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A note from Selkie

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A knock on my door woke me up, after not nearly enough sleep.

Ok, fine, after not nearly enough beauty sleep. I’d been getting way more than enough sleep on the trip home, and it wasn’t like I needed a solid eight hours of sleep, not with my vitality.

I groaned, rolled over, and got up. Morning meeting. Blah. Seems like not even coming off a mission was enough to get me out of it.

I opened the door, going straight to it, finding nobody there. Ocean was three doors down knocking on another door though.

“Morning.” I grunted at him, shuffling over to the living room.

“Morning!” Ocean said, obnoxiously cheerful.

I made it to the meeting-slash-living room, where most of the Sentinels were. My armor – puncture hole and all – was on prominent display in the middle of the room.

Uh oh. That hadn’t started there. Was I in some sort of trouble?

“Dawn. Welcome back.” Night said, as politely and formally as ever.

“Glad to be back!” I tried to muster some cheer up, kinda succeeded, and got ‘tired-cheer’ as my voice.

Ocean came back, shaking his head. Night frowned.

“Well, now that everyone who will be here is here, does anyone have pressing business before we begin Dawn’s after-action report?” Night asked. Formal. Polite. One step at a time.

Carefully checking things off a checklist perfected hundreds of years ago. He never knew what was coming up, even though I had no doubt he’d heard every message and communication already. Still. We all had our own information sources, never knew when something would come up.

Brawling, of all people, half raised his hand, put it down, looked down and blushed, then raised his hand.

“Brawling.” Night said, acknowledging him.

He mumbled something under his breath.

“What?” I asked, not hearing him.

“I said, my badge got stolen!” He cried out, humiliated.

Oh whoops.

Night frowned at him. Acquisition, of all people, jumped into the conversation.

“Night, don’t be too hard on him. It’s the latest game in thieving rings, to target Sentinels and go for their badge. It’s the mark of a master thief, and rumor has it that the System will even reward anyone who pulls it off with better classes.”

Night slowly turned and stared at Acquisition, fixing him with his eyes.

Softly, slowly, dangerously, he spoke.

“Do they not recall what happened the last time they made a game out of stealing Sentinel badges?”

I shivered at that, at his tone. Acquisition awkwardly rubbed his head.

“Erm. When was that? I don’t even know.”

Night paused a moment, processing.

“Not even 200 years ago.”

“Night. Come on. Thieves are semi-organized, but none of their stuff persists. They don’t have long-lasting organizations. There’s no cultural memory on these sorts of things. You could’ve run a purge 40 years ago and they wouldn’t remember!”

Night continued to stare, then deflated.

“Fine. Retrieve Brawling’s badge. Make polite reminders about us being off-limits. Teach them that next time, I will do the reminding, and it shall not be polite.”

A vision flashed through my eyes. Night, like the time we’d fought together on the frontlines, except instead of Formorians, he was standing on piles of dead [Thieves] – the fierce girl who’d tried to rob me staring at me with glassy, dead eyes from the bottom of the pile.

Nope nope nope. 1000% couldn’t let my badge get stolen. I wasn’t going to be the flashpoint for Night giving everyone a “less-friendly reminder”.

“Any other business?”

“Yeah, real fast…” Ocean spoke up. “I think there’s something we all need to do before hearing Dawn’s after-action report. Sealing, would you do the honors?”

Ocean winked at me, before Sealing took action.

Sealing nodded, and a barrier sprang up around me – this one made out of reflective material.

Like. I was technically kinda trapped, but I had no fear. Kind of a dick move, whatever was going on, but if all the Sentinels wanted me dead, or captured, there was literally nothing I could do about it. Plus, Ocean had winked at me. Clearly, there was something fun going on, some surprise being arranged.

For me? Possibly! Some reward for Sentinels completing their first mission? Some “welcome in, you succeeded” tradition?

After a few minutes the barrier dropped, some fading words half-echoing.

Ocean looked like a cat with cream. Everyone else had various looks of greed, avarice, or in Night’s case, exasperation.

“Right. Dawn, report.”

I gave my report, arriving in Deva, the Purple Flower bust – that got no end of laughter – the endless meetings and running around and general giant pain in the ass that was Deva.

