Age 749, Saturday, Afternoon July 20, Uranai Baba’s Palace.
I sat in one of Baba’s smaller rooms on the upper floor of the main hall, giving the old crone a confused look.
“But, I did reach a state of meditation.” I replied in confusion.
“Not quite”. She replied, sitting atop her perpetually floating crystal ball. Idly, I wondered how much magic this woman had, to be maintaining such a spell for as long as she has.
My MP would have run dry a while back had I attempted that trick.
“Your skill is woefully incomplete.” She explained as if she were talking to a small child. “You’ve clearly learned to be in tune with your own energies, a surprising feat, all things considered— this will shave months off of your schedule. But you’re missing a crucial piece of the puzzle.”
“What do you mean?” I asked in confusion, hoping she’d get to the point. “What could I be missing? I’m already one with myself, as they say.”
“That’s the problem.” She replied, rubbing at the bridge of her nose. “You’re one with only yourself. Even barely so. Magic is a bit more complex than your life force, child.”
I frowned at her calling me a child again, but said nothing. She was a well established user of magic. She’d blocked my attempt at using [Observe] with an almost casual disregard for it.
She also understood the basics of my powers quite quickly, though not their nature or origins. Hell, if she could figure out their origins, I’d eat my shoes.
Then again, she is a fortune-teller…
I felt a sting to my cheek.
“Focus.” She admonished, her hand glowing slightly— she’d stung me with her magic. “Or I might have to take back what I said about your talent.”
“Sorry.” I said, bowing my head slightly.
She seemed to accept the apology. “Anyway. Magic is a bit more complex than your life force. It has been around for eons, now. When we first began designing our technology, there was magic. When we first rubbed sticks together to create fire, there was magic. Before we’d even existed as a species, magic was there. It has, and always will be here. It has watched our birth, and will likely watch our death.”
“You almost make it sound like it’s sentient.” I said, narrowing my eyes in an attempt to understand.
“Correct.” She confirmed. “Perhaps you do catch on quick, after all. The cosmos is not some empty wasteland. Magic itself is alive, and old. It has seen many a civilization rise and fall all over the universe.”
All over the universe? Did that mean…
“Aliens, yes.” Baba waved it off. “Is it truly so surprising?”
“I suppose not, but we’ve never had concrete proof..” I parroted something I’d heard on a documentary, once.
“Ah, yes.” Baba seemed amused. “Scientists and their obsession with proof. They claim my Ghost Usher is a very advanced hologram which responds to basic human commands, questions and the like.”
I frowned at that, before shaking the thoughts off, [Gamer’s Mind] asserting itself and allowing me to focus on the matter at hand.
“Do you do that intentionally?” Uranai Baba asked out of the blue.
“What?” I asked in confusion.
“Clearing your mind like you do.” She said, giving me a frown. “I’ve seen it occur twice before this; it’s quite the effective technique.”
“…” I looked at her for a long moment. Had she really picked up on that much?
“It is a… Technique available to me.” I confirmed, stumbling with the word technique. I was so used to calling it a Skill. “Not one I have control over.”
“A technique you are not able to control?” Baba said, eyes a little wide with surprise and a dash of incredulity. “Do you realize how dangerous something like that is?”
“Um…” I shrugged, not really understanding her point. “It’s never done anything to me before. Why should it matter now?”
The old woman stared at me for a long moment, before pinching at the bridge of her nose, muttering about stupidity running in the family.
Before I could open my mouth to reply, she started talking. “Have you considered that it might possibly be unhealthy to deny yourself the experience of your emotions, child?”
I opened my mouth, and shut it again; I had no answer for that question.
“Well, how about this?” She continued. “Has this technique been activating itself more often, recently?”
It had been; I nodded. “What’s that got to do with meditation?”
The old bat looked like she wanted to smash my head in with her crystal ball. Among her incredulous and annoyed mutterings, I heard my name attached to insults. Words like “unbelievably stupid”, “idiot savant” were thrown around in the sea of mutters.
