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I looked around the room. Lavish. Luxurious. Probably standard for how a healer lived. Whatever.

What was more interesting were the people here. Four men sat around a central table loaded with the tastiest of – was that a mango!?

Heck yes it was.

Ok, focus. Back on topic.

Caecilius was seated, eyebrows climbing up into his hair, eyes twinkling with amusement and swirling with Mist, marking his element. His poor apprentice wasn’t cut out for this sort of life, making strangled noises in the background.

Three other men were seated around the table. The dude mistaking me for a servant I was mentally dubbing ‘Wine Slob’, because he was asking for wine and looked like a total slob. His back was to me – he hadn’t even looked. Probably guessed I was a servant by my footsteps – it wasn’t like I was quiet, and it wasn’t like I was making big, heavy plodding footsteps like a giant would. Couldn’t see his face, but dude was pudgy, grease stains on the shoulder of his tunic where he was clearly wiping his fingers off.

‘Relaxed’ was what I dubbed the dude who was sitting – no, lounging – in the most carefree manner. He didn’t even glance over or blink at our little altercation.

‘Blue’ was the last dude, on account of having a love affair with the color. His tunic was cyan, with dark blue threads woven, making patterns in his tunic.

Normal so far.

A blue bracelet. Blue hair. Blue sandals. I could practically hear a song being sung in my head.

Brown eyes though. Unlucky him. Would’ve been perfect with his theme. They were incredibly shiny, and if I had to bet, I’d bet on him having a Mirror element. Had the same eyes as Mirror from Ranger Academy.

I shouldn’t have named him Mirror. Ah well.

He was focused on the altercation, slowly putting down his cup.

Wine Slob started to turn around, stormy look on his face.

“Who do-“ He started to say, only for Flavinius to step in, trying to keep the peace.

“Peace all. Let’s not fight in my home. Let me introduce Sentinel Dawn, the newest Sentinel, focused purely on healing. Dawn, this is…” He proceeded to rattle off everyone’s name. They went in one ear, and out the other.

However, Flavinius had been nothing but kind, courteous, pleasant, and helpful. I could keep the peace for him – as long as Wine Slob didn’t poke the bear again.

Wine Slob was a Decay healer, focused on removing disease, and other problems. Blue was indeed a Mirror healer, and from the sound of it, had a class like the [Picture of Health] class I’d been offered a long time ago. Relaxed was Steam, which worked a lot like Caecilius, except he had a warming effect with all his skills.

Honestly, not judging Caecilius, but Steam seemed better than Mist in a straight up one to one comparison for healing. Then again, Caecilius had almost 100 levels on the dude, so element clearly wasn’t everything. Whatever.

There were a number of apprentices off to the side, who had been chatting with each other, but fell silent at our little altercation. Most were older than me, which was doing me no favors. Whatever.

“… In conclusion, Sentinel Dawn is here to knock out the Coughing Illness before it becomes anything more serious.” Flavinius said, finishing up the introduction, and outlining the problem.

Yeah. Helpers. I needed them. Like Sky needed the Pegasus, or Ocean needed his boat, they were a vital tool I didn’t think I could manage without.

“Thank you.” I said, saying something before Wine Slob could get a word out. “While it’s not a problem now, it has the potential to become a problem later. An ounce of prevention’s worth a pound of cure and all that.”

The blank looks said that my idiom had completely failed to hit the mark. Ah well. The concept was there.

“Anyways. As Flavinius said, I’m here to straight up knock the plague out before it can become a larger problem. I’m working with the governor, but I’d also like your help.”

“What’s in it for us?” Blue asked, in a reasonable tone. Not aggressive, not challenging, just curious.

I blinked at him.

“Um…” I said, at a loss for words. Like, wasn’t it obvious?

“Experience? No more plague? A clean city?” I said.

“Pay, girl. He’s asking about pay.” Wine Slob said, rubbing his fingers together. “A sickness like this is good money for us. As long as it’s under control, why should we be concerned with eliminating it? Are you sure you’re any good at this healing business, and shouldn’t just leave it to men who know what they’re doing?”

There was general nodding around the table – even Flavinius was reluctantly nodding. Caecilius had a bit of a frown.

You know what? Screw this dude.

“Without pay, you won’t help?” I asked, looking around. Bunch of reluctant nods.

