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A note from Selkie

Long, LONG announcement about Kindle Unlimited and BTDEM.

TL;DR: Nothing changes for anyone reading this announcement, who even vaguely stays current with the story.

The Kindle Unlimited Decision

Hey all!

Nothing is changing for current readers, either on Patreon or Royal Road.

Here to update everyone on what I’ve decided regarding taking Beneath the Dragoneye Moons to Kindle Unlimited.

The short version: Beneath the Dragoneye Moons will be going to Kindle Unlimited when book 7 releases on Amazon, which is going to be at the start of May.

First, I’m going to start with some information. I should’ve given all the information in the poll, but I goofed and wrote it too fast.

The amount of money involved: It’s a bit hard to calculate. There’s a range on stuff, and my numbers might not be that reliable.

My lower boundary on how much BTDEM could make on Amazon is obscenely high. The upper boundary more than doubles my income.

I’ve heard of other web novels getting in the $20-$50k range in their first week, (This is unsustainable, but it’s the ‘initial fervor’ so to speak) so I hope you all understand why my head’s getting turned just by the sheer numbers.

Now, I know this looks and sounds like I’m being greedy, and in some ways, yes, I am. In others? I have no idea how long BTDEM is going to last, and once it’s over, I either need to write another massive hit (who knows what the market’s done by then), or try to go back to my old career with a “yeah, I stopped doing development work for 5 years because I was writing a book”, which translates to a massive gap in my employment history.

Naturally, I’d need to do right by all of you, my readers and patrons.

Kindle Unlimited demands exclusivity of the books on the site. NOT the series. Which means that everyone reading on Royal Road, everyone reading on Patreon, will have a more-or-less uninterrupted reading experience.

Also, it’d be unfair to have things be “too close” so to speak. It’s easy to always have a full book and most of the next one always on Royal Road, which means significantly more for Patrons. In other words, a current reader can only get “locked out” of BTDEM if they stop reading for roughly six months.

Six months!

This assumes someone current on patreon stops reading. It’s less for a Royal Road reader.

For anyone even halfway staying current with the series, that’s totally manageable. It doesn’t lock people in.

For re-reading older content, the epubs are currently all on patreon and properly flagged. They’re also in the Bonus Material Table of Contents.

It’s also easy to constantly release the newest story as an epub, which again gives months for current readers to grab a copy before it hits Kindle Unlimited. The epub table of contents: https://www.patreon.com/posts/48141157

From a current reader’s point of view, nothing changes. I just want to be totally clear on that.

Nothing changes for current readers on Royal Road and Patreon. Chapters will continue to be delivered on schedule. Epubs, artwork, etc., all keep getting delivered. The only change is that very old content gets removed.

I’m unsure on Scribblehub’s policies, and I’ll need to go digging. If possible, nothing will change for them either!

What about new readers?

I’m a little tapped out on new Royal Road readers, to be perfectly frank. I’ve been on and off the front page for about a year now, and most readers have gotten a crack at the story. Right now, I get about 200 people a day giving BTDEM a shot, and only about 60 readers a day actually reading through the story.

Those are acceptable numbers, but there’s literally hundreds of thousands of people on Kindle Unlimited that have never had a chance to read Beneath the Dragoneye Moons. I lose one tapped-out source of readers on Royal Road (Scribblehub’s discovery is bad enough I’m surprised anyone ever finds my story on it…), and gain one of the largest sources of readers on the internet.

Even if I only got half the readers to follow the story from KU to RR then Patreon, every single read is money. As BTDEM gets longer and longer, the early chapters get “worse” for me, since I have a chance at losing a reader with every chapter, and only if someone makes it all the way through do I have a shot at converting them. In contrast, KU means that I get paid for all those old chapters.

With nothing changing for my current loyal patrons, with my Royal Road fans able to keep reading it, the large influx of a potential new audience, and the sheer amount of money on the line - Beneath the Dragoneye Moons will be moving to Kindle Unlimited around the same time book 7 is released on Amazon, which is currently scheduled to be around early May.

I didn’t make this decision lightly. I struggled to keep BTDEM on RR for as long as I could, making excuse after excuse to keep it on. The numbers keep rubbing themself in my face though, and I can no longer ignore them.

