Cyber had been deeply troubled by what lal had learned after delving into the more advanced topics regarding creation of shikigami. To use one's own energy and the sha in this world it was possible to create psudo-life which could perform many various tasks. Normally these shikigami existed for as long as the energy they were given at creation allowed, often not more than several minutes, but hours or days wasn't beyond the realm of possibility if enough energy was drawn for the creation. Providing additional energy to maintain the shikigami after its creation was not possible. However it was possible to use what was known as a heartengine to maintain the shiki indefinitely. This had risks associated with it as the creation of shikigami was a somewhat chaotic process prone to many unexpected results. The slight change of thickness of a stroke on the paper strip, the most common method for drawing the blueprint for the shikigami, could have a huge effect, as could the mental state of the summoner at the time of summoning. Once lal found out about them lal had been interested in how heartengines worked but not able to find much information about their structure where they were acquired or anything other than how they might be used and that they were quite rare. There was a pattern to the data however in their uses and more specifically where and when there were more available in the records. It seemed to correlate with certain battles on borderlands of the territory controlled by The Priesthood. One would expect that if a battle were planned for and some new military equipment needed then heartgems might be produced before the battles and put into use for that purpose, but instead it seemed more likely the battle was to secure the raw materials for their production as there were spikes of their use after the battles were over. The information wasn't enough for lir to say definitively that it was the case, but lal had a feeling it was. The situation reminded lir of the situation in lir own world where battles were fought by several countries in the more worse off parts of the world to secure oil and coal reserves at great human cost. This in and of it self was distressing but it wasn't the thought that haunted lir most pressingly. Lal felt somewhat selfish being more concerned with this thing that may or may not be true which only effected lir and and lir friends, but it was only natural lal supposed to be more concerned with a personal matter than something global and ambiguous. During lir research Cyber had learned how to analyze shikigami through their structure of the sha, and how to create them lirself and had crafted and summoned a shikigami for the purpose of allowing lir to see the sha without the need to rely on a device such as a personal meikyo mirror. "Yuki has told me something is troubling you Cyber" it was Lilian. Cyber had left the shrine grounds and was on lir own in a field, lir eyes glowing with light looking at a deer on the far side. Turning to see Lilian lal looked at her closely with the same eyes dressed in the energy of a small shikigami at lir face. Lal used the sight to discriminate Lilian's form. "She did did she. I told her I would tell her what was going on when I knew more." lal said feeling somewhat betrayed. "She cares a great deal for you, and she told me you mentioned that I might know what it was you were trying to discover which is why she came to me." Lilian's voice flowed as a calm stream. It was disarming, and Cyber now viewed it as a kind of social weapon. "I didn't want to ask you, I wanted to confirm my suspicion before confronting you about it." Cyber as honest as ever. Lal could attempt to hide what lal was thinking or try to find some other thing to pretend to be concerned over, but like Yuki had a distaste for subterfuge and lies. "You don't trust me." the mikko stated, a slight coldness to her voice. "I don't know if I can trust your answer. But I suppose it doesn't matter now, you may lie about it, but I know enough now that I will be able to confirm my suspicion regardless of whatever you say. But it's true, I can understand why you wouldn't have said anything about it, we wouldn't have understood anyway, the others probably still wont. But if I knew the answer before asking you and you lied... " Cyber felt a bit petty at lir reasoning. Still the distress at knowing the answer and what it meant frightened lir. "So, ask the question then. I have no reason to lie, nor would I have in any case." Lilian stood in resolute elegance. "Are we shikigami?" Cyber voiced the question. "Oh, is that all?" Lilian was amused. "It's not funny. I know that shikigami can be created in all kinds of ways, even with kill switches or with a command to destroy themselves. Free will can be striped from them the possibility of false memories implanted by their summoner, and that's you if I'm right! of course I would hesitate to trust you in this situation." Cyber was livid. "Would you fight me if you were?" Lilian attempting to more fully understand. "How could i?" Cyber's anger deflating into tears. Lilian thought for a minute. "I don't know how fully I can dissuade your fears. It is true that the bodies you and your friends possess are similar to a shikigami. You don't have the chaotic bodies fashioned by the sexual merging of two lives, along with all the inefficiencies that process brings. Your bodies were created out of raw sha directly in the specific form they were intended to take, without redundancy. It would be very hard to tell you apart from a high level shikigami bound to a heartengine to maintain the summoning indefinitely." "So it's true then." Cyber felt defeated looking at lir hands and body. For the first time since entering this body lal was dissatisfied with it, disgusted by it almost. "It's not a bad thing, not as bad as you might be thinking at least. It's true that I mediated your translation, but in this case the formula of the shikigami's design didn't come from me, it came from you. In the most real sense you are the summoner of the shikigami like body you possess." "I am?" Cyber thought about it and tried to remember the process. The symbols that the mikko created for lirself and for the others. They were the same symbols each time. Tracing them out in lir mind, lal could see that it was generic without any information regarding what the form