Chapter 92– Libraries and babies
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Winter was here, and it wasn’t that bad. The environment was more conducive to massive squalls and storms, and I had a grand time jumping around in the rain, letting the wind blow, feeling the might and power of the storm. Laughing at the rain, jumping in puddles. Being a kid, free from the weight of saving, healing, fighting.

Killing.

We’d made it more to the north-western edge of Remus, and the next stop after this town was hopping on a boat, and taking a nice long trip on the Nostrum Sea, to be dropped off near the capital, and Ranger HQ, to finish our round. It was looking like we’d finish a bit early, which translated into tons of extra vacation time. Extra vacation time translated into more time to heal people, which in practice meant more time to acquire money, and spent it on mangos, which should be flowing once again now that Perinthus wasn’t under quarantine.

At the same time, getting to Ranger HQ, and the grand Ranger meet-up that happened every two years, also meant that I’d be leaving the team, and going to Ranger Academy for two years. The long and short of it meant, I was being put through my paces at a furious rate, with everyone, and especially Julius, wanting me to do well once I got there.

The best way to gain experience, and to level up classes and skills, was in a fight. Life and death fights were the best, which I somewhat objected to. My objections didn’t mean too much when Artemis carved out a ring with me in it, and Maximus and Arthur would toss in some low to medium level monster they thought I could handle into it.

It was amazing experience, both for my levels, and general fighting experience. I’d become more amenable to it over time. I was fighting monsters that were preying on humans, that needed to be culled anyways. Always in a team though, but I was starting to throw some gouts of flame here and there, usually when the other Rangers determined the monster was so weak as to not be a threat, when the monster didn’t require 100%.

Fighting in a team, not contributing much to the kill, resulted in miserable experience rates though, especially when I only came in when they felt there wasn’t a threat to life and limb.

Not that much could threaten limbs when I could just restore them.

Not that we got complacent – overestimating yourself, underestimating a monster, was how many, many names got written on the Indomitable‎ Wall.

None of that in a town though! I was paired with Maximus today, and we were raiding the town’s library! Happy day!

Sure, it was useless for leveling up any of my classes, but we made a good team. Maximus wanted to get any and all System-related information he could find – information on classes, skills, levels, abilities, elements, really, anything at all – and I just wanted to read, mostly fun or interesting stories.

Turns out, there was a good amount of overlap between the two! Interesting stories usually had great skill descriptions, and information about amazing classes tended to have cool stories attached to them.

We split the library more or less in half, and skimmed through books. If we found a scroll we thought the other person would like, we made sure to grab it for them. Naturally, we picked up cool stuff for ourselves.

I dumped six scrolls onto the table where Maximus was sitting, carefully reading through the record he was looking at, taking notes on his own scroll. Without lifting his head, he pointed at a scroll a bit apart from the rest.

“That one’s the story of Senator Cicero. The politics are somewhat dry, but the historian is well-known for bringing the stories to life. Right up your alley.”

I pointed to a scroll, dusty with age.

“I think that one might handle the Fire plus Metal advanced element.” I said. “However, it conflicts with itself. It mentioned Mithril, Adamantium, Hihi’irokane, Orichalcum and Electrum as elements, and mentioning there’s more. I have no idea what to make of it.”

Maximus, for once, dropped what he was reading and with a strange mix of eager and reverential, seized the scroll. Like the most religious sacrament, he opened it up, starting to scan the contents. A frown quickly went over his face.

“You’re right, this is a bizarre account. It seems to say that there’s dozens of elements for the Fire + Metal combination, each one some type of metal with magical properties. Like they have inscriptions or skills in them by default.”

It sounded interesting, but I didn’t see myself going down the magic metal route. I’d never seen or heard of them before this, and I doubted I’d be able to do anything relating to it. I was deep into the account of Senator Cicero. I had to give it to the historian who wrote this – he could make dry, dusty politics the most exciting thing I’d read all year. Not exactly a high bar to clear, being on the road so often, but a girl couldn’t be choosey.

We spent some companionable hours reading, swapping scrolls and analysis. Mostly discussing skills. I’d think a skill was cool, or get an idea for a skill, and Maximus and I would try to work out, with our combined knowledge, if it was possible, and how such a skill could work.

[*Ding!* Congratulations! [Learning] has reached level 141!]

Solid level for a day’s work in a non-combat setting. Even better because it was fun!

We wrapped the day up, and the next day, I woke up, expecting more of the same. Nope!

“Elaine, I figure today you could use a minor dose of humility.” Maximus started out by saying.

I looked at him outside of the Argo, me still inside of it. I thought about what Maximus’s idea of ‘a minor dose of humility’ probably looked like.

