Ellie led Asterios back to the lobby and then to one of the meeting rooms on the second floor. For the whole time, she didn’t know what to think about the recent event which had just transpired in front of her eyes. She thought that she had a pretty good grasp on Ast’s strength, but after seeing how quickly he had dealt with the examiner, no, more like toyed with him, she began considering the fact that maybe she didn’t actually know a lot besides his personality and the title of the Weakest Summoner.
In her eyes, it wasn’t possible to grow so much so quickly. Asterios definitely was smart and knowledgeable about pretty much everything linked to summoning, but Ellie knew that even with that, someone would need a lot of practice along with the theory to achieve such results. And as far as she knew, Ast was pretty much useless when it came to it. She began suspecting him of either hiding his own power or of encountering some amazing opportunity. That, or maybe his innate talent had finally bloomed after all those years.
They arrived at their destination and Ellie let Ast into the room with a cosy coffee table and two sofas.
“I’ll have to report the results to the Guild Master since she is currently present. I hope you don’t mind waiting a moment,” she notified him.
“Of course not. Take your time.”
“Great. Please, feel at home. I’ll try to make it quick.”
She bowed a little and left through the door they came in. Asterios took her advice and sat on one of the sofas, grabbing an apple from the table.
~So, how was the effect in your panther form?~
He sent a mental message to Miria and soon felt her thinking about it.
~A bit easier than in the other one. But I can’t do anything more than jump straight without some training first.~
~Yeah, you did great as for the first time using it. You really are amazing.~
~Ehehe. Master is much more amazing for being able to use such powerful magic.~
~This is pretty new to me. I told you I could barely support my previous partner with this technique. It might just be suited for you or something.~
~I know for sure that Master is super strong! Your mana feels so rich and great that I could get addicted to it!~
Asterios was still confused about the whole thing with his energy. No one ever mentioned anything special about it besides it being quite weak when compared to others. There wasn’t any mention from Mii. And he didn’t notice anything weird during their time together. Somehow, everything changed after he summoned Miria by accident. Or did it change before? He wasn't sure.
Ast focused his mind and scanned through his spiritual circuits. He noticed that his mana was in fact different from before. The colour change was obvious and visible to the naked eye, but when using his mental sense to prod around his reserves, he could easily verify that the energy was much more potent.
At first, he thought that there was some kind of a mistake because his spiritual circuits looked way more firm and refined while in the past they barely withstood a few techniques before he was on the verge of overusing them, which usually led to a lot of pain.
And the other thing, his mana pool. Before, it felt really small and somehow compressed. Now, he could feel it coursing through his whole body, with a dense epicentre around his heart. It was much looser now.
Whatever had happened, Asterios understood that it was a chance for him to finally begin truly following the summoner’s path. Unfortunately, it came with a very high price of his friend’s death, but he owed Mii a lot and he definitely didn’t want to betray her trust in him. He would surely investigate this whole incident and learn the reason or source of the sudden change.
Miria sensed his deep contemplation, and also a bit of sadness, and tried sending him some positive thoughts through their connection. She imagined herself touching his hand and Ast soon felt a faint brush on his skin.
It managed to bring him back to the world of the living and he smiled. Being much more experienced with mental communication, he sent Miria a very clear sensation of her head being affectionately patted. He could feel her squirming under his spiritual hand in her own realm. He moved his invisible fingers to scratch behind her ear.
An insanely cute moan travelled back to him through the link, quickly followed by a lot of embarrassment and accusative intentions.
~Master! Stop! Mom is starting to look weirdly at me!~
He raised his brows and focused more on her. Already used to mental connection, Asterios knew how to easily ignore or block unnecessary imagery coming through it. After stopping doing that, he saw Miria sitting by the table in some wooden cabin, with some other Beastfolk woman accompanying her. They were eating pie together.
Miria was blushing intensely while her mother was sending her curious glances. He realized that Miria’s previous moan was most likely not just a mental one and he made her do it openly by accident, in front of other people.
