- 1 The World
- 2 The Soul
- 2.1 Development
- 2.2 Properties
- 2.3 Structure
- 3 Magic
The world as we know it, Reality, is but one component of the complete and endless world around us, a single piece of a complex system of interconnected parallel universes. This system is the endless Dimensional Spectrum, each color another phase, another dimension of the complete world. The spectrum’s deepest reaches are the foundation of Fantasy, born from the thoughts, imaginations, dreams, emotions, and ambitions of beings across every infinity. A “space” that doesn’t exist in a comprehensible way, Fantasy exists as the desire for change and impossibility throughout all things. Reality is what is physically possible, the true, while Fantasy is the impossible, the fake.
All the different realities across the spectrum exist at different depths, and the deeper one gets, the more the world is subject to flux, impossibility, and physical errors. Some are completely subject to Reality, incapable of breaking free from its laws under normal circumstances, but others, deeper in Fantasy, find that they have the tools to bend physics and its rules. This is magic, the process of manifesting one’s will to alter the world around them, manipulating Fantasy itself to manifest the impossible. The extent to which magic can enact change varies depending on the depth of the universe, but wherever Fantasy exists, Reality will attempt to reassert itself to erase the falsehoods, through a force known as reality pressure. In some worlds, deep inside the spectrum, however, the rules reverse themself, and Fantasy is the norm against which Reality strives.
With sufficient power and effort, an agent - one that acts or exerts power; a user of magic - can outright break the laws of physics and seize complete control of their own fate. The potential for magic exists everywhere and within everything, and can be sought out and taken by any who can make an effort, even if some universes that tread shallower waters in the spectrum make it particularly difficult for those who aspire towards it. Magic is amplified by strong emotions, growing more powerful in response to greater need and more intense feelings. As it is influenced by the emotions, beliefs, and desires of people, the ways Fantasy manifests itself within different universes are invariably affected by how people perceive and think about the world. The world is, in many ways, not only defined, but controlled by those who perceive it, and by how they perceive it.
The world, whether it be Reality or Fantasy, has no overarching concepts, forms, or universals. Any that seem to exist are merely imposed by another agent for their own purposes. “Concepts” are merely ideas, the categories and viewpoints individuals use to compartmentalize and understand the world around them, and they exist within only the consciousness of these observers. Magic, however, can aid in the manifestation of concepts, and these concepts, reflecting the mindset and beliefs of an agent, affect their magic and how it operates more than anything else. Through magic, one enforces their own perception, and so a battle of magic is not just a fight - it is a clash of individuals and a communication of ideals.
The soul is commonly believed to be the magical manifestation of Fantasy within all things, though this may not be a particularly accurate description. The truest nature of the soul is not known, though many theories exist - some believe it is an inherent and vital part of living things, others believe the soul is parasitic in nature, and some believe that souls and living bodies came together in mutualistic symbiosis. No matter what it is, the soul is central to the usage of magic in those beings and worlds in which it exists. The exact mechanics of the soul vary from universe to universe, from planet to planet, from organism to organism, and even from individual to individual. Because of this, a knowledgeable agent could determine the origin of a soul through simple analysis, but of course, this is easier said than done.
Naturally, the study of the soul is of huge interest in any civilization that has discovered their existence. This study is known as spiritual theory, and its practitioners, spiritual theorists. Those who exercise their spiritual research and work on the most complex level, reaching even the inner world, are also known as inner world operators. Despite the countless years of research that many have put into the soul, there remains no complete theory or understanding, and many outstanding issues in spiritual theory. Compared to the physical world, the soul is abstract and even incomprehensible, anathema to basic physics and operating on completely different laws and ideas. These rules are sometimes called psychic laws, existing in contrast to the physical laws we know.
In most physical beings, such as humans, the soul relies on the body for structure, without which it would dissipate, and it is in turn shaped by the consciousness of the organism and whatever acts as their nervous system. As the organism develops, the soul acts as a record for their consciousness - their thoughts, emotions, experiences, and even brainwaves. This process, spiritual feedback, is part of a grander process known as spiritual expression, and is what defines the soul, eventually shaping it to be what is, in essence, an abstract embodiment of the individual and an incorporeal record of their existence. However, for those who don’t use magic, the soul isn’t of much use, and will inevitably record harmful things such as severe brain damage and any effects it may have on their personality.
For agents, however, things are different. The more someone uses the magic, the more they enrich their soul, expanding its power and influence. The circuit that is created by the union of their nervous system and soul grows, and its power becomes fully available, granting them a heightened, extrasensory awareness of the world around them and the ability to call upon increasingly high levels of magical energy. This is thanks to the soul’s connection to Fantasy, and because of the manner in which it “completes” the nervous system, it also allows for higher levels of thought and information processing. As a result, unlike a regular human, an agent who survives a life-changing brain injury is likely to retain their memories and original personality, so long as their soul wasn’t directly harmed.
Spiritual expression is not a one-way road, however. Just as the body can change the soul, the soul can change the body, a process called spiritual translation. Due to the nature of its existence, a person’s actions, emotions, and memories can be controlled through the manipulation of the soul, and catastrophic damage to the record will take a heavy toll on the body. When an individual’s soul is badly damaged and loses its form, they will follow, dropping dead as their nervous system is fried to a crisp and every other vital system simply ceases to function. Even if they should be able to survive such a fate, the loss of the soul kills them anyways. Though agents have to worry about this issue just like anyone else, their use of magic allows them to better protect their soul, and even if someone seizes control of their action, they will retain their consciousness and identity underneath, to some extent.
Spiritual translation has positives too, though, as it also helps maintain an agent’s identity. It is the process through which an agent’s magic is empowered, whether by the intensity of their own emotions, or by the truest nature of their own selves. While one half of spiritual expression dictates the self, the other assists the self in dictating reality. One of the most notable forms in which this may manifest is in an agent’s body, as spiritual translation can modify this form to better match their desires and self-image. Usually, this just serves to maintain someone’s appearance, and it can’t be used for shapeshifting right out the gate, but over time, an agent can learn to control it better, and perform bigger changes if necessary or desired. With agents less dependent on the body, this is a bigger process, and exerts much more control over how they appear.
