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Getting possessed by a Brinnite is by no means the weirdest thing to have ever happened to a Megazomian
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"Technique secrecy is kind of a big deal in general? Your techniques are your main asset as a person, so you shouldn't share them or information about them. There are a lot of taboos about that. But, yeah, they didn't give us an itemised list of what secrets were being kept from us and what workarounds we'd have been able to perform if we discovered each specific secret." 


"Fair enough.

...I guess if information gets out about your techniques, it *would* help enemies plan around your weak points, huh. That...sounds like it must make buying on the open market tricky."


"Techniques on the open market are usually trash, and when they're not trash it's hard to prove it, and if you do, the market gets flooded by simplifications and knockoffs. The real deal stuff is sold in auction houses under the same level of scrutiny - and nearly the same level of expected secrecy - as a sect.


"Good to know."


(Part of her thinks it's a shame that they have to be so secretive here to protect themselves from rivals, when open access to information is so beneficial to research.

Another part of her points out that she remains undecided on whether to keep the entire existence of cultivation a secret. Maybe she's looking at a post-black-ball-tech-equilibrium here, and this culture has evolved to be secretive about techniques because share-and-share-alike cultures get blown up.)


"Anyhow, reading introductions.

Jasmine will skim the titles of the five volumes of Kedri's books, which are titled in order, "Philosophy", "Advice", "Cultivation", "Recommended Reading" and, by far the longest, "Source Code". The first two seem to be an entirely mundane collection of proverbs, advice, and practical details on upright living, accountancy, bureaucratic work, and, scholarship. The third volume discusses cultivation matters. The fourth volume lists, along with blurbs and justifications, about two hundred books considered timeless classics any literate person ought to have read and understood (Jasmine has, skimming the table of contents, only heard of a few dozen, and only read three). The fifth volume contains implementation details for one's spiritual calculation engine, encoded in an arcane format that is apparently explained somewhere in the third volume.

Jasmine's single volume seems to have been written off the cuff, without any planning - it launches straight into a description of the core insight, and it isn't for some time that the author realises that since they're writing for a new cultivator, the basics also need to be covered. 


On the one hand, never reading volumes other than 3 and 5 would be very short-sighted of her.

On the other hand, one must prioritise.

"I expect in the *long* run I'll read all of this and some second opinions on its advice besides; hopefully *after* I obtain some minor scrying technique or something, some method of letting me read without it taking up your time. Even forms of scrying that are normally too limited to be of much use might work for this niche usecase: I wonder if that will make it more affordable.

But volume three seems like the one most likely to contain things I would regret not having read yet in class tomorrow.

I suppose the next question is, are we likely to regret not having read more of these before the class catalogue, or is that the higher priority?"


"If these are remotely typical of the books our classmates are being given, then we cannot possibly be expected to comprehend them by tomorrow, but we can be and are in fact expected to make our choices of electives tomorrow. So class catalogue?"   




The class catalogue, unfortunately, devotes the majority of its space to classes which neither of them presently qualify for (technically, anyone can enter any class, but the teachers have the right to arbitrarily test and expel any students who don't have a reason to be there). Structurally, the intent seems to be that each class consumes about one 6-8 hour day a week of teaching, and then requires about that again in reading, coursework, or self directed practicals, though naturally the real experienced amount of effort may vary greatly depending on how superhuman you are relative to the teacher's expectations. 

Jasmine quickly identifies that she can only reasonably do the basic classes for her Hidden or Beautiful aspects, but that she qualifies for a more advanced martial class by virtue of her existing skills. The advanced martial classes are sorted by teacher rather than by subject, though some of the teachers do in their blurbs describe their intentions to teach a specific school. Some groups are ongoing classes run by elders while others are run by mere core disciples - and more likely to be new groups this year.  The teacher that most appeals to her is the Count Thousand-Arts Oak, famous for never using the same technique to win a tournament twice, but she could be talked into a more conventional elder famed as a bodyguard and tank, or an assassin teaching far from home while the heat dies down.

On Kedri's set of aspects, she qualifies only for the basics - for the Noble aspect, that's a class named "Etiquette and Peerage". For the Academic aspect, that's a choice between a class on remedial scholarship, intended for the illiterate and innumerate, a class intended to orient burgeoning scholars, and a class intended to be someone's first steps into a finance role. For the Arcane aspect, that's a choice between a class named "Practical Resource Extraction" and a class intended as a survey of the 'arcane arts' - alchemy, formations, and other sorts of crafting. 

"So, unfortunately, it looks like we won't be able to take all the classes we'd like to take. Two each might be a viable workload?


Right then.

Thirty or so hours per...ah, per seven days, okay.

(Hopefully none of them are expecting her to be more superhuman than she is.)

"Yeah, two sounds about right."


So, let's start by eliminating possibilities.

