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Chapter 9


“The first step for any young aspirant wishing to take their first step upon the Path of Incarnation is to create one’s Nexus, the place where all mana and virtues that they acquire can be safely stored for use. But how is this done you might ask? How is it that we create this wonderful pocket within ourselves to store the wonders of creation? By weaving it from our Soul Tether. By now, each of you should have already discovered this silver strand that spans your Soul Well, connecting both your Corporia, your body, and your Essentia, your soul. It is from this central thread that we weave our Nexus out of, gently pulling, teasing, and reshaping it to a pattern that best serves our needs, which is exactly what you will all be learning to do this day.”

Excerpt from lecture on Forging Foundations by Harib Al’kashir,The Age of Tyrants, circa 3438

It was with a relieved sigh that Vincent reopened his eyes, instantly becoming aware of all the sweat drenching his body.

He’d done it. He’d finished creating his Nexus.

Or rather, I finished re-creating my Soul Well, Vincent corrected himself, his whole outlook upon incarnation and thus magic having changed since he’d begun. Now that I know what Bel did…what all the Old Gods likely did, there’s simply no better way of looking at it.

And that was because he had not just forged a single Nexus, yet twelve separate ones, each linked together into a greater whole.

One that I have yet to name either, he went onto think, recalling what he had fashioned within himself, having taken inspiration from the celestial bodies beyond the sky as to their arrangement. The result had each of the Nexuses within him orbiting the silver tether that bridged body and soul, the very same tether he had woven each of containers out of. Though given the circumstances of just how all of this came to be, I believe that I maybe in fact have a fitting one.

Sending that thought towards his Insight, it only took a heartbeat for his meld to reply in kind, a disembodied wave of understanding and comprehension flowing over him.

The Well of Eternity:

  • Quality: Perfect (Grade: A)
  • Attributes: 
    • Regeneration Speed: Rank A
    • Channeling Speed: Rank A
    • Total Capacity: Rank A
    • Stability: Rank A

Even better than I could have ever allowed myself to hope, Vincent thought as he ran his Will across each of the twelve nodes within him, giving them all one final glance to ensure that nothing unexpected had gone awry. As he did, he felt each of their designs, which consisted of three of each possible designs, all linked to his Soul Tether. Yet more than just that link, and them being their own separate Nexuses, he had designed the overall structure in a way as to play to each design’s individual’s strengths. 

For drawing in mana, he had placed three Radiant Nexuses closest to his physical body along his Soul Tether so that they could freely absorb mana at the fastest rate possible. But not store it, at least not long term. No, instead of relying on their comparably smaller capacities, Vincent would instead shunt the mana that they took in to the Diamond Nexuses next in line, which with their quick channeling capability and vast reserves were able to contain all that he took in without complaint. Yet even then, depending on what his goals in the moment were, the mana or virtues did not need stop there with the next two Nexuses in line being one of spherical and then cubic design. The first of the two was to serve as a staging ground, or his active reserve as he’d come to think of it, for should he need to call upon his magic for any reason, it was available to him at a moment’s notice. As for the second and the last of the designs that he had made for himself, there was his cube shaped Nexuses. These were the ones where he could secure not only vast quantities of mana long term, but also the most dangerous and volatile of virtues, knowing that they stood practically no chance of accidentally breaking free and wreaking havoc within him.

And that is just how it is now, right at this moment, Vincent said to himself as he began to move, his all too stiff limbs tingling from long unuse in the process. As I continue my path, I can’t help but wonder what sort of heights I’ll reach.

It was a tantalizing thought that was for certain, the prospect of power causing Vincent’s mind to eagerly look ahead to what the future could have in store for him. A thought that was ruthlessly crushed as he pushed himself to the edge of the bed and lowered his feet to the ground, the simple motion enough to send the wafting stench that was his body’s odor to his nose and mouth.

But first…a bath, he gagged mentally, eyes immediately going towards the tub at the foot of the bed, seeing that there were two large buckets of water set beside it, their arrival something that he had missed during his meditation. Nor was that the only thing he realized a few seconds later as his nose caught the scent of something else in the room, that being the tantalizing smell of food, a plate of which he discovered had been left on his nightstand.

Quickly realizing that he was hungrier than he thought, and that his stench wasn’t so powerful as to deter him from eating, Vincent quickly devoured the buttered sandwiches that had been left for him, even going as far as to lick the plate free of crumbs. Then, and only then, did he gently amble his way towards the bath and began the process of fully cleansing himself of the accumulated sweat and grime that his last week of spiritual surgery had wrought.

