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I dropped straight down the darkened old mine ventilation shaft, pulled extra-hard by whatever Gravity nonsense was going on. The shaft was now wide enough for the dwarves, courtesy of Toke. More than wide enough for me. I needed to get out of here before another stray fraction of an attack came over the mountain peak and my luck ran out.

The dwarves were a stocky bunch, and I immediately tried to twist, pressing my remaining arm against one side of the shaft and my feet pressed against the other side, trying to wedge myself in.

Toke’s carving away of the stone with her Dark magic had left the shaft supernaturally smooth. Despite the stone surface, it was difficult to get any sort of traction to properly slow myself down with.

Which, of course, had me rapidly speeding up as I futilely tried to get a proper grip, my sandals burning with the friction. The Gravity was fluctuating as well, letting me know that the fight outside was still going on. After just three seconds, during a pause in the increased gravity, I gritted my teeth, and properly jammed my hand into the wall.

Skin peeled off, leaving a long, bloody streak on the wall as muscle tore, giving me the mother of all rugburns. I opened my mouth in a silent scream as I managed to come to a halt, taking a few deep breaths, and considered my next moves.

It was pitch black in here, only a few small stars in a circle of light above me. An Elaine in a well.

I’d completely emptied my mana in my futile attempt to heal Lule, and I didn’t even have any Arcanite reserves left to top myself off with. Given that I associated “Mine ventilation shaft” with “Long, straight, and ends with hard stone”, I expected a long, long fall, followed by splat that I’d hopefully survive. The rest of the dwarves had also taken the same passage, but Toke would’ve gone in slow-mode, as she cleared the shaft one length at a time, which would’ve stopped her from a hard landing. Most of the dwarves were physical-based, which would allow for rough, but survivable landings.

I was worried about Ned, but a healer with a full bar of mana should be fine. He might break a few bones, but his level was high enough that I wasn’t concerned about his fate. Even if he only had 4000 magic power.

Mine? It was dicey. I was going to go down as slowly as possible, to give myself time to regenerate enough mana, so I could un-splat myself at the bottom. That’s why I wasn’t restoring my arm, and trying to do this one-handedly. If I fixed my arm now, I’d just need to fix it again at the bottom.

Nah, better to go down one-armed, and heal it later, when I had more mana.

Still, [The Dawn Sentinel]’s stats were working overtime, restoring roughly 38 mana per second. Ideally, I’d have a full mana bar, and bounce off my shield a few times on the way down to bleed speed, then be able to fully resto-

I cursed as my thought process was interrupted by the small circle of stars seeming to fall, and I recognized Lun’Kat’s attack from earlier, where she brought down the entire sky on the countryside. If the skill had a cooldown, it wasn’t particularly significant, and I let go, allowing myself to drop.

I wanted a lot more mountain between me and that attack.

Naturally, this would be the exact moment that Gravity decided it didn’t want to work nearly as well, and instead of accelerating down at full speed, it was more like I had a lazy slide, right as I wanted to go full speed.

My bet was the Xuan Wu was doing this, since the Gravity nonsense had only started after he’d shown up. He was probably trying to slow down all the stars, and reduce the impact of the stars.

I didn’t care about that, I just wanted to go down!

Which of course had me rudely yanked at the wrong moment, back to free-falling like somewhat normal.

I did spend a bit of precious mana restoring my rugburnt hand, before trying to slow myself down again, blessing [Center of the Galaxy] for letting me ignore the burning pain in my feet. I managed to briefly slow myself to a halt, only for the entire mountain to start shaking as some attack or another hit, dislodging me and causing me to tumble down, into the pitch-dark depths.

I made the snap call that knowing when I was about to hit something solid was worth losing a bit of extra mana, and I used [Shine] to project light down the shaft, twisting my neck so I could see.

Nothing but darkness.

The mountain was shaking, not quite as violently the further I fell, but I was picking up so much speed that I wasn’t able to wedge myself in the shaft any further. Faster and faster I hurtled down, trying to summon [Mantle of the Stars] to slow my fall enough to get a grip, only for my blood-slick feet to fail once again.

I only got a quarter-second warning that I was about to land, but with [Bullet Time] activating, that was enough.

It had to be enough.

I tied off the worst image possible to my [Dance with the Heavens], linking it to [Persistent Casting].

“Heal the head. Then the rest.”

As I did that, I twisted my body such that I’d land feet-first, like a gymnast finishing her routine. I fought the instinct to cover my head with my arm, instead putting it out.

Another support to break before I did.

Hopefully long enough for my healing to kick in.