Now, I’m not going to forget my roots, or where I came from. I talked with Wing (Owner of RR), and I’m going to be sending a modest percent of every single sale and KU read to Royal Road, as an eternal thanks and gratitude for making the platform that made my success possible. None of us would be here without the tireless and thankless work of Wing and Kana, and it’s only right that they get to share in what I make. Because I didn’t do it alone. My success is almost entirely thanks to their website, and my gratitude is eternal. It was part of why I struggled so hard to keep BTDEM fully on RR - it’s better for RR to have the full series, than the partial series.

But everyone has a price, and mine looks to be about $100k/year for keeping a single story on RR. Which, given my earlier statement, also seems to be the price of my eternal gratitude.

Now, if Kindle Unlimited doesn’t pan out? If the numbers and payments are only a fraction of what I projected? It’s relatively simple to pull out of Kindle Unlimited, and restore my story back to RR. If - rather, when - the KU numbers get bad, it’ll be time to flip the story back onto RR.

If I’m not getting paid for exclusivity, you better bet I’m going to make it as free as possible!!

Now, I know a number of you supported me on Patreon simply because you liked how I did things. You liked that I was keeping BTDEM free.

It’s why I’m trying to tell you far enough in advance where you don’t feel like I’ve pulled a fast one. Everyone should have at least two patreon cycles to decide if they want to keep supporting me or not, and that’s fine! If your ethics demand that you unsubscribe, I can list a dozen other authors that are totally cool and worth supporting instead! Jiwa, author of Journey of Black and Red and Bob the Calamity, Rhaegar writing Azarinth Healer, Ravensdagger and his gigantic band of cuteness, Thundamoo with Vigor Mortis, Melas with Salvos, and dozens and dozens of other authors, all who’ve kept their story on RR so far!

Regarding “I’d like to read things later on!” - I’m going to continue to make sure that I release the epubs of the books as I make them, and ensure that they’re all available to you. I’ll announce them a few more times than I currently do, and I encourage everyone to grab copies for themselves, just in case.

Artwork will continue to be delivered as usual, and I’ve got some exciting things coming down the line regarding that! I’m waiting for it to be a little closer and readier before hitting the button on that.

I am also doing a minor rewrite and polishing of the first arc. I will make sure it’s available to all of you before I go to KU.

Questions that came up when I posted the poll! I answered most of them above, but I believe in boatloads of communication! Here goes!

Q: Does ku mean you remove it from Patreon?

A: Only the old, old content. Books 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 to start. Books 6 and 7 remain on Patreon and Royal Road for now. Book 6 will be added to KU once all of book 7 and some of book 8 hits Royal Road.

Q:How would that affect your Patreon?

A: Practically speaking, not at all! Your chapters and content continue as normal.

Q:I like being able to reread stories I love from the beginning to experience the same things in a new context, or just to enjoy it the same way again, and I don’t have an Amazon account or a kindle to use the service for free.

A: That’s why I’m making 100% sure you’ve got a chance to grab all the epubs! Make sure you download them now, and you’ll always be able to reread them in the future!

Q:What does going to KU mean for how BtDEM already works on RR and here? Would you need to take it down?

A: It means that the early books get taken down, but the current content - and a few books back - stay up. I need to take a small amount down, but not tons. Only the smallest % of readers get impacted, mostly those looking for a re-read but who missed the “here are the epubs” train.

Q: Does Kindle Unlimited mean it will be exclusive to KU?

A: The old books only, yes.

Q:Personally I'm really hoping you don't, because it's literally not available to people from my country. So for me it'd be an all around loss honestly. It's up to you in the end though, but I'm hoping not.

A: Oooof! I’m sorry to hear that. As I said, I tried hard to keep BTDEM free for as long as possible, and if the numbers don’t pan out, it’ll return to RR.

Q:I have moral issues with giving that company any money. I would be sad that I couldn't read your work any more.

A: Then don’t give Amazon a single bent penny! Keep reading on Patreon, and if you dislike that I’m making money on Amazon (Which I already do when selling my ebooks on the platform…) then read the story on RR! As long as you don’t drop multiple books behind, you’ll be able to keep up with Elaine’s journey until the end!