Eventually falling into something akin to a rhythm as he discovered his body’s limits and range of mobility, Vincent soon found his mind wandering towards other things as he washed himself. Namely the dark, heart shaped crystal that still rested on the table next to the tub, right where he had left it a week earlier.

“I suppose I finally have a place to put it now,” Vincent whispered to himself as he washed, pausing in his awkward scrubbing with a long brush to reach out and grab the heart with his good hand. Pulling back on the mana that it contained as he righted himself he felt a thin flow of shadow and death enter into his Soul Well and quickly settle. Pausing after a few moments of draw, Vincent then waited a moment to ensure that his well remained stable, taking the time to extend his Will out into the brimming heart of shadow and death mana. 

“Hrm not all of it is alive,” he said after a second’s inspection of the crystalline lump, the dead mana standing out starkly against the living. “Why I wonder? Couldn’t it have…purged it? Or controlled what it absorbed?”

Unfortunately the heart didn’t have any answers as Vincent resumed draining it free of the still living mana within it, parts of the crystal simply disintegrating in his grasp until only the dead, and therefore useless, mana remained. Frowning at the now truly misshapen lump, Vincent placed it back down on the table and resumed his washing, scrubbing the last bits of the grime from his body. However even as he did so, the question didn’t leave him, eventually prompting him to turn his focus back towards the room itself, which as the first time he had seen it, was still filled with traces of shadow and death mana, yet not a single mote of Aether mana. Yet even despite that lack, he still promptly absorbed what few living motes there were as if something within him took a deep breath, the whole process taking little more than a second to empty out the entire room.

Hopefully I can find somewhere with Aether mana. If I am going to make any progress in regaining my power, I’ll need vast, vast quantities of it. Though…I suppose could potentially use other kinds of mana—hold on, is that why everyone I’ve seen so far looks the way they do? Have they been using aspected mana in place of Aether? That would explain everything! Vincent exclaimed to himself as he finished washing and began to dry himself, quickly finding new clothes, a pain white tunic with matching pants, to wear afterwards as well as a walking stick to help keep his balance. 

While he’d gone a long way in repairing the initial cause of his body’s riving when it came to the spirit, he hadn’t yet managed to fix the physical damage that it had inflicted. That in turn left him rather hindered in terms of ability, particularly when it came to one of his arms and legs. In the case of the former, his forearm had grown on a curve, resulting in a crooked appearance. Worse too, the muscles in that arm hadn’t taken shape properly either, giving him little strength in it. As for the latter, one of his legs had grown twisted inward, presenting itself as a clubfoot, hindering any speedy movement. Repairing either of those, along with all of the other issues his body bore, would require a copious amounts of life mana which he made his primary goal to obtain as soon as possible. 

I should be able to ask Ayre and Theo where I could find some…that is if I can ask them such a question without making myself seem like a complete fool…at least more so than I already have. Vincent continued as he readied himself, half lost in thought all the while. Hmm…on second thought, I wonder if there’s maybe a different way to fill in the gaps in my memory before I get too far ahead of myself? Like perhaps a library? A few days there could potentially give me all the grounding I could ever ask for…

It was a question that he immediately resolved to find out more about as he bid an unceremonious and eager farewell to his room, his time here one that he was exceptionally eager to put behind him. Not only did he chafe at having lost his memories in the first place, but he also found himself overly anxious at the week that his recovery had cost, even if it paled in comparison at the near thousand years since his encounter with Bel.

I wonder if this sense of anxiety was a part of my original personality, or one that I am developing thanks to my loss of memory, Vincent thought as he stepped out into the hall beyond and started to make his way back towards the tirage wing of the infirmary, already thinking ahead as to the reaction he’d get.

And nor was he disappointed when he finally arrived.

Entering into the wing during which he later learned was a lull, a rare moment in time where there were only a handful of minor to moderate injuries that only required intermittent monitoring, Vincent quickly found himself the subject of focus from Ayre and Theo.

“Ascenda—erm, Vincent, you’re awake!” The death aspected mender announced by way of greeting the first moment he’d seen Vincent, practically sprinting away from the alchemy table he’d been working at to meet him.

“And looking much better!” Declared the other man as he practically leapt into a hallway from a patient’s partition and ran across half the wing to get a closer look at Vincent.

And then the questions started.

“Did you manage to purge all of your melds?”

“Are you feeling well?”

“Do you need more food? Something with meat?”

“Have you remembered anything new?”

There were more questions that accompanied that barrage, Vincent was certain of it as weathered the impromptu interrogation, one that was thankfully devoid, or if not exactly that, then drastically less full of the reverence and worry that they’d displayed earlier while talking to him. Unfortunately even so, by the end of their barrage he could only remember a fraction of what they asked him, especially the very last one in particularly having been posed by Theo who practically hovered over the chair Vincent had all been forced to take a seat in.

