"So this is spirit essence?" Lone mumbled as he closely inspected the small spiralled vial that was in his hand.
It was half full of a pure white and almost milky substance that radiated raw energy. Sophie was sat on his lap and she was staring at the small bottle with wonder in her eyes much like Lone was.
The two had returned to their housing along with the rest of their companions after the tests had ended and they were told that they would be notified tomorrow of who their future teams were and of what teams they'd be placed on.
In regards to the techniques that Lone, Sophie and Rachel had been granted access to, they were told by Letty, the overweight Fairy that managed their new home, that they could go and check out the library where such things were stored whenever they wanted from tomorrow.
Naturally, all three of the winners had been presented the bottles of spirit essence, and by the King himself, no less. He had explained that they served as a way to skip the necessary levels between ranks up to a certain point.
This spirit essence was a by-product of the world tree and was created by mixing several magical ingredients with its sap.
"So it's basically an EXP potion," Lone said to himself as he recalled his many years of online gaming.
"'EXP potions'? What are those?" Sophie asked as she tilted her head up and looked at Lone's face.
Smiling down at her, Lone explained, "Simply put, let's say you're a level one I-ranker, you drink this and you'll go up in levels. Maybe you'll gain a single level, or maybe you'll gain a lot. Remember those witches potions you got back in Milindo?"
Sophie recalled the stat boosting drinks that Lone had bought for her and nodded her head. "Yeah. The ones that permanently raised my stats by a little bit?"
"Yep. By the way, I did some research while at the Foxkin Clan, and it seems like those are really damned rare. I need to learn alchemy at some point," Lone sighed.
"Anyway," he said as he regained his focus, "EXP potions, or spirit essence, should increase my levels and get me closer to the A-rank," Lone added.
"... Are you going to drink them?" Sophie asked with concern in her voice. She didn't trust the people here.
This distrust was due to two things, Sophie's innate aversion towards people, and as a consequence of the racist and hateful words the Elves had muttered to themselves during the tests about her.
"Honestly, yes. I wanted you to drink one of them to test their effects since you have a negative immunity, but it would be pointless since your level is always fixed to be the same as mine," Lone laughed slightly.
'Muuuu! A chance to help Lone, gone because of my powers! Muuuu... how frustrating...' Of course, Sophie would have been more than willing to help Lone. It was a shame that she had been forcefully bound to Lone by the mysterious Gods that brought them to Altros.
"Don't get so annoyed," Lone calmly requested as he gently kissed the upset Cosmos-level being's head.
"I-I'm not annoyed..." Sophie stuttered. Lone rarely called her out for her childishness anymore, so on the rare occasion that he actually did, it always caught the small girl off guard.
"To be honest though, I'd just test it on Eolande if I really needed to, but it's probably fine. After all, even Clicker's ability isn't detecting anything strange," Lone claimed reassuringly.
"... Are you gonna drink them all if they're okay?" Sophie asked as she laid her head back into Lone's chest and closed her eyes. This was one of the top ten most comfortable positions on Lone's lap out of the several hundred that Sophie had discovered thus far, so closing her eyes was only par for the course.
"Nope. Only one," Lone stated.
"Why?" Sophie was a bit confused. If he was so concerned about the contents, but was only going to drink a single vial's worth, that why wouldn't he just avoid drinking any at all and simply leave them to rot in his dimension storage for all of eternity?
Lone only had to say a single sentence for Sophie to understand. "Swind and Breena need it more than I do, after all, I'm a genius, aren't I?"
Sophie giggled and smiled. "Yup, you are. A genius at being fluffy!"
With swift and practised movements, Sophie coiled her arms around Lone's back and grabbed two of his tails before smothering herself in them.
"Seriously... You're too cute..." Lone muttered with a content grin on his face.
After that, Lone drank the flask of milky liquid and felt a surge of energy flowing through him. A few minutes passed and Lone couldn't feel any adverse effects thus far, so he heaved a sigh of relief and took a moment to check his status screen.
|Race:||Golden Sky Fox of The Endless Void|
'A lot of changes. Strength, vigour and vitality all went up by about two to three hundred points while dexterity and agility increased by five to six hundred...' Lone began pondering over the new stat values he'd obtained during the tests after his rank up while Sophie immersed herself in his fuffy limbs.
'Wow. Luck, charm, charisma and rage all went up by forty to fifty points while control actually decreased by that amount... Why?' Lone was lost in thought.
'Ah, right. Rage took control of my body... I still need to talk to Eolande about that tonight,' Lone said to himself.
After having sorted through everything in his mind, Lone got up and gathered the other members of The Wanderers. Now all sat in a spacious room within the manor, everyone waited for Lone to speak.
"First thing's first, Swind, Breena," Lone called the two weakest members of his adventurers group.
They both responded with concern in their voices. It was rare for Lone to call everyone to together for anything more than simply eating, so they were both paying extra attention to their leader and master.
"These are for you. Sophie and I don't need them," Lone said as he put the fifty-nine bottles of the milky-white liquid onto the table and split them into two amounts. Thirty-four on Swind's side and twenty-five on Breena's.
"It's the spirit essence we won from the tests. It can increase your levels by quite a lot. I suspect there's enough in there for you, Breena, to become a low B-ranker, while you, Swind, should be able to become a high D-ranker or Low C-ranker. Just drink it until you reach the level limit for your rank then wait until you breakthrough before repeating the process," Lone explained.
