Chapter 11: Self-Portrait (Part 1/2)
Luo Nan didn’t know that there were people paying close attention to each of his actions. Even if he did know, he wouldn’t exert extra effort to take this under consideration.
His state was really bad: Hunger. Pain. Numbness. Hallucinations. These were negative elements that had existed in him, under the passage of time they could only increase in severity, not lessening in the least. And they even gradually began to converge together to form a poisonous flame of corrosion. Every organ, the hundreds of bones, and every part of his body was spurred by an invisible force to shift around erratically.
This so-called invisible force was none other than the apparition that Luo Nan had discovered through the means of visualization.
This apparition was now no longer the size of a mosquito. It spurred the poisonous flames to flow deep in Luo Nan’s flesh. It constantly consumed Luo Nan’s energy and essence to grow and strengthen. And it continued to exert more and more disturbance towards Luo Nan to form a type of near-blocking effect:
Everytime Luo Nan tried to meditate to enter into his Fixed Space and look into the origin of the apparition, he was disturbed intensely on a physical and even mental level. Even just a whistle would become a strong explosion.
If things were to continue like this, Luo Nan would be eaten alive by the apparition sooner or later even if he were to take only into account the mental cost and biting recoil from failure to enter the Fixed Space.
And all this time the apparition was also trying to influence Luo Nan’s state of mind.
For instance when he had applied a fatal mental suggestion in the conflict with Li Xuecheng, when he was about to kill Li Xuecheng, a clear reverberating echo of what seemed to be the apparition’s hissing laughter echoed in his ear.
His thread of sanity had truly just been a small distance away from snapping.
Luo Nan remembered when his hand was stuck to Li Xuecheng’s throat. Li Xuecheng’s fear and despair melted into his flesh, blood, and energy to converge into a surging wave of heat that entered rushing and bubbling. However the surge that passed through his body was doomed to be impure. Not only was he unable to utilize it, it even swept away some of his own energy. No known tracks remained……. But it was quite obvious where that energy went in the end!
The apparition utilized precisely this method to grow and strengthen at a rapid pace, squeezing upon Luo Nan’s space of existence step by step.
Naturally Luo Nan’s current state of mind wasn’t too great.
But upon analysis, this sort of state of mind consisted largely of a certain disturbance of his past memories. Even the deep sunken dregs of his horrible experiences floated to the surface.
He was quite resentful. Just now because his notebook…… Fine. Because of what happened to his flexible e-ink screen, he had flown into an enormous rage.
He should not have done that!
Though he kept the flexible e-ink screen by his side for five years, he had already become accustomed to forgetting everything that was unpractical and useless. Yet where in the world did that ruthlessness and impulsiveness come from. And after the event, how did such an absent-minded mood billow out?
Could it be due to the gene from a certain individual hidden deeply in his flesh and blood?
From that coward?
How ironic that the apparition’s active disturbance would actually give Luo Nan quite a good explanation for what happened. So much so that Luo Nan actually felt a bit at ease.
Everything was due to the apparition…… Then things would be rather simple.
Indeed, the blocking-type of disturbance from the apparition brought a great deal of trouble. But why did he absolutely need to use that sort of brute-force method of butting heads and spilling blood?
Luo Nan had entered into his Fixed Space in hopes of drawing support from that state in order to make a step forward in breaking the apparition, in touching the apparition, in seizing the apparition, in annihilating the apparition. The blocking and disturbance from the apparition had, on the contrary, verified that his line of thinking was correct.
The apparition should be a strand of tendon from Luo Nan’s analysis. And he did not necessarily need to channel his Fixed Space in order to discover a piece of information.
Luo Nan had a certain simpler method:
Using a pen! Using a piece of paper!
He had collected many subjects as source material over the past many years. He had drawn quick-sketches of the surrounding scenes countless times on the spot, seizing the characteristics of his subjects. Perhaps his pen and paper skills have yet to reach mastery, but his skills have long since reached first-class in terms of speed and accuracy through practice.
Right now what he needed to do the most was to draw a special Self-Portrait!
Lines flowed out from the tip of his pen onto the paper, piling up into layers and intersecting one another. His mind was a blur as he was both concentrated and relaxed. The pen flowed quickly to a near uncontrollable direction.
In a certain sense, drawing was more liberating than using the visualization technique.
Although the visualized diagram seemed to come into existence from nothing, in reality the procedure was very strict. Luo Nan needed to maintain relative harmony between his body and mind. He could not be carelessly excessive nor deficient.
