When I reappeared, I was already back within my own room in the Sky Citadel. The thought of punishing those who had their eyes on my treasure did occur to me, but what was the point of that? Needlessly exposing my strength, leaving potential clues behind for others? It was far easier for someone to rationalize a teleportation ability, as those were commonplace among the four worlds.
For now, I wanted to focus on my little training project. I hadn’t forgotten how Ryone had asked for a present when I was done, but… if this worked, I might just be able to give her the kind of present she would really like. If it didn’t, then it was just a matter of finding something nice for her, though I doubt she’d like it as much…
Closing my eyes, I began visualizing what I wanted in my mind. All I needed was the big picture, the finished product. From there… I broke it down into pieces. What made it work, how did it all fit together.
With my understanding of magic, I knew that its potential shouldn’t be a single step behind technology. I had personally seen a fourth tier spell once before, a spell that had been given a life of its own. Not some artificial programming, but a true soul formed through mana.
That said, the third tier should include the potential for artificial awareness. Similar to the home defense spell, how it identifies damage to a structure, or detects intruders. But this… this would be a bit more.
I still stood on my bed, unmoving after I had arrived. Only once I had completed the plan for the first part in my mind did I get to work. In the corner of my awareness, I could swear that I felt eyes focusing on me from above, but I did my best not to pay too much attention to that.
The living mind is a repository of stored information and decisions. Right and wrong is not something that we’re born knowing. We aren’t born with the knowledge to talk. We are born able to store information, and use that information to make decisions.
What makes artificial intelligence so difficult isn’t the ability to store information, but to properly access that information to make decisions in such a way that shows growth. One large factor for this is that artificial intelligence doesn’t have the ‘flaw’ of age. Whether it is a ‘faulty’ memory that causes decisions to sometimes be erratic, or the simple moral code that we had grown accustomed to, an artificial intelligence typically doesn’t have any of that.
Of course, who would want to program an artificial intelligence that randomly corrupted its own memories to simulate simple forgetfulness? As a person, we could jog our memory, showing that the information was still there, simply stored in a hard to reach area of the mind.
Still, the most difficult part was to create the measures by which decisions would be made. The two aspects which truly governed decisions… logic and emotion. I wasn’t worried about emotion. I suspected that creating genuine emotion was likely to be an ability of the fourth tier.
What I wanted was a ‘generous’ logic, which took the wellbeing of itself and others into consideration. Obviously, without taking it to such an extreme that the intelligence would desire the destruction of all life. I wanted it to analyze the expressions of others, see their pain both emotional and physical.
As I carefully laid out the cards, one by one, only creating the most basic of concepts for right now, I was trying to create a framework for the intelligence itself to learn the difference between right and wrong. I had never heard of a magic like this being created, as even the most advanced golems were like those of Lorek, only following basic, preset commands.
Working on this made it very easy for me to completely lose track of time. Sometimes, I would stop, focusing on what I wanted again to break it down all over again. Just standing there for who knows how long, before I got back to work. I noticed about halfway through that I should have run out of the cards I had purchased, and planned to go buy more.
However, I found that the deck box had been fully replenished, all of the cards that I had previously spent returned. Whether it was Udona or Ryone, someone was clearly interested in seeing where I went with this.
Every so often, I would see a prepared function ‘failing’ to fuse. Lightning crackled around the cards as they were drawn towards the vortex, each one created more and more energy. I quickly learned that this was a sign of a failure, and began dispersing the fusion vortex as soon as such signs appeared, to prevent too much waste.
Finally, I was done with the most basic properties that I could think of. Now, it was just a matter of getting them all to join together in a way that did not cause a massive explosion… And that meant an understanding of magic beyond what I was consciously aware of.
Closing my eyes, I gave a light breath. “Mirror the Archmage.” I let my divine energy pulse as a mirror appeared behind me, my body and thoughts shifting. Now, looking at the cards, I felt a different sort of feeling. It was a feeling of closeness, a realization that I knew came from my avatar’s reading in the library.
The information was there in my own mind, it was just a matter of bringing it to the surface. And who better to do that than my current form? Raising one slender hand, the cards flew into motion. Some of them laid down in patterns like I had been doing until now, others stacking on top of those patterns, forming layers of cards between two and five high.
My wrist flourished, and the fusion cards began flying out next. I could feel my lips curving upwards as I watched the vortexes forming. Even if this wasn’t exactly what I had intended, it should still be a step in the right direction.
