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A note from Selkie

I WON THE STABBY AWARD!!  https://www.reddit.com/r/Fantasy/comments/sq1dct/best_of_rfantasy_2021_stabby_awards/

 

As promised, a bonus chapter for you all!

First, do no harm.

 

It was the first line of my [Oath]. The central, guiding principle with which I’d led my life.

 

The [Oath] in question had a baseline, the letter of the law. It also had the spirit of the law, and with how restriction skills worked, I needed to follow both letter and spirit.

 

On top of that, I had my own personal ethics, areas where I went above and beyond a single skill. Like, “Don’t steal stuff” wasn’t part of my [Oath], but barring exceptional circumstances, I wasn’t about to start plundering and looting. As tempting as it was at times.

 

One belief I had was in non-malfeasance. My healing shouldn’t be the cause of harm - at least, when I wasn’t actively defending myself. A practical application was with the shimagu. They were intelligent creatures. Everyone deserved life. Preserving that was my life’s mission. Simply killing them out of hand, when I wasn’t defending myself, wasn’t ok. Granted, I’d been using the most generous definition of self-defense while in the city.

 

This wasn’t part of [Oath], not when a shimagu was controlling another intelligent creature. It did apply when a shimagu was controlling a dinosaur, or non-intelligent creature.

 

As I realized what I’d eaten, as yet another casual atrocity was revealed to me, that belief crumbled to dust.

 

I was a healer. I had ethics, principles, beliefs. I’d like to think they were noble.

 

I’d wanted to believe that I’d stick to them, no matter what was presented to me. That principles only mattered when tested, when sticking to them was hard. That’s why they were principles. Otherwise, what was the point?

 

But this?

 

This was the natural conclusion of my ethics in action? This is what I had to allow, to keep my principles?

 

I’d been gone too long. I’d been in too many shit situations. Formorians, barren lands, dwarves, gods, dragons, guardians, mines, orcs, traps, decapitation, capture, escape, horrors, months trapped underground, dragons and dryads, elves and centaurs, trolls and hydras, White Dove, gnolls, raptors, dinosaurs, and now shimagu.

 

Shimagu casually butchering humans in the street, and selling them as a delicacy, with salt and pepper.

 

I felt myself break inside.

 

I felt my beliefs take a haircut.

 

[Oath] did not bar me from healing a person controlled by a shimagu, unconditionally.

 

I was seeing red. Hot fury coursed through me. Rage and wrath clouded my judgement, narrowed my focus. Nothing else mattered but this one problem, this one massive injustice in this part of the world.

 

I clenched and ground my teeth, while balling my hands into fists. A primal snarl was etching itself on my face.

 

For once, I had the power to make changes. I had the power to right the injustice.

 

That’s just what I did.

 

My scream of outrage went with a full-area blast of my healing. A dozen people around me froze, but I didn’t bother waiting to see what happened. What they’d do.

 

I launched myself up, taking flight just above the average head height, and blasted down the street, keeping my healing up. I didn’t look to see if Aegion or Kiyaya were following.

 

I didn’t care.

 

I swept street after street, always choosing the larger road. Aiming for the largest crowds.

 

The city was big. There was only so much I could cover.

 

Each part I did cover though? Freedom. Escape.

 

Chaos.

 

While I was flitting around the fortress in the middle of the city, I saw a rapidly-expanding cloud of Ash coming from the port, followed by an eruption of Lava.

 

Serondes and the devil were still going at it. Presumably Awarthril was around, just less flashy.

They could use some help and backup. If nothing else, after the fight they’d probably have a number of burns, sharp metal pieces, and other problems.

 

I started heading that way, zig-zagging through the roads, dropping shimagu by the dozen.

 

By the hundreds.

 

Thousands.

 

The shimagu didn’t take my assault lying down. Given my speed, given the size of the streets, they only had seconds to react and try something. Anything.

 

The smart ones fled, hiding in buildings. I didn’t bother chasing them down, not with larger crowds to handle, not with the shade forcing me to touch them. It’d take like eight seconds to track one down and manually heal them, versus getting a few dozen other shimagu in the same timeframe.

 

The stupid ones braced themselves, arming themselves with a makeshift weapon. Table legs and clubs, metal poles and, in one memorable case, an entire cart. They lined themselves up in my path, ready to take a powerful swing as I passed.

