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Oct 28, 2021 11:26 AM
Riley goes adventuring
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"What do you mean by reached for immortality and how did they die?"

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"Has Starlight met gods before?"

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"That's a hard question. We've encountered several kinds of beings who either called themselves gods or were described that way by others. Each type has very different abilities."

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"Remnant has two. They created the planet and all life upon it. Early humans grew angry that they were dying, and rebelled against the gods." 

Sip. Sigh. 

"They lost. All of humanity was destroyed for their sin." There's a catch in Ozpin's voice, and a flicker of pain across his face, as he continues. "The rebellion began with one human who asked the gods to revive a loved one for her. The gods refused, saying it would upset a delicate balance. As the ones who created said order, I can only assume they knew what they were talking about." 

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"So you're a reincarnating immortal. Did you have personal involvement in this rebellion? Also, what do you know about the abilities of these gods? Did you personally observe them creating the planet?"

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"I did not participate in the rebellion. I had died - for the first time, in fact - before it began." His voice is deep with sadness.

"Much of what I know comes from an artifact which will answer questions truly, but it can tell me nothing of the powers of the gods. Nevertheless, I lived in a time where they lived among us, and I saw them do things which are consistent with immense power. The elder of the Brothers Grimm, the god of light, created and maintained entire ecosystems for human use. The younger, the god of darkness, created the Grimm. The brothers can give immortality to humans, or revive the dead. The younger of the Brothers Grimm wiped out humanity in the blink of an eye; his departure shattered the moon." 

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"And also did something to keep it from reassembling or spreading out too far I presume. Do you know why Humanity came back into existence?"

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"Evolution. Millions of years of it. Likely guided by the magic of the gods, though again I cannot confirm it. I believe the Faunus are in some way a byproduct of this hastening - a tendency of the humanoid form to arise in nature even from disparate sources. The gods wanted to give humanity a second chance. Or at least one of them did." 

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"Or just whatever factor it is that causes humans to exist in most of the realms we've encountered. It sounds like there's two real risks here. One is that genuinely something about your realm or your magic makes immortality dangerous. Two that your Gods get offended and attack."

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"...I consider the former more likely than the latter, by a wide margin. But I cannot imagine that doing something offensive to the gods would end well even if they did not deign to punish us for it." 

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"I'm generally not inclined to trust those who commit genocide and our investigations so far don't indicate that unawakened auras in your realm differ from those present in a majority of the realms we've visited. We haven't analyzed the aura of a faunus yet so maybe there's an important difference there. The other possible concerning magics would be Dust, the Grimm and perhaps other magics not widely known like the artifact you mentioned."

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"Dust itself is something of a mystery, but I would be surprised if it is directly related to the cycle of life and death. It does not appear to be renewable. I suspect that Dust is, in fact, fragments of the old magic which the gods gave the first humans. It is what is left over after that magic was taken away. Many of its effects mimic those of the old magic, and it did not exist before the great scouring. 

"The Grimm are creations of the younger brother. They have no Aura, and though they do eat people, they do not appear to need any form of sustenance at all. I doubt very much that they are part of the cycle either, although perhaps even those monstrosities have a reason to exist. 

"Other magics do exist, but they are even less understood. The old magic lingers in a few, but it does not explain the delicate balance of which the gods spoke. Aura itself, however, is and has always been something of a mystery. Some few Semblances can detect traces of Aura left behind after a battle, or when someone or something is killed. Others can identify a person through any disguise, or travel to them across any distance. There also exist other - spaces, I would not call them realms, but perhaps tiny pocket realms - which are accessible only by magical gates. These spaces can be created by old magic; perhaps one such is a reservoir of the dead, awaiting rebirth? The truth of this, I do not yet know." 

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"We'd be happy to hear any suggestions you have for things to investigate more closely. I'm also curious what makes you trust these Gods since you do appear to trust them."

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Ozpin lets out a long sigh. 

"Does one trust the mountains to be tall or the oceans vast? Does one trust the storm clouds on the horizon, or the wild beasts of the wilderness? I respect the Brothers Grimm, and you would do well to do likewise. I know they can be deceived, and yes, this suggests they too can commit deception. But I dare not ignore a warning spoken in seriousness by one with such vast power, one I credit with the making of the world itself. 

"Suppose you met the inventor of a machine which can produce a nearly infinite supply of energy. The inventor tells you, 'under no circumstances must you allow this device near running water.' Would you not heed this warning, even if it seemed arbitrary, if you did not understand its reasons? One does not disrupt a thing one does not understand

"Study Aura. Study death - it need not be the death of sapients, all life has Aura - and study birth. Where does Aura come from? Where does it go? Can it be measured, accounted for, tallied? What happens when it is gone? Study the spaces between worlds; can they hold Aura indefinitely? Locate the pool of life, the rumored home of the god of light, and study its waters. Whence comes its magic? Study the nature of Remnant itself. Does Aura exist beyond its atmosphere, or vanish as Dust? Can its lifeforms survive long outside this realm? These things and more you should understand, before you seek to unmake death." 

