The player who had his gaze set upon Izroth once he stepped into the room was Aegis. Izroth had a brief encounter with him back in the Towering Oak Forest where their paths first crossed. Although Izroth had come out on top in their little exchange, he could tell that Aegis did not fight seriously.
Izroth returned Aegis gaze with one of his own. He kept a carefree expression on his face. Izroth observed a hint of eagerness for a brief moment coming from Aegis, but it soon disappeared.
Izroth felt a little regretful that their fight was cut short. Aegis was, notably, the most skilled player Izroth had run into so far within RML. However, Izroth had a strange feeling that Aegis was lacking in some manner. But, he was unable to put his finger on it.
When Luna noticed that Izroth was staring at someone she curiously asked, "Is he a friend of yours?"
"Just a former acquaintance of mine." Izroth was neither a friend nor enemy to Aegis, they had met by chance and were merely acquainted with one another. There was no deep grudge between them or any type of camaraderie.
"You've come at a good time, the portal will be opening in a few minutes. There are still a few things to explain before your entry and so we ask you to join us." The man who spoke was the same person who did so when Izroth and his group first arrived inside of the room.
Although the man was well past his prime, he was still very sturdy and had aged well. He managed to keep his handsome appearance, despite his actual age. The man had short red hair, fierce red eyes, a battle scar that ran down the right side of his face and another one that was located on the left part of his face near his cheek.
The man released an endless flow of mana that was being directly channeled into the vortex of energy as if he were personally feeding it. However, the vortex appeared to have no limit to the amount of energy it sucked in. It was like a bottomless pit and its thirst was insatiable.
The man made a slight gesture as Izroth and his entire party vanished from the positions they stood in and reappeared at the bottom area of the platform where the other groups were located. It all happened in a mere instant.
"What elegant teleportation magic... It was instantly cast with no effort while channeling such a massive amount of energy. Such a boundless mana pool... What complex magical sequences, there's at least three hundred..." Valentine was a bit too excited to meet a magic caster of such great power. He lost himself in his thoughts again as he muttered what sounded like a bunch of nonsense to himself.
'Mana... It's very different from spiritual energy, but there are certain similarities.'
While the group was initially surprised by the sudden shift in positions, none of them lost their control and stayed calm during the process. If there was one person who lost their control, then it would be Valentine who was both literally and figuratively drooling over the magic before him.
The man who channeled the energy into the vortex voice carried throughout the entire room as he spoke, "I am the Y'Zati of the third kingdom, Zendai Proximus. It is with great honor that I received you, heroes."
"Zendai Proximus...!" Zi Yi and Valentine both said at the same time underneath their breath, as though they were in a state of disbelief. There was a look of worship in Valentine's eyes, however, Zi Yi had more of a respectful expression.
When Halls noticed Zi Yi and Valentine's reaction to the speaker's name, he could not help but to ask, "Who is that guy? Is he someone important?" Of course, Halls spoke in a low voice so that he would not be seen as being rude.
"Who is he? He's a legendary figure who has come up with some of the most complex and revolutionary magical structures, sequences, and matrices ever known. He is one in a million... No, he is a one in a billion existence." Valentine said. The more he spoke, the more his voice began to tremble with excitement.
"Not only that, but he's also the rightful heir to the third kingdom. However, due to some unknown circumstances, he forfeited his right of succession. Instead, his younger brother was made the ruler of the third kingdom and Zendai was granted the title of Y'Zati." Zi Yi added.
"Y'Zati? What kind of title is that?" Halls asked.
Zi Yi stopped to think for a second, before she answered, "According to the library, the title Y'Zati has many meanings. But, if I were to summarize its meaning it would be the equivalent of a protector."
"Protector... What a manly title." Guan Yu's voice was full of respect for Zendai. Someone capable of protecting an entire kingdom had to be amazing and transcend all previously set limitations.
Izroth and his party were not the only groups who were interested in Zendai's background. They did not know nearly as much about Zendai as Zi Yi did and so they listened in on their conversation while speaking quietly amongst themselves.
"Right now who I am is of no importance, for in this situation I am powerless to do anything except speed things up a bit." Zendai could not enter into the portal himself and so he offered his assistance in the only way that he was able to. He was using his endless amount of mana to speed up the opening process of the portal into the Chaotic Dogma Realm.
"Hah, I never thought I'd live to see the day such humble words would leave your mouth, Zendai." Gear laughed joyously before taking a sip from his flask.
Zendai smiled slightly, "Back then I was young and arrogant. However, time often has a way of changing things and shifting them into unexpected directions."
Terminus cleared his throat and kept a professional demeanor as he tried to keep Zendai and Gear on track. "Gentlemen, the portal."
"Right, there is not much time remaining." Zendai chuckled before turning serious.
"Six of you have been chosen by us because we see the potential you hold deep within. Right now more than ever, we need that potential to awaken. You are not guaranteed to return from your journey to the Chaotic Dogma Realm as I'm sure you all know." Zendai scanned over the group constantly to monitor their reactions.
"We hope that you've chosen trustworthy companions to accompany you for your own good. Once you are inside of the Chaotic Dogma Realm there are only two escape ways to escape, reach the end within 24 hours, or death. As long as even one individual reaches the end, everyone remaining will be automatically transported out of the Chaotic Dogma Realm." Zendai added.
