Not all skill learning was made equal. I had always thought mom was a harsh taskmistress. No. She had been air and sunshine up until now. I cooked. I baked. I sewed some clothes, fixed a sandal, washed a single shirt in a water bucket, repaired dad’s armor, swept the floor, cleaned out the oven, repaired a window slate (I swear it hadn’t been broken yesterday…), stuffed a pillow, changed the straw, bought more food at market, hauled water from the river, scrubbed the walls (mold was a persistent bastard), made anti-bug herbal pouches, and generally did 1001 things around the house – none of them in a large, sustained way, but enough to get a glimpse, a proper idea of exactly what it took to keep the place running and looking nice.
Like. I’d done almost all of these things already. A few things I’d been just a hair too young for, until now, but by and large it was a full-system review of every single chore mom could think of, regardless if it was a daily chore, weekly, monthly, or something we only did once a year.
By the time the late afternoon rolled around, I was exhausted.
Of course, that’s when Lyra swung by. Saved by my angel! However, Lyra was crying. This was no good. Elaine to the rescue! I swooped in and gave Lyra a huge hug.
“You ok?” I softly asked.
Lyra bit her lip, tears welling up.
“Yes.” She croaked out.
Really? She didn’t look ok. Well, if she said so…
“Lyra! What happened!” My mom bustled over, half-shoving me out of the way.
“Wind weasel.” She croaked out. I looked around her, seeing a pair of deep, nasty gashes on the back of her calves.
Ooooh, that had to hurt.
“You’re not ok! Why did you say you were ok!” I shouted in outrage to Lyra.
“Elaine.” My mom’s soft voice was all warning, and I instinctively straightened up.
“Yes?” I meekly turned to mom, her face all thunderclouds. She sighed.
“We’ll talk later. Can you please help Lyra onto the patient recliner?” I walked over to Lyra, grabbed her hand, and helped her up onto the patient recliner. Having seen mom do stuff like this before, I told Lyra “Ok, you should roll onto your belly so we can see the backs of your legs.” Lyra, trustingly rolled over.
Mom looked at me thoughtfully, tapping a finger against her lips. She seemed to come to a decision and asked: “Ok Elaine, what do we do next?”
“Look at it!”
“Very good! Let’s look at it together.”
I only had to look down a bit to see Lyra’s calves while mom had to bend over to see. She poked around a bit, then took a step back, giving me a chance to look over every cut, every scrape carefully. It looked like a pair of sickles had hit each calf in an x-shape, but it didn’t look that deep or dangerous. Phewf. I patted Lyra’s shoulder and announced “You’ll be fine! Mom’s going to patch you right up!”
Mom walked back up to me. “Ok Elaine, what do we do now?”
“Clean the wound!” I spoke with complete self-assurance.
“Not quite. Being hit like that hurts! If we try to clean it, it’ll just hurt Lyra more! That would be bad. We should handle the pain first before cleaning it out. How can we handle the pain?”
That was a real stumper of a question. How did we stop pain? Did we have some sort of tea? I didn’t remember mom ever making tea for someone who came in for healing. Well, not for healing purposes anyways. Was it something we rubbed on them…? I looked at mom and shrugged. “I dunno.”
For some reason this made mom smile. “It’s always good to admit when you don’t know something. In this case, I have a skill for it – [Minor Reduce Pain].” She brought her hand over to Lyra, and just like that she was done.
I’d been terribly disappointed the first time I’d seen magic in action. I’d expected to see MAGIC, a great flash of light, a massive mandala of mystic runes! Chanted words, summoned spirits, something.
I was disappointed. Turns out, a lot of skills were not super flashy, and were pretty anticlimactic. They just did things. Mom didn’t even need to say anything! She could’ve just touched Lyra, and boom! The skill was done. According to what I’d heard and figured out so far.
Most magic wasn’t anything like the display from the three farmers at the temple earlier. The only visible sign was Lyra’s face becoming less tense, and a deep sigh of contentment coming from her. How could I have known how to remove pain, when removing pain like that was via skill?
Thinking about it, this was a pretty good chance to ask about healing skills!
“Hey mom, how much mana was that skill? How much power did it take? How much regeneration do you have?” A veritable flood of questions came out of me, the damn bursting as I saw a chance to learn more about magic again. All questions I’d had for years. Everyone had always put me off, saying “wait until System day, I’ll tell you after System day.”
