I had a ton of fun flashing all the Trainees.
After I’d had a ton of fun blinding the Trainees with light – getting two to quit, a solid first effort – I landed, and started to make my way back, Ocean keeping me company.
“Seriously. You did a solid job on your first mission.” Ocean said. “My first was a disaster. I was too used to working in a team, and I kept expecting someone to cover me. It took some time, and a few mistakes, to realize I was on my own. Didn’t seem to happen with you – you just flawlessly moved into the role.”
“There’s an added layer of complexity to dealing with experts in their environment, and not only that, but you pulled it off with no collateral damage. I’m impressed as anything. Do I wish you’d cleanly taken care of all of them so I didn’t need to clean up? Yes. At the same time, the number of missions where we don’t need some extra clean up are usually the ones where we’re cleaning up in the first place. Hell, even Night occasionally needs a bit of extra ‘help’ when people spot him in places he shouldn’t be, and he’s not leaving a trail of bodies as an example. Usually a quick chat and a large bribe’s enough.”
“You’re also not a combat specialist, and you performed admirably against dozens of killers. That also weighs in.”
“Anyways, tell me more about the pirates… every little bit helps.”
I gave as many details as I could remember, about both the pirates and the ship, watching Ocean wince as I horribly mauled nautical terms.
“I deeply regret agreeing that you didn’t need sailing lessons.” Ocean said, with feeling. “Maybe we should fix that…”
A lightbulb went off.
“Oooh! Let’s do an anatomy lesson for the trainees! Let me know if you’ve got a spare body around, and we can see which Trainees quit as I dig around through an open corpse, displaying organs and explaining what they do!” I said. “Might as well figure out who’s squeamish now! Plus, it’ll let me get a head start on lessons. I am going to be teaching medicine and first aid, right?”
Ocean looked thoughtful. “It should work. We’ll see. Related – your stall’s all arranged. It’s up to you what hours you want to be there, apart from the morning meeting of course.”
Ocean gave me directions to it.
“Perfect. Do you think the Quartermaster will make a slightly custom leather skirt?” I asked.
“Depends, what do you need?” Ocean asked.
“To not flash people when I’m flying.”
Ha! Got him. Ocean looked slightly embarrassed at that.
“Ah, yeah, he can probably work something out for you.”
Time to play a game. How many people can I make uncomfortable with my request?
One. The answer was one. Only Ocean. The Quartermaster barely blinked at my request before approving it.
“Speaking of, it’ll be a few days before your gear’s all set. You did quite a number on it. There’s a second set in an emergency, but it’s just normal armor, no inscriptions or anything. It’s already fitted for your size. Let’s hope there’s no problems.”
Dude was in a foul mood. I could only hope the merchant came through for me.
“Oh right! Here!” I said, handing over most of the gemstones to the Quartermaster. I kept a few to myself – mostly Quartz, for Sealing to add more of his barriers to – but the rest I was happy to donate back to the community pot.
The Quartermaster gave me a Look. I gave him a smile.
“Fine, fine, thank you. Don’t make a habit out of it.”
What was that supposed to mean!?
I suppose we weren’t supposed to usually come back with piles of loot from slain enemies. Something, something, bad habits, something, something, opening the door to grift and corruption.
I wasn’t keeping them for myself! I was…
No wait. I had kept half of them for myself.
I handed back the Arcanite I’d requisitioned – and I hadn’t even slipped a few away for my own use! I figured it was better to get on his good side now.
And with that, I had an open day! I popped down to what I was calling the mailroom, checking if I had anything. Letter from Albina, asking me to let her know when I was back in town. Letter from Artemis, asking me to swing by. Letter from my parents, letting me know they were off to move, that they loved me, they regretted missing me, and to stay safe.
Dammit! Missed them. I’d have to catch up with them another time. Needed to let them know about the house and everything.
I penned a quick letter to Albina, letting her know I was back in town, and ready to start our sessions again. With nothing else to do, I packed up my stuff, and headed out to my new healing stall.
I stepped out into the moderately busy street, and needed a moment to collect myself. The last few weeks had taken a bit more of a toll on me than I thought. I’d been living in my armor, prepared and ready for an attack at any time. Then an attack actually did come, and my paranoia levels had gone through the roof.
