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A note from Selkie

I want to give a shout-out to Writer's Block, a discord that's been insanely helpful to me and my writing. https://disboard.org/server/204554982400327680

“Got him.” Everyone said, almost in unison, like a practiced motion. Caecilius was a bit slow on the uptake, only just now casting his Radiance skill, burning and purifying the dust in the air, giving me a clear view of what was going on. I took a quick glance at him. He looked sweaty and nervous, and I could see why Julius didn’t want him near the action. With reflexes like those?

The dust was clear, and I could see Hesoid’s body. Rather, it was more mauled and pasted flesh that had formerly been his body, on the ground, in the ruined remains of the chair and table. Rocks had ripped through his limbs and peppered his body. Four arrows were in his chest, in a neat diamond. A single throwing knife was in his leg – not Maximus’s finest moment. His head was cleanly separated from his neck, from what I could only assume was Julius’s work. It was too clean to be Artemis’s work.

This didn’t feel like a fight, so much an execution or assassination. Immediate, overwhelming force with no warning at all. Best way to handle a Classer, someone who could, and from the notifications, was, killing thousands of people.

Speaking of notifications, I probably had a half-dozen of them I needed to check on in a moment. The pounding of guards coming over in a hurry stopped me from checking, and prompted me to double-check what was going on with the guards under my hands.

They were shaking and nervous, understandably so – they’d been on more or less normal guard duty, when outta nowhere they were bombarded with an attack. To them, it seemed like the Rangers randomly fired and attacked them, only to heal them up a moment later. A confusing, and not very fun, position to be in.

“Just stay still.” I said. “It’ll be OK. We figured it was Hesoid causing the plague, and we didn’t want to give him a moment to react.”

The guards were slightly calmed by that, and my [Warmth of the Sun] was doing some solid work, but they decided that staying on the ground was the right way to stay alive. Rangers walking around killing people and all that.

The guards rounded the corner in force, batons out and ready.

“We got him.” Julius said grimly. “Miasma element, the class name made it clear he created the plague.”

“Can anyone confirm that?” One of the younger guards shouted out.

Julius just stared at him. Several of the other guards also turned slightly to stare at him. He wilted under the pressure.

“Sorry.” He muttered, looking down.

“Right. I don’t want to explain this a dozen times, why don’t we round up everyone who wants to be present in the main hall, and I can explain this once?” Julius said. “It’s been a hard day on everyone, if someone decides they don’t want to be present, they don’t have to be.”

All but four guards ran off. Two were still on the ground, but slowly coming to the realization that no, they weren’t in trouble, and yes, they were going to live, and ‘why did I ever sign up to be a guard’ was 50-50 on running through their mind.

“Bring us to our teammate’s body.” Julius said somberly. I glanced back at the two guards on the ground. They looked fine. I healed them again, just to make sure.

We moved through the hallways, to a room where Origen’s body lay. Julius walked up to him, then unbuckled some armor, looking intently at his skin, at the tattoos all over his body. Maximus looked over his shoulder.

After some soft muttering and pointing, Julius closed the armor, put his hand on Origen’s forehead, and bowed his head slightly forward, closing his eyes. Everyone else repeated the motion, and I mimicked it, trying to fit in, seeing that it was the right thing to do.

“Origen, my teammate, my friend. You were one of the bravest, most intelligent warriors I’ve ever known. You looked at the town you lived in, that you loved so much, and found a way to improve it, make it better for all your kinsmen. Your selfless impulse led you down this path, not as strong as other warriors. Not as quick. But you found ways to make yourself stronger, quicker. You found ways to make the rest of your team stronger, quicker. You gave up personal glory, for the betterment of all.”

Like a chant, a ritual, one known to all the Rangers but not me, everyone said in unison.

“Brave Ranger. Your time to rest has come. May White Dove take you to a better place. Your deeds will not be forgotten. We will remember you.”

Short. Simple. I seared those words into my mind. I burned Origen’s smiling face, his twitchy beard, his shoulders which could say so much, into my memory. Below Lyra’s face.

I will not forget you. I vowed, a second name added, a second memory to treasure and preserve.

I opened my eyes, wiping the tears off my face, seeing everyone else still half-bowed, eyes closed, in their own personal recollections of Origen.

Half of a Ranger team doesn’t make it through each round on average. The words echoed in my mind, and I looked around the room.

