Lone and Sophie were the last to arrive after having been summoned by Letty, and everyone noticed that there was a certain atmosphere around the small girl and nine-tailed Foxkin. This was made especially obviously by Sophie, who was clinging tightly to Lone's waist with a massive grin on her lips as the two approached.
Eolande couldn't help but sigh internally at this blatant display of affection. 'Would you look at that, they only ended up getting closer... Well, the silver-lining is that Husband doesn't mind smaller bodies now, I suppose... so that's progress? Hahaha...'
Floating above the water fountain that was in the centre of the manor's front garden, Letty had her arms crossed over her fat waist and her cheeks were puffed up. "You're late."
"Sorry, we were... busy," Lone answered coyly. He was still trying to wrap his head around the incredible experience with Sophie and he was struggling to think of anything else currently.
"Hmmpf! You pair have been nothing expect trouble for me! Anyway, I have two things to announce." Letty was acting upset, however, in truth, she was actually very happy.
Of the keeper candidates that she was tasked with managing, all of them were accepted! And not only that, no, they won every single test. The plump Fairy felt giddy just thinking about it. With this, she could happily rub it in the faces of the other keeper managers who looked down on her for her status as the outsiders' manager.
"First!" Letty held up her chubby index finger and looked at every person gathered one by one. "Your keeper teams have been decided on, as have your internal team leaders and external team leaders."
"You must be curious as to what those are, right? Well, for the people that weren't taught about world tree keeping properly," Letty looked straight at Lone as she said this before she continued, "the internal leader will be one of you new keepers, while the external leader is there to act as a guide and is a veteran keeper."
Letty gave everyone a few seconds to process this basic information before she resumed speaking. "Each keeper team consists of five people. Sometimes there's less, but never more. Four of you will make up the core of the team while your external leader will act as the fifth member."
Fep raised his head and asked, "Will we all be paired up, or is the plan for us to join separate teams?"
"Good question!" Letty exclaimed. "You eight will be split into three different teams. I'll list them now. Keeper team Green-seventy consists of Breena Redtail, Swind, Fep, Ul'har and Falgoth. This team's internal leader will be Breena Redtail and the external leader will be Falgoth."
"Keeper team Blue-nineteen will have Eko Pradu, Sophie Vladimirovich, Tathaln Omatoris, Falin Woodgrove and Letmir Alost'ra in it. Falin Woodgrove will be the internal leader and Letmir Alost'ra will be the external leader," Letty announced. This composition greatly shocked Lone and Sophie.
'We won't be together?' Sophie said to Lone with an upset voice via telepathy.
With a slight frown on his lips, Lone replied, 'Looks like it.'
'I don't wanna...' Sophie grabbed a few of Lone's tails and hugged them tightly.
Lone smiled warmly upon seeing this. He gently patted her head before consoling her. 'It's fine. I'm sure we won't even have to do many missions involving leaving the tree, so it doesn't really matter, does it?'
'I guess... But that Falin... I don't like him.' Sophie felt sick just thinking about the way Falin had challenged Lone. Even if he hadn't done anything wrong, Sophie's biased view would obviously paint the High Elf in a sour light.
'If he tries anything funny, just skin him again?' Lone suggested jokingly. He wasn't particularly fond of Falin as well, but he didn't even let the man enter his eyes, that's just how little Lone thought of the Elf.
'Muuuu... I wanna be on a team with you though...' Sophie pouted and continued to silently complain only to her lover.
Lone wanted to grab and snuggle the small girl since she was being too cute, but he held himself back. 'Don't worry about it. It'll be a good learning experience for the both of us. Besides, even if we do get forced apart for a bit of time, we can always talk like this, can't we?'
The two of them had almost never left each other's side ever since they had first met, so Lone thought that this might help Sophie with her innate fear of people. That problem had gotten far better over the past two and a half years, but Lone wasn't adverse to the idea of improving it even more so.
'... You're right...' Sophie still wanted to sulk and be pampered by Lone, but she had to concede and admit that he was, as usual, right.
"The third and final team, Red-four, has the rest of you in it. Lone Immortus, Eolande, Rachel Redtail and Ekol Miphtos Rak Sol Hepsistes... what an annoying name," Letty said and mumbled the last part. "Your final member will be the High Elf, Tal'hat'mata, who will act as your external leader while Lone Immortus shall be your internal one."
"Oh? Tal'hat'mata? Well, at least it's someone I know," Lone said to himself as he felt Sophie's grip on his tails tighten.
The Demon Princess put one of her hands on her hip while the other pointed at Lone. "Why is he the leader? I did better than him in the combat test!"
Of course, despite the fact that she had conceded to Sophie, she was still a very prideful girl and it annoyed her that Lone, who had done nothing except sow discord with the council and keeper candidates, was being made the leader over her, who had controlled herself and simply tried her best. Naturally, the girl's views were a bit one-sided.
Letty giggled and scoffed, "I didn't choose the teams. They were picked by the council and by King Ele'hunda himself. Go petition a repeal with them if you're so against it."
"As if I could do that..." the teenaged Demonkin grumbled.
Lone, completely pretending that this exchange had never happened, raised an unrelated concern. "Letty, what do the colours and numbers on the teams mean?"