I refocused. I had skills. I was skilled. I’d been able to handle the pirates, one against goddesses-knows-how-many. I was in a town, the town, there were guards, normal people, and I wasn’t going to be ambushed by dozens of people with no help in broad daylight.
I was as safe as I could be.
I briefly debated walking around with my badge on my tunic, but axed the idea. Acquisition hadn’t gotten a chance to ‘talk’ with all the thieves yet, and I didn’t want to be the one raising my hand in tomorrow’s meeting, confessing that I’d lost my badge as well. If thieves could remove a badge from Brawling, of all people, I had no illusions that I could keep mine safe.
I was going to make it at LEAST a year before wishing I hadn’t ditched [Lost and Found].
I looked down at my coin pouch. I looked around where I was. Perfectly safe – at Ranger Headquarters – but in the rich, fancy district.
I went back to my room, dropped off almost all my coins, and rustled up a spare pouch, which I put where my coin pouch usually was, adding a few coins to it. I tucked my “nice” pouch into my tunic, along with my badge.
A nice, easy, “here steal this one”, and a thief would need to be reaching somewhere real awkward to get the real pouch.
Unless they had a skill like Acquisition did, that let them teleport stuff around.
I’d love to wrap it in [Veil], but I still didn’t get to move my own [Veil] around. Hamster-balling my way around might be a bit broken.
[Bullet Time] activated on that one thief, but she didn’t look high level. I imagine high level thieves would have counter-counter measures. And…
There was probably a whole world of cat and mouse I didn’t know about. All I knew was, I was the cheese.
Eh, screw it. I’ll just leave my badge behind in my room, and I was going to be Healer Elaine today. Hopefully that wouldn’t cause any problems getting the stall, but… whatever. I’d take problems as they came.
What’s the worst that could happen?
I’d made it to the marketplace where my new digs were apparently located. Somewhere between here and there a master thief had lifted my decoy purse. If I were a master thief, looking to grab a Sentinel badge, I’d hang out near HQ, and try robbing everyone who left.
An actual master thief would probably have a better plan than that, but. Eh. Tomorrow, hopefully the thief question would be resolved, and I could go around in full gear and badge.
It wasn’t that I was afraid or concerned of getting stolen from – it was that I was afraid what Night would do to them. I didn’t want to be the inciting incident for a bloodbath. Plus – I could only lay low for so long! Might be fun to get to know my neighbors as Healer Elaine, instead of Sentinel Dawn.
Secret identity away! Not that there was any particular reason for it, or anything I was super worried about.
I wove my way through the crowd, merchants shouting their wares – and where they were from, which was a bit different from most towns – women and their children shopping, moms trying to corral kids while bartering, kids bored of being herded around trying to ESCAPE for ADVENTURE!
Heh. I remember doing that. It was tons of fun.
Well. The ones that did escape usually went for adventure, but half the time ended up brawling in the street.
Guards patrolled, keeping an eye out for thieves, thieves lurked, keeping an eye out for unguarded goods and purses, and merchants tried to grow extra eyeballs and mouths, to talk with more people, establish that personal connection to get people to fork over a few extra coins – all while lamenting how they would all starve at the price offered – skills fired, a chaotic mess.
You know. An average marketplace.
I got to my stall, and I had to hand it to the Rangers – they sure knew how to do things well, if sparingly. My spot wasn’t the prime spot, nor was it pushed to the edges. The stall had no frills, just a wooden “display” area, and a stool for me.
Clearly, no expense was spared.
At the same time – stall space was expensive. Honestly, I was kinda surprised that nobody had “liberated” the spot.
I sat down on the stool, taking my spot, when a little inquisitive voice started talking with me.
“I would not do that if I were you.” A girl said to me, from my side, behind the stall.
I looked at her. Must be somewhere between 10 to 12.
She was great at making me feel short. She was taller than I was.
“Oh? Why’s that?” I asked her. Empty spot, local warning me off, I’d be an idiot not to listen – even if it was a kid telling me.
Wasn’t too long ago I was her age after all. I wasn’t going to make the mistake of thinking kids were dumb. I needed at least another decade before I was convinced they were idiots.
“The guard gets annoyed.” A merchant – who I assumed was her father – answered.