should look like or what abilities it should have, by all rights it wasn't exactly the proper form for a shiki summoning at all. Then lal recalled how lal had imagined the form lal should take, and remembered that when lal was in that state lir soul or spirit was sending out a vast amount of intentions through the sha, those intentions were what programmed the shikigami summoning lal understood. Lal looked at Lilian. "I see." "Are you still distressed about your situation?" Lilian asked wanting to be sure that Cyber felt ok. "It makes sense, I guess my biggest fears have been addressed. You said before that your body was something similar. I could see that it was more like a shikigami's than like that deer's, but there are differences between what I see in my own body and what I see in yours that I don't understand." Cyber hadn't been able to look at any of the other's to see if they had similar differences in their sha network. "I am similar yes. I had to undergo a translation to enter your world as you recall. But my translation is indeed a bit different as I was originally from this world and you were originally from that one. This might seem like a non sequitur but what did you consider to be your body in that world?" The question did seem like a non sequitur. "The flesh of my body and mind I guess." Cyber answered plainly. "You know about karma and fates, and have learned about the sha. The philosophies we teach are under a basic premise that we exist as part of a flow of nature, we are a whirlwind. Where does that whirlwind begin and end, is it the air only or does it include the dust it whips into it? We make no differentiation between these parts. We are the entire phenomenon, the path of destruction and the calm after are all part of the whirlwind of what we are. Thinking about things in that way, your answer may be too limited don't you think?" Lilian was prone to these kinds of metaphorical flowery descriptions which prompted thought Cyber had noticed. Thinking about things in that way lal wasn't sure where lal might begin and end. How could lal separate lirself from the entirety of lir culture if that was the case? If the phenomenon "Cyber" had parts, what would they include that was lirs. "In that case I might include my room. " Cyber offered not sure that was the right answer. "The room might be just the location of your storm. Before I was translated and from a young age I had been the fortunate owner of my own meikyo mirror. Now that mirror never leaves me, it has become a part of me, or rather it was always a part of me, and now it never leaves my side." "My terminal?" Cyber exclaimed in somewhat disbelief. "It is now a part of you in the truest sense. It was always part of you since your first used it as new hands and eyes, but now it is literally and physically within you. I told you before that your bodies and their karma made the translation possible. " Lilian explained. Cyber couldn't help but think about the ramifications of the new information, but decided it didn't really change that much. It was a shock sure. But was it really something all that strange? "I don't really know how to take that. I guess I understood that my body was no longer in that world, but does that mean that the terminal is no longer there too. Or is this world just a virtual construct inside another machine? Agh. I don't get it." "It's not something bad to be worried about. If we used just your flesh to mediate the translation I would have needed to visit each of you separately as I did Yuki. In some ways the storm called Cyber is just a part of a larger storm that includes all three of you, you saw the talisman using your eyes which could see into Yuki's room. Machine eyes. More importantly who you are in the flesh is just an aspect of you, you would have translated as a lesser being than you truly are." Cyber had long been a member of the wired, and even considered it lir home more than the physical world lir body inhabited. Cyber was a digital being as much or maybe more than a physical one. Lal could see that if it were just lir flesh and mind there may have indeed been more of lirself lost in the translation, but still didn't fully understand why that would have mattered beyond the obvious not being able to make the translation possible so easily. "I couldn't see anything I recognized as my terminal within me tho" lal wondering. "Didn't you see a dense sha network within your body, and within mine that isn't present in other life? It has taken a different form, but that network is still present, it has aligned itself to be more 'human'. Quicker reflexes than carnal ones, a faster processing ability for information, more reliable memory recall without the degradation of the meaty brain storage, your vision able to capture more of the world in more clarity. These seemingly subtle changes are all granted to you through your merging with your terminal. " It's true that lal experienced all of these differences, but had mostly attributed them to how the new body lal was possessing was made rather than being something that was allowed by some other variable. Lir shikigami eyes faded away returning to unstructured sha. "I have one more question. Where do heartengines come from." lal suspected now was the best chance of asking. At the question Lilian looked conflicted. "You have learned a great deal since coming here, and not all of it is pleasant. I can not answer that question." Can not, it's not that she doesn't know Cyber saw, it's some kind of prohibition. "Before I say anything more, I want to see all you have learned Cyber, if you do well, then maybe you and your friends will be ready for what I can tell you on that subject. Summon your best combat shikigami" she said not an answer but not outright dismissal. Cyber had read a great deal about combat focused shikigami but it hadn't been lir focus of study. Lal was more interested in the other uses they could provide but knew enough that lal could do it as most the information in the library had a focus on the military uses of shikigami. Lal cleared lir mind and began to draw out the symbols that would make up the blueprint for the shikigami and as lal did so light began to accumulate in the air, and the symbols slowly became visible hanging in the air. "Interesting, you don't use brush or paper but write it directly in sha on the air." lilian