A note from Zogarth

Intermission 3/4 coming over the next two weeks (Were two yesterday, 13-02-2021)

Next weekend, Intermission 4 will come (a 2-parter).

Life is beautiful.

To see the life of others flourish, perhaps even more so. To see the hope and happiness that new life brings into the world and how that spark of life would only grow with the years.

At the same time, the deterioration of life is perhaps the most tragic thing. To see age slowly neuter that spark, or to see sickness or injury slowly sap away at its splendor.

Eron had always loved life. Not as a broad thing, but just the mere existence of it. From an early age, it had intrigued him. He remembered rushing home from school every single day, not to play or be with friends, but to sit and stare at a bird nest he could see from his second-floor window.

Eggs had been laid in it - five of them. The child loved seeing them grow day after day, and he loved seeing their parents’ attentiveness as they took care of them, making sure that the small sparks of life wouldn’t be extinguished.

When they were born, their spark only grew. Eron observed the birds every single day until one day they were no longer there. He went crying to his parents and was told by his father that someday the bird has to leave its nest and that it was now its own bird. Its own independent spark of life traveling around. That it was time for it to form its own family soon and spread the wonderful gift of life.

He had even seen his own spark. It was beautiful, like all the others. He remembered staring at it in the mirror for hours before his mother came to get him.

Through growing up, he continued being fascinated with life. He would help animals he found to reignite their fading sparks, or he would look sadly on as the neighbor’s dog began to have its spark fade. Even as a child, he began to understand that some sparks could never reignite. They had simply burnt out, and it was their time. The dog died shortly after of old age.

In his teenage years, he was always a bit of an isolated child. He was perhaps always a bit of an oddball, as he just liked to watch more than participate. But that all began to change one day when he went to the bookstore with his father and found a book on physiology and medicine.

He was fascinated, to say the least. The prospects of being someone whose sole existence was to preserve life and keep the spark healthy… it became his dream. A dream he would pursue to great success.

After that, he began studying to reach his goal. With the singlemindedness he had used to observe the birds, he dove into the books. He managed to get to the top of his class and enter a prestigious university. There he once more managed to prove excellent.

It was joked about that Eron could see if a person was sick just by looking at them. Which Eron never found particularly funny. Because he could. A fact he had learned very early on in his life, and he knew only he could see those small sparks. A secret he had come to hide. It was his gift, one he would not waste.

Graduating, he had become a fully-fledged doctor. A title he swiftly advanced to as he was named head surgeon. With his talent and persistence, he could, without a doubt, have advanced further, but he chose not to. His creed was to save and preserve life, and further advancements would mean having to waste time in meetings and administration - something he adamantly refused to do.

He had become addicted to the feeling of nurturing those sparks. To have a patient enter with only a small flicker remaining, only for him to make it flare to life once more. He never needed the advanced instruments of others to see the patients’ condition. The spark was enough.

Losing a patient, on the other hand, was the worst feeling. To desperately try and nurture the spark, only for it to lose its glow anyway. He knew once the spark completely disappeared, there was no way back - no resuscitation possible, no hope for life to return. This was the saddest feeling he could imagine, and the first few deaths took their toll.

He also purposefully avoided some places. The ward with the terminal patients he took a long road to avoid. The same was true for care centers and homes for the elderly. He hated seeing their sparks.

They were weak. A type of weakness Eron knew he couldn’t fix. It was the type that meant death was imminent. That caused the spark to die slowly.

Perhaps even worse was knowing when it would die. Eron’s experiences had taught him that. Like with the dog, he could tell. And who wants to know that they were going to die within the week?

Why was he cursed with the knowledge that the older woman he saw in the grocery store had only a few weeks left? Or that his very own father’s cancer wasn’t as benign as they all hoped? He knew he couldn’t share any of it. Who would believe him? And if they did, would they blame him for the deaths?

Eron thought of this ‘gift’ of his many times. What it was, or why he had it. When he was younger, he wondered if he was the protagonist of some hero’s tale? Did perhaps everyone have powers they chose to hide? Or was there something wrong with him?

He finally got his answer when the system came.

A bloodline. A word Eron would not have used to describe it, but a concept he quickly comprehended. He indeed was special. He had a blessing few had, one now officially recognized by the system in this new world.

The bloodline ability was simple. It allowed Eron to ‘see’ vital energy. To understand it. And soon, as he came to learn, to far more easily control it. When the choice of class was presented, he didn’t hesitate a second to pick healer.

A chance to help nurture more sparks was too good to pass up. And the thought of instead extinguishing those sparks disgusted him on a fundamental level.

After that, he found himself thrown into a new world. A city of some kind, but the architecture was not like anything he had seen before. It was vaguely human, but everything was just… bigger. Doors were all roughly twice as big, and the same went for windows and houses in general. The streets were broader than most 2-lane highways.

There was a distinct lack of any auxiliary items, though. No furniture was found, just huge hollow houses and empty streets.

With him was a vast array of other humans. Many he recognized from the hospital, patients, and employees both. Most surprising, however, was the man he found himself right next to. The man he was just about to operate on - a man a single step away from death moments before. Now fully healed.

It was done through means above his wildest imaginations. What is more, everyone’s sparks were shining brighter than ever before. It was wonderful.

They all knew this area was meant to be a tutorial. But what it was supposed to test, nobody knew. First, they all grouped up, a crowd of around 40 people, and went to one of the nearby houses to gather their thoughts. The tutorial called it ‘survival’ but provided little more information than that.

