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A note from Selkie

I've got a request for a content warning on this chapter.

Content warning: Traumatic content. Brutal beating

 

I was incredibly thankful for [Center of the Galaxy] – there was no way I’d have reacted in time without it, and I’d be in a full-blown panic right now instead of calmly assessing the situation.

First off, I needed to move, to run. I wasn’t prepared for a fight, I wasn’t a fighter, and this was an ambush. First rule of fighting, don’t. If I stayed turtled up in my shield, it’d get hammered until I was out of mana, break, and then I’d be helpless. Not an option.

I crouched down into a sprinter’s start, ready to move. I dropped my shield, and almost immediately re-formed it into a long, enclosed tunnel that I could sprint down, to the max length of my shield, around 7 meters.

Then I turned around, and kept my sprinter’s crouch, facing the shimmering wall of my [Veil]. Duh I’d run down the tunnel I just made. My attackers saw me ready to sprint, ready to run, saw me put up a tunnel. Of course, I’d be at the other end. I had no plans of being at the other end.

I waited a heartbeat, four, heart racing so fast I could barely count. I wanted to give them enough time to reach the other side, give me distance. I watched my mana drop – 2211/3080 – and knowing that my attacker had hit my shield again, I dropped it, taking off like a shot towards where I’d left Kallisto. I’d take any guards as well.

“Help! Murder!” I yelled out, wanting to cause as much of a commotion as possible, twisting my head to look behind me.

Three men were there. One I vaguely recognized from somewhere, built lean and wiry, like a swimmer, one built like a brick shithouse, lumberjack axe over one shoulder, and one short and skinny man in robes, holding a staff, looking like a stereotypical mage out of a book. I mentally dubbed them “Swimmer”, “Lumberjack”, and “Idiot Mage”.

Idiot Mage slammed the butt of his staff against the ground, and suddenly I wasn’t running on firm road, my feet sinking into the ground with every step. Swimmer started running towards me, and it was like I was being chased by Maximus – not quite as fast as Julius, but oh so much faster than anything I could do.

I snapped up [Veil] to work as flooring, running on a shimmering aura. I checked my mana. 1440. Step. 954. Step. 362. Holy shit that burnt so much mana. I turned it off, feet sinking into the ground, drawing my trusty knife.

Swimmer came at me, and I blasted flames at him, turning the flames as he dodged, keeping them between me and him.

“HELP! MURDER! MURDER!” I kept yelling out. Maybe time to be inventive.

“HELP! FIRE! FIRE!” I continued yelling, performing a bit of arson on the shop behind me. Sorry unknown shopkeeper. My life means more to me. I’ll try to make it up to you.

Lumberjack and Idiot Mage were rushing over, and Swimmer was staying out of the flames. He kept trying to dart in, only for me to blast another set of flames towards him, as hard as I could. I threw [Veil of the Aurora] up as high as I could, hoping that one of the other Rangers just so happened to be looking up, seeing a signal.

Damnit, now I know why signals had to have sound as well.

“You’re sure this is her?” Lumberjack asked Swimmer. “She’s not supposed to have Fire!”

“I’m sure! I checked earlier, she can still do Light and Dark healing! From the looks of things, she classed up and got a secondary element.” Swimmer replied.

It clicked where I’d seen him before. The weird patient that had a shallow cut with dirt rubbed in it, who sniffed me weirdly. It made no sense for someone to visit a healer for that, let alone rub dirt in it, but if he was checking that I was both a Light and Dark healer, it made sense.

“This is a bad idea.” I said, panicking as my mana was nearly out. “You’re attacking a Ranger. This doesn’t end well for you.”

Cries of panic, someone else had taken up my cry of “Fire!”, I just needed to stall a bit longer. Lumberjack snorted. “Inventive excuse. Nestor, Paris, take her.” Swimmer darted in, incredibly fast, and punched me in the face. My head snapped back, and I windmilled my arms, trying to keep my balance, looking up at the sky, at the moons staring down at me, coldly mocking me with their merciless gaze. I felt my feet get kicked out from under me, as I landed on the ground. Mud rose up around me, trying to wrap around me, cocooning me, and I shot one last desperate blast of flames, a clumsy attempt at the Ranger Eagle in circle on the wall.

The mud wrapped around me, leaving a tiny bubble in front of my face for air. Just enough air for now, they had to let me go soon.

Right? My end wasn’t going to be slowly suffocating in mud. They had to know about air, and that people suffocated without enough air. Especially what seemed to be a mud-mage.

I could feel myself getting picked up, getting moved around. Mostly through dizzying turns – it was completely pitch-dark inside my bubble, as I was entirely encased in mud. I tried moving experimentally, not making any headway.

