“Ok, good. Now, we’ve got a choice. We can power up our skills now, but get fewer stats per level. However, we’ll probably level a bit faster. Or, we can put less starlight into the skills, and get more points per level, but it means we delay some of our skills upgrading.”

“We’re sitting on a pile of experience, right?” I asked, trying to confirm. I’d been at 256 for a few months, but I hadn’t done anything that would’ve been worth a bunch of levels. Just standard city healing. However, participating with the attack on the Formorian Queens, being part of the party that killed two of them, along with hundreds of Royal Guards – mostly killed in the earthquake – followed by the marathon healing here had to be worth quite a lot of experience. Heck, Destruction had gotten almost a hundred levels, jumping him from the 400s to the 500s, which was pure insanity.

“Should be!” Librarian cheerfully agreed, and I cursed the only partially-knowing aspect.

“Should probably rearrange it back to the starfield.” I said. The books had been fantastic to see and cross-reference stuff, but it’s not like my notes would vanish. There was something about seeing the sky in the full visual that just appealed to me for this last step. “Let’s only have the eight skills I’ll be using. We’ve yoinked the starlight from all the other skills, right?” I asked Librarian.

She gestured, like grabbing a moonbeam out of the air.

“Yup! Now we do!”

I eyed up the now very full container of starlight. It was moderately tempting to keep it as pure stats.

Then again, better skills? Even more tempting. A delicate balancing act that I’d need to walk. I’d gotten a treat with being able to essentially build my own class, but the power came at the price of complexity. The eternal trade-off.

I decided to call each stat point worth of starlight a single unit.

I decided to keep [Moonlight], even though something like [Lifeline] might be better. Turns out that [Moonlight] was pretty cheap – hence it not being that strong – and I invested some starlight to make it a hair less restrictive. Not a ton, it was still going to be a conditional skill, but for only 12 starlight across four stars I was upgrading the skill by leaps and bounds.

There were a half-dozen stars in [Moonlight] which would help with “multi-tasking” so to speak, where I’d be able to focus on and improve everyone’s healing. Like, right now when I did massive area of effect heals, I just focused on “heal”, which worked but was a terrible image, and hence terrible efficiency. With the little cluster of stars, I’d be able to picture everyone’s injuries at the same time, and think about and focus and heal each one in a custom manner, dramatically improving my efficiency.

It sounded neat, and I took the stars. Those were a bit more expensive, costing me 40 starlight.

[Celestial Affinity] I left it as-is. It was expensive to upgrade, and while it probably got stronger, I wasn’t chomping at the bit to change it. It would help if I knew what the upgraded version did, and I might regret it, but at the current cost? I was going to pass.

[Warmth of the Sun] got a lot of love. Stars to boost the range. Perks to boost the speed, by a significant factor. The ability to go through mundane walls. Being able to go through magical walls and barriers was crazy expensive, and I didn’t really see the need for it. An entire branch towards using my regeneration to improve the power and quality. It cost me a total of 82 points of starlight, and I was looking forward to seeing what it could do after these upgrades.

[Medicine] I decided to axe after way too much time spent thinking about it. I got back over a hundred points of starlight from it, and I invested them into the healing buff skill, the halo portion of the gigantic angelic constellation. There were just so many hidden depths and complexities to the skill, I was eager and excited to try them out.

I wasn’t looking forward to leveling the skill up from level 1 though. That was going to be painful. Maybe sticking it on some of the Sentinels before they sparred with each other would be a good way to help it level. Plus, I could be a bit lazier when they were sparring.

[Center of the Galaxy] had a bunch of things stripped from it, but I increased the pain resistance and the calm and collected aspect when in a fight. That was the part that had saved me a hundred times over. All in all, it was starlight neutral, as I reallocated starlight around the perks.

I had enough introspection to realize that I’d grown up and matured while leaning on the crutch that was [Center of the Galaxy]. I hadn’t needed to handle the fallout from intense negative emotions for years, and I’d need to work on my self-control. It was going to suck, but I couldn’t be seen as a whiny brat who threw tantrums and complained about small stuff.

The mere fact that I was aware of it would probably help.

The angel constellation that [Phases] was in now had three separate portions lit up, that would all work with each other. I’d tackled the [Moonlight] portion, I’d handled the halo that dealt with the buff. Now it was time to work on and upgrade the healing portion directly. The stars I was eyeing up to full light up right now mainly dealt with things being stabbed in me. A few to deal with suffocation.

