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A note from Selkie

1000+ pages!!

 

Fan artwork! By "several people" on discord! Bluebeard - the Hunting Sentinel - And Katastrofi!

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

A modest cheer came from us.

“It is an honor to welcome you to the class of 4798!”

“I’d like to thank the Instructors, the members of Ranger Team 0, and the Sentinels who have chosen to impart their knowledge to each of you. Each and every one of them works tirelessly to train you, to instruct you, to help give you the skills needed for you to survive out there once we’re done with you.”

“You are the best Remus has to offer, and have passed a grueling pre-selection process. Through this training, you will become one of the elites, the best of the best, the pinnacle of humanity – a Ranger.”

Pre-selection process? Welp, one of the benefits of being named a Ranger on the road – I guess I was allowed to completely skip that.

“The training will be difficult. It will be hard. Right now, there are 509 of you. Only about 110 of you will make it to graduation. Only about 100 of you will be selected to become a Ranger. If you fail, you’re automatically able to re-enroll, and try again.”

“And now, I’ll pass you off to Ocean.”

He sat down, and a tanned, sleek, fit man, like Swimmer but better in every respect, with swirling tattoos in teal ink that looked like waves on his face took the podium

“Without further ado, Trainees! On me!”

Bless Artemis and the rest of the team teaching me proper military commands and discipline. About two-thirds of the trainees immediately started moving, following Ocean as he jogged out of the arena. The remaining trainees quickly caught on, and followed as well, mixing in with the crowd.

Ocean set a brisk, but not unreasonable pace through headquarters, then out onto the street, as we slowly fell into ranks and rows behind him.

Well, it was clear who came from the army, and who came in through the external selection process. The army people – I considered myself in that group – ended up in neat ranks and rows as we jogged in unison through the town. The non-army people ended up either figuring it out quickly, and getting their own place in the formation, or getting jostled out to the side, to fall behind the rest of us.

We didn’t go down the main, central road through the city, but we were on one of the major arteries. People took a look at us jogging through the roads, the sheer implacable mass of bodies, and decided that when an implacable force met their very moveable object, it was time to get out of the way.

At least, that was my assumption. I could mostly see the back of the person in front of me, and a bunch of people pressed to the side of the road, under awnings and in alleys.

At one point I saw a massive wave of water lifting a wagon up and out of the way, the casual display of power by Ocean sending a shiver down my spine.

The guards didn’t try to stop us in the slightest, the gates opening well before we got there, and the 500+ trainees jogging through, the instructors and Team 0 taking up the rear, catching anyone who might’ve fallen behind.

We made our way down to the docks, where three large ships were waiting for us. We loaded up, and set sail.

As the sailors pushed the boats off from the docks, a wave of loneliness hit. My parents were gone. Artemis might show up now and then, but she was busy doing her own thing. Julius. Kallisto. Maximus. They were all gone, off on a new round. Odds were, one of them would never return.

I suppose Arthur, or as he might now go by, Toxic, might be around now and then. Depends how much he needed to learn as a Sentinel, how much they needed him to solve problems, and how much he wanted to teach. Still – in quite a few senses, I had nobody here.

I didn’t want to be arrogant – Perinthus, Maximus, and a number of other incidents had taught me that I never knew enough, that I was never good enough, that I had to always strive to be better. However, Arthur had spent a good amount of time teaching me poisons and woodcraft, how to hunt and survive in the wilderness. If he was teaching anything, did he have anything new to teach me that he hadn’t already imparted in the almost two years we spent together?

It took less than an hour to make it to a large island, the home of Ranger Academy.

I expected austere military barracks, maybe stone, maybe shitty huts. I expected that maybe we’d be made to camp in the woods, learning to build our own shelters. Perhaps we’d be assigned a wagon and tents, like Rangers on the road were, to learn to live that lifestyle.

I did not expect what could only be summed up as “decadent opulence.” There was a massive, sprawling villa made out of marble, statues and fountains of water, dozens of healthy, happy-looking slaves bustling around, moving plates of food around.

Were… were those escorts lounging about and waving? Were we at the right place? This was the fearsome Ranger Academy? We didn’t end up at a luxury resort for the rich and famous?

Nope, the boat was going to the dock attached to the villa.

“What on Pallos?” I asked the person next to me, the same one who’d helped shield me in the arena. He looked at me, hesitated, then said.

“I’m a repeat. I’m not allowed to say anything about what goes on, but it is part of the Academy.”

