Ameliyn laid back and relaxed against the hastened together cushions. There wasn't a lot of furnishing available in the caravan for a woman going through labor, so they had to cobble together whatever they could. She was almost Healed back to full strength and stamina after giving birth to her son, already. She and her husband had been filled with anxiety leading up to the delivery. It had been one of the strangest pregnancies she had ever heard of, but despite all of the signs pointing to a complicated birth, it was incredibly routine.
Not having access to a midwife was originally a huge worry for the young couple, and they had been trying everything they could to speed up the caravan to make it to the next city, but she had gone into labor a day away from any civilization. Ironically the labor was most likely induced by the stress from worrying about not being able to make it to the next city in time.
It turned out that only having her husband to help her along was a blessing in disguise, as she could freely utilize the methods taught to her by her mother of using her mana as a conduit and lubrication, then double back to hasten the recovery process, and all the time training Pain Resistance helped a lot as well. This was a common method used by women of status who had excessive mana, but for various reasons, they had to hide that fact from those around them.
During the pregnancy, her Little One had constantly caused her trouble. Never mind the heartburn, the nausea, the mood swings, or the Braxton Hicks that every woman experiences to some varying degree. No, those symptoms were quite mild for her. Instead it had been the wild fluctuations of mana and excessive-energy-induced bouts of mania. A lot of the instances of her mana acting out occurred while she was in the midst of exercising Mana Circulation and immediately after.
Mana Circulation was supposed to not only be safe for pregnancies, but was even supposedly able to help nourish the fetus. She had never heard of a situation like hers.
She looked down at the little bundle of joy that was sleeping soundly in her arms. He had screamed loud enough to wake the dead the whole time Refix was cleaning him up and swaddling him. The mixture of panic and pleading on his face was both endearing and hilarious. If she hadn't been so out of it from literally just giving birth, she would have laughed her head off at his predicament. He had acted like any tiny movement on his part would have shattered their child. He was likely right.
She looked up at her husband who was standing over them watching his newborn son sleep in his mother's arms. He reached down and touched the top of her head in affection.
"Do you have everything you need? I need to inform the caravan master we're good to go," he asked with a smile, never taking his eyes off his son.
"Yes, Ref, I'll be fine. Go, go!" She shooed him away. He took one last glance as he exited the covered wagon they had appropriated for the occasion. She could hear people asking questions and his voice answering that everything was fine. Being the only woman, not just the only pregnant woman, in the caravan afforded her the luxury of privacy at this time, as no man not related was brave enough to venture into the lair of a birthing room.
Shortly after Ref left, the wagon started moving again, and the sounds of conversation moved away, back to the wagons and horses those people were travelling on. Ref came back in and managed to take their son into his arms without waking him, allowing her to wash the sweat, grime, and other fluids off of her. By this time, she was already back to full Health and Stamina. The wonders of mana.
After she was appropriately dressed again, she walked up to her husband, and she placed her hand on his shoulder as she leaned into him to look down at their boy together.
"Have you thought of any names, yet?" She asked. "I'm terrible at coming up with names."
"I have," he replied. "I'll let you know my thoughts soon. Don't want to invite any unlucky karma by rushing things."
They stood in companionable silence, just looking. Their son was... ugly. There was no other way to put it. His skin was dark, almost purple. He had no hair on his head, and his skin was all wrinkly. She didn't care if she had just birthed a tiny mutant, though. That was her son, and she already loved him.
It had been a strange thing. Before giving birth, she intellectually understood that she was going to give birth to a new human, and he or she was going to be a new permanent part of their family, but she viewed it as kind of an abstract thing. Literally as soon as he was out, her mentality did a complete shift. That was her baby, and she loved him! There was no more abstract thoughts. She already couldn't picture her life moving forward without him.
She eventually had to stop just looking. Her husband would be expected to take a shift guarding the convoy, as that was part of their agreement in getting a ride with them. She tidied up the space and disposed of the blood covered cloth, but she remained within the wagon. Nobody would be expecting a fully healed mother to pop out right after delivery, so she had to act the part and remain cooped up for the next couple of days. Maybe she would practice waddling. The thought made her giggle.
