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Symbolism of Magia Record: The Bravado of Tsuruno

Previous: The Endless Sleep of Felicia
Tsuruno is one of those characters who I feel has the largest potential of fooling players. What I mean by that is, on a surface level, she comes off as a checkmark, or more specifically, the typical, high-energy and friendly character. Because of this, it might surprise some people when they dig into her background and realize that Tsuruno is very much a depressed individual who is simply keeping a front for her friends. This type of character isn't at all new, but by the time you get to Tsuruno's backstory, you might be so used to her upbeat self, especially since her and her father's restaurant ends up as the butt of jokes so frequently.
This section is actually technically a BOGO deal, in that I'll also include Uwasa Tsuruno,
Tsuruno's appearance is similar to that of a Chinese fan dancer, and while there really isn't much going on with her transformed outfit, there's a few things to note about her weapons and the dances they are associated with. Fan dances were extremely significant to ancient Chinese history, representing both preservation and communication. Appearing before even Chinese characters were fully developed, they allowed participants to express their feelings and communicate their intentions to viewers through the use of symbolism, structure, and some personal touches to add individuality.
Like many other girls, Tsuruno is represented by fire, both wielding it and having it being primarily featured in her transformation sequence. Fire is symbolic to quite a few things, but most relevant to Tsuruno is passion, but also the instant switch from being restrained to undisciplined. If we were to add in Tsuruno's weapons, we can also get the popular expression "fan the flames", which refers to increasing the severity of something.
As seen in her MSS, Tsuruno cares deeply for the legacy her grandfather set with their Chinese restaurant/cuisine. She is also, of course, one of the most energetic characters in the game so far, being know for being relatively tame one moment to suddenly running off somewhere or at something. Tsuruno isn't exactly bashful of this fact, even stating that she'd rather "wing it" than be inactive.
Moving over to Tsuruno's other outfits, her New Years Kimono features a set of Chinese lanterns as it design, which are celebrated as signs of a bright future and incoming wealth. Functionally, of course, lanterns are a source of light that are used to guide people forward. Her swimsuit is decorated with sunflowers, which are usually associated with happiness, something that's extra fitting for a beach trip with friends.
Beneath all of her happiness, however, Tsuruno is carrying the weight of her own world. Part of her family wishes to carry on her grandfather's legacy, but then you have Tsuruno's mother and grandmother who are only looking for wealth. This is the core of Tsuruno's troubles and character theme of the limited amount of things money can buy. This is definitely nothing new, and you've probably heard "money can't buy everything" a few hundred times, but Tsuruno's background really hammers in how fleeting money is, but also how it can divide even family members.
Tsuruno wish to win the lottery was founded on the assumption that having wealth to take care of her family would allow them to then work on getting back the family restaurant to its former glory. We know this to be wrong, but unlike certain other girls, we can't really fault Tsuruno for thinking this way, as nobody really expects their own mom/grandma to take that money and peace out. This is what we like to refer to as a "treadmill effect" with human needs/wants, which assumes that people are on a constant cycle of "wanting" luxury.
For example, for young adults with their first taste of financial freedom, you might start off buying small things that you would formerly would have to have had approved by your parents before buying. As time goes on and you enjoy your freedom, you may want to buy more/expensive things, and this is especially the case in the event that you get a raise or find a higher-paying job. This isn't a bad quality to have, of course, it's almost natural for us to seek more luxury and is more or less just a step for young people to understand the worth of a dollar. However, it's important to step back a bit and think about what truly makes you happy. Would you rather work a high-paying job you find miserable so you can pursue a life of luxury, or would you rather dedicate yourself to something you love or feel passionate about at the cost of a more juicy income?
We know where Tsuruno stands, choosing to carry on her grandfather's honor...but that then begs the question as to whether or not that's what Tsuruno really wants. I think it's safe to assume that Tsuruno enjoys working with her fatheat the restaurant, and she most certainly takes pride in it, but from what we seen in her dialogue, Tsuruno usually refers to this as pursuing what her grandfather left behind. Not only that, but even her grandfather stated that he wanted his grandchildren to chase what they really wanted, rather than "step on his dreams".
Let's take a look back at Tsuruno's mothegrandmother, and what I said just a little while ago. I probably came off as being preachy, advertising that there's more to happiness than just wealth...but I'm going to contradict that by stating that greed is a necessary part of finding happiness. I don't mean this to any extreme, especially if it comes at the cost of others, rather, I'm saying that it's important to know what you want and treat yourself to your desires. As Tsuruno's grandfather was getting at with his younger family members, his dream is his and his alone, blindly chasing it isn't just a betrayal to Tsuruno, but also himself, as it's hard to say that Tsuruno is "honoring" him if she, herself, doesn't truly value maintaining the restaurant as it once was.
This brings us to Tsuruno's Doppel, Yu Hong, with the description:
The master of this emotion is quite dissatisfied with both the appearance and behavior of her Doppel. In contrast to her own desires to achieve great deeds through her own hard work, this Doppel creates an endless stream of wealth to satisfy the never-ending desires of her close relatives in an attempt to preserve family peace. The truth is, however, that this is only a very fickle and short-lived harmony. The master believes that it exists in complete contrast to her own noble goals and prefers to keep its boorish existence hidden from the world. However, she may one day find that she needs this Doppel's powers to protect the harmony between her family members, no matter how fragile that harmony might be.
Something to note is that the pig contradicts itself with its symbolism. On one hand, pigs are celebrated as being genuine, hard-working, and trustworthy beings that bring upon wealth (not necessarily monetary). However, when we call someone a "pig", we tend to mean that individual is greedy or "dirty" when it comes to chasing wealth. With that, Yu Hong represents the virtues of Tsuruno, but also the gaudiness and self-indulgence that she hates.
