Lone and Soph were led to a large open office inside of the exquisitely-decorated mansion, and as soon as they had entered the room, the knight leading them put his fist to his chest and bowed at an angle of twenty-five-degrees.
"Your Grace, I present to you the two adventurers that are here to attempt to aid you with the county's dragon situation. The foxkin is an SS-ranked golden-plate while the child is an SS-ranked silver-plate. Here is the commission request that they were issued," the knight said very respectfully before he approached the paper and document-filled desk that apparently had a person sat behind it.
A loud sigh filled the study before a man easily seven-foot tall stood up and walked around from behind the desk. His hair was oily and clung to his face, but he was actually very handsome with his almost effeminate features, that was, however, only if you could look past his... girthy nature.
"I was hoping for double-X-rankers, in all honesty, but I know how rare they are. If I recall correctly, the kingdom only has seven in the army and The Adventurer's Guild only has four that are permanently stationed in Felron," the man said more so to himself than to Lone, Soph, or to the knight.
He cracked his neck before he stuck his hand out. "You may call me 'Your Grace' or 'Count Lorton'. Either is fine so long as you are respectful when you speak to me."
Lone took his hand and shook it firmly. "I'm Lone, and this is Soph." After the handshake had ended, Lone raised an eyebrow. "You're not disgusted that I'm a demi?"
"Why would I be? I am not one to care if you have tails and furry ears, bark for skin, gills for lungs, or even wings. I only care if you can do the task that I need completed or not," Count Lorton claimed as he returned to his desk.
Lone was a bit surprised. "Not to intentionally be disrespectful, but every noble I've met in both Milindo and here so far that are above twenty have been total cunts. I also heard that Felron's royalty heavily supports slavery still despite it being outlawed."
"You're very frank," the count noted as he began tackling his paperwork mountain once again. He finished off a document before he leaned his head around the mound of papers to look at Lone and Soph. "Well? What are you both still here for? I have no intentions to discuss politics with you two. You've spoken to me, so now you are supposed to challenge and slay the Rock Dragon infant, no?"
"I guess," Lone replied with a shrug of his shoulders, "But your reward, let's renegotiate it."
Count Lorton raised an eyebrow. "Is the offered money not sufficient? I can allow for five more white-gold coins assuming you succeed, but not a single copper more."
Lone chuckled. He put his hand into his pocket and pulled out a fist full of ruby-gold coins. "Money is the last thing that I need." He then nonchalantly returned the coins to his Dimensional Storage after putting his hand back into his pocket. "You're a count, right? How old is your lineage?"
The knight and the count both lost their cool momentarily upon seeing so much money being handled so carelessly and so casually.
After regaining his composure, the count gulped loudly and said, "My ancestor earned a barony over four-hundred-thousand-years ago during an attempted uprising by the demi slaves of the time. Roughly one-hundred-thousand years have passed since my family gained possession of a county and the respective title in a very similar uprising."
He got up from his chair again and ran his fingers through his oily hair. "I know your type now. You want some sort of rare or unique relic, no?"
Lone smiled. "That or something similar to the palladium armour. I'm a blacksmith and a tinkerer in my off time, so anything new would be great. Make it something very interesting, and you won't have a dragon issue by the time the sun rises tomorrow."
The knight frowned. "I don't mean to interrupt, but you should be more respectful to His Grace."
Count Lorton snorted. "It's fine. He's being more respectful than most adventurers would be. Arrogance isn't a form of disrespect if it's warranted." He then looked at Lone, "I do trust that it is warranted, yes? You were the ones that Grand Guildmaster Sarah sent over, after all."
Lone nodded. "I'm sure you've heard the rumours."
"Regarding your de facto-war with the Church of the Primals? It's certainly a bold claim to believe. I almost fired my magical advisor the second he told me about what had happened in Mystopolis this morning. I was also tempted to punish my agent there who handles the communication orb. Why don't you prove the two of them right?" the count challenged.
"I'm not here to prove jack." Lone shrugged his shoulders slightly. "What will you offer us instead of money? That's all I want to know."
"Very well," Count Lorton replied calmly as he returned to his desk. "You claimed to be a tinkerer, yes? Going by your glasses, I assume that refers to dwarven technology. I have a trinket or two that I'm willing to part with. You'll get two if you return successfully with the dragon's head by tomorrow morning as you claimed you were capable of. You'll only get one if you do the same within the next ten days instead. Naturally, you'll get nothing if you die."
"That works for us," Lone immediately answered. 'Yes! Finally, a chance to get some more steampunk devices... I could have used them last year since making Swind's arm with only my glasses to go off of as a reference sucked balls, but better sooner rather than later.'