said impressed. "Is this not typical? It's how you did it when you translated us. And it's how it works in the meikyo mirror space." Cyber hadn't considered that this wasn't the primary way of creating shikigami, it didn't require any tools so it could be done at any time. There were some very complicated forms that lal suspected would be easier to do on paper, just due to how long it would take and remembering all the forms might be difficult, but for this the thought of doing it otherwise never crossed lir mind. Lal continued lir summoning. "Almost no one does it that way, very few are even able to as the fluidity of the air makes it difficult to concretely focus. I might be able to do it, but the result wouldn't be as good as if I used brush and ink on paper. " the mikko pulled out a fan and opened it then removed one of the strips the fan was made of from it's binding, and it began to glow. Lilian's shikigami took form with the paper at it's core. "Preparing the pattern before hand is also faster as you can see but I'm limited to only those forms I have prepared before hand. If I needed something more specialized it would be more involved as I would require writing tools." Lilian's shiki was beautiful appearing like a large woman with 6 arms, dressed in white gold and red kimono face adorned in gold jewelery, pendant on her neck and jewels on chains on her hands. Two hands held fans, one a sword another opposite a small shield, the remaining two clasped together index fingers extended upward. Behind the head of this large shikigami was a large disk of light like the golden sun rising behind her. Cyber hesitated seeing it. There was no way lal could beat that thing. It's presence was overwhelming. Lal completed lir drawing then focused lir cha on bringing the creation to life. The wind whipped up around the still glowing symbols and began to form a larger figure than lirself but not as large as the shikigami which Lilian had summoned. Cyber's form clearly lacked the full artistic qualities which Lilian's possessed but appeared human, male, with no covering over the top and plain red trousers and hair bright orange fire. It possessed no weapons but bare fists. A shikigami summoner had the power to control how much control to give their creation, from fully automatic, to full possession, but lal had learned that the more control the summoner took the more sensory feed back there would be, it was possible for the summoner to be killed if they had full control and the shikigami suffered a mortal wound therefore lal decided to take a middle ground. It was almost as if lal was in two places at once, but not quite. "Very good. No one would expect you learned this all in a matter of a month." Lilian giving her honest approval. "Still there is a clear gap between us." Cyber couldn't help feeling outclassed, but seeing that form gave lir an appreciation for what was possible. "That's to be expected, I didn't learn my craft yesterday after all. But it was many years before I could summon anything like what you have summoned just now. The rules for this match should be simple. You just need to land a hit on me. Not my shikigami. " "Oh, well that makes it simpler I suppose." Cyber honestly. "Yes, I don't know if you could land a hit on my Amaterasu, but this lesson is also important; when fighting another summoner, the summoner themselves is the main threat. If you can take them out then in many cases the battle will be won. There of course are shikigami which will continue to function even after their summoner is lost, but you don't have to worry about the possibility that they may, for instance summon other shikigami, and if they are giving orders then the power of the shikigami will be greatly diminished. You may begin." Cyber did so an excitement and wild look in lir eyes, lir shikigami lunging forward toward Lilian but was cut off by Amaterasu who quickly moved in and smashed him in the face sending him flying sideways. Cyber's face stung at the strike. Again he lunged forward, this time Cyber saw Amaterasu moving to intercept so lal had him stop to deflect the blow. Lal was able to defend against the fan, but took a shield bash to the torso. Reeling lal tried to throw Amaterasu after grabbing the fan bearing hand, but Amaterasu was too strong to be moved and reacted with an impromptu sword strike. Cyber attempted to jump back and to the side to avoid it, but the blade caught lir shikigami in the leg and lal felt the burning pain there at the same moment. "Damn it that hurts" Cyber winced. Lir chest aching as well from the shield. This was more painful that lal had imagined it would be and wondered how unbearable it would be if lal had been fully in control. "Yes the summoner can feel a great deal of her shikigami's pain" Lilian said from experience. Cyber brought lir shiki's right hand to it's mouth and launched a stream of fire toward Lilian who jumped and rolled to avoid it as Amaterasu couldn't move to defend the attack in time. "Good" Lilian bringing herself upright again. "I felt the heat from that one." just then the earth under neath Lilian's feet broke apart and another beast in the shape of a large mole came from the opening and exploded sending Lilian flying backward. Cyber was worried the attack might have been too much and yelled "Are you ok?" Lilian laying on her back where she landed laughed. "Oh I'm quite fine. You did well, I hadn't considered you would have summoned a second shikigami from the outset, although I did expect you would need to at some point to clear this hurdle" "It wasn't just two." three other moles crawled out from holes in the ground scattered around the battlefield. "When you said we'd be fighting I figured I'd need some amount of subterfuge to win regardless of the terms." Cyber dismissed lir shikigami. "Well I will certainly count that as your win." Lilian said getting up and dismissing Amaterasu. "The force of that attack was quite strong, and may have been enough to incapacitate someone of lower level. Certainly. And your use of unseen subterranean shikigami was clever, although for advanced summoners I'm sure you know there will be ways to detect such things." Cyber was somewhat surprised that Lilian's Amaterasu didn't have the ability to detect sha which would have rendered the surprise attack less useful. "As for your reward." Lilian turned away and gave