On the horizon where the sky meets the sea stood a pristine white tower.
“Ah, it’s the Sanctum!” Locke sighed in awe. The grey-cloaked Magister that was nowhere to be found ever since they departed Zeckerton Harbour had reappeared that morning bearing news that they’d reach the Sanctum at four in the afternoon sharp. Though it had only been ten days since they left Princeton, Locke felt as if they had been flying for months. Life on the ship had been ridiculously boring and the same old scenery had most definitely exhausted his initial enthusiasm.
Perhaps it would’ve been more bearable if they were sailing on the water; Locke could at least enjoy the maritime view. Plus, if anything were to happen to the airship, they would fall to their doom. Until now, Locke still had no idea what altitude they were at; there just weren’t enough landmarks for a frame of reference. The flying birds beneath the hull merely a slight indication that they were soaring higher than the average altitude of a bird’s flight.
Indeed, true to the grey-cloaked Magister’s words, they arrived at the Sanctum by four in the afternoon. A lush island with dense foliage soon came into view beneath the ship. The iconic tower stood a few hundreds of metres tall in the centre of the forest, looking much like a pillar that separated the land from the sky. Despite its majesticness, there was a faint sense of danger that shrouded the forest around the Sanctum. Locke could sense the presence of a few lurking base-rank major monsters inside; Morphey Forest wasn’t even as intimidating as this patch of forest.
Before long, everyone’s attention was brought to the Sanctum’s campus grounds. The differences between the Sanctum and Princeton Academy wasn’t all that stark. However, every single corner of the Sanctum was fully utilized with its cylindrical academic buildings. The interconnecting semi-transparent corridors had allowed everyone a glimpse of the hustle and bustle inside. The most eye-catching of them all was most definitely the sky-high Sanctum tower, the end of which could barely be seen from the ground below.
“You’ll have plenty of time to loiter around later. Disembark the ship now!” The grey-cloaked Magister was now in the air ushering everyone else off the ship. Locke, Angelina and Daenie made a move to join the disembarking crowd.
“I’m finally free of that horrible smell!” grumbled Locke internally. But before he could even rejoice at his newfound freedom, the grey-cloaked Magister called him over.
“Oy! Knecht! Come here for a moment!” The grey-cloaked Magister had a wide smile on his face. Locke hated that smile with a burning passion; it had only meant trouble.
“Meister, what’s the matter?” Despite his sour mood, Locke concealed it. He remained courteous with his speech.
“You’ve done a great job!” complimented the Magister brightly. “This is your reward!” The agreed payment of one mid-rank major monster crystal core per day had come to a total of more than a dozen crystals at this point; all of it was placed in a pouch and passed to Locke.
“Thank you so much, Meister!” Locke was no stranger to appropriate social cues but Magisters were all collectively stubborn, especially the elderly. No one could dissuade them if they’d set their hearts on something so Locke might as well accept the payment right away. After all, a dozen