I focused on [Kaleidoscope], casting the skill for a few seconds. First a few, then a dozen little motes of golden light sprang into existence around me, dancing around each other, growing ever-more the longer I cast. A close look at one of the motes revealed that it was a tiny little butterfly, playfully fluttering with others of its kind.
The skill name was somewhat literal. Kaleidoscope. A group of butterflies.
Unfortunately for me, I’d been casting the skill, and when I tried to move the butterflies to hit one of the regenerating statues, I found that my control of the entire swarm was terrible. Only when I stopped them all, then controlled them in groups did I regain fine control over their movements.
Naturally, it was roughly the same number that I could summon in a single second, that I could control well all at once.
Instead of launching them all at once, I launched them in waves, roughly sending the same amount per second that I had managed to conjure.
They flocked to the statue in droves, flying around until they found an unclaimed spot, then landing and exploding.
The combined effect was something like almost a hundred little stars twinkling and exploding.
I was kinda expecting them to do something else, but, well, it was a [Supernova] upgrade. Parts of the old skill were showing themselves, just like how [Talaria] was still foot-based after [Rapidash], which was originally from [Running].
“That’s more like it!” She yelled, patting my back with such force that I was nearly bowled over. “See how the entire attack lands, and not just part of it? See how you hit from multiple sides at once? Now, try sending the attacks in waves to land all at the same time, and practice controlling how they move.”
She thought for a moment, then nodded to herself.
“And with that bit of advice, my debt to you is cleared.”
She turned on her heel, and was gone so fast I swear she must’ve used a movement skill.
“Thank you?” I said to the empty air beside me, my hair whipping in the wind she’d kicked up.
Nobody had ever mentioned anything about a debt to me. I might’ve asked for something else, if I knew Hakka felt she owed me.
Then again - maybe that’s why she didn’t talk a bunch about it. It had been a little weird that she was willing to help me class up…
Oh well. [Kaleidoscope] was totally awesome! I’d need to find some way of saying thank-you again.
Maybe a nice book. Yeah, everyone liked a good book. Only question was, should I write her the Medical Manuscripts, or a book of Earth stories?
Or maybe I should recreate one of the Nolgardian dwarves literary masterpieces?
Hmmmm. I didnt know Hakka well enough to know if she’d appreciate some of the more, ah, tasteful books I’d read.
I wouldn’t get her one of those.
Ugh. That reminded me. I wanted to write at least one copy of the Medical Manuscripts before I left. Maybe even an updated version with the implants and prosthetics. So much to do!
My only time limit was “not get noticed and murdered by orcs.”
I shook my head. Working out a full to-do list, and finalizing my escape plans, should be done after I finished testing out my new skills.
[Lantern] seemed to be exactly like [Shine]. Nothing special, nothing different, just a hair less mana needed for the same brightness. I honestly felt a little robbed. Maybe I needed to find some people to help expand it. A little glowing light that followed me around sounded nice.
That, or my mana regeneration was screwing with my numbers and calculations. Either way, the brightest it could go was much brighter, but that might’ve just been due to my dramatically increased Magic Power.
Time to try some things!
I first held up my hand, pretending I was holding a lantern. I couldn’t really see a way to make the light start shining at a point below my hand - it just didn’t work that way - so I shone it directly from my hand instead.
Same skill. There was no difference in brightness, intensity, control, mana use - anything. Miming holding a lantern was doing nothing, although if I wasn’t careful the skill would evolve to make me always do that. Sure, it’d give great benefits for it, but I didn’t want that.
The skill mentioned a firefly as well as a lantern, and while I had no way of generating light away from me, fireflies did generate light internally.
So I did what any sane, reasonable person in my dwarvish shoes would do. I lit my butt up. I made it shine.
I put it through a whole set of paces. Nothing.
Tried shaking it like a firefly.
Only thing I got were looks from the dwarves thinking I’d totally lost it.
I stopped butt-[Lantern]ing before the System decided to “upgrade” me.
The three baseline Mage skills had no change, and needed no practicing. [Radiance Conjuration], [Radiance Resistance], and [Radiance Affinity] didn’t need any practicing. I doubted I could upgrade to [Radiance Authority] in any plausible timetable. I was going to work on the lightshow business a bit - if flashing lights wasn’t doing anything because of all the lasers and lights I was putting out, I might as well save my mana in a fight.
[Nectar] and [Sun’s Heart] were both passives, which left just one skill left to practice with.
