“Would you like some help washing?” The voice said, drifting through the steamy sauna. The priestess, Arrata, sauntered through the mist, hinting at her feminine curves, and all the more delicious curve of a smile on her mouth…
Ptolemy’s reaction was so violent that instead of just jumping to his feet in the dream, he did so in real life, waking him up from the dream and destroying the wooden bed that was beneath him. As he exhaled slowly, the splinters of the wooden furniture skidded to a stop. Then, slowly, he began to pick up the pieces.
Ptolemy never considered himself a sexual person. But hell, he was a 29-year-old man. Sometimes… sometimes you had urges, right? Even if they were for weird, blind alien women. It was… normal.
After doing his best to clean up the mess of the shattered bed, and folding his sheets, Ptolemy kneeled, said a small prayer, and prepared for his day. He started today like every other day; starting with 1 hour of focused Meditation, Ptolemy would then use his Skills one by one, trying to apply some of the knowledge that the Ghosthound had brought back with him from the other world. See, if a powerful image was combined with a Skill, it would grow faster, and the effect would be more powerful.
Basically all of Donnyton, upon hearing this, had spent a week learning the Battle Intent Skill, and it was already paying dividends. However, once people had it, a lot of them were content to simply let it grow passively. But Ptolemy struggled so much with it that he quickly got into the habit of practicing daily.
He wasn’t currently the one with the highest Level, but Ptolemy was determined to turn this weakness into a strength. That was the trait that defined him most, the stubborn insistence on working on his weak points, rather than polishing up his strengths. It was why he had chosen to follow his father’s wish of him becoming a doctor, before compromising to a nurse. If he hadn’t done that, then…
It wasn’t as though he was secretly an artist. No, Ptolemy thought with a sigh, he didn’t even have that cliche going for him. Ptolemy… always wanted to be a wildlife conservation officer. To protect animal habitats, to preserve the natural beauty of the country… that was Ptolemy’s dream.
Which was why, when he cast his Healing Circle, Ptolemy imagined an ecosystem. Perhaps a forest, or a small valley with a stream, quite like Donnyton. And what his Healing Circle did was take the damage to that ecosystem and repair it, funneling clean energy into that world.
Whether it was by removing pests, planting new trees, or by reinforcing creeks, Ptolemy saw the body not as one organism, but a complex mix of many, and his healing was just one small way to attack a problem that was much larger than the wound itself. More than healing, Ptolemy hoped that with his Skills, he could improve a patient.
Ptolemy allowed himself a small smile as he finished his Healing Circle image focus, and prepared to move onto another Skill. This System was truly wondrous, for all its evils…
“You little shit, I’ll knock your face in.”
“Hmph, well it’s good to see that at least your mouth works. Keep your guard up. She may be smaller than you, but she hits harder.”
Sighing, Ptolemy stood. Unluckily for him, he had been placed right next to the outer wall, and it seemed that sparring practice was going on right outside of his room. After making a mental note to finish his practice in the evening, Ptolemy murmured another prayer and went outside to see what was going on.
It was a mistake, Ptolemy knew, but they were a team, for however long this journey lasted, and he could forgo the comfort of his rituals for a short span of time in order to become closer with his teammates. Plus, yesterday was the first time anyone had really asked him about what he did before the System.
Ptolemy knew it was a considered move made by Ace to get closer to him, but he didn’t mind. For all the strength the System gave people, it seemed to cloud their memory, making it impossible to remember the before. Now that the world was so changed, many people thought that nothing could be learned from the past, and were dismissive of those who put a high value on it.
Luckily for Donnyton, it seemed neither Sam, Daniel, nor Mrs. Hamilton were those people. They were shrewd in their governance practices, moving slowly towards a true republic system of government, although most people hadn’t noticed it yet. It was a calculated risk, Ptolemy knew, but he was never one who was blinded by the virtues of democracy. Sure, in the future, when the different factions became entrenched politically against each other, the 10 person council idea might seem foolish, but…
When Ptolemy arrived at the training ground, he saw Thea thoroughly break Ace’s jaw with her hammer, her eyes burning.
