Making people trip when they heard my magic power and control wasn’t going to get old anytime soon.
However, I was faced with the most ridiculous, absurd problem I’d ever heard of.
I had too much power. I was healing out metal augmentations that the dwarves had installed in themselves. And it wasn’t like they had a standard set they all used! Oh no, everyone had something different from the sound of it.
I continued to walk through the tent, hitting up dwarves that were raising their hands while I thought about the problem.
Let’s take the dwarf with the metal bones. How would I heal that?
Well, the problem wasn’t “How do I heal it” now, was it? It was “How do I not heal it?”
Which led me back to briefly reflecting on my [Oath]. I’d sworn to heal everyone, yes. However, if someone had, say, prosthetic legs, and they were happy with said legs, regardless of performance?
Well, then there’d be no problem. If there was no problem, then I didn’t need to heal it. The patient’s wishes would triumph in those circumstances, unlike Perinthus and the plague, where the greater good came into play.
I tapped another dwarf, fixing a nasty broken jaw, punctuating the thought.
Ok. So, ideally, I’d like to save their augmentations. My healing right now just smashed right through what was present, and replaced their metal with bone, “healing” them back up.
I stopped moving for a moment and facepalmed.
“Everything ok?” Thoren asked.
“Yeah, yeah, I’m fine, just realized something dumb.” I said, getting moving again.
I was healing them… because of my [Persistent Casting]. The answer was now somewhat obvious. I needed to turn my [Persistent Casting] heal off again, then on each dwarf, figure out what metal they had, then make sure I healed around it. I’d be playing it kind of close, but that’s what my massive control was for.
At the same time, my [Persistent Casting] was arguably what saved me from decapitation, and there were the orc commandos running around. Apparently, I was a high-value target, and as I considered how I would lead a team of Rangers to demolish an entire city, I had to reluctantly admit to myself that I’d aim for the healers. Perhaps not first, but they’d be on my list, and I’d kill one if I saw an isolated or weakly guarded one.
Thank all the goddesses I had [Oath] and would never - could never - make that decision.
I’d reached the end of this floor, and was staring kinda dumbly at the stone wall.
“Healer Elaine? Are you alright?” Thoren asked me.
I gave him the murder glare for breaking me out of my concentration.
“Hang on. I’m thinking.” I grumped at him.
Goddesses, I hated being broken out of my focus. It was so damn hard to get back there. Right, where was I? Prosthetics, healing around metal, careful control, ahha! That’s right.
I could also focus, and “limit” how much I was healing in any one go, which should give the anti-healing properties a chance to work. Or, um, not work, as the case may be.
Right. Now that I had something of an idea, I needed to know more about how the metal implants worked. Take the bone augmentation for example. The whole human body was connected, and interconnected, again and again and again. The dwarvish body was likely to be fairly similar in many aspects. After all, the gods seem to have plagiarized everything, and while I wouldn’t dare guess how a phoenix’s biology worked, with it being made of fire and all that, I was willing to assume that dwarves were similar to humans.
Said bone-replacement needed many things. Like, obviously the dwarves' muscles still worked. That meant tendons were connecting the muscle to the bone-replacement. The other bones had to be connected, which meant the ligaments were in place. It was technically possible that the fenestrated and sinusoidal capillaries - the little blood vessels feeding the bone - were in place, but I had serious doubts about that. That would be extremely high-tier work, and while possible, the dwarves seemed fairly obsessed with metal, and less so with biology.
I should write out a copy of the Medical Manuscripts for them. It’d-
Right, if I didn’t think the blood vessels were directly connected with the metal - like, metal poisoning was potentially in the works even more so if it was - then that also meant it was likely that the bone marrow didn’t have a replacement either.
“Healer Elaine! I’m so glad you’re safe!” Urik called out, barging through the guards, trailing his own escort.
“WHAT NOW!?” I practically snarled at him. I WAS BUSY DAMNIT!
He barely batted an eye at my ferocity, being actually somewhat experienced and shit, and I cursed to myself.
Oi! System! Give me an [Intimidation] skill or something! [Scary]! I needed a skill for this!
[*ding!* You’ve unlocked the General Skill [Savage puppy]! Would you like to replace a skill for it?]
No! I was not an angry puppy! Give me a real skill!
[*ding!* You’ve unlocked the General Skill [Kitty Has Claws]! Would you like to replace a skill for it?]
I briefly considered cursing the System out, but I was near a class evolution. There were wildly varying theories on how smart the System was, and how it responded to people’s actions. The fact that I could wish really hard for a skill and get offered something was proof of that. I didn’t want to piss the System off, and get subpar classes, if not shitty ones.
With that being said, being “cute” and “adorable” was kinda grinding my gears here. It was clear from people’s reaction, and the System’s offered skills, that people weren’t taking my angry grumpings seriously. If only I was a beefy six foot tall physical classer, that could intimidate people with a single look. Or had one as an escort who could practically read my mind.
ANYWAYS. Back on task. Urik was talking.
