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Jul 05, 2020 6:15 AM
a Cameron is the demon lord
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"...not any that can be answered in a single conversation, probably. Unless there's a very simple explanation for who you are and why you do this."

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"Not one that would satisfy you, I'm afraid. Good luck!"

With a final grin from the matronly old woman and a sudden rushing sensation, Ameron is now sitting on a rock, on a sparsely vegetated rocky hill. 

And something tells her, though it's not a voice or text scrolling across her vision but more like suddenly knowing,

Unique Skill gained! 『Axiom of Physicality』 level 1.

The mind reflects the body. A brain is a living thing, it breathes and grows and is affected by chemistry, ultimately chained to the body. Why not the opposite relation?

Allows the body to reflect the mind. Meditating on an image of yourself will allow you to change your body. Touching another allows you to bestow this effect. Currently, you can remove simple wounds and alleviate fatigue. Higher levels will increase speed, reduce the amount of focus required, and expand the possible range of effects.

 

A dirt path is visible, with more hills to the left and patches of thick shrubland to the right. There's nature sounds - the wind, birdsong.

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Ame lets the knowledge of her new power rush through her, and a smile breaks out on her face.

She's gone out of her way to learn enough about the human body to aim this power pretty well, she thinks. After all, her body is her primary commodity and other people's bodies her primary work environment. Ignorance on the subject was intolerable.

First can she just wish away the years of eating poorly and fill herself out with that fitness and healthy glow she used to have, or does she need to go nutrient by nutrient? And then, she read once that when bone breaks, the seam along which it heals is actually much stronger than the surrounding original bone. Can she just, implement that across her whole skeleton right away?

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There's no direct feedback from her Unique Skill at level one. After ten minutes of meditation, she feels more awake and energetic and might look a tiny bit more healthy and fit, though it's kind of hard to tell. She had no scrapes or bruises or aches and pains to heal, the transition to another world already got those.

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Ame is pretty sure she can tell.

So, it works, at least as proof-of-concept.

Ame gets up and looks around. Hills or shrubland? Well, running uphill should make the effects of her nascent power more obvious, and end with the better view of her surroundings. Why not.

Ame jogs to the path, turns towards the hills and then breaks out into a run, doing her best to find a rhythm meditative enough that she can 'alleviate fatigue' while she's moving.

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It's taxing to do this. Painful, even. She's working hard, breathing in great gasps and making her legs ache. But if she maintains that meditative pace, the strain never elevates above the burning sort of pain that intense exercise brings, her legs fail to turn leaden, her heart threatens to beat its way out of her ribcage but keeps going. If she was wearing more she'd be weighed down by sweat, but she can sustain this insane pace as long as she keeps close focus on it.

Half an hour later, there's a fork in the road. There's no signpost. Near it, just lying there in the pebbles, is a torn leather pouch of some kind, a broken bottle still covered in some kind of blue goo residue, a scrap of bloodstained fabric, a leather belt, and a short sword, complete with scabbard. It seems like kind of a shitty sword, a little rusty and not very sharp, and the belt and scabbard look worn-out. But it's a sword.

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Running like this is not as fun as it could be, but it's still awesome.

She stops at the fork, gasping, then doubles down on her focus, recovering her breath in an unnaturally short time. And yeah, absolutely cheating at the exertion sweat to armor ratio was definitely one of the things she thought would come in handy. How thirsty is she, is her power having any effect on that?

A sword, huh? That's convenient. In both senses of the word. Not that she particularly sees the appeal of swordplay for its own sake; the sword-toting warrior in that one game had been the least interesting party member to play as. Still, she investigates the stuff. Anything in the pouch? Can she derive anything about the blue goo without touching it? Is there anything identifying about the bloodied fabric?

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She is getting kind of thirsty. The pouch looks to have once been a waterskin, there's a bit left that didn't leak out. The blue goo is... Blue and gooey? Where it's dried out it gets darker and looks almost crystalline. It smells like some kind of plant? The fabric looks like rough-spun cotton, dyed a faded green.

 

There's some yelling down the left fork of the road. Two men's voices, arguing. She can't quite make out the words.

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...she picks up the sword. She can always dump it again later.

Its dirty and dusty, but she grits her teeth and straps the scabbard on, it immediately sticking to her sweaty skin. Then, sure, she'll go toward the probable trouble. Who's arguing about what?

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Bearded men who look the very picture of preindustrial rural farmers, with some kind of family resemblance. One has the other held by both arms.

"Are you deaf? Get the guards to-"

"They won't chase him past the river or the toll! He killed my best sow! I saw him do it! I'm going to make him pay!"

"No you're not! He has a head start, and besides Baron Traver won't exactly look kindly on you following and murdering some man on his lands."

"I don't want to kill him! I just want some fucking money!"

"Robbery, then! Come on, listen to me."

"No! Let me go! Hey, you!" He suddenly points and shouts at Ameron, then glances down and up, blinks, and pauses uncertainly. "...Adventurer?"

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Ame suddenly just has to laugh.

"As of thirty seconds ago, sure!" she calls back, patting her crappy sword.

She strides up to them, brazen as can be. "Sounded like you're not having a great day either."

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The angry one is suddenly rather speechless. The other one keeps his eyes firmly averted, focusing on her left ear.

"Some days are like that."

"That's one of his swords," the other one says, staring... Near it.

...The prudish one pinches his brother(?) until he looks away.

"Did you see the man carrying that blade?" Asks the prude.