 

Idiots.

 

My healing was ranged, and any shimagu was purged before I got close enough for them to attack.

 

The desperate ones threw whatever was at hand at me. Sticks, bags, pottery, coins, charcoal, fruits - whatever was in their hands. Whatever they could just grab in the moment.

 

I flickered [Mantle] to stop particularly noxious items hitting my face or the egg, not wanting to impede my vision. Otherwise, I blazed on, wobbling a bit as a particularly heavy jar clipped my shoulder.

 

I was wrath incarnate, the great harbinger of Black Crow. I was furious, seeing red and Black.

 

I kept enough self-control to not hit dinosaurs, or other creatures that shimagu might’ve taken over. I wasn’t so far gone to start openly violating [Oath] in that way. However, I maintained situational awareness. A dinosaur that didn’t run? A therizinosaurus that looked like it was going to take a swipe?

 

Self-defense.

 

I blasted them.

 

With all that said, when I ran into a squad of guards that had bows at the ready? I didn’t assume I was suddenly invincible. I fell back on my training, blinding them before dodging, swerving, or diving into the recently freed and confused crowd, rolling, sliding, dodging, and generally making myself hard to hit.

 

I’d occasionally fly over a block of buildings, making myself unpredictable. Making it hard to track where I was, where I was going, where I’d be next. Taking my time, letting my mana regenerate to kill even more.

 

I briefly turned my notifications on, checking half a second of notifications.

 

[*ding!* Your party has slain a [Lord of One (Ooze, 321)]//[Heavy Lumberjack (Metal, 222)]]

[*ding!* Your party has slain a [Regent of Bone (Ooze, 345)]//[Wool Tailor (Wind, 189)]]

[*ding!* Your party has slain a [Mate for Life (Ooze, 168)]//[Bricklayer (Lava, 138)]]

[*ding!* Your party has slain a [Tyrannical Overlord (Ooze, 194)]//[Light Armor Smith (Metal, 217)]]

[*ding!* Your party has slain a [Lazy Boss (Ooze, 184)]//[Street Sweeper (Pyronox, 224)]]

[*ding!* Your party has slain a [Best Buddy (Ooze, 157)]//[Smith’s Apprentice (Metal, 31)]]

[*ding!* Your party has slain a [Merciless Tyrant (Ooze, 326)]//[Pearl Diver (Ocean, 201)]]

[*ding!* Your party has slain a [Master of the Body (Ooze, 151)]//[Fisherooze (Water, 169)]]

[*ding!* Your party has slain a [Comfortable Comrade (Ooze, 320)]//[Cunning Trader (Sound, 188)]]

[*ding!* Your party has slain a [Sovereign (Ooze, 270)]//[Fruit Farmer (Verdant, 60)]]

[*ding!* Your party has slain a [Diabolical Puppetmaster (Ooze, 338)]//[Best Gossip in Town (Wind, 325)]]

[*ding!* Your party has slain an [Inner Confidant (Ooze, 235)]//[Town Crier (Wind, 66)]]

[*ding!* Your party has slain a [Personal Monarch (Ooze, 256)]//[Fine Textile Weaver (Forest, 260)]]

[*ding!* Your party has slain a [Despicable Dictator (Ooze, 282)]//[Socialite (Mirror, 102)]]

[*ding!* Your party has slain a [Despot (Ooze, 205)]//[Accountant (Water, 92)]]

[*ding!* Your party has slain a [Cozy Companion (Ooze, 318)]//[Tax Collector (Metal, 269)]]

 

I stopped checking after the [Tax Collector]. A lifelong fantasy come true.

 

I closed my ears. I only looked forward, navigating through the city, not looking down. Not looking behind me.

 

My mana was going down, and a little voice in my head was telling me to slow down, that I needed to conserve mana. My little breaks here and there weren’t enough.

 

I didn’t want to conserve mana.

 

I wanted to punish shimagu.

 

I wanted them to hurt.

 

I pulled myself short at that thought. It was like a bucket of ice-cold water washing over me.

 

I wanted the shimagu to suffer? That wasn’t me.

 

Or rather, since it was my thought, it was me. It just wasn’t who I wanted to be. My anger was cooling.

 

I was already walking a razor-thin line. I was going down a nasty way.

