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A note from Selkie

Extra-shameless plug!

 

RoyalRoad! The website we're all on! A wonderful place for me to post the story I write, and you to read the story!

RoyalRoad has expenses, sadly. They try to defray the expenses with, among other things, Royal Road Premium! I have premium, which is why I have the totally cool border!

Now, I've convinced a few people to sign up for premium, and if I convince 8 more people, with evidence, to buy premium, Wing - one of RR's owners - will let me design and have a TOTALLY COOL custom badge for me! Other people will also be able to get it, but I'll be the first.

I kinda want to be the first, hence, shameless plug.

Buy RR Premium here! https://www.royalroad.com/premium/subscription ! Get cool things! Tell me that you got it from me, I'll send it to pengwing, and get a totally cool badge for it! Hurray!

 

I'll release a bonus chapter if I get it :P

 

Cheers!

Selkie

Teaching Autumn was fun! She drank up everything I had to tell her, and it was nice having someone else handle the financial side. She was ruthless.

“Just think of all the cosmetics you’ll now save on because you don’t have those scars!” Autumn harangued the latest patient, a woman who’d gotten badly scarred from a plague, scars all over her face now gone. “Surely, a lifetime’s savings should be worth more than a few coins today, as a gesture of gratitude! Why…”

Relentless. Best part? People didn’t feel entirely comfortable bartering properly with her. They did feel comfortable just blowing her off and walking away – but Autumn was telling something about “social gratitude” making most people at least stay and hear her pitch – at which point she roped them in, and ruthlessly milked them for everything they had.

Scary.

How much worse would the dad be when I tried to negotiate for a mango-line?

Oooh wait.

I could get Autumn to do it for me!

Autumn got quite a fat purse from the lady, and somehow, in spite of paying through the nose for free healing, she hummed a happy tune as she left the stall.

Wow. I should’ve gotten me an apprentice years ago. I’d be swimming in it by now!

“I leveled! I leveled! Dad! I leveled!” Autumn leaped off her stool, it clattering to the ground, as she rushed over to where her dad was mid-negotiation.

“Whoa! You leveled!” Neptune said, breaking off his haggling. Dude cared more about validating his kid than making his sale. Solid dude. “And you leveled yesterday as well! Nice!”

They gave each other a high-five, then he turned to finish his sale.

He quickly wrapped up his sale – not haggling anymore, just completing it – before turning back to Autumn.

“Have you learned anything interesting?”

“Yeah! Selling services is weird.

“What else?”

“I totally want to be a Light healer. I can make so much money! And I don’t even need to buy stuff!”

He ruffled her hair.

“Gotta get a Light healer to apprentice you first!”

Autumn ran over to me, grabbed my hand, and dragged me over.

“Elaine! Elaine will apprentice me! Right right?”

The merchant looked at me. Blinked. Blinked again.

I recognized the look. The “holy shit the System is telling me WHAT” look. Also known as “I just ID’d her and wow.”

“What’s the price of apprenticeship?” He asked me, clearly re-evaluating me.

“Ask Autumn. She negotiated it.”

“Sure, but as her dad, I’d like to hear it.”

I shrugged.

“Help running my stall, mostly. Help negotiating deals. I haaaaate negotiating and wringing money out of people, she takes that burden, I get a bunch more, and I get to teach. What’s there not to like?”

“Well, I’m concerned you’ll get bored, or your husband or whoever will bar you from teaching.”

I thought about that.

“Being concerned that I won’t always be around is a legitimate concern, especially because I do travel a fair amount, and I can’t – won’t rather – take her with me. I can leave teaching materials for her though. She can already read, which is a huge plus.”

Neptune drummed his fingers.

“Maybe. We’ll see. Can she still learn from you without a formal apprenticeship?”

“Yeah, of course!”

Neptune could be a piano player with how fast his fingers were going.

“Pleaseeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee?”

Autumn piled on the charm, in the obnoxious way only kids could get away with.

“Alright, alright, fine.” Neptune held his hands up in surrender. “Don’t take a second class without discussing it with me first, ok?”

Autumn nodded furiously, willing to accept any conditions.

“Alright. Have fun!”

“Ahem. Apprentice.” I said, putting on my best “serious-face-and-tone.”

“Yes Elaine?” She asked, immediately looking at me with all her attention.

“Your first official task…” I said, drawing it out.

“YES?” She was way too excited.

“Get me a deal to constantly buy mangos from that fruit vendor.” I said, pointing to her dad.

Autumn paled in horror. Her dad starting laughing his ass off.

Ahhh minions. How did I ever live without them?

Autumn and her dad started to get in a heated discussion, which I kept half an eye on. Her dad was getting a proud look on his face, as this was probably the first time they’d earnestly conflicted on selling and buying – and she was holding her own.