Still, most agents remain dependent on their body, despite their connection to the soul. Even if they can retain certain things that a normal person wouldn’t after brain trauma, that’s only of any consequence if they survive said brain trauma. Without proper precautions and the right set of knowledge, the soul can’t do anything to save the body from a lethal injury. To increase their own survivability, an agent must take the steps to become less dependent on something as flimsy as a body and instead shift their focus to the soul. With the time to expand their knowledge and ability, an agent could potentially survive in inhospitable conditions and live through injuries that would instantly kill any ordinary human. This is often supported or enabled by magical processes such as body hopping or regeneration.
But, in the end, most agents still need their body, even if just a little. Sure, they might be able to survive having their body incinerated, but the soul still needs a container, and if it goes too long without one, it will eventually dissipate into nothing. This may take anywhere from just a few minutes to many years, but it will still happen sooner or later, even faster than usual if the soul isn’t in good condition. However, through apotheosis, an agent can rise to the level of a god, transcending their body and becoming an immortal existence that has surpassed death.
These agents, which are quite rare, have no need for a container and can exist as just as a soul and nothing else - though many choose to stay in their bodies, so as to maintain their sense of self and avoid wandering too far from “humanity” (or whatever analogue). The road to apotheosis is long and complex, requiring vast knowledge of the body and soul, and it is generally believed that each person has a different route they must follow in its pursuit. Certainly, simply possessing knowledge is not enough - one must have enough of some indescribable “experience”, which may actually be more vital than research. Regardless, achieving apotheosis is necessary to fully access the power of an inner world, as that is the point at which an individual’s personal reality is strong enough to stand up against the cruel weight of external Reality. But that takes just as much time and effort, too - if not more.
These ideas and rules only apply to those who exist as a body and a soul, as there are many who exist as a purely spiritual existence, such as stray spirits and angels. They cannot be truly said to have achieved apotheosis, as such a thing was never really a concern for them. Apotheosis is only relevant to mortals, those born without magic, and those who have to strive to oppose Reality and its challenges. In addition, souls are not actually an absolute necessity for life or the use of magic, and there are beings who exist without them, a state of being that has its own set of pros and cons.
Wherever magic arises, an inevitable area of interest for those who practice it is the development of artificial souls, a concept that is closely linked to that of artificial intelligence. After all, if one is able to create a complex enough soul, said soul should be fully capable of replicating the self-awareness and capacity for abstract reasoning possessed by its creators. There are many different approaches to this practice, pursued by many agents over time and across Reality.
The simplest, and thus most common, of these methods is simply triggering the creation of a new soul. On Earth, this was most often done by writing a detailed magical script, which would be executed by a processor. Over the course of some time, usually a year, this script would produce a soul as simple as that of any newborn human, with this processor as the container. Given the environment and time necessary, this soul would gradually mature, generally faster than a human, developing a growing self-awareness and undergoing the same process of spiritual expression.
It should be noted that ‘simple’ is only relative. Even the most basic approaches to the creation of a soul are complex, requiring extensive research, time, and testing to properly execute. The less elaborate the soul, the simpler the code, and the simpler the result; it’s much easier to create a simple sort of animal than any truly self-aware being. In addition, any mistakes in the base program will show through in the final result - similarly to more conventional genetic disorders, and quite significantly ranging in severity.
Perhaps more notably, the soul normally developed by a process like this will be one as capable of independent action as any intelligent lifeform. For many, this is an issue, as artificial beings are likely to be created with some sort of purpose, such as performing dangerous or difficult work. Such artificial souls, created for function, are often referred to as service AI, while those capable of truly free thought are called civilian AI. Depending on the soul in question, creating a service AI can be easier or harder than their civilian counterparts. After all, they don’t necessarily need to replicate any recognizably human emotions, though their work and the knowledge required may take up a lot of room and effort anyways.
On the other hand, however, is the most complicated method of soul creation; inner world creation. While most schools of thought on the matter simply create a soul and allow it to develop on its own, although potentially in a closed environment and within certain guidelines, there are a few who seek to create and refine souls through the most fundamental of channels. This is well-known to be extremely difficult, with many thinking of it as basically impossible, but there are those who have succeeded in creating proper designer inner worlds.
The process is incredibly complicated, difficult, and risky, as it must not only define the soul, but all of its innermost values. The beings that exist as a result are almost always service AI focused on incredibly specific and demanding tasks. Why else would one go through the trouble?
Some souls don’t develop properly, and are left with an enduring, inescapable lack of definition. This can happen as a result of many different extenuating circumstances, such as a particularly psychologically or spiritually inhospitable environment, random spiritual mutation, or mistakes in an attempt to create a new soul or inner world from scratch. Those with these empty souls are often plagued by severe identity issues, and what seems to be an absence of emotions.
Agents with empty souls are often unable to properly empower their own magic through their own emotion, meaning that their spells are typically weaker, and they are typically rather frail. Many end up particularly single-minded, focused on certain pursuits, and developing magic that is often suitably gimmicky and strange. While there are those who have tried, curing spiritual emptiness is not really possible, and though many associate them with weakness, there are quite a number of agents with empty souls who have become experts in their fields.
Indeed, though they remain limited in many situations, when afforded the time to realize their potential, agents with empty souls showcase extremely powerful inner worlds that can outstrip the competition by a fair margin, lacking barriers that would prevent others from developing functionality and power above all else.
When an individual dies while undergoing intense emotion, they may unknowingly engrave their dying self into their soul, kicking into motion a poorly understood series of processes that will result in the soul temporarily surviving the death of the body. Their soul will become what is known as a ghost, a stray existence kept together only by the intensity of their final moments and emotions.
