Daz had decided to show off a bit. He chose not to return any of his contracted gems to the Astral Crystal Plane as he made his way back to the casino where he'd left his family and friends.
His line of thinking was that he was bringing Rimmy's core along anyway, so what was the harm in showing off a little bit extra on top of displaying Rimmy's magnificence to everyone?
As he predicted, the people that he passed as he walked down the hallway all had widely-opened eyes and plenty of things to say about his ten floating jewels as well as his best friend.
"Hey, isn't that Daz?"
"Yeah. It looks like it, but what the hell are those rocks floating behind him?"
"And isn't that the weird crystal man that popped out of that massive golem who smushed that Larry guy into paste? Or at least, one of the guy's bodies."
"It totally is! He's so cool!"
"I kinda wanna go to Fort Skip just to see it regularly..."
"It looks like he can keep it permanently summoned."
"Maybe not. The cooldown could just be refreshing constantly since we're in the auction."
"True. Still, I don't feel any power being drained from it as it flies like that."
"Doesn't that mean that so long as Daz holds onto it, he can fly permanently? I mean, there's no way it can't support his weight, right?"
"Yeah. You're probably right. I'm more interested in that massive light green stone though. What the hell is that?"
"I just identified it. It's apparently a peridot that's over a million years old. It makes him more regal. You know, like, kingly."
"No wonder I kinda feel like going up to him and saying hi and telling him that I respect him. That's kinda spooky."
"Yeah, it is kinda creepy, but also kinda sexy..."
Daz stopped listening when the peanut gallery started to talk about things he'd rather not hear of, in full honesty.
He was very happy, however, not at their reactions to himself, but at how receptive all of these strangers were being towards Rimmy. They didn't know his name, so he couldn't blame them for calling him 'it' or 'thing' so long as they were being respectful.
In a pleasant mood, Daz entered the room that held the casino in which his family and friends were waiting for him.
Once he had found his way back to the Korean-themed restaurant, he returned to the table on the second floor where everyone was, supposedly.
As soon as she saw him, Madison shoved her phone in her pocket and lunged into his arms. Rose gave him a cursory glance and her eyes opened up like saucers. "Jesus Christ... You... You and Rimmy. You're a couple of monsters."
Daz laughed as he walked towards the table while he cuddled Madison. He grabbed a seat and let the floating gems do as they pleased. The bigger ones just hovered around curiously while the pebble-sized ones brushed up against Vanessa, Rose, Madison, and Dorian as if to play with them.
Madison snuggled up alongside Daz and she closed her eyes and enjoyed his warmth silently. She, Vanessa and Dorian didn't particularly mind the young gems being so up-close and personal with them, but Rose batted the one that was trying to attach itself to her face away not unlike how you would swat at a fly.
"That's a bit rude, Rose. Be nice to the poor thing. Also, all I did was use my Class Upgrade Token, you know? By the way, where's Crusher?" Daz asked.
"'All I did was use my Class upgrade Token', he says! Not only did you get a stupidly powerful class, but even Rimmy got a class upgrade. Not to mention those gems floating all over the place!" Rose was very frustrated at how everything seemed to fall right into her brother's lap.
He laughed softly and he put a hand on her head. "Stop stressing out so much. If you don't, then soon your hair will start turning grey."
"What, like yours?" she snapped back. She then sighed and said, "I'm not upset that you're stronger... It's just... Be careful. Many eyes are on Earth, most of which aren't looking here with the best of intentions. You either need to calm down to avoid scaring them into doing something very dangerous, or you need to get so stupidly strong that you can contend with those monsters once our prelims are over."
"Prelims?" Daz asked.
Rose shook her head. "I can't say much in front of everyone. Look it up yourself later if you really care. You have the access-level required."
"Okay," the reaper replied with a shrug.
"Um..." Dorian scratched his cheek as he asked, "Is this a good time to tell you where Crusher is?"
Daz nodded. "Sure. Did she have somewhere more important to go?"
"Well, a lot of people came here to bother us since people found out that Rose is your sister and that Madison is your girlfriend. Crusher got pissed off since she just wanted to drink in peace, so she paid the system to set up a competition where anyone that wanted to get on the second floor of this restaurant has to first beat her in a one-on-one fight. The only exception being you," Dorian explained.
Daz smiled. "That sounds like Crusher."
Vanessa held her chin in her hands as she leaned her elbows on the table. "She even made it so they have to pay a fee. She's already made one-million merit points since you left."
Daz whistled. "Ever the entrepreneur. She's very free-spirited, but she's got the senses needed to make a lot of merit points while doing what she loves."
"And the skill. if only she wasn't so... aggressive with her ever-changing hobbies," Dorian commented with a bit of a self-deprecative chuckle.
Daz could only offer some simple words of advice. "Hang in there. On the upside, you're gaining plenty of mental fortitude by enduring her shenanigans."
"Much like I am with yours," Rose mumbled under her breath.
"Thanks, Daz, I appreciate that," Dorian replied.
The group of six remained there and chatted for some time. Even Rimmy tried his best to partake in the conversations, though only Daz could understand him fully.
Eventually, the reaper asked his sister a question, "Since I spent twenty-five-million on that City Creation Token, can you recommend a room that'll give me some good rewards? Maddy too. I don't wanna make her miss me again."
"Daz..." Madison grinned with her eyes and she then buried her head into his shoulder affectionately.
Rose raised an eyebrow. "Can't you just do another sweep of the casinos? Not that I'm particularly bothered. I was gonna suggest you go visit some other rooms anyway."
