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A note from Selkie

2/2

Poll at the end

I snuck out the back, not wanting to get trapped in the triage section in the front. Now that I was no longer getting myself in a position to help, [Oath] would demand I stop and heal people, and given my immediate proximity to the healing tent, I had a few minor issues getting out, mostly around pausing people heading that way, regardless of severity, and fixing them up.

I made it back to find Toxic eating, Night just hanging out, a set of soldier’s rations – triple the norm, standard for a heavy mage - out for me.

“Ranger Elaine. Welcome back. Sit, eat. How was it?” Night asked me.

I sighed, and tucked in with gusto.

“Some hiccups getting in. Idiot guard wouldn’t let me get a word in sideways about being a healer. After that, relatively smooth sailing, although escaping was a hair tricky.”

Night nodded.

“Excellent. Toxic’s already reported back.”

Arthur grunted.

“I’ve fired thousands of those poisoned arrows out. It’s still going to take months, if not years, of doing this before we see results.” He griped.

“Help me out.” I said, around a mouthful of bread that I’d torn into with bestial ferocity. “What’s different this time from the usual attempts to poison these monsters, which I have to assume has been done before.”

Arthur nodded.

“Yup! Our best guess is, a long time ago someone tried poison. It didn’t work too well. Then a more lethal, faster-acting poison was developed. Eventually, we hit upon something strong enough to kill the Formorians before they hit the shield-wall of the frontline soldiers – anything slower than that wasn’t worth it. Problem was, it was also pretty damn toxic to our soldiers. It was refined, improved, and we hit on a poison that was cheap mana-wise, fast-acting, and had almost no impact on our soldiers. We’ve been sticking to that for hundreds of years now. Sure, once in awhile someone will try a slowing, or a sleep, or a confusion, or some other type of crippling poison, but it turns out flat-out killing them is the most effective use of mana. We didn’t try to develop it further from there, we’d hit upon what we thought was peak efficiency.”

“However, it’s clear that the poison used doesn’t really impact whatever recycling of the bodies the Formorians do. I’ve been working on a poison, with your help and the System, to hopefully manage to get back to the Queens, killing them once and for all, ending the threat of the Formorians.”

I sat there, munching on the cheese – slightly stale – as I processed what Arthur was saying.

It clicked.

“Hang on, you’re talking about genocide.” I said, slowly dawning horror at the realization.

Arthur thought about it for a moment, then nodded.

“Yeah.”

“Ranger Elaine. We have been locked in conflict with the Formorians for centuries. It is clear this only ends with one of us ended as a species.” Night said.

“Maybe, but – this is genocide.” I said, voice laced with horror, cheese dropping from my grip.

“Yes. Do you have a problem with killing the creatures attempting to end us all?” Night asked.

“No, but I have a problem with trying to make them extinct!” I said, getting up to my feet, looking around. Didn’t they get it?

“Tens of thousands of other solutions have been tried. Each and every one of them has failed. They will not negotiate. They will not relent. There is nothing there but hunger, and a desire to see us all dead. Please, Ranger Elaine, enlighten us. What else is there?”

“There has to be something apart from fucking genocide!” I shouted. “I’m not participating in this.”

“Are you sure you wish to declare that?” Night said.

“Yes.”

“Even if we should strip your Ranger qualifications, pitch you from Academy, and leave you here, with barely the clothes on your back, for defying my orders?”

I froze at that. I remember the last time someone had considered one of Night’s orders a suggestion - thrown into the ocean. Night did not like being disrespected, nor his orders ignored.

His arguments about what needed to be done with the Formorians wasn’t wrong, either. I couldn’t object to a solution without presenting a better one – that was just poor form.

But no matter what, I couldn’t condone genocide. I couldn’t participate. I had to have some lines, even in this line of work, that I wouldn’t cross. Some ethics, even not [Oath]-restricted, that I stuck with.

Heart pounding, tears forming in my eyes, I saluted Night.

“Sir! Yes, even then.”

I closed my eyes, waiting for the hammer to drop. I could only hope that he threw me into the “safe” half, and didn’t decide to just directly feed me to the Formorians.

Instead, I heard a hissing laughter.

“Very well, little otter. It is good to have some ethics, some morals, even if they are, ah, inconvenient. Far better than your mentor, Artemis, who I had some concerns that you would follow.”

“However, you still stand because they are merely inconvenient. Challenge me on a greater issue, and I shall not be nearly so lenient, nor tolerant of your beliefs.”

