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We left the restaurant, and I realized to my dismay:

“I have no idea where the temple is.”

Most towns had a single grand temple, dedicated to all the gods and goddesses. It made numerous aspects of organized religion easy – a donation to one god was a donation to all of them, or so the priests said. If you needed to pray for, say, a healthy child and a good harvest, it meant you didn’t need to bounce around to multiple temples. It also meant that a few priests could service dozens of gods, pooling resources together efficiently. Otherwise some of the less-worshipped gods might not have anything.

We asked for directions, and my parents followed me as we started to head over to the temple.

“I don’t mind, but why are you following me?” I asked them.

“What, we can’t spend time with our daughter?” Mom asked, faux-offended. I rolled my eyes at her.

“Practically speaking, we’re going to the temple to give you a hand.” Dad said. “I’m going to open an account with the temple for you.”

Oh right. I’d gotten, if not unaware of how Remus worked, complacent at least. Temples acted as an early precursor to banks. There were no banks or bank accounts, you stored your money at the temple. Another benefit to a single, massive temple, as opposed to scattered temples to individual gods – better security on your vault and money.

As a woman though, noooo, I couldn’t possibly open an account. The priest would just tisk me, and tell me to bring my husband to open the family account. From the sound of it, dad was off to open an account for me, mention I was family and could use it, and get the key, or token, or whatever indicated that the account was mine.

I wonder how Artemis pulled it off? My bet was, she went in with thunder and fury, and bowled people over until she had an account, the rules - and law - be damned. Yeah, I could totally see her doing that.

We hurried through the streets at a brisk pace – I was somewhat late for some meeting or another, with a Priest Demos – but we spent as much time as possible catching up.

Which, to my great surprise, was mostly me catching up on what was going on in Aquiliea. I hadn’t imagined that at all. I’d imagined that I’d be telling my parents all about my adventures as a Ranger.

Nope, Artemis, the traitorous toad, had spilled all the beans ahead of time. Including Perinthus. It didn’t mean it had registered.

“Wait, you really were the hero of Perinthus?” Dad asked, for the 6th time.

“Yup. Pissed off Glacia though, she didn’t write me into the song. Just ‘The Rangers.’,” I said, skipping down the road, ignoring the foul looks I got. Screw you, I was happy, I wanted to skip.

“But how?” Mom must’ve asked for the 3rd time.

“Knowledge. Knowledge from the other world. There’s no magic there, we had to make do with pure science. They figured out how disease works, and how to beat it. With that knowledge, I get a dramatic boost to how good my healing is, and gave me a rudimentary framework to work off of. Add in the rest of the team, and, well, we did it.”

It was fun being able to finally brag and show off. There was no point talking to the random passerby’s on the road, and the rest of the team knew exactly what I’d done. This was my first chance in a year to really brag about my accomplishment, and I was going all-out.

After too much time chatting, we finally made it to the temple doors.

“No, Flavia married Kolius? Really?” I said, two distant faces coming together in my mind.”

“Yes really. Expecting their first soon.” Mom replied. “We’re here now.”

We bowed in unison to the statue of Etalix, surrounded by what could only be lightning bolts – one day I’d figure out the deal with guardians – and entered the temple.

“Hi, I’m here for a meeting with Priest Demos.” I said to the acolyte who seemed to be manning the information desk. He had a bored look on his face, which was immediately wiped away, replaced by a look of interest. He eyed me up and down with some curiosity.

“Priest Demos? You’re sure?”

“Yes, I’m sure.” I said, trying not to let the impatience color my voice.

“What’s your bestowal? How strong is it? Where –“ The acolyte was starting to get going, before cuffed by a passing priest, who looked mad.

“Acolyte Aeschylus. That is wholly inappropriate to ask a petitioner asking after Priest Demos.” He hissed at the poor acolyte, while twisting his ear. Aeschylus was making all sorts of pained noises. I felt a little sorry for him.

He turned and bowed towards me.

“Pardon me. Let me lead you to Priest Demos.” The priest said.

I turned and hugged my parents, before following him down the hall. I reached over and tapped Aeschylus as I passed him, hitting him with a quick [Phases of the Moon] to top him up.

“What’s Priest Demos like? Are there a lot of people who come talk with him? Does anyone ever, like, not leave after talking with him?” I pestered the priest with those questions and a dozen more as we walked through the hallways of the temple.

