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My mind was jolted awake during the middle of the night and for a second, I was unsure where I was, or even who I was. It took me a second to get my bearings and to realise that the jolt I had felt, had been caused by the ward I had placed around the four of us. Stretching my mind into the shadows around us, I felt three intruders sneaking towards us, the three stooges I had sent off earlier. Well, if they were sneaking up on us, in the middle of the night, I had no need to ascertain their intentions, I would treat them as they begged to be treated and make good on my promise.

The open dorm that had once been an attic was almost completely dark, only a small candle at the stairs shed some light and the amount that made it to our corner was miniscule at best, so I had plenty shadow and darkness to work with. I was quite interested what would happen if I used mind magic on other travellers and I was hoping that they would post about their experiences on the forum. I would have to keep an eye open.

A stealthy observe told me that the three stooges were all under level twenty, making a nightly sneak-attack the only way they had a chance to take us out. Well, the only way with a success-rate higher than the survival-rate of a snowball in hell. I carefully fed magic into the darkness around us, making it deeper and more corporeal, letting me manipulate it with ease and impunity.

 

My attack against the stooges was, to me, the epitome of mind magic, not flashy, without making huge waves, just a soft, insidious creeping in. To the stooges, it must have been as if the candle simply went out, making the darkness around them all encompassing. And in that darkness, they could feel something, a presence, all around them. I felt their fear-response and it allowed me to get into their core, without even touching them, and I was able to witness the strange interplay between mind, body and soul that I had seen before, when I had used mind magic to keep the guards under, during our attack on the Jonari village. Well, I saw mind and body, and Lenore allowed me to gain an impression of the soul-part, which I could not directly sense.

Together, Lenore and I, managed to bring all three under our influence and while I kept their body from responding to anything their mind commanded, Lenore gleefully went to work, picking at the interplay between mind and soul she was observing. We had theorised that feelings stemmed from a mind-soul interplay that acted on the body, so the fear that the three of them were feeling should emerge in her observation and I was blocking the effects fear had on the body. Normally, when one was afraid, the body would go into overdrive, trying to give the best results in the fight-or-flight response, something I was not interested in. It might be useful as a short-time buff for my allies, the physical response without the mental drawbacks, but that would have to be researched another time.

But as the three stooges were definitely afraid, Lenore had a prime seat to witness the interplay in action and after a few minutes of watching, she started to introduce her own responses into the mix, observing how it changed things.

 

At that point, it was hard to distinguish where Lenore’s mind ended and mine begun, we had linked up so tight that thoughts were flowing from one to the other without effort, giving both of us a better perspective. Lenore now knew what her interference triggered as physical sensation and I saw the gossamer thin web wrapped around the connections between mind and body, tiny strands that kept the mind tethered to the body, but were also interwoven with both, mind and body, in strange ways, allowing the sapient to function.

 

We were happily poking and prodding at one of the three, trying to establish a stimulus-response pattern, when the connection-points between all three aspects suddenly started to break and the whole complex construct unravelled due to those broken connections. Trying to stop it was impossible, the best we could do was leave the realm we had intruded into, so we would not be harmed by the collapse.

It freed up enough of our faculties to let us see that we had just killed the first of our volunteer-subjects but luckily, we still had two more. For the second, Lenore focused on giving a stimulus and I watched just what it did to his body, while blunting the effect it had. It was giving us some ideas what the stimuli we were using were based on. After a few tries, it turned out they were mostly based on sight, which was not a big surprise, Lenore was stimulating parts she had watched being stimulated as we had captured them and the idea that their sight was still telling them something, as they were trapped in the dark, was no surprise. In addition, the blunted responses I allowed were giving me information how their bodies responded, even the blunted responses caused tremendous effects on the body.

With some effort, I managed to stretch the sense I normally used for healing towards our current test-subject and felt his body that way, comparing the responses between the governing part, which I suspected was based in his brain and spine, and the responses in the individual body-parts. I was not experienced enough to understand the changes in most organs, but the rapid beating of his heart, I was able to perceive. Lenore and I kept prodding, interested in the changes the heart was experiencing as we did, until the rapid, but steady beat started to turn into wild arrhythmic flailing. We mentally stepped back, but the damage was already done and I was not willing to heal him, to prolong our experiments.