Ghosts are far rarer than one would expect, and it has been estimated that, on Earth, only one in one million deaths resulted in a ghost. However, this is likely to be wildly inaccurate, as it has been found that many ghosts only survive for a few minutes or hours after death, quickly dissipating into nothing. A few last for days, even fewer for months, and so on. Of course, some argue that the definition of a ghost should only apply to those that persist for a longer period of time.
Unfortunately for ghosts, undeath is often a miserable existence, and many see ghosts as pests, and thus set out to put them out of their misery. Others believe these spirits should be helped, whether this means aiding them in peacefully passing on or giving them a new body to keep them together, and another shot at life. Not even this is bound to be easy for a ghost, however, due to the nature of their existence, as their dying moments will stay with them forever and are likely to have significantly damaged their souls. Future spiritual feedback would become difficult and may operate in strange, unusual ways, leading to things like physical injuries appearing for seemingly no reason.
A particularly unlucky group are the ghosts of children, which rarely survive longer than a day - a child’s ghost surviving for even a year is unheard of, to the point that the idea is laughable. After all, what kind of child has not only the capacity to understand exactly what they’re going through, especially after the trauma of death, but also the willpower to stubbornly persist anyways?
Of course, even if a child’s ghost was able to get a second shot at life and a new body, their soul would not have undergone the complete process of spiritual feedback needed to fully develop. This is without getting into the horrible scars the spiritual trauma would leave, all of which would damage future spiritual feedback. A child’s ghost would be partially suspended in time, incapable of taking the steps to grow all the way and become whole; almost as if part of them is forever stuck in their childhood, even as their experiences bring them to adulthood.
Not that that would ever happen.
Many agents, for whatever reason, believe that apotheosis on its own is not enough, that an individual can perfect themselves even further and transcend their soul, too, becoming a raw conceptual being. Most often, this idea is called simply second apotheosis, although other terms for it exist. Unlike apotheosis, which, while not exactly widespread, is something many individuals reach across the universe, second apotheosis remains something much more theoretical and mysterious. There are those who have transcended their souls, but the methods vary, as do the end results, while apotheosis is much more straightforward once one gets to that point.
One theory that holds second apotheosis in particularly high regard is the theory that souls and other beings were not originally connected at all. Proponents of this theory believe that, as mitochondria evolved from stray bacteria to become part of eukaryotic beings, souls evolved to become integral to the existence of most beings in not just our universe, but all universes. This connection would give the physical a greater connection to Fantasy, while it would give a form and container to the spiritual, allowing them to more easily influence the physical world.
Many who subscribe to this theory thereby believe that bodies die when their souls do because of a placebo (or, more accurately, nocebo) effect; because the individual believes on a deep subconscious level that they would die if this most abstract part of their self was destroyed. This theory says that, eventually, an individual will be able to transcend this aspect of their self and realize that their soul is not necessary. After all, the brain contains all the information that makes up an individual's identity, and a person can be completely changed by driving a pole through their skull.
Of course, theory is theory and practice is practice. While evidence can be pulled up, it has never been anything decisive, and it remains a matter of debate. Even if it were the case, it would not be easy for someone to convince themself that they don't need their soul. Plenty have tried, often even to prove the theory, and plenty have failed. Others have succeeded, but this means nothing; this is the power of a strong will, after all. Sheer force of personality can accomplish anything, as unreasonable as it may be.
Regardless, plenty of beings across the universe have managed to evolve past their souls in some form, becoming soulless beings. Many, but not all definitions of second apotheosis include such beings; the strictest definition is that second apotheosis applies only to those who have fully transcended body and soul to become purely conceptual beings, living ideas that exist only in an abstract form. Such a feat is believed by many to be impossible, but who’s to say?
As with apotheosis, beings who came into existence without a soul cannot be said to have achieved second apotheosis. It is another matter that is simply not relevant to them.
Traumatic Spiritual Feedback
Traumatic spiritual feedback occurs when an individual undergoes severe psychological trauma, of the sort that would result in posttraumatic stress disorder, and when the soul, following the same processes as ever, records this damage and its effects. Something that is already detrimental for the brain doesn’t exactly help the soul, either, burning the same fears, memories, and thought processes into the individual’s immortal register. As a result, even if the individual is an agent and even if their brain doesn’t matter to them, psychological trauma can still occur and persist, causing damage to the soul.
However, the soul is a tough thing, and will only grow stronger in the hands of agents. Just as it heals from all injury, the soul can recover from even the worst trauma. Even if the psychological issues it causes remain, the soul will grow hardier, as the strain drives it to heal stronger, the same way it responds to all harm. It is also worth noting that, though it does not fall under the blanket of ‘traumatic spiritual feedback’, the soul will also record other mental disorders, for better or worse.
Agency brings with it many possible abilities for an agent to make use of, some of which come more naturally than others. Learning how to access these powers and use them to their fullest is essential for anyone interested in properly exploiting their own newfound agency.
When an agent acts in a manner that is true to their inner world and self-perception, to the deepest facets of their identity and self, they may enter a state known as ego synchronization, or ego trance. In this state, an agent’s inner world resonates with the rest of their body and self, providing an all-around boost to their capabilities and providing better access to the powers of their inner world. The exact specifics of how an ego trance manifests vary depending on the agent, their inner world, and their circumstances.
Ego trance is generally a fairly rare phenomena, triggered only in response to certain events, but grows more and more common for an agent the more it occurs, and the more their inner world develops. The first few times an agent first achieves the state, it’s often inconsistent, flickering in and out over the course of a fight. But the more an agent enters ego trance, the easier it gets to trigger and maintain the state. Those rare few agents who have unlocked their inner worlds are often perpetually in a light ego trance, entering deeper trances during certain appropriate moments. Generally, it’d be more notable when such an agent isn’t in some form of trance, and it’s a lot harder to activate an inner world without being in one.
It’s completely possible for an outside force to break an agent’s synchronization through various measures, the most straightforward of which is severe spiritual damage. What can be just as effective, however, is when circumstances go against an agent’s self-image so critically that it becomes impossible to maintain the state.