After exchanging greetings and introductions, they began to think of basic necessities. None of them had anything but the clothes on their backs, a satchel of potions, and their starting equipment.

All was well… until nightfall.

Creatures came. Out of the dark corners of every street, of every abandoned building. Small things with sharp claws and maws full of teeth.

The people responded as one would expect - panic, confusion, and finally cohesion born of a will to survive. They fought and, in the end, won against the monsters. But they lost eight people…. eight lights snuffed out forever. A heart-wrenching moment for all of them, perhaps, but Eron felt it even more so.

Eron hated himself for that first night. He had been weak. He had been cowardly. He could have healed more, done more… he could have saved them. But he froze as he saw the creatures. Because they also carried sparks of life within them. Some which burned more brightly, and some less so. Who was he to be the arbiter of their death?

It was a wake-up call for all of them. Eron began immersing himself in his new powers of healing as he healed the injured after the fight. Despite what one may believe of a hospital, few had chosen to be a healer. Most had gone with one of the warrior options, a few with archer, and a lot with the caster. Of their group of 40, they only had 2 healers. One of which died in the attack, leaving him as the only one. But he did notice that they lacked a lot of hospital employees too… had they been brought to another tutorial? Were the number of healers low on purpose?

When he practiced the healing spells, he found that they were… inefficient. It didn’t nurture the spark as well as it should. Whenever he healed someone, he could see the energy that was called mana transform as it got channeled through his skill. Converted into the vital energy that made up the sparks.

Practicing with the skill, he quickly improved drastically. He learned to subtly control the vital energy as he healed people. It was wonderful for him to see his touch directly restoring the sparks.

That day he got quite a few levels, and his skill even upgraded two times, becoming a rare skill. He even got a new rare skill upon reaching level 5. It was all fascinating.

The days ticked by, and a routine was formed. The days were quiet for the most part, with only other humans really offering issues. They discovered that food did exist, but it was a bit hard to come by. Water was even worse, as only a single pond was found, and it was often guarded by strong lizards covered in spikes.

At night the dark creatures would appear and attack them. And every night, they got stronger. Luckily, or perhaps by design, so did the survivors. They fought them off time and time again, and soon it was barely an issue for their group to defeat them.

That is until the tenth day. This time was different, as a larger bulky version of the creatures appeared. It was larger and stronger than all those prior. That night they lost four more before the creature fell. It was also the day Eron began to form a new idea.

Something… happened whenever someone’s spark was snuffed out. For a few moments after their death, it was still there, like the smoke remaining after a matchstick is extinguished. And like that smoke, perhaps a new flame could reignite the spark.

A few days later, another person died. Their group had expanded at this point, as the danger posed by the larger creatures had made the humans realize they had to band together. This naturally also meant that the amount of attacking creatures increased. The one who died this time was a young woman who had yet to even reach level 10.

Eron had already discovered at this point that he could heal people without them being alive. He could still heal their physical body. It was actually quite simple, as all he had to do was guide the vital energies through their bodies while also applying his extensive medical knowledge and knowledge of human anatomy.

To do this had become a common practice after he had first done it. On the one hand, it offered those who cared about the victim a complete corpse and the chance for a proper burial. From a more pragmatic standpoint, it allowed Eron to level more, making further healing more effective.

This also, in turn, offered him a chance to experiment with his newfound idea. An idea that failed again and again. No matter what he did, he couldn’t quite reignite the spark. A final step eluded him time and time again. It was frustrating, but the constant pressure from the nightly attacks and other human conflicts didn’t offer him much peace to ponder on it.

Days went by quickly with this, until the 20th day. This time the difficulty spiked once more. The creatures were more numerous, yet again, a new type emerged - this one a spiked dark creature that could even use magic. Its level also marked a new threshold. 25.

That day more than twenty people died. Eron had reached level 24 during the battle and was on the verge of advancing himself. He hadn’t bothered much with his profession, which he had unlocked during the slight downtime he had, so his race-level was still low.

With the many new corpses, Eron began their restoration and his secret experiment. One that failed time after time, until finally, he discovered the issue on the 17th corpse. What his healing lacked wasn’t the power of vitality. It was a direction - intent.

He needed not just to revive the ‘life’ of someone, but their spirit too. He tried this on the 17th, and for but a brief moment, he managed to bring him back, but soon after, the spark just snuffed out again. Like whatever was meant to keep the spark alit was gone.

New intent was needed. A new ‘guide’ if you may. Eron saw no other alternative than his own vital energy to do this. For the first time, he didn’t only pour mana into the healing spell, but his very own life force as well. This time the spark was reignited without burning out. At the very same moment, he reached level 25 and got a class evolution.

On the 20th day was the day he was reborn. He met a god and successfully resurrected a person.

On the final day of the tutorial, he stood in the middle of the large road, not far from where he had first appeared. A white robe covered his body as he gazed at the many people following him. Men and women who all stood by him - eyes glazed over.

His resurrection was a success... of the body. It turns out the soul is a bit harder to return than that. In the end, only the body lived. Its stats intact, sometimes perhaps even a single skill still functioning. But all intelligence and personality were gone – they were but living corpses. Their souls lost.

But to Eron, that was okay. Because their sparks now burned more brightly than ever before. All in the same beautiful color as the one he saw in the mirror all those years ago.

A note from Zogarth

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