Thankfully, their later conversations went off without a hitch. Overall, Locke was a young high-rank Knecht with great character and as a multi-centenarian, Grandmeisterin Parlina could tell that he had a bright future ahead.
Three sets of cutlery were placed on the dining table. While Locke could be oblivious to it, it was clear that he had the grandmeisterin’s approval for the time being. The dishes presented for lunch were absolutely delectable; there were pink clams, fluorescent vegetables and some major monster’s roasted leg. It looked scrumptious, an obvious indication of the grandmeisterin's gastronomic proficiency. Though the pots and pans were unmanned, how the dishes turned out was highly dependent on Parlina’s mental ability. After all, a Magister’s mental abilities were strong enough to achieve object shape and movement manipulation.
“Thank you for the meal!” Locke expressed his gratitude and reached for a pink clam. As he pried the shell open for its flesh, a child’s shrill scream, which greatly startled Locke. Upon inspection, it appeared that the scream had come from a mouth-like organ on its inner wall.
Locke’s fright earned a light giggle from Angelina. “These are wailing clams harvested from the lakes of eastern Baikal. It’s one of Grandmother Parlina’s treasures!”
The old lady wasn’t fazed by Angelina’s comment. She calmly pried the pink shell open, lined her lips at its edge and ingested the soft invertebrate flesh with a soft slurp. The bizarre scream petered out as it ventured further down her stomach.
Angelina mirrored her grandmeisterin. She had stayed at Parlina's often, so the wailing clams were no stranger to her palate. Locke stared at them blankly before finally deciding to mimic them. He brought the clam closer to his lips and sucked its flesh in. Frankly, the feeling of having a child’s scream disappear in the pit of his stomach was uncanny; it was a foreign sensation that Locke wasn’t used to. Though he had his fair share of experience with unconventional foods like centipedes, lizards, spiders and so on during his military days, this was the first time he had encountered such a peculiar dish.
“This is the only thing Aomar has that attracts us,” Grandmeisterin Parlina remarked as she dabbed her lips sophisticatedly. Despite the vagueness, Locke could tell that she meant Magisters in general.
“This is a prized ingredient that improves resistance to flames.” Angelina offered some explanation. Indeed, pyromancy was the most destructive magic Locke had ever encountered. He quickly grabbed a second wailing clam.
Apart from the wailing clams, the other dishes too consisted of priceless ingredients that offered a unique taste and diverse effects. The fluorescent vegetables would help counteract a few types of toxins and even increase immunity against them. When consumed in larger quantities, the major monster ribs would encourage improvements to one’s capabilities. It was already highly effective for a high-rank Knecht like him, not to mention casters with a weaker physique.
Locke was glad that the servings were plentiful. Knights were notorious for their huge appetites, so Parlina prepared more dishes than usual. However, it resulted in a lot of leftovers, which Locke looked on pitifully as Parlina threw them out. She was probably someone with high living standards that refused to eat leftovers.
After lunch, Angelina showed Locke around the tower while Parlina returned to the upper floors to tend to her experiments. Interestingly, Locke noticed that Parlina had never once taken off her glasses throughout the meal. Despite the grandmeisterin’s permission, they weren’t exactly allowed to go anywhere they pleased. There were a few restricted areas like the storeroom, alchemy laboratory, element pool and control room, which Angelina avoided.
Sure enough, the magic tower was much more advanced than the ones Locke had visited before. The six-storey tower was not only spacious but also had extensive features. Angelina mentioned that there were tower spirits here that were as intelligent as ordinary humans which Locke, unfortunately, couldn’t encounter; he wasn’t allowed to enter the control room on the sixth floor.
Angelina was given an alchemy laboratory in the magic tower. While Locke wasn’t allowed to enter the other laboratories, hers wasn’t off-limits and she was here to retrieve her belongings anyway. With pure white walls, the equipment on the alchemy bench was far more varied than the one at home. Test tubes containing mysterious colourful liquid stood in the test tube rack quietly while an alcohol lamp heated a crucible with its yellow flames. The furnishing of an alchemy laboratory would require at least ten thousand gold moores, and while alchemists made lots of money, their expenditures were extravagant. Every caster would have to be mentally prepared for bankruptcy before dabbling in alchemy.
“I’d like to buy a new alchemy bench set soon,” said Angelina as she packed her belongings.