With a flicker of thought, a pair of dazzling wings erupted from my back, the wingspan longer than my outstretched arms. Most Radiance skills stayed within a narrow band of burning golden light, with only small variations - like my short-lived [Supernova] had all sorts of different golden colors. My [Radiance Conjuration] made golden beams, and [Lantern] made a soft yellow glow.
All that to say - [Scintillating Ascent] hadn’t absorbed [Pretty] for nothing. I had dazzling, bright multi-colored wings, and both the sun theme and my other class being Celestial was vaguely represented, as the blues and reds and yellows and purples and all sorts of other vibrant colors seemed to be burning - burning like stars. Little twinkles of light hinted at galaxies hidden in my wings, “eyes” like stars, and an experimental flap of the wings shed little motes of stardust, like a butterfly, shimmering for a flash of time in the light.
I took a few more flaps of my wings, practicing and getting used to them, a butterfly emerging from her chrysalis, hardening her wings for the trials ahead.
I bent my knees and jumped, leaping up into the air as my wings caught, lazily flapping as I ascended to the top of the training room. I practiced twisting and turning, and found that I could even hover, or go backwards if I needed to.
No light needed! This [Butterfly Mystic] no longer needed the sweet rays of light for all her tricks!
Between the class skill’s discount, and my regeneration, it was trivially easy to permanently stay in the air. Heck, I’d gotten “forever flying” back when the skill was [Talaria].
I flapped my way to the wall, and got close enough that the next flap of my wings would hit the wall. The wing hit, and crumpled, which threw me off balance, swinging me down to hit the wall. I didn’t stop there, being in the air, and kept falling. I tried to reassert my wings, only for them to hit the wall again. Finally, I pushed off the wall, getting myself enough space to use my wings properly.
Right. Flying in tunnels was probably off the table, and I needed to be careful when flying near objects. In conclusion - my flight was almost entirely unrestricted, and could evolve to be better in almost every respect. The only consideration I had were my wings. I needed enough room to flap them.
I should also see what happens when they’re attacked. Obviously, if they got hit, I wouldn’t get hurt, but would it take mana to reform the damaged parts? How badly would my flight get ruined?
I landed near Thoren, who was trying to keep an eye on myself, on the rest of the guards who’d mostly paired off to do their own practicing, and the rest of the place in case the orcs decided here and now was the time to attack.
I didn’t blame the guards for getting some of their own practice in. Guard duty was boring, and the odds of me being hit here were slim. They’d been on duty long enough that the novelty was wearing off, and with no threats, it was hard to stay constantly vigilant.
Heck, I’d totally be slacking off after like, 20 minutes of guard duty.
“Thoren!” I said, landing next to him.
“Elaine.” He said, eyeing up my wings. “Can’t say those are terribly practical, but they sure look nice.”
I opened my mouth, then closed it.
Right. They lived almost entirely underground. Wings, from his experience, were terribly impractical. Given that was his attitude about it, I had to imagine fliers and anti-flying tactics were probably rare among the Khazad dwarves, which redoubled my resolve to escape by just flying away. Once I got high enough, I was free and clear.
“Eh, I like them.” I said, hiding my true thoughts on the “flying escape” matter. “Can you hit them a few times, let me find out what happens when they’re attacked?” I asked.
“Sure. What do you need me to do?” He asked.
I turned around, flying just an inch off the ground.
“Hit the wings without hitting me.” I told him.
I heard the whistling of an axe behind me, and tensed. There was no good reason for it, but I still somehow expected the blade to sink into my back. Not that I expected treachery out of Thoren, just too much time spent around people trying to kill me.
Still, I resisted the temptation to shield and shoot back, instead watching my mana. I lost a few points - maybe - but that was it. I didn’t get any feedback from the attack, nor was my flight interrupted in any way.
“What happened?” I asked Thoren. “I don’t have eyes in the back of my head.”
“Blade went right through ‘em.” He said. “They just reformed like nothing happened. Also, my axe is now hot.” He said. I could practically feel his eyes narrow at me. “You better not burn my axe.”
“Alright, I’ll make sure not to.” I told him, understanding that the session was over. “Thank you for your help. How much time do we have left here?”
“About another half-candle mark.” Thoren said. “A squad’s got the place reserved after. I can try to tell them to rust off if you’d like?”
Good old Thoren. Trying to make sure I was happy at every turn. I did appreciate the treatment I was getting, although that changed little about my resolve to leave.
“No, I’m getting the hang of my new skills.” I shook my head. “Just want to try out a few more things.”
Which I did!
I summoned a single [Kaleidoscope] butterfly - bit of an oxymoron - and had it hover next to me. I summoned a second one, and had it fly around my head in a lazy, meandering circle. I wanted to know how long they lasted, and if traveling reduced the time.
