Brandon - Chi Conversation

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Description: After seeing a blog post, Brandon seeks out the sage for his insights on chi and to see if they can be applied to magic. Oh and to get another opinion on that pesky corrupted chi problem.

It must be surprising for non-Americans to see how much of a melange of cultural styles a big US city can involve. After all, it's not like the United States has the most sterling reputation abroad for inclusivity or racial harmony. But Sunshine, like Metro City out east, is a gateway for people coming into the country, and the result is often spaces like... well, this.

The frontage of the Ryu Zui Ken dojo would be perfectly at home in a quiet Hong Kong neighborhood or, if it weren't for the looming skyscraper skylines in the background, a rural Japanese or Chinese village. Surrounded by trees on all sides except the street entrance, the entire thing is a placid but incongruous blot of ink on the otherwise cybernetic grey cityscape of downtown Sunshine.

Standing in front of it is a red-haired traveler, standing... not on the dojo grounds, but at least very near it, observing it. "Doing great on the whole 'the past is the past, now is now' thing, there, Frei," he mutters to himself, barely audible.

When Ichika found him on Catalina Island, in the appropriately named town of Avalon, Rei Hazuki had been... well, to be honest, he'd been enjoying being someplace away from basically everyone. But her visit was a reminder that the world still exists, ESPECIALLY since it was also a sharp surprise in the form of that blog post he barely remembers having written, however many years ago.

So he came to Sunshine proper, though not for long. Even if he didn't have bad memories in this city, something about it gets on his nerves. He's here long enough to book a flight out tomorrow and then he'll be gone to another part of the continent, at minimum. But for now, with nothing to do but kill time...

Still. Of all the places to choose. Maybe it's fate?

When the detective saw the blog, it got his attention. The more he saw, the more interested he became. After all, if someone knew that much about chi it would be worth investigating especially with its close relation to magic. Once he figured out who was writing the blog, he didn't pursue right away. No he did his research on the person. Rei, a person who for all intents and purposes didn't seem to exist until a little after the Mortal Kombat tournament. Pseudonym perhaps? But Aya Hazuki seemed to vouch for him.

The rumors of someone utilizing more than one element made all the more likely that not only did this person exist, that Rei Hazuki, the person who wrote that blog was the one he was seeking out. After he saw information about him being in Sunshine City, he had to pounce on this before opportunity to speak to him, not only about his ability to use multiple elements but whether he might have insight on the corrupted energy problem that he and many other fighters seemed to have.

Brandon approaches the redhead standing outside the dojo with a friendly smile as he tips his hat to the other fighter.

"Mr. Hazuki, sorry if I'm disturbing you but I was wondering if I could speak with you on a couple of matters relating to chi."

Boy, someone's popular lately, huh.

This is the problem with being a professional fighter: it is, for good or for ill, an 'entertainment sport'. In other words, there are plenty of people who watch, obsessively follow, and sometimes seem to know everything about the people who take part in it. The result is that the idea that you can just Be A Guy in the world AND be a professional fighter at the same time is a little silly.

Plus a redhead in half Chinese garb is pretty distinctive, all told.

Even still, as Brandon approaches him, Rei regards the man -- walking with clear intent -- with no small amount of curiosity. When the detective introduces himself, there's definitely a... shall we say, heightening of said curiosity, one dark red eyebrow going up. "Now there's a conversational opener," the xian replies, though not without some humor.

Turning away from the dojo -- and hoping nobody inside is going to take issue with two people having a conversation on the sidewalk right outside -- Rei faces this newcomer and clears his throat. "I suppose I've only myself to blame," he says, somewhat cryptically, before shrugging. "Alright, then. What is it you want to know, Mister...?" An inclining of the head to suggest filling that last gap in first might be wise.

Rei doesn't know who he is. It's kinda refreshing to not be known as the guy who had a debacle of a run in one King of Fighters when he teamed up with Ayame which in turn led a very public beef with Lee Chaolan. Nor was known as the guy who in another KoF tournament where he was practically carried by the Lone Wolf and a high schooler(prodigy that Rock Howard may be). Or the guy that helped fix Metro City park. Okay... That last one he might be a little proud of.

Of course, the photomancer still has to introduce himself and so with a flick of his wrist produces a business card with his private investigation business info on it.

"Brandon Malone, private investigator and mage. My apologies for not introducing myself."

There's a moment while Rei holds the card in front of him with both hands -- hardly necessary, but what can you do? -- and reads it, listening along as Brandon introduces himself properly. "'Mage', huh..." he mutters, and then suddenly finds himself giving a helpless little laugh, shaking his head a bit. The timing is perhaps just a little TOO perfect. And at heart, Rei IS kind of a nerd.

"Well, here's hoping that D&D metaphor doesn't need to get trotted out again," he says, cryptically. "Or it's gonna get real confusing up in here."

