Black Iron's Glory - Chapter 65
The Decision to Learn Magic
Landes wrote a few pages of notes on the hexagram technique. Claude didn't find any trouble at all. He was afraid the technique's name might be misleading, but it was exactly what the name suggested, a technique for meditation using a hexagrammic formation. It was quite similar to what Qigong practitioners used to do back on earth.
The only thing that bothered Claude was visualising a proper hexagram in his mind. He had to carve a hexagram with his mental power in the void state and guide the essence to its six points before converting it into mana. The key question was: where should the 'void' be relative to his body?
According to the tenets of Qigong, qi was guided into the dantian before it could be circulated through the meridians. Science had disproven the existence of such channels, but that had not prevented millions of practitioners from continuing to believe in their magical abilities, especially where healing and well-being was concerned.
If the void state was more of a feeling that came with relaxing the mind, the carving of the hexagram and the accumulation of the essence did not exist merely in a mental landscape. During Qigong practice, one would have to channel qi through one's meridians and back into one's dantian. So, the void should exist somewhere in the human body for the body to be considered a container of mana. Only by activating the hexagram could one channel mana out of the body.
However, there wasn't an answer to Claude's question in the diary. Perhaps it was a question that Landes didn't even have to consider. He wrote in the diary that when training using Hexagram Meditation, one could draw in the essence photons of an element one was most attuned with and push away those that weren't. Landes had only noticed that after Tawari taught him how to. That was the crucial difference that allowed him to become a first-ranked rune magus in three short months.
The diary stated that during Hexagram Meditation, picking the essence photons alone would take up lots of effort and time. Some essence photons would even boost or annihilate each other. For example, those of the fire element would cancel out those of the water element, wood and earth would nourish each other, and light and darkness would wipe each other out.
Drawing in one suitable kind of essence photon to be converted into mana was the most efficient approach. A practitioner didn't need to undergo magic talent evaluation to know which element he was most attuned with. He would know automatically during Hexagram Meditation; the essence photon that could be sensed and drawn in the fastest was the one the user had the most affinity with.
Another point to note was that apart from elemental affinity, a practitioner's mental power was also a huge factor. Landes believed that the reason he was able to become a first-ranked rune magus in just three month was because he had strong mental power.
Back when he was tested for his talent, Landes scored nine in fire affinity and eight in mental power. So under Tawari's guidance, he drew in only fire essence during his meditations. Thanks to his powerful mental power, he managed it without trouble. He could also accelerate the speed with which he attracted fire essence and filled up the six triangles of the hexagram before converting it into mana.
Claude didn't sleep until he completed the diary.
At the end, Landes noted many alchemical formations and insights as well as some of his experiences and thoughts as an assistant to other rune magi. But those things were a little too early for Claude to learn.
He read the part about Hexagram Meditation three times properly and memorised most of its contents. What he had to consider now was whether he should start practicing according to the diary and master Hexagram Meditation.
That was a choice he would not get to turn back on, so he had to really think it through. It wasn't some martial arts manual that would make one instantly invincible after training in it. It was magic, the biggest taboo on the continent of Freia. The consequences of becoming a magus were endless days of darkness and hiding. When others realised he knew magic, what awaited him was nothing but pursuits and executions. Perhaps he would even have to escape from the continent itself.
Maybe he could only relax after going to the island called Siklos where the 'evil magi' were exiled to. However, could he really go there? That diary was something Landes left behind and he was a key figure that aided Regius Au Syr in his revolt against the key figures of the world of magic. Without the modified guns and the magic crystal gunpowder, Baron Regius Au Syr wouldn't have been able to successfully attack the sacred land of magic, Symposium, and exile the rest of the magi away from Freia to Siklos.
If he really travelled to that island, how would he explain the legacy of magic he inherited? Before he could ascertain the points of view of the magi on Siklos, he would never head there. Who knew whether the magi there documented Landes' betrayal? If that were the case, he would be giving his life away for nothing if he headed there. There was a right time and place to die, but that was definitely not it.
If he didn't learn magic, he could continue to live out the relatively safe life his father planned for him. After a year and a half, he would be heading to the continent of Nubissia and joining the godfather he hadn't met before, Jerrihausen Van Cruz, in the Tyrrsim colony. Even though the life he would lead there was full of unknowns, it would be far better than having to worry constantly whether he would be discovered by others after learning magic.
