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A note from Selkie

1/4

 

All parts coming nowish

I stripped, my clothes remaining annoyingly clean and pristine, and gratefully sank down into the hot pool. I tried to do it smoothly, but my legs betrayed me, and I plonked into the bath instead. I idly pulled on my fingers one at a time, double-checking that, yes, they were still there.

 

Still intact.

 

It hadn’t been real. Well, not real real. Felt real enough.

 

Fuck [Pristine Memories] so hard right now. I needed to evolve the skill, and get some “selective deletion” going on.

 

I was Filthy with a capital F, bloody mud mixing in with fleshy scraps all over my body. I was still trembling somewhat, which didn’t go unnoticed by the elves.

 

Awarthril joined me a moment later, armed with a brush and a bar of primitive soap.

 

Seriously, was there anything the elves didn’t travel with?

 

“Serondes, shoo, get. I’m sure Elaine loves spending time with you, but not right this second.” A naked Awarthril menaced Serondes with a brush. He held his hands up in surrender.

 

“Alright, alright. I’ll be in earshot if you want me.” He raised some privacy walls for us as he left.

 

Awarthril started to attack me with the brush.

 

“Um. Awarthril.” I said, half-drowning under her ‘tender ministrations’.

 

“Yes?”

 

“Can I do this myself?”

 

Awarthril looked at the brush like it’d personally offended her.

 

“Of course.” She said after a moment’s hesitation. She thrust the implements of dirt destruction into my hands, and gracefully, without even making a splash, barely a ripple, left the pool.

 

I slowly started to scrub, not really focusing or paying attention to what I was doing. I was grime incarnate, it didn’t matter where I was cleaning, I was getting gob after gob of crud off of me.

 

My mind wandered back to my [Oath], and what I’d done wrong.

 

The obvious violation was “First, do no harm.” The penalty had come right as I’d killed the gnoll, although the timing of everything had resulted in me managing to kill the shimagu right as the punishment had started.

 

Lucky me. If things had gone just a hair differently, I would’ve died, crippled by pain and easy pickings for the shimagu.

 

Speaking of - what the fuck had been the shimagu’s plan?? It wasn’t like I was about to force a heal, nor did it seem like he’d been at any risk of discovery. The attack was out of the blue, and I couldn’t figure out why. It didn’t seem that important. Best thing I could think of was [Cosmic Presence] had been strong enough to cause some serious issues to the shimagu, and I didn’t look like I was leaving quickly enough.

 

Right.

 

Shimagu were a new twist on [Oath], and something I needed to figure out. I’d worked with Night a bunch, figuring out the ins and outs of my [Oath] and restriction skills, but this was a new twist.

 

Well, I should start with the basics. What was Night’s wording again? The basic fundamentals on Restriction skills?

 

[Pristine Memories] to the rescue!

 

Some significant editing of the memory was needed though, to remove all of Night’s thoughtful pauses and steps we took in between, the ancient vampire giving me time to process and comprehend what he was saying.

 

“Restriction skills are a strange beast. They are among the most powerful, complex, and convoluted aspect to the System that I know of. You must believe, in a powerful way, the words you speak and, in your case, the Oath you have chosen to bind yourself with. The words form the basics, the Restriction skill creating an absolute baseline from which you can not violate. However, if that was all there was to the skill, it would not be nearly so complex. No, your beliefs form another large portion of the skill, what you are and are not capable of doing. One who attempts a Restriction skill, intending to only fit with the bare minimum of the requirements, does not posses the correct mindset to gain such a skill. Your beliefs and values will change and evolve over time, and even another, having spoken the same words and taken the same skill, may not be operating under the same principles that you are. An action you believe to be permissible could be anathema to them, and the opposite holds true. A good example of your beliefs changing, if I recall correctly, would be how your mind changed on sparring. Additionally…”

 

Gods, I missed the long-winded bastard. Home. Soon.

 

I should emulate his example, and take on apprentices now and then, or at least train people. Keep me grounded and young. Thoughts for another day… but I could see the value in it.

 

The baseline he was talking about was the same for everyone with the same Restriction skill. To put it another way - there was the spirit of my [Oath], and the letter of my [Oath]. I needed to follow both.

 

I had some flexibility on what I believed the spirit of [Oath] was, but practically none on the letter. The closest I came to bending the letter of [Oath] was in defining what “Harm” was.

 

Accidentally bumping into someone in a crowd wasn’t harm.

 

Accidentally stepping on someone’s foot wasn’t harm.

 

The only harm in punching Artemis’s arm was when she punched me back twice as hard.

 

Speaking of harm, there was my current fighting style. I had no illusions that my current style would remain my style forever. As my skills evolved, as I got a new class, as my stats grew, I’d find new optimal methods of combat, and would need to constantly readjust my thinking with [Oath] to accommodate it.

 

Radiance magic was great for a lot of things, and terrible for others. I loved it to death, but being blind to its flaws was a great way to end up dead, and I’d worked too hard, struggled too much, to make a dumb mistake that’d get me killed. One of the great advantages of Radiance was my ability to hit exactly what I wanted. My narrow, burning beams of destruction could snipe insects out of the sky if I wanted to.