However the quick sketch on white paper was different. It was based off of substance, yet it could also separate itself from reality. This style of drawing could be made up of mostly imagination, fantasies, and symbolics in order to describe a certain idea or concept. It was a complete creative liberation.
Back in the day, his grandfather could use hand drawn pictures to depict the marvels of Formatting Theory. Luo Nan of the present could use a similar method in order to describe and explain the changes that happened to his body.
As this change was being drawn onto the surface of the paper, one could even speculate what would play out and read a step ahead. A small rough draft to what would be a grand work of art was formed.
And so Luo Nan drew a prison that could never exist in reality in order to symbolize the most prominent thoughts of his present mind.
This was the first time Luo Nan had been detained and imprisoned for all his life; it was a new experience. He automatically made a connection with the leading clause of the twenty word mantra:
My heart’s a prison.
Luo Nan was confident that the twenty word mantra was some kind of interpretation made by his grandfather about Formatting Theory. The words “Prison, Furnace, Lense, Nation” and so on were direct formulations of the levels of Formatting Theory. From this sequence Luo Nan could extrapolate that the Prison Format was perhaps the advanced stage of the Vessel.
Therefore he used the ice-cold and cramped confinement room as a reference in order to draw freely and flowingly. He plucked and selected his intermittent bursts of inspiration. He was like an “energy machine” too wonderful for words. He constructed his personal marvelous building on the paper.
He obviously knew that the majority of the building’s composition drawn was fantasy; he might not be able to utilize it in Formatting, but it would be enough as long as he had that trace of inspiration.
The distorted scene was even easier to explain. This was because his drawing reflected reality. The force that constructed the distorted building came from within himself.
That formless and traceless apparition was the start of it all.
He could not see the apparition, but he could indirectly experience its existence through the means the drawn distorted scene.
The number of elements that appeared under his pen increased. The Self-Portrait grew closer to reality.
At the moment, the tip of Luo Nan’s pen and Luo Nan’s thoughts were mixed as one; it was as if they were indistinguishable, no distinction could be made. The visualized world of the void was like a picture scroll that unfolded in front of Luo Nan once again. The silver threads of the tetrahedron, the inscribed sphere, the circumscribed sphere emerged clearly. It coincided with the Prison on the paper to form a spectacular picture.
It didn’t matter that he was unable to enter into the Fixed Space. He could make the Fixed Space appear here.
In truth, the emergence of this picture proved that Luo Nan could eliminate external disturbances to his state of mind, so the actions of the apparition also became meaningless.
The tip of Luo Nan’s pen did not cease moving. His soul had truly returned back to the Fixed Space.
The apparition, which had been continuously disturbing and destroying, was caught off guard. Its crafty form appeared at last!
The outer space of the visualized diagram was originally an empty darkness that permeated into the other colors. It was a sort of oppressive crimson color like that of struggling flames that had yet to perish amongst the ashes. The apparition permeated and blended mutually with the darkness to combine and form a fuzzy and indistinct silhouette.
This thing moved within the darkness, sticking to the visualized diagram, trying to invade inside…… And it had already infiltrated a portion of itself inside.
If it was anyone else, they would need to spend some time to find this bordering monster. But Luo Nan was able to identify its form with just a glance:
The burning wraith!
It was none other than the faint mass of a wraith from the earthquake in the R&D district. It had nearly took Luo Nan’s life with a hissing shriek, then it had concealed itself amongst the void to be difficult to pursue.
Luo Nan even left its image within his drawing software.
If he had not made an annoying encounter with “destiny”, Luo Nan would already be on campus, referring to materials and striving to discover clues of the wraith. He never thought that this fellow would actually force him into this state, roaming around within his consciousness, melding his flesh and blood together!
Luo Nan’s pen didn’t cease moving. However his lips hooked into a light smile.
“Hey, he smiled! He smiled!” Commander Lu cried involuntarily and immediately felt an extreme level of shame. He felt he had absolutely been infected by Luo Nan to make such a fuss over nothing.
Zhang Yingying was also extremely curious about Luo Nan’s present state of mind. Unfortunately the monitoring display was destined to be unable to sense Luo Nan’s thoughts. But on this side of the monitor, beeping notifications rang forth. The large door opened and someone walked in with large strides.
Zhang Yingying’s interest changed directions and she was met with someone wearing well-ironed slimfit sky-blue clothes. This person did not wear any military rankings. This person appeared rather out of place amongst this room filled with deep-space gray military uniforms.
Commander Lu turned to see this new arrival. His eyebrows slightly creased, but soon he put forth a smiling expression. He faced forward with a step and spoke with laughter: “Assistant Yan. How goes the ongoing search below?”