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A note from Selkie

Sadly, this came in hours after I posted the chapter - Alruna and Iona!

 

And now, back to your regularly-scheduled Elaine.

The rest of the day after the Ranger Convocation – I finally had the name for it – was spent in a giant party in The Room. Food and drink were brought out, and everyone had a chance to mingle, a chance to chat with each other. A chance to say hello to new teammates, and goodbye to old ones.

Even the ones written on the wall.

Ranger Team 4 – the old one, not the new one – was particularly busy, arguably the center of attention. Artemis retiring, and old teammates were crowding in to say goodbye, other Rangers wanting a word with one of the living legends, and in at least two cases, the movers and shakers of Ariminum wanting to sign their kid up at the School of Sorcery and Spellcraft.

And of course, we also had Arthur, the newest Sentinel.

Or, as we were now starting to call him, Toxic.

The problem was compounded by the other Sentinels hanging out with Arthur, wanting to get to know him better, getting a better feel for the newest member of their most exclusive club.

With the celebrity-like status of the Sentinels, more people wanted to see them, effectively making Ranger Team 4 the center of attention, which I didn’t want to be.

Maximus and I eventually managed to escape – Julius felt obligated to stick with people, while Kallisto reveled in being a social butterfly – and hit the buffet line.

Which generally consisted of Maximus taking a small sample of everything, to better expand his horizons, while I hoovered up the mangos.

Artemis popped out at one point, dumping a leg of ham on my plate.

“Eat.” She ordered me.

I gave her a look.

“You know I’m not allowed to tell you anything about Ranger Academy.” Artemis said, seemingly going off on a wild tangent.

Artemis dropped lots of little hints like that, all technically within the letters of the orders every recruit at Ranger Academy was given, but probably breaking the spirit. What I heard it translate to: “There’s going to be massive mana consumption at Academy, best get your reserves up.”

Hang on. That didn’t make sense. Blowing tons of mana was fine, it was –

“Eat up, they’re going to underfeed you.”

There we go.

The party continued, people breaking up into groups, mingling, doing general party-ish things.

Parties were not my jam, and I kept finding myself feeling, being, isolated. Artemis tried to stick with me, but she kept having people come up to her, congratulating her on her retirement. Arthur was in an even worse swarm, and while I was no stranger to constant streams of patients in a clinic, this was so much worse on so many levels.

There was no neatly defined relationship of what I was to everyone else. Tagger-on? I was more than that. Ranger? Not quite – especially when I wasn’t called to be in a team. Socially, I was an odd duck, both my age and gender separating me from everyone else. There were a few young kids, but they were young kids. The recruits for the current batch weren’t here, and the grapevine had the youngest graduate of the current year being 22.

All in all, the party was more on the “awkward” end of the spectrum, than the “fun” end.

A few things were fun though.

“Hey Julius!” I called out to him, waving my arm, wandering over.

“Oh hey Elaine.” Julius said, stopping his conversation with seven other people, one of them a woman.

“Hey Julius! New team?”

“Yup! Getting to know each other, off for some teambuilding exercises soon.”

“Who’s this?” The woman asked.

“This is Elaine. Interesting character we picked up on my last round. About to enter Ranger Academy.”

“On that note – Elaine, this is probably goodbye for now. I hope to see you at the next Convocation, as a full Ranger… again.” Julius held out his hand for a handshake.

I gave him a hug instead, trying to crush him with my 118 Strength. Puny against a higher-level, physically-based Ranger. Strong compared to anyone from Earth, anyone without points in Strength.

“You better stay alive. Get another healer to tag along with you.” I muttered into his armor.

We spent a moment like that.

“Again?” The woman asked, after an appropriate amount of time saying goodbye.

“Well, you see…” Julius started to explain my story, and I decided to make myself scarce.

I found Kallisto, flirting with two incredibly good-looking, wealthy-looking women. I shook my head at him. Some guys had all the luck.

“Kallisto!” I sidled up to him.

“Hi, I’m Elaine, his former teammate. Great dude Kallisto. Can’t go wrong.” I said, being a quick wing woman for him. Not that he’d need the help.

“Elaine! This is probably goodbye for now, you’re about to be vanished off to Ranger Academy aren’t you?”

“Yup! Best of luck out there, stay safe! See if you can get a healer to tag along with you. Especially you, you need someone to patch you up if you get ran over by a level 400 monster 20 times your weight.”

“You got ran over by a level 400 monster? I have to hear that story.” One of the ladies asked him, fluttering her eyes.

“Well….” A grin split Kallisto’s face, knowledge that he was in, so to speak, as he started to explain the story of the Nothasaurus, now thirty stories tall, with teeth larger than the Argo, and I went off to find Maximus.