I needed to stop. To take a break.

 

I looked at my mana, dangerously low. Less than 10,000 points of mana left, and it was only because my regeneration had spiked so high with all the levels I’d gotten that I had anything at all.

 

Unceremoniously crashing to the ground would be a poor move.

 

I flew up. Up, away from the shimagu. Up, away from the freed hosts. Up, into the smoky sky.

 

The pterodactyls had gotten a good view of what I’d been up to. They stayed well clear.

 

Up and up I went, higher and higher. I’d never gone so high, Sky’s warning about not flying too high having kept me at lower altitudes. I ascended until I was panting in the thin air, too high to see anyone, then I looked down.

 

Smoke covered the city, spewing from dozens of fires. Rows of neat buildings were rudely interrupted with gaping holes of destruction, from where the shimagu mage had sent giant metal pillars after us. Dust coated a third of the city, while Ash covered half the city, from the port to the fortress dominating the center of the city.

 

The fight and the mess had taken the entire day. We’d started at sunrise, and now the sun was setting, throwing shadows that the fires were vigorously fighting against.

 

The Ash and large area of effect skills had ceased, and I carefully filtered my notifications for high-level kills.

 

[*ding!* Your party has slain an [Driven Taskmaster (Ooze, 588)]//[The Hammer (Mithril, 560)//[The Anvil(Mithril, 345]]

 

[*ding!* Your party has slain an [Contracted in Triplicate (Ooze, 672)]/[Wave Rider (Water, 621)]/(Herald of Thousand Spinning Shards (Metal, 555)]]

 

[*ding!* Your party has slain an [Obscurer of the Sun and Skies (Ash, 666)]/[The Scalding Squall (Steam, 635)]/ The Last Gasp (Miasma, 450)]]

 

[*ding!* Your party has slain an [Captain of Wood and Flesh (Ooze, 621)]//[Endless Shipwright (Forest, 485)]//[Master of the Storm (Storm, 284)]]

 

The Ash non-shimagu combined with the Metal shimagu at practically the same time implied that Awarthril and Serondes had managed to kill the devil.

 

I oriented myself - easy, when north was where the ocean was - and spotted a hill to the east. Flashing bright Radiance down towards the city, trying, hoping to maybe signal the elves where I was going, I headed out.

 

I was done with the city.

 

I sent another flash of light at Cordamo as I passed near him, before sitting down on the hill, back resting against a tree.

 

I forced myself to look at the city. To look at what I’d done.

 

The city had been peaceful yesterday. It’d been at ease this morning.

 

Then I came along, and now what? Thousands, if not tens of thousands dead. A city in flames. More would die in the aftermath.

 

Because of me.

 

Who’d sworn to do no harm.

 

The guilt crashed into me like a wave.

 

I wasn’t being penalized by [Oath]. What I’d done was too abstract. I’d freed someone from his chains, and he went around lighting fires. I wasn’t responsible for that, from [Oath]’s perspective. I’d been a hostile in a city, and indiscriminate force had been unleashed to put a stop to me. Again, I was responsible, but not responsible, so [Oath] was silent.

 

Damn it.

 

I almost wish it wasn’t.

 

How many had I personally killed? I was about to look at my notifications, when I checked myself.

 

I was going to have a ton. I mentally fiddled with the notifications, compressing them. I couldn’t figure out how to get the species instead of anything else, but otherwise, it mostly worked for kill notifications from the last day.

 

[*ding!* Your party has slain 8,096 Ooze-Element creatures!]

 

How many people total was I responsible for today? How many humans and ogres had died?

 

I added in the dinosaurs, just because filtering them out was hard.

 

[*ding!* Your party has slain 10,559 creatures!]

 

Even as I watched, the number ticked up. It was possible that I was getting credit for “knock-off” kills. How would I know? “Practically burned a city to the ground, incited massive riots, and killed thousands” wasn’t a well-studied System phenomena. Generally, when similar events happened in Remus, we didn’t send scholars to interview the perpetrators. We didn’t gather and collate data. No, Rangers and Sentinels were sent in to deal with the problem.

 

I checked the rest of my levels.

[*ding!* Congratulations! [The Dawn Sentinel] has leveled up to level 424->511! +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!]

