Since passing the Keeper training and becoming candidates for the Keeper test, Gabriel, Michael and Lucifer frequently gathered to train. Their friendship also grew in the progress. Michael’s resolution, Lucifer’s calmness, and Gabriel’s wit all helped them get past the various tests. They became the team with the best grades and were given the chance to take the final test and become Keepers.
If they managed to pass the final test, they would be granted a personal Crucifix that only a genuine Keeper could have. They would then be assigned missions according to their abilities and grow into a unique and powerful Keeper.
Their final test started early in the morning. What they were asked to do was to locate their personal Crucifix in a dense forest before dawn. Only by successfully getting the Crucifixes could they pass the test and become Keepers.
Gabriel: Get the Crucifix before dawn...so this is a test on speed?
Lucifer: Not exactly. To find the three Crucifixes within such a large area...there should be clues as to where they are.
Michael: Maybe the Crucifixes contain certain power we could use to sense their locations?
Gabriel: Then I’ll search the border first. With my speed, I should be able to come back in less than half a day!
Michael: Wait! There is —
Before Michael could finish his sentence, Gabriel was long gone. Gabriel was preoccupied with trying to get everyone to pass the test by his power alone, so that they could receive a higher grade and hence get more honorable missions in the future.
Gabriel: It’ll probably be more effective if I expand my radius of sensation as I move.
Michael: Gabriel, watch out!
Lucifer: You should watch your back, tiny.
Michael and Lucifer worked together to defeat the beast behind Gabriel, and it was not until then did Gabriel realize the kind of danger he was in.
Gabriel was only focused on finding the Crucifixes that he overlooked the hazards lying within the dense forest. He was even in the area that contained the fiercest beasts; Michael actually wanted to warn him about this, but Gabriel dashed away. Gabriel’s relatively small body allowed him to navigate the forest with ease. Michael and Lucifer put in a lot of effort to track and chase after him.
Eventually, not only had they obtained no clues about the Crucifixes’ whereabouts, but they even wasted a lot of energy fighting the beast and half a day...
Gabriel, Michael and Lucifer were going through their final test to become genuine Keepers of Worlds.^ ^ To pass the test, Gabriel dashed into beasts’ abode, causing Michael and Lucifer to track him down and offer their help. This commotion cost them half of the test’s time. While Michael was still pondering over how to explain the situation to Gabriel, Lucifer had conveyed his feelings directly.
Lucifer: Your tiny body can indeed offer you an edge to travel in this dense forest, but don’t get too excited and forget about your safety.
Gabriel: I just wanted to speed up the search...
Lucifer: And did you find anything?
Gabriel: Not yet...
Lucifer: Do you know how much effort we put in to find you? Did you ever stop and think about that?
Gabriel: I also wanted to help you get pass the test faster!
Clouded by anger, Gabriel said this and ran off again...
Lucifer: ...Is he angry? Did I say anything wrong?
Michael: You weren’t wrong, but you didn’t choose your words correctly. You also have to consider the listener’s feelings.
Gabriel kept running until the sky drew down its red and orange curtain. It was dusk. Time mercilessly flew by and there was only a night’s time before the test was over. If they could not locate the Crucifixes any time soon, they would surely fail the test, and would have to retake all the tests until they acquired the qualifications for this final test again.
Gabriel: I will find those Crucifixes! All three of them!
As the sun set, the deadline of the Keeper test was also drawing near. If Gabriel, Michael and Lucifer cannot locate the Crucifixes before dawn, they will fail the test.^ ^ At the moment, Gabriel was separated from his companions — because of a rash act of anger, Gabriel left them and searched for the Crucifixes alone in the dark forest…
Gabriel: How am I not thinking about my companions? I’m searching this fast for the two of them!
It was midnight. Due to their encounter with the beast, Gabriel soon sat and rested. He conjured a light sphere to scare off wandering beasts while he took a rest to recharge himself.^ ^ The sphere’s warm radiance added weight to Gabriel’s eyelids. He tried his best not to fall asleep while in his mind, he recalled the times the three of them fought together —
Michael: ‘You just need to try to stay awake!’
On the competition grounds for the last Keeper training, Gabriel had his weapon knocked out of his hand by his opponents. He could only run around bare-handed. When he was about to give up, he recalled Michael’s words of encouragement and reignited his will to fight. He conjured a light sphere to break through the opponents’ encirclement, and because of this, he learned that he was actually more talented in magic than physical weapons.
Lucifer: ‘Hey tiny, your magic isn’t so bad!’
Michael: ‘Lucifer, it’s impolite to call others tiny.’
Gabriel did not mind at all, because he knew Lucifer had no intention to belittle him; his words were a sign of pure recognition. Since then, Gabriel always practiced dueling with Michael and Lucifer. Both their abilities and friendship improved as time passed...
Michael: Gabriel, have you ever tested the maximum capability of your light sphere?
Gabriel: Not really.
Lucifer: I’ll help you with that. Come on, launch your light sphere at me!