"Al'ka and Her Highness really taught you nothing?" Letty sighed. She really didn't like working more than she had too. "The colour indicates the level of the group and the number is just the order of priority for your team amongst your respective level. Going from lowest to highest, the levels are Green, Blue, Purple, Yellow, Red."
At this point, Letty decided to steal Kyuubi from underneath Eolande and rest on top of the sleepy Fox. "Ah, much better," the Fairy laughed lightly with a wide grin on her face as Eolande sighed and decided to sit on the wooden floor that was the world tree's branch.
"The higher the level, the more difficult missions you'll go on. Usually, most groups start at Green. Blue is a really good start for you guys," Letty praised as she glanced at Sophie and Eko.
She then looked at lone and cackled a bit. "Someone must really hate you, or the council really trusts your abilities to throw you into Red immediately. Though don't worry, your first task is always in the world tree itself and Red teams rarely get sent out of the tree on commissions since they're only given the most difficult ones, which are pretty rare," Letty explained dismissively.
'Hmm... It could really be both... I wonder, did the King vouch for me, or is this the doing of Elder Shan'len?' Lone wondered. He cared very little and didn't think that it would affect him much regardless, so he wasn't particularly worried.
"The last thing I need to tell you before I send you off the meet your external leaders and teammates is that all of your missions count as adventurer quests," Letty announced, surprising everyone somewhat. It was a bit shocking that such a xenophobic community would actually possess an Adventurer's Guild.
Seeing this amazement, Letty continued talking. "We have a branch of The Adventurer's Guild located in the tree's trunk that's primarily used by Elves not strong enough to become keepers but who want to explore or still contribute to the tree. On top of that, having an adventurer identity is a very useful thing to own in the outside world, so you'll have to get graded and receive an adventure plate if you don't already own one."
Seeing that everyone had understood her words, Letty finished her long speech. "Tell your external leader if you need an adventurer's plate. Okay, any questions? No? Perfect! Let's go meet your external team leaders then! Nehehehe."
Not giving anyone a chance to reply to her, Letty urged Kyuubi forwards and left the manor's garden. The stunned new keepers had no choice but to follow her as they held any queries in their minds to be asked at a later date.
Swind looked around with curiosity. He was currently with Breena and Fep. The three were stood outside of a humungous building that had a large green leaf placed over its entrance. An annoyed looking High Elf was with them and they were all looking at a peaceful and seeming old Wood Elf.
The young man was Ul'har, a fellow new keeper and their teammate while the older one was Falgoth, their external leader.
"I'm glad to meet you all. I'm Falgoth, the longest running world tree keeper," the Wood Elf said with an amiable smile on his weathered lips.
"... And the weakest..." Ul'har muttered under his breath. Everyone could see that Falgoth was barely a B-ranker.
Falgoth laughed lightly. "You're right, Ul'har, but no matter how weak or strong, all keepers share the same responsibility. We must protect and look after the world tree, no matter what, yes?"
Ul'har blushed in embarrassment. "Y-Yeah..."
"I'm glad you understand that," Fargoth said in a lecturing tone before he gestured to the large structure behind them and said, "This is the headquarters for Green teams, so if you'd follow me, we'll go receive our induction mission. It should be a simple one, but do not take it lightly, okay? As I said, everything here is equally important."
Fep was greatly enjoying himself. He found this all to be a really novel and entertaining experience. "Hey, Swind."
"Mr Fep?" the Lemurian replied as he kept his attention on Falgoth while they entered the building.
"Don't you think this all very fun? You mentioned before that you haven't experienced much of the world, right? So this should all be pretty new to you," Fep said.
They were several groups of Elves, primarily High Elves, busily walking around and they were handing in or getting new missions befitting of their strength. From what Swind could tell, the Green teams seemed to mostly do the simplest of tasks for the tree, but this made him happy.
"I am greatly looking forward to being of help for once," Swind replied with little expression on his scale-covered face.
Breena looked up at the vastly taller Swind and frowned lightly. Their group had now reached a counter of some sort. Apparently, this was where the missions were collected. Falgoth was talking to the woman working there and getting all of the details for their induction task, so Breena had a moment to talk to the Lemurian.
"Swind, you have always been a necessity and vital companion of ours. Master is persistent in telling you that your cooking and the fact that you do all of the group's chores is an invaluable asset to The Wanderers. Don't take his words for granted," Breena commanded.
She greatly respected Swind and his admirable attitude towards gaining strength, but his constant apparent need to put himself down made her feel frustrated as a former slave. His worth was far more than he would ever willingly admit.
"Thank you, Miss-ss Redtail. However, I wish to prove myself in other ways-ss. Mr Immortus-ss created ss-such a fantastic ss-sword for me, ss-so I would like to repay his kindness-ss by using it to aid him," Swind responded calmly and without hesitating.
Ul'har scoffed silently. 'Someone like you that only became a keeper with luck will never be strong.'
Falgoth chuckled as he turned around. His dimples were raised into a smile and he said, "You'll have to wait a bit longer for that. Our first commission is to collect some of the herbs at the base of the world tree, namely, Mercurialis Perennis."
"Oh! Herb collecting! That sounds great," Fep exclaimed as he clapped his hands excitedly.
Truly, no matter how much time Breena spent observing this peculiar blue-skinned man, she couldn't see herself unveiling any of the mysteries shrouding him nor his motivations.
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