I have no doubt they’d done hundreds, thousands of “practice negotiations”, or even bartered over little things. Heck, it could practically be a tradition of theirs.

This was different though. This was a “real”, large-scale deal.

I started chuckling to myself as I realized something. Sure, Neptune had a bunch of levels and experience on her, and in theory had the edge.

Except Autumn knew exactly what he paid for stuff, and knew that he had to say yes. After all – it was for Autumn’s teacher, and it was her first mission. He couldn’t make her look bad off the bat.

He might’ve been making it a bit easier on her – but maybe he was making it harder, both protecting his own pockets, and it would probably be better experience for both of them. The real thing always gave more experience than practice, and somehow, the System knew the difference.

I healed a few more people, noticing the hole in my money jar as Autumn wasn’t wringing people for everything they had on them, and spotted a familiar face through the crowd.

I waved to Kallisto. He waved back, mimed a salute, and vanished.

20 coins says that was the guard checking up that I was who I claimed to be, and Kallisto, being in town, was probably elected to be the one confirming it. I should hang out with them at some point. Maybe they’d need a hand on some mission or another, and I could quite literally save a life or two.

Shame he couldn’t hang out and chat. Was probably insanely busy with being a Ranger, and with his baby. I couldn’t imagine they were getting a lot of sleep.

Maybe I should see if they were down for dinner at some point? Eating alone at Headquarters wasn’t good for me. I needed people to chat with, friends.

Autumn negotiated me a deal that she assured me was “totally awesome”, and rejoined me at the table for the rest of the day.

“One of my most powerful skills is called [Elaine’s Oath].” I said, deciding that the fundamental basics and philosophy of healing and medicine would be a good starting point. I also gave her the shortened version of the name, the one that people taking the [Oath] would get. “It works like this…” I said, explaining the [Oath], the reasoning, and the effect.

Autumn frowned at me.

“That’s a dumb [Oath]. Plus, who names a skill after themselves?”

Ouch. From the mouth of babes comes truth.

“Why’s that?” I asked her, between patients.

She didn’t answer, just rubbed her fingers together.

“Money! I can’t make nearly as much money if I take the [Oath], than if I didn’t have it.”

“You can heal bigger injuries with it.” I pointed out.

“Yeah, or I could just take more time. You instantly heal people. Probably way too much power. Mana Regeneration would be the key stat.”

The hell kind of education was she getting that she was this knowledgeable about the System already!?

I decided not to tell her about bulk and mass healing.

I shrugged.

“Your call! That’s the idea and the basics. Let’s move onto diseases…”

This was great.


All things must come to an end, and the day was wrapping up. I bid farewell to Autumn and Neptune, and decided to head down to Artemis’s school. I’d deal with the adventurers tomorrow, when I could run around with my badge again.

Oh boy. I couldn’t wait to see the look on Autumn and Neptune’s face tomorrow.

I wasn’t bothered on the way out of the gates, but the guards did helpfully remind me that the gates were closing soon, and to try and make my way back before then.

The trip to Artemis’s school was uneventful. I made it to the school grounds as long shadows started to dominate. It looked like school was closed – I didn’t see lightning bolts raining down, nor flying rocks or any other obviously magical goings-on.

“Artemis! Hey Artemis!” I yelled out, wandering through the grounds. There was no sign about the place being closed. I was impressed. More buildings had been erected, made out of stone.

The really obvious bulb went off. Artemis. Artemis was single-handedly using major, large-scale manipulation to create the buildings. Sure, technically you could conjure them up, but then you get into the degradation problem, where conjured material didn’t last.

Either way. This was major, major, impressive stuff.

Although – was Artemis even here?

“Healy-bug! Over here!” A familiar voice called out.

“Artemis!” I skipped over happily, giving her a hug.

 

“Heya! How’ve you been? Missed you!” Artemis said, reciprocating the hug.

“Ooof. I was in Deva. Minor plague, Purple Flowers, and pirates.

“Tell me all about it.” Artemis said, leading me to what I had to assume were her living quarters.

“Heya Elaine.” Julius said once we got there. Hurray! More people!

“Julius!” I said, giving him a hug. Him calling me Elaine, and being so casual, meant that he was here socially, or at the very least, he wasn’t expecting us to be in Commander-Sentinel mode.

We sat down, Artemis poured herself a large drink of something that smelled terribly alcoholic, and offered me a pour, which I accepted. She filled Julius’s cup, and we all settled down to chat.

“Julius, quick, close your eyes.” I said. I got a frown, but he complied.

I gave Artemis an Iolite gemstone, which I’d liberated from the pirates, then the merchants. Lightning was rare, and finding an Iolite gemstone was almost as rare. She happily took it from me, and I flashed back to the day all those years ago where she’d found a diamond for me to store my Light skills in.

