how are you all finding yourselves here? everything satisfactory?

yuki and cyber both woke with slight fatigue, from a lack of sleep and joined yolo and the others a mix of shrine maidens and priests for breakfast.

"how are you all finding yourselves here? everything satisfactory?" one of the younger shrine maidens asked sitting near them. Most of the other's had given them space knowing they were outworlders who had just arrived and not having any business with them.

"everything is amazing." yolo replied.

"that's good. My name is naoi, lilia want's me to help you all out." naoi had her own bowl with rice and a raw egg on top which she began to eat.

"lilia? is that the Shrine Maiden who brought us here?" cyber asked between bites of lir own dish of the same.

it wasn't something any of them had eaten before, but the creamyness of the egg and hot rice paired suprissingly well, especially with a splach of the dark salty sauce reminicent of a kind of soy sauce.

"oh she didn't tell you her name. that sounds like her alright" naoi smiled. "she is one of the more senior members here, so she often has things she needs to do, and places she needs to go."

"well none of us asked either. her name on the chat was eight tho." yuki responded.

"you mean this symbol?" naoi asked tracing the shape on the table.

" it's not the number eight then?" yolo responded.

"no that is like this." she traced a symbol like two lines forming a peak.

"oh that's the kanji for eight" cyber replied seeing lal recognized it.

"for us that other symbol represents the flow of time as something that folds onto itself." naoi explained.

"oh you know our writing system? even in your world?" naoi was surprised.

"oh i don't really know that much of it, just like a few numbers and a handful of others. i tried studying kanji but i dropped it after a little bit. i don't know how much would even be the same really" cyber explained.

lal wrote out a few of the numbers, and the symbols for water, fire, and river. naoi was able to correctly identify them.

"i wonder if our worlds have interacted much seeing that at least that much was the same" naoi speculated.

"you don't know? beyond otherworlders i guess?" yuki asked interested.

"well it's possible that there are those in the Priesthood who would know. We have extensive records, but as far as i know it's just limited to a few outworlders from various worlds. not just yours." naoi confessed. she was still a lower level acolyte in the priesthood, higher than many new recuites but she had only been at this shrine in her current position for a few years, and still had much to learn.

"more worlds than ours and yours. that makes sense, it would be strange if it was just two considering that there are more than one in the first place" yolo thought out loud.

"yes there are many worlds, some are 'further' away, but ours aren't too far apart in the sha, which made it relatively easy to permit travel. there are rumors that the Priesthood didn't originate on our world in the first place, but it's only rumor." naoi was strangly impressed by the directness of these three. they quickly accepted their new reality, were inquisitive, curious, and willing to discard their prior preconseptions.

"lilian chose you three well" she said after some time.

"chose us..." yuki questioned. "as far as i could tell it was a chance meeting that allowed for this. but lilian said she had been observing us before that."

"i told you the meaning of that symbol" tracing it again. "time isn't strictly linear, so she could easily have been observing your past, or even futures, for what you could consider a long time, and maybe only for a short period of time from her perspective."

"that's kinda creepy" yolo said thinking about some unseen force spying on him.

"oh i didn't mean it like that. there are always spirits of some kind around us, some helpful some not, the way lilian can interact with your world is similar to that for the most part. Physically appearing takes more effort and she only would have made the effort if she deemed it worth that effort. In the past there have been more haphazard approaches, which could end badly."

"badly how?" cyber this time.

"well, im sure lilian told you it's difficult to go back, especially soon. imagine picking up a random person whose karma is tied up in their world, and bringing them here. the process giving them power that is hard for us to deal with even as a group, and then telling them they are stuck here. some could go crazy, or fight against this world. it's dangerous." naoi seemed to be speaking from painful experiance.

"i see so part of what she was looking for in us was our relativly small amount of karma tied to that world and what it has." yuki considered it, and the alternative.

even for her under just slightly different circumstances could have been something that she would have resented, and she knew she didn't have all that much she cared about on the other side. for someone with family, friends, success, coming here could be the equivilant to entering a horrible nightmare. impulsivly she reached over and put her hand on cyber's thigh and cyber put her own on yuki's in return.

"sorry the conversation has gotten a bit, off track. you all have a lot to learn about this world. the writing system for one thing." naoi said with a smile.

"we probably do need to be able to read..." yolo admitted. "but why is it we can speak to you if we can't read?"

