After a final check of his spatial ring, Locke removed the longsword on the wall and secured it to his belt before stepping out of his room with a metallic clack. Today, he had donned a pair of metal boots.
They were bound to depart tomorrow but Locke and Angelina needed to meet Grandmeisterin Parlina at the academy first. It was currently noon, and the weather outside was delightful; the early spring warmth had melted away all the snow and ice in Princeton.
The long dining table in the middle of the main hall was surrounded by a dozen wooden stools. There was an impressive serving of wine, bread, fruits, bacon and more on the table. Locke entered the hall just in time to find Suzzane and her sister, Lia setting down the cutlery.
“Oh, you’re here. Go take a seat!” said Suzzane as she tucked a stray lock behind her ears.
Locke strode over to the main seat of the table.
It took Angelina a full month to wean off her princess act and let down her guard around Glace and Lia. Meals were eaten together now and there was less tension for Locke to bear. As the servants brought out dishes from the kitchen, Angelina, Laffey and Kristin finally joined them at the table. Though everyone knew that Locke and Angelina were leaving today, no one brought it up. They tried to be unfazed but Locke felt bothered by their gloominess.
“Hey, lighten up. We’re going to come back sooner or later. Just pretend that I’m out for a mission, yeah?” Locke broke the stifling silence casually. Most missions issued by the academy saw Locke spend time away from home two to three months at a time. Though they were equally worried then, they were never as melancholic as they were today.
“Alright. I wish you both a safe trip.” Glace was the first to raise her glass and toasted Angelina.
“Thank you.” As an ever-sensible caster, Angelina rarely drank. But since Glace had offered her kind wishes, she accepted the gesture. Following Glace’s example, Suzzane and Lia quickly regulated their emotions and soon laughter and chatter returned to the table.
Kristin was the only one who had been pouting since morning. She had begged him to take her along but it was promptly rejected by Locke. All Locke knew about the Sanctum was nothing more than the fact that it was in the depths of the eastern sea. He had no clue how long the journey would take and how far they’d need to travel; how could he possibly relent and bring Kristin along? Even if he agreed to it, her aunt Glace would say otherwise.
“Hmph!” Kristin’s long face was here to stay. Despite that, her eyes had never once trailed away from Locke. Now eighteen years old, she was no longer a child. Perhaps getting spoiled by Locke and her aunt Glace caused her to be less mature than her peers. Locke found her display of anger incredibly funny because she had strongly insisted to be seated closely to Locke, much like Angelina, despite her frustration. Locke reached over to ruffle her hair, dropping the act only when Kristin’s smile returned.
“Jeez! You’re messing up my hair!” Though still visibly upset, Kristin was in a better mood. However, the source of her anger was far from Locke’s expectation; she was mad because her aunt Glace hadn’t been able to spend time with Locke as his attention was mostly on Angelina. Young girls sure did read into situations greatly.
After lunch, Locke and Angelina climbed into a carriage. Everyone was gathered at the entrance to see them off.
“I’ll probably have no use for the alchemy laboratory soon. Here, the keys are yours to keep.” Just before Angelina shuffled deeper into the carriage, she passed Glace and Lia the keys to the alchemy laboratory. They both had talent in magic; Lia was merely interested in learning magic so she could help her little brother out while Glace, on the other hand, had a keen interest in potion-making. They were both beginner Lehrlings and it’d probably take them a few years before they could become low-rank Lehrlings. Obtaining access to alchemy at this point would certainly enrich their knowledge. By entrusting the keys to them, it was a sign that Angelina had finally accepted Glace and Lia as Locke’s women.
The coachman brought the carriage forward but no one wished to walk away. Their eyes remained glued to the moving carriage until it finally disappeared out of sight.
Angelina would probably spend a whole year at the Sanctum before she’d have some time to visit home. Before leaving, the princess ordered all guards and secret elite guards to heed orders from Glace and the others. Viscount Cage and other Faustian nobles studying in Princeton gave Locke their word to look after the mansion in his absence.
While the semester holiday hadn’t ended yet, there was more traffic in the academy than a month ago. Locke and Angelina had to continue on foot because carriages weren't allowed inside the academy’s compound. They were early; there was still time to spare before meeting Parlina. So, they made a detour to take a nice stroll together around the academy. Relationships weren’t taboo in the academy as its students were all nobles. Casters and knights alike didn’t mind finding themselves a life partner here.
“I’m going to meet Joaquin and the others. Do you want to come with me?” Angelina asked Locke.
“No thanks. I just met them a few days ago so I’ll go meet my friends at Perseverance instead,” he said.
The other students that had joined missions with them were well aware that Angelina and Locke were leaving for the Sanctum. Everyone had extended their best wishes to Angelina and Joaquin had even thrown a small gathering at her house for their team. Locke’s high-rank Knecht status and Angelina’s acceptance into the Sanctum had made them the highlight of the get-together. While Locke would come back after sending Angelina off, she wouldn’t be back for a long time. The female casters got increasingly emotional as they spoke and began sobbing soon after, catching Locke and three other Knechts by surprise. He felt so uncomfortable that he left in the middle of the event.
Henry and others were the few friends Locke had at Perseverance but he wasn’t sure if they were back yet. It’d be nice if he could catch any of them here before leaving.