The player who stepped forward was a refined woman with silver eyes and slightly curly light blonde hair that fell just below her shoulders. She wore a blue and white leather armor; however, the materials used made the leather's appearance resemble that of cloth. At their side was a thin yet gorgeous silver sheath that housed a blade.
"What should I call you?" Izroth asked.
"I am called Maeva." The woman greeted Izroth as she stopped a couple of meters away from him.
Izroth examined Maeva, as well as the equipment in her possession. From the looks of it, she was wearing a full set of rare quality equipment! While rare quality equipment was no longer impossible for the average player in RML to acquire, it was still extremely difficult to put together an entire set.
Therefore, Izroth believed that this meant one of two things. The first being that Maeva was a spy sent by one of the top guilds. But, he had a difficult time believing that the top guilds would send someone so obvious.
The second was that she spent a small fortune obtaining that full set of equipment! Of course, there was also the third option where she obtained it herself; however, if that were the case, then her skills as a craftsman would suffer for it.
Izroth gave a small nod and said, "You pass. You may enter."
Maeva was surprised by Izroth's words. Did she just hear correctly? She passed? But, she did not even answer a single question! Unless saying her own name was one of the questions. But, if that were the case, then everyone would pass without issue!
However, Maeva was not the only one startled. Those who were closer to the front of the crowd also heard Izroth's words. Was he letting her pass throughout without having to complete the first challenge? Wasn't this apparent favoritism?!
"It seems the owner of the Mystical Realm Palace is still a man. How can he resist such a beauty?"
"I thought this would be fair, but isn't he just doing whatever he wants in the end?"
"So? Who cares? Does that change what is being offered? Hmph, you're naive if you think that those with influence won't use it to get what they want."
"Can you blame him? I'd be willing to directly accept that beauty as well."
Izroth could see the confusion on Maeva's face. As for the players in the crowd, he dismissed their words. Were people too afraid to accept a simple challenge worthy of his response?
"You have not asked my profession—is this fine?" Maeva questioned.
"My Mystical Realm Palace has a use for all professions. Or, are you having second thoughts?" Izroth said.
'No. I will enter." Maeva replied. She did not know why Izroth decided to let her pass without facing the first challenge, but she had no intention of denying his kindness.
Maeva approached the door to the Mystical Realm Palace, and as she walked through the entrance that was blocked by a thin barrier. Of course, she went through with no trouble.
"Was it okay to not ask her profession?" Worldly Skies asked curiously. She had a good understanding of Izroth's character; therefore, she knew the true Izroth let Maeva through so easily. But, Worldly Skies believed that he should have at least asked Maeva about her profession.
"For the first challenge, one's profession holds no value." Izroth responded with a carefree expression.
"No value? I see, so it's like that..." Worldly Skies had a thoughtful look on her face as if she finally understood something.
"Me! I will go next!" A player called out after seeing Maeva successfully entered into the Mystical Realm Palace. She had black hair that flowed down to the center of her back, along with a pair of hazel eyes. Her body had curves in all the right places, and she had a pretty face to match! She wore elegant mage robes that hugged her body with a small magic wand attached to the belt around her hips.
If Maeva was seen as a refined beauty, then the woman who just made her appearance was a fiery beauty!
"My name is Morning Orchid." The fiery beauty said as she approached Izroth. The moment she made her appearance, the male players at the front of the crowd could not remove their gaze from her.
"Sigh... It looks like another beauty is going to gain free entry. Ah, I should have been born a beautiful woman instead of a man." One player commented.
"Man... What I'd give for one night with her...!" One of the male players said.
"You—one night of what?! You dare say that again?! Hmph, why don't you ask her to be your girlfriend then?!" One of the female players scoffed as she stomped off angrily from the male player.
"S-sweetheart! Wait! I meant friendship! One night of friendship! That's all! I was wrong!" The male player chased after his girlfriend... Or rather, ex-girlfriend.
With her presence alone, Morning Orchid managed to end a relationship!
"It is a pleasure to finally meet the owner of the Mystical Realm Palace." Morning Orchid said with a heart-melting smile. However, she was grinning on the inside. Easy! Too easy!
