"This place is really empty, huh?" Lone said as he looked around the manor that was supposedly home for the new keepers.
Letty, who had commandeered Kyuubi's back, much to the dismay of Eolande, scoffed and lazily replied, "Of course it is. It's only the afternoon, so the new keepers are busy going through tests or working hard to maintain the world tree while the ones from your group are being shown around the tree."
Eolande glared at Kyuubi's comfortable back and sighed. 'To think that so many Fairies of such strength were hiding in this place all this time... I wonder if the other world trees have similar super powers hiding within them?' Regardless of how much Eolande loved Kyuubi's back and luscious fur, she had to concede to the lazy Fairies and let them use her personal mount.
"Tests?" Lone asked with curiosity clear in his voice.
Letty smirked. "In time. Though I think a few of you might fail. Nehehehe."
Something about Letty's giggling unsettled Sophie, so she immersed herself in Lone's tails once more to bury those strange feelings away. Letty looked at the young cosmos-ranked being and her lazy eyes brightened up.
She flew off of Kyuubi's back and hovered lazily around Lone with her rotund body. "Your fur looks very soft... Can I play with it while we wait for the other keepers to return?"
Sophie glared at the powerful and small Fairy with a gaze that would kill if it was possible to do so. Lone gently rubbed her head and replied to Letty. "No, and why do we need to wait for the other keepers? I'd rather we just got showed to our rooms, thanks."
"Tch, such a shame. And they're going to be your neighbours and partners, and you're all going to be living in the same building, so of course, you should meet each other as soon as possible. There's also the matter of airing grievances," Letty answered with a tone that made it clear that Lone should have already known this.
"Didn't this get explained to you when you were recruited by whatever keeper brought you here?" Letty added.
Lone took a seat on a wooden bench in an open courtyard where Letty had led him and his group. Sophie occupied his lap while Swind sat on a separate bench and Eolande hovered in the air peacefully. Breena was idly waiting within her master's shadow.
Lone looked at the overweight and lazy Fairy who was lying down on his daughter's back before he replied, "Nope. I wasn't really recruited normally anyway, I kind of accidentally got recruited by learning High Elven."
Rachel meekly raised her voice to say, "I-I knew..."
"Ah, I forgot you were here, Rachel. Your presence is a bit weak. What happened to your boisterous nature?" Lone asked with curiosity overflowing from his voice. While he cared little for people that weren't his close friends, he naturally had a bit of a soft spot for Rachel since she looked like a six-year-old, and at his core, Lone was a teacher.
Sophie started to harmlessly whistle from Lone's lap and a shiver went down Rachel's spine when she noticed that Sophie was dangerously eying her fluffy tails. 'I'm trying to not draw the attention of that... that... that groper sitting on your lap!' Rachel thought while she clutched a few of her tails as if to protect them from Sophie's eyes.
"So these are the new keepers that we've been waiting for? They're all so weak except for that eight-tails. What the hell?" an unfamiliar and cold voice asked.
Everyone turned to look at the conversation's intruder. A woman with pure red skin and pointed ears was standing at the entrance to the courtyard with an unimpressed look on her face. Her looks were average, but her eyes were pitch-black and the greatsword on her back gave Lone a feeling of danger. If he wasn't wrong, the weapon was of an equal rank to his anvil and forge, legendary.
"You're not that impressive yourself, Demonkin," Lone snorted.
He didn't even need to identify her to tell that she was an A-ranker and that she was from a subspecies of the Demon race. While slated as evil by almost every Human society, Demons were actually just another type of demihuman that had experienced a very long a brutal war with several Human kingdoms, resulting in the bad rumours about their race.
Demons usually specialised in various magics, the red-skinned tribe, which this woman was from, were very skilled with dark-flame magic, but like all races, not every Demon followed the norm. 'Is she a master swordsman? Maybe I should test her skills. She might be able to teach Sophie some more about swordsmanship.'
"What did you say, Nine-tails?" Lone's words had obviously provoked this Demonkin, but he couldn't care less. While he was trying to be less arrogant, this woman had insulted him and his friends first, so he had fully turned on his conceited mode.
"Wanna try me? We're going to be living together for a while, so we should get used to sparring, right? Afterall, keepers are meant to be strong, so it only makes sense to sharpen our skills by fighting each other," Lone said as he removed Sophie from his lap and approached the Demonkin. His alterion armour sleeve and leather armour appeared on his body and Dawn, his swordspear, was summoned.
"Laughable. A C-ranked weakling Foxkin is challenging me, a noble Demonkin of royal lineage? Hahahahaha! Were you recruited for your comedic talents? Afterall, the strength of you people is nothing if not a joke," the Demonkin woman sneered dismissively.
Lone shrugged his shoulders and his armour and swordspear were returned to his spatial dimension. "Fine by me. With that attitude, it would only be a waste of my time to put you in your place." With that said, Lone smirked towards the infuriated Demonkin and turned his back.