Looked at Artemis.

This was her 7th round. Six rounds before this one, average of four teammates lost, another three lost so far this round. 27 teammates lost. 27 times she’d bowed her head, recited the words, added another face to her list of memories. Maybe more, she’d mentioned a team wipe at one point. Maybe less – it was only an average.

Those were just her teammates. Her friends and family from when she grew up. She never talked about them, and I knew it was because, apart from my mom and dad, they too, were all dead.

It hit me then, the sheer force of how much Artemis had to be holding back, holding in. That life as a Ranger meant constant loss, constant death.

Why Julius had such a fire to get a healer on the team, even if it was a young, green teenager.

One by one we opened our eyes, tilting our heads up, waiting in utter silence for the rest to finish. There wasn’t a single dry eye, not even Arthur’s.

Julius was the last to finish, taking twice as long as anyone else.

“Right, let’s take his body to the Argo, then handle things here.” He said.

We all helped lift him up, in spite of Kallisto probably being able to do it single-handedly. Arthur with his arms down, to me with my arms almost over my head. We solemnly went through the halls, emptier than ever, then out the door, and placed his body in the Argo.

“Right. I don’t mean to be callous, but we need to finish handling things here.” Julius said with a slight sniffle.

Reluctant nods went around the room, and we reentered the temple. We weren’t quite as successful navigating the hallways, and I needed to stop three times to heal someone who was just wandering around the temple, looking lost.

The Pyronox doors were back in place, and we entered, a radically different entrance from the first time we came in, capes sweeping behind us. We were dusty, dirty, and tear-streaked.

A commotion started once we entered, and Julius lifted a hand.

Dead silence spread across the room.

“You’ve probably all heard pieces of the story by now.” He started off. “This plague was caused by a Classer. Hesoid. We caught and executed him earlier today. Any questions?”

A moment of silence, then the hall, filled with guards, healers, previously unseen priests, and quite a few people – likely people looking for healing that got healed while everyone was waiting for us – exploded in sound, as everyone had a question.

Glacia, wrapped back up like a mummy, slipped up next to Julius, and with a few deft strokes of her harp, complete silence descended upon the room. She pointed to someone, and suddenly we could hear him, and only him speak.

He asked a question. Julius answered. Back and forth it went, questions, answers, sometimes questions that Julius could only shrug and say “I don’t know.”

Like “Does this mean the plague will just vanish?”

The question that made me deeply uncomfortable was. “How did you figure it out?” Julius promptly gave me full credit for it, completely glossing over the fact that it’d been a team effort to investigate the cause. The rest of the team showed their affection in various ways at that, from Artemis’s reassuring shoulder squeeze, to Kallisto doing a full-on headlock and rubbing his knuckles on my hair.

After what must’ve been half an hour or so, most of the questions had been answered, most of the non-healers had drifted away.

“Now what?” Berucus asked, as we huddled closer.

“A mass heal event.” I promptly answered. “It failed last time due to sabotage. Both plague’s sources have been cut off, the only thing left is remaining human to human transmission. Cleanse everyone in the city, and the problem should be over.”

There was quite a lot of discussion over that idea, but in the end, we decided to do it, with the Ranger name being leaned on heavily to make it work. Me being given credit as the woman of the hour helped push the idea through for the other healers. The prior failure of the healers to make it work had somewhat tainted the idea, but Rangers putting their name on the second attempt should make it work.

That was the idea, anyways.

The meeting finally broke up after that, and we met back up at the Argo quickly. I decided to quickly check my notifications, after having put them off for so long.

[*Ding!* Congratulations! [Constellation of the Healer] has leveled up to level 163! +10 Free Stats, +15 Mana, +15 Mana Regen, +15 Magic power, +15 Magic Control from your Class! +1 Free Stat for being Human! +1 Mana, +1 Mana Regen from your Element!]

[*Ding!* Congratulations! [Celestial Affinity] has reached level 163!]

[*Ding!* Congratulations! [Phases of the Moon] has reached level 155!]

[*Ding!* Congratulations! [Phases of the Moon] has reached level 156!]

[*Ding!* Congratulations! [Medicine] has reached level 154!]

[*Ding!* Congratulations! [Warmth of the Sun] has reached level 127!]

[*Ding!* Congratulations! [Oath of Elaine to Lyra] has reached level 140!]

