Before I knew it, it was lunch, and Night was yawning.
“Right, see you tomorrow morning, more of the same.” He said. “I’m off to bed.”
I saluted – him being the boss made it more than appropriate – and suddenly, I was free, with a whole day in front of me to worry over my date later tonight!!!
Ok, breathe in, breathe out. I was the bloody Dawn Sentinel. No date could stop me!
Although, what if those voices had been right? What if she found out that I was a Sentinel, and it scared her off? Knew that I’d killed, and didn’t want someone with blood on their hands?
My stomach was doing flip-flops, the butterflies inside throwing a rave.
Ok, think. Plan. Execute. This was like getting ready to slay a monster, or diagnosing a patient before healing them. This was the same as any other problem, and I’d been trained how to handle problems.
The Problem: I wanted Jaclyn to like me, and I wanted our date to go well.
What could I control: Myself. My equipment. My planning.
I was totally going to wear my dress, the one that I could imbue elements into. It was fancy, fun, and simply perfect.
Bracelet and pendant were in. Knife?
Knife was in. It was pretty standard, and it’d be given to me when I was a kid. I wasn’t about to reject it.
Right. That’s what I currently had. What else could I use?
Cosmetics. I had absolutely none.
Something for my hair. Again with the “not having anything.”
My hair was pixie-short again, the Frontlines having been terrible for hair. However, I’d slowly been letting it grow out, and now that I was a Sentinel, I could consider going for long hair. I liked my hair long.
Other resources: A huge pile of coins.
Today’s mission: Go out into town, buy cosmetics, get something for my hair, possibly get a little gift of some sort.
Potential obstacles: Thieves, like the one that had stymied my attempt to get tons of scrolls.
Additional goals: Maybe new sandals? My current ones were, putting it nicely, very practical and had many miles on them. I could get something new and shiny.
If I had time.
Right! Order of operations time!
I should bring my dress with me. One of the [Beauticians] must have a way to change.
I should scout out the location and the surrounding area, and work from there.
I nodded to myself. Right. I had a plan. Let’s execute it.
I grabbed one of the larger pouches – more like a courier’s bag – and carefully folded my dress into it. I left HQ, and started off by scouting the scene of the future battle date. Knowing the terrain was important. Geography impacted history, history impacted politics, and-
I shook my head. Nope. Those lessons were going to be completely useless here. Focus.
I made my way through town, back to the restaurant. Along the way, all the people eyeing me up yesterday and today finally paid off.
[*ding!* Congratulations! [Vigilant] has reached level 199!]
A good omen! Everything was coming up Elaine!
Right, The Blue Harpoon was with a bunch of other restaurants, and there were merchants nearby, selling food. It was in a nicer-but-not-the-nicest district, and there were a number of high-end stores in the area. They weren’t the best in the capital, but they were pretty good.
A quick mental calculus of added cost vs added improvement to appearance, vs extra travel time to potentially reduce or remove said added appearance, was done, and I settled on nearby stores.
I swung by the food vendors, and picked up a dozen mangos, coins changing hands. I tried to have a nice afternoon snack of only six mangos, enjoying the sun on my face as I ate on a bench in a little park.
Darn butterflies were going to ruin everything.
I kept the remaining six for later, excited to share the sweet nectar of mango with Jaclyn.
I moved the name over my tongue.
My first date!
I kicked my feet happily at the thought.
I stopped my imagination from going on a runaway train of “what-ifs” and “laters”.
Right. I still had hours to go, but I was going to start getting ready now.
I washed my face off, then went to the [Cobbler] to get myself a new, fancy pair of sandals. After much browsing and hemming and hawing over it, I got a simple, sturdy, comfortable pair, that didn’t look like it had hundreds of miles of wear on them, that made me look and feel [Pretty].
The baths were next, a solid, full-body scouring, rubbing my body clean to within an inch of its life. I was going to practically sparkle.
Alright, the [Beautician] was next. I found a store, and went in.
“Hi! How can we help you?” The woman behind the counter cheerfully asked me.
“Wellllll…” I said, drawing it out. “I have a date tonight!” I exclaimed, letting the happiness leak out. Might have been a bit of a Radiance glow as well.
“Oh my goodness! How exciting!” She said, showing as much excitement as I was feeling. “And let me guess. You want some help for the big event?”
I did my best woodpecker impression.
“Alrighty! Well, it’ll be a rod, before the cosmetic price is factored in. Is that ok?”
“Sure. However, no lead or mercury cosmetics. Is that ok?”
“Sure, but that limits us quite a bit. Can I ask why?”
