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A note from Selkie

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I have a pretty good view, although I was a bit lower to the ground than I would’ve liked. I had to keep stepping up to maintain height, because Hunting’s pull was downwards as well as sideways. Wasn’t quite able to “air-ski” through the sky, although now I was hoping an evolution of [Talaria] would permit that.

Hunting moved at an incredible pace, barely noticing the changing, shifting terrain below him. A testament to the usefulness of dexterity.

He’d occasionally just leap over a large crack in the earth, a permanent reminder of the massive spell that Destruction had channeled and unleashed on the Formorians.

I didn’t have to do anything. I just enjoyed myself. Front flips, backflips, twisting myself up and pausing to let Hunting unwind me like a top, “belly-surfing” and more! I was having the time of my life up here, never mind that we were on a mission. I didn’t have a good view of Hunting’s face from where I was, but little hints suggested that he was entertained by my antics, as much as he tried to keep a “stern and serious” face up.

After far too short of a time – like, four hours of being a kite wasn’t nearly long enough for the novelty to wear off – we approached the enormous bodies of the slain Queens. I dropped down. I’d like to say I dropped to the ground, but there wasn’t enough ground left to stand on. Just bodies.

I coiled the rope around one shoulder after landing. I didn’t want to have to bother retying it later.

Formorian Soldiers. Shooters. Worm-like creatures I suspected were Spitters. Small hills of Royal Guards.

Cruel red splashes on pure white wings, angels crushed and brought low. Broken swords and shattered halos.

I eyed the massive bodies of the Queens.

“They’re absolutely, totally, completely dead, right?” I asked Hunting.

He nodded at me.

“I’m looking at all three notifications for them now.” He confirmed. “Had the same thought as you.”

I looked around.

“I know you want to poke around them, but no way am I camping here tonight. No way. Not happening.” I said.

Hunting looked around.

“Surprised scavengers haven’t gotten to this yet. Hang out here, I’m going to get a close look at the Queens. Don’t touch them, might throw a wrench in one of my skills.”

I had no desire to touch the Queens. Even in death they terrified me, an errant twitch enough to crush Hunting to paste, let alone me.

How the hell had the strike team managed to finish one off!? Even with angels helping, even with an earthquake launched on top of them, they were massive behemoths. Like, put me on top of the main part of the crab-like body, give me six months, and I’m still not sure I’d even hit anything vital, let alone kill one.

I decided to take a look at the fallen angels. There’d been all sorts of idiomatic expressions involving angels, along with the occasional ‘fairy tale’ about them – like when that centurion had called me the angel of his group – but it hadn’t quite clicked for me how and why angels would be known on Pallos.

Of course, there were stories about angels because angels existed. I’d heard no stories about demons, but they were now high up on my “to be concerned” list.

Then again, I’d heard nothing about “evil” gods, or anti-gods. Even Xaoc and Thanatos, responsible for Chaos and Death, were revered as proper deities. Sure, chaos and death weren’t popular deities to worship, and people who did occasionally got the stink eye from more superstitious fellows, but it wasn’t like they were considered evil or some nonsense. Death was a part of life, like chaos was a part of order, and vice-versa.

Still. Note to self. Be on the lookout for demons. “How to recognize, infiltrate and destroy a cult” wasn’t a Ranger Academy lesson, which made me think cultists in dimly lit basements weren’t all that likely.

Heck, if there was a way to summon demons, I bet Night would’ve summoned a dozen of them and unleashed them on the Formorians. Or had a droning, 6000-word essay on why it was a terrible idea.

Normally I’d be telling myself at this point to focus, but I was on standby, with instructions to not screw with the Queens. Distraction away!

I decided to look at the angels, likely a once in a lifetime opportunity – even with my massively expanded lifespan.

While they looked human with magnificent white bird wings from a distance, nobody, not even someone who only had a rough sketch or idea of what a human looked like, would confuse us. On top of the unnaturally good looks and fine features, even in death there was something more about them, something Divine. No creatures would look at an angel and think they were anything other than a heavenly being.