Swind accepted the spirit essence without any fuss. He was already greatly indebted to Lone, and if this stuff could help him to speed up the process of paying back that debt, then he was more than happy to receive it.
"Master, I can't possibly take this from you or from Sophie..." Brenna pushed the bottles back towards her master and shook her head.
She knew that Lone wanted to get stronger as fast as possible, so she couldn't bring herself to deprive him of a way to do just that purely because he pitied her power.
"No's not an answer. I'm a genius, so I don't need it, and Sophie's level is linked to mine, so it's even more useless to her," Lone shrugged.
Eolande grinned when she heard this, "As arrogant as ever, Husband."
"It's just the truth," Lone smiled.
"We-well then... Master, thank you." Breena could tell that Lone had made a decision, and whenever he had done that, it was usually very challenging to persuade him to think otherwise.
"Don't worry about it," Lone waved his hand dismissively as if he didn't even value the spirit essence.
In truth, he had tried to recreate it with his creation magic, but he didn't have nearly enough mana, even when it was maxed, so he had to concede and give up the thought for the time being. He could always try again later when he had enough mana orbs saved up since it would take a while for Breena and Swind to finish using all of the provided spirit essence.
"Now that that's done, Husband, everyone, I have something I want to talk to you all about," Eolande claimed with an emotion-filled voice.
Lone and everyone else could sense how serious the Elder Tylwyth Teg was being, so without messing around, Lone got to the main point immediately. "Is this about what the King said during the second test?"
"Yes... Apparently, my fellow Tylwyth Teg are still alive... All four-thousand and ninety-two of them..." Eolande admitted with a bitter smile on her lips.
"What? How?" Lone was shocked. He hadn't expected this to be what the King had told her.
"King Ele'hunda said that the Mad King never killed them... He only announced that he did to lure me and my sisters out of hiding to attempt to rescue the remaining ones..." There was only one thing that Lone could sense from Eolande's voice: A pure and bottomless sadness.
"How devious. I hate people like that," Sophie said as she recalled her years of being chased down by the Knights Templar on God's orders.
"Thank you, Sophie." Eolande nodded to her love rival with appreciation in her tone. "As you already know, I was the only one that successfully escaped his capture in the end."
"But wait, this was three-thousand years ago and he was a Human, wasn't he? Surely he's dead by now? Unless..." Lone's mind began to think of several possibilities, but only one particular one stood out above the rest.
"Yes. He's become an SS-ranker so his lifespan has kept him breathing to this very day," Eolande confirmed Lone's conjectures.
"What? Only an SS-ranker? Fuck it. Let's leave this tree and go destroy his kingdom and save your people," Lone declared rather irresponsibly.
Eonlade's face lit up like a Christmas tree and she held her hands to her small chest before she slowly shook her head. "Husband... Thank you. You don't know how much those words mean to me, but it's impossible."
"Why? I don't mind abandoning this whole keeper bullshit if it means I can help you out. As much as I hate you at times, you're still my friend and teacher, though you barely teach me anything," Lone grumbled.
Eolande giggled a bit and then gave everyone an explanation. "King Ele'hunda told me that the Mad King has somehow gained the protection of a very ancient and powerful bronze-skinned Dragon."
"A bronze-skinned Dragon? So it's either a Lesser Metal Dragon or a Corrosion Dragon," Lone noted. He had researched Dragons as much as he could ever since he had learnt that they were immune to magic, so of course, he was aware of the various types and their distinctive physical features.
"I don't know. The King never told me, but he and several other XX-rankers and XXX-rankers failed to wipe out the Mad King's kingdom after finding out about his mass kidnapping of Demihumans," Eolande said.
"They failed...? The Dragon huh?" Lone's interest in Dragons had been doing nothing but growing recently and he could sense a feeling of foreboding regarding this.
"Yes. The Dragon blocked them all by itself," Eolande sighed sadly.
Lone put a hand on his chin and began to think. "Huh, so it's at least a Divine-level being or maybe an Ancient-level being..."
"Exactly, so, Husband, would it be too much to ask if you could help me kill that bastard of a Human as soon as you can match an Ancient-level being?" Eolande requested as earnestly as she possibly could. This was coming directly from her heart and Eolande swore to herself that she would never ask Lone to do anything like this ever again regardless of his answer.
"Leave it to me," Lone replied confidently without hesitating.
"Really... Lone, thank you so much. I love you more than words will allow me to ever express," Eolande declared before she suddenly hugged Lone and pressed her body against his.
Sophie swiftly grabbed her and threw her across the room and then locked her arms around Lone and his tails protectively. "Back, you vixen! This fox belongs to me!"
"Hahaha... Of course, of course. You'd better keep him safe, because one day, I might just steal him from you." Eolande fixed her posture and laughed sweetly.
"Grrr!" Growling like a wild beast that was guarding its mate, Sophie showed her cute little teeth threateningly.
While he rubbed Sophie's head to placate her, Lone was lost in thought over the two girls' behaviour. 'These girls... Some things never change, do they? Eolande must be dreaming if she thinks I'll betray Soph... And this little idiot... She needs to stop mistrusting me...'
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