Some more time had passed, and finally, it was Rachel's turn to get tested. She was the last person from Lone's group except for Lone himself to be called up.
She slowly and nervously walked onto the stage and she had to hold herself up by her tails since she was too short to reach the orb by herself. A lot of the other participants laughed at this since it was very cute and amusing to look at.
Rachel tried to ignore the jeers, but she couldn't help a blush from surfacing on her face. She wanted this examination to be over as fast as possible, so she quickly held the orb and let it scan her magical potential.
It pulsed and violently glowed with a fiery-red colour, astounding everyone. This reaction was, by far, the most exaggerated. Almost everyone else had initiated a soft or fast glow, but Rachel's light looked like it was alive and wanted to consume the world.
'Well, well, well... So that's the potential of the first Crimson Foxkin's inheritor? How extraordinary,' King Ele'hunda thought to himself.
"Very violent and dangerous, but a perfect one-hundred regardless!" the Fairy judge shouted. This result damaged the High Elf Falin's confidence even more so than Sophie and Eolande's results had since Rachel looked like the youngest out of the three.
The King nodded his head with absolute approval. "As is expected of the keeper candidate my daughter personally recruited. Well done, Rachel Redtail."
Rachel replied with, "Th-Thank you," before she quickly got off the stage and returned to Swind's back where she hid again.
Rachel loved attention, but this much was far more than she was comfortable with, especially considering all of the hateful glances she was getting just by being a part of Lone's group.
Several more minutes passed and there were now only three more participants that had yet to be tested, Lone was one of them.
Just as the second to last person was finished after getting a low score of thirteen, Lone finally awakened from his state of unconsciousness. He opened his eyes and looked about with drowsy and mildly confused eyes.
"Lone!" Sophie pounced on him and hugged him. "I was so scared! Wh-What if you had died?! You idiot!"
Lone was taken aback for a moment before his memories reminded him of what had happened. he carefully looked around and noticed that Swind was still present and almost everyone was looking at him, King Ele'hunda included.
'I can't believe I was actually able to read his movements considering how fast he was. I just failed to react in time, so he got me. That was fucking dangerous...' Lone sighed a breath of relief at the fact that he wasn't dead yet.
"Don't be silly, Soph. If I'd really died, you'd have saved me," Lone whispered before he kissed her softly on the lips, which sent a wave of murmurs and shocked whispers through the crowd.
"Stupid. Even if I can, it doesn't mean you should take risks like that, you big dummy," Sophie was crying into Lone's chest and the scene was fairly heartwarming for the few people here that didn't hate Lone entirely.
"Oh? So they were in that kind of relationship? I didn't get that kind of feeling from Lone back in Milindo though," Eko said as he noted the intimacy between Lone and Sophie.
"Really? I thought it was obvious the moment I met them," Fep said with his usual smile on his face.
"I mean," Eko scratched his bald head and continued, "I thought they had a brother-sister relationship, hahaha."
"She's nearly a thousand years old, y'know?" Eolande asked with an innocent smile on her face that made it seem like she had mentioned a very obvious detail.
For once, even Fep was startled by what he was hearing. Lone ignored all of this and stood up. He looked around and noticed that no one was on nor approaching the stage. "Is it my turn?" he asked while he looked directly into the King's eyes. Not a single shred of his earlier hate was being hidden and the King frowned at this.
"Indeed it is, Nine-tails," the King answered somewhat cautiously. 'I really hope he doesn't plan to attack me again. I've already conceded by allowing his companion to stay and it would be such a waste to lose him and potentially his friends too.'
Lone didn't rush to do anything provocative, no, he simply walked in a straight line towards the stage and ignored everyone looking at him like they wanted him dead. His gaze was fixed on the King.
"Lone's really pissed, huh?" Eolande happily said as she watched her fated partner stroll through the plaza as if he owned it.
Sophie could only wipe away her earlier tears and nod her head bitterly. "Yeah. Even I can't calm him down when he's like that."
"What?" the Demonkin Princess asked after hearing the two girls. "Why is he still angry? He was in the wrong and King Ele'hunda even took back his words and gave the lizard person a second chance. What right does the Nine-tails have to be 'pissed' for?"
Eolande, Sophie, Breena, Eko, Fep and even Kyuubi, all looked at her with disappointed eyes. "W-What? I'm not wrong!... Am I?"
It was Eko who stood forward and placed a hand on the Demon Princess' shoulder. He looked at her with pity. "Have you ever had any friends before? Anyone so close to you that you'd be willing to die for? Maybe even family members that you wouldn't mind going to the great beyond for if it meant that you kept their honour and their pride intact?"
"What? Em, no, I don't think so... What does that have to do with anything?!" the young Princess was getting anxious. Perhaps it would have been better if she had kept her mouth shut?
Fep sighed and gave her his two cents. "There are three types of people on Altros. One: They won't stand for any injustice to the people they care about. Lone is this type. Two: They can't stand injustices to their loved ones, but they know they're too weak to fight back, so they stay silent. I'd say I fall into this category. And finally, three: They've never met someone who they could have these feelings for. You're probably this type. There is no middle ground. If you don't fall into these three categories, then you're simply not a person, you're a monster."