“In conclusion,” I said, wrapping Deva up before I got to the ‘returning home’ portion. “I found that I need some helpers, in the same way Magic has artisans working on his gems. I’m not going to be sent on missions for one sick person. I can’t see it happening, not even for a Ranger. Or rather, if they do happen, Sky will drop me off, I’ll heal them, then we’ll turn right around and head back. Either way, irrelevant.”

“I’m going to be sent when there are hundreds, thousands, tens of thousands of people hurt, sick, injured, and generally in need of healing. Spending all of my time running around, trying to organize things is a waste of my time, of my talents, it makes us look bad, and most critically – it doesn’t get people healed.”

I took a deep breath before continuing.

“I could’ve knocked out the plague in a day with the right support network. Two days at most, because I recognize it could take some time. I lucked out this time, it was a shakedown run, to find out how things can go poorly. If this was a disaster where a rapid response was critical, where I was the first on the scene – I can’t be spending my time corralling people. I need helpers.”

“On the helper note – I’ve extended an invitation to [Plague Healer] Caecilius to be a member of my team, exclusively for plague-related problems. I don’t want to go terribly in-depth on the reasoning why – it’s a long, detailed affair for another day – but I believe he’d be useful.”

“The armor! Tell us about the armor!” Sky shouted from mid-air. “Don’t care about your team, we gotta know what happened to your armor!”

Night blurred and next thing I knew, there was a loud crack, and Sky was falling from the wall, groaning.

Night hissed at him.

“Patience while Sentinel Dawn is reporting on her mission, problems, and potential solutions. This may be boring to you. For her, this is her life.

Sky weakly nodded, and I resolved to go round to tap him later. Had to have something cracked at least. Didn’t feel that bad for him, although Night’s reaction might’ve been over the top.

Then again, Night seemed to be in a foul mood right now.

“Getting back was an adventure. After Ocean decided I was going back on my own,” I shot Ocean a foul look at that, which he merrily waved off. “I decided to book passage on a ship. Taking some advice, I decided to travel incognito, not flashing around my status.”

Night nodded. “Wise. A Sentinel, seeing which ship can take her home? A poor look.”

I bit off a smart-ass retort. Night wasn’t in the best of moods. Don’t sass the moody 5,000-year-old vampire.

“Anyways. Since I’m a young, [Pretty] healer, I decided that ‘Healer Elaine’ should have bodyguards or an escort. Grabbed three adventurers from the local guild to act as such.”

Ocean gave me an approving smile.

“They’re solid.”

I shot him a withering look.

“Everything was fine, until we got raided by pirates. They didn’t attempt to board and murder everyone – they were simply ‘taking a toll’, which the merchant was unhappy, but willing to pay.”

Some nodding around the room. Fairly classic tactics.

“Then they decided they wanted a high-level healer slave.”

The room exploded into laughter at that. Sky and Magic were on the floor rolling with laughter. Brawling was giving great guffaws. Bulwark, a thin, reedy man with ink-stained fingers, who looked like he should be an engineer, not a Sentinel, was laughing so hard that he needed to take deep wheezing gasps. Even Night was quietly chuckling.

I explained how the fight went down, including being impaled and barely surviving.

“Wait wait wait no no no.” Sky said, looking crestfallen. “Your armor got broken like that while you were wearing it?”

I looked at him. Everyone was staring at me intently, except for Night, who was rolling his eyes, and Sky, looking down at the ground, kicking some nothing. Hard to kick the ground while in mid-air.

“Er, yup!” I said.

The room exploded with noise, mostly Ocean.

“Ha! Pay up! All of you, pay up!” He cackled, as bags of money flew around the room, from person to person – most of it ending up at his feet.

The coin dropped.

“You were betting on me!” I said, with more than a bit of outrage. The privacy, the secrecy, the “surprise” – nooo, that was just making sure nobody could see me, and I couldn’t put my thumb on the scale while the betting pool of “how did Elaine’s armor get wrecked” was going on.

“Shamelessly.” Ocean said, with more than a bit of smug.

I narrowed my eyes at him.

“Ocean was only able to call it because he got a sneak peek of my skills ahead of time, so he knew I could survive a blow like that.” I announced.