“So, you’ve achieved an incomplete meditative state without correctly managing your emotions. Is that correct?” She asked finally.
“Yes.” I confirmed.
“I don’t know whether you’re the smartest boy on the planet, or the dumbest one.” Baba declared after a second. “You shouldn’t even be able to use magic. No wonder all of your skills are so horribly inefficient.”
She held out a hand, and a light blue ball, similar to my [Ki Ball] came out. “You probably also have trouble projecting your magic like this, am I right?”
I nodded again as she dismissed her spell.
She clapped her hands abruptly, startling me.
“Change of plans.” She decided. “We’ll have to disable this mental technique of yours, so you have to tell me exactly how it functions.”
“Ah…” I said, unsure of how to proceed from here. I had never told anyone about this power— even with all of the supernatural feats I’ve already seen, my power was still too strange to be received well.
At least, that was my opinion on it.
“It’s a long story.” I stalled, but that only earned me the old woman’s annoyance.
“Listen, child.” She snapped, and I flinched reflexively. “I invited you over because I knew your father and I know he’d want me to teach you the mystic arts. But, if you’re not willing to cooperate with me, then you can go home.”
I considered her words seriously. I could just up and leave, and it’d be no skin off my nose. However, I wanted to know what my father was doing here.
Deep down, part of me also realized that she was right. People weren’t supposed to deal with their emotions like I have been.
Besides, what could it hurt to tell her?
She was already neck deep in a world of magic; hell, she had dead people and vampires under her beck and call!
With that in mind, I explained my power to her.
“…” She said nothing for a long moment. “Your life now functions as a role playing game, which is how you got strong in a very short amount of time?”
“Do you have any idea where you got it from?” She asked.
“No.” I shrugged. “When I questioned it, I actually received a quest that said I need to find out who gave me my power, otherwise the universe will be destroyed.”
“The… Universe?” Baba repeated slowly; incredulously. “Destroyed? Surely not.”
“That’s what it says.” I confirmed. “I’ve been training my ass off since then. Before I gained this power, I couldn’t even fend off the neighbor’s cat.”
Fuck Mr. Grooble and his pet hellspawn. Seriously.
“And now you quite easily defeated Dracula Man.” Baba concluded. “Granted, he hasn’t eaten in weeks and is considerably weakened, but quite the impressive increase in power on your part.”
I didn’t reply.
“Still, what you’ve told me is alarming.” She said. “Can you prove that these rewards and failures of these quests of yours are real?”
I considered her question.
“Well, the experience points I gain from them are pretty obvious proof for me.” I explained, frowning slightly. “But you’re asking for proof that you can see. I’m not sure I can give you any proof on my quests, but you’ve already detected my [Gamer’s Mind].”
I slowly and deliberately reached a hand to the side catching her attention, before reaching into my [Inventory] and pulling out a small knife.
“That.” I said, watching her surprised face. “Was my [Inventory]. And this.” I drew a cut on my hand.
With a wince, I showed her the cut, which was a simple, slightly glowing red line over my palm.
“Is my [Gamer’s Body].” I finished, giving the woman a serious look. I’d never shared this information with anyone, before.
“Show me this ‘inventory’ again.” Baba demanded.
Blinking, I acquiesced and pushed the knife back inside the [Inventory]. It disappeared and reappeared in one of the inventory slots.
“Unconscious manipulation of space-time, what sort of power is this?” Baba said incredulously. “Even the gods would have trouble to do something like this… at least, the ones I know.”
“Wait, gods?” I blurted out. “Those exist?”
“Yes. You didn’t think spirits of the dead existed without actual deities guiding them in the Otherworld, did you?” The old hag chided before truly looking at me.
“Incredible mental control, the negation of crippling moves, the inability to bleed, fully healing after sleeping for one night, unconscious manipulation of space-time magic, have I missed anything?” Baba wrote down in a small notepad she produced from.. somewhere.
Could she use an inventory skill like mine?