Before he could even move a few steps, the Demonkin had made a move and removed her greatsword from her back. With swift an agile movements, the blade's edge was very quickly being swung towards Lone's back.
"Sneaky. As expected of a Demonkin," Lone mocked.
Four of his multi-coloured tails batted the sword away with movements fast enough to not be visible by at least half of the people present.
The greatsword's momentum, having been redirected, lead the mighty weapon of an unknown metal to smash into the ground. It bounced off of a spell formation of some sort and forced the Demonkin to let go of the weapon and fall over.
She cried out in shock and rubbed her head. After getting up, she looked around for her precious sword. 'Where is it?! Where is it?! I can't see it! That-That was a gift from father for becoming a world tree keeper candidate! Where did it go?! That damned nine-tails! He must have stolen it!'
"You!" She pointed a finger directly at Lone's face and yelled, "Give me my sword back! That's not yours to keep!"
"Oh, you mean this?" Lone replied as he took the blade out from his dimensional storage and twirled the massive thing around on his fingers like it was weightless. "Of course you can have it back," he grinned and tossed the tool of destruction back to the Demonkin.
'It used up all of my mana and seven stored mana orbs, but I managed to recreate that legendary blade of yours, so I'm very thankful. I'll have to inspect it later when I've got some time alone,' Lone thought. Quite clearly, Lone was more of a fox than he normally let on.
The Demonkin caught the greatsword and hugged it tightly. She was confused. First, how did a C-ranker deflect her blow? Second, how did he hold it so effortlessly since its weight was two-tonnes? And finally, why did he return it without any fuss?
"That was interesting," a man with pure blue skin and no ears commented as he walked into the courtyard.
"Oh?" Lone looked at this strange man and held his chin. The blue-skinned man was wearing a pair of baggy trousers and had a simple leather vest on. The most noticeable thing about his clothing was that it was all very loosely fitted. "A Changeling?"
"You know my kind? How rare. I'm known as Fep, I know, a silly name in most languages, but I'm proud to call it mine," the Changeling claimed with a very pleasant and friendly smile on his face.
"Nice to meet you, Fep. I'm Lone, this is Sophie, Eolande and Swind. I have another companion, Breena, but she's rather shy so you might not get to meet her," Lone replied in kind as he approached Fep and offered him a hand.
Well versed in the ways and customs of several races, Fep shook Lone's hand.
"Lone, what's a Changeling?" Sophie asked in a low voice. She was obviously a little bit uncomfortable due to two new people having appeared suddenly that she wasn't familiar with.
"My race, young lady," Fep said as he crouched down to be level with Sophie, "Are able to shapeshift into others and use any powers that they have so long as we've seen them before," he added.
Slowly but surely, Fep's appearance changed, and within seconds, he looked exactly like Sophie. "However, we can only use their abilities up to the extent of our own power, and even then, any ability we copy is reduced in power by ninety-percent," Fep explained before he giggled all in Sophie's body and with her voice.
Sophie was moderately frightened by this, so she shrunk back and hid in Lone's tails. Seeing this, Fep changed back to his normal appearance. "My apologies for that, it was rude of me. I simply find it easier to explain what I am by showing, rather than telling."
"It's fine, Soph is just shy around strangers most of the time," Lone replied dismissively and he then gently rubbed Sophie's head.
"Anyway, you, Demonkin, what's your name?" Lone asked as he looked at the still stupified red-skinned and black-eyed woman.
She quickly got a hold of herself and straightened herself out before a proud look emerged on her face. "I am Princess Ekol Miphtos Rak Sol Hepsistes of the Red-Skinned Demonkin Tribe."
"Impressive. I think this is my first time ever meeting a princess. You'll have to give me some time later on to tell me about how the royalty of your tribe works," Lone replied happily enough. 'Well, you're the first princess if you don't count Soph or Her Highness. Also, what kind of stupidly long name is that? From now on, she's just 'Demon Princess'.'
Naturally, Lone didn't care about how she had treated him earlier since he had managed to pocket a replica legendary weapon out of the exchange.
"Eh?... Um, sure," The Demon princess was a bit confused, but she knew that Lone was a fellow keeper candidate, so having a pointless feud with him wouldn't benefit anyone, especially since she was a guest here just like he was.
"Ah," Letty exclaimed with a joyous expression on her face as she lazed on Kyuubi's back, "it looks like the final keeper from your group is back as well. It's pretty convenient how you all returned at the same time."
A bald man who looked no older than twenty-five and who was wearing simple monk clothing softly entered the courtyard with light steps.
"A Human?" Eolande mumbled in astonishment.
Sophie had only been accepted as a keeper candidate thanks to Lone's actions, but from what Eolande had gathered thus far, all of the other keepers present had been hand-picked by the High Elves, so seeing a Human, who almost all demihumans hated with a passion, was most definitely a surprise.
Letty had a smile on her chubby face. "You two know each other? If you have any past grudges, then fight them out now. We can't have your team falling apart from the inside, now can we? Nehehehe."
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