Well, System day had come and passed, and now I was after ANSWERS!
“Wait until Lyra’s better before asking! Patients come first.”
Shit Lyra! Of course she came first! Stupid distractable brain.
I almost patted her legs - they were nearby, after all - then realized it’d probably hurt her. I couldn’t do that! I patted her arm instead.
“Now what do we do, Elaine?”
“NOW we clean the wound!” This one I knew. I grabbed a rag near our bucket of water, and dunked it in. Thinking about it, this probably wasn’t very clean – the rag wasn’t sterile, and we had been using the water for other tasks – but I suppose it was good enough.
Hang on. I still knew that. I still knew germ theory! It didn’t get ripped from my mind! Holy shit, was this some sort of oversight? Heart and brain, lungs and guts, stomach and liver, muscles and DNA, viruses and bacteria, joints and tendons, blood and bones – Holy shit I still knew biology! I froze, like a massive [Icy Grip] had just been cast on me, mind whirling. Could I use this? Could I make something out of knowing this? How much could I reveal before someone became suspicious? Could I just claim divine inspiration for everything? After all, knowing all of this WAS technically due to divine intervention. Or not, depending on how you looked at it.
“Elaine, the rag’s not going to get any wetter the longer you leave it in the bucket.” Mom called with amusement. I jumped about a foot in the air, and walked back to where Lyra was lying down. Act cool, act cool. Nothing to see here. I didn’t just get a Pallos-shattering revelation. Breathe in, breathe out.
Mom could clearly tell something was up with me, but she probably put it down to being nervous for helping her out in her little clinic for the first time, and working on my best friend to boot. I carefully wiped down Lyra’s legs, making sure each stroke was as slow and as gentle as possible. I was easily distractible, until it came to something that really, REALLY needed my focus, and right now, this required every single bit of effort I could muster. No mistakes! No problems! No dirt left behind! I was going to do this RIGHT, so I could keep helping mom out. Lyra needed to get better, there were no other options. How could we run around on adventures, raiding merchants, bothering guards, if she wasn’t able to run around? She would get caught in an instant! Seeing her proud smile on her face as I was doing this, I wanted that approval, I needed that praise. So, dirt! Foul nemesis! Begone!
“Thanks Elaine.” Lyra softly murmured, and those two words had pride and happiness bouncing around inside me like a pair of happy puppies. A gigantic involuntary smile split my face in half.
I might have slightly lost track of time as mom coughed gently behind me, and said “Hey, I think her legs are clean enough, we should bandage them up now.” I jumped, face flushing bright red. I just wanted to be thorough, ok?? Covering my embarrassment, I grabbed some thick woolen bandages that we had already prepared, and ran back over to Lyra. I started wrapping, and soon The Mummy re-emerged – as seen from the knees down. I stood back, admiring my work. Mom came over, and ruffled my hair.
“Good job Elaine! That’s great for your first effort! You might even get the [Bandaging] skill, or EVEN the [First Aid] skill! Wouldn’t that be great!”
I squirmed happily under the praise. This was a nice feeling. Lyra got up, and without warning, gave me a huge hug.
“Thank you thank you thank you! It feels so much better now!”
A warm glow went through me. This healing business was nice!
Mom looked at us amused.
“You two should go play now. Inside.”
Yeah… we shouldn’t run around too much for now.
I grabbed my doll, and showed it to Lyra.
“This is Bella! She’s usually an [Archmage], but today she’s a [Healer]!”
She knew all that of course – we had played mages and monsters, lovers and liars, and thousands of other games with our dolls, one of the only toys we had that were truly ours, and not just some communal thing or rocks we had found, or sticks we had shaped.
“Oooooh,” cooed Lyra “Daphne is a [Divine Priestess], she’s a priestess of the goddess of the moon!”
“Which one?” That was always the question with Lyra’s doll. Mom had made it for her a few years ago! Two moons, two goddesses, Lyra’s doll could be either one. Lucky twins. Not born twins, friend-twins. Like us!
We happily played together, not even noticing when dinner came out. It was quite eye-opening when mom said “Ok Elaine, I think Lyra needs to go home now.” I happily waved goodbye, with us making promises to meet up tomorrow in the park. Checking with our moms? Nah, no need. Getting in bed was a whirlwind, and as I looked up at the ceiling, I happily kicked my feet.
Lyra was the best friend ever.