Then again, he wasn't willing to give up on magic. Of all the things that could've happened to him, he had transmigrated to a world with magic! Yet, he couldn't learn it freely because of concerns for his own safety, making it such a cruel tease.
Claude knew that this was a crucial choice that would set the course of his life. The first was building his career in the military. That path was relatively stable and safe and predictable to some extent. Perhaps, he could become someone reputable like his father and live out his life in peace. The other was the path of magic, something which he was completely not ready for. It was a path that was fraught with danger and darkness. Perhaps he would die in his youth and die an unknown death from being hunted down.
Do I really want to learn magic? He knew that his mind was already made up. No matter how many reasons he could think of to not learn magic, there was no way he could convince himself to do so. He was a transmigrator, one that happened to fulfil all the conditions to start learning magic. He couldn't suppress his desire to understand the mystic arts.
The sky had already brightened. Not long after, the bell of the war god shrine rang and roused Whitestag from its silent slumber. Soon, the streets began to fill up with its usual busyness.
Claude rubbed his face to freshen up. He had stayed up all night again and would have to get some sleep in school. But since he already made his decision, he resolved himself to start practicing Hexagram Meditation that night to take the first step onto the path of magic.
On the way to school Borkal gave them all good news. Their business venture which required one thale from each of them had finally concluded. They managed to sell 172 targets within one short month. Apart from keeping a small sum of the money as reserves, each of them could get three thales in profit. That news gladdened Eriksson and Welikro greatly. Claude only smiled to show his happiness, but he didn't really care for making money.
After class started, Borkal secretly told Claude that his shaliun could possibly be sold after another short while. His father had invited a group of friends to his house for a gathering and they were talking about gathering funds for their new venture. Borkal had pretended to keep his stuff and 'accidentally' dropped his shaliun gold coin on the ground, catching many of his fathers' friends' attention. He said that he noticed many people staring at the shaliun in his hand when he went to pick it up.
Claude asked him whether his father would mind him doing such a thing.
But Borkal merely smiled like a fox that had managed to steal a chicken. He said that he had told his father about everything already. His father also knew that Claude had another shaliun to keep as well. To his father, having one for collection was more than enough and there was no point in keeping two. He even praised Claude for his economical mind based on his decision to sell his extra coin.
Borkal gladly told Claude that it wouldn't take three days before one of his father's friends made an excuse to come over and ask about the coin Borkal dropped on the ground. They would definitely offer a good price then, as coin collection was quite popular among his father's acquaintances. Having a shaliun gold coin in one's collection was something worth showing off.
"Alright, I'll leave it all to you and treat you all to a good meal after it sells for a good price," said Claude casually, before he started to make up for his lost sleep.
After school, Claude turned Eriksson's invitation to fish at his jetty down and rushed home quickly. He wanted to get a little more sleep so that he had enough energy during the night to practise the meditation technique at night.
Before dinner, Angelina came upstairs to wake Claude. He washed up before he went downstairs and told his father about his new hobby of learning the ancient Hez language. He justified its usefulness by saying that many languages on Freia were offshoots of the same language, and that perhaps he could find a job as an ambassador after he retired from service. If that didn't work, he could still try to become a translator.
That explanation was enough to satisfy Morssen, so he no longer chided Claude about using too much oil for his lamp at night. After a simple dinner, he played with his siblings and the snowhound for a bit before excusing himself for his 'studies' and returning to his little attic. He could finally start Hexagram Meditation.
According to the diary, there was no set posture that had to be adopted before starting. One didn't have to sit cross-legged and back straight. There was nothing like that. He could sit or lie down, whichever he found more comfortable. No matter what posture he took, the crucial point was entering void state as soon as possible.
Claude experimented for half an hour with standing, sitting, lying down, but still wasn't able to find a posture he could be relaxed with. He felt stiff all over no matter what he did. His hands or legs wouldn't be able to feel relaxed no matter what he did. Sometimes, his back would itch and he would feel the urge to scratch it. After a while, he started to get impatient...
Until he saw the silver moon hanging in the sky. A spark of inspiration flashed through his mind. He climbed out through the window of his attic and lied down on the roof under the moonlight and gradually felt himself loosen up. Soon, his consciousness drifted into a seemingly empty place...