This was a big temple. Made sense, since it was the main temple of the main city, nominally servicing hundreds of thousands of people that lived in the city. Practically speaking, the city was large enough to support a few smaller temples, dedicated to specific gods – the one I knew of was Aion, Goddess of Life – but the temple was still massive.

The priest was stoic in the face of my ceaseless barrage of questions, although the lines on his forehead were getting steadily deeper. Finally, at long last, I annoyed him into submission, into giving me the sweet nectar of answers.

“Priest Demos handles all god-touched individuals. We’re instructed not to say much, because it could interfere with his work. Please, we’re almost there.” He said, voice warbling slightly.

The priest knocked on the door, a small, light, tip-toeing around the big boss rap, then straightened up, smoothing some non-existent crease in his tunic.

“Come in.” A voice far too soft to make it through the door somehow did, and I opened the door, walking into…

I don’t know what I expected, but this wasn’t it. Government vivisectionists, with sharp tools and implements. A gaudy chamber, flaunting the wealth of the big boss of the big temple.

No, what I got was a simple, modest room, a table and two chairs, and a kindly looking priest sitting at one of the chairs, in a simple robe, and a full, neatly trimmed beard. His hair was entirely white, and he had a simple pendant on.

My eyes snapped to the table, where there were two mangos. Someone had dished. Someone had leaked my secrets to him ahead of time, and I was being bribed.

Bribe away!

The door closed behind us, and the priest gave me a smile.

“Hello Elaine. It’s a pleasure to make your acquaintance.”

I felt warmth and happiness fill the air, I felt myself relax, be calm.

Hang on. That wasn’t right.

I pointed my finger at him, awareness of the aura allowing me to dim the effect on me, but wanting it completely off anyways.

“No auras.” I said, completely disregarding the fact that my own [Warmth of the Sun] was operating at full blast.

“Of course, forgive my impudence.” He said, and I suddenly felt the warm fuzzy butterflies vanish, the cool air of the temple once again circulating.

“I was told you, ahem, enjoyed mangos. May I ask you to sit with me and chat for some time?” He said, gesturing towards the seat in front of me.

Well, chatting for the price of a mango? Oooh, I’d do so much more than chat for mango. And it wasn’t like I hadn’t spilled all my secrets already.

I sat down with all the grace 218 dexterity afforded me, which was respectably superhuman, if irrelevant against other physical classers at my level.

I promptly chowed down on one mango, while greedily eyeing the second one. I could see Demos’s beard crinkle with a small, hidden smile, as he gestured towards the second one.

“Have both, if it would please you.”

I didn’t give him a chance to change his mind as I swiped the second one. I liked this priest.

“I’ve heard, from a little bird, that not only are you god-touched, but a full Ranger to boot! How impressive.” He said, still calmly sitting back.

Welp, time to pay the piper. Cheaper than coin for the mangos, but I could make more coin if I was healing. Hang on, this chain of thought bore thinking about. What was the best way to maximize mangos/hour?

I shook my head. Focus. Here and now. Here and Now.

“God-touched is an interesting way to put it.” I said, carefully not spraying precious mango everywhere. It’d be a crying shame, nay, nearly criminal, for me to lose mango like that. “There was a god – or goddess, depending on how Papilion is feeling – involved, but it felt more like Papilion was cleaning house, less so than touching me.”

“Oh?” The kindly priest asked. “Would you care to elaborate?”

“Sure. One moment I was at home – on Earth, a different world entirely – and the next, I was in the Realm of the Gods, screaming and clutching my head. Papilion said something about a ‘lost soul’ and ‘removing traumatic memories’, so I have no idea what happened to get me there. Next thing I knew, Papilion was talking about reincarnating me as a Golden Crow, and ripping memories deemed ‘too dangerous’ out of my head.”

“Like what?” He asked.

I gave him a Look.

“Ahem. Would you happen to have any examples, or knowledge, of what got removed?”

I trawled my mind, suddenly drawing a blank. A blank on blanks. Heh.

“Well….” I said, drawing it out. “Physics. Chemistry.”

“What are those?” He asked. I shrugged.

“If I knew, I wouldn’t be mentioning them would I?” I said.

“I do know about glasses. Clear material over your eyes, made your eyesight better.”

“How do they work?”

