I made it to the room labeled Ranger-Mage, and a tiered podium met my eyes.
There were five levels to the podium, a small stand in front of it with a sad, battered book, then a few more books scattered around the room. I figured I’d start with the sad book, the scattered ones, then make my way around the room.
|[Ranger-Mage – Mithril]|
the sad book proclaimed, the white text indicating that this was the weakest possible class I could still access.
Seemed like I had, just barely, managed to get access to the class. I wasn’t going to take it. I had no real interest in magical metal manipulation, and a quick skim of the book indicated that there was no [Mithril Conjuration] or similar skill.
What good was a Mithril mage, with no Mithril? Utterly useless. Moving on.
The second book I looked at was one not on the podium.
[Ranger-Mage – Acid]. The fact that it was greyed out meant I couldn’t use it at all. I thought back to my lessons. Acid was Water + Metal, and Water opposing Fire was probably why I couldn’t upgrade.
A quick glance around confirmed that every single book here was [Ranger-Mage]. Right, time to shortcut a bit. Just call each book by the element.
The remaining books scattered around the podium were [Coral], [Mist], [Ocean], [Ooze], [Water], [Ice], and [Mirage], confirming my theory that Fire opposing Water didn’t let me upgrade Fire into an advanced Water class.
I moved onto the first tier of the podium, where 14 books awaited. A quick, quick flip through them all suggested they all had the same number of stats – 40 – all distributed in different ways, depending on what the element wanted. [Lightning] had more power, for example, while [Spore] had more control.
[Erosion]. [Forest]. [Gale]. [Gemstones]. [Lightning] – I immediately grabbed that one, dusted [Mithril] off of its sad podium, and plonked it down. My shortlist was being created, and I’d be lying if I said Artemis wasn’t an inspiration. [Fireball Maniac - Fire] joined it on the shortlist. [Mantle] and [Mountain] – the advanced versions of Metal and Earth - also made the shortlist, from a sheer “everyone calls Metal and Earth practical” standpoint, and I wasn’t going to remove them from the running this early.
[Poison] just barely made the cut, with a large grimace by me. What Arthur was doing was fresh in my mind, but the dose made the poison, and I’d need some serious considering if I wanted to try and side-branch into medicine making, that I could also defend myself with. It required thinking, and as a result, made the shortlist.
I skipped [Sand], [Spore], [Wind], [Earth], [Wood], and [Metal]. Sand just wasn’t my jam, [Spore] seemed like more of poison, but with different aspects, and the rest were entry-level elements, that I had no intention of side-jumping into. If I was going to do, say, [Earth] or [Metal], I’d just pick up [Mantle] or [Mountain] instead.
The next layer of the podium beckoned.
[Brilliance]. [Arcanite]. [Celestial]. [Mirror]. [Sound]. [Verdant]. [Light]. [Dark]. [Void]. [Gravity]. [Decay]. [Miasma]. [Spatial].
Each one had 55 stats, distributed in different ways, depending on what was most useful for the element. I was also starting to see some physical stats pop up, almost all in vitality and speed. Clearly, my discussion with Night was reflecting here somewhat. Was the System giving me more of what I wanted? Did my belief that speed and vitality help mean the System offered me classes with those stats? Or did it rearrange stats for me?
Curious. There was digging and investigation to do here, but it’d be hard to do large-scale testing, not when people grabbed what they thought was best for them, and didn’t share information all that freely.
My bet was the fact that my first class was Celestial, combined of both Light and Dark, was influencing my choices. These were all marginally more powerful, with slightly more stats.
Aaaand I was a sucker for the Light and Dark classes. [Brilliance], [Celestial], [Mirror], [Sound], [Void], [Gravity], and [Spatial] all made it to the shortlist.
“You can only take one, you know.” Librarian said with more than a little amusement.
“Are you sure you can’t, I dunno, unstitch them and make them all one mega book-class for me to use?” I said.
“Mmmm. And which Affinity skill would you take? Which skills would you pick? You only get eight slots.”
I shook my fist at her.
“Let me dream!”
Librarian just laughed at me.