"the process of translation took care of converting your thoughts into words we can understand, you likely will have an easier time learning how to read as well because of it, but for some reason beyond my knowledge it doesn't give you that ability." yolo nodded at the explaination.

"well i see everyone is finished with their meals so why don't we head to the library?" the others had no problem with that and so followed their guide.

They had been to where the library was the day before so they knew generally where it was but they were entering it for the first time and now say that the library proper was located underground. naoi had explained that it was easier to maintain the proper climate for the physical media they stored there. they walked through the rows of tombs toward the far back end and down further. the lower level had various rooms equiped with tables and equipment of some kind. there were some other's doing various work in several of them. they entered one of the empty rooms.

"do we need any of the books or anything?" cyber asked wondering.

"oh you are free to anything on the first floor for your perusal, but i doubt any of it will be of any use to you right now." naoi answered.

"for now we will be using this" she gestured at some of the mysterious equipment. the center of the room had a mirror facing upward that seemed to glow slightly resting on an ornate pedistal. the mirrors polish surface had extremly fine faceting and a bluish purple color of various hues that reflected light in somewhat unpredictable way. looking closely at it yuki said "that looks sort of like a silicon dye used in terminal production." she had seen some while she was studying at university and it was the closest thing in her experiance to it.

"it's called a meikyo mirror, it might be similar tho, i honestly have no idea what that 'silicon' thing is. it's made using fine sand, and engraven with extremly fine gold strands in a persice way to channel the cha and allow users of these " she gestured at what appeared to be goggles with glass lenses and a small black orb "to spiritually enter our cha network. They have other uses of course and many of them are designed for personal use and given to high ranking priest and priestesses, but these are generally used for collaborative use."

"ya that sounds an awful lot like a silicon dye, never seen it used in such a way totally exposed, and a single dye so large before. usually tiny waffers are cut into small chips in our world" yolo this time.

"interesting. there are some production methods which require cutting a single mirror into many small ones, but those are usually used for smaller machinary. this mirror is quite large, more ordinarally they are no larger that about this" she put her hand out wide stretching her fingers apart.

"the way we use these is pretty intuitive" naoi said grabbing the black orb in one hand and a set of the goggles in the other, she sat down at the pedistal holding the meikyo mirror and put the goggles on and the holding the orb in both hands in her lap.

the other's followed suit.

surpiseingly the goggles didn't allow and light nor did it project any images, instead when they held the orb in both hands they felt their psychic inner selves enter a voidspace similar to the one they had been in before they entered this world. they were all in the space together.

"you all confortable?" they were still aware of their bodies, but it felt detatched. yolo tried to speak using his body rather than the psychic projection and said "ya it seems to work" the voice did come from his body, but it almost felt like he was on a drug doing it. The other's heard his words as well but it was dim detached slow and echoy. "interesting" yuki said in the psychic space.

"you do still have controll of your real body here, as you've demonstrated for us yolo. to leave this space you only need to seperate your hands from both touching the orb." naoi explained. "you can all try that just to get the feel for it." they all did so. the sluggishness of being in that space disappeared instantly. they reentered the space just as quickly. "good. while here your mind is unhindered by the bodies inefficencies, and is therefore able to move faster, standard time dilation of two is typical but it's not unheardof for some people to have a stronger or weaker time dialation as it's not based in the meikyou mirrors abilities but your mind's." cyber was most aware of the time dialation as for lir the shrine maiden's speach was noticably slower than it was when she was talking in the real world. "is that why you seem so slow?" lal asked, lir voice was fast to both yolo and yuki, but not as fast as it was for naoi. "oh my. you might need to talk a little slower, i didn't understand you." naoi said attempting to speed up her words for the benifit of cyber who she now saw was indeed quite sped up. "is that why you are so slow...?" lal repeated drawing out each sylable to match the pace of the miko according to how lal percieved her. "yes, it seems you are much faster than normal. it will make your study time here more efficent. your mind will have an easier time, all of you, with study in this place as your body won't get in the way. you won't have physical fatigue, and your mind will have less fatigue, but usually a subjective 8 hours is about the maximum length of time generally accepted as the limit for what is useful, after that the mind has harder time accepting more information and rest is needed. that will take between 3 and 5 hours generally. altho for you cyber that may be shorter, your mind might also be able to take more time than the standard as well. you will know when you should take a break. a short nap of a couple hours is usually sufficent to restore mental clarity, but 3 such sessions is typical for a full day, tho some people will do more when doing serious study, like the kind you will need to undergo to learn the language and history which is important for having a basic understanding of this world. we have some futons in this room which can be used for your naps so you needn't retire to your rooms." naoi was talking painfully slow for cyber, and both yuki and yolo were starting to notice the difference between her utterances in this space and out as well, but not as pronounced as it was for cyber.