“Nothing that makes sense I’m afraid,” Vincent replied back to the man, giving both him and Ayre a resigned shrug. For obvious reasons he had long since decided to keep the details of his memories concerning Bel to himself, deciding that his life was already complicated enough. He didn’t need to start making it an order of magnitude more difficult by claiming that a god out of myth was not in fact such and was still very much in fact real.

That is assuming they hadn’t perished in the near thousand years since they’d put Vincent on his quest in the first place.

“Memories can be like that unfortunately,” Ayre said with both a sympathetic nod and tone, before shifting over to glance at his son then back towards Vincent. “Though I admit my experiences with such are more limited to physical head wounds, rather than soul theft. If they hold true however, I imagine that there will be countless pieces and emotions without any context that you might recover on your journey.”

“Hopefully more with context than without,” Vincent added in what he hoped was an appropriate wistful tone before gently trying to change the subject. “Though…speaking of that, has there been anything about…well, you know.”

“Your kidnappers.” Ayre stated, a dark look falling across his skeletal face as he avoided saying the organization’s name outright. “As it happens, yes. It seems though that they have fallen into open war with themselves and bodies have quite literally been lining our streets night after night, starting the night from when you joined us. Truthfully, it’s caused quite a stir among the less savory kind of our city. The Hand, from what I’ve learned over the years, is…was far from a small guild as such things are counted in the underrealm, but by now, its thought they have lost nine for every ten members they had.”

“That’s…that’s a lot,” Vincent stated, the news all but stunning him to the point where he wasn’t sure how to even to reply. Hearing that the underrealm guild was quite literally eating itself alive certainly filled him with sense of vicious satisfaction, however at the same time it also pained him considering what they had taken from him.

“It certainly is,” Ayre replied gently, before going on to shrug in a helpless gesture. “And while I can’t say that it sits well with me, it is a fact that gangs and underrealm guilds fall apart every day here in Everness, either eaten by those larger than them, or simply burning themselves to naught but ash from within. As it appears to be happening to them right now.”

“Though,” Theo added once his father finished. “I bet that you care less about what is happening to them and more about what they took from you.”

“I am,” Vincent answered, certain that the look on his face said volumes about where his true concerns were. “I’ve always known that it wasn’t a realistic hope. But the thought at recovering my melds or even just my memories was one I was still holding onto. Now…now that doesn’t seem like it will be possible.”

A statement that promptly caused both of the men to nod in sympathy.

“I am sorry Vincent,” Ayre replied in a kind and gentle tone. “I cannot even begin to imagine how such a loss would feel, both regarding your Ascent as well sense of self. If it helps soothe your thoughts any, I have done what you asked and notified the other menders that work throughout the city to keep a look out for any potential…patients whose troubles stem from black soul melds. Perhaps we will get lucky.”

“Perhaps,” Vincent agreed, wondering if it was perhaps for the best if his stolen memories and soul melds simply were destroyed amid the Shadowed Hand’s civil war. At least then, there would be no chance that someone could misuse them. “Or perhaps not, we will have to see.

“But in the meantime,” Vincent went onto add deciding that this was a good time to press onwards and bring up the request that had spurred him to leave his room in the first place. “I’d like to start working on recovering what memories might still be locked in my mind, and one thought I had to help with that was to visit a library. I’m hoping that perhaps just…reading or seeing something might spark something familiar.”

It was a suggestion that worked exactly as Vincent hoped it would, for as soon as he finished speaking, both of the men perked up and started to nod, Theo eventually speaking up first.

“That is a great idea!” He exclaimed. “As it happens, Everness is the home of the Luminar Archives, one of the best libraries that our country has to offer. I used to take my lessons there before I joined father here. I’ve no doubt you’d be able to find out anything you wanted there.”

Though as soon as Theo finished saying that, his eyes dropped down towards Vincent’s leg, a flash of concern appearing upon it. “Erm, though it is a fair walk from here. Do you feel strong enough to make the journey?”

“If it means that I’ll be able to see a library?” Vincent queried with a sudden sense of resolve. “I’ll crawl over broken glass if I have to.” 

“Ha! Well, hopefully it won’t come to that,” the young mender replied with an understanding nod. “But if that’s the case, I’d be happy to take you there if you don’t mind us stopping at the market on the way, we’re in need of some extra supplies and I was about to head out anyway. We’ll be able to see some of the city and talk along the way too.”

“That sounds perfect,” Vincent replied with an eager smile of his own as he made to rise up from his chair, grasping his new walking stick tightly. “I’m ready whenever you are.”

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