Angelina’s advancement was to take place at the academy’s caster faculty. Yet, the only thing Locke knew was its commencement date.
As a high-rank Knecht fresh out of the oven, the extensiveness of a Magister’s inventory was something way beyond Locke’s imagination. Thanks to that, the entire process was bound to be completely safe. The next time they met, Angelina was already a mid-rank Lehrling with a brand new white staff, dressed in a gold caster robe. These were all gifts from Angelina’s grandmeisterin. The most eye-catching of all was definitely the fist-sized magic crystal embedded on the tip of her staff, which Locke couldn’t help but gawk at.
“Isn’t it too flashy to be using such a powerful crystal core?” Locke pulled Angelina closer by the sleeve and whispered. They were currently on the Imperial Academy’s campus grounds. If Locke wasn’t mistaken, the crystal core was extracted from a quasi-major monster and it was powerful enough to last Angelina till she became a Magister.
“These are all hand-me-downs from Grandmeisterin Parlina. She gave them to me so the Sanctum would know that I'm in her faction,” Angelina explained with a sway of her long locks. She and Locke had come to a mutual agreement to not just compromise for each other's sake, but to be truly honest with their desires. After all, going to the Sanctum had always been Angelina’s dream.
Where humans gathered, conflicts followed. Even the Sanctum was no exception. Angelina was just a mid-rank Lehrling, so exerting dominance was the best way to ward off bullies. Locke was aware of the grandmeisterin’s might; she was a valiant old lady who wouldn’t tolerate any sort of bullcrap.
“What about Angie? Are you going to bring her along?” Locke asked with genuine curiosity.
A lot of things had happened in the last two days. Angelina’s scorpiondrake familiar had had a sudden growth spurt, either because it was growing to match Angelina's current power or it was Grandmeisterin Parlina’s secret meddling.
Before its growth spurt, the scorpiondrake had only been a low-rank major monster, but the day after Angelina's breakthrough, it experienced its own ascension and was now a mid-rank major monster. It was now double its previous size and stretched to nearly three metres. Even Locke was intimidated and hesitant to bully it again. While the impetus projection of high-rank Knechts was capable of piercing through the tough scales of a scorpiondrake easily, the beast was stronger, faster and tougher. Not to mention, scorpiondrakes could fly.
Locke felt like the familiar wasn’t any weaker compared to the more difficult major monsters he had encountered. Interestingly, Angie was still very cautious around Locke, always hesitating with a dumb look despite its overwhelming three-metre length. As soon as Locke sterned his expression, the scorpiondrake would begin to shake its tail out of fear, earning its mistress's ire. “Pathetic!”
But of course, Locke was a special case. If anyone else desired to touch Angie’s whiskers, they’d probably have a death wish.
Other than its strength, the other factor that would change with an abrupt increase in major monster size was its appetite. Their home could no longer house the three-metre scorpiondrake comfortably. A regular yard could not weather its shuffling around and feeding particulars would be very difficult. Angie could eat one whole lamb each meal. Locke felt that there could be a pocket dimension in its stomach based on that alone. Angie was fed three meals a day just like any regular person. While it didn't cost much, the guards in charge of feeding the scorpiondrake were always physically and mentally exhausted, constantly exposed to the risk of getting devoured and worked to the bone.
“I’ll be keeping Angie in my black pearl for the time being,” replied Angelina. The black pearl in question was the spatial gear dangling in front of her chest. It had an internal space of five metres tall and ten metres wide, tens of times larger than Locke’s ring.
“Okay.” He nodded.
Poor Angie would have to be cooped up for quite a while. As the academy’s caster faculty was still rather small, Angelina would have a much easier time buying or trading for better spatial gear to transport Angie around with ease at the Sanctum. The Sanctum had more summoners there, meaning that there may be extra spatial habitats to spare.
Angelina’s departure for the Sanctum had been settled after her advancement. She was to leave three months later, in the middle of the first month of the new year. Locke heard that Grandmeisterin Parlina had been met with some unique circumstances that forced an end to her teaching career at Princeton; she was summoned back to the Sanctum, so she would be bringing Angelina along.
“Would you like me to send you off?” Locke asked.
“Of course!” Angelina fumed.
Members of the Hall of Knights were allowed to travel to the Sanctum, something which Locke had just learnt recently. When he asked Xith about it, the man had answered, “Are you expecting prideful casters to scavenge and hunt for magic cores themselves? They’re spoiled as hell!”
Locke learnt that the knights at the bottom of the Hall had formed a stable business relationship with casters at the bottom of the Sanctum's hierarchy. It wasn’t uncommon for the knights to sell magical plants and minerals from their missions to the Sanctum. The wealthy casters seemed not to have a single hint of financial consciousness. Their purchases were made without hesitation, oftentimes leaving knights, who were prepared for haggling, flustered. Straightforward customers were always welcome, and soon, a healthy market of considerable scale was formed outside the Sanctum.
Xith mentioned, “The market inside our branch is nothing compared to the one there.”
“I’d like to visit it someday,” expressed Locke after a beat.
The comment solicited a weird look from Xith.
“Do you even know where the Sanctum is?” he asked.
Locke shook his head.
“The Sanctum is deep in the ocean between Missia and two other continents. If you wish to visit, I can introduce you to a good flying carriage. The price is open for negotiation.”
Locke was at a loss for words. He was reminded that the Three Western Isles recorded in the dark magic caster’s notes were very much real.
“Take this opportunity to say goodbye to Joaquin and the others, yeah?” suggested Locke.
“Of course,” Angelina replied.
Who knew when she’d be able to see her friends again? While many knew she had become a mid-rank Lehrling, only a handful knew she was headed for the Sanctum. Casters from the Princeton Imperial Academy were highly regarded all across the entire continent. Despite that, they were small fry compared to Sanctum casters. After all, that was where all the talented casters of three continents were gathered, many of whom were mid-rank Lehrlings and above.