Although Joaquin was surprised by Locke’s actions, she was extremely grateful. She felt a warmth in her chest.
“Thank you, Locke.” As soon as she finished speaking, Locke was already heading towards Daenie and Billie with his sword. Joaquin noticed that he was covering his chest with his left hand; he’d suffered a wound from the cuckoo’s beak when he rescued her just now.
After pulling herself together, she headed towards Bob and Chris. They were still quite close to the fruit trees, and they would be in trouble if the other noticed that something was off and came to check.
While Locke was slightly injured, a mid-rank Knecht like him could take quite a beating. Working with Billie and Daenie, he was able to kill another cuckoo with ease. On the other hand, Chris and the others kept another cuckoo busy while Joaquin and Angelina bombarded them with spells.
“Let’s go!” Joaquin waved her wand and said.
Two weeks later, they left Salt Forest safely and were on their way to the province of Ethelweiss.
“I’ll be able to advance to the low-rank when I get back to Princeton!” Mina squealed with delight in the carriage. Their mission was to gather the magic-condensing fruits and they only needed to hand over half of the amount they’d collected. They could distribute the rest among themselves. Plus, the academy would reward them with potions brewed using the fruits for completing the mission, which were easily far more valuable than the fruits themselves.
Unlike Mina, Bob and Chris were dejected. Both of them suffered a manner of different injuries, but they were mostly just scratches. Their bodies were covered in wounds and scabs and looked pretty terrifying on the surface. Locke had a wound on his chest as well. Thankfully, it wasn’t deep, but he couldn’t do any vigorous activity for the time being. None of the casters was injured and it was all thanks to the knights’ protection.
“I’ll trade the magic-condensing potions for some crimson potions for you all when we get back!” Joaquin promised.
Magic-condensing potions were made from magic-condensing fruits and could help to boost a caster’s mana, but they were useless to knights as mana and impetus were completely different. However, crimson potions were very helpful to low and mid-rank Knechts. However, the ingredients were very expensive and they were rarely sold on the market, so Joaquin could only get them by trading for them with her magic-condensing potion.
Costly potions like these were usually only used by casters. Even wealthy noble knights wouldn’t spend that much on potions. But as casters were usually more powerful and could produce their own, they used them more often.
Bob and Chris were ecstatic at hearing that, though Locke didn’t react too much. The crimson potions were just as valuable as the magic-condensing potions, so their efforts would be worth it if she gave them a bottle of crimson potion each.
Joaquin felt relieved when she saw the excitement on their faces. The only surefire way to ensure party unity was to equally distribute the spoils after all. She still had a few bottles of crimson potions at home which she could give away. However, she was quite curious about Locke's reaction, or the lack thereof.
Locke held two green cuckoo feathers; they were as tough and sharp as blades. It was no wonder they could withstand the casters’ spells. Even a mid-rank Knecht like him had to use a lot of strength to slash them apart. He was wondering whether he could turn them into weapons such as daggers.
He’d been using his old dagger for eight years already. While it was useful back when he was still an ordinary soldier, it wasn’t much of a use to him right now. It wasn’t sharp and strong enough to cut into a minor monster’s body, let alone low and mid-ranked major monsters'. He would hate to chip it from misuse; the precious dagger held much sentimental value to him
“Angelina, can you incorporate these feathers into my dagger?” Locke asked Angelina, who was leaning on his shoulder while reading.
“Let me have a look at them.” Angelina put down the brown spellbook and took the green feathers.
After examining it, she said, “I’m afraid I can’t do it. Although it is a good material, green cuckoos have wind mana, and I don’t know how to mix them with metal elements at the moment.”
If he wanted to incorporate the feathers just for the sake of strengthening his dagger, an ordinary blacksmith could do it easily, but Angelina was thinking of combining its wind mana and the metal elements of the dagger together. Not only would it increase its sharpness, a dagger with wind mana would provide some unexpected benefits, not to mention convert the dagger into an enchanted item. Locke didn’t know that it could be enchanted, so he was taken aback by her words.
“I can help you with that!” Joaquin said suddenly, interrupting his thoughts.
“Huh?” Locke looked at Joaquin, who was sitting right in front of him. The carriage was small, so they all had to squeeze in together. He could see her figure in the tight red dress easily.
“My father happens to know an alchemist,” said Joaquin as she ran her fingers through her hair.
“I don’t think it’s a good idea,” said Locke hesitantly. The alchemist whom she’d mentioned was most probably not a beginner like Angelina and he must be a well-known one. It would be costly to hire someone like that and he didn’t want to trouble her.
“Don’t worry, he’s my uncle, so he’ll be happy to help.” Joaquin said casually.
“Well then, thank you.” Locke took his dagger out and gave it to her carefully. Out of curiosity, she pulled the dagger out from its scabbard. Surprisingly, the dagger wasn’t as exquisite as its scabbard was, and it was basically like a piece of iron wrapped in a layer of cloth, though she didn’t ask too much about it. Seeing the way he treated the dagger, it must mean a lot to him.
“I don’t want the crimson potions. The dagger will be my compensation instead,” said Locke. He wasn’t greedy and a magic dagger was already much more valuable than a bottle of crimson potion.
After thinking for a while, Joaquin looked at the people around her, nodded and said, “Alright, then.”
Everyone got what they wanted out of the mission and nobody suffered serious injuries, unlike the last mission. It was indeed good news for the leader, Joaquin. She felt relieved that her groupmates were happy.
As she was casually looking around, her gaze landed on Locke and Angelina in the corner of the carriage. Under the sunset, Angelina leaned on Locke’s shoulder while reading her thick, brown tome. Locke was still looking at the feathers in his hands, deep in thought.
Somehow, she was jealous of Angelina. She thought of the muscular arms that caught her when she fell from the tree that night and the figure that intercepted the green cuckoo before it could reach her.
A week later, they finally arrived at Princeton. It was the sixth month, and spring had just ended. Summer hadn’t arrived; the seventh and eighth months were the hottest period of the year. After bidding farewell to everyone, Locke and Angelina returned home.
“I can finally take a month off!” Locke stretched his back as he got out of the carriage.
“You’re not going to carry out any missions?” asked Angelina. Usually, he would only rest for ten days before he set off for his next mission.
“Yeah, I’ve agreed to meet up with Bond in the seventh month for blood essence.” He nodded and replied. She’d heard of the war in Osdale that Locke had participated in and she knew that Bond was a friend he’d met during that mission.
“Please be careful on your way there,” said Angelina. Although she didn’t know where and how the blood essence would be obtained, she was sure that it definitely wasn’t an easy task.
“Don’t worry about it.” He laughed heartily.
Someone else in the mansion seemed to have heard his laughter. “Locke, is that you?”
A while later, Kristin ran out while dragging Laffey along with her, with Glace, Suzanne and Lia following behind.
“Yes, it’s me! Little Kristin has really sharp ears!” He carried her and pulled her ears gently.
“Oh! You're tickling me!” Kristin laughed.
Angelina didn’t usually talk too much with the others, but she surprisingly greeted all of them with a smile today. She then grabbed Lia’s hand and walked into the house together. She was the closest to her among the few women. The clever Angelina didn’t seem to notice that Lia liked Locke more than just as a sibling, and she completely treated her as her own sister. Locke and the other women chatted happily as they entered the house.