[*Ding!* Congratulations! [Running] has reached level 75!]

I had a feeling – no way of actually knowing – that my experience and gains were due to saving the two guards, and not at all related to Hesoid. My only real evidence for that was [Veil] failing to level up.

“Tonight, we lay Origen to rest. However, there’s still a good portion of the day left. I’m going to visit the 3rd, and have a chat with them. Partially to let them know what’s going on with the plague, and partially to see what exactly happened with them letting some people out of the city, then immediately closing it. Something about that smells, and now that the plague’s hopefully winding down, we can spare some attention to it.”

Julius spent a moment eyeing up each of us, some calculus known only to him running through his mind.

“Arthur.” He finally decided. “You’re with Elaine the rest of today. Artemis, everyone else, you’re with me.”

We all had questions. Nobody argued. We had too much to do.

Arthur and I headed to my workroom, tripping over and healing a half-dozen patients along the way. What were the guards doing? People shouldn’t be leaking through the temple like this.

Along the way, after pausing to heal another person who was lost and wandering the hallways, we passed Markus’s workroom.

“Hang on.” I said, knocking politely on the door. I’d thought it was rude when Markus just barged in on me, I wouldn’t do the same back.

“Enter.” Markus said.

I popped my head in, looking at his set up. Four apprentices had their own little desk, with Markus having a larger workstation behind them. Dark flames flickered behind him, giving the whole place an ominous feel. Or perhaps a reassuring feel, seeing that much healing power on casual display. What did I know. People went up to the apprentice, got healed, paid their due, then went up to Markus, who finished healing them, checking over the apprentice’s work. Clever that, having all the ire of paying money deflected onto the apprentice.

“Elaine!” He called out cheerfully, waving me over. I came over, Arthur bending under the door to follow in. Doors weren’t built to Arthur-size, or rather, Arthur wasn’t built door-sized.

“Congratulations again on your accomplishment! Your work is amazing. What can I do for you?”

“I’d like to borrow Herodotos.” I said. “Have him collect patients for me.”

“Of course!” Markus said. “I regret that we haven’t had time to listen to one of your lectures. I’m really beating myself up over that. From the sound of it though, you have so much more to teach than can be captured in a lecture or two.”

He called Herodotos over, then hummed to himself, fingers drumming on the desk.

“It’s a shame that you’re leaving, and that you can’t write. Maybe you could ask the Rangers for lessons, then make a manual, explaining all the medical things you know. If I recall, the Ranger Headquarters are in the capital. I’d pay handsomely for a manual written by you, with everything you know. Maybe a project for when you’re on the road?”

My eyes narrowed at him. The idea was solid, but…

“I can read and write.” I said coldly, as I turned and left, Herodotos in tow.

“Whoops, sorry!” Markus called out, chagrin in his voice as I left.

 

We made it to my workroom, where I assigned Herodotos to only grab the sickest patients, no matter what the age. If this plague was winding down – which it better be – cutting off the sickest people from healing might save the most lives. It’d be so much faster to get every person healed if you ignored the few massive resource drains in favor of getting the plague cured faster.

I ignored the little voice telling me that it might take long enough to work through every person in town that this was the wrong call. I had to have faith in myself. I could do this.

[Name: Elaine]

[Race: Human]

[Age: 15]

[Mana: 9910/9910]

[Mana Regen: 14691]

Stats

[Free Stats: 42]

[Strength: 37]

[Dexterity: 129]

[Vitality: 90]

[Speed: 130]

[Mana: 991]

[Mana Regeneration: 1715]

[Magic Power: 883]

[Magic Control: 1463]

[Class 1: [Constellation of the Healer - Celestial: Lv 163]]

[Celestial Affinity: 163]

[Warmth of the Sun: 127]

[Medicine: 154]

[Center of the Galaxy: 128]

[Phases of the Moon: 156]

[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: 32]

[: ]

[: ]

[: ]

[Class 3: Locked]

General Skills

[Identify: 81]

[Recollection of a Distant Life: 80]

[Pretty: 101]

[Vigilant: 110]

[Oath of Elaine to Lyra: 140]

[Ranger's Lore: 67]

[Running: 74]

[Learning: 122]

 

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A note from Selkie

Things starting to wind down! Grand Finale tomorrow!


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: 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

 


 

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Selkie

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