a reluctant sigh. "You should see for yourself and act according to your natural inclination. You and your friends should go to the town of Pharis in Kertas. It's a small town near the boarder of the territory under control of the priesthood." Lilian said finally and left leaving Cyber alone. /// Lilian is stopped on her way back. ,what you tell lir?,,, Nothing you wouldn't have ----------------------- Cyber returned a bit later to lir and Yuki's room. Yuki was sitting with a tome opened but not reading it instead sitting with her eyes closed facing toward the door. As the door opened she spoke softly, apologetically. "You met with Lilian" she said as Cyber entered the room. "Yes." Cyber was feeling conflicted. "I was worried..." Yuki said looking up at Cyber and noticing the redness on the other's face. "What happened?" now more worried than before her eyes fixated on Cyber's bruise. "Oh. We fought and this... " lal explained, and lifted lir kimono, and lowered lir trousers on lir right leg to reveal the leg wound which lal hadn't examined yet "And this were the damage I took" "Oh my god. I'm so sorry. Yuki getting up and coming close to examine the leg wound which appeared to be a very bad dark purple bruise. "How did that happen. Why were you fighting? I'm sorry I told Lilian." Yuki said becoming angry at herself and at Lilian who hurt her love. "No it's ok. It hurt's but it's not unbearable. This one was because of my own dumb tactics. It shouldn't have happened. I need more practice controlling my shikigami." "Your shikigami? You took that much damage just from your shikigami getting hurt?" "Ya, I had about 60% control. The damage my shiki suffered was much worse, a deep sword gash in the same spot." "So why were you fighting? Was what you asked that bad?" Yuki trying to understand wondering if perhaps the fight ended with Cyber killing Lilian. "Did you... Kill her?" she asked hesitating. "Oh no... I guess the fight was like a test... She wanted to know if I had the power I'd need to find the rest of the information I wanted to know. As for some other things... How much do you know about shikigami?" Cyber not really wanting to go straight into the details. "Not that much really. I know they are beings created using patterns drawn to channel sha in some way. I tried to summon a simple one but it didn't work so I'm sure I don't really understand that much" Cyber began to explain what lal had learned regarding their construction and how it paralleled their own translation. "I was thinking that we might be made to be slave shikigami summoned by Lilian. Possibly with a kill switch or something." Cyber still somewhat embarrassed. Yuki was concerned. "So that's what has had you closed off the past few days..." less concern over the possibility and more concerned with Cyber's own mental distress "I still don't know why you didn't just tell me about this possibility before..." sadly. "Doesn't that freak you out?" Yuki thought about it for a minute. "I suppose it is concerning." trying to put herself in Cybers shoes. "I think I understand why you would want to verify if it was the case or not before telling me, to save me from worrying, but Cyber if you are worried about something like that, rather than bare it alone, we could have faced it together..." Yuki still sad. "Sorry. I didn't want to make you more worried... I should have told you." "Well... Are we? I guess you asked right?" "I did, Lilian basically laughed at me over it. Apparently while what we are is somewhat similar, she didn't summon us really. The pattern that formed our bodies came from our own thoughts while we were unembodied. Still there are similarities between our bodies and that of a shikigami. We aren't exactly human anymore." "I see... If that's the case... Will we age normally?" Yuki asked. "Oh I didn't think of that. I guess I don't know. Hah you might be stuck as a tiny little girl forever" Cyber laughed. "Great... I mean I like this form, but I was hoping to grow up still..." Yuki somewhat deflated. "Well being honest I want you to grow up too. I don't want to be stuck with your pancakes" Cyber said poking the small girl on her tiny chest. Yuki embarrassed slapped lir hand away. "Big boobies I can squeeze, yes. You need to grow up." Cyber with a laugh mimicking the shape at lir own chest. "Jeeze. Well I did imagine how I'd look grown up while in that void space. Not that big tho." she said still embarrassed. "Oh /this/ big then?" Cyber increased the size lal was imitating. "Stop it." Yuki said becoming upset slightly. "Oh is my princess going to make me?" Cyber with a smirk. Yuki came up to lir and kissed lir. "If I have to." ------- Later in their beds both undressed laying together. "So what was that testing about then. Did Lilian make you fight to get that answer?" Yuki asked in the afterglow. "Oh no that was for something else. I asked about heartengines" "Those are the power cores for armors and other stuff right?" Yuki only vaguely familiar with the term. "Ya, they can be used to make the summoning of a shikigami permanent, which is why all those thoughts clicked in my head. She told me that to find out I'd need to see it for myself. I'm not sure why she wouldn't tell me tho. " worried. "Well whatever it is let's face it together ok?" "Agreed." then Cyber hesitated for a moment. "There was something else Lilian told me." then decided to ask the same question Lilian asked lir before going further. "What did you consider to be your body before you entered this world?" "That's an interesting question." Yuki had thought about it quite a bit since her psychotic episode. At that time and since to a lesser extent she had this deep sense of not knowing where she started and stopped. "My body... Well first I think kinda obviously my body counts, but at the same time isn't the body just a tool the mind uses to interface with the world? It's just a medium for communication and interaction in the physical world, and so if I include that then why stop there? Just because I can feel it? I can feel things from other tools I use too, sure there might be more of a delay, sometimes even a large delay, but isn't there also a delay between when I stub my toe for example, and that pain I feel is just information my body as a tool is using to let me know that it may be damaged in some way, so those other messages through other tools