“You’re just about ready to class up now! Congratulations!” Artemis threw her hands up in the air. “You only have one real decision left to make. Do you allocate your last few stat points into Strength, Dexterity, or Speed to get them up to level 10, or not?” Artemis paused and thought for a moment. “I suppose you can also try and train them up to 10 on your own naturally. You’d lose a lot of growth time of your main class though, and I’m not sure I’ve seen anyone do it.”
Breathe Elaine, breathe. This was all coming on way too fast. I knew I was heading in that direction. I had no illusion on why Artemis was training me, that I needed to eventually pick a class. I just didn’t think it would happen this fast, this soon. Artemis noticed my distress, and tried to help me.
“Ah it’s fine, you should just focus on it and get it done with! What’s the worst that can happen? Julia murders you?” Never mind. She wasn’t trying to help me; she was enjoying winding me up. I couldn’t think. I had to think. This was too important to get pressured into. Stall, stall, how could I stall?
“Hey, could you tell me if you think I should put my points into a stat, and which one?” Ahha, stalling tactic found!
“Yeah, get speed to 10. Most of your running efforts are going to result in [Running] going up, not speed, so spare yourself the effort of leveling it naturally and just get it. Then you’ll have no excuse!”
I thought about what Artemis said. I mostly asked as a stalling tactic, but she did have an excellent point. I wasn’t going to get too many more points in Speed naturally, and out of the physical stats, Speed and Dexterity were the ones that spoke to me the most. I could save for later. I might find myself needing to boost another stat. Artemis made excellent points. Getting Speed to 10 might unlock more options.
Slowly, solemnly, I allocated my last few points to speed. I looked at Artemis. She gave me an encouraging nod. “Hang on, should we not talk with mom and dad?” I asked. Artemis was being strangely insistent on me classing up right now.
“Eh, what could they say? Just go on, do it, go! Become what you always wanted, what you were always meant to be. You’ll know what I mean when you get there. Don’t worry, I’ll protect you while you’re gone.”
Protection? Why would I need protection? Where was I going? Ah well, Artemis was probably being metaphorical or something. I wasn’t quite sure. I focused on my first class to class up, and got a notification:
[*Ding!* Are you sure you want to Class Up now? Yes/No]
I focused on selecting the yes, and felt my mind sucked away.
I was standing in a library. A library! At long last! Rows of books everywhere, from floor to ceiling! A grand chamber, filled with knowledge, books with spines of all colors. Most were white or grey. Many were shades of pink and red. A few other colors were scattered throughout – some yellows, a green or two, even a violet book inside of a case. There was a staircase leading to another floor, but there was a delicate chain denying access.
“Hello!” A musical voice came from behind me. I whirled around, to see a young woman standing behind a counter, where a librarian would be in a normal library. She had gentle blue eyes, wearing a t-shirt and jeans, with wavy light brown hair going down just a bit past her shoulders. She encapsulated the word “pretty”, with delicate facial features.
“Oh my god! Are you from Earth as well!?” I asked, spotting a familiar band’s logo on her shirt.
She chuckled at that. “Yes and no. I’m you. You’re me. I’m your guide here, the part of your soul that understands the system. Here, with the way you perceive things, I’m the [Librarian]. The book for that class is right here” she took out a pale pink book “but I’d have to recommend against it. Give it a read though, see what it’s like.”
It had been so long since I last read anything. At least nine years. Curious, confused, I picked up the book and started reading. I read of the smell of musty books, of organizing shelves. I read a tale of selecting and curating books. I read of reading books and literature, all day. I read of perfect recall, of knowing where every book in my domain was located. I read of research, of helping people find the knowledge they needed. I read of being the [Librarian]. With great reluctance, I tore myself away from the last page. “Wow.” “Just wow. What a trip. You said you’re against me learning this?”
The Librarian – that was how I decided to call her, since “me” was just too confusing – smiled sadly. “You have the love and the passion needed, and so it’s allowed. But tell me. Can you read in the world we are in? Do books even exist in the world we are in? Would they even allow a woman to be a librarian? We get experience for performing in our class, and a librarian without a library is nothing.”
She was me. I knew I couldn’t argue with her, for the truth of the matter came from my heart. “Maybe for another class…” I reluctantly hedged. And I knew she knew it as well. “Maybe.” A sad smile. “Hey! First library in years. Let’s go reading!” she tried to cheer me up. It worked. Of course it would work, we were the same person. So, I went reading.
[Baker’s Apprentice]. [Yoga Enthusiast].
[Slicer of Fruit].
[Sailor]. [Doctor]. [Squire]. [Farmhand]. A series of Acolyte positions for a dizzying number of gods. [Student]. [Washer]. [Paymaster]. [Innkeeper’s Wife]. [Computer Programmer]. [Dockhand]. [Medical Student]. [Scribe]. [Murderer of Mangos]. [Nun]. [Speaker for Etalix]. [Revolutionary]. [Apprentice Coppersmith]. [Berserker]. [Druid]. [Legionary]. [Prophet of Papilion]. [Apprentice Vampire Hunter].