I then summoned a third one, trying out some new stuff.
“Go over there.” I verbalized.
Oook. They didn’t listen, or couldn’t hear. Good thing my embarrassment module had been turned off, and I didn’t care if the dwarves thought I was nuttier than a squirrel.
Still, I never used verbal commands in the first place.
Follow me. I thought, taking a step forward… and having the butterfly flying around my head promptly collide with my hair, fizzling out of existence.
Welp. So much for that.
The butterfly mote could follow me, and I experimented with a wide variety of other commands. Unfortunately, nothing more complicated than “Go over there, and don’t hit other stuff” was possible, and the only non “traveling” command was “explode”.
Nice to know that I could preemptively detonate them.
The “hovering” mote lasted only a minute, which was a bit of a shame. At the same time - it meant that I could, with practice, get an entire minute’s worth of casting to land all at the same time.
Translation: I could get my entire mana pool to blow as a single attack, effectively giving myself a mini-[Channel] skill like Destruction’s for one attack.
Then, of course, I’d be entirely out of mana, but it was worth keeping in mind.
“Time!” Thoren called out, before I could get to my last set of experiments.
I shrugged to myself. I’d work on figuring out the right timing for waves of butterflies to all land at the same time another day.
We left, and a runner found us, looking relieved. She had a quick word with Thoren, who looked at me.
“Been something of a fight.” He said. “Up for some healing work?”
“Of course!” I eagerly responded, without a shred of guile in my words. “Point the way! Let’s gooo!”
I had no problems “earning my keep” so to speak.
No matter how I was a caged bird - err, butterfly - in a golden cage, that didn’t mean I wasn’t going to sing my sweet song.
Or flash my pretty wings. I dunno, this “butterfly in a cage” metaphor was breaking down fast. I should stick with birds.
Given my wings, and the lovely golden color that threaded through it, along with Papillion’s initial thoughts - I was totally a Golden Crow in a golden cage.
Either way, I wasn’t going to hold it against the poor schmucks caught in the line of fire. A few lines of my [Oath] came to mind.
I will never see a patient as anything other than another creature in pain.
I will not discriminate who I heal based on class, sex, race, what gods they pray to, nor by any other means.
The discrimination clause was an interesting one. As I’d grown, as my worldview and knowledge expanded, I’d been led to the conclusion that I did have to discriminate somewhat. Two people hurt, and enough mana to save one? Obviously, I’d need to discriminate in some way, by sheer virtue of picking someone. Maybe I’d pick the younger person. Maybe I’d pick the woman. Heck, maybe I’d pick the blonde over the brunette.
Either way, when push came to shove, I was occasionally forced to make choices, which naturally was discrimination. I wasn’t punished for “true” impossibility though.
That wasn’t the type of discrimination [Oath] was meant to cover though. It was meant to cover situations like “I don’t like what city you’re from, so I won’t heal you.” or “I dislike what god you pray to, so I’m going to skip you.”
Also included? “I don’t like what your bosses are doing.” - Outside of an obvious self-defense aspect.
However, none of this applied here. Healing away!
At the same time, I wasn’t feeling forced by [Oath] in the slightest. No, [Oath] or not, I would heal them. [Oath] had settled into my bones, the very fabric of my being. It was simply the way I thought, simply who I was, by sheer virtue of choices made again and again. I wasn’t controlled by it or any such nonsense, it was simply who I was. It was a pure expression of my thoughts and feelings, my ethics and beliefs.
Which raised an interesting question about restriction skills. I’d talked with Night about it some, but he was unsure as well.
Was I only able to take my [Oath] because it was fundamentally who I was? Or was my personality shaped by it, molding me into the confines of my own choices?
Night wasn’t sure. He thought it was the first one, which explained why some people could take some restriction skills, but not others.
In other words, I happily trotted off to the infirmary to work my literal magic.
I’d gotten there early, and patients were still being stabilized and triaged at the “intake” building, which was elsewhere.
“Hey Thoren, I think we should move to the triage section.” I told him.
He looked at the mostly-empty room, and me standing at the door tapping people as they came in.
“Sure. You’re the healer.”
Like a carp fighting up a waterfall, I walked against the tide of incoming patients, healing them as I came across them until I’d “fought” my way to the triage building.
Ahh. Predictable chaos. A great place for [Cosmic Presence]. I couldn’t swing an iron ingot without hitting a screaming dwarf who was trying as hard as they could to die, blood and gore made the floor a slip and slide, and harried-looking healers and assistants were being run ragged.
In other words, my element.