Learning can be enjoyable for it's own sake. Learning to throw energy blasts and the like is enjoyable for quite a different reason.
The first three weeks of school passed with a great deal of swiftness. It's amazing what having a clear goal to work toward and the drive to succeed will do to you. Having finished looking through the book I had originally taken out, I had taken to just skimming other texts on talisman making. I figured that just having an overview in my head on what certain books talked about would be useful in the long run. I also picked up the basics of everything there was to know about Alchemy, the energy manipulation stuff that Spirit Energists could do, and I was working on learning the mental disciplines for some ESPer skills. Oh, and I'd called out my spirit guardian a couple of times, who turned out to a beaver looking creature, mirroring my drive to be a hard worker. Some things just couldn't be anything else when you see them, you know?
I had also discovered my personal method of making talismans, which was much like how other Artificers made wards- I would set what I wanted to become the Talisman on special paper, created to help the flow of spirit energy into the object. I would then surround the object by a complex series of symbols linked together by a spiral, all which represented the power the object was going to "absorb". The ink was also specially prepared to absorb spirit energy and direct it towards the circle, so I was glad to have Donald's gift money so I could buy these supplies down in Porta. When the symbols were in place and checked, I would put my power into the start of the spiral and it would flow through them all and up into the thing I was working on. If the symbols were correct and the path whole, the item became a talisman and sucked them all in, activating it. If not they burned away and the whole thing had to be started over. Of course, to then add a second power I would start over with a fresh sheet, this time modifying the symbols to coexist with the ones already in the object, making it that much harder.
It was now Saturday night, about 8:30, and all the first year students like me were looking forward to Monday, when we took a week off of classes to go on a field trip to Japan. Well, most everybody, that is.
"Japan's not so great," said Yasui, kicking her feet back and forth as she sat on my bed. She wasn't wearing her boots, so she was enjoying her unburdened state. I wouldn't have admitted it to her, but I was as well. She did have nice legs, probably muscle tone from wearing those boots all the time. "I'm not sure why everyone's all excited about going there. I just left there, I don't want to go back there already."
"But have you actually seen these temples we are going to visit?" asked Osman, moving his sister's bishop up three squares. It was weird to watch him play "himself" at chess, but it was one thing his sister could do easily, by just telling him what pieces to move. They were pretty evenly matched, which I supposed figured, with them sharing a brain and everything. "My question is, why do we have to fly there at all? Can't we just teleport directly? Okay, there's maybe two hundred first year students, so it would take a while, but not as long as flying us all out there. Plus the fuel cost, meals, paying the pilot, it's stupid!"
"I can see one reason," I replied, turning around from the talisman sheet I was working on. "They want us to get experience moving about airports and traveling like normal people. We won't always have personal ESPer services to whisk us from place to place, right?"
Everyone nodded at me.
"To answer your question, Osman, I haven't seen these exact temples, but if you've seen one temple, you've seen them all."
I've never even seen one, thought Kat in our minds. We all looked up.
"Did we all hear that? Hey, you're getting better at sending to more then one person at a time, Kat! Nice," said Yasui.
Suddenly, a vague form appeared in front of Osman, and she bowed. Thanks, I heard in my head.
I guess I have a reason to practice it, now. Listening to her this way took a bit of concentration, as she sounded very far away, but she was there, and visible. A little too visible, she didn't project with anything resembling clothes- after all, she was just a soul, so she had never worn anything, ever. It made talking to her like this a challenge. Oddly enough, this was a challenge I felt up to.
She walked over behind me and looked over my shoulder at the diagram I was working on.
That's looking pretty complex already, she remarked.
"Well, if you look closely here and here, you'll see there's a lot of repetition, so that makes it easier. I have to do the same thing in a couple of places because I want it to be four ley lines worth of power I can draw out. And there's some other things in there, so, yeah, it's going to be pretty complex when it's done."
When will that be?
I sighed. "Probably two weeks from now, I don't want to cart it around Japan, it'll be hard enough keeping track of the sword, though I suppose I could just give it back to Albert. He is trusting me with it, so I figure it's best to keep it with me. Who knows, it could even come in handy."
You're going to walk around with it?
"There will be others with Inherited stuff, like Yasui's boots, no one will remark on it. I got some more "unseen" wards from Mrs Chadwick, as I can't make my own yet." I shook my head. "All those poor suckers learning how to make wards while I study the second most powerful sword in the world. Just doesn't seem fair. Unseen wards are the same as Yasui had on her boots on the plane over here, so normal people couldn't see them," I said to Osman, who was looking confused.
