Lunch with Albina was wonderful. We’d grabbed a bite to eat, and were moseying through the streets.
“Could I interest you in a play at the amphitheater?” Albina asked me.
I hesitated a moment. They did have some good stuff right now.
“Sorry, no. I gotta spend time in the market.” I said, shaking my head. I felt a little bad for Albina. Still had energy, not a ton to do. Unfortunately, I was also busy, and had things I needed to do.
Albina didn’t push, just switched topics and happily told me all about her plans for the baby. Names they’d picked out, a [Carpenter] who’d made a crib for them.
“You’ll be there, right?” She asked again, nervously.
“I can’t promise that.” I said, trying to gently let her down. “You know my work.”
She looked down, and I patted her shoulder, letting [Phases of the Moon] work its magic. I also tried to push [Warmth of the Sun], making it nice and warm.
I was so damn happy that [Phases of the Moon] had evolved to handle blood loss when I hit 250.
“Hey, listen, even if I’m not around, ask Markus, or one of the other healers. I know a great [Midwife]! They’re fantastic! Could even ask my mom for help. Listen. You’ll be fine.”
I really hoped her husband would let her keep working after the kid. It was a sad reality that babies and kids needed an insane amount of work, and the mom had to do most of it – they were up feeding the kid in the first place, it was “only natural” that they do a bit more than that, and poof! Suddenly, they had no time to keep working a job.
Hence, quite a large number of people being reluctant to take girls on as apprentices. If they were just going to get married, have a kid, and stop working, “what was the point”, was their logic.
I hated the logic.
I also couldn’t deny that having a kid would completely and totally derail my work as Sentinel Dawn, which had sadly kept my attempts at relationships fairly platonic.
I did drag my lunch out just a hair to spend more time with Albina, paid her for the month, tipped her generously, then she was off, back home. I went back to HQ, grabbed my gear – I was still in the fancy outfit Albina had gotten me in – and headed back home.
Totally mis-planned the day. Should’ve just gone out in a tunic. Now I was hauling my gear around in a bag back home, instead of just tucking a spare tunic in my quarters.
I mean, sure, I could put my gear in my quarters, but I liked having it near me. It was comforting, almost. It helped me sleep better at night.
Whatever. It wasn’t like I was on any schedule but my own, once my morning meeting and classes were handled.
It was hilarious how when I went out in the morning, crowds parted before me, and I could get from A to B at basically max speed. In a tunic, without my gear on?
A leaf in the wind, and by wind I mean crowds of people bustling and jostling around. I almost missed the days of being allowed in the grey zone, the part of the road where people with insignificant stats were allowed, mostly so they didn’t get crushed by mistake.
Such was life in the city. Fortunately, we were in the rich, wealthy, read: uncrowded part of town, and I got back home without a problem.
“Themis! You around kiddo?” I called out as I wandered through the villa I called home.
No answer. Must still be at guard training. Oh well, not like I wanted him for anything special.
I dropped my gear off, carefully re-arranging it back on the armor stand, wiping off a small amount of dust that I’d gathered throughout the day.
I was tempted to stay in all day. I’d gotten a few scrolls from the library, the only reason they’d let them leave the building was I was a Sentinel, but no. I was called.
Not out of duty, but out of my own sense of obligation.
I was so tempted to just read a little… but I knew the moment I started reading “a little” the next thing I knew I’d be hearing a call to dinner, and I’d have lost the entire afternoon to reading.
I would know. I’d done it more than once. I wasn’t going to have a repeat performance today.
I made my way down to the marketplace, amused by the crowds. I could just fly over there, but I was wearing the wrong tunic for it. Plus it was nice to walk sometimes. No more crowds parting! I was practically invisible without my gear, without my badge pinned to my chest. I’d put it in my real pouch, inside my tunic, while leaving my “steal this” pouch on the outside.
Also known as my “annoy Acquisition” pouch.
I slowly made my way through the bustling crowds, eventually making my way to the marketplace where I had my stall.
My daily mango was placed on my stall, untouched even though it was unwatched.
Well, unwatched by me. I already had a bit of a line waiting. The appeal of free medical attention was too much for most people to pass up. And between Autumn, Neptune – my mango hook-up – and the line, well, there were too many eyes on the “unattended” mangos for street urchins to steal.
It didn’t stop them from occasionally nabbing it and running. Nobody was super inclined to chase after them, and gratitude only lasted so long. A kid starving on the street didn’t care that I’d patched them up two weeks ago if they were going to starve today.