The murderous looks on most of the Sentinel’s face, combined with Ocean’s look going from smug to concerned – priceless.

….

“Ahem.” Night said, after the minor brawl. “Shall we return to business?”

‘First, do no harm.’ Was the start of my [Oath], and while sparring was kosher, brawls were not. Not that I was terribly likely to do well, or survive – Magic had started off by vanishing, Sealing threw up a barrier around himself, and Brawling…

Well. He hadn’t earned the Brawling title by accident.

RIP the furniture. I was getting myself a nice, soft, fur chair, and it was going to stay in my room, where it wouldn’t get wrecked.

“Mistakes Dawn made, and areas of improvement.” Night said, clarifying.

“Got separated from her weapon.” Brawling promptly said.

“I was pushed back! I wasn’t going to go deeper in to get it! I’m a mage!” I protested.

“Let yourself get dropped into the water when you’re unsuited for it.” Ocean ticked the point off his finger.

Oh man. He was going to have no mercy.

“Didn’t try to fall in. I had no other directions I could go. Up wasn’t possible there would just be more ceiling and I can’t fly without light, not to mention cargo possibly falling on me, down would just be deeper into the ship, left and right were basically the same as down, I didn’t think I’d be able to win a straight-up fight, and I wanted distance and air.” I desperately tried to counter.

“Didn’t just sink the boats and be done with it.” Sky threw in.

I glared at him.

“I’m literally System-bound not to!”

Night held up a hand before it could devolve further.

“Might I remind everyone that Dawn operates under a stringent set of circumstances. Please factor those in when analyzing her performance. Dawn – this analysis does you no good if you simply protest every criticism thrown at you. Think, analyze, and learn. You have a skill for that, no?”

Whoof. Five sentences, and everyone in the room needed a visit to the burn ward.

There was a long thoughtful silence.

“Bit trigger-happy on the gemstones. Might’ve been able to use fewer. At the same time, not aggressive enough. You gave them time to regroup and think. Should’ve hit them like thunder and lightning. Shock and awe ‘em.” Magic said, our resident expert on gemstones and how to optimally use them weighing in.

“Teach me at some point. Still new to using them.” I said.

Magic grinned.

“Sure! Most of us need to adapt to how to use gemstones – they’re rare enough, and the kit’s large enough, that it takes time to get in the habit of it.”

“I know you didn’t try to get in the water, but you still picked an overseas route while being unprepared for aquatic combat.” Ocean said, quite a bit nicer.

“You didn’t have your own watch arranged.” Hunting said. “You relied on the merchants to do things properly, which let them get the drop on you.”

“You let your prejudice get the better of you.” Acquisition said. “Once you’d regained – or were even considering boarding – the merchant ship again, you had three additional combatants nominally on your side. You didn’t even check if they would work with you, you didn’t see if there was something they could do. You just wrote them off, and almost died in an ambush because of it. If they had your back? You wouldn’t have needed to blow Sealing’s barrier; you wouldn’t have taken a harpoon through the back.”

“I-“ I started to defend myself, before closing my mouth and shutting up.

He was right.

Three dedicated combat specialists, who nominally were willing to throw themselves into danger for money – who’d already been paid to do so to boot – and I’d completely disregarded them. Heck, once the pressure was off, once they were no longer getting a sword to their neck while massively outnumbered, once there was a Sentinel they were supporting? It’s likely they would’ve joined me with great enthusiasm.

“I will do my best to remember it in the future.” I said.

“Could’ve taken the pirates prisoner by imprisoning them on their ship, and having them towed behind the merchant vessel, using the former slaves as extra manpower.” Acquisition observed.

Ouch. Right again.

More problems were pointed out. More roasting. More analysis.

More improvements.

However, salvation came from an unexpected direction.

“I want a number of [Nova]’s from you.” Sealing said. “The ability to fire attacks out from inside my shield is great, and the current Radiance attack I have is worse than your [Nova].

“Your use of [Invisibility] was great.” Magic chimed in. “Textbook perfect use. Usually, it can last a bit longer, but…” He shrugged. “Lemme see if I can get you some more.”

We went from a roast, to highlighting the good points, the strong points. Brawling was still circling my armor.

