Julius snorted at that. “Every teenager thinks they’re special, something important. Grow up. You’re not. Go home, marry the dude, have a few kids. Live life.”
I bite back anger at that. I needed to be thorough.
“Is anyone here like Artemis, and on a hair-trigger? I don’t want to get stabbed halfway through this.” That question got a bunch of tensing up, and hands on weapons. I held my hands up. “I solemnly promise I’m a human.” That got nobody to relax – Artemis hadn’t tensed up in the slightest. I glared at her. I’d assumed her hang ups were their hang ups. She threw me a bone.
“She’s harmless all. She’s a dual-class healer. She couldn’t hurt us if she tried.” She paused, thinking. “There might have been a slight incident or two in the past which has made Elaine paranoid….” Everyone turned to give Artemis a flat look. Clearly, I hadn’t been the first incident of Artemis being on a hair trigger, or the last, since even the new Rangers were giving her a Look.
“Fine, now that I know I won’t get murdered halfway, I’d like to make a bet with you. I bet I can convince you that I’m actually somewhat special, or at least unique. I convince you that I’m unique and useful, I stick with you. Otherwise, I’ll go home, like you said.” Julius snorted at that.
“And who gets to decide?”
“You do. You could listen to everything I have to say, and decide otherwise. I won’t protest. I honestly believe I can convince you, and convince you so thoroughly you’ll agree.”
Julius rolled his eyes at that. “Fine. We usually take a break the day after a fight anyways, make sure there aren’t hidden problems lurking around. You can talk while you remain entertaining.” Anger flared up again, and while I had decided to tell them, it came out faster and more biting than I’d intended, with no build up.
“I’m not from Pallos.”
That bombshell got me the full and undivided attention of every single person there. Artemis laughed.
“I know your parents, Julia and Elainus. Of course you’re from here.”
I shook my head at that.
“Not originally. Ok, long story time. I was originally born on a planet called Earth, had a happy life, grew up, went to school, had friends, a family, etc. Sometime around the time I was 20, I died. I don’t know how or why, but my soul got lost somewhere in the cycle of reincarnation, and Papillion picked me out of the cosmos. He gave me a choice – reincarnate as normal, here on Pallos. Or reincarnate with some of my memories intact. Something about a baby’s head not being large enough, and some knowledge being ‘too dangerous’ to let run around.” That last part was with bitterness. I’d never felt whole and complete, not with giant holes in my memory, with gaps in my knowledge. It was part of why I’d been able to integrate and adapt so well here.
Artemis pointed at me with her mouth wide open. “You liar!” I jumped at that.
“I never lied!”
“You let me believe your starter class was because of the Earth element!”
Oh that. “Yup! But I never said it was because of it!” I said cheerfully.
Julius interrupted. “Artemis, report.”
Artemis snapped to attention. “Sir! When I first met Elaine, she had just awoken. I helped her train her general skills to level 8, then helped with her initial free point distribution. I forgot about the power-control trade-off being so important at low levels, and had her assign 24 points to the Magic stats. That gave her a 10-10-9-9 distribution. I almost fried her when she said she had more points, thinking she was a monster. She told me her class was [Child of Earth], which had more points than [Child of Pallos], or [Child of Remus]. It was a Metal-aligned class. Which is how she got a perfect 10-10-10-10 for her first class-up. I assumed she was simply loved by the Earth element. Sir!” She paused for a moment, thinking. “She also somehow shot up to level 32 immediately after classing up, and has another class-up. Julia, her mom, assumed it was my fault. Due to various incidents, I didn’t look into it. Sir!” Everyone groaned at the last part. I looked at Julius, impressed. What was this power to command Artemis! I wanted.
Granted, it was a Wood class, not Metal, but potato, potato.
He said nothing, turning to Maximus, who was practically actually drooling.
“Ahem, yes.” He started, wiping his mouth. “I’ve never heard of the class [Child of Earth]. Additionally, while people are occasionally loved by the elements, the templating’s all wrong. It would’ve been [Beloved by Earth]. Surface-wise, it checks out.”
Julius snapped back to me. “Continue talking.”
“I’d estimate my aggregate age as somewhere in the mid-30’s” I started, carefully not mentioning that my mental maturity was indeed 14, and that I had the mindset of a 14-year old. Years as a baby did nothing for you either way, and being treated like a kid made one regress to being a kid. If nothing else, it didn’t advance my mental maturity, so I was, at best, somewhere around 20. My age was a mess.
“What do you want to know?” I asked.
“Anything and everything you can remember. Arthur, Origen, start taking notes.”