I closed the door. Bolted it shut.

A few minutes of banging and yelling on the door later, I relented.

“Alright, fine, do you worst.”


We stopped outside of a clinic, the picture of a baby making it clear that this was a healer specializing in childbirth, a midwife. Had to get inventive when people couldn’t read or write!

“I’m going to give them a story. Try not to mention you’re a Ranger, it’ll just get everyone walking on glass around you, which defeats the point of this.” Maximus instructed me.

I mutely nodded, pushing down the urge to proclaim and feel like I was the best healer ever. Maximus had clearly been thinking about this, and skills were skills. Mine were, as skills went, extremely broad, and I had a mountain of stats behind my healing skills. However, I had a sneaking suspicion that Maximus was trying to show me something, and after having eaten crow over the plague in Perinthus being transmitted via eye-contact, being magical, I was keeping my mouth well shut, until whatever lesson Maximus wanted to teach me was imparted.

“Hello.” Maximus said, walking in.

The woman welcoming people in looked quickly between Maximus and I, and blessedly decided to not make any assumptions.

“What can we do for you two?” She asked.

“My apprentice here has a, shall we say, strange experience set, mostly handling injuries and disease. Hoping that she could work with someone, preferably lower-level than her, and get some exposure to childbirth.” Maximus said.

The lady looked between us, clearly having used [Identify], then told us. “Wait here one moment. Let me get the healer.”

She popped into a back room, bringing out an older, thinner lady. She looked between us, before lasering in on me.

“You’d like to get some experience with childbirth?” She asked.

I nodded.

“Why?”

Maximus smoothly stepped in.

“She’s incredibly good with injuries and disease, in all manner of high stress situations. I’m concerned that she’s starting to think she can do it all, and childbirth is a solid area where her skills don’t apply that well.”

She looked at me, scanning up and down.

“160 coins.” She said. “That’s the price for the lesson.”

I didn’t even bother looking at Maximus as I counted out the coins from my pouch.

“Alright, come on. You, stay here.” She pointed at Maximus, who took a seat in one of the recliners in the lobby.

She strode down the hallway, with me keeping up the best I could. This was a healer who was clearly specialized in childbirth, something mom had wanted me to become when she found out I was a Light healer. Our first big argument, my first major act of rebellion all those years ago, had been taking [Light of Hope] instead of a midwife class like mom had wanted. This was again like looking at a branch in the tree that “might’ve been”, a person, a life, I might’ve enjoyed.

Or not enjoyed, depending. Too many what-ifs off of that.

“Breakdown of your healing skills.” She asked.

“Pain management, of the ‘don’t care’ variety, medium healing and calming aura, full restoration and disease destruction skill.”

She stopped, turned around, and looked at me.

“You have a Restoration variant with an anti-disease skill in the same skill?”

I nodded. She raised an eyebrow.

“What kind of power and control do you have behind that?”

I hesitated a moment, not sure if I wanted to say. I relented, and told her.

“18,000 control, 13,000 power.”

I got a whistle at that.

“How have I not heard of you before? And those stats at your level don’t quite make sense.” She asked pointedly.

“Errr….” I said awkwardly, not wanting to mention I was a Ranger, nor go too deep into [Oath].

“Anyways, I can see why the person with you – I don’t believe he’s your master, not with your skills and stats – wanted you to come here. Wait here.” She said, pointing to a small resting area. “I’ll come get you when something interesting shows up.”

Blah. Waiting.

And waiting.

And waiting.

And…

She came back, and found me being silly, playing with fire. I’d made a fancy stage, and I had little flame actors running around, trying to mimic Romeo and Juliet. What? I was really bored, and it was good practice.

I got a raised eyebrow.

“Alright, come on. We’ve got something interesting.”

I followed her through the clinic, getting to another room, a woman clearly in labor, a second healer next to her.

This healer was much younger, just a year or two older than I was, with sandy blonde hair.

“Report.” The older healer snapped out. The younger healer jumped up.

“Cord’s wrapped three times, water’s broken, fully dilated, breeched.” She rattled off.

“What’ll happen if we do nothing?” She asked. I suspected it was for my benefit.

“Death for both.” Sandy – my nickname for the younger healer – replied.

The older healer turned towards me.

“Your solution?” She asked.

I tapped my knife.

“Numb pain, slice in carefully, pull baby out, cut the cord, restore mom and baby back.” I said, after thinking about it for a few minutes.

I got a raised eyebrow at that.

“Your solution?” She asked Sandy.

“Turn everything around, and it should be easy going from there.”

She nodded.