“See, that’s exactly the problem. I know what they are, but when I try to know how they work, I just draw a blank, a nothing.”

“Fascinating. What else do you remember?”

“Medicine! Biology. Anatomy.” I pulled out the set of scrolls I’d kept with me. “I’ve already written everything I know down, and I’ve asked a scribe to copy and distribute them. They’ve helped me immensely with my healing, and I’ve taken an [Oath], inspired by how medicine is done in my world, to help with healing.” I offered the scrolls to him. “Would you like to take a look.”

“If it’d be no imposition.” Demos said in a stately manner, arching an eyebrow at me. I nodded my head, and he took the scrolls from me, unravelling them, and scanning over them.

His bushy eyebrows went up a half-inch, and I suspected with his many long years of service, and his many encounters with “god-touched” beings, that this was an expression of the greatest surprise.

“Would you mind if I made a copy for the temple?” He eventually asked, after skimming over the 5th scroll.

“Nope! Make a ton. Give ‘em out. I just spent all my money making copies to send to other healers. Oh, and my [Oath]. That’s in there as well.”

“You’ve mentioned that before. Tell me more?”

I found myself opening up to the kindly, grandfatherly man. It became clear to me after some time that this wasn’t just a priest, this was The Priest. And he was a master interrogator. And yet, he was so kind, so polite, so respectful, I couldn’t bring myself to care that I was being subtly manipulated to give him all the knowledge I had, everything I could dredge up.

Cars and trucks, the internet, books, libraries, government structure, literature, politics, wars. A light skimming on all of those, we didn’t have nearly the time for deep, in-depth dives on any of them.

I stoutly refused to give away any knowledge of weapons, both from an ethical and practical standpoint. I refused to give better ways for people to kill other people – even though said weapons would be primarily turned against monsters trying to eat people – and from a practical standpoint, my [Oath] would probably punish me for it, and while I had no way of knowing, I suspected it might be worse for knowingly breaking it.

It was the aspect he was most interested in, the one we spent the most time dancing around. It was becoming clear that, yes, this was still a government vivisectionist, and he was seeing if he could get immediate, practical, military use out of me. There was a war for survival going on, as much as I’d been sheltered from it.

All in all, I was glad for [Oath], giving me an easy excuse to refuse anything weapon or war- related.

No bombs. No napalm. Not even the thing that wiped out an entire city, every detail surrounding it wiped from my memory, so thoroughly cleansed out I didn’t even want to examine it too closely.

Nearly everything else was wrung from me. When Priest Demos realized just how much literature I had in my head, how many stories I could tell, how many tales I could sing, he did something which I suspect he’d never done in all his years of kindly chatting with blessed individuals.

He gave up.

He didn’t plunge the depths of every story, didn’t bother analyzing Star Wars, didn’t care about the plot of Harry Potter. In his own words, “I think we have better things to discuss. You could be famous as a bard if you wanted to.”

However, after we were done with our exhausting, marathon-like conversation, I had some sympathy for the poor mangos I ate. This must be what a mango’s like, all wrung out, every little scrap of knowledge scraped from me to be eaten by the priest.

I’d even gotten a bunch of levels!

[*Ding!* Congratulations! [Recollection of a Distant Life] has reached level 122!]

….

[*Ding!* Congratulations! [Recollection of a Distant Life] has reached level 131!]

I was starting to think the skill was reaching the end of its useful life though.

He did look as pleased as a fox in a henhouse by the end of it though.

“This was a most fruitful discussion.” He said, beard twitching slightly.

I groaned at the terrible pun. I have no idea if it was deliberate or not, but with how careful every word was, I believed it was on purpose.

“What happens next?” I asked.

“Well, I get to tell the powers that be that your blessing is in the ‘harmless or useful’ category, and we all go on our way.”

The deadly implications of that clicked into place, and I froze up. The fact that “harmless” and “useful” were lumped together implied a gradient composing of “dangerous” and “more dangerous”, and “we all go on our way” implied “We don’t go on our way” being the other option.

That might also be why he’d been interested in weapons and other technology surrounding killing others. He might have been testing if I had the potential to kill lots of people with the knowledge I was bringing in, if I was going to be another murderous Hesoid, but with better, stronger methods. If that was the case, the existence of my [Oath] probably helped.

