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The sound of the gong reverberated through the air, the inscriptions lighting up. It was strangely quiet for how close to us it was, and if I had to guess, there was both a dampening, and amplification going on, letting the noise of the gong echo through the entire island, letting people know wherever they were.

One trainee immediately stepped forward in the courtyard, raised an arm, and yelled out “On me.”

A number of people started to fall into rank and file to the side and behind him, and I joined in. I mentally dubbed the trainee who’d called out the fall-in “Leadership Material.”

Those of us in the courtyard already filled out the first few rows, and there were sounds of scrambling, tripping, swearing, and some clanks, clangs, excessive swearing, and one loud shattering noise from behind.

I kept my eyes forward, not that turning around to look behind me would have me seeing anything. If nothing else, I needed to learn how to fly so I could see over groups.

Not that I couldn’t step on [Veil], but the mana consumption was horrible. It was easier for me to fix a shattered body in terms of mana than to use [Veil] as a stepping-stone.

After a time I’d guess was exactly 45 heartbeats after the initial gong strike, the instructors pounced, yelling obscenities at the trainees who were showing up late.

They were creative, I’d give them that. I didn’t think the trainee’s grandmother could bend that way, regardless of what the instructor said.

The side of my lips curled back in a grimace at another particularly offensive insult. Wasn’t that going a hair too far…?

In short order, the vast majority of us were in formation, waiting for the instructors to begin their next lecture, while about a quarter of the trainees were in the back, getting smoked by the instructors for being late.

Must not smile. Must not crack a grin at someone else getting punished. That was a one-way ticket to getting punished myself.

“Trainees, listen up! I am Quintis, your Senior Drill Instructor! From now on, you will speak only when spoken to, and the first and last words out of the dung pit you all call your mouths will be sir! Do you slimes understand me!?”

“Sir, yes sir!” We sounded off, some of us more with it than others. A few “understood”, and at least two “affirmative” replaced “yes”, but for the most part we were in unison.

“For the next two years you will sleep here! Learn here! And if the gods smile upon us, some of you might become good enough to be a Ranger! Just know, at any time, anytime of day or night at all, you maggots can crawl over to that silver gong over there and tap it! If you do, you are free! Free from sleeping in the mud, the leeches in your boots, the worms in your food! Free to go back to the villa, and enjoy all the wonderful luxuries every god and goddess has seen fit to place on this beautiful planet! Free to enjoy the life each and every one of you is capable of living, with your skills and abilities! You will also be paid a frankly ludicrous amount of money for no longer wasting my time! The sooner you quit, the more you get! Do you understand me!?”

“Sir, yes sir!” Another cry came out, more unified.

The purpose of the villa became crystal clear with his statement. It wasn’t a trap, really. It was more of a lure, a way to see who couldn’t tough it out, who’d rather have a life of ease and luxury instead of the hardships of being a Ranger.

It made sense. Anyone who’d give up at the hardships now, was likely to give up during the hardships on the road. By making it as nice as possible, anyone who’d choose a life of ease, a life of luxury, over being a Ranger, over the Ranger’s mission, would be selected and filtered out.

It could also be an anti-corruption measure. Who would be tempted by wealth, luxury, ease, women, men? The only temptation not present was power.

It’s why Arthur couldn’t tell me to get comfortable – he didn’t want to see me get used to that standard of living, to be drawn back to it.

A commotion came from the back, louder than before.

“but-“

“Don’t care! You’re out! Get! Onto the boat with you, you’re being shipped out.”

Must. Not. Look.

From the sounds of the yelling and the instructors, genius back there had decided he didn’t need to show up to formation, was too busy enjoying himself, and had mouthed off to the instructors. He was being thrown out as a result.

Idiot.

The Senior Drill Instructor continued to yell at us for a bit, and the short version was as follows. Over the next week or so, we’d get the bare-bone basics of how to do basic army things, for those of us without proper, formal training. Most of the people coming in from the army had already done that, but about a third were ‘external’, and needed to learn some really basic stuff, like saluting, marching, and other basics.

Then would be three months of hell, which caused the instructor to stop swearing every three words, and almost gleefully told us everything about it. Training, 22 hours a day, being pushed to our limits and past them. Sleep? Sleep might happen, now and then. Maaaybe 4 hours a week, if we were lucky. Food? Yeah, we might get some rations here and there. If the instructors felt we’d earned it.

For three months.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw someone wavering, starting to show cracks at the mere description of what we were going to go through. I had bets on him not making it. If hearing about it was causing that much indecision?

After much yelling and hollering, which was somehow incredibly boring but I forced myself to focus on it, we were told to fall out, get in lines, and have a conversation with one of the instructors.

