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A note from Selkie

I now have paperbacks on Amazon! Expensive, but that's Amazon for you. Reminder that the art contest is accepting submissions for only two more days!

I jogged along with everyone, with the pace being set slow enough that I could keep up – along with Magic, and the other, less physically-inclined Sentinels. I had no doubt the physical ones could just blast ahead, and be there in minutes, but, well, being a Sentinel was a lonely job, and it looked like the companionship, and bond, was somewhat strong when we were all hanging out together.

Who else knew what we did? Who else could relate to the job?

“All in all, good work.” Ocean said, jogging beside me.

“Yeah, fantastic job!” Magic said, on my other side.

I narrowed my eyes at him and poked him. My finger went right through.

“Even here?” I asked.

The mirage of Magic shrugged.

“Habit. If I’m never thinking ‘this is safe, I can show myself’, and ‘this is dangerous, I should hide’, I can never goof and get it wrong. You never know when you’ll be attacked, you never know when you’re in danger.”

“Constant vigilance.” I said, remembering Maximus’s lessons… among other things.

Magic – well his illusion – beamed at me. “Exactly! You get it!”

I studied his illusion carefully. It was so lifelike. Muscles moved and flexed as they should, his tunic fluttered as he jogged – it even moved a bit as I waved my hand near it.

“Cripes. You’re all control, aren’t you?” I asked.

“Control, Mana Regen, and physical stats, yeah.” He answered.

“Dawn. Something for you to consider.” Ocean said. “You’re likely going to be in this role what, 100, 200 years or so? You might want to do some long-term thinking and planning.”

I immediately paid my full attention to Ocean, the rest of the world falling away.

“Tell me more.”

“Well, you’ve leveled up fast. Insanely fast by normal standards, roughly on par with how most Sentinels end up. Well, skipping the boost at the front lines. Regardless, you’re approaching 256 on your primary class. It’s going to be your last class up. Now, if your classes were both dedicated towards healing, it’d be worth considering a reset. Granted, people that pull off a reset are incredibly rare, but the rewards are often worth it. However, that’s irrelevant in your case – what if you reset, and you need to handle another plague? No good.”

“With that being said, you’ll want to stall once you hit 256 on your main class. Get your second class up as high as possible. The more stats you have, the higher your skills are, the better your options will be. The better options you have, the better stats you get, the better evolutions for your second class once it hits 256 as well. Unless you decide to reset your second class at 256. Gotta tell us if you do that though, we’ll stick you on the front lines to get that back up.”

“Either way, my advice – stall out once you hit 256.”

I thought about it. Made a ton of sense.

“Anything else on the long-term planning?” I asked.

“Cultivate contacts, resources. People your age who are high level, who are going places. You’ll bump into them often enough as time goes on.” Ocean said.

Acquisition popped over, overlapping with Magic until Magic threw a disgusted look and dropped back.

“Might be worth talking with the Adventurer’s Guild, see who’s high level at a young age. What’s high level at a young age is for you to figure out. Bonus – it might help with your prejudice against them. You can also handle the failed quest while you’re at it.”

“Screw that!” Sky said, flying aggravatingly above us. He was basically lounging, and letting the breeze he conjured up float him down the tunnel. “Let’s talk about Hell Months! Anyone got a trainee they have their eyes on? Anyone see any trainees they want to drop out?”

“Is it fair for us to target trainees?” I asked, somewhat bemused.

“Yes, but no, but really yes.” Magic said, having enlarged himself, completely overlapping Acquisition. Scary stuff. Looked like one person, but I knew it was a different person under that.

“Magic, I swear to Xaoc, get this damn illusion off of me or I’ll steal all your gems.” Acquisition cursed Magic out, the voice coming from the illusion. The illusion popped, and flickered into a new spot.

He shot Acquisition a dirty look.

Hang on. Wasn’t Acquisition supposed to be out stealing Brawling’s badge back? I started to try and poke him, and he expertly weaved out of the way.