She took her son back from Ref, who then strapped back on his plain sword in its plain scabbard. Hopefully he wouldn't have to use it again any time soon, but she was confident in his abilities if he had to.
They had been on the road for a long time, and now with the new addition in the family, it was time to finally settle down somewhere permanently. She was finally looking forward to this new phase of her life.
A familiar half-sleep, half awake state among a familiar warmth surrounded him. Despite things feeling similar, they were not the same. He was still incredibly tired all the time, but new sensations assaulted him all the time.
First there was the sound. Maybe it had been a mistake to actively level Eavesdropping, as he picked up more sounds from farther away, and they were ultimately just distracting. Then there was the light. No longer was he subsumed in complete darkness all the time. Often, even while asleep, there was still a sort of glow that permeated his inner vision during the daylight hours.
Finally there was the hunger. He never knew he could be so hungry. The first time the hunger hit him, it was like another void had opened itself up within him and it would never be filled. He cried out involuntarily. He felt himself get lifted up and soothing sounds were made towards him, but he ignored those as he sensed the source of his nourishment nearby. He opened his mouth and rooted around in front of himself until he came into contact with it, and he latched on instinctively and consumed the sweet nectar that represented life. He could hear the sounds of amused chuckling from above.
The hunger lead to yet another new sensation. He felt an incredible pressure building up inside him. He felt like he was going to pop if this pressure didn't get released, and just as it reached a crescendo, his face scrunched up into a smile all on its own as a release valve was triggered and the pressure disappeared in sweet relief.
Now, though, he felt wet and gross on his bottom, and he couldn't stand the way it felt. He squirmed about to try and alleviate the situation, but nothing worked. He cried out in exasperation, and that seemed to be the solution, as his mother quickly grasped the meaning, and she awkwardly removed the source of discomfort and changed him.
That was his life. He didn't keep count of the times of feeding and changing, and he didn't keep count of the days that passed by. He was peripherally aware of these things, but his purpose in life was to get some rest! Despite doing nothing for what seemed liked trillions of years, according to the dreams, he could not seem to get enough sleep.
That was slowly changing, though. At first there was constant motion, as it seemed like his family was always going somewhere. He only ever got glimpses of an interior of what appeared to be a moving tent. Every now and then, he would catch a glimpse of a great, big, open environment, with the sky covering the world, and trees and fields interspersed along the route they were travelling on.
Eventually, the constant motion ceased, and the cloth canopy above was replaced with a solid ceiling. He and his mother didn't move from this place for a long time, but he often awoke with his father not there, but he would always be back every night.
He was able to stay awake longer and longer over this period of time, and the state of half-asleep, half-awake had completely left him. He was now just awake or asleep.
In all this time, he still practiced his few skills he was able to: He would relax and focus on the sensations of mana caressing his skin, which had become much more subtle now that he was out of the womb. He would attempt to inhale motes of mana as they passed his face, but with the loss of the mana highway in the form of his mother's meridians, it was a paltry thing that no longer yielded experience, though his skill did improve over time. He would fight against sleep each time he was awake to practice his Mental Fortitude. His instincts told him this wasn't the most efficient method, but it was all he had at his disposal. He would strain to listen to every sound coming from outside the walls of their little house or conversations his parents had when they thought he was asleep.
There was no overarching purpose or goal in training his skills. He just really liked the sense of accomplishment it gave him each time a blue box appeared to tell him he had improved again. And his persistence was yielding results. His lack of mobility was precluding him from practicing the vast majority of his skills, but that was slowly changing as well.
|Skills Levelled Up!
Sense Mana (9 ->10)
Mana Absorption (7 ->8)
Mental Fortitude (4 ->5)
Observation (6 ->7)
Eavesdropping (3 ->5)
With a flick of his thoughts, he swiped the box away. He stared at the ceiling, lost in thought, as he thought about his most recent gains. He was in a little crib at the side of his parent's bed. It lacked the warmth of his mother's embrace, but it was comfortable enough, all things considered. He was getting intimately familiar with his little box, as well as the beams of the ceiling. Not being able to move his head around really limited the options of scenery.
