(Regular update coming a little slow – sorry! The story is not intended to be a substitute and I won’t make a habit of reverting to text posts. It was meant to be more spaced out with several comic updates. Hopefully I can get the last part up and a comic page for you tomorrow!)

Aesma and the Three Masters

-Part 2:Aesma and the Master of Aesthetic-

Aesma left the Master of space-time humiliated and battered and set upon the road again, but the heat of victory very quickly cooled into the smoldering jealousy that was her usual manner, and she struck on.
The estate of the Master of aesthetics was not difficult to find either. It hung suspended like a brightly glowing jewel in the blackness of the void. Aesma was taken aback as she hurtled closer, for it grew quickly in in her vision into an expansive palace the size of a city, whose shining streets and ways were packed to the brim with admirers and followers of unbelievable shapes and sizes. As Aesma stowed Pedam’s walking stick, she could hardly move without being assailed with a riot of color and sound and personage. Sprays of brightly plumed dancers spun in the air and sang in speech, thought, and machine code. The cafes were thick with serious-faced philosophers and wild, frenetic writers from the seven corners of the multiverse burning a hundred thousand tongues into brightly fired glyphs. Thick-armed artists and poet-engineers packed the streets, perched over glowing canvases, crowds of admirers and assistants gathered around them, goggle-eyed and gaping.
Any god or man could a spent an age swallowed in the glorious spectacle, but it merely frustrated Aesma, who rudely cleaved her way through the impossible crowds for three days, scavenging from luminous cafes, and using Pedam’s stave to viciously fend off uncounted party invitations. But finally, she made her way to the center of that palace, where there was a hall the size of a cavern, filled with rich music, celebrants, and docile animals from a thousand stories. As she smacked and wrenched her way through man, beast, and admirer alike, she came upon a large, beautiful pool, and there seated upon the water was the Master of Aesthetic.
Aesma was somewhat taken aback, as the riotous chaos of the Master’s estate had led her to expect the Master’s art to be quite shallow. But the Master herself was an extremely plain looking woman, dressed almost completely naked in a simple wrapping cloth, her skin and eyes a dull white, her head and brow shaved, and Aesma immediately understood the power she was dealing with.
“YISUN tells me you are the strongest of their disciples,” spoke Aesma, striding across the pool like a great ugly, disheveled bird, and seating herself on the water.
“Young Aesma, who has trumped that gigantic clown, the Master of space-time,” said the Master of aesthetic in a perfectly unremarkable voice. “What an odd question. Did you not stay and observe my estate before coming here?” she added.
“I don’t have time for such frivolity when my reputation is on the line!” fumed Aesma,
The Master made a subtle motion and bread and liquor were brought for Aesma, who also loudly demanded flesh.
“It is so,” said the master as they sipped their liquor.
“How so!” said Aesma quickly.
“Though I have sacrificed much, I have attained mastery of the ultimate and insurmountable truth of Art, “the Master said, “No movement of mind, muscle, or voice is unknown to me. I can measure sorrow, or joy, or pain, or love as plainly as the fingers of my hand. I have laid bare the great filaments of color and sound that connect all life in the multiverse, and I may pluck upon them as I please. Perfection is my breath.”
“Nonsense! Any fool can say what Art is!” protested Aesma, chewing. “My face is said to be beautiful to many!” she said, contorting her expression so her face resembled the shy, demure, maid that she never was. The crowd of onlookers gasped, so sudden was the transformation. “But for me,” she said, relaxing her expression into her usual demonic countenance, “It is a hideous face of weakness.”
“Have you not seen my estate, my Palace of Resonance?” said the Master. “It is the ultimate cynosure, my final work. Until the end of days the greatest minds and artists will flock here in hope of drinking of my perfection, but never attain it.”
Aesma conceded that she had not seen the estate.
“Show me your illuminated mind,” commanded the Master in her perfectly normal voice. Aesma did, and the Master was shocked at how writhing and wicked it was. She quickly resolved to give Aesma some tutelage. Motioning for Aesma to follow, she walked out into the city-palace.
Aesma quickly realized that in her hurry to find the Master, she had made a critical oversight. The Palace itself was more than an estate, it was a gallery of monumental proportions, whose architecture thrummed with a harmony that she felt in her bones.
“We will start,” said the Master, “with a work to your liking.”
They stopped at a grand, worn looking theatre. Inside they lingered and ordered drinks while a comedian began a ballad of bawdy poetry. “Of my design,” said the Master, and as the poem progressed, Aesma, though reticent, quickly found herself unable to contain her mirth. By the end, most of the audience was in stitches on the floor, and Aesma’s sides were raked raw from laughing. “A fine work,” conceded Aesma, “but not perfect!”
“An early work,” said the Master slyly, and they progressed to a grand golden dome, where they watched an opera of the Master’s design and ordered increasingly more expensive liquor. At first, Aesma was merely amused by the opera, a simple work about a heroine’s conquest of her fears. But as the work progressed, she found herself increasingly more involved in the plot, which dragged her from emotional high to emotional low, hooked into her throat so tightly that it was raw from screaming from joy and fear. And by the end, she realized that the opera had been written about her, Aesma. It truly was perfection.
