Locke entered the dark basement of the floating ship while lugging a retch-worthy bucket full of chum. The basement was poorly lit; there were only a few dark yellow fluorites embedded in the ceiling every twenty steps apart. Since sunlight couldn’t penetrate the basement, the fluorites couldn’t replenish their energy. There was almost no point to its existence aside from serving as marking guides.
The strong stench seemed to have attracted the attention of every creature in the basement. They rattled the metal cell doors and roared desperately. Locke ignored them. Those placed in the outermost cells were weaklings and he had enough of them in the last two days. Ever since the floating ship left Zeckerton Harbour, the feeding chore had fallen to no one else but Locke. He cursed the grey-cloaked elder in his mind as he dragged the chum bucket deeper into the basement.
The basement’s space was used to its utmost. Despite housing two hundred slaves, its capacity wasn’t overloaded at all. After a few turns and a seven-minute walk, Locke finally arrived at his destination; by then his eyes had adjust to the darkness. With the lacklustre illumination provided by the fluorites, he could make out a scaly creature with a heavily armoured back and webbed claws, each one metre long. The gigantic crocodile monster was lying before him in its dark cell.
“Oy! It’s time to eat!” Locke yelled at it. After feeding the monster twice, he no longer feared its impressive size. The crocodile monster ignored him, remaining as motionless as a corpse.
“If you’re not eating, I’ll give it to the others!” Locke was aware that it could understand him.
One of its claws twitched in the dark and soon after, its slit-like eye cracked open. Its red sclera and dark pupil made for a terrifying combination in the dark. Many mid-rank and low-rank major monsters that were placed near its cell began to screech in fear.
“Shut up!” Locke roared at them. Amazingly, despite their immense fright, the slaves suppressed their screams. The fear in their eyes was still apparent, but Locke had their food and that made him king.
The presence of the base-rank major monster had never failed to impress Locke. He had always marvelled at the crocodile at every encounter. He brought out the black magic stone from his spatial ring and immediately, all the monster’s attention was glued to it. With a slight wave of the stone, the crocodile’s cell was unlocked with an audible sound.
Without an ounce of fear, Locke entered its cell casually as if he was taking a stroll in a garden. He pushed the huge bucket of seafood chum over to the giant crocodile. However, its huge red eyes were wandering between the black magic stone and him. There was a slight tension before it began crawling towards its meal of the day.
“Phew.” Ultimately, Locke was relieved. Now that his job was done, he stayed to look around its cell. The crocodile had a significant size advantage over Locke and a wave of its claws was sufficient to send him off to the afterlife. Yet, its sole focus was now on devouring its meal; it completely ignored Locke.
“Since I’m giving you more food, I’ll be taking two scales as usual,” Locke said as he crept over to the crocodile’s tail.
The cell was evidently too cramped for its huge six-metre length. Its huge tail swayed carelessly as the crocodile wolfed down its food; Locke had to move carefully. When he finally ventured deeper into its cells, his reward came to sight. There were a dozen ash green scale sheddings stuck beneath its tail. However, Locke would have to overcome a heap of horridly putrid crocodile dung to get close.
He moved carefully to avoid getting the disgusting filth on his garments. Since Locke was a man of his words, he’d only removed two as promised. He projected some of his impetus to his index finger; the green projection was the hallmark of his high-rank Knecht status. Typically, impetus projection was tough enough to cut through steel, but the crocodile sheddings seemed tougher in comparison. It took quite a lot of effort to remove only two scales. By the time Locke was done, the giant crocodile had already emptied its portion of chum. The limited space rendered it unable to turn around, so it had to inch backwards to its initial spot. With that, Locke quickly left the confined space and waved the magic stone again to lock its cell.
He dragged the now-empty bucket and began walking back. There were still many to feed today so Locke wasn’t done for the day just yet. Once the basement entrance was finally in sight, he stopped.
“Screech! Screech!” High pitched screeches akin to a baby’s wail pierced the air. It rang from the outermost cells that lined the path; the slaves inside knew that their meal had arrived. However, there were only saltwater and fish bones left in the bucket at this point.
Splash! Locke tossed the filthy leftovers to either side unceremoniously. Rushed footsteps were heard immediately after and many humanoid figures emerged from the dark. They threw themselves onto the ground and licked the disgusting liquid off the ground. As they fed, stampedes and fights were happening in the background. Locke stared at the grey-skinned creatures with utter contempt before leaving the basement with an empty bucket. Portions assigned to the slaves were minimally sufficient to sustain the slaves' lives.
Locke was able to give a larger portion to the base-rank giant crocodile because the other slaves’ meals were reduced, much like what happened with the cave dwellers. He had no qualms doing that as the cave dwellers had proven themselves to be despicable since the very first day. It was likely the slaves had starved for five days before Locke was handed the chore. When he entered the basement on the first day, there was a noticeable reduction in members, especially in the cave dweller cells. There were fewer of them but more scattered bones and skeletons. Upon careful inspection, the creatures didn’t look famished as they had filled bellies. It really didn’t take much for Locke to conclude that cannibalism had occurred among the cave dwellers, which he found utterly distasteful.
After all, cave dwellers were incredibly resilient lifeforms. They didn’t require too much sustenance; the slightest drop of water, some seaweed or perhaps bone fragments would be sufficient, which was why he dared to reduce their portion.