If Orphelia had to describe what she saw after stepping into the shelter in one word, she would sarcastically call it scenic.

It was hard to see the artificial cave as a shelter made by initiates who should have little experience building anything. The smooth walls and compact earth said a talented earth caster with a decent coefficient had done the work. An acolyte of several years, at least.

At the back of the cave, mamaroons were piled up like garbage. Dozens of them, their beady eyes wide with the shock of death. Hours ago, she nearly resigned herself to failing the test and now she stood before hundreds of points, a result she didn’t feel confident achieving even if she didn’t hold back.

No other supplies were stacked against the walls, which was disappointment. The group had brought along blankets, five of them, and laid them out on the ground.

Lounging on the centermost one was a naked young woman, leisurely chewing a piece of meat.

From the gasps and whispered exclamations behind her, Orphelia knew her team was grappling with their shock. One of the most important skills a hunter or soldier had to learn was accepting reality. Many times, the split second someone indulged to revel in a surprising moment could be deadly. She skipped the wide-eyed gaping and went straight to analysis.

She didn’t have to wonder why Lourianne Tome was naked. With the similarly undressed thrall, the musky scent obscured by the tantalizing smell of the cooking meat, and the visible wet spots in the blanket beneath her, the conclusion was obvious.

She drew several more conclusions. Assuming the woman wasn’t a complete idiot, she was confident in her skill. So confident, she would have sex in an unsecured shelter while surrounded by monsters and other possibly hostile teams. So saints damn confident, she would invite another team, without a doubt one of the most capable teams in the test, into her shelter while the rest of her team were off doing saints knew what.

Orphelia really hoped she wasn’t staring at an idiot. Because if so, the woman who lounged before her was a future master caster. The monsters piled up behind her seemed to support her confidence.

Her analysis moved to the woman herself. Orphelia wasn’t trained traditionally, alongside several other disciples. She had tutors and, later, opponents. While her sense of camaraderie might have suffered, she was familiar with a number of different physiques. The stout bodies of knights, the leaner forms of casters, and even once, a melded man who showed her the pinnacle of the human form.

If she had to compare Lourianne to any of those three, she would place her closer to the melded knight. The body before her did not have an ounce of unnecessary fat and incredible definition. Especially her legs and abdomen, where it was hardest to keep it off. Her abs looked as if someone had taken a chisel to her stomach. However, most telling of all, was her skin. Smooth and unblemished. Not so much as a dark spot. Something that was simply impossible without magical aide.

And if that weren’t enough, her coloring would have given it away. As in, the violet highlights in her dark hair and her violet eyes. Most melded soldiers were hidden assets like her, wolves disguised as sheep. That’s where the danger came from. A knight would raise his sword to block a strike as he’d done a thousand times only to have his shield shattered and arm broken as his opponent unleashed superhuman strength.

Lourianne Tome had done the opposite. She had gone beyond normal vanity and declared herself something else, at least to anyone with the knowledge to recognize it.

“Staring at me so hard.” Lourianne stretched, flexing her impressive physique, before sitting up and crossing her legs at the ankles. Cecile let out an undignified squeak as her nether region was exposed. Lourianne smiled at her. “You’ll make me blush.”

“What do you think you’re doing?” Robert scolded. “Do you have no shame?!”

“I see you haven’t reflected on your behavior, Mr. Talented.” She chuckles. “I should be asking you that.”

“Me?! What kind of woman greets people with nothing on?”

“Have you ever heard the phrase, my home is my kingdom? You are guests, no, strays asking for refuge in my home, no matter how small or temporary it may be. You have no right to question my behavior. If it is unsatisfactory, please, see yourself out.”

“You…do you not understand common decency?”

“You mistakenly believe I want to be common.” She laughed at him. “But speaking of common manners, you should be embarrassed that you skipped straight to insulting me without so much as introducing your team.”


“We humbly apologize,” Orphelia cut him off. Robert looked at her with confusion as she grabbed his shoulder, forcefully marching him to the left wall. She pressed on his side and he winced, unable to keep his balance as she forced him to sit.

“Shut up,” she hissed against his ear. “Have you forgotten? We need her help right now. Keep trying to mess this up for us and I will throw you outside to sleep with the monsters. See how much they appreciate your chivalrous act.”

“You don’t—”

She cut him off by pressing against his side again. He grasped her arm tightly, gritting his teeth to keep from yelling. “I’ll remember this,” he hissed.

“So will I,” she promised before standing up. She used her eyes to tell the others to keep quiet as she walked to stand before their host. Her mouth twitched as she tried to remember how to make a charming smile, her etiquette lessons a little rusty from disuse. A beautiful curvature of her lips softened her hard eyes a moment later.

“Forgive my teammate. Robert has forgotten his manners. Allow me to make introductions. He introduced himself once before but that is Robert Quintana. Behind me are Sebas Hoffen, Cecile Guiness, and Lanston Lorriette.”

She thinned her smile, aiming for ambiguous. “And I am Orphelia Yemen. I’d take no offense if you don’t recognize my family. My father is but a simple baron, myself a filial daughter working to bring him and my house a little more renown.”

“Ha, I can relate. I am Lourianne Tome, daughter of Luke Tome. Call me Lou. You don’t know it, but you’re meeting one of the greatest summoners in the world,” she boasted without a hint of shame. “Normally, I’m not one to brag but I hoped a bit of frankness would help you open up more.”

Orphelia slowly let out a deep breath through her nose to control her reaction. What did that comment mean? Had the thrall read her mind? Did her thoughts stray when she introduced herself? But she hadn’t felt the slightest hint of intruding mana.

“There’s plenty of time to share stories. Take a seat, have something to eat. Geo there can see to your injuries. Robert, that means you. You’re looking a bit pale.”

“Thank you.”

Orphelia waved for her team to approach the magically conjured fire, where the thrall was cooking. Beside her, several cuts of already cooked meat sat on what must have been the bird’s feathers. The others were completely distracted by the meat, especially once they took their first bites.

“Fuck!” Sebas exclaimed after swallowing his first bite. “Why the hell are we paying our cooks so much when a damn monster woman can make something a hundred times better in the damn wilderness?” He continued eating with angry bites.

Lanston didn’t comment, his exhaustion and the good meal causing his eyes to droop and his shoulders to sag. Cecile’s eyes were bright with calculation as she stared at the thrall while chewing.

Orphelia grabbed two pieces of meat and brought them over to Lou. “Would you like to eat together?”

“How considerate~ Have a seat.”



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Azazel E


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