Yu Hong is honestly a pretty funny Doppel, representing that of a Jinhua ham. Jinhua ham contains the hindlegs of pigs grown in that region, which are regarded and graded on a very grand scale. Ideal pigs are those that have a specific smell, fat content, a round shape, and even a certain shine to their skin. Just imagine being a pig who manages to have all those qualities...only for your reward to be a one-way trip through some stranger's digestive system. Hilarity aside, this can be related to Tsuruno's original pursuit of her grandfather's dream and being the "mightiest" in that obtaining those goals/qualities might not exactly lead to a happy life.
Jinhua ham are part of a popular dish called "Buddha Jumps Over a Wall". The name comes from a story involving a group of monks and a travelling scholar. The scholar carries a clay jar (much like the one Yu Hong is seen in) that contains ham and, passing by a Buddhist temple, finds a spot past a wall where he begins cooking. The smell wafted to the spot where the group of monks were meditating and, despite eating pig being forbidden, one of the monks would then be tempted to jump over the wall to get to the ham.
This story was a way of advertising the dish as "being so good even Buddha would want to eat it", but can also be applied to Tsuruno's backstory. The monks in this story represent virtuous individuals who work hard to find enlightenment, while the Jinhua ham is temptation that can drive one away from their path.
Yu Hong takes the form of a hot-air balloon, which contains 3 key parts: the basket, the burner, and the envelope. The basket carries both occupants and tanks of fuel needed to keep the balloon in the air, while the burner, well...burns fuel for the envelope to use to inflate and fly into the air. Each part cannot function without the collaboration of its 2 other sections.
With that in mind, Yu Hong here is composed of the boiling jar of ham (envelope), what looks to be some noodles (burner), and Tsuruno as the basket. To "work in harmony" refers to multiple things coming together despite their differences to achieve success. When attacking, Tsuruno combines her flames with that of the oil Yu Hong releases, but this harmonious relationship can also refer to Tsuruno's desire to achieve monetary wealth to make ends meet with her family. This collaboration, of course, is rather fragile, much like how we saw Tsuruno's mother and grandmother just up and leave once they got a hold of money.
So we know Tsuruno as a girl who is hardworking, active, and with a lot on her shoulders, bringing us now to Uwasa Tsuruno. As implied with the distorted transformation sequence, Player 2 Tsuruno is almost the complete opposite of the girl we know, stating how she likes to "relax", lamenting that she "worked too hard" as she levels up, and generally just coming off as relishing in laziness. Fortunately for us, the writers didn't just make a "Bizarro" Tsuruno and called it a day, there's a reason behind her existence, even besides the simple act of being brainwashed.
As mentioned at the start of this post, Tsuruno is actually a very depressed girl, and her cheeriness is little more than a front she puts on after the death of Mel. As Tsuruno watched her friends and teammates go into despair and eventually break apart, she took it upon herself to hide her own sadness so she can be a pillar for Yachiyo, Momoko, and Mifuyu to lean on. This is a noble and selfless act, however, also an unhealthy one. While looking after your friends is part of...well, being a friend, there are times where you will need to come up for air and where banking your negative emotions will take its toll on your mental and emotional health.
Chelation, as seen in "Chelationland", refers to a type of therapy where chemicals are injected into one's body to remove any harmful substances. These chemicals go into the body and latch onto heavy metals like arsenic, lead, and mercury, making them easier to be purged. During Tsuruno Alter's MSS, we see Tsuruno talking with Nemu, who offers her the opportunity to make a theme for her "story"/Rumor. During this conversation, Tsuruno lets loose all that was disturbing her and grows attached to the idea of letting go of her troubles and, instead, find an easy way to happiness. Much like the process of Chelation Therapy, this was an opportunity for Tsuruno to forget everything and become detached to all that was plaguing her mind.
The first section of Uwasa Tsuruno's is titled "Requiem for Myself", and during it, we see that Tsuruno is irreparably broken, even after Mifuyu attempts to reverse her illusion. A Requiem refers to a musical piece or mass that is intended to send off the dead, and given the contents of this section, we can interpret this as being the final thread breaking before Tsuruno "dies" and becomes a disgraced shell of her original self.
One of the most notable pieces of imagery we get here is that of a Ferris Wheel, which, on the surface, is a spot of romance and serene comfort in an amusement park, being surrounded by more adrenaline-inducing rollercoaster rides. However, when associated with negativity, Ferris Wheels represent stagnation, as the ride involves movement without any real progression or excitement. To envision one's own self on a Ferris Wheel is to feel that your life isn't going anywhere and the pursuit of short-term happiness over long-term goals. While deciding how to construct Chelationland, Tsuruno mentions the need for a rollercoaster, something that the Ferris Wheel dreads, referring to it as its "rival". This makes sense, as rollercoasters are considered the antithesis of Ferris Wheels. While the former is a slow and steady ride that represents relaxation, rollercoasters are bumpy, fast, and full of unexpected twists, representing a challenging life.
A carousel, such as the mascots that take the form of carousel horses, is similar to that of a Ferris Wheel, in that it represents aversion to moving forward with your life, infinity, and a circular-type of thinking. This repetitiveness is something the carousel horses love, becoming elated when UwaTsuruno states that they are free to spin around in a circle as long as they please.
Here's the thing about Tsuruno and Uwasa Tsuruno, while it's tempting to assume that the latter is a bastardization of the original, that's not quite the case, as our normal Tsuruno didn't fully represent every virtue. Rather, both Tsuruno represent a set of boons and banes the other lacks. While Tsuruno is the postergirl for hard-work, energy, and effort, she also didn't pursue her own goals. Uwasa Tsuruno, however, designed Chelationland with her own vision and was "free from stress", but also extremely lazy and lacking in long-term goals.
U.Tsuruno's final addition to Chelationland would be a Hot Pot, which also is used in her personal Memoria:
Within the amusement park inside the rumor, there is a popular specialty on the menu. Eating the hot foods in boiling broth together makes any bad feeling you might have float away with the steam. But why a hot pot, you may ask? Even the park manager doesn't know.