are telling me something about myself too, just from a larger distance." Yuki had trouble putting a pin in it and saying concretely what she thought. "That's probably closer to what Lilian had in mind when she asked me that same question. I had never really thought about what my 'body' was before she asked. I just answered my mind and flesh." Cyber relating somewhat of what Lilian had told lir. "Even just the flesh is a bit hard for me to say, because like we eat something and it can become part of us, in a similar way everything we hear and see might become a part of us too. Some of it will be discarded as not useful to us, or not truly a part of us, but other parts will stay. What we are seems to be pretty fluid. I think I read somewhere that our whole body's cells will replace themselves about once every 7 years, so are there even any individual parts of us that are only us, some part that you might point to and say 'there I am'? It doesn't seem like it." "Lilian said that we are like whirlwinds, the storm isn't just the wind or even the wind and the dust it kicks up and takes with it, but the entirety of the event, including the path of it's destruction and the calm afterward." "That does feel more inline with how I feel than not. Why?" "Remember how she told us that our bodies and their karma were consumed and no longer exist in order to mediate the translation process." Yuki nodded. "Apparently the body she spoke of included our terminals." Yuki got up from her position laying face up in the crook of Cybers arm to look at lir. "Our terminals?" "They apparently made up a significant portion of our 'bodies' and if she hadn't included them in the translation we wouldn't be as much of who we are, more of what makes us us would have been lost in the translation. She also said it was needed to allow us all to be brought over without needing to visit each of us." Yuki sat up looking at her hands. "That's less surprising than I think it should be." "I didn't really know what to think about it myself. Apparently our terminals are still here as a part of our current bodies. She said it had a lot of little effects, kind of like a second nervous system, well she didn't say that, but it increases our memory recall and processing speed, and stuff like that." "That's kinda crazy. So we have like a digital supplemental brain integrated into our bodies then." "Something like that. I'm not sure I really get it." "Super cool. I wonder if all the stuff I downloaded is still in the memory somewhere" "Huh I didn't think about that." "I wonder how I can find out. Let me try something." Yuki crossed her legs and closed her eyes. She tried to feel in her physical body in the sensations of her body and mind for something she recognized as her terminal. Before too long she opened her eyes. "It's there!" "What really?" Cyber somewhat surprised. "Let's see if I can get some document that I hadn't read but downloaded. To check for sure." "First principles as defined by jakarutu on navi. This is an account of times passed and places forgotten. holy shit, I can actually read this shit." Yuki said somewhat stunned. "It's not very good. Maybe I can finish watching Doremi this way too. " blinking "Huh. Well. I guess it worked... But it's totally different to just know all the stuff that happens rather than letting the episode play out normally." "Wait you watched the whole rest of the series that fast?" "No... I just like opened the file and knew everything that happens in it. It's totally different than watching it." "How did you do that?" "Well..." not really sure how to explain it. "First I cleared my mind and felt my body and looked in my mind for something familiar like my terminal. I focused on the layout of the hud, and felt something that responded in my mind, sorta like a memory." Cyber put lirself into a similar sitting position and closed lir eyes as well focusing inward. Lal similarly had little difficulty finding the place in lir mind that resembled the terminal. "Oh wow. That's pretty neat." "If this is possible... Then I wonder." she put her hands out toward Cyber who understanding what she wanted to try put lir hands on Yuki's. "Ok... I'm going to try to send a message to you." Yuki placed her mind back into that space and used what resembled their group chat to send a message 'flat is justice' Cyber waited and eventually looked at Yuki "Anything?" Yuki asked. "Flat is justice" Cyber somewhat questioningly "Oh cool!" Yuki said "I thought maybe it would work because I am able to feel some of what you are thinking and feeling sometimes... " she rubbed the spot on her own leg where the stab was on Cyber's shikigami. "So you felt that too?" Cyber asked. "Ya. I didn't know what it was about, but I felt the adrenaline and... Excitement along with the pain. Probably not as badly as you felt it, but it did hurt." Cyber's wound clearly visible on lir right thigh. "I'm sorry... I have to be more careful... I don't want to hurt you like that..." "You should be sorry because you need to take care of yourself... Me feeling your pain is one thing, but I don't want you to get hurt." Yuki admonishing lir. "You're cute when you're mad." Yuki pouted. "Hmm. Well that's fine. Make me mad so you can get to see me cute. I see how it is." Yuki somewhat grumpy. "I'll be more careful" leaning in, Yuki turned her face to the side. Cyber kissed her cheek. Yuki turned back towards lir and kissed lir back. "I don't know how I'm going to sleep after all this." Yuki after their long kiss. "Me either. We should probably tell Yolo all this." "Ya we can do that in the morning I guess." laying back into the futon arms beckoning for Cyber to join her. ------------------------------------------------------- Yolo was floored by all the news. The two had come to his room while he was still sleeping and woke him up telling him about the previous night's happening. "Why the hell didn't you tell us about this stuff when you first started worrying about it Cyber... I can understand not telling me, but don't you tell Yuki everything?" Cyber was thoroughly admonished, just looking down. "I already bitched at lir about that... It's fine." "Is it? I mean, the possibility that we were some kind of spirit slaves, and then lal confronted the potential slave owner on lir own? What if it was true. Cyber could be dead now." Yuki had considered it and felt