There were so many more skills available for him to practice, and if the Akashic Record could be believed, it wouldn't be too hard at first. Getting over this hurdle of not being able to move was his first bottleneck.
He listened to his parents' steady breathing in the bed next to him. It was currently the middle of the night. He was able to stay awake without getting fatigued much longer now, but his sleep schedule was all over the place. He blamed Mental Fortitude, both the effect and the practice of it. His parents weren't going to wake up any time soon.
He still didn't have control over his limbs, but repeated attempts at moving them under his own cognizance was propelling him in the right direction. He sent a pulse of will down his leg, and it jerked forward, almost like a kick. He had the Pugilist Skill, granted at level 0, but that was anything but a coordinated kick. It was more a flail. He paid attention to the feeling of it, and he caught of glimpse of what it should feel like to move it under control. Nothing but to keep at it.
His legs eventually got tired, so he did the same thing with his arms. He didn't faux punch out in front of himself. More a jerk up and to the side than anything. His arm moved like a wet noodle, starting at the shoulder, bending at the elbow, and ending with his hands flicking out. He alternated between each arm, and then between the legs and arms in turn. If anyone was watching him, they would think he was just a weird baby, doing normal baby things, but in a weird way.
Eventually he got tired enough that he didn't have the energy to continue his practice, but he could feel that he was making progress in mastering his own body. He was getting sleepy, too, so while concentrating on not letting himself fall asleep, he practiced his Sense Mana and Mana Absorption Skills. His Mana Absorption no longer gave him giddy energy, and he could barely tell that he was even absorbing any mana. If he didn't get occasional notifications that his Skill had levelled up, he would think he was just breathing intensely.
Without realizing it, like it normally happens, he fell asleep.
"<unintelligible> my <unintelligible>" he awoke to his mother peeking down at him, a ray of sunshine beaming from the window, and a smile on her face. She reached down and scooped him up, walking out of the bedroom into the main living area, holding him in the crook of her arm. He was getting bigger, and she would have to figure out a different way to carry him around soon. Not because she wasn't strong enough. He had never seen her struggle to lift anything, but simply because it would be unwieldly.
He settled in as she carried him around while performing her chores. His father was already gone for the day, and she was fully dressed. Remnants of breakfast had already been put away. He noticed that she wasn't particularly adept at cleaning things. He wasn't sure if that was because she just wasn't that good at it, or if it was because she refused to set him down while she did everything one-handed. Probably the latter.
The living area they found themselves in was fairly simple. A central seating area with a small table and a loom in the corner with bits and pieces of different cloths and fabrics tidied away. The entrance to the abode was set in the middle of the room, separating the living area with the small kitchenette on the other side. There was a full-sized table set with 2 chairs, a counter-top area with some cupboards beneath, and a fireplace on the opposite wall to the living area. There was a total of four rooms attached to this central living area, presumably bedrooms, with his parent's room being one of them. He didn't understand why they needed so much room.
His mother kept up a litany of conversation as she alternated cooing at him and explaining his small world and what she was doing in it. She eventually finished her chores, and she laid him down in a little basket by her side as she took her place up at the loom. She worked the loom most of the day each day, and she kept the words flowing whenever he was awake.
He listened to his mother talk to him, and he started catching words that he recognized being repeated. "Your father..." was often repeated, and from context he was finally able to grasp the meaning. "Reivyn..." was another word that was repeated more than the rest of them, and he realized that it was his name.
He finally knew what his name was! He had memories of being a faceless, bodiless entity for forever, and he had been a floating baby, completely unknown to the world, for months, but now he could move forward with a true identity.
He started wiggling around and trying to contort his facial muscles into a smile while he made "goo" noises while trying to laugh. His mother noticed his excitement and tickled him while repeating his name sparsed with other words, all with her own smile and happiness showing on her face.
