The lecture wrapped up fairly late at night. Fortunately for everyone involved, it wasn’t short like the Ranger Academy one, where I needed to dump as much info as I could in as short a period as possible. I had time to properly explain everything, and explain how everything intersected, how magic applied to it – mostly.
I was still mostly clueless on what Wood stuff could do, besides “make potions”. As to what they could make? My best guess was walking into a store and seeing what was for sale.
I wasn’t nearly good enough to present lectures on the stuff, although I’d been chatting with one particularly high-level dude, trying to convince him to start his own lecture series in tandem with mine.
All I could offer him was advertising, and “why would I give away all my secrets for maybe a few sales from people who don’t need my stuff” was his current logic.
I think I might be getting to him though!
“Hey! We’re leaving!” Julius announced to the healers, who’d taken the time post-lecture to mingle somewhat while Artemis, Julius, and I spent time chatting.
That quickly killed the socializing, and Julius and I had a crowd following us as we made our way back to the gates.
By sheer virtue of our positions, the guards would open the gates for Sentinel Dawn and Commander Julius – and basically nobody else. They’d begged, pleaded, and tried to bribe me to host my teaching sessions inside the city walls, but I was unmovable. Helping Artemis, boosting her school, was more important to me than inconveniencing some guards – as much as I liked guards.
“Sentinel Dawn. Commander Julius.” The captain said, saluting us as we entered, and as all the other healers started to stream down the streets, to where they lived.
“Heya Cicero! How’s it going?” I asked him, waving happily.
I got a pained look.
“It’d be much better if you didn’t teach so late at night. Please. The bribe’s at 7000 coins now.” He pleaded.
“Wellll… I could say yes… but then you’d still need to bribe Commander Julius. He’d keep going out to flirt with Artemis.” I said, shamelessly deflecting the blame onto him, letting him take some of the heat.
“Wait – Artemis told you? That was supposed to be a secret!” Julius complained.
“Sh- YOU WHAT!?” I said, turning to Julius and looking at him open-mouthed. “you- Artemis – What!? When!?”
I wasn’t exactly coherent.
Julius had color in his cheeks.
“Oh, she hadn’t told you. Um. Can we pretend you heard nothing?”
I shook my head at him as the guards wisely vanished. When powerhouses argued in the street, the guards were there to arrest them.
When powerhouses who outranked them a hundred times over argued in the streets, the guards vanished.
“Oh no, you gotta tell me everything.” I said, walking towards him.
Julius was, fundamentally, a speedster. In spite of us being similarly leveled, his class was a higher tier quality-wise than mine, and, well, speedster vs mage was tilted towards the speedster.
Especially when they decided to run away.
Humph. I was going to ask Artemis really nicely about this tomorrow. Artemis had no trouble zapping me if I was sassy – I’m pretty sure she went extra-hard, knowing how unkillable I was.
Kinda made sense, thinking about it. Julius had been hanging around Artemis’s school constantly for… oh shit. Quite a long time now.
He’d been spending way more time than what could be explained by just wanting to pop in to see an old friend or see how the school was going. No wonder he was always there when I popped by.
I felt a grin crack my face as I wandered through the streets, back home. I did a little hop, skip, and a jump, clapping my hands together. Ooooh, I was going to have so much fun with this!
The city had a fairly active nightlife. A different set of vendors took over, selling more late-night snacks. Jugglers, bards, and other entertainers took to the streets, strutting their stuff as crowds of colorfully dressed people walked around, occasionally stopping to watch amazing displays of athletics and skills.
It was amazing what people could do with skills.
I turned [Shine] off while I walked through town. The tiny chance that someone was sneaking up on me invisible, vs ruining a third of the acts I came across – well. One was a lot more dangerous than the other, and angry jugglers could really pack a wallop.
There were a number of prostitutes out and about, and I got a few good eyefuls until I saw one that brought me up short.
She was wearing a very short leather skirt, a sort of silvery shirt, with a great big sun on it. Kinda, almost, if you squinted really hard, looked a bit like armor that the army used.
That Rangers used.
That Sentinels used.
