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[*ding!* Congratulations! [The Dawn Sentinel] has leveled up to level 511->512 +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!]

I grinned as I saw the notification hovering in front of me. I slowly let the anticipation build as I scrolled through the rest of my notifications.

 

[*ding!* Congratulations! For achieving level 512, you’ve unlocked your 3rd class!]

 

[*ding! You’ve earned your third class - [Beloved of the Wind] - Wind]

 

Beloved of the Wind - A starter class for one who loves the wind and air, the breeze and gale, and whom is beloved and embraced in return.

 

HECK YES! My third class! At last! Also, [Beloved of the Wind]? That was great!

 

I didn’t need the stats at this point - if I squinted and looked really hard, I’d see a minor change - but maybe it was a springboard to better initial classes. I’d done a minor amount of thinking on my 3rd class, but eh. I was in no rush to figure it out.

 

I had eternity to select one, and as far as I was concerned, it was worth waiting.

 

The class had potential for cycling, but whatever I had during my first level 8 class-up would be permanent, in a sense. Whenever I reset, the level 8 classes would be the exact same as the first time I classed up. Only when I hit 32 would there start to be differences.

 

For once, I wasn’t in dire straits. I wasn’t at risk of dying anytime soon. I didn’t need a boost in power, and hell, a level 32 class wasn’t going to do anything for me. I’d need some time for the class and skills to build up to something usable.

 

No, it was worth doing some research. Talking with everyone. Getting ideas of other classes, and their requirements. Getting as many starter options as possible. I never knew when life would throw me a curveball, and I’d want to change my 3rd class to something else. I had doubts it’d happen, but why rush?

 

Heck, at a bare minimum, I should wait to bond with Auri. “Companion with a phoenix” should be worth a powerful class in and of itself!

 

“Dawn?” Night gently prodded, and I snapped back to reality.

 

“Whoops! Sorry!” I apologized. “I just got my 3rd class unlocked!”

 

“Brrrpt!!” Auri seemed to know how much this meant to me, even if she didn’t know how hard it was.

 

Brawling facepalmed. Hunting grinned. The other Sentinels gave various words of congratulations.

 

“Great news!”

 

“Another one!”

 

“Congratulations!”

 

“We’ve gotta throw her the same thing we did for everyone else.”

 

A few heads turned towards Ocean.

 

“I’ll see what I can do.” He commented neutrally. “I’m not making any promises, but I’ll see if the Emperor wants to cement a Triumph for hitting 512 as a tradition, or if he’ll decide it was a one-time thing for the first humans, or for winning the Formorian war, or what.”

 

More bickering and arguing from the Sentinels, each one trying to explain why they thought it was a good idea.

 

I wanted to grumble about not wanting to be the focus of a bloody Triumph, buuuuuuuut I was back home. Playing the “look at how totally cool Sentinels are!” game was part of my job, and more importantly, it helped keep all of us alive.

 

Just like how Brawling’s reputation in the colosseum had helped me out when I nabbed Artemis, grinning and bearing a Triumph for a day could, I dunno, help bail Acquisition out of a tight spot one day. If nothing else, it’d raise the profile of Sentinels in the public’s mind, reminding them that we were here. We existed.

 

And we were the best.

 

Plus, I could probably inspire a ton of girls. Seeing a woman be the focus of a Triumph?

 

Yeah.

 

Auri would love it as well.

 

“Brrpt!” Not sure why Auri was chirping. No way she could be a mind reader.

 

Alright!

 

Operation “Triumph” was a go!

 

Not that I had any say in it.

 

“Ahem. Congratulations Dawn.” Night politely but firmly cut through the discussion. “Now. Unless we wish to be here until nightfall, I believe Dawn should continue her debrief.”

 

Right.

 

“Once it was clear the dwarves didn’t want me to leave, I started making small moves in preparation to escape, not knowing when my time would come. First…”

 

I went into a detailed analysis of my escape plan and execution, which interested most of the Sentinels. This was exactly the sort of problem, and analysis, that had all of us listening to mission reports.

 

Jobs for each Sentinel were few and far between - just a handful every year. We all had a massive wealth of experience getting to where we were, but not as much operating at the level we were at. Trading experiences, tips, and tricks like this was one of the main purposes of these debriefs.

 

[*ding!* [Beloved of the Wind] has leveled up! 1 -> 2! +3 Speed from your class per level! +1 Free Stat for being human! +1 Speed from your element!]

