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A note from Selkie

RIP my old keyboard. You served well.

My habit of having a drink at my computer, and Flora in my arms, came and bit me in the ass this morning as I knocked over my full glass directly onto my keyboard.

Bless backups, but yeah. RIP.

I stood there, stunned at seeing my parents again, heart beating like a galloping horse, frozen, not even able to muster up enough presence of mind to shoot Artemis a betrayed look. They also froze, staring at me, looking me up and down.

The tension is the air was palpable, so thick it could be cut with a knife.

“Wha- how?” I stammered out.

Trust Artemis to crack a joke.

“Elaine, I’d like you to meet my good friends Julia and Elainus. Julia, Elainus, I’d like you to meet Elaine. She’s one of my Ranger teammates, and the best healer I know.”

Mom threw a nut at Artemis, and the tension was broken. Slowly, hesitantly, mom got up, while dad stayed seated. She took a nervous half-step towards me, arms opening up.

Tears flowing down my face, I threw myself into mom’s arms, only to feel her crushing hug around me. I nestled in deeper, remembering when I did this so recently, a lifetime ago.

Although mom was shorter than she used to be. No, it wasn’t that she was shorter, it was that I was taller.

“We missed you so much. We were so worried about you.” Mom sobbed into my hair, as her arms slowly rubbed my back, forming large, soothing circles. “I’m so glad you’re ok.”

“I missed you too.” I said, simply hugging mom harder.

I didn’t notice dad getting up, just that suddenly he was hugging both of us, bands of restrained strength around the two of us.

We spent a timeless second together like this, an immortal moment. A time, not seared into my memory like so much blood and violence had been, but gently pressed, like a flower in a picture book.

The moment was shattered as what could only be a waiter entered the room. He quickly apologized and tried to back out, but the moment was gone.

“No, no, come on in.” Dad said, beckoning him over as we all sat down around the table.

The waiter told us our options – almost entirely fish-based, no surprise given the picture of the restaurant, that the place was called The Blue Harpoon – and vanished a moment later.

We sat around in silence as the door to the room closed. With the moment of everyone greeting each other over, it was now awkward again. Artemis, bless her treacherous little heart, broke the silence.

“How was the trip?” She asked, popping another nut into her mouth. I eyed the dish she was getting them out of. Looked like it was for four, but at her rate of consumption, and mom throwing them liberally, I wasn’t going to get any. I grabbed a handful, then asked a follow-up.

“How did you even know we were here?” I asked. Sure, I’d sent a trail of letters home, but that didn’t mean they knew where we were, or that we’d be here.

My parents glanced at each other, then looked at Artemis. She leaned back.

“Did you really think you were the only one sending letters back home to Julia and Elainus?” Artemis asked, mostly rhetorically.

“But-“ I said. They were my parents!

“But nothing. They’re my friends, I’m allowed to talk with them.” Artemis said.

“Why didn’t you mention you were a Ranger!?” Dad said rapidly, with a wide, proud grin on his face.

“Uh- bu – I didn’t want you to worry!” I said, finally getting some words out. I shot Artemis a dark look. Ooooh, she’d pay for telling them. Beetles. I was going to get beetles into her bed.

Although, wait, if I did that, and I was sleeping in the same room, good chance they’d end up on me. I had to re-think this. I had to-

Shit. I was distracting myself from the conversation at hand. With some effort, I realigned myself back to the present, the here and the now.

“We were going to worry anyways!” Mom exclaimed. “Did those adventurers ever catch up to you? I got a bad feeling off of them.”

Artemis and I quickly glanced at each other. She subtly tilted her head at me, letting me know the ball was in my court.

“Yes, but no.” I said. “They tried, but weren’t particularly good at it.”

Dad snapped his fingers together.

“The letter. The one that said Kerberos’s family had hired mercenaries to attack a Ranger. That was you, wasn’t it.”

“Yup!” Artemis cheerfully butted in. “What happened?”

Mom and dad glanced at each other.

“I’m not sure.” Dad finally admitted. “It would’ve been a bad look for me to march up with the rest of the Guard to their villa, so I was on patrol. All I know is a massive fine was paid, and Kerberos vanished. A few weeks later, Citizen Prasinos swung by, and we agreed to call off the marriage. No sense in having something arranged when neither of you were around. You’re a free woman.”

It was like cloudy skies I never knew had broken, like a heavy bag was lifted from my head. I just sat there, jaw open, hardly daring to believe my ears.

Mom artfully leaned over, taking a finger out, and pushing my jaw back together.

“All we ever wanted was for you to be safe and happy, your future secured. We’re not a large, extended family, we have no relatives. This room is the entire family – yes, you as well Artemis. I had honestly believed a marriage to Kerberos – a Citizen, from a wealthy family, from Aquiliea, someone the same age as you, who wouldn’t need you to change your class into something to help the family business, who would somewhat let you be you? We couldn’t see you going down a path of true independence, not with the way Remus insists women are attached to men. I know that’s what you wanted, but it seemed impossible. I did my best to try and get you the best future you could possibly have!”