-A Symbol of Relaxation
At the end of Uwasa Tsuruno's MSS, she envisions, not just a Hot Pot, but one surrounded by the mugs belonging to Yachiyo's group. This is something that U.Tsuruno originally passes off, before flashbacking to a moment with Iroha and Yachiyo preparing dinner. To Uwasa Tsuruno, a Hot Pot seemed to bring join for reasons she cannot fully grasp. It is understood that it is a relaxing meal meant to be enjoyed with others, but cannot understand why she was drawn to the idea of it almost immediately.
As expected, Uwasa Tsuruno's doppel is very similar to her original's, but has a different title and description:
The Doppel of Camaraderie. Its form is ham. Have you heard? Has anybody told you? The Rumor of the Doppel of Camaraderie! It's a little pig that's grown nice and plump, capable of granting wishes for its master's family. It represents great wealth with its grand, glittering body, and ensures her family's wealth in the years to come! However, the master of this piggy doesn't much care for it, it actually puts her in quite the grumpy mood. "It's way too embarrassing to let anyone see it!" she says, so she hides it. It's a hot rumor in Kamihama! No, stop, don't look!
Something you may notice is that, while the original Yu Hong was referred to as the "Doppel of Harmony", this version is, instead, the Doppel of Camaraderie. Unlike those who work in harmony, those who work together as comrades having a much more stable and sturdy relationship. Also like the original, Uwasa Tsuruno is very ashamed of her Doppel.
Both MightyGirls are almost exact opposites, however, they are essentially opposite sides of the same coin. After Ferris Wheel threw a fit at the idea of Uwasa Tsuruno adding his nemesis to the park, she brings up the fact that they would have to get along for the success of the park. The common denominator with Tsuruno and Uwasa Tsuruno is their aversion to easily-acquired wealth. This might sound a bit weird, given that Uwasa Tsuruno is very lazy, but she isn't exactly opposed to working, hence her efforts to build Chelationland based on her own vision.
To Tsuruno--both Tsurunos--money is very much temporary, bringing in short-term wealth. This goes against Tsuruno's desire to keep up her grandfather's legacy and, after her enlightenment, desire to pursue her own happiness, but also Uwasa Tsuruno's desire for a permanent, safe place where she can relax.
To wrap things up, you can view Uwasa Tsuruno as a sort of alter ego, in that they aren't different entities, rather, a different part of the same girl. Tsuruno's journey can be summed up as a pursuit of happiness, where she learns the importance of finding her own joy, but also the importance of letting friends and loved ones help shoulder the burdens she carries.
With that, we're getting closer to wrapping up the main girls of Arc 1. Next up is the "Past and Future of Yachiyo", followed by "The Silence of Iroha", which will also include YachIroha Final Version. I'll then wrap up the main cast of arc 1 with Ui for the simple fact that I want to complete her event before doing an analysis on her. From there I want to go back and cover the minor girls.
A few sections ago, I mentioned that I wasn't planning on covering girls who have yet to receive an uncap/Doppel, but given how long it might be for some girls to receive theirs, I might end up covering them if they have enough appearances to use as a reference.
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The Meld II (27): Shadows of Menace Part 2.

The Meld II (27): Shadows of Menace Part 2.
What he really needed, Efor mused, in the Lost Land’s City Warren was an Appearance Modified alteration. That getting him thinking as a distraction: If he could be someone else here, something else, (for a limited time), what would he choose to be?
Efor deciding, in that rare moment given likely future hostilities with the Smugglers, it might be fun to become a Vy’keen for a period. Many people didn’t even consider threatening a Vy’keen with physical violence, such deemed grossly counterproductive. Plus the Vy’keen biological entities similar to the Gek but very unlike the Korvax, whilst Travellers…, well who really knew or properly understood what they were really like materially on the inside, at least those such as Tor always hidden behind their surrounding exo-suits. Whilst the stranger ones that did show faces, (sometimes only of a sort to existence), could be outright weird looking and super diverse of form, as if Travellers incorporating many varied species in their individualistic ranks.
He didn’t initially even dream about shifting into being a Fox or Tusk doubting any standard AP-M out there had such rare forms on file, although maybe among some KVC apparatus. He could easily imagine KVC Operatives already taking on local forms for deeper clandestine duties upon Hellespae including simply for xenopological studies that would not disturb casual native interactions in any manner.
It hard to properly study a culture if your presence openly pollutes witnessed interactions. Surely, by now the KVC had extensive files on Foxes and Tusks, including many procured DNA samples, brain evacuated material and who knew what else. Efor considering it possible that all any Appearance Modifier machine would need to emulate any reasonable form being a genetic sample or maybe only comprehensive scan data. Although the last - pure assumption on his part - the AP-M technology possibly not working exactly that way. So far those devices not something he understood too well. Generally he enjoyed being a Gek never previously having any strong desire to be anything else.
In fact, Efor arguably feeling a little superior about his gorgeous Gek body. Who wouldn’t want to be a Gek like him? Only a fool if they really knew how good it felt - on a good day. Even Tor sensibly been a Gek for a time, possibly enjoyed it so much he was afraid to go there again, lest it very understandably became an impossible to stifle addiction. Certainly Tor had dreamily talked about the thrills of being in a Gek skin: The vivid scents, the tastes, the feel of it all, when possessing flesh bared outside of an enclosing protective suit.
