To personify an image was a surreal experience to Ves. His distinctive personality traits momentarily faded away. In its place sat the personality traits that Ves ascribed to the Grey Martyr.
Old. Calm. Devout. Inquisitive. Gentle. Hopeful.
It was as if he donned a spiritual mask that completely transformed him into another being.
"It's too bad that it's fake."
Ves quickly reasserted his true personality. The disparity in strength between the image of the Grey Martyr and himself was far too great.
It was like he was surrounding his Spirituality with a fragile water bubble. Just a single poke broke the illusion.
Even though the experience didn't impress him very much, he knew that there were a lot of potential applications for this technique.
"I've developed so many new spiritual techniques in a short amount of time." He sighed with awe.
His visit to the Ylvaine Protectorate already paid dividends on that account. Ves started to understand why Master Olson advised him to travel to different places.
Different cultures and customs forced him to move beyond his usual approach to mech design.
Different problems that he never faced before encouraged him to find new solutions that he would have never come up before.
He gained a sense of how a Journeyman should proceed after advancing from a lowly Apprentice. Their mech design abilities may have matured, but that didn't mean they became capable of solving every problem.
An Apprentice only possessed a small number of tools in their toolbox. Advancing to Journeyman didn't change that. If they wanted to become as formidable as a Senior, then they needed to climb upwards step by step, and one of the ways to do so was to increase the amount of tools in their toolbox.
Ves faintly had a premonition that the techniques he developed recently conformed to this process!
"Let's see if this latest technique is useful for my purposes."
After he recollected his composure, he began to don the mask once again. It took a lot of effort to subsume his old personality with another one. One of the biggest problems he faced right now was that the image of the Grey Martyr was far from complete.
"There are too many holes!"
Ves never really paid too much attention to the gaps in his construction, thinking of them as trivial, but only now did he feel how much he missed. His image of the Grey Martyr was only a superficial caricature that encompassed only a small portion of the real figure!
Nonetheless, he at least managed to include all the most important aspects. As long as no one looked too close, he at least possessed the surface demeanor of the Grey Martyr.
"Let's see if this masquerade can fool the spiritual imprint of the real person."
He focused his attention back on the preserved seed. It was difficult for him to do so because the real Grey Martyr would never do such a thing.
Ves faced an inherent contradiction. On one hand, he needed to personify the Grey Martyr. One the other hand, he needed to make use of his fake identity to perform the action his original self desired.
Trying to juggle between these two priorities took a lot of mental acrobatics.
Eventually, he managed to extend his spiritual senses to the preserved seed. He first identified the cloud of ownerless spiritual accumulation and pierced through it. Within the center of the cloud rested a tiny cloud of imprinted spiritual energy.
Ves did not reach out with his own spiritual energy this time. He knew that it was completely useless to do so because the mask he wore did not transform his Spirituality at all. It still carried his own spiritual imprint no matter how well he disguised it. Its essence hadn't changed.
However, what did change was his thoughts and emotions. He developed an inexplicable devotion to Prophet Ylvaine and his wild beliefs. These un-Ves-like thoughts polluted his mind and clashed against his own self-identity.
It wasn't good for his mental health to maintain this state for long.
He didn't dally around and poured out his thoughts and emotions towards the original sentiment of the Grey Martyr.
Something amazing occurred.
The original sentiment was like a puppy who lost its master. It was a remnant of a dead person, and therefore didn't possess much life. It was akin to a weak and miniscule spiritual fragment that didn't even have the strength to recognize the flaws in the mask that Ves currently wore!
His thoughts and emotions caressed the original sentiment and seemed to revitalize it a bit. The spiritual imprint gained life as well as it fed on the sustenance that Ves provided it. The original sentiment and the spiritual imprint began to grow stronger and livelier!
The only problem was that Ves felt as if he was draining a part of himself! While the expenditure wasn't very large, that was only because the original sentiment wasn't that big in the first place.
As the revitalization process continued, the original sentiment somehow noticed the spiritual accumulation around it and noticed that it was free for the taking!
The change happened quickly. Fueled by a boundless desire to live and grow stronger, the original sentiment began to assimilate the spiritual accumulation! Ves didn't fully understand the merging process, but he noticed that the drain on his thoughts and emotions increased!
"The spiritual imprint is expanding!"
The increased drain on Ves caused the spiritual imprint to grow and expand. It faced no resistance as it began to mark the free-floating cloud of ownerless spiritual accumulation as its own!
However, this process didn't proceed smoothly!
The cloud of spiritual accumulation encompassed spiritual energy with many different attributes.
Only some was to the spiritual imprint's liking.
A process of separation occurred. The spiritual energy that agreed with the spiritual imprint merged with the original sentiment while the spiritual energy with incompatible attributes were being pushed away.