terrible. "It was my fault that lal had to confront Lilian by lirself. I'm the one that told Lilian." "You didn't know and were worried about lir. Maybe you could have done something better, but Cyber's the one who decided to bare this on lir own shoulders without telling anyone about it. " "I'm sorry ok? How else am I supposed to say it. You are right. I should have told you and Yuki. I shouldn't have tried to figure it all out on my own. That being said if I were dead, then at least this way you two wouldn't be. You didn't know anything so you wouldn't have been a threat." "I'm not so sure. I mean forget about me, how would Yuki have acted if Lilian came back and was all 'oh Cyber's dead. Very sad' you think that would have garnered a whole lot of trust you sure Yuki wouldn't have immediately suspected Lilian of offing you right after she had told Lilian to meet up with you? I know for a fact I would think Lilian was responsible and you can bet your androgenous ass we would have tried to find out why. You are our friend." There was silence for a bit as the words hung in the air between them. "So beyond Cyber's mistake in handling this, what else do you think?" "About us being ghost cyborgs or something? I guess it's cool. It explains a few things. I had a few fighting games and stuff information about their tech I'm guessing that's partly why I'm so good at fighting now. " Yolo still clearly hurt more for Yuki than himself. "You never saw Yolo training did you Cyber?" Yuki asked. "No, just what you told me. It's pretty impressive I guess?" "I can basically punch fireballs. Still I lack experience, but my body moves as fast as I can think to move it, and that itself has seemed to increase a huge amount. You fought with Lilian, I wonder how I'd have faired." "I think if all three of us tried and fought as hard as we could Lilian's Amaterasu would have killed all of us without batting an eye. " Cyber honestly. "The gap in power between what I could summon and Amaterasu was staggering, I'm not even sure if I can even fully comprehend how strong it was. If she was intending on hurting me rather than just testing me I wouldn't have stood a chance." "That strong huh" "She had like 6 arms and looked like a freaking god or something. I mean it's name is Amaterasu. You know the sun goddess." "6 arms sounds more like shiva tho." Yolo said. "Well I don't know. She was strong tho. I won because I had summoned some hidden shikigami I hid under the ground and exploded one right on Lilian's face, and she just laughed about it, not a scratch on her." "And now she wants us to go to some small town of on the outskirts of their nation right?" Yolo not terribly excited at the prospect. "Well I don't think it's an order or anything. But I asked about heartengines, and she wouldn't tell me, saying that we should go see for ourselves. I can't help but feel like she has some expectation about how we will react to it." "These heartengines are pretty important to their technology right? I don't really know that much about them." Yolo hadn't spent much time since finishing the basic course researching other things, instead joining some of the priests and priestesses who did martial arts training and was excelling in that endeavor. "Well ya. It's said to be a limitless source of power. But where they come from and how they are made isn't accessible in the archives, at least not to us. Maybe it's something that's know at a higher level, but locked off to lower level acolytes. I checked with Naoi and I have access to all the same things she has access to. I'm sure that Lilian knows but maybe she's forbidden from sharing the information for some reason." "Or maybe she's just manipulating us to do something she wants her hands clean of." Yolo skeptical. "Well you don't have to go if you don't want. I'm the one who wants to know." Cyber offered. "Ya, I'm going to just let you go off and get yourself into a bigger mess where I can't do anything about it. Sure." Yolo grumbled. "Aww Yolo cares about us Cyber" Yuki poking Yolo. "Of course I care. You two are helpless without me. And it's not like I have any other friends here." "I'm just messing with you Yolo. I know you care." Yuki apologetically. "Ya I know. And it's not like I don't think I could have some friends in time here. Some of the priests are fun to be around." Cyber and Yuki both lit up "Oooh anyone caught your eye" Cyber with a smirk. "No not like that idiot." then more quietly. "None of them are into dudes..." Yuki laughed. "Well they do seem to have more hang-ups about that here. ... Sorry that probably sucks... I guess I'm lucky Cyber's here..." "Well it's not like there were any prospects over in the other world either. There were plenty of gay men, but no one that I really connected with. I don't regret coming here even if it means I'm going to be alone." Cyber thought for a minute then decided to say what lal was thinking. "Well if you want I can give you a pity fuck" lal somewhat more serious than even lal had intended. "What?! no eww. That'd be weird." Yolo shocked. "Aww you don't like me" giving him a grumpy face. "I'm into men... Like MEN not androgyne sex deviants." he protested trying to walk the line of offence and sincerity. "Aw. Well offer's on the table." "And what about Yuki huh?" he looked at Yuki who had turned red. "Well it's not like I mind or anything... Cyber isn't 'mine' lal can do what lal wants... And we still haven't had... Sex proper yet... And Cyber's into men and women, they are different and I can't provide everything..." "And I'm not so much into little girls" lal added. Looking proud of lirself for some reason. "Well id still think its weird ok? Lets keep things in the friend zone if you don't mind." Cyber just shrugged. "Your loss I guess." "Anyway.." Yolo said trying to turn the subject of the conversation to a less awkward topic. These two really enjoyed messing with him in real life as much as they did on their group chat. "If we are going there how are we going to do it? Just walk? How far is it?" "I don't know exactly. But probably pretty far, we are near the southern edge of the priesthood's territory, and that town is close to the northern boarder and pretty far east if I recall. " Cyber tried to remember the geography of the world and the placement of various places, but didn't pay attention to all the smaller regions