 

The joy of low-level classes - they leveled crazy fast. I bet I could sneeze and get a level! [Passionate Learning] was helping as well.

 

We got to the last part of my escape - the trident-trap.

 

My method of handling the trap was… unconventional.

 

“Dodge it. Or slap it out of the way.” Brawling said.

 

“Blast it before it hits.” Hunting added.

 

“Not step in the trap.” Acquisition drily added.

 

“I would’ve died.” Mirage seemed almost cheerful at the prospect. He was totally meeting White Dove one day.

 

“Moving on. From there, I’d escaped, but I was trapped in the tunnels. In order to properly escape pursuit, I went deep and long. Problem was, I had no idea how to navigate down there.”

 

I shrugged.

 

“I got lost for a few months underground.” I shuddered at the memory. “And no, I’m not going to teach underground wilderness survival. That’d be a complete waste of the Trainee’s time, and Rangers stay above ground. However, if anyone ends up down there, here’s what I found, and here’s what I did to survive…”

 

Another technical discussion. Surprisingly, Nature had quite a few insights into the situation and problem.

 

We were getting to the next part of my story, the one I was a bit concerned about. Specifically Night’s reaction to the whole thing.

 

However, in a room full of Sentinels? As I was telling the story? With my survivability?

 

I don’t think the rest of the Sentinels would let Night murder me in cold blood, not without stepping in. And I wasn’t easy to kill. I was like a cockroach. Night could kill me, given enough time - like, three minutes - but that was an eternity as fights went.

 

“Ended up getting chased by something called the [Inevitable Shluggoth]. Yellow on [Identify]. Looked like a persistence hunter, and it nearly ran me down. I tried a few different things to get away from it, but they didn’t seem to work. I was tiring, when I encountered...”

 

I paused for dramatic flourish, then pointed down at the scroll with her name while I said it.

 

“The lair of!”

 

Brawling gave a single big laugh. A few of the other Sentinels looked amused.

 

Ocean chuckled.

 

“Alright, alright, how did you get out?”

 

The grin I’d had on my face faded, then it came back in full force.

 

“Alright, alright, you got me. I found… THE LAIR OF-” I pointed down again, the grin on my face vanishing, going entirely serious.

 

“Brrrpt?!”

 

“I’m not fucking with you.”

 

“Naturally, you entered.” Night sounded… frustrated? Weary? I couldn’t quite tell, but hey, he hadn’t tried to murder me. Score one!

 

She was hurt. Not dying, but in need of significant medical attention. I was oathbound to help her.”

 

She knew.” Night echoed my words from earlier. I nodded my head.

 

Everyone was staring at me, most unnaturally still. There was no fidgeting, no coughs, no idle comments whispered to each other. I had the complete and total undivided attention of every member present.

 

“I thought I was stealthy. Used the invisibility gem. The sound-suppression gem. [Tracks-be-gone]. Realized as I got here that I’d been horribly naïve. She knew the entire time that I was there.”

 

“What was it like?” Acquisition asked, greed in his eyes.

 

Silence.” Night hissed at us. “Dawn. I appreciate your candor. Please skip to the part where you left. To the rest. This is classified, and word should never leave this room, nor should it be written down. The fact that Dawn was permitted to leave the lair speaks to likely favorable disposition, but I do not believe there is much sense in potentially provoking powers that are capable of the feats Dawn described earlier.”

 

“Skipping to leaving. I grabbed Auri - or rather, her egg - on my way out.”

 

“Brrrpt!?”

 

[*ding!* [Beloved of the Wind] has leveled up! 2 -> 3! +3 Speed from your class per level! +1 Free Stat for being human! +1 Speed from your element!]

 

Night stood up, and left the room. We all silently stared after him as he slowly, carefully walked out of the room, leaving towards the wing that held our rooms at HQ.

 

None of us said a word as the rapid-fire sounds of things breaking echoed back through us, the size and speeds of the impacts sounding like gunshots in spite of the thick walls between us, and whatever destruction Night was performing.

 

The atmosphere was awkward. We just… sat there, as the sounds slowly faded.

 

“Man.” Brawling eventually said. “I am not looking forward to cleaning that up.”

 

“Brrrpt!”

 

Night came back, and sat down heavily.