“Very well!” conceded Aesma, hoarsely, as they proceeded onwards. By now they had gathered a tail three leagues long of admirers and followers. “But my earlier point still stands,” she continued, gathering her wits, “Aesma has enjoyed your work. But who’s to say she will enjoy the next.”
They went on to observe a humid subterranean dance, a rhythmic, pulsating affair. Aesma found very little pleasure in it, and was about to crown herself victorious, when the Master spoke.
“It is true what you said before,” said the master, “that Art is a matter of perspective. So is reality. The Master of space-time was a fool precisely because he failed to see this. No matter how deep he looked, he could only see with his own eyes, the consummate fool.”
“I have also mastered perspective, “she said, “so I will teach you the way to change your form and the shape of your earthly mind, and the color of my meaning will become known to you.”
They changed their form and bearing to two bearded youths, young men, and it wasn’t long before Aesma felt a stirring in her root and a quickening in her chest. The dance had a perfect effect on her male form.
“Blast you!” she spat.
“You will see nothing is unknown to me,” said the Master, laughing heartily, “Meaning is the essence of existence, and it is a tapestry I weave at my pleasure.”
They spent the rest of the week like that, moving from dance, to art born in light and blood, to song, to music, to performance, to transcendental math, such staggering works as Aesma felt a lifetime pass with each one. Each time they shifted from form to form like the flickering of a candle. Sometimes they were beasts, drinking in the perfection of a fresh kill, sometimes they tuned their ears to trans-dimensional winds. They lived as masochists, as beggars, as kings, as gods, as men, as women, as hermaphrodites, as worms, as stars. The time wicked away like quicksilver, and soon, having gathered a crowd that trailed behind them nearly the length of the palace, they retired to the pool at the center of it all. Aesma near collapsed from exhaustion, and quickly demanded copious liquor to cure her hangover. The Master was wholly unaffected and reclined in the center of her pool in her perfectly plain flesh.
“So you see,” said the Master, “I have mastered Meaning in all its forms and perspectives. My insight is the deepest there is, and so all come to bask in my perfection. That is why I am the strongest of YISUN’s disciples.”
“Now I am sure YISUN keeps you close out of amusement or pity,” continued the Master, “but if you wish to improve your meager talent, I will allow you to present yourself as my student.”
“Die screaming,” croaked Aesma, and the hot fire of jealousy gathered itself within her, and she spat out another stupid question.
“If you understand so deeply, then what is the universal Art?” said Aesma wickedly.
“There is none,” said the Master, untroubled.
“There must be one!” said Aesma, fire rising in her heart, “What’s all this about meaning if there isn’t anything universal about it!”
“I had thought it to be love, or perhaps lovemaking,” said the Master, dismissive, “But of course, universal thinking is shallow, did I not tell you this? Meaning and existence are exercises of self. So it is, and always will be. You should know this, Aesma.”
“Of course there’s one, you smug fop!” spat Aesma, and rage began to bubble up in her boiling mind. “I’ll find it, here!”
“I have little time for the unworthy,” said the Master, and made to call for her servants to cast out Aesma. But before the Master could even extend her littlest finger, Aesma let loose a wild howl and began to tantrum.
“I’ll show you!” she roared, and clothed herself in death. “I’ll find you a universal Art in the ruins of your palace!!” Her tongue lolled, and her eyes weeped blood, and she spat fire and tore out of the pool. She began to rip apart the docile animals there, and their cries of pain brought a hundred martial artists from the crowd, who made to stop her. But Aesma in her destroyer form was a fiendish creature with thirty five arms and three ancillary battle consciousnesses, whose skin was plated like iron and gave off acrid smoke that seared the weak. She beat them bloody and then ran amok in the crowd, breaking and slashing and hurling men and women from fifty thousand worlds to and fro, destroying priceless works of art millennia in the making, and generally making a mess of things.
Her rampage lasted three days and only ceased when the Master herself sallied forth from her pool with thirty five mendicant saints who impaled Aesma on puresilver lances. Her berserk rage finally draining from her body, Aesma conceded.
“Why do you tear up my house, you wretched thing!” said the Master.
“To find the universal Art!” howled Aesma.
“There is no such thing, stupid girl,” said the Master, and Aesma dealt her a single blow across the face. And as the Master was struck, she realized terribly and immediately that Aesma was right. Although Aesma in her blind rage did not realize it, she had spoken with a language understood by all the great men, artists, beasts, philosopher-kings, angels and poets from a million worlds gathered at the Master’s estate.
“The universal art is violence,” said the Master, shocked.
“Aha!” said Aesma in sudden realization.
The master could say nothing.
“I told you!” Aesma cackled, as she was dragged away, and thrown off the shattered and burning Palace into the void.
“That’s awful,” said the Master.
Her body drooped and crumpled, and all the lights in her beautiful glowing palace slowly died as she dragged herself to her pool, which had grown an ugly shade, and wept.