Eko and Sophie had been left with their external leader, Letmir Alost'ra, at the Blue team's headquarters, and the three of them were sat in a waiting room as they waited for the other two members, Falin and Tathaln Omatoris to arrive.
Letmir was a petite High Elven woman with swept back auburn hair and she had a very serious expression on her face.
'I can't believe I got promoted so soon... These kids though, to think that they became Blue team keepers straight out of the gate... I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a little bit jealous,' Letmir though to herself.
As it was, she had become a Green team keeper one-hundred and twenty years ago, which was essentially only two tests prior to the one that had just passed, since those exams were held once every sixty years normally.
It was after her fifth mission that she was given the role of the internal leader for her team and she had kept that position for forty years before she was appointed as a regular Blue team keeper. This rate of improvement was insanely good considering her average A-ranked strength.
It was mostly due to her quick wits and ingenious problem-solving that she was granted such opportunities, so the moderately sized and aged Elf took great pride in her latest increase in status.
"You two must be really special to have instantly been given spots in a Blue team, huh?" Still wearing a serious expression, Letmir tried to break the ice a bit.
She was a bit apprehensive of Sophie and Eko due to the fact that they were Humans, but she had never personally experienced the atrocities of their kind. Letmir had only heard of such things from her peers, and she wasn't easily led to believe things without seeing them first, so her aversion of other species, namely Humans, wasn't quite as strong as it was within most other Elves.
Eko rubbed his shiny head and replied, "I'm surprised too. I honestly thought I'd get put in a Green team. I think me and Sophie were paired together since we're Humans, otherwise, there's no way I'd get into a Blue team straight away, hahaha!"
Sophie averted her eyes and shrunk back. She'd rather not respond to a stranger if at all possible. Eko was here to talk to Letmir, so Sophie was content with avoiding all forms of communication with her.
"That makes sense," Letmir peacefully nodded her head and took note of Sophie's shyness silently.
"Anyway," Eko said, "I thought I had all of the external team leaders recognised from the information my recruiter gave me, but I don't recognise you, Miss Alost'ra," he added with a puzzled expression.
"Ah, I was recently promoted. And please, call me Letmir. I'm not comfortable being called my surname by someone who's comparatively older than me," Letmir smiled lightly for the first time since their meeting.
"Ahahaha, sorry, sorry," Eko scratched his head and blushed a bit.
Sophie was very bored and didn't find this exchange of mild pleasantries to be entertaining, so she decided to use Clicker's inspecting ability on both Eko and Letmir to distract herself.
'Eh? Eko has a secret stat? I wonder what it is... Maybe Lone would know? I bet it has something to do with being a monk, right?' Sophie thought to herself as she cutely titled her head to the side.
Sophie put a finger on her chin and pondered over another detail on Eko's status. 'He doesn't have any magic, even though he got a decent reaction from the magical aptitude test? I guess awakening mana organs isn't easy even for monks, huh?'
It only took a few seconds for her to forget the matter. Things like that were better pondered over by her better half, Lone. Sophie still found it interesting, but she chose to move on to Letmir's status, which she assumed would be even more interesting considering she was a young Elf and an A-ranker.
'She said she was younger than Eko but she's almost one-hundred and fifty years older...' Sophie's naive nature couldn't wrap her head around this fact.
What Letmir meant when she said she was comparatively younger than him, was that, if she were a Human, she'd only be ten or eleven years old. Most High Elves lived to be roughly one-thousand years old assuming that they never ranked up and stayed as I-rankers for their entire lives.
Most Demihuman species used the abysmally short lifespans of Humans as a measuring tool to determine who was older and who was younger comparatively instead of simply using their actual age since that didn't reflect well thanks to the difference in mental growth amongst different species.
Swind was a prime example of this. Despite being only fourteen-years-old in reality, his mental age was roughly thirty to forty years old because of his kind, Lemurians, only living for fifty years at the most if they never ranked up.
Twenty or so minutes passed as Eko and Letmir were warming up to each other when the door to the room opened and two High Elves walked in. One of them was the very familiar Falin, while the other was someone that Sophie didn't recognise.
Eko stood up and offered his hand to Falin, who, upon seeing the gesture, snorted and sat down on the other end of the room. Eko laughed awkwardly and offered his palm to the other Elf.
Taking it without much hesitance, he said, "It's nice to meet you, I'm Tathaln Omatoris, but please, call me Tathaln."
Eko sighed in relief that at least one of the other two members of his team were friendly. "I remember you. You're the guy that fought Swind first and treated him as an equal. I respect that kind of attitude. I'm Eko," the monk responded with a big smile.
Surprised to have had such a small act of kindness being noticed out of all of the happenings of the tests, Tathaln's opinion of the Human in front of him sharply improved. "It was only a spar after all, so it wouldn't have been pointless to not allow the man to grow, yes?"
