The venue for the trade had been arranged by the organizers of the auction. After the transaction, the middle-aged man left after exchanging some pleasantries with Locke. However, Locke stayed behind and took out a bunch of cliffedge grass and passed it to Billie. “Thank you for your help.”
Without her, Locke surely wouldn’t have come to own the sword he currently used along with froststeel armour set and cliffedge grass. He felt indebted to her.
“There are no impetus users in my family. I’m afraid I’d have no use for this.” Billie let out a small laugh.
“Then you’re free to sell it.” Locke pressed the wooden box, which contained cliffedge grass, into her palm stubbornly. Billie’s family was huge, so there was no way not a single one of them used impetus.
Locke’s insistence on repaying her took her aback. After some hesitation, Billie gripped the box tight. “Alright, I’ll sell it off and we’ll split the money in half! No buts!”
Locke could only nod quietly. There was no point in remaining here any longer now that the auction was over. Locke had already got the things he purchased and Billie’s face was turning a little pale from the stuffy air underground. While knights with stronger physiques like Locke felt nothing, casters fared worse at adapting to new environments than knights. However, it was no big deal, just a mere lack of sunlight and fresh air. Since he had nowhere to go after the event, he headed straight home.
Angelina finally returned home in the evening.
“The middle Lehrling rank?” Locke gasped when he heard what she said.
“Yeah. Grandmeisterin Parlina already finished the necessary preparations,” Angeline said, avoiding his gaze.
Grandmeisterin Parlina was Angelina’s mentor. Locke had seen her, an old and stern lady, at the academy’s caster faculty twice. Parlina was the first powerful Magister Locke had the honour of meeting in person. Since she had prepared everything for Angelina's advancement, Angelina was almost guaranteed to succeed in becoming a mid-ranked Lehrling. Achieving that before the age of twenty was proof of Angelina’s potential to become a high-ranked Lehrling. That way, she’d be able to head to the Sanctum like she always wanted.
“When is it?” Locke asked in a low voice.
“It’ll take place in two months.” Her mentor had plenty of experience preparing for the advancement of low-ranked Lehrlings and had all the necessary steps scheduled ready. Plus, all the supporting potions used during the process had minimal side effects; Angelina was going to be essentially unscathed throughout the whole process.
“I see,” muttered Locke. He had a feeling that they wouldn’t be seeing each other for a long time after Angelina’s advancement. Both of them couldn’t be sure as to when they’d meet again.
The next day, Locke was already out on a mission despite having returned from the Glint Plains no more than a week ago. In the mountainous rocky forest of the eastern Zach Province, startled birds flocked all over the place.
“A moni greatowl?” Clutching the wound on his arm, Locke stepped forward and slashed the gigantic avian monster with his long sword. The black bird had a peculiar flat skull and was about two metres tall. Locke kept the pressure on until the giant black owl’s neck was mutilated and it stopped moving altogether.
Locke was quite injured from the encounter; scratches and abrasions were all over his body. The most severe wound was on his arm, which was a gash of about four centimetres deep, revealing even some of his bone. The froststeel armour couldn’t resist the giant owl’s death throes and his inner armour only covered his vitals, which left his limbs exposed.
“As expected from a monster with a bounty of 1200 gold moores. It's really tough.” He gripped his wounded arm tighter and coughed out two drops of blood.
The strength of the moni greatowl ranked at the top mid-ranked major monsters and could well be ranked higher. Knights rarely accepted missions of this nature. Under normal circumstances, even high-ranked Ritters would try to avoid powerful major monsters capable of flight. Yet, Locke, a mid-ranked Knecht, had chosen to slay this monster with the sole goal of personal improvement.
If Locke failed to seek help from either a photomancer, hydromancer or biomancer in time, there was a high possibility that the gaping wound on his arm would result in lasting complications. Losing the arm entirely was also a possibility.
He rummaged through his spatial ring for a wooden box within which were five small maroon tablets. Despite the tablets' size, the scent of blood permeated the air intensely. The stench was almost comparable to the freshly killed monster. Locke had separated the blood essence into several one-gram tablets beforehand. He brought one to his lips and quickly clamped the box shut, not wishing to risk diminishing the blood essence’s potency through prolonged exposure to fresh air. Though blood essence was typically used for mid-ranked Ritter advancements, it was also surprisingly good at boosting healing. Soon after swallowing the tablet, his entire body flushed red. The blood production in his marrow seemed to speed up in an instant, causing some to flow out of Locke’s wounds solidifying into scabs.
Soon, most of his nasty wounds scabbed up and healed shortly. His worst injury, sustained while trying to stop the giant monster from escaping, was already patching itself up in mere minutes. Locke was able to stretch his arm slightly before long.
Having recovered significantly, Locke made a move to leave. The earlier commotion and scent of death and blood essence was bound to attract powerful monsters. He hastily kept his spoils and produced a map from his spatial ring.
“Next stop… the thornfish of Pana Falls.” Locke mumbled to himself.
He put on his hooded cloak, concealing his silhouette and the blood stench that lingered on him. He quickly ran out of the rocky forest, where his wagon awaited. Locke could vividly feel the stirring of his inner energy, the slow rise of his impetus vortex and the manifestation of the blood essence’s power.