Chapter 27 – The Ranger Squad
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“Everyone, this is Elaine. Elaine’s the kid of my best friends growing up, a dual-classed Light and Dark healer, and the bravest girl I know. Also the culprit of the library break-ins we were asked to look into. Don’t worry, she just wanted to read, for fun. Elaine, this is my squad, the rest of the Rangers I gallivant and goof off with.” The wiry man from earlier punched Artemis in the shoulder for that remark.

“Alright, alright, fine, proper introductions. First off is our fearless leader, Julius.” She started, lightly punching wiry man right back. “He’s stupidly fast, and incredible with light blades in a fight. He also can’t stop picking his nose, and continues to insist he does not have a bad luck curse placed on him. Don’t worry Julius,” Artemis turned to speak to Julius “we don’t judge you for your bad luck, we judge you for not telling us what the curse is called.” Julius rolled his eyes at Artemis, then turned and delicately shook my hand.

[Identify] showed him as [Leader].

“Charmed to meet you” he started off, and I recognized him as Mysterious Voice 2. “I’m sure you’ll be a credit to the Republic with your skill and bravery.” I had to look away, cheeks flushing from the praise. I wasn’t that brave or good! I was just doing what needed to be done.

“Alrighty, next we have mountain-man, also called Arthur.” Artemis carried on. Glad to see I wasn’t the only one thinking he was ridiculously sized. “We met at the gate!” I said “He told me where you were.”

I decided to [Identify] him, and got back [Ranger]. Seemed a bit on the nose.

Arthur grunted. “Glad to formally meet Artemis’s little pet.” A spark flew from Artemis to Arthur, causing a zapping noise and a yelp of protest as he jumped up. Artemis carried on like nothing happened. “Don’t let his size fool you. He’s insanely sneaky in the wilderness. Materializes outta thin air. Also, in spite of being the most perfect physical specimen I’ve ever seen, won’t fight hand to hand. Uses a bow and poisons.” That got an unhappy reprimand from Julius.

“Artemis, I’m all for introduction, but don’t tell people how we fight. How would you like it if I went around telling people you were a Lightning and Earth mage, and you last about three seconds in a fight?”

Artemis looked furious at that, the hypocrisy of it completely going over her head.

“Carry on Artemis, we don’t have all day.” I could see why Julius was the boss – he could actually keep Artemis on the straight and narrow! I nodded approvingly to myself.

“This here is Kallisto” Artemis carried on, pointing to a man who looked like he’d stepped out of every standard hero novel, play, and movie ever made. Heroic face. Heroic eyes. Heroic hair. Somehow managed to capitalize the word Heroic, was the very epitome of the idea.

[Warrior]

“Charmed to meet you.” Kallisto said, taking my hand and pressing a delicate kiss to the back. That got him swatted by Artemis, and I recognized Mysterious Voice 3.

“She’s off-limits for way too many reasons.” Artemis growled threateningly at Kallisto.

“I was just being friendly! I never know when I’ll need a healer!” He tried to protest. Julius threw him a look, and he wilted. My respect for Julius was rapidly going up – just how good was someone that could keep this merry band of misfit Classers in line?

“Kallisto is our resident heavy front-line fighter. Takes the brunt of just about anything and everything that’s thrown at us. In spite of his stunning good looks – or maybe because of them” At this Artemis waggled her eyebrows “He’s somehow sneaky inside of towns, able to get into just about any room or place he wants to. Also our resident gossip. Sometimes good, sometimes he leaks our attempt to be incognito to every single person in three bars and four brothels.” That last statement got him a dirty look from everyone. Got it. No secrets for Kallisto.

“Over here we have Origen. From the city-state of Laconia, the only place in the Republic that’s technically an ally of the Republic, not actually in the Republic. Not that anyone else besides people from Laconia care about that. Getting words out of him is as hard as dislodging a Senator. Our resident Inscriptionist, he made the water bottle from earlier, and maintains our enchantments, whips up new ones on-demand, and breaks curses. Tattoos himself after every fight and mission.” Origen just shook my hand and nodded. He had the strong silent type down pat, and was covered in intricate tattoos, including his bald head. It seemed hard to imagine that he had room for many more tattoos. A long, braided beard completed the odd look.

[Artisan]

“Lastly, we have Maximus” Artemis started to introduce a man I could only describe as a bland not-person. It was like he had the ideal body type to be an assassin. 10 iron coins he was an assassin. “He seems incapable of sticking to the same weapon twice in a row, and will generally have the most impractical weapon you can think of. Once brought one of those hefty fishing rods and entered the colosseum with it. Obsessed with the System – feel free to pump him for knowledge, most of what I pass to you I got from him. Careful though! He’ll ask you a thousand questions back.”

[Warrior]

Maximus walked up to shake my hand. “A fellow seeker of knowledge! I heard you have a self-created skill! I’d love to learn all about it!” With the manic gleam in his eye, I figured it was best for my self-preservation if I gave him the information.

“Basically, I made a promise, and the skill came off of that promise. It goes up when I follow it, and down when I don’t.”

“Thanks! You should practice restoring other people’s bodies before working on your own. Also, this might be obvious, but see if you can get someone to block pain for you when working on yourself.” Solid advice from Maximus!

“Anyways, this is the band of merry misfits that somehow are blessed by the government with the name Ranger Team 4!” Artemis ended her show-and-tell session.

We spent some time chatting, and by that, I mean the lean mean Ranger machine spent time chatting while I looked on in awe. Eventually they ran out of things to discuss, and went their separate ways.

With another day of building my strength back up, I could finally get up and out of bed, and start walking around. A second day, and I felt like I could start on my first real healing project – healing Themis’s arm. I saved him, I started to heal him, and I needed to finish the job.

I got out of bed with some help from mom, who was going to be on pain management for my first real effort into limb restoration. To my great disgust, Sethos had decided to give Themis to us. Apparently, it made him look less bad if I had rushed in to save my family's slave, instead of rescuing one of his, and he didn’t think Themis would be worth money anymore. Prick.

I tried to convince dad to free Themis, but he just said that it’d mean Themis would starve. “Charity” and “Orphanages” weren’t really a concept here, and it infuriated me. Still, I would do whatever I could to give him a better life, and step one was getting his arm back.

We entered into Themis’s room, and a knife went through my heart as he saw me, wrinkled his nose, and flinched back. Ouch. I knew my face looked like a melted candle, but this was a bit much.

I approached his bed, and as cheerfully as I could muster, I checked in with him.

“Hey Themis! How are you doing today?” I got the cold shoulder – the empty sleeve driving another knife into my heart - in return as he looked away. Yikes. From the mouth of babes comes truth. U-G-L-Y I ain’t got no alibi.

Mom had experience with kids though, and was taking no prisoners. She grabbed his ear and twisted.

“Now listen. Elaine here dove into the fire to save your life. She’s now here to restore your arm, for free. The least you can do is be grateful! Stop giving her a hard time, and cooperate.” To my amazement, I got some mute nodding in response.

“Ready Elaine?” I reviewed the plan in my head. Satisfied that we had a plan, we started. Step 0: Disable notifications until the end. I wonder if I could make this automatically turn on and off.

It started off fine. Mom deadened Themis’s sense of pain, I removed the scarring on his arm with [Tissue Removal]. We had thought there’d be some bleeding, but we weren’t prepared for the sheer amount that started to come out of his arm. I got my first [Detailed Restoration] off, and was waiting a second for it to cooldown when Themis freaked out. He started yelling and screaming and floundering all over, which caused blood to paint the entire room, which caused him to scream and thrash more. Instead of a thin, meek kid it was now like trying to hold onto a blood-soaked pig hellbent on escaping. Somehow, we managed to get a grip on him, awkward tangle on the floor, as I got off two more [Detailed Restoration] to fix his hand.

We got up slowly, carefully. Our footing was unsure, and I had just barely been allowed off of bedrest – I was in no position to be wrestling. I felt aches and pains all over, and my eyebrows shot off of my face into the ceiling as mom touched Themis and said, mostly for my benefit, [Lesser Tides of Blood].

My mouth felt awful, so I spat, bright red blood coming out. I blanched at the result, stuck my tongue out, and spat a bunch more onto the floor until it stopped being so red. I really hoped blood-borne diseases weren’t a common thing here. I looked at mom, and opened my mouth to ask her about that skill of hers, when she held up her hand, forestalling any questions.

“Don’t ask right now, later.” Her wisdom was proven when a few guards, attracted by the noise, poke their head in, turning pale at the sight of the red room, hands reaching for their batons.

Mom put her hands up. “We were healing him, I promise. It just got, ahem, slightly out of hand. Look! He has a new arm now!”

At this we all looked down at the Themis-shaped red slime on the ground. He was moving his new arm back and forth in wonder and disbelief. He slowly, carefully stood up, looked at mom, looked at me, decided that mom looked like a better bet, and leapt to hug her, slipping in the blood but sticking the landing.

The guards looked at each other, one of them looking distinctly green around the gills. The green gilled guard gracefully gallivanted away, grateful to be gone. The other guard looked around once more, and deciding to assert his authority (we were still in their barracks after all), ordered, “Fine, but clean this place up! We can’t have it stinking the barracks up!”. Fair enough. I mentally put him last on my “to-heal” list.

I turned notifications back on, and the extra stress from healing someone fighting back, and from restoring a full limb, seemed to have paid off.

[*Ding!* Congratulations! [Detailed Restoration] has reached level 5!]

[*Ding!* Congratulations! [Detailed Restoration] has reached level 6!]

…….

[*Ding!* Congratulations! [Detailed Restoration] has reached level 18!]

[*Ding!* Congratulations! [Calming Aura] has reached level 98!]

I looked sideways at that notification. Really? Really? Nothing about that mess had been calm!

[*Ding!* Congratulations! [Medicine] has reached level 96!]

[*Ding!* Congratulations! [Tissue Removal] has reached level 76!]

[*Ding!* Congratulations! [Oath of Elaine to Lyra] has reached level 64!]

[*Ding!* Congratulations! [Shadow Healer] has leveled up to level 79! +1 Free Stat, +3 Mana Regen, +2 Magic power, +2 Magic Control from your Class! +1 Free Stat for being Human! +1 Mana from your Element!]

[*Ding!* Congratulations! [Shadow Healer] has leveled up to level 80! +1 Free Stat, +3 Mana Regen, +2 Magic power, +2 Magic Control from your Class! +1 Free Stat for being Human! +1 Mana from your Element!]

[*Ding!* Congratulations! [Light of Hope] has leveled up to level 104! +1 Mana, +3 Mana Regen, +1 Magic power, +5 Magic Control from your Class! +1 Free Stat for being Human! +1 Mana Regen from your Element!]

[*Ding!* Congratulations! [Dark Affinity] has reached level 79!]

[*Ding!* Congratulations! [Dark Affinity] has reached level 80!]

[*Ding!* Congratulations! [Light Affinity] has reached level 104!]

[*Ding!* For reaching level 80, you’ve unlocked the Class Skill [Deaden Pain]!] Pain is important, letting you know when you’re in trouble or when something’s wrong. Sometimes, pain is a hindrance and a distraction. Remove your sense of pain or someone else’s with this skill. Increased maximum duration per level.

Mom and I walked back to my room, where I whipped up a [Privacy] barrier.

“I got [Deaden Pain]!” I started off, pumping my fist in triumph.

“You need to take that skill.” Mom ordered. Yikes, lay off, I wasn’t a kid anymore, I was 14. I wanted to take the skill, but now I didn’t want to just out of spite. I took a few deep calming breaths, letting [Centered Mind] take hold. Not taking a skill I needed out of spite would be dumb, and there was no telling when I’d get a second chance at it, if ever. “Fine, fine. Give me some time to think about what I’m losing.” Mom left me alone, and I dropped [Privacy]. Let’s see what my options were.

[Dark Affinity], [Privacy], [Cure Toxin], [Attack Bacteria] were all being kept, no question about it. That left me with [Stealth], [Surgeon’s Scalpel], [Parasitic Remover], and [Tissue Removal] to work with. [Stealth] was my only non-healing skill left in my class, but had some utility. At the same time, I just hadn’t used it all that much, as evidenced by its low level.

[Surgeon’s Scalpel] and [Tissue Removal] had a huge amount of overlap in what they did. Out of the two, [Surgeon’s Scalpel] was the one more likely to go, since [Tissue Removal] could do everything Scalpel could do, but not vice-versa. On the other hand, the Scalpel was powerful when it was brought to bear properly – while I could remove flesh, it didn’t heal up neatly after. I suppose being able to Restore things after made that downside a bit moot. Argh, tricky. I have a sense it should be one of those two.

Lastly there was [Parasitic Remover], which was great for all sorts of creepy crawlies. Not only did it handle the more traditional “crawl inside you” parasites that could come from pork and related products, but handled fleas and ticks and the like. Religious bathing and food prep kept me safe from them, but at the same time, I was rarely using the skill on myself.

At the same time, it was almost never used. Diagnosing parasites properly was a skill I just didn’t have, and I’d turned down a diagnostic skill I was offered – something I deeply regretted.

In the end, it was due to regret, and a feeling of “Growing up”, that I decided to lose the [Stealth] skill. I still wanted to insist I was a kid, but society here was starting to think I was an adult, and what adult needed to be sneaking around? It’s not like I was a thief, a Ranger, a guard, investigator, or anyone else who needed a [Stealth] skill – and it was pretty ironic that I had it with my first class being having the word “Light” in it and the [Flashlight] skill.

With a shudder, I lost [Stealth], and gained [Deaden Pain]. I immediately used it to turn off the lingering pain from the burns.

[*Ding!* Congratulations! [Deaden Pain] has reached level 2!]

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