"I object." One of the players who stood on the bottom of the platform said. They were wearing a cloak that hid all of their features. In fact, his entire party was wearing cloaks that hid their appearances. The player who voiced his objection was the leader of the party who went by the name Silent Step.
Everyone looked in Silent Step's direction wondering what it was he was up to.
"Why are you sending six parties instead of just us? We don't need any assistance in clearing this place so there's no need for any others to tag along, they'll only be in the way." Silent Step's voice was filled with arrogance and confidence as he spoke.
Everyone's facial expression darkened when they heard Silent Step's arrogant words. He spoke of them as if they were easily discarded trash.
"Such confidence, but you know what they say about a dog whose bark is worse than his bite." Mariposa said.
"Better run back into your little cocoon to hide little butterfly, this doesn't concern you." Silent Step snapped back.
"My... Then should we just settle things here?" Mariposa smiled in a lovely way, however, it was a smile filled with deadly intent.
Mariposa and Silent Step group took up their fighting postures.
"Alright you two, there will be no fighting here!" Terminus voice interrupted them and caused everyone to settle down.
"It would seem as though it is your lucky day." Mariposa got the last words in as she then ignored Silent Step.
"Oh?" Zendai narrowed his eyes as his gaze locked onto Silent Step.
"You'll have to forgive his outburst, Zendai. He's young and ambitious, I'm sure you can relate in many ways. I have complete faith in his abilities to complete this task." The one who spoke was a cloaked individual who stood next to Zendai. The cloak he was wearing bore a striking resemblance to the cloaks that Silent Step and his party possessed.
Zendai nodded as he answered Silent Step's question, "This mission is too important of a task for one group alone. Originally, we planned to only send one group of the six of you, however, we know how important teamwork is. Asking six people who most likely have never met each other before to cooperate and work together is a little unreasonable."
"Therefore, we decided to let each individual pick out members of their own teams before sending them into the Chaotic Dogma Realm. This way, the chances of one of you reaching the end rises astronomically." Zendai explained.
'It seems my assumption was correct after all."
Izroth was curious as to why so many groups were present when it would only create a potentially dangerous competition at a time when teamwork was needed. To him, it was a much greater risk sending in so many different personalities to accomplish the same goal.
However, Izroth also understood Zendai's point of view. The chances of six strangers, who were all more than likely to be confident of their strength and leadership abilities, working together were unlikely. It would just be an unnecessary power struggle and they may be defeated before they even entered into the Chaotic Dogma Realm by their own selfishness.
"The Chaotic Dogma Realm can hold no more than thirty-six people at one time. If any additional people trespass over during that time, then they will become lost forever. This is the reason why we limited the number of people chosen to enter into the portal." Zendai added.
Many of the players present was wondering why this was not some type of open world event. As it turned out, this SS-ranked quest seemed to restrict them in various ways.
However, there was still one more important question that needed to be answered before any of them stepped into the Chaotic Dogma Realm.
"So, do we all receive the rewards as long as one person completes the task?" Silent Step asked.
That question grabbed everyone's attention. Indeed, according to Zendai, as long as one person reached the end of the Chaotic Dogma Realm, it would automatically transport everyone remaining outside.
In order to complete the quest, they had to reach the end of the Chaotic Dogma Realm. If only one team could do so then did that mean only one team could receive the rewards listed?
"Ask yourself this young man, does every person who competes in a race win the same medal as the one who finishes first?" With that statement, Zendai had made the answer to Silent Step's question clear.
Everyone became increasingly serious after those words left Zendai's mouth. This was an SS-ranked quest and the rewards were too good to pass up. If what Zendai said was true then whether he liked it or not, chaos was sure to be present once they crossed over.
"Then, I have nothing more to say." Silent Step had already received all of the answers he needed to determine what course of action he would take.
"While it is true that you would not receive the same reward as those who reach the end first, we will not forget your contribution and still reward you accordingly." Zendai gave some reassurance. However, everyone understood that those rewards could not be compared to the ones obtained from completing the quest successfully.
Zendai sensed the tension in the atmosphere and how eager everyone was to jump into the portal as soon as it opened. He could not deceive them or give them false hopes. He only hoped that they would set aside their differences once inside and realize the bigger picture.
"The fate of Amaharpe rest in your hands, brave adventurers. Those who have personally chosen you will now explain the rest of the details." Zendai then clapped his hands together as everyone within the room disappeared, except for him and one other group.
Zendai looked towards the group of three players who remained behind, as he was the one who personally chose Aegis. "I expect good things from you and your comrades, Aegis."
Aegis glanced towards Zendai before staring at the vortex of swirling energy as only one word left his mouth, "Naturally."
Izroth and his party were transferred to an empty white cube-shaped room.
'Where is this place?'
"Pretty interesting stuff, isn't it? I see you've brought along some interesting people, Izroth." Gear's voice echoed from behind Izroth and his party.
Izroth and his party turned around to face Gear. At the moment, Gear was still able to maintain his more youthful appearance of a middle-aged old man.
"This may be the last time we meet, young man." Gear said as he smiled. But, hidden behind that smile was a trace of solitude.
"Once the portal opens into the Chaotic Dogma Realm, Amaharpe will come under assault by a countless number of beasts, as the barrier around the city weakens. This will not stop until the portal is closed. For the sake of your fellow adventurers and the citizens of Amaharpe, you must succeed." Gear said.
'According to the SSS-ranked world quest, Amaharpe's destruction should not happen for quite some time. Could this simply be some kind of special event linked to the SS-ranked quest?'