'Oh? You were? That's interesting...' Daz shook his head. "Maybe if I invested heavily into luck, but as it currently stands, my instincts aren't reacting when I think about going around all of the slot-machines again."
"Huh. I guess that makes sense," Rose said before she started a search on her laptop. A few seconds later, Daz got a text. "There. Three challenges for you and one for Madison and one for both of you."
Daz pulled out his phone and read the text message. On it were five challenges, three of which had a 'D' next to them while one of the five had an 'M' next to it, and the final one had both a 'D' and an 'M' next to it. They also had their room numbers and time dilations listed.
"Overall Power Competition, Power-stripped Survival Test and Trial of Weakness? They all sound... interesting," Daz commented as he read off the rooms Rose had recommended only for him.
Madison looked at her own one and the shared one from over Daz's shoulder and cocked her head cutely. "Swordsmanship. Flying? Sound, fun."
"Go knock yourselves out," Rose said dismissively.
Vanessa laughed softly. "You're so amazing, Daz. You're not taking any time to rest and you're just training or trying to earn more merit points."
The reaper raised an eyebrow. "That's nothing amazing. There's no risk of dying permanently, and all I'm really doing is exchanging my time for rewards."
Dorian shook his head. "Vanessa, it's dumb to think of him as a normal person. Even back home, he rarely takes a moment to rest. His idea of 'resting' is to craft hundreds of small metal or wooden items at a time."
Daz frowned. "That's not true. I sleep even though I don't have to."
Rose snorted. "You only do that partially because you like sleeping with Madison, but mostly because you want to get trained by your dreamscape tutor."
Vanessa's face turned red. "S-Sleeping together..."
Daz just sighed. "Well then, we'll be off. it was nice seeing you three again. If Crusher comes back before we do, tell her that I plan to invite her to our room during the champion auction, Rose, Vanessa. Dorian, I'll see you later after the auction ends."
With that, the five testees said their goodbyes - Rimmy tried his best, but as per usual, not much could be conveyed with a single word. Daz, Rimmy and Madison then left the casino's restaurant hall.
Madison had her eyes glued to her backpack as she, Rimmy and Daz all walked down the hallway to the nearest room that Rose had suggested.
She found it incredibly interesting how the real Daz in front of her was walking away from here, however, the stitched drawing of Daz on her bag was walking towards her.
The enchantment on it even made the summoned jewels appear on the rucksack. They floated around in sync with the real ones, heavily entertaining Madison.
Daz smiled warmly as he looked back and saw the woman he loved the most so entranced with her self-made backpack. It softened his heart to see her acting so adorably.
Many people that they walked by wanted to comment on how strange Madison was acting in their opinions, but they found Rimmy and Daz's gems to be a far more interesting topic to gossip about.
Before long, the three of them had arrived at their first destination: The Flying Duration Challenge Room.
"Greetings, Sir, Madam. Are you here to participate, or to spectate? If you are here to participate, would you first like to hear the rules?" an android asked as it politely bowed. It didn't address Rimmy since it knew that the golem was a grand summon of Daz's and not a survivor itself.
"We're here to participate, and yeah, we'd like to hear the rules," Daz replied.
"Of course, Sir, Madam. The rules are very simple. Step through one of the doors behind me, and you shall be transported to a one-by-one-by-one-meter large cube. Once there, you are to fly using any method-slash-methods at your disposal to move as far away from the starting cube as possible. As you get further away, obstacles will start appearing to get in your way," the robot claimed.
Daz glanced up at one of the massive wide-screen televisions overhead and saw a girl in a full-on mecha warsuit getting melted alive as she tried to avoid massive balls of lava which were hurtling through the air towards her. "Interesting. Any method or methods, you said?"
"Yes, that is correct, Sir. You are allowed to use any skill or item that you personally own to help you with this challenge," the android responded.
Madison put her backpack on and held its shoulder straps before she cocked her head to one side and asked, "Reward?"
The android looked a bit puzzled for a moment before its eyes flashed brightly and blinked several times. "Of course, Madam. The reward is a lump sum of merit points. For each meter that you travel, you earn ten merit point. There is no end to this trial, and because of that, time is stopped inside of it to account for the incredibly skilled hosts. To prevent cheating or hyper-procrastination, skills and items cannot be levelled up, upgraded or purchased once inside. Also, should you spend more than 30 days in a single 'zone', the system shall deem you as having forfeited."
'Did this thing just get an upgrade from the system to interpret Maddy's unique speaking pattern?' Daz asked himself as he soaked in those extra rules. He had given up entirely on wrapping his head around how time worked in this auction, so he instead focused on something he felt that he could understand.
|Confirmed. The system judged that it would be best to use the data it has gathered from the user [Madison McArthur]'s interactions with the hosts [Daz] and [Rose Hamilio] to give the servants of [The Grand System Auction] the ability to perfectly interpret her meanings so as to save time in future interactions.|
'Wow. I don't know if you're just being considerate of her because she's my lover and I have your interest, or if you would have done this anyway, but I appreciate it nonetheless,' Daz thanked sincerely.
"Well, Maddy, you ready? We should both finish at the same time if time is stopped inside of the trial itself," Daz said.
Madison nodded enthusiastically. She was excited to do something with Daz. While they were technically doing the trial by themselves, they were here together, which made the girl very happy.
She trotted over to a door and entered it after giving Daz a good luck kiss. The reaper himself then entered a trial room of his own.
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