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A note from Selkie

A reminder: There's an art contest going on! https://www.patreon.com/posts/48122499

I have one submission right now, which is a meme. 

Chapter 132 – Returning Home II

The river had been moderately exciting. I kept hoping to hear a thread of adventure, of an injustice that needed to be rightened, but nope. Nada. Nothing. No great adventure to go on. It was a relief.

I did manage to get a bunch of healing in, and spending time at the river was more fun when I wasn’t scrubbing clothes or waiting for things to dry. I had mixed feelings on being at the center of attention. Back in Aquiliea, I’d been angry and miserable, convinced the world was out to get me, still feeling raw and aching from Lyra’s death. I’d turned down what I now recognized were genuine overtures at friendship, content to simply withdraw into myself.

I’d done more than a bit of growing up since then.

It didn’t stop the constant smiling, the touching and healing everyone who asked ‘just in case’, nor the non-stop barrage of questions from being draining and tiring, but it wasn’t the massive chore I had made it on myself before.

Heck – dare I say it – that type of socializing was almost…

Almost…

…nice?

 

Either way, I’d spent three days there, before bailing once word had spread I was hanging out here, healing everyone who asked. The area had started to turn more into “The place to meet Sentinel Dawn” rather than “The place to do laundry”, and I was starting to get the stink eye.

Plus, nobody could say I hadn’t filled my promise!

Had to keep that in mind though – where everyone was gathering to do chores together was a fantastic area of communication, where anything happening in a town was chattered about.

How had I forgotten that?

One of the women had been so grateful that I’d healed not only her, but all her kids as well, that she offered to fix up what I was calling my “disguise tunic”. Basically, I went from “obviously wearing full armor under bad clothing” to “pudgy body with a slender face”.

As long as I wasn’t wearing my sword under it, I looked fine. My potion satchel also fit under, no problem.

Which was apparently an ideal body shape for Remus. When everyone was skinny, having a few extra pounds was attractive.

Weird how cultures work that way.

Long story short – well, medium as it may be – I’d left Deva, jogged over to the next town over, lamenting my lack of [Running], spent a night camping next to a ring of mushrooms, and entered the town without too much trouble.

I was wandering around as Healer Elaine, working on getting back to the capital. Healer Elaine would naturally need some bodyguards – and on a practical note, they could help me deflect some problems – however, the ‘temporary bodyguard’ market was slim.

Slender.

One could even call it non-existent, especially for a one-way trip like I wanted.

Especially when I wanted to keep my secret identity. Mostly out of “I don’t want to be bugged.”

Which is how I found myself in front of the worst building in any town. The last place I ever wanted to be. A wretched hive of scum and villainy, where no person of repute ever found employment.

The Adventurer’s Guild.

I hesitated at the doorway. Did I really need bodyguards…? I could just do this on my own…?

“Hey sweetcheeks! Wanna have a good time?” Someone passing on the street catcalled to me.

I entered. Fuck it. I was going to get someone or three to, at the very least, handle catcallers. Adventurers were pretty low on my totem pole. Catcallers were even lower.

Dirt and bacteria were above both. They were at least useful most of the time!

Also, adventurers could be used as a ‘face’, aka, I wouldn’t need to negotiate passage on a ship. I could get someone else to do it for me, someone who wouldn’t be looked down on, condescended to, or just flat-out denied based on appearances.

Even if they were – it was their problem to handle. Not mine.

I looked around. I was expecting dirt and grime, a seedy-looking place three seconds away from lawlessness, if not outright brawls. Instead, I got a relatively clean, if sparse, room, a few tables and chairs scattered around. A counter, with a few clerks – one in a heated argument with a team of three, them gesturing to a pelt of some sort and yelling loudly, the clerk with a stubborn look on his face.

A number of low-lives adventurers were hanging around the room, generally with some misshapen set of armor and weapons, no real rhyme or reason to anything they had. A large board dominated one of the walls, color-coded pieces of paper with words and pictures on them scattered throughout.

Probably the quests. My bet? Pictures for the ones that couldn’t read, while the words had the details. A white piece of paper had a picture of a skull and crossbones – some signs were fairly universal – a picture of a slime, then twenty smaller slimes under it. I took a quick peek.

E-Rank Quest.

Slay 20 slimes in the sewers.

32 coin reward.

Seemed fairly straightforward.

“Hey! Healer chick!” Someone called to me. I turned to them, grumpy.

“What?” I snapped at him.

“Wanna join our team?” The dude asked – a level 180 [Warrior].

“No.” I said.

“Aww, come on, don’t-“

“I’m here to give a quest, not take one.” I said curtly, ducking under his arm and stomping over to the desk. Bah.

“Hiya! I heard something about giving a quest?” The [Adventurer’s Clerk] asked me.