“Magic. I swear to the moon goddesses, if you’re impersonating Acquisition as well, I will…” I couldn’t say I’d hurt him. “do something we’ll both regret.” I finished lamely.

I am totally getting an anti-mirage skill at some point. I did not want to spend my life questioning what was real and what was fake, not when magic could create such perfect fakes.

Acquisition said nothing. He was either an illusion, or enjoying winding me up. I had a lot more respect for the poor Quartermaster who needed to figure out if he was issuing me stuff, or an illusion stuff. And from the sound of it – Acquisition also had disguise techniques or illusions.

Radiance was apparently great at killing illusions. Could only hope to get a skill for it.

Maybe… maybe I could lose [Nova]? I’d need to think about it more.

As Ocean said – I needed to do some long, long term planning on stuff, and my build. And I had numerous experts to consult.

I blinked.

I was also an expert, that people would be consulting. I needed to be knowledgeable, and I also needed people myself that I could talk with, and trust, who were around.

Like… a Ranger Commander, who probably had a high-level insight into the world, what was happening where, where resources were allocated.

Like… a Ranger, assigned to Team 0, an expert on all things social, able to navigate me through difficult situations.

Like… a brilliant and amazing mage who’d founded one of the first large-scale magic schools.

I could lean on them. They could lean on me. It sounded good.

Actually – could I start teaching at the school? Start training up a generation of healers, possibly steer some of them towards the Rangers? It’d meet Julius’s goal, it’d help me spread my knowledge – yeah, I had to go visit Artemis at some point.

I shook my head and refocused. Magic had been talking the whole time.

“Sorry – can you say that again?” I asked.

I got a sour look. I ignored it. It was an illusion – Magic could be projecting any emotion at all. But wow, what mastery of human emotion and facial expressions to just effortlessly project any emotion he wanted.

“Sometimes, we spot something in a Trainee we don’t like. Someone who won’t work with others. Someone who’ll throw others under a wagon. Or just our personal biases. Like Sky will try to snipe most potential fliers out – less work for him.”

“Hey! I like having fliers!” Sky protested.

“You like having exactly one bad flier.” Ocean retorted. “So you get your fun, but don’t need to actually do anything.”

“Speaking of. Tall mage, black hair. I’m not completely sure, but he seems to be a Sand mage, and I swear he’s trying to foul other trainees when they run on the beach. There’s an unusually high number of trips and falls.” Ocean said. “There’s been more sprained ankles this year than the last six Academy classes combined. 600 coins to anyone who can get him to drop out.”

“Do we directly target him, or…?” I asked.

“Kinda.” Ocean said. “Usually we find something that the Trainee’s bad against, and the take that particular problem up to 16. They dislike cold? Lots of cold environments. They don’t handle bad food well? Lots of bad food. Everyone’s equally miffed, but they’re hit harder than others. If they’re able to persist through it, well, they’re in. Helps stop our personal bias from gatekeeping someone who deserves to be in.”

I thought about that. Kinda made sense. There was probably at least one person who didn’t like the idea of me or Artemis going through Academy, but they couldn’t target us directly – they could only do stuff we didn’t like to everyone, and hope they got us. If we persisted, pushed through the challenge – well, we’d proven we deserved to be there.

“Are petty grudges or attempts allowed?” I asked, having a plan.

“Yeah sure, but don’t be too surprised if we don’t go too hard for it.” Ocean said.

“Petty. I’d like the bard out.” I said.

“Why’s that?” Magic asked.

“Because I’d have to mentor him. Without him, I have no mentees, and more free time.” I said, laying my cards on the table.

Sky laughed his ass off, flying high above us. We were in the long tunnel to the Academy at this point, a long underwater thing connecting it to the mainland.

I really hope the tunnel didn’t collapse, or get hit by a monster. Although, if it did, I couldn’t imagine wanting to be anywhere besides next to Ocean.

“Also, I got a new trick I’d love to try.” I said. “Magic, can you give me a sound amplification?”

