I looked around one last time at the preparations made. Korun was as good as his word, and had gotten me some solid defenses for my class-up. Given that I was likely on some orc commando’s hitlist, and would be completely unable to defend myself, I appreciated it.
I wasn’t going to speedrun the class up, but I wasn’t going to spend a lot of time reading either.
I had a barrel of water, and some dried snacks and jerky for when I got up. I was in a safe room, with Thoren and Urik’s squads on guard duty, along with a few high level dwarven Classers, including the VIP that almost killed me.
“Sorry again.” She said, as I was settling down. “Really thought you were there to finish me off. Name’s Hakka.”
I waved my hand at her.
“It’s fine, we all lived.”
“And you’ll continue to live if I have anything to say about it!” She said, her beard somehow looking ferocious and protective.
Thinking about it. All the dwarves had their beard, even in the infirmary. There had to be quite a few people with beard-skills floating around. Heck, given how they prized their beard, “free beard restoration service” was probably in the soldier’s contract somewhere.
Either way, I was wasting time. I closed my eyes, and fell into the world of my soul.
“Librarian!” I called, giving her a hug.
“Elaine.” She said, returning it, touching her forehead to mine.
We spent a moment looking at each other, then breaking out into a fit of giggles.
“You look great!” I said, taking a look at her.
Full Sentinel gear, fancy red cape that blew in the non-existent wind included.
“Thanks! You’re looking good yourself!” She called back.
I checked what I was wearing.
“Right. Chop chop, we’re on a tight schedule here.” I said, breaking free and striding briskly towards the stairs. Librarian hurried after me.
I knew by now that she could modify things on the fly.
“Ok, first question, did I unlock building my own class again?” I asked, chewing on my lower lip slightly.
Please please please...
Librarian just shook her head.
“Drat. Any idea what I need to do to unlock it?” I asked her.
“I get some information, I don’t get others. Plus, without even having the option, I’m not told that it exists. Only because we remember it happening do we know it’s an option.”
Long story short, no.
Well, that meant I could go look at other books. My plan had been, if I was able to build my own class, I’d just go there directly and start cracking.
“Right, fine then. I’m loving being a Radiance mage, it’s doing what I want in a class.” I said as we started climbing. “I’m looking to stay in the same element, and generally improve my power for getting out of here. I need to still have strong self-defense, and I can’t imagine not needing flight.” I said, then considered what I’d said.
“Unless, of course, there’s a way to turn me into a Radiance beam and move that way.” I said, thinking of Galeru and the fight with Lun’Kat. She’d turned herself into a bolt of Lightning to get to the fight quickly, and I wasn’t going to lie, that sounded like a totally sweet ability.
My heart wanted to be able to fly more than zip around as a beam, but turning into a ray of light sounded much more powerful. Then when escaping came into the mix? Being a prisoner for 30 years, which given how estimates worked really meant more like 60?
Yeah, no. I was getting out earlier, even if I had to replace “flying” with “turning into a totally badass ray.”
“Nope! Sorry.” Librarian cheerfully crushed my dreams. “I’m not even sure what books would get you on that path.”
“You could see what was going on with [World Traveler] way back when.” I pointed out.
“Yeah, because you had access to the class. Which meant I could see information about it.” Librarian countered.
“Fine, fine. Let’s keep the side-grades to a minimum, but show me the powerful ones.” I said. “As long as I can defend myself with it, and it gives solid stats, I’m going to consider it.
It broke my flying-loving heart more than a bit to say that, but I wanted out. And while my plan was to escape outside and fly away, plans D onward included escaping down into the mines, where flying wasn’t exactly super useful.
We continued up the stairs. The second level. The third level. Finally, we arrived at the fourth level, where I got to see what the library looked like this time.
It was a cushy reading room, a chair bigger than I was in front of a roaring fire, a nice throw rug, all wrapped in tasteful mahogany and impossible lighting.
Normally, I’d scream bloody murder about a flammable rug in front of a fire, but hey! This place wasn’t real, so it didn’t matter.
“Sit! Let me bring you the choices.” Librarian said, and I sat down, only for the chair to be like the comfiest mimic ever, as it tried to absorb me into its fluffy depths.
