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A note from Selkie

Not much to say! Chapter away!

 

... ok, fine, I broke top 1k on RR and I'm over the moon about it! And 100 ratings. 

I got both on the same rating, so thank you mystery rater #100!

I think I mentioned this before, but just incase - artwork for book 2's cover has been commissioned! Huzzah! You here on RR will notice nothing different.

I retched as that notification came up. Artemis rushed over.

“What’s wrong? Are you ok?” She asked, patting me all over. “Was it Origen’s terrible cooking?” He lightly punched her, clearly thinking I was fine.

“Oath skill.” I choked out. “Lost a level for that.”

Maximus raised an eyebrow. “What exactly is in that oath of yours? We should know before voting.” There was general nodding of heads at that.

I thought about it, and told them:

First, do no harm.

Healing is my art.

I will use all of my knowledge and tools at my disposal to heal those that come to me.

I will heal those I see to the best of my ability.

I will apply all measures that are required to my patients.

I will never see a patient as anything other than another creature in pain.

I will not discriminate who I heal based on class, sex, race, what gods they pray to, nor by any other means.

I will defend the patients under my care from harm and injustice.

I will only take up a knife to defend myself or my patient.

I will admit when I don’t know how to heal a patient.

I will respect the privacy of my patients, and hold in confidence anything that is said to me.

I will teach and spread my knowledge to the best of my abilities, asking for no recompense.

I hesitated at the end though, not wanting to share the last line, something I considered one of the most private and intimate parts of myself. I will not forget you. Julius could see my hesitation, and to his credit, asked questions instead of pulling it out of me.

“There’s more, right?” I nodded.

“Does it restrict you?” I shook my head.

“Could it cause a problem for us or you in any way, shape, or form?” I shook my head.

“Alright, you can keep it to yourself.” The relief must have shown on my face.

“Maximus?” Julius asked.

“Not to be too obvious, but it’s probably the ‘First, do no harm’ part. She’s given us at least one way to better kill a person, maybe two. The System is recognizing that she’s helping harm other people with this knowledge, which means her suggestions are legitimate – and potent. Given how much of her use to us is being a healer, and we have the ‘kill stuff dead’ part down pat, I recommend we stop asking for lethal suggestions.” He thought for a moment more. “Unless she knew of ways to de-escalate damage – like a weapon that crippled more than killed.” I shuddered at that cold calculus. It was becoming clear that violence was cold and calculated here, and exterminating dozens, if not a hundred, bandits in a night was called “Wednesday”.

Julius absorbed this information, looking thoughtful.

“Could your oath interfere with a fight we’re in?” I thought about it. I worked it over in my mind, examining it from several different angles.

“… Maybe. I need to think about it more. See it in action.” I hedged. “I know if someone’s injured, and not an immediate threat, then I’d probably jump in. No sense in allowing someone who’s no longer a combatant to die.” Frowns all around. Uh oh.

“If I told you to let someone die?” Julius asked. I closed my eyes at that, and took a deep breath in. Shit. This was it. This is where I got kicked out.

“I’d fight you on it. Like I tried to fight Kallisto on it the other day.” I let my breath out in a rush. Artemis was beaming at me. Origen was looking at me with respect. Arthur gave a short, barking laugh. Julius just facepalmed.

“Fine. I have to respect your integrity, even if it’s going to cause problems and count against you. I also appreciate you telling me straight out, and not lying about it for it to be a problem later.” He thought some more. “If we take Elaine with us – IF. New standing order – Make sure you properly eliminate threats, so we don’t get this problem. On the plus side, capturing people becomes easier – we can limb them and Elaine can patch them up.” My stomach dropped out at this. I’d probably condemned people to die with that. Oath didn’t think so.

Maximus snorted. “I think I’ve made my point. I vote we keep Elaine.”

Julius nodded at Maximus’s vote. “Origen?”

He looked at me, pointed at the sky, and said one word. “Brave.”

I blushed at that. “No, no, I’m terrified of things, I’m not brave at all!” He snorted in derision at me, and I got the most words out of him I’d ever heard.

“Brave isn’t being fearless. Being fearless is stupidity. Brave is being afraid, and still doing it. You’re brave. You stay.”