 

I should totally practice that, thinking about it.

 

Focus.

 

Right now, my combat focus was on narrow Radiance beams. Good for a lot of stuff, but I had to be careful with it. Specifically, I needed to worry about what happened once I burned through someone. If there was a second person behind them, lower level?

 

Oops, I wasn’t careful enough wasn’t an excuse for [Oath]. I could maybe, if I squinted really hard and tilted my head, see someone else with the same Restriction skill not be penalized for that sort of mistake, have their spirit of the rules permit that type of careless collateral damage.

 

I knew I was better than that, so it wasn’t an excuse.

 

“Yes, I burned down an entire town, but I was defending my patient! Sure, 20,000 people died, but my patient’s ok!”

 

That would never fly with me. At all. I just didn’t believe it.

 

Apart from potential “burn-throughs”, between my own ethics, and Radiance’s ability to hit exactly what I wanted and nothing more, I was pretty darn good at only hitting - and killing - people who were attacking me.It wasn’t Lightning, which could branch and arc to new targets. It wasn’t like Earth, where people could move out of the way before an attack landed. It was narrow, focused, targeted, and instant.

 

I’d been attacked by the gnoll, or at least, it had looked like I was being attacked by the gnoll. However, the poor dude had been body-jacked. It wasn’t him attacking me, it was the shimagu in the driver’s seat. The body was just a puppet, the poor gnoll trapped inside his own mind, screaming as someone else piloted him to infiltrate his group, then commit murder. In all this, the gnoll himself never tried to attack me. Never tried to hurt me.

 

Never lifted a paw against me.

 

That was how I saw it. I recognized that I was being a hair militant here, and was stretching the spirit of [Oath] in the most generous direction. Most people probably would be fine with the actions I’d taken. I believed I was better though. I had to be better.

 

It’s just who I was.

 

What was interesting was the difference between self-perception, and reality. It mattered if the gnoll was a willing participant or not, regardless of my knowledge of it. If the gnoll had been a willing collaborator, I wouldn’t have been punished, even if I thought he was unwilling. There was both my perception of the events, and the reality of the events. If the reality overrode my perception, I was off scott-free.

 

For example, if I was walking down the street, and I randomly killed someone, just because. If the person was an illusion, a mirage?

 

I hadn’t violated [Oath]. Because nobody had been harmed.

 

My beliefs and perceptions influenced the rules of [Oath], not the determination if I’d violated it or not.

 

There were some aspects of the [Oath]-rules that asked “What did I see/know around me?” - but the rule asked about what I saw and knew. I couldn’t, like, pretend I hadn’t seen a sick patient.

 

For the sin of being in the wrong place at the wrong time, I’d killed him, and that was unforgivable to [Oath]. To be precise - I saw it as an unforgivable crime, one of the worst things I could do to someone. There was no unwinding murder.

 

It was probably stricter than needed, but perhaps that unwavering belief was part of why my [Oath] was so powerful. That… didn’t quite make sense, thinking about it. How would the [Oath] back then know what I’d be like today?

 

Kiyaya chose the moment to lie down next to me, and gave me a few concerned licks.

 

“I’m ok girl.” I twisted, scrubbing the top of her head lightly with my brush. She just gave me a concerned whine, and her tail betrayed that, yes, she was feeling somewhat worried.

 

I had strongly suspected - no, known - during the fight that he was being controlled, and upon reflection, I had other options. I could’ve poked holes in him until I killed off the shimagu while keeping the gnoll alive, I could’ve tried to heal the shimagu dead. I wasn’t in the habit of trying to heal people attacking me though, while I did have years of reflexes shooting Radiance at people.

 

I’d been trained on how to kill people attacking me, in a hundred different ways. I had some experience and training on non-lethal takedowns, and when I had the extraordinary luxury of time, space, and power, I could be merciful. Jaclyn was the best example of that.

 

I didn’t believe I had any of those luxuries, let alone all of them, so I’d fallen back into the well-worn grooves in my training. Kill the threat.

 

Interestingly, I hadn’t been penalized for drilling holes in the gnoll. Clearly, there was some leeway in my [Oath], some sense of proportionality in my beliefs. In my interpretation of [Oath]. I wasn’t penalized for every little jostle in life, I didn’t scream in agony every time I stepped on someone’s toe. There was nuance to my [Oath], recognition - from myself - that it wasn’t possible to be perfect, simply that I had to strive for it.

 

By the same token, being body-jacked and attacking me let me perform considerable harm on the gnoll without any penalty. However, murder was a step too far.

 

Interesting that I thought that way. Why did I think that way?

 

I’d always tried to avoid collateral damage, and today’s events reinforced that - I could only lethally attack people who were attacking me. I only wanted to attack, and hurt people who were attacking me. Bystanders were off-limits.

 

Which had some interesting implications, that I had always subconsciously thought, but never vocalized.

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Selkie

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