Maximus was, to only a raised eyebrow from me, deep in conversation with the Nature Sentinel, who was holding an entire amphora – basically a fancy jug – of wine, happily drinking right from it.

Nobody would want to pour themselves a drink out of that after he’d had his way with it, but from the rate he was going at, I didn’t think that’d be a concern.

I decided to respectfully hang out, and not interrupt the powerhouse who could literally flatten me with a thought.

Interesting that idea – if someone got strong enough, could they literally kill someone with an errant thought? If they briefly got mad, and activated a massive skill, would it fire? Was there a way to stop that, to restrain yourself? Or were high-level hotheads doomed to eventually kill someone on impulse?

A solid question, one possibly for the Nature Sentinel. Another day.

Maximus and Nature were in a deep discussion, and I decided a little bit of eavesdropping would be socially acceptable. We were at a party, it wasn’t like I was sneaking up on them, nor were they in a private room or something.

“… Mithril, and Adamantium.” Maximus said. “Speaking of, here’s Elaine! She found the scroll in question.”

Nature turned to me, and he was intense. He was built like a brick shithouse, with a modest layer of fat on him – not that anyone could call him fat, but it was clear he was no body sculptor. It reminded me of a bear, a lion, an apex predator that had some extra weight on him because he was just that successful at hunting down other creatures in the jungle.

He eyed me up and down, and grunted.

“Good find. See you at Academy.”

With that, he turned and walked away, Maximus and I staring after his back.

“Don’t mind him too much. All the Sentinels are a bit strange. Arthur’s the most normal of them, but give it some time. He’ll have as many screws loose as the rest of them.” Maximus said.

I gave him a Look for that.

Maximus and I spent a bit of time chatting, about nothing much. Mostly Arthur.

“I didn’t see that coming.” Maximus said, for the 3rd time.

“Yeah, I had no idea. Anyways, let me know if you find any good stories on the road. I’ll be waiting to hear from you.”

“Thanks! If anyone has an interesting skill at Academy, see how much you can get out of them. Mana, range, ability, versatility, how often they can use it – anything and everything.”

“Sure! Stay safe!”

“Stay a Ranger.” Maximus shot back.

We shook hands, and I wandered off, determined to use [Identify] on every single person, this being a great chance to level the skill.

[*Ding!* Congratulations! [Identify] has reached level 97!]

[*Ding!* Congratulations! [Identify] has reached level 98!]

Eventually, I found my way back to Artemis’s room, where I’d dragged my cot back.

I changed, and not having much left to do, flopped back down, only to jump up with a scream.

“All the gods dammit Artemis! Why mice!? Why today?!” I yelled into the void.

The remaining two weeks until Ranger Academy passed in a blur. I spent the first week with my parents, who eventually had to leave, to head back home. Dad could only spend so much time away from being a guard, and the trip to and from Aquiliea took weeks in the first place.

We visited all over town. The colossus statue over the harbor, which locals claimed was a statue of Herculix. A grand library that I had to reluctantly tear my eyes away from – I only had so much time with my parents. The Mausoleum, a series of incredibly elaborate burial methods for the rich and famous, to show off for eternity.

I mentally snorted at that one, [Recollection of a Distant Life] helping out. It’d last until the Republic fell, and tomb robbers got to it. If a high level [Tomb Raider] hadn’t already snuck in.

All too soon, I was saying goodbye to them. I didn’t know if I’d be able to write or not, but they promised to try and make it to graduation.

I spent my last few days wandering around the city, suddenly feeling lonely. Artemis still had her room at HQ for some reason, and I was still bunking with her. However, she was running around like her hair was on fire, getting her school started. Lots of work, founding a school. Wasn’t as easy as hanging up a sign on a door it seemed like, and she was a one-woman operation. From what I could see, she took to it with the same determination and grit that she took to being a Ranger, with significantly fewer friendly-fire fatalities.

I also raided the library, but with Academy starting soon – the gap between graduation and the new class starting was to give the instructors a break, or so I’d gathered – it felt like my doom was hanging over me. I tried to stick with a light exercise routine, to not fall too much out of shape.

The last day before Academy started broke, and I woke up to an empty room, Artemis most likely having gotten up when the deadly moons were still high up. I gathered everything that could be considered my worldly possessions – the pendant and knife mom and dad had gotten for me rated as my most valuable, my manuscripts a close second, my new bracelet and dress a distant third, along with my other knick-knacks – and headed down to the temple. I deposited them all with the temple, keeping just a spare tunic, a few loose coins.

I’d handed my Ranger’s badge back – temporarily, and with great reluctance.