Q:Basically if old chapters have to be removed that's fine but I’ll be bummed if we don't get advanced chapters anymore

A: I’m not breaking my advanced chapter promise. You will continue to get your 5/20 advanced chapters! Nothing changes for my devoted fans who’ve stuck with me all this time - the only people really impacted are the new readers.

Q:I prefer serials over books

A: This is why BTDEM remains a web serial!

Q:I think KU is a good deal overall, and a number of authors I support on Patreon use it.

Before it goes up on KU, if you release the chapters in a downloadable epub or pdf for a period, your patrons could get a copy to keep before the exclusivity kicks in.

A: And that’s exactly what I’m doing! I might actually get annoying with how often I remind you to get the epub.

Q:It would probably be worth talking to another author that is on KU to see how the experience is.

A: I’ve done that a lot, yeah

Q:Does that mean the patreon / discord chapters must be removed?

A: only the very old ones! Anything vaguely newish will remain on patreon. Additionally, you’ll continue to be sent the epubs regularly

Q:Going to KU means not posting advanced chapters here anymore, right? In that case I'd say no, because I don’t have access to KU

A: This is incorrect. You will continue to get advanced chapters.

Q:Personally the reason I use Patreon is so that authors can make stuff available to everyone for free and still make a living out of it. If publishing on KU means paywalling the novel forever then I'm against it (and will stop being a patron), but if it doesn't affect what's on RR or only temporarily then go for it

A: My goal is to be only temporary. Heck, I’ll even look into the logistics of having it entirely off of KU for one month a year just to get it back on RR, to give everyone a chance at it!

This is actually a pretty good idea…

Q:I pay on Patreon to keep novels free and open. If you move over to kindle unlimited, you can kiss my viewership goodbye as well as much of the viewership your novel currently has.

Like signing up with Webnovel, many see the dollar signs you *could* make and ignore how much most novels on paywalled platforms make in actuality.

A: I’ll be sad to see you go! However, I can point to a half dozen authors off the top of my head that have not only seen insane Kindle Unlimited numbers, but also have seen their patreon significantly grow as a result of the added audience. The historical numbers and stats don’t bear out your assumption, unless I’m a WILD outlier.

However, I can respect not wanting to support an author who’s gone to KU, and I wish you the best! See the novels I recommended above for some good stories!

Q:will KU give you a larger audience going forwards than just RR/Patreon?

A: I believe yes. Looking at a number of other authors who’ve done the same thing, nearly all of them have seen a significant increase in viewership.

Q:will existing followers be annoyed that their platform of choice no longer has the full story available?

A: Some will be, yes. However, most fans are fully caught up, or almost fully caught up. The reading experience won’t change for them, however, there’s clearly a number of people who will get upset and leave or drop the story. I believe, from watching other authors perform the same move, that I will gain an order of magnitude more readers than will leave due to the decision.

Q:Doesn’t KU force you to take off your work on Royal road? You would lose a large chunk of fan base.

A: I’d only lose people who’ve only gotten partway through the story. I’d like to take a moment to acknowledge the fact that there’s going to be roughly 200ish people who are in the middle of a BTDEM binge who’ll get rudely cut off in the middle. To them, whoever they are, I’d like to offer a preemptive apology.

However, that’s it. Those are the only active readers who’ll get significantly inconvenienced by the move.

Primarily, I only lose theoretical future readers, but gain significantly more future readers on KU.

Q:Be aware that amazon has suspended authors in the past for pirated work posted elsewhere, taking weeks sometimes to get reinstated. (Due to KU exclusivity requirements)

A: This would absolutely, massively suck, and I’m trying to get BTDEM off of pirate websites. I think you all know how difficult that can be…

Q:Amazon exclusivity means I cannot reread old chapters of serials - or purchase books from authors who choose that route for initial publication. Too bad for me, right? Yep. I like to review serials since I forget names/events. The inability to do so is frustrating. Why keep up when I can't... well... keep up, right?

Thus, the embrace of exclusivity has led me in the past - and would lead me in this instance, too - to end my Patreon support and any further reading of the serial in question.