Fep smiled brightly and clapped his hands. "Though I do admit that Lone is very extreme in the first category. He's more than outmatched, but still risked his life regardless, simply because his friend was insulted. Quite the short fuse, but admirable nonetheless. You're a lucky man, Swind."
Swind lowered his head into a nod as thanks. The Princess stayed silent after that and sunk into thought.
At this point, Lone had reached the raised platform and was stood on the stage. He was right in front of the orb. His eyes hadn't left the muscular King even once. "Hey, you, I have two questions for you," he said with his disdain for the King clear for anyone to hear.
The seated council members frowned and were about to chastise Lone, but they were stopped by the King's raised arm. "Speak, Nine-tails."
"Did you apologise to Swind?" Lone asked his first question.
"Swind? The Lemurian? I did not, no," the King replied honestly even if it might have benefitted him to lie.
"I see. Second question, what exactly does this orb test for? How does it calculate your potential, to be exact?" Lone said while he looked at the orb. He was tempted to use his identifying ability on it, but he was fairly sure he knew the answer on his own due to his vast experience with mana orbs and communication orbs.
"It measures your affinities and their percentages as well as your ability to learn new affinities. The orb also factors in the number of magical spells under your control and your mana reserves. Are you content with this?" the King asked with an interested look on his face as he held his chin.
"Oh, I have a final question," Lone added after having seemingly remembered something.
The council members were getting very upset at Lone's disrespectful attitude and were it not for the way the King was handling him, they would have kicked him off of the world tree and wiped his memory long ago.
"Go on," the King entertained Lone once more.
Lone grinned like a devil and asked, "How much is one of these things worth? Ah, tell me in white-gold coins or ruby-gold coins, anything less would be pointless."
Something about Lone's nonchalant and seemingly innocent intentions gave Her Highness chills. She knew that Lone was rich from the way he and his companions dressed and based on their equipment. Very rich, so it was impossible that he wanted to steal the orb, which confused her slightly.
"In a Human market, easily two-thousand ruby gold pieces, so roughly twenty million gold. It's a higher tier orb since the one from before was broken in an unfortunate accident," the King's eyes lingered on the lazy Eolande for a moment before returning to Lone.
Without saying anything further, Lone threw a large sack at the King's feet. "This is?"
"For the damages," Lone grinned.
He then grabbed the orb with a single hand and within a millisecond, the thing forcefully exploded. Clearly, it wasn't even close to being able to measure Lone's magical potential. "Got a stronger one? A cheap toy like this stood no chance at testing me fairly," Lone shrugged arrogantly.
"Oh, right, that sack," he said as he gestured to the bulging bag, "There are ten-thousand ruby-gold coins in there. I understand you people are a bit financially unstable. After all, you can't even afford proper equipment. Think of it as an apology from me to you." Sarcasm was overflowing in Lone's tone of voice.
Back in his home country of Scotland, sarcasm was almost like a second language, but most people here didn't appreciate the fine humour in it, so Lone rarely got the chance to properly relish in the experience of treating someone like the idiots that they were.
"I see. Interesting," the King mumbled. He then stood up and grabbed the large sack of coins. He inspected it for a few seconds before it disappeared into either a spatial pouch or a skill of some sort. "I shall accept your apology, Nine-tails."
The genuine tone in King Ele'hunda's voice annoyed Lone, but he tried to pay no attention to it. 'Just watch me, you asshole. I'll ruin every one of these tests of yours and make you look like a fool in front of your own people until you properly apologise to Swind.'
The King could sense Lone's challenging aura and enjoyed it in its entirety. 'When was the last time something like this happened? Maybe when I first met Sir Deposit? How thrilling.'
While the King was more than aware that he greatly surpassed Lone in combat abilities, meeting someone willing enough to attack him with psychological warfare excited the ancient Elf, not to mention the fact that the world tree he ruled over really was in dire straights financially due to the Darkness Dragon's previous attack. Lone's 'donation' would help out greatly indeed.
Letty, the Fairy in charge of the group of outsider keepers, was busy gnashing at her teeth after having watched all of this transpire. "I told them to behave! I told them! I need to punish them heavily if they can make it through the four remaining tests... Ugugugugu..."
"Now that the first test is over, we shall move onto the second one, age. Elder Foru will be conducting and grading this test. For those unfamiliar, the test shall check your age and compare it to your strength level. Elder Foru is an expert in averages in this regard. While he may not be one-hundred percent accurate, he can most certainly determine if you are strong or weak for your age," King Ele'hunda stated and then looked right at Swind, "regardless of your race," he added.
A few moments passed before a middle-aged and very handsome man who was sat on the King's right stood up and walked forward. "I shall call out your numbers in no particular order. I'll grade you from zero to one-hundred like the last test for simplicity's sake. First, number twelve!"
"Oh, would you look at that, it's my number. I guess I'm first, how fun," Fep announced and immediately began to make his way merrily onto the stage.
His nonchalant and happy-go-lucky attitude was very odd considering the tension between their group and the Elves, but something about it made it hard to dislike the Changeling. Lone watched on and wondered exactly how this 'Elder Foru' would actually do as the King had said.
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- The Scottish Slothy Sloth
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