No one disagreed with King Ele'hunda's declaration regarding skills, so one by one, people went up to display their abilities. Most of the Elves were performing their best archery-related skills or scouting skills, which didn't interest Lone that much, but he still wanted to steal them.
"This sucks," Lone mumbled. He was upset that he couldn't learn the skills being shown since they were too far away for him to accurately copy them and they weren't being used on him, so the game system of this world wasn't handing him the assortment of skills that he so badly desired.
Surprisingly, the first person from Lone's group that was called up was actually Lone himself. Still in a foul mood, Lone waltzed up onto the stage and stood in front of the council and King Ele'hunda.
"Well then, Nine-tails, please, demonstrate your most powerful skill," King Ele'hunda asked with sincerity and politeness in his tone. He wasn't sure why Lone seemed to be upset, but the masculine Elf would be lying if he said that he wasn't eager to see Lone's ability.
"I'd rather not kill anyone, so I refuse. I'll just show you one of my more powerful ones, but definitely not my strongest one," Lone shrugged.
"That is fair. So long as we judge your shown skill well enough, anything is fine," King Ele'hunda replied with understanding in his tone.
He was aware that Lone was exceedingly capable, especially after the previous two tests, so he didn't find it hard to believe that Lone could accidentally end a life if he used his most potent skill.
Both Eolande and Sophie cringed when they saw Lone take a large dagger out from his overcoat. It was obvious to both of them what he was going to do, so they both looked away and closed their eyes.
Rachel was confused by this, so she asked Swind, "What's wrong with them?"
"Mr Immortus-ss is an amazing healer," Swind replied cryptically.
"Huh?" Rachel was even more puzzled now.
Her questions were quickly answered when Lone brought the dagger to his armpit and sliced his entire right arm off. It fell to the floor with a wet and squishy thud. Silence took a stranglehold over the plaza.
It was a few seconds before the crowd of other participants began wildly shouting and screaming about how insane Lone was. The King was just about to call for a nature magic specialist to seal up Lone's wound and stop the bleeding with the help of his daughter, but he noticed that Lone didn't seem to be in any pain and was incredibly calm.
Lone slowly put his hand on his new open shoulder and, to everyone's surprise, an arm was being created as Lone moved his hand down. Like it was as good as new, Lone clenched his right hand and picked up the recently severed one before destroying it with a kindling of mana. He then used creation magic to fix his shirt and coat since they'd been damaged too.
Many of the other participants had felt their stomachs go weak after watching Lone recreate his arm since it wasn't the most pleasant thing to witness, that was for sure.
"Good enough?" Lone asked the stumped council with a grumpy expression. Clearly, he was still upset that he couldn't steal many skills.
"... Where did you learn to do such a thing?" For once, the king had lost his composure.
Being a soul oracle was one thing. Having the ability to fight an XXX-ranker while only being a C-ranker was unheard of, but it was still believable. However, King Ele'hunda knew for a fact that what Lone had just done was literally impossible.
Healing was an incredibly mana-consuming form of magic no matter which school of magic was being used to accomplish it. Simply recreating a finger would only be possible by a Saint-ranked healer.
Magic was generally split into five different ranks. Apprentice, Acolyte, Adept, Master and Saint. Recreating limbs and entire body parts required an insanely large pool of magic which King Ele'hunda knew Lone didn't possess, so that begged the question, just how did he do it?
"To explain it simply, I lost my hand in combat once. I wanted it back, so I learnt how to create a new one," Lone shrugged, "So, my grade?" he added. Obviously, he didn't want to reveal any more of his secrets.
"A flawless pass. I deem your skill to be at the highest possible grade. I assume that no one disagrees?" the King asked while looking at the council sat on his left and right.
"In fact, Your Majesty, I do disagree," a very handsome and young looking Elf declared. He stood from his chair and approached Lone.
"Elder Shan'len? Have you found some faults with the nine-tails' skill?" King Ele'hunda rubbed his beard and gazed at the council elder with a fascinated look in his eyes.
"Indeed I have." There was arrogance and clear disdain in Elder Shan'len's voice.
"Speak your mind, Elder Shan'len, but let it be known that if the one at fault is not the Nine-tails, but you, then there will be consequences," King Ele'hunda ordered. He did not want to anger Lone since he was incredibly capable and would undoubtedly become an invaluable asset to the world tree.
"Well, Your Majesty, it's obvious for everyone to see that this beastkin cheated!" Elder Shan'len declared.
Lone eyed the good-looking Elf dangerously. "What the fuck do you mean I cheated? Hey, King, I didn't realise you hired mental patients on your council," Lone sneered.
Eolande watched this with a smile on her face as she sat on Kyuubi's back. "I guess this is what happens when you bottle your feelings up and try to be something you're not for so long. I'm glad Husband is back to normal, but really... Couldn't he have chosen a better person to vent his frustrations and arrogance on?"
King Ele'hunda looked at the very confident elder and frowned. He was no expert at detecting lies or falsehoods. His position as King was only guaranteed thanks to his overwhelming power, not due to his wisdom or anything of that sort. "Do you have proof of these accusations?"