“Do you know what about? Elaine, by the way. Nice to meet you.” I said, offering my hand. Might as well get to know my neighbors. Who knew when we’d need to ask each other for some help here and there? Also, dude seemed to have some serious fruit selection, along with other odds and ends. A complete, detailed, and thorough scan of everything he had revealed no mangos.
What type of two-bit fruit merchant neglected mangos? Honestly.
At the same time – chance to get a good hookup.
“Neptune. Apparently, the stall’s reserved.” He said, shaking my hand. “Whoever’s rented it out got some serious clout and money. Able to afford a stall, not put anything in it, then have the guard look after it?” He whistled.
“I’m Autumn!” The girl said. “What do you do? I neeeeeever see girls selling stuff. Plus, you don’t seem to have any stuff. If you need a break you can sit with us!” She said, suddenly getting an idea and brightening up.
“Don’t bug her Autumn.” Neptune said.
I gave her a smile.
“I don’t mind. Really. Also, um, how to put this.” I said, scratching my head somewhat awkwardly. “Pretty sure this stall’s for me.”
Neptune pointed at a guard who was wandering over to us.
“I’m not the one you need to convince.”
I sent a quick prayer off to the goddesses that this would be a quick and painless interaction.
“Excuse me miss – this stall’s reserved.” The guard said.
“Yes – for me.” I countered.
He frowned. No. Please. Shoot me now.
“Name?” He asked.
“Should be under Dawn. Probably.” I said.
His frown deepened.
“No idea what name it got reserved under. What evidence would you accept for this being mine?”
The guard muttered something to himself, and blessedly, left.
“Thought your name was Elaine.” Autumn said. “It’s not good to lie to guards.”
She closed her eyes, and like she was reciting a rule, she carefully enunciated.
“Rule 4. Only lie to people when they’re buying your stuff, and never lie to the guard.”
“Autumn!” Her father said, horrified. “What’s rule 14?”
“Never tell other people the rules, unless – oopsies.” Autumn said, looking slightly abash. “Forget I told you anything.” She directed that second one to me.
I laughed at her.
“I have two names! That’s why I gave you one name, and the guard a second name!”
Autumn looked at me suspiciously.
“Girls don’t get two names. How did you get two names? Oooh! Are you on the run from the guard?”
Her dad cuffed her at that.
“Be nice.” He said, then got distracted by someone trying to buy his stuff.
“If I was on the run from the guard, would I be happily claiming a stall? Would I be cool telling the guards to take a close look at me?”
She frowned at that. I could practically see the steam coming out of her ears.
“Ok. Fine. So what do you sell? You don’t seem to have anything. So that means you sell a skill. And you [Identify] as a [Healer]. You heal people!” Autumn said, clearly working it out as she went along.
“Yup!” I said cheerfully.
“Dad, dad, dad, can I hang out with Elaine? I wanna learn to be a [Healer]!”
“If she agrees. You need to pay for it with your own money.” Her dad said, clearly well-rehearsed, and very distracted, trying to close the sale.
Well. The sale was going to be made. The only question was how many coins would be moving around.
I got the BIGGEST puppy-dog eyes from Autumn.
“Will you please teach me how to be a healer? Nobody ever wants a girl apprentice. I promise I won’t be a pest. I can pay you…” She started fumbling at her pouch.
My heart almost broke at the second sentence. She was totally right. Nobody ever gave girls the time of day, never gave them a chance to be an apprentice, to learn. Best-case is what she had – her dad teaching her the tricks of his trade.
“Sure! Grab a seat, pull it up, and I’ll show you how it’s done. For free.” Autumn gasped, then turned around and bolted back to her stall.
With happy whooping noises, Autumn grabbed what was clearly her seat and wrestled it over to my stall, all of three feet.
“Ok, great! Tell me all about it. Although, um. You need a sign.” Autumn pointed out. “Rule 6. Always let people know what you’re selling. Oh! We sell fruit.”
Good point. I didn’t have anything to make a sign with – except, of course, skills. [Veil] would be perfect.
“How would you make a ‘Free Healing’ sign?”
Autumn looked at me with horror.
“Rule 1! The golden rule! Always always always get paid! Never do anything for free!”
“I’m teaching you for free, aren’t I?”
Ahhh. The delicious look of conflict. Her Rule 1 versus her desire to learn how to be a healer.
