I unsteadily moved through the hallways, feeling myself crashing hard. My sea legs weren’t really working anymore, and I leaned against a wall for a moment, waving the sailor off.
I felt my arm being lifted up, and I saw Cassia next to me, putting my arm around her neck, then lifting in a way that I could still walk – but she was holding most of my weight. She gave me a knowing look.
“I don’t know much about being a Sentinel. I do know what ‘badly hurt and trying to hold it in’ looks like.”
How – right. Her arm. She’d lost it at one point.
“Tell you what. I know where the captain’s quarters are. Let’s get you bunked there.”
“No.” I grunted, putting one foot in front of the next, letting her lead.
Bless her, she didn’t ask.
“Sure.” I said, after a moment of thought. I didn’t remember deliberately trashing it, but who knew.
I could sense that she was brimming with questions. She didn’t ask any, instead grabbing my bag to carry.
After far too long – we had to go around a few holes, some of them still-burning, wading through some slowly draining puddles of wine here and there – we finally got to some room or another that I assumed had to be the first mates.
Like the rest, spare, a small chest with what I assumed was personal items, and a hammock.
“Do you want out of that?” Cassia asked me, eyeing my armor.
I stifled a groan as I looked down, flexing my back in a way that the broke parts of the armor cut into me.
I’d regenerated around it after all, and I didn’t enjoy metal spikes in my back.
“Please.” I said around clenched teeth.
It was one hell of a chore, and I stopped a scream leaving as Cassia finally ripped the armor out of my back.
She blinked at the spray of blood, immediately cut off by my healing.
“Wow. That’s – just, wow.” She said, with no small amount of disbelief.
She held the armor up, looking straight through the hole in the middle.
She might’ve said something after that. I had fallen into the hammock, and was already asleep.
I woke up, and started to process all the notifications I’d skipped over.
[*Ding!* Congratulations! [Constellation of the Healer] has leveled up to level 244->246! +10 Free Stats, +15 Mana, +15 Mana Regen, +15 Magic power, +15 Magic Control from your Class! +1 Free Stat for being Human! +1 Mana, +1 Mana Regen from your Element!]
[*Ding!* Congratulations! [Celestial Affinity] has reached level 244->246!]
[*Ding!* Congratulations! [Medicine] has reached level 210->215!]
[*Ding!* Congratulations! [Center of the Galaxy] has reached level 236->242!]
[*Ding!* Congratulations! [Phases of the Moon] has reached level 244->246!]
[*Ding!* Congratulations! [Moonlight] has reached level 244->246!]
[*Ding!* Congratulations! [Veil of the Aurora] has reached level 212->216!]
[*Ding!* Congratulations! [Vastness of the Stars] has reached level 139->144!]
[*Ding!* Congratulations! [Ranger-Mage] has leveled up to level 180->188! +10 Free Stats, +5 Speed, +5 Vitality, +20 Mana, +20 Mana Regen, +20 Magic power, +20 Magic Control from your Class! +1 Free Stat for being Human! +1 Strength, +1 Mana Regen from your Element!]
I ignored all the notifications of my capped skills getting re-capped.
[*Ding!* Congratulations! [Sun-Kissed] has reached level 142->145!]
[*Ding!* Congratulations! [Talaria] has reached level 161->163!]
[*Ding!* Congratulations! [Identify] has reached level 136->137!]
[*Ding!* Congratulations! [Bullet Time] has reached level 189->198!]
[*Ding!* Congratulations! [Oath of Elaine to Lyra] has reached level 206->210!]
Wait- oh, healing the pirate that just tried to murder me, saving his life. Counted for something good!
[*Ding!* Congratulations! [Sentinel’s Superiority] has reached level 201->206!]
That had been a very Sentinel-y thing I just did.
[*Ding!* Congratulations! [Persistent Casting] has reached level 48->55!]
Honestly, leveling the skill up was kinda useless.
[*Ding!* Congratulations! [Learning] has reached level 244->246!]
More capped skills staying capped! Huzzah!
The kill notifications sobered me up. I did give a bit of a thought to the people I’d killed, the lives I’d ruthlessly ended. On one hand, they’d all chosen a life of piracy, of robbing people, selling them into slavery, and murder.