"Good thing we can now!" Yasui chimed in, jumping off the bed and standing on the other side of me. "Is this an exact copy of what the sword can do?"
"Ha, ha, we have the technology, we can rebuild him to be better, stronger, faster then he ever was before!"
"Ahem. No, that would be stupid. I don't need greater strength, I'm not going to be punching people and actually using the sword I'd probably chop my own leg off by accident. Making Spirit Manipulation easier is also well understood, a lot of different symbols for skills have been worked out, so everything from carpentry to fighting skills could be increased with a talisman. Making me invulnerable, again, nice, but if it's as easy to bypass as Albert says, I'll work that into something else later, maybe. The only thing not well understood, at least in what I've read, is how this lady put the ley lines into the sword so they could be drawn from. That's primarily what I'm working on so in the end, this is going to be way better then the sword was."
How so? asked Katrina.
"Well, for one thing I'm putting all this energy goodness into this ring, so it'll be smaller and easier to carry. Next there's a second spiral I'm going to put there as well, and that's the clever bit. Do you want to hear about the clever bit?"
"Yes, please tell us about the clever bit," Yasui said sarcastically.
"I will. The clever bit is taking what was done to the scabbard and putting that at the end here, so all this energy stuff that leaks out of the sword will be nice and contained in the ring- no one doing a spirit sense on it or me will be able to tell I've got it at all. And that's the clever bit."
"I'm impressed," said Yasui. "All those hours of work is really going to pay off."
"If I haven't messed it up, yes. Just to be sure I created a potion of Ameliorating Medicament with alchemy to improve my mental facilities. That helped me use the ESPer skill I learned last week to do Postcognition on the blade and see how it was made. Good thing it wasn't made more then a year ago, or it wouldn't have worked at all. I'm not that good at either Alchemy or ESPer skills, but it was enough. Oh, postcog lets me see the history of an object, so I could actually see what was done originally to make it. I could have had an actual ESPer or Seer do it, but they wouldn't know the Artificer stuff they were looking at, so it had to be me. Anyway, it just barely worked so let's hope I got it right the first time and I don't have to do that again."
I have to go back, said Katrina, who could only stay away from Osman's body like this a few minutes, but there is one other thing I think you're overlooking.
I turned to look at her, "What's that?" I asked, but she was gone.
Look in your student handbook, I heard in my head, I remember Osman reading it but maybe I'm wrong. The rules part.
"Uh, the two whole pages of silly rules they have? I mean, 'Hair should be kept neat and washed.' honestly, do they think we're savages?"
"Probably got on the books two hundred years ago and not taken off," quipped Osman. "But I wonder what she thinking of?"
We got out the packet and looked, she was right, and it was right at the top:
Watches and one pair of earrings are permissible jewelry.
"Well, crap." I said, reading it. "You were right, Kat, it doesn't say rings are permitted."
"But this is a talisman, right? So shouldn't that make a difference?
"It should, but I bet it won't. Especially because of the sealing I'm doing on it, it will look and feel like a normal ring. Even getting permission from the principal, people will be complaining all the time that I get to wear a ring, so why can't they wear one? And proving it's a talisman will give away the secret of the energy boost it provides, meaning we'll just be back to square one again, everyone will be trying to steal it from me."
"Though technically you're breaking special abilities may only be used under the supervision of faculty sitting here doing this, right?"
"Principal DeLefeu charged me with working out this sword himself, and I can't work it out if I don't try a bunch of things to duplicate what Charna did, right? Anyway he admitted this wasn't dangerous, if I got it wrong it just wouldn't work. I'm just writing on paper, not using powers. My power is to energize the spiral and see if it makes me a talisman, which I'll only do after having Mr Delefeu look it over. If I was showing off my powers in the halls or something, yes, they'd call me on it, but just sitting here in my dorm room, come on! In any case, if that rule was valid, poor Kat here wouldn't be able to talk to us at all, unless a teacher was present. How messed up would that be?"
"Pretty messed up," answered Osman.
"Or a Half-Demon that can regenerate cuts himself? Oh, better hold off on regenerating that until a teacher shows up! Please! I rest my case."
"Does it have to be the ring?" asked Yasui, turning back to the diagram. "Can you change the object now that you've started it?"
"Oh sure, as long as it fits at the end of the spiral there. If I wanted to make something big I would have to start with a bigger spiral. I guess it's just a proof of concept anyway, and I can wear it around the dorms, or carry it in my pocket. I just hate the thought of losing it. To say nothing of all the work I'm doing on it if I can't wear it all the time."
"It's no problem, I know what you should do!" Yasui clapped her hands together excitedly.
"Sure, you're going to be making a bunch of things anyway, right?"
