Mom smiled at me, a warm, happy smile. “Elaine. You’re now old enough to know some girl secrets.” Oh no. Was I about to get the birds and the bees talk? Please no. Please spare me.
“I have no chore-related skills, although some of my skills can be used for chores. Most women don’t have chore-related skills, although something like a [Tailor] class is pretty common. We spend all day doing chores – Aster knows I’d love your dad to pitch in more – we don’t need any skills to help us with it. Feel free to get rid of the [Cleaning] skill – dad just asked you to get it as a favor to me. But shhhh! Don’t tell him that you’ve gotten rid of it.” Mom put a finger over her mouth and conspiratorially winked at me.
“You saw the other day that life isn’t that nice here in the Republic for women. It’s shitty. It’s terrible. But there’s nothing me or you can do about it. Men have the money. Men have the power. Men make the rules. We’re not allowed to own property, inherit, or become citizens. So, we do the best we can with the knucklebones we’ve been given. One of those bones is we’re pretty free to pick our skills. Men get lots of skills to help with their profession, but we’re not seen as good enough to be potters or cobblers. We’re just expected to stay home, and support our husbands.” A bitter look crossed mom’s face. Whoa. Where was all of this coming from? Mom, a staunch feminist? From everything I had seen so far, it seemed like she had completely bought into the system. That illusion was rapidly being pulled away from me.
“What we can do though, is pick our skills. We can work together. We can support each other. We all have some influence over our husbands. Some more than others. Senator Saturio, for example, is mostly just a figurehead for his wife, who holds all of the real power. The shame is, as amazing of a woman that she is, she’s not allowed to be the Senator. It has to be Saturio. And if they ever got in a real fight, Saturio would still win.”
My flycatcher was rapidly expanding in size, my lower jaw about to become intimately familiar with the ground.
“That’s why I was putting such a strong emphasis on social skills for you. The only real power you’re going to have, the only way you’ll be able to navigate through society, is with social skills, with interacting with others, with keeping your head down and making the small changes and influences that you can. Otherwise the Republic will eat you up and spit you out again, and I don’t want to see that happen to you, my sweet baby girl.” She reached out with a single delicate finger, closing my jaw. My muscles didn’t engage as she released her finger, jaw dropping right back open.
"First off, you should take [Vigilant]. You’ve never been all that social, and with your social graces, I suspect you’re going to run into problems. I’m going to make sure you can see them coming. Second you seem to like helping me out when I’m healing someone, right?”
Healing Lyra had unlocked new feelings and emotions. I wanted to be a healer like mom. I wanted to make people better, to see their happy face. I wanted to use that little bit of extra knowledge I had. I nodded briskly. Yeah, I could happily make this my choice.
“Then take [First Aid] and [Anatomy] as well. Chores are easy, medicine is hard – let’s get you some skills in it.” I nodded, then realized.
[Vigilant: You’re constantly on guard for trouble, aware of your surroundings at all times. Increased perception and awareness per level. -3 Mana Regeneration.]
[First Aid: You’ve responded to injuries soon after they’ve occurred, and patched people up. Increased knowledge and dexterity when responding to injuries. -3 Mana Regeneration when in-use.]
[Anatomy: You have fantastic knowledge of the human body, but it’s surface-level. Increased knowledge and learning of Anatomy per level. -4 Mana Regeneration.]
“Hey wait, that’s three skills? Weren’t you only supposed to do two?”
Mom gave me a Look. Ack, talking back was going to get me killed one day. No spoon though.
“One, we’re getting rid of [Cleaning]. That gives me an extra slot to work with. Two, I could dictate everything you pick. Three, you wanted [First Aid]. So no more back-talk from you.” I sheepishly nodded my head. Aye-Aye captain. Your wish is my command.