Night paused a moment, collecting his thoughts.

“To be clear, you shall not interfere with Toxic’s mission?”

I was going to have a heart attack with how fast my heart was going. I hit myself with [Vastness of the Stars], just to try and keep my composure. And not have my heart explode on me. Be bad for my health. Although, with my healing, and having recently fixed my broken spine, it wasn’t impossible to…

I refocused on Night, answering his question.

“Sir! I won’t interfere. Simply not participate.”

Night nodded.

“Alright. However, there is a greater mission which you need to focus on, between bouts of combat. Namely, you need to check to make sure what Toxic is doing isn’t blowing back on us, and isn’t poisoning us as badly or worse than it is the Formorians. Given the mechanism involved – poisoned arrows fired a long distance – I do not believe this is as significant of a risk as some of the other poisons we have tried over the years, but it never hurts to be safe, to be careful. Now and then, I ask you to wander around, talk with other healers, see if they have noticed an uptick in poisoned soldiers or the like.”

I mean, we didn’t always know what we were healing, one of the joys of magical healing. But yeah, I could keep an eye out for a new disease which could be linked to what Arthur was doing.

I saluted, happy and excited to be able to do something I wanted to do, to help with something not conflicting with my ethics. Being a check that the poison expert didn’t start murdering our side was the perfect job for me.

“Of course I’d be more than happy to!”

 

“Very good. We shall continue. Tonight. For now, I believe we could all use a rest.”

I collapsed on a seat, like a puppet with its strings cut, hardly believing what had happened. I’d opposed Night, and somehow survived. For now.

 

We fell into a rhythm pretty quickly – Wake up at dusk, eat breakfast/dinner, head out to the frontlines, blast away for hours, return as the sun rose, blow the last of my mana healing people, make it back to the tent, have a brief chat with Arthur and Night, repeat.

A week passed like this, then Night was ready to leave, to head back towards the capital. He had a few parting words for us.

“Ranger Elaine. This is a valuable chance you have been offered. Do not squander it. You will likely be offered a class-up for your [Pyromancer] class in the near future. I’d encourage you to not take it, if you have any intention of taking [Ranger-Mage] as your next class. Wait. Allow your [Ranger’s Lore] to rise, which shall boost the power of [Ranger-Mage]. Additionally, your [Constellation of the Healer] will assist with the additional stats. The experience does not vanish into the ether, it builds and accumulates.”

“Wait on spending your free stats, unless an emergency occurs. I shall think upon where is best for you to allocate them.” Night said, giving me some solid advice.

“Toxic. Do not be afraid to try new things, different things. You have proven yourself, time and time again. Failure is acceptable. I’d rather this take thirty years, and succeed, than to fail because you tried to accomplish it in three. Do not pressure yourself too harshly.”

 

With that, Night left with Sky.

Then it was just me and Arthur. We switched to a saner daytime schedule, and Nature occasionally joined us, a massive, hulking, silent figure. He didn’t say much, but clearly wanted some companionship now and then, and to listen to more of my stories that I told during our downtime.

We spent until late Spring like this, our backpacks of Arcanite finishing recharging right as the last one was spent. The ability to cast like I had unlimited mana did ridiculous things for my experience. I don’t think it was possible to design a better leveling experience – and maybe that was the point. Night was right; this was the chance of a lifetime. Months passed. The leveling was epic.

[*Ding!* Congratulations! [Constellation of the Healer] has leveled up to level 213! +10 Free Stats, +15 Mana, +15 Mana Regen, +15 Magic power, +15 Magic Control from your Class! +1 Free Stat for being Human! +1 Mana, +1 Mana Regen from your Element!]

[*Ding!* Congratulations! [Constellation of the Healer] has leveled up to level 240! +10 Free Stats, +15 Mana, +15 Mana Regen, +15 Magic power, +15 Magic Control from your Class! +1 Free Stat for being Human! +1 Mana, +1 Mana Regen from your Element!]

[*Ding!* Congratulations! [Pyromancer] has leveled up to level 114! +5 Free Stats, +14 Mana, +8 Mana Regen, +14 Magic power, +8 Magic Control from your Class! +1 Free Stat for being Human! +1 Strength from your Element!]

[*Ding!* Congratulations! [Pyromancer] has leveled up to level 128! +5 Free Stats, +14 Mana, +8 Mana Regen, +14 Magic power, +8 Magic Control from your Class! +1 Free Stat for being Human! +1 Strength from your Element!]