“Do it. Show Elaine here how it works.”

I used [Identify] on Sandy.

[Healer], around level 110.

[Turn].” Sandy said, her hands grabbing the air and moving.

[Turn]. [Turn]. [Turn].” She repeated.

“And [Out].”

The senior healer cursed, and jumped into position, just in time to catch the baby. Sandy half-collapsed in a chair, exhausted and worn out by her use of skills. I stood back as a flurry of action resulted, mom, baby, and healer doing dozens of things I was entirely unfamiliar with.

After almost an hour of standing in the corner, out of the way, not able to really help or do anything, the senior healer had a moment to chat with me.

“I hope that helped.” She said.

I slowly nodded, processing. I was politely but unceremoniously shown the door, and I slowly walked back with Maximus, deep in thought.

“What did you learn?” He asked. He’d also make a good teacher, maybe an instructor at the Academy.

“Well, bringing life to the world is a joy.” I started off slowly, stating the obvious. I’d gotten the rush from saving a life many times over, and it never got old. Bringing new life into the world though, was an entirely different story. It was a similar rush, a thing of beauty, but, different, in many ways.

“Also, someone lower level than me, with a tenth of my stats, even someone in my domain, healing, with the right skills, can massively outperform me.” I said.

Maximus nodded.

“That’s exactly the lesson I wanted you to learn.” He said. “Your skillset is broad, and powerful. It’s what we look for in a Ranger. Never forget though, the more narrow a skillset, the more powerful it is in the right situation. The healer you worked with, she probably can’t set a bone, cure an illness, restore an eye, or a hundred other things you can do. However, in the right spot, she’s more powerful than you are, at a much lower level.”

He paused a moment, letting me process what he just said.

“This also applied to combat. Generally, people who are focused in a single, tiny aspect of combat get themselves killed early. They have a single, strong trick, and the moment the trick’s defeated, they’re helpless or worthless. Wind Weasels are a solid example of a monster doing this. Their claws are sharp, and if they can claw someone in the right way, they can punch through defenses of people many times their level, when an ordinary monster would do nothing. However, outside of that single trick, they’re practically helpless. A kid, who hasn’t even unlocked their class, can simply kick them to death. Not generally a threat to people. Extremely narrow focus, but powerful inside of that focus. The broader you are, the more fields you’re invested in, the worse you are in each field, but the more flexible you are.”

Maximus shrugged.

“It’s part of why I research skills, research the System. I want to know about all sorts of skills, narrow applications. How far can you go? If instead of one domain, you’re in two, are you half as strong? A quarter? Or are you only nine-tenths as strong? At which point, it’s probably worth being in two domains, not one. What about a third? At what stage is it worth branching out? At what point do you call it quits?”

[*Ding!* Congratulations! [Learning] has reached level 142!]

I seized the moment.

“You should work with Artemis. She’s thinking of making a school to teach magic. You could test your theories on young students, see what happens.”

Maximus seemed to mull it over.

“It’d be in the capital. Dozens of libraries, hundreds of thousands of people, millions of skills, you’d never be bored.”

I had no idea if Artemis was interested in teaming up with Maximus over this, but hey, it couldn’t hurt.

Maximus looked at me thoughtfully, and we continued to walk to the Argo, in silent contemplation.

[Name: Elaine]

[Race: Human]

[Age: 15]

[Mana: 16310/16310]

[Mana Regen: 20004]

 

Stats

[Free Stats: 114]

[Strength: 114]

[Dexterity: 219]

[Vitality: 135]

[Speed: 220]

[Mana: 1631]

[Mana Regeneration: 2307]

[Magic Power: 1427]

[Magic Control: 1978]

 

[Class 1: [Constellation of the Healer - Celestial: Lv 185]]

[Celestial Affinity: 185]

[Warmth of the Sun: 155]

[Medicine: 184]

[Center of the Galaxy: 155]

[Phases of the Moon: 185]

[Moonlight: 92]

[Veil of the Aurora: 136]

[Vastness of the Stars: 134]

 

[Class 2: [Pyromancer - Fire: Lv 58]]

[Fire Affinity: 58]

[Fire Resistance: 58]

[Fire Conjuration: 58]

[Fire Manipulation: 58]

[Fuel for the Fire: 58]

[Burn Brightly: 58]

[: ]

[: ]

 

[Class 3: Locked]

 

General Skills

[Identify: 95]

[Recollection of a Distant Life: 94]

[Pretty: 107]

[Vigilant: 125]

[Oath of Elaine to Lyra: 165]

[Ranger's Lore: 122]

[Running: 103]

[Learning: 142]

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