so lal wasn't sure. "I guess we should talk to Naoi about it. She'd likely know more than us about what we'd need and how to get there." Yuki offered. "Sounds reasonable." Yolo agreed. "But how much should we tell her? Like why we want to go and all this other stuff about our bodies?" Cyber thought about it, and Yuki deferred to Cyber's judgement. "We may as well tell her everything. I don't know how much she knows, but it's easier if everything is out in the open I think. " Cyber decided finally. Yolo and Yuki nodded agreement if Cyber hadn't thought they should reveal everything to Naoi she was prepared to offer that possibility. After a bit more banter while Yolo was getting dressed the three went to get breakfast at the cafeteria. Naoi was already there waiting somewhat expectantly. "Lilian came to me last night and ordered me to go with you three to Pharis. She didn't tell me much more than that tho." Naoi told the other three. The three related everything that happened the night before. "You fought with Lilian and beat her? Against her Amaterasu?!" Naoi was shocked. "Well I wouldn't say I beat her... " Cyber embarrassed. "No, I mean. Of course you couldn't beat her she's legendary! but still there's no way the best of us here could so much as lay a hand on her." "Legendary? I mean I get that she is strong, but what are we talking here?" Yolo asked usually the word legendary was only used for some really incredible feats so he wondered what it was that she had done in the past. "It's said that Lilian single handedly destroyed a whole nation in a single night. It was like the sun had risen at midnight on that nation and it along with all it's inhabitants were erased from the world." Naoi with a bit of pride. "She killed everyone in a whole nation?" Yuki with a mix of sadness and fear at this woman she had grown to respect. "Well I don't know the details, and it was a long time ago during the warring period. Her actions brought the relative peace that we now enjoy." "It almost sounds like the atomic bomb." Yolo mused. "What's that?" Naoi curious. "There was a period in our world where there was mass warfare, people were fighting over the majority of the world and millions were being killed. One of the nations invented a weapon that could destroy entire cities in the blink of an eye. It was used twice, and since then most of the fighting came to an end. The threat of being destroyed in a moment, of the world being bathed in that destruction was too much, so the fighting stopped." Yolo explained. "Well I wouldn't say it stopped, but it's true that without that weapon it's likely that similar world wide conflict would have occurred again and again. Fighting still happens even now, over various resources, but nothing as wide spread as the time leading up to that." Yuki added. "Yes it sounds similar. The northern sect has similarly legendary fighters, but Lilian is a legend among legends. Those others might be able to destroy a city, but she is on another level." Naoi seemed surprisingly fine with talking about destruction as a good thing the others were more melancholic about it. "Well I have made some arrangements. We'll need to walk from here to Siam which will take a few hours. From there we can charter faster transportation the rest of the way. It will take a few days before we arrive at Kertas capital then from there we will likely need to walk to Pharis, but maybe we'll be able to get some kind of transport. " Naoi explained the journey they'd be taking. "Will we need to bring any money or something?" Yuki asked not really knowing how the system worked. "I have this" Naoi pulled a metal medallion from a chain at her neck "When we need anything the merchants will know I'm from the priesthood and charge the bill from the taxes they normally pay to us so we don't need anything else." Naoi got up from the table. "Do you need to collect any of your personal belongings?" the three shook their heads beyond their clothes they didn't have any personal belongings in this world. "Well in that case we can head out now." Naoi picked up a bundle she had under her seat and lead the three to the front of the cafeteria where there were three other bundles, one for each of them which had a few onigiri and bottles of water, along with a sleeping mat and some extra plain sets of clothes. Naoi was excited and nervous. It was the first time in several years that she was leaving the shrine she had lived at since being a child. This place was more her home than where she had come from. She had some apprehension at the journey but tried to hide it with a brave face. The journey took them past a dense forest which had given way to fields of grain which had been cut down, and left to fallow. The morning sun was bringing some heat but the harsh heat of summer was subsiding to the cooler warmth of autumn. Some ways on the path Naoi noticed Yuki was bare foot. "You don't have shoes?" Naoi asked surprised at the little girl walking on the dirt road without a care. "Oh no, I haven't worn shoes in years. This is a lot softer than the roads I'm used to walking on so I don't don't mind at all." It doesn't hurt stepping on rocks? And isn't it dirty? Or when it snows won't it be cold? " "Rocks? Hmm no not really. I like to feel the ground beneath me. I've walked around in snow for long periods too. It's not so bad once you are used to it. It makes me feel more like I'm a part of the world rather than having some artificial separation between me and the ground." "You didn't always walk bare foot? If you started doing it a few years ago?" "Yuki went crazy and stopped doing lots of 'normal' stuff, well at least normal for our world." Yolo jumped in. He had heard some of Yuki's explanation for this stuff before. "Crazy?" Naoi was surprised and looked at the little girl with a bit of skepticism. "Well. Crazy is just a word for it I guess. I had hallucinations and could hear voices telling me all kinds of stuff. After getting put into a hospital where I didn't have any control over my surroundings I took a long look at the things in my life and cut out those whose voices I didn't like. Shoes were one of those things. They said things similar to 'don't you like lying to your body about where you are and how you live?' and I could only react like 'no I don't like that.' if I'm walking over painful ground then I don't want to lie