Spring ::Lucent, Varanim, Zahara, I would be grateful of your assistance in the infirmary.::
Varanim shows up with a promptness that is quite unnatural for her.
Lucent gets there guided by Varanim, blindfold over his eyes.
Spring "Greetings. Thank you for your quick response." Spring is sitting on the edge of one of the spare hospital beds, idly contemplating his glowing finger.
zahara "What is going on? Is someone hurt... or need to be?"
Varanim "You have more necrotic Essence in your little finger than I have in my entire body right now. Obviously, I want to see what freaky thing you're going to do with it."
Lucent "... what? Spring, are you hurt?" Lucent tries to reach him, making a flower jar crash to the ground
Spring "I am attempting to diagnose the illness that the Sun possesses, using only my little finger."
Spring "Your help would be most appreciated."
Spring catches the jar with a foot and lets it roll idly away. "I understand you are acquainted, as I am, with the techniques for investigating and curing Essence diseases."
Varanim "He's talking to you," Varanim adds helpfully to Lucent, poking his arm.]
Spring "Varanim, I have a suspicion that this disease is not wholly distinct from the Creeping Black Sun Sickness."
Spring "Perhaps you might have some thoughts on it."
Spring ::Zahara, I would be grateful if you ensured that Lucent and Varanim do not fall into argument and destroy my psyche.::
Lucent "Oh. A moment, then, if I am to diagnose this..."
Lucent begins to take the blindfold off... and from his eyes, the light of exaltation pours fourth! Perfect Topaz eyes, with every movement shining another light of heaven! "I can see like heaven! Lightsight!" He looks upon Spring's finger. "Hmmm. I think we would need to see more than your finger. This is... rooted deep."
zahara ::If that is at all possible, I shall accomplish it.::
Spring "I have sealed it off so that it cannot penetrate the remainder of my system. Unfortunately, that may make it difficult for you to reach."
Varanim "What the hell was wrong with your old eyes?" Varanim asks after a moment of blinking at Lucent.
zahara "Perhaps he wanted to get in on the body-part replacement trend," she says, gesturing to Varanim's arm and Spring's eyes
Lucent "Not good enough." He nods, touching Spring's finger. "I am not perfect at Necromantic Diseases per se, so I believe you have come to the same conclusion I have, Spring -- that I will need to get the doctors to look at this from the inside. Could you let it slide to the throne chakra? I think it flows naturally to that direction, and might make it easier."
Spring "I am not sure I can keep it under control if I release it now that it has time to incubate. I will try to realign my chakras to bring the entry point nearer your goal."
Spring "Shall we begin?"
Lucent "Right." Lucent takes hold of Spring's hand as if to dance, placing his other hand on Spring's forehead, over the Caste Mark. He closes his eyes for a moment, feeling Spring's Essence, mapping it with his new eyes. "Varanim, Zahara, I need each of you to touch to specific chakras, mine and Spring's. Right here..." He notes them. "That will allow the Essence to pass through you and guide you. It might hurt some."
Varanim nods, laying two fingers neatly on the indicated spot.
Spring closes his eyes and begins the delicate process of meditation.
Lucent begins to flare. "Spring, open your Essence to them. I will need your help here..." Sending others with one of them was only something discussed in theory, but if this could aid them in saving the Sun.. "Now!" Crystalline, Sunlight-warm Essence poured forth... drawing the gaze of their consciousness into Spring!
zahara touches the chakras lightly, watching the process with curiosity... and then her gaze shifts...
Spring There isn't darkness. Darkness is the absence of light, but that implies the awareness of light - that light is a meaningful concept.
Spring There is no darkness...just nothing, for a moment or two, and then, suddenly, a bright purple light, that fades to normalcy, and the feeling of an arachnid skittering in the back of your eye socket.
Spring There is a tree. Above them, below them, to every side of the Exalts, there are twisting, bending, growing branches. They stand at a junction, and countless branches snake forth in every direction, inscribed ever so intricately with words that are difficult to make out.
Varanim "Huh." Varanim rolls her eyes experimentally, then immediately kneels to get a closer look at the densely inscribed bark.
Lucent "I prefer insects to stay outside my skin."
Spring The bark appears to contain some sort of extremely detailed agenda or plan of action, with entries such as "eat breakfast", "locate useful documents using charms", and "disable Imrama using mortal assistance as fodder."
Varanim "Which way is upstream?" Varanim asks Lucent, running her fingers thoughtfully over the plan whorl at her feet.
Lucent points to a direction that feels right from his earlier diagram of Spring's Soul.
Lucent "That way!"
Spring *The particular branch Varanim is examining
zahara "They are not insects, they are hundredfold."
Lucent "So the Dragon Kings are neither dragons, nor reptiles?"
Varanim heads in the direction Lucent pointed, keeping a casual eye on the words at her feet.