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"You seem to be asking us to be certain, I don't think that's a thing it's possible to be. We can repeat experiments we've done elsewhere with other life and other people and see if we get different results. We can move people away from your realm before we allow its unique magic to spread and see if that harms them. We can confirm that people can survive in space. What would convince you things are safe though? We don't know where Auras come from despite all our study. They simply are. We can, with the right magic, summon the Aura of someone who's dead if we recorded the right information and an Aura will return on its own if you reembody someone but we don't observe it being anywhere or moving in order to arrive when summoned."

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"Certain? No. I am merely asking a modicum of restraint. Unless I miss my guess, you personally have been on this planet for fewer than twenty-four hours, and your first representative barely more than that. No civilization, no matter how efficient, can manage to conduct a thorough study of magic in that little time. There is much you do not yet understand. 

"All of your suggestions were good ones. There are other experiments you might perform as well. I have named several. Perform them. Work with scientists and analysts from your world and ours. Prove me wrong

"You wish to know what would convince me that distributing immortality would not invite some unintended apocalypse? Or at least, that it is worth the risk? I can think of a few avenues. We have the means to measure Aura. Prove that Aura is not conserved, by creating multiple copies of a volunteer in a realm outside Remnant and in Remnant itself, and measuring their total Aura. Or if copying is impossible, prove it by having someone low on Aura regenerate it repeatedly outside Remnant. This is evidence against the hypothesis that the birth of new people requires the death of others. It would also surprise me, as I expect the opposite is true. This alone may not be sufficient, but it goes a long way on the road to providing evidence. Three or four tests of that magnitude, all examining different possible avenues for disaster, all coming out contrary to apocalyptic expectations, could perhaps lower the uncertainty enough to justify the risk." 

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"That's a standard I think we can probably meet. As to your first idea, Aura doesn't get duplicated it stretches to cover both copies and that stretching interferes with some magic, I'm not sure how it would interact with an activated aura but it might be quite unpleasant. You can create variants on a person that each have independent Auras but you have to alter a person a lot to not count as the same person. In long term studies it generally took several years for the Aura to split without, with some exceptions when one of the two variants underwent a life altering event. We can retry those tests to see if those of your world change the results of those experiments. As to your second, you said there were non-sapient animals with Aura would one of those suffice as a test subject?" 

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"There are people with Semblances that allow them to duplicate themselves to one degree or another, though not typically for extended amounts of time. The duplicates share Aura without difficulty, but the group cannot exceed the original's maximum capacity. I imagine I can ethically supply sufficiently life-changing conversations to a small subset of volunteers, given a bit of time to prepare and study them. But if that avenue is not feasible, we can employ others. 

"An animal would do for some Aura-related tests, but in general only awakened Auras can be easily measured, or drained without harm to the subject. Aura is present in unawakened life, but only a tiny amount per organism. To drain an unawakened animal's Aura to a measurable degree, it would be necessary to cause it grievous injury or death." 

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She pauses for a few moments and her eyes go a bit distant. "I had an archivist look it up. We have seen similar results with people who have self-duplication abilities. It was not too uncommon in a particularly war-torn realm with ubiquitous magic we made contact with some time ago. And we saw it again in another world a bit like yours where people frequently have unique abilities personal to them. I admit to some confusion, all your tests seem to point to a belief that Aura is somehow finite, I can see how preventing all death would cause problems in that case but expanding the population would do the same, if over a longer period of time. Even if we don't offer complete immortality we will be taking action to protect people from Grimm attacks and that will increase the population. Do you have similar concerns with that?"

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"Eventually, perhaps. But if Aura reincarnates, there is a long way to go before we 'run out.' The civilization before the scouring housed billions of people. And perhaps ecosystems are involved somehow, generating a small amount of Aura. Or perhaps it is only reviving the dead that is anathema, not extending the lives of the living; perhaps Aura is renewable, but something about resurrection damages the cycle. 

"It is not so much that Aura may be finite. It is more that specific Auras belonging to individuals may be. Resurrection may deal irrevocable damage to an awakened Aura, or to something it is tied to. Or it may create a duplicate Aura which causes the interference that you speak of. But I cannot think of a way to test this without putting someone at risk, and that worries me." 

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"If your concern is finding test subjects Ironwood will be providing them. Small scale tests at least will be proceeding unless you think a small number of resurrections are likely to cause a catastrophe."

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"I don't know if a small number will cause catastrophe. I am aware of exactly two in the history of Remnant. The gods were physically present for both and one of them still acted deeply worried. I would exercise the utmost caution in this, especially where awakened Auras are concerned. I cannot tell you not to revive your own people, which you have presumably been doing for years, but Remnant locals may be at elevated risk. For all I know, their Auras could slowly turn them into Grimm.

"I do however, suggest that you take - snapshots - of as many people as possible. If we determine resurrection to be safe, it will not harm them grievously in the long run to have theirs delayed a few years."  

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"We'll definitely take your concern under advisement. Riley should be completing a preliminary assessment of the Grimm today and following that our archivists will be able to complete their initial risk assessment. Assuming things go as we expect additional personnel will be deployed including more researchers and other staff. That should allow us to assess your concerns more easily both by discretely recruiting volunteers for testing and just bringing more analytical capacity to bear."

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"I look forward to working with them. Your arrival has brought me more hope than I have had in many long ages, Siobhán."

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"I'm glad, that's the thing I like most about my work. Bringing people hope."

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