I paused a moment on my way up and out of the pirate ship, taking the stairs like a normal person. Everyone had been thanking me. Which implied they could see me. Which meant…
I looked down. Yeah, the invisibility had worn off. Not only was I coated in blood, but I could see my sandals and shin guards. Drat.
I hesitated a moment, before deciding to take a quick dunk in the sea, to hopefully wash everything off. I emerged from below the decks, only for me to spot pirates on the deck of the merchant’s ship.
Who promptly spotted me.
“There he is!”
You’d think, with all the pirates who’d seen me, that they’d get I was a woman. But nooo. Deadly Sentinel murdering them all had to be a dude.
I promptly launched myself up, having a clear view of the sky after burning all the sails and other nonsense. Also, since my invisibility was down, flying was back on the menu. A number of arrows and other projectiles were shot my way, most of which flat-out missed, some of which needed [Veil] intervention, and one arrow needing a small twist to dodge.
Then I was back up in the air, far above them, and, well, there really was only one way this could end.
Five [Nova]s later, four kill notifications, and the top deck was mine again, the rest of the pirates having scurried below deck.
Shame they couldn’t just stay on the deck and trade shots with me until the fight was over. It’d be so much easier.
Right. 17 pirates dead, two out of commission. I still wanted to take that dunk – although I needed to get some rope to easily pull myself out of the water.
Like, there was no practical reason, except “not smelling like blood” and “reducing the personal ick factor a hair.”
A length of rope, some inexpert knots, and ramming my not-so-trusty blade into a plank to find it once I was done later, and I was lowering myself into the water, making sure I was on the sunny side of the boat.
[*Ding!* Your party has slain a [Storm Sailor] (Water, lv 145)// [Reluctant Pirate] (Wood, lv 94)]
[*Ding!* Your party has slain a [Linesman] (Wood, lv 129)// [Pirate] (Dark, lv 63)]
I spent a moment thinking, as I scrubbed the blood off, watching it sluice off.
Ah. The prisoners.
That I’d left with a bunch of angry, recently freed slaves.
I cringed, waiting, expecting [Oath] to punish me. Nothing. Too abstract? Too far? It wasn’t me doing it? Or was the fact that it was a genuine mistake in the heat of combat enough?
Either way – wasn’t going to make that mistake again.
I kept a wary eye out for any pirates who were in the water who might take the chance to stab me, or any sea monsters attracted by the blood. I had no idea what lurked below, and I doubled my resolve to avoid boats in the future.
All too quickly – I’m sure I was missing some spots – I hauled myself back out of the water, let [Talaria] take over the climbing, grabbed my stolen sword, and hacked myself out of the ropes. I looked over towards the merchant’s ship.
Hard mode time.
I flew over the ship, looking down at it. There were three main entrances, and I was willing to bet they were all guarded – and the pirates had plenty of time to arrange traps and the like. I was also no longer invisible, able to just sneak in.
Hmmmm. I should make my own entrance. Or…
Lemme see if the exit I made was an entrance now. The quarters had been extremely cramped, which is why I wanted out, but maybe it was an in now – especially since I was now flying and free, if there was a pirate on the lookout, free snipe.
I didn’t need to fight all the pirates at once. I just needed to fight every pirate one at a time. 5v1 would see me dead. Five 1v1’s would have a pile of pirate bodies.
I flew over to where I’d blasted a hole in the side of the merchant’s ship, and flipped myself upside down, slowly lowering myself to peek in through the top.
Sneaky on top of sneaky.
The three useless adventurers were there, looking somewhat uneasily out at the water. Door was closed. I quickly withdrew my head.
My bag – with my good weapons, among other things – was there.
Like. I’d stayed basically within arm’s reach of them the whole time I’d been on the ship, but nooo, when push came to shove there just hadn’t been enough time to grab it, versus managing the situation.
The useless cargo had clearly been bought off, and I wasn’t going to risk them deciding that they were on team pirate now, versus team themselves. At the same time, they were three moderate to high level combat classes, and I didn’t want to tussle with them if I didn’t need to. They’d also shown themselves to be useless, and I couldn’t rely on them.
