It didn't take long for the fog to cover everything around him, leaving him in a state of utter disorientation. His feet seemed to be touching something solid but he could not feel anything under them. This sensation only served to reinforce his disorientation.
He decided to start walking just like he had done before, albeit much more conscious of his movements now. But being aware of his movements didn't make much of a difference here. He didn't know if walking was needed to go back, probably not, but it gave him some sense of normalcy. Time seemed to stretch and space seemed to bend as he walked, making Aleran unable to tell how much time he had been here.
Knowing that the Kaisha was not bent on hurting him and that this was the way back to the forest, he didn't panic. Instead, he started to list a few possibilities on how he may be traveling back a forth from the forest to that strange plane. ‘Could this be some kind of wormhole? Or the fog hides another form of travel through space and time?’
His mind started to diverge into the many theories and means of space-time travel he knew of. From the already existing warp impulse that powered the Interstellar 3, to more unorthodox methods like the infinite improbability drive. ‘No, even back on earth talking about infinite improbability drive was mere science fiction.’ In theory, If you could behave like a quantum particle, there is a low probability of ending up anywhere in the multiverse. Of course, there are places where the probability is really high and as you get further away from that place, that probability will start to become increasingly smaller. But being a random system, there was a small chance it could jump to the less probable place.
‘Even though having a fixed destination goes against the very concept of infinite improbability drive, with all I have seen till now, I can't say it is impossible. Maybe before I died I would have thrown away that possibility, but now I can only keep my mind wide open. If the Kaisha could somehow make things behave like quantum particles and control them as he wants, it would be terrifying.’’ But, no matter how great the Kaisha was, Aleran couldn't imagine it being capable of such a feat.
‘To tap into the realm of quantum mechanics can't be that easy. And in this case, this mean of transportation gives you the ability to be everywhere and nowhere at the same time. What is that but a god?’
For a moment his mind drifted to the moment that unknown being took his soul and handled it like it was a simple toy. ‘No, not even that being cant do something like that.’ That thought somehow reassured him. If that being was that powerful then how could he have gotten away.
His inner monologue was interrupted when the fog started to dissipate just like the last time. The white and purple disappeared to show the somber view of the forest.
As soon as Aleran put a foot on the real ground, his body started to ache and his legs gave up. Now that he was out he remembered how injured his body was. The best he could do was to change the angle of the fall so that his back meets the floor instead of his face. The fall didn't hurt as much as his preexisting wounds did, so he took it without a single grunt. He ended up lying flat on the floor, looking at the cup of the trees.
He could still feel the heartbreaking pain of the wolf's claws on his shoulder. On his leg, the hot burning sensation and the piercing pain joined forces to torture him. And how could he forget the dislocated shoulder? He was losing the sensation of the whole arm because of it. ‘I need to put that shoulder back in place, now.’
“Arrgg.” With no medical expertise whatsoever, Aleran had no other choice but to start moving his dislocated arm very carefully with his other, not so healthy, arm. It took him long minutes of pain to finally reattach the shoulder back on its socket.
After that, Aleran decided to stay where he was, lying on the ground. He stayed there, gazing at the pieces of sky that made their way through the foliage. He knew this was not the peaceful place of the Kaisha anymore. But his body needed some rest even if it was for a few seconds.
This moment of relaxation served to show him how bizarre his previous encounter had been. The state of his body made Aleran wonder how he had been able to remain standing before the Kaisha, and how he was able to walk in that fog. ‘ It must have been another mental trick or maybe some other mysterious ability.’ Only now he realized how strange and messy his state of mind had been in that weird plane.
It was like his mind had been running with extra weight on, and now, with that weight lifted he could finally think normally. “Sigh.” Letting out a breath he thought. ‘That will be in my top ten of weird experiences for a long time.’
With much effort, he sat up crossed legged and started to meditate, trying to forget what happened for a while. The talk with the creature had served to ease his thoughts a little. For all the Kaisha had messed with his mind, it had no ulterior motive other than just avoid some questions and having some fun with his reactions. And while it did help him with some personal agenda, the creature seemed honest the whole time.
The news of those black waters still being attached to his soul was something that disturbed him. But the fact that something as powerful as the Kaisha could do nothing about it, allowed him to throw the matter at the back of his head, at least for now.
After Aleran got into the ideal state, the meditation time was as short as it always was for him. Even though the qi could not heal his wounds, it stopped them from getting worse. It also allowed Aleran to move despite the pain and the fatigue of his muscles.
When he felt full of qi, he decided it was time to see what was the present the deer had gifted to him.‘Wish the deer would have told me more than just concentrate on your forehead. I guess I will have to make do with that.’
He focused his mind on his forehead, as he was told to do, and the next he felt was something warm crawling under the skin of his face, just like before. ‘I wish I had a mirror to know what the fuck is happening to my face right now.’ If he could indeed have a mirror, he would see a purple pattern spreading on his forehead. Finally transforming into a thin crown-like tattoo. After a low humming noise, the sensation stopped. It took him a long while to completely activate the new ability. But when he did he couldn't help but open his eyes in shock.