"That Fairy Princess is proof enough, is she not?" A shit-eating grin was smeared all over Elder Shan'len's face and despite his good looks, most people would agree that right now, he looked very disgusting.
"Speak plainly, Elder Shan'len." King Ele'hunda wasn't a fan of talking in roundabout ways, so he had never liked Elder Shan'len who seemed to love doing such a thing.
"Of course, Your Majesty," Elder Shan'len bowed, "Everyone saw the illusion that the Fairy Princess released, no? The one concealing her true strength. It's obvious for all to see that she had used some sort of undetectable illusion to help the nine-tails here cheat. It is common knowledge that healing entire limbs requires far more mana than is possible for a C-ranker to possess. The reason he 'destroyed' the arm was clearly because it was nothing more than an illusion and he feared being discovered. Need I go on?"
King Ele'hunda had a frown on his face. "Nine-tails, are you able to disprove Elder Shan'len's theory?"
"Sure I can," Lone shrugged with a passive grin on his face. This unsettled Elder Shan'len somewhat, but he was confident that he was correct.
"You, big mouth," Lone called as he looked at the elder in question, "You mind if I cut your arm off really quickly? Don't worry, it'll be back in no time."
"I'm sorry, I must have misheard you. Repeat your question." Elder Shen'lan was convinced that he hadn't listened to Lone correctly. Surely he hadn't actually asked him if he could cut his arm off, right?
"Look, here's the deal," Lone said in an authoritative voice, "You think it was just an illusion, right? Then let me chop your arm off or do it yourself and I'll heal it. That should be more than enough proof," he added with a playful tone.
"Preposterous! Why would I do that?! You're using illusions, so obviously, if any of my limbs were removed, you wouldn't be able to restore them!" Elder Shan'len was getting agitated.
"Hmm, that makes sense. Okay, how about this," Lone said before he took a sack out from his coat. "If I am lying, I'll just give you five-thousand ruby-gold coins to cover the costs of employing someone capable enough to restore your arm. That way, either you're full of shit and I prove you wrong, or you're right and you have to deal with having only one arm until you can pay to get it back and you'd have made off with a hefty profit since I'm pretty sure it isn't that expensive to get a limb healed."
"You dare try to bargain with an X-ranker like myself?! Such arrogance!" Elder Shan'len was absolutely furious.
Normally, his status as an elder of the world tree council afforded him great respect and reverence from not only residents of the world tree, but also from outsiders. Naturally, Lone's rude attitude and defiance had spurred Elder Shan'len into action. He wouldn't allow someone with such a personality to become a keeper, so he chose to speak up regardless of the King's apparent interest in the nine-tails.
"Look, Elder Shan'len, if you're not willing to do that, then how exactly am I supposed to prove myself to you?" Lone asked with a look on his face that clearly made a statement of how annoyed he was right now. 'People say I'm arrogant, but at least I'm not unreasonable.'
"I agree with him. Elder Shan'len, remove your own arm or drop the matter. Accusing him with nothing more than wild theories as your evidence is unfair, so you must abide by his request." King Ele'hunda made his stance evident.
"But Your Majesty! What will become of my arm if he truly is using illusions?!" Elder Shan'len shouted in agitation.
"If that really is the case, I will personally request for the Head Dryad of Mount Kakrim to heal you. Now, make your decision." The King was greatly enjoying the freedom that Lone's money was granting him. Normally, hiring the Dryad's of Mount Kakrim, especially their head, was exorbitantly expensive to him even before the world tree's plight drained their coffers.
"I... I... I'll abstain. I apologise for causing such a ruckus, Your Majesty," Elder Shan'len said before bowing lightly. He then returned to his seat and gave Lone a glare.
"Hey, you," Lone rudely called as he looked at the king, "Control your dogs more in the future. I don't like it when I get barked at for no reason."
King Ele'hunda frowned, however, he didn't reply and watched the moody Lone return to his group. Meanwhile, Elder Shan'len was gnashing his teeth and evil thoughts were swirling around in his head. 'He was definitely cheating! With such an attitude, he's not worthy to become a keeper! If he somehow passes the tests... I have to make his induction mission the most difficult one possible... He would be better off dead for making me suffer such a humiliation...'
The Changeling, Fep, was laughing as he looked at Lone. "You sure don't know how to hold yourself back, do you? Look at that poor elder, he's glaring daggers at you."
"Fuck him. He can't do shit to me anyway," Lone was forgetting his manners and his inner Scotsman was seeping out.
Sophie pinched his side and mumbled, "Potty mouth."
Lone's expression visibly softened and he gently caressed Sophie's hair. "Sorry, Soph. This whole testing has gotten me really riled up. I'm genuinely starting to wonder if it was worthwhile even coming here."
From Kyuubi's back, Eolande commented, "Of course it was. Look, Swind has nearly made a breakthrough just from this place's vast energies." A look of realisation crossed the Tylwyth Teg's face before she added in a whisper, "Speaking of which, are you able to heal the tree?"
"Probably." Lone's answer was short, but it told Eolande more than enough. Were it up to her, she would ask Lone to attempt healing the world tree in order to repay King Ele'hunda for the information he had given her, but she knew that now was neither the time nor the place to request such a thing.
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