The Princeton branch of the Hall of Knights was huge. The combined area offered by several joined buildings was as big as half a palace at least. Even so, it was incredibly crowded as many knights had come to answer the call to arms.
Walking past a few corridors, Locke arrived at the tavern where missions were issued but paid it no mind. The noisy chatter and suffocating musk there were a huge turn offs for him and there hadn’t been any attractive missions so far; missions near Princeton were mostly taken. The knights still needed a way to make a living for food, shelter, potions for training, and maintenance of their equipment. A huge majority of them would suffer if there weren’t any missions for them.
Locke finally set foot into the commercial street. Admittedly, the sudden influx of noise, laughter and chatter didn't fail to surprise him. The empty spaces between the lots were now filled with an array of stalls manned by unfamiliar knights, who were either oddly dressed or armoured. The width of the street was comparable to the busy Sachiel Street but it was already bursting at its seams with people. It was so crowded that Locke had trouble walking around. He had no choice but to match everyone’s flow as he slowly moved forward.
True to Xith’s words, there were a lot of interesting items on display today. Knights from all around the continent in distinct attires sold unique items; there were potions, major monster material, magic reel, and many other unprecedented things. The stall facing Locke displayed a lengthy black item that looked like a military trumpet, but it also resembled the horn of some animal. There was no way to tell if it was natural or manmade. The stall’s owner had their face concealed, only revealing a pair of dark yellow eyes. They were silent, not promoting their items nor cared enough to attract more customers. Despite that, their booth had garnered plenty of attention as many did stop by to point at their peculiar items.
Locke was clueless. He had just become a high-rank Knecht recently and hadn’t learned much about items of equivalent rank. He left the stall, still adamant about finding the spellbane knights.
Connaught Tavern was located towards the other end of the business street. While it wasn't prime real estate, it wasn't half bad. It took an hour for Locke to reach it. Knights loved booze, and there was nothing better to bond over than alcohol. Locke and Xith were regulars patrons of the tavern because it served ale and beer. Though he frequented the establishment, Locke had never met its owner. From what Xith told him, the owner was a middle-aged man with a huge physique who had been a quasi-Ritter in his youth. As he aged, he weakened till he was only as strong as a high-rank Knecht. Locke had a suspicion that the owner was from southern Missia; ale and beer were more popular around the southern kingdoms near Faustian. While the owner might not be a Faustian knight, Locke still found the tavern homey, prompting him to visit the place with Xith a few times. But of course, Xith had Locke cover the bill.
It was currently the warmest hour of the afternoon, which meant peak business hour for taverns. Perhaps the pubs he passed by had thinned down much of the crowd as Locke suddenly found it easier to walk around. He continued to search high and low for the spellbane knights.
Out of nowhere, a group of exotically dressed knights in leather armour caught his attention. Most knights preferred heavy armour, chainmail or half-plate armour. Leather armour wasn’t the most popular choice because the protection provided wasn’t stellar, so they were only considered for inner protection. Apart from their leather armour, Locke was most attracted by the faint presence of magic that surrounded them; it was wafting off the equipment on their belts along with the items displayed in front.
Locke sensed magic from no less than three spots on a knight with black armour, which was ostensibly their leader. The only magic equipment Locke donned outside was the spatial ring dangling off his neck. The ring’s magic activity was relatively weak, which made it difficult to notice in a crowded place like this. His longsword and froststeel armour set were enchanted too but they were sitting quietly in his spatial ring.
Staring was rude and these knights looked like they moved in a pack. All of them were rather intimidating, so Locke could only sneak glances from the corner of his eyes. There were three spots on the black armoured knight that radiated magical energy: his neck, waist and feet. The magic item around his neck was covered, so Locke didn’t manage to get a good look at it. However, it was much easier to study the ones beyond his waist. He had a yellow bronze belt with an embedded dark red jewel along with a pair of shiny silver boots. While Locke had no idea what the belt was for, he could recognize those boots; he had wanted one for as long as he could remember for its speed enhancement. Unfortunately, there was no way for him to get ahold of one. The mission hall back in the academy did reward magic shoes for some missions but frankly, those missions weren’t worth the risk. If he wanted to purchase one, however, the price of a pair of magic shoes would bleed his pockets out.