The third tier was the middle one, and the number of offerings was dramatically reduced. [Steam]. [Ash]. [Lava]. [Storm].
While they were still orange-class, they were now offering me 80 stats per level, a significant improvement. [Storm] was telling in that every point was in Magic Power, letting me know that yeah, I wasn’t close to having enough Magic Power to properly use it.
Ash didn’t call to me. I shortlisted the rest.
The fourth tier.
[Radiance]. [Pyronox]. [Inferno].
100 stat points per level for each of them.
And lastly, sitting on the top, the king on top of its throne.
[Ranger-Mage – Fire]. A whooping 120 stat points per level. The System was clear. Sticking to your path was rewarded.
It’s probably why Artemis was an Earth mage. She saw no reason to get an advanced element, and just stuck with Earth for the bonus stats.
The four naturally got shortlisted, and I sat down to my, quite frankly, absurd list.
I was about to have some serious, serious decision paralysis.
“Help me out.” I asked Librarian.
“Stick with something Fire-based, unless one of the other elements is absolutely perfect. You’re taking a major penalty jumping off of fire. As you just observed.”
Ha! Confirmed! Librarian could read my mind!
I mean, I could read my own mind, so…
You know what? I’m going to stop this train of thought before it gets too trippy. I was Librarian, and Librarian was me.
[Lightning] survived – I still wanted to see if I could be a mini-Artemis, a mental coinflip had [Mantle] surviving and [Mountain] vanishing – sure, I could do a deep analysis on being able to manipulate my own armor and weapons versus having infinite ammo, but if somehow [Mantle] was the final choice I’d do the analysis then.
I debated over [Poison], which was against the spirit of “quick cuts” but there we go.
On one hand, [Poison] could easily help make medicine. I wouldn’t be in direct combat when trying to kill something with it. Arthur could give me a hand learning about it.
On the other, the direct combat potential was lower, and was probably slow enough to kill someone that [Oath] might jump in again, and possibly make me heal them.
Although, sleeping powders and paralytic agents were in poison, drastically expanding my non-lethal repertoire…
Argh! Fine! Stay on the damn shortlist!
Right. Trying to cut books here was an utter failure. One outta four removed, and that was more a “I’ll figure that out when I get to it.”
Time for the next tier of shortlist. Let me just-
Librarian stepped in, stopping me.
“Ask for help again.” She said.
“I need help.” I said, meaning it.
“Alright, what do you need from this class, what do you want?” She asked.
“Flying.” I promptly replied. I’d done the fireball thing, and it was great fun, but I was growing up. The method mattered less to me than the results now, and I’d honestly managed to cast a lifetime worth of fireballs. “The ability to defend. Some utility.”
“Let’s talk about defending yourself a bit. Don’t we already have [Veil] and [Phases]?” Librarian asked, stating the obvious somewhat.
“Yeah. Raw, offensive firepower is what I need then, in that respect.”
She nodded. “Good!”
She looked around, and grabbed [Lava].
“For each one, we’re going to say if it’s better or worse than [Lava]. Ones that are worse, we cut. Ready?” Librarian said.
“Lava can do everything Mantle can that I know of.” I promptly replied.
“Great, so Mantle’s out. [Sound].”
“Still no flying.”
We rapidly cut the list down to size. It made me sad when I had to let [Lightning] go. Heck, all of them made me sad, but we managed to, with Librarian’s firm prompting, get rid of all of the non-fire classes. Mostly on her beating it into my head that, “Sure, you can fly and defend yourself with [Gravity], but [Lava] does that better and has more stats.”
[Fire]. [Inferno]. [Pyronox]. [Radiance]. [Storm]. [Lava]. [Steam]. [Fireball Maniac - Fire]
[Inferno] and [Fire] were really close to each other. [Inferno] has mass while [Fire] had better stats. Practically speaking, that meant I could physically push people back with my flames, that they could no longer just charge through them without a care in the world. I figured I’d temporarily cut [Inferno] and [Fireball Maniac - Fire], and if [Fire] ended up winning, I’d debate the merits of the three against each other. Kinda like my earlier reasoning on [Mantle] vs [Mountain].
With that, [Inferno] was cut. Well, more like side-lined for a later discussion down the line.