On the other – I didn’t know their circumstances. I didn’t know if they’d been gang-pressed into service, if they were runaway slaves turning to piracy out of desperation, or what. It’d been fairly clear that they weren’t the “put everyone to the sword” type, willing to negotiate, buy guards off, and only take half the merchant’s goods, not stripping them to the bone.
Hell, if they had asked really nicely I might not have cared – the merchant being robbed was the merchant’s problem. My only complaint would be how long they took. Not that I approved, but between “fine, whatever” and “Stalk through the halls of the ship murdering pirates one by one”, I know which option I preferred.
Well. “Not being attacked by pirates” was the top choice.
And sure, I was a Sentinel, but I was a non-combat one. Someone like Brawling or Toxic would probably be expected to clean them all out if attacked, and if my identity was called out, I’d probably need to as well. But Healer Elaine had no such responsibility. Healer Elaine – and Dawn, at Headquarters, in private, could let pirates slide, especially when the odds were as stacked against me as they had been.
What was done was done, and I mourned, grieved for their loss. Grieved for the cold necessity that forced me to aim pinpoint beams of Radiance through eyes, that forced me to fly up high and bombard people with exploding balls of burning Radiance.
I wanted to give myself time. Time to process the emotions, my thoughts and feelings. Time to recover, to heal mentally. Time, so I wouldn’t end up scared of pain, time, so I wouldn’t harden my heart too much, so I wouldn’t lose my sense of empathy.
Time, so I wouldn’t turn into a cold, remorseless killing machine.
I really needed a good [Therapist].
I was distracted by a knock on the door, and a heavenly scent coming through.
“Come on in!” I said, much more cheerful than I felt.
It wasn’t like I hurt – physically, I was fine, apart from missing half my blood. Well, ok, fine, that wasn’t fine, but still.
No, I was hungry. Ravenous. Famished. Starved. Peckish.
FEED ME NOW.
Cassia opened the door, carefully managing to sway with the ship in a way to keep the food on the plate. I eyed it. No way I’d pull that off, the delicate balancing act while daintily keeping food on the plate.
Oh no. I’d have to scarf it down. Woe is me.
I could feel my saliva glands go into overdrive as the plate approached.
“You good?” Cassia asked, carefully, politely. Not wanting to set off the murderous lunatic.
I nodded furiously – not trusting my throat – and extended my hands out, in the “gimme” gesture.
Cassia obliged, and I tore into what had to be dino-steaks.
Bless the sailor that had told me to grab the “good food”. He knew what he was talking about!
It was meaty and delicious, perfectly seared – there had to be a [Sea Cook] or something – and it was better than the best steak I’d ever eaten.
Hunger was the best spice.
Cassia found a seat on the first mate’s sea chest, watching me inhale dinner. They’d piled it extra large – extra high – whatever, and I barely blinked as a particularly bad swing had one of the steaks fall off and land on my lap.
5 second rule. It was still good.
“So….” She said, seemingly hesitant, watching my gluttonous moves. “Sentinel, eh?”
I nodded between bites. Mouth was too full, and it was impolite to talk with your mouth open.
“Explains why you didn’t seem to care how well we could fight.”
“But what did you need us for?” She asked.
I lifted the plate in response, still not saying anything.
I thought about it a moment, then slowly nodded, then shook my head.
Charades were fun!
Cassia looked frustrated though. I decided to give her a hand, some normal human interaction after the vicious mess.
I took a moment of pause. Mostly so I could speak, and not go “mumph mumph mumph.”
“Sentinel can be exhausting.” I said. “Sometimes, it’s just easier to travel as Healer Elaine, than Sentinel Dawn. Like. Half the captains probably wouldn’t want a Sentinel on-board, and the other half wouldn’t talk with a woman. Or see me as a girl. And assume all sorts of things, making my life hard. A few adventurers to grease the wheels? Makes my life much easier, for what should be a cakewalk.”
Cassia couldn’t suppress the amused look on her face.
“Given that you basically did twenty times the damage to the ship that the pirates would’ve done, I can’t really say I blame the captain for not wanting a Sentinel onboard.”
“Blame the pirates. I didn’t ask for them to try and kidnap me, I offered them multiple chances to surrender and leave. They didn’t take them. What was I supposed to do, quietly let myself get sold into slavery?”