[*Ding!* Congratulations! [Celestial Affinity] has reached level 240!]

[*Ding!* Congratulations! [Warmth of the Sun] has reached level 194!]

[*Ding!* Congratulations! [Warmth of the Sun] has reached level 198!]

[*Ding!* Congratulations! [Medicine] has reached level 193!]

[*Ding!* Congratulations! [Medicine] has reached level 202!]

[*Ding!* Congratulations! [Center of the Galaxy] has reached level 213!]

[*Ding!* Congratulations! [Center of the Galaxy] has reached level 233!]

[*Ding!* Congratulations! [Phases of the Moon] has reached level 213!]

[*Ding!* Congratulations! [Phases of the Moon] has reached level 240!]

[*Ding!* Congratulations! [Moonlight] has reached level 181!]

[*Ding!* Congratulations! [Moonlight] has reached level 240!]

Moonlight: Range: 24 Meters. 89.6% Increased cost/meter.

After capping [Pyromancer] I’d been more inclined to spend mana getting [Moonlight] up to speed, than throwing more fireballs into the unending horde. Didn’t stop me from doing it, but my priorities had shifted.

[Veil] hadn’t leveled at all. I hadn’t needed to use it.

[Vastness] was also unused, and I was starting to think about axing the skill if a good skill was offered to me.

All of my [Pyromancer] skills capped, which given how much I’d practiced the skills without getting good [Pyromancer] experience in the past, made sense.

Also, with the sheer number of [Fireball]’s I’d thrown.

[*Ding!* Congratulations! [Identify] has reached level 134!]

[*Ding!* Congratulations! [Identify] has reached level 136!]

 

[*Ding!* Congratulations! [Recollection of a Distant Life] has reached level 157!]

[*Ding!* Congratulations! [Recollection of a Distant Life] has reached level 159!]

[*Ding!* Congratulations! [Vigilant] has reached level 193!]

[*Ding!* Congratulations! [Vigilant] has reached level 195!]

I was a little surprised at that. Turned out, it only really did anything when I was moving through camp. The Formorians just didn’t seem to care enough to trigger the skill. Other people though? According to my skills, they were the real threat.

[*Ding!* Congratulations! [Oath of Elaine to Lyra] has reached level 200!]

Another surprise. My best guess were my scrolls still circulating around, or people taking my [Oath] starting to funnel experience to me.

[*Ding!* Congratulations! [Ranger’s Lore] has reached level 174!]

[*Ding!* Congratulations! [Ranger’s Lore] has reached level 182!]

Training didn’t move an inch. Maybe it was because I was acting as a Ranger, not a Trainee? It’s not like I was training for anything, more than I was standing and blasting ants. Not exactly Ranger training.

[*Ding!* Congratulations! [Learning] has reached level 213!]

[*Ding!* Congratulations! [Learning] has reached level 214!]

The lectures from Night had done most of the work, and little bits I learned about life on the frontlines did the rest.

I was more than pleased with the opportunity I’d been given, and I think Night would agree – I hadn’t squandered my chance.

And hey! My birthday was around the corner!

[Name: Elaine]

[Race: Human]

[Age: 17]

[Mana: 35460/35460]

[Mana Regen: 36219]

Stats

[Free Stats: 1032]

[Strength: 184]

[Dexterity: 210]

[Vitality: 297]

[Speed: 220]

[Mana: 3546]

[Mana Regeneration: 3967]

[Magic Power: 3079]

[Magic Control: 3406]

[Class 1: [Constellation of the Healer - Celestial: Lv 240]]

[Celestial Affinity: 240]

[Warmth of the Sun: 198]

[Medicine: 202]

[Center of the Galaxy: 233]

[Phases of the Moon: 240]

[Moonlight: 240]

[Veil of the Aurora: 212]

[Vastness of the Stars: 139]

[Class 2: [Pyromancer - Fire: Lv 128]+]

[Fire Affinity: 128]

[Fire Resistance: 128]

[Fire Conjuration: 128]

[Fire Manipulation: 128]

[Fuel for the Fire: 128]

[Burn Brightly: 128]

[Rapidash: 128]

[Fireball: 128]

[Class 3: Locked]

General Skills

[Identify: 136]

[Recollection of a Distant Life: 159]

[Pretty: 130]

[Vigilant: 195]

[Oath of Elaine to Lyra: 200]

[Ranger's Lore: 182]

[Training: 160]

[Learning: 212]

 

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A note from Selkie

To be clear, next chapter picks up right where this one left off.


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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