“Come have a lovely night with Sunrise!” She called out. “Stay until the sun rises!”
Yeah, what? Tonight was great for short-circuiting my brain.
Was that supposed to be me!?
I hadn’t quite realized I was so famous that prostitutes were dressing up as me. On one hand, it was kinda gross. On the other, much larger hand – I was weirdly flattered.
I had to know more.
“Hi!” I said, waving to her, walking over.
“Hello.” She said, with a sultry voice. “Want to have some fun until dawn?”
Yup. That was not an accident.
I took out my badge.
“Hi. I’m Sentinel Dawn. I’ve got a few questions…” I said.
She went from pale to white, and sat down fast, burying her head in her hands, mumbling something.
“Sorry, what?” I asked her.
“I’m so dead.” She said a little louder.
Oh shit. I made her cry. I didn’t mean to.
I sat down next to her, slightly awkwardly patting her back.
“No, no, it’s ok. I just want to talk. Is there somewhere a little better…?” I asked her, looking around at the street we were on. Kinda awkward place to have a chat.
Sniffing into her shirt, with a defeated look on her face, she nodded and got up. I got up as well, feeling awful.
We entered what was probably a brothel, and after I got inside –
Yup. Definitely a brothel.
We got stopped halfway across the first main room, which was large, full of people, and roughly one tunic for every three people.
“Hey Sunrise, is everything ok? She’s not bothering you is she?” A large man asked, putting a hand between me and her. I let him.
Sunrise nodded, and yeah. I mean, she was clearly crying, I would see what was wrong. I figured I’d step in.
“Heya! I’m Dawn. I saw Sunrise here, had a few questions for her, made her really upset, and now I want to make sure she’s ok.”
The bouncer crossed his arms.
“She’s ok. Now scram.”
Sunrise tugged on his arm.
“No, no, it’s ok. She’s Dawn.” She said.
“Yes, and you’re Sunrise. Who cares?” The bouncer said.
“No. She’s Dawn.” Sunrise said.
The penny dropped for the bouncer. It never got old. The situation was serious, but I couldn’t help but have a huge grin crack my face.
“Sentinel Dawn, nice to meet you.” I said, extending my hand.
The bouncer gave me a terrible salute instead, like someone who’d watched a dozen guards in plays, but was never a soldier himself.
“I apologize. But… I have to know. Is she going to be ok?” He asked.
I liked this brothel! They looked after their own. Half the stories I’d heard would have them throwing Sunrise out before the night was over.
“Well, that’s the hope! That’s why I want to chat. She broke down crying when I introduced myself, and, well, I feel kinda responsible.”
The bouncer nodded, and we found ourselves in a back room.
“You’re not mad?” She said through some sniffles.
“Well, only if someone’s making you do it.” I said.
She mutely shook her head.
“What’s your story anyways?” I asked, figuring to change the topic somewhat. People liked talking about themselves, right?
Slowly, hesitantly, she started telling me her backstory. It was pretty straightforward. Orphaned at an early age, was a [Thief], grew up, got older, and turned to the oldest profession to make ends meet.
There was an awkward gap in the middle that I interpreted as “became a slave, ran away, and am still technically a runaway slave”, but I didn’t ask more.
“And then I heard more and more about a Sentinel Dawn who was a woman, and I got this idea. It worked so well!”
“Well, then go for it, but be a little more discreet.” I said. “I know how hard it is for you. Scratch that, I don’t. I know how hard it was for me, and I know you’ve gotta have it harder than me. I’m not going to begrudge you making a living however you can, as long as nobody’s forcing you to do this. It’s more than a little creepy that people are paying that well to pretend to have sex with me, I’m not going to lie. But they’re the creepy ones, not you. You’re cool.” I said, patting her.
“For real?” She asked me.
“Yeah. For real.” I said, almost getting strangled by her hug.
“Thank you thank you THANK YOU!” She said, and I realized she had to be around my age.
I had a sudden vision of our roles being reversed, if dad’s eye injury had been worse when I was a kid. How close had I been to this?
“What can I do for you? Anything? I can probably talk Marcellus into giving you a session if you’d like – he’s stupid high level. Or, um, “ She said, thinking fast, then listing off a bunch of options.