~Sorry, I was blocking off your surroundings and leaving space only for your thoughts. I’ll be more careful next time. And tell your mother that I promise to take great care of you at all times so she doesn’t have to worry.~
He felt Miria blush even more and drop her gaze a bit before repeating his words to the woman. Ast knew that she had already informed her parents about the whole thing. Her mother smiled kindly and for a moment, he felt like she locked her eyes with his through Miria’s ones.
“Miria told me that you can hear what she does so thank you. I’ll leave her in your hands. She can be a handful at times, but she is a good girl. You might need to be the one to take the first step though, she’s really bad with boys,” the mother said, keeping up a nice smile.
“MOM! I told you it’s not like that! He is just my Master and I’m his summon!” Miria stood up and lightly slammed the table.
The woman giggled while covering her mouth with her hand.
“Ara? Weren’t you always dreaming of meeting your mate just like Princess Kaguya did? Didn’t you practically make a blood vow to be with each other till the end of your lives?”
Miria began pretty much steaming from embarrassment while her mother kept chuckling to herself, definitely having fun teasing her.
~Hahaha, I bet if she knew that we kissed she would be preparing the wedding already.~
She couldn’t handle it anymore and quickly walked out of the room. Asterios returned his thoughts to his own world too, just as he heard someone opening the door. Ellie walked in accompanied by a beautiful Elf woman with long blond hair and green eyes. She was wearing a greenish-white leather suit tightly surrounding her alluring figure with a decent chest, showing a bit of armpits and a little cleavage.
Ast knew this person, she was the current Guildmaster of the Rosewind’s Adventurer’s Guild. They met a few times before when he was running some errands. He only knew that she was the calm beauty type who got quite stern and serious when someone was not following rules or generally was being a dick to others.
He stood up and she gestured for him to sit down again while the duo of girls sat on the other side of the table.
“I really didn’t expect it to be you. At first, I thought it was someone with a similar name after Ellie began describing what you did to that guy,” she started with a calm tone.
“Honestly, I wouldn’t believe it either, Guildmaster. I have a feeling that Ellie exaggerated the fight a bit though.”
Ast didn’t ask for the bout just so he could impress anyone so he decided to act humble.
“I did not! I described it exactly as it happened!”
Ellie tried to deny his accusations. The Guildmaster stopped her with a glance.
“So, since you’ve asked for the evaluation, what rank are you aiming for, supposedly Weakest One?”
“E or D-rank is fine,” he answered without thinking.
“What? E… what?” Ellie couldn’t hide her surprise.
She was sure he would aim for something like B or even A-rank with what Ast did, but E is barely above F, which is the starting point. She couldn’t understand why he would ask for such a low position.
The other woman curiously raised her brows and pondered a bit. From what she heard, the man in front of her neutralized the examiner in three moves, not giving him even a chance to react. At the same time, he was one of the weakest summoners to walk on this land. These two facts already didn’t go well together, but now he was even asking for a low rank instead of trying to get himself to the top like most people usually did.
“Could you tell me the reason why you aren’t aiming higher with your capabilities?” She decided to inquire more.
“In simple terms, I’m still weak. What Ellie witnessed, and Guildmaster heard about, doesn’t really give any decent image of my abilities. He was ignorant and we efficiently took that against him. The technique I’ve used with my partner only allows her to dash in a straight line currently. While it’s quite flashy, it would be almost impossible to reproduce on a moving opponent. Trying to get into a high rank from the get-go could be dangerous. I prefer to tread with caution and not garner unnecessary attention, even though that bout from before is a bit contradicting that statement.”
Asterios calmly told the woman what was on his mind. She listened attentively and judged the man to be of the smart and responsible type as she always suspected him being after their few meetings and Ellie’s mentions in the past. She was curious about one thing though.
“Why did you take the test then?”
Ast glanced at Ellie. “I believe I’ve already stated my reasoning before. I wanted to test myself and a controlled environment is more suitable for that than a real fight. That was my first time using that technique with my partner.”