For a brief moment Efor did wonder though, whilst looking at Jhasq, as she stalked along directly ahead of him, what it would feel like to have a handsome furry tail wagging along behind yourself. The Foxes an undeniably attractive species as well, much more so than the average brutish in form piggy Tusk. Then the Gek wondered if some of his feelings about Foxes and Tusks simply historic prejudice shaping harsh unsympathetic perceptive associations. Perhaps if his initial encounters on this world been reversed: Populated with friendly Tusks and predatory hostile cannibal Foxes, he would judge the physical attributes of those two species very differently today indeed. However, deep down he was not completely convinced by that argument, certain something indefinably charismatic existed about Foxes in general that again the average Tusk simply lacked. Tusks not created for the beauty of their form. Efor wondering if it was the soft looking Fox tail, or something about the lithe athletic doggish form that attracted him. Although when they went full stalking or chasing wolf in their mannerisms that could make a Gek shiver down his spine. Yet even the wolf side had a wild - scary - appeal: Those amber eyes, the bright flash of white fangs all impressive, at times, almost mesmerising features.
Meanwhile, the Gek consciously happy not to be only obsessing about the, (he was too positive), much less attractive Dark - that yet hovered over them all - if mostly presently on the periphery of conscious detection, akin to an underlying whiff of some especially rancid smell.
It helped a little that they were now leaving it - ever further - behind them whilst working their way coreward. Although a betraying part of him mindful that actually, given their new relative positions, on the inside of the ring, they were presently venturing into a region technically permanently surrounded by that cursed entity. At that concept Efor felt more than a little trapped in this particular City Warren. If not for the Jungle above, it would be nice to be topside under an open sky, or, even better, inside his beloved star fighter within outer space. In space the mind truly cut loose from every tie. To escape the Jungle earlier though, only to find this new even darker peril surrounding him felt almost insultingly unjust.
Sometimes he felt cursed, perhaps due to his time in the Cult, - his life blighted - all escape only temporary.
Only a little earlier on, it had been another serious mental ordeal. It taking far longer than he would have liked for Gryll to repair that damned intimidating soul stealing pillar in the Ring Road. Efor still uncertain if the slower pace involved Gryll lately being extra wisely cautious, whilst messing with the evil contraption, or it an abiding sign of lasting damage to his Casing. Whatever the cause, it became almost as difficult a vigil as guarding his friends inert form before, when the Rogue's digital soul had been ripped without ceremony out of his body by that vampire like soul sucking device via the Pulse.
The idea of a machine ripping out souls currently something Efor really did not want to think deeply about. Yet Bah! It difficult to forget!
Jhasq and Efor had both immediately guessed the occurred grimness. Gryll previously expressing certain fears of the consequences of getting caught by that Pulse again within the Ring. Thus the mismatched guardian pair well enlightened or maybe en-darkened given the grim mood such shadowy knowledge readily fostered. Anyway, they instantly accepted the digital soul of their friend no longer in the shell of his Casing, or Carapace as many in wider Euclid called such things now. Haa! The Casing label apparently an old word, notably deployed by aged Travellers like Gryll and Tor. Those two doing most of the talking about Casings and Exo-suits among the Pentacle variants in the past, thus rather reviving the outdated label within the same group, including enshrining it within their mounting mission logs and records.
Interestingly, Efor knew, the Foxes including Fox Elders and Tusks too, also mostly called Korvax shells Casings. The language of the Foxes and Tusks technically archaic, also dislocated in time from Modern Gek, having lots of embedded Ancient Gek twists. Sometimes, such things, making him wonder if the entire planet of Hellespae yet dislocated in space and time from its proper first beginnings: Its original version of Euclid. Supposedly, it had returned to its old domain when the Sky Opened, rebounding back to its specific origin, yet no way existed for any of them to verify they were all actually truly home. That they had all returned to the precise quantum dimension they had once departed.
Grimly, they might easily have shifted instead to somewhere similar, but not utterly the same. For a time he had not seen that properly - at all - his own mind somewhat under the assimilation of other Cascades, stacked late arriving Reality Shifts, a backlog of mind challenging changes that almost undid his usual ability to resist total assimilation by the machine’s imposed strictures of redirected belief. Only later - around the influence of Tor and so on - had his reality fractured again in review, though at times some of his returning recollections yet felt ghostly hollow or drugged muggy and disjointed, akin to dreams of another person’s life rather than actual more solid memories of his own. Now at times, thinking back to some earlier adventures on Hellespae, it almost as if he was seeing more than one version of himself, in more than one reality, actions splitting and recombining in confused ways. That reminding him of some weirder ritual drug induced visions, when his brain was yet being conditioned as a young initiate.
Whilst his altered Gek mentality, he believed now, usually better able to retain and view far more than the average of his kind due to that old Blood Cult conditioning, some Great Machine concepts and happenings could still make his head spin a little on occasion. Endless Quantum Realities one such problematic matter, not an easy fact to swallow for even an iron stomached Gek with a somewhat chemically rewired brain, especially the idea of breaching out of your proper domain - by accident or design - into some exotic less familiar version of existence. Equally, it difficult to accept multiple versions of yourself out there, each you and yet not you! Efor not liking those ideas much at all, judging them birthing profound hall of mirrors style confusing displacements within him, as well as evoking a weird - lost soul - level of despairing existential loneliness. Funny that being a multiplicity could make him feel sundered and alone, as if lost in a crowd of other versions of self. It striking him that technically now all his friends and himself might be acting as Lost Souls shuffled into an alien reality that only pretended to be their former home and life. Efor imagining echoes occasionally cut loose, shifting in and out of quantum bodies as differing Korvax can pass in and out of a specific Casing.
It amusing him darkly though that most people, (including those supposedly multi-verse savant), generally tended to assume that they were in their proper body and place, unless something, deeply jarring, specifically pointed otherwise. Even then, most people too easily explaining anomalies encountered away as those troublesome factors being the out of place matters, rather than it potentially being themselves that had slipped out of their original space and time. Yet he got the feeling that Tor, at least, might believe he did not fully belong in this particular here and now. Efor soon wondering how living permanently with that greater burden of dislocation - that rare level of alien acceptance - might feel on the inside. He imagined from his own recent vibes not always so good, yet he was not a Traveller or Torrance.