Cassia made a motion as if to pat me, then pulled back.
“By the way, not sure if you know, but…” She said, gesturing towards me.
I looked down-ish.
Being drenched in blood, then not doing anything about it, resulted in a lot of dried blood all over me. I wasn’t exactly a stranger to it, but I could see how it might be slightly disconcerting.
“Wanna get me a bucket and a rag?” I asked.
She was out of the room before I’d even finished.
A good amount of scrubbing later, a few delivered hot meals, a fresh tunic, and a couple days of sleep, and I was ready to tackle the loot.
Loot! At long last, glorious, delicious, loot for me!
I started off inspecting what we’d gotten.
First, was the good food, the dino steaks that everyone was feasting on. I had a feeling the captain was concerned I’d be hijacking it all, and, well, if the crew just so happened to eat it first…
I didn’t blame them.
Ingots of Noric Steel. Nice, but I had literally no use for them.
The Quartermaster might, but I ran into the “hauling crates of stuff around” problem.
Bolts of fine material for making clothes. I was for sure grabbing a few.
A scattering of furs. I’d need to properly inventory them, then grab a couple.
I realized as I looked through stuff – I wasn’t exactly hurting for money. Anything above and beyond my personal use, I’d need to go through the effort of selling.
I wasn’t in a position to sell stuff. Merchants were. Plus, it was probably more lucrative to sell healing services anyways. The only benefit to grabbing stuff here was I didn’t need to shop around, barter and trade.
A whole marketplace to myself, where everything was free, courtesy of the five-finger discount.
Plus, giving the stuff to the merchant with no arguments would probably go a decent way towards repairing our relationship. Not that I needed it repaired personally, but – PR. I’d basically blown his ship to pieces, and there was a world of difference between “Tough luck deal with it” and “oops, sorry, here’s some money for you.”
I was still going to take first pick of stuff – dude was terrible at hauling passengers around, all too willing to turn a blind eye to what the pirates wanted to do with me – but I couldn’t imagine myself single-handedly hauling crates of stuff out of the ship, trying to store them, then sell them one at a time, all while people tut-tutted about the money-grubbing Sentinel who was practically robbing the poor merchant blind.
Also, I remembered some vague lesson about how Rangers weren’t supposed to take stuff from people we beat up for our personal use, instead turning them over to whatever local government there was. Sure, the rule was bent all the time, but there was a world of difference from “oops where did those gems come from” and “I need a warehouse to store my stuff.”
Speaking of gems! The last crate, tucked in a corner, had been pried open and closed so many times that there was practically no structural integrity left on it. I simply reached out and lifted the “hammered in” lid, to find a thin layer of gems on the bottom of a large crate.
The little scratches on the inside let me know that this crate had started off full, and that dozens of little rats had been scratching at it. A pirate here, a pirate there, and shit the pirate I crippled.
I’d completely forgotten about him. Technically a prisoner. I didn’t even have a cursebreaking gem to free him and feed him.
Oops oops oops. To do: Check on the prisoner, see what happened with him. Drip water into his mouth if I needed to.
I looked at the sad gemstones left all alone.
I mean. At this point I’d already basically called them mine, and it wasn’t like there was a crateful of them.
I poured them all and bundled them up. Would try to work with the Quartermaster – or maybe the gemstone dude – on getting them arranged for me.
With a start I realized my armor would need some serious tender loving care. Yeah… I was going to need to bribe the heck out of the Quartermaster to stay on his good side.
I made it back to my quarters, dropped off the gemstones, and went back, “shopping” through the furs and cloths, quickly getting lost in the dizzying array. Without some vendor telling me what was what, I had no idea what I was looking at.
Bear fur? Wolf pelt? Monster leather?
I patted and felt, and finally settled on one that was big, warm, and fuzzy, that I could just sink into. It’d need some more work, but I could maybe turn this into a nice chair or something?
The cloth was a bit easier. I ended up getting nothing. It was all fairly bulky, and there wasn’t anything I saw as particularly special, just standard high-end cloth. With all the work that would be needed to turn it into a dress – I might as well just buy one.
