A note from Selkie

Plague arc continues! This is a bit of a longer one

“Right, we still need to talk with Verta, Berucus, Glacius, Hesoid, and Markus.” Julius summarized for us once we got out. “I’m not sure if we should talk with Markus first or last. If he’s the problem, and his apprentices are in on it, it’s going to be a fight.”

“If it’s a fight, why don’t we separate them first, then talk to them one at a time? If one of the apprentices cracks, we can hit them all first, before tackling Markus.” Arthur said.

Julius nodded agreement.

“Right, order’s going to be Berucus, Glacius, Verta, Hesoid, then Markus.” Julius said.

We filed along to the next room, where Berucus was located. We filed in, one at a time, the [Plague Healer] staying in the hallway.

“What!” Berucus said, jumping up. “You already handed me over to Verta and the other town healers, and it’s been hell. I haven’t done anything else wrong, please, you gotta believe me. I don’t know what Verta’s said, but I’ve stayed honest!”

His tone lowered.

“Please, is there any chance I could be sold into slavery for a few years instead? Being under Verta’s command is hell. They all hate me. They hate me passionately, and they’re not afraid to show it. Please!” He begged us.

I recoiled slightly in surprise at the strength of the emotions in his words. It seemed like the justice the healers had decided to mete out was to make Berucus subordinate to Verta, and the other town healers. The ones whose friends and family he’d been harming by not properly healing them.

Or maybe, he’d been seeding the plague, under the guise of getting repeat business.

“We’re here on a different matter.” Julius said grimly. “It’s become clear now that someone’s been deliberately spreading the plague, and, well, you allowing plague patients to walk away from your clinic, still infected, is a bad look. We need to know your second class and element please.”

If possible, Berucus got even paler.

“I have no way of demonstrating my second class.” He said.

Glances all around. Hands tightened on weapons. Arthur fully drew his bow, waiting on a signal. Artemis was the only one unchanged, but she was in a perpetual state of being on edge, lightning bolts needing no wind-up time.

“Right, I hope you understand when we ask you to discharge all your mana please.” Julius ordered curtly. Our speedy leader called over his shoulder.

“Guards! We need rope, cloth, and a guard here please.”

A moment later, four guards came in.

“This him?” They asked, watching Berucus slowly discharging his mana by constantly casting skills.

“We’re unsure, but we can’t verify he’s not. We’d like you all to keep an eye on him while we talk to the other suspects.”

Julius paused a moment, looking at them.

“It shouldn’t take us more than a few hours. He might be innocent. We’d like him in one piece please.”

Berucus started crying, which was awkward for all of us. One of the guards applied what I recognized as [Guardsman’s Buff], the same skill dad had, which ate up all of his regeneration to boost his vitality. Artemis lightly danced over, tapped him with her hand, and danced back. Her own disabling skill, just in case.

We left him tied up, blindfolded, four guards with their weapons drawn – their everyday-carry knives, not their batons, for a lethality that the guard didn’t usually go for – as we quickly discussed before moving on.

“On one hand, he has a dozen markers of the source of the plague.” Kallisto said. “On the other, he’s either an extremely good actor, or just flat-out doesn’t have the mental fortitude to be murdering thousands of people.”

“We know this person’s a good actor; they’ve blended in this long.” Artemis pointed out.

“Let’s move on. I’m not convinced yet that he’s done it, but it’s a distinct possibility.” Julius said.

We moved onto Glacia’s room next. We filed in, and her bodyguard stepped forward, loyally protecting and defending her, even against the might of the Rangers, horribly outnumbered.

“Stand down.” Glacia said, in a male voice. I narrowed my eyes. Was she a he, and had been tricking me?

“Glacius. I apologize for the intrusion.” Julius said. “There’s a classer on the loose, one creating a virulent plague. Your abilities are demonstrably wide-area, and Elaine’s let us know you’ve been keeping secrets, one way or another. I hope you understand when we say we need a demonstration.”