“So that was what the Kaisha meant with something all cultivators can do. It is really just a simple technique. And I can't deny this is exactly what I need right now.” In his shock, he had stopped using the technique. But that small time he had activated it, was enough for him to retrieve information on how to use it. The Kaisha was not lying, he truly got all the knowledge about the technique the moment he used it. For a second he felt connected to a large network of information, so big that his mind felt insignificant before it. It only lasted for the time it took him to assimilate the information on the new technique, which was extremely quick. To Aleran it felt like he was back on earth, using the internet and downloading something from the cloud. Only that here, he was downloading the knowledge directly to his brain.
‘Wow! What the hell was that? Is that how those creatures share information? Shit, that was awesome! Sadly his “connection” to this network was cut the moment he received the knowledge of the technique.
Stilling his emotions and more prepared than before, he closed his eyes again and focused on his forehead, it was just like meditating. And just as he did when gathering qi, it took time to enter into that state.
The name of the technique was the Divine Perception technique, it consisted of several steps to gather information about one's surroundings. The first step was to enter into the right state of mind where one connects with the heavens and earth. Thus connecting with the source qi. But instead of using his partial original sense to gather the qi, he had to let himself go, becoming one with the world and the source qi.
The idea was simple if the source qi was permeating everything, then besides absorbing it, you could also use it as a medium to explore the world around you. It was the reverse of cultivation, you had to spread your partial original sense, as Aleran called it, on the sea of source qi. Somehow when he did this, this partial original sense that only served to feel the source qi could feel the world around him through the source qi. ‘I supposed the closest analogy would be on how a blind man uses a walking stick. The man can feel the stick and through it the world around him.’’ It was not such an accurate analogy but it was the closest he could think of. Aleran didn't know exactly how this technique worked yet. Though he had some ideas as to what the source qi was and how it truly worked, he left that for some other time.
The next step was simply to explore through the source qi. It sounded simple and in theory, it was, but Aleran knew from the information that learning to do this would take years of training. It was thanks to his most recent acquaintance that he was able to learn how to do this so fast. Besides that, he knew that the minor mishap in this state would end up with him losing his mind. This time for real. The trick was in letting go and spread your consciousness as far as you can. But at the same time, he had to restrain himself to not go too far and spread his own partial original sense and his consciousness too thin. If that happened, he could become an idiot, a vegetal, or even die.
After letting go of most of his self-awareness, with a little bit of fear for what it could happen to his body while away, he started to explore. The first thing he felt was an overwhelming amount of information that made his head hurt and feel like it was about to explode. Lucky for him, his experience with the original sense made this a minor inconvenient for Aleran.
That tide of information was in an abstract form, very hard to comprehend. Unlike the information he could gather through his original sense back then, this technique flooded his mind with random information he could not control. It was his job to feel his way to the information he wanted.
The scope of the technique was big, Aleran guessed it was roughly 5 kilometers, making the quantity of information hard to handle. He couldn't help but compare it again with the original sense. Maybe, it was because he could feel some small and distant similarity between the two. ‘ Could it be that in this technique is hidden another portion of the original sense?’ This question popped up in his head and he couldn't make it leave.
Whatever the reason, the comparison always ended in favor of the original sense. The reach was much smaller than the original sense. That was what his instincts told him. He hadn't any reliable frame of reference back when he was a soul. But as he thought about how using his original sense here would be, he always felt the reach of it would be immense. Maybe it could even cover the whole world, sadly, he couldn't do a real test. ‘I have to concentrate, it's not the time for those questions.’ He couldn't linger too much on those thoughts, he had to keep his mind cleared.
With time, more than Aleran would like to admit, he started to get the hang of it. The information was an unconscious instinctual type. When he concentrated, the location of the biggest geographical features appeared in his mind. It was a rough awareness of where everything was. Aleran knew that if he had a better understanding of the forest terrain and everything in it, the technique would have been more accurate. But even with his meager knowledge of the forest, he felt like a part of the landscape. And every part of the landscape was also a part of him, searching for anything in it was like looking at his own body. And between those landmarks, he finally found it, the river. It was just an approximation of where it was, but that was enough.
Having found the river, Aleranwas was disposed to retract his consciousness. Spreading his awareness applied a big strain on his mind. He needed some rest, the constant work of filtering the information with his mind made him sleepy.
“tack.” But the fall of a simple small branch on his head hastened the process beyond his control.
“Ahh” With a scream that showed more confusion than pain, Aleran opened his eyes to see the world spinning all around him. A deafening ringing sound became present in his ears disorienting him even more. In a futile attempt to stop the spinning and the piercing sound in his ears, Aleran grabbed his head and tried to stand up but he dropped to the ground instantly. This time it was not due to his injuries.
Grabbing his head and curled in the ground, It took him a few minutes of pure confusion to regain his bearing. ‘ That was close, luckily I was retrieving my consciousness when I was forced to wake up.’ Impulsed by the need of finding a culprit for his most recent brush with death, he looked with a frown at the branch that had hit him. As if the piece of wood could bear any responsibility for what had happened he clench it in his hands. But that does not mean there was no culprit. The rustling sound in the cup of the trees showed him the guilty ones.