“Stop. Give him a bit of space- ah, Ptolemy, good timing. Heal him up, will you?” Alana said, standing on the sidelines with her hands on her hips. Comically, Chrysanthemum stood next to her, trying her best to mimic the human woman behind her back.
Ace blew a bubble of blood out of his nose as he snorted with laughter. Then he winced. With a wave of his hand, Ptolemy cast Healing Circle. Then, for good measure, he cast Invigorate on both Ace and Thea, restoring some portion of their Stamina. It wasn’t much now, but it was a recent Skill acquisition, his Level 40, and hopefully, it would grow to be an invaluable asset.
Very quickly, the bones of Ace’s jaw snapped back into place, and after a thankful smile towards Ptolemy, his gaze turned surly and towards Thea.
After ascertaining his patient was fine, Ptolemy began to move away but was waved back by Alana. “Things will be easier if you are here. Stay a bit, will you?”
Ptolemy nodded and wandered over. Although staying here wasn’t ideal, it was much, much better than being caught alone by Clarissa. That woman…
Shivering, Ptolemy closed his eyes and did his best to let the grunts and hisses of the spar flow past him. Every few minutes, he would be shaken awake by Alana, and Ptolemy healed the participants, mostly Ace. Almost primarily Ace, and Ace was becoming increasingly incensed due to his repeated losses.
“What the fuck!” He finally bellowed, after the 5th such healing. “How can you… how come I’m not-”
“You rely on that Skill of yours too much,” Alana said coolly, giving him a cold look. “And you insist on this pointless use of your hands-”
“My knuckles grow strong on the blood of my enemies,” Ace said simply as if he had practiced saying just that 1000 times in front of the mirror. Ptolemy barely resisted the urge to roll his eyes. It was easy to see why Alana would become frustrated with the guy.
But also, it was easy to see why she would do nothing about it. Because although he was an idiot, it was just part of his code of conduct. There was something to respect about adhering to that. So instead of continuing to harp on him, Alana switched tactics. “The reason she continues to suppress you is that her Skill is better at fighting than yours. And she started at a lower Level to begin with. It is easier for her to grow and catch up with you because you have a higher Level.”
“BUT,” Alana said, her eyes narrowing now, “You are also extremely foolish about what battles you pick. In your hands, you hold a wooden rod, which can be used in thousands of ways to great effect. She has a meat cleaver. Stop trying to overpower the meat cleaver.”
“I’m not here for a philosophy lesson,” Ace complained, and turned away, heading over towards the water barrel. As he did so, Rose and Drake arrived, speaking quietly to each other. Seeing the bloodied face of Ace, Rose wrinkled her nose and shook her head, but said nothing.
“Good, you are here,” Alana said, walking into the circle of dirt they used as an arena. “Let’s talk about form, Drake, get over here. Thea, call the match if he can’t concede?”
Ptolemy snuck away, not really annoyed by the fighting, but also not interested in it. And besides, if everyone else was here, he might have a chance-
-a body only hinted at through the steam, alluring and ripe-
Ptolemy gulped and began to trot around the side of the church towards the front entrance. From the corner of his eyes, Ptolemy saw a few of the strange locals, loitering around nearby buildings, peeking out of windows to look at the training individuals, and at Ptolemy. At first, Ptolemy felt an urge to go back and urge the training people to stop, but then he realized they were probably visibly training on purpose.
But why? Was it to show the locals they were strong… or that they were weak enough to be underestimated? Not even Ace was going at full speed in the spar. Perhaps-
Ptolemy rounded the corner and ran into someone, knocking them over. And as he realized who it was, all of the blood drained from his face.
“A…a-ar…. Ar….” He mumbled.
The dusky-skinned alien woman brushed herself off and smiled up at him. “Aratta, haha. Are you alright? Your name…. was Ptolemy….?”
It was like an invisible, magical noose tightened around his lungs, and he couldn’t breathe, looking at her. But he didn’t want to, either, lest the moment pass.