I’d had a half-baked thought of getting a few angel feathers, but something about them gave me pause. Even broken and bloodied, coated in mud and left to rot, I didn’t dare desecrate their bodies. It just felt wrong. I couldn’t tell if it was something divine causing the feeling, or just my own sense of ethics rearing its head, but I didn’t want to touch their body, not even to bury them or to arrange them into a pyre. Burning the body where it had fallen felt equally wrong, and I left them there, untouched. For all I knew, there was a deadly curse unleashed on anything messing with their bodies. Or something. I wasn’t a priest, heck, I barely stepped into a temple.

I should probably reconsider that policy.

However, a number of feathers had broken off ‘normally’, and were scattered around. I entertained myself by hunting down a dozen intact feathers, each one a foot-long and pristine white.

I carefully pressed most of them into my pack, and tied two to the haft of my spear. I wanted to tie one into my hair, but it was too short right now for that. Couldn’t wait to get back to the capital, and have Albina grow it back out. She’d probably have fun with the angel feathers to boot. Could get me a cute look with them.

Before I did that, I should probably check with a priest that I wasn’t going to, like, annoy all the gods and goddesses by doing it. Then again, the lack of the strange feeling when I touched the loose feathers, versus the bodies of the angels, was suggestive.

Either way – I was keeping myself well entertained while Hunting did whatever it was that was taking so much time.

If I was a betting girl – which, with the right situation, I totally was – I’d bet that he’d found Katastrofi’s corpse, and was busy saying his goodbyes, his final farewells. He’d probably also legitimately find whatever he was looking for, but eh. I’d just keep upping my feather stockpile. I wasn’t picky for the first few, but now I’d only accept the perfect, unbroken ones.

One body, however, didn’t give off the same feeling as the rest. Like a magnet, pushed away from everything else, I was naturally pushed to it.

I looked at the body, perfect flesh and heavenly features.

I practically jumped a foot in the air as the body shuddered, taking a breath.

Holy! The angel was alive!

I sprang into action, activating [Wheel of Sun and Moon] to immediately start the healing process. Wounds closed, and wings straightened out, feathers regrowing in a flash.

I walked closer, and knelt down.

I froze as I reached my hand out, less than an inch away from the angel’s flesh. I had no idea what would happen if I actually touched the angel. Bad things, maybe? I eyed my mana.

Zero.

Somehow, I’d completely drained all of my mana on this already. Sure, I had a distance penalty with [Wheel of Sun and Moon], but I didn’t think angels were so far from humans as to entirely drain me on relatively minor injuries, and still not be completely healed. Although, he looked almost entirely healed. There might be something else wrong, something that I couldn’t see. Would have to give him another shot.

The decision to start pulling from my Arcanite and heal the angel or not was no decision at all. I’d never leave another intelligent creature in pain. I had plenty of the stuff.

As I pulled some mana in, I reflected that this could be a perfect way to trap me if needed. Just throw injured, innocent people at me until I was out of mana, then attack.

I mustered my courage, and leaned forward to touch the angel, healing him again. This time, my mana didn’t drop all the way to zero, but it was low.

“low.” Ha. It was more mana than I had total five years ago.

The angel opened his eyes, and they were captivating. No other word for it.

No, literally. They were indescribable. I couldn’t even tell you the color, the shape of the eyes, the type of pupil, nothing. I’d locked eyes with something distinctly Other, in spite of the similarity in bodies.

He sat up, and without a word, with a single beat of his powerful wings, was fly-floating right above me.

I was entranced. I couldn’t take my eyes off him.

He leaned forward, and while I should’ve felt fear, I didn’t.

I did have the presence of mind to [Identify] him, which… had no result. It was like trying to [Identify] a rock. Just didn’t register to the skill. Maybe that’s why it had taken so much mana to heal him?

“Thank you.” He said, after an indeterminate amount of time. His voice was like his eyes, with no words in any language I knew being able to even start to describe what I was hearing. Leaning forward, he placed a chaste kiss on my forehead, and simply vanished, leaving behind nothing but a few motes of divine flame.

I just stood there like an idiot, rubbing my forehead where the angel had kissed it.

I felt robbed though. Healing an angel, which required my entire mana pool and then some, an entirely new experience, repairing wings, and so much more – and I didn’t level!

Maybe it had something to do with the fact that I couldn’t [Identify] the angel?