I didn’t want people taking notes, but I wasn’t in charge here. I wasn’t being forced to give any knowledge out, but I was asking for a favor. A massive favor. I could survive some notes being taken. I grabbed a shoot off the ground, and started to draw in the dirt.
“So, the world is a sphere, and it looks something like this.” I started, poorly drawing a map of the world from what I could remember.
[*Ding!* You’ve unlocked the General skill [Recollections of a Distant Life]!]
I needed every ounce of help to convince them to let me join. I ditched [Knives] for the skill, dry retching as the skill left me.
Maximus interrupted. “Just got a new skill?”
“Yeah.” I replied, shaky.
“Which one?” He was fishing for something. Truth first. Integrity first.
“[Recollections of a Distant Life].” More looks, more shrugs.
“What are skills like on Earth?” Maximus had a one-track mind.
“There are no skills on Earth. Not like here. There’s no magic at all, no system, no stats, nothing.”
“How does anything work? How are humans alive?” Arthur jumped in.
“Well, we use science to figure things out, and technology to make things.”
[*Ding!* Congratulations! [Recollections of a Distant Life] has reached level 2!]
That was going to get really old, really fast. I disabled notifications for the skill, trusting that it’d level up in the background, helping me out.
“That just sounds like more magic, with a different name.” Artemis was skeptical. Trust the mage to be skeptical of a non-magical place.
“No, it’s not. It’s an accumulation of knowledge. I know one thing. I teach the next person that thing. They learn another thing. They pass two things on. Etc. It’s much easier with books, which just don’t seem to exist here!” I cried out in frustration.
“What’s a book?”
“It’s like a scroll, but more compact. Here, hand me a few scrolls.” I was dutifully handed a few blank scrolls. “Imagine instead of rolling them up like this, you spread all of them out, and layered them on top of each other. It’s sealed on one end. You can then flip through the ‘pages’ one at a time, to quickly access information. See? You can even write on both sides.” I flipped through my makeshift ‘book’, demonstrating what I meant. “Usually the pages are more uniform, and much, much thinner, but yeah, this is a book.”
“What else?” They were hooked.
“Numbers! Your numbers are all wrong!” I complained.
“What do you mean?” Kallisto asked.
“You have a representative system. Look, here’s 1, 5, 10, 50, 100, 500, and 1000 in your system” I said, drawing out a I, V, X, L, C, D and M. “It’s obnoxious in the first place, and completely fails at higher numbers. Instead, let me show you what we call Arabic numbers that we use on Earth.” With that, I drew out a 0 – 9 on the ground.
“Actually, before I get started, who knows about zero?” Julius and Origen both raised their hands.
They explained the concept of zero to the others, and then I explained the Arabic numerical system.
“What use is it?” Artemis asked, pretending indifference, totally hooked.
“It’s good when you’re dealing with numbers larger than 1000… and generally just all-around better, once you get used to it.”
“Hang on, if you know a completely different number system, you must know other languages.” Julius jumped in.
“Yeah, English. It’s a messy language, and it’s not easy to teach.”
He still looked thoughtful.
“Do you know what you don’t know?” Arthur asked.
“Kind of. I can be led to blanks, I know where some blanks in my memory exist, but generally, I’ll be thinking of something, and I’ll lead myself right to a blank. I do know I have almost all of my biology knowledge.”
“So you know how the four humors work?” Kallisto asked. I snorted at that.
“The four humors are completely wrong. The human body is massively complex, and there’s no easy way to explain it. It’s like a town. Saying a town is a mix of four humors is just wrong. There’s thousands of people, each doing their little part. There’s the walls keeping everything in. The roads for people to travel on. Buildings for them to live in. Water and food going in, waste going out. Rocks coming in to fix buildings. A governor to oversee everything. Guards keeping the peace. A human body can’t just be summed up as ‘four elements in balance’, it’s too complex for anything simple.”
“So how do diseases work?” Maximus asked.
“Well, what’s the smallest creature you know of?”
There was some thinking, some looking back and forth. Clearly, this was a new thought.
“Well, there a…”
“But a baby version is even smaller.”
“There’s tiny bugs.”
I held my hand up, stalling out the argument.
“There are tiny creatures, so small we can’t see them, that can think we’re food, and invade. Our bodies have their own town guard, and they can usually beat up the trouble makers and throw them out. Sometimes though, they get a foothold, and can do terrible damage to a body. Think of a town with no guard, or a crumbling town – easy for vandals to do damage.” I was pretty pleased with my analogy.
“That’s actually my [Cure Disease] variant Artemis – [Attack Bacteria].”