[Phases] was my keystone skill in my primary class. The skill, more than anything, defined who and what I was, and a total of 98 points of starlight illuminated the skill. Improvements. Improvements all around. Magical ailments, the stabbing thing, and a dozen more items that looked like they might be useful one day in the future. Like heavy metal poisoning. A dozen points towards handling what I thought Arthur’s poison was, based on our brief conversations. Most of them would be coming down the line in the future, but I felt I could wait.

Heck, I was sitting on a massive pile of experience. “Waiting” could easily just be “until I woke up and everything leveled up like crazy.” With that being said, I focused on getting more stars partially lit, rather than making sure a few stars were lit right now.

“Removing objects that were stabbing you” was an expensive set of stars though, and I didn’t have that much spare starlight. I decided not to light all of the ‘stabbing stars’ up. I focused my starlight on items in my upper torso and my head. In theory, I could still get staked through the gut or something, and I’d just have to deal with it. Honestly, I was fine with that.

My logic was that being staked through the gut wasn’t a swift death, so I’d have time to handle it. Being staked through the heart, vampire-style, would kill me in seconds. I wanted my skill to be able to handle it. Mundane stabbing wasn’t a concern, so I didn’t see the need to even partially buy the skill off. Why waste my precious starlight on something like that, when they could be stats instead?

It was with great sadness that I barely upgraded anything in [Veil of the Aurora], instead mostly hitting it with nerfs. Minor, technical nerfs, but nerfs nonetheless. Less privacy. No more light, or pretty colors. Actually, that second part was arguably a buff, and a pretty strong buff to boot. I could now try to hide with the [Veil], instead of lighting a beacon that screamed “Dawn is RIGHT HERE!”. Being a solo operative now, stealth was more important than signaling to teammates. Also, I could see what was going on the other side of my shield. Previously, I had no idea what was happening on the other side of my shield. Had the attack landed? Missed? Or was Artemis preparing another nasty trap?

I wouldn’t have that concern anymore, so it was a win in my book.

The System considered it a nerf, but when I looked at it that way, I felt like Prometheus stealing fire. Not only had I improved the skill for my purposes, but I also got starlight out of the deal. A total steal.

I used the bonus starlight I’d gotten to grab a few little stars. For myself only, I could attach it, I could move it around a little, and it was now flexible when I wanted it to be. I might be able to do cool stuff with that, especially now that it was a more close-in to myself skill, focusing properly on the aspects of keeping myself alive and well.

I still think that being able to full-on do all the cool barrier stuff would be awesome, but I hardened my heart and made the choice.

Stars for sharp barriers. Multiple barriers. Moving barriers. Conditional barriers. Those, and dozens, hundreds, of additional options remained dark. Only a small part of the constellation was lit, and the rest would remain forever outside my reach. Possibly.

What I found super interesting was it seemed like I didn’t have the full constellation. It seemed like some stars had lines that led nowhere – or led to stars that I couldn’t see.

I suppose I did start from [Constellation of the Healer] and not [Constellation of the Barrier-Mage]. It wouldn’t really make sense to have access to all the powerful barrier skills and aspects in what was fundamentally a healing class.

And that was it. I was done with the initial pass-through.

I eyed the starlight. It had a good amount, but I was greedy for more. Every point mattered, because every point would turn into stats. Every stat I had would always be applying to everything I did. I’d unlocked everything I thought was cool; that I felt I needed.

Iteration time!

Time to see how useful things were, evaluate skills and perks not only on their own merit, but how they synergized with and interacted with everything else I had.

I cut the suffocation aspect from [Phases of the Moon], seeing a significant amount of starlight return. That had been a crazy expensive perk, and I avoided water like –

Well. I didn’t avoid it like the plague, given that I dived into plagues head-first. Still. The starlight didn’t justify the investment. Like, if I was suffocating, the skill would just keep me alive while I had mana, then I’d die anyways. Expensive skill, niche use, that was a formula for elimination.

Healing animals and dinosaurs from [Warmth of the Sun] bit the dust as well, returning a whopping 35 starlight. I’d had the awkward realization that it’d also heal animals and monsters hostile to me, unless I specifically bought the perk to exclude things from my aura, which was expensive. Also, healing animals and dinosaurs with [Warmth] was a pretty niche use anyways. Spend more starlight on a niche ability, or get it back? It was pretty obvious what the correct choice was.

All but one perk from healing non-humanoids from [Phases of the Moon] also got axed. Rough translation – I could heal Night and other vampires, following his old request, but I was going to continue to have a steep penalty healing other creatures. The further away from a human the System considered someone or something to be, the worse my healing efficiency would get, eventually turning into a “are you sure you want to lose all your mana for no reason?”