Locke replied, “Sure.” The Knecht stood at a corner; he was better off staying out of her way. All the test tubes and equipment in their vicinity belonged to Parlina and breaking any one of them was enough to drain his pockets dry. Speaking of which, Angelina was now a mid-rank Lehrling. The simple alchemy bench at home was no longer suitable for her experiments.
“Should I ask Billie for one?” When it came to buying and trading things, Locke would always be reminded of Billie; she certainly had cemented her impression as a capable businesswoman.
“There’s no need to trouble her!” Angelina continued, “I could just buy one from Grandmother Parlina.”
Money was something casters regarded with importance. Though Angelina was on very good terms with Parlina, she would have to finance the alchemy bench herself. Parlina would probably offer her a discount at most. To a caster, knowledge was the most precious and priceless wealth one could ever possess and of course, the Sanctum was a mass gathering of intellectuals. This was the main drive behind Angelina’s desire to further her studies there.
Once Angelina was done shoving her belongings into the black pearl, she cast a spell on the tower’s wall, and out emerged a water ball from between its gaps. “Grandmother, we’ll be leaving now,” informed Angelina respectfully.
Parlina’s acknowledgement came through the water ball. Occupied with her experiment, the Magister wasn’t able to see them off at the door. “Don’t forget to meet me here in a month,” she reminded. Angelina was scheduled to depart for the Sanctum then.
The conversation would have ended here but the water ball didn’t disappear. Parlina was looking rather hesitant. “Locke, I heard that you’re planning to send Angelina off at the Sanctum, right?”
“Yes,” Locke replied. He did have plans to travel to the Sanctum through the Hall of Knights. The journey would take longer but he didn’t mind it, he’d just make sure to inform everyone back home about his prolonged absence. Anyhow, he’d be back as soon as Angelina was all settled there.
“You should come with us. I’m sure that’ll be less troublesome for you.” The grandmeisterin had planned to let Locke hitch a ride.
“Thank you so much, Grandmeisterin Parlina!” Locke hurriedly thanked. Heading to the Sanctum through the hall’s channel would certainly take a longer time and a good portion of his fortune. Getting offered a ride with them was definitely ideal.
As soon as his words fell, the water ball burst into little crystals and was reabsorbed by the tower. Grandmeisterin Parlina was a skilled hydromancer; water transmission was just child’s play to her but it had greatly impressed Angelina. While she studied element magic and alchemy at the same time, Angelina’s elemental affinity had more of an inclination towards the more aggressive pyromancy. However, the most she could relay through flame transmission was text. Her magic reserve was enough for image and sound transmission over a short distance but she lacked theoretical knowledge; she had yet to dabble into more advanced magic. For now, Angelina was more focused on accumulating fundamental knowledge rather than flashy high-level spells.
As soon as they left the magic tower, Locke drawled a sigh of relief. The presence of a Magister was stronger than a Ritter; Parlina’s presence was tremendously overwhelming and Locke was constantly worried about offending the grandmeisterin. Fortunately, the meal turned out alright. He had managed to complete the visit and scored a ride to the Sanctum to boot.
They walked out of the academy’s entrance to where their carriage awaited. The coachman was the captain of a smaller scout team whose capabilities were comparable to a mid-rank Knecht.
“I’ll be home later, I’ve got something to tend to at the Hall of Knights,” said Locke as he helped Angelina up the carriage.
“Alright. Do come back as soon as possible.” Angelina didn’t question why he was heading to the Hall of Knights, merely reminding him to come home early.
“Don’t worry, I’ll see you soon.” Locke nodded.
Once her carriage went out of sight, he waved at another carriage by the road. Many Princeton peasants who worked as coachmen tend to wait around the academy’s gates for potential customers.
“Constantine Avenue, please,” Locke told the driver.
“Very well, Herr. Is forty silver moores alright?” The coachman seemed to be approaching his thirties. Having older people greet him like that was something Locke had gotten used to over the years. Princeton was a huge city; forty silver moores was a reasonable price to get to the northwest from the south. Locke raised a brow with no intention to haggle. “Sure. If you’re fast enough, I’ll add another ten silver moores!”
“Alright!” The coachman answered. Swiftly, he whipped the horse and brought the carriage to a lurch.
The coachmen gathered outside the academy were mostly first-class citizens. While the job didn’t necessarily pay well, the nobles attending the academy had made it a pleasant exception for they rarely haggled with the peasants.