The first option was to stay. Bastet was purely in soul form and she was lucid as never before, but she was unable to stay in the world. The mighty Osiris used the spiritual magic that only gods could master, and he could leave her in the Underworld and use the power of the Underworld to repair her soul and to reattach her souls onto the statues in the shrines. Perhaps she could then reform her physical body and one day become a real deity.
This seemed like the best option, since she could still be the goddess Bastet and an emissary of the Underworld while still having hope at transcending eternal life.
The second option was to forget. A spiritual imprint was equivalent to the soul itself, and one couldn’t just forget if one desired to. However, Osiris could have Bastet open her imprint to him, just as Schrodinger had done for Amon, saying her “name” in the “true language”. But Osiris would not be doing this for the sake of experiencing her memories. He had the means to integrate her spiritual imprint into his own soul. When that happened, Bastet would cease to exist.
This seemed like the worst option, as it meant an end to everything, the loss of three hundred years of training, while giving up her spiritual imprint to Osiris.
The third option was to reject. Because the first two options required Bastet’s consent, otherwise Osiris could not do anything to her. Bastet could choose to take it that Osiris had never appeared at this moment at all, and combine her soul with a new life, becoming a cat as she originally chose to. This was the only freedom given to her for her three hundred years of training.
The three options were complicated, but there was no concept of time here. It all happened in just one instant. The soul was awake, heard the options and the decision was made. It was all over.
Amon finally understood what the “judgement of fate” was. When he left Schrodinger’s spiritual imprint this time, he did not at once open his eyes. Instead, he sat for one whole day before he finally recovered. Although he wasn’t the one who actually went through the final test, experiencing it through Schrodinger’s spiritual imprint was sufficient to injure his soul, and it wasn’t something that could be healed in a day or two.
The place he was in was a village built by Moses and the others, like a small town of Duc, with a shrine in the center between two neat rows of stone houses, and a square in front of the shrine. Amon was sitting in front of an altar in the shrine when he unfolded Schrodinger’s spiritual imprint.
This shrine had been built by the Ducians for their god “Allaha”. Moses had never seen Allaha’s appearance, and since Allaha was their “only god”, they were not allowed to build any statues for the other gods. Therefore, there was only a symbolic totem on the altar – the holy cross.
The cross was divided into four parts: the upper, left and right sides were equal in length, while the lower side was twice as long as the other three. At the center of the cross there was a sun-shaped circle radiating light, while at the top, left and right tips of the cross, there were three similar but smaller circles, making them look like three small crosses.
This symbol was very common in the continent, and it symbolized “light”, that which shone upon all in the world. In many occasions it also symbolized the sun, giving life to all the living things, the source of life.
Other than the radiating sun, the cross shape itself was also a mysterious totem that had been widely used since the ancient times. In Bablon and Hittite, the cross was a tool of punishment on which people who committed serious crimes were hung upon in public. Thus the cross-shaped totem also symbolized suffering and the desire to be redeemed from the suffering. In Ejypt, cross-shaped stakes were placed on the river banks to represent the height of the rising flood. Later on, this totem was also seen as a symbol of life and reproduction.
Moses had erected a cross symbol of light to represent his faith in Allaha, and it held a complex meaning.
Schrodinger stayed by Amon’s side from sunrise till sunset and then till sunrise once again. Finally, Amon opened his eyes. Schrodinger asked with concern: “How are you? Are you hurt badly?”
Amon lifted the cat and stroked it gently in his embrace. “I’m fine, I just lost the use of my power temporarily. It will probably take some time before I recover.”
With Schrodinger in his arms, Amon stood up and looked at the cross on the altar. It symbolized the Ducians’ faith towards him, but right now, they were on a journey of suffering. He sighed and said as he walked: “Today’s weather is pretty good and the air is fresh. Let’s go for a walk in the hills and do some hunting. Since I can’t use my power, we shall not catch fish in the river today.”
For the next month, the servants on his territory saw the Supreme General leading a leisurely and comfortable life. He did not ride on a horse or take any followers with him, only bringing wine and food with him as he travelled about the area with a cat, taking in the sights and scenery. The place they visited most often was the Nile and the wilderness near Mount Horeb, and nobody could hear the words that Amon spoke to the cat in private.
Amon once asked Schrodinger: “It is normal for you to reject the second option, but why didn’t you take the first option?”
Schrodinger replied without joy or anger: “When I reached the end of my path, I finally understood what the “judgement of fate” was. The gods guided me on a path, but whatever I had done on that path would ultimately be my ending. Did I still want to repeat the same path and be Bastet all over again? Moreover, being a lonely soul in the Underworld is no different from becoming a source of power for Osiris.”
In a sense, Bastet had been a tool of the gods. She slew so many powerful demons that when the final test came, the powerful body she gained from three hundred years of training was still insufficient to withstand the damage. All she had done was to merely accomplish the tasks given to her by the gods. On the other hand, the gods had allowed her to enjoy the offerings in the shrine, and the countless prayers and faith of countless people had counteracted most of the impact from the resentment of the living, allowing her to retain her soul.