Artemis had a full-jaw dislocation going on. “You can speak! In complete sentences!” She was outraged. “You had me going on for weeks trying to get you to say more than one word at a time, and now you give Elaine a full lecture!?” Origen just smirked at her. She turned around in a huff.

“Arthur?” Julius kept going around the campfire.

“I vote we keep the world-traveler. We get all sorts of boring VIPs. Now we can have an interesting VIP!” Julius eyed him.

“Not the best reasoning, but a yes vote none the less. Artemis, I assume you’re in favor?” Julius said.

Artemis looked deep in thought. I took the moment to strike. “Some extra details – I told Julia that I’d be with you, and, well, just imagine what happens when you show up in Aquiliea and say that you have no idea where I am. You also owe me a big favor still!” I grinned cheerfully at her, enduring the thunderous looks shot my way.

“Blackmailer.” She accused.

“Shamelessly so.” I tossed my hair as I confessed, looking at Artemis in a half-challenging, half-teasing way.

Julius facepalmed. “Please don’t extort my team.”

Artemis melodramatically flopped over. “Julius oh Julius! I must vote yes, for the fiend has dirt on me! I fear for my existence, nay, my wallet, if I were to say no!”

We all laughed at that, a deep, binding laugh, bringing us together in the way only shared faux-misery at one of our own can.

Julius made an agreeing noise, and turned to look at me.

“Alright Elaine. From what everyone’s saying, and from what I’ve seen, I believe you’ll be a net positive for the team. You have two choices. First choice: Join as a tag-along. You’ll be with us, but not part of the team, and can leave at any time. However, you’re expected to pitch in on all chores, tasks, and activities. Second choice: You don’t join us, and we drop you off at the next town.”

This is what I wanted. This is what I’d been going for. “I’d love to join as a tag-along!” A chorus of happy cheers came from everyone except Origen, who simply pumped his fist.

Artemis chimed in at this point. “You should cut your hair short healy-bug. It’s terribly hard to maintain it on the road, and it’s already matting up.”

I flushed in embarrassment again. Did she have to point that out in front of everyone!? Locking eyes with her, I drew my knife, bunched my hair up, and in one sharp move cut it pixie-short, like hers.

[*Ding!* Congratulations! [Pretty] has reached level 94!].

 

Still staring at her, I dropped it in the fire.

“No!”

“Not the fire!”

“Arrrrrrgh!”

Small bits of flaming hair went everywhere. Whoops.

I fled back into the wagon.

 

 

An hour or two later, I decided I could show my face again, and popped back out. I was lucky that nobody had needed anything. Artemis was levitating rocks around her and playing lightning, doing some complex dance with them. Origen seemed to be inscribing a bracer with magic – I had no idea if this was maintenance, or making a new one. Maximus and Julius were sparring, Julius moving at incredible speeds while Maximus tried to fend him off. Kallisto was doing some push-ups, then sit ups, then swapped to more exercises, while Arthur was nowhere to be seen. Given how blasted sneaky he was, he could be right beside me. I narrowed my eyes, trying to find him somewhere. No luck, but Julius noticed me.

“Hey Elaine! Welcome back!” He waved, and jogged over.

“Feeling better? Losing a level in a skill must suck.” He nodded slowly at me. Cover! Blessed cover! Praise Julius!

“Yup! Thank you!”

“Alright Elaine, now that you’re with us, I’m going to need a nearly full breakdown of all of your stats, skills, and levels. I recognize that most people like keeping their information secret, and you have more secrets than most to keep. Our standard is you can keep one general skill, and one skill from each of your classes secret. Artemis vouches for your honesty, but I’d rather you tell me that you can’t say a skill instead of cover it up with something else. You never know when I’ll rely on a skill you say you have, or miss something because of a skill you failed to tell me. It’s extra-important that I get all of your healing-related skills. I can’t be thinking you can save someone when you can’t.”