Glacia held her hand up. “Fine. I’m going to use a skill to mute sound from escaping the room. Please do not be alarmed.” She said in a masculine voice.

A snap of her fingers, and the same clear, shimmering barrier we spoke in the first time showed up.

“Elaine, I’m disappointed in you.” Glacia said with a feminine voice, slowly unwrapping herself. “I thought I could trust you.” She said with a voice full of hurt.

I couldn’t look her in the eyes. I felt bad.

“Don’t blame her too much. Someone killed one of our teammates, and frankly, you’re looking likely.”

“Why, because I have the audacity to be disguised as a man, just to be treated equally?” She snapped out bitterly.

“No, because the skills you’ve told us about are wide-ranging, you mentioned you can create nearly any type of effect, you have a demonstrated history of lying, and the plague recently got stronger, right as you classed up.” Julius rattled off the points on his fingers.

“Can’t be her.” The bodyguard said with a grunt. “We showed up months after the plague started. Shouldn’t that be enough to rule her out?”

Julius turned and looked at him.

“Yes, that’d be enough. Could anyone vouch for you?”

“Markus. Hesoid. Caecilius.” Glacia rattled off almost immediately.

Artemis and Julius exchanged a look, while Arthur, Kallisto, and Maximus kept their weapons trained on Glacia and her bodyguard. Possibly husband? Friend? Was more than just a bodyguard to be sure, for her to trust him with her secrets like this.

“Right, we’ll check. Stay put please. Feel free to use defensive skills if you think you’re under attack from this Classer, but don’t do anything that might be interpreted as an attack.”

We filed out, and had a quick talk with Caecilius. He confirmed that Glacia had arrived far after the plague had started. Something we could’ve checked before, but we wanted to shake the tree and see what fell out.

We went to Verta’s room next, and filed in.

Julius went for the silent treatment, just staring at her with his arms crossed. She started back.

“Fine, you got me.” She said, and my mouth almost fell open in surprise. “But I’m not giving up who my compatriots are.”

I tensed up, ready for a fight. I couldn’t believe it was Verta! Strangely, nobody else was tensing up.

“So we’re clear here,” Julius said clinically. “Are you confessing to being a revolutionary, or the one creating and distributing the plague?”

Verta went white, then green, followed by a lovely shade of red, right back to white.

“I, uh, um-“ she stuttered out, hand over her mouth, looking back and forth wildly between us.

“Revolutionary then.” Julius sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose with his fingers. “Let me guess. Surrounded by the 3rd, thinking it was unfair, getting together with other like-minded people to break out, or at least go down swinging, using your spot as a healer to act as central communication, if not one of the leaders outright from your demonstrated leadership and organizational skills. Did I miss anything?” He said.

Verta looked like she could be knocked over with a feather. After a few moments of doing her best fish impression, she shook her head. Words had failed her entirely.

“Any idea on who the source of the plague could be? We think it’s one of the healers.” Julius said.

Verta just shook her head mutely.

“Listen,” Artemis said, interrupting. “here, today, right now, we don’t care about your plots and schemes. We’re going to figure out who’s doing this, and cut off the source of the plague. Don’t cause any trouble, and we won’t bother you before we leave. Take it from me though – don’t try violence. The 3rd’s all too happy to continue justifying their existence, and they’ve put down rebellions ten times as large, with people twice your level leading them. You’ll do more good for whatever cause you think you’re fighting for by being friends with, or annoying, your town’s Senator. Take it from me.”

I looked around, at the other Rangers pretending they’d suddenly gone deaf. More undercurrents I didn’t know about, and, well, when in Remus…


There wasn’t anything else to do, and we awkwardly left the room, and headed over to Hesoid’s room. We paused outside the door.

Quietly, Julius said to all of us. “I’m not liking this. There’s quite a few factors pointing to Hesoid right now. He was here before the plague started. He’s not a proper healer. He has good cause to be angry at people. His rate of leveling is absurd. Artemis, Arthur, he so much as twitches in a way you don’t like, open fire. You’ll get no second guesses from me on this one.”