Refocusing to the pirates, even by conservative estimates, I’d probably killed half the pirates. If pirates were guarding each of the entrances, they were divided up even more.
Divide, and conquer.
I landed back on top of the ship, breathing in, making sure I stayed topped up and maxed out. Screw it. I had a ton of mana, and I was going to throw mana at the problem. I took aim at the door at the front – the bow? – of the boat, and unleashed a flurry of [Nova]s at it.
There were skills at work, but the end result was a smoking hole where the door used to be, and two kill notifications. Any trap, ambush, or whatever on the other side was now non-existent, blown apart by my [Nova]’s.
It wasn’t [Fireball], but it did one heck of a solid copy of it.
I trotted over to the smoking hole formerly known as a door, and grimaced.
I’d completely overkilled it.
The door was gone.
The pirates were gone.
The traps were gone.
The stairs were gone.
The ropes were gone.
The floor was gone.
Basically – I’d need to drop into a dark hole, with no sunlight, and pray that I both landed well, didn’t land on a sharp, broken jug – broken crates were strewn about, cracked and broken pottery leaking wine, and the sharp edges had to be somewhere – then pray a bunch of pirates weren’t running to the source of the commotion.
I flew out, and around the ship. I found a spot, and threw [Nova]s at it until the wall broke, then quickly bailed before getting a good look at it.
Five spots. I blasted five more holes in the hull of the ship before I was satisfied. This wasn’t the pirate ship, where everyone could see everything below decks. This was a huge merchant vessel, packed with goods, with multiple layers of decks. Which included a bunch of walls and other stuff, which translated into being hard to run around in.
It also had holes on three different layers, although none too close to the waterline. I did want to catch a ride home at the end of the day, and sinking my ride would be terrible. Also, [Oath] would brutally punish me for it.
I paused a moment, doing some quick self-reflection.
Why was I stalling? Why was I being so careful? Why was I taking this so slowly?
Like. Dropping into the hole would probably be a bad move, but making five more holes as distraction? Blowing huge chunks of mana swiss-cheesing my ride home?
I took a deep breath, and examined myself. A meditation of sorts, while keeping my head on a swivel, making sure I wasn’t about to be attacked.
…and that was the crux of the matter, wasn’t it? I was under attack, I felt like I was under attack. In a word – I was afraid. Afraid of being captured, afraid of being sold into slavery, and all that entailed. Afraid of dying. Afraid of failing.
And it was people I was running around killing, not aggressive goblins. It shouldn’t make a difference, but it did. My opponents were smart. They were cunning. They were murderous. If they got their hands on me, I’d suffer terribly, beyond anything I could imagine.
This hadn’t been a short fight to boot. It was a long, grinding affair, and I had the initiative to boot. Which meant I decided when the next action happened, when the next risk to my life and limb occurred. It wasn’t a quick bout like Kerberos, or even a slightly longer fight like the goblins.
The self-reflection, as poorly timed as it was, was good for me. It let me face my fears, let them pass over and through me.
I smacked my cheeks, giving myself a pep talk.
I was Sentinel Dawn! Heck yeah! These pirates had nothing on me!
I flew over with [Talaria], and just walked into one of the holes I’d made. A pirate lunged out at me, screaming, and I drilled a hole through his chest. Took a second to drop him.
He collapsed, blade swinging out in one last, weak, futile effort to hit me.
I let it hit my armor and slide right off, the force and angle too weak to do anything to me.
I was Dawn.
I left the room, exiting the ship again, poking into another hole I’d made.
“He-She’s here! She’s here!” The pirate yelled, running away.
I – fucking hell.
I couldn’t shoot someone in the back who was obviously running away, regardless of what his group was trying to do.
Blasted freaking [Oath].
I bailed, and did a tour de holes, managing to snag two more pirates. Each one died almost as soon as I saw them, crushing them with my major advantage of stats and levels. It helped give me the confidence that I could do this, that I could walk through the ship and just kill them all.
Blah. I didn’t like being the bloody butcher. Nice thing about Radiance though, it left smoking holes, not explosions of gore.
I revisited the first new and improved entrance to the ship, wrinkling my nose at the smell of cauterized flesh with wine. The pirates had learned, and they were no longer in the rooms, keeping watch. My hit and runs had whittled them down even further, and I was feeling confident enough to start stalking the innards of the pirate ship.