"so how do we use this space for study? there doesn't seem to be anything here other than ourselves." yuki said, her higher pitch voice stretched slightly for cyber and made even higher pitch for naoi.

"the interface uses hand gestures" naoi took her hand and drew a simple downward stroke. "this will open a selection i've chosen for you with basic language selections. once you know a bit more, you will be able to use other symbols to access other functions. but there's little point to doing anything else untill you understand the written word as all the interface uses our system and you won't understand anything untill then. " she demonstrated some other symbols which were elaborate kanji, and the room changed in hue and her appearance change after the first and second respectively.

cyber feeling cheeky decided to try writing one of the kanji lal knew to see what would happen. drawing the symbol for white a circle appeared in front of lir which gradually filled from the outer boarder towards the center then disappeared without other effect.

"ahh damn" lal murmered.

"some symbols require additional symbols after to complete their function as that one does" naoi drew the same symbol in the air followed by another which changed the space they were in back to it's original white. "try opening the menu, you can close it by reversing the gesture" she said after the demonstration.

they all did so. yolo and yuki both closed the menu, but cyber immediately opened the first entry by poking the floating menu and lir avatar imediately disappeared.

"well, i guess i should have seen that coming." naoi laughed. "she is a fast one" naoi added. yolo winced and yuki corrected her "actually lal uses lal and lir pronouns."

"lal and lir instead of she and her?" naoi was confused.

"ya, cyber is nonbinary, i guess litearlly now." yolo answered.

"literally?" naoi was interested, she had never heard of something like that.

yuki blushed "lal has both male and female sexual characteristics."

"you know that from first hand experiance" yolo laughed, and yuki hit him.

"first hand? you mean you and cyber... " naoi blushed shaking her head.

yuki sighed "yes be are 'a thing'. is that taboo?"

"oh no i don't have any prejudice against it, i am just surprised. i thought sh... lal was a girl like you.... you are a girl right?" naoi now not sure.

"well my body wasn't before coming here, but yes, im a girl. i used to be much older than this form. older than yolo's current form."

naoi couldn't cover her shock at that like she needed to restructure how she saw this whole group. lilian had told her that they were intersting but this was beyond what she was accustomed to even for outworlders who were already atypical.

"and you are a man right..." she said looking at yolo. "was and still am yes. you said you thought they were both girls and it seemed like you might have had issue with them being together if that were the case." yolo answered. naoi hessitated "same sex coupling isnt entirely unheard of, but it's uncommon. i guess hearing that cyber wasn't exactly a girl made the notion of lal err lir being with yuki more understandable."

"does the age difference matter to you at all?" yuki interested.

"oh no, why would it?" naoi said flatly.

"that's funny. isn't it yuki? the one hang up you have doesn't matter at all." yolo said mocking his own and yuki's age based bias in relationships. yuki just grumbled "well that's cool i guess"

"im into men, by the way. the way it sounds it might be slim picking tho." yolo said soft of as an extra twist. "you all really are full of differences from the norm here." naoi said adding "lilian told me i'd have a lot to learn from all of you, i wonder if shattering some of my preconseptions like this is what she meant."

"lilian knew all this about us probably, she knew cyber's pronouns from the outset at least. so maybe. in our world it's not uncommon for people of the same sex to have relationships, and families. nor is it even uncommon for people to change their sex, men becoming women and even giving birth to children, and vice versa." yuki explained. Medical technology allowed for the growing of sex organs compatible with the other sex for many decades now, so sex change surgeries weren't unheard of, but the process was expencive, so yuki hadn't undergone that process, tho the thought of returning to the work force she had entertained was somewhat feuled by the prospect.

"incredible." naoi thought for a minute, then proceed to draw forms and her eyes flashed for a moment. "it seems such a process is possible using advanced omnyojutsu, but it's a complicated proceedure and there aren't any records of it being performed any time recently. the last time was performed by a high priest over a century ago." she shook her head "i don't know if there's anyone who would be able to do it now. it's very advanced."

at that moment cyber returned to where the others were.

lal looked around and saw the others. "did you all already finish?"lal said in surprise.