Aleran was still having difficulties to hear, but soon the rustling became too obvious. When he looked up, he saw the cup of the trees swaying vigorously as if they were being lashed by a strong wind. Between the leaves and branches, Aleran caught sight of countless creatures speeding across the trees. They were so fast that he could only see blurs and shapes. But their numbers made the whole forest sway in their path. Leaves and branches rained from above due to the march of these creatures. Whatever they were, they seemed to not care about Aleran as they just passed above, maybe without even noticing he was the. Still, to be sure, Aleran waited as quietly as possible, there were too many of them to take the risk of grabbing their attention.
With the creatures out of sight, Aleran started walking in the direction of the river. And, although he was paying attention to his surroundings, his mind was still reviewing the information he got about the divine perception. It has its pros and cons like almost any technique.
The technique itself was not meant to be for finding your way when you are lost, as he used it. No. It was a technique that excelled at one thing, and that was stealth. When a cultivator reaches a certain level he is able to use an ability that is called external awareness. But this technique that is meant to explore beyond what is possible by the five senses had a huge flaw. It was extremely easy for other cultivators of the same level to notice when this technique was in use. Contrary to this, the divine perception was undetectable unless someone several levels higher was paying extra attention. After all, who would rise his guard against the source qi and the world itself? Added to that advantage, is the larger scope of the technique that makes it even more useful for stealth.
Of course, the divine perception had its flaws. For once, it could only be used when the cultivator entered a state of deep meditation. Meanwhile, external awareness could be used even in the middle of a fight. But the most important and the main reason many cultivators were oblivious of the existence of the divine perception, was the immense danger it carried. When one entered a state of meditation to cultivate, a sudden interruption could translate in internal damage most of the time. But the smallest interruption of the divine perception could end up in brain damage or death. That danger made spreading your consciousness and give control to the source qi a counterintuitive movement. It was like throwing yourself in the middle of a stormy sea and hoping the waves will take you back home. Without the tools and knowledge that was suicide.
For those few who knew this technique existed, this was a huge deterrent, only those who had an excellent master would attempt such a thing. Also, the existence of such a technique was usually kept in secret for the simple reason that it was too useful for espionage. The fewer people who knew about it the better.
In this regard, Aleran had to really thank the Kaisha, because without the special way of transmitting knowledge he would have been in much more danger to die using the technique. That was without taking into account the years of training and the danger said training supposed.
But for all the danger, this technique had so much potential that made the high risks worth it. What he used just now was more like the beta version of the divine perception. Not only was the reach small, but the real version of it would also mix this technique with images and concepts. And although the information didn't say how to do it, Aleran was going to do his best to make that possible.
Aleran knew that if he figured out how to mix his mastery in images with this power he would be able to understand the surroundings like the palm of his hand. He still didn't know how it worked. But according to what the Kaisha passed to him, the images served to refine the information he received.
Mixing his image of electromagnetism with this technique was an exciting prospect to Aleran. If he did it right, he would be able to use the magnetic field of this planet to orientate, like a compass. Or even better was using the image to trace the electric impulses all living beings make, getting their exact position instead of a rough estimate.
That was not the only image, he really wanted to know what would happen if he mixed many images at the same time. But in the corner of his mind, an even more outrageous idea was brewing. His previous analysis of how the Kaisha could travel came to his mind. In particular the idea of the infinite improbability drive. He really wanted to know what would happen if he put his concepts of quantum mechanics into the mix. As he thought this, a grin appeared on his face. ‘This world, this life... may not be so bad after all. There is nothing better for a scientist than being able to explore the mysteries of the universe with his own hands. And it is even better if I could use that knowledge to play a little.’
But the reality was far from his thoughts, be it with his images and with the technique. When it comes to divine perception, his current situation reminded him of how the Kaisha had learned the Elements in a few seconds. But it still had some difficulty speaking. Even after gaining fluidity in the language, it still wasn't perfect, though it was better than him. Sadly, unlike the creature, he could not master this technique so fast. He knew it would take time to unleash its true potential.
As for the images the reality was even harsher. The information about the technique said each time you add an image to the mix it becomes harder to add another one. That was without counting his own limitations. Yes, he had a facility with them, there was no doubt of that. But even with the electromagnetism, he needed some kind of physical image beside his knowledge, some kind of picture to get inspiration. He already had some troubles picturing electrons or magnetic fields. But to add the uncertainty principle or the wave-particle duality concept he needed much more time. Either way, he suspected that even with the ability to picture or to integrate those concepts into his images he would need higher cultivation and more qi to actually use them. But that didn't stop him from dreaming and planning for a future where he could make it possible.
“Oh, I made it!” The sound of running water brought his mind back to reality. At the same time, the river with those suspiciously well-placed rocks appeared before his eyes. Finally, he was back on the right track.