I narrowed my eyes. That wasn’t a ringing endorsement of the place. There wasn’t a note of longing, of happiness at seeing Hotel Luxury again. There was a tired, exhausted note. Not all was what it seemed.

We disembarked slowly.

“Septimus. Room 6.”

“Octavius. Room 44.”

As each person got off the boat, they reported to one of the instructors, who looked up their name, and told them which room they’d be in.

“Elaine.” The instructor looked at my name, and hesitated. Uh oh.

“Stand here for a minute.” He finally said. I walked to the spot he pointed at, getting a glimpse at the clipboard as I did so.

“Have her wait.” Was the only thing written down.

Well then, that was not a promising start to Academy.

I hung out, only to see a familiar gigantic shape jogging towards me.

“Arthur!” I called out to him, waving happily.

He only frowned at me. My hand slowly dropped to the side. Was he pissed at me? Did he not like me or something?

“Trainee Elaine.” He said, as formally as he could, then paused, waiting for me.

“Trainee Elaine, when I address you, I expect a ‘sir’ at the start and end of everything you say. Do you understand me?” Arthur said again.

Ah. Right. This wasn’t the casual Ranger group anymore, the six of us happily traveling together as equals. This was Ranger Academy, where Arthur was one of the hotshots, the amazing Sentinel, and I was just another Trainee at the bottom of the totem pole. I’d gotten some drilling on this, but it hadn’t quite clicked until now that here and now was when it was relevant.

“Sir! Yes sir!” I said, throwing in a salute for good measure.

“Very good. While we’re here, I’m Toxic. Come with me.” Arthur said, and started to jog up to the villa, passing lines of new trainees making their way to their room.

[*ding!* Congratulations! You’ve unlocked the General Skill [Training]! Would you like to take this skill?]

Training: Hoorah! You’re an army recruit, and you have a long way to go trainee! This skill gives extra experience when training, and makes picking up skills and learning from the instructors that much easier! 1.5% boost to all experience per level when being trained. Note: Only applies to army training.

Well, I had a free skill slot, and this let me kick the can down the road of what skill I wanted to get. I was pretty sure this skill stacked with [Learning], and a good amount of Ranger Academy seemed dedicated to raising my skills. Maybe I’d get lucky enough to class up, or be able to work with some of the instructors on good skills.

[Recollection of a Distant Life] I had a sneaking suspicion was reaching the end of its useful life as well. I’d written my manuscripts, the total sum of all medical knowledge I had, and the only thing left were tales and stories. It’d gotten me into the Rangers, but now I was here on my own merit.

Unless I decided to take some sort of Bard class as my second class. It’d be an interesting evolution to be sure, but it’d take me out of direct combat, doubling up on the support. If it was a support class, and not some sort of wandering bard related thing.

A decision for another day.

We made our way into the villa, and it was even nicer on the inside than the outside. Artwork, marble busts, and trays of delicious food scattered the hallways, and jugs of wine could be found on every other corner.

The hell was going on here? This looked like paradise.

We reached a room, labeled room 100.

“Ar-Toxic, what’s going on? Sir.” I said, confused, belatedly remembering to add the “sir” at the end.

Arthur looked at me, hesitated, then shook his head.

“I’m also being tested, seeing if I can keep secrets now that I’m a Sentinel. Can’t tell you, Trainee Elaine.

Hmmmm, interesting. Alrighty then.

We entered the room, and it was nice. Very nice. There were even some mangos on a tray.

The fuck was going on?

“Ahem. Trainee Elaine, at attention.” Arthur said. I turned around, snapping to attention.

“As may be incredibly obvious to you, you’re a girl.”

I resisted rolling my eyes, since Arthur was doing it for me.

“While we believe every Trainee will hold themselves to the highest standard, there have been incidents in the past. Here’s an emergency signal disk. Pour some mana into it, and break in case of, ah, an incident. We really don’t want any casualties.”

I was having a hard time keeping a poker face at Arthur’s clear discomfort over having to give me this lecture. It was good to know that they’d thought of this before, and had a system in place.

Honestly, thinking about it, it was more likely there had been numerous problems in the past, and Arthur’s mention of causalities made me wonder if this was to solve the problem before a body count started to pile up. Artemis must’ve been what, 18 when she went through Academy? Ooooh yeah, I could totally see Artemis causing a number of casualties. I was a healer, young, and honestly, vulnerable-looking. Yup, time to keep this disk with me.