It kinda stung, but I wasn’t going to start cracking down on it. I just used it as my daily barometer, a type of omen. Mango present? Good day. No mango? Bad day.
“Elaine! Elaine! You’re here! Yes!” Autumn said, jumping down from her seat at the stall next to mine and running over to me.
The beanpole was getting even taller than me. I knew I was short, but it still rankled.
“Autumn! You ready?” I asked her, grabbing one of the mangos, and carefully peeling and slicing it with Radiance.
Made the inside a little overcooked at times, but it was worth practicing my control every day. Especially since I’d lost [Radiance Manipulation] for [Shine].
Didn’t really miss the skill. The only thing I really noticed was I couldn’t curve [Nova] balls anymore. Radiance was weird that way.
She nodded furiously.
“Alrighty! Let’s go!” I said, before settling in to see the first patient of the day.
The man showed us his arm, with more bends in it than normal.
“Alright Autumn, what’s the problem here?” I asked her. There was some fancy rule about “not talking with mango in your mouth”, but I was the VIP here. Nobody was going to tell me off.
Except Autumn. Maybe. The only respect I got from her was in my ability to teach her how to make mountains of money.
“Broken arm.” She promptly said, stating the obvious.
The man being healed blessedly kept his mouth shut. Nobody was a stranger to apprentices, and “Free healing” tended to smooth over a lot of speed bumps.
“Can you fix it?” I asked her.
“Maybe. I’d try to realign the bones, then use [Boost Natural Healing] on it. That should hopefully fix the problem.” She hedged.
“Hopefully?” I said, prodding her. Gotta give my apprentice a hard time. It was how she learned.
It was one of the greatest joys in my life so far when she’d taken – with Neptune’s blessing – a Light healer class as her second class when she hit level 64. Literally brought tears of joy to my eyes.
“Rule 4 of medicine. Medicine is an art, not something that can be weighed and measured.” She recited.
She’d made up the rules herself. I was so proud.
“So can you?” I asked her.
I could see the struggle on her face.
“No.” She finally admitted.
“Good call.” I said, leaning over and tapping the dude, hitting him with both [Vastness of the Stars] then [Phases of the Moon]. With a sickening crunch his arm realigned.
Autumn held out her hand, staring at the dude with huge, accusing eyes.
“I thought it was free.” He grumbled, handing over quite a few coins.
“It is! Thanks for your donation!” Autumn said, whisking away the coins so fast her hand almost blurred, even with my improved vitality. I swear she had a skill for that. [Mine, Mine, they’re all Mine!] or something.
The line continued to shuffle through, Autumn carefully taking and examining each patient one at a time, while I oversaw her work, and healed behind her, making sure whatever the problem was got fully fixed.
She only had Light healing, which meant she was stuck with boosting and restoring, and [Restoration] variants were high-level skills which she didn’t have yet. The path of being a Light healer was rough at the early levels, which is why most healers didn’t go down that route.
Which was part of why healers that did manage to not only make it through the early levels, but were lucky enough to get a [Restoration] skill, made so much money. There was no price that could be put on getting a hand back, on regrowing a leg.
Didn’t stop Autumn from trying. She was going to end up very, very wealthy.
Well, her family was.
The line kept going, and the scourge of my existence showed up.
They made me somewhat nervous. Sure, I could blast them to pieces if they threatened me or Autumn, but they didn’t. They just showed up, whispered to each other, and stared.
The guard occasionally cleared them out – being a VIP had perks – but they always came back.
Staring at me.
Creepy as fuck.
Being a VIP had downsides to boot.
A very large coin purse got placed on my stall.
“Heya! Want to go on a date?” The dude asked, as Autumn whisked it away.
“No, thank you.” I said after a moment.
The dude’s face fell, as Autumn rubbed her hands in glee. The sign had been her idea, and while I wasn’t a fan, it did cut down on unwanted proposals significantly.
Ask Dawn on a date! 800 coins! No refunds. She’ll probably turn you down.
I’d insisted on the last part.
Fortunately, he took it with good grace. I’d occasionally given a date a shot, but they’d all been horrible busts so far. A few people got mad due to absolutely terrible reading comprehension, and seemed to think paying to ask was the same as me agreeing.
Autumn was all fire, and took no prisoners.
Like. I hated the sign with a burning, fiery passion, but it was the single best way to get people to bugger off and leave me alone. A “No dates” sign was simply taken as a challenge, and nothing at all was also seen as an open invite.