Putting the card in a back pocket, the redhead brings his head up and puts a hand on his side, elbow out and arm akimbo, speaking to Brandon with what he hopes is good humor. "Well, Mr. Malone, I'm... well. I don't know that I'm at your service, *per se*, but I have no objection to answering a few questions."

A pause, and for a second the xian's green-eyed gaze flickers to the detective's belt pouch, before coming back up to meet his gaze. "I should warn you, magic isn't exactly my realm of expertise, per se." He doesn't explain why, because the explanation would somehow be even more insane than 'magic is real?!'.

Brandon's own face takes on a bit of amusement when Rei mentions D&D. Amusement quickly gives way to laughter and it takes a moment to respond.

"I ended up naming some of my attacks after spells in D&D. Fourth Edition due to there being a larger variety of spells and powers to name my attacks after."

When Rei, puts the card into his pocket, the arcane investigator smiles and eases into relaxed posture now that the initial introduction has been made. If he needed any more confirmation that this man is the right person to see, he gets it in the form of seeing Rei's eye going right to the belt pouch where his tarot deck resides.

"While magic may not be your expertise, magic and chi are an interrelated subjects. What one calls magic is chi that has energy from what is interchangably known as the Boundary or Backyard interlaced within it. Because of that relationship, there's a part of me that's curious as to whether your insights on chi would be helpful in my exploration of magic."

Boundary? Backyard? What? An onlooker can probably tell from his facial expression that Rei is about >< close to literally asking those questions aloud. Instead, he thinks about the type of people he's encountered who probably know about that subject, lands on Relius Clover, and INSTANTLY loses interest in hearing more. If anything, the freckled face blanches a little white for a second before he clears his throat, and suddenly everything's back to normal.

What happened in the past to merit THAT reaction, one wonders.

"Well..." he starts, taking a deep breath and thinking. "Well. I'm just one person, mind you, but in my experience, power is power." Rei's dealt with plenty of psions in his time; probably more than his fair share, in fact, some of them being very dear personal friends. The result is useful insight in many ways. "And if you think of using and shaping power as a state of mind or a philosophy, rather than a hard science, then I imagine I might be able to offer you useful advice."

A pause, and then a tilt of the head to the side. Then, suddenly, he snaps his fingers. THAT'S what Brandon's mysterious, energy-radiating pouch reminded him of. He doesn't pursue that with the detective, however, instead leaning forward a bit and looking up, a catlike expression of curiosity on his face. "Of course, first I need to know what your actual QUESTION is." A faint smile, intended (ideally) to take some of the sting out of the sarcastic-sounding statement.

Being the observant person that he is, he can't help but notice the way Rei's face changes throughout the reaction. From barely contained questioning to the sudden drain of color. Brandon cringes as he wonders if he might've stumbled upon a less than pleasant subject if not something closely associated to something horrible. Upon seeing Rei gather himself he allows himself to relax again. He is made to think about whether he views it as a state of mind or a hard science.

"I honestly can't see why it can't be both. Or rather, I see it as having aspects of both. Power has a visible and quantifiable effect on the environment and people. Experiments utilizing it can be repeatable and documented. However, it is also dependent on the mental state and belief as well as having that it factor that allows you work with it. Now that I think about it, I'd say my deck is my best example of it being a hybrid of the two. It utilizes repeatable formulas to interact with the energy but how I interpret the meaning of the card guides the effect."

He shrugs at his conversation partner not sure how he'll take it.

"There's actually two questions. Though it is possible that they are related. When doing my research on the blog and the person writing it, I also stumbled upon rumors about a person who uses energy that has multiple elemental properties and assuming that it is true and that you are the person in question how you do it? As for the second, there was a stretch where fighters end up having their energy taking on properties they normally wouldn't take. In my case, my energy would normally take on light since I'm a photomancer. Occasionally, my energy would change to electricity. There was an expert on the matter of magic that had sensed my energy was corrupted but because I was there in relation to another query, they wouldn't elaborate."

Why can't it be both? "Because the universe," Rei responds, with a slightly sardonic smile, "is vindictive." That seems like an uncharacteristically pessimistic answer, given the man's personality, and he seems to know that, given how he follows it up. "By which I mean, treating it like a perfectly predictable system is great, right up to the point where things stop acting like the system would predict... which is way more often than you'd think."

He declines to elaborate further on that one, instead listening carefully to everything Brandon had to say. The resulting question -- how do you do what you do? -- does take him aback, a little bit. The red-haired xian lets a deep breath out; not quite a sigh, but definitely someone exhaling some degree of held bodily tension. "I don't know that I have an answer that I can compress down to something I'm telling someone on a city sidewalk," Rei replies in a careful tone, watching Brandon's expression carefully. "It's something I learned to do over, well..." You can't exactly say 'multiple lifetimes', even if it's the truth. "...a very long time."