“How do you spell that?” Maximus asked, continuing to take furious notes. I spelled it out for him.
“However, there’s more than just bacteria than can cause problems. Bacteria are giants compared to viruses. It’s why I can heal some diseases, and I’m useless against the cold. The root of the disease is different.” Teaching was fun!
“How do you know all of this? Were you a healer on Earth?” Julius asked. Success! He believed me!
“No, just a normal student.”
I hit my forehead with my palm.
“Yes, student. For the first 18 years of life, almost everyone is educated. Math. Science. History. Literature. Music. And so much more. It’s how we keep accumulating and passing on knowledge. Relative to the actual doctors – healers - on Earth, I know nothing about the human body. I only have what’s considered common knowledge – but the basic knowledge is enough for skills here to work off of. I imagine healers trying to use the four humors method have terrible efficiency.”
Artemis made a noise of agreement. “You restore and heal just as fast as some of the more experienced healers I’ve met. I never thought about it, since I assumed that was the normal healing speed, and I know shit about healers. But yeah, now that I think about it, you heal like someone two or three times your level.” She paused, thinking. “Might just be your [Oath] skill instead though.”
Julius was still deep in thought, Origen and Maximus writing furiously, filling up scrolls.
“What are some bad aspects to Earth, that are better here?” Yikes, it was like a job interview. Thinking about it, this was a job interview.
“The beauty standards!” I immediately blurted out, then blushed. Why did I have to say that?
“Well, there are pictures” I quickly explained the concept of pictures, and preserving a moment in time for eternity. They were fascinated by the concept. “But they can be edited. So you’re constantly measuring yourself against fake pictures, against people that can’t possibly exist. Women have it hard as well – expected to constantly shave, always be skinny, always look good, always have a smile on your face. It’s exhausting. I hated it, hated that I had to conform to those standards. It’s so much freer here.” I thought about it more.
“I miss shampoo. And bras. And not needing to worry about lice or ticks.” I shuddered at the last one.
More explaining. More back and forth. Religion. Governments. Guns. Glasses.
“How do glasses work? They should be replicable here, right, like everything else?” Kallisto asked.
“Well, yes. It’s simple, and hard at the same time. All they do is – they work by – argh! Damn holes!” I cursed as yet another piece of information turned out to be a hole in the swiss cheese that was my head. Dozens of ideas, hundreds of concepts – I had the gist, I could explain half of it, but when push came to shove there was this gaping hole in my memory. I could give the idea, but I could import almost nothing.
Origen said something for the first time. An order, a command, a request? I couldn’t tell, but it made sense.
That I could do. [Recollections of a Distant Life] was past 40 and rising fast, a blistering pace. I started off with a simple one, The Boy who cried Wolf. I moved onto Beowulf. I had always loved reading, and I had a thousand tales to tell.
The Iliad. I had them hooked.
The Odyssey. They were entranced. Stories didn’t last thousands of years without being good.
I continued to introduce new cultures, new parts of the world, with Romance of the Three Kingdoms. New ideas with Frankenstein. Don Quixote. Romeo and Juliet. Macbeth. The Divine Comedy. The Epic of Gilgamesh. Dracula had everyone nodding along – were there vampires here? Animal Farm went right over their heads, and I decided to stick to more grounded works of literature. To Kill a Mockingbird went over better, but I made a few subtle swaps on slavery over racism. Aesop’s Fables were a complete hit, King Lear less so. The Tale of Genji. A Thousand and One Arabian Nights. Only a fraction of those. Moby-Dick. Alice in Wonderland. Oedipus. Midas. The Bible. Cinderella. Grimm’s Fairy Tales.
It all came to a screeching halt with St. George and the Dragon. Like so many books that required background and context, things I’d believed were natural, they needed things explained to them.
“What’s a saint?” Artemis asked, leaning in. She was engrossed, like the rest of my audience.
“Well, when the Roman Church thinks someone’s particularly holy, and sent from god, they call them a saint.” I explained patiently.
“That’s the one with only one god, right? They don’t like adultery?” Kallisto was particularly sore on that point.
“And what’s a ‘dragon’?” Arthur asked, using the English word for it. I didn’t have the Pallos Standard word for them, if it even existed. He liked hunting things.
“Ah. Big winged lizard, flies, breathes fire, powerfully magical, likes to hoard precious things.”
“A Dragon!?” Finally, the Pallos word for it. At that, Julius tackled me, and put his hand over my mouth. He hissed, low and quiet.
“I believe you, now shut up. They hear you when you call.”