Weirdly, Torrance almost seemed to enjoy being an outsider on occasion, as if relishing some formalised distance to everyone else around him, a kind of cultural buffer zone. That unfortunately made him think again about the lurking Dark: Could it equally feel lost: Trapped, misplaced - far out of its time - and home here? Housed in the weird prison of a Causeway Body, not its proper form… Did some part of it yearn simply to go back in safer known childhood haunts as if a Porwiggle that wandered too far and lost its way among the unknown scents of a swampy wood? Even horrors must have, (to their peculiar perspective), more comfortable original environs, somewhere or some when that is forever home. Places where perhaps they were not horrific at all. Efor considering then that a lot of deemed horror stemming from ignorance about only perceived levels of alien difference. Deep down most entities alike enough, even when their outward form seemed to suggest otherwise.
The Big Three prime examples of species with substantive seeming outward difference yet under it all so much commonality it often argued they all originated far further back from a single genetic root. Perhaps to the Darks the Children of the Stars were all perceptually surface wise tiny evil squirming little insect like creatures, infesting planets and space akin to how those ProtoSpawn Maggot things infested the gunk back in that Grand Warren technological spawning pool. Yet, when it came down to it, even such beings and the Darks having more in common than either credited or maybe always found comfortable. In the end, it all a matter of potentially warped perspective.
Gryll had informed that ultimately Abel Praxis wanted to banish Hexahlmoz back to its specific Beyond, claiming that the safest solution to its recent rude awakening: It being stirred up by contact with the SmugglerGek and Tusks. All Efor knew was he wanted no part of any of that activity, if he could avoid it. Having been, ritual drugged up, on the edge of some manifestations that only - might - have been real aspects of Dark materialisations during - supposedly well controlled events - more than enough mind warping nastiness for him. Those weird - if somewhat limited - experiences alone plenty disturbing. Efor fearing Geskhan historically dealing in a different manner too with the snared substance of his long contained Dark swarm.
The Ancient Gek’s interaction potentially entirely that of a more distanced scientist, without the usual added, some might claim, addled occult belief trappings. Perhaps pure science always a potentially saner approach, yet Efor now found he itched for the delusional security of his old religious style Cult protective dressings and faiths. Yes, even former superstitions that once in the light of day, after escaping the Cult, had seemed foolish affectations and theatrics at best, now suddenly - even those - had a crude warmth of appeal. Of course, everything began to feel a little different after he matured and wisely attempted to put aside the worst grim experiences of his Blood Cult youth. Some perspective shifts firmly embraced by him for the stability of his own ongoing sanity. There being many things he had long chosen not to contemplate deeply upon anymore. Although, in the end, no means existing to completely escape his old association. Contact with Reefee alone dragging him back, or maybe more truly hearing about that one pulling him down as a planetary gravity well pulls a star ship down into its embrace.
Although as only ever a relatively low level Cult member compared to say a Grandmaster, Efor knew he had, generally, only been on the edge of deeper Blood Cult lore, including closer interactions with the ultimate expression of Cult power the Darks themselves. Perhaps the higher ups teaching him little of anything presently useful, beyond an at times rabid will to Survive. They, after all, guarded their precious secrets too well, knowledge ever deemed an expression and manifestation of power within Cult Tiers granting the means to higher levels and dominion over lower ranks.
Nonetheless, Efor could not help but wonder if any of the rituals and practices he might recall could offer some protection now, (though on a good day he again would much prefer not to remember such things at all). Sadly, he was far from certain such trappings would. Again the Dark here, he assumed, not resident within a specific, well managed, ritual encounter space, no longer necessarily interacting according to all the old formalised rules of codified behaviour. Instead it likely bound to its Causeway home in less spiritual more logical mechanistic ways. What a Korvax might dismiss however as silly occult protocols of interaction had their uses. Surely, some of that - when not Priest dressed up illusion - the very fulfilment of binding ancient bargains - or pacts - to which both Blood Cult Gek and the Darks long abided. Rules possibly heralding all the way back to contact in truly primordial times. Such as when it said the Overmind of Monopods first revealed itself as a Herald of the Dark.
It all long recorded, if messily codified, in the texts, including sadly often deeply confused by every added bit of theatrical dressing and internal denominational split, in some instances possibly purposely disguised too. After all, to know the true rules of interacting with those grave Outer Realm’s entities potentially granting the knowledgeable - real power - and such arcane might always supposed to stay safely only in the hands of the most elevated and accomplished Higher Tier Cultists. Might rarely given away in any Blood Cult, especially with competition within the Cults so backstabbing fierce. Progression frequently outright murderous, just as it had been at times within Imperial Gek Noble Houses. It oft judged that for new blood to rise, first old blood had to spill and fall, simply to make a little room. Besides, if you did not prove yourself equal - or better - via vanquishing those grown stale previously above you, you were deemed lacking in the qualities wanted and needed among the newly risen. To hold power you generally had to prove worthier than those you would replace and how better to prove worthier that by utterly destroying your competition decisively. That the game of succession, which sometimes went as far as the Imperial Throne.
Beyond the arcane trappings, Efor supposed, as Tor also believed, it actually all science of one sort or another, sadly as stated the dressings making it hard at times to know what was mere show and what was essential valid procedures including vital parts of agreed by ancient pact honouring signs and forms of communication. Cult ritual interactions, at least with the lower ranks, often all undertaken by rote with very little imparting of the underlying systems. Each played their specific part by doing exactly as ordered. Even the seemingly madder aspects in most rituals - in their own strange way - controlled by the Priests as if conducting an orchestra of infamy.
The drugs, the weird harmonic chanting, the seemingly debauched revels, even the dire blood letting possibly about attaining specific esoteric states of mind and consciousness far beyond the pale. In some ways again long agreed pacts involved, heavy with symbolic forms of fully interactive communication that went digital soul deep into the very formation of conscious intent: The nerve signals behind every word and movement. It all linking into a greater sphere of improbably subtle internal interaction, despite at times on the surface appearing grossly mundane hokum. Supposedly, it all welding matter and mind: Shaping even the subconscious into levers upon a broader mechanism, reaching into non physical controls plugged into less obvious little machine digital routines - Elder Tech - Base Code.