I used a [Cast Scream] to make one hell of a noise, before zooping over to another entrance, gracefully landing right inside.
I flung the door open – no careful, cowering moves from me, not now, not anymore.
I stalked through the ship, killing a pair of pirates I came across. The first one opened a door halfway through the hallway, the other turned a corner at an unfortunate time.
They both died almost immediately after I saw them, and identified them as a threat. Maybe I could’ve just flat-out fought my way out – but this was easier. Safer. Why take a risky fight, when you can just slowly whittle them down one at a time? Killing them all was killing them all, no matter how fast – or slow – it took.
I hated being the lethal predator stalking the ship though, the stuff of nightmares made real. I wanted to fix people, heal them, restore them, not cause smoldering holes to appear in them.
Why couldn’t they have left me alone?
It felt like hours I’d been stalking the ship, finding and sniping pirates one at a time, dodging and running when it sounded like a group of them were roaming together.
Thirty sets of one versus one. Not one set of thirty versus one. A lethal game of cat and mouse.
I dropped to another floor, bending and absorbing the impact. Doors burst open around me, eight pirates surrounding me, charging at me.
An ambush, carefully prepared and laid for me. They’d worked out that I was avoiding their groups, and laid a trap for me, where I couldn’t hear them moving around. Yay [Bullet Time]!
I couldn’t fly. I had to deal with them all here and now. My endless reviewing of gems immediately gave me an answer, the emergency button I always had at the edge of my awareness, as I activated Sealing’s powerful [Brilliant Barrier].
Panes of hard light snapped around me, trapping me with three pirates. One I recognized as the same one who’d been acting as the leader in the room, who’d paid off the adventurers and tried to capture me.
One pirate dove in a tackle for me, the second one lunged low, their blade trying to pierce my stomach, the third one – the ‘sub-leader’ – slicing high.
I leaned back, the world moving around me in slow motion, moving my blade to parry the high stroke, going for a beam of Radiance through the second pirate going for the gut shot.
I wasn’t going to make it in time, I wasn’t going to be able to kill him before he skewered me like one of the food vendors arranging mystery meat on a stick.
I threw [Veil] in the way, hitting and stopping the blade, as the tackling pirate made it to me, starting a full-body tackle.
While they could maybe be put to better use somewhere else, no point if I was dead. I hit the tackling pirate with both [Shocking Paralysis] and followed it with [Mana Void] just to be safe. I’d killed enough people at close range with a surprise skill to not risk it.
The tackling pirate was completely crippled, unable to do anything. Perfect.
However, my parry of the high blade wasn’t going well, the blade being forced out of my hands as my meager physical stats were crushed by his. I’d tried to do a parry where I was simply redirecting the force, the classic move for someone with lower stats than the opponent, but it was all for naught. Either he had a skill in play – common for someone using blades – or his physical stats were just so monstrous that I was like a butterfly fart.
Sadly, I’d somewhat fucked up, and the tackling pirate’s continued momentum and size were more than enough to keep bowling me over, forcing me into the path of the blade I’d just leaned back to dodge. [Veil] was still doing full-time duty keeping my innards alive, blocking the low stab, as I felt the blade bite into my neck.
I hated getting injured in [Bullet Time], and yet, every time I was injured it was during it. Dangerous attacks and all that. Serious drawback to the skill.
I felt the cold blade bite into my neck, splitting skin, slicing through muscle, one centimeter at a time. A spray of blood as my carotid artery was split, a gust in my throat as my windpipe was opened to the air.
And still I was pushed forward, the blade going deep and deeper into my neck the longer the stroke was. I had way too much time to think, and I could easily calculate that it wasn’t going to entirely decapitate me, but it was going to be close.
My spine was spared, barely. I did feel the blade scraping against my spine, glancing off instead of biting and severing. One hell of a disconcerting feeling.
The stabbing-low-pirate died, a notification popping up. I immediately turned the Radiance onto the throat-slashing pirate, aiming for his eyes, trying to pop and boil them out of his head before continuing to penetrate his skull, aiming for his brain – which really, any damage to would be enough to kill.