“I can’t get tired, really.” I added. “I can exercise at full blast for 3 hours before being forced to stop for 30 minutes by the system— but if I stop just a while before the time limit and wait, I can start all over again.”
“So, pseudo-endless stamina…?” Baba said wryly, before shaking her head. “You said something about skills?”
“Yes.” I nodded. “I can essentially learn any skill. At first, it’s weak, but the more I level it, the better I automatically get at the skill.”
“Is there a limit to this?” Baba asked.
“If there is, I haven’t found one yet.” I replied truthfully.
“.. Right.” She looked like she was going to have an aneurysm. “And your attributes?”
“STR for strength. VIT for vitality. AGI for agility. INT for intelligence and WIS for wisdom.” I listed. “I can raise each stat individually by training— for STR, weight training raises it, for VIT, just a lot of endurance runs, and so on.”
“I don’t think there’s a limit to this, either.” I threw in. “Also, with every level up, I gain 5 points to put into my stats.”
“And do you have any points kept in reserve?” Baba asked.
“Yes, 57 points. I can effectively double any stat I currently have, but I’ve wanted to raise my stats the old fashioned way.” I replied.
“One of the wiser things you have done.” Baba snorted, her crystal ball shaking slightly before calming down. If I didn’t know better, I would have sworn the crystal was laughing at me.
It was probably just my imagination.
“Anything else?” She asked, looking over her paper for a month before turning her gaze to me.
I shook my head in reply. “That’s about it.”
“Very well.” Baba said, rubbing at the bridge of her nose again. “We’ll have to devise another training regimen for you, judging by all this new information.”
I didn’t reply.
“I will contact Roshi.” She said, floating around the room, frowning thoughtfully. “Assuming this power of yours is accurate, I can’t have you pissing away your time solely doing physical training on some remote island.”
“But how am I supposed to train in the Turtle Style?” I asked, a mixture of indignation and irritation welling up inside me.
“The ‘Turtle Style’, he says.” Baba cackled, before fixing me with an amused look. “There is no turtle style, child.”
That threw me for a loop. I opened my mouth to reply, before she cut me off.
“Roshi doesn’t teach forms.” She explained abruptly. “I’ve seen him train the old ox and that Son Gohan-” she got an odd look in her eyes when she mentioned that name, though it was there for such a short period of time I made me question whether I’d imagined it or not.
“His training is pure physical enhancement; something that you can do here. And.” She cut off my reply again. “Before you say it, you will be allowed to train physically, as long as it does not interfere with your magic studies. Understood?”
I stared at her for a good while, before nodding in acquiescence.
“Good. Now, assume your meditative position but do not attempt to meditate just yet.” She ordered, watching as I sat on the floor. “Adjust your posture, it’s too rigid. Lean forward slightly. Your hands don’t need to make a Zen sign, that’s just nonsense on TV. Open palms facing up will suffice.”
I adjusted myself accordingly as she continued to speak. “Focus on your innermost feelings. Focus on things that upset you; things you genuinely regret doing.”
The sound of snapping necks, the feeling of blood on my hands, the feeling that it would never wash out, the sheer overwhelming guilt— [Gamer’s Mind] exerted itself and suppressed the feeling.
“Do you see, now?” Baba’s voice rang. “Grasp onto that feeling, and end it.”
“…” I didn’t reply, still trying to focus on the feelin.
I killed them. I ended them like it was nothing. I felt nothing. How could I have felt nothing? What was wrong with me— I felt the emotions leach away into nothing once more, but focused my thoughts on the process.
Stop [Gamer’s Mind], I kept repeating in my head. Over and over and over.
The ringing sound drew me to reality. I stared in surprise at the window before me.
You have mentally attempted to disable [Gamer’s Mind]. Is this the course you wish to take?
I pressed on Accept.
A wave of emotions hit me with the strength of twenty General Blues on steroids as a new window appeared.