Turning to look at the dojo for a moment, Rei continues after pausing. "Without being able to speak to your *specific* example, though, I can give you my theory. Chi is just a force. It's not as if 'fire chi' exists in the wild; instead, there is chi in the world, and in *certain situations*, it takes on properties we associate with 'fire'."

Normally, this would usually be when Rei makes some sort of flashy hand gesture with appropriate manifestation that illustrates the point; for whatever reason, today he declines to do so. "At least for me, that's my process. I look for the raw energy that's there, and I... well, 'convince' it to act the way I would like it to ask." He pauses, thinking of something he said to Ryu a long time ago, about not having 'control' over chi, in a master/servant dynamic.

"Basically, I ask nicely."

Brandon takes in what Rei has to say and he can't find that there's much to argue with, after all, there was a reason he walked it back to saying that it has aspects of both rather than saying why can't it be both the way he opened his answer with. Still he believes that there are enough elements of both that he feels that a hybrid approach is justfied.

The long time to learn part is not a surprise. There was something about the way Rei said, 'A very long time,' that made him think that there was something else there. Out of consideration for Rei's privacy and the fact that it's probably not related to either of his queries he doesn't ask about that.

"I can note a few matches where the phenomenon takes place if you like. Including one of my own. But I'm not sure how much information you would be able to receive watching a recording of it happening versus having it happen right in front of you and even then I couldn't guarantee I could make it happen in front of you if we were to try it now."

He finds himself laughing as the words Rei just said echo in his head. 'Right up to the point where things stop acting like the system would predict.'

Chi, and by proxy magic, is just a force. Regardless of the lack of gesture or manifestation Brandon seems to get it, at least on an intellectual level. When he says he asks nicely, it is as if a lightbulb turns on in his head.

"Like a ritual! Pardon me. Sometimes, magic users use rituals to access an element that is outside what they would call their specialty or for bigger effects. For all intents and purposes, a ritual is a practitioner or a group of practitioners 'asking nicely.'"

'A ritual.' For a moment, his mind's eye is back many, many years ago to Shang Tsung's island, and what could only be described as a summoning circle made out of I-Ching trigrams. Certainly, if magic is real -- and why shouldn't it be? If the dead can come back to life mysteriously, then magic sure as hell can be real -- then this aspect, the ritual aspect or things like the ninjutsu artifice employed by... well, *a* Ryouhara clan, because who knows what's up with them NOW -- is what eludes the very... uh, Chaotic Good likes of Rei Hazuki.

If he had to guess, though.

"Presuming that magic works the way you might think it does, where someone has to focus their mind or their will, and there's a verbal invocation of some kind..." He goes OUT OF HIS WAY not to mention 'somatic and material components'. "...what you might call that, from this point of view, is... uh, theatre. Or maybe self-suggestion. I mean, there's a reason that we refer to the simple things we do every day, like having coffee before you go to work, as 'rituals'. It really invokes the idea of ingrained repetition."

Putting a hand to his chin in thought, Rei studies Brandon carefully, analytically, eyes ducking again to the box of tarot cards (though Rei himself only knows 'something of power is in the box'). "So the magic words, and gestures, and even your thoughts and feelings... they're all a way of focusing your will to get the outcome you want. And if that sounds dismissive, I don't mean it that way. Human beings are narrative creatures. It makes sense that we need to put ourselves in the right frame of mind -- logically, emotionally, whatever -- to do anything. A story provides context. So you could think of a ritual as, well... the 'story' of how to do it this way. But you could easily rewrite that story, subtly, and get a different result."

Warming to the idea, he continues to explore this theoretical space, pacing a bit as he does so, burning off nervous energy. "As for 'corruption', think of it like... uh, pre-mixed paint. If you WANT to put the color red on the canvas, and someone has pre-mixed in a bit of blue, you're not going to get red... you're going to get a light purple-y color. The original -- the red -- is still IN there, part of the result, but something else got added. Make sense?"

As Rei seems to reason out how rituals work and he's half expecting him mention somatic and material components due to him already mentioning D&D in this conversation. There is no mention of it and so he loses the internal bet he has with himself. Oh well.

Furthermore, Rei likens rituals to story telling and he goes along with it and then can even draw further parallels. "And if someone has a deep enough understanding of the story, they can summarize it and still get the same result."

As Rei continues in that theoretical space, Brandon follows along. Waiting to see where it goes. When Rei gets to the end, it makes sense but it also adds more questions.

"It makes sense but it still has to account for the non-energy users and I can even think of one psion who had that happen to them."

He finds himself rubbing his chin as he goes into his own theoretical space for a moment.