I hit the ground hard, screaming as [Center of the Universe] broke, feeling my shins snap, my kneecaps pop off, my femur break. My shin guards snapped, and my leather skort was entirely useless for stopping anything here.

My pelvis shattered, my spine bent and popped, and my arm turned into a triangle.

My armor creaked and broke, small pieces flying off in random directions.

I kept screaming as the pain overwhelmed me.

As I stopped, only to topple over, bleeding from uncountable places where bone had punctured through flesh, my mana dropping to, and staying stubbornly at, 0, as every drop I regenerated went toward healing the massive injuries I’d just sustained.

“Elaine? Elaine! Ned, get over here!” A voice I identified as Fik said, as I screamed and screamed and screamed, until my lungs reminded me that I needed air in them to scream more.

A light came over, four concerned faces looking down at me.

I breathed in. It hurt. Agony wracked my body, and twitching in response just caused more agony, causing me to flail and spasm. Wounds that had already closed over thanks to the rapid passive healing from [Cosmic Presence] opened backed up, spraying one of the dwarves in hot blood. He reeled back, spluttering and pawing at his beard.

Then – relief. Blessed, cooling relief washed over me, and I could see the red-painted bones sticking out from me slowly retract back into my body, my one arm twisting back into position. It felt like it took an eternity, but couldn’t have been more than six or seven seconds.

Made me appreciate my significantly higher power.

“Get ready to catch Lule!” Glifir said, and I was unceremoniously rolled out of the way, still one-armed. I rolled through a few puddles, getting soaked and splattered with mud. I coughed and spat, trying to clear my throat. I tried to get up, only for my legs to fail me, and I faceplanted onto the hard stone, cracking my head hard enough that I saw stars.

Fine.

I was just going to lie here for some time, long enough to recover somewhat. It sucked that one of my legs was in a pool of freezing cold water, but eh. I couldn’t bring myself to care enough to move it, not with the energy level I was at.

Being out of mana – and wanting it all for healing my arm – meant no [Sunrise]. Downside of being a healer-mage. Out of mana? Out of tricks.

Still.

We were under no threat.

Wait.

A thought slowly percolated to the surface of my thoughts.

Four dwarves?

I cracked an eye open, looking at them. The four dwarves looked rough. Even Drin’s armor, which normally healed itself instantly, was battered and broken. There were the dents I’d expect from a long fall, but claw marks?

Burns?

I groaned, and turned off my [Persistent Casting]. I hadn’t knocked myself out, hadn’t needed to keep healing going while unconscious. No sense in wasting mana on shit healing, not when the mines didn’t seem nearly as safe as I’d first assumed.

That, and I could get a much more efficient heal if I spent half a second thinking about it. Honestly, it was a win all around.

I rolled and pulled myself up slightly, leaning against the wall I could barely see in the flickering light the dwarves had on them.

Wasn’t worth using any mana on my own light.

“De-” I tried to say, only to cough and hack again. I licked my lips, wetting them.

“Dead.” I managed to croak out.

“What?” Fik asked, glancing back.

“Dead. Lule didn’t make it.” I repeated, starting to get my voice back, closing my eyes at the memory.

I got an angry snort from Ned.

“So much for 114,000 plus magic power.” He said, mocking me.

I creaked open an angry eye at him.

“It was dragonfire. I blew 300,000 mana trying to save her. The dragonfire didn’t care.” I retorted, curling my hand into a one-finger salute.

My hand was still on the floor, and Ned probably didn’t know what it meant. Still. It was the thought that counted.

“Still left yourself enough mana to drop down.” Ned sneered at me.

“Fuck you.” I said, with as much feeling as I could put behind it. “I dropped with no mana, and no Arcanite.”

Saying that exhausted me, and I put my head back against the wall, closing my eyes.

“How much danger are we in?” I asked, getting silence back.

I kept my eyes closed.

“You’re probably thinking that you still need to escort me. Yes. Fine. I’m not helpless. I need to know what we’re up against.” I said, wishing they’d just understand.

“We don’t know.” Drin said after a moment. “We jumped fairly quickly. When we landed, there was no sign of Toke. We got attacked by some monsters though.”

“How dangerous?” I repeated myself, mentally running through what resources I had left.

My [Nova] gems were all gone.

My Arcanite was drained, but I still had all of it. It was part of a layer that hadn’t snapped off. I was out my shin guard, but I still had my right vambrace – which meant I still had my utility gems. The only one I’d blown was [Feather Fall], although I slightly regretted that I’d brought just one.

Oh well. I survived the fall. I was alive.