Mud was conjured, so it was likely that struggling against it with my meager stats wouldn’t help. Otherwise I’d try to drain Idiot Mage’s mana, then make a break for it when he was drained. My mana would be full up soon, and I could work on a break for it then. If that didn’t work, try, try again.

The jostling and moving hadn’t stopped, and the air was starting to get stuffy and warm. Breathing was getting harder, my breaths coming more rapidly. Panic was rising, I was going to die here, die suffocating in an air pocket in mud. I didn’t want to die! I had too much to do, I was finally free, free to live my life! My head started to pound, as I tried to pulse [Phases of the Moon] through me to heal me, to give me air.

I tried to project a skill through the mud I was encased in, but it felt like my skill couldn’t penetrate. Fucking hell.

For some reason, air wasn’t a thing [Phases] could do. Thinking about it, it kinda made sense, but also didn’t for so many reasons. Whatever. Think later. I needed out now.

I hadn’t wanted to use flames earlier – they’d splash right back onto my face, and burn what little air I had, but if I was out of air, I was out of options.

I was steeling myself to endure massive burns again when the top of the mud cocoon opened, and I found myself looking up at Swimmer, Lumberjack, and Idiot Mage. I took some deep, gasping breaths as they looked down on me, thankful for air.

“Question for you.” Lumberjack asked. I was in no mood to answer questions, as I blasted fire at all three of them. Idiot Mage leaned back, Swimmer gracefully dodged, and Lumberjack just let the flames splash over him. His shoulders slumped, a disappointed tone to his voice.

“Look, we can do this the easy way, or the hard way. We’re supposed to bring you back in one piece – Elaine, right? – but you’re a healer, and the hard way is a lot harder because of it.”

I spat at him. I wasn’t going to make anything easy, and since “dying” didn’t seem to be on the menu, and pain was a distant memory with [Center of the Galaxy], I didn’t see what they could do that’d be worse than the situation I was already in.

Thinking about it, I was half-free, and able to use skills. I threw up a pillar of [Veil], as high as it could go, an attempt to signal that something was here. Idiot Mage walked over, dissolving the cocoon with a tap of his staff.

Honestly, who used a staff and robes? Armor and swords, that’s where it was at. Robes and a staff didn’t do anything! Armor did! Spears did! Gah. That’s why he was Idiot Mage. I started to climb to my feet.

My attempt to get up was cut short as Idiot Mage lifted his staff up, and brought it down on my back. I felt a crack, the wind blown out of me as I rolled in the dirt, tumbling along. I felt something on me, a glowing light coming from my back.

I tried to get up again, and Lumberjack’s eyes got cold and merciless.

“The hard way then.” He took his massive axe, slung over one shoulder, and flipped it, so he was holding the blade, with the handle out. It was clear he meant to cripple, not kill. He moved over to me, bringing the handle down hard.

I threw my arms up, trying to defend against the strike, only to see a smirk cross his face. Damnit, I got baited into this. The handle came down on my arms with a sickening crack, as I stumbled back down into the dirt. Fuck. Swimmer came over, opened his mouth. Didn’t care what he had to say. Blasted him with fire. I could fix my arms later.

“Fuck!” Swimmer yelled, jumping back. “She’s got an anti-pain skill of some sort.”

Idiot Mage came near, hitting me a few more times with his staff, each blow landing with a crack. Each time it connected, a blindingly bright sticky, squishy thing attached to me. Had to be some sort of skill.

Lumberjack stepped back, hefting his backwards-held axe. “Anti-pain skills can be broken. Nestor, how much longer on your [Glowing Mud] skill?”

Idiot Mage – I had a name for him now, but I was keeping that – jumped forward, hit me again, another glowing blob on me, and jumped back.

“I don’t know! Her Regeneration rate is insane for her level!”

“Well keep hitting her!” Lumberjack snapped back. He looked at me, trying to get back on my feet without using my arms.

I got up, looking at him defiantly, then torched the grass in front of me, a wall of flame and confusion. I took off running into the night, able to now see perfectly clearly, [Eyes of the Milky Way] guiding me, flames flickering behind me. I stumbled on some brush, and suddenly, Swimmer was there, kicking my legs out again, causing me to stumble, fall. I tried to break my fall with my arms, only to watch my forearms fold on themselves as I tried to use my broken, shattered arms.

[Center] pulsed, I could feel the damage I’d just done to myself, a little closer than when they’d first been broken. I tried to get up, and there was Lumberjack, axe held like a baseball bat, swinging for my legs.

I threw up [Veil] in the way, knowing it’d be a heck of a lot more mana to heal that injury than to tank it.

It didn’t matter. Lumberjack went right through it, the shattering noise in my mind telling me I was now out of mana, as his axe handle went through the veil, then my legs, breaking them.

[Galaxy] broke at that, and I screamed as I fell to the ground, all the pain hitting me at once. My broken arms, compounded by me trying to catch myself on them. My legs, in enough pieces to make a spider happy. Some cracked ribs from Idiot Mage, hitting me with his staff. Bruises all over, scrapes and burns and cuts I hadn’t even noticed.

Pain. Agonizing, overwhelming pain. I screamed and writhed, only realizing it made it worse. I tried to hit myself with [Vastness of the Stars], to make it go away, to fade like stardust, but nothing. I screamed as the three watched, heads together.

Don’t talk! Help me!

“Shut her up.” Lumberjack ordered, and Idiot Mage gestured, a shot of gunk flying from his hand, hitting my face, sealing my mouth.

I must scream and I have no mouth.

The sharp, piercing cries of agony were replaced with muffled screams instead. Swimmer looked worried.

“Boss, that was a lot of damage we just did. It’d be no good if she died, we won’t get paid.”

Lumberjack looked sour. Maybe. I couldn’t tell, not with every nerve on fire, agony wracking my body.

“You have your healing mud right?” He asked Idiot Mage. Mud! Mud wasn’t clean enough to be healing!

Idiot Mage nodded.

“Use that. Good chance she has a passive healing skill as well. Should be enough to prevent a slow death.”

He bent down, looking at me.

“Alright, I hate doing things the hard way, but you insisted. Here’s the deal. Kerberos has hired us to bring you back. Now, we have nothing against you, and I don’t take any pleasure in hurting you, but we will if we have to. Cooperate, and the trip’s nice. Don’t, and the trip will be unpleasant, like this evening was unpleasant. The glowing things Nestor has on you eats your mana regen, so no more events like tonight can occur. Understand?”

I nodded meekly, anything to stop the pain, to make it go away. It ate at me, it ate at my resolve, it ate at my ability to think clearly, to think properly. The flames I’d lit were dying out, and I doubt anyone had heard my screams out here, out of town. Gods, if I’d just been able to hold out a few more minutes, there’d have been enough people around that they couldn’t have snatched me.

Why did I let Kallisto talk me into his hair-brained scheme? There’s no way I’d have gotten grabbed if I was in a pair. Or if I had lightning bolts like Artemis.

Idiot Mage wrapped me up in more mud, a slightly different shade of brown, and I felt soothing energy move through me. I seethed with impotent rage. I didn’t want to be soothed. I wanted the pain to go away, and I wanted to dance on their graves. The shell of the mud hardened around me, basically making an Elaine-Mud cigar with just my head poking out.

They rolled me over to a small, open-aired wagon, and loaded me on, me cursing through the Ooze gag on my mouth.

“Ah, treasure. Can’t let you have these.” Swimmer came over, and carefully, with a gentleness that belied the prior violence, took my hard-earned earrings off, dropping them into his pouch.

“Look, if you’re good, I’ll return them when we get back to Aquiliea. Ok?” Swimmer tried to barter with me.

Unable to spit, I glared hatred at him. He rolled his eyes.

“Or not. A little bonus on a quest’s always nice.”

Gods. Fucking. Damnit.

I hate adventurers.

 

[Name: Elaine]

[Race: Human]

[Age: 14]

[Mana: 0/3080]

[Mana Regen: 0]

Stats

[Free Stats: 60]

[Strength: 31]

[Dexterity: 21]

[Vitality: 41]

[Speed: 32]

[Mana: 308]

[Mana Regeneration: 752]

[Magic Power: 312]

[Magic Control: 818]

[Class 1: [Constellation of the Healer - Celestial: Lv 130]]

[Celestial Affinity: 130]

[Warmth of the Sun: 106]

[Medicine: 112]

[Center of the Galaxy: 101]

[Phases of the Moon: 74]

[Eyes of the Milky Way: 88]

[Veil of the Aurora: 67]

[Vastness of the Stars: 72]

[Class 2: [Firebug - Fire: Lv 20]]

[Fire Affinity: 20]

[Fire Resistance: 14]

[Fire Conjuration: 20]

[Fire Manipulation: 20]

[Fuel for the Fire: 6]

[: ]

[: ]

[: ]

[Class 3: Locked]

General Skills

[Identify: 72]

[Recollection of a Distant Life: 72]

[Pretty: 98]

[Vigilant: 106]

[Oath of Elaine to Lyra: 106]

[Ranger's Lore: 5]

[Running: 70]

[Learning: 105]

 

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A note from Selkie

 

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Selkie

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