A:This is why I’m going to do my damnest to make sure you get the epub before I take it down! This will give you the chance to reread the story as often as you’d like, without giving Amazon a single penny!

Q:Tbh, if I hadn't become a patron I would say go for it without hesitation. As it is now, I would still say to go to kindle but leave a window of time for people to reread, make sure they have everything they wanted to keep, etc...

A: That’s why I’m giving everyone a one month notice!! I’ll also be posting a few more times, just to make absolutely sure that everyone’s had a chance at the story.

Q:genuine question, how are you going to bring in new people to the fandom?

A: Advertising like hell.

Q:Talk with other authors about their experience

A:I have! They basically universally say “DO IT!!”

Q:I refuse to read on a kindle. You do you, though.

A: Then don’t! You’ll be able to keep reading on Patreon and Royal Road! You’ll only have an issue if you drop off too hard.

Q:My own experience with books that have gone this route is I typically see no initial chapters in Royal Road, and they *never* have any explanation at all as to what is going on or why there are no initial chapters, so I just skip those series.  So if you do go the KU route, I think you should have a description of what's going on, and exactly how to get access to the missing chapters.

A: I’ll make sure I communicate clearly in the synopsis what’s going on

Q:To me, Patreon is a way to sponsor people that create things I enjoy, but that could be difficult to pay the bills with. Like writing a high quality book that is freely available. But if the RR version, and even Patreon version has all old chapters removed because of KU, the reason why I joined the Patreon is removed. At that point I'll start considering my own money a bit more, and probably just buy the books of amazon when they get released for a fraction of the price Patreon costs me.

A:You do you! I appreciate all the support you’ve given me, and I hope I’ve given you enough of a heads up.

Q:Is worth staying on RoyalRoad and other such platforms, and have samples of your books on Kindle?

A: My personal analysis says no - it’s worth moving to KU.

Q:Up to you Selkie. But KU is not available in my country. Not sure what it entails but if it restricts patreon bennefits I might have to reconsider since I am rather poor lol

A:There will be no real restrictions on patreon benefits.

Q:You can do what you want, of course, but it takes me 5-6 months to earn what you earn in a single month here on Patreon, and a large part of the reason I support you here is because you give it away for free, and so that it will be available for others to read who can't afford to buy it from Amazon. Probably if you choose to go with KU, I will stop my support.

A: Hey, that’s totally cool! Look after yourself first. As you can see, I’m doing comfortably well thanks to all of your generous support on Patreon. Make sure to grab the epubs before you go though!!!

Q:uhh would patreon stay?

A: Yes.

Q:Lastly, wtf are you doing? Shouldn't you be writing me my next Elaine fix?

A: This is already 3000 words… you have no idea how much I regret writing this VS writing a full damn chapter >:(

Tl;dr: It makes financial sense for me to go to KU, since this is my full time job. More new readers are on KU than RR.

 

I broke out into a huge, silly smile as I saw the walls of Ariminum. Still gleaming white. Still with a little shanty town in front of it. Same old, same old.

 

The only big difference was the shanty town had grown, which was absolutely no surprise to me. People kept trying to expand, and the city had limited space. Even pillars and markings showed where new walls were being planned.

 

“Move it!” Someone rudely shoved me aside, passing me on the avenue.

 

“Jackass!” I yelled back. Could’ve just asked nicely. Sure, I’d been somewhat blocking one of the major roads - arguably the single busiest road in the Empire - but that didn’t excuse terrible manners.

 

“Brrpt!” Auri started to fly towards him, puffing her tiny chest out.

 

“Auri! No!” The little arsonist was going to try and burn the dude to pieces. I’d bet mangos on it.

 

“Brpt!” She protested as I snagged her with [Mantle]. Honestly, I don’t know how I’d manage Auri if I didn’t have [Mantle]. I’d probably need to go live in the wilderness for a dozen years or something, before she got her pyromaniacal tendencies under control.

 

For that matter, I was a little concerned about living with her in a city. I should get a nice room of hard to burn but still flammable stuff - like really wet wood - and let her go nuts.