And it’d be kinda awkward to give a bolt of cloth to Albina and say “Hey look! I got this for you on my latest trip!” Merchant-wrapped bulk-transport goods didn’t exactly scream “personal touch” so much as “robbing people on the high seas.”
Which technically I had.
You know what was good for people? Gemstones. Artemis’s brilliance all those years ago was brought into sharp relief.
Blah. This was super duper disappointing. I’d finally gotten a chance to loot the villain’s lair, and……….. practically nothing. Good eating, some souvenirs for friends, and that was it. Having most of my things paid for by the government, and being in a profession that dabbling in it now and then earned me ludicrous amounts of money, made run-of-the-mill loot worthless to acquire.
Which meant… hmmm…
I should work on commissioning artwork and the like. I was no artist, I had no head for it, but I could pay other artists to make cool things for me! Everyone won!
Healer Elaine, great patron of the arts.
Yeah, I could make this work.
It was the last day of the voyage back, getting late – the captain wanted to land before it got dark – before we finally met again. He’d been avoiding me, and I was perfectly content to stay in my room, avoiding the frightened stares and scared whispers.
“Sentinel Dawn.” He said, as politely and as formally as he could, bowing deep. “I trust your trip was pleasant?”
I gave him a Look. If looks could kill, he’d be dead.
Oooh! My looks could kill if I did it right!
He looked nervous and fidgety.
“Ahem. There was quite a lot of damage to the ship, and –“
I waved him off. I had no time or patience.
“Yeah, you can have everything left. Fix up your ship.” He started to stammer out a thanks.
“Donate the rest to the Rangers.” I said, looking at him.
“I have ways of finding out if you don’t.”
The captain stammered something, as I turned and left. I had no time for any polite nonsense – I was home!
Also, my ways of finding out if he didn’t were long, involved, and would probably be weeks of investigating and talking to people and staring at accounts and honestly way more effort than it’d ever be worth. But it was technically true. I could find out.
And hey! I’d figured out a way to convert the loot into cash for the Rangers, which should make the Quartermaster happy enough with me to hook me up with some juicy stuff.
I’d deal with the adventurers later. They’d been fairly loyal at guarding my door, not letting sailors pop in and bug me, and Cassia had been moderately entertaining. Still. They’d failed at the crucial part, and I was due a reckoning at the Adventurer’s Guild tomorrow.
My backpack was now extra-extra-large, as it was carrying my mauled armor, my loot, and it had started life being extra-large and full to boot. Sure, I’d spent a bunch of money, getting a concerning amount of space back, but still. I probably made an odd sight walking through town with a bag that large and awkward.
Not that people didn’t do things like that, abuse stats in that way – it was more that their loads looked good and secured, and mine was done with bad rope on a rocking boat.
I made it back to HQ fairly late at night, and not quite knowing what else to do, I stashed my backpack in the main living room area of the Sentinel’s quarters, and found my suite.
I took the longest, hottest bath of my life, reveling in the luxury that was my own bath in my rooms.
Why had I ever wanted to go to Deva? This was soooo much better. I could suffer the occasional social engagement. Gods knows that missions have more social engagements than the occasional party.
I scrubbed and combed, blood caked in hard to reach places finally coming undone, then I let myself relax, hot water easing the ever-present tension out of my muscles.
[*Ding!* Congratulations! [Pretty] has reached level 136!]
[Mana Regen: 42569 (+4049.1)]
[Free Stats: 150]
[Mana Regeneration: 4908 (+1423.32)]
[Magic Power: 4517 (+46525.1)]
[Magic Control: 4517 (+46525.1)]
[Class 1: [Constellation of the Healer - Celestial: Lv 246]]
[Celestial Affinity: 246]
[Warmth of the Sun: 198]
[Center of the Galaxy: 242]
[Phases of the Moon: 246]
[Veil of the Aurora: 216]
[Vastness of the Stars: 144]
[Class 2: [Ranger-Mage - Radiance: Lv 188]]
[Radiance Affinity: 188]
[Radiance Resistance: 188]
[Radiance Conjuration: 188]
[Radiance Manipulation: 188]
[Class 3: Locked]
[Recollection of a Distant Life: 159]
[Bullet Time: 198]
[Oath of Elaine to Lyra: 210]
[Sentinel's Superiority: 206]
[Persistent Casting: 55]