He could only comfort himself. Perhaps he could ask Angelina to make him one a few years down the road. So far, she was capable of creating scrolls for Illuminate, Moisturize, Featherweight and other low-level spells with a 70% success rate, which was a significant improvement.
Locke’s eyes fell on the items displayed around their feet. Most were nothing special, being regular major monster leather, magical plants and rare minerals. Apart from that, there were only five pieces of magic equipment and its combined magic aura was duller compared to the three items of the knight in black armour. Currently, there were seven knights in front of their stall, eyes glued to the five pieces of magic equipment displayed.
“How much is the timekeeper over there?” A green-haired knight pointed at a circular half opaque metal piece.
“Five high-rank magic cores or six thousand gold moores,” answered the black armoured knight gruffly.
“Can it go lower?” The green-haired knight attempted to haggle.
The black-armoured knight crossed his arms and shook his head.
The green-haired knight hesitated for a moment before finally giving up. The price was way over his budget. The timekeeper was a piece of equipment designed by casters to keep track of time. It was rarely found in the Three Western Isles because it required knowledge of magic and certain mathematical principles. Plus, east coast casters were the only ones capable of mass-producing timekeepers. The timekeeper was very simple in construct, yet it was deemed to be worth six thousand gold moores on the market; a price that even Locke found difficult to accept. Angelina had one too, which had been a gift from her grandmeisterin. She often used it to time her alchemy experiments.
“I’ll take it!” said another knight as he produced six golden cards. He passed them to the black armoured knight.
The black armoured knight inspected the proffered golden cards and nodded. Then, the one who bought the timekeeper disappeared into the crowd. A timekeeper could be rather useful for a knight, especially to those that tend to go on missions in forests and deserts where it was paramount to tell time.
“Whoa, Brother Moss! Did you just close a deal?!” A woman’s excited exclamation was heard from Connaught Tavern, just across the stall. Locke turned to its source, finding a young female knight in maroon leather armour approaching the stall.
“Whoa! Look at all this money!” The female knight’s marvel was genuine. She brought the black armoured knight’s palm closer to her face, her eyes reflecting brilliant gold.
“Jeez, you little rascal.” The cold knight finally broke into a smile and ruffled her head. “Here.” He passed her a golden card. “Go get yourself something to drink!”
“Hehe, you’re the best! I’ll buy you a bottle of beer too!” The female knight hugged him back. She flashed him a cheeky smile before returning to the tavern.
Locke could feel the corners of his lips twitching as he pretended to not hear their conversation. Booze served at Connaught Tavern wasn’t expensive at all; a full afternoon's worth of drinks would cost ten gold moores at most. Were they trying to drink themselves silly by spending one thousand gold moores on alcohol?
“Brother Moss, you spoil Laney too much,” remarked the other knight manning the stall.
“Right? He’s spoiling her more than her own brother!”
The spellbane knights around seemed to share a close bond.
“Haha.” The black-armoured knight merely laughed and dropped the conversation.
It was at that moment Locke noticed that this unassuming black armoured knight was actually a quasi-Ritter, with the other spellbane knights being not much inferior either.
With the timekeeper sold, the booth was only left with four pieces of magic equipment. There was a shabby-looking wooden box, two magic scrolls and a leaf-shaped pendant. Locke knew nothing about the wooden box but the function of the pendant was clear from its aura; it seemed to be capable of manifesting a shield. Its energy levels weren’t high and were only akin to that of a low-rank spell, which was not at all useful to high-rank Ritters.
Locke looked around again but failed to find anything of interest. Figuring that he should move on with his search, Locke decided to try his luck before leaving. “Excuse me, do you have anything that can store living creatures?” In his opinion, the black-armoured knight seemed popular around this area; perhaps he could provide a much-needed pointer.