He gave Artemis a significant look, which she just brushed off. The nameless healer’s death meant nothing to her, was just another casualty. He was letting her know that there was no problem here.

We filed into the room, only for Hesoid to smile and wave at us.

“Hey! What can I do for you all?” He asked, still bare-chested, scars coating his chest. His words about ‘his little revenge’ echoed through my mind, making me eye him up. Maybe his revenge was not so little after all?

Julius gave him the silent treatment, only for Hesoid to smile even more while looking at us. Patience. Patience was the name of the game, to see if he’d crack under the silence and start talking.

I haaaattteeeed being patient, at being so quiet and still. I’d pulled it off for the others, but only because they started talking so early.

“Well, we’re here to-“ I started to say, only for Julius to cut me off with a slice of his hand.

“Here to what?” Hesoid asked innocently. I got evil eyes from most of the other Rangers, promising an ungodly number of push ups and other terrible retribution waiting for me down the line.


Julius sighed.

“Here to check if you’re the source of the plague. Sorry. We’re checking everyone; we believe it’s one of the healers.” He said.

“Ah, how do you plan on doing that? Ask me if I could poison anyone for you?” Hesoid said.

“No. We’re wondering if we could get a look at your second class.” Julius said.

“Sure. Bring me a tree, or some other plant, and I’ll show you a harvesting skill. My other class is a [Fieldhand] variant, Wind-aligned.” He said.

Kallisto poked his head out of the door, and had a quick chat with one of the guards. A few minutes of silent staring later, with me mostly looking at my feet in shame at having talked out of turn earlier, and a potted plant was brought to us.

Strange that they had those here. Then again, why not have something inside the temple for a bit of greenery?

“Permission to use a skill?” Hesoid asked.

“Granted.” Julius said.

With a blur of motion, Hesoid’s hand moved all over the tree, leaves shaking and falling, and his hands expertly catching and stacking every leaf.

“Tada!” He announced.

We all looked at Maximus, who sucked in some air through his teeth.

“Skill. Not stats.” Was his verdict. I wish I knew how he’d figured it out.

Julius nodded. “Thank you, we appreciate the demonstration.” He said, surprising me by turning and filing out.

Caecilius looked at us, and raised an eyebrow, asking a question. Julius shrugged, then we huddled up and started to talk.

“Thoughts?” Julius asked once we were all outside.

“I hate to say it, but clear.” Maximus said grouchily. “That was totally a skill being used there.”

“Hang on, something’s bothering me.” I said.

“Same here.” Arthur and Artemis chimed in unison.

[Veil]. Speak.” Julius ordered. I threw up [Veil], excluding Caecilius.

“Why can’t it be his main class?” Artemis asked.

“That’s the one that concerned me as well. Murder on that scale would cause so much leveling, if his class was secondary, it should now be primary.” Arthur pointed out.

“Decay doesn’t have plagues in them.” Maximus said.

“Well, why not? And how do we know he’s decay?” I fired back. Bacteria caused decay!

“Well, he told us he’s Decay, and his eyes indicate that.” Maximus said defensively.

“Decay looks like swirling darkness?” I asked, confirming.

“Well, ah. I see the problem.” Maximus said. “He’s the first Decay I’ve met, and there are more elements I’ve never seen.”

“We need to get him to demonstrate his main class.” Julius said. “Not by healing a patient.”

With horror I put two pieces of the puzzle together, whispered them out so softly, I could barely hear them. [Veil] stopped outside noise, allowing the other Rangers to hear me.

“If he’s a Decay mage, he should’ve been able to hit Cholera.” I whispered. “He said he could only hit the first plague. If he’s responsible, he could probably handle his own plague. But not others.”

Dead silence. There wasn’t even a rustle of clothes, a clink of armor, not even a breath taken.

“Go hard?” Artemis asked.