Grounding is a staple technique widely used in combat between agents, one that is absolutely essential for properly handling and harming those who no longer depend on their body. It allows an agent to harm souls with their attacks, even those that are seemingly purely physical, like a punch. Advanced forms of grounding have even more applications, and on high levels of combat, agents mix up the use of many different grounding techniques. While usually meant to deal with souls, grounding is also useful against all sorts of disembodied consciousnesses, and can even reach the inner world when used properly.
This is done through a variety of methods, the most simple of which is interacting with and hitting the soul simultaneously, with an attack that can reach both body and spirit. Any practiced agent can do this with some effort, but this is often complicated by various defensive measures, such as barriers, or even something so simple as retracting the soul deeper into the body and moving it to avoid attacks. As a result, grounding must be performed through a variety of different tricks and techniques, each requiring a different response. One particularly common and useful method works by reverse engineering spiritual feedback, tricking the soul into damaging itself in response to physical harm. Others just transfer the injury through the link between body and spirit, though brute force like this often fails.
Clever, experienced, and powerful agents will almost certainly use a wide variety of grounding methods throughout a fight, making their attacks very difficult to properly defend against. If necessary, they create backdoors and connections where there were none, improvising new techniques on the spot. In the event that a target’s soul isn’t in their body, strong grounders can potentially exploit even a brief connection to reach and destroy it, or whatever information lies at the other end, from a distance. For example, if proper precautions haven’t been taken, and as long as a link exists, a lich’s phylactery can be destroyed from a distance by attacking a manifested body. It’s even possible to hit a target’s soul through someone whose mind they’re controlling, or through a duplicate that remains linked.
Countering grounding techniques isn’t always easy, but one of the most common ways to do so is a simple grounding reversal, which simply exploits the connection used by the attacker to send the attack back to them through this same path. This can be difficult, and it’s only really useful against certain grounding techniques, or similar abilities, but sometimes the basics work best. Besides, a defender can easily use this to open up a backdoor of their own.
An agent’s “radar” refers to a set of magical senses that are active by default, acting in order to support their sensory abilities, maintaining a constant, 360° image of their surroundings. This is projected straight into their mind for processing, acting with such greater precision that they can pick up extremely small disturbances and changes even at a great range. These magical senses are much more reliable than any conventional physical senses and won’t all for the same tricks, but novice agents still have a way to go when it comes to developing their radar. They’re still likely to depend on their physical senses, using their radar only for support.
The radar and all the magical senses it covers can pick up on magical phenomena and other things that would normally be invisible or otherwise undetectable. On a high level, an agent can use their radar to determine a target’s general level of power and potentially read their soul and inner world outright, things that must be protected against. Precise radars can also keep track of phenomena on an incredibly small scale, following the motion of subatomic particles and potentially even paying attention on the Planck scale across an area as vast as a galaxy.
Subconscious Thought Programs
Thanks to their heightened computational power, the soul of an agent can maintain a number of background processes, or subconscious thought programs (known on Earth as daemons) meant to aid in data processing, spellcasting, and other tasks. These programs either run automatically or trigger after certain conditions are met, needing no active management from an agent to function properly. Any agent is bound to naturally develop a set of these, which will help maintain processes like absolute barriers, adaptation, and the effects of ego pressure, but the best example of one is an agent’s radar, which runs at all times. Other, more unique programs may arise over time as an agent’s needs demand, or thanks to their inner world, while many agents create their own daemons to help with certain issues.
A common sight among these assorted artificial daemons are mutation programs, which subtly modify the foundation of an agent’s spells through pseudorandom algorithms. Activating in combat, the mutations produced usually start off irrelevant and inconsequential, but, over time, they’re likely to create a high number of spell variants, none of which are necessarily better. Instead, they’re just different enough to necessitate the production of new counterspells and bypass adapted defenses. Of course, they may mutate into something better after all, but they could also go the other way and get worse instead. Either way, it takes some time for most mutation programs to yield good results, and they’re no substitute for manually improving on spells. Certainly more practical in the middle of a fight, though.
However, not all these programs are beneficial, nor do agents create them only to use on their own soul. Daemons that are installed into a victim’s soul with malicious intent are known as curse programs, and act as a particularly sophisticated form of curse, as implied by the name. These curses draw on a portion of their host’s intellect to maintain themselves, constantly running in the background and either continuously exerting their effects, or waiting for a certain trigger to set them off. Combined with other curse vectors, these curse programs can prove exceptionally potent and very difficult to remove.
An individual’s willpower is one of their most important tools when it comes to the usage of magic. It is so important that many other things pale in comparison, as, through sheer willpower alone, an agent could bend and break even the toughest laws and push through even the worst adversity. A strong will is needed to properly control magic, and can be used to call upon greater and greater levels of power and recover from damage faster. Those with strong wills tend to have strong souls, and harming them becomes harder than ever.
An agent’s willpower manifests within their soul as ego pressure, the spiritual equivalent of reality pressure. This acts as the final layer of protection for any agent, lying behind their barriers and gradually working to reverse any harm or unwanted change forced upon the soul, with this effect acting at its strongest within the soul’s deepest reaches. Thanks to ego pressure, an agent can fend off and reject harm even when all their barriers have been stripped away. Ego pressure will not kick in to the same extent in response to self-modification (something called the Egoist Principle), or to consensual changes from another, but it still makes both difficult.
The strength of ego pressure varies depending on the individual and their force of will, and though ego pressure can theoretically gradually reverse anything but death, it’s absolutely possible to kill someone before their ego pressure kicks in, and/or with wounds that aren’t so easy to reverse. Survival can be aided by repression, a powerful ability that allows an agent to ignore their own injuries, suspending their wounds and any adverse effects. While this is widely used by those who can pull it off, as it allows an agent to keep fighting when they would’ve collapsed or even died otherwise, it is very difficult to use properly and safely.
