I made my way back to my room as the sun fell, the moons starting to slowly rise, slitted pupils watching this part of my journey. I grabbed a quick meal from one of the platters lying around, and contemplatively munched on it. If I had to guess, from the way some of the other recruits were busy eating earlier, and the various hints dropped by Artemis, combined with sheer logic, that the hell months didn’t feed us enough.

I nodded to myself. That made sense.

As I fixed myself my own sandwich – I still had to teach other people how to make them – I considered my plan of attack. Would it be better to scuff as much as I could now, then have the sharp fall-off once the hell months started? Or was it better to start weaning myself now, to not have that sharp spike of hunger pains at the start?

I wandered into my room, still lost in my own thoughts.

What about sleep? No way we weren’t going to get sleep deprived, not with how often I’d pulled watch, not with how often we’d gone gallivanting off in the middle of the night to handle some crisis or another. Should I start weaning myself down now, or-

My musing was interrupted as someone entered my room.

“Hey you. Want some of this?” A shirtless man said, indicating to himself.

I couldn’t help pulling a disgusted face at him.

“Ug, no.” I said. “Please leave.”

“Aww come on, don’t be like-“ He started to say, only to get interrupted by a hiss.

I’d heard snakes of all stripes in the Kadan Jungle. I’d heard louder hisses, meaner hisses, and the sound and cadence of the noise made me think of a snake.

However, none of their noises broke, shattered [Center of the Galaxy] in quite the same way. None of them brought about a deep, primal fear, rooted in my very bones, fight-or-flight instinct screaming at me to move, to run, to flee for my life.

I couldn’t move a limb, the fear was paralyzing, an apex predator here for me. There was no running. There was no hiding. There was no fighting. There was only groveling.

A second man entered the room – fully clothed bless him – and he was a pale, thin man, with red eyes and white hair, stalking forward with his hands clasped behind his back. My guess was he had albinism.

Softly, oh so softly, he spoke, every word defying how I knew sound should work, piercing through the static background noise, he spoke.

“Did you not hear the lady? Your presence is neither requested nor desired. Leave.”

I seized the moment to [Identify] him. I had to know what I was dealing with.


He was higher-level than the Nothasaurus, by a good chunk. If I had to guess, from all my experiences, he was just shy of level 500.

I wondered – first real class at level 8. Second class at level 64. Was the third class at level 512?

[*ding!* Congratulations! [Identify] has reached level 99!]

I dismissed the notification – it wasn’t supposed to show up during high stress or combat situations.

I suddenly felt a sense of release, as I regained control over my limbs.

“Oh yeah? Who are you? Why should I-“ The man started to bluster.

I gave him a Look, like he was the biggest idiot in the world. Which he might be. Did he not [Identify] the person in front of us? Did he not realize that the person was higher than both our levels combined? Was he one of those idiots who didn’t have [Identify], or was he scared, and simply lashing out?

“I am Night, first among the Sentinels. This is my island. I will brook no disrespect.” He said, and suddenly I was on my knees, bleeding from my ears, unable to hear anything as everything in the room shook.

Night and the man were gone, and I healed myself with [Phases of the Moon], [Center of the Galaxy] kicking back in.

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

I blinked, looking around. It was like a bomb had gone off in here. What had…

With a polite knock on my doorframe – I no longer had a door – Night was present again.

“Please, walk with me.” He politely said, and with the display of power, and his previous declaration, I wasn’t going to say no.

We slowly walked through and out the villa in silence, Night only pausing to request a slave to get my room fixed. The slave’s attitude was telling – deferential, but not terrified. Nor surprised at the damage.

“I apologize for the unpleasantness.” He started off saying, finally breaking the silence. “There always tends to be one who thinks my orders are mere suggestions. They must be reminded of their position.”

I suppressed a shudder. It was clear that Night placed himself above all the other trainees – and for that matter, he might be placing himself above all the other Sentinels. Which, by implication, was placing himself above most of humanity.

“What happened to…” I said, gesturing back towards the villa.

Night snorted.

“He went for a long swim. He should be able to make it. Only about half a mile or so, and the moons are out tonight.”

I looked at him. There wasn’t a drop of water on him. Either he was able to accurately hurl a person half a mile, he could run on water, or he was just so fast that he could towel himself off and change clothes in the brief time he was gone.

Which meant the explosion in my room earlier had been from Night moving that fast, the blast of air so loud, so powerful, it caused a minor explosion. From 0. While carefully accelerating a second, not as durable person.

Fucking hell. What sort of monster was I talking with?

I swallowed a nervous lump in my throat.

“What do you want with me?” I asked, looking directly at him.

He laughed.

“Ah, brave little otter. I wanted to have a discussion on your [Oath]. I am, shall we say, something of an expert on restriction skills, and yours has potential to be problematic during the training that is to come.”