Next in line was a sort of “non-emergency ambulance”. An enterprising set of teenagers had realized that there was a market for picking up someone really old or sick, and carting them over to me. They charged a bit, and we’d had a long talk together, making sure they didn’t lie to people, and charge them the full price of a healer, then claim “oh you paid us already, that’s the same as paying the healer.”
Didn’t stop the occasional patient with dementia from causing problems, but all in all, it was a solid service they provided. I didn’t have the time and energy to hunt for sick parents holed up in their home – they did. They also provided the transportation, originally on a makeshift gurney, which they’d upgraded.
I didn’t know what it was like for them when I didn’t show up, but Autumn had laughed herself sick when she tried to tell me what it was like.
I never did get the full story out of her.
The day passed, and we made surprisingly good money for being “free healing”. Autumn was practically rubbing her hands in glee. Money, training, experience, and levels? Money-grubber paradise.
I glanced at the sun, and saw it was getting a bit lower than I’d like.
“Right. I want to close up.” I told Autumn.
“Awww, you sure?” She asked me, giving me the trademark puppy eyes.
“Yes.” I firmly told her. “Everyone, start moving!” I called out.
The massively decimated line started moving, and I held my hand out in a “side-five” gesture. As everyone passed, they gave me five, I blasted healing through them, and they moved on.
Downside to being at the back of the line – a much longer wait.
Upside – no Autumn harassing you for coins.
It was only about eight people left in line, and we were done in under a minute.
“Right, now what?” I asked Autumn.
She rolled her eyes at me.
“Already stashed the coins ages ago, dunno why you’re asking me.” She said.
I had a deal with Neptune, where basically he held onto my coins, and got most of them deposited in the right place for me. He took a small cut, and I trusted him not to skim more off the top.
Not when I was his kid’s lucky break.
I stretched and made my way through the crowds, to a nice home. I knocked on the door and let myself in.
“Kallisto! Cordelia!” I called out. “I’m here!”
“Elaine! Welcome!” Cordelia said, juggling Flora. “Come, sit! Kallisto just got back, he’ll be ready in a minute.”
Shame I couldn’t give Cordelia a hug, not while she was holding Flora.
I sat down at the dinner table, with a pair of slaves bustling around, getting the last touches ready as Cordelia directed them.
I’d gotten mom and dad to not use any slaves, instead hiring a freeman. The ethics argument didn’t sway them that much, but me paying for it did. Cordelia had no such compunctions, and I’d run the argument into the ground ages ago. I stopped bringing it up, to keep the peace. We both knew where we stood on this.
Didn’t stop me from trying to convince Kallisto when we were out on missions together though.
“Kallisto!” I happily called out to him, waving.
“Elaine! Glad you could make it!”
Dinner with Kallisto and his family. A wonderful time of day.
“Anything new?” I asked him.
I got a discreet look from him, a quick flash of Ranger hand code which said something along the lines of “yes, ugly.”
“Nope! Same old, same old. Guard likes being able to handle most things. I swear sometimes they just send us on busy work so we’re not constantly in their hair, reminding them of just how much better we are.” He said.
His hand code had sent an entirely different message. He’d been on something so nasty and ugly, he didn’t want to mention it in front of his wife and kid. It was his call, and frankly, having occasionally gone on one of his missions as back up – yeah. I got it. Didn’t approve, but I got it.
“Guard good!” Flora said, throwing some food.
I’d never thought I’d be using [Veil] to defend against this type of attack.
All too soon, dinner ended, and I was heading out of town, to Artemis’s School of Sorcery and Spellcraft. It was out of town, but the capital was so darn safe.
Also, it was guarded by Artemis, who rivaled some Sentinels in combat prowess, and had absolutely no problems applying lethal force, much to some ex-burglar’s, well…
…Can’t exactly experience chagrin if you’re dead.
“Artemis! Julius! How’s it going?” I asked them, making it to the school. A few of the healers I was about to lecture to were hanging around.
“Good! How’s your day been?” Artemis asked.
“Same old, same old. Nothing new or exciting.” I said. “Oh! Autumn got another level today!”
Artemis grinned at me. She knew the joys of teaching well.
“I look forward to when she joins as a student.”
“Like the little merchant would ever pay for something she can get for free.”
Artemis casually swatted at him, which Julius leaned to avoid without looking.
No – he’d been leaning even before Artemis started moving.
If I didn’t know better, I’d swear they acted like an old married couple.