First off, repression has limits. As it focuses more on the spiritual than physical, an agent still limited by their body won’t be able to use it to its full strength, and it won’t be as effective with the physical aspect of injuries. The soul heals naturally, but a hole in the chest doesn’t, at least not normally, and this will be an objective fact an agent has to deal with sooner or later. In many cases, it will be sooner - physical harm is a lot easier to comprehend than spiritual for most, and it’s thus a lot harder to ignore and a lot easier to panic about. After apotheosis, however, the body is irrelevant, and harm to it inconsequential. Only spiritual damage matters at that point, and it can be nullified a lot easier.
Even then, any given person can only repress so much harm before they can’t handle any more, and it takes a strong will and some focus to pull it off anyways, making it difficult to use reliably. Each and every use of it is a risk, too. Injuries cannot be ignored forever, and ego pressure cannot reverse suspended wounds, which the soul refuses to acknowledge as real. These wounds will inevitably reinstate themselves, even if it takes years, though it’ll usually happen as soon as the threat has passed. In cases of severe harm, this can prove fatal for even the highest caliber of agents, as an entire fight’s worth of injuries spread throughout their soul all at once.
To avoid this, experienced and knowledgeable agents will consciously control the process, allowing injuries to slowly trickle down in manageable bits once they’re prepared to deal with them, which typically means resting and healing. However, there are those who are too stubborn to confront their spiritual trauma, and instead constantly repress it, allowing wounds to steadily accumulate until the dam breaks and they all flood out at once. This can happen out of nowhere, but usually occurs in response to unmanageably extreme stress and/or injury. In such a situation, for such a person, death is generally inevitable, but at least it will be swift.
And, as powerful a tool as repression is, it’s not like everything can be repressed. Some wounds are far too grave, and some attacks far too powerful for their effects to simply be rejected. For example, something that would be instantly, unambiguously lethal isn’t something open to a more favorable interpretation by its target’s soul. Perhaps some people could do it - but it’d likely push them to their limit. Other things may slip through repression, too. Complex attacks that a victim fails to understand are generally difficult to repress, while others are specifically built to bypass it, either through exploits or sheer willpower on the attacker’s part.
The greatest of these spells combine both means on a high scale, and can be said to be undeniable, representing an irrefutable reality that cannot simply be overturned, often slipping through other defenses as a result. Agents may still be able to adapt and deal with these, but that’d require a particularly strong will, the ability to survive long enough beforehand, and/or some good old-fashioned understanding.
Though it may be abstract and immaterial in nature, even the soul has a structure and “anatomy”, with distinct portions that can be researched and better understood. However, the soul does not have any sense of direction or location that can be understood by a normal human, so, oftentimes, a complete description on how exactly the soul comes together is more or less impossible. Still, many parts of the soul have been comprehensively studied.
Vital to an agent’s use and expenditure of power is the spiritual accelerator, a complex structure that aids in the production and release of magical energy. The spiritual accelerator’s structure spans over much of the soul, and supported by an intricate array of supportive pathways and channels, is the means by which energy flows from the soul into the outside world, to be channeled however the agent desires. Over the course of time, an agent’s spiritual accelerator will grow in complexity, allowing them to release more and more power, as well as handle and control it more easily.
While best known as the primary energy conduit in the soul, the spiritual accelerator actually serves a variety of functions and is overall one of the most important spiritual organs by far. In fights, as an agent is pushed further, their spiritual accelerator will gradually heat up, pushing the rest of their spiritual activity further along with it. This allows an agent to access the full extent of their power and push themself to their limits, before the accelerator inevitably cools down afterwards and returns to normal, sustainable levels of power. This process is called stress-induced adaptation, and can even kick in outside of combat, in response to long-term duress.
Under such long-lasting stress, a spiritual accelerator may be incapable of properly cooling down, and will therefore sustain a high level of activity, leading to the rapid development of spiritual functions in exchange for spiritual health. In other words, during such situations, an agent is able to accumulate power more quickly and with less investment. Because of this, agents in long-term conflicts or otherwise poor situations will grow at a faster rate than others. The accelerator will grow accustomed to such high levels of stress if they become the norm, however, and will thus cool down, putting an end to stress-induced adaptation. To continue reaping its benefits, an agent would have to enter an even worse situation, running greater and greater risk of death for increasingly marginal rewards.
While agents generally only start off with one spiritual accelerator, there are those who will, over the course of time, develop multiple to support their increasingly complex magical arrays. These extra accelerators typically don’t allow for greater releases of power - instead, they tend to act separately, processing and releasing energy on their own, in sequence, or otherwise performing different functions in the background. With multiple accelerators acting in concert, an agent is able to make use of more energy more quickly, in separate bursts. Simply hooking two up together would not allow for a higher level of power - it would only slow things down, really. These extra accelerators may also have other, more specialized functions, tailored towards specific applications and spells.
Certain agents with compatible inner worlds have particularly powerful accelerators, and thus reap even more benefits from their functions. These agents accumulate power more quickly than others, can expend more energy at once more easily, and can sustain their accelerators’ peak power for longer than usual. In addition, as part of their inner world’s functions, these amplifiers tend to have the ability to massively, but temporarily boost their own power, beyond the range of what other agents would be able to manage through the same methods. Their accelerators still have their limits, though, and it’s healthiest to tap into these boosts when they’re properly revved up and prepared.
Formed by ego pressure, the outermost layer of the soul, the distinction barrier, acts as protection for the rest and is what keeps a soul together, though it is not strong enough to do so forever once the soul is outside of a container. Its strength is dependent on the individual’s ‘power’, both magical power and willpower. For normal beings, those who don’t use magic, the distinction barrier provides negligible defense against spiritual attack, and none at all from physical attack. However, an agent is able to exert their distinction barrier to better protect their soul, and even their body, affecting the physical world.