An indeterminable amount of time later Hunting came sprinting out. That didn’t look good. That wasn’t the steady jog of “I just want to get from A to B”, this was a full-out sprint.

I dropped the coil of rope around my shoulder, letting it fall to the ground in a theoretical neat pile as I quickly repacked my backpack and swung it back on. Naturally, rope was rope, and it promptly tied itself into a half-dozen knots, in spite of my careful efforts. I then started to fly, climbing high while the rope uncoiled under me, knots tightening into annoying lumps in the middle of the rope. I had no idea what was going on, but Hunting clearly wanted to move fast, and I was going to make it easy for him.

He slowed down as he grabbed the rope, making sure to not jerk it hard enough that it’d break. Neither of us had a skill like [Strong Rope] or [Unbreakable Line] or anything like that. Well, I didn’t know all of Hunting’s skills, but it was a good bet. Unlike Ocean. I’d bet he had a skill like that.

Either way, we were off like one of Artemis’s famous pebbles, and as the sky darkened, I instinctively looked up, a trained habit ingrained in every kid since they were little.

A flock of Ornithocheirus darkened the sky, and I cursed as they started to circle the Formorians. One dove, then a second, and with a flurry of wings and cries, they all dove down onto the bodies. Fresh meat for them! Bonus – it didn’t fight back!

I cursed, while Hunting just kept speeding along. A few headed our way, and I made the snap decision to shoot them down.

Usually we didn’t want to kill them if we were attacked. It’d just increase the amount of food nearby, which would get more of the flock attacking us. However, this time, the entire flock was already coming down, off to eat the tasty Formorian bodies. Killing a few would make no difference.

Three dived at me, the tasty, shiny morsel being tangled tantalizingly on rope, nice and high in the air just for them. I tensed, watching them dive, needing them to be close enough before my Radiance was able to reach them.

Blasted magic. The light from Radiance could travel forever, but the burning, destructive aspect had a limited range.

Fortunately, [Nova] wasn’t as limited, and I unleashed four low-powered [Nova]’s as the Ornithocheirus got closer. With their speed, angle, and twisting way of diving, I wasn’t quite sure I’d be able to hit them with a single powerful [Nova], so I elected for a wide coverage, guaranteed to hit and do some damage instead of being a poorly stacked coinflip of maybe killing them, or totally missing.

[Nova] hit, one of the birds tumbled down, while the other two were singed, and then they were much closer, [Bullet Time] activating and giving me clarity and time to think.

More precisely, it gave me time to aim. Otherwise, trying to hit the twisty, high-speed fliers would be difficult.

The easier one I eyeballed, and threw a [Nova] directly at it, fairly certain that it’d connect. The harder one I just drilled a beam of Radiance through its open mouth, stopping when I saw the wings no longer flapping, and a flash of light from behind it.

Two notifications let me know that the two Ornithocheirus were dead, and I had a brief moment of elation before realizing that [Bullet Time] hadn’t stopped.

I mentally swore as I realized what was happening. The Ornithocheirus had been on a perfect intercept course, dive-bombing from above. Now that they were dead, their gravity assist was the only thing moving them, and one was on a direct course to land on me, dead or not.

I threw up [Mantle of the Stars] between me and it, dropped [Talaria] to let myself fall faster, then snaked out my arm to grab onto the rope, tensing and pulling it with my entire body’s worth of muscles. The combination of movement and shields proved effective, as the body slid off of [Mantle of the Stars].

It all happened so fast, I needed a bunch of small moves to properly move myself enough to have the Ornithocherius bounce and slide off instead of a direct hit.

Then we were out, far away enough from the flock that we were no longer interesting. Or, putting it another way, the massive almost literal mountain of dead flesh was far more appealing than we were.

Didn’t stop Hunting from making amazing time across the Formorian lands, going deeper and deeper, still jumping over the occasional crevice from Destruction’s work. There were fewer of them now, as his earthquake only went so far.

I’m not sure that an expert tracker was needed for this. The Formorian Queens weren’t exactly subtle about their movements, and a three-year-old could’ve followed their tracks. Hard to miss the divots they imprinted into the earth with each step of their monstrous crab-like legs.

Hunting ran for hours more, and when the sun set, he grumbled, picked me up in a princess carry, and continued to make good time.