“No, no, I’m good. Although, I do have a free clinic if anyone needs help. I know some diseases can cause serious problems.”
Sunrise nodded at me. I’d gotten her real name, but Sunrise just fit.
“Please? Are you sure? I can’t even give you a massage or anything?” She asked.
She really, really wanted to say thanks somehow, and it had been a long day.
“Yeah, sure, a quick massage, why not.” I said.
“EEee! Yes! Ok, lie down real quick, on your stomach.” She said, and I complied.
Her hands tentatively, gently, reached my shoulder, and oh goddesses. There had to be skills involved, and fairly high level ones to boot.
I let out a pleased noise, and Sunrise leaned in, finding her confidence, which made it even better.
I was wobbly-legged on my way back home. That was amazing. Fabulous. I could see why some people spent all their money at a brothel, and Sunrise hadn’t even been super high level!
I was totally going back. Would probably get the VIP treatment, especially after I’d given everyone free healing.
Well, everyone who’d been available. Hopefully word of my healing stall in the marketplace would spread to boot! Some of the girls had been really sick.
They were better now, and it warmed my heart.
I got home in no time at all.
“Heya dad! Good day?” I asked him.
“Ugh. Same old, same old. I was with Senator Kosmimatus today. Some farmers want there to be a tax on bamboo.” He rolled his eyes at that.
“An entire day. Bamboo taxation. The worst.”
Master spy stuff was generally extremely boring.
“Why did they want a tax on bamboo?” I asked him.
“Honestly? Because they sell wool, and they’d sell more with a bamboo tax. That’s it. That’s the entire story.”
Sometimes government got it right. Other times, they wildly missed the mark.
“Welp, sounds like you had fun.” I told him.
“Fun? Fun!? I had to stand there all day! My biggest challenge was not yawning.”
I laughed at his, as I waved, heading to bed.
“Goodnight dad. You know what I’m going to say.”
“Yeah, yeah. Don’t go near your rooms when you’re sleeping. I got it.” Dad said.
I took a quick dip in my bath – the villa was big enough to have more than one, and I’d claimed one as my own, personal bath – before going to sleep.
Daytime was great. Friends. Family. A great job, freedom to do what I saw fit, a calling. People liking me. Preferential treatment. The ability to pursue my hobbies.
Nighttime – less so. That’s when the dreams came.
I’d almost ended up addicted to sleeping potions at one point. I’d cut them out entirely, and sworn to never touch one again.
I got into a fresh, simple tunic, and laid down in bed. A whole bed, all to myself.
Maybe tonight will be fine.
I let my eyelids get heavy and close.
I opened them to a sea of blood, all caused by me.
“Murderer.” Iola, the bandit leader whispered to me. “You killed me. Just too cowardly to do it yourself.”
I tried to shoot her, burn her alive. I had no magic, no skills. I just waded against the tides of blood, trying to escape from her.
Tides of blood, that I’d spilt personally.
“Murderer.” The pirate captain spat at me. “You weighed your freedom against twenty lives, and decided they had to die. Probably killed the merchant and his family as well, after ruining their livelihood. How is that a fair trade? How is that an ethical trade?”
I tried to run from him, only to encounter members from the rebellion.
Survivors of Destruction’s skills, who I’d healed.
“Bitch. You healed them, just to divide us. You’re responsible for the in-fighting. You killed all the survivors, as surely as if you’d wielded the knife yourself.”
Oh goddesses no, not Lyra, not tonight. Please.
Anything but Lyra.
“You.” She said, forever eight in my dreams, forever staring at me with pained eyes. “You –“
It was blessed relief when the door to my room exploded inwards, a huge man bursting in. I was awoken, adrenaline flooding my system, fight-or-flight kicking in.
I blasted the man with a thin beam of Radiance, designed to kill – or at least burn his eyes, so he couldn’t see, while unleashing a [Nova] right at him.
“Da- WHOA CHILL” He yelled, taking the [Nova] head-on.
“wha- Brawling!?” I yelled, confused, still waking up.