Magic said nothing, but there was suddenly a gemstone flying at me out of thin air. Magic’s hiding spot most likely – and equally likely that he’d moved right after throwing the gem, the same way I moved after hitting people. That was a massive level of paranoia.

Although – between Brilliant barriers, and Mirage illusions, which was stronger?

“Anyone know anything about unlocking the third class?” I asked.

“Should be level 512, although nobody’s ever been able to confirm it.” Magic said. “Fits the pattern. First at 8, second at 64, third at 512. Night’s getting close, might get there in our lifetime.”

Hmmm… Maybe I could aim for it. Seemed to be a solid long-term goal.

“We’re here!” Sky whooped, and darted ahead.

A twist, a jump, and a shout – thanks to Sky – and we were overlooking the Trainees being put through their paces by the Instructors, Quintis’s voice echoing all the way over.

“Cold?” Magic asked. Ocean shook his head.

“Let’s do rain. Give all the instructors a break.”

I blinked at them. Wait just a minute…

Magic did something, and I saw the Instructors start to peel off one at a time, replaced by… an exact copy of themselves. Who were still yelling at the Trainees.

I looked at him, wide-mouthed. Ocean winked at me.

“Smoke and mirrors. This is some of the best non-combat experience Magic can get. Now, it’s my turn.” He said, jogging down to where the Trainees were.

I saw a storm start to form – but only around the Trainees. From where I was standing, it looked flat, the backside of a storm, the CGI window laid bare. A grand illusion. As Ocean got near, it started to rain, and from my vantage point, I could see that Ocean was making it “rain” on the Trainees by conjuring water right above them.

To them, it looked like a bad summer squall coming out of nowhere. From where I was standing?

Smoke. And. Mirrors.

Sky nudged me.

“Go show us your new trick you were talking about!”

I glanced up. It was still bright and sunny everywhere the Trainees were not – and Instructor Quintis – no wait, he was grabbing a meal and lying down to take a nap, Magic, pretending to be Quintis, had all the Trainees drop and do a bunch of pushups.

AKA, making it easier to maintain the illusion. AKA, giving all the Instructors a break.

Sentinel. Seeing behind the illusion, seeing the reality behind the hellish training, and how the combination of skills made it all possible. I was impressed.

Heh. I was going to make this insanely hard on Magic. Who knows, maybe the added complexity to the illusion would help him level?

“Switch them to jumping jacks. Or something else where they need to look up.” I said to Magic – or at least where I assumed he was, it was impossible to tell – and got ready to take flight.

“Hang on.” A voice came from next to me. “Are you going to do Radiance stuff?”

“Err, yeah, why?”

“Is it going to be complicated?”

“Yup.”

“Yeah – let’s let them get soaked awhile longer. With how complex this is to hold, and with how Radiance burns though Mirage, you’d probably break the illusion. We’ll get them after they’re good and wet.

Sounded like a plan. Didn’t want to break the illusion for the Trainees.

I looked down. There were a lot of trainees. We must be fairly early into the Hell Months. Even as I watched, someone got up, and started stomping off to the gong.

“Oooh, Ocean got one!” Magic said.

“What, shouldn’t that partially count as yours?” I asked.

“Yeah, but I do so much, they all count as mine.” Magic said, waving his hand.

I watched for some time more, before Magic spoke to me.

“Alright, do your stuff.”

I grinned. I was going to have fun with this!

Ocean stopped dumping water on the Trainees, Magic had the storm “move on”, and then I was up, flying above the Trainees as Magic had them start doing sit-ups.

“The Dawn has arrived!” I yelled, voice amplified, as I started to repeat the “bright pulsing light” trick – being careful that nothing was too bright as to cause long-lasting harm or vision problems – causing more than one Trainee to yell and cover their eyes – only for Instructors, a mix of real ones and Magic-mage illusions, to stomp over and yell at them.

This was fun!

 

 

[Name: Elaine]

[Race: Human]

[Age: 18]

[Mana: 51840/51840]

[Mana Regen: 42569 (+14233.2)]

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

Hell months! As seen from the people behind the scenes that make it all work.


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.

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