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A note from Selkie

I haven't quite settled on a time to be posting on the M-W-F schedule, and so, I'd start off by giving our friends in the leading timezone a chapter roughly when they wake up!

Feelings were clearly mixed about the lightning, but I didn’t care as I sprinted towards the south gate. The spot at the river was relatively close, although the baths were even closer to the south gate. I could run with all I had, and try to meet Artemis at the gate, or I could play it a bit safer, and go directly to the baths where I knew Artemis would spend the next few days trying to drown herself.

Screw it. It probably took her a moment to get through the guards after mostly emptying her mana pool. I was fast. I could get there in time. Navigating crowds was hard when you were short – it was all backs, backs, fronts, backs, no idea if I was about to end up in a temporary half-ring dead-end of stalls and need to back out, no idea if there was an accident ahead that would trap me. Still! Onwards! Down the main road!

Hey wait, was that Euterpe? I skidded to a halt, staring. Euterpe was a year or two older than me, training to be a guard. We had a good amount of contact as a result, and he was pretty good looking. And handsome. And cute. And – well, needless to say, I have a massive crush on him. Always butterflies when I see him. I could walk over, say hi… no, wait damnit, Artemis! Focus! Get to the gate, meet up with Artemis. Stay on task.

I carried onto the gate, with some additional butterfly companions. I got there to find only two Rangers hanging out at the gate, identifiable by their well-worn armor and eagle badges – a massive bear of a man, who could probably lift 800 pounds before the system started to enhance his strength, bow on his back, and a smaller, wiry man, weather-beaten face with several slender blades strapped to him. There was a large covered wagon with two horses and the Ranger logo on the side. They were talking with one of the guard captains, and I managed to catch the end of the conversation.

“…on the road to Virinum, right?”

“Yeah, but again, we’re not quite sure what’s going on. Whatever it is, it leaves no traces behind. We only noticed because Citizen Arotro alerted us to the problem.”

Bah, boring Ranger stuff. The giant bear - I wasn’t convinced that was a human and not a shaved bear stuck in armor - seemed to be less interested in the conversation, so I poked his leg (How does a human get so damn big!?). Nothing happened. Might be all that armor. Might be that it took a year or two for a signal to get from ground to brain. I tried knocking on his armor, figuring it had a better chance of being noticed. The guards and the wiry man were still chatting, so I was being ignored.

Bear-man finally noticed me and looked down, then squatted down to be eye-level with me. He came down, and down, and down, and I had to fight a strong sense of motion sickness as my eyes insisted I had to be moving – after all, the mountain doesn’t come to Mohammad, Mohammad goes to the mountain - while my ears claimed I was standing still.

“Can I help you?” he asked, finally at a level where what I would say would reach him.

“Hi, few questions” I responded, completely unphased. Too much time around Artemis had stripped the mystique and grandeur from the Rangers, if not from Artemis herself.

“One: Which way did Artemis go? Two: How long are you staying in town? Three: How on Pallos did you get so big?”

“Ah, you must be Artemis’s little pet.” he rumbled, as my mouth opened in outrage. “Baths. A week, unless we need to leave early for whatever’s on the road. Lastly, my secret.” he replied, winking at me on the last one.

“I’m not-“

“You absolutely are. Small, friendly, she chats about you, brings you treats, you follow her around like a puppy – pet. Completely and totally.” His voice sounded like a grinding of rocks, like boulders falling down a mountain.

I closed my mouth in outrage, and stalked off to the baths. Humph. I wasn’t a pet. I wandered over to the baths, paid my entry fee, got changed, and slipped into the baths. Ok, now to find Artemis. All of the steam made it ridiculously hard to see anyone or anything, but it was possible to hear things. It made gossiping a high-risk activity, since you never knew if the person was in and could hear you – but at the same time, it was hard to find out who was saying something about you. So, in the end, gossip abounded, with words floating over the water, steam obscuring faces. It was even possible to have a conversation with someone on the other side of the baths, and neither party knew who the other was.

“Artemis?” I called out.

“Julia?” I heard Artemis from my left and forward. I started to wade over that way – it was deep enough to swim, but not comfortably.

“Artemis?” Our strange game of Marco-Polo continued.

“Elaine!” A face from the steam. Artemis! I awkwardly leap forward to give her a huge, crushing hug. “You sound just like your mom does! Makes a lot more sense that you’d come and find me.” I nodded happily. I got a good whiff of Artemis. I gagged at the stench.

“Oh gods” I cried out, falling back. “I understand now why you soak here for a few days.” Artemis just chuckled at that, continuing to scrub herself, dozens of new scars crossing her arms, legs, chest, and back. Ouch. “What can I say, life on the road. Few to no luxuries, but the sights, fights, blights, slights, heights, and lights can’t be beat.” I eyed Artemis suspiciously. She was no word smith.

“How long have you been working on that?” I demanded. Artemis just laughed at me, giving me a huge hug. “Way longer than I'd tell you healy-bug.”

“Speaking of that! Artemis, I got my second class! I got –“ *murfle murfle murfle* the rest of what I was going to say got rapidly muffled by Artemis’s hand over my mouth.