I frowned, and hesitated over that. I wanted a companion, and if I didn’t have the stars at least partially lit, I’d always have a gigantic penalty when healing said companion. Hunting had mentioned possibly going after the thunderbirds, and, well…

I lit up one more star in the “non-humanoid animal healing” section.

I looked at my starlight. I looked at my skills. Improvements!

I cut the “super efficient mass visualization” aspect from [Moonlight]. I hated it, but I didn’t do mass heals under [Moonlight] often enough to justify needing the extra efficiency. Plus – I’d just upgraded [Warmth of the Sun] a bunch. It was cannibalizing where I needed the skills, and a solid amount of starlight returned for it. Heck, if I threw that starlight into mana or mana regeneration, I basically got back everything I just lost from having the skill! After getting a few dozen levels, of course. Super-duper long run, it was going to work out even better.

I looked at my starlight, and I was now much happier with how much I had left. I had enough to think about what my skills would look like.

I was going to have only seven skills for quite some time, given how dimly I’d lit the ouroboros skill. I had room for a cheap pick up to temporarily hold onto and fill the slot, and with great glee, I grabbed a few points from the [Invigorate] skill.

I reviewed it, eight times, to see if there was anything else I wanted. I kept going back and forth on stuff, turning a star on one round, turning it off the next. Skill, or stat. Stat, or skill.

I looked back, finally content with my skills and my remaining starlight. It wasn’t the best. When push came to shove, I leaned towards powerful skills, going a bit lighter on the stats. Stats came from everything, while skills were unique and one-time.

Now it was time to figure out what stats I wanted, and in what ratio.

To begin, Free Stats were significantly more expensive than assigned stats. As much as possible, I wanted to carefully and properly plan out my stats, and minimize how many Free Stats I’d get. Like. Why bother getting four Free Stats per level when I’d just put them all into Speed? Might as well use that starlight to get five points of Speed.

I had a delightful amount of starlight left. 487 stats to distribute, which was simply crazy. I rubbed my hands in glee, eager to start distributing.

First off, my Magic Power and Magic Control as it pertained to healing was flat-out batty. The boost that [Oath] was providing was significant, to say the least. I’d probably put a few points in Power and Control just so they wouldn’t stagnate, so I’d be able to slowly improve over time. It was also useful when I needed to perform bulk, mass-healing all at once. I could only heal as many injuries as I had power. The quality of the healing would also be impacted by my control. Plus, it helped out my [Ranger-Mage] class. Still. Not the primary focus.

Physical stat-wise, Speed and Vitality were the name of the game, and I could use some of each. A bit of Dexterity to keep up with it would be nice as well. Strength was useless, as far as I used it.

No, the stats I needed the most were Mana, and Mana Regeneration. There was a tension between the two.

Mana was good for fights. Mages died when they ran out of mana, and my healing was strong enough to drain my entire bar in an instant. At the same time, as Sentinel, I had constant access to huge reserves of Arcanite, able to pull and extend my staying power.

Mana Regeneration was good for enduring, and long-lasting problems. Most of the problems I ran into these days required massive regeneration, from holding the Formorians, to healing tents upon tents of injured soldiers.

I was frankly exhausted. Not physically, but mentally. I was in the world of my soul, in soul form. It was impossible to be physically exhausted. Mentally though? I’d been slicing and dicing skills and points for what was probably days on end, and having had “mana versus regeneration” debates in the past, I decided to say screw it.

Even split on the two. Most of my points were going into it anyways.

I started pressing icons.

Strength was almost pointless. If nothing else, I’d consistently get a few points of it here and there from leveling up [Ranger-Mage] once I finished classing it up.

Three points to Dexterity.

24 points to Speed and Vitality.

48 points to Magic Power and Magic Control.

170 points to both Mana and Mana Regeneration.

Zero free stats per level.

I looked at the book, exhausted.

[The Dawn Sentinel] it proudly displayed, having turned a dark green. On top of being dark green, powerful on stats, I knew that most of the power of the class was in the skills, not in the stats. Being able to entirely customize the class was an unbelievable power, and it was probably even stronger than the raw numbers suggested. It was better than tailored for me – I’d tailored it myself.

Most of my skills would probably change their name, to reflect the new abilities I had. I was going to flat out lose [Vastness of the Stars], and after getting my replacement and temporary skills, I wouldn’t be getting another skill for a long, long time.

It was all going to be worth it. I’d gotten to see what the skill was going to be called once I’d get it. I knew what it would do, and the mere thought of it sent my heart racing as I bit my lower lip in nervous anticipation.

[The Stars Never Fade].

I would be able to see Librarian again in the future.

I would be able to turn back the clock of time on myself, effectively rendering me ageless.

Or, to put it another way -


A note from Selkie

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