Julius closed his eyes. The weight of responsibility. The pressure of command. It was on his shoulders. His word, his action, the wrong twitch of his head, would consign a man to death. Possibly an innocent man. All on my half-remembered knowledge.

“Go hard.” Julius ordered.

“Everyone, form up.”

The advantage to my shield – nobody could see what we were doing. Nobody could see rocks hovering around Artemis, a sign she was ready to fire dozens of them off. Nobody could see Arthur, drawing his bow to full, additional arrows hung loose in his hand, ready to flip into position to fire faster. Nobody could see Maximus, cursing softly as he put away his weapon, drawing some weapons that only looked like throwing knives. Nobody could see Julius in a sprinter’s crouch, ready to get up close and personal in case our initial barrage failed to kill him. Nobody saw Kallisto, kneeling in front of us with his shield ready, giving us clear lines of fire, while ready to pop up and take the brunt of any retaliation.

The most dangerous spot of all, more likely to take a bolt in the back than something from the front. Complete and total trust in us to not hit him anyways.

Lastly, me, in the back. Not preparing a single Fire skill.

Even against a mass murderer, I couldn’t attack him first. A fight would have to be self-defense. I needed to never let my [Oath] details slip again.

“Elaine, your orders.” Julius said quickly, in his crouch. “The guards are going to be in our line of fire. We’re going through them, with no warning. Heal them. Keep them alive. Try to talk with the other guards, stop them from coming down on our head. Caecilius should help with his presence, and his healing. Make sure he doesn’t heal Hesoid.”

We turned to the side of the [Veil of the Aurora] where Hesoid’s room was, where he was sitting, waiting, unaware that the execution squad was coming.

“Three. Two. One. GO!” Julius said, and many, many things happened, more or less all at once.

Artemis knew me, probably better than I knew myself. Her first wave of rocks, scattered like buckshot in a wide arc, was launched at her usual blistering rate before [Veil] was even down. The goal was to take out the door, the walls, turn them into sharp shrapnel to pepper the room with lethal debris, and to clear our line of sight and movement for everyone else. This was the attack that was going “through” the guards posted on the door, and we were all praying that it wasn’t immediately lethal, that they could hold on for the few seconds needed for me to get to them.

That the injuries weren’t so bad that I wouldn’t be able to stabilize two of them; that I wouldn’t be made to choose which one lived, and which one died.

[Veil] went down, and the first wave of shots went through the guards, the door, and the walls, smoke and dust exploding into the hallway, obscuring my vision.

From the actions of everyone else, I’m not sure their vision was obscured.

The guards screamed and started to go down hard, as a second and third wave of rocks came from Artemis, going right over the heads of the downed guards. Lightning was avoided, either because she couldn’t actually see, she wanted to hold something in reserve, or that dust + lightning was potentially lethal to us.

Arthur fired off an arrow, then three more in rapid succession, taking less than a second to fire them all. Skills demonstrating their use, no human archer from Earth could pull, aim, and fire that fast. And he was aiming. He nocked a fifth arrow, but held it back.

Maximus was the jack of all trades, master of none. He could fill any role, and he threw out several waves of throwing knives, before grabbing his main weapon and moving in behind Julius.

Julius had waited for the initial set of barrages to go off before charging in, which in practice meant he waited a single second before moving. The wall wasn’t even done falling before he moved.

I didn’t have nearly the stats or the skills Julius had. However, once he was off, I was running as well, less than a heartbeat later, a fraction of a second. The guards were finishing collapsing, having been torn apart by Artemis’s buckshot. I slid down next to them, not wanting to foul anyone’s line of fire, touching them both, not bothering checking their injuries, just focused on healing them, forcing [Phases of the Moon] through them as hard as I could, working on making them whole and healthy.

I used the image of a crescent moon becoming full. It was better than no image at all, and seemed appropriate with the skill’s name, and my alignment as a Celestial healer. I felt my mana drain at an alarming rate, nearly emptying out. A combination of their terrible injuries, and my poor image.