She is, by good fortune, not illiterate in the local language; furthermore, a remedial class would not fit the impressiveness goal at all.

She wouldn't be against taking a financial role, but in a choice between that and "orienting burgeoning scholars" she'd take the latter. (She's never particularly thought of herself as scholarly before, but it's not like she's never read a textbook for fun and anyway there is so much she wants to learn about magic. And geography. And history. And dragons, and beetles, and...)

Practical Resource Extraction vs Survey of the Arcane Arts is a tougher choice, but if it came down to it, resource extraction sounds more, well, practical. Jasmine was saying something earlier about how maybe, with some retraining, Kedri could parlay her pre-existing skills into butchering magical creatures. Maybe she can take Survey of the Arcane Arts at some future point.

That narrows it down to three options.


"'Practical Resource Extraction' sounds very useful. Maybe we can do that hunting plan after all.

I'm torn between Noble and Academic, the normal-scholar one: both of them sound valuable for getting a more solid grounding in this world. I'm leaning Academic: it seems odd to not take any courses relating to my foundational aspect, and...I'm not sure how much the etiquette course would actually help with things like not asking people about their techniques, or if it's teaching me to play specific social games in specific contexts that are largely avoidable by someone who hasn't had time to learn them yet. And on that note, I suspect that the culture clash would interfere less with impressing the Academic teacher than the Noble teacher.

Does that make sense, or am I looking at this the wrong way?"


"I think some people feel that they can slack on direct teaching in the skills they're going to be using most and enhancing most efficiently with magic, but I'm not sure it's a good plan at all. You're hardly the only uncultured person who is going to be trying to enter the nobility here - I think that the sect has better odds on becoming a baron than, like, being a baron's grand-kid, so I do assume the Noble course is going to be like, tolerable, even if you're like, a street rat taking it so that you can better interface with your employers? And whatever social games it teaches aren't going to be easily avoided, because like, again, strong cultivators and nobility overlap and the social dynamics of the empire are supposed to be a major check on the power of warrior-cultivators to just force issues. I'm not sure any of that is actually a reason to pick the noble class - unavoidable in this context does mean, like, unavoidable but you'd be part of a well-established class of people failing to avoid them while being bad at them, and also this won't be our only chance to learn, or even to learn from a good teacher. We have decades to pick up every skill we'll need ever - it's about what skills will let us move as fast as possible in the next, like, six months to a year, that we need to study."

For example, she does not say, this is why I am not taking classes that will help with self-transformation and desirability, because those are harder to turn into hard currency than monster-hunting.



Academic...does seem like it would gain the least from 'direct teaching', when I look at it that way. Not because it's the one I'll be enhancing the most with magic, but because it's the one most...amenable to studying the normal way. There's only so much social interaction you can learn by reading library books: that really *would* want a tutor.

It does lose you scholarly contacts, I suppose, but gains you other contacts.

Six months to a year...hmm...

...they're both very valuable, but...things about the world do seem more likely to come up in *slow* contexts than things about society, contexts where I would have time to ask you about something. Whereas with social interaction,'s very much a faster pace."

(she thinks about the exhibition match, and feeling like she didn't have time to confer with Jasmine on what to say)

"Maybe my initial Academic studies should be reading the Great Academy Immortal Education textbooks and pursuing the lines of research that come up in them, wherever I can fit that in?"


The Great Academy Immortal Education textbooks say as much, not just implying but outright stating that if you complete their program of reading and studying, that will be in and of itself, sufficient to allow one to be an educated scholarly gentleman*, if you comprehend it properly.

*gentleman here used as an ungendered translation of the chinese term "君子 " or Junzi, common in Confucian thought and usually translated to "gentleman" because "distinguished person", "moral person", "superior person" or "son of the monarch" are all clunky and have weird implications.


A reassuringly familiar form of education, really, if a tad self-aggrandising.


Well, people have become gods this way, you know.


"I think the main disadvantage there is that's nearly the same as just taking three courses in the first place, but if you think you can keep up?"


"Do you think so? I think promising a book that I'll study something when I find the time is a much lighter obligation than promising an authority figure that I'll study something fifteen-ish hours a week for months. It's strictly better than the scenario where I study Noble and Arcane and *not* Academic, because I have the right to go back to that plan at any time. And having a reading list in mind might help keep me from getting overwhelmed when investigating the library, which I would certainly be motivated to do either way."


