“Alright, let’s do that!” The female knight said with obvious joy.
Before Locke could even respond, Laney was already dashing over to talk to the spellbane knights nearby.
“Howl, do you have the magic books on you? Give them to me!”
“Erik, remember the books we got from slaying the two dark casters? Pass them to me and I’ll fetch you a better price than what the Hall of Knights will offer.”
“Sister Venus, do you have extra spellbooks? Can you pass them to me?”
By the time she returned to Locke, he was presented with a pile of books that stacked up to almost his waist. It was a scattered mess of new books with a strong distinct paper scent; Locke was certain that most of them were largely unused. Despite their pristine state, he caught a glimpse of a few jarring blood-stained covers.
Noticing the line of his gaze, Laney swiftly explained, “As you can see, the books are really clean. Getting them for ten gold moores per pound is a total steal! You can definitely rest well knowing that they were sourced normally!”
Locke wasn’t naive enough to believe her. Based on Laney’s understanding, anything looted off the ‘dark casters’ were not considered stolen goods. However, the spellbane knights had little to no care about verifying their target’s involvement with dark magic. Worse, the dead had no one to defend them so the truth would never prevail. Locke could feel his wallet and heart trembling at the pile of thick hardcover books. One was already hefty enough, let alone an estimated total of forty books. Despite the lack of a weighing scale, knights had great control over their strength so Locke had a good idea of their combined weight.
“Here you go, one thousand and three hundred gold moores!” Locke passed a major monster crystal core and a coin pouch to the female knight. He had exchanged the crystal core with gold moores from Billie, who so kindly charged him for what she got it for. Hence, it was better for him to trade with crystal cores instead of gold moores.
The female knight was so overjoyed to receive such a large sum that she invited Locke to join her for drinks at the tavern. Coincidentally, Locke had been pacing around for a while now and his mouth was beginning to feel dry, so he accepted her invitation in a heartbeat. The black-armoured knight had a nearby comrade take over the stall and followed them both into the establishment.
“Laney, over here!” Someone screamed for them as soon as they entered Connaught Tavern.
“Coming, Wright!” The female knight led them over.
As Locke approached their table, he couldn’t help but notice that a few other knights were sitting around the table. They didn’t look weak at all, especially the man who had a thin scar running across his face. He would be rather charming if not for the scar, which made him look quite intimidating. Yet, the knight’s expression was exceptionally soft as he cracked jokes with the female knight.
“Moss! You’re finally here!” The man noticed the black-armoured knight. “How’s the stall doing?”
The black-armoured knight forced a smile. “It’s doing alright, I guess.”
The scarred knight’s expression quickly shifted at Moss’ answer. The black-armoured knight wasn’t only selling his spoils as quasi-Ritters weren’t allowed to have more than seven magic items on them at any given moment; the entire group’s loot was displayed at the stall.
“Don’t worry. There’s a lot of traffic here so I’m sure it’ll sell soon!” The scarface knight attempted to comfort Moss.
Their seven-person squad consisted of two quasi-Ritters and five high-rank Knechts. Though their lineup seemed powerful, it was rather typical among spellbane knights. If they didn't get enough spoils from the missions, they’d face difficult times for an extended period.
Perhaps sensing the souring atmosphere, the female knight tugged both the black-armoured knight and scarred knight back to their seats. “Hey, today isn’t half bad at all. Let’s not dwell on it any longer. Here, let me introduce you to a friend!” She turned to present Locke to her colleagues.
Frankly, Locke was just here for some booze. He wasn’t part of their clique so getting chummy with the spellbane knights would be rather difficult. After a simple introduction of names, Locke found a nearby corner and ordered a bottle of chilled beer. He learned that the scarred knight was Wright, Laney’s older brother. The black-armoured knight, on the other hand, was Moss. Apart from Wright, Laney and Moss, the other four were all men. The group of spellbane knights had capabilities equivalent to high-rank Knechts and beyond. The stronger ones would be Wright and Moss for Locke was certain they were quasi-Ritters.
Locke took an appreciative sip of chilled beer; it had been a long time since he last had actual beer. Suzzane was only well-versed with brewing ale, but, due to being occupied with her economic studies, she hadn’t gotten to dabble in the brewing of beer.