"Probably, I've got a lot of ideas for stuff, why?"
"And the form doesn't matter? Size doesn't matter?"
"Then make a charm bracelet, and just make the chain fit around your arm, right here." She poked me in the upper arm. "Wear it under your clothes and no one will be able to tell it's there at all. And if no one sees it, no one will care it's there and you can add a whole bunch of little "charms" that do different things."
"Hey," I said, thoughtfully, my eyes widening. "You know, that could actually work. Not on my arm though, I'm thinking on my leg, under my sock. That way it won't even jingle if I run. I can still activate any of them, any time, because they're already touching me. I like it. Thanks a lot Yasui, you're a life saver! And of course you too Kat, for remembering all these stupid rules."
"You're welcome" they both said in their way.
"I'll just turn the Bloodiron ring I was going to make into the chain so it's nice and unbreakable, and make a charm for each." I sighed, looking at the ring sitting there. "It was hard enough making the ring, this amount of material is about all I can effect, you know."
I picked up the ring from the table and closed my eyes. I knew from experience I had about a thirty percent chance of being able to effect it and turn it into a chain from a ring. I envisioned the very fine chain I wanted, and put energy into the ring. Nothing happened. Great. I tried again. Success! And after only one attempt, nice. I opened my hand and there sat a chain hopefully big enough to go around my ankle. I tried it, and it seemed like it was going to be fine. Then I pulled out two nickels, and closed my hand around them. Yasui and Osman crowded around me, interested in what I was going to make next. I closed my eyes and wondered that myself. I suppose I could pay homage to the thing that made it all possible, I thought, so I picked a tiny representation of the sword and pictured it in my mind. I again put power into my fist and was rewarded with the metal flowing together and becoming something new. I opened my hand again. There, on a tiny chain with a tiny clasp was a tiny sword, almost ready to be used. They applauded.
"Cool." said Osman.
"You're really getting the hang of it." said Yasui.
"I got lucky that time," I replied. "Metal is the hardest thing for me to work on. I can change a whole stack of paper into something else made of paper, but metal? Well, let's just say anything worth more then ten cents probably won't get made."
"Yeah, why use nickels?" asked Yasui, taking the tiny sword from me and looking it over. "Wouldn't turning paper into metal be cheaper?"
"But harder," I replied. "It takes energy to make a change, be it from one material to another or one shape to another. Even if it doesn't work, I have to put that energy into it to try. And as usually I've had to try metal stuff more then once, it can wear me out pretty fast. But I know two nickels worth of metal is something I can reasonably work with, it's cheap, and the mass is the same. It's the old joke: what weighs more, a pound of feathers or a pound of lead? I could- well a real Alchemist I mean, could turn that pound of feathers into lead, but they wouldn't be lead feathers, they would be one lead feather, because it would weigh so much more. So using paper, I'd have to weigh the paper until the weight of paper was the same as I wanted the charm to be. By using something that's already the same weight, I don't have to worry about figuring all that out."
"Oh, simple, when you think about it." Yasui didn't seem convinced, but I pressed on.
"That's right. That's why I'm having Albert get me a bunch of samples of things that do a lot with only a little. Like gunpowder, C4, pure hydrogen, diamonds, you know, the usual. If I can turn a stack of paper into gunpowder, or a soda can's worth of water into pure hydrogen, I could still make some pretty big bangs."
"Or you could work on chainsaw sword rather then messing around with small piles of gunpowder," said Osman.
"I admit it would be a last resort sort of thing. But it just takes me a few minutes to analyze a material and know it forever, and be able to turn other stuff into it. So why not have that ability rather then not have it? Sure, Albert might be able to turn a door into water to make an impressive entrance, where I would have to just carefully cut the hinges apart and kick the thing in, but we would both get the job done."
Osman chuckled, "I guess you're right."
"The detail on this is amazing," said Yasui, handing it back to me. "How do you do it?"
"I just imagine the way I want something to look and the power sort of does the rest. I don't know, it just happens. Like you jumping in your boots. You don't have to think 'jump', you just jump and away you go."
"These powers are pretty great." she agreed.
"Couldn't have said it better." I wrapped my mind around the charm and used Telekinesis to lift it out of my hand and into place at the center of the spiral.
"Okay, now you're just showing off."
I laughed. "Again, I wouldn't be able to lift much more then this with telekinesis, but to just know that I can have my brain pick something up for me, even something this small, I don't think will ever get old."
We all stood and looked at the spiral I was making, and Osman was looking back and forth at the diagram I had the book open to, and the paper.