I thought about it, looking over my skills. I didn’t really have any skills I wanted to keep secret, except for one. I told him my skills:

[Name: Elaine]

[Race: Human]

[Age: 14]

[Mana: 2390/2390]

[Mana Regen: 5288]

Stats

[Free Stats: 32]

[Strength: 20]

[Dexterity: 20]

[Vitality: 20]

[Speed: 32]

[Mana: 239]

[Mana Regeneration: 666]

[Magic Power: 236]

[Magic Control: 743]

[Class 1: [Light of Hope - Light: Lv 123]]

[Light Affinity: 118]

[Calming Aura: 101]

[Medicine: 105]

[Healing Aura: 103]

[Detailed Restoration: 78]

[Flashlight: 90]

[Greater Invigorate: 96]

[Centered Mind: 98]

[Class 2: [Shadow Healer - Dark: Lv 88]]

[Dark Affinity: 88]

[Deaden Pain: 61]

[Surgeon's Scalpel: 78]

[Attack Bacteria: 69]

[Parasitic Remover: 35]

[Tissue Removal: 76]

[Cure Toxin: 81]

[Privacy: 67]

[Class 3: Locked]

General Skills

[Identify: 65]

[Recollection of a Distant Life: 55]

[Vigilant: 99]

[Oath of Elaine to Lyra: 100]

[Lost and Found: 60]

[Running: 55]

[Learning: 93]

 

There was no way I was letting them know about [Pretty].

Julius looked thoughtful. “An appearance-related skill as your last skill?” I watched my foot scuff some dirt. I practically heard the smile in his voice. “Don’t worry, I’m not prying, it’s your secret to keep.”

“Right, healing information time. What can you fix, what can you not fix?”

I looked back up. This I could do!

“I can handle most injuries if someone’s not dead – I think. I haven’t gotten too many chances to try it out. But just about everyone I reached the other day, I was able to keep alive.” I started.

“I’d be surprised if you did have many chances to try it out.” Julius said dryly.

“Blood loss! I can’t handle blood loss at all right now.” Julius whipped out a scroll and charcoal, and started to take notes.

“About half of diseases I can try to tackle – depends on the source.” I continued.

“This relates back to that errr,” Julius quickly consulted another scroll. “’bacteria’ thing you were talking about?”

“Yup! Viruses are the other part, and they’re tiny. They’re to bacteria what bacteria are to us. I imagine I’d need much higher control before I can try to work on them.”

“How can you tell if it’s a virus or bacteria?”

I shrugged. “If [Attack Bacteria] works, it’s bacterial. Otherwise, it’s a virus, toxin, parasite, or the body attacking itself.” I got a flat look at that. I hurried to add in, making it seem like I wasn’t constantly guessing. “The [Medicine] skill helps fill holes. Having the framework helps, the skill continues to fill in for me.”

“Carry on.”

“I don’t think I can handle something like an arrow stuck in someone.” I said, remembering watching someone get hit by Arthur’s arrow.

“Couldn’t you just take the arrow out?” Julius asked.

“I mean, yeah, but the idea is if you have part of a weapon stuck in you, the only thing I can do is physically dig it out with my hand or with [Surgeon’s Scalpel]. And that has a lot of blood loss.”

Julius finished that thought for me. “And you’re not able to handle blood loss right now.”

“Exactly.”

“What else?”

“I’m not sure how many poisons I can handle, but it hasn’t gotten a hard test yet. Arthur’s was the hardest I’ve ever dealt with, but I was able to cure it in the end. Oh! I know I can’t handle heavy metal poisoning yet.”

“Heavy metal poisoning?”

“Yeah, lead and mercury and the like.”

“Why are they called heavy metals?”

“Well, because… because…. Ug. I hit a blank.”

“So you’re telling me.” Julius summarized slowly, carefully, watching me. “That mercury and lead are both poisons?”

“Oh yeah. But they’re really slow. And you need enough. They slowly drive you insane before making you fall apart.”

He looked at me with a mixture of horror, anguish, and disbelief.

“Elaine, those metals are everywhere!”

Aww fuck.

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A note from Selkie

They voted, and Elaine's in! Hurray! Adventure away!

Some people mentioned some confusion at the last chapter, so I'll try and clear it up - Julius is bailing at the threat of a Dragon being pissed off enough at being called to come over and burn them all to the ground. A bit of distance might help, it might not, but why risk it?

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Selkie

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