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Blood, Contracts, and (unfortunately) Kankri Vantas

I think we’ve been looking at Blood the wrong way.

((Lots of Homestuck theory rambling below the cut. I haven’t looked up the sources yet because I’m lazy, but I am referring to specific parts of Homestuck and I’ll insert links later. Sorry about that.))

((Also, none of this post would be possible without the various Class/Aspect theories of BladekindEyewear, and in particular his post on Breath and Blood. Go check his stuff out, it’s all really fascinating.))

Over the past few days, I’ve been wrestling with a feasible Homestuck aspect circle. The key conceit (which I’ll probably revisit later) is that there are not one but two major axes of affiliation for SBurb’s aspects. One is along Time and Space, representing the vast battle between Creation and Destruction, Prospit and Derse, Skaia and the Horrorterrors. The other is along Heart and Mind, representing the much smaller, but much more numerous and possibly more important individual battles each hero has with growing up. (Let’s call the first axis Possibility/Restriction, and the second Desire/Decision, though I’m not totally sold on those names.) Thus, Light has a powerful association with Possibility and a minor association with Decision, because a hero who has light has enough knowledge to ensure that every choice they make is suffused with importance, and Rage is primary Decision and secondary Restriction because it cuts away extraneous and absurd choices, leaving you with the focus you need to make a choice with focus and intent, and etc, etc.

The problem was Blood. By process of elimination, Blood ended up adjacent to Mind on the Time side - or in other words, primary Desire, secondary Restriction. According to BladekindEyewear (whose theories I’m using as the null hypothesis here), Blood is the aspect of restrictions, responsibility, contracts, and interpersonal connections. Now, those are all restrictive or desired - but not both at the same time. Interpersonal connections and restrictions work, but responsibility and contracts both feel less like the work of the soul and more like the work of the mind - they’re things you choose to follow, not things you inherently want. So what gives?

Let’s set that question aside for a moment, and take a look at Kankri Vantas. Kankri is irresponsible to the extreme, appropriating and misusing terms of oppression in order to make himself seem knowledgeable and important. He has almost no strong interpersonal connections, nothing that ties him to others. He forms no contracts, and makes no promises. BladekindEyewear attributes this to Kankri being an ineffectual Seer of Blood, but few, if any, of the other Beforan trolls were particularly effective at their roles, and they still demonstrate their aspects - in fact, they serve very little other purpose in the story. And Kankri’s character is all about understanding two things - connections and communities. Not his own, mind you - the Seer sees their aspect in others, while the Mage sees their aspects in themselves. But Kankri is actually quite adept at understanding how communities work and play off each other, even if he misuses that power horribly. And the Signless does almost exactly the same thing on the other side of the scratch, with a deep understanding of the core relationships (those between, well, blood castes) that drive his entire society.

Blood purely as the aspect of relationships makes more sense with my main postulate. The kinds of relationships that Blood governs - namely, friendship and romance - are almost impossible to simply decide into existence. They are deeply connected to Heart, soul, and desire, while still being connections that tie you down and restrict your actions. They’re even mysterious and often incomprehensible, making them a logical partner to Void! But Karkat, the Knight of Blood, has incredibly strong connections with contracts, leadership and responsibility (even if his fellow heroes of Blood do not). Where do those come from?

Well, what is a contract? In broad terms, it’s an agreement between two people that defines the terms of their relationship. In other words, it’s not just a result of blood - it’s the result of the Exploitation of Blood. It takes a relationship and maximizes its efficacy, ensuring that both parties get exactly what they desire. Except it’s something else on a more precise level. When a contract is made, each party says, “Here is what I want done; please do it for me.” In other words, a contract is also an exchange of goals. Or in other words, a passive, mutually beneficial redistribution of direction - the domain of a Rogue of Breath! Karkat, by exploiting his friendships and allegiances  passed his direction to others - the core of leadership - and took their directions into himself - the core of responsibility. But he did it only using the tools of Blood!

UU: for instance, a hero of life and a hero of doom have aspects as different as can be. 
UU: bUt if their classes are different enoUgh as well, that is, one active and the other passive, remarkably there is a chance they coUld end Up with very similar abilities! 

I would like to propose that destroyer classes are not the only ones that “ghost” their inverse - in other words, simulate the powers of their inverse by using their own. Instead, every class can - and in fact must! - invoke the effects the inverse of their class and aspect in order to grow. We’ve seen another Knight do something like this before. Dave - using time powers quite naturally - managed to redistribute his presence, or his Space, across the Incipisphere, allowing him to be in ((I think it was)) 13 different places at once! And Vriska, for example, by stealing all knowledge and agency to herself, allowed Terezi to Exploit a Void in Vriska’s knowledge - Vriska’s assumption that Terezi wouldn’t have the strength to kill her.

But the most powerful example, I think, is John. John is the Heir of Breath - one who changes his own direction, or invites changes in direction, as if by the will of the aspect. BladekindEyewear points out that ultimately, it is his friends who invite these changes, sending him off to follow the quests they need doing. But by following their orders, John comes to better understand the bonds that tie them together - or in other words, manifests the powers of a Mage of Blood. And then he uses those powers to enhance his capabilities as an Heir of Breath. Again, as BladekindEyewear notes, John, in his letters to Rose, Jade, and Dave, changes all his friends’ directions, but he does so through an intimate understanding of his relationships with them, and what ties them together. And it is that same understanding that allows him to trust and follow his friends so readily, as demonstrated with his decision (based on his friendship with Dave) not to confront his Denizen. This pattern is most visible with Vriska. He works with her, listens her, and follows her directives. And in the process, he comes to better understand the nature of their friendship, and the nature of Vriska Serket. Because he understands her, he trusts her and allows her to change his direction, even to the point of allowing her to kill him (knowingly or not). And also because he understands her, he is able to begin changing her direction, a process that is blocked by John’s trek into the darkness surrounding Rose, and aborted by Vriska’s death.

In conclusion: Breath is chosen direction, determination, and goals. Blood is the diffuse web of emotional relationships we have with each other. Contracts, responsibilities, and leadership are a method of exploiting Blood, as well as redistributing Breath. And every class - not just the destroyers - has the potential, if not requirement, to ghost their inverse. And that brings us, at last, back to Kankri Vantas. Why is Kankri - a seer, by nature a master of perception and understanding - a short-sighted asshole? What is the difference between him and his much more successful post-scratch iteration, the Signless Sufferer? It’s simple. Kankri has immersed himself in the understanding of blood. He focuses deeper and deeper on less and less important relationships, losing sight of the whole. But the Signless? He took his understanding of his society, and used it. The Signless Sufferer, the Seer of Blood, invoked the powers of a Witch of Breath in order to try and change the direction of an entire race.

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