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I only spent a few minutes accepting the farmer’s thanks for dealing with his Lightning cow.

 

“You should cull the rest.” I told him. “This was the first one, but not the last.”

 

“Ah, da moos ah foin. Dar…”

 

Holy incomprehensible language. Oi - I - gods he was rubbing off on me already - swear he was halfway towards pioneering his own tongue.

 

I flew back to town, feeling my hair doing strange things. I felt it as I flew.

 

Oh for fucks sake.

 

Lightning strikes did not mix with long hair. I was rocking burns throughout, clumps of hair having gotten charred and ruined, others sticking out at bizarre angles.

 

I hated the smell of burning hair.

 

Ok, fine. Hate was too strong of a word, especially so close after the shimagu. I strongly disliked the smell of burning hair.

 

I flew over the walls, quietly chuckling to myself as the guards studiously ignored me. Word had gotten round. Do not mess with the crazy Sentinel. Ignore the brightly colored butterfly wings.

 

It sucked that we couldn’t lock down all the guards while conducting our investigation, but practically speaking, how would that work? Did we just throw open the gates and let everyone in and out? Did we stop manning the towers that watched for threats? Did we stop enforcing the rules? Did we remove the guard presence from the streets entirely?

 

It was a mess.

 

I made it back to the Ranger wagon, where I changed back to my tunic, thankful that I’d chosen to wear the Mistweave. I didn’t want to call it invincible - that was just asking for trouble - but it sure could take a beating.

 

I slipped my Deception Ring back on, set it to level 200, and went to find Greybeard and my egg.

 

Took some wandering around the guardhouse to spot him, but I eventually did.

 

He was conducting an interview, and I just quietly slipped into the room, grabbed the egg, shot him a quick message in Ranger hand code - “Success” - and left.

 

I stopped by Bossman’s room once I found him, and flashed him the same code, then left the room.

 

There wasn’t much left for me to do in Port Salona. The entirety of my checklist was “get traveling supplies” and “get going”.

 

Given that it was almost lunch, and that proper prior planning prevented piss poor performance, I figured I’d spend the afternoon gathering supplies, then leave second thing in the morning, after the Ranger’s morning exercise.

 

Shame about Greybeard, training, and drills, but eh. I’d just ask Night if he could spare some time for me. I know I had the spare time, but Night kept himself crazy busy.

 

I looted the Ranger’s cash stores again - only two rods - and headed back into town.

 

First things first - hair. AGAIN. I made my way to the same hairdresser as yesterday, who gave me more than a bit of a funny look.

I suppose people didn’t often utterly ruin their nice do as quickly as I had.

 

“Heya! Up for another round?” I pointed to my frizzy hair.

He did not look happy.

 

“Sorry that I ruined it already. You know how it is.”

 

“That’ll be 20 coins.” He was gruff, and I paid without complaint, getting luxurious hair once more.

 

Like, yeah, I probably could’ve waited three or four days for Albina to get it done for me, but it was the principle and the feeling of it. I was home. I was safe. My hair symbolized that for me like nothing else did. I’d gone a year with short, matted, blood-encrusted, I-don’t-want-to-know-what mess in my hair.

 

“Two levels in two days.” The hairdresser commented. “Guess I’ve got you to thank.”

 

“You’re welcome! Any chance of a discount?”

 

His snort of disbelief let me know the odds of that happening.

 

I spent the afternoon half playing tourist, half getting supplies. A knife, some rope, a solid backpack, a waterbottle, and - most importantly - a map.

 

I was planning on following the roads back home. It kinda sucked, but I didn’t trust myself to try and cross the Nostrum sea directly. It was three parts paranoia about getting lost, and eight parts concern about whatever plant Night and Ocean had talked about that lived in the sea, that prevented ships from doing anything other than cruising along the shoreline.

 

Plus, while I knew Ariminum was to the south-east, I didn’t have precise directions. Sure, I could cut through the wilderness until I hit another road, but then I’d just be following the road until I hit another city, where I’d need to reorient myself anyways. Probably talk with the guards again, need to explain myself again, and yeah. I was convinced getting a map, charting my course, then just flying as fast as I could over the roads would get me home fastest.

 

I spent way too much on a map. High-quality maps of the entire Republic - or wait, with an emperor now, were we an empire? How did that work? - were rare, and expensive. Most people were locals and knew the area, and only needed information about the local area.

 

The rest of the day went well, the only interesting thing was the egg making some more noise. Once my shopping and proper prior planning was done, I spent the rest of the day at the beach!

 

Carefully curated, lovely sand. Tropical breezes, nice waves - a little slice of paradise. Some families had their kids in tow, but nearly every day was a work day, and who could afford to just… not work and go to the beach?