They were alive though.

[*ding!* Your Party has slain a [Pestilence of Hatred] (Miasma, lv 260)//[Quick Field Hand] (Wind, lv 144)]

[Name: Elaine]

[Race: Human]

[Age: 15]

[Mana: 9740/9740]

[Mana Regen: 14491]


[Free Stats: 30]

[Strength: 37]

[Dexterity: 129]

[Vitality: 90]

[Speed: 130]

[Mana: 974]

[Mana Regeneration: 1695]

[Magic Power: 869]

[Magic Control: 1445]

[Class 1: [Constellation of the Healer - Celestial: Lv 162]]

[Celestial Affinity: 162]

[Warmth of the Sun: 126]

[Medicine: 153]

[Center of the Galaxy: 128]

[Phases of the Moon: 154]

[Moonlight: 1]

[Veil of the Aurora: 111]

[Vastness of the Stars: 128]

[Class 2: [Pyromancer - Fire: Lv 39]]

[Fire Affinity: 39]

[Fire Resistance: 39]

[Fire Conjuration: 39]

[Fire Manipulation: 39]

[Fuel for the Fire: 34]

[: ]

[: ]

[: ]

[Class 3: Locked]

General Skills

[Identify: 81]

[Recollection of a Distant Life: 80]

[Pretty: 101]

[Vigilant: 110]

[Oath of Elaine to Lyra: 139]

[Ranger's Lore: 67]

[Running: 74]

[Learning: 122]


A note from Selkie

I suppose, technically, this is a minor spoiler:

Who dun it has been solved! I tried to make it obvious with the System notification - that is not a nice class.



I will say, this particular mystery was fairly hard to set up, write, and execute. Quite a few people in discord, who went "I need to know who did it" and went back and re-read things were able to correctly guess who dun it, which makes me happy - there were enough clues if you went looking.

At one point, one of my Beta readers pointed out that the leveling rate was too fast on him (They don't get advanced info on anything like this), and I was just like "ummmmmmmmm.... no I know what rate I want him at...." *shit am I way too obvious?* - Writing mysteries is hard from the author's perspective, because I have no idea if I'm being too subtle about things, or too obvious. 

Minor spoilers on how much longer this arc will last:

Two more chapters to finish the arc, and one chapter to wind down



On a completely different note, I want to give a shout-out to a number of novels I've enjoyed reading:

1) Azarinth Healer-

2) Defiance of the Fall - An even slower progression than BTDEM if possible -

3) Delve - the only novel I've skipped 20% of the words and haven't felt like I've missed a thing -

4) Blue Core - An excellent dungeon core novel -

5) A practical guide to evil -

6) The Wandering Inn -

7) Metaworld Chronicles -

8) Seaborn -

9) Super Minion -

10) Heir of Albora, a webcomic -

11) The Many Lives of Cadence Lee (Hopefully returning soon!) -

12) Everything by RavensDagger:

13) Delta's works - Salvos and Melas - which I've plugged before

14) Tower of Somnus -

If you could give me an advanced review, that'd be great. They're weighted more heavily than anything else, and I've been looking carefully at trending - it's clear that the rating the novel has is super important. Hence, advanced reviews help me go up in the trending list. They help more people see it, which gets more people rating and following it, which has a synergistic effect that hopefully turns into a runaway effect, which gets enough people interested that I get to do this full-time. Seriously, it matters, and it helps.

BTDEM is bog standard in many ways. However, I'm willing to do things that turn some readers off - and so far, more of my reviews have been from people that I make mad more than people who are happy. Just how the internet works. I'm hoping some of you that are enjoying things are willing to leave reviews or advanced reviews. They matter. You matter.

Help keep BTDEM going - it's as simple as rating, as easy as reviewing.

Or you can help pay my rent, which is a MUCH more direct way of keeping things going! It's the start of the month after all, max Patreon benefits!

Discord for chatting:

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!





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