“They’re not as dangerous as we are!” Drin crowed.

“Oh shut up. They’re just as strong as a dwarf, and it’ll get us killed not to admit it.” Glifir argued back.

That started off rounds of bickering, which seemed unwise given our predicament. I decided to take stock of what I had, while my body slowly finished reknitting itself. Ned had done a lot, but there were minor issues that still needed to be addressed.

My armor was bent, battered, and not exactly in one piece anymore, and my sandals were in dubious enough shape that I doubted [Talaria] would work. Not that “flying” and “cramped tunnel” went well together. I didn’t have my pack, spear, shield, or helmet.

I had my short sword.

My lucky pendant.

My talent, training, skills, and System.

Speaking of – I had half a moment to process. I wonder what levels I’d gotten?

[*Ding!* Congratulations! [The Dawn Sentinel] has leveled up to level 306->355! +3 Dexterity, +24 Speed, +24 Vitality, +170 Mana, +170 Mana Regen, +48 Magic power, +48 Magic Control from your Class per level! +1 Free Stat for being Human per level! +1 Mana, +1 Mana Regen from your Element per level!]

Bloody hell. Healing Galeru, trying to heal Lule, being on the edges of the fight with a bloody dragon, and surviving secondary dragonfire off a skill, then surviving the fall, all outside of the dead zone, was good for some serious, serious experience.

[Learning] multiplying things probably helped to boot.

[*Ding!* [Celestial Affinity] leveled up! 306 -> 355]

I wonder if watching the sky fall helped at all with affinity?

[*Ding!* [Cosmic Presence] leveled up! 231 -> 269]

That seemed like a lot. Then again, the skill was sort of subtle. I’d been actively healing just about every injury as it occurred… so really, getting two levels would’ve been a win, let alone freaking 38.

It did make me think that, since my [Persistent Casting] was off, that whenever I took an injury and I didn’t need to immediately heal it to save my life, that I should consider letting [Cosmic Presence] take a crack at it first. The skill was powerful enough now that it could possibly get some serious experience. A snowball effect, basically.

[*Ding!* [Solar Infusion] leveled up! 1 -> 110]

And the winner for biggest level jump in a single occurrence goes to - [Solar Infusion]! Previous casts on Hunting had gone nowhere, since he almost immediately broke the skill. Thinking about it, putting it on Galeru might’ve been suicidally stupid, if the big snake decided it didn’t like me.

She probably didn’t even notice that I’d done anything.

Welp, the skill now had some decent power behind it, and I’d need to work with the rest of the team on how to best utilize it.

[*Ding!* [Center of the Universe] leveled up! 285 -> 355]

I didn’t think the skill breaking when I hit the ground had helped a ton, but it killing pain so I could keep healing Lule, then hack off my own arm to save my life?

Yeah. Good experience. Also reminded me that I was completely, totally out of the dead zone, and good experience was the name of the game.

[*Ding!* [Dance of the Heavens] leveled up! 306 -> 355]

I half-expected the amount of experience the skill had just gotten to somehow break the skill cap imposed by the System.

300,000+ mana went through the skill, in a combat situation with multiple guardians and a dragon, healing dragonfire. Not just regular dragonfire, but skill-backed dragonfire.

Ok, so I was letting the myths and legends surrounding dragons get to me. It might not be that special, but it was from a monster at such a high level it caused bleeding just to [Identify] it.

Then again.. Galeru hadn’t caused that problem.

Money on dragons being stupid good. Or just having some skill like [Identify-Me-Not]. I could believe it.

Couldn’t wait to get to the skill.

[*Ding!* [Wheel of Sun and Moon] leveled up! 271 -> 311]

The constant shockwaves I’d healed the dwarves through paid off with a nice smattering of levels. Sadly, Etalix had clouded the sky, which stopped me from using it later on.

I wasn’t going to complain, not with the literal hundreds of combined levels I was getting.

[*Ding!* [Mantle of the Stars] leveled up! 257 -> 315]

I’d been abusing [Mantle] hard, and the massive jump showed. Kinda wished it’d overtaken [Solar Infusion], but I couldn’t win them all. Plus, I’d cast the skill a dozen times, not once.

[*Ding!* [Shine] leveled up! 115 -> 188]

[*Ding!* [Identify] leveled up! 152 -> 200]

[*Ding!* [Identify] has upgraded into [Long-Range Identify]!]

[*Ding!* [Long-Range Identify] leveled up! 200 -> 355]

While the upgrade didn’t seem all that potent, a quick check told me that I’d more than quadrupled the range, while also being able to identify a group in one go.