“I still can’t believe you survived that.” He said, shaking his head.

“The hard part was it being stuck inside me. If it had gone straight through it would’ve been a cakewalk.” I cheerfully said.

Acquisition went green. I had to remind myself that however low on the combat totem pole I was, he was lower.

“This is all well and good.” Night said. “But the Hell Months are continuing, and I do believe we have spent quite enough time on this after-action report. Ocean. If you are not too busy, can you finish off the pirates please?”

Ocean thought about it a moment, then saluted. “I’m pretty sure I know roughly where they might hole up after a defeat as bad as Dawn’s talking about.”

“Good. We can not let anyone with the idea of trying to murder a Sentinel live, especially after Dawn was so generous as to give them a way to simply leave the premise unmolested. As for the merchant captain…” Night said, tapping his fingers thoughtfully. “From the description Dawn has given, and the near complete destruction of both his cargo, and his ship, I do believe he will go bankrupt, unless ship prices have dramatically changed since the last time I checked. As his only crime was to… not stand up to pirates who were invading his ship, unknowingly letting them have a crack at a Sentinel – I can not place greater blame on him. Financial ruin seems appropriate for one ruled by greed.”

Seemed a bit harsh, but on the flipside, he hadn’t done anything to me. Standing off to the side when threatened wasn’t a crime.

Unless you were a bloody adventurer hired to do something about it!

“As for the adventurers – Dawn, I trust you will handle their punishment.”

Yesssss.

“I’d love to, but I need some ideas about what’s possible and not.”

“Chop off a finger!” Brawling suggested.

“Take their weapons, armor, money, clothes, food…” Acquisition started listing off everything a person could possibly own.

More bad ideas from people. Lots of them.

“Send them on a quest! Oooh, make them get you mangos from Perinthus!” Sky suggested.

“Get them demoted in rank at the guild.” Ocean finally weighed in.

“Ooooh, I like.” I said. I’d have to work on it some, but yeah, apparently higher rank = better paying jobs, and getting demoted for failing a quest seemed like a painful, but reasonable penalty.

Also, there was no way I was letting them get paid for the quest. They’d failed miserably.

Or, at the very least, I was getting a refund. I was going to go in there, and raise hell until I got what I wanted. Sounded like fun.

“Right. Does anyone else have any other business before we adjourn, and go back to the Hell Months?” Night asked.

Nobody said anything.

“Right. Dawn, excellent job on your first mission. Everyone, dismissed.” Night said.

Half the Sentinels, including Magic and Ocean, got up and started to walk towards the long corridor that led to the Ranger Academy island. I was slightly bored, and wanted to keep hanging out, so I decided to head down with them.

 

[Name: Elaine]

[Race: Human]

[Age: 18]

[Mana: 51840/51840]

[Mana Regen: 42569 (+4049.1)]

Stats

[Free Stats: 150]

[Strength: 244]

[Dexterity: 202]

[Vitality: 600]

[Speed: 520]

[Mana: 5184]

[Mana Regeneration: 4908 (+1423.32)]

[Magic Power: 4517 (+46525.1)]

[Magic Control: 4517 (+46525.1)]

[Class 1: [Constellation of the Healer - Celestial: Lv 246]]

[Celestial Affinity: 246]

[Warmth of the Sun: 198]

[Medicine: 215]

[Center of the Galaxy: 242]

[Phases of the Moon: 246]

[Moonlight: 246]

[Veil of the Aurora: 216]

[Vastness of the Stars: 144]

[Class 2: [Ranger-Mage - Radiance: Lv 188]]

[Radiance Affinity: 188]

[Radiance Resistance: 188]

[Radiance Conjuration: 188]

[Radiance Manipulation: 188]

[Sun-Kissed: 145]

[Blaze: 188]

[Talaria: 163]

[Nova: 188]

[Class 3: Locked]

General Skills

[Identify: 137]

[Recollection of a Distant Life: 159]

[Pretty: 136]

[Bullet Time: 198]

[Oath of Elaine to Lyra: 210]

[Sentinel's Superiority: 206]

[Persistent Casting: 55]

[Learning: 246]

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A note from Selkie

Dawn gets roasted! Less literally this time


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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