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A note from Selkie

The chapter train continues! Full steam ahead!

I'd like to thank jakman999 and Doluman for writing me such nice reviews - thank you.

 

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“Artemis, do you want to handle this part?” Maximus asked.

“Sure! Elaine, barrier, or shield skills, are incredibly useful skills, I think that goes without saying. There’re a few aspects to a shield that help determine how good it is. First is how fast it takes to generate. Second is how well it absorbs or dissipates attacks. Third is how long it lasts, fourth is how mobile you are, and fifth is additional utility or aspects. Quite a lot of that depends on the element it’s made out of. Let me demonstrate mine.”

Saying that, Artemis focused, and I could see rocks climbing up her legs, wrapping around her chest, arms, over her head – basically a suit of armor growing under her clothes. When she was done, it was like looking at a statue made out of rock in the shape of Artemis, with Artemis’s head.

“On the first point, this is relatively slow to form, and it has a fairly high mana requirement to form in the first place. However, I don’t need to spend any more mana to dissipate attacks – they’re literally punching stone, and it absorbs and spreads the attack throughout. Biggest point in its favor. Also good against cutting attacks, not that we see many of those. It’ll last a long time – generally until I call the skill off. I’m horribly immobile while using it though, which is part of why I almost never do, and it has utility against the elements. Come look!”

So invited, I went up to the Artemis-statue hybrid, and started circling around her, knocking on the stone, feeling how it was like.

“Let me guess – the immobility is why you don’t use it all the time. Why didn’t you use it in the fight? You were immobile then.” I asked after thinking about it for a while.

“High mana cost, and I’ll only use it if something’s actively coming after me. Rare to see something coming from that far away, and it’s generally faster for me to just shoot whatever’s a threat, instead of trying to get my shield up. It’s my least-favorite skill, but it has saved my life too many times for me to consider getting rid of it.”

My mind flashed back to that scene all those years ago, when Artemis was telling me about her scars. How an Abelisaurus had broken through, and chomped down on her, and that she’d gotten the scars even with a defensive skill. This must be that defensive skill she’d been talking about! It also gave me a lot more respect for Bluebeard and Katastrofi – no wonder they were a one-man, one-dino murder machine, not if Katastrofi could casually bite through so much stone like that.

And that was a wild dinosaur chomping down on Artemis, not a tamed and trained one. Everyone being nervous around Bluebeard made more sense – it was Katastrofi they’d been nervous about. Well, and Bluebeard being kinda their boss as well showing up when they were doing some slacking.

I shook my head. Focus. This was about me, and my shield skill, not Bluebeard and Katastrofi. [Center of the Galaxy] did absolutely nothing for how distractable I was and my tendency to go off-course, sadly.

“What’s next?” I asked.

“We’re going to test your shield, and we’re going to test the elements one at a time. First, you need to practice putting your shield up and taking it down, and seeing how much mana that takes, how quickly you can do it, and how precise it is. Shields up!” Artemis cried at the end, doing a long, dramatic wind-up like she was going to pitch a baseball at me.

Or one of her lethal rocks.

[Center of the Galaxy] already was pulling its weight, as instead of screaming, flinching, or cowering, I simply raised [Veil of the Aurora], an explosion of splendid lights snapping into shimmering brilliance all around me.

I wasn’t sure what else Artemis wanted to test, and I couldn’t tell. I figured I’d just keep [Veil] up for now.

A minute passed. Then a second. Still nothing. I shifted from one foot to another, wondering if I should drop the Aurora. Nothing was happening. Might as well.

I dropped [Aurora] only to see Artemis, surrounded by levitating rocks, her hand pointing right at me. I snapped [Aurora] back up, figuring this was more practice, or she was testing me, right as what Artemis said registered.

“Wai-!”

Hmmm. I cautiously dropped [Veil] to see a much-less threatening Artemis, exasperation written on her face. She closed her eyes, took a deep breath, and let it out explosively, trailing off at the end.

“I should’ve figured you’d have some unusual utility from a skill that evolved from [Privacy]. On one hand, it’s a better [Privacy]. On the other hand, I have no idea what’s going on inside your barrier while it’s up, and you clearly have no idea what’s going on over here either. Plus and minus. You could set up a nasty trick, move to an unusual position, or hide one of us who’ll set up a nasty trick ourselves. On the other hand, someone can do the exact same thing to you.” Artemis said.