"um no..." yolo answered. "we didn't even start yet" yuki added. "that was very fast did you actually understand everything?" naoi said in surprise. "well ya. i mean i don't think i have it all perfect but it was surprisingly easy. easier than when i tried to study kanji back home. i think i might have to go through it again later just to cement it all but for one, it's just understanding the symbols and how to draw them, not needing to worry about how they are pronounced i think may have helped. and i did already know how to draw some of them from before." cyber explained.

"well if you think you got that first batch, then you can move to the next one. each bundle builds on what you should already know, using the same radicles and forms in new ways, so just continuing should cement the knowledge that came before." naoi was becoming used to being surprised by these three. "well you should all get started, even at your speed cyber it should still take some weeks to get through it all with a decent level of mastery."

"weeks?" yuki was surpised at how fast that was. there was a regimen that she had attempted before prompted by cyber's interest in kanji, it took 3 months to learn the meanings and it was a very fast paced and difficult regimen that neither she nor cyber had the long term patience for.

"yes it's quite alot." naoi answered.

"no... i mean that's pretty fast. how many symbols are there?" yuki asked.

"just under four thousand."

"that's more than on our world." yuki again.

"well wasn't there a spelling reform some centuries ago that removed many symbols? maybe that has something to do with it." cyber this time.

"maybe. i guess we won't be able to compare to find out." yuki replied.

"it's also possible there are completely new symbols. like those words "sha" and "omnyojutsu" don't mean anything in our world as far as i know, the translation didn't make them more understandable to us." yolo offered.

"sha is like this" cyber drew the symbol in the air and as lal completed the symbol lal could see what appeared to be aura and waves coming from each of them and flowing around the space.

"woah..." lal said seeing it suddenly appear remembering that drawing a symbol like that was command input. "i guess im seeing sha now. it's like an energy all around us." lal moved lir hand around and watched as it caused ripples like dence smoke coming off lir body.

"yes that's exactly what it is. Using that symbol directly creates a visualization of the interfaces sha flows. it's a diagnostic tool in this place, but it can similarly be used with a portable meikyo mirror to see flows of the sha through ecology or on the battlefield to detect enemy movements and the like. to disable the visualization just draw the symbol again."

cyber did so. "anyway.. i don't know if that symbol was in our world or not. but it is in the first lesson" lal smiled.

"speaking of lessons." yuki said opening the menu and selecting the first item.


the study yuki found was easier. in this space she rememered her mind was unhindered by all the distractions the body normally provided, she didn't have the problems of her eyes becoming strained, or the sitting position needing to change, she also found that her mind didn't wander as much and speculated that perhaps the bandwidth of her eyes and ears were too limited which normally gave her mind enough time to start thinking other things, which wasn't happening here.

the progam, if that was an accurate description had her seeing hearing writing and feeling the thought meaning of each symbol, and they were presented in an order where the same forms appeared multiple times in different contexts building the connections to eachother rather than more haphazardly giving disparate symbols with no relation at all. It was efficent. it took a couple of hours of subjective time to work through the first batch, but when she had completed it she felt she did know them all. she had never experianced anything like this in her life and wondered how much better her school life would have been with such a system in her old world.

yolo had a bit of a harder time with it, but observed similarly that it was much easier than he had expected. it seemed while in the program the time compression was even faster than it had been in the shared space. perhaps that space was a compromise between their time compressions to allow easier collaborative work, or perhaps because while in the study program all the cognative effort was on just the information rather than simulating a whole virtual experiance it moved quicker. when yolo exited the program yuki and cyber were both in the shared space going over some of the symbols from the first lesson together, and naoi wasn't there.

"oh yolo's back" cyber noticed him first. "how was it?" lal added.

"it was different" yolo said. then asked cyber "did you have any problem focusing on it at all?"

"no, it was pretty easy to focus, it almost feels automatic really." lal answered. "why?"

"i always suspected you had some kind of attention deficit problem so i was wondering about it. "

"i wasn't ever diagnosed with one, but idk maybe?" cyber thought about it.