Instead of walking over to the tasteful bookcase, Librarian just held up her hand, and a book popped into existence.
[Acolyte of Asura - Radiance] You have witnessed the unbridled might and fury of Guardian Asura, the Destroyer. You have marveled at her grace, beauty, and majesty. Her Radiance magic is second to only one other, and pierces through all illusions, as she gallops through the heavens on golden hooves. Take this class, and become a loyal follower of Asura to gain a fraction of her power. +10 Free Stats, +10 Strength, +10 Dexterity, +10 Speed, +10 Vitality, +128 Mana, +256 Mana Regen, +128 Magic Power, +256 Magic Control per level.
I looked at Librarian with love in my eyes.
“You know me so well.” I said. She just winked back.
I cracked the book open, and started speed-reading.
There were two major flaws with the class, and they were linked. The first was, it used the method of casting that Asura used - writing out magical mandalas, circles, inscriptions - it wasn’t quite clear - then having those cast spells. Strong. Versatile. Time-consuming. Problem was, I had no idea how to do that. The second part was the skills. I’d need a whole suite of new skills to be able to cast like Asura did.
Except… I saw no knowledge portions.
“How would I be able to use this?” I asked Librarian. She leaned over my shoulder to check what exactly I was talking about.
“Ah, erm, right. You’d need to learn from someone. Asura would be the best teacher, but looking at it sideways, doesn’t it seem like they’re just like how Inscriptions work?” Librarian asked.
“We have no idea how to make Inscriptions.”
“We could get some of the dwarves to teach us.” Librarian said. “With [Passionate Learning] we’d pick it up quickly, and that’d give us time to bide until a good chance to break free came up.”
I wanted to argue it more, mention that we had only seen standard Inscriptions so far, not anything special like Asura did, along with a whole host of other arguments - but I figured I’d move on, see what the other choices were.
“Ok, is there anything that wouldn’t make the shortlist?” I asked Librarian, who quirked an eyebrow at me, teleporting a new book to her hands.
I didn’t bother reading it, I just gave Librarian a glare. She giggled at her prank.
“Ok, ok, fine, any books I asked for that wouldn’t make it?”
She shook her head.
“Your requirements basically shortlisted them all already.”
I was somewhat pressed for time. I wanted to explore all the cool side-grades, and see what I’d properly earned for myself. Heck, forget that, I wanted to go skipping through the library, reading every single book there was.
Blasted staying alive, interfering with good reading time.
“Right. What are my top choices?” I asked, figuring I should just cut to the chase in an efficient manner.
I already had [Acolyte of Asura - Radiance] shown to me. Librarian showed me the rest of the “shortlist”.
[Sentinel-Adept - Radiance] Sentinel Dawn. You have proved yourself to be not just a Ranger, not just one of the best Rangers, but a full-blown Sentinel in your own right. You are a living legend, a myth in the marketplace. You are the last line of defense that Remus has against threats, internal and external, and here you make your mark. You are Sentinel Dawn, promoted on your healing prowess, yet with powerful magics are at your beck and call. Magics that are powerful enough, that you shouldn’t be called mage - but adept instead. Take this class, and continue to defend Remus. +32 Speed, +32 Vitality, +120 Mana, +120 Mana Regen, +64 Magic Power, +64 Magic Control per level.
[Butterfly Mystic - Radiance] All that is gold does not glitter, not all those who wander are lost. You flit around from place to place like a little butterfly, sipping the sweet nectar of knowledge wherever you go. Visit a town? See the library, see what delicious fruits are on offer. You found a job that takes you all over the place, letting you visit and learn all about the great world around you. Remus wasn’t enough to contain you, you had to venture even further, in pursuit of new knowledge. You’ve seen guardians, attended academies, and when stymied in your pursuit of knowledge, you picked up a knife and sliced someone open to learn more about how they work. Take this class, and keep fluttering about and learning new things, and new magics! +8 Strength, +8 Dexterity, +70 Speed, +70 Vitality, +70 Mana, +70 Mana Regen, +70 Magic Power, +70 Magic Control per level.