I wasn’t going to use [Veil] to stop the blade – I needed it out of my neck.
A rippling sensation as my [Persistent Casting] [Phases of the Moon] healed the injury right behind the blade, rendering the blow that should’ve been lethal nothing more than a mana drain – and not a particularly bad one at that.
Didn’t stop a fine spray of blood spray-painting the room that [Brilliant Barrier] had created, the outline of the throat-slashing pirate painted behind him.
The blade exited my neck, time sped up again, my sword spinning off into the distance. I landed hard, the frozen body of the crippled pirate still on me, pressing me against the pane of light.
Showing me the angry pirates on the other side.
No – not angry. Scared. Disgusted. They’d just seen my throat slit, and nothing seemed to happen. Except it looked like two of their fellow pirates were now dead. Completely disabled looked a lot like dead.
And I was nicely shielded. Pirate body on one side, pane of light on the other. I couldn’t see particularly well, but the screaming let me know that the throat-slashing pirate was in bad shape. Having the eyes boiled out of your skull will do that to you.
I could barely see him out of the corner of my eye, the body blocking most of my view, but it was close enough to fire Radiance at him. Head shots were nice and clean, but I was at a shit angle to see properly. I simply kept firing thin lances of Radiance around, figuring that I’d just char holes through him until I hit something critical – or until he’d had enough holes in him that he couldn’t maintain living.
I’d been pretty clear on the surrender conditions. I didn’t see the need to repeat myself.
I winced as the pirate blindly swung his blade out towards me, instead hitting his fellow pirate who was shielding me, gouts of flesh gouged out.
It was a bad look to the pirates outside the barrier, and I saw first one, then the rest, turn and flee.
The throat-slashing pirate clearly had felt his blade connect, and had to assume it was me. He went nuts on the offense.
It was kinda gnarly, I had to admit. The throat-slashing pirate was slashing into the tackling-now-meat-shield pirate, large chunks of gore being ripped out and splattered against the Brilliant walls surrounding us, caging us together.
I quite honestly felt a little bad, a little responsible, a lot loving my meat shield, and I had tons of mana to spare. I threw mana into healing my meat shield, while continuing to fire Radiance through the pirate.
Slash. Slice through muscle and tendons, skin and bone. Spray it against a wall.
Heal. Restore the broken and battered body.
Radiance. Throw another beam through where I thought his center of mass was.
Scream, as I hit him, as I continued to chip away at him.
He started to slow down, then stop, collapsing to the ground.
A notification let me know that I’d killed the pirate, and I heaved my meat shield off of me, still frozen.
That had to hurt. There’d been nothing in what Night told me about pain-removal or mitigation.
Ah shoot. This would’ve been a perfect time for [Vastness of the Stars]. I’d have to remember it next time a high-pain situation arrived.
Still, he was more useful than the adventurers.
I patted him.
“Better take [Meat Shield] as your next class.” I suggested, not at all helpfully.
I took a look around. No more pirates – they’d all fled from the undying lunatic and her trusty meat shield.
I’d caused no small amount of damage to the ship though – Brilliance barriers had a weak spot to Radiance, and some of my beams that had drilled through the pirates had kept right on going, gouging out chunks of the ship.
I wanted a lot more of these barriers though. Being able to hole up and just shoot out? Yes please, this seemed like a great build. Shame I didn’t have a third class to grab [Barrier Expert] with. Time to make friends with Sealing – and the Quartermaster. Or just buy a bunch of quartz myself.
This was going to be my ride home. If the captain didn’t murder me for all the damage I’d caused. Heck, at this rate, I was causing more damage than the pirates would’ve.
Not my problem though. I’d sink the entire ship before letting myself get captured.
I rubbed my neck, smooth skin under my hands, not a trace of the violation that had just occurred to it present. I shuddered involuntarily.
That had been close. Way too close. Another quarter of an inch, another half a centimeter, and my head would’ve been separated from my neck.
Although – I’d healed so fast. I’d been healing the entrance of the cut before the sword had even exited my neck, as disconcerting of a feeling it was – both to feel and to know. Could I even be decapitated by a thin sword like that; could a clean cut kill me?
Not something I was eager to experiment with at all.