Due to disabling one of your passives, the Skills section has been updated in order to grant you the option to disable all learned passives. Simply long-press on the skill in question, and it will toggle it.
I dismissed the window almost as an afterthought, currently overwhelmed with sheer emotion.
“You’ve done it, then.” Baba’s voice brought my attention to her. “Resume your position.”
I blinked, noticing that I was no longer in a meditative pose. Frowning, I assumed it again.
“This will take patience.” Uranai Baba explained. “Having suppressed emotions for months will make it more difficult, but you’ll be able to reasonably deal with it.”
“What… do I do?” I tried to speak, but my throat was so constricted I almost had to force the words out.
“To succeed in perfect meditation, you must have a calm heart.” Baba said, her voice crisp and clear. “Shortcuts will only yield a limited result in comparison.”
I nodded, swallowing the lump in my throat and taking long, deep breaths in a way to calm my heart.
“Good. Proper breathing is key.” Baba praised. “But that’s the easiest part. You must confront your emotions.”
‘How was I supposed to be able to do that?’ I wanted to say.
“You are even easier to read now.” Baba almost sounded amused. “There is no set method on doing this. Some people decide to take all of their emotions all at once. Some confront their feelings, one at a time. It varies, really.”
A half remembered factoid about the chakras came to mind.
“Are the seven chakras real?” I tried, remembering an old book I had dismissed a long time ago when I was first attempting to access my Ki.
“Yes, in a sense.” Baba confirmed. “What do you know of the chakras?”
“Not much, really.” I admitted. “I was trying to access my Ki, and I thought a book on the chakras would help me, but it was—”
“Nonsense spread about to lull the rich folk into a sense of security when it comes to their place on this earth.” Baba finished. I could tell she was rolling her eyes, even when mine were closed. “However, the chakras are real— but they will not help you in this. You are too young to make the attempt.”
“Too young?” I repeated, feeling a great well of indignation over such a seemingly innocent comment.
“Yes.” Baba replied, not sounding apologetic in the slightest. “There is no danger involved, of course. However, it would be a waste of your time, as you’re still in your teenage years— a tumultuous, emotional period of any person’s development. You are unfit to even consider trying it.”
I struggled to keep my emotions in check, realizing the old bat is right. How could I undergo such training if I could barely keep my current emotions from raging?
“Perhaps a change of scenery would do you some good.” She nodded to herself, before floating slowly out of the room. I opened my eyes and got back to my feet, following her out of the palace back to the arena on which I’d fought the day before.
“Go on and sit by the water.” She ordered, and I complied, resuming my previous meditative position on the edge of the arena.
“Listen to the world around you, listen to the flow of the water.” Baba instructed. “Focus on it. Let yourself be swept up in the currents. Link your energies to it— be one with the water.”
With a frown of concentration, I brought my hands together, letting my Ki and magic flow outwards, two swirling tendrils of power licking at the air for a few moments, before latching onto the water.
This is.. Water?
This is life, I realized. I could feel it writhing with energy. The fish, the crabs, the frogs, the plants, the bacteria; each with a sliver of energy.
There was more to it, I noticed. I saw where the water linked with the land and earth, and realized I was feeling their energies as well.
I felt it all, jumbled up together in a chaotic, yet entrancing balance.
None of it made any sense. Yet, it also did.
It was the most beautiful thing I’d ever felt in my life.
“This is the flow of the world.” Baba’s words reached me from somewhere.
“It’s unlike anything I’ve ever felt.” I almost whispered, my face feeling strangely wet for some reason. “It’s beautiful.”
“And yet, you still hold yourself back from it.” She replied.
“What I did…” I said with a frown, my perception of the world’s flow shimmering dangerously, as if unraveling and leaving my grasp.
“What did you do, child?” The soft question came, cracking the dam over my emotions.
The dam broke.
“I.. I killed those men.” I blurted out as the world’s flow shimmered even more. “Like they were nothing. I ended them. They tried to kill me but I ended them to survive. I think part of me even enjoyed it. How can I enjoy killing?”