 

“Yes, he wasn’t a nice person.” I agreed with her.

 

“Brrrpt!”

 

“No, you can’t burn down every bad person.”

 

“Brrpt??”

 

I stepped off the side of the busy road, massaging my eyes. How did I explain this to Auri?

 

“There are… ok, for now, let’s say there are two types of bad guys.”

 

“Brpt.”

 

“There are the SUPER DUPER BAD GUYS, and you burn them.”

 

“Brrrpt!!!”

 

“Then there are the MEH bad guys, and you just ignore them or fly away.”

 

“Brpt???”

 

“Because not everything is worth burning people over.”

 

“Brpt! Brrrrrrrpt!!”

 

I facepalmed. Auri still seemed to think burning people or ‘turning people into fire’ was a good thing. How, exactly, she reconciled that with “burn the bad people” I wasn’t sure.

 

She honestly seemed to have one answer to every problem, and it was “fire”.

 

“You can… make them more miserable by leaving them alone? They’re not worth your precious fire?”

 

I was reaching here. I didn’t quite know how to properly explain civilization and society, crime and punishment, along with the entire ethical and moral backbone that Auri needed to have. This parenting thing was hard, and I was additionally struggling with the sheer pace that Auri was growing and developing at, along with the massive firepower on the tips of her wings.

 

More and more I understood why the System was locked for kids, as miserable as those eight years had been for me. A toddler with [Fireball]?

 

That was basically Auri. On my todo list: Get a tutor for her. Someone with experience raising kids and teaching them. I was doing my best, but I knew I was stabbing blindly in the dark. I wasn’t so arrogant to think that I could just automatically do it all myself perfectly. People trained for this. People had classes in this.

 

Well, ok, not classes in “How to raise a baby phoenix”, but close enough. [Nanny for troubled kids] had to be a class with some cross-applicability or something.

 

“Brpt…” Auri didn’t sound convinced.

 

“Let’s make a deal.” I pleaded with her. “Don’t burn anyone or anything without asking me, and if you make it a whooooooole week, I’ll take you to a flower shop, buy all the flowers, and let you burn them. Deal?”

 

“Brpt? Brpt?? Brpt!”

 

I’d successfully explained “Buying” and “Selling” to Auri before.

 

“Ok, yes, and you can also sit on my shoulder that whole time. Just think! If you’re not lighting everyone on fire, then I can take you to busy, crowded markets! Then TONS and TONS of people can see how pretty you are!”

 

“Brrrrptttt!!!!!” Auri loved the idea. “Brpt?”

 

“A flower store sells allllll kinds of pretty, beautiful flowers! They’re lovely! They have hundreds and HUNDREDS of the best flowers from ALL OVER THE WORLD! Isn’t that super cool?”

 

Auri’s eyes went as wide as a blueberry, which on her tiny frame, was massive.

 

“Brrpt?!”

 

“Yes, a whole week. Seven days.” I patiently explained to her.

 

“BrrrRRRRrrrrrrPT!”

 

“I know that seems like forever.” I had to remind myself that she was only a few weeks old. “But it’ll be over in a flash! Plus, you’re going to meet my mom and dad soon!”

 

“Brrpt!!”

 

“Yeah! Let’s go!”

 

Auri successfully distracted and refocused, we got back on the road, joining the throngs of people making their way to the capital for one reason or another.

 

I smiled at the road, feelings of nostalgia welling up. I remembered the first time I went down this road, Julius teaching me how to be fast with [Rapidash]. How we’d blazed along the road, then turned around and headed back, with Julius running backwards the entire time.

 

How we’d lumbered up in the Ranger’s wagon, making it to their home. I hadn’t known it at the time, but it’d become my home as well.

 

How often I’d gone up this road, coming back home after visiting Artemis’s school. Shame it was a bit out of the way, but I wanted to get home-home first, THEN visit Artemis.

 

I couldn’t wait. I wanted to show her Auri, and tell her all the stories! Plus, Julius and Artemis were a thing, and I wanted to get all the sweet details from her!

 

Now, I was walking up the road one more time. My heart was pounding, and I entirely ignored everything that wasn’t the road. That wasn’t the next step.

