Arc 1 Chapter 15: The Test (3)
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Earlier on, before boarding, Sword's Perspective

I have been secretly keeping tabs on some inconsistencies with my interview with the party called “Tornado.” When I brought up the fact that I did not remember any life memories (including my past life, as I did not exclude that from my statement), I had the intent of lying about it, yet Penelope’s “Lie Detector” Fabrication told her I was being truthful.

Is her Lie Detector Fabrication only able to scan truths from this world? Just how far-reaching is it?

When I approach the vehicle that seems intended to fly, I realize a few things. Firstly, it has no visible engine. It also has no airplane wings either. It appears to be a flying lump of iron that works by reducing gravity, otherwise there is no way this thing could fly. Or… Could it be?!

Is this some kind of pod designed to be launched like a cannonball to the forest?! In that case, this thing would not need magic at all! Could they be intending to truly drop us into that location without any form of landing pad?!

“Sir… could it be that… we are being launched to the test area??” I inquired to our tester.

To be quite honest, the tester is not all that impressive. He looks skinny enough, not somebody who would go along with such a scheme anyways. Seems he would die on impact.

“What? Don't tell me you think this vehicle has some way of being launched from this completely flat launch pad?”

“Uhhh…”

“Not to mention…” I was cut off! “I look skinny enough. Do you think I am somebody who would go along with such a scheme, anyways? I'd die on impact.”

What the… word for word?!

“Can you read minds?” I ask.

“ “ “ “ “Blatantly avoiding the question!!” ” ” ” ” Everyone else shouts.

We all step into the pod and it starts flying.


30 minutes later, in the flight pod, Sword’s Perspective

Sigh.

“Sigh…” So I said.

“Did you just say that word without actually emoting it? You must have some advanced knowledge of the test then?” So mob A said, a man.

“Did you go there before? S***y brat...” Mob B woman…

10 Seconds easily pass without a peep. What a gloomy ride!!

“Ehh? What is your names again?” I ask.

“Did we already introduce ourselves? I was under the assumption this awkward silence was because we weren’t doing that?”

So mob A went on to introduce himself.

“Then, my name is Serge. I grew up in a small hamlet and trained myself through the guidance of the current Topple’s leadership. I made the switch from hamlet to city in order to attempt the pursuing of magic. As described, I am a magician.”

Serge certainly looks the part. Apart from a few key scars on his face, he is certainly wearing a mage’s robe. I wonder if such robes have an effect on your ability to cast magic?

Then, the next person chimed in.

“If you forget my name I will forever castrate you, you bagworm. My name is Fil. I am known as the “Crimson Goddess” in adjacent kingdoms and I recently immigrated here to take the test to become an adventurer. To be honest, it was a momentary immigration and I was SUPPOSED to be here temporarily, but a certain SOMEONE made it impossible to visit family or LEAVE THIS CITY.”

I shudder from the hostility coming from her. It is quite clear she disdains me since information that I am the thing keeping the city closed under “Crisis Rank B” got leaked out.

It is not a rumor though, I really was the reason it got that bad. It is not like I can do anything about it though, no use crying over spilled milk… or bodies without a soul in it. Let Goddess girl do her job, sheesh.

From then on, Fil decides to continue her “speech.” She seems to be getting more irritable as her chatting goes on.

“Here I am, taking the test that was assigned to me. Here I am… Taking the special test this BAGWORM A*****E’S RESPONSIBLE FOR… !!”

Fil suddenly got restrained by the third person, also a woman.

“Hey there, my name is Emily. Sorry for my friend here, we were both caught up in this test because we registered under the assumption we were getting the standard test. Hehehe...”

Emily is quite beautiful. She wears a lot of “priest-type” equipment and seems to bear a large kite shield as well. I am used to priest equipment having crosses as earrings and necklaces, but that type of symbology doesn’t appear to exist here. The left ear ring seems to look something like a demon while the right resembles an angel, they are tiny metal statues hooked by a ball-chain. It is quite vexing.

I feel as though her laughter at the end was somewhat unnecessary, but if it’s a verbal habit of hers, I will not object. Emily has a beautiful face as well, befitting a priestess with gold straight hair but she has red pupils in her eyes.

“I am a proud member of the neutral realm priests that roam the world. I am a child of the renowned ‘Paladin of Light and Dark’ George.”

“Neutral realm? What does that mean?” I ask.

“It would take too long for me to explain in this pod. Well, in short, hundreds of thousands of years ago this world got divided in half. To this day not a single humanoid entity has been able to infiltrate the “Demon Realm” that inhibits the other half of this world, but by calling upon the blessings of this half, the “Realm of Light” as well as the “Demon Realm” we priests, priestesses, and paladins get a boost in our abilities.”

After saying that, Emily’s expression turned somewhat sullen.

“Well… It is true that we get a boost in abilities due to the recognition of both factions. However, people seeing my combination of both divine blessings tend to persecute and discriminate against our faith.” Emily said sadly.