“Most kids – me included – hate and resent the idea that they’re going to be married. Everyone warned us about it. It’s why we didn’t listen to you. We assumed it was normal teenage rebellion, and that you’d cool off, go with it, and be happy, like so many people – men and women alike – do when they’re being told they’re getting married off. Heck, your father and I liked each other, wanted to be married to each other, and still hated the idea! It’s practically tradition to hate the announcement, and to declare it won’t be you. I’m sorry again for not listening to you.” Mom said.

Mom shot Artemis a look, then with a masterstroke, one that with every word had Artemis sinking into her seat, which somehow managed to get her to look like she wished the ground would open up and swallow her whole, with brutal, cruel, unmatched betrayal, threw her under the bus.

“After all, I’d asked Artemis if she was willing to take you under her wing around Remus, as a Ranger tag-along, and she said no.”

I shot Artemis a foul look. Seriously? Screw the fact that beetles would end up in my bed. She was getting a pile of them. Maybe I’d see if one of the other Rangers would let me bunk for a night.

Artemis mumbled some half-excuse from under her breath, so faint I couldn’t make out what she said. I was still glaring daggers at her. She seriously was willing to send me to the wolves? Mom had asked her to take me with her?

The food showed up at this point, interrupting the conversation. I took a deep sniff. Heavenly. Thinly sliced mango on top of I-don’t-care-which fish, infusing the soft flesh with eau de mango.

We dug in with gusto.

Oh dear gods, the chef must be over level 250. This was heavenly. This was divine. Energy filled my every limb, each bite lingering with taste in my mouth, changing and morphing with a brilliant aftertaste.

I needed to get rich enough for my own personal chef. New life goal. Money now had meaning.

“What changed your mind?” Dad asked around a mouthful of what he was eating, some massive sea-monster steak by the look of it.

Artemis and I looked at each other.

“I’ve kept this one a secret for you healy-bug. Gotta spill at some point.”

Beetles and worms. I can’t exactly keep it a secret if Artemis has said there’s a secret, now could I?

Fine. I faced down charging monsters four times my level. I faced a plague, dinosaurs dive-bombing me from the sky, goblins trying to murder me, and Artemis’s training. I’d survive this.

I wanted to do this anyways, I just hadn’t quite expected for it to be today, now.

I steeled myself, and dropped the reincarnation bombshell.

“I was reborn. I used to live on another world – it was called Earth by the way, that’s why my first class was [Child of Earth] – and somehow, my soul got lost in the void after I died. Papilion found my soul, lost, wandering, and stuck me on Pallos. Hence, I’m here.” I said, giving the bare bones in a few sentences.

Mom and dad barely even blinked.

“I’d always wondered what was going on with you.” Mom said. “You were too clever, and too smart. Even had a priest once check if you were a changeling or not. Said you were human, you basically never reacted to cold iron, among a dozen other things, and, well, you’re the result of us praying to all the gods for a child.”

“Wait, what?” I said, more surprised by mom’s revelation than they were by mine.

Dad snorted at me.

“Did you ever wonder why you were an only child with two healthy, vigorous parents?”

What did he mean – oh no. oh no. Cursed knowledge entered my mind, and I gagged, miming wiping my tongue, the flavor of mango in my mouth souring.

“You’re a blessed child, the result of us praying to the gods – and now we know to thank Papilion - and we weren’t too surprised to see you were likely god-touched. I will say, reincarnated is a new one – our guess had been intelligence and accelerated learning, and that was cemented in our mind when you took [Learning].”

I blinked at that.

“You knew?” I said.

Mom snorted.

“You’re as subtle as a brick, oh daughter mine, and about as good at keeping secrets. We’re your parents. Of course, we knew something was up. Like when you were learning how to read.”

“Which we thought was again, due to a learning blessing.”

“Or breaking into the library.”

Elaine, Master Spy was more like Elaine, the Incredibly Obvious. Right. No secret missions, no spying, no double-crossing, no important secrets, none of that in my future. Unless I got real, solid training in being subtle during Academy.

We continued to chat, opening up to each other in a way we’d never done before.

“Oh, I almost forgot. I’d bought this for you as a ‘congratulations on getting married present’, but I’d understand if you don’t want it.” Dad said, pulling out an intricate, beautiful copper bracelet.

“Oh wow, it’s beautiful!” I said, twisting and turning it, seeing how the wave pattern caught the light. “Bakus’s work?” I asked.

“Yup! Glad you like it.” Dad said.

I continued my stories, my tales. They were fascinated by tales of Earth, how things were there. Me? I was processing through dozens of emotions as I mechanically answered questions.

[*Ding!* Congratulations! [Recollection of a Distant Life] has reached level 121!]