“... no idea what happened!” He said. I continued giving him a vacant, half-snarling look, as my brain worked overtime.
[Pristine Memories], bail me out here.
“Healer Ned just vanished! We’re afraid the orcs got him, but we have no idea what happened!”
Ah right. There we go.
“Ok, fine. How does that impact me here, now, and was it worth interrupting me?” I said, grumbly as hell that I’d gotten interrupted twice as I was trying to figure out how to keep people alive.
Seriously, all these delays were not good for the dwarves.
Urik was slightly taken aback by that.
“Well, you two were traveling together, I thought you’d care.” He said.
Ooof. Right. That was kind of a bad look, to be like “My buddy vanished, probably dead? Don’t care.”
“Something was wrong with Ned in the first place, like I told your boss, I was assuming he’d try to kill me at some point. How’s Glifir, Drin, and Fik doing?” I asked, to blank looks.
I rolled my eyes.
“The Nolgardian dwarves I was with.” I clarified.
“Oh! Still being debriefed. Probably getting fed, then we’ll find a place for them.” Urik said after a moment’s hesitation.
I didn’t quite buy that, but I was busy.
“Right. Anything else I need to know before I can get back to working on how to heal the people here?” I asked, irritation obvious in my voice.
“Hi, yes, can we come through?” A pair of dwarves with a stretcher asked, from way back behind the crowd. They both [Identify]ed as [Laborer], around level 110 or so. Young.
Wait, the crowd?
I blinked and looked around again. Thoren had all eleven of his minions back with him, all armored up, weapons at a relaxed ready. Then there was Urik, and his eleven minions, and the aisle in the infirmary wasn’t exactly large.
Three’s a crowd, and we were twenty-five people.
Oh no, don’t tell me they were going to try and “keep me safe” by permanently following me around, were they?
Nooooooo. They totally were.
“Yeah, sure, come on through!” I said, shuffling myself out of the way.
Thoren and Urik shared an indecipherable look, but we all slowly shuffled out of their way as they made it to one of the dwarves that hadn’t gotten healed yet.
“Mage Toick, you’re up!” One of the stretcher-carriers, carefully moving the dwarf over to the stretcher. My money was on some sort of skill.
I ruthlessly crushed the idea of speculating on their classes and their system of healing and medicine before I got sidetracked by more stuff!
However, the stretcher dwarves, and moving patients presumably to a healer, reminded me that they were thinking of using me as bait, since I was being high profile and stuff.
I mentally snorted. If I was leading a team of Rangers, there’s no way I’d ever hit the ridiculously well-guarded target. That was asking for trouble. No, I’d pick off a target somewhere else where there were fewer guards. Snipe the VIP when everyone was relaxed in public.
Which meant eventually the pendulum would swing, the orcs would hit somewhere else, and when the guards all scurried off over to where the distraction was, then they’d hit me hard.
I should get out of town before then.
If I saw a well-guarded target, and I had, say, Artemis and a hiding spot, I might be tempted to have Artemis unload on the target, then bail to a new hiding spot.
I nodded to myself.
Right. Heal here, see how many dwarves and how much backlog I could clear out, then casually walk out, hopefully before my presence even registered on the orc commando’s radar. It wasn’t like people were talking with them, it was all observation.
… Unless, of course, they used a Mirage skill to disguise themselves as dwarves. But I had a weak [Shine] going to dispel that. Argh!
I needed to work on healing, which meant I needed to finish working out the medical puzzle I’d been presented with.
Where was I?
Bones. Ligaments. Tendons. Capillaries.
I’d need to check, but I’d be surprised if there was a bone-marrow replacement, especially since it needed the capillaries to make it all work.
Also, there was no way they properly made bones be a store of calcium.
Actually, there was an easy way to check those parts!
“Hey, question on metal implants - err, Metallic Enrichments.” I asked Thoren, looking over at Urik and making it clear I wanted his input as well.
“I don’t know much about them, besides the obvious.” Thoren said. “I can’t even guess at some of the technical aspects.”
I waved him off.
“Does anyone have a full skeleton of metal? That’s been replaced, and not, like, someone’s skill to have a [Metal Skeleton] or something?”
I felt pleased with myself that I caught the possibility of a skill before being given bad info.
“Nah. The damn smiths won’t work on you if you’ve got both arms, legs, and your ribcage replaced.” A dwarf that was sitting up and watching us interrupted. “I would know, they refused to give me any more and started muttering arcane mad-smith nonsense.”
I looked at Thoren, who nodded slowly. Urik jumped in.
“Yeah, he’s right. I’ve heard the same thing.”
Ok, that implied that it wasn’t replacing biological functions. I was dead curious what the dwarf had done to himself, and why he wanted so much blasted metal in him. It had to hurt, and it had to be constricting his breathing. The chest was flexible for a reason!
Unless they made it flexible. Magic was totally awesome like that! I was tempted to stick around and see just how much I could learn, how much I could get taught. I didn’t think I’d be able to use any of it… I just wanted to satiate my curiosity.