“Here to give your recruiting pitch?” I asked Julius.
“Yes. We need more healers.” He turned to Artemis.
“I was lucky enough to get Dawn casting the tie-breaking vote. We can pay any Ranger-Healers more!” Julius said.
I grinned. I’d been particularly happy to be in that meeting. One of the earlier ones.
I didn’t mention to him that the Sentinels had a long discussion on it ourselves, and we’d also voted on the measure, privately, which had determined how we would vote.
Hey. We were allowed our secrets.
“Anyways, they’re waiting for you.” Artemis said.
I happily went into one of the lecture halls, where a good number of healers – mostly apprentices – were waiting for me. I lectured once a week, and it was good for everyone. Artemis’s school was exploding in popularity, and everyone in the room was leveling.
Incredibly tiring to work on and prepare a lecture though, but I was doing good. I was making the world a better place, and all it took was hours of my time.
I mean, I had to prep the Ranger’s lecture to boot, but that was literally my job, and I was determined to do it well, unlike Sky who just winged it.
I probably should be paying attention to Autumn’s rule 1 – always get paid – but while I had energy, I was going to keep the lectures up. I was feeling burnout start to creep up now and then, but…
Ok, fine. I’m not sure how much longer I’d be able to keep these up, not without help. I needed to talk with Night, and possibly Command about it. If I started charging, dozens of people would vanish.
“Welcome! Thank you everyone.” I said, looking at the crowd.
“Today, I’m going to talk about the immune system, how it works, what it does, and how skills can influence it – for better or worse.”
I started my lecture, talking about the basics, white blood cells, their role in fighting off disease. How most weren’t even noticed.
How Light could bolster and strengthen the system.
How Dark could purge disease.
How the immune system didn’t learn anything when a direct purge was done, making the person vulnerable to re-infection.
Well, more vulnerable. There was nuance, especially since the immune system would’ve gotten a look, and had at least some immunity, and could potentially build off of that, and…
“Remember. Medicine is complicated. It’s an art.” I said, as a bell in the back of the room lightly chimed.
[*ding!* [Oath of Elaine to Lyra] leveled up! 234 -> 235]
One of the apprentices had gone up and hit it, indicating he’d leveled up. A particularly brilliant suggestion from Artemis, it went off two, three times a lecture. People rarely got more than three levels from listening to me lifetime, even if the material was wildly varied, but as word spread that one could literally level up just by listening to me talk, well.
I had a nice revolving door of low and mid level healers coming by to listen.
I was making a difference.
Maybe I should travel more?
The lecture wrapped up, and Artemis, Julius, Artemis’s helper, Julius’s bodyguard – Commanders were expected to have bodyguards, unlike Sentinels, who had to look invincible – all settled in for a lovely nightcap.
“I’m pretty sure I’m going to get at least five applicants for Ranger Academy.” Julius said, sipping at his mug.
“Oh? That many talked with you?” Artemis asked.
“A heck of a lot more than that talked with me.” Julius responded. “But I only think a small number will actually join.”
I smiled, and we clinked mugs.
“No poaching my students!” Artemis fiercely told Julius. “They’re mine!”
“I’d never poach them.” Julius said with a straight face.
And he wouldn’t. He’d just dangle the potential of being like Artemis in front of their face, and they’d sign up in droves. Most students of hers seemed to think “going to Ranger Academy” the natural, logical next step once they’d learned a ton of magic from her. Passing the entrance exam was being seen as the “graduation test” from the school, no matter how hard Artemis tried to disabuse them of the notion.
Life, for me?
It was good.
[Mana Regen: 49245 (+23244.375)]
[Free Stats: 407]
[Mana Regeneration: 5635 (+2324.4375)]
[Magic Power: 5121 (+60171.75)]
[Magic Control: 5121 (+60171.75)]
[Class 1: [Constellation of the Healer - Celestial: Lv 256]]
[Celestial Affinity: 256]
[Warmth of the Sun: 215]
[Center of the Galaxy: 256]
[Phases of the Moon: 256]
[Veil of the Aurora: 245]
[Vastness of the Stars: 147]
[Class 2: [Ranger-Mage - Radiance: Lv 215]]
[Radiance Affinity: 215]
[Radiance Resistance: 215]
[Radiance Conjuration: 215]
[Class 3: Locked]
[Pristine Memories: 200]
[Bullet Time: 230]
[Oath of Elaine to Lyra: 235]
[Sentinel's Superiority: 240]
[Persistent Casting: 111]