Spring As soon as Varanim takes a step the branch breaks cleanly off, leaving her just a moment to scramble back to safety.
Lucent "Varanim!" He reaches out to her, cursing his armor does not work in a metaphorical state!
Spring A fluid drips from the cracked wood where the branch once was. After a moment, it is clear that it is blood. A drop or two falls from above them, and it can be seen that many, if not most of the branches, are leaking blood from their few cracks and joins.
Varanim jumps back, landing safely if not exactly gracefully.
Spring "It's kind of a dangerous situation, huh?"
Lucent "... who?"
Spring The three become aware of a lithe young man standing behind them, a lopsided grin on his eyeless face. His chest is bare, and on it can be seen, inscribed in uncomfortably real-looking flaming ink, the image of a golden spear.
zahara "So much of life is."
Thirteen "There's really only one safe way to go."
Thirteen "It looks like you have a lot of options, but in the end...there's really just one."
Lucent "Thirteen!" He points. "And... that would be?"
Varanim had bent to touch her fingers to the blood when the new arrival appeared. After turning to look at him for a moment, she absently licks her fingers while the others talk.
Thirteen "Oh, I'll show you. But, first...what are you doing here?"
Thirteen It tastes like human blood, assuming Varanim can identify human blood by taste.
Lucent "We are here to help a friend and save the sun."
Varanim "I doubt he needs my help, but it's an interesting problem," Varanim clarifies her own participation for the sake of accuracy.
Thirteen "Hmf. Any idea what, specifically, you're looking for?"
zahara "Indeed. We've come to investigate the blackish bits of your essence."
Lucent looks him up and down. Thirteen. "A shadow."
Thirteen "Oh. That." He wrinkles his nose.
Thirteen "You'll have to go through all the old sections for that."
Thirteen "You sure?"
Varanim "Pretty sure."
Lucent "Yes. He is my friend." Lucent steps in that direction. "Why is there blood in the tree?"
Thirteen "Where do YOU keep the blood you spill?"
Lucent "I do not KEEP it. It spills. It is for the ground to keep."
zahara "I'd tell you, but I'd have to kill you."
Thirteen "Well, when you spill blood on the ground, trees grow. That's one of the useful things about blood, you can grow things with it. Better things, I guess."
Varanim "And thence to the trees," she says to Lucent's response. "Nothing is wasted."
Thirteen "See, she's got it. Hang on to that one, kid."
Thirteen squats, and taps a branch. "Take this path, and then take the first right, and then head downwards. You'll get where you're going."
Varanim "Is the path going to fall off again?"
Thirteen "Not as long as you go the right way."
Lucent starts that path. "Why did that one break so easily?"
Thirteen "Because you were lucky."
Thirteen "Sometimes you don't find out you went the wrong way until it's too late to go back."
Lucent "... we would have taken you back, you know."
Thirteen "Then you're forgiving. The dead are not. Right, miss?"
zahara "The dead don't need to forgive. The living do."
Varanim "No better at it than the living, on average."
Varanim watches as they go, to see if they're climbing or descending.
Thirteen The branch the group treads upon is the thinnest branch of them all -- to either side, blackness gapes below them, and balancing on it is a challenge even for their erstwhile guide, who seems to have difficulty travelling it even though he has clearly done it many times before.
Thirteen "The living need to be forgiven more than they need to forgive sometimes."
Thirteen It seems, at the moment, that the group is travelling generally horizontally, but the branches they head towards seem to trend downwards.
Lucent "You did not kill that many, either. You stopped bloodshed on Wasirru." He almost falls, even nimble as he is, but ends up keeping his balance after only one broken branch. "We all have done horrible things. Except for Varanim."
Thirteen says nothing, but points down at the gap below them. On the one side of the branch, in carefully precise detail, the destruction of Gem can be seen, the buildings melting under the onslaught of the infernal Essence, glowing painfully red and crumbling, the people running out of them, screaming.
Thirteen On the other side of the branch, the Battle of the Summer Palace plays itself out, the mass of Chayan mortals hurling themselves, spellbound, headlong into the maw of destruction at the hands of Lai's demon troops.
Thirteen Then they change -- the fight against Shikaya on one side, the time Thirteen brutalized a pair of Atomnosian guards on the other. Another flicker, and they change again, this time depicting two Wassiru battles that the Solars are unfamiliar with, a younger Thirteen leading the charge. And they change again, and again...
Varanim "No exceptions needed," Varanim calmly corrects as she follows slowly after, eyes on the narrow branch.
Thirteen "Don't tell me I didn't kill many. I killed plenty. That was my job. That was what I did, and I did it damn well."
Thirteen "I don't tell you you don't brainwash people, do I?"
zahara "You did kill plenty, and damn well. I only wish I had your prowess in battle."
Lucent "Yes, you are Thirteen alright."