Runes, sigils, harmonics, scents, yes even emotional output all potential keys unlocking triggers, activating hidden esoteric mechanisms of old code. So he had once been taught in the middle Tiers. Of course, that could all be more Cult nonsense. Sometimes, with a little distance, it certainly felt insanely unreal indoctrination including some of it, you told yourself afterwards, surely drugged up delusion. Yet at the time, when fully under Cult conditioning, it could feel too real - amazing - terrifying, thrilling and horrid all at the same time. Rather than always odd, it could sometimes wax akin instead to reaching deeper inside, instead of being smothered in deceptions it coming over as ripping away curtains of obscuration to uncover the real truth underpinning every grim reality. Undoubtedly disturbing truths, but truths nonetheless.
Sadly, Efor doubted he could now master many, if any, of those rarer former states of interactive occasionally bizarrely meditative modes of adjusted consciousness without the specific drugs, without the mad communal frenzy and the reinforcing formalised dances of the rites, in all their crazy vile excessive splendour. If he encountered a Dark brought here - via cold science alone - he had nothing esoteric to combat such a manifestation: No occult armour, no ritual to hide behind, no kinder drugged numbness to protect his psyche from a rational implosion into slobbering insanity.
Efor certainly doubted a multi-tool would do anything other than draw its hellish attention. No greater manifestation of a Dark, (as far as he knew), ever readily banished by brute force of arms. The Darks physically - it generally believed - potent enough to be well beyond petty mortal weaponry, even if they did oddly abide, according to Blood Cult lore, to strictures of some old pacts. Some words and gestures therefore ironically more effective than a Capital Ship bombardment. Again Efor wrecked his brain trying to recall if he knew anything - any snippet of worthy lore at all - that might be usable in this instance. Signs, sigils amusingly perhaps a Protective Pentacle that the Dark if it got loose might acknowledge. Perhaps Tor thinking of esoteric protective Blood Cult lore when he named the enlarged group of five as the Pentacle or was it Gryll, Efor couldn’t remember.
Again he recalled watching over Gryll’s empty soulless Casing, as some of them had once held a vigil over Torrance’s technological - it surmised - Atlas generated Grave Marker. Even mundane advanced science here could occasionally feel arcane enough. They had been afraid to move Gryll’s fallen shell at all, lest he needed to stay exactly where he was to return via some perhaps - range limited - wireless system of mystic data stream connection. Though at that time they were not at all positive he would return. All they could do was try and hold a little blind faith, a little unsubstantiated belief. Perhaps for Jhasq such faith had been moderately easier, Efor knew he had struggled to stay positive in that Ring Road under the local intruding vibes though he had lied. The not knowing almost anything - but suspecting far too much - making the wait that much more difficult for him. It was not as if the vigil had any fixed timetable. They did not even know if that early Pulse a purposeful ambushing attack, though to both of them the timing seemed increasingly worryingly suspicious. So suspicious they feared it could easily be part of a wider engagement that might see malicious locals of some manner soon physically assaulting their now depleted party.
With only Jhasq and himself left to keep watch it felt a paltry defence, Nahrl off scouting. Jhasq had wanted to immediately inform and recall Nahrl, but Efor remembered arguing against that plan. Telling her not to trouble her friend’s mind. Likely Nahrl could not make it back in time - if truly needed. Whilst Efor firmly doubted Nahrl could do anything more for Gryll than they were doing already, which seemed precious little. Although the Gek had not framed any of it quite that way. Among the things he purposely didn’t say back then was that Nahrl was likely better off well out of it. Being distant to the peril of the Ring Road and perhaps therefore if it all went truly disastrously wrong at least one of them might survive - soul intact. Efor almost tempted to tell Jhasq to go find Nahrl too. Since one less person guarding over the empty Casing wouldn’t make that much difference either. However, in the end, - shamefully - the thought of being left alone in that place with just the soulless shell of the Korvax / Traveller for company had been too much for him, so selfishly he had kept her close rather than sending her away to greater safety. Thinking about that now making him hate himself, reminding him of the worst of his old selfish, by any means, survival instincts.
Truth was, some old Blood Cult Gek part of him had felt the Dark in there - all along - instantly recognising it exactly for what it was. On the surface, he had simply refused to believe what that wicked younger Gek knew and accepted without question, especially refusing to submit to said realisation since that making it more threateningly real. Although at the time all those aversions less than fully conscious.
The sad fact being that having once struggled so hard to escape some perils, he realised now, it was proving incredibly difficult to venture back into that old headspace. Oh it was different, in different conditions, then he might deal with the nature of such dire things at a remove - even talk about them within reason glibly - jokingly - without feeling an utterly overmastered and powerlessly insignificant young Gek again. The idea of any huge Dark making him feel very small and useless. Thus he much preferred to avoid that level of occult discussion. So he had no doubt subconsciously convinced himself, as he approached the Ring Road, (without truly realising it at the time), that it was all in his once Blood Cult Gek drug addled head. Just some vile creeping shadow of an ill past, a stalking misaligned timbre of recollection - one of those more dreadfully haunting infamous unbidden memories that ambushes you with false associations on occasion.
In review it easier to accept these facts now - somewhat removed - from the dire shadow. In a way it was almost as if it had previously subconsciously silenced himself via the bloody stain of old terrors. Initially finding it virtually impossible to admit such a thing could be here, until others broke that spell somewhat by hinting at the idea first, giving him a little mental space to address it - less personally - as just a removed concept of a threat. Initially though, he had fixated firmly on all the too obvious - non cultish - aspects of the site. Its hard technological metal surfaces, the bright light so opposite to inky Blood Cult sanctums, ritual spaces and shrines, the almost Korvax cleanliness feeling especially alien to Dark summoning spots he knew about. The lack of any - matching to the vibe - blood splattered ritual daubs, no stink of loosed bowels from the murdered, the absence of the singed stench of sacrificed flesh. No smothering aroma from ritual drug dispensing censers to elate but also on some level to equally sedate the mind to what was about to happen.