And more. So many more, in dizzying arrays of colors. I was in love. I read adventures of me climbing the highest mountains with a climbing class. Diving into caves and finding gems and ores with mining classes. Travelling the world with an all-round [Adventurer] class.
“Why are some titles in grey? They seem to be all over the place.”
“Those are locked. You may know of them, but you don’t meet the requirements. You have some minor affinity for them – it lets you see that it exists – but you can’t select it. You might find a class worth working towards though.”
I found a room off to the side, tucked away. What could be here? “Don’t go. You don’t want to know.” the librarian tried to warn me. I paused, considering. She was me. She knew all about me. She was probably right that I didn’t want to know. She knew it was futile, I wouldn’t listen. My thirst for knowledge was too great. I looked around, and what I saw made me sick.
[Slave]. [Prostitute]. [Child Soldier]. [Poisoner].
Those were the kinder ones, the gentler ones. The more titles I skimmed on the spines of books, the more classes I read and learned about, the worse I felt. I fled the room, huddled into a corner, protected by the books, the lovely books. [Debtor]. What a wonderful class. Who wouldn’t want to be a [Debtor] after seeing what was in that other room? The Librarian walked over, comforted me. She knew just what to say. She had been right, oh so right. There were terrible classes out there.
“How about I get together some classes I think you’ll like together, hmm?” She knew me. Of course, I would nod my head in assent. I had enough of reading random adventures, seeing the life I would have if I was a [Cobbler]. A few minutes passed, as she browsed the shelves, getting books together. In the end, a modest pile awaited me.
[Apprentice Mage - Earth]. Requirements: 10 in all magic stats. Exposure to multiple schools of magic. You’ve burned with the desire to be a mage all your life. Here’s your chance. + 1 Free stat, + 1 Magic Control, +1 Magic Power per level.
[World Traveler - Spatial]. Requirements: Visited at least 3 worlds. Spoken to the inhabitants. Speak multiple languages. You’ve somehow ripped apart the void between worlds, travelling and visiting. This class will help you do it again. + 6 Free Stats, + 2 Strength, +3 Dexterity, +7 Vitality, +4 Speed, +10 Mana, +14 Mana Regeneration, + 9 Magic Control, +20 Magic Power per level.
[Apprentice (Control/Power) Healer – Light, Dark, Water, Wood]. Requirements: Medicine or First aid at level 8. 2/4 Magic skills at 10+. You have a healing heart, a healing mind, and with this class, a healing touch. +1 Free Stat, +1 Mana, +1 Mana Regeneration, +1 Magic Power, +1 Magic Control per level. Additional +1 Mana, +1 Magic Power per level if Power is picked. Additional +1 Mana Regeneration, +1 Magic Control per level if Control is picked.
[Revolutionary - Fire]. Requirements: A burning desire for change. You’ve seen what the world is like, and it’s not to your tastes. Bring the fires of change with you, and change the world to be more what you think it should be. +8 Free Stats per level.
[Prophet of Papilion - Mist]. Requirements: You have directly spoken with the major god Papilion, God of Change, and have somehow survived sane. This class will help open a link to him, where you can bring his word and change to the world – and yourself. + 50 Free Stats per level.
[Runner - Wind]. Requirements: Running at level 8. Speed at 10 or greater. The wind calls you to, and you answer. +1 Free Stat, +7 Speed per level.
[Emergency Medic – Wind, Light]. Requirements: Running at level 8. First Aid at level 8. 2/4 Magic Stats at 10+. Tended to injuries in a fight. You’re the angel of mercy, the Florence Nightingale, the EMT. You dive headlong into battles to save lives. +2 Free Stats, +1 Speed, +1 Dexterity, +1 Magic Power, +2 Magic Control, +2 Mana Regeneration per level.
[Student - Metal]. Requirements: Learning at level 8. A passion for knowledge. You seek knowledge and information wherever it may be, from reading, to apprenticing, to listening, and more. This class will help you learn more easily, remember more, and find more. +5 free stats per level.
“I included [Prophet of Papilion] and [World Traveler] because they’re the most powerful classes we have access to. They’re dangerous. Read them carefully.”
So, I read. Prophet turned me into little more than a mouth piece, a rambling conduit for Papilion whenever he chose to Speak. Oh, I would have agency when I wasn’t hijacked for a speaking. But I would be expected to stay in a temple, tended to by priests, feared by all for the next word coming out of my mouth. That wasn’t me. I didn’t want that.
Why didn't I want that? I thought about it. It was, in many ways, a lifestyle I wanted. Easy. Opulent. Human rules didn’t apply to me. I had wealth, I had riches, I had fame. Something had to be lacking though. I went back over, and read again what was there. There were no friends. No Lyra sharing my every secret. And there was no freedom. I was in a cage. The most beautiful cage to have ever been built, a cage of my own making, but still a cage. Still a slave to Papilion and his every desire. No. This wouldn’t be me.
