cutting, they would likely fall through Vincent like the metaphorical razorblades that they were, carving apart all muscle, flesh, veins, and bone that they encountered along their path.

Thereby leaving Vincent a bloody mess on the ground, counting the moments until death took him and relieved him of his suffering.

However Vincent was far from just simply anyone else, his Will both implacable and infatigable against the trivial strain that his efforts brought. In fact, it was what allowed him to continue to the next step of the mending process that he was embarking upon, his hand reaching out for one of the several cuts of deepchewer meat piled on top of one another. However unlike the teeth and the tongue that he had unbound wholesale, the lightly seared steaks did not share a similar destiny, for Vincent needed them to be whole if at least relatively, for his efforts to work.

Best to not forget about removing taste as well, he thought while looking down at the decidedly unappetizing flank of black meat in his hand, instructing his Insight to mask the aforementioned sense in addition to his smell. Then, once he was certain that it was gone completely, he brought the meat to his mouth and bit off a piece, feeling a rubbery, oily chunk fall into his mouth. Hardening his resolve now that the first, and most revolting step had been taken, Vincent then wasted no time in chewing and then sending the morsel down into his stomach, the rest of the steak then following suit a few moments later.

But that was merely the first of many, Vincent reaching out to grasp another steak from the platter and repeating the process again, and again, and again until it was completely bare save for a puddle of juices where it had sat.

S-so far, s-so good, he whispered mentally to himself once the last piece had vanished, a not insubstantial portion of his mind consumed by his roiling stomach which had begun to protest both at the amount and quality of the meat he’d eaten. So much in fact that for a split moment he was worried that he would lose everything that he’d consumed. However before that pivotal point of no return could be crossed, his Will enveloped his stomach’s contents and stilled the cause of its distress, his Insight helpfully assuring him of his success a moment later.

Newly Ensnared Virtue Discovered:

  • Lesser Manifestation of Gluttony — Quantity: 6 — Grade: A

An even higher grade than I expected, Vincent thought idly as he pinned the ravenous manifestation of insatiability in place and his considered his next step, everything so far having unfolded rather perfectly. That should be…good. The higher the grade, the more potent and purer the virtues are, which in this case should mean a stronger pull. Something I expect should only be all the more helpful.

Moving as the thoughts filtered through his mind, Vincent flexed his Will, using it to guide the first two virtues, that of hunger and cutting to the center of his chest, before gently pushing them downwards until they were just below where his rib cage ended. It was there, deep within the very center of his being, where the soul anchored itself to his body in the form of a thin silver well of energy, a well that with a second flex of his will Vincent drew open and continued guiding the virtues through. Instantly he felt them vanish in a metaphysical sense as they entered his Soul Well, the inner void that separated that of his physical body and his spirit. Travelling across the single silver strand that bridged the expanse, it was only a breath later that they reached the doorway to Vincent’s soul, which still bore the wound that he had barely managed to fix.

Whatever thief did this to me, did it precisely with a single cut, Vincent thought as he inspected the damage and found that there had been a kind of elegance in whatever had happened to him. From what he saw the threshold to his soul had carefully sliced open, likely with an impossibly sharp virtue as he intended to do himself. I suppose I should be grateful for that at least. Had they done so carelessly…then well, I likely wouldn’t be here now. Though…at the same time, I still ended up almost bleeding out. I wonder…did something happen during their attempt to carve apart my soul to stop them short? Is that why I still have my Insight?

It was a thought that chilled Vincent as he mentally tugged on the threads of anima that he had used to stem the bleeding of his essence, taking immense care as to not re-injure himself in the process. Left alone in the world with memories in shambles, he simply couldn’t imagine being without his one critical soul meld that gave him what he thought was a fighting chance at not only recovery, but a future as well. 

I’ll have to fix the wound once I properly re-awaken my soul…that is if I even can, Vincent asked himself as he guided a thread of Will and the shimmering virtues accompanying it carried into his soul, scanning over the charred black threads that awaited him. Everywhere Vincent looked he saw injury, more than he ever thought a person could suffer and live. Had his soul been flesh and not spirit it would have been akin to looking at meat charred nearly to ash, all while bearing the most grievous of injuries possible. I should be able to manage one meld a day if there are no surprises. Perhaps it would be best to start with the most vital melds? Or perhaps…start with the ones most likely to be most painful. Yes, I think I’ll do that since I can’t mask spiritual pain with my Insight. Once I am on my sixth or seventh day, I imagine my mind will be pushed to the point of breaking. I might as well try and save myself some trouble.

Decision made Vincent paused for a moment to scan over his soul and find just which meld exactly would be the most trialing for him to endure. As he did, he found that while none of them would be exactly appealing to shear away from himself, that one in particular stood out, if only because changing it would affect everything afterwards.