Whoops. I’d managed to put my foot in it. This was going to be all sorts of awkward.
“Please don’t get mad. They’re a slow, slow poison. I’m a healer, and I can’t handle them.” I said, closing my eyes, waiting for the inevitable anger.
She just laughed at me.
“I don’t know where that rumor came from! Lead’s perfectly fine, we’ve used it for decades! But sure, we can skip it if you’d like.”
Close one! I wasn’t going to argue with them. We could both quietly think the other one was a lunatic, and I wasn’t going to go on a one-woman crusade against the entire cosmetics industry, not when I wanted their help badly.
“Last question! Do you have one or more appearance skills? And if so, which one? [Beautiful], [Sexy], [Pretty], [Attractive], [Lovely], [Gorgeous], [Exquisite], [Splendid], [Fabulous], [Fine-looking], [Jade Beauty], [Eye-Catching], [Good-looking], [Cute], [Ravishing], [Stunning], [Resplendent], [Dashing], [Mesmerizing], [Alluring], [Imposing] or any of the other ones?”
I blinked. I hadn’t even realized how many there were… and the System was busy offering them all to me.
Ooooh the things I could do with eight appearance skills.
… The number of people that’d bug me with eight appearance skills. I’d stick with [Pretty].
“[Pretty]!” I said, happy it was near the top of the list.
“Great! Our [Pretty] expert is with someone else. You can wait a bit to see her, or you can see someone else.”
I glanced at the sun. Plenty left.
“I’ll wait!” I said.
I waited, and ended up with the [Pretty] expert in no time.
“[Pretty] right?” She asked.
“Ok cool! I’m Albina – nice to meet you! Light touches then – [Pretty] works best when just a touch is applied.”
“I heard you have a big date tonight!” Albina said, all happy and excited for me.
“Come, sit, sit! New person, old person, tell me all about them.”
“Well, so, I kinda, maybe, possibly, saw them yesterday, and well, asked them out. Kinda. Well, she ended up asking me out. Um. Yeah.” I said, fumbling the entire thing horribly.
“Ha! I remember my first date.” She said fondly, starting to bustle around me. “Why, it was a lovely autumn evening, and…”
I sat there patiently while she did her thing, chattering away happily.
“Oh, do you want longer hair? I assume you want it short, but…”
“Wait, you can grow out hair!?” I exclaimed.
“Yup! Costs extra, but it’s a skill of mine!” Albina told me, picking up strands of hair and putting it down.
“Fuck! Why didn’t anyone tell me! I’d have gotten it grown out weeks ago!” I cried out.
She suddenly looked sad, patting my shoulder.
“I dunno what you did to get way over level 220, 230 at your age, but you clearly didn’t spend a lot of time in towns.”
I felt a pang of sadness go through me at that. She was right. I’d ditched anything remotely resembling a normal life years ago, when I ran away from home.
I closed my eyes, breathing in, breathing out, resetting myself mentally.
“Ran away at 14. Bunch of time in the wilderness.” I said, all of it true. I don’t know why I was suddenly being cagey about being a Ranger – no, a Sentinel. Maybe I just wanted to feel somewhat normal, a typical woman for a day.
“Why don’t we go for shoulder blade length? I can give it some subtle curls, really bring your eyes out.” She suggested.
The [Pretty] expert did her work, and it was amazing.
[*ding!* Congratulations! [Pretty] has reached level 133!]
[*ding!* Congratulations! [Pretty] has reached level 134!]
“Would you believe I leveled twice.” I said, changing into my amazing dress.
“Oooh! Yay!” She said. “My record’s three time, but never on someone so high level! I also got a level from you.”
She paused, blinking.
“Two levels from you.”
“My [Pretty] level isn’t all that high.”
“Yeah, well, you’re something special. I got a main class level, which I got one recently. I’ve had three people since then, and I leveled off of you. Twice.”
I got my dress settled, practicing flowing Celestial through it, the starry sky showing on the dress, tiny little comet-illusions going off of it.
I was feeling very [Pretty]. I had a little twirl, feeling the weight of my new hair doing strange things.
It was one thing to slowly grow out hair. It was quite another to suddenly have a bunch.
Eh. Albina had been so nice, and why not, it wasn’t every day I could pull this off. There was a chance I’d become famous soon, and my anonymity would vanish.
I paid her, left her a nice tip, then at the end, paused as I was on my way out the door.
“All your levels might have been because I’m Sentinel Dawn.” I said, winking at her, then leaving. One two, and from right outside the store, I heard her-
“Oh my god we just had a Sentinel in the store!! She was a woman!!”
Oooh this could be fun.