Oh no I could smell her again. I backed away gagging. “Artemis please spare me.”

“Elaine, you’re not a kid anymore, you can’t just shout out your class and level in public! The baths look private but they’re not, you know that! We’ve caught criminals because the dumbasses were bragging in the baths! You have no idea who’s in here!” Artemis scolded me in a low hiss.

I sighed petulantly. She was right, but it was never clear to me why people were so private about their classes and skills. I still believed in knowledge, in writing things down, in sharing information far and wide. Earth had been that way, and was so much more advanced as a result. Sure, Earth had a few tens of thousands more years of humanity than Pallos did, but the concept remained. I was 14 though, and in no position to overhaul all of civilization. For now, I was still subject to other’s rules.

However, I did have a card to pull over Artemis. There was no need to say it, but Artemis was on even more of a hair trigger these days, and it was best to let her know that A) I was using the skill, B) what the skill was, and C) that it was harmless.

[Privacy].” I said, wrapping us in a cocoon of privacy. It was like a gauzy curtain if you tried to look into it – or out – and it muffled most, if not all sounds. Perfect for a bit of doctor-patient confidentiality, and it helped keep my Oath happy.

Artemis raised an eyebrow at that, and poked tenderly at the walls of [Privacy].
“Neat skill. Must have evolved that [Learner] class of yours to something dark related?”

I preened at her praise. “Yeah, I got [Shadow Healer].” Artemis cocked an eyebrow at me. “Elaine, what were you doing to get [Shadow Healer]?” Ah hmm. Awkward story that. I must have looked shifty, because Artemis started to playfully grill me. One round of tickles later, and I confessed everything.

“Breaking into the library? Bold move! You know, we were asked to look into that! The guards couldn’t figure out who was doing that, they were getting worried about your motives.” I started to sweat. Landing on the Ranger’s radar was Bad News. Fortunately, I felt at this point that Artemis had no real interest in harming me, and I made it abundantly clear with woodpecker-like motions that I had stopped breaking into government property.

“How did that lead to you getting [Shadow Healer]?”

“Well, I went to evolve my class, and my options were terrible. [Book Thief]. [Cat Burglar]. [High-rise work]. [Expert Sneak]. Bunch more like that! [Shadow Healer] seemed to synergize with my other healing class, and got me out of that route.”

Artemis nodded seriously. “Yeah, I can see that. Puts you as a Light-and-Dark healer, and those can get some serious oomph when they grow up. Tucked away safely in a town like this, you can afford to dual-class like that. Solid move!” She lightly punched me in the shoulder. Owe. “Tell me the rest of what you have!” I told her everything about my current skills, stats, everything. If she had it all, she could help me on my path forward, and it always, always paid off massively.

[Name: Elaine]

[Race: Human]

[Age: 14]

[Mana: 1990/1990]

[Mana Regen: 3909]

Stats

[Free Stats: 137]

[Strength: 10]

[Dexterity: 21]

[Vitality: 11]

[Speed: 10]

[Mana: 199]

[Mana Regeneration: 521]

[Magic Power: 204]

[Magic Control: 487]

[Class 1: [Light of Hope - Light: Lv 99]]

[Light Affinity: 99]

[Calming Aura: 96]

[Medicine: 94]

[Healing Aura: 91]

[Boost local Regen: 73]

[Flashlight: 90]

[Greater Invigorate: 96]

[Centered Mind: 88]

[Class 2: [Shadow Healer - Dark: Lv 73]]

[Dark Affinity: 69]

[Stealth: 36]

[Surgeon’s Scalpel: 63]

[Attack Bacteria: 69]

[Parasitic Remover: 35]

[Tissue Removal: 64]

[Cure Toxin: 55]

[Privacy: 67]

[Class 3: Locked]

General Skills

[Identify: 65]

[Knives: 71]

[Pretty: 90]

[Vigilant: 81]

[Oath of Elaine to Lyra: 59]

[Lost and Found: 60]

[Running: 48]

[Learning: 88]

 

One of the many things Artemis had taught me was that you could mentally edit the layout of the status screen, along with being able to make some minor edits here and there to how things were presented. Apparently, there were some combat-related edits, but I had tuned those out. I had no plans of getting into fights. Most notably, I had changed “Regeneration” to “Regen”, and re-ordered a few items here and there to make more sense.

Halfway through telling Artemis all of the skills I had, I froze in realization. Parasites were well-known, and poisons of all sorts were used with regularity – there was even a Poison element – but how was I supposed to explain bacteria? Artemis was already familiar with my [Oath] skill, and had given me all sorts of kudos for creating such a powerful skill at such a young age. I decided to just omit the skill.

“Elaine.”

“Yes?”

“We’ve been over this a few times. I can count. I won’t lightning bolt you. What’s your last skill? Some sort of [Thievery] or [Sneak] skill?”

Ah right. 8 skills total for everyone, per class. Being a second class, it’d inherit old skills until I replaced them. Think. Think think. Think think think. Why not mostly the truth?

“I don’t think you’ll believe me, but – a [Cure Disease] variants.”