My bones, that’s probably going to be the worst, Vincent thought as he looked at the part of his soul that represented the Frama, or in more conventional terms, his bone meld, even if that term wasn’t sufficient to encompass all it represented. Regardless, it was that meld in particular that the most pronounced effect on his physical body, twisting his limbs, stiffening his joints, causing his jaw to sit rather offset, and who knew what else he hadn’t had the pleasure of discovering just yet. It will…take a great deal of effort to completely fix my body, but removing this meld is the best place to start.

So that was what he set out to do.

Shaping the collection virtues that he had pulled into his soul, Vincent then forged them into the tool that he would need to shear away his melds. For this he took the manifestation of hunger that he had taken from the Deepchewer’s tongue and wove the anima it was made from into the manifestation of cutting he took from its teeth, making them both all the more deadly in the process. Once complete, he spared himself a moment to look upon the newly made concept, a Lesser Manifestation of Ravenous Slicing.

Perfect for what I need it for, Vincent thought after a brief mental glance at the concept before inserting his Will directly into it, a move that was akin to one putting their hand into a glove. That is if said glove happened to be a razor made of hunger capable of slicing through almost anything it encountered. Such as the charred anima covering Vincent’s soul in this case. Well…here goes nothing.

Then with only a breath to steel himself against the impending agony, he brought virtue enveloped Will against a particularly charred section of blackened threads that represented the loci, the focal point of his bone meld and began to cut it out.

Instantly blinding pain greeted him in response, leaving him feeling as if he had cut a piece of himself, which truthfully in effect he had, as a knotted chunk of black, dead anima was sliced free. Yet even so, he did not let the agony stop him, slowing only to grab what he had carved free and sending it back towards his physical body, whereupon it was readily consumed and held by the gluttonous virtues he held in his belly. Again, Vincent felt his gorge rise in response, his stomach even going as far as to roil and threaten to empty itself. But threaten was as far as it went  with Vincent rallying his Will, building up a colossal wall of diamond within his mind to shelter him from the tidal wave of discomfort and suffering that threatened to break his concentration. It was the only thing that allowed him to continue shearing away the riven soulmeld, carving the dead threads away again and again, each and every slice bringing Vincent to the very precipice of disaster, just barely managing to snatch himself back from the edge of madness each time.

And then the next thing he knew, he was finished, the maelstrom of torment that he had brought upon himself vanishing as he sucked in a shuddering breath while his eyes snapped wide open, leaving him staring at the stone ceiling of his above. Apparently at some point that he had missed, he had lain, or more likely, fallen down, even if he didn’t remember doing so.

I…I did it.” He whispered weakly, the surge of exhausted triumph shooting through his body doing much to chase away memories of the agony that had consumed him. He’d lost all sense of time the instant that he had sliced through the first thread, leaving him fearing at how much might have passed while he worked. It was a question that he as he lifted his head upwards to look at the nightstand beside him he found immediately answered, courtesy of the freshly laden platter already waiting for him upon it.

A sign as clear as any that an entire day had passed.

But did I succeed? He wondered as he mustered up the strength to lift his left hand, the one where he hadn’t been able to unclench its fingers from the fist that it had wrapped itself in.

And discovered that he could now open it.

It wasn’t perfect by any means. No, that would take a great deal more effort, the sheering of muscle, the breaking of joints, and bone on his part to bring it back to full capacity. But this was perhaps the most important start on the journey to mend himself as he inspected at his hand while wiggling arthritic fingers, for it meant that his spirit was no longer forcing his body to grow and shape itself in a way that couldn’t. 

Breathing a sigh of relief at the sight, Vincent paused for a second to inspect the rest of his body, noticing that the relief had extended out towards his limbs. His knees no longer felt like they sand inside them, his club foot, while still twisted, no longer felt forcibly so, as if something pushing against it had been released. To cap things off, his general sense of being felt all around better in a way that couldn’t fully articulate save that he was simply healthier. Similarly too was the state of soul as he looked inward to review his efforts, if at least where the Frama, the bone soulmeld had once been. As part of his mending efforts, he had been forced to cut away layers and layers of dead anima until he reached living threads, exactly how a healer would have cut away the charred skin and flesh of a victim burned by fire. An act that given the severity of his spiritual wounds, he was elated to succeed in the first place.

However despite doing so and finding living anima in the end, what he found were the most basic threads that a soul carried, the ones that quite literally served as the foundation for his skeleton’s existence. The foundation for a simple mortal’s existence.

But only for now, Vincent thought, his success buoying his spirits in a way that immediately gave him a surge of energy. So much in fact that he shifted his attention towards the new platter that awaited him on his nightstand, a sense of eagerness washing over him. One meld down, six more to go.

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