I headed down to the baths, having a sneaking suspicion that “luxury bathing time” wasn’t part of the Ranger Academy curriculum. If there was time to get yourself clean, “freezing water” was probably how they did it. With sharks. Little mini-freezing water sharks, to “encourage” you to bathe faster.

I took the plunge into the warm, steamy baths, and got to thinking. Didn’t have much else to do.

Would I get my own bath at Academy? Were women rare enough that they were just thrown in on their own? How did they handle sexual harassment? The team I’d just been with had been fantastic, maybe due to my age, maybe due to their maturity, maybe due to Artemis having bolted them into shape before I came along. Alone, with hundreds of other men? With [Pretty]? Cripes.

At the same time, Artemis had made no mention of it, and she was fiercely protective, like a mother bear.

I liked mother bear Artemis.

To counter that, it’d been years, over a decade, since Artemis was at Academy. Also, Artemis was, to put it mildly, extremely aggressive, having no problems zapping people who annoyed her.

I literally couldn’t, not until they’d committed some action that was overtly hostile, that I could justify a response with flames and burning.

I’d see.

I was driving myself nuts in the bath, and finally got out, toweled myself off, got dressed, and headed back to HQ. A quick meal, and I went to bed early, Artemis still out and about, busy with her school.

I spent hours tossing and turning, nerves creating a massive twist in my guts.

“Up! Up! Come on, let’s go!” Artemis yelled at me, rudely waking me up.

“Academy.” I said, bolting straight up in bed.

“Yup! Move, move, move, move! Get your skinny ass in gear, or I’ll skin you and feed you to a cat!” Artemis yelled at me, point blank.

My mind caught up with what Artemis was saying, and I paused, half-dressed, looking at her.

“Wait, what? A cat?” I asked, confused. Artemis never yelled like this, never had bad insults like this.

Artemis’s grinning face fell. “No good?” She asked. I shook my head.

“What’s going on?”

“Well, being a senior, retired Ranger, and opening a school up for mages, and being, among other things, an amazing former Artillery Mage, and living in the capital now, I was approached and asked to be an Instructor at Academy. Part-time, I’m going to be one of the people yelling at you, trying to convince you to quit.”

Artemis paused a heartbeat, letting that sink in.

“Was practicing my yelling.”

I gave her a single arched eyebrow.

“Maybe stick to the lightning bolts?”

“Lightning bolts!? Lightning bolts!? What do I look like to you, some pint-sized lightning bolt mage, who can only zap things!?”

I thought about it for a moment, then nodded.

“Yup.”

“Drop and give me 20 recruit!”

I carefully schooled my face to not give away how little I thought of 20 push ups as punishment, and did them. Artemis needed some serious help on the drill instructor front, but I wasn’t going to be the one to tell her.

Nah, I’d let someone else sass her too far, let her bolt the hell out of them, and go from there. If Artemis was using me as a test dummy to sharpen her verbal wit, I wasn’t going to make the knife going into me any sharper.

Thankfully, The Room was where new recruits to Academy met for the first day. What happened after that, I had no idea. Nobody would tell me, or rather, they were under orders not to.

We all found spots on the main floor, jam-packed like sardines. I was lucky in one sense to be on the main floor – unlucky in another, in that I couldn’t see much besides the back of the people in front of me.

Damn being short.

I got some strange looks from the people standing next to me, who glanced at each other.

“She’s a healer.” One of them said, with some surprise. The other one looked down at me, obviously using [Identify] or something, and raised an eyebrow.

“Don’t see that every day.”

They glanced at each other, then shifted themselves slightly, to give me a bit more room, shield me a hair.

“Thanks.” I said, meaning it. I’d have appreciated being involved in the conversation, but hey, I could be offended that they’d done all that without even saying hi to me, or appreciative that they were preventing me from being crushed. Seriously, was the requirement to join this year to be twice my weight and height or something!?

A hush spread through the crowd, and I decided my dignity was worth less than seeing what was going on. I stood up on the bench, finally able to see over the heads of the rest of the crowd.

“Welcome, new Ranger Academy recruits!” A member of Command yelled from the podium.

 

[Name: Elaine]

[Race: Human]

[Age: 16]

[Mana: 17210/17210]

[Mana Regen: 20521]

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: 160]

[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: 98]

[Recollection of a Distant Life: 131]

[Pretty: 125]

[Vigilant: 131]

[Oath of Elaine to Lyra: 167]

[Ranger's Lore: 140]

[: ]

[Learning: 148]

 

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A note from Selkie

The start of a new arc!


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! Sign up for Patreon! Buy a book!

PS: Signing up for Patreon gets access to all book ePubs.

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

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

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

 


 

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Selkie

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