Sophie frowned a little bit as she watched Eko and Tathaln hit it off. 'Why can't I be that sociable? I feel so out of place here... I miss Lone's tails...' Fluffiness was like a drug, and currently, Sophie was experiencing withdrawal effects. No matter how soft Kyuubi was, nothing could beat Lone's tails.
"Well," Letmir clapped her hands and gathered the attention of gathered people, "Now that everyone's here, let's go get our induction mission, shall we?"
"I'd love to." Falin was the first to react and he avoided looking at Sophie. It almost seemed like he was trying to ignore her entire existence while he left the room.
"Hahaha..." Letmir laughed wryly. It would appear that this wouldn't be as easy a team to manage as her last one was. Really, going from an internal leader to an external one was a big leap and change of pace, the High Elf thought.
"Long time no see, Tal'hat'mata," Lone happily said while he waved at the beautiful woman standing outside of a small building in the heart of the city on top of the world tree.
This little establishment had a red leaf symbol perched over the doorway and Lone could easily deduce that this dingy-looking structure was the headquarters for his team's colour, the Red team.
Tal'hat'mata kept a polite expression on her face. She knew that she was far outclassed by Lone, Rachel and Eolande. The High Elf was confident that she could defeat the Demon Princess in a one-on-one battle, but she still maintained the airs of a respectful leader about her.
"Hello, Soul Oracle. It's my pleasure to act as your external leader. Shall we enter and pick up our induction mission before we get to know each other better?" Tal'hat'mata expressed as she gestured to the doorway.
"What? He's a soul oracle?" the Demon Princess mumbled to herself. Every moment that she spent with Lone, the more she felt inadequate in his presence, and this bothered the young teenager.
"Sure," Lone shrugged. He was genuinely looking forward to these missions, especially since they could help him increase his adventurer status and his fame in the future when he received assignments that let him leave the world tree.
Lone's skill, Keen Hearing, picked up a few muffled conversations as he and his teammates entered the Red team's headquarters, and these talks greatly piqued his interest.
"Isn't that Tal'hat'mata?"
"Yeah, it is. I guess she's finally getting punished."
"Someone must really hate those outsiders. Making them Red keepers straight away? That's insane."
"I heard one of them offended a council elder, so he's trying to get rid of them and that problem-child..."
"That's a real shame..."
Lone grinned when he heard this. 'So it was Elder Shan'len, that slimy fuck. Well, not that it matters. I guess I need to keep my eye out in case he has more stuff up his sleeve though. This is suddenly getting a whole lot more exciting, isn't it? I wonder what they meant by Tal'hat'mata being a problem-child though?'
Lone's team entered the building and were surprised to see that, despite its shabby outward appearance, it was actually very luxurious inside.
There wasn't anybody in it like in the Green and Blue team headquarters, and this was due to the fact that there weren't that many Red teams to begin with. Most of them were on several-year-long missions outside of the tree or idly spending their time elsewhere on the tree.
Tal'hat'mata took the induction mission from the woman behind the counter and her eyes shrank while her hands started to lightly tremble.
"Something wrong, Tal'hat'mata?" Lone asked from behind her.
Turning around, the High Elf took in a deep breath and announced their first job. "We have been tasked with entering the tree's first inner ring and fighting off the Darkness monsters that have spawned there."
"Oh? That sounds pretty interesting. A combat mission inside of the tree, huh?" Lone said as he held his chin. "I never even knew this tree has enterable layers."
"I... I knew..." Rachel whispered. She didn't feel secure without Swind nearby, and she wasn't sure why that was, but it made her uncomfortable nonetheless.
"Aren't the Darkness monsters in the first inner ring all at least B-ranked? How many do we have to kill, exactly?" The Demon Princess asked with an uncommonly serious tone to her voice. Even she knew that she had to act maturely and responsibly while completing an objective that could risk her and her teammates' lives.
'Maybe she won't be too hard to work with, after all?' Lone thought as he saw this.
Tal'hat'mata looked shocked at the nonchalant attitude of her fellow keepers. "We have been charged with killing at least one-hundred of the creatures by nightfall. We'll need to go to The Adventurer's Guild first and register the quest before we get ourselves properly geared up..."
Eolande stopped floating and landed before she asked, "Do we have to? Wouldn't it be faster if we just dealt with them now and enjoyed the rest of the day? Husband is itching to fight, see?"
It was true, Lone was looking forward to killing something for once. However, he wasn't the impatient man he used to be. "Let's follow the usual procedure."
"The final say is yours, Soul Oracle. I'm just a guide more than a leader, to be honest." Something about the relaxed and carefree nature of Lone and his companions had helped to calm the Elf's heart.
Maybe they wouldn't struggle as much as she was thinking they would? Hopefully this was the case, otherwise, some of them would die today, that was for sure. The Darkness monsters weren't creatures to be taken lightly.
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