Initially, she just came along to have a look. After all, like most players in RML, she did not take her profession seriously. She was a 1st ranked Alchemist who only happened to take the class out of convenience at the time. But, who would have thought that the owner of the Mystical Realm Palace was just like other men? There was an old saying, "Beauty is a weapon more dangerous than any sword. For it cuts not the flesh, but the mind—and what is a man without a mind but a fool?".
Izroth nodded and said, "You may step forward."
"Yes! Thank you for your kind generosity." Morning Orchid replied with as hurried to the entrance with hastened steps. The joining bonus and monthly salary were practically free for the taking! Why would she turn down such an opportunity?
Seeing Morning Orchid move so quickly towards the Mystical Realm Palace left a bad taste in the mouth of players within the crowd. Was this an actual competition? Or a beauty contest?!
All of a sudden, everyone heard a loud, smacking sound. When they looked in the direction of where the sound originated from, they noticed that Morning Orchid. She had just been hurrying forward, but now, she was flat on her face in front of the entrance to the Mystical Realm Palace!
Morning Orchid had just tried to enter the shop the same way as Maeva had done; however, the barrier actually knocked her back and caused her to lose balance. Those who witnessed the scene firsthand tried to suppress their laughter as they did not want to upset the beauty, but there were those who were not as controlled and released their laughter.
Izroth frowned as he looked at Morning Orchid and said, "What are you doing? Did you not understand the rules? Only those who successfully answer one of the questions provided by the system can enter. Trying to force your way through will lead to nowhere."
Izroth felt that he had clearly explained the rules in a way that even a child could understand via the Vicinity Alert. So then, why did this woman suddenly decide to put on a comedy performance?
Morning Orchid swiftly stood to her feet and dust herself off. Her face had turned completely red from embarrassment as she scowled at Izroth. What did he mean she still had to take the test? Was he blind? How was she any less than that woman who went in before her?!
"How come you let her through but not me?! Am I any worse than she is?!" Morning Orchid scoffed.
"Do I owe you an explanation? Accept the challenge or get lost. Either way, my time is not something you can afford to waste." Izroth stated nonchalantly.
She believed that he owed her an explanation for his actions? How arrogant!
Right now, Morning Orchid was boiling over with anger; however, she had already lost enough face for one day and furiously stormed off.
"Ha, serves her right...!"
"I guess the owner of the Mystical Realm Palace isn't as biased as I thought."
"Yeah, maybe we have a chance, after all."
The only reason Izroth let Maeva enter without trouble was that she moved forward while everyone else cowered back despite facing the unknown. Yet, someone like Morning Orchid appeared to be the type who wanted to take advantage of the situation. How could he be ignorant of her intention?
The players in the crowd became somewhat relieved that Izroth was not one-sidedly picking individuals he favored. If that was the case, then they still had a chance!
'Things are moving too slow. Then...'
Izroth sent out a Vicinity Alert. The alert was simple, "If any player fails to step forward within three seconds after the last person, then the first part of the competition will be deemed concluded."
After that alert, players rushed forward one after the other! How could they let a grand opportunity slip through their fingertips?
When players approached the entrance, they greeted Izroth before moving to the entrance. When they moved close enough to the barrier, they received an alert from the system containing the five questions.
However, the questions were not at all what they expected them to be. There was not a single question about crafting!
"This... What kind of questions are these? How do I answer them? Is there a special way?" One of the players frowned.
One of the questions was, "If you steal food to provide for your family, then are you a bad person?". Another question asked, "You have two friends, but must abandon one to save the other, or both shall perish. How do you proceed?".
How was one supposed to know what was the right answer or not for questions like this? As for those who planned to cheat their way in—they were even more disappointed by the form of questions.
Izroth personally designed the first challenge to weed out those who were dishonest or untrustworthy. There were many right answers and an equal amount of wrong answers. But, with his experience and the system's assistance, creating the test as a simple matter.
Three hours flew by as the last player finished the first challenge. He slumped away with a look of defeat as he, like many before him, had failed. However, he was not the only way.
Out of the 800 to 900 players who participated in the first challenge, including Maeva, only a mere 73 of them were able to pass! This was more than a 90% failure rate!
However, despite the massive failure rate, Izroth was satisfied with the results. To be honest, he did not expect more than 3-5% to pass with the way he designed the first challenge; therefore, it went much better than he expected!
But, the true test had yet to begin! In the end, it was the second challenge that would ultimately determine who was worthy of joining his Mystical Realm Palace.