It was a bridge too far, I was willing to experiment on them, even torture them, they had tried sneaking up on us with obvious ill intent after all, but I was not willing to keep them alive to experience more pain and torture.

Shortly after we had stepped back, the body shut down and expired.

 

After a short, mental conversation with Lenore, we turned the experiment around with number three, I induced bodily stimuli while Lenore watched the effects of them, trying to understand just how they worked. Sadly, I was a little limited in the stimuli I could supply. cold and touch were easy to come up with and by increasing the intensity, pain would follow. I picked one sensation, cold, and started to make our test-subject feel it. The easiest way to supply the feeling of cold was by direct magic exposure, so I used ice-runes to induce cold directly without a physical medium. Part of me wanted to use Liquid Moonlight but that was the ultimate cold I could muster, so it would be the last thing used, not the first.

The responses were quite interesting and varied depending on the area the cold was applied, the limbs reacting vastly different from the core. But there was only so much we could do with cold, so Lenore asked me to try touch.

While I was not too keen on it, I started with simple things, soft touches and air-flow, followed by stronger touches and even strikes, so I started to get into the pain-response. To increase the breadth of that response, we needed other stimuli and I was not about to pinch the guy, so I pulled my athame and pricked him, giving Lenore more information to work with. Again, there were physical responses that bypassed the mind entirely, other went into the mind and were filtered within, with only a tiny amount passing on to the soul.

 

Questioning how the amount of pain would change the response, I tried to induce a different sort of pain by direct exposure to Liquid Moonlight, causing a small part of the skin to freeze. The result was interestingly similar, just higher by orders of magnitude. But I had one more arrow in my quiver, so to speak, one pain-sensation I wanted to try.

The pricks I had given him had let enough blood flow out for me to work with, so I placed my athame back into one of the pricked spots and channelled my Blood Magic through the blade, drawing his Astral Power out. Blood Magic had been the worst pain I had experienced in Mundus, by far worse than anything else I had felt and I was quite interested what Lenore would find out.

Even a slight draw made it almost impossible to hold onto his core, it jolted that violently, the body-part of the core eroding and draining away visibly, with the strands that represented the soul stretching before getting ripped apart. I tried to increase the pace at which I drew power and we got ejected from the core, as the test-subjects body jerked wildly, convulsing and falling over, dead.

 

At some point during my experimentation, the others had woken up, but seeing the three stooges standing there, they had simply watched. Now, they were looking at me for an explanation, why we had three bodies next to our sleeping space.

“I promised them downstairs, I would teach them the meaning of pain and fear. They desperately wanted that lesson, it seems.”

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Tsaimath

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xoid @xoid ago

It’s interesting that a traveller’s “soul” is capable of being manipulated like that. Makes me wonder if there are effects that bleed over into real life.

Pedro F @Pedro F ago

Bet they will end up complaining on the forums.

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Punster lv1 @Punster lv1 ago

Thanks for the chapter

What happened to her revelation (and subsequent resolution) after she saw rai getting tortured by the son of the jonari chief? It seems to me that she should notice an at least superficial conflict between her actions and said revelation

codiro @codiro ago

Hmm. Kinda feels like VR is being too realistic. Having trouble suspending disbelief... The story's tone seems a lot more fitting for an actual isekai (if we ignore all the forum shenanigans...). I'd really like a lot more real life in my VR series, but mebbe I'm a picky leecher. But anyways, unhinged blood-mage person is fun, but my imagination is definitely craving for more duality of how our MC does outside of life. I know the intro shows our heroine pretty much shunning her "friends" from the last game, but a girl's gotta live outside the VR too. I don't even know how the time dilation works with VR and real life.

The happenings are enjoyable, but my programmer mind sometimes just takes a step back and thinks: that's gotta be a lotta lines of code to make it so immersive.

Just a few ramblings. It's enjoyable enough that I did end up rereading te beginning a few times though, so keep it up, whatever happens, I'm captive by unfinished plot. Only a nice resolution will set me free at this point.