Memories of practicing as a team of three stirred in Gabriel’s mind. They practiced fighting together honing their skills, which also explained why they performed much better in the various tests. With these memories fresh in Gabriel’s mind, his eyes brimmed with a mist of tears —
Gabriel: Lucifer was right. I should think about my companions’ abilities instead of dashing around by myself...
Suddenly, a noise of crickets chirping sounded in a bush not far away. Gabriel immediately conjured light spheres in his hands, and hurled one in the direction of the sound as a probe. Along its route, the light sphere illuminated the leaves and branches of the bushes, as well as Michael and Lucifer’s face —
Michael: Gabriel! We finally found you! Thanks to the light sphere!
Lucifer: I didn’t actually say the wrong words, but —
Michael: Ahem. What kind of an apology is that?
Lucifer: Have I spoken the wrong words again?
Listening at the comical conversation, Gabriel could not help but burst into laughter. He knew Lucifer did not mean to blame him and his words were just a kind reminder that Lucifer was worried about him. However, he had run away in anger; he should have been the one to apologize.
The three candidates finally reunited, but they were only left with a few hours before the test would end. This time, they worked together. With Gabriel’s light spheres as a source of illumination, they hurriedly sought the Crucifixes.
There was less than three hours before the Keeper test would end. Gabriel and his companions concentrated their power and expanded their sensing radius. They finally found a shred of power similar to the Keepers’ in a cave at the foot of a volcano.
The paths in the cave were dangerous; the walls were weak and could collapse at any moment. If they just stepped in without preparation, they could be crushed to death before they could take a second step. However, time was not on their side. Michael cast protection magic on his companions and himself, while Gabriel lit the way and led the others.
Gabriel: The feeling is becoming more apparent. It must be in the deepest corner of the cave!
Michael: There is a wooden box in the crevice...
Gabriel: That’s it! Power is emanating from that box.
The three Keeper candidates neared the crevice carefully, as if a tiny bit of force could crumble the cave.
Michael: No way. If we proceed any further, the cave will collapse.
Lucifer: And the box is placed between two walls of rock. We won’t be able to take it without breaking them.
Gabriel: Then you guys should first leave the cave. I should be able to get the box and get out before the cave collapses.
Lucifer: Tiny, are you trying to do everything on your own again?
Gabriel: Em...no, but how else can we safely take the box?
While Gabriel and Lucifer were talking, Michael had already thought of a solution.
Michael: Lucifer, break the walls.
Gabriel: But wouldn’t it —
Lucifer: Even I know what Michael’s trying to do. You haven’t forgotten what this guy’s good at, have you?
Whenever the three were in difficult situations, Michael was always the fastest one to come up with solutions, and his solutions always needed all three of them. This was also why Lucifer always mocked his ideas as he described them as “exploiting everyone’s best features”.^ ^ Reminded by Lucifer, Gabriel finally understood —
Gabriel: Lucifer break the walls, Michael keep the walls intact, and I’ll dash forward to get the box.
The three bumped their fists; their thoughts were synchronized.
Lucifer’s mock was not completely untrue; there was no easy way for them to get the box and exit the cave in one piece. The cave was at the foot of the volcano. The walls were formed by sturdy rock condensed from lava. If Lucifer had to break the walls and make it enough for Gabriel to pass through, he had to use most of his remaining power. However, overdoing it would crumble the cave, which could cost them their lives even lava would not surge from within the volcano.
To avoid such an outcome from happening, Michael’s role was to keep the walls intact after Lucifer’s attack. With that said, Michael’s power could only maintain an area around them and keep themselves from harm. The way out would still be blocked by the rubble. When they successfully obtained the box, Lucifer and Gabriel would have to clear their way out while Michael used his protection sphere to support them.
The relatively small Gabriel would wait until Lucifer broke the walls, before dashing for the box and helping his two companions in exiting the cave.
Their plan went smoothly. Although breaking the walls and protecting themselves at the same time were more demanding than they had thought, the three managed to get the wooden box before it was too late...
Gabriel: But...it’s only one Crucifix...
Michael: Gabriel, you take this. Lucifer and I will just retake the tests.
Lucifer: Hey, you think I’m just going to agree with you?
Gabriel: Then let Lucifer take it. You were the one that has reminded me the importance of cooperation.
Lucifer: And you think I’m just going to take it? Besides, you said it’s all about cooperation. We obtained the Crucifix together.
Lucifer: We’ll take this to the mentor together, and who cares if we don’t pass the test!
Michael: Yeah. If we all have to retake the tests, so be it!
Lucifer: Why do you have to say retake all the time?!
Gabriel: Yay! We’ll retake them together!
The three chatted while taking the wooden box to their mentor. The three of them prepared for the possibility of retaking the tests. However, to their surprise, the box actually contained all the three Crucifixes. It was a test to see if the prospective Keepers could maintain their relationship and cooperation while being in a crisis and lured by temptation.
Gabriel, Michael, and Lucifer had adequately demonstrated their strong bond and perfectly finished the final test to become genuine Keepers.