 

Not a ton of people. Mothers with their kids in tow was primary, but there were more options than just the beach at Port Salona, and the beach being outside of the walls made it a less-attractive place to take small children.

 

Not that I minded. I just enjoyed myself, letting the warm sand wrap around me, the sun beat down on me, and hearing the soothing waves.

 

I stayed quiet during dinner again, although afterwards I took the chance to catch up with Wolfy, Moonmoon, and Artillery Mage C, hearing about their adventures. I gave them the short, short version of events that I’d been through, and they were fascinated by the fact that I’d been outside of Remus. It was like they’d never considered that there was a world outside of our borders. To them, it was just endless wilderness, and I blew their minds with stories about elves, dwarves, trolls, and all manner of other creatures and civilizations out there.

 

Moonmoon was fascinated by Kiyaya, and wanted to know everything about her. I obliged.

 

I went to sleep in the wagon, Moonmoon on either side of me.

 


 

“Good morning Rangers! Up and at ‘em! Let’s go go GO! Last one out owes sixteen pushups!” Bossman’s voice roared through the wagon.

 

I was the last one out. I was significantly faster than Newbie Mage - than all of them - but they’d had months of practice with Bossman waking them up, and them scrambling out of the wagon. Also, I didn’t particularly care about being the last one out, and this way I could give Newbie Mage a break from always being the slowest one.

 

It was a nice drill as well, and I cheerfully did my pushups at high speed while everyone else watched.

 

Sentinels were above Rangers, but even Sentinels bowed to the rules. At least, that was the message I hoped I was sending.

 

After a light set of exercises, we went on our run, this time jogging together as a team. Making sure the pace was one even Newbie Mage could run at.

 

We were running around the walls when the world slowed in its characteristic way when I was in danger.

 

I wasn’t the only one with similar skills.

 

“Down!” Roared Greybeard, while I yelled “Shields!”.

 

I was a fan of practicing what I preached, wrapping myself and the egg in [Mantle of the Stars], leaving a tiny hole at the top to blast all the Rangers with [Wheel of Sun and Moon].

 

My abdomen was getting warm, hot, hotter. I glanced down, only to see the egg glowing, smoke coming off my tunic.

Oh sh-

 

The world turned to flames. I was in the middle of a blazing inferno, a raging bonfire of a dozen different colors of flame. There was no air, no light, no earth or ground.

 

Just pure flames, trying to consume me, to devour me alive into their rapacious, all-consuming maw.

 

I was familiar with fire. I’d dove into multiple burning buildings, I’d spent years as a Fire mage, I’d nearly gotten killed by a dragon’s Pyronox skill, heck, I’d even gotten roasted over a fire once!

 

This was different, yet the same.

 

I burned, going up in flames like a candlewick, my flesh turning into fuel for the flames, only to be restored just as quickly. There was no part of my body spared the searing agony.

 

I swear I was floating, the flames levitating me.

 

It was just me and the fire. Nothing else existed in the world.

 

It felt like the flames wanted to replace me, to subsume me and transform me into a living, breathing avatar of fire, turning me into an inferno elemental.

 

Then like a switch was flipped, the flames stopped entirely.

 

Well, not quite - there were still numerous secondary fires that had been started around me, the smell of burning hair in the air.

 

Damnit. I’d just gotten my hair fixed!

 

The Rangers were scattered around, in various combat stances. Even now they were quickly forming up, putting their backs together, scanning for threats and ignoring their lack of clothing.

 

Their defensive skills, my shield - broken of course - and healing combined had held. They’d all lived.

 

Bossman was barking orders.

 

“Send the wolves out! Get a firing platform set. I want Earth walls, tall and thick. Open-aired! Whatever hit us is going to try again! Heli! Split from us, get another vantage. Mintus! -”

 

“Belay that.” I ordered, looking down and smiling.

 

I got Looks from all the Rangers, and oh I was going to murder Wolfy as he was giving me an entirely different look. We were all Rangers damnit!

 

“That, um, might’ve been me.” I sheepishly confessed, continuing to look down at the tiny hatchling cradled in my arms, a few pieces of cooling eggshell giving it some protection.

 

It was tiny, far smaller than the egg would suggest. It was a mottled grey all over, and cheeping with its mouth to the sky in the pitiful way baby birds did.

 

“Brpt! Brpt! Brpt!”

 

It wanted something, probably food.

 

The Rangers crowded around me, looking down, I assumed at the bird. They better be looking at the bird.

 

“What is it?” Artillery Mage C eventually asked, poking a finger at her. I swatted it away.

 

“Don’t touch! I’m not sure.” I [Identify]’d it.

 

[Fledgling] it came back, pure white. The only thing that told me was that it was intelligent.

 

“Still no idea.”

 

“Where’d you get it?” Newbie Mage asked.

 

“Uhhhhh… that’s classified.” I answered. Bossman gave me a quirked eyebrow.