I thought about it. She pretty much hit the nail on the head with that.

“The skill is fundamentally an upgrade of [Privacy].” I started out agreeing. “The shield aspect seems to be secondary, so I’m not too surprised the ‘main’ part is so good. It seemed to have a fast rise time.” I ventured on the last part. It had gone up immediately, and I couldn’t imagine something snapping up faster.

Artemis nodded agreement. “Advantage of Light, and as a result, Celestial, is it does show up immediately, and bonus, it probably takes almost nothing to snap up. Downside is, you probably need to absorb every blow. Here’s what we’ll do. Extend your shield as far as you can, and stay on the right side of it. Keep an eye on your mana. I’ll start hitting the left side of it, slowly at first, then harder and harder. Let’s see how fast your mana goes, what happens when your shield’s broken. After, we’ll see if you can move [Veil] while it’s up, how fast it can move, and if I can move it externally.”

We tested. Slow hits. Fast hits. Sudden bursts, sustained damage.

Could I move? Run? Jump? Could I shoot from inside of it? How far could it go?

[*Ding!* Congratulations! [Learning] has reached level 102!]

It turned out, my shield worked directly off my mana, and didn’t really care where something came from. No shooting from inside! Breaking felt like a shattering in my mind, as the Aurora Borealis just faded away.

Strangely, and we made a note to ask Maximus about it, I couldn’t move myself and the shield while I was inside it – but someone from the outside could lift me, shield and all, and move me, shield and all. It felt like being inside a snow globe when that happened, and I begged Artemis not to shake it with me inside.

Of course, she shook it.

However, the fact that I couldn’t move it, but people outside of the shield could, left both Artemis and I scratching our heads, trying to figure out why.

“Eh, maybe it’s because of the level.” Artemis shrugged.

"Next up! Ground-stuff!” She announced

“Ground-stuff?” I asked, confused.

“Ground stuff.” Artemis confirmed. “You have no idea how many Classers have holed up inside a shield of theirs, only for me to drive an earthen spike through them because their shield doesn’t cover the ground. Right. Shield up!”

With that vivid mental imagery in my mind, I snapped my shield up, covering me and an area of ground we’d designated the “testing area”. Aka, Artemis would shoot for it, I wouldn’t be in the unoccupied shield-zone, and if she broke through my shield I wouldn’t turn into Elaine-paste. Especially since if my shield was broken, it meant I was out of mana, and couldn’t heal myself. Risky stuff. I’d burned myself down to no mana ages ago, which was fine from a “turn the shield on” perspective, but less fine from a “oh no Artemis just impaled me with her famous spike” view.

I stood there tapping my foot. Artemis had to have tried by now, right? With a noise like shattering glass in my mind, [Aurora] went down, and Artemis was there with her sword.

My barrier used my mana to stay up and block blows, and I’d been running on fumes for a while. My regeneration rate was high enough compared to the initial cost of setting it up – practically nothing – that I could comfortably keep putting it up for experiments, but Artemis was showing a slightly more practical side by breaking my barrier when needed with a weapon, instead of mana.

That, or my regen rate was rivaling, or even higher than, hers. I didn’t ask, but with my focus on control and regeneration, and her focus on mana and power, I might be there. A scary thought.

“10 outta 10 healy bug.” Artemis said. “I got no purchase on the ground below you. Seems your shield is properly isolating you, even if it doesn’t look like it. If I can’t get purchase on the ground, hostile skills can’t get in without breaking it first. No surprise butt-spike for you!” She grinned at the last part, and I could feel parts of myself puckering up at the thought.

“Last thing to try for tonight. Let’s see if you can throw up a partial barrier.”

“Partial barrier?”

“Yeah, not a full shield. You have almost no cost to a shield, but with the downside of not being able to see or move, it might be worth seeing if you can throw up part of a barrier. Heck, see if you can throw up multiple partial barriers. Some in a row, some connected to each other, let’s see what we’re working with.”

More testing, this time of my fine control. I focused, and got a partial barrier up, but it felt, for lack of a better term, “wobbly.” With practice, it’d become easier to make strange shapes, and keep them up. I tried to add a second [Veil], nothing. I tried making a second segment of the shield, nothing. I tried to “stretch” and expand my current [Aurora], and got it to expand a bit. From the level of concentration and focus needed to do that though, it’d be easier to just drop the shield and re-imagine it.