Bloody hell. This is what happened when the government didn’t believe in any sort of government programs. Heck, I could name exactly four – technically five things the Senate funded. Town walls, roads, the Army, including Rangers and Sentinels, tax collectors, and themselves. Of course, governors also raised taxes, but that was mostly to pay for the local guard, and enforce whatever rules they saw fit in their town. Everything else was left to a laissez faire approach.

Hence, fire brigades refusing to extinguish fires, unless the property was sold to them first.

Hence, cripples who couldn’t afford healing being left to die.

Hence, orphans. With no orphanages.

Hence, healers unwilling to stamp out a plague in its infancy. Bad for business. Why not just let it run its course for some time, milk it for all it’s worth? If it gets too bad, well, business booms more.

Remus, and Pallos at large, was still relatively new, as far as worlds and civilizations went. The concept of “band resources together because it’s easier for us to all do things as a group instead of individually” had clearly made its way through – it was the fundamental basis of government – but what should be done as a group was still, shall we say, a hair shaky. Like healthcare. There’d be fewer sick people if the town just taxed everyone, then paid the healers to heal everyone, no questions asked. Globally better for everyone. The healers still get paid, people still get healed, but a bunch of friction vanished. If people wanted stuff above and beyond simple healing – say, someone old wanting constant healing to feel their best – they could still pay for it.

But nooooo. The government was hands-off. Let people figure it out themselves. Which led to this mess.

Ok, to be fair – I was being paid by the government. If I was totally on my own, not Sentinel Dawn but just Elaine, [Wandering Healer], I might have a very different take on things. I might not be trying to heal everyone for free – I’d want to get enough money to, you know, eat and such, and pay for travel. No way would I travel on the roads alone, without an escort.

Nobody was exactly wrong here. The Senate should really figure out this properly.

Well – I thought back to my Legal lessons. It was a town by town issue, so the local Governor should be the one figuring it out.

Not my challenge, not today. Getting a proper medical system arranged was a challenge for another time and place, and ideally, someone who reveled in that sort of diplomatic wheeling and dealing. Just needed to find the right person, get the idea in their head…

I mentally shook myself. Focus.

At the same time, they weren’t exactly hurting for money. Everyone was rich, not that I blamed them for making a living, and I’d inadvertently increased their workload by accidentally removing one of the other healers in town.

I drummed my fingers on my arm.

“Fine. What would you each want for a single evening of healing as many people as possible? I’m not asking for you to cure any ailment, simply targeting the affliction in question.”

“Eh. Don’t we just need to cure people who look sick?” Relaxed asked, contributing to the conversation for the first time.

“No, but yes.” I said, after a moment’s thought. “It’s possible to have the sickness and not show it, but still spread it to others. In that sense, you need to heal everyone. At the same time, Caecilius and I are able to mass heal people.”

I thought about it for a moment, doing some lightning calculations in my head. The town was small. Not everyone was sick – or rather, the people who were more sick required amounts of mana that were significant, the rest were so small as to be ignored.

“Honestly. End of the day I can do this entire thing on my own.” I said. “I’m asking for your help both as a courtesy to you, and to make my life a bit easier. With that being said, let’s discuss pay for a night’s work…”

With that, I sat down, grabbed that mango that had been sitting on the table, tempting me with its luscious goodness, and started peeling – and negotiating – in earnest.

Darn mango was practically all pit.


After a few painful hours of negotiating – didn’t they all have a clinic to run that they needed to get back to – we’d hammered out a deal.

Rather, I’d hammered out a deal with Blue, Flavinius, and Caecilius. Wine Slob wanted too much – I wasn’t willing to meet his price – while Relaxed didn’t seem to care enough. “Too much work” in his words.

I also suspected I’d been fleeced horribly in the deal, but didn’t know enough to say otherwise.

I left the meeting, angry and frustrated. Wine Slob had taken every chance to belittle me, although his crestfallen look when I’d basically said ‘screw it, I’m not going to bother dealing with you’ let me know that he was a hair disappointed that he wouldn’t get paid for the mass heal event. Thought he could bend me to his will, that just because I was a woman I’d cater to his whims. Ha! Not likely.

Caecilius had been the most reasonable, followed closely by Flavinius. They both extorted a bunch of money out of me, but hey, that was life.

Blue drove a much harder bargain, arguing on the basis of being able to bulk-heal. Caecilius taking a single, bulk payment helped negate a bunch of that, and both Blue and Caecilius were getting a single payment.