 

“Can I touch it?” Wolfy asked, as the hatchling’s insistent brpts! became louder and louder.

 

“It looks kinda fragile? But you’d know better than I would.” He did have Moonmoon after all. I was more inclined to let Moonmoon touch carefully, versus Artillery Mage C’s clumsy prodding.

 

The mage in question made a strangled noise of complaint, my blatant favoritism showing.

 

“Ah - going for a companion?” He asked.

 

“Yup.”

 

Wolfy turned to Bossman.

 

“Sir! Requesting permission to end the exercise, and obtain food for Sentinel Dawn. Early hours - minutes - are critical for this.”

 

Bossman looked around and snorted.

 

“What, you think I was going to have you all keep running naked, after we almost died? Please. You’re dismissed. Artillery Mage C, Greybeard, fire control. Sentinel, can I have a quick word?”

 

The newbie Rangers bailed while the rest got on with their respective tasks. Bossman studiously kept his eyes on mine.

 

“Sentinel. It’s your call, but with all due respect - simply hatching nearly took out an entire Ranger squad. I shudder to think what would’ve happened if that had happened in town. You claim you don’t know what it is. With all due respect. Please don’t bring him into town.”

 

“Her.” I absent-mindedly corrected. [Egg Incubation] had given up the game when I first got the skill. “And yes, I can camp out here for some time. Can I borrow Wolfy for the foreseeable future?”

 

Bossman saluted.

 

“Sentinel. Naturally. I anticipate we will be spending significant amounts of time in town, working on the investigation.”

 

He turned and left, and I looked down at the tiny, helpless, loud little bird. She was insisting, with surprising volume, that she get taken care of right now.

 

“BRRPT! BRRPT! BRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRPRRRTTTTTT!!!!”

 

“What do I call you?” I gently extended a finger out, stroking the tiny bird’s head.

 

She was so small. So vulnerable. So helpless and fragile. She had nobody in the world but me. I didn’t even know what she was, let alone where her parents were.

[*ding!* Your skill [Egg Incubation] has evolved into [Hatchling Rearing]!]

 

Hatchling Rearing: By some divine miracle, you’ve kept the egg alive until she hatched! Be careful, she’s a feisty one! Now, feed her, raise her, and protect her until she unlocks her own System to defend herself with! Increased knowledge and connection per level.

 

“BRRRPTT! BBRRRRPPPPT!!”

 

I’d keep her safe. Protect her from the vicious Cordamo’s of the world, until she’d grown up.

 

A potential bond, a possible life-long companionship was starting today.

 

She needed a name.

 

The Remus tradition was to name girls after their father. I was happily single and unmarried, and I had thoughts where that tradition could go stick itself. I didn’t know who her father was, where he was, or what his name was, nor if they had their own set of traditions.

 

“BRRRPTT! BBRRRRPPPPT!!”

 

Another tradition that could go stick itself somewhere unpleasant was “girls get one name”. No. She was getting a full, proper name. Family Called Fancy. Or, in Earth terms, Last First Middle.

 

Kinda weird thinking of it like that.

 

I wasn’t going to name her after me. That was just weird.

 

Was there anyone in my life I’d name her after?

 

Artemis. Artemis was on the shortlist for a middle name. However, I’d want to check with her first, see if she was OK with it, and go from there.

 

Hmmm.

 

Hmmmmmmm.

 

“Artemis Fowl” was kinda funny, but after coming up with the name, I ditched it.

 

“BRRRPTT! BBRRRRPPPPT!!” She was loudly demanding something - probably food.

 

I did some thinking, pulling names and inspiration from my memories, from all sorts of places. I wanted her to have her own family name, unique from mine. Her own middle. Everything.

 

In Remus, middle names were usually granted after an achievement of sorts. The hatchling hadn’t exactly had a long life, but she did have one aspect of note already.

 

Her continued high-volume demands, along with recently hearing The Iliad the other day settled her middle name - Stentor. The loud herald of the Greeks.

 

I’d had a beloved pet, once upon a time on another planet entirely. Aoife.

 

The last name I liked, a diminutive of Aurora. I thought it’d fit. A name that reflected when she was born - at the rising of the sun. I was Dawn, and the symmetry wasn’t lost on me. I wasn’t going to name her after my title though.

 

The name also reflected fire, the flames of the sun, and her birth, her baptism in fire, was all too appropriate for it.

 

“Auri.” I settled on. “Your name is Aoife Auri Stentor.”

 

[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: 131]

[Nectar: 357]

[Sun's Heart: 357]

[Scintillating Ascent: 333]

[Kaleidoscope: 357]

[Class 3: Locked]

General Skills

[Long-Range Identify: 375]

[Pristine Memories: 221]

[Hatchling Rearing: 88]

[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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