Kylian and Donald were seated in their private booth, preparing to observe the fourth test.
“The first three tests were rather straightforward and fit what you’d usually expect from beginners, but for some reason, someone with an incredibly high clearance managed to throw in two more tests. You know what that means, right, Buddy?” Donald’s chuckle echoed through the room.
Kylian maintained his usual somber expression as he replied to his compatriot.
“It means someone else is observing him. The question is, who?”
Donald shook his head, “Even Katya, that brat, has no idea, and you know who is her backing. If he was actually able to subvert her authority, he must be something special. Should we make a move?”
Kylian thought for a moment and shook his head. “No, not yet. If our identities were revealed, it would cause a fuss. It’s better to observe this boy longer from the shadows. For us to personally make a move, it has to be worth it.”
“Aren’t you worried that someone will make a move for the kid before we do? He doesn’t seem bad. If we were late, it would be a problem,” said Donald warily.
Kylian crossed his arms and snorted in disdain. “Even if the emperor himself had designs on the boy, he would be powerless. The only person to worry about is the person who subverted Katya’s authority. I would like to see who would dare challenge what I, Kylian Laporte, have set my mind on.”
Donald snickered at his friend. “You know, referring to yourself like that makes you sound arrogant.”
Kylian ignored Donald and focused on the task at hand. Observing Darius was his firm priority. He had no time to waste brain cells on nonsense with his garrulous companion.
Donald sighed in resignation and relaxed in his chair. ‘Kylian’s arrogance will definitely cause him issues. This is why I don’t like dealing with noble-born people.’
Katya sat in her chair, closely observing the screen ahead of her.
‘This is not a test fit for mere inductees. What is that old man thinking?” She slowly tapped her armrest as many thoughts ran across her face. A smile exuding devilish charm rested on her face while she thought of the possibilities of what would next happen.
‘Well, at least this assignment wasn’t nearly as boring as I had thought it would be.’
Katya licked her lips in anticipation. Her assistants could not help but gulp at her actions. They were straight women, but they were still enchanted by her beauty, which seemed to transcend common sense.
‘Let the games begin.’
Man’s greatest fear was the unknown: this was a commonly acknowledged fact. Darius had had no idea what the next test would be like, but something about it had made him uncomfortable. He was not sure what it had been, but he had suspected that something would be different. When he was teleported to the test location, he was instantly horrified that his intuition had been right.
The duo was sent into a swamp-like environment. The ground was covered in damp soil, with the jungle around them providing zero visibility. Darius did not hesitate to instantly activate Indomitable.
This time, the blood rush came in full swing. His innate senses picked up countless signs of danger in the environment. His eyes became red while his heart rate sped up. His testosterone levels shot through the roof, but his mind remained clear. Killing intent oozed out of his body like lava from a spouting volcano.
Lara was bathed in the radius of Darius’s killing intent, but she was not the target, so she remained unaffected. On the contrary, it was sort of comforting. Knowing that she had a worthy compatriot in such a scenario was a good feeling.
Unlike Darius, this test was voluntary for her. She had taken it because of the rewards that had been offered. Hence, she had initially assumed that it would be exceedingly difficult for her, especially if the test had been tailored for someone of Darius’s caliber. However, Lara was not one to give up easily. If she had surrendered to her fears, she would not have reached where she was today.
“Attention, the goal of this test is to capture the flag. A powerful spirit and its minions are guarding this flag. Your objective is to take said flag from their possession. If one of you takes possession of the flag, the test can be considered to have been passed. The test can also be passed by slaying the powerful spirit. Warning: the spirit is a two-star variant of the Courage step, so tread wisely. Begin!”
If Darius had not been under the Indomitable state, he would have no doubt cursed his ancestors. The old man had explained the rankings of Spiritknights and spirits, so he had a rough idea of what to expect from this formidable spirit.
The explosive shrimp was a one-star variant, and it had already been monstrous. Variants were spirits that had gone down a unique evolutionary path, carrying with them incredible power that surpassed their levels. A two-star variant could be as powerful as a normal three-star spirit.
Lara shuddered to think of the consequences if they were to battle it. She was far from being able to battle a two-star spirit, let alone a two-star variant. She looked over at Darius, wondering what his thoughts were. After a moment, she could not help but ask, “Darius, do you think you can take on a two-star variant spirit?”
Darius looked at her with his crimson eyes, sending chills down her spine. His bloodlust was not focused on her, but it still made her feel uncomfortable like she was being stared at by a powerful predator.
“Depends on the type of spirit it is. Before we make any plans, our first objective is to find out what kind of spirit it is and its capabilities. How is your knowledge of spirits?”