First off, and most importantly, what hadn’t really been in doubt but had still kept me up at night, wondering – my parents loved me. Total, unconditional love. They’d been a bit misguided in their attempts to marry me off, but they had honestly believed it was best for me. The reincarnation thing? It was interesting, but it didn’t stop a fundamental truth we all knew to be true – I was their daughter.

Putting myself into their shoes, I could almost see myself making a similar choice. A daughter, growing up. A society that demands everyone is a member of a household, headed by a man. A culture that had no problems marrying 14-years old’s off to 25-year old’s. Where people died, and women were expected to do huge amounts of unpaid, unrecognized work – not only rearing children, not only keeping the house running, but also helping the husband with his job and trade. Kerberos, from many angles, like mom had said, was ideal. In that respect.

What hadn’t been ideal, what mom confessed she completely missed until dad picked it up later, was his poor character. She’d tried to hedge at one point, saying that many teenagers were brats and grew out of it – especially with my guiding hand.

Fat chance. I wasn’t one to be fixing someone up.

Second – they weren’t going to try and control my life anymore. They’d even try to smooth things out for me in the future. However, I was warned – when dad eventually died, I was on my own, in a society that didn’t let women own property, enter contracts, or a dozen other issues.

I’d live. I had enough power as a healer to always make coin, and desperate people had no trouble handing the money over to a woman, although some frowned that there wasn’t a man to pick up the coins.

However, by extension, mom would also be on her own, and we were less sure of her future.

“Although, gods willing, Themis will be old enough by then.”

“Themis?” I asked, not placing a face to the name.

“Yeah, Themis. Kid you saved from the fire, the slave boy that was given to us. We adopted him, he’s a member of the family now. His System Day is around the corner. Wants to be a guard, like me.” Dad said, pride in his voice. A healing daughter for the healing mom, a guard son for the guard dad. Was anything more perfect?

A face sprang to mind then, memories of flame and blood, the first limb I’d ever restored coming to mind. I smiled at that. One good deed became another, and it sounded like, if heavens blessed it, everything would turn out alright for everyone.

“That reminds me – dad lean over.”

Dad obliged, and I touched him, healing him again, fixing his eye to a level of detail that I couldn’t have managed with my skills and stats back when I first fixed it.

“Whoa – Elaine, this is amazing!” Dad said, looking around. “I could see before, but it was pretty blurry, but now, everything’s so clear! Thank you!”

I just grinned at him.

We spent almost another hour chatting – mom being enamored with Earth, and women being nominally equal, although in practice that was… less than reality… when Artemis suddenly sprang up.

“Shit! Elaine! Your meeting at the temple!”

Fuck! My meeting with Command!” Artemis yelled, throwing some coins on the table and sprinting out the door.

We spent a moment staring after her, then burst into harmonious laughter. A high voice, a low voice, and a third voice, a perfect blend of the first two.

[Name: Elaine]

[Race: Human]

[Age: 16]

[Mana: 17210/17210]

[Mana Regen: 20721]

Stats

[Free Stats: 62]

[Strength: 118]

[Dexterity: 218]

[Vitality: 235]

[Speed: 220]

[Mana: 1721]

[Mana Regeneration: 2379]

[Magic Power: 1506]

[Magic Control: 2039]

[Class 1: [Constellation of the Healer - Celestial: Lv 187]]

[Celestial Affinity: 187]

[Warmth of the Sun: 158]

[Medicine: 184]

[Center of the Galaxy: 160]

[Phases of the Moon: 187]

[Moonlight: 104]

[Veil of the Aurora: 146]

[Vastness of the Stars: 135]

[Class 2: [Pyromancer - Fire: Lv 62]]

[Fire Affinity: 62]

[Fire Resistance: 62]

[Fire Conjuration: 62]

[Fire Manipulation: 62]

[Fuel for the Fire: 62]

[Burn Brightly: 62]

[Rapidash: 62]

[: ]

[Class 3: Locked]

General Skills

[Identify: 96]

[Recollection of a Distant Life: 121]

[Pretty: 123]

[Vigilant: 131]

[Oath of Elaine to Lyra: 167]

[Ranger's Lore: 133]

[: ]

[Learning: 148]

 

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A note from Selkie

I realized as I was writing this scene, that Julia would've absolutely asked Artemis to let Elaine tag along with the Rangers.

And Artemis would've said no.

It's a hard, dangerous life, and the odds of Elaine dying were pretty high. It's no life for a kid. Especially one that, from what Artemis had seen so far, had just lived a soft, carefree life in the city. 

Remember, Artemis was going to veto Elaine joining them. Elaine had to half-blackmail, half-call in her favor.
Both Julia and Artemis want what's best for Elaine - they just had different ideas how to do it.

One Elaine joined up, Artemis would be too embarrassed to mention it. Like, Artemis has to live with Elaine now, she wasn't going to say "oh yeah, I already stopped you having this chance once" - it'd sour things between them, and she didn't feel like it needed to be said.

Of course, Julia has no problem bringing it up and throwing Artemis under the bus.


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.

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Selkie

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