When she turned back to the loom, he pulled up his Status to happily look it over, now that such a change had occurred.
|Name: Reivyn||Class: <None>||Age: 2/16 mo.|
|Health: 50/50||Stamina: 80/80||Mana: 170|
|Physical Stats:||Mental Stats:|
|STR: 3||INT: 14|
|VIT: 5||MAG: 18|
|DEX: 3||CLA: 11|
|CHA: 3||PER: 9|
|Acrobatics (0), Aim (0), Akashic Record (1), Athleticism (0), Balance (0), Command (0), Daggers (0), Drawing (0), Dreams of the Past (11), Eavesdropping (5), Evasion (0), Hiding (1), Inspire (0), Linguistics (0), Mana Absorption (8), Map Making (0), Mental Fortitude (5), Numbers Concepts (0), Observation (7), Pain Resistance (0), Penmanship (0), Piano (0), Pugilist (0), Running (0), Sense Mana (10), Sneaking (0), Staves (0), Stealth (1), Strategy (0), Swimming (0), Swords (0), Tactics (0)|
He crawled about on all fours, trying to move as fast as he could to escape the monster. There was no escape, however. She was going to catch him. And when she did she was going to...
"Tickle, tickle, tickle!" his mother playfully caught him as he tried and failed to evade her grasping fingers. He squealed in delight, not only at the tickling sensation, but at an unexpected gain.
|Skill Level Up! Evasion (0 ->1)|
He had failed spectacularly to get away from his mother, but apparently the attempt counted.
It had been a little over four months since they had settled into their house. The word "home" had made it into his lexicon. In that time, he had gained the ability to make his limbs do what he wanted, and just recently he had succeeded in finally mobilizing himself with the expert move known as crawling.
Reivyn's mother eventually relented and let him catch his breath. Her little break was over, and she deposited him back into his spot next to the loom. His parents had cordoned off a section to allow him to crawl around that morning, removing the little box he had been laying in and simply putting the blankets that had lined it down on the ground so he had somewhere to rest when he got tired.
He sat there and watched his mother work for a time. He noticed that the air was steadily getting heavier. It felt like humidity, but without the humidity. The feeling coalesced around his mother, and he came to the realization that it was the ambient mana gathering towards his mother.
Suddenly, a bright flash popped in the loom, and Reivyn gasped as the gathered mana that hadn't reached his mother seemed to burst forth. He instinctively inhaled, and he absorbed a larger concentration of mana than usual.
His mother's head whipped around at lightning speed, her gaze focused on her child. Her eyes narrowed and her brows drew down. She cocked her head and said something to him, but he didn't quite understand her meaning, so he just looked up at her with innocent eyes. Her sight lingered on him for a moment before she gently shook her head and returned her attention to the loom.
There was something different about the piece she was working on. He couldn't see what was different, but he could feel it.
|Skills Levelled Up!
Mana Absorption (17 ->18)
Sense Mana (20 ->21)
After his mother looked away, he checked his notification and was pleasantly surprised. He had quickly reached Level 20 in Sense Mana, but it had stagnated recently. It didn't feel like it was locked in place at Level 20, just more like it needed a lot more work. Apparently the feat of noticing the mana shift in the fabric that his mother was working on had finally tipped him over to the next level.
He was sitting up watching his mother, and he surreptitiously made a fist in excitement. A thought entered his head, and he decisively carried it out. He threw his fists out in a one, two punch.
|Skill Level Up! Pugilist (0 ->1)|
When it rains it pours. Happiness blanketed him, and while he was on a roll, he promptly threw out a couple more punches, these ones being ever so slightly more coordinated. But in his enthusiasm, he hadn't paid attention to one thing... He promptly fell over onto his face.
The surprise shocked him, and he let out a startled yelp. His mother quickly abandoned her work and scooped him up to comfort him. She made cooing noises at him, and when she noticed he was fine, she started laughing. Her laughter was infectious, and the situation was pretty funny, so Reivyn started giggling along with his mother.
His father chose that time to walk through the door. He saw his wife and child happily laughing together, so after unbuckling his sword and placing it to the side, he joined them with a smile on his face.
"What are we laughing at?" He asked.