 

I was less than an hour or two away from home. Away from hugging mom and dad. A year and a half, come down to this.

 

I wanted to just fly right in, blaze through everything and everyone, and make it right home.

 

It’d cause more than a bit of a mess, and there wasn’t a need to do it right now. I was still feeling a little awkward about Port Salona, and for all I knew, Sentinels were less exempt from various laws than we had been before. I wanted to get a pulse on things.

 

Before long, Auri and I were queued up in the long line before the main gates. Ariminum was surrounded on three sides by the Nostrum Sea, leaving one main entrance to the walled city. The road leading up to the gates were wide and kept clear, the shanty town not allowed to encroach on it. There were multiple sets of guards checking people and things over.

 

Still. There was a line.

 

A long line.

 

I played with Auri a bit as I listened to idle gossip.

 

“Want some juice?” I asked her, my hand already knowing the answer as I moved to uncork the amphora.

 

“Brpt!”

 

“Food prices are going down at last.”

 

“Shame, I’d been hoping to get my harvest in while they were still up.”

 

“Well, can’t rush nature.”

 

I gave Auri a deep drink.

 

“Look! Mom, look! Look at the pretty bird! Can we go over and touch it?”

 

“She probably doesn’t want to be bothered.”

 

“New play from The Bard is going to be in the theater tonight!”

 

“Bah, plays. I want to see the colosseum! Give me those [Gladiator] fights! I want to see blood! I want to see death! They keep trying to execute Spartacus and Artemis, and they keep beating all the gladiators sent after them! I’m probably going to miss them, the line is going so slowly.”

 

My heart practically froze as I heard that.

 

Artemis wasn’t a super common name, but at the same time it wasn’t the rarest name. However, at the capital? Combat-capable enough to survive multiple rounds in the colosseum?

 

That sounded like Artemis.

 

I’d wanted to get into the city normally, but nooooo. One of my friends being at risk was a good enough reason to bend a few rules.

 

“Hey! You!” I pointed at one of the farmers hauling his goods.

 

“Me?” He pointed to himself, looking around.

 

“Five rods if you deliver this to Ranger HQ.” I shucked my heavy backpack off, and heaved it into his cart. I quickly flashed my Sentinel badge, but I might’ve been too fast for him to see it properly.

 

“Hold on!” I called out to Auri as I wrapped her up in my shield. I bent my knees slightly, then jumped up, my colorful [Scintillating Ascent] wings snapping open.

 

“Brpt! Brpt!?” Auri thought my wings were OK, and wanted to know what we were doing.

 

“Friend might be in trouble.” I answered her as I flew over the city walls, holding up my Sentinel badge. I let a subtle Radiance glow ennamate from me, shining as I blitzed through the sky.

 

I knew where the colosseum was. I’d been the entertainment of the day often enough in Ranger Academy, and the arena was huge.

 

A flicker of Lightning coming from the arena, and the roar of the crowd had me straining to fly faster, pushing my skill for all it was worth.

 

Then I cleared the walls of the Colosseum, and got a look at what was going on.

 

I absorbed the entire scene in an instant.

 

Without a doubt, it was Artemis in the center of the arena, fighting for her life. Nearly a dozen gladiator bodies were scattered around her. A few had the characteristic charmarks of Artemis’s Lightning strikes, while the rest had bright streaks of fresh blood radiating away from their corpses, Artemis having put a rock through them.

 

She was coated in her stone armor, and four gladiators were huddled inside a metal contraption, a decent distance away from her. Two more were warily circling her.

 

The gladiators inside the metal cage were two [Mages] and two [Rangers]. The gladiators circling Artemis were both [Warriors]. All were between level 150 and 200, and it made me wonder where the higher level gladiators were. A small, vindictive part of me hoped that Artemis had fought them all already, and was working her way through the entire supply of [Gladiators]. After all, while two [Gladiators] fighting each other usually didn’t go to the death, Artemis had no such restraints. Even when she completely overpowered her victim - errr - opponent.

 

Small burning rocks were scattered all over, billowing black smoke coming off the rocks. A strange Fire skill, working with Earth? Didn’t matter too much.

