Unsurprisingly, his friends weren’t back in the academy yet. From what Locke knew about them, they wouldn’t be back until the eve of the semester start; so he instinctively turned around to look for Angelina instead. His other friend in Perseverance was Irene but following their encounter in the cafeteria two months ago, Locke had no luck catching her again in the academy. It was almost as if she had vanished.
“Perhaps she went home,” Locke mumbled with a sigh. He could vividly remember when he was asked to be her ‘boyfriend’ on the visit home back then. It felt like it happened just yesterday. He drew another sigh and began walking towards the caster faculty.
Soon, he noticed the same evil eye stationed at the faculty’s gate. Under the bewildered gazes of other casters and knights nearby, Locke headed straight past the metal gates without hesitation. Everyone was fully expecting the peculiar Knecht to be zapped by the monster’s ‘death beam’ but what transpired next was outrageously surprising: it lifted a tentacle meekly and placed it down.
“Oh, wow!” Locke rubbed the stubble on his chin, pleased that his strategy worked. He produced another pink low-rank crystal core and threw it to the evil eye, much like last time.
“Is he a high-rank Knecht? Why is the evil eye not doing anything to him?”
“It almost zapped my leg when I got too close last time.”
“He’s feeding it a major monster crystal core? Damn, is he filthy rich?”
The low-rank and beginner Lehrlings and Knechts around began a heated discussion.
Though Locke had a brief idea of where Angelina’s classroom was, he decided to remain at the main entrance instead. Knights were forbidden from entering the caster faculty and even if the evil eye did let him through, it didn’t mean that he could do as he pleased.
He waited till the shadows were cast west. When Angelina's and a few others' voices could be heard, Locke had already fed the evil eye two low-rank crystal cores. Joaquin, Daenie, Billie and Mina were all here to see Angelina off.
“Alright, let’s move!” Locke stood up and dusted his pants.
When the crowd of casters finally came closer, Joaquin studied the evil eye through the corner of her eyes. “You seem to be having quite some fun with it.”
Locke merely shrugged in response, putting a stop to the conversation. They were polar opposites; while Locke and Joaquin were indebted to one another, a short conversation would suffice to fuel their irritation. They just couldn’t get along.
Aware of how much of a chatterbox the girls were, Locke was certain that Angelina would continue to talk through an afternoon if it wasn’t for the strict time limit. They bid their farewells and soon began to walk towards Grandmeisterin Parlina’s magic tower.
“Eh? What are you doing here?” It was then that Locke saw Daenie trailing behind them. She wasn’t returning to the faculty with Joaquin’s bunch.
“Haven’t you heard that she’s coming with us to the Sanctum?” Angelina slung an arm around Daenie’s shoulders and stared at him weirdly.
“Really? When was that decided?” Locke was utterly clueless. The Sanctum was an incredibly prestigious institute and Daenie was just a low-rank Lehrling; acceptance into it seemed highly unlikely for her.
“Grandmeisterin Parlina is a hydromancer and she was looking for a water-element Lehrling. That’s why I recommended Daenie.” Angelina’s answer was casual. This was no secret among their little friend circle; the Faustian princess had brought up the topic during their gathering a few days ago but Locke hadn’t paid attention at all.
“Ah, I see. Congratulations, Daenie. Getting associated with a strong Magister is extremely beneficial.” Locke offered a smile.
Daenie may be innocent but she wasn’t all that dull. “It’s all thanks to Angelina’s recommendation,” she answered meekly. Truly, Grandmeisterin Parlina was just looking for a water-element Lehrling and didn’t elaborate much. Daenie could be recruited as an apprentice or she could just be an experiment assistant; she’d have to make use of the experience to her best ability.
Years ago, when Locke had just arrived at the Imperial Academy, Daenie was the first among Angelina’s friends that were introduced to him. Her voice was soft and she was very down-to-earth, so she left behind a very good impression. As they continued to walk, he snuck glances at the gentle beauty with blue locks, remembering that they shook hands during their first encounter.
Locke was fully expecting to see Angelina’s grandmeisterin again when they reached the magic tower but there was a larger surprise awaiting them today.
“What is that?” Locke pointed at the ship hovering above mid-air. He had gone so slack-jawed that a fist could fit inside.
Daenie shook her head in a daze. This was the first time she had seen something like that too. so she was equally shocked.
There was a slight pause until the brightest of the three, Angelina, produced something useful. “Is that a floating ship?”
“Correct!” Angelina’s doubt was answered by an elderly female voice. Somehow, The grandmeisterin was already right behind them. Parlina was dressed in a long periwinkle robe today; an ensemble that was very befitting of a hydromancer like her. Her presence was simply hard to ignore. A Magister’s magical powers and incredible mental abilities were like a lighthouse in the night, it was vivid and clear.
“Let’s hop on board, shall we?” Parlina kept it short. Before Locke and the others could even respond, their bodies were levitated as though an invisible force was thrusting them upwards.
The ship hovered at an altitude of around twenty metres, which was akin to the height of a small cliff. Locke and Angelina were dealing with the levitation spell just fine but the same couldn’t be said for Daenie. She was shivering, perhaps out of fear or the sudden drop in temperature. Noticing that, Locke quickly extended a hand and grasped her palm. She stopped shivering immediately. A faint blush bloomed across her cheeks as she allowed his hold to linger.
As soon as Locke’s grip loosened when they got onto the ship, Daenie hurriedly retracted her hand. She turned around to chat with Angelina as though nothing happened. On the other hand, Angelina hadn’t noticed their interaction because she had been too overwhelmed by the sight of a floating ship. There was no ulterior motive to the gesture, he had merely wished to offer Daenie some mental support at the sight of her frightened expression.
“Parlina, are those your new recruits?” an elderly voice rang. There was an elder in a grey cloak standing atop the stairs that led to the upper deck and he was staring right at Angelina and Daenie.