Amon asked again, “When you regained your senses, you were no longer willing to be a tool of Osiris and the Ennead, but did you ever resent them?”
Schrodinger shook her head, “No, I don’t resent them! I’m just a cat that gained wisdom by a stroke of luck. I don’t know what would have happened to me without Isis’ guidance, it is too hard to find the correct path among those thousands of wrong paths, and it is more likely that I would have ended up in the same way as those demons that I slew. Being accepted into the Ennead and receiving great power, and also becoming a goddess worshipped in the shrines while living for three hundred years, I’m a lucky enough cat that I shouldn’t complain about anything. What I have done is what I am willing to do, and I have taken the consequences, that’s all.”
Amon: “The gods told you everything, but they did not tell you about that final test, do you know why?”
Schrodinger: “When I finally understood, I did not resent Osiris. There was obviously a reason why he never told me. If I had known long ago what the final end of this path would be, I would likely have cowered in fear and not been able to pass all the previous tests to get there at all. As terrible as that test was, one had to be qualified to face the test, and the coming of the test was a sign of accomplishment.
But I wouldn’t be grateful to Osiris either. From a selfish point of view, if I had not accomplished as much as I did, I would have been of no use to him. The gods need powerful and courageous emissaries to accomplish all sorts of difficult tasks, and no god would tell those guided by them the secret in advance, but only make all sorts of arrangements and engagements.”
Amon suddenly thought of something and he looked at Schrodinger as he said: “Nietzsche once reminded me of three things that seem to be related to that final test, was it you who told Bair about it?”
Schrodinger looked down at the dirt at his feet. “I was indeed the one who warned Bair, but it may not have been all good. I have said this before, knowing this secret could be good or bad for you, what would you do?”
Amon laughed. “There is nothing to do about it, since there is no difference between knowing and not knowing. In fact, I remind my disciples of the same things, but some things are like fate, which you have to face eventually.”
There was a group of ants crawling past Schrodinger’s feet and the cat seemed to say to herself: “That seems easy to say, but can you really do it?”
Amon sighed softly. “I’m not sure either, but since I have said so, that’s how I will do it.”
A month later, Amon entered Schrodinger’s spiritual imprint once again, for the last time.
It felt like experiencing reincarnation, as Schrodinger became a newborn kitten again. The kitten opened its tiny light blue eyelids in confusion and looked at the strange and unknown world. At this moment the kitten was still in a daze, unable to even struggle to stand still or to understand who it was, but its eyes were exceptionally clear.
As it grew up, it gradually manifested a unique ability. It could recognize many things around it, although it had never seen them before, and naturally knew what they were and what they were for, allowing it to instinctively avoid much harm. The survival rate of kittens in the wild was very low, and at least half of the kittens born every year would freeze to death in the first cold spell of winter, this was something which occurred naturally.
The few lucky ones that survived would have to face predation from other wild animals, struggle to find food, and encounter a variety of unpredictable injuries and illnesses. Schrodinger had knew how to make her own nest ever since she was learning to walk. She safely passed her first winter by looking for a safe place to stay out of the rain as well as various objects which could keep her warm. As the days passed, the sense of deja vu for many things in the world grew stronger and stronger.
Finally one day, she followed a stray cat from a secluded street corner to the square in front of the Shrine of Isis, and suddenly realized that she had been here before!
This was what Bastet had achieved in her first life. She was able to bring her past memories with her as she started a new life, but at the beginning these memories would be extremely vague and needed to be recalled bit by bit. The reason for this was simple. As the body and mind were one, the soul was limited by the life force. A kitten’s brain wasn’t capable of thinking or recalling so much complex information, so it could only comprehend what it could understand at the time.
Bastet didn’t actually perish, but was continuing her life in a way that she had been given another chance to start over. But this did not mean that she would definitely be able to regain her past achievements. Cats were weak, and a large dog could kill her before she could start building up her strength. A kitten that made it to two years old was already considered lucky among its kind.
Her memories became clearer as she grew up, and once again she activated her wisdom. If she was lucky enough, she might eventually get back on that path to the gods, but without the protection and support of a divine clan, the path would be unimaginably difficult. Shortly after she activated her wisdom, Osiris reappeared.
One day while dozing under the shade of the walls outside the shrine, all the cats nearby suddenly woke up and fled. Schrodinger opened her eyes and looked up to see the god appearing from within a shadow, and she suddenly recognized the visitor. Osiris said: “Bastet, welcome back!”
It was Osiris who made her soul awaken in advance, and he used magic to let her know of her past experiences.