“Quite frankly, after the first 3 months, there’s never been an incident, so you can probably relax after that.”

“Please don’t sleep with anyone, and please, please don’t get pregnant. They’ll throw you out for the second one, and get really mad at the first one.”

“If an instructor approaches you, there’s a chance they’re being an idiot and trying to test you, in spite of being told not to. If an instructor persists, know you can always say no, and talk to a Sentinel about it.” Arthur paused a moment, then added. “I recommend Night or Ocean. They’re the serious ones that you’re likely to find.”

Arthur was fuming red at this point, and I let a chuckle escape at how incredibly uncomfortable he seemed.

“Understood Trainee Elaine?” He finally finished and asked me.

“Sir! Yes sir.” I responded.

[*Ding!* Congratulations! [Training] has reached level 2!]

He relaxed.

“Good.”

I cracked a grin at him.

“Never had to give the talk before?”

“Ug no. That was terrible.” Arthur said, clearly relaxing back into his “Arthur” role, and no longer “Toxic.”

I grinned at him.

“Why, Arthur, I never knew that-“

“Elaine, if you finish that sentence, I will damn you to thousands of pushups.”

I grumbled something under my breath about “abuse of power”.

[*Ding!* Congratulations! [Training] has reached level 3!]

Seriously System?

Then again, I wasn’t going to complain.

He gestured around the room.

“I’m told to tell you to make yourself comfortable and at home. Mingling occurs later on, where you can meet the other recruits. When the big gong strikes, assemble in the front courtyard – you have 45 heartbeats to get there, and fall in formation. Any questions?”

I opened my mouth to ask about his first statement, then closed it. Arthur was also being tested, I reminded myself.

“Sir! No sir!” I said, saluting. Might as well do this properly.

Arthur saluted back, then left. I grabbed the mangos, and sat on the bed, thinking as I peeled and ate them.

Everyone was being incredibly, suspiciously cagey about this villa. Clearly, it wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. Arthur telling me “He was told to tell me to make myself comfortable” translated to he didn’t think I should make myself comfortable and at home. The recycled Trainee on the boat not having good things to say about the place reinforced that feeling.

However, Artemis telling me to eat, trying to stuff me, suggested that if nothing else, I should chow down.

I ate everything in the room, then started to roam the hallways, grabbing food and chowing down, a one-girl whirlwind of gluttony. Mmmm, I had been offered a glutton class once upon a time…

I made some polite conversation with some of the other trainees, most of which were reveling in the luxury and excess, a few with a hard look in their eyes joining me on my quest to give myself indigestion.

However, as the sun started to get lower in the sky – I could tell from the open-aired courtyards scattered throughout – my fellow gluttons slowly dropped out of the eating contest. Figuring that they had advanced knowledge, or were recycled, I decided that when in Ranger Academy, do as the Rangers, and stopped eating as well.

I started to work my way towards the front courtyard, dodging some trainees with giggling women on their arms. The fuck?

I found the front courtyard, and just hung out, making some small talk. I noticed a half-dozen animals that I hadn’t seen before, including an Ornithocheirus with a saddle, a massive bear, steam billowing off of it like it had just left a hot tub – or was Steam-aligned - a muzzled saber-tooth tiger, all lean muscle, flexing its claws, a pair of wolves, one with a bright, shiny coat, one matted dark as night, curled up with each other, a massive potted plant in a wheelbarrow – what?

I knew Rangers tended to be strange people, as it required a certain type of crazy to get to the levels needed, and to sign up for a job with such a high fatality rate. It hadn’t quite occurred to me just how much crazy there was, and that it’d be concentrated at the Academy.

In the front of the courtyard, there were two gongs. One was a massive thing of bronze, twisting pillars supporting it, glowing inscriptions on it, at least 10 meters in diameter. The other was much smaller, the size of a normal gong, maybe one meter in diameter, simple looking, but with even more densely written inscriptions on it.

One of the instructors walked out, nodded at us already in the courtyard.

“You’ll do well.” He said to all of us, before walking up to the big bronze gong and punching it as hard as he could.

Booooooooooooooooooooooonnnnnnnnnggg

The sound of the gong reverberated through the island, calling us to attention.

[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: 121]

[Pretty: 125]

[Vigilant: 131]

[Oath of Elaine to Lyra: 167]

[Ranger's Lore: 140]

[Training: 3]

[Learning: 148]

 

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A note from Selkie

We made it to the Academy! And it's... a luxury resort? What?


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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