 

I grinned. It looked like they’d sent sixteen professional fighters after Artemis, and she was kicking their ass. That was the Artemis I knew!

 

I hovered for a quick moment, while deciding on my angle of attack, and how I was going to approach this. Option A was to just dive in, Radiance blazing, and kidnap Artemis from the center of the arena, then fly away.

 

The plan seemed inadvisable from a long-term solve-the-Artemis-in-the-colosseum problem, but it kept her safe for now.

 

I didn’t think she needed that much keeping safe, not from the bodies she was stacking up like firewood.

 

“The Lightning Reaper scores two more kills! The sixth time they’ve tried to execute her, and she demonstrates why she just will not go down! Give it up fooooooooooooooor ARTEMIS!”

 

The crowd roared, half in approval, half in anger. Either way, the stadium was packed. Artemis was making one hell of a name for herself, and given her victory in the face of overwhelming odds?

 

The fight stalled out for a moment, and four of the gates to the arena opened up. Three gladiators stepped through.

 

“Would you believe it?! They’re sending more fighters after the Lightning Reaper! Killed ten people so far, but it looks like they’re determined to take her out! But with how good she is, are the [Lanistae] just throwing away [Gladiators]?”

 

The commentator paused for a moment, seeing something I hadn’t.

 

“Spartacus refuses to enter the colosseum! He doesn’t like his chances here! I wouldn’t like them if I was in his sandals!! He’s chosen to live another day, versus fighting the LIGHTNIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIING REAPER!”

 

As the reinforcements dramatically entered the arena with various flourishes, one of the mages hiding in the metal cage took advantage of the moment of distraction to launch a barrage of devastating rocks at Artemis. Nearly all of them split around her, redirected towards the two gladiators trying to flank my favorite Lightning mage.

 

One of them had the reflexes - and a big enough shield - to defend himself, while the second one ate dozens of high-speed pointy rocks to the face, and dropped like a sack of potatoes. From his screaming and convulsing, Artemis hadn’t been lethal enough.

 

Annnnnnnd there went my plan on figuring out a better plan. Blasted [Oath]. I might be able to heal from where I was, but that’d just make more messes, and risk Artemis unnecessarily.

 

I regretted losing my sound-amplification gems in Ochi, but I could still make one hell of an entrance. Plus, the [Announcer] usually had amplification skills, and with just a tiny bit of luck and showmanship, I’d get boosted. Made sure I was showing off the right level as well.

 

I blasted light-only Radiance, detailing the Sentinel badge rotating around me as I dived down. Auri, from her hamsterball perch on my shoulder, shrieked as the ground rushed up at us.

 

“BRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRPT!”

 

The crowd roared as I descended, their voices pressing against me like a living thing. I flickered a heal at the downed gladiator, saving his life.

 

I blasted out dozens of [Kaleidoscope] butterflies, having a few hover near each gladiator, and a swarm interspersed on the field just in case.

 

I didn’t need to announce what they did. The butterflies were a clear threat. ‘Move, and something bad will happen.’

 

I landed hard next to Artemis in the center of the arena, bending my knees to take some of the impact.

 

I had no idea what to say. Not after so long. What did one say when they vanished for a year and a half, then suddenly reappeared in the midst of a life and death fight?

 

I said the first thing that popped into my mind.

 

“Yo. Long time, no see.”

 

Did… did I just say yo!? Oh gods.

 

Artemis looked stunned. She just stared at me, her mouth opening and closing wordlessly. The announcer and the crowd were going nuts. I ignored them. As long as the gladiators did nothing stupid, we were fine.

 

“Let’s get out of here.” I jerked my thumb over my shoulder. Artemis hardened up, and nodded.

 

With a modest amount of Radiance, I melted right through the chain on Artemis. I noted that it was rooted in a stone pillar, and she would’ve been able to escape it herself, if she needed to.

 

I looked at her stone armor.

 

“You are way too heavy for me to fly out.” I noted.

 

Artemis half-grinned, and gave a half-chuckle of despair.

 

“And I’m way too low on mana to fly out myself.” She added.

 

“Let’s walk out? Damn anyone who tries to stop us?”

 

“Let’s.”

 

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Selkie

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