DOVE CURSE THEM ALL! Level 511?! 511!?!!?! Ooooh, I should go right back there, and give them a piece of my mind until I hit 512.

 

Oh gods, what was I thinking? Over ten thousand lives, reduced to almost a hundred levels, and I wanted to go back for more?

I felt disgust welling up inside of me, and I let it out, retching.

No.

That was also an utterly stupid number of levels. It was on par with Destruction unleashing the earthquake on the Formorian queens, and annihilating huge portions of the swarms. On the plus side, freeing enslaved Remus citizens (Or… well, not citizens because Remus was a huge pain about citizenship, but WHATEVER) was a super-Sentinelish thing to do. I had [Passionate Learning]. I was out of the dead zone. I’d used the class in a direct, offensive manner, which was new. I’d investigated a major threat on Remus’s borders.

On the downside, the healing I’d done would’ve been worth a ton less if the shimagu didn’t have their own classes. Their own intelligence.

A strong sonder came over me, the crushing weight of how many hopes, dreams, and ambitions I’d just casually snuffed out washing over me once again. My heart plummeted into my feet, my stomach dropping out as once again I’d realize just what I’d done.

I was not cut out for mass-murder. No matter how justified.

[*ding!* [Celestial Affinity] has leveled up! 424 -> 471]

For the first time in forever, my affinity skill wasn’t capped. Weird. Guess it was because of how fast I’d leveled or something?

[*ding!* [Cosmic Presence] has leveled up! 287 -> 300]

Seemed like a lot.

[*ding!* [Center of the Universe] has leveled up! 424 -> 450]

All of these skills uncapping were going to be a huge pain to re-cap.

Also, I wasn’t looking forward to what torment I’d have to go through to cap my anti-pain skill.

[*ding!* [Dance with the Heavens] has leveled up! 424 -> 511]

I wasn’t surprised in the slightest.

[*ding!* [Wheel of Sun and Moon] has leveled up! 424 -> 511]

I was probably capped here for ages.

[*ding!* [Mantle of the Stars] has leveled up! 424 -> 469]

Permanent shielding for the win! It was a nice number.

I slightly regretted not using [Sunrise] at all. Ah well!

512 was around the corner. I should start doing some serious planning on my third class… and how long I was going to wait before taking it.

 

[*ding!* Congratulations! [Butterfly Mystic] has leveled up to level 348->357! +8 Strength, +8 Dexterity, +70 Speed, +70 Vitality, +70 Mana, +70 Mana Regen, +70 Magic power, +70 Magic Control from your Class per level! +1 Free Stat for being Human per level! +1 Strength, +1 Mana Regen from your Element per level!]

Practically nothing compared to my [The Dawn Sentinel] levels. Wasn’t going to complain, especially since the levels were “justified” - I had no issues lasering velociraptors that were trying to tear me apart.

I had issues with the shimagu because…

The shimagu were different because…

… I had no good words why.

The capped [Butterfly Mystic] skills stayed capped.

[*ding!* [Solar Flare] has leveled up! 88 -> 130]

Merge already!

[*ding!* [Scintillating Ascent] has leveled up! 314 -> 333]

Solid levels!

[*ding!* [Long-Range Identify] has leveled up! 370 -> 375]

[*ding!* [Pristine Memories] has leveled up! 220 -> 221]

[*ding!* [Egg Incubation] has leveled up! 55 -> 94]

Egg protection duty! Woo!

I looked down at the egg, still safe. Still attached. Still warm, in the [Mantle] and sash Serondes made.

Good.

Wonder when it’ll hatch?

I squinted at it. Did it just rock a hair? Or was it my imagination?

[*ding!* [Bullet Time] has leveled up! 424 -> 511]

[*ding!* [Oath of Elaine to Lyra] has leveled up! 375 -> 376]

Oooof. If nothing else, [Oath] only moving a single level, in spite of all the “healing” I’d done, was a damning indictment of my actions.

[*ding!* [Sentinel’s Superiority] has leveled up! 396 -> 511]

I’d just been the most Sentinely Sentinel who ever Sentineled.

[*ding!* [Persistent Casting] has leveled up! 299 -> 315]

Awww, no upgrade at 300. I was disappointed.

[*ding!* [Passionate Learning] has leveled up! 379 -> 380]

With no small amount of dread, I checked when, exactly, in my log that I’d gotten that level of [Passionate Learning].

