“Are these the results of the investigation?” asked the staff member at the front desk solemnly.
“Yes. Here are some of the items that we’ve collected.” Locke handed over two fingers, a limb, and a piece of crocodile’s scale.
After the staff member examined the items, he nodded in approval. “Not bad, your results are excellent.” He then stamped Irene’s mission form for completion and gave them their reward: two hundred gold moores, which was quite a lot of money compared to what the other low-rank Knechts would normally receive. It seemed like the items that they’d brought back were quite valuable.
Locke didn’t take any of the money. He’d already gotten his share from the limbs of the humanoid creature, the crocodile’s crystal core and body parts, and the three red herbs. Irene was reluctant to take all the money at first as she hadn’t contributed anything, but he insisted that she take it.
A while after they left, the staff member went upstairs. The mission hall was located at the centre of the academy, standing approximately ten metres tall with its five floors. The first and second floors were where missions would be posted and reported while the floors above weren't open to outsiders. The staff member walked into an office on the fourth floor. Within it was an old man with grey eyebrows who wore a pair of reading glasses as he read.
“Priddo, look at these.” The staff member handed the items that Locke had collected to the old man.
Priddo put the book down and took the items.
“Oh?” He didn’t pay much attention to the scale. Instead, he focused on the two broken fingers.
“Why are there cave dwellers around here?” muttered the old man. Nobody knew what type of cave dwellers he was talking about.
“This type of demi-human is rarely seen in Missia. They usually only appear underground in the southeast coast.” It seemed like the staff member knew more than the ordinary person about such matters.
After pondering for a while, Priddo said, “Let’s assign a few missions for the knights and casters to capture some cave dwellers. Hopefully, they'll find their lairs.”
“Got it,” replied the staff member. He then left to assign the missions.
After the staff member left, Priddo put the cave dweller’s fingers down and looked at the scale, which was blunted from the numerous collisions between Locke and the crocodile.
“What an aggressive young man!” exclaimed Priddo. The knight had impressed him by damaging the scale to such an extent.
Locke wasn’t in a hurry to return home when he arrived in Princeton. After bidding farewell to Irene, he went to deal with his spoils.
In a drugstore on Waltz Avenue, Locke emptied his sack of the frozen limbs of the cave dweller and the crocodile’s scales and claws. This store was owned by Billie’s family. Locke would always come here to sell off his spoils after every mission without fear of being taken advantage of.
The appraiser was a yellow-haired, middle-aged man who curiously examined the frozen appendages. It seemed that he was more interested in them rather than the body parts of a mid-level major monster. Since Locke wasn’t in a hurry, he asked for a cup of tea and sat quietly to wait for the appraisal to finish. By the time he was on his third cup, the appraiser finally finished.
“I can’t believe that there are cave dwellers in Aomar as well,” said the appraiser.
“How much are these worth?” Locke asked the question that he was most concerned about. He’d decided to bring the demi-human’s limbs back after seeing how well it held up against the crocodile. He figured that the creature might be as valuable as a major monster even if it wasn’t one, not to mention, they weren't too bulky to bring along anyway.
“These aren’t valuable at all,” replied the appraiser. Before Locke could say anything, he continued, “But I’m interested in knowing where the creature appeared.”
“How much for it then?” asked Locke. Since it wasn't his first time dealing with them, he wouldn't mind a lower price as long as it was reasonable.
The appraiser held quite a high position in the store. After thinking for a while, he held up seven fingers.
“Deal!” Locke smiled. Seven hundred gold moores was equivalent to the reward for completing two missions.
“As for the crocodile’s scales and claws, I can only pay you 100 gold moores for them as they’re already damaged.”
“Fair enough.” Locke already kept the most valuable crystal core for himself, so he didn’t mind getting only 100 gold moores for the rest.
After telling the appraiser the location, Locke asked, “What are cave dwellers anyway
As the appraiser knew about Locke and Billie’s relationship, he didn't hold back. “Cave dwellers typically live underground. Nobody knows about their origin yet, but since they are quite powerful and are low on upkeep, they are often sold as slaves.”
“Slaves?” Locke widened his eyes and looked at the appraiser in confusion.
“Yes, slaves. They only need to eat a little bit of moss to work for the entire day.”
Although Locke had only seen the battle between a cave dweller and a crocodile once, he could tell that the cave dweller was at least as strong as a low-rank Knecht. How could they be kept in line as slaves? Though, he wasn’t too concerned about what would happen to them. After thanking the appraiser, he returned home with his spoils.
What he didn’t know was that three days after he’d reported his mission, the academy, other organisations and the black market all issued missions to capture cave dwellers at the same time. These strange-looking demi-humans seemed to be quite the draw to the various factions.