You were not supposed to encounter even a whisper of a Dark in cold crisp daily spaces with the mind laid mundane bare - fully alert and awake - it ran counter to all Blood Cult tradition and protections. Without the drugs and the frenzy, without the miasma of the entire scene it all too cold, too horribly real.
Efor groaned softly to himself. For it was still there, more distant now, but currently all around them - ringing them - with its menace. Stronger where they were closer to the circumference, that direction making sense being pretty much the site they departed from when leaving the Ring Road. Was it embodied in Causeway material within the actual Ring Road itself? Did that circle house the specific awake part of this Nanotech Demon, he wondered, or was it only connected to that area, in a technologically broader system sense, via parts of the greater mechanism so that, for example, its projected emissions leaked out from those triple damned Pillars.
Any Dark emissions perhaps occurring on a sideband channel compared to the historic Pulse so troubling Gryll. Efor didn’t know for certain, he supposed he could question Praxis about these fine details during the proposed Communications Conference, once they linked up physically with Nahrl. Although a part of him didn’t want to go there at all. It seeming unwise to even appear to take a deeper interest in that topic.
Closely dealing with a Dark - far above his Tier - even when he had been actively in the Cult. The last thing he wanted, (around that sensed thing), was to be misjudged as some kind of local Gek Cult expert and thus be pushed forward into interacting with it. Efor knew he was no longer equipped mentally or spiritually for that level of engagement with such a truly malign alien power. There was too much he didn’t know or really understand anymore, and far, far too much fear resting deep within him from his former life, far too little faith as well. Worse, a part of him felt he had long ago sold his soul to the Darks: That on some level, (due to his old Cult participation), they knew him and might in close proximity possess him. This Dark loosed potentially reclaiming him in the manner that an owner reclaims mastery over a recaptured runaway slave with scorn.
With luck they would not be going back to that Ring Road. Ideally they would kill, drive off or negotiate the Smugglers from the City, rescue Tor, call in their star ships and just fly away from this Dark blighted place. This was no site for a renounced Blood Cult Gek. Abel Praxis could have his Ancient City back. Then let the KVC or some such meddlers assist with banishing the local resident techno devil - if they dared. When it proved gone, then he might consider returning to explore deeper, otherwise it was none of his Spawning business. What kind of Mad Scientist Gek binds a Dark - of all things - into all that Planet circling Causeway structure? Tor no doubt thought it an abomination that Geskhan had dared to play with some few spores of the Overmind of Monopods to grow his Dark Dreamer. Haa! Compared to Hexahlmoz, if loosed, the Dark Dreamer of old a mere pretender no more than a shadow of a shadow of a shadow of that deeper First Darkness menace.
To the Dark, (on some bizarre esoteric level), it might just be a lost soul far from its home, but to them: To the Star Born maggots crawling through the flesh of this world it was the ultimate nemesis: The very embodiment of primordial outer wrath. Spawn that! As soon as possible he planned to be gone. Then he thought about his friends, such as the Fox Jhasq walking before him, and Efor felt a stab of guilt and remorse at his Modern Gek impulse towards cowardly flight. He had promised to help save them from the Dark Taint hanging over them: From the legacy of Geskhan as their Maker Father. They had not chosen to be born to that ill source, and the Foxes at least had proved worth far more than their origins might suggest.
Moreover, his aid supposed to be part of ongoing contrition for the sins of his youth. If Hexahlmoz was not a legacy of Geskhan, he did not know what was. Terrified or not of the Dark, he couldn’t abandon them now, just as he told Tor back at his Shadow Copse Cave Base. Back then they had both reaffirmed their commitment to returning to Hellespae and their Uplift friends. The Traveller had other place to be too, and plenty of his own old fears and foes. Tor surely yet haunted by Reefee and his lost 8 Interns among other matters. Yet he had come back to try and help put some matters right the best he could.
Besides, Efor self mocked, fleeing away would be really bad for the old FlyGek reputation.
The Gek deciding he simply needed to start doing better, almost letting the Jungle defeat him earlier as well not good enough. Now those plants compared to knowledge of the Dark seemed pretty cursed tame foes. Though smarter people might flee any Dark, maybe it time to be a silly Gek. Maybe it was even finally his time to pay for the things he had done before. From yourself there is ultimately no easy escape. Besides, it was different here: That it possibly being summoned and bound by science - not pacts - might prove a good thing after all. He knew nothing. Maybe that meant his worst fears founded on nothing too. Maybe here science might prevail. According to Gryll, Praxis seemed to think it so, that he knew a way to clean his home, perhaps that one did. Maybe, Efor decided, he just needed to find some faith in more local machines.
Meanwhile, they all had other mundane issues to settle including a looming first contact with the City Warren folk.
For her part Jhasq happy to be moving again rather than waiting back at that weird Ring Road with its unsettling soul stealing pillars. Those begged many questions, even beyond the Dark held somewhere beyond them. What was the purpose of that place, Jhasq wondered, could it all be linked into moving Hellespae through the dimensional realities, or could there be far more to it. Did Geskhan only want to hide his world or did he want to explore regions beyond imagination, moreover undertaking rare experiments there? She couldn’t help feeling Geskhan’s doings with the Causeways beyond anything anyone suggesting so far.
The more she learned about the Causeways, the more extraordinary they seemed. It confounded her that Geskhan decided he needed Dark Mass as part of his world spanning constructs. It had to be something intrinsically different about the Darks, something beyond local nanite swarms, such surely an abiding factor. Perhaps the Dark’s age or complexity, then she wondered if she might be overcomplicating everything. Maybe it simply First Spawn vanity. The GekSpawn Geskhan seeking to prove he could master even a fabled Dark by incorporating one as a mere component in a, (to his mind), greater machine of his own devising. Maybe doing that as a counter to Imperial Blood Cult religious dogma, an almost defiant heretical scientific proof of the superiority of his ways over their arcane hokum.
