Claire looked at Alice, who nodded back at her with a smile. They had both seen the same scene and, oddly, it was almost as if the dark-elf, Aura Fiona, had taken a page from the book of the vampire. Though, Claire thought, 'So that's the Demonic Maiden.'
What was so demonic about the person that healed Aura? She didn't know. All the female had seemed like was a priest, though she supposed all the heroes had interesting names. . .there was the Hero of Heart, the Sword Saint, and now she actually saw what the Demonic Maiden looked like.
"How interesting," She muttered then spoke into the air, "Mentor of mine, what's the next trial?"
Igris Neihime, though without a body that should require it, coughed.
[Four trials left.] He began, [This seventh trial is one of endurance. Not persistence. Not strength. Merely raw endurance only.]
Claire raised a brow as she thought she could see a figurative smile in her mind.
[Keep the platform active with your mana or die. It's a stage I hope you two will enjoy!] He chuckled and the world blurred away.
Instantly, Claire realized why he appeared smug.
The first thing that struck her was a palpable heat that felt as if her lungs were on fire. That, however, was very bearable. She blinked her eyes through a hazy atmosphere and looked down.
"Oh. . ." She said, "So that's what he meant by endurance."
Claire mounted those words in half-part amusement and half-part displeasure.
They stood upon a platform of ice floating above a world of sizzling magma and lava. It melted, little by little, and if it ever evaporated into nothing, they would fall within and die. That was the entire premise of the world and its trial.
"Interesting," Alicia merely muttered beside her. She seemed more curious than anything else. There was neither fear nor worry in the vampire's voice and expression.
"Very interesting." Claire nodded. "But you realize even you could perish here, too, right?"
If she fell into magma, Claire had little thought that the vampire's healing ability would be of much help. Though she could heal as long as even a single drop of blood remained, that would do no good when lava surrounded her, and every part of her was burned to ash.
Alicia merely smirked. "But I won't."
Claire could only agree with that. "Yes, you won't."
"???" Besides them, a certain ball of snow was beyond confused.
Claire sat down, crossed her legs, and sighed as sweat rolled down her head. She looked at the world of lava as her hair flapped to white and her mana rolled, connecting with the platform of ice below them and keeping it from melting.
Aside from that, however, there were no worries in her expression. Not from hers. Not from Alicia's.
"Wha—what are you two doing?!" Asta finally asked, shrinking and expanding and shrinking in size as he looked at the two girls. His fluttering snow all but burned immediately once they left him.
Claire and Alicia glanced at one another, then glanced at the clearly anxious ball of snow, and finally blinked their eyes.
"What does it look like we're doing? We're relaxing, aren't we? Or do you not have eyes. . .okay, you don't, but still," Claire said, half-part wondering if her newly added companion was stupid.
"Hum hum." Alicia nodded in agreement. "Relaxing."
Asta stopped in place, trembling.
"Why?! You could die if you're not careful! Are you two not worried at all?!"
Claire waved her hand. "Of course not. Could is not the same thing as would."
"Hum hum," Alicia nodded in agreement and her soft voice drifted out, "I and Claire will be alright."
She, too, merely sat beside Claire, dangling her feet above the world of lava below them.
Asta trembled at the sight.
". . .dangit, I decided to adventure with fools!" Asta yelled.
Claire merely chuckled. Neither she nor Alicia was foolish. They simply were not worried because they were not fools. In fact, she rather thought she could laugh at the situation they found themselves in.
Igris Neihime had indeed definitely overlooked one important thing: Alicia could fly. Not only that, she could fly while carrying a companion, plus she was a being who could not tire. Of course, the stages had been designed far before Claire had entered this world, and with the idea of making it hard and dangerous for a normal human, but the two were neither human nor normal. One was the protagonist of an isekai and the other was the supposed-end-villain of that very other-world.
Just like that, through the stunned silence and speechlessness of Asta, they passed the seventh trial like a breeze. Claire kept the ice-platform up until her mana ran dry, and Alicia carried her, flapping her bat-like wings whenever that was to be the case until she recovered. Essentially, it was an easy trial for them that only required an expenditure of time, to the point it felt somewhat underwhelming when compared to the one before it.
'Though that's just because we're unusual,' The Ice Queen thought, 'It would have been dangerous for anyone else. Especially when no time limit was given upfront.'
At the end of it all, Claire found herself with a mana rank of S-. She doubted it was due merely to the expenditure but rather thanks to the environment of the trial itself, running counter to her element. Plus, well, the 'threat' of death.
"Yup," Claire spoke as the world blurred momentarily, "A simple training segment."
When they appeared back at the crystal-like hall where a single ball floated, silence abounded for a moment.
[. . .]
"What?" Claire asked, "Did you really think we would fail and die?"
[. . .} Her ghostly mentor sighed.