Right, fine. I needed to go in, heal a bunch, and avoid wherever there was metal. A long, complex puzzle boiled down to such a simple solution didn’t quite sit right with me, especially considering any other damage they might have nearby, that I might miss as a result of my healing method.
I wasn’t totally thrilled with that, until another piece of the puzzle clicked into place.
I could hang around for a bit after, and let [Cosmic Presence] finish the job!
“Ok, I’m going to need to focus for a skill of mine.” I said. “This is one of the skills that keeps me alive, and I need to be absolutely uninterrupted while I get it set up.” I explained to Urik and Thoren.
“Is this the best place for it?” Thoren asked me.
I looked around. Crowded infirmary.
I shrugged, and sat down on one of the beds I’d made vacant.
“Sure, why not?” I said, dismissing my [Persistent Casting] of [Dance with the Heavens].
I then re-did it, speedy mode, for just myself. That way if I brushed up against a dwarf, I wouldn’t accidentally purge their metal implants. Honestly, it was a miracle it hadn’t happened yet.
Still, I had to balance a good image for myself, with getting to the wounded and injured. I spent enough time to almost entirely refill my mana bar - it’d never recovered from the first dwarf I’d “overhealed” - and considered it “good enough for now”.
So many things to do, and not nearly enough time.
“Right. I think I can heal dwarves with metal implants, and not ruin them.” I said. “However, I’d like to look at a few, up-close and personal, to see exactly how it’s all connecting together.”
“Um. Do you mean to slice me open?” The dwarf who’d spoken up asked, looking somewhat nervous.
“I mean, yeah, I’m going to have to.” I said, thinking out loud. “If not you, then someone else. I need to take a look at how the tendons and ligaments are attached to heal them properly. I don’t have what I need to see capillaries or anything that small, but I’ve gotten a good guess on them.” I said.
“Who’s got an anti-pain skill, and would like to be first?” I said, looking at a few unwilling test subjects enthusiastic volunteers.
“Errr, why don’t you go ask one of the other healers…” The sitting-up dwarf said, nervously looking around at us eyeing him like a pack of wolves eyes a lamb. “They probably know! Please don’t slice me open like one of those mad smiths!”
The last part came out frantically, and I sighed. Didn’t he need to be sliced open to replace his arm in the first place?
Wait. Right. Magic.
I had no interest in being a smith, but I was getting crazy curious about their process and their work.
“Fine, fine. Anyone? Any big, tough dwarf ok with me slicing them open to see how they work, so I can get healing? Any dwarf with a beard big enough?” I asked.
I started to walk down the aisle, my overly large escort leading the way and following behind in an overly complex single-file line.
This was absurd.
“Any dwarf. Annyyyy one at all willing to help me out.” I called out in a sing-song voice.
“I’ll help.” One dwarf wheezed then coughed, ugly bandages all over the remains of his face. No guesses why he was wheezing, that was ugly.
“Great! Anyone have a sharp knife? You do have an anti-pain skill right? Where do you have metal in your body, I just need to take a quick look. Shouldn’t take me more time than eating lunch!” I said, happily accepting a sharp knife a member of my escort handed to me.
“Uh, wait.” He said, wheezing some more. “Nobody ever said,” He was really struggling with that breathing. “Anything about slicing into me!” The poor dwarf got the last part out all in a rush.
“Awww, fine.” I said, pouting a bit. I just wanted to help them! Was that so hard?
“Anyone? Anyone care to test their metal mettle?” I called out.
“I’m Forrous Metal-Hand the 38th!” One small dwarf with a big voice roared out. “I’ve never backed down from a challenge, and I won’t back down now!”
“Excellent!” I said, a maniacal gleam entering my eye as briskly strode over to his bed. “Where are your implants, and do you have an anti-pain skill?” I asked.
He looked down at his hand, and my brain caught up with my ears.
“Great! Anything else?” I asked him.
“Aye. Entire arm, shoulder, and half my ribs.” He said.
“Most excellent!” I said.
I was totally getting a [Mad Healer] or [Overly Enthusiastic Vivisector] in my next Celestial class up.
“Numb to pain?” I asked him, and got a nod back, followed by a startled look.
“Wait, are you sure you’re a healer? Aren’t anti-pain skills standard?”
“I mean, yeah, but I wasn’t using mine, so I dropped it.” I said. “Now, hold still, this knife is a bit on the large side and I need to see small things.”
“Fine.” He said.
I took his arm, and flipped it wrist-side up. I was actually quite pleased with Forrous Metal-Hand. It looked like he was trying to get half his body metal, and not only did he have a bunch of bones replaced, but it looked like there was a sheet of metal over his chest.
A terrible idea, but I’d get to see how that connected as well.
I carefully looked at where the tendons in his wrist were, lined the knife up just right, and pressed down.
Nothing happened. My knife bounced off his firm flesh, not even leaving a mark.
“Now what?” I complained.