After politely rejecting Irene’s parents’ offer to stay, Locke and Irene embarked on their journey back to the academy. They weren’t on holiday, so she couldn’t stay home for too long and had to return before their one-month mission deadline was over.
They’d solved the problem of Irene’s blind date quite perfectly. Both her parents and her uncle, Byzalle, were very pleased with Locke being their potential son-in-law, especially after he’d given them a strengthening potion as a gift.
Although strengthening potions were produced in Aomar, they were typically sought after by the elites. The two barons in her family could definitely afford them, but they wouldn’t give them away so easily. These potions could help one cultivate till the level of mid-rank Knechts, so it was a very precious item for a small family like theirs.
Of course, the main purpose of Locke’s generosity was that the potion would eventually end up in Irene’s hands. She’d just advanced to a low-rank Knecht and her strength hadn’t stabilised yet. It was only a matter of time before she needed to use the potion. As for the matter of Locke being her fiancé, they’d agreed to forget about it once they arrived in Princeton. He’d already planned to buy some gifts for Glace on their way back.
The city of Johanniston was as prosperous as one would expect of the capital of a province. Locke squeezed through the crowd on the busy street to get to the stalls by the streets for some gift shopping.
“Why are you buying the gifts here?” asked Irene as she finally managed to squeeze in next to him.
“Come with me!” She then dragged him to the most eye-catching shop on the street.
“I’ve been here more than once. You can trust me,” said Irene proudly.
Her family was from this province, so she must’ve been here a couple of times before. He was relieved when there was someone to lead the way. He didn’t know much about shopping, so her help was much welcome. They spent the whole morning at tailor shops, jewellers', handicraft stores and cosmetics shops.
With Locke standing behind her, Irene wasn’t afraid that no one would pay for the items that she’d selected. She knew that he was rich enough to be able to casually give away a strengthening potion that was worth hundreds of gold moores, so she’d decided to lean on the moneybag.
It wasn't that far from the truth; he’d completed around seven or eight missions in the past six months, earning him a few hundred gold moores. Apart from the mission rewards, he also kept some spoils for himself.
He would only have to hand in the crystal cores and the significant organs of the magic beasts and the heads of the bandits to the academy if the mission required them as proof. As for the assets and fortunes that the bandits had robbed over the past few years, he wouldn’t report it to the academy if they didn’t ask about it.
Of course, it wasn't all sunshine and rainbows. He’d suffered injuries of varying severity throughout the missions, including the minor frostbite from the crocodile’s icy blast. That was why he had to stock up on healing potions as a safeguard. Much of it came out of his own pocket, though Angelina and Billie did provide some. Selling potions was one of the main sources of income for Billie’s family, after all. Of course, he wouldn’t ask her to give him the potions for free and bought all of them at market price.
He knew that he owed Billie a lot of favours because most of the potions were worth way more than that. In fact, some rare and precious potions were unaffordable. The antifreeze potion was one of the potions that he’d gotten from her. He might not be able to get his hands on this kind of potion if he looked himself. Even if he managed to do so, his injuries might have long lasting consequences if he delayed his treatment too long. At present, he had approximately two thousand gold moores in his spatial ring, which was enough for him to cover his expenses for a few months.
Apart from helping Locke to choose the gifts, Irene didn’t hold herself back and bought a lot of things for herself. She tried on a pink dress and asked excitedly, “How does this look on me?”
“It’s all right.” Locke glanced unnaturally to the other side. He could see her assets as the neckline of the dress was too low, though she didn’t seem to mind how revealing it was. Instead, she went to try on more clothes and asked him for opinions as an excuse for choosing prettier gifts for him.
She could obviously tell that he was getting gifts for a woman. She knew that he had a fiancée from the caster’s faculty and had even met her several times in Perseverance’s cafeteria. She naturally thought that the gifts were for Angelina, so she’d chosen dresses and accessories that looked cute.
Locke felt bad when he saw how serious she was in helping him. He then said, “You can pick some outfits and items for yourself too.”
“Of course, that goes without saying!” Irene rolled her eyes and glared at him. She’d already chosen three to four skirts and dresses, and one of them was hers.
The whole time in the shop, she’d only worn the revealing pink dress, knowing full well how it looked. Usually, she would only wear something like that at home in her own privacy.
After shopping around, she gave him three outfits to choose from. He didn’t bother to pick one out of the three and bought all of them directly. He’d also bought the dress for Irene, and it’d only cost him four hundred gold moores altogether.
Irene probably rarely spent money so lavishly. When she got the clothes that Locke had bought for her, she hopped around in excitement and gave him a peck on the cheek. He could’ve avoided it easily based on his agility. But when he saw how excited she was, he just tolerated it and let her. They continued to chat happily as they strolled around Johanniston.
Four days before the deadline, Locke and Irene went to the mission hall to report the completion of the mission along with a report that detailed the cave’s environment, two fingers of the humanoid creature, and a small piece of the crocodile’s scale