In this state, in the hands of an agent, a distinction barrier often causes a shimmering veil of what seems to be light to appear around them. This is called, among other things, an aura, and it may be faint and colorless, or it may be glowing brightly in whatever color. Going by an aura and distinction barrier, many agents are able to tell individuals apart and recognize them, as these things are often unique and distinctive.
All personal magical barriers are contained in the outermost layer of the soul, alongside the distinction barrier, assisting it in keeping out magical attacks and making it more powerful than ever. Eventually, through continued usage of and exposure to magic, all these barriers will evolve into an even more powerful defense, the absolute barrier. This protects the user from external manipulation and attack, on every level of existence, shielding their body, mind, and soul - their cells and atoms, the magical and physical forces keeping them together, and everything else. It is akin to a magical immune system, protecting the agent from threats and adapting to future attack.
An absolute barrier is passively maintained at all times, even in sleep, requiring no energy to maintain, and can only be removed by another agent actively stripping it away, or by the user consciously lowering them. Punching through or removing an absolute barrier is incredibly difficult, though an agent of vastly greater strength can often easily strip them away. Over the course of a fight between high-level agents, generally speaking, one or both absolute barriers will eventually give way, allowing the other to directly attack the soul.
For an agent, the soul contains everything that makes them who they are. It stores all their concepts and records every little bit about how they approach and see the world. And because these concepts are central to an individual’s magic, what they are compatible with, and how it turns out, the study of one’s self can be considered the most important subject in magic. For many, self-discovery is an unending process. On Earth, before the planet was rendered uninhabitable, though this was something that was generally understood, the deepest structure and nature of the soul was not yet known. Many theorized on it, yes, and some even formulated correct theories on the subject, but there was no full understanding.
Deep within the soul of an individual is their own personal reality, their interpretation of the outside world and how they parse it, and their complete individual concept, their personal history and timeline. With the use of magic, an agent manifests this and defines themself as distinct from the rest of the universe. An agent is their own contained universe, with space, time, and possibility all their own. No longer do they exist in the past or present of the universe around them - instead, an agent exists in their own present, and their entire history becomes a part of their existence, freeing them from universal causality and absorbing their own world line. It can be said that, because of this, an agent has gained complete control of their own destiny, and the ability to pursue any future they desire.
Together, an individual’s personal reality, complete individual concept, and all their innermost aspects form their inner world, a representation of everything vital to their existence; their most important memories, the things they value most, their beliefs, their desires, and the way they have lived their life. The inner world is simultaneously the interplay between all these different mechanisms and an actual structure that permeates the entire soul. An inner world has passive effects that manifest within an agent and influence their abilities in a way that supports their inclinations and any pre-existing skills or powers, such as their fighting style, if they are a combatant. They often appear through their magical abilities in some way, amplifying them. An agent needs no knowledge of their inner world to reap these unconscious rewards, but deeper introspection and eventual mastery will heighten their power and utility.
Eventually, if an agent does continue these things, they may gain the ability to fully activate their inner world, which usually implies bringing it into existence as a pocket dimension and externalizing that interplay. This is very difficult to do, as mentioned above, often taking years of work, research, and personal development, driven by the acquisition of more and more “experience”, so much so that the soul must grow in an entirely new direction, one that does not exist. This allows the soul to expand enough that it can establish its personal reality on the world around it, becoming something more than just physical or spiritual alone. The ensuing fully developed inner world is an extremely meaningful and powerful boon for any agent.
An incarnate inner world’s environment is determined by its user’s associations and values, representing them in an abstract manner. Often, it is impossible for many agents to unlock their inner world, as they have simply not had the “experience” needed to acclimate their soul for such a purpose. The relevant experiences differ based on person to person, as do the inner worlds themselves. Apotheosis is generally held to be necessary for the manifestation of an inner world, for example.
All inner worlds reflect the nature of the external, physical world, and cannot be affected or altered so easily as the rest of the soul. Any significant change or harm, will ultimately be rejected by one’s ego pressure, with greater power than usual, just as changes to physics will eventually be reversed by Reality. This, along with the fact that the inner world is the most abstract aspect of one’s self, makes affecting the inner world extremely difficult. Because of this, destroying the strongest souls, those who have unlocked the potential of their inner worlds, is extremely challenging.
This also makes modifying the inner world of others extremely difficult, much harder than simply completely destroying a soul, and even a talented Inner World Operator would struggle to make large-scale changes. They could make changes over time, slightly worsening and exploiting weaknesses, but it would take a ludicrously skilled Inner World Operator to fully rewrite another inner world. Even then, it would take, at the very least, hours of hard work, if not years, and it’s difficult to predict what kind of person would result from the new inner world. Self-modification and consensual modification are still easier, but working with inner worlds will never not be difficult and risky.
Magic is the process and science of researching, understanding, and utilizing the Fantasy within a person’s self to bend the universe to one’s will. While it may be separate from conventional science, magic is still, in the end a science, as it is built around observing and understanding the world around you, and then, applying your knowledge to change it.
In itself, magic is not a force - it is the truest expression of one’s desires and willpower through Fantasy, the world inside us, as opposed to Reality, the world around us. While it’s not necessary, scientific knowledge and an understanding of Reality and its laws make the full use of magic easier. Though the existences of Reality and Fantasy are opposites, they are opposites that exist within each other, and magic can be used to fill in the gaps that conventional science cannot, and vice versa.
When you better understand something, it is easier to control and manipulate, to bend it in new ways and change the world. The greater your knowledge on the world, the greater the depth and your versatility of the magic. Of course, knowledge is not absolutely necessary for magic, but it helps a lot. Without it, an agent has to rely more on forcing the world to comply with anything they want, which is considerably less efficient and versatile.
Magic can bend the laws of the universe and decide fate in significant ways. A simple desire of “I want this person to die” can kill a target outright when put to use in magic with sufficient intent behind it, simply ending the possibility for life in all of its forms, though for less experienced agents, this is incredibly difficult and inefficient. It would be easier to induce physical death by stopping the target’s heart or through similar means, or bending causality and probability to guide the victim’s fate towards their death.
