How does one describe in human words a world beyond human sense?
The limits of written language are never clearer than this. Poets, artists, and scholars alike have poured out oceans of ink in the attempt, and each manages to convey only a facet, a single glimmering face of a gem of indeterminate size.
But is that not appropriate for such a place as the liminal realm, the place where material form fades in prominence and consciousness resides?
Indeed, calling it a realm at all is a failure of language. The realm of dreams is a sea of spirits, a vast whirling constellation of self-contained worlds within bubbles of glass and a whorling miasma of chaos all at once. It is the place where every person, down to the meanest mortal, is a king and a place where the mighty walk, fly, and swim as leviathans of the sea, dragging lesser beings into their wake, emperors fit to trample kings underfoot.
You are such a scholarly girl. You ask me to define the laws of that place the way one would lay out the anatomy of a butterfly or describe the cycle of rains. Many wise scholars have tried to define the liminal realm, to determine its rules through painstaking experimentation and trial, and indeed, for those of academic bent, the liminal realm accommodates their tests, and the rules they “discover” become the truth - but only within the reach of their eyes and pens.
This approach is a mistake, I believe, for though Law changes in base reality, this process is slow and deliberate enough to be documented by mortal minds. In the places where Stillness does not reach, in which a single errant whim from a potent passerby might upend decades of study, it is only another type of self-delusion.
There is value in charting the Law which exists within particular self-defined corners, of course, if only to avoid offending their masters, but this approach is wrong when attempting to cultivate liminal energies oneself. Rather, when venturing into the realms of thought, what is most important is identity and agency. Tales of moon madness have their kernel of truth here.
For an unprepared mind, contact with liminal beings and places can blur the lines of the self and damage the mind. In a place where all things are determined by will, a cultivator without a strong sense of self risks being molded like clay by creatures who see no wrong in the doing, for it is the great game of their fleeting existences.
To this end, a cultivator must maintain agency, defined here as clarity in one's goals and desires. To properly manipulate the liminal, a cultivator must both know themselves and their goals and must maintain that knowledge as well as they may in the face of the energies and entities therein.
It is important, however, to not be too rigid in your understanding. Until you have reached the peak of cultivation, you must remember that you are ultimately human and a creature of change and stillness alike. Resisting all influence can be as damaging as not, calcifying your thoughts into rigid structures long before you have even glimpsed your particular Truth.
It is a careful balance to maintain, and this difficulty is the reason why such arts are restricted from open use. However, my niece, if you truly wish to follow in my footsteps, it may be possible.
I will not yet grant you the permissions to access true liminal arts just yet. Your mother must be informed, and if she approves, your ability will be tested.
- Bai Xia Song, Senior Archivist of the Violet Reef, replying to a letter from her niece
I ask that you not put so much stock in songs or stories, my lord. While it is true that the realm of dreams is a difficult and chaotic place, there are certain underlying principles to it all the same. Despite established domains within that spiritual space being extremely high maintenance due to the corrosively chaotic nature of it and intrusions of spiritual entities, it is perfectly possible to exploit the realm properly with rigorous enough effort.
The liminal realm is unstable and chaotic… but only absent the controlling force of a cultivator’s mind. With such a force, it is more than possible to establish small, stable zones. It is really only an extrapolation of the principle by which the lagunas which surround certain powerful entities are maintained. While this is too draining for any but the mightiest cultivators to maintain on a permanent basis, as I have demonstrated, I have discovered a method by which the work may be offloaded onto a construct, thus reducing the matter to merely being one of fuel.
My Mirror Ways project is wholly stable, granting a path through which important individuals and goods may be moved without little regard for details such as space or geography. You have seen my prototype, and while the distance used was small, I assure you that the principle remains sound over greater distances.
Longer Mirror Ways will require more stabilizing constructs, and this will be a significant initial expense, but the return granted by cutting out other transport costs and middle men will turn a tidy profit after only a few decades. With further development, it may even be possible to reach truly distant markets! Imagine, for a moment, the power to be had in sole access to exotic goods beyond the reach of any other province in the Empire!
As to the danger of liminal entities taking offence, it is a concern, this is true, but no more of one than dealing with spirits which inhabit a stretch of land meant for a new road. The taming process is somewhat more involved and dangerous, but is it not the role of one's troops to sacrifice for the clan? If it is truly a concern, perhaps an incentive can be offered to the families, a stipend of some sort? I will leave such details to my lord's wisdom.
As to your logistical concerns regarding the materials for the stabilizing constructs, the entrapped muse spirits do not maintain any conscious thought or sapience once properly bound. They cannot escape or sabotage the Mirror Ways, and if properly warded, we need not concern ourselves with reprisals by their kin, any more than we concern ourselves with more material spirit beasts when harvesting their reagents.
In any case, I have included the schematics and cost estimates for the first properly established Mirror Way with this cover letter. This humble crafter hopes that Your Lordship will consider his humble proposal. It would be quite a feather in Your Lordship’s cap to be known for raising a modern Grandmaster.
- Wei Xing, Master Craftsmen of Alabaster Seas, to the Clan Head of Jin