[Radiant Slayer of the Endless Formorian Swarm - Radiance] You, and the rest of the Sentinels, exterminated four of the mighty Formorian Queens, along with hundreds of their Royal Guards, and thousands, tens of thousands, of their lesser spawn. Outnumbered and outleveled, you stood firm with the rest of the Sentinels, as you executed a daring, desperate plan to bring them all down, and kill them. Take this class, and continue to kill Formorians. +100 Free Stats, +50 Strength, +50 Dexterity, +100 Speed, +100 Vitality, +300 Mana, +300 Mana Regen, +300 Magic Power, +300 Magic Control per level.
[The Rising Dawn - Radiance] You are the sun rising over the darkest of nights, eternal in your quest to heal everyone in need and protect those under your care. You cannot be stopped or pinned down by others, traveling the world and meeting new species. Where you go, the Dawn arrives, shining light and hope into those you see. Yet while the dawn is normally a fleeting moment of time, you have spent weeks on end endlessly serving as the literal and metaphorical light of humanity. You never stop while there are those who need help, cannot be cut short of your task, and all who see you may forever rejoice. Take this class to truly become the Rising Dawn, a beacon of hope for people everywhere as they look up to you boldly marching forward in your quest to help others. +80 Mana, +130 Mana Regen, +85 Magic Power, +85 Magic Control per level.
[Dragonforged Star - Radiance] Forged in dragonfire and tempered in celestial, your life shines ever brighter. The fires that end civilizations wash over you and you come out ever stronger. Take this class, may your light never cease and your fire never fade. +20 Free Stats, +100 Vitality, +60 Mana, +60 Mana Regen, +70 Magic Power, +20 Magic Control per level.
[Radiant Immolator - Radiance] You’ve found dozens of inventive ways to fight people and monsters with your Radiance magic, from using blinding light, narrow beams, [Nova]’s, cones, eye lasers, balls from your mouth, and many, many more inventive techniques. Take this class, and lean into your destructive impulses. +40 Mana, +40 Mana Regeneration, +160 Magic Power, +160 Magic Control per level.
[Draconic Prophet - Radiance] You have warned others of the dangers of dragons, and the fools failed to listen to your dire warnings, and paid the ultimate price. With the ability to wipe out an entire civilization in a single night, even when opposed by Gaia’s chosen champions, dragons are the ultimate force of destruction. Go forth with this class, and illuminate the masses of their might and power, so all might cower before them. +50 Free Stats, +160 Strength, +160 Dexterity, +160 Speed, +160 Vitality, +50 Mana, +50 Mana Regen, +50 Magic Power, +50 Magic Control per level.
[Light of Truth - Radiance] You have seen Lun’Kat’s great secret, and the mystery behind the Dragoneye Moons has been revealed to you. You playfully dueled with humanity's best illusionist, and have seen peak illusionists in Lun’Kat and Guardian Galeru. You’ve tried to break illusions where you go, and light the path for others to follow you. Take this class, and see through all illusions, peel them back for the whole world to see the truth. +48 Free Stats, +8 Dexterity, +64 Speed, +160 Mana, +160 Mana Regen, +160 Magic Power, +160 Magic Control per level.
[Exotic Chef - Radiance] Seared, Sizzled, and Scalded, you’ve prepped dozens of exotic dishes on the road using your Radiance magic. We get it, you like cooked food from all around the world. Take this class, and stop awkwardly cooking with conjured Radiance, and properly grill yourself a steak or two. +4 Dexterity, +8 Vitality, +16 Magic Control per level
I gave Librarian a look.
“Seriously? Two prank classes? We’re in a rush here.”
She winked and laughed, entirely unrepentant.
“Relax a hair! It’ll make your decision easier.”
[Pirate Hunter - Radiance] Those poor pirates are the lifeblood of Remus! Without them ignoring the letter of the law, and indiscriminately enslaving the people of Remus, the fresh supply of slaves gets cut off. How could you? Trying to destroy an entire industry.
Well, if you must visit economic destruction on Remus, hop on board! We’ve got pirates to hunt! +150 Free Stats per level.