I felt Demos turn his calming aura back on, and I glared at him, throwing up [Veil] briefly to not feel the Aura. I had no illusions that I could stop him if I wanted to – my [Identify] earlier had put him quite a bit over Artemis, like level 340 or so – but it was more so the message. My hackles were up, and after having spent the last two years as a Ranger, they didn’t go back down easily.

I turned it back down, glaring at him.

“I apologize.” The Priest said, half-bowing from where he sat. “A habit, a reflex, from so many years teaching Acolytes.”

I closed my eyes, breathing in, breathing out, letting it go. We were all good here. Julius was exceedingly unlikely to throw me to the wolves if he thought I’d get harmed. Not unless he thought I was some sort of mass-murderer, which [Oath] neatly neutered.

“Is there any small favor we could do to make up for the ugly misunderstanding at the end?” Demos asked me.

“N- uh, yes!” I said, remembering earlier. “I’d like a small bag of worms and beetles please.”

I got the first unrestrained emotion from the priest at that, genuine, taken aback surprise.

“Ok, I’m not one to pry – well, yes I am, but not for this – but whatever for?” He asked.

“Artemis. Sold me out horribly. I’m dumping them in her bed as revenge.”

The priest facepalmed.

“The fact that I know who Artemis is scares me the most.” He said drily. “Please don’t have me preside over any funerals.”

I gave him a flat look.

“Do you even know Artemis?” I asked him, comfortable enough after all our chatting to be a bit sassy.

“Do you?” He shot back.

I had nothing for that. I stuck my tongue out and left.

“Still a kid, even with all those extra years.” He whispered to himself as I left.

I patted my carrying pouch. Still had my scrolls, and my sad, deflated money bags. I wonder how the priest knew I was telling the truth. Was it simply the details, the interlocking information, the sheer inability to conjure up all the information at once, like I’d convinced the Rangers? Or was his Divine Bestowal related to truth-detection, something far outside the System, but within the domain of the gods.

I met my parents at the entrance – they looked so bored having spent hours doing nothing but sit while I was chatting – and an acolyte that handed me a slightly squirming bag.

My parents eyed the bag.

“Do we want to know?” My dad asked, with no small amount of trepidation.

“For Artemis!” I cheerfully told them.

Mom facepalmed.

My dad handed me a very fancy key, a long, thick thing made out of metal, with small flecks of gems and Arcanite strategically located, soft lines of inscriptions tracing mystical patterns.

“Your bank key. Use it to access your vault. If you lose it, it can’t be easily replaced, so do not lose it. Understood?”

I nodded my understanding.

“Hang on, let me deposit my scrolls real fast.” I said.

A quick deposit later, a whirlwind goodbye with my parents – with promises that we’d meet tomorrow, although “Don’t tell Artemis where”, and an escort to Ranger HQ later, and I was carefully sneaking into my – well, Artemis’s – room, with a bag full of bugs. Cackling, I picked up my roll first – gotta get it clear first, wouldn’t want to end up with bugs in my roll– and emptied the bag into her cot. Serves her right, throwing me under the bus like that, giving away that I had a secret, not taking me with her initially, spilling everything to my parents.

Right. Time to find Julius’s room.

After a bunch of navigating around, asking for directions, and twice insisting that no, I was not a prostitute, no matter how it looked that a young woman was hauling around a cot inside of Headquarters, I found Julius’s room.

I knocked, and he opened the door.

“Elaine? Is everything ok?” He said, stepping back, letting me in the room.

I hauled myself in the room, closing the door behind me.

“Yup! But you might want to barricade the door.”

“Artemis probably knows to find me here, and she won’t be happy.”

Julius paled at that.

[Name: Elaine]

[Race: Human]

[Age: 16]

[Mana: 16930/16930]

[Mana Regen: 20563]

Stats

[Free Stats: 65]

[Strength: 116]

[Dexterity: 218]

[Vitality: 235]

[Speed: 220]

[Mana: 1693]

[Mana Regeneration: 2363]

[Magic Power: 1480]

[Magic Control: 2027]

[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: 131]

[Pretty: 123]

[Vigilant: 131]

[Oath of Elaine to Lyra: 167]

[Ranger's Lore: 133]

[: ]

[Learning: 148]

 

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A note from Selkie

Something I rarely see in novels - the fearsome government vivisectionists getting their hands on our heroine... and it being fine


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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