“Holy shit, are you ok!?” I asked, crashing as I realized I wasn’t in fight or flight.
Oh fuck [Oath] don’t punish me for this, I genuinely thought I was under attack.
No punishment. Bless the reasonable aspect of it. That was close.
Sadly, a good chunk of my room hadn’t survived my [Nova]. I winced. I’d need a new wardrobe.
I snapped back to Brawling. He waved his hand.
“Just a little warm, I’m fine. Anyways. Emergency. Gear up.”
Oh fuck this must be one hell of an emergency. Nothing – nothing – couldn’t wait until the morning meeting.
Until this, clearly.
I looked at him. He looked back.
“Come on! Move!” He tapped his foot, looking at me.
I finished waking up, and one and one clicked.
Holy shit we were in a bad emergency, if Brawling was waiting in my room for me to gear up.
Modesty forgotten, I jumped out of bed, stripped out of my tunic, and started to gear up.
New tunic – designed to be worn with my armor.
Laminar vest. Sunstone and Moonstone woven throughout, internally, along with a ton of Arcanite. Inscriptions woven throughout, for toughness. Strength. Speed. Dexterity.
A minor one to keep my badge on, no matter what happened.
Sandals. [Talaria] required them.
Shin guards. More inscriptions. More stones.
Vambraces. They held my special, one-off gemstones. All the Sentinels traded skills with each other, giving us part of each other’s kit.
Our “serious” gear.
I went around the room, making sure I had the last pieces of my kit. Short sword. Inscribed again, but nothing special, nothing out of the ordinary.
I glanced at Brawling.
“Threat level?” I asked him.
“Bring it all.” He said.
I took down my tower shield off the wall. Grabbed the spear behind it.
I hadn’t used this shield since I became a Sentinel. Same with the spear.
Small round shield got added.
“Got everything?” Brawling asked, having helpfully stamped out the small fire.
“Check me over.” I said.
“No time. We’ll do it on the way.”
Before I could object, he’d picked me up and we were moving. Brawling was not only higher level than me, but had a higher tier class, and was all physical stats and buffs.
I didn’t like being carried like this, but it was the fastest transportation possible. I kept my mouth shut for expediency.
In a flash, we were in front of Ranger HQ, where a number of guards were clearing the street in front of the building. Some people were curious and looking on, but being pushed back.
“Here we are – whoa!” Brawling said, putting me down, then immediately picking me up and moving me.
I hated being an almost literal stick that could be thrown around, but I could see the reasoning as the Pegasus, our rapid deployment sky ship, landed hard in the street.
Mostly in pairs, the rest of the Sentinels showed up, usually one of the more physically minded transporting one of the slower, more magically based ones.
Quartermaster was awake, and organized a few of the guards to start throwing bags into the Pegasus. A shattering noise accompanied one of the bags, and with a curse he just threw the bag off to the side.
Our penny-pinching Quartermaster just throwing stuff around? Breaking tons of valuable stuff and not caring?
We were in deep shit.
I got onboard the Pegasus, finding a seat near the front, and staying out of the way. I started giving my gear a double check. I’d put it on in a rush, and I wasn’t going to die due to a loose strap.
We finished getting ready, when Night showed up at last, with one of the people I least expected.
“Excellent. We are all here.” Night said. “Ocean. Acquisition. You two stay behind. The rest of you – board. We leave now.”
Ocean and Acquisition saluted.
I didn’t question him. We had seven large, glowing Arcanite crystals in the middle of the boat – extra fuel for wherever we were going.
We all boarded in short order. No double checking. Quartermaster desperately throwing as much stuff as he could in the boat.
“Ocean. You’re in charge if we don’t come back.” Night said.
“Sky. Max speed. Frontlines.” Night said, and in just a few moments, I felt myself becoming lighter as Sky reduced gravity’s influence on all of us, then a large breeze came, filling the sails, lifting us up, up, and away, speeding us westward, one last pack from the Quartermaster falling short.
“I apologize for the short notice.” Night said, seeing that rushing wouldn’t get us there any faster.
“The Formorians have breached the walls.”
[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]