Flavinius had argued well on being paid per-person. In short, if he managed to heal around 400 people, he’d make a heck of a lot more than the others. Which really wasn’t fair, since they would all be healing more people on average than he was – but on the flip, Flavinius could really only heal people that were visibly ill.

This whole thing was a gods-damned mess. I was doing this solo next time.

Or maybe…

“Caecilius! Hey Caecilius!” I said, catching up to the elderly man as we left Flavinius’s place, all the polite formalities having been sorted out.

“Sentinel Dawn.” Caecilius said, perfectly polite, even half-bowing. “I thought our business was mostly concluded in the prior meeting?”

“Oh for today’s stuff, sure! However, I wanted to have a chat with you about a different, long-term arrangement.”

Caecilius looked at the sky, at the sun starting to head towards the horizon. He sighed, a deep, weary noise that spoke of ‘darnit, the day’s totally shot isn’t it?’

“Of course Sentinel Dawn.” He said, hands folded in front of him. Blah.

“Short, short version, for you to think about.” I was shit at reading body language, but I was getting a ‘tired of all this damn politicking’ vibe off of him. Not that I blamed him. I felt the same way.

Please just give me a congo line of people to heal, or a bunch of people in one spot with the moons out. The frontlines were blessedly uncomplicated in that respect.

Maybe I could ask to hang out there now and then?

But then all the Ranger Trainees would be missing the best healing education possible…

Then again, they’d lived so far without me.

Focus. Here and now.

“I foresee that we’ll end up working a solid amount together. Whenever I can be spared, and the plague’s big enough, I’ll also be sent to handle it. No idea how it works on my end, but I know I can have a few people as helpers. I could probably try to wrangle something with you, get a number of your expenses paid, a few privileges, to just… keep doing what you’re doing, and give me a helping hand when I need to handle a plague. No need to give me an answer now, just think about it.”

Caecilius blinked. His apprentice was trying to catch flies.

“That is an exceedingly generous offer, Sentinel Dawn.” He said after a moment, giving me a quarter bow. “I will have to think on it.”

“Yeah, no worries. Not even sure if it’s fully possible, but it should be. You can give an answer at Ranger HQ at any time! Don’t even need to catch me here. You are based out of the capital right?”

He slowly nodded at me.

“Have a good day.”

I recognized a ‘I am so ready to get out of here’ when I heard it. Heck, I was of the same frame of mind.

“Thanks! You too!”

He walked away.

Ok… back to the governor I guess?

Dear gods. Endless meetings. Shoot me now. I needed a helper.

I paused a moment, thinking.

I needed a helper… or to get a level so high I could just flat-out purge a town on my own in a single go.

Hmmmmmmmm.

 

 

[Name: Elaine]

[Race: Human]

[Age: 18]

[Mana: 49600/49600]

[Mana Regen: 40336 (+3086.16)]

Stats

[Free Stats: 18]

[Strength: 236]

[Dexterity: 203]

[Vitality: 560]

[Speed: 480]

[Mana: 4960]

[Mana Regeneration: 4676 (+1318.632)]

[Magic Power: 4325 (+44331.25)]

[Magic Control: 4325 (+44331.25)]

[Class 1: [Constellation of the Healer - Celestial: Lv 242]]

[Celestial Affinity: 242]

[Warmth of the Sun: 198]

[Medicine: 210]

[Center of the Galaxy: 236]

[Phases of the Moon: 242]

[Moonlight: 242]

[Veil of the Aurora: 212]

[Vastness of the Stars: 139]

[Class 2: [Ranger-Mage - Radiance: Lv 180]]

[Radiance Affinity: 180]

[Radiance Resistance: 180]

[Radiance Conjuration: 180]

[Radiance Manipulation: 180]

[Sun-Kissed: 141]

[Blaze: 180]

[Talaria: 161]

[Nova: 180]

[Class 3: Locked]

General Skills

[Identify: 136]

[Recollection of a Distant Life: 159]

[Pretty: 135]

[Bullet Time: 189]

[Oath of Elaine to Lyra: 205]

[Sentinel's Superiority: 196]

[Persistent Casting: 35]

[Learning: 242]



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A note from Selkie

I've been reading too much Blue Core. The reference was entirely, 100% unintentional, and I only caught it on editing. Here's a link: https://www.royalroad.com/fiction/25082/blue-core

 

For those that missed it:

"Blue drove a much harder bargain"

 


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