I wasn’t going to complain about free, more powerful skills.

Especially not when a new record was set, and I got 200 bloody levels in a single skill from two [Identify]s after a whole freaking lifetime IDing people to get 152 in the first place.

Ugh. I shouldn’t have wasted my time, and just come here in the first place and ID’d Lun’Kat. BOOM! No time wasted, no grinding needed. I’d also have to check, but I might be able to [Long-Range Identify] anything that I could reasonably see at this point, barring, like a giant sleeping like a mountain.

[*Ding!* [Pristine Memories] leveled up! 201 -> 205]

I had no idea what the skill was doing here, but I’d take it.

[*Ding!* [Pretty] leveled up! 153 -> 154]

What. Why?

[*Ding!* [Bullet Time] leveled up! 268 -> 269]

[Bullet Time] not activating as I was plunging to my death was the source of no end of irritation for me. I could’ve used the extra processing time! I could’ve tried to heal bone, keep them together to force more of the impact to work on breaking unimportant bones.

Bah. I suppose willingly jumping to my doom didn’t count as an attack.

[*Ding!* [Oath of Elaine to Lyra] leveled up! 270 -> 300]

Willingly running to my doom to save another creature, and spending everything I had on Lule was recognized, and rewarded, by the System.

I glanced at my stats and nearly had a heart attack. First, finishing up the rest of my skills, blitz-style.

[*Ding!* [Sentinel's Superiority] leveled up! 306 -> 355]

[*Ding!* [Persistent Casting] leveled up! 192 -> 255]

[*Ding!* [Learning] leveled up! 282 -> 340]

[Learning] oh [Learning], how I loved you as a skill. Steadily increasing multipliers to my experience? It was the only reason I was as high level as I was.

I looked around. A dim light, held by the four dwarves, my only companions down here in the mine. Water, dripping from above. The occasional shake as some powerful attack or another caused the mountains to shake.

My pack, spear, shield, and one vambrace – gone.

I was battered and injured – although that was temporary – in a mine filled with monsters, the only people nominally on my side not all seeming to like me very much. I had no food, it was freezing cold, and the water here was questionable. There was a battle of the titans overhead, and from what we’d seen, “an entire mountain” wasn’t nearly enough of a defense. I had no map, no directions, no idea which way was out.

I let a soft chuckle escape my lips.

I’d been spending my time trying to dance and play politics, to be in polite society. It was no surprise that Ned looked down on me, was dismissive almost to the point of cruelty. It was no wonder that they treated me like a slightly dumb flower, to not even let me risk hurting myself as they built camp.

I wasn’t a diplomat, and it was a dumb fucking idea to have sent me as one. Hunting and I should’ve just gone back together.

I was a Sentinel. I danced with Black Crow, I flirted with White Dove. I was a tease, coming to the brink of death, wriggling my eyebrows suggestively at them, then laughing as I spun away, out of their grasping claws.

Stealing away a partner, that I’d ripped out of their claws, saving to live another day.

An abandoned mine, full of monsters? Danger around every corner?

I hated acknowledging it, but I couldn’t deny it any longer.

I was in my element.

They wouldn’t know what hit them.

[Name: Elaine]

[Race: Human]

[Age: 19]

[Mana: 0/239290]

[Mana Regen: 216486 (+153145.6)]

 

Stats

[Free Stats: 101]

[Strength: 274]

[Dexterity: 497]

[Vitality: 3376]

[Speed: 3376]

[Mana: 23929]

[Mana Regeneration: 23929 (+15314.56)]

[Magic Power: 9997 (+149955)]

[Magic Control: 9997 (+149955)]

 

[Class 1: [The Dawn Sentinel - Celestial: Lv 355]]

[Celestial Affinity: 355]

[Cosmic Presence: 269]

[Solar Infusion: 110]

[Center of the Universe: 355]

[Dance of the Heavens: 355]

[Wheel of Sun and Moon: 311]

[Mantle of the Stars: 315]

[Sunrise: 128]

 

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

[Radiance Affinity: 256]

[Radiance Resistance: 256]

[Radiance Conjuration: 256]

[Shine: 188]

[Sun-Kissed: 256]

[Blaze: 256]

[Talaria: 256]

[Nova: 256]

 

[Class 3: Locked]

 

General Skills

[Long-Range Identify: 355]

[Pristine Memories: 205]

[Pretty: 153]

[Bullet Time: 269]

[Oath of Elaine to Lyra: 300]

[Sentinel's Superiority: 355]

[Persistent Casting: 255]

[Learning: 340]

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Selkie

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