“Faith? What could you possibly have faith in? As I recall, people in this realm are somewhat atheistic or agnostic, not knowing or caring whether or not a God or Goddess exists.” I ask this to answer several questions that popped in my mind. I carefully worded it so that most responses she gives me would alleviate a lot of my curiosity that I had when I was suddenly “brought by force.”

“What we of the neutral faction call “faith” is a term used to describe our faith in our own abilities. It is also a term used to signify that a lot in our creed are arrogant in battle.” Emily gets more depressed.

I see. Emily is very self-deprecating. Well, I have no way to vet any of her claims so for now I will file it under “most-likely true but probably embellished facts to make her look bad intentionally.”

“Well, that certainly helps me understand. Thank you. And you are…?” I look at our tester.

“Did I really not introduce myself?” He asked.

“Well, I wouldn’t ask you if I knew, would I?” I asked somewhat facetiously.

“Guh. Your kind really pisses me off. Don’t go thinking that if you wag your tail hard enough for the bureau that you’ll be taken in as one of their dogs. I won’t bat an eye here if you get decimated by those terrifying beasts in the forest. One less scum.” Says mob D, disregarding the fact that he also skipped his introduction.

“Hah. Someone gets me.” Every word has emphasis and a slight pause. Fil really gets under my skin.

“Brat, don’t go thinking there that I’ll think any differently if you try currying favor for me too, you got it?” The tester tried but failed miserably to convince me that he is impartial. What happened to the experienced guy from before that was diligently explaining things back in the testing site? He has this stupid smirk on his face as if Fil is on his side.

“You still haven’t told your name. Quite rude, are you not?” I speak frankly.

“Kuh… F*** off you snot-nosed piece of trash. This specialized test will really show how pathetic you are.”

“Helloooo…? I need something to call you by, or you’re going under the name “Mob” for me.” I say, still unaware of his name.

S***. This would be a hell of a lot easier if it was mandatory for them to wear name tags. The symbol on their suit seems quite unnecessary.

While I was thinking this, he turns to Fil and whispers something in her ear.

“The hell? Can you just spill your name now?” I asked, quite impatiently.

“I… No I… It’s not necessary is it?” His smug look wiped off immediately. He seems quite pale as of now.

It is now official. His name is either embarassing or something similar to that. It seems employees might be required to give their name, giving me a slight advantage.

“What the hell is your name, you geezer?!”

“IT’S SHIELD!”

THIS S***-FACE IS MOCKING ME!

“Okay…? It’s Shield. Would you calm your flaps now please?” He seems to be quite agitated.

Wait… What? He is serious? Is my name not a gag name?

“Pff.”

Oops, he definitely heard that.

Sword and Shield, how utterly romantic. Must be why this old fart's taking Fil's side.


Later on in the launch pod, Sword's Perspective

"So what kind of monsters will we be facing during this excursion?” I ask curiously.

“I would like to refrain from telling you any information about the test.”

“...Is what I would like to say, but naturally Adventurers would normally not plunge into an S-rank threat area without any preparation. I have a full description about the general behaviour of the monsters that I would like to describe to you now.” Said Shield.

He continued, “First off, before I get to the monsters spawned, I would like to give you a general descriptor of the location you will be fighting the monsters in.”

“The location is called “One” or also referred to as the "Beast Canyon." The reason for that is because the pillar in that location is surrounded by a magic array that is believed to be spawning powerful S-class monsters around it. The most powerful Adventurers in the world sometimes gather to draw monsters away from it to get a glimpse of what lies within the area so heavily guarded.”

“Hmm? Doesn’t that mean the location is even too dangerous for the most powerful people in the world?”

He concluded, “Yes, that’s right, it’s a location so heavily guarded that even the most powerful Adventurers available can only lure monsters away. Of course, they can defeat them as well, as it is well-known you can’t properly lure away S-rank threats without at least fighting it. For most Adventurers, it’s a death wish.”

“So what the heck are we doing waltzing there on our own?!” Asked Serge, impatiently.

“That you will have to figure out for yourselves. All of you but one come from prestigious families and lineages or histories of excellence in combat where your abilities were determined to be top class from the start. You will be getting a massive rank boost just to be leaving this location alive.” Said Shield.

“Why would they put us in a location that dangerous? Is there no safe location?” Asked Emily.

Her question makes a lot of sense. After all, not only was there not a lot of warning ahead of time that the special test would be extra difficult but there was also a special lack of people taking part. I highly doubt the bureau is concerned with losing applicants, otherwise they would not bother sending us to such a troublesome location that all but guarantees our deaths.

“It’s true that it is dangerous, but the general geography of the location has concluded some good points about this mission. It will serve as an information boon to us in both the registrants as well as the ecology of monster responses. This is why we tasked you to this location.”

“But why is it called “One”? Does it have to do with the magic formation?” I ask.