“I apologize for my lack of control.” He said. “Dawn. Let me reassure you, that, first and foremost, you are one of my Sentinels, and I shall do whatever is needed to protect you. To protect any and every Sentinel. With that being said. What kind of stupid, foolish, moronic, dull, ill-advised, ludicrous, naïve, senseless, short-sighted, rash, brainless, deficient, dense, half-baked idiotic simple-minded….”

 

Night went on for quite some time in that vein, slowly building up in volume. He had a few thousand years of collecting insults, and he was going through the entire list.

 

“... UNTHINKING THOUGHTS WERE GOING THROUGH YOUR HEAD!?”

 

He collapsed back down and sighed.

 

“But, as you so correctly pointed out - she knew. She knew, and she permitted you to leave. There is little value in analyzing such a situation. If the lords of existence want you to die, you die. If it amuses them to have you live, you live. I do not believe one would play such a long game, to let you go at that time and only now hunt you down. It would cost more effort than such a diversion provides in entertainment.”

 

He waved a hand.

 

“Please, carry on.”

 

“Right! I got close to a hundred levels for that little stunt,”

 

Night snorted, and Brawling looked crestfallen.

 

“A hundred levels for that?!” He half-wailed. “It took the entire Formorian war for me to get a hundred levels!”

 

Most of us shot evil looks at Brawling for the interruption. We’d all gone through insane trials to reach our levels.

“Anyways, that’s when I got my Immortality skill. I can - on a significant cooldown - turn back the clock on someone’s age, and make them young again.”

 

My revelation wasn’t met with the reaction I expected.

 

“Like Night?” Ocean asked.

 

Mmmm.

 

Right.

 

Night could grant Immortality. I wasn’t sure why more Sentinels weren’t vampires… might be worth having a discussion with Night over it.

 

Maybe there were whole legions of former Sentinels-turned-vampires? That didn’t quite make sense…

 

Also, might be worth minimizing my ability in front of Night. Though after his earlier declaration, I wasn’t super worried about him bringing me harm, but still. I anticipated a long, long working relationship with him, and I thought it’d be nice for me to indicate he was the boss.

 

Or something.


Fuck politics and this interpersonal stuff with a rusty fork, but ARGH! I had to play, especially since I was going to be sticking around for awhile.

 

“Yeah, but l only make someone young again. Whoever I use this on keeps aging, just at a significantly reduced rate. Also, unlike Night, White Dove’s curse is random. I used it on a gnoll we met. Entirely lost his sense of smell. Both to smell, for others to smell him, and to ‘sniff out deals’. Nasty stuff.”

 

“Dawn. I wish for us to meet this evening, to discuss the full implications of your ability. I believe I have some advice I can impart.” Night said.

 

I gave him a curt nod.

 

The elves were a solid introduction to Immortality. However, I believed there literally wasn’t another person in the entire world who had a better grasp on ‘having the ability to grant Immortality while living amongst mortals’ than Night himself.

 

“I give up.” Brawling stood up as he announced it.

 

“Brawling?” Ocean asked.

 

“I give up. I’m going out of this ‘Dead Zone’, and I’m going to punch things until I hit 512 and I become Immortal. See ya!”

 

“No, wa-” Ocean was too late. Brawling was gone.

 

“Peace.” Night said. “Sentinel Brawling is all too aware of his responsibilities. He understands what will happen if he shirks them too long. Like Toxic, he shall be back momentarily.”

 

Night inclined his head towards me.

 

“Why, look at Sentinel Dawn here. A year and a half, and her level has doubled.”

 

He paused, looking around.

 

“A reminder, for those seated here. If any of you are so inclined, if the itch of adventure and the call of exploration come upon you, simply let us know. We shall work together to make it possible.”

 

Yeah, no thanks. I’d had enough adventuring for many, many years.

 

I didn’t dare say a lifetime. I didn’t have an upper limit on that, which still blew my mind.

 

“Right. After exiting her lair, I had no idea where I was. In the slightest. I was more than a little lost. I figured I’d head north, pray that the ocean extended a bunch, and work from there. Does anyone have a better idea of what I could’ve done?”

 

“Brrpt!”

 

That wasn’t a good idea, but I wasn’t going to tell Auri that.

 

That launched a lively debate and discussion - “How to find your way back home when dropped in a random place on Pallos.” Once that was done, I continued.

 

“Met up with some elves, of all people. They knew where the ‘Low Experience Zone’ was, and we agreed to travel together. Had a few interesting fights and adventures.”

 

I briefly went over the hydra, centaurs, spinosaurus and trolls, none of which were particularly interesting. The mysterious voice also got a mention, but nobody had any ideas. I also skimmed over the gnolls, in favor of the last part.

 

I did spend some time on the level-changing ring I'd gotten.

 

“Got a gift, something called a Deception Ring. It lets me change my displayed level.”

 

“That’s a high level [Thief] skill.” Acquisition said.

 

“But can they change their level to anything?”

 

“Usually around 100 levels, which is enough.”

 

I nodded.

 

“I’ve got the full spectrum of colors, from white at level 1, all the way to black at 4096. Here, let me give you a sample, along with where all the class ups and colors are…”

 

At the end of it, Ocean had a comment.

 

“I believe we should spread this information, courtesy of the Rangers and Sentinels. Thoughts?”

 

There were general noises of agreement. Why bother keeping the knowledge secret?

 

“This brings me to the most important, or maybe just the most directly relevant, part of the debrief.” My playful happiness was gone. The Sentinels, hearing the change in my tone, sat up straighter.

 

“There is a race of creatures called shimagu. They’re small body-jacking parasites. Hard to detect. Hard to kill.”

 

Hunting snorted at that. Which was fair enough, his speciality was killing stuff.

 

“Ok, not that hard to kill. Obnoxious though. The primary variant overwhelms the host, and forces the body to move however they want. The hosts are generally not a fan. When freed, they tend to react violently against the shimagu. Shimagu also take over dinosaurs. Generally, this first type seems to focus purely on the physical, and I saw no obvious active skill use from this group. I don’t understand why, but that’s my current observation.”

 

I paused a moment, letting everyone soak the information in.

 

“The second type is cooperative. The host and the shimagu work in tandem, and let me tell you - six classes and six elements in a single body is nasty, especially when they all synergize. Questions?”

 

“We’ve prepared an extensive list.” Ocean said. “I hope you’ll be willing to entertain us?”

 

“Naturally.”

 

Ocean nodded to Hunting.

 

“Self defense against shimagu?” Hunting asked.

 

“They dislike mages and healers. Both can use skills on themselves to purge shimagu attempting to infect them.”

 

“Right. I’m next.” Nature said. “Can shimagu infect plants, trees, and the like? Or is it only flesh?”

 

“I’m unsure, but I only observed flesh. It would be highly unusual biologically if they were capable of both flesh body-jacking, and infesting trees.”

 

“Brrpt!” Auri seemed relieved.

 

“I’m sure they can’t take over flames.” I reached up and stroked her reassuringly.

 

Nature nodded in agreement.

 

The question and answer session about shimagu lasted forever. Probably over an hour, as everyone wanted as many details as possible.

 

My earlier letter had primed them. They’d had a few weeks to think on the topic, and came armed with a long list of questions.

 

“Getting to the last part of my journey, before I made it home.”

 

I noticed a warble in my voice, and I looked down. My hands were trembling, and I interlocked my hands to stop them.

 

Sadness, despair, disgust, pride, and a hundred other emotions warred inside of me.

 

“I-” My voice cracked as my throat closed up. None of the Sentinels said anything.

 

They all had their own demons. There wasn’t one of us without horrors in our past, ugly things we’d done that kept us up at night.

 

“Brrrpt!” Ok, fine, there was one of us that was still pure and innocent. I’d do whatever I could to keep Auri that way.

 

“I entered Ochi.” I managed to get out, failing to fight back the tears. “Shimagu-controlled. Entirely. Humans from Remus, controlled.”

 

Metal pillars falling inches away from me. Explosions of stone. Screams of rage, brutal violence done with whatever implements were on hand. The twack of an ogre bashing in a skull with his bare hands. A kid crying, wanting his mom helped.

 

I hadn’t been able to help her. There’d been more people needed.

 

“Healing is instantly lethal to shimagu. At a small cost.” I was crying now, just letting the tears go.

 

Trapped by the classer. Stone around my wrists and ankles, the invisible executioner lining up their shot. Saved by Awarthil, but not in my dreams.

 

Some nights I wondered if things would be ‘better’ if Awarthril hadn’t succeeded in saving me.

 

“High speed movement, plus area of effect on my heal. Excuse me.”

 

I got up and left. None of the other Sentinels tried to stop me.

 

We all knew I’d be back to finish my report. I just…

 

Well. I needed a lot more than a few minutes to compose myself.

 

“Brrpt! Brrrrrrrrrrpt. Brrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrpt!”

 

Auri was calming. Soothing. Knowing that I was upset and sad, without knowing why. She didn’t care. She nuzzled me, a dozen different bright colors of flame lighting up the room I’d escaped to, lighting up my soul.

 

“Yeah, you’re the best too, little troublemaker.”

 

“Brrrpt!!”

 

Auri blasted my face with fire, and I laughed, mock-scolding her.

 

“Hey! There are better ways to dry my tears than scorching me!”

 

“Brrrpt!” Auri didn’t agree.

 

“Come here you.”

 

“Brrpt!”

 

I cuddled Auri, bringing her close to my chest and “hugging” her tiny form.

 

“I’m ok Auri.”

 

“Brrpt.”

 

“No really. I’m just… sad about something I had to do.”

 

“Brrrpt.”

 

“There was no right thing. Everything was wrong.”

 

“Brrrpt!!”

 

I rolled my eyes at her.

 

“Burning it all down doesn’t fix all problems.”

 

“Brrrpt.” Auri was skeptical.

 

“Right! Let’s go back and finish this. Then lunch, ok?”

 

“Brrpt!”

 

I headed back to the room, bolstered by Auri’s support.

“Sorry.” I apologized as I got back. “Please no interruptions for this next part.”

 

I took a deep breath, and got it all out in a single long rant without pause.

 

“Realized the city was shimagu-infested they were capturing humans from Remus on occasion I snapped and starting healing to death as many shimagu as I could including civilians nearly every free host chose violence afterwards multiple high level hostile shimagu elves fought we won escaped city 10,000 killed that’s all.”

 

I shook my head, moving onto happier things.

 

“Was close enough to fly back to Remus, and hit Port Salona. Met up with Ranger Team 11. Encountered a fun spot of guard corruption.”

 

“That’s going to be a mess.” Bulwark nodded. A few murmurs of agreement went around the room.

 

“Auri here hatched then.”

 

“Brrpt!” Auri preened and flew around, happy to be at the center of attention. She flashed her colorful wings around, hovering in the air and slowly rotating.

 

She loooooved the attention.

 

“Can you tell us more about Auri?” Hunting asked.

 

I was glad to see him taking an interest. Meant the Katastrofi injury was healing. I hoped.

 

“Oh yeah, she’s a phoenix. Possibly related to the Guardian Ho-O.”

 

“At this point, I’m not even surprised.” Ocean sighed. “Thank you for letting us know after Brawling left, otherwise he’d go looking for one of his own.”

 

I chuckled at the mental image.

 

“Brrpt!” Auri objected somewhat to the idea. There was only ONE Auri, and she was it.

 

“From Port Salona, once Auri was old enough to travel, I made my way back home. And here I am. Questions?”

 

That’s when the real barrage of questions started, and my stomach grumbled as I handled them all.

 

Finally, Ocean called it.

 

“Right. It’s getting way too late, and we all have stuff to do. More questions tomorrow. Night, got anything else?”

 

He slowly shook his head.

 

“Sentinels. Dismissed.”

 

[*ding!* [Beloved of the Wind] has leveled up! 3 -> 4! +3 Speed from your class per level! +1 Free Stat for being human! +1 Speed from your element!]

 

[Name: Elaine]

[Race: Human]

[Age: 20]

[Mana: 578,460/578,460]

[Mana Regen: 434,358 (+517,177)]

Stats

[Free Stats: 199]

[Strength: 1,003]

[Dexterity: 1,826]

[Vitality: 14,214]

[Speed: 14,230]

[Mana: 57,846]

[Mana Regeneration: 57,947 (+51,718)]

[Magic Power: 22,777 (+428,208)]

[Magic Control: 22,777 (+428,208)]

[Class 1: [The Dawn Sentinel - Celestial: Lv 512]]

[Celestial Affinity: 472]

[Cosmic Presence: 300]

[The Stars Never Fade: 2]

[Center of the Universe: 450]

[Dance with the Heavens: 512]

[Wheel of Sun and Moon: 512]

[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: 334]

[Kaleidoscope: 357]

[Class 3: [Beloved of the Wind - Wind: Lv 4]]

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General Skills

[Long-Range Identify: 375]

[Pristine Memories: 221]

[Hatchling Rearing: 92]

[Bullet Time: 512]

[Oath of Elaine to Lyra: 376]

[Sentinel's Superiority: 512]

[Persistent Casting: 315]

[Passionate Learning: 380]

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Selkie

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