For all she knew it could indeed be a big Spawn You! to the Imperial Blood Cult. In fact, she easily imagined such motivation as likely as any purely functional purpose. In his own way, Jhasq suspected, their Father Maker always a GekSpawn rebel pushing at every accepted boundary of his society. Ultimately, his independent streak and refusal to fully conform bringing the First Spawn Inquisition detrimentally to Hellespae. Jhasq wondering if Geskhan had arrogantly believed his simple notoriety would always keep him safe, despite any affronts made to his Monarch and broader First Spawn social norms. Perhaps he even considered himself simply too vitally useful to their broader causes to be lightly cast aside never mind casually rudely disposed of. Sadly, during times of great crisis, social parameters can shift alarmingly.
Then she wondered if any Fox really knew their legendary Father at all, only storied representations as scripted by Elder Foxes and external out of time perspectives from distant off world folk, none of which necessarily perfectly reliable due to creeping politics and species prejudices. Of course, they had the short limited encounters within the Grand Warren to work with, but little enough said to Bwathan and then Torrance. Mostly Jhasq realised she judged Geskhan by previous works, sadly for Geskhan including his creation of the Dark Dreamer. Yet, were they wrong to hold that particular infamy - so deeply - against him. Anyone can make a few mistakes, yet the enormity of the consequences were hard to set aside. Whilst Jhasq was not sure the surviving Digital Geskhan had necessarily learned any of the right lessons from that historic debacle that had lasted so long and cruelly reshaped so much of Hellespae life for all Uplifts.
Of course, her kind only existed due to Geskhan’s interventions. It not always easy to judge your Maker, a part of you felt a little presumptively guilty even somewhat blasphemous. Yet she found it hard to revere and love her Maker Father as she did her spiritual concept of the Mother. Jhasq ironically having to admit that partly, in the now, her easy faith in the Mother might be because she was less real, being more of an ideal personification than a living breathing person. Now Geskhan felt too real, and as a real person, it easier to note and judge his many faults and failings. Yet he was more than real too, also being their mythical Father, the founder of everything they knew on Hellespae that not easy to discount.
Meanwhile, things kept happening that forced her to rethink some of her more limited conceptualisations about such things as the very nature of being sentient and a person. Perhaps the digital copy of Geskhan really was their Father as much as the original fleshy Gek. That one bothering her whenever she now thought about Gryll. How he could somehow be both a Traveller and a digital Appearance Modified Korvax and be accepted as both by those of them in the know and loved no less as Gryll. How his digital soul could be ripped out and replaced again, and again Gryll, to them all, still be Gryll. Surely then - on some level - it hypocritical to judge Geskhan differently for being digital disembodied. Yet with the Digital Echo of Geskhan they kept clinging desperately to that small prejudice that he was no longer - the real thing - only an insubstantial diverging ghostly copy that to some degree making casting their Maker aside - a bit easier - a bit cleaner. They were not betraying their real Father, their real Maker long dead and gone. Yet what about rebirth? Even Tor was reborn and accepted. Really such prejudice increasingly did not hold up well to any less slanted scrutiny and it niggled at her sense of intelligent logic to deny facts for convenience.
Where they doing Geskhan and themselves a disservice by clinging to a lie simply to make themselves feel better. Surely, if the deed of casting aside their Father had to be done, it should at least be done honestly. Yet treating Geskhan too fairly felt dangerously naive. It too easy to start thinking no parent ever perfect, no family without troubles. Start being too reasonable though - with a habitually abusing personality - and you might as well surrender, deciding that more might be gained via engagement rather than flight, by forgiveness rather than holding to account. Whilst the idea of engaging with Geskhan felt terribly corrupting, possibly betraying every small Fox social advancement made since The Fall. Nothing about it all though felt simple. Even Nahrl’s exodus plan, (whilst on the surface all well and good), presently felt a bit false. If Geskhan had plans for his Uplifts, he would surely not find it hard to track them down even as exiles, perhaps via his communication links with the Tusks. That making any plan of an easy escape feel a dream.
Whilst if they really wanted answers to some difficult questions about their genesis surely too many things only Geskhan might ever explain. Instead, their Father now technically monopolised by the KVC. Jhasq unsure how she ought to feel about that too, some of these matters not getting any clearer in her head. Worse she did not feel she could talk to many about these things. They were too politically charged and might even cause her loyalty to be questioned unjustly. Meanwhile, she knew that the survival of the Digital Echo of Geskhan scared her, and that was not easy to admit either. He troubled her almost as much as the idea of a Dark being bound into the bones of their world just waiting to break free. Surely, that ill another mistake made by their Maker for which he should be judged.
Then reconsidering maybe Geskhan did not terrify her as much as the Dark, he just scared her in a presently more real, intimate and confusing manner.
The Digital Echo even made her think again about who they all really were. It one thing to believe in reincarnation another to confront that mechanism as science rather than faith. It made reality seem more complex and unpredictable. Full of technological ghosts: Digital souls cycling in and out of material existence… It truly bringing home the broad concept of being melded within a wider Great Machine environment in a personal manner, as in a way did the very existence of a Dark here as something from outside the usual limits of their known system. Again, it felt one rational thing to know of some lore stories - myths and legends - something else again to have to fully consolidate such matters rationally into a daily working existence as for example a part of the Pentacle.
Some knowledge, fully appreciated, Jhasq decided, had to change you, altering everything in profound ways as much as those so-called Reality Shift Cascades that Tor got so excited about on occasion. That cast scary shadows of menace over her mind as well.
submitted by Brain_evacuated to NmsMindwarArchive