“Yes. Hoping for an escort from here to the capital.” I said.

“Ok. Are you expecting to be moved there, or do you have transportation?”

“Hoping to book passage on a boat or something.”

The [Adventurer’s Clerk] made some notes.

“Anyone or anything after you?”

“Errr… not to my knowledge.” I said. Kerberos’s dad might have a mild grudge against me, but I didn’t even know if he’d gotten the news yet. Non-Sentinel, non-courier travel was slow, and I didn’t see the news rating a high priority message.

I got a skeptical look at that.

“Any bounties on you?”

Hmmm. That was an interesting question. Was there a standing bounty on Sentinels? Did some criminal organization want our heads? Was there some dark, shady slave ring that’d pay thousands of rods to be able to say they sold a Sentinel?

“Not from the government.” I eventually hedged.

That got me a raised eyebrow, and a few chuckles from people overhearing.

Furious scribbling at that – much longer than what I’d said.

“Want to tell us why you’re going to the capital? There’s a premium on secrecy.”

“Um. Going home?” I said, not quite sure how to answer that.

I got another flat look.

“Ok. Want to tell us how you ended up here?”

“By boat? Or ship? Never can remember the difference between the two.”

The poor clerk.

“Right, I’ma call that a half-secret.”

I thought fast. I didn’t want to spend more money than I had to.

“I mean, my prior escort bailed on me, wanting to teach me a lesson.” I said with a straight face.

Sounds of laughter from behind me.

“Yeah… that’s going to increase the price.” The [Adventurer’s Clerk] told me.

Dammit!

“Do you want a small, medium, or large escort? And do you want it to be A, B, or C ranked?”

“Lemme guess. Higher ranked is more expensive, bigger is more expensive.”

I got a look of “Well duh”, but to the clerk’s credit, he smiled and kept on going.

“Naturally!”

“Could I pay some with healing? Like, old injuries, restored limbs, etc?”

“I’ll make a note of it, and you can negotiate with anyone who wants to take it.”

“Speaking of, how does it work from my end?”

“Well, people or groups come up, asking to take the quest. We vet them, to make sure they meet our standards. For example, if you ask for A-rank adventurers, we wouldn’t allow C-ranks to take it. However, if a B-rank wants to take a C-rank quest, we’ll let them. At which point, we’ll send them to you, and if you’re happy, they’re hired. You give us the money, and they get half the pay now, half later. You’re also expected to pay for transportation, but they’re expected to pay for their own provisions.”

He paused a moment, then went into “standard speech” mode.

“The Adventurer’s Guild can’t guarantee the safety of anyone, nor will its members commit suicide in the face of unreasonable odds. Additionally, for slaying or retrieval quests, adventurers may bail at any time. Payment on those quests is only delivered upon completion anyways.”

Yeah, yeah.

Seemed reasonable. I didn’t really need an escort. I needed warm bodies to run interference, and smooth my path.

“I’ll take a C-rank small team.” I said.

“You sure?” The [Adventurer’s Clerk] said.

I then got a long up-sell pitch, which I finally killed by relenting.

“Fine, fine, B-rank small team. If it’s not too pricey.” I said.

I was named a price.

I thought on how many coins I had on me, and how much passage on a boat for four people probably cost.

“Nevermind. C-Rank.” I said. “Can’t afford the B-Rank.”

“Well…” The clerk looked slightly embarrassed.

The price dropped. I gave him a glare, for trying to fleece me.

The price dropped a teeny tiny amount more.

“Fine. Also mention a quarter of the price off for anyone who needs serious healing beforehand.”

Not said – I’d heal them anyways if they asked, and really needed it. I wasn’t about to stoop to their level, and not help people who couldn’t pay.

But, hey, if I could get a free escort out of it? That was a form of payment.

“What can you heal?” He asked.

I grinned.

“Everything.”

Not entirely true, but anyone who made it to be an adventurer in the first place had injuries I could treat.

==

They had little spartan rooms, both for adventurers looking for a place to crash, and for people like me, people requesting an escort mission and who didn’t want to go haring all over the place.

A small escort was looking for 3-5 people, and with the rank, and relative ease of the mission, it wasn’t long before I had the first person knocking on my door.

“Enter!” I said. Job Interviewer Elaine here!

Manager Elaine?

Oh gods no.

HR Elaine!?

I’d lived too long. I’d seen myself become the villain.

A giant of a man – well, like, two heads shorter than Arthur, but a bit broader – walked in.

“Here for the escort mission.” He said, looking at me with a half-sneer. “Just do what I tell you, and I’ll get your pretty little head back to the capital, safe and sound.”

I blinked at him, taken slightly aback.

“Would you listen to me in a fight or a pinch?”

He snorted at me.

“Fuck no.”

“Alright. Next!” I said.