    Joary @Joary ago

    1. first of all, she has No life, her friends have all moved onto being slaves for the man or living the high life, her family is unmentioned, she does all her work in super time dilation, and only gets out to eat. also, the game is dilated what, 2x or 3x, and you want her to leave her avatar unmanned for a whole day while in the wilderness? YOU CRAZY!?!?!?!

    2. some of them were at the very least not "friends," as you so eloquently put it, but proper friends. they had played on a team together for years, and she was the core of the team. also, it was mentioned that the rest of the team had to be strongarmed into making the final call to replace her, it being a move by the management rather than by the team.

    3. I feel like there is more to Paragon Entertainment and Road to Purgatory than meets the eye... take the complexity of the magic system and soul mechanics, the realism in every inhabitant, the secrecy of RtP's world out of game, the Cageiness of Vulcanar (and the fact that he has been the only employee to make a public appearance), and the inconsistencies between what would be required to manage: millions of fully sapient Ai, billions of sentient Ai, an entire world's eight worlds's unique physics systems, the game system, the state of each object, and the Magic system, ALL AT 2x TIME DILATION; and the fact that the RtP forumns dont have Ai auto mod, the custom built by Paragon VR capsules can't do a simple brain scan to determine starting character attributes, the distinct lack of bugs for a closed beta, and the fact that in the Interlude where the personifications of the laws of reality and such hang out, Morgana's body and her magic is the one that appears rather than Samantha's, (also the fourth voice that represented her names is important, I 'll get to that) which along with the presence of coffee implies that RtP is a seperate yet connected reality from samantha's. Now, I have a theory, based on th e assumption that the above and following are true:

    that interlude is not a joke chapter, the ancient stories in RtP are based in (in universe) fact,

    the theory:

    Samantha has an innate advantage in magic and in the world over most, (or probably not) if not all, other travellers, shown as how she is the first to cross the first divide despite being geographically in a place that favors level growth over crossing divides. Her instinctual ability to use ice and blood and shadow magic, and her ability to meld with nature (the moon, the storms) are unique (why would humans be able to use/learn magic instinctually without our brains being messed with which they aren't?). her inherent advantage and her personality are caused by the fact that, she is carrying most of her soul around in that soulprison, the soul being that of the Dark Queen from the christmas special, the warning given by the gods implying that she was sealed, but also that she will return, so I believe that the Dark queen split her soul, casting part of into the astral river to be reincarnated, while letting the rest of it be sealed. that or the prison holds the soul of one of her trusted servants instead of her soul which rests entirely with Morgana after having eroded DQ's memories away leaving only her base personality and magical talents

      Author

      Tsaimath @Tsaimath ago

      Interesting theory. Quite interesting

      Stay tuned to learn more Tongue

      Joary @Joary ago

      you didn't deny it..............

      Author

      Tsaimath @Tsaimath ago

      Why would I do such a thing? In addition, denying it completely would be wrong, some parts are accurate, others are not.

      For example Morgana was not the first to cross the first divide, just the first who gained a class the world did not have before. For example if a berseker had been trained by Sigmir and followed her guidance to get the same class she has, it would not count. But Morgana used a rather rare drug to do funny things with her mind while trying to get through the divide, so she got a title. That particular title will also be relatively common, basically every traveller that does not follow the teachings of a master will gain it.

      Of course, I could set the parts that are wrong right,  or at least point them out. But that 2ould be far too spoilerific.

      Joary @Joary ago

      im excirpted to see what happens! also, i forgot to include a guess at a future event, specifically the end of thr beta..... what will happen to our lovely band of northernfolk? I'm guessning something BIG

      Author

      Tsaimath @Tsaimath ago

      Let's just say, that moment is one I'm already looking forward to, ever since I started thinking about this fiction.

      Joary @Joary ago

      ohohoho, so it isn't what i was dreading, the conclusiom!

      Author

      Tsaimath @Tsaimath ago

      In a way it is...

      But every conclusion is just the beginning of a new story...

Kleeia @Kleeia ago

I'm surprised they are still in the "Morgana, what happened here?" phase. They should be well into the "Damn it Morgana, can't you go one day without mentally scarring some noobs?" phase.

Jack Madden @Jack Madden ago

Thanks for the chapter 😀