A few minutes later, the process came to an end. The miniscule original sentiment had ballooned in size and became at least an order of magnitude stronger! Surrounding it was an expanding cloud of ownerless spiritual energy that was no longer bound in place. After being pushed away by the spiritual imprint, the worthless spiritual energy kept drifting away as if it had been evicted from its own home.
Ves wondered if he should absorb it for himself. After all, he still suffered from a deficit of spiritual energy.
He quickly shook his head. "I'm not sure whether any of its attributes are compatible to me. It would be a disaster if I try to assimilate the wrong type of spiritual energy."
For example, if Ves was a 'bitter'-flavored person, he would not do himself any good if he absorbed a 'sweet' flavor!
"In any case, I've succeeded!"
A jubilant mood swept over him as he quickly discarded his mask. The image of the Grey Martyr faded away into a corner of his mind as he beheld the preserved seed.
It turned out that one of his discarded theories was right after all. A spiritual imprint was a living entity, and the way to propagate it was to feed it with spiritual food and have a ready supply of ownerless spiritual energy nearby.
While the way to come up with the right spiritual food in the form of distinctive thoughts and emotions was rather troublesome, it was a lot easier as long as Ves knew enough information to construct the right mask!
A deep sense of satisfaction suffused his mind as he felt he made a lot of progress today. He developed a way to make use of historical relics to help in his mech designs.
While the expanded original sentiment of the preserved seed still wasn't strong enough to be of much use to Ves, this was merely an experiment!
As long as his methods worked on a small an insignificant historical relic, then it was definitely possible to do the same to something greater!
He stopped concentrating his mind and retracted his spiritual senses. His earlier experimentations drained quite a bit out of him. Everything had a cost, but Ves gladly paid the price!
"This seed is a lot more special now."
He beheld the preserved seed with his plain old eyes. Even without extending his spiritual senses, he felt an invisible weight surrounding the tiny object. It was clear to him that its spiritual quality was a lot more concentrated and coherent than before!
Even if the total amount of spiritual energy had diminished by a lot, its purity was so strong that it more than made up for its losses!
This was what Ves intended to accomplish from the start!
"It's a shame to ruin this seed, but I really can't leave any evidence behind." He muttered while turning his head towards a vigilant-looking Lucky.
After some ugly wrangling, Ves succeeded in stuffing the seed into Lucky's mouth. The cat instantly yowled and looked as if he wanted to barf out the contents of its artificial stomach!
If there was one thing Lucky hated eating the most, it was biological substances!
Ves had no sympathy for his cat. "Don't be so hysterical, Lucky. A bit of variety is good for your digestion!"
He ignored the complaints of his pet and turned his attention to the commemorative medallion. This was obviously an object that the Grey Martyr valued more. Both the original sentiment and the spiritual accumulation were stronger than that of the preserved seed.
As long as Ves could replicate what he had just done, then he could do a lot of fantastic things with his next design!
He repeated all of his previous steps.
He wiped out the spiritual imprint on the heterogenous spiritual energy.
He donned the mask of the Grey Martyr.
He roused his thoughts and emotions and fed it to the original sentiment.
He supervised the process of assimilation and rejection.
Even though the commemorative medallion carried a lot more spiritual energy, Ves didn't face too many complications.
He only faced a challenge in the third step when he tried to fool the spiritual imprint in accepting his thoughts and emotions. The medallion's original sentiment was a lot stronger, and even in a dormant state it retained a bit more discernment.
"It's not that easy to fool the original sentiment of the medallion with a poorly-constructed mask."
Evidently, if Ves wanted to fool something even stronger, then he better make sure that he knew as much as possible about its original owner!
The overall strength of the medallion's spiritual energy also led to other complications, but Ves managed to deal with them without issue. The only concern he faced was that he was forced to expend a lot more effort and resources to finish the job.
Ves was practically exhausted by the time he held the remarkable commemorative medallion!
He looked at its dull luster and gained a lot more appreciation of this relic. It was a shame for him to ruin such a priceless artifact!
Yet Ves had no choice!
"Lucky! Come here! I've got another meal for you!"
At least this time Lucky didn't suffer from as much indigestion. The commemorative medallion tasted as flavorless as nutrient packs, but at least it consisted of metals.
Ves curiously watched Lucky eat the medallion with a lot of reluctance. He turned on his spiritual vision to see what Lucky would do to the strong and focused spiritual energy locked within the medallion.
As soon as the medallion broke apart inside Lucky's stomach, the spiritual energy escaped and disappeared into the air.
It didn't seem as if Lucky absorbed any of it, which was a shame. Ves guessed that it must have drifted off in the imaginary realm.
"Well, at least the evidence is gone."
Ves felt no guilt at ruining three historical relics. It was a cheap price to pay for developing his new techniques!
The most important gain from these experiments was that he gained the tools he needed to tackle the problem he set for himself!