“But-“ He looked crestfallen, surprised that I dare have the gall to deny his request.

“I have no intention of working with someone who can’t listen to me.”

“But you can’t fight!” He protested.

Ah shit. Was my cover blown? Healer Elaine couldn’t fight.

Meh. I just needed people willing to listen to me, and at the bare minimum, he didn’t treat me with respect.

“Out.” I said firmly, pointing to the door, suddenly realizing I was kinda trapped in here.

Or… not. I still had [Wall Buster].

Hmmmm. Good to remember.

My quest was popular, but my “incredibly high standards” – AKA “Listen to me” – meant it took some time to get my team ready.

Brutus, a bare-knuckle brawler who mostly wanted the free passage to the capital. He took the healing discount option, and I fixed a half dozen poorly set broken bones, and a dozen more cracked ones.

What was the dude doing!?

Either way, he was a level 170 [Warrior]. Sure!

Cassia, who’d lost her arm somewhere along the line. She’d been trying hard to earn enough money to afford a healer, and would’ve done anything to be healed.

She’d gotten demoted to D-rank after losing her arm, and D-rank quests barely paid for the necessities of life, forget about amassing enough money for an expensive Light healer. She’d been given special dispensation to apply, since with two arms she was a lean, mean B-ranker.

She almost strangled me with joy when I fixed her arm.

“Don’t… kill... employer…” I’d gasped out, pounding on her back.

She probably felt the armor under my disguise tunic, but said nothing.

“You’re the best! I’ma start off by staying right here to stop anyone getting ideas!” She said, immediately leaning back on a chair like a tightly wound tiger, spinning a pair of knives in either hand, still flexing and looking at her new arm like it was a miracle.

In many senses, it was a miracle for her.

Another [Warrior], although I was pretty sure at this point that there was no [Rogue] designation or anything similar. I didn’t see her in a straight up brawl, more being clever and slipping a knife past defenses. Level 180ish.

Not that I saw us fighting.

Atticus was last, with a fierce little protoavis on his shoulder. He seemed unwilling to listen to orders, but…

“By the goddesses, he’s so cute!” I said, moving my finger in front of his protoavis, perched on his shoulders, wing-arms gripping the dude’s mop of black hair.

He burped, and a small little puff of fire came out.

“Whoops, haha, sorry.” Atticus said. “He does that all the time.”

“So cute!” I squealed over him.

…I was a total sucker for it.

He was a [Ranger], although I didn’t see a bow or anything. Maybe he had a class related to his absolutely adorable little beastie, and that was enough? Around level 150, seemed low, but then again, there was his protoavis, which was also 150. I vaguely remembered something about bonded companions always being fixed at your level, with how experience was shared and what not.

I should learn more about what classes got what designation. At what point did an [Artisan] making potions turn into a [Healer] designation? At what point did an all-rounder class ID as [Warrior] versus [Ranger]?

Interesting questions for another day! I’d have to bug Maximus when he was next in town, that seemed to be exactly the sort of thing he would know.

Cassia rolled her eyes, but to her credit, didn’t say anything. It wouldn’t surprise me if she was having some doubts – after all, I didn’t seem to be taking this all that seriously.

Didn’t really feel I needed to.

With my nominal escort assembled, it was time for the next challenge – finding a ship to take us!

[Name: Elaine]

[Race: Human]

[Age: 18]

[Mana: 49920/49920]

[Mana Regen: 40656 (+13370.7)]

Stats

[Free Stats: 40]

[Strength: 236]

[Dexterity: 203]

[Vitality: 560]

[Speed: 480]

[Mana: 4992]

[Mana Regeneration: 4708 (+1337.072)]

[Magic Power: 4351 (+44815.3)]

[Magic Control: 4351 (+44815.3)]

[Class 1: [Constellation of the Healer - Celestial: Lv 244]]

[Celestial Affinity: 244]

[Warmth of the Sun: 199]

[Medicine: 210]

[Center of the Galaxy: 236]

[Phases of the Moon: 244]

[Moonlight: 244]

[Veil of the Aurora: 212]

[Vastness of the Stars: 139]

[Class 2: [Ranger-Mage - Radiance: Lv 180]]

[Radiance Affinity: 180]

[Radiance Resistance: 180]

[Radiance Conjuration: 180]

[Radiance Manipulation: 180]

[Sun-Kissed: 142]

[Blaze: 180]

[Talaria: 161]

[Nova: 180]

[Class 3: Locked]

General Skills

[Identify: 136]

[Recollection of a Distant Life: 159]

[Pretty: 135]

[Bullet Time: 189]

[Oath of Elaine to Lyra: 206]

[Sentinel's Superiority: 201]

[Persistent Casting: 45]

[Learning: 244]

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A note from Selkie

"Adventurers"

I am unreasonably excited for Friday's chapter.


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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