"Excellent. Just to inform you, should you not return tomorrow, I will continue hiring more adventurers and mercenaries to deal with this pest infesting my county. There is already a group of adventurers in the middle of tracking the beast, but they are all supposedly C-rankers. Their job was specifically to track it, so look for them if you wish to find the dragon as fast as possible. If I recall correctly, they should be near the Silian Canyon, thirty-miles north from here. Best of luck," the count said as he returned to his paperwork for the second and final time.
"I'll escort you out," the knight said as he gestured to the door.
Lone shook his head. "That's fine. We'll leave on our own."
He then held Soph's hand and the two of them vanished into thin air.
"I-instant teleportation...?" The knight visibly shivered. "I'm glad I never picked a fight with them..."
Count Lorton's ears perked up at the mention of teleportation. As he worked, his mind spun. 'With a power like that, I trust dealing with an infant Rock Dragon shall be no challenge... I wonder... Why are they running an errand like this for that shrewd old woman? And secondly, how - or can I even - use them to further my own goals? Hmm...'
"I guess it's around here?" Lone asked himself as he and Soph arrived at a rocky plateau that overlooked the massive crevice in the land that was covered in vegetation, oddly enough. "Isn't that more of a ravine, not a canyon? Weird..."
Soph's forehead had a little bit of sweat dripping down it and her adorable face had a frown strewn across it.
"What's wrong?" Lone asked as he took her hand and started walking towards the 'canyon'.
"Teleporting so many times by sight alone takes a lot out of me. This is the second day in a row that I've done it so much." Her cheeks reddened once she realised that she was complaining. "Um, I don't h-hate it! I love helping you out, and um, it's just... um, well, it's tiring?"
Lone laughed softly. "You did great. You can leave everything to me from here and then you just need to bring us back to the count's mansion then back home, 'kay? You can cuddle me, Kyuubi and Garadia as much as you want once we're nice and comfortable in our suite again."
"Okay... Em, should I swap with Sophie?" Soph asked.
"Sure. I'll see you later," Lone responded with a warm smile on his face.
Soph quickly walked in front of him and then got onto on her tip-toes to give him a gentle kiss. "I love you."
"I love you too," Lone replied as his tails unconsciously swished about a little bit.
This made Soph giggle before her countenance grew infinitely icier. Her body stretched and filled out her clothes as it assumed its fifteen-year-old form. "Armour, please. We wish to test ourselves against this baby dragon before you no doubt murder it effortlessly."
"It's nice to see you too, Sophie," Lone sarcastically quipped as he summoned the girl's alterion full plate suit of armour and started helping her get into it.
"We imagine it is. We do have quite the wonderful face, don't we?" Sophie asked in a coy tone.
Lone nodded. "Indeed you do, however, not for long. I plan to tweak your new body slightly to fit your preferred age, obviously, which will make you look more... refined. Got any requests?"
"Maybe a horn or perhaps tusks? We care not, Lone. We leave it to your discretion," Sophie dismissively said as she cracked her neck before putting her helmet on.
"Oh really? My discretion? I'm thinking a look that screams 'Soph's evil twin'. How does hair that looks like fire sound to you? Maybe irises that look like lava too. That sounds cool," Lone teased.
Sophie smirked underneath her visor. "It's still a bit surreal to think that we shall have a body of our own... Thank you for not taking it too seriously, Lone. That's honestly making it a lot easy to accept."
"Who said I was joking?" Lone asked as he finished strapping her armour up. He dusted himself off and began walking alongside the girl. "Are you prepared? Y'know, to leave Soph's mind and inhabit a body of your own?"
"Were you prepared when you were brought to this world? No, ourself, Soph, and you; none of us were. Regardless, we coped. I plan to do the exact same thing now. It's all we know how to do, after all," Sophie claimed.
Lone laughed. "Bullshit."
"Pardon?" Sophie raised an eyebrow under her helmet.
Lone gave her a shit-eating grin. "You're great at a lot of things. I could name several without even thinking. Cowgirl, missionary, fellat-"
"That's enough!" The girl's cheeks were flushed red. For perhaps the millionth time since coming to Altros, she thanked her armour for hiding her expression.
"You're blushing, aren't you?" Lone's words annoyed Sophie to no end. "Yup, both you and Soph, you two are seriously adorable."
"Why you... We are not ado-"
"Oh look," Lone interrupted playfully. "I can see a campsite in the distance. Those C-ranked scouts, maybe?"
Sophie huffed and she puffed, but she reined herself in. 'Don't allow him to rile us up! He's simply teasing us!... I'm good at those positions too!... Not now, Soph.'
The usually cold girl tried her best to contain her boiling emotions as she and Lone approached the campsite. It was a struggle, but somehow, she managed.
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