The Hall of Knight’s Princeton branch was located on Constantine Avenue at the northeast of the city. Locke had rarely stepped foot into this area, so it wasn't surprising that he didn't know where it was at first. He was here to report for duty and receive this month’s supplies.
The Hall of Knights sure was wealthy, as was evidenced by the fact that Locke was allowed to redeem his monthly supplies, which were of considerable value, despite not having made any contributions yet. It was clear why knights would go to such lengths just for membership.
A familiar face was waiting to show Locke around. “Come with me.”
Xith led Locke around the huge building. The Hall of Knights had made the Princeton branch a special stronghold that functioned as a central branch that oversaw the surrounding areas. Apart from the knights in the imperial capital, the members in the surrounding provinces were also under its jurisdiction.
As stated in the contract given by Bharat, there were two methods to join the Hall of Knights: The first was to take a test and be placed under a probation period like Xith. Those accepted would then serve the Hall on a life tenure. The second approach was to join as an independent. While they would be affiliated with the Hall of Knights in name, they had the highest degree of autonomy. The only requirement was to fulfil enough missions according to their contract. Since Locke hadn’t been bossed around in years, he went for the second option, which happened to be the most popular choice too.
“This is where you accept missions.” Xith brought Locke to their first destination: a hall that looked similar to the academy’s mission hall. The piercing musk of sweat, clinking wine glasses and strong rum filled the air. Frankly, this place looked more like a tavern. Rowdy knights were gathered around the table, shaking the tavern with their cheers. It was absolute chaos.
“The mission board is over there!” Xith yelled. The voices around them were threatening to drown everything out otherwise. The board was white with rows and rows of black text, probably a record of available missions. Acceptance of these tasks was done on a voluntary basis and completely optional. Most of them were issued by the Hall itself or contracted by a third party. The rewards offered were much better than the missions offered by the academy. However, the mandatory task assigned once every five years needed to be fulfilled. It had to be completed unconditionally within the specified duration and failure would amount to a huge demerit.
Rewards given by the Hall of Knights for every successful mission were neither in the form of money, potions or treasures. They were merit points instead. These points could then be used for purchases of items like precious items from other planes and even slaves, according to Xith. “Some time ago, there was this guy named Farquoise who spent a fortune on a catgirl!” The flavour of jealousy was strong in his words.
“A catgirl?” Locke was curious.
“Yeah. They’re natives from other planes with cat ears!” Xith narrowed his eyes lewdly and began supplying Locke with the information he deemed interesting.
It didn’t take long for Locke to realize that he couldn’t follow the conversation. He didn’t know much about the other planes. He felt like he would have to study more again.
“And this is the exchange counter!” Leaving the tavern, Xith took Locke to a warehouse located deep in the Hall of Knights.
“Hello, Aurdo! I’m showing the newbie around today!” Xith put on a bright smile and greeted the hunch-backed old man from the entrance of the warehouse. The old man, who was leaning his weight on a black cane, ignored Xith and gave his full attention to his account book. Xith didn’t mind it at all, leading Locke away to the next spot.
Locke turned around and observed the old man carefully. His presence was nearly non-existent, almost as if he was an ordinary person without impetus. But why would an ordinary person be in charge of guarding the warehouse of the Hall of Knights? Locke recalled only two people that gave him a similar sensation: the strongest knight of Faustian, Romm, and Garcia, the female knight whom he had met in Morphey Forest, who was also great friends with Angelina.
He bowed and placed his right fist on his chest, formally saluting the old man. Soon after, he quickly caught up to Xith. Locke wasn’t sure if the old man had even noticed his earlier gesture.
The branch building was almost a town in itself; it had almost everything. It had a trading hall where you could exchange possessions; shops that sold various resources and technique manuals; and training rooms for combat skills - to name just a few things.
“Oh, right. That’s where Farquoise bought the catgirl from!” Xith pointed at a luxuriously decorated store on the side of the street. There was a street built indoors. It was a closed area and there were countless fluorite mosaics lining the ceiling. The illumination was so sufficient that it felt like they were in daylight.
Lifeforms from foreign planes weren’t the only things that piqued Locke’s interest. In fact, everything on this street was incredibly interesting to him. The branch’s spacious interior that didn't match its external dimensions was clearly achieved through a very sophisticated space distortion technique; its exterior had only suggested an area of less than one thousand square metres.
“It seems that the rumours were correct. The Hall of Knights and the Sanctum are on very good terms,” Locke mumbled to himself. He refused to believe that brawny knights were able to create such a magnificent building. But really, this was hypocrisy at its best; Locke himself was more brawns than brains.
“Alright, that’s all for today!” After Xith brought Locke to this street, he patted Locke on the shoulder and left. He had matters to tend to and he had been kind enough to spare some time to show him around, which was a huge honour as Xith barely stood to gain anything from it.
After thanking Xith, Locke was off to explore the branch alone. He wasn’t worried about getting lost. If he could still lose his way with the superior memory of a high-rank Knecht, Locke would be better off dead.
“I wonder how Angelina is doing,” Locke felt concerned.
Angelina hadn’t been home for days. She had been staying at the caster faculty, most likely getting ready for her advancement. With a powerful and reliable grandmeisterin, Angelina was bound to be a mid-rank Lehrling without issue. Her breakthrough wouldn't be as risky as Locke’s.
He had a feeling that Angelina would be done within a week at most. Recently, they often discussed their future together. Locke was fine with anything since he was now part of the Hall, so it wouldn’t be difficult to meet Angelina again. On the other hand, Angelina seemed to have been incredibly moved by Locke’s sudden and reckless breakthrough, so much so that she expressed her reluctance to head to the Sanctum. Overall, Locke wasn’t going to interfere. He’d respect all her decisions regardless.