My brows creased together as I saw sparks forming within two of the larger vortexes. However, a soothing sensation filled the back of my mind. I knew that Dale would stop this, he would be more cautious. But I wasn’t Dale right now. My mind raced at seeing what might happen, whether the spell would succeed or fail spectacularly.
Granted, I was still able to maintain enough control of myself that I could have banished the vortex if I truly wanted to. It’s just… something about my current state told me that I didn’t need to. My fingers extended, pointing towards the two vortexes, and I saw them beginning to calm down. “Note to self… well, note to other self. If they don’t have fusion stabilizers yet, that should become a priority.”
Oh, they do. Ryone’s true voice spoke back to me after I had spoken. There was a slight touch of excitement that she couldn’t quite hide. Udona and I haven’t finished compiling the book that would have those machines in them yet.
Figures… either way, it didn’t matter to me much at the current moment. The vortexes were finally starting to fuse together. As they did, as they grew more and more dense, a turbulent wind seemed to spread through my room, a crack of thunder that let me know that the spell wasn’t taking properly.
After just a moment of thought, I was able to realize that it was because I had used too many cards. I had gone over the limit that a third tier card could hold. But… once again, I did not panic, nor did I dismiss the vortexes.
Again, I pointed to the rumbling mass of dark energy, and it began to calm. If the base limit had been reached, then I simply had to enhance it. That was something I did learn about when reading, a device used during card fusions to increase the upper limit.
Once I had calmed the fusion for the last time, I saw the vortex shrinking, the winds falling away as everything seemed to return to normal. And then, in a flash, the mana in the atmosphere seemed to have been caught in a storm. All of it was rushing madly towards a single card that was slowly falling down in the center of the room.
Its edges were trimmed in gold, seeming to shine within the light. This was the effect of ‘breaking the limit’ of what a card could hold. Normally reserved only for the most powerful of spells. The image of the card was a shifting, foggy cloud, as if the true form of the magic had yet to fully take root. Even the name and description on the card were empty. For now, at least.
You have created a new Magic Card! Please choose the name for this card.
“The Watcher.” I spoke, still in Ryone’s voice as my eyes focused on the card. As I did so, I saw the name appearing on the card’s face, as well as a line of text below. ‘Imbues a target with sentience for as long as the card is merged with the target.’
Congratulations! You have earned an achievement!
For creating a pinnacle spell of the highest tier your world can achieve, you have earned the Limit Break achievement! +20 points, +5% Mana Affinity
Honestly, I had been expecting an achievement for creating sentience, but… I had already done that before. Both the world spirits and martial spirits qualified there, so perhaps the system didn’t evaluate that as highly as normal people would..?
Furthermore, I knew that sentience wasn’t the only effect given with this card. “Wake up.” I said, the sound of shattering glass filling the room as I returned to my normal form. Within the dense mist of the card’s image, two spots of light seemed to form, almost like eyes.
Satisfied with your present? I asked Ryone in a slightly teasing tone, her response coming through almost right away.
Definitely. What made you think of it, out of curiosity?
I shook my head with a small smile. Honestly, I’ve wanted to try it for ages. Artificial intelligence was one of the main research fields in the world that I came from. When I saw what ‘third tier’ abilities were capable of, I knew it was possible. Card magic made it easier, because all of the options are clearly laid out from the start, and it was just a matter of making the combinations.
Now that the intelligence had been formed, it was still incapable of making proper decisions on how to act. First, it had to absorb enough information, and be ‘taught’. For that, there were a few different answers. The easiest, normally, would be to simply carry the card with me and let it learn from my daily activities. If it had any questions, I would be able to answer them.
But for me, personally, there was a way that I thought was far better. As the card’s description said, it didn’t imbue a target creature with sentience. Just a target.
I briefly focused, and a golden mirror appeared along the far wall of my room. Walking over towards it, I picked the Watcher card up as I passed, before placing it against the surface of the mirror. The face of the card was directed at me, and I placed a closed fist in front of it. When my hand pulled back, opening up, a circular interface appeared, similar to what was used for the cash register at the card shop.
This was something that I added in after seeing that, a sort of safeguard. “Let’s temporarily disable motion for now. Don’t want you flying off just yet.” I muttered, finding the node which represented the power for the spell to move its host body. Then, I brought that node to the center, after which a slide appeared. Once I had turned it all the way down, I knew that this mirror wouldn’t go flying away.
Pulling my hand back, I watched the card slowly sink into the surface of the mirror. This next part was something that I was sure that only I was able to do… connecting this mirror to a ‘network’ of other mirrors. The Watcher would be able to see and learn by watching the world, seeing a far greater scope than what I could show myself.