"Do you see something wrong?" I asked, concerned. If he was spotting something, it must really be messed up, but then his eyes were better then mine.
"It's just that, you said your power is to energize spiral and make into talisman, yes?"
"Why can't you just design this on computer, print it out, and energize it without all this tedious drawing? Would that be way easier?"
"In part, yes," I said after a moment of consideration. "Don't ask me why, but when I asked that in class I was told it had been tried with others who make talismans this way. They tried putting the special ink used into an inkjet cartridge and printing it, but it didn't work. Something about the Artificer actually putting the symbols down on the paper has… meaning. Same with wards, you can't just hit the print button and photocopy yourself a million wards. You could, I suppose, print a ward out in say, purple ink, and then fill it in yourself with another color, to make sure you got it all, and then energize it, but just trying to energize it right out of the printer will fail. I wish that idea would work, but no, I asked. What I am going to do is scan it in before I energize it, so if it doesn't work I can just print it, study it for what went wrong, then trace it onto another sheet and make changes to it. So yes, computers can help, but they aren't Artificers."
"Tell me about it. Designing this on a computer probably would have been easier, if I had those kind of skills, but I really wanted to recreate the feel of Charna's original work, you know? What was she thinking as she made it? So I watched her for quite awhile as she made it, and she was good, let me tell you. No hesitation at all- I can only hope I become that skilled at this stuff. I don't know if intent or strokes or all that matters in the end, but somehow it must, given the fact that, like I said, a computer can't spit out a spiral I can make work. So I'm going to get as close as I can, and hope it's good enough."
"You're really getting into this, aren't you?"
"I grew up with a watchmaker, so I think a lot of it rubbed off on me. 'Do it right. Take your time. Feel the watch you're making take shape.' He had a million little sayings. When I get home in the summer I want to show him all the cool things I've made, so he knows he wasn't just saying that stuff. It meant something to me. I owe him a lot, and this is one way I can pay him back. And look at this, I can turn symbols on paper into an object of power. Who wouldn't be totally psyched about that?"
"A person with no imagination at all," Yasui replied.
"I suppose I should start thinking about getting back. Might want to do a little studying tonight, boys, we do have our first exams after the field trip, and you know how much studying will be done in Japan, don't you? None."
"Not true!" I protested. "As I won't be able to work on this, I'll probably get more studying done. In fact I'm counting on it."
"To each their own, I guess. Say, Kat, will you help Osman with exams?"
I haven't decided yet. I do have the knowledge the angel gave me before he departed again for the heavens, but I have to ask myself if the angel would help him. I do try to do what the angel would do, or in the way he would do it.
"Come on Kat, you can help him out, what's the harm? It's just tests."
Do you know, the angel of seeing Osman would have received had he been born on a Monday rather then a Thursday as he was, wouldn't actually tell him something it saw if it felt not doing so would be an appropriate test for Osman?
"I'm sorry, but the heavens are messed up. No disrespect intended, Osman, but that's just cruel."
We aren't supposed to a crutch for our charges, just there to protect and guide them.
"Well, I guess you have to do what you think is right. Just remember, you aren't an angel, so they're not expecting you to totally act like one. I suppose Osman could petition an angel and ask them directly what you should do."
"Yes I could, if I could petition anything bigger then a phoenix right now."
"You can call on a phoenix? Oh, I so want to see one!" said Yasui.
"They are not to be called lightly, you know."
"I wasn't suggesting you should. I just said I wanted to see one."
"Ah, thank you for clarifying," he said with a chuckle. "They are a sight to behold."
"Pity I'll never ask the heaven's help like that. Heavenly creatures are just too powerful for me to handle." I said to Yasui, who looked like she was going to ask why.
"Best I'll ever be able to manage to pull across dimensions is a small demon or two, not that I have any intention of learning summoning for quite a while."
"Good. Demons are not to be taken lightly, even the little ones."
"Well, I'm talking about ones that just follow orders, like that sheet one, what's it called?"
"I have no idea," lied Osman with difficulty, who knew very well from his sister that the only demons that could be referred to as "that sheet one" were called Ittan-momen, but didn't want to encourage Dean in his misguided pursuit of summoning them.
"Anyway, there's an easy one to summon that just wraps things up. I read about it when trying to decide if I should take a summoning class one week, but I decided it could wait. It can't even talk, so it doesn't make demands or anything."
Osman still looked skeptical. "I'd still rather deal with Heaven."
"Hey, me too, but I can't do what I can't do, you know?" I said, holding my hands up in surrender.
"You can do enough, I am thinking. Leave something for the rest of us."
We all laughed.
"See you all tomorrow," Yasui said as she left, skipping out the door.