“Consider giving me a little help with the stall your payment.” I said, unable to keep an amused note out of my voice.
“Alright! Nobody will believe free. Make it one coin. Then when people want to pay, you… you…” It seemed to physically pain Autumn to say it, and she croaked it out in a whisper. “You tell them it’s free.”
I tapped the side of my nose with a finger.
“It’s free… but I accept donations. Sometimes, believe it or not, you can make more money by having people give you what they think is fair.”
“Can’t you lose a lot of money like that?” Autumn asked me.
“How would I lose money?”
More steam came out of her ears, until the lightbulb went off.
“You don’t pay anything for your stuff! You can’t lose money! No, wait. Yes, you can. The stall fee.”
I wasn’t paying it, not that I’d tell her that. Did remind me to give a portion back to the Quartermaster. They were providing me with everything, the least I could do was give some back.
Autumn rubbed her hands avariciously. Inspiration struck.
“Also, I’m going to have you collect donations from people.”
“We have a deal! Rule 20. Only renegotiate deals if they get better for you.” She recited.
I shot her a look. Little squirt thought she could out-maneuver me. I was mostly useless at this, but not entirely useless.
“It’s part of your apprenticeship, while you learn. I need my apprentice to be doing something useful – unless you can think of something more useful to be doing while you know no medicine and have no skills, hmmmm?”
I could see by the look on her face that I’d gotten her.
“Do you have a sign skill?” She asked.
“Yeah, to make a sign for your stall. Are you sure you’re supposed to have this stall? Novice merchants don’t set up here. They need to be in the lower markets first, before they can get enough money to set up here. How did you even afford a stall in the first place?”
I winked at her. “You’ll find out! I have a flashy skill I can shape, if that’s what you mean.” I said, conjuring [Veil] up in the shape of a tiny stall. Took a bunch of focus to make something that detailed, as opposed to my usual “shield myself and don’t die”, but hey. It was good practice.
“Yeah ok. Like. Make a broken arm or something as the stall sign. Have a single coin next to it. Healing, one coin. Ok, your turn, tell me all about healing.”
Having felt that she’d finally paid her dues, Autumn’s merchant instincts took over, giving her the poise and confidence to make demands of me. Clearly, we had a deal, and in her mind, since she’d “paid” me already, she felt free to plunder me for all I knew.
I threw up a three-dimensional sign of a broken arm, with the picture of a single coin next to it, then mentally “tied it off” with [Persistent Casting].
“Out of the eight basic elements, four of them can be considered ‘healing’ elements. Light, Dark, Water, and Wood. Wood is for making potions and other related remedies, Light is for creation and restoration – like [Restoration], which can restore limbs. Dark is destruction and removal – like diseases, and other icky things inside the body. Lastly, Water kinda does a little bit of everything, but it doesn’t do it as easily, nor can it restore limbs.”
I smiled, repeating a lesson I’d heard a decade, a lifetime ago, on the basics, the fundamentals of healing.
“What are you?” Autumn asked, looking up at my sign, the Aurora Borealis swirling above us.
“Celestial. It’s a combination of Light and Dark.”
“Woooooow. So cool.” Autumn said, and I recognized the star-struck look.
I smiled at the first person that seemed to be approaching me for healing.
“While you can just throw mana and skills at a problem, it helps to know exactly what you’re curing, how it’s broken, and why your fix works. It can help you figure out bigger problems, along with being more mana-efficient. Less mana used means more patients seen, which means more money. Now, let’s see what’s wrong with this lady…”
Autumn nodded furiously, and listened with rapt attention as I talked with the lady, diagnosed her problem, explained what was wrong to both her and Autumn, then healed her.
Autumn was remarkably well-educated, as she pulled out some charcoal and bamboo, starting to take notes.
I was totally getting a cute apprentice out of this free healing deal.
[*Ding!* Congratulations! [Oath of Elaine to Lyra] has reached level 211!]
[Mana Regen: 42569 (+4049.1)]
[Free Stats: 150]
[Mana Regeneration: 4908 (+1423.32)]
[Magic Power: 4517 (+47654.35)]
[Magic Control: 4517 (+47654.35)]
[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: 211]
[Sentinel's Superiority: 206]
[Persistent Casting: 55]