“So now let’s work on the three skills you pick for yourself. Two questions to ask yourself. First: Does anything really call to you? Does anything speak to you, speak to your soul? Second: What do you want to do with yourself? How do you see yourself going through life? If you’re not sure, that’s OK. It’s a lot to ask of you. You can stay without classing up for a while if you’d like while you work it out. You can also drop skills and pick up new ones, but that resets everything back to 1.”
Ooof, that was heavy stuff. No wonder I wasn’t told much before today, but at the same time, I should’ve been given time to think about this.
[Running] spoke to me. I loved the movement, the freedom it brought, the wind in my hair. There was clearly a demand for it, the courier showed, and maybe there was room for a discrete woman running packages and messages around for wealthy women, or someone like Senator Saturio’s wife. There was potential there.
[Running – You love the feel of motion and movement, wind wrapped around you. Increased speed per level while running. Costs Mana]
At the end of the day though, there was just a pure love for running and movement. What was life without things to do that you enjoyed? There was a calling to [Running], and I decided I would be taking it.
[Pretty] caught my eye, and I remembered some of the advice given. Given a choice, a chance to easily be better-looking through magical means, and the freedom to do so, who wouldn’t want something similar? From my earlier conversations, it seemed like this was a fairly normal skill to pick, and mom had made no comments on it. Screw it. I wanted to be [Pretty].
I could grab [Clean Wounds] or [Bandaging], but I suspected it wouldn’t do much for me. Reviewing my list of options, something caught my eye I had missed last time. [Learning]. Education was the most powerful force I knew of, and while I hadn’t thought much of my past life recently, I remember a burning drive to KNOW, to learn things. That was why I wanted to learn how to read so badly. That was why I was disappointed to see no [Reading] skill. What did [Learning] do?
[Learning: You have a passion, a drive for knowing more. You constantly seek out new knowledge, and have acquired considerable amounts of it. Easier to learn new ideas. Easier to learn new skills. Each level comes with a % increase in exp for all other skills. -5 Mana Regeneration]
That sounded both useful and useless. Useless in that it didn’t do anything directly. It didn’t even impact other skills directly! The indirect effects, with everything else becoming more powerful – that sounded good. I focused on all of the skills, and was rewarded with a flurry of notifications.
[*Ding!* Congratulations! You’ve learned [Pretty] – level 1!]
[*Ding!* Congratulations! You’ve learned [Vigilant] – level 1!]
[*Ding!* Congratulations! You’ve learned [First Aid] – level 1!]
[*Ding!* Congratulations! You’ve learned [Running] – level 1!]
[*Ding!* Congratulations! You’ve learned [Anatomy] – level 1!]
[*Error* You’ve lost the skill [Cleaning]]
[*Ding!* Congratulations! You’ve learned [Learning] – level 1!]
“Now remember Elaine, your stats and skills are secret. We’ll do our best to help you out, but dad thinks you have cleaning when you don’t, so make sure you don’t run your mouth about it.”
Layers and layers of secrets, sheesh. At this rate I was going to get a ski-
[*Ding!* You’ve unlocked the Passive skill [Secrets]!]
[Alert: You already have 8 general skills. Remove a skill for [Secrets]?]
Did… did the system just pluck what I was thinking out of my head, and respond with a skill? Was I just sassed by the system? Could I just will myself to get other skills? I declined to pick up [Secrets], opened my stats and reviewed after all my changes:
[Mana (Regeneration)] 20/20 (10)
[Class 1: [Child of Earth] +]
[Class skills not available for initial Classes]
[Class 2: Locked]
[Class 3: Locked]
Active - [Identify] – Lv 2
Active - [Knives] – Lv 1
Passive - [Pretty] – Lv 1
Passive - [Vigilant] – Lv 1
Active - [First Aid] – Lv 1
Passive - [Anatomy] – Lv 1
Active - [Running] – Lv 1
Passive - [Learning] – Lv 1
[Free Stats: 32]
[Mana Regeneration: 2]
[Magic Power: 2]
[Magic Control: 10]
I focused hard on learning [Fireball]. Silence. Guess it wasn’t going to be that easy.