Wasn’t a huge fan of the princess carry, but given that I was wearing a large pack, full of sharp pointy bits, and he was wearing a large pack, our options were limited.

Eventually we got to where Hunting judged to be far enough, and I watched in fascination as he built an entire small campsite underground, voiding out large portions of the ground to make a narrow entrance that expanded into a tiny enclosure that barely supported the two of us and our packs.

I put my stuff down and uneasily looked at the ground above us. If that came down on us, we were so dead, and it wasn’t like we had support beams or anything. Just being in this cave made me nervous, forget sleeping in it.

Still, Hunting seemed like he knew what he was doing, although I dreaded a repeat performance of this.

We grabbed dinner together, no fire. We did close off the entrance with some tarp, and I used my Radiance to make the inside nice and warm and toasty. Some comforts of home.

“What were you looking for?” I asked Hunting.

“Eggs.” He replied. “Wouldn’t surprise me if the Queens laid the foundation for a new generation as they were dying. Especially the first and the last one. They died slowly, and would’ve had enough time for a last-ditch desperation egg. Wouldn’t be the first time something like that happened.”

“And we stopped because of the Ornithocheirus attack.” I reasoned out. “Because if there are any eggs, they’ll just eat them.”

“Exactly. Saves us the trouble of trying to burn the area clean, saves the soldiers the effort of needing to come out and burn all the bodies one at a time. It’ll be a pain if they decide that this means food lives here, and they frequently return, but that’s a future problem.”

I frowned.

“This is going to suck.” I said.

“How so?”

“They were loaded up with Toxic’s poison. Now they’re going to fly all over the damn place while the poison concentrates inside of them, and drop dead in random places. It’ll just keep spreading, and spreading.” I said.

Hunting grimaced.

“Ouch, really?” He asked.

“Yup.”

“Can’t you cure or fix it?” He said.

“Only when it’s in a human – or near human – and only if I know about it. Some Ornithocheirus drops dead near a village, a wolf eats the body, a farmer kills and eats the wolf, well, I’ll never know about it.”

“Nasty stuff.” Hunting commented.

“I was against the whole idea.” I grumbled.

He gestured around the tiny cavern.

“Worked, didn’t it? We won. A few people dying here and there of poison’s a small price to pay. Heck, I bet fewer people die of poison than would die on the front lines. That’s a net benefit, right?”

I just grumbled bad-naturedly to myself, not saying any words but letting Hunting know my feelings exactly. I didn’t have a strong logical argument to what he was saying, just an emotional one.

Urgh. The whole thing reminded me that I had no idea what happened when Arthur’s toxin was burned. For all I knew we were aerosolizing the crap out of it, and everyone in the camp was going to be breathing it in.

What a mess.

[Name: Elaine]

[Race: Human]

[Age: 19]

[Mana: 153790/153790]

[Mana Regen: 133517 (+98425.6)]

Stats

[Free Stats: 51]

[Strength: 293]

[Dexterity: 347]

[Vitality: 2176]

[Speed: 2176]

[Mana: 15379]

[Mana Regeneration: 15379 (+9842.56)]

[Magic Power: 7897 (+106609.5)]

[Magic Control: 7897 (+106609.5)]

[Class 1: [The Dawn Sentinel - Celestial: Lv 305]]

[Celestial Affinity: 305]

[Cosmic Presence: 231]

[Solar Infusion: 1]

[Center of the Universe: 285]

[Dance of the Heavens: 305]

[Wheel of Sun and Moon: 271]

[Mantle of the Stars: 256]

[Sunrise: 4]

[Class 2: [Ranger-Mage - Radiance: Lv 256]]

[Radiance Affinity: 256]

[Radiance Resistance: 256]

[Radiance Conjuration: 256]

[Shine: 111]

[Sun-Kissed: 256]

[Blaze: 256]

[Talaria: 256]

[Nova: 256]

[Class 3: Locked]

General Skills

[Identify: 151]

[Pristine Memories: 200]

[Pretty: 152]

[Bullet Time: 268]

[Oath of Elaine to Lyra: 270]

[Sentinel's Superiority: 305]

[Persistent Casting: 189]

[Learning: 280]

 

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Selkie

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