What was it to shadow another person?
Most accustomed the term to working alongside of a predecessor in a field of knowledge or occupation, with the intention of improvement through observation.
The practice was most commonly utilized in work formats akin to internship, and primarily to obtain use and critical knowledge.
The intern would observe the expert from all angles of their proceedings, behaviors, and logical analysis to obtain a heightened perception, or obtain an enlightened procedure in obtaining a result at a much swifter and efficient pace.
The intern was to absorb the accumulated knowledge and wisdom of the expert via constant observation and tutelage, to develop their own shortcuts or extensions in a specified path of knowledge or occupation.
Later, upon graduating from this scheduled internship, the former intern achieved the state of offering shadowing services to future interns to provide an opportunity to glimpse at their methodology of logic.
The shadowing that many were accustomed to was intended to provide the intern with the foundational basics to forge another path, but the dire majority of interns merely assimilated into the expert and transformed into one of many of their ‘copies.’
A copy of the expert manifested when the intern had saturated all of the knowledge accumulated by the expert, that their soul and its proceedings altered itself to acclimate to that of the expert.
Through the system of tutelage, the intern’s personality, logical reasoning, and demeanor morphed into an identical copy of that of the expert.
The appearance, gender, and actual name might be different, but once the ‘copy’ graduates from the task of shadowing, they have established themselves as a duplicate of the expert.
The future works achieved by the ‘copy’ was attained through the expert’s methodology, and their demeanor and personality was completely akin to that of the original persona.
The former intern, upon perusal by the public, would appear as the expert via a simple analysis – and the intern would disappear.
However, the shadowing of the <Steps of Underlying Shadow> was rather different.
Removing the field of influence from a soul would render others unable to recognize them for their existence, but the <Steps of Underlying Shadow> extrapolated upon that principle a step further.
Not only was the field of influence removed, the shadow of an individual was removed.
Thus, practitioners of the <Steps of Underlying Shadow> were immune to physical interactions regardless of the magnitude, and could not be detected for what they were.
Even if one were to stand before a person and wave their hands, the person would never recognize their presence as a human.
Every shadow possessed a fluctuation similar to the original that emanated from the soul, but derived a step lower in complexity.
The fluctuation of the shadow permitted nearby souls to recognize and interact with the soul – the shadow served as the preemptive identifier of such existence.
And if the fluctuations of the shadow were mimicked by another without a field of influence, the original soul would never notice a difference upon interaction.
The mimic would merely be recognized as a component of the soul’s fluctuation, and wouldn’t be detected in the slightest.
Furthermore, any phenomena enacted by the mimic would similarly never come to the original soul’s awareness, not until the mimic has ceased imitating the fluctuation emanating from the original soul’s shadow.
Thus, An Fei was experiencing… a rather peculiar sensation.
She possessed neither a field of influence nor a shadow, causing her experience to become tinged with a mass of excitement and happy sensations.
“What… happened to me?”
In the Sanctum, a young girl bumbled around, mumbling nonsensically to herself as her body swayed and staggered without pause.
An Fei nearly caught herself from falling onto the crystalline ground, her fingers scrabbling at the surface of a mahogany table to her right.
She felt… absolutely peculiar.
If she closed her eyes, her movements would immediately straighten and no long possess the charismatic qualities of a wasteful drunkard, and her sense of hysteria and worry would abate as though it were never present.
Disregarding the lack of sight, everything regarding her body was perfectly normal.
Once she opened her eyes and allowed herself to receive the scenery of the Sanctum, however, everything changed.
The young girl stumbled onto the ground, her cheek pressing against the crystalline surface with her limbs sprawled over the floor.
An Fei’s eyes drifted onto the sky-blue crystal, and the scarlet irises inadvertently saw their reflection.
“No, no, no!”
The diagram pulsing in her chest dutifully enacted its miraculous task, and the head-shaking and nauseous sensation surged into the young girl’s consciousness without end.
An Fei clutched her head, a distorted wail breaking its way out of her throat.
“Uu… not again,” the young girl rolled into a ball, her body gently trembling by the passing moment.”
“I don’t want this, I didn’t want this!”
As of the moment, An Fei’s senses were being inundated with a constant and overwhelming stream of information.
Most of the inputted information didn’t even belong to that of her body and were thus incompatible with her nerves, causing her predicament.
By conjuring the invisible diagram within her chest cavity in the midst of her sea of spiritual essence, An Fei had effectively utilized the <Steps of Underlying Shadow> – primarily, the latter portions of the martial arts technique.
The execution of the technique was flawless and smooth, and the process had clearly been meticulously planned and devised to achieve a satisfactory result.
The only mistake An Fei had carelessly made was not to devise any specific target in mimicking their fluctuations.
Each utilization of spiritual essence possessed an intention, imprint, and direction.
She had meticulously schemed the imprint and direction to be within her body, and the neutral spiritual essence within her chest cavity.
At that moment, just how was she able to forget?
“I know my mistake, I shouldn’t – urgh – have forgotten the intention!” the young girl howled in regret, her countenance streaming with tears as she pleaded to the unfeeling diagram in her chest.
If she wanted to test the effectiveness of the technique, couldn’t she designate herself as the intention of the spiritual essence utilized?
Why did she have to leave it blank, to allow the spiritual essence to run wild and designate everything – literally everything as the intention?
Oh why, why does she have to experience being a table?
And why in the high heavens does she have to experience the sensation of being stroked by a wet brush dipped in violet ink, dragging the bristles all over her body in large calligraphy!?
“No more! No more!”
The young girl willed for the sea of spiritual essence housed in her chest cavity to quell the diagram, but was unexpectedly rebuffed by the usually subservient spiritual essence.
The golden light emanating from the Sanctum continued to transmit their warmth to the young girl’s shivering body, but somehow… the experience was different.
Damn, you’re really being sadistic again!
The young girl rolled her eyes, her heart seething with exasperation and helplessness as her mind devised numerous plots to vent her frustration.
Nevertheless, the next instant caused her consciousness to blank, cowardly submerging itself into the sea of perception to escape the physical torture.
This time, An Fei learned how it felt to be a solitary inkstone in its essence to the clearest detail.
Grind, grind, grind.
When the tumultuous torture ceased dipping An Fei’s soul into the eighteen planes of hell one portion at a time, the young girl could do nothing more than release a pent up sigh.
The sigh was filled to the brim with her heart’s emotions repressed to their maximum, released in a single blow.
Afterwards, An Fei deflated and allowed her sorry heart to bask in the heartwarming pulses of warmth to seep into the depths of her bones.
At the least, she had obtained an essential clue in effectively wielding this technique.
The young girl rolled onto her back, glaring at the flickering lights at the ceiling of the Sanctum.
An Fei continued to breathe in silence, her mind tepidly peeking its head from its shelter.
With a thin strand of spiritual essence severed into two carefully measured portions, the invisible diagram could operate for a total of five hours – at least, the Sanctum’s torment had lasted that long.
The young girl could only hypothesize that due to the mismatched proportions of spiritual essence, her previous attempts only lasted for several breaths of time before vanishing without a trace…
“Whatever. I want to be outside for now, this Sanctum is bullying me!”