The Guildmaster also looked at Ellie who got a bit anxious because she did not mention that part while being a bit too surprised with Ast’s performance.
“I see. Well then, I see no problems with placing you in E-rank. It’s good to know your own capabilities. You’ll live much longer than most of the newbies while holding onto your convictions. That said, I have a small request. You don’t have to agree to it.”
“If it’s not detrimental to me, I see no problems doing so.”
The Guildmaster smiled. “Would you let me see the summon you used in that fight?”
Asterios wasn’t that surprised by the woman’s request, he pretty much expected her to ask about Miria and he didn’t mind agreeing. There was just a little detail he frowned at, visibly.
“I didn’t use her. She is my partner, not a slave. As long as she is willing, she can appear here at any moment, but I’m not going to order her to do so.”
He spoke with a calm but slightly cold tone. He always couldn’t stand people who treated summons like servants obliged to do their every bidding. If the summoner was stronger than the beast, he could easily force his will on the familiar through their contract. It wasn’t always possible to void it from the beast’s side if it was really weak like it could be with Mii’s species for example.
Miria heard his words clearly and felt really happy. She also noticed Ast’s thoughts on summons. She quickly prodded his mind with appreciative thoughts and notified him that she wouldn’t mind being ordered by a kind person like him.
Meanwhile, the Guildmaster was a bit surprised by Ast’s reaction. Of course, she did not blame him for anything, it was just unusual amongst summoners. She decided to change the tone.
“I see. I’m sorry for my poor choice of words. I’d like to ask both of you then if I could meet your partner.”
Asterios stood up and moved to the side so that Miria didn’t have to squeeze between the table and the sofa. A dark crimson portal soon appeared and a huge black panther walked out of it proudly. Ast kneeled and let Miria come closer to gently lick his face while he stroked her head. He then turned back to the other women while standing up.
“This is Miria. She was the one who helped me.”
The Guildmaster saw a fair deal of huge beasts in her life, but she never met any which resembled a normal panther to this extent while being so big. She felt a lot of spiritual energy in the oversized cat, which told her that she was very strong. Usually, beasts with such size were from various epic species and it manifested in their looks, but Miria was just like a plain black panther, which was a completely deceiving appearance.
She shuddered internally after locking gazes with Miria. Her eyes were telling the Guildmaster that if she dared to anyhow hurt the panther’s master, death would be mercy. Not many adventurers or magical beasts achieved this level of intimidation against her, who was pretty much an S-rank adventurer in the past, yet she felt like this gaze wasn’t just an empty threat.
“Thank you. I believe you are quite familiar with the rules and ins-and-outs of the guild so we can skip that. Ellie will give you the badge at the reception. If you have no questions, you are free to go.”
Asterios understood that she most likely wanted to talk some more with the employee and left to go to the reception after bidding farewell to the ladies. Miria jumped back to her realm.
When he left, the Guildmaster turned to Ellie.
“Keep an eye on that boy and support him however you can. I have a feeling that there’s more to him than meets the eye. Report to me everything that’s connected to him in any way. And also, give him my token.”
Ellie’s eyes widened in surprise. “Miss Suanori, your token? But… don't the chosen A-ranks usually receive them?”
“You know him better than me. Do you think he would abuse it?”
Ellie shook her head. “There’s no way. He would most likely never use it.”
“Good. Then explain its purpose without hiding any details. People like that man are really rare, especially amongst Humans. No offence.”
“None taken. I know very well how insensitive my kind can be. I’ll follow your advice then, Guildmaster.”
She bowed and went through the door to catch up to Asterios, leaving the Guildmaster alone. Suanori sighed, releasing the tension she gathered under the gaze of the panther. Even though she did not feel oppressed or in danger, the panther emanated a very serious and proud aura which accompanied only the strongest of summoned beasts.
「Now, I wonder how you will do on this path you’ve chosen, the Weakest Summoner.」