Similar applications can be utilized to realize nearly any goal, with the strongest of agents possessing the power to manipulate all of the universe’s forces and toy with even the past and future.
Systems of Magic
In its true form, magic just happens. Once one has decided how it will be used, they simply will the effects into reality. There is no magical force, unlike the fundamental physical forces - magic occurs because someone's will has made it that way. However, in this form, pure magic is incredibly hard to use, control, and direct, requiring focus and a strong will.
In its place, most agents channel magic through certain systems designed to better control it. It is simply much, much easier to control magic when using gestures, incantations, rituals, and objects, which greatly aid in focusing the powerful intent behind magic. It’s not that pure magic is not usable - it certainly is, and it can be used competently during combat. It just takes a lot of energy and focus, making channeled magic easier.
This type of magic is the second of four phases in the development of magic, used to measure both the progression of a society’s grasp on magic, and an individual’s.
- Unconscious Phase: The first phase, when magic is used unknowingly and unintentionally. This is when people only just start discovering magic and begin using it without thinking, without meaning, just as a side-effect of their thoughts and desires. This is unpredictable and uncontrollable, entirely inconsistent in nature.
- Ritual Phase: The second phase, when knowledge of magic is present, and systems are in place to make use of it. At this stage, it’s much easier to control, and is also much more predictable, which can be a mixed bag. Incantations, rituals, and artifacts are the name of the game here, and those who use this magic have a limited pool of spells, which take time and research to expand on.
- Post-Ritual Phase: The third phase, sometimes considered merely an intermediary between the ritual and lucid phases. Now, while the use of rituals remains necessary in some form, the agent has reached a point when they can rely on pure magic as much or more than ritual magic. Spells can be devised on the spot and when under pressure, for example.
- Lucid Phase: The fourth and final phase of magic development, an extreme rarity in the world, assuming it’s even possible at all. At this point, rituals are more or less unnecessary, though may remain in some vestigial form, and only pure magic is needed. With the knowledge that the world is purely subjective, the lucid agent does not need specific, pre-established spells, only creativity and willpower.
There are many, many systems of magic from Earth alone, let alone from all around the world, and each can be effectively used to channel nearly any magical effects. These many systems of magic include the following:
Origin: Earth (Europe and the Middle East)
Alchemy is a widespread system of magic on Earth, ostensibly devoted to the study and manipulation of matter. Primarily focused through chemical equations and reactions, it has traditionally been used to manipulate chemical processes and matter, but it is a versatile, deep system of magic. Symbols and ciphers are also often used to channel magic. Over the course of many centuries, it has greatly grown in depth and complexity, splitting into many other, more specific branches.
Throughout Earth’s history, alchemists have been notoriously secretive about the nature of their studies, but over time alchemy has only become more widespread, becoming a fairly common course in magical studies that has had most of its secrets laid bare for the world.
In truth, classical western alchemy is the pursuit of apotheosis, the elevation of the alchemist to the level of the gods. All the talk of transmutation, metals and elixirs are only red herrings, layers upon layers of symbolism that hide the true goal of absolute personal perfection. A “true” alchemist seeks to transcend their body to become an immortal magical existence that has surpassed death, though such schools have become rarer over time, and many more modern alchemists have instead focused on the more literal side of things.
Almagest is a magical martial art that is channeled through the motion and positioning of celestial bodies. By connecting themself to the celestial firmament of the universe, the user gains a heightened cosmic awareness that allows them to make the full use of Almagest’s techniques and call upon the magic in the universe. In Almagest, the vectors used for magic are not symbols, but the motions of celestial bodies, and the movements of the user themself. Due to this, Almagest is incredibly complex and very difficult to master, with high-level techniques requiring a complicated series of movements to be executed perfectly.
One of the most commonly used applications of Almagest is channeling the motion and rotation of celestial bodies into attacks. Almagest can also be used to emulate flight by subtly manipulating gravitational forces. Despite its complexity, Almagest is an art that sprouts in most universes in some form, as it is simply incredibly useful for any star spirit.
Inner World Operation
The pinnacle of spiritual magic — the art of inner world programming, and the manipulation of the soul itself, in all its constituents. Rather than a cohesive, established system, Inner World Operation is spiritual magic of the highest caliber, and encompasses all lesser disciplines and systems. Information processing, the manifestation of dreams and illusions, the growth of a person and their soul, the art of psychic manipulation, psychological analysis, and either repairing or reaping the soul are all available to a true Inner World Operator, and all can eventually lead to this result, but this level of magic is far greater and more complex than just the psychic laws we know. An Inner World Operator can quickly adapt to alien souls and the unfamiliar ideas they abide by, or even those souls that don't exist, controlling them in the same way, and in time, it ventures deeper into the territory of magic, to a realm unbound by all conventional law and science.
This is the inversion of World Operation, the art of physical programming, which is often referred to as Outer World Operation for clarity's sake. For the inhabitants of our known universes, which are physical in nature, this magic is rather niche and sparsely practiced in its true form, partly because it typically demands inhumane experimentation, or at least immeasurable experience in spiritual surgery. However, in this world, where all things have, if not souls, some analogue, Inner World Operation is a deadly and omnipresent weapon, capable of taking apart an agent on the most fundamental level - or keeping them together through such strenuous conditions. Soul surgeons are exceptionally deadly combatants because of this, but their abilities are often straightforward in nature, be they defensive or offensive.
Of course, an Inner World Operator's ability to improvise and build on their own soul cannot be underestimated. While it requires much more sacrifice and struggle than World Operation, a soul surgeon can prepare deadly tricks and versatile options just through self-modification and experimentation. While Inner World Operators may be rare in a world where physical magic is the norm, this just means that the majority of them are passionate, devoted specialists with plentiful experience. It's not a skill that they just picked up. It's more like a lifestyle.