I wasn’t quite supposed to have liberated the gems, but as long as I wasn’t too obvious about it, I wouldn’t get in trouble. Blatantly handing it off to Artemis in front of a Commander was being too obvious about it though.

Artemis pocketed it with a wink. She knew exactly what was going on.

“Ok, open your eyes Julius.” I said.

“What, no present for me?” He teased.

The only answer to that was the dreaded tongue sticking out.

“You’re my boss, it’d look bad.” I said with a straight face.

He just chuckled and rolled his eyes at me.

I told her the whole story, start to finish, and she was a fantastic audience. They groaned at the right places, laughed in the right spots, and commiserated with me over the uselessness of adventurers.

“After all,” She said. “If they were any good, they’d be Rangers, not adventurers!”

We clicked our mugs together, and took another sip.

“How’s the School going?” I asked.

“Well enough. I’m crazy busy. Never a quiet moment.”

“Thought about hiring other teachers?” I asked. “Maybe get some tutors in here?”

Artemis grimaced. “I’ve been trying. Either they’re unskilled, believe they’re better than me and want to take the whole thing over, or demand such outrageous sums as to not be worth it. Or all three!”

“How about administrative staff, to help things keep moving along, so you only need to focus on the important stuff?”

Artemis nodded at me.

“Yeah, I’ve got one helper for that. Dude’s a lifesaver. Handles all the payments, money, and logistics. Doesn’t help me when a student decides it’s ‘funny’ to show me what they learn and attack me out of the blue, and I almost take their head off as a result.”

Wow.

Artemis, showing restraint?

Heck, these days, I might take someone’s head off before recognizing it wasn’t a real attack!

I poked Artemis, making sure she was real, and not Magic’s sick idea of a joke.

“Who are you, and what have you done with Artemis?” I asked.

She swatted me.

Rubbing my head, I figured I could give Artemis a hand.

“Hey. I’m probably not as good as you are, but I could teach some healing here on a part-time, nightly basis, when I’m in town.”

Julius snapped his head towards me, staring at me intently. It probably sounded like a dream come true for him. A Sentinel and a former Ranger, both teaching at a school? People would, by sheer virtue of who their teachers and mentors were, be drawn to the Rangers. And since I was training healers, it was exactly what Julius wanted – healers joining the Rangers.

“I’ll see about getting you a sizeable stipend if Dawn teaches here.” Julius told Artemis.

“Hey! Shouldn’t I be the one getting the stipend!” I protested.

Artemis frowned at that, thoughtfully swirling her wine cup.

I wanted to keep talking, keep making my case, but I knew I didn’t need to. Artemis and I were on pretty similar wavelengths. She knew what I could do, she could see the implications.

“Sure.” She said.

I pumped my fist. More people to train!

We spent a few more hours catching up. Artemis, mom, and dad had indeed spent a ton of time together. Artemis was delighted to hear about Night’s offer for a house – mom and dad had asked her to see if she could find a location, and Night’s offer took one more thing off her plate.

Julius gave me a side-eye at that. He knew something had to be up, and with his relatively recent introduction to vampires, who knew what he was thinking.

However, I couldn’t miss the deep stress lines that etched Artemis’s face. She looked like she’d aged, something I’d missed last time I saw her, at graduation. The high of being promoted to Sentinel had caused me to miss a lot of things.

I felt a little bad. A little guilty. I’d persuaded her to leave the Ranger lifestyle, where she clearly fit, and try this out. A new thing.

“Artemis?” I asked, in a lull in the conversation.

“Yeah?”

“Are you happy?”

She took a large swing of wine, and her face just lit up.

“A student of mine got offered [Artemis’s Student – Lightning] yesterday. He took it. Another one’s been accepted to the army’s artillery mage training. A third’s been recognized by his parents. It’s just indescribable, the feeling of watching people grow and become stronger, their joy as they learn something new, as they get some new trick. Am I happy? Oh yeah. It’s all worth it, for those little moments.”

I gave her a hug.

A moment passed.

Then a second.

“Heya Artemis?”

“Yeah?”

“Can you lift me into town? The gate’s probably closed by now.”

Julius snorted at me.

“What, you think they wouldn’t open the gates for a Commander? Come on. Let’s head back.”

Drat. I’d been half looking forward to breaking into town again.

[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 (+47654.35)]

[Magic Control: 4517 (+47654.35)]

[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: 211]

[Sentinel's Superiority: 206]

[Persistent Casting: 55]

[Learning: 246]

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A note from Selkie

Little grubby mercenary hands helping Elaine! More of Artemis's school! A chance encounter with Julius!


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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