I went to [World Traveler]. It seemed fine. I went from world to world, always traveling, meeting new people, learning new languages. Friends came and went, and sometimes lovers. There was always a new horizon. Always a new adventure. It painted a rosy, if transient, lifestyle.
“I don’t understand. What is the issue with this one?”
“You can’t use it. It requires you to travel worlds both as a pre-requisite, and as the primary way of leveling. However, you lack the power to travel, even with the class bonuses and skills. You’ll simply be stuck here, unable to leave, unable to level. As you’re right now, it’s a waste of a class. One day in the future, maybe. It’s worth knowing about. Don’t pick it today.”
“Why can I pick this, but not the starter class for it?” I asked, looking at a grey starter class that probably lead to [World Traveler].
The Librarian looked amused at me. “It’s because you don’t meet the requirements for it, while you DO meet the [World Traveler] requirements. Bit of a reversal.”
I filed that knowledge away. A possible way to my once-home. It hurt. I had made my peace with being here, with my new mom and dad. There was a way to maybe see my old parents, my old friends? I was in a completely different body. Would they even believe me? Was it worth trying? I filed all of that away as “Future Elaine’s Problem.” She would hate me for that I knew it. Maybe one day when I had the power and capability, when I had more emotional maturity and could properly think things through, I would revisit the problem.
[Emergency Medic] Had a similar, but less severe problem. I would need to be in fights, actively rescuing and saving people. It was convenient in many ways, and it seemed to be a bit stronger than my other options. I didn’t see that many fights in town though, and I suspected that I would end up trapped at a low level for a long, LONG time. Given the bonus to growth when fighting, I suspected it would skyrocket – if I ever got the chance.
I appreciated The Librarian bringing me the Apprentice Mage book, but we both knew it was a tribute to a dream more than anything else, a way to reassure me that I had the chance, I could pick it, and I was explicitly choosing not to be a mage like Artemis. I would’ve always wonder “What if”, and always think about wanting the class and not having the chance if the book wasn’t in the pile. It was in the pile, and I had closure.
I picked up [Runner] next. I read through it. Moving from town to town, city to city. Running through the streets, important messages in my bag. The lifeblood of civilization, good mail service. Secrets, intrigue, bandits trying to waylay me for the critical communication. A home base I operated out of, friends and family present. This was a good life. This was a life that spoke to me. I couldn’t see anything wrong with it, and it immediately went high up on my “to-take” list. I had a few more books left to read.
[Revolutionary] was next. I saw myself peacefully protesting System Day only allowing boys to participate in the temple’s activities. I saw myself violently rioting over women not being allowed to be citizens. Peaceful protest over a lack of property rights. Violent rebellion against being considered property ourselves. More and more scenes, violent, peaceful, some bringing change, most ending with a grisly death and injustice continuing to rule. In more than half, strange giant ants killed me. My cause was clear. My cause was just. I was never the leader though; I was always alone or following someone else. It wasn’t a peaceful life. It wasn’t a good life. Sometimes friends, occasionally family. Friends betrayed; family tried to stop me from my purpose. It was a life with meaning, with purpose, it was a life with a higher calling.
Reading [Revolutionary] made me question [Runner], and if I was really ok with it. Onto the last class, the strange multi-dimensional [Apprentice (Control/Power) Healer – Light, Dark, Water, Wood].
It wasn’t flashy and impressive like [World Traveler]. It lacked the riches and opalescence of [Prophet of Papilion]. It had the good life of [Runner]. It filled a higher calling like [Revolutionary]. It felt right. It clicked with me. This is what I was born for. This is why I was here. This is why I had all of my biology and medical knowledge still intact. Oh, it was miles away from what a real doctor would have had. It was enough, when combined with magic.
I didn’t even look at [Student]. It wouldn’t fit me, it wouldn’t wrap around me like a skin, it wouldn’t sing to me the way the lowly, insignificant seeming [Apprentice (Control/Power) Healer] did. The only real decision to be made at this point was what type I was picking, and even then, it was no real choice.
Dad’s mangled face flashed through my mind as I went up to the library counter, The Librarian waiting for me behind it. “So, what now?” I asked, unsure of the procedure.
She smiled. “Now we check the book out to you. Be sure to bring it back when you’re done with it.”
“I err…” I hesitated, unsure of how to say this. “I don’t have a library card….”
A moment of silence passed. Two moments of silence. If this was anything but an unnatural world, there would be tumbleweeds. The Librarian’s poker face eventually broke, and she burst into laughter.
“A library card ah ha ha oh god that is the best thing I have ever heard.” She was dying with laughter over there. “Elaine, this is your – our – library. We can check out anything. Who else could even come here?”
Ah, of course. This was my world, my realm. The Librarian took the book from me, ran it under a scanner, and handed it back to me. “You’re all set. Have a wonderful evening!”
I looked around one last time, seeing the only trappings of modern life that I had seen in years. I hoped I would be back soon.
I turned and left through the doors that had somehow always been there, and yet were never there until now.
I swear my ears nearly burst with the number of notifications I got upon waking up in the dark with Artemis standing over me.