Oh, lordy. His face turning grave, Rei looks Brandon in the eye. "Psycho Power is a whole 'nother animal," he says, in a very careful tone. "I can tell you from long experience that the ways it's similar to chi are superficial at best." Certainly, there are SOME observable ways things are the same: fighters use both, they can be made into energy blasts or power internal processes to superhuman-seeming heights. A long time ago he had some... very enlightening conversations about this with a now-gone family member that possessed such power.

"And there is a difference between 'non-energy users' and the idea that someone has 'no chi'," the redhead adds, in a calm explanatory tone. "Every living being -- even psions -- has chi flowing through them, if you look. Not everyone can *consciously* harness it, but it's there. And more importantly, it's completely surrounding us wherever we go in the world, too." A brief pause, and then a helpless smile. "Like the Force, really. Just without the weird Manichean moralism."

Pausing a moment, the xian crosses his arms over his chest. "Have you ever heard stories of people who could suddenly lift an entire car to save someone they loved that was trapped inside it?" he asks, curious, but continuing on even if Brandon doesn't answer. "Similar principle, perhaps. I may be wrong, but I'm going to guess that your emotional state impacts your ability to do magic. Right?" A tilt of the head. "For a 'non-energy user', it could be the same thing. Some... outside stimulus trips the right switch, and suddenly: BOOM!" He spreads his hands apart, Carl Sagan-style. "Great Aunt Hilda is throwing fireballs at the guy who stole her purse, or something."

"I figured as much in terms of the 'whole 'nother animal' thing which is why a psion having that 'corrupted chi' problem was confusing to me. And yet, I had someone ask me to look into it for them because they couldn't figure it out."

Then with Rei going into the 'non-energy user' aspect and once again it falls in line with what he was thinking though for him it was more just not having access to energy either because they didn't have enough to properly harness it or they somehow have some type of block on their ability to ask it nicely.

"I can't speak on the emotional states of the other fighters but when it happened to me, it was during a fighting event where nothing more was on the line than pride and it has also happened during what one could consider a life or death struggle each of which do have differing mental states... to a point. Both would still cause adrenaline spikes though. The one who had asked for help for their psionic friend put forth the possibility that adrenaline might be the specific trigger."

"Well," Rei says in response, leaning his torso slightly to the side and observing Brandon carefully, the difference in their heights meaning the xian is looking up at the detective a non-trivial amount. "That might be where the science part fails you. Adrenaline is a physical, biological thing. It has impacts on your mental state, because... well. We live in physical bodies, so they matter. But they're not ALL that matters."

A pause. "Is your pride worth your life, for example?" Again, there's a sort of... child asking an innocent question air about Rei in these moments. Not the didactic 'trapping you into an answer' smug rhetorical stuff, but someone who genuinely wants to know. "If you were struggling to be the best version of yourself, to not lose your pride, isn't that a KIND of life and death struggle? I don't know what the real answer to that question is. But I do know that your state of mind, your emotions, what it is you WANT to do in any given moment -- what happens when you reach out to the energy of the world to shape it will change based on that."

A pause, and then he stands up more fully. "I don't necessarily know I'm going to have an answer to any of this that would make you go, 'aha! that must be it!'," Rei says solemnly, and not without some sympathy. "And it could very well be that literally everything I've said here today will turn out to be off the mark in a week regardless." He spreads his hands, palm out. "The only constant in the universe is that what we don't know will always be more than what we do."

"You could be right in that the adrenaline spike is possibly a red herring but at the moment that has been the only consistent factor that I had been able to observe. Or it could be one of the required ingredients in the 'corrupted chi' recipe with each variant being a slightly altered recipe."

Rei then poses an interesting question. Is pride worth your life? He found himself blinking in surprise when he poses that loss of pride could, in theory, be a form of death.

"For me personally, I'd say pride is not worth my life. Wounded pride is much easier to heal than a wounded heart. Also, the lessons learned from a wounded pride can form the foundations or the supports of what is to become your best self in the future."

The sage has given the investigator a lot to think about which in a way was helpful and could lead to new discoveries both with magic and the chi corruption situation.

"Even still, you've been more than helpful. Thank you for your time."

"Not a problem," Rei replies in an even tone. In truth, it was an interesting exercise for him, too. After all, the only real way to know if a theory holds up is to put it to the test, specifically against unknowns. You never learn anything staying right where you are, after all.

Sensing the conversation coming to its end, the xian gives a nod to Brandon. "Sometimes the path to understanding isn't answers, but having the right questions, after all," he says, ever the cryptic fortune-cookie guy. "I'd be interested in what your answers are, if and when you ever find them. Maybe by the time next time fate brings together, you'll have found some."

With that, he gives a little wave, and is off, to wherever the journey takes him next.

Log created on 12:37:56 06/20/2023 by Brandon, and last modified on 07:46:06 06/21/2023.