I could make my shield in most shapes inside of a roughly 7 meter radius around me. I couldn’t wrap a space that didn’t include me though, and if I wanted to more than “half-wrap” something, I needed to be included.

A shield, not a prison. Protection, not procurement.

Lastly, if I snapped a partial shield up, then walked away, leaving it from my range, it’d fade away once I was too far away. My range seemed to be roughly 7 meters for now.

We ended the session on that note, the sun having set ages ago. I hadn’t noticed – [Eyes of the Milky Way] seamlessly converting what I saw to day time light levels. I told Artemis about that.

“That’s useful, but I’m not convinced it’s worth a full skill. Night vision for a healer that can conjure up not only a light show, but fire? I’d consider ditching the skill later down the road.”

I pouted at that – I thought the skill was badass – but I couldn’t deny that Artemis was right. I had a ton of ways to light things up anyways, night-vision was almost useless. That made me realize though.

“Hey Artemis, how can you see in the dark?” I asked. She snorted at me.

“Dark? What dark? You’re a giant, walking display of lights, saying ‘Shoot me! Shoot me!’ from miles away. Good if you get pinned down and need help – we’d be able to see you from a distance. Bad if you’re trying to hide.”

She cocked her head, thinking. I beat her to the punch. “Let me see if I can change the brightness when I set up [Veil] – and if I can change how bright it is once it’s up. Might be a poor way to signal someone.”

Artemis made an agreeing noise. “Also, if you’re pinned down under your shield, you could flash it for help.”

I focused on the brightness of the lights as I launched [Veil]. Launching it was getting easier and easier as I practiced it more, and with some focus, I got a slightly brighter barrier up. Not terribly brighter, but a small, noticeable amount.

I tried to pulse it, feeling that same “lever” in my skill, but nothing happened while it was up. Dropped the shield, repeated the process, but dimmer. Same thing. I could make it a bit dimmer, but I was still a blazing beacon, a light of hope, a one-girl disco show.

“Right, we’re dropping the idea of having you call for help, or for being less-than-subtle. We should ask Maximus though, see if he has any ideas."

“Good job healy-bug. Let’s call it a night. Tomorrow – fire time!” Artemis practically bounced with glee back to town.

[*Ding!* Congratulations! [Veil of the Aurora] has reached level 65!]

[*Ding!* Congratulations! [Learning] has reached level 103!]

We got to the town gates, only for me to realize that they’d closed hours ago. Artemis looked nonplussed.

“Over or under?” She asked me.

“Uuuuh…” I said, looked around in confusion.

“You’re right, over’s a much better idea. Shh! Be quiet!” Saying that, she grabbed my hand, and suddenly the walls were falling.

No, the walls weren’t falling – we were being lifted up on a rocky platform! Up, up, over the walls, and then we landed on top of them, sweat pouring off of Artemis’s face.

“I thought you were out of mana!” I hissed at her.

“I was out of fun mana. That was my reserve!” She hissed back. “Why do you think I landed us on top of the wall instead of on the ground?”

We tensed up as we heard a patrol of guards, torches shining, start to approach.

 

[Name: Elaine]

[Race: Human]

[Age: 14]

[Mana: 2500/2500]

[Mana Regen: 5069]

Stats

[Free Stats: 0]

[Strength: 19]

[Dexterity: 23]

[Vitality: 41]

[Speed: 32]

[Mana: 250]

[Mana Regeneration: 700]

[Magic Power: 250]

[Magic Control: 775]

[Class 1: [Constellation of the Healer - Celestial: Lv 128]]

[Celestial Affinity: 128]

[Warmth of the Sun: 105]

[Medicine: 111]

[Center of the Galaxy: 101]

[Phases of the Moon: 68]

[Eyes of the Milky Way: 88]

[Veil of the Aurora: 65]

[Vastness of the Stars: 70]

[Class 2: [Firebug - Fire: Lv 8]]

[Fire Affinity: 2]

[Fire Resistance: 2]

[Fire Conjuration: 2]

[Fire Manipulation: 2]

[: ]

[: ]

[: ]

[: ]

[Class 3: Locked]

General Skills

[Identify: 71]

[Recollection of a Distant Life: 72]

[Pretty: 97]

[Vigilant: 104]

[Oath of Elaine to Lyra: 105]

[Ranger's Lore: 1]

[Running: 70]

[Learning: 103]

 

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A note from Selkie

Practice with shields! From Artemis's perspective. Bit of a slower chapter. 

 

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