This was a boatload of classes. I immediately made some cuts, just for the sake of my own sanity.
[Pirate Hunter] and [Exotic Chef] bit the dust. They were simply too weak, not with the other options I had left.
Similarly, [Dragonforged Star] sounded totally cool, but it wasn’t doing anything the other classes weren’t, and with the dragon in the name, well, I was feeling reasonably skittish about them.
[Draconic Prophet] was eliminated as well. It looked like it wanted me to be a physical classer, and was basically a side-grade. A legit option, especially as I’d both gain a ton of levels from my stored experience, and I could discreetly level it in town, but even though a boatload of physical stats would help escape, I felt like doubling down on being a mage was the right call.
The part about Gaia’s chosen champions was interesting, but I had no time to delve into it.
What would I even do with the information?
That left me with [Light of Truth], [Radiant Immolator], [The Rising Dawn], [Radiant Slayer of the Endless Formorian Swarm], [Butterfly Mystic], [Sentinel-Adept], and I suppose I should keep [Acolyte of Asura] in the picture. It gave enough stats that a gigantic boost could be worth considering, especially if I weighed the risks and possibilities of learning how to cast that way from some of the dwarves here.
It would also be a permanent reminder of Origen, some validation from beyond the grave that his ways and methods.
Granted, if I went down that route, I’d either try to escape early, and be missing a modest chunk of skills, as [Acolyte of Asura] overwrote them, which seemed suboptimal. Or I spent a bunch of time at risk of getting whacked by the commandos.
Blah. Why couldn’t I be in a more normal prison?
[Light of Truth] had quite a lot going for it. I wasn’t thrilled with the move away from some of my more combat and self-defense oriented aspects - I’d lose [Nova] and [Blaze] entirely in favor of anti-illusion skills. I’d keep [Radiance Conjuration], so I wouldn’t be helpless, but my firepower would dramatically decrease.
Offset, of course, by the increased stats.
“Can I test what my abilities would do if I lost [Blaze], but gained the stats from leveling up with the stored experience?” I asked Librarian.
She shook her head.
“Sorry. No horseplay in the library. You’d need to take the class first and give it a whirl.”
“Rotten mangos.” I cursed. So much for testing. I’d have to jump in blind, and see what I got.
There was also the future to consider. I was still [The Dawn Sentinel]. I got into scraps regularly. Replacing my combat class with a more focused anti-illusion class would strip me of a lot of defenses. Like, if I was in a Ranger squad, that’d be one thing. I’d know my place in a team, I’d know if we needed more firepower or not, and I’d know that once the round was over, I’d be shuffled into a team that could take advantage of my abilities, and cover my weaknesses.
Sadly, right now all I could count on was myself.
…. Fuck, I should’ve asked Korun if they had a thunderbird egg or something else cool down here. Goddesses curse it all!
I guess it wasn’t too late to ask.
[Radiant Slayer of the Endless Formorian Swarm] was the ultimate in “Power today.” My stats would skyrocket to unbelievable heights, all while improving my combat skills.
The problem was, what about tomorrow? The class revolved around killing Formorians, and, well, we were hopefully out of those. I’d shoot up 50, 60, maybe even 100 levels, bask in an absurd number of stats, then… they’d stay there.
I could only reset a class when it was ready for an evolution, and there wasn’t one at level 512. Given the pattern, I’d make a guess that the next evolution was at 1024, but maybe I should’ve asked the dwarves first before I went under.
Too late now.
I was leaning towards “no” on the class, but I wasn’t far enough along to decide that for sure. However, the sheer number of Formorians I killed, into this class, was probably worth a solid chunk.
Blah. The more I thought about it, the more I didn’t think my life was in such immediate dire straits as to make my second class take, like, centuries to level up far enough before I could reset it. If I was unlucky, it’d take over a thousand years.
I wasn’t even 20. The thought of something taking that long just boggled the mind. That assumed constant, active use to boot.
[Sentinel-Adept] was the obvious choice. Easy experience. A stat distribution like I’d done for [The Dawn Sentinel]. Upgraded skills.