We did what we were told, and ended up in roughly 50 lines of 10 people each. I ended up in Quintis’s line, and when it was my turn, I stood in front of him and saluted.

“Sir! Trainee Elaine reporting as ordered. Sir!”

Good first impression, good first impression, don’t get on the Senior Drill Instructors bad side.

“Give me 200 burpees peanut!” Quintis promptly yelled at me.

I hated burpees. Pushup, followed by jumping in the air, only to go right back down to a pushup. I did what he said anyways.

“Do you know why you’re doing burpees!?” Quintis yelled at me.

“Sir!” pant, get a breath in. “no sir!”

“You are not Trainee Elaine! You are Ranger Elaine, and will refer to yourself as such! Do you understand me?”

“Sir! Yes sir!” I yelled out, as I did the standing up part of a burpee.

“Ranger Julius saw fit to promote you. Now, you weren’t one of mine, but now you will be. However! Until your pansy ass quits Academy, you are a Ranger, and will not besmirch the name by referring to yourself by anything else! Are we clear?” Quintis yelled at me.

“Sir! Yes sir!” I yelled back.

I had a feeling that I had a bunch of eyes on me at this point. Dammit all. So much for trying to stay relatively low-profile. At the very least, Quintis, maybe, possibly seemed to vaguely be happy that I was here, and didn’t seem to massively hate that I’d become a Ranger outside of his precious Academy.

“Right then. Ranger Elaine. I need a report on the following. Can you swim? Can you read? Can you write? Do you know your numbers? Can you….”

A long, long list of questions came from Quintis, and I answered to the best of my ability, while still doing burpees.

I could swim, read, write. I could march, salute, dig a latrine, couldn’t build a fortification. Made me a bit of an oddball, and Quintis muttered to himself on that one, although apparently, I wasn’t the only one. Kids of soldiers usually missed fortification building as well. I couldn’t sail, my knots were terrible, my wilderness survival passable, my first aid knowledge top-tier. I had an aura. A dozen other questions, probing to see what I could already do, what I’d need training on.

I felt pleased by my answers, the knowledge I had coming in. I’d gotten a thorough practical education on my way here from Julius and the team, and upon reflection, it was like what they taught me had been tailored just for here and now.

Which it kinda was. They were teaching me practical Ranger skills, and Ranger Academy was all about being taught practical Ranger skills.

I was an offensive mage + support, and I wouldn’t classify myself as a physical fighter or utility. Strange how Support and Utility were broken out into separate groups, but six of one, half dozen of another, and I was considered to be Support. I didn’t have any animal companions, or any ‘other’.

“Right, last questions. Do you have binding or restrictive skills?”

I blinked. Was this a standard question? Was this a-

“Ranger Elaine! Stop standing there with your thumb up your ass and answer the gods-damned question!”

Right.

“Sir! I have a powerful restrictive [Oath], surrounding harm, fighting, and healing. Sir!”

“Well spit it out! I haven’t got all day!”

Ah curses.

I recited the [Oath] as I continued to do a burpee, the physical exertion making it hard to talk. One moment I was talking to Quintis’s face, the next I was detailing [Oath] to the ground, whispering my secrets to Gaia. I did get a whistle out of Quintis for my efforts though.

“Right, you’re going to be handed off to Night eventually.” He said, forgetting to curse me out in the middle.

“What are you still doing here Ranger Elaine!? Get out of here! Next!”

After some time milling around on the field, we were called into formation again.

“All of you are Ranger Trainees! As a result, you selkie-looking slimes should all be offered the skill, [Ranger’s Lore] as of… now! Take it! It’s an upgrade of [Soldier’s Solidarity], and will be one of the most useful skills you worthless heathens will ever see!”

“You will also be judged by how high you get it!”

“Basic training starts tomorrow! You shit-stains are all dismissed!” Quintis yelled, freeing us.

I headed back to my room, not wanting to mingle, checking over my level up notifications.

[*Ding!* Congratulations! [Training] has reached level 4!]

….

[*Ding!* Congratulations! [Training] has reached level 11!]

[*Ding!* Congratulations! [Learning] has reached level 149!]

[*Ding!* Congratulations! [Medicine] has reached level 185!]

[*Ding!* Congratulations! [Center of the Galaxy] has reached level 161!]

[*Ding!* Congratulations! [Ranger’s Lore] has reached level 142!]

[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: 142]

[Training: 11]

[Learning: 149]

 

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A note from Selkie

If this chapter feels short - it's because it is. A massive, 800+ word scene got cut from this chapter for being, quite frankly, bad. The end result was dropping this chapter length to much shorter than usual. 

Happens. Rarely, but it happens. At least I wasn't axing an entire chapter - I've done that now and then and it's painful. 


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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