I had never been called an otter before, but if the highest-level human in existence wanted to call me an otter, I’d swim on my back and carry a pebble.

“Restriction skills?” I said, wanting a clarification on the terminology, and there seemed to be no better person to ask.

“Yes. Skills which bind you, and give you power as a result. I am Night. It is an open secret that I am restricted to operating when the sun is not present. The skill strengthens me, empowers me to reach untold heights.”

Which might be why he was such a high level. He could punch far, far higher than normal, and as long as he hunted during the night, he could slay monsters higher level than him, getting a large bonus to exp for punching up. Being able to reliably kill monsters his level also helped.

“My concern is multifold. People will be injured. We need to know who can push through minor injuries, and still accomplish what needs to be done. We can not have individuals get used to being healed now, then find that they falter and fail when present in the field. This will kill many, many Rangers.”

“At the same time, I do not wish to separate you, to put you through a trial of one. It is unfair to everyone involved. You will not bind to the others, develop a sense of comradery. At the same time, you will be resented, accused of acquiring special favors through less savory means. This too, can not be allowed to pass.”

“Tell me. How do we make this work?” Night said.

We walked, taking a slow lap around the villa, as I thought on the problem, fingers tapping against my side.

“Well…. If someone’s at risk of dying, there’s no way I’m not going to try and keep them alive.” I started off saying.

“Acceptable, and please do. We have a pair of healers, but they are not always on-hand, and preventing training accidents is to be desired. My concerns are more low-level injuries, broken bones and the like.”

‘Broken bones’ and ‘low level injuries’ didn’t go together in my book, but this was Night, and his scale and perspective were clearly different.

“If people explicitly ask me to not heal them, I won’t. I believe, for the most part, in self-determination, in letting people make their own choices. Have people ask me to not step in on minor injuries, and I won’t be restricted. Now, if someone comes to me and asks for healing, I will heal them, regardless of the consequences.”

Night gave me a long look, as we continued to walk.

“This is acceptable. Tell me more about overriding people’s choice.”

“When the impact is more than just the person. Perinthus, some people refused healing. They put the entire town at risk, for what? Their ego? Some strange desire to not want help? Some sense of pride? No, at that point, the good of the many outweighed the desire of the few, and they were healed, regardless.”

We walked again in slow, contemplative silence.

“What if you had to let one die, to let two more live? Three? What if you had to kill one person, to save four? Five? At what point does your [Oath] free you, let you make decisions to kill, instead of save?” He finally asked.

I stopped, staring at him, thinking. He stopped, turning, looking at me with those intense eyes.

“I don’t know.” I finally said. “I know I couldn’t deliberately launch an attack on the Classer causing the plague in Perinthus, regardless of the damage he was doing. Fortunately, I had a team to cover me.”

“If your team was not present, what would your course of action have been?” He said, each word carefully articulated.

“Told the guard. Told other healers. I wouldn’t have shouted it from the rooftops – that would’ve sparked a riot. Possibly confronted him, let him launch the first attack, then go from there.” I promptly replied. I’d done a lot of thinking on the subject.

“If you see a powerful archer drawing a bow at you, stacking skills, what could you do?” Night asked me, seemingly changing the subject.

[Veil] to hide myself and block the arrow, move into a different position, evaluate if I should be fighting or running.” I said. Another situation I’d had some thinking on.

“You do not need him to fire first to attack back?” Night asked.

I shook my head.

“It’s clear the archer’s hostile. My [Oath] is restrictive, it doesn’t mean I have to be stupid.”

“What if someone was attempting to merely restrict you, just bind you? They meant you no harm, they simply wished to kidnap a powerful healer.”

“Attack the bindings. Throw up my shield skill. Attacks against my shield are obviously hostile against me, and I can go from there.”

“If said hostile parties chose not to attack your barrier, and simply erected a prison around you?”

I hesitated, not wanting to say that I’d probably be in serious trouble.

“Very well.” Night said, properly interpreting what my silence meant. “The solution is to get your secondary class to the point where the question is meaningless.”

We walked for some more time in contemplative silence.

“Excellent pairing of classes, by the way. It used to be the traditional pairing for healers to take a mage class secondarily. Did you come up with the pairing yourself, or did you discover some account of it with your great joy in reading historical accounts?” Night asked.

I suppressed a shiver. He knew way too much about me. It was kinda creepy.

“I came up with it on my own. Why did the pairing fall out of favor?” I asked.

Night shrugged.