Inner World Operator Spells and Techniques:
Notable Users: All angels
Logos is a heavenly martial art, system of magic, and philosophy developed by Yaldabaoth and spread throughout Heaven. Dedicated to controlling the totality of one’s being and using it in its entirety in combat, Logos is an instinctive fallback for angels, who have its foundation programmed into them. Logos works by clearing the user’s mind, sweeping away their emotions and identity for a time so that they can better focus on combat, making it difficult for angels to form stable identities and properly process emotions. As they generally lack any strong identities or emotions by default, angels are incredibly well-suited to the use of Logos.
With this supernatural concentration and the powerful will behind it, Logos revolves around transcending physical attacks and instead relying on pure magical attacks. The user simply wills that their target is struck, and they are, by an instantaneous force with no physical component. These cannot be responded to by normal means, instead requiring magical defenses and accurate predictions to counter them. In combat, a user utilizes both physical and pure magic, so an opponent must defend themselves on both a physical and magical level at once.
Logos Spells and Techniques:
A Heavenly school of magic that can be used to manifest the fears of a target as reality. Derived from the soul of the Archangel of Light, Uriel herself, Nightmare Reader is wholly focused on exploiting a victim’s mental state through illusionary magic and psychological attacks. Its use is universal among Heaven’s police force, the Shepherds, and is a symbol of their power, purpose, and tactics. Despite this, its use has spread over time, to other angels and even to the aliens its original wielders despise.
Cruel in nature, Nightmare Reader lends itself well to spiritual surgery, but only of the torturously traumatic sort. The parasitic magic feeds on fear and pain, and intensifies these things whenever it can, a reflection of the first Nightmare Reader’s hopelessly sadistic heart.
Nightmare Reader Spells and Techniques:
Origin: Earth (Germanic countries)
Notable Users: EQUINOX
Runic magic is one of the better known schools of magic on Earth, with the earliest forms originating in Germanic territories far in the past, for use as both an alphabet and a system of magic. It centers around the usage of runes, specific symbols with specific effects carved into a surface, prepared beforehand, to realize a number of magical effects. The usage of runic tattoos for easy, faster spellcasting or passive effects is fairly common.
Every runic alphabet functions differently, magically speaking, though some are more similar to others. This is if there’s any magical application at all, at least, as some are really just alphabets. There are many different branches of runic magic as a result, with some diverging far from others in structure. All are descended from Elder Futhark in some form or another, even if some are completely different in form and function.
Origin: Earth (China)
Notable Users: EQUINOX
Tao Chiao refers to the religious practices and rituals associated with the philosophy of Taoism (or Daoism), which very often strayed into the territory of magic. Tao / Dao refers to “the Way”, and Taoism is centered around existing in harmony with the natural flow of the universe. Often referred to as Chinese or Taoist alchemy, Tao Chiao has much in common with western alchemy, including a similar focus on individual perfection and apotheosis.
The alchemical practices of Tao Chiao are split into two main methods of practice, waidan, or external alchemy, and neidan, or internal alchemy. Waidan is the art of alchemical operations and preparations, revolving around the creation of chemical elixirs and compounds, while neidan focuses on cultivating a healthy body and soul through meditation and breathing exercises in the pursuit of immortality.
Tao Chiao Spells and Techniques:
- Aiki: A major principle in Japanese martial arts, referring to the practice of redirecting an opponent’s strength to control their movements, either to simply unbalance them, or to transfer the force of their own attack back where it came from. Though it seems simple in theory, executing Aiki requires perfectly precise, yet subtle motions, combined with the use of neidan, or internal alchemy. As a result, not many can use it in its true form.To use Aiki, the user must blend with a physical attack as it strikes, moving alongside it and leading their attacker with it. The force produced by the attack, rather than actually hit the user, is transmitted into their soul as magical energy, and then released outwards at an opportune moment, right back to its sender. Used properly and at the right moment, Aiki can devastate an enemy, striking them with their own strength in addition to the user’s, and potentially even more when combined with a throw.Under ideal conditions, Aiki can be used with 100% efficiency, without wasting any of an opponent’s power. The precision and subtlety Aiki requires means that the smallest mistake, miscalculation, or loss of focus can greatly weaken it. In addition, Aiki was developed for martial combat, not for battles of magic, and it is thus only of use against physical power.
- Shukuchi: A Taoist pseudo-teleportation technique that allows the user to subtly manipulate spatial relations and distance so that they can travel even great distances in a single step. While much simpler and easier to use than true teleportation, it becomes more and more imprecise the greater the distance and suffers similarly in close quarters.
The pinnacle of physical magic — the art of world programming, and the manipulation of the universe itself, in all its constituents. Rather than a cohesive, established system, World Operation is physical magic of the highest caliber, and encompasses all lesser disciplines and systems. Information processing, judication, probability alteration, quantum alchemy, spatial magic, and temporal manipulation alike are all available to a true World Operator, and all can eventually lead to this result, but this level of magic is far greater and more complex than just the physics we know. A World Operator can quickly adapt to alien laws and physics, controlling them in the same way, and in time, it ventures deeper into the territory of magic, to a realm unbound by all conventional law and science.
As the inversion of Inner World Operation, the art of psychic programming, this is often referred to as Outer World Operation for clarity's sake. For the inhabitants of our known universes, which are physical in nature, this magic is much more accessible and widely practiced than its spiritual counterpart, which is a niche art utilized primarily by those willing to cut into living souls. Due to the nature of these souls, which are beyond the physical and unbound by its rules, World Operator is widely known as a magic rooted more in combat utility and versatility than direct harm. There are exceptions, of course, and there are many deadly spells under this umbrella, but compared to the omnipresent and lethal weapons of an Inner World Operator, these are often more conditional and situational.
Naturally, though, there are some capable of beating even a soul surgeon when it comes to the art of killing, utilizing World Operation to impose a crushing and deadly Reality that nearly no Fantasy can withstand. While such freaks are exceptionally rare, in a world where physical magic is the norm, they outnumber the deadliest of Inner World Operators, even if by a razor-thin margin.
World Operator Spells and Techniques: