Chapter 51 – New Skills I
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This is the start of book 2!

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I sat up with a mad cackle, looking at the faces around me. Julius had thunderclouds on his face. Artemis looked at my face, her eyes widened, then she was cracking up, muffled laughter coming from behind her hand. Kallisto looked like someone had stolen his favorite toy.

“Elaine. That better be a damn strong fire class.” Julius said, annoyance and disappointment in his voice. Wind him up, come clean. Wind him up, come clean. Which to pick….

“Nope! Red!” I said cheerfully, ignoring the glares, doing my best to suppress a crazed giggle. I failed, and a high-pitched titter left my lips.

If Julius’s face were thunderclouds before, they were a full-on hurricane now. To his credit, he kept control over himself.

“Elaine. Report.” Julius ordered. Fine, fine, prank over.

I stood up and saluted the way I was taught.

“Sir! When classing up, I was offered a merged class – [Constellation of the Healer] – a Celestial-aligned healing class. Since it was a merged class, my second class slot opened up. I took a Fire-based class – [Firebug] – to provide myself with added utility, and to help shore up my weaknesses.”

Julius’s face went from disappointment, directly to joy, directly to chagrin, as he realized the rest of the unsaid part – that I’d shown off my Fire class first as a prank.

Artemis let her laughter fully go, and between great guffaws, managed to say. “If you’d used [Identify] on her, you’d have seen she was still Healer tagged.” She finally got her laughter under control. “Mage?” She asked.

“Mage!” I confirmed. She grinned.

“A baby mage, all for me to train! Huzzah! What else did you get? Moving to Celestial, and a merged class, should give you a ton.”

Maximus chimed in. “Also, we should know what you lost. It’s the rare consolidated class that doesn’t lose anything.”

I gave them the full details, while continuing to summon and play with the flames. I was rewarded with some notifications.

[*Ding!* Congratulations! [Fire Affinity] has reached level 2!]

[*Ding!* Congratulations! [Fire Conjuration] has reached level 2!]

[*Ding!* Congratulations! [Fire Manipulation] has reached level 2!]

My eyes widened in realization. This is why Artemis was constantly playing with rocks and lightning! She was grinding her skills! As my thought trailed off, a flame came too close, and singed my hand. I didn’t jump, just looked at the burn coldly, clinically.

[*Ding!* Congratulations! [Fire Resistance] has reached level 2!]

[Center of the Galaxy] was doing work. Yesterday, I’d have jumped in surprise and started to suck my hand, before realizing I could restore it easily. [Deaden Pain] would’ve turned the pain completely off, but it’d have stung like crazy until I used it.

Now? Now I was calm, collected, the center of all. A mere burn wasn’t enough to bother me, to shake me. I still had full awareness of the pain, but it was like it didn’t matter. It was no longer the all-consuming beast that took up more and more of my head, demanding attention. Instead, it was like a polite, well-dressed butler, informing me that the scuff marks in the entryway had been polished off. A notice of change, but non-demanding.

Good. Upgrades. I realized my attention had been wandering, and I came back to the real world.

“… paying attention?” Julius asked, arms crossed over each other. Whoops.

“Sorry! My new skills are telling me a bunch of things, and I’m still processing them all. My bad.” I apologized sheepishly. Julius breathed in, then relaxed, letting the air out explosively.

“Fair enough.” He said. “But that just reinforces my point. Normally, you’d be on vacation now, free to do whatever. But we’re cutting it short for you – you need to get familiar with your new skills, your limits on them, and you need to update me by the time we leave, so I know what you can and can’t do. Maximus, Artemis? Can the two of you help her out?”

Maximus had that light of all-devouring knowledge in his eyes, a fancy new lab specimen hand-wrapped and gifted to his doorstep. I was probably in for some problems, but I couldn’t quite bring myself to care, or feel scared. Hmmm.

Artemis looked delighted. “A mage! A mage! A mage for me to train!” She said, practically bouncing with glee.

“Alright, alright, get out of here.” Julius practically shooed us out of the wagon.

We all went outside, and Julius, Kallisto, Origen, and Arthur all vanished, their jobs guarding us while we were upgrading done, free to do whatever they wanted. The sun was setting, and with a slightly guilty feel - still remote, still not enough to shake a galaxy – I realized my reading binge had kept them here all day, instead of doing what they wanted.

Maximus and Artemis faced me, as we were in the middle of town.

“What should we work on first?” I asked.

“Depends on you.” Artemis answered. “Check out your new skills, or work on your fire magic?”

I thought about it for a moment. “New skills. [Center of the Galaxy] is screwing with my perception, and I need to get a handle on it before I forget what normal emotions are like; before I start to think that this is fine and normal. It started off pretty weak, but I can feel it getting worse and worse as the skill settles.”

One quick explanation of what a galaxy was, and the discussion could properly take place.

Maximus and Artemis glanced at each other, worry on their faces. Uh oh. Artemis tilted her head, deferring to Maximus’s experience with the System.

“Yeah, it can be a real problem. Give me the details again.” The system expert said. I repeated what the skill did, and how I felt it affecting me.

“For example, I see that my hand’s burnt,” I said, lifting it to show the small, weak burn I’d given myself. “and I feel it’s burnt. But since it’s not causing a problem, I don’t see the need to fix it right now.”

“Ok Elaine, I want you to focus on your hand. I want you to try and care about the pain. Don’t care about feeling the pain, just the caring part.” I focused, suddenly finding the idea of a burn on my hand not to my liking. I focused on [Phases of the Moon] to heal my hand, and stopped. Hang on. I should be smart about this.

On one hand, I could keep healing like I’ve always been healing, focusing on the medicine behind the act. On the other hand, [Phases of the Moon] seemed lunar-focused, with a strong description of the moon’s waxing and waning to heal people.

I should heal my burn in two halves. One by focusing on the [Phases of the Moon] imagery, and one by focusing on the medicine, and see which one worked better. I could use the amount of mana I used to tell the difference.

I lifted my hand up, and decided to use the old, faithful medicine tactic first – I could slice the healing in half that way. I was unsure if I could do it with [Phases], since imagining myself as a half-moon might have unintended side-effects. I focused, watching my burn shrink as it healed. I checked my mana. 14 used.

I waited a few seconds, then repeated the process, this time imagining my hand as a crescent moon, and the light of the moon filling up, to become a whole moon, shining in the sky.

Earth’s moon, not one of Pallos’s monstrosities.

35 mana for that. Inefficient, but it still worked. Thinking about it, that might be why the 4 humor or 8 element theory of healing was still popular here – it did work at the end of the day, just inefficiently.

I saw the tension leaving Artemis’s shoulders as my hand healed. Maximus smiled encouragingly. “Now Elaine, can you try making sure most other emotions are, and impacting you properly? Let’s start with happiness.”

Maximus coached me through properly “setting” my [Galaxy] skill, making sure the feelings and emotions I wanted showed up, that I could feel them properly, while less-desired emotions and feelings were suppressed.

“That’s not to say,” Artemis started. “that you can’t be taken off-guard by happy news. But in the balance of things, that’s probably a better way to live.” I nodded, agreeing with her. No more jump-scares! No more being startled by ambushes! No more freezing when someone gets hit! This skill was amazi-balls, and it was only the first skill!

Ok, fine, the fourth. Affinity was boring as always, and Medicine was same old, same old. [Phases] I’d already done some experimenting with.

“Let’s do [Warmth of the Sun] next!” I said, excited to try out and experiment with my new skill.

“Hang on, let’s first get out of town. You’re a healer, but you’re now also a mage, and skills can get out of hand. Also, you’re a Ranger now – the less people know about what you can do, and by extension your team, us, the better.

“Bluebeard could tell what we did at a glance.” I pointed out. Artemis snorted at me.

“Bluebeard knows how we work, and has been in the army since he was 16. Yeah, he knows everything forwards and back. Come on. Let’s get out of town.”

We left town without incident, making our way to an isolated-enough spot.

“Right, [Warmth of the Sun] time.” I said.

“Ok, see if you can manipulate the range, then see if you can change the healing or calming properties.” Maximus whipped out a scroll and some charcoal, to better take notes.

The range ended up being fixed, and we weren’t sure if the healing or calming properties could be edited. I left them on max just in case. The warmth property was felt though – “I thought it was your Fire class, not your Celestial class” Artemis remarked – and I left that on moderately low. It was warm enough anyways, although it’d be appreciated when it got wet and rainy.

Maximus wrote that down – “See if Elaine can dry us with her skill.” He tapped his lips thoughtfully, then wrote down a few more notes. Or maybe ideas for other things to try?

[*Ding!* Congratulations! [Learning] has reached level 101!]

It wasn’t quite dark enough to try out [Eyes of the Milky Way], but Artemis assured me that they were quite pretty, and that seemed to be enough for [Pretty].

[*Ding!* Congratulations! [Pretty] has reached level 97!]

 

 

We decided to do [Vastness of the Stars] next, which was all sorts of anti-climactic. I touched Artemis, used the skill, and suddenly, pain didn’t matter to her. She could still feel it, she was still aware of it, it was most certainly an upgrade to [Deaden Pain] – but that was it. We didn’t have – nor were we willing to manufacture – mental anguish to test how well that worked.

That left [Veil of the Aurora], and the display was nothing short of stunning.

I suspect that even if I hadn’t turned off surprise and awe with [Galaxy], that I’d have been moved.

I wrapped Maximus and Artemis with me inside of [Veil], and we gasped as empyrean lights blazed around us, strawberry pink mixing with vibrant greens and electric blues, twinkling and glimmering, a blaze of many lights surrounding us. I gaped as I looked around me, slowly turning to take in every inch, every mote of light. Artemis took a step back, eyes widening.

Nothing was said. Nothing needed to be said. We just stood there, watching the Aurora Borealis, an inch away, blazing away in all its glory. I checked my mana.

Barely anything was being used. I could keep this up all night.

Seconds. Minutes. Hours. Days. I have no idea how long we drank in the wondrous sights, but all good things must come to an end, as Maximus rapped the light with his knuckle.

“This is probably the most beautiful skill I’ve ever seen.” He admitted, and coming from someone who actively searched out every skill he could find, that was quite the compliment. I swelled up, half-expecting [Pretty] to level up again. “It did mention a shielding component. Care to try it out?”

With great reluctance I dropped it, and Artemis made a small, sad noise at seeing it go.

Time to see just how good of a shield skill I’d gotten.

[Name: Elaine]

[Race: Human]

[Age: 14]

[Mana: 2500/2500]

[Mana Regen: 5069]

 

Stats

[Free Stats: 0]

[Strength: 19]

[Dexterity: 23]

[Vitality: 41]

[Speed: 32]

[Mana: 250]

[Mana Regeneration: 700]

[Magic Power: 250]

[Magic Control: 775]

 

[Class 1: [Constellation of the Healer - Celestial: Lv 128]]

[Celestial Affinity: 128]

[Warmth of the Sun: 105]

[Medicine: 111]

[Center of the Galaxy: 101]

[Phases of the Moon: 68]

[Eyes of the Milky Way: 88]

[Veil of the Aurora: 64]

[Vastness of the Stars: 70]

 

[Class 2: [Firebug - Fire: Lv 8]]

[Fire Affinity: 2]

[Fire Resistance: 2]

[Fire Conjuration: 2]

[Fire Manipulation: 2]

[: ]

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[: ]

[: ]

 

[Class 3: Locked]

 

General Skills

[Identify: 71]

[Recollection of a Distant Life: 72]

[Pretty: 97]

[Vigilant: 104]

[Oath of Elaine to Lyra: 105]

[Ranger's Lore: 1]

[Running: 70]

[Learning: 101]

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