My thoughts focused on those thugs I’d hurt when defending Mark, that night. I could have just as easily killed them, and I wouldn’t have felt a thing, would I have?
“Focus on the world’s flow, child.” Baba instructed. “Let your emotions flow out into the world. Recognize that you were defending your own life. There is no shame in this, or in feeling satisfaction from it. You are only human.”
You are only human.
That was what I was.
I really was human.
I’d almost forgotten that.
I faintly realized the wetness on my cheeks was my tears, flowing out of me— flowing just the like the water I linked myself to.
I let go, feeling the dam over my emotions be entirely eradicated.
I’d abandoned my meditative position, the sheer weight of it all crashing down on me, putting me on my hands and knees. I was sobbing, I could tell, but I couldn’t stop anymore.
I didn’t want to stop.
My father’s death. Escaping into games. The rejection I felt. The crushing loneliness. The hatred I felt for everyone for putting me in this situation. The hatred I felt for myself for doing the same thing. My guilt. My fear. My anger. My hate. My love. Suppressing it all and escaping even further.
It all flowed, and flowed, and flowed, until there was nothing but myself and the world— it had taken all of my feelings, all of my energy, and had not changed in the least.
The realization slowly came.
It had not changed because I was already a part of it.
I always have been.
More tears came, but this time they were tears of happiness.
I belonged here.
“This is my home.” I whispered almost imperceptibly, swallowing down another lump. “I am Ten. I belong here. I belong here.”
How long it took until I slowly came back to myself, I didn’t know.
I looked up, realizing it was already well into the night, what with the full moon floating high up in the air. I felt drained, more drained than I ever have been before.
My face and mouth felt so very dry. My throat also felt quite hoarse, as I attempted to speak only to fail miserably.
Uranai Baba was nowhere to be seen— she probably wanted me to have some privacy while I had my little episode, I assumed.
I began to read through all of the notifications I received.
You’ve broken through your own mental and emotional limiters!
Meditation has gained five levels!
Meditation (Lv 25 – 0% / Active, Passive): Both wizards and martial artists have learned how to harness the power of meditation to improve their bodies as well as their minds. It purifies magic and Ki and allows the user to more freely use his power. Actively increases HP/Ki/MP regeneration by 200%. Passively increases STR, AGI, VIT, INT and WIS by 34%.
Tiger Claw’s cost has been reduced to 200 MP/Hand.
Mana Shield’s activation cost is still the same, but can now absorb damage equivalent to 130% of your MP.
Having gone through an experience of great introspection as well as a certain level of enlightenment, you have gained 10 WIS!
You have earned 10,000 XP!
You have gained a level!
Occupation: The Gamer
Level: 21 (4,200/22,000 XP)
STR: 53 (91.18)
VIT: 65 (111.8)
AGI: 53 (91.18)
INT: 65 (87.1)
WIS: 73 (97.82)
Battle Power: 98
That… was a lot of progress.
I felt a flash of annoyance at the way I’d been limiting myself the whole time. Simply confronting my emotions was the key to further level my [Meditation], as well improve drastically on my magic.
The annoyance persisted after a few moments, I realized.
“[Gamer’s Mind] is no longer active, is it?” I said out loud. Opening my [Skills] window, I saw that the skill in question was grayed out. “Let’s keep it that way, for now.”
I’d only use it when the situation was dire, I vowed to myself. Never again during my day-to-day activities.
The system said I could disable any of my passives, now, which meant… I stared at [Martial Arts] and [Meditation], long-pressing on both skills until they were grayed out like my [Gamer’s Mind].
The effect was immediate. My Ki, HP and MP pools all shrank noticeably, my base attributes no longer boosted by my passives.
This would be good for training, I decided.
But first… I should probably head back inside.
Hopefully the old bat wouldn’t give me a hard time over my little episode, I thought as I came back into the main hall, feeling extremely tired.
“Done with the waterworks, then?” Her amused voice came from the center of the main room.