The carriage weaved effortlessly through Princeton city at an astonishing speed. The coachman was probably a local since he knew shortcuts through back alleys like the back of his hand. By the speed they were travelling at, he seemed intent on getting the extra ten silver moores.
Locke took the opportunity to get some shut-eye. He was on his way to the Hall of Knights to get something. Thanks to the mass gathering of knights, the business street within the branch was livelier than ever. High-rank Knechts were selling their spoils at every corner; the Hall of Knights weren’t against trading among its members but they did request a certain fee for a permit.
To this day, Angelina still had nowhere to keep her now three-metre long scorpiondrake; Angie could no longer fit inside the black pearl comfortably. While Grandmeisterin Parlina did promise to help find a solution, they hadn’t heard back from her since then. Hence, Locke was hoping to find something of use at the hall. If his efforts were futile, it wouldn’t be a total loss. After all, a crowd of more than thousands of high-rank Knechts was a rare sight.
By three in the afternoon, the carriage came to a stop on Constantine Avenue.
“Herr, we’ve arrived.” The coachman called from outside the carriage.
Locke had been awake since earlier. He lifted the curtain and tossed a gold moore at the coachman. “Keep the change. Head home and celebrate the new year with your family, will ya?” It was the first few days of the new year, a holiday season that should be celebrated with the whole family but the coachman was making a living out here. It must’ve been difficult for him.
“Thank you, Herr!” The coachman was touched.
Locke ignored his gratitude and made a beeline for the entrance. The Hall of Knights wasn’t as crowded as it was a few days ago. Though there were still many knights loitering outside the branch, they numbered much fewer. At a glance, Locke found a familiar face stationed at the side gate--Xith was on guard duty today. He went forward and asked, “Hey, have you seen anything interesting today?"
The Princeton branch was Xith’s turf and no one knew it better than him. If there was anything new, Xith would be the first to find out since he spent almost every single day in the hall.
“Yeah, but nothing useful to you!” Xith huffed angrily. While he was stuck with the annoying chore, Locke was off being lovey-dovey. Sure, they were friends but Xith still found the imbalance difficult to stomach.
“Oh, cheer up. I have something nice for you!” As soon as Locke’s words fell, there was a flash of light and a pink-shelled clam appeared on his palm. Xith’s eyes went wide upon recognition, quickly swiping the pink clam away.
“Where did you get this?” Xith eyed their surroundings sneakily. He grabbed Locke by the collar after he was certain no one was watching them.
“Cough, cough.” Locke pried himself out of Xith’s grip and offered a disgruntled answer, “Angelina’s grandmeisterin gave it to me.” Xith knew about Locke’s caster girlfriend and was even aware of her royal status, which was the main reason why he was green with jealousy today.
“Is the grandmeisterin a Magister?” Xith was in disbelief.
“That’s right.” Locke didn’t need to lie.
“You lucky bastard! I’ll be in your care from now on, Brother!” Xith had no qualms being shameless. “These wailing clams are only found in Baikal Lake, it’s a delicacy that only Ritters and Magisters get to enjoy!” The man gripped the pink clam tightly.
The taste of the wailing clam was pretty good, not to mention its unique effect to increase resistance against pyromancy. They were only available to the imperial’s nobles, Ritters, Magisters and any lifeforms beyond level one and as such was a status symbol. It had good reason to stand out among other similar foods.
“Feeling better now?” Seeing Xith’s glee, Locke didn’t have the heart to tell him that it was leftovers from lunch. There was still a good amount left in his spatial ring, but Locke wasn’t one to eat leftovers. He had no dire need to do that and he could always sell it off to make a profit. As a peasant, Locke always felt the urge to utilize everything fully; he just couldn’t bear the thought of discarding things that still had value.
“Hehe, you’re right on time. There's a group of spellbane knights selling their items beside Connaught Tavern. You should hurry before there’s nothing interesting left!” Now that he was pacified, Xith wasn’t about to trouble him further.
“Thanks!” Locke patted Xith’s on the shoulder and entered the hall.
Spellbane knights were rare in Princeton and in the whole of Missia even, being specialists that hunted casters. Their targets were of course not those from the Sanctum but the dark casters of Magion. There were good and bad casters; some radical casters had no regard for ethics and disobeyed the Sanctum’s laws. These dark casters were notorious for acting on their whim and had complete disregard for life; they’d conduct extremely inhumane and gruesome experiments. Casters of Missia and Magion all despised them with a burning hatred.
For the sake of peace and stability of the Three Western Isles, the Hall of Knights issued missions to curb the blight of dark casters. The mission he and Joaquin completed a while ago had involved the spirit of a dark caster, who had managed to escape the spellbane knights. After all, the coastline of the Three Western Isles was long and the territory was huge, which made it difficult for the handful of spellbane knights to offer full protection.
Despite that, Locke caught wind of some rumours- The spellbane knights seemed to be more interested in the casters of the east coast than the dark casters. For some reason, the Hall of Knights also released false information from time to time. There was once an incident where a spellbane knight allegedly managed to defeat a ‘dark caster’ with great difficulty but later found out that it was a mistake. The poor caster wasn’t a dark caster at all, being a ‘white caster’ affiliated with an east coast magic organization who had come here to train. The organization demanded justice but there was nothing they could do; the victim was long dead by then. Transporting a dead body back without closure was going to complicate things, so they admitted to it and painted the victim as a dark caster.
Due to that, the relationship between the Three Western Isles and the east coast magic organizations had always been rather fragile.