"I think it's essentially just - is the plan where you study noble and not academic with no fallback a good plan? If you're considering that as your plan, are you going to deprioritise and cripple your cultivation in general, which is the most important thing, in order to keep up with your classes? Because it does you no good to have options if those options aren't good, and it's a subtle trap, prioritising face over actual resources - it's tempting precisely because of how important face is, but you won't be able to keep up with the classes if you're not cultivating fast enough because you were spending too much effort on classes. Probably you should be more emotionally prepared to just disappoint some of your teachers if that's what it takes to keep moving forward. If you want to see yourself as having an obligation to your teachers, it's an obligation to - be strong, to be your best self, so you can contribute to the sect later. Also, I didn't think of this before but - it does seem really dangerous to assume any part of your technique is optional, just because it's not directly about cultivating. They weren't - making a mistake, when they published those books as a single technique, I assume.


Kedri would like to go back to her previous trajectory of feeling less lost over time, thanks.

"Mm, yes, I noticed the implications of labelling the cultivation book 'volume 3'. The question is how to juggle the priorities, and honestly I still feel like I don't know enough to-- to have a solid ground on which to weigh those kinds of choices.

If...hmm...if there's room in our schedule for each of us to take two courses, and my technique is essentially a course in itself, that kind of implies that I should only take one other course. That feels too easy, not competitive enough for this place, but...maybe it isn't?"

She sighs. "Any idea how much longer until we stop needing sleep?

--sorry, maybe that's kind of snappish, just-- I'm just very aware that I don't know what I'm doing."


"I think if we knew more about the academic course we could make a better call about if it'd overlap with your technique, or if they'd just be trying to pour two different sets of literary canon into your brain at once. I'm confident it's the former for martial classes, but there are more directions to take academia. I'm reasonably sure nobody will be worried by you only doing one class if you're doing it well and we're achiving in other ways as well, like cultivating fast. That's no reason to not do as much as possible, but how much is possible is what we're looking at, and we are planning to do a lot more than one person with one body would normally do already. So I think it's probably it's right, not to be too ambitious here. If we turn out to have a lot of free time, we can work or take up crafting or spar and read more. Unfortunately I think it will be months at a minimum until we can go without sleep, I don't even know how much the technique that was suggested costs. ... which suggests having more free time as well, if we have something we want to save up for as fast as possible.


Okay. Maybe things aren't quite as desperate as they sounded earlier.

The tears couldn't well in her eyes in the first place, and so they can't now stop. Her shoulders can't loosen, and she can't smile, and she can sort of sigh with relief but it's not the same.

In her heart, though...


"Invest in more time and processing power with which to do things, then do them," she says. "I like that plan.

I kind of wish I'd thought to ask the Head Archivist about scrying and not just pluripresence, but we'll figure it out.

...I wonder how fast the text input is on the calculation engine, if it's more like writing everything out manually or more like skimming or glancing: there are ways I could see it working where it would be faster--in terms of time spent using your eyes--to scan books in and then read them at my leisure. ...I will also need to learn the etiquette about when it is appropriate to copy other people's books into one's spiritual infrastructure.

I suppose that's getting a little ahead of myself, not having even begun to build the spiritual infrastructure in which to *keep* a library." She laughs a little. "Another reason to want to cultivate quickly."


Jasmine smiles. "Yeah. So many plans founded on capacities we'll have someday, and none on what we have today. Cultivation is really the most important thing. So, the Thousand-Arts martial group, Introduction to Stealth and Security, and Practical Resource Extraction? And then spending the rest of the time on personal study and work."

"For what it's worth, I think the cultural norm is that if you let someone see a text and they didn't perfectly memorise it, that's on them for passing up the chance to. Most people aren't carefully emphasising the distinction between their memory and their techniques.


Things are so much better with a solid plan under one's feet.

"Sounds good," she says, with a smile in her voice. "Both the class schedule and the library norms."

(she is going to build a beautiful archive, her hot-library a comforting warmth nestled up against her soul)


"With that sorted, what are our priorities for reading now, both today and in the near future?"


"Today, probably focusing on our cultivation books. Yours first, I suppose, since you already have control over turning the pages. ...although, we *were* also talking about practising switching, so maybe that's not so much of a factor after all.

In the near future, apart from cultivation books...researching the details of techniques that would let us make the most of collectively having more attention per unit of physical bandwidth--reducing sleep, scrying, telekinesis, speaking without using the mouth, we'll probably think of more--and figuring out how feasible they are as goals in what timeframes."

(She elects not to mention the cultivating-in-qi-poor-areas line of research at this time. 5 - 10% death rate is not great odds, but she feels like she has reminded Jasmine of this more than enough today.)

"I'll want to read up on world-specific things like history and geography, particularly the parts that are common knowledge. Books aimed at children tend to be much better at not making assumptions about what the audience already knows, but there might be reputational issues if I'm caught reading those. Maybe there's something aimed at immigrants or travellers from far away parts of this world? I don't know if you get enough of those to write books specifically for them. I guess if you have trillions of people, it doesn't need to be a large fraction to make a substantial market.

...maybe there is an Introduction to the Empire for Talking Wolves."

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