Reading the book was exactly what I thought it’d be. Stay at the capital. Check on missions daily. Train new Rangers. Go on missions. Stop my aging, watch generations of Rangers and Sentinels come and go. Slowly drift into a myth and a legend in my own right, given my longevity, combined with my flashiness.
No, not like that.
Granted, this was my entire life, and not just “what’s cool and interesting”, but at the same time, being here in my soul was time for some serious introspection. Librarian was wearing Sentinel gear. I clearly saw myself as a Sentinel.
But was that all I was? Sentinel Dawn? Doubled up Sentinel class? Just another perpetual guardian of Remus, along with Night?
It kinda locked me into a one-dimensional being. I was more than just Sentinel Dawn. I was also healer Elaine, daughter Elaine, friend, teacher, and mentor Elaine. Plus, I’d just learned about the great big wide world around me, and doubling up on Sentinel basically meant I’d need to go home and stay there for centuries. I’d get another chance once I evolved [Sentinel-Adept], but like. That’d take extra-long, being in the dead zone.
Hmmmm. That wasn’t quite correct, now was it? I got serious Sentinel experience for meeting with the dwarves, for crossing over into their land. Obviously, more than just missions and staying at the capital was what a Sentinel did, and it wasn’t quite fair for me to pigeonhole the class - and my job - that way.
Taking a class that was also my job did have significant benefits, in that I’d be leveling it daily.
Still, it brought the question up - if I had the chance, if there was perfect equality and peace in the world, would I still sign up to be a Sentinel?
The answer was “Maybe”, which was interesting on several different levels.
I wanted to go home - but I also wanted to see all the cool stuff the world had to offer. Asura had shown me some magic, heck, all the Guardians had shown off cool skills. I wanted to see and know more, like what [Passionate Learning] had to say about me.
Right. [Sentinel-Adept] was the safety class. The benchmark. If I didn’t find anything better than it, I was going to take it. It was the natural evolution of [Ranger-Mage], but I wanted to see if I could pull off something better.
[The Rising Dawn] felt like the natural next selection, Sentinel, Dawn, etc. It seemed like a different evolution of [Ranger-Mage], leaning more into “Dawn” than “Sentinel”. I read it over carefully.
What was interesting, was that it rewarded (rewarding?) me for getting into marathon situations, along with swooping in to save the day. Seriously, there was a whole segment detailing that if I showed up with shining lights, I’d get more experience for it. This class was almost “Heroic savior” combined with “Get into marathons.” Plagues and other disasters would be my jam, echoing the “It’s kinda like [Sentinel-Adept]” without actually being tied to being a Sentinel. I’d get more experience, say, saving the dwarves, but I wouldn’t get as much experience when I attended boring meetings, for example.
Not that those were worth much experience.
There was also a solid “endurance” portion to it. [Sun-Kissed] would evolve to grant me energy and mana, which would let me free up a slot in [The Dawn Sentinel] for [The Stars Never Fade] once I got the skill. That hadn’t been the plan, but I was a flexible gal. I’d also get ramping experience the longer I was in a marathon situation, like, for example, fighting the Formorians endlessly.
[The Rising Dawn] class felt like it rhymed with [Sentinel-Adept], without being it. It was a natural evolution, without being a safe, boring choice. At the same time, it gave me options on my “safety zone” so to speak. An endurance and saving the day class, over a “doing my job” class.
Two classes left! I arbitrarily picked [Butterfly Mystic] to check out next.
The class was based around experience, knowledge, and learning. Lots of experience. Learned something new? Experience. Did something new? Experience. Went somewhere new? Good amounts of experience. Learned new magic? Solid amounts of experience. Not like the tons of experience [Sentinel-Adept] or [The Rising Dawn] would get for a mission, but it wasn’t like it was bad experience. Fighting, and generally casting, was still good experience to boot.
It was almost like the System liked high-stakes situations.
It was something of an all-rounder, and for some reason, I was reminded of Artemis’s [Wandering Mage] class. I don’t think it was getting a ton of experience these days, not with her stuck at her school, but who knew, maybe she took the students on field trips or something.