Shield has been burying this topic until his exposition reached a certain point.

To that end, “No, it’s because there is a big symbol above the pillar in an ancient language deciphered to represent the number “One”. Pictures were taken of the pillar location and investigators of every company have concluded as such.” Said Shield, confidently.

How strange, is it not strangely risky to be putting blind faith in the research without knowing any of the circumstances of the pillar or it’s magic formations?

“The only real confirmed fact is that S-rank threats without a significant power draw lose power gradually over time. For goblins, it is a village core. Goblins will never achieve rank S without one, just as a dragon will not get rank S without a dragon vein. Dragon veins are a huge supply of natural power just as the village cores are. They are produced just like volcanoes are, where high temperatures and erosions gradually segregate the strong and weak power signals and monsters follow suit.” Explained Shield.

Something seems a little fishy. Like something being left out on purpose.

He continued, “In the end, the fact that the pillar does not provide any such power proves that while the S-rank monsters move away from the pillar, their proximity to the pillar isn’t what causes their lost strength, it’s their time in this world since being summoned that causes it.”

“But this still leaves one glaring hole in that theory. If Adventurers with the most powerful abilities can only draw monsters away, how do you know that it is correct?” I inquire.

“It’s true that it’s fishy but then it’s also the truth.” Said Shield.

Huh?

He continued, “Researchers of the pillars have concluded this because while it doesn’t make monsters weaker the further they go, it’s also the case that the further they journey away, the more time passes, yes?”

“That’s true.” Said Fil.

“Then naturally, unless the S-rank monster bull-rushes the weaker regions, they are weaker regions because they are further away. That’s just how it is.” Added Shield.

“It can’t be that simple though. Is it the case that the spawned monsters have pride and like to be around monsters of similar strength as a natural instinct?” Serge asks.

“Bingo. That’s the reason why we will be surveying the outer regions. If the higher ranked monsters have a higher sense of pride, that also means that we won’t have to answer for destroying their ilk, as they don’t consider any familiarity between them other than their strength. It’s just the same as a dragon who won’t defend an ant.” Concluded Shield.

“I see. I am looking forward to bashing some skulls.” I said.

"Gotta make sure your skull is screwed on properly first." Said Fil.

"Teehee." Emoted Emily joyously.

“So what else are you willing to tell us about the test? Anything important?” I ask.

“Yes, I can tell you that it it’s in the northern territory known simply as “One Realm.” Many people live there to become stronger but there have been not recordings of actual kingdoms being built as any attempt to do so was promptly sieged by the prideful S-rank monsters. There are a few ruins of kingdoms there actually. They tend to let people build for a while before strangely as if they are in coordination attack them all at once.” Sais Shield.

“Isn’t that more reason to be concerned about an ambush though?” Asked Fil irritated by this drastic tone shift.

“That is not the case. It has only been recorded that they go after established bases that have resources accumulated. They absorb those resources and lay waste to the people living there. You are safe if you are only visiting for a temporary retreat though. There have been no recorded attacks to mobile people in tens of thousands of years as long as they don’t actively provoke the big shots.” Said Shield.

It seems the monsters value pride pretty much above all else. In this “One” Pillar place, does the pillar perhaps spawn monsters who are inept at coordinated attacks? That would not make sense. They attack kingdoms and invaders as well in coordinated bunches. Just what is going on?!

“We are currently flying to one of the mobile encampments. They have a tracking magic pod on them giving us detailed GPS coordinates of their location. The one silver lining is that the monsters in the pillar location do not attempt to make advanced technologies like we do.”

“As a result, the population of mobile citizens well exceeds 10 million.”

10 MILLION??!! THAT EXCEEDS MANY LARGE COUNTRIES IN THE WORLD I CAME FROM!! Just how many people are training there consecutively…??

Wait.

I have to ask, so as to not seem dumb.

The others do not seem very shocked, which leads me to ask to Emily…

“May I inquire what is the population for the average kingdom?”

“It should be about 5 billion, I think. Do you mean the median population of the average kingdom, or the average population of the average kingdom?” Asked Emily.

I completely ignored her last question.

FUH- FIIIIVVEEE BILLIOOOONNNNNNN?!?!??!?!!!

For the rest of the ride, I look like a soulless corpse, unable to comprehend people’s breeding habits.

Breeding?! NO! This is more like what would happen to my old planet if we were not constantly inundated with wars… Is what I would like to believe…

Fuh… What the heck… I still cannot wrap my head around it.

Five… F***ing... Billion… Over the total population of my entire previous planet in one kingdom…

Breeding like rabbits? No... Rabbits never reached that population. Breeding like dogs? No, even dogs show at least that much restraint. Breeding like...

My thoughts carried on for the longest period of time.

Honestly, it would explain properly why Harlequin City is not described as a "Metropolis." If the standard kingdom is 5 billion, 2 million in a city is a small gathering of tiny insects.

I need to know more.

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