to myself about how painful it is, I don't want some other to shoulder that pain for me, especially when that other doesn't have a say in the matter." Naoi looked at her own wooden sandals. She had never considered them a physical lie to her body, nor had she considered that the sandals themselves might have protest in being used like this. "Also the shoes in our world are really constricting. They squeeze our feet and make them take their shape." Yuki said stretching out her toes. "That's true" Cyber agreed. "These shoes don't have that problem, but they are flat and I miss the arch support." Cyber added. "Arch support?" "Shoes in our world have a soft curved padding right here" Yuki showed the curve on her own foot. "People get used to that support, so their muscles in their feet become weak and walking on flat ground can be painful. When I first started walking barefoot my feet ached for a long time, but I got used to it as the muscles became stronger." Yuki explained. "Interesting. So do your feet hurt then Cyber and Yolo?" Naoi asked. Yolo shook his head and Cyber grumbled. "It's not really that bad. This body is probably better able to deal with it since it's different from my old one. I bet I would have needed a break already tho with my old body." lal said. "I know I would have needed a break, but not from my feet. How many miles have we walked?" "Probably about 6 miles I'd guess. " Yuki speculated. "We are about half way there I think." Naoi said. The road was about 3 meters across dirt sloped to either side with ditches to carry away water to the fields at various points. "If you want to take a break we can stop here if you all want. Maybe have some food." "Sounds fine to me." Yolo said welcome for the change of pace. The rice balls in their pack were wrapped in large leaves, and salted but otherwise plain. "Why are these so good?" Cyber tasting the rice which lal felt as almost an electric shock to lir body which was greedy for the carbohydrate and electrolytes the meal provided. "Probably the salt." Yuki speculated. "I wouldn't have eaten anything like this before. Rice was always like a filler and platform for other things, like vegies cooked in sauce." Cyber continued. "It is more plain than I'm used to, but ya it's really satisfying somehow." Yolo agreed. "Our rice is bred to be very delicious " Naoi proud. "It's somewhat a more expensive food for the general populous tho. Many live on other grains that are easier to harvest. " she gestured at the fields around them. "Meat is also fairly common among the lower class poultry and pork especially. As members of the priesthood we are blessed to have ample rice so we don't need to stoop to lesser grains." "Well I don't know about lesser grains. Each one has it's own character and can taste good. But I do agree that this is better rice than I'm used to. " the rice was much shorter than the long grain rice Yuki had been accustomed to. That rice took on a mushy texture when cooked too long, or dried out if exposed to the air for a few minutes. This rice was sticky but not mushy at all, and even after some exposure to the air retained the sticky yet chewy mouth feel. It also had a sweet fragrant aroma that contrasted well with the salty exterior. "Is there great disparity between classes here? Living in the shrine everything is provided so I haven't really thought about the rest of your world" "I don't know how great you mean. The poorest among us are cared for enough to have food and housing. Young orphans are often brought into the priesthood and given training. I was brought in like that" Naoi said. "But it is true the less fortunate are not well off. They might have enough to get by but there are places which are much less fortunate. Places where fighting happens regularly. My home village was attacked by bandits of a race we call Onis. They are human like in appearance, but their skin is more red hue and they have horns. They have little place in human society. Driven out from towns and cities due to fear of their violence. " "I read a little about them. I'm not really sure what to make of them. Some of what I read feels kind of like propaganda to me. I'm sorry you went through that though." Cyber somewhat apologetically at lir words. Naoi just shook her head. "No all that happened in the past. I do feel for their plight. Because they are cast out from our society the often are forced to resort to other means for their survival. Some are allowed to work in the fields, for less pay than a human would receive but still many turn to theft and raids to get what they need." a bit more sadness in Naoi's words than the others expected considering she had been a victim of their violence. "I wonder if we will meet any Onis" Cyber lir curiosity always present. "Maybe, but hopefully not. It would be a shame to have your first outing in our world turn to violence. But the possibility is always present which I expect is why Lilian wanted to test you first. She didn't test the rest of you at all?" "No. But she had observed me during some sparing a few days ago." Yolo said. "I don't know if I'd be helpful at all in a fight. I did some archery practice but I don't have a bow." "Oh, you should have mentioned that while we were at the shrine. We could have grabbed one. But we can still get one in town if you want" Yuki was hesitant. "I'm not sure I would want to have to use it..." "You should have something to defend yourself... Just incase the worst happens" Cyber putting lir hand on the small girls leg looking at her. "I suppose you are right." "How good of a shot are you?" Naoi asking. "Um ok. Well I guess I'm pretty good. Better than I remember at least. At the training ground I made out of 10 shots 9 were in the center circle and the other just out of it." "That is pretty good. And you can consistently hit that target?" Naoi impressed again with these three. "Mhmm. I don't know if I could hit a moving target, or at various distances, but at not moving targets I'm fairly confident. I guess." Yuki looked down. "Well we can see about getting you a bow and some arrows in town before we leave. Even if you don't need to use it, it's better to have something, just in case as Cyber said. And if it comes down to injuring someone, it's better to be the one doing the injuring, if not for your sake than for those you care about." Yuki nodded reluctantly. .