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"Sorry, no. I found it with some rubbish back at the fork in the road over there. I haven't got anything else useful and figured I'd rather have and not need a sword than need and not have a sword. If someone's gonna want it back it might be more trouble than its worth, do you think?"

Her tone is wry, and she feels kind of bad that her whoredrobe is making them uncomfortable, but only in the way where her solution to that is to laugh at the quaintness and say, "And hey, my tits are down here. What's so fascinating about my ear?"

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"But you're-" He glances and blushes and shakes his head rapidly. (The other guy chuckles.)

"Gale. Adventurers have strange customs*."

"Right. Strange customs. It's just-" He sighs and shifts awkwardly.

"...I think you should keep the sword. Serves him right. And I got him with my pitchfork, I think. That'll have to be good enough. Dammit."

 

*Literally: 'Saying hello by punching.'

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"I mean, I wasn't an adventurer yesterday. But then I had a very bad day shading into a very confusing day, and here I am wandering around with a sword in an unfamiliar land for reasons I'm still not entirely clear on. That said, please don't bother yourself to accommodate my non-existent modesty."

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"No offense, but it's just. Making me uncomfortable. You're... A bit young."

"She's not any younger than Celera, and I know you want her."

Gale splutters in indignation, the other guy laughs.

"Besides, adventuring has got to be at least as sweaty as fieldwork and shirts go away for that."

"...I suppose."

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"A bit young? Wow, it's been a while since I've heard that one. And don't you think it's curious to say you're uncomfortable when you clearly want to look and only think you shouldn't? You're the one making this weird by thinking you know better than me what I'm comfortable with letting happen to my own body. I've been a whore for four years. Your darkest fantasies are probably tame by my standards."

Ame gives him an apologetic, unapologetic shrug.

"Anyway, you are literally the first people I've met in this... country? I don't think Tea Lady counts, so yeah. What's the deal around here? And, uh, what exactly happened with this guy and your... uh, was it a cow? Maybe I can help somehow. It's not like I've got anything better to do."

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Yep, there's a flash of pity, and then confusion, and Gale shakes his head again and mutters something under his breath.

"No, a pig! My best pig. She had some kind of enchantment that makes her an' her spawn grow faster, but it's weaker on the new ones. I don't know what in the darkness possessed him to mess with her, but pigs get mean if they don't know you, so it's really his fault he got bit. He ran off before I could make him pay for all the excellent little piglets she's never gonna have. Adventurers are supposed to dungeon-dive, not kill perfectly good pigs!"

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"So an incompetent adventurer as good as stuck his leg in your pigs mouth and then panicked and stabbed it when it bit him? Wow."

Ame bites her lip in thought.

"Well, that does make me feel a lot better about keeping his sword, even if he does try to take it back. I can show you where I found the sword? There was some other stuff there, might be a clue."

Ame stops.

"Actually, how, uh, is the pig dead-dead or just mortally wounded and unconscious? I... may... be able to manage healing of some kind, if that would help."

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As-yet-unnamed other guy looks intrigued, then crestfallen. "Naw, I put her out of her misery."

"Any kind of decent healing is a fine Skill. Usually worth some good coin... I still say chasing after him is a waste of effort. Better to move on."

"Uuuugh. You're probably right."

"Want to check out this 'other stuff'?"

"...Naw. Let's go home. I'm mad but the pork's not getting any fresher."

Gale pats him on the back. "-Uh, by the way miss, I'm Gale Savoi any my brother here is Codri Savoi." He gives a little bow, still averting his eyes. "Well met. You're welcome to follow us to Traver Hollow if you'd like. Might be healing to be done, and if you're any good with a blade or spells, there's a real little dungeon a bit north of town. Too little for most adventurers to bother with, unfortunately. Or perhaps fortunately."

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"Suit yourselves. But thanks."

Ame falls into step and follows them.

"I'm Ameron. Ameron I don't actually remember my family name it hasn't come up in at least a decade. My friends call me Ame."

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They walk in slightly awkward silence for a little bit, before the less prudish man speaks up, "We Savoi are a pig clan. Some of us tend the pigs, some process 'em into pork and tallow, some sell the results or keep the clanhold in shape. We've even got the stuff for rendering and soap. It's not glamorous, but everyone needs to eat and wash up, yeah?"

"Aye. And Raz has the Skills to use the local dungeon loot to make very good soap. Cityfolk will pay a lot for fancy soap."

"Maybe that bastard* just didn't like our offer..."

 

*'Clanless and unwanted'

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"Raz?"

Ame is intermittently dipping in and out of her powerfine, 'Skill', continuing to push the changes to her body she came up with before. It should be faster by now, right? After half an hour of constant use, the Skill should've improved at least a little. Then again, its much harder to maintain the required meditative state while paying attention to a conversation than it is while running, so she's not going to make much progress either way. Still, some is not none. She wants to get in the habit.

"I'm a city girl, I guess. But I always thought the 'fancy' soap was just regular soap with a pretty ribbon around it and a bigger price tag..."

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She's no longer pushing herself to the limit and it's still not giving her direct feedback, so it's hard to tell how much progress she's made.

"Raz is kind of amazing. She's our aunt, she's the left arm of the Savoi clan of Traver Hollow! Always knows how to fix things, keeps people from fighting or getting too down."

"Well, fancy soaps are definitely harder to make. I don't like the city. Everything's so fussy and official and polite, makes me anxious."

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"Gale, you are fussier and more polite than anyone I've ever met in Brockton Bay. Of course, that says more about Brockton Bay than about you, probably."

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