"well i was diagnosed with one while at college" yuki mentioned "stimulants helped with it somewhat, but i think that the way this works, because it's cutting out all the distractions of the body, the mind is able to go at the pace it wants rather than being limited by eyes and stuff it like cuts the problem away at the source."

"that makes sense." cyber agreed "now that you mention it, not feeling like i need to get up or needing to go pee or feeling hungery is pretty nice and makes studying easier."

"where'd naoi go" yolo asked noticing she wasn't there.

"when i came out of the second session, she told me that she could see your progress and that i could probably do another before you finished, and that she had some business but would be back about lunch time."

"you did two before i finished one?" yolo annoyed.

cyber grinned at him "yes, but i wasn't able to finish the second before yuki finished her first one."

"i was alone when i got out and waited a bit to see how long before you showed up. it wasn't super long of a wait for cyber to show back up and lal let me know where naoi had gone."

"what time is it anyway. it seemed like it took several hours. i guess in here there's no way to know for us." yolo asked.

"mayber there's no way for you to know, but for me on the other hand" cyber drew some symbol which yolo guessed must have meant time or something of that ilk. just then the enviroment's space changed to have the appearance of a sky with the sun nearer the horizon than above them. "im not sure what time it was when we got in, but probably around 8 maybe 9. it's about 10 now." cyber said. with a wave of lir hand lal dismissed the visualization of the sky.

"you've already gotten pretty good with how this place works" yuki impressed. "the third lesson starts to be a bit more practical than just getting words, and honestly this interface is pretty intuitive, i wonder why it doesn't have vocal inputs tho." lal waved some symbols and lir eyes began to flash. "hmm, i can't make enough of this out, but it might have to do with how soundwaves work is somewhat incompatible with the sha; operating on different... domains? that seems to parse, but it shouldn't matter here tho because our voices here aren't real, they are still sha information here" cyber still didn't know enough about this system to definitivly say one way or the other about it. How this technology worked and the power of sha had parrallels to how the technology of their world worked so lal could imagine voice working as a way of controlling it similarly to how soundwaves were translated to electrical impuses through a microphone. there likely was some reason it didn't work that way. one possibility lal immediatly thought of was that there was little ambiguity when a command was given through creating gestures, where voice might have too much ambiguity between when a command was given and when the users was simply conversing. that was a simple enough explaination.

"well i guess if it's still that early we should some more lessons before breaking for lunch." yolo suggested somewhat anxious at being left behind.

"sounds good. we'll do one more, and cyber i guess... you'll do two?" yuki agreed .

they all entered their respective lessons.

when yolo finished his second lesson the space he returned to was empty except floating words written in english. "outside"

understanding that it was probably a message cyber left for him letting him know that they disconnected he also focused on his true body and seperated his hands leaving the virtual space.

yuki and cyber were laying on a shared futon on the side of the room.

"looks like yolo's out now cyber." yuki said, from behind the other who was facing yuki and the wall.

"taking a nap?" yolo asked.

"cyber isn't feeling great. we think it might have been a lot of stress all at once."

"loud" cyber interupted grumbling.

"sorry" yuki said rubbing cybers head and kissing lir forhead. then getting up to go talk more quietly with yolo.

"anyway, lal did way more "activity" than either of us in that other space, so lal might have reached lir limit faster than us. lal'll need to at least get some rest." yuki didn't look wholely convinced but didn't have any better theory.

"have you gotten anything to eat?" yolo asking

"no, i was going to go when you got out, and bring back some soup or something for cyber. lal needs to eat something but lal was complaining of having some nausea too. "

"you wanna just stay with lir? i can go and grab some stuff and bring it back here." yolo offered, not really feeling confortable leaving cyber alone, nor yuki going off on her own either, especally bringing back food.

yuki thought for a moment and agreed. "ok. it doesn't have to be anything special i guess. just see if they have something light and easy for cyber."

"will do. rest well cyber."

cyber grumbled lir reply.

yuki returned to where cyber was laying breathing deeply. lal had a bit of reddness on lir face so yuki bent down to feel if lal had a fever. cyber's eye brows furled at the touch. "sorry, just making sure you don't have a fever" lal wasn't overly warm but warmer than usual. lir skin was perhaps a bit damp with slight persperation as well.

yuki layed down beside cyber watching lir breathe more not wanting to bother lir, but stuck wanting to do something to help. the best she could do was just let lir rest for now.

it was some time before yolo returned.

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