“Bourdon, these slaves won’t do!”
At the slightest glimpse of the gigantic crocodile monster, the grey-cloaked elder already had complaints.
“We’re running out of time and the Sanctum needs them urgently! I had no choice!” The middle-aged Magister seemed disgruntled. “Most of these were even sponsored by the academy!”
“So, is Leonz off to sort things out?” the grey-cloaked elder probed. He refused to believe that Leonz and his bunch were tardy; the departure time was something they've agreed upon beforehand.
“Yeah.” The middle-aged Magister nodded. Since the elder didn’t ask further, Bourdon chose to omit the fact that the casters in question were off to get more slaves. After all, major monsters below base-rank were no match for a handful of Magisters. Leonz and his bunch could sieve through a whole forest patch filled with major monsters easily.
The casters had enslaved close to two hundred creatures. All of these were to be treated as lowly slaves, including the base-rank giant crocodile monster. Despite its overwhelming size, the proud Magisters wouldn’t spare it another glance.
Ushered sternly by the middle-aged Magister, the slaves entered the basement of the floating ship. The base-rank giant crocodile was forced to bend over to fit into the four-metre tall entrance. With three Magisters onboard, the dignity of a base-rank major monster counted for nothing. The presence of the slaves wasn’t worthy of concern; a mid-rank or high-rank Lehrling could easily drown the base-rank major monster in an ocean of elemental magic and the Magisters wouldn’t even need to lift a single finger. This was how humankind could defeat major monsters and dominate their continent.
The more gullible Lehrlings marvelled at the sight of two hundred slaves. Though most of them had been on missions prior, this was their first time seeing a huge gathering of major monsters.
“These major monsters have sinned greatly. They’ve all attacked human towns,” explained Angelina to Locke. Based on what she learnt from various books, Angelina had an inkling that these creatures would end up as cannon fodder during the planar war.
Generally, the Sanctum was rather protective of native lifeforms on the Missia Continent and the whole of Magion. As the overall competence of casters and knights improved by leaps, major monsters were no longer hindrances to mankind. With that, the mass slaughtering of major monsters to harvest crystal cores was soon replaced by farming. This approach proved to be more useful than hunting as the creatures could continue to exist as precious specimens. When it came to planar wars, however, casters and knights alike would opt to use foreign slaves instead.
Regardless of the monsters’ crimes, their task would be to survive the upcoming planar war. While survival was a difficult feat, it wouldn’t put an end to their enslavement even if they had broken through the shackles of life and became a level-three lifeform or beyond.
Uninterested in getting sentimental over the creatures, Locke invited Angelina and Daenie to the canteen at the back of the cabin. Indeed, there was a canteen on the floating ship and its chefs were most probably from the academy. Much to Locke’s surprise, he found salmon on the menu.
Throughout the night, the floating ship glided across the stratosphere smoothly. The reliable translucent shield blocked away all wind, frost, rain and snow; no one knew what altitude they were hovering above. At some point, Locke took a trip to the deck and peered below, only to find thick clouds around the perimeter. Perhaps his eyes were playing tricks but the stars seemed bigger and brighter than ever.
When the wee hours of the morning arrived, Locke was already outside stretching his limbs. The clear sky that welcomed him was truly spectacular; the pale blue horizon was at a distance away and white fluffy clouds passed them by. Locke could even make out a row of albatross flying in a neat formation towards the northwest.
“This is wonderful.” Daenie’s voice rang beside him.
“You’re up early.” Locke offered a courteous greeting. It was currently five in the morning. Back in Princeton, this hour would be a moment shy of sunrise. However, since they were in the stratosphere, the break of dawn was here early. Locke was up for his daily training but to find Daenie awake at this hour was incredibly bewildering; even the diligent Angelina would rise only after six in the morning.
“Do you have a morning training regime?” Locke asked curiously.
“Oh, no.” She blushed and answered meekly, “I couldn’t sleep well because I was homesick.”
It had been years since Locke and Angelina left home. Though they were homesick, especially during their earlier years, the feeling had settled to become a deeper yearning with growth and new experiences. On the other hand, Daenie had never left home since her childhood; heading to the Sanctum with Angelina was bound to be a huge experience.
“All the more to practise hard. The sooner you become a high-rank Lehrling, the sooner you can head home!” Locke flexed his arms in a cheering notion.
Though high-rank Lehrlings weren’t the only ones permitted to leave the Sanctum, they were given more missions; it was entirely possible to use those as an excuse to travel between Aomar and the Sanctum easily.
“Will do!” Daenie was motivated. Among casters, her innate talent was considered above average. Grandmeisterin Parlina wouldn’t have spared a thought to a low-rank Lehrling like her if that wasn’t the case.
Locke descended to the deck and sat cross-legged. Soon, he began his daily regime of circulating Falconim. The growth of a knight’s impetus was a slow process; knights have long accustomed to lengthy training periods. Despite the subtle improvement, Locke could already feel that the intensity of his impetus and strength was starting to get better.
Meanwhile, Daenie was seated at a nearby corner with her staff in hand. She decided to meditate to train her mental ability. It was still early and they seemed to have the deck to themselves for a while, hence Daenie wasn’t worried about getting interrupted. A caster’s meditation was much fussier than impetus cultivation; a highly disruptive environment would place the caster’s magic in turmoil and possibly result in bodily damage or mental overload.
As the two quietly trained on the deck, Grandmeisterin Parlina stepped out of her room on the fourth level. She needed to replenish the energy crystal core in the ship’s control room with magic and it was then that she noticed Locke and Daenie.
“You may be mediocre but you sure are hardworking!” The grandmeisterin quietly remarked as she stared at them. But no one knew if she was directing that to Locke or Daenie.