“Pure healers stayed in camps and towns, becoming wealthy. Healer-mages went out and fought. Over time, the healer-mages died out, as those that fight tend to do, and youngsters looking to become healers did some basic calculations. Stay, and become wealthy and respected, or go, and become dead. Is it any wonder that healers ended up entirely backline? Mages get a full sixteen skills to defend themselves against attack with, while healer-mages tend to only have eight. On the other side of the coin, it’s exceptionally rare for those that find themselves with a calling to become a mage deciding to take up the more peaceful mantle of healing.”

“Hence, healer-mages dying out as a combination.”

We continued to walk for a bit, then reached the front of the villa again.

“Miss Elaine. It has been a pleasure. I wish you the best of luck in the coming weeks.” Night formally said. “I do hope none of the earlier unpleasantness will occur again.”

I saluted, knowing when I was being dismissed.

“Thank you Night.” I said, turning and leaving.


The next few days were relatively straightforward. Early wakeup, formation, a run around the island, then get some bare-bone essentials drilled into us, mostly for the benefit of the non-army members who had joined. That way, when the instructors told us to do something, we’d know what exactly they were asking us to do. Break for lunch, more drills, then more laps and light exercise.

The two wolves were hilarious, marching in lockstep behind us with a pair of goofy grins. They didn’t need to, but they were clearly having the time of their lives making fun of us. Or participating. Hard to tell.

I had a brief talk with the owner of the wolves, who said the black one’s name was Moon.

And the white one’s name was Moon.

Why you’d name your two wolves the same thing, I had no idea. I had to stifle a laugh every time he asked “MoonMoon” to do something though. Odds were good, the wrong Moon would do it – and from the glint of mischief in their eyes, it was deliberately to wind Wolfy up.

[Ranger’s Lore], [Learning], and [Training] were all enjoying the current activities, seeing a few points in the first two, and a modest jump in the last one.

We had the first drop out three days in – the dude with the carnivorous plant in the wheelbarrow. He said he couldn’t risk his plant’s health, but I personally, privately thought he was sick of wheeling it around everywhere.

Four more dropped out before the end of the first week, all muttering and complaining about it being “too much.” Too many pushups, too much running, too many orders, just – too much everything. They weren’t given the nasty treatment the first person who’d been thrown out was, but they were somewhat looked down on by the rest of us.

Hey, we were sticking it out, and they were quitting less than a week in. Of course, I’d look down on them somewhat.

I was pleased to see the dude who’d tried harassing me was in the lot. He asked to leave after five days, constantly looking over his shoulder, jumping at every little noise, looking like he’d seen a ghost. Probably just a result of being on the receiving end of Night’s displeasure. Good.

Another day of training wrapped up, and I went to bed, intending to get a full night’s sleep. Tomorrow was the last day before the hell months started. I’d come up with a few ideas, but one in particular stuck with me as I saw people leaving.

[Identify] had severely diminishing returns if you looked at someone you’d already [Identify]’d once. Otherwise you could just sit there and [Identify] the same person for hours on end to grind it up.

With [Training] providing a nice exp boost, and [Learning] most likely going to level up a good amount, I was only going to [Identify] people once they quit, and my chance of IDing them basically vanished. By waiting though, I’d maximize the amount of experience I could get out of them, because [Learning] and [Training] would be higher level.


A crack of lightning woke me up in the middle of the night, along with the all-too-familiar sound of rocks whizzing by, impacting on the ground or pillars, causing an explosion of noise. The primal roar of a sea monster pierced the air, reverberating, striking fear into my heart.

[*ding!* Congratulations! [Vigilant] has reached level 132!]

Not nearly as badly as Night though, and instructors were moving through the villa, yelling at us to move, to run, to fall into formation in front of the building.

Which I promptly did, wondering if Artemis was out there somewhere, throwing lightning bolts and rocks. It was her style.

I got outside, a massive deluge of rain pouring outside of the villa, a shimmering golden barrier separating the villa from the elements. Other trainees were running to the courtyard to fall in. I started to run through, head on a swivel, ducking as a projectile went whizzing over my head.

The duck was unneeded, but I was getting concerned. What was going on here? Were we under attack? Who’d attack Ranger Academy, with some of the Sentinels hanging out? Was it just a monster attack?

I made it to the formation, neither at the front nor the back.

Senior Drill Instructor Quintis walked out to the front of the formation, a cruel grin on his face.

“Welcome Trainees, to the hell months!”

[Name: Elaine]

[Race: Human]

[Age: 16]

[Mana: 17210/17210]

[Mana Regen: 20521]


[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: 185]

[Center of the Galaxy: 161]

[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: 99]

[Recollection of a Distant Life: 131]

[Pretty: 125]

[Vigilant: 132]

[Oath of Elaine to Lyra: 167]

[Ranger's Lore: 144]

[Training: 28]

[Learning: 150]


A note from Selkie

It begins!
Night has no tolerance for harassment on "his" island. 

For those wondering, he YEETED the dude half a mile out. 

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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