"Your son took a tumble."
|New Skill Unlocked! Haman (1)|
|Skill Level Up! Linguistics (0 ->1)|
Reivyn was momentarily surprised, but then he started giggling even harder than before, causing his father to also give a little chuckle as he reached out and tickled his belly for a moment. This is the best day ever! Reivyn thought to himself.
The Skill Haman was obviously a language skill, as though brief, he could understand what his parents said much more clearly than ever before. And the System just about outright told him with the levelling of his Linguistics Skill. He wasn't aware of the context, but the name of the language sounded eerily similar to the word "human" from his dreams, despite the word for "human" in the Haman language sounding nothing like it. It was definitely something to contemplate about, but preferably when he was older and better educated.
His mother set him down and he scurried off to explore things, with supervision, while his parents had their mini-reunion for the day. He finally saw an opportunity to level another Skill while his parents were slightly distracted. He got down all the way on his belly and shimmied himself under the couch in the central living space as quietly as he could. Once in position, he regulated his breathing to be more shallow and waited.
"Where's Reivyn?" His mother asked, a light lilt of worry in her voice.
"He was just right there. He couldn't have gotten far," Refix replied to his wife. "See?" Reivyn heard his father's nonchalant words while the couch above him was tilted aside. He looked up to see a look of reproach on his mother's face, clearly not amused at his antics, while his father simply laughed and scooped him up before setting the couch back down.
|Skill Level Up! Sneaking (0 ->1)|
Reivyn had hoped to level his Hiding Skill, completely forgetting about Sneaking, but he had failed at hiding at all from his father, apparently. Though, as a consolation prize, he still got a skill level up.
Best day ever.
Another four months had passed, and Reivyn stood at the precipice of his biggest obstacle yet. He literally stood; a hand against the wall to maintain his balance. A distance away from him, his father squatted down with his hands out.
"Come on, Reivyn. You can do it! Walk to Daddy," he said with a big grin on his face.
Reivyn scrunched up his face in concentration and placed one foot in front of the other, his hand still on the wall. With determination he let go of the wall and took an unsteady step towards his father. He placed his foot on the floor, the world threatening to tilt around him, but he managed to maintain his footing. He took another step forward, expectation filling him... and he promptly fell on his butt.
His dad chuckled as he stood up straight, wanting to come over and help his son reset himself. Reivyn ignored his father as he placed his hands on the ground, got his feet under him, and stood up without the assistance of the wall. He fell over, again, right away. Undeterred he stood up once more, and this time he kept his balance.
|Skill Level Up! Balance (0 ->1)|
The world was suddenly steady as he dismissed the notification with practiced ease. He looked at his father who had squatted back down with his arms outstretched. He laughed as he took a lumbering step towards his father. Then another one. Then another one. His pace increased with his confidence, until he was moving too fast to keep himself steady any longer, and he ended up crashing face first... into his father's embrace.
He had done it! He had walked across the room all on his own!
|Skill Level Up! Balance (1 ->2)|
Jubilation filled him as his father picked him up and twirled him around, both of them giggling like children. His father pulled him into a position where he was sitting upright on his bicep as he turned to his wife with that same goofy grin on his face. He was about to say something to Ameliyn, but with sudden inspiration, Reivyn beat him to it.
"Mommy, mommy! Did you see what I did?"
As soon as the words left his mouth, a huge gong sound shattered the tranquility. It rang in his head with an echo, and it was the loudest thing he had ever heard. It didn't hurt his ears, though, as the sound had come from within his own head.
He shook his head, and then a notification box popped up in front of him. This one wasn't transparent and demanded his immediate attention.
|Helpful Hint: People who have the Akashic Record typically unlock their System after their first utterance of a complete sentence, as this is indicative of full awareness as deemed by the System. You're welcome in helping in your subterfuge.|
|Skill Level Up! Stealth (3 ->4)|
There was that Stealth Skill again. He wasn't even hiding. How did I level up Stealth?
A gentle cough brought him back to the present from his thoughts, and he dismissed the window in front of him. His father was standing there, holding him in stunned silence, and his mother was looking at him with a gentle smile on her face.
"Honey, did you just unlock your System?"