Artemis gave me a look of extreme doubt. It probably did sound like a lie, who would hide [Cure Disease]? It was a perfectly innocuous skill.

“Must be one hell of a variant.” I will say, always omitting or telling Artemis the partial truth – a lesson of dad’s ‘integrity first’ policy – really paid off, with Artemis generally believing what I told her, since she knew I would simply say nothing instead of lie. It really was a good policy to follow. “Also, I’m amazed you got [Shadow Healer] from 32 to 73 in two years – that’s pretty amazing work.” I glowed under the praise.

“Alright now Elaine, either help me scrub, or shoo. I still have a few more weeks of dirt that I need to remove.” Scrubbing was no fun, so I simply floated back in the water a bit, barely in sight of Artemis. That got me a mock-offended glare, but we spent the time mostly quietly, hearing the sounds of other bathers chit-chatting, and briefly, a soft moan from deeper in the baths. That got Artemis to throw a pebble in the direction of the noise, and a splash-yelp shortly followed. As sexists as things were here, same-sex relationships were completely accepted. There was no difference between them in their eyes. Sex in the public bath that everyone else was sharing though? No.

“Alright Elaine, thinking about it, you’re about to get level 100. Usually there’s a moderately strong skill waiting for you there. You’d get a massive boost if you managed to snag [Minor Restore] or something like that, and do what light healers are famed for – restoring flesh. I don’t know how healers work, but I suspect you want to look closely at your Magic Control and Magic Power stat. Get your Control up to at least 500 – it’s close enough anyways – and consider dumping the rest of your free stats into Control or Power, whichever one you think is more likely to get you [Minor Restore]. Having [Minor Restore] will also help with your next class evolution, which should be around level 128.”

Finally! The end was in sight! Eye could see a way to restore dad’s vision! The way was clear! Being Artemis’s pupil paid off. Everyone “knew” that powerful light healers could restore lost or missing body parts, and we didn’t have any in Aquiliea. Occasionally one travelled around, but they were insanely expensive, and only worked in pre-paid coin. Usually by the rod. I had this sudden sinking vision of what would happen if I managed to get [Minor Restore], and still had my “heal at any price” policy. Produce. So much spare produce. No chores though, which sounded nice.

While spending all day with Artemis peacefully soaking in the baths sounded lovely, I was a prune after a few hours, and I had things to do! Food to buy, dinners to cook, and justice for Octavia. A usual afternoon.

“Hey, can I get a shot of [Invigorate]?”

Anyone else I would resent asking. It was for patients, it was for when people were down, it was for when a fight broke out and the guards needed a pick-me-up.

I went back over, tapped Artemis, giving her a full shot of [Greater Invigorate]

“Joining us for dinner?”

“Would I miss it for anything?”

More things for me to buy. With great reluctance I hugged a somewhat-cleaner Artemis, and dragged myself up and out of the baths.

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A note from Selkie

So before pitchforks come out - I'm very much pro-LGBTQ+. This story doesn't aim to do a huge amount of exploring LGBTQ+ issues in the same way it's exploring sexism - there might be some light mentions here and there, and canonically, minor spoilers:

Elaine is bi,

 

 although I'm not going to be touching on romantic relationships until Elaine's at least 18, probably older - I have plans for a romance. But that's for many, many chapters from now. 

With that being said, one representation issue I am briefly touching on is so many novels paint LGBTQ+ in an either entirely negative light, or entirely positive - it ends up being the "entire" personality, with no scale of depth, or other things. That's no good either - it reduces a person to being just an oritentation, a token representation. I'm also aiming to do that.

With the scene in question here, the problem isn't the romantic aspect of it. It's that they're having a sexual encounter of some flavor in the public baths. You know, with the water everyone else is sharing, with kids present, etc. Yes, people get in filthy. Yes, people wash off blood and muck and grime. But that's what the baths are for. Not a convient place to get laid.

 

I'm not the best writer. I don't always get things right. I do feel like I'm able to listen, take feedback, and improve. If I've punted this horribly, please let me know in the comments how I screwed it up, and what can be done to fix it/improve it. It's like the feedback I got on Lyra - I've gone back in, and tried to add in a few instances of more-obvious foreshadowing that a Problem was going to occur. Again, I don't know if I did it well. But I am doing my best to improve, and to give you all the best possible version of Beneath the Dragoneye Moons.

 

Onto more fun things - Plugs!

The plugs! 

Right now I'm writing this for the warm fuzzy feelings I get. Following, rating, commenting, liking, and chatting in discord all give me warm fuzzy feelings! If you're a free reader, consider doing one of those. After all, that drives the book up, and might just be what tips it over so someone who reads it wants to be a not-free reader. Hurray!

Discord for chatting: https://discord.gg/GStatMC

Now, if you'd like to help me pay my rent, you can! With 10 advanced chapters, bonus chapters, bonus worldbuilding content, discord roles, and more!

Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/SelkieMyth

Ko-Fi: https://ko-fi.com/selkiemyth

If nothing else, thank you for reading my shameless plugs!

 


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Selkie

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