When she was finally able to start her training again, Osiris once again came to her and asked: “Bastet, you did not die, you just recovered from a dangerous attack, and I have been looking forward to your recovery. Your experiences have allowed you to start over again. Compared to the countless strong ones who have fallen in the final test throughout history, you are very lucky. You only need to open your spiritual imprint to me and you can continue to be a member of the Ennead.”
However, Schrodinger replied, “Great God of the Underworld, I want to make a new choice, and I don’t wish to have anything to do with the Ennead anymore.”
Osiris said: “It is not your choice to make. The guidance given by the Ennead has made you much more than an ordinary cat, you cannot break the oath you made with the gods. If you abandon your mission, you will be abandoning your power and your path as well.”
At first, Schrodinger didn’t quite understand what Osiris meant by this statement. Later on, as Schrodinger began to train and spent many years breaking through the many tests, she realized that her power never recovered. But that did not stop Schrodinger from continuing the training. She did not face any obstacles in passing the tests, but she was unable to use the power appropriate to the level that she had achieved. In the end, she was able to pass the test of the endless arising and ceasing cycle. She had become a cat with an imprisoned soul, and always remained as a cat.
Did Osiris imprisoned her power? Allowing it to possess nothing more than the body of a cat forever. This imprisonment loosened between times. Schrodinger, a cat with a ninth-level of achievement, was occasionally able to muster her strength to do some things, but doing so took a great toll on her body.
When Bair later arrived at the Shrine of Isis, he found a cat secretly studying the documents in the Archives. Schrodinger had attempted to find a way in the records to release her soul. Bair was surprised to find that the cat was undetectable under detection magic, a stealth ability almost exclusively possessed by the gods, so he stole the cat in passing, hoping to learn its secrets.
But Schrodinger only gave Bair three warnings. The genius Bair figured out that Schrodinger might be a sealed deity and once said: “I can find a way to unseal you, and you will tell me the secret. All the sealing magic in the world is nothing more than skills in message magic evolved in one way or another, and I am the greatest master of message magic in this world.”
Whatever happened after was known to Amon. Bair fled to the depths of the Euphrates Valley and in the last moment, he threw Schrodinger down from the air with Osiris’ rib. Schrodinger landed safely, but the rib fell into a stream. Schrodinger took Bair’s last message to the town of Duc to find Crazy’Ole, and waited until Amon appeared.
From beginning to end, after four hundred years of life experience, Amon finally returned to the town of Duc where he grew up, but this time as a bystander. He saw himself in infancy, and also saw his mother, who had died at an early age.
It was an indescribable feeling upon seeing himself in this memory after experiencing everything as Schrodinger in the spiritual imprint. His resolution finally wavered, the balance formed in the deep serenity of mind was broken. And once the thoughts arose, he could not stay in Schrodinger’s spiritual imprint any longer. He was immediately pushed out.
When he opened his eyes it was not yet dawn, and the cat’s eyes shone like jewels in the darkness. Schrodinger looked at him expectantly, but asked in a worried tone: “What’s wrong, you did not complete the experience?”
Amon said softly: “Yes, how did you know that? Aren’t you in a state of unknowing when your spiritual imprint is opened?”
Schrodinger jumped onto his lap and said: “Because your eyes are filled with tears.”
Amon hugged Schrodinger to his chest and said: “I’m so sorry, I failed to keep a thoughtless mind! It was because I saw my mother and for the first time I was able to see her face so clearly. I never get to remember her face, for I was too young when she died. I’m truly grateful to you for this!”
Schrodinger said: “Why are you saying sorry? I’m the one who should be thanking you! It’s a miracle for you to have made it through this far, not even wavering at all during the “judgement of fate”, and not hesitating to suffer four hundred years of solitude just to help me.
It is normal that you couldn’t make it to the end, because most of the last part you were spectating your own experience as a bystander. Although you experienced the test of endless arising and ceasing cycle through my spiritual imprint, it wasn’t your test after all, and you have not achieved that level yet. When you reach the ninth-level by your own efforts in the future, only then will you be able to truly undergo the test.”
Amon asked gently: “You have something to ask me, why aren’t you asking it?”
Schrodinger dug her head into his arms and said: “This four hundred years of my past, you know it better than me. Did you find out what’s sealing my soul?”
Amon said apologetically: “I might have found some clues, but it isn’t very clear yet. Can you give me a few more days? I’m going to meditate in isolation and I can’t see anyone for a while, including you.”
Schrodinger raised her head and said: “I understand, you need some time to digest the experience in your training. Thank you for your hard work, I will wait for you.”
The Supreme General gave an order that he would not be seeing any guests and that no one should disturb him. Amon started his training in meditation, examining and reflecting upon his experience. Half a month passed, but Amon had passed a hundred years in his isolated meditation without speaking or moving. Despite his orders, due to the arrival of a messenger from the faraway kingdom of Hittite, Amon had no choice but to end his meditation and receive his guest personally.
The arrival of this messenger was arranged by Amon six months earlier. The Supreme General had been planning to leave Ejypt for a long time.