The crowd around the nearby table seemed to grow with every sip. The spellbane knights were rowdy, Laney included as well. Despite that, Locke didn’t find them unbearable. He gulped his booze and eavesdropped on their very intriguing conversation. These knights were at least a few years past their high-rank Knecht advancement so it went without saying that they were way experienced. The biggest shock to Locke was learning that Laney was six years older; she was thirty years old!
“Laney, isn’t it time to think about settling down?” A tipsy Wright urged his sister into a talk about relationships. “I think Bort is a pretty good guy!”
“Come on, that man looks like a gorilla. How can you be so cruel to ask your beloved sister to marry such a person?” Cheeks flushed by alcohol, Laney drawled as she hugged her brother’s arm tighter.
“He’s a quasi-Ritter, you know? At least there’ll be someone to protect you when I’m gone,” persuaded Wright earnestly.
“Hmph! And why would you be gone? To find me a sister-in-law? Big Brother Moss can protect me well enough in your absence!” Laney huffed. She would not be swayed in the talks of marriage and the future.
“Brother Moss has his own niece to care for, how will he make time for you?” Wright’s glare made his scar look like a living centipede, it looked pretty gruesome. Yet, it did nothing to the female knight. She made a face and took her mug elsewhere, leaving her brother behind to talk to the other knights.
“Moss, how’s your niece doing?” After Laney left, Wright turned to face the black-armoured knight.
“Well, I left her at her aunt’s house before leaving,” Moss said after taking a sip.
“Sigh. You’re still so young, I hope you won’t waste your life away like that.” Perhaps the alcohol was making Wright feel a little melancholic. He patted Moss on the shoulder. “I’m sure Julis wouldn’t want that either.”
“I know but I just can’t stop fretting over Poje.” Moss heaved a sigh. He was just turning forty-five this year and as a quasi-Ritter, he was at the peak of his life. As soon as he hit fifty, his capabilities, agility and many other aspects would begin to decline and reduce him into a high-rank Knecht.
Moss was a bachelor. He had a childhood friend named Julis and they promised to marry each other at a very young age. Moss later came in contact with the world of impetus and magic by chance, and soon he left the village for more. He dreamed of becoming a knight and his fiancee, Julis, was very supportive of his decision. However, they weren’t expecting to be separated for twenty long years. When he finally returned as a high-rank Knecht in his thirties, his beloved had passed due to illness, leaving him with her niece who had been dependent on her.
It had greatly saddened Moss to learn of Julis’ incredible loyalty; she had never married or even accepted being courted by anyone else, silently waiting for Moss’ return. He felt extremely indebted to her. Though he had later encountered good women, he refused to let his feelings develop. He merely wished to raise Julis’s niece, Poje, well in her stead.
Moss chugged his beer, slumped onto the table and reminisced about his sweetheart. Though, this amount of alcohol couldn’t really affect the quasi-Ritter. His emotions were doing more of the intoxicating.
“I really want to go home and see what it's like now!” Laney stomped her feet and downed a large gulp of beer.
“Oh, I don’t think I’ve been to Laney’s hometown yet. Is it in southern Missia?” A shorter knight in their cohort asked.
“What the hell? You’ve been following the boss around for three whole years! How can you not know?” Another knight glared at him sharply.
“It just happened to slip my mind! I used to remember it, okay?!” The shorter knight hissed back.
“I think it was some territory of some lord of the Ligia Union in the south,” said a blond knight.
“It’s the Reek domain,” Laney corrected abruptly.
“Ah, that’s right! The Reek domain!” The blond knight finally remembered. He turned around, only to find a stray tear slipping down Laney’s cheek.
“We’ll go home once we’re done with the mission, okay?” Wright scooted over to his sister’s side and patted her back. They hadn’t been home for a very long time. While their parents were long gone, they still had a few relatives there. Surely, it’d be nice to visit them.
“The Ligia Union?!” Out of the blue, Locke screamed in shock.
Just as the spellbane knights collectively turned around curiously, Locke was already at their table with his beer.
“You’re all knights from the Ligia Union?” asked Locke in bewilderment. Though eavesdropping was rude, knights generally didn’t mind if it was for trivial matters like this. Plus, they were loud and the tavern was filled with people of all spectrums anyway.
“No. Only Moss, my sister and I are from Ligia.” Wright stared at Locke confusedly.
“I see. Allow me to introduce myself again; I’m Locke from the Kingdom of Faustian!” With a bright smile, Locke extended his arm.