Back on topic. While the class didn’t have large experience gains for giant, flashy actions, it had solid accumulation for doing lots of different things, and I had to admit - I was never staying still. I was always doing something new, and I doubted that would be changing anytime soon.
I’d fairly often been offered main class evolutions based off of my general skills, from [Emergency Medic] way back when, to various [Pretty] classes along the way. I realized this was another one of those classes, based off of the [Passionate Learning] skill I’d just picked up.
While the class didn’t offer amazing experience for particular actions, it did have another reward, one that I only noticed after reading through the book a few times and asking Librarian.
“What’s up with all the skills?” I asked, having read that the “me” in the story used, by my counting, the 23rd spell in the story. I’d only started counting when I noticed the number seemed high to boot.
“Well, the class picks up new skills fairly easily. If you see an active Radiance skill being used, and you can figure out roughly how it works? If you want, the System will offer a weaker version of the skill for [Butterfly Mystic], depending on how much you understand. It’s part of being a [Butterfly Mystic].”
“Ah, that would explain why book-me used [Elegant Radiance Nails] a few chapters after raiding the archmage's not-so-abandoned tower, and seeing him use [Giga Laser Claws]. No chance I can use it for general skills or anything like that?” I asked.
“General skills are already easy to pick up. You’ve got [Passionate Learning] that boosts that even further. [Butterfly Mystic] wouldn’t make a difference anyways.”
“Right… is this unique to the class or something?” I asked, tapping the cover of the book.
“Nope! Everyone’s skills are improveable and upgradeable. However, the threshold on improvements and upgrades is fairly high. Like when you went skydiving through the Formorian anti-air assault, that got you offered the pinpoint defense skill as a reward.”
“How’s this different than what every other class has coming naturally to it?” I asked, skimming through the pages and trying to find the answer.
“It lowers the threshold quite a bit, and makes everything easier to learn. For example, maybe you could’ve picked the anti-missile skill up in an intense training session with Artemis throwing rocks at you, instead of needing to dive out of an airship into hundreds of thousands of Formorians to get offered the skill. Maybe [Rapidash] would’ve upgraded to a Fire flying skill, instead of needing to wait for an evolution.” Librarian said. “Heck, how we kept using [Light] to read in a narrow cone in the dark is how we evolved it to [Flashlight]!”
“Basically, faster skill improvements, and faster new skills, but it’s not something super special and unique to the class.” I said, summarizing what Librarian was saying.
“Right. But don’t discount being able to upgrade skills that quickly. Imagine if you’d gotten a Fire flying skill, instead of spending a year and a half jumping into the air to try and get it.” Librarian said. “Improved skills will also persist through future upgrades, although if things are improved, they’re going to be kinda locked in for us.”
Complicated class. Lots to think about, and it wasn’t quite clear if all the added complexity came with extra power.
Last up was [Radiant Immolator]. It wasn’t some horribly complex class like [Butterfly Mystic]. It didn’t take a long discussion with Librarian to figure the ins and outs of it. There was beauty in it’s sheer simplicity. It did exactly what was on the tin. It was the “Go forth and kill things” class. Fantastic firepower, a focus on making things dead, and keeping myself alive. There were no fancy tricks to it. No special ways of getting experience. No strange quirks.
No. Just boatloads of experience for killing things, and all the tools to get it done. I wouldn’t lose [Shine], [Sun-kissed], or [Talaria], and their upgrades would be tilted towards better ways to kill things, or protect myself.
In many ways, it was what I fundamentally needed from the class. I needed to be able to protect myself in a hostile and violent world, and most of my experience I’d gotten over the years was from killing things before they killed me. I loved flying, I liked not having to worry if what I was seeing was real or an illusion.
Those were luxuries.
Pallos wasn’t a civilized place, for all I was in a giant city in the heart of a mountain. The law of the jungle held sway here, and just as I was empowered by the System, so were the monsters.
This was the no-frills, no-fuss, defend myself class. The inherent conflict with [Oath] didn’t matter, given how often I was in a fight for my life.
So many choices, and none that stood out in a negative way, asking to be cut.
I settled in, and got to work.