My stomach rebelled at the answer.

It also reminded me why I’d done it. Why I’d zipped around at high speeds, healing as many people as possible. Yes, the city had been safe. The city had been peaceful. It was a lie. An illusion, built on the backs of tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of enslaved people. People, who the moment they were freed, immediately and violently turned on their oppressors. People who’d chosen to go down fighting, to go down swinging, rather than go back to the worst kind of slavery.

They were free.

Many had died, would die, but nearly all of them had made the choice to fight back. They didn’t need to.

There was a deep train of thought there, ideas and concepts to explore, especially as it related to Remus.

Importantly, it reaffirmed my decision to be a Sentinel. Of the importance of the Rangers. I’d effectively been a single powerful, violent, high-level Classer inside a city, hellbent on killing as many people as possible. And look at how well I’d succeeded.

I wasn’t the first to have such ambitions.

I wasn’t going to be the last.

Heck, I’d basically done a Hesoid, playing “how many people can I kill?”

The thought disgusted me. Made me want to punch myself.

But - I hadn’t been wrong. Had I?

I shook my head to refocus.

The shimagu had sent their own Classers against me. They’d failed.

We needed Rangers, Sentinels, and the rest to help keep the peace. To be able to deal with people who woke up one day, and chose violence.

There was something to be said for tackling the problem at its root. For solving the underlying problems that caused the behavior.

I lacked the proper social skills and know-how to even identify the problem, let alone how to fix it. I was Immortal though. I had time to work on it. Worse-case, I’d just get fabulously rich then hire a bunch of people to figure it out for me.

Until then? I was needed as a Sentinel.

My stomach rumbled again, violently, reminding me of a few important facts.

  1. I’d vomited everything I’d eaten so far today.
  2. I’d burned a huge amount of mana, and regenerated just as much. It was ravenous work, and I needed food.
  3. For the first time in ages, I didn’t know where my next meal was coming from. No elves, no spiders, no dwarves, and the local wildlife was at a minimum due to all the farms. Guess if I got hungry enough I could raid a farm for food, but stealing from a farmer, after what I’d just done? It just felt wrong.

I’d probably need to kill more shimagu.

I was conflicted about the actions I’d taken.

I wasn’t conflicted about the fact that I was tired of killing. Tired of taking lives. I needed a break.

Soon. Remus was close enough that humans were occasionally wandering over here.

A grey smear in the sky caught my eye. It looked like Cordamo, and without getting up, without moving, I flashed Radiance at him, signaling where I was.

I’d been ruminating, running from one thought to the next, but now I finally had time to wonder about the elves, and where they’d been. How they’d fared.

Cordamo clearly saw me, and dove down towards me.

 

[Name: Elaine]

[Race: Human]

[Age: 20]

[Mana: 576,750/576,750]

[Mana Regen: 432,699 (+515,651)]

Stats

[Free Stats: 194]

[Strength: 1,003]

[Dexterity: 1,823]

[Vitality: 14,190]

[Speed: 14,190]

[Mana: 57,675]

[Mana Regeneration: 57,776 (+51,565)]

[Magic Power: 22,735 (+427,418)]

[Magic Control: 22,735 (+427,418)]

[Class 1: [The Dawn Sentinel - Celestial: Lv 511]]

[Celestial Affinity: 471]

[Cosmic Presence: 300]

[The Stars Never Fade: 2]

[Center of the Universe: 450]

[Dance with the Heavens: 511]

[Wheel of Sun and Moon: 511]

[Mantle of the Stars: 469]

[Sunrise: 347]

[Class 2: [Butterfly Mystic - Radiance: Lv 357]]

[Radiance Affinity: 357]

[Radiance Resistance: 357]

[Radiance Conjuration: 357]

[Solar Flare: 130]

[Nectar: 357]

[Sun's Heart: 357]

[Scintillating Ascent: 333]

[Kaleidoscope: 357]

[Class 3: Locked]

General Skills

[Long-Range Identify: 375]

[Pristine Memories: 221]

[Egg Incubation: 94]

[Bullet Time: 511]

[Oath of Elaine to Lyra: 376]

[Sentinel's Superiority: 511]

[Persistent Casting: 315]

[Passionate Learning: 380]

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Selkie

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