I looked longingly at [Storm], before hardening my heart and cutting it. Everyone telling me that [Storm] mages were almost useless had gotten through to me, even though riding a tornado sounded just as appealing as summoning a thunderstorm. None of those activities were in the book. Little weather manipulations, the scale I needed to impact far beyond what I could manage.
Couldn’t upgrade the class further if I was dead.
[Fire]. [Pyronox]. [Radiance]. [Lava]. [Steam].
[Pyronox] was a bit of an odd duck. Cleansing, removing flames – it was like a high-control version of Fire, with some twists and turns to it. I figure my control was high enough to make straight-up flames work, and [Fire] had better stats.
[Pyronox] got cut.
[Fire]. [Radiance]. [Lava]. [Steam].
I decided to reserve Fire. If anything seemed better than it, I’d take it. Otherwise, Fire was my last choice, so to speak. My backup option. At which point, I’d do my three way comparison.
I could see why Artemis was still an Earth mage. Nothing must’ve appealed to her enough to take an advanced Earth element, versus sticking with the simple, higher-stated, Earth.
[Steam] was the first one I looked at. Hot springs. Baths on the road. Never an unclean day again, steam cleaning every night. Hello. I could practically feel [Pretty] leveling up as I read over the class in detail.
The self-defense portion was fairly weak. Somehow, it was even weaker than [Fire] was in that respect. I’d need to condense steam even harder, heat it even hotter, and then, there was a chance it’d just turn into water as I did it, at which point the mysterious aspects of magic kicked in, and I wouldn’t be able to control it. It would be an amazing element if I opened a bathhouse, but the idea of parboiling someone until the skin sloughed off did not appeal in the slightest. It was a ridiculously ugly way of killing someone.
Heck, [Acid] had cleaner kills, and that involved people screaming as they melted into a puddle of goo. Killing Kerberos was still fresh in my mind, and [Steam] quite frankly lacked the proper “offensively defensive” aspects, as lovely as it was on the utility side.
Thinking about it – when I wanted, needed self-defense, I needed it purely on the offensive side. Between [Veil] and [Phases of the Moon], I had a cockroach-like defense. Nothing like a warrior, but I rated myself as “hard to kill” defensively. I needed offensive firepower, to be able to stop people attacking me.
From a utility aspect, they both had small amounts, but nothing spectacular. A detailed read showed that my current Fire utility skills would all upgrade neatly.
Lava was fairly solid, as elements went. Solid, in the literal sense, where I could throw up a dome of Lava, and attackers would need to get through it. On the offensive side, I was like Artemis, able to throw high-speed, burning rocks at people.
Although, I’d need to conjure up everything I threw. And Artemis hated conjuring up Earth, due to how expensive it was from the weight. To be fair, she had it on easy mode, constantly walking on endless ammo.
[Radiance] on the other hand, had almost nothing in the defense department. It was all about blinding, burning, searing light. Light that moved quickly, almost impossible to defend against. Radiance that burned so hot, it’d cauterize any wounds left behind.
Searing brilliance that, if I needed it to, would quickly, almost painlessly, dispatch a foe.
It called to me. It fit. My style with my flames had more and more moved towards narrow beams of compressed fire, to better punch through defenses, hit a single spot and damage it. Radiance was the natural extension of this, the entire style dedicated towards thin beams of burning, penetrating light.
As a bonus, it also was high up, the boost from having Light in Celestial giving it a leg up on the other classes, giving me more stats than [Lava].
It was what I needed, what I was looking for. Pure offensive firepower.
I didn’t need the defensive aspects of [Lava], nor did the increased cost of attacks appeal to me.
I decided to check what the description was, having skimmed over most of them.
[Ranger-Mage – Radiance] You’ve glowed like the moon. Twinkled like the stars. Shined like the Aurora. Burned liked a fire. Now, Blaze like the sun! +10 Free Stats, +5 Speed, +5 Vitality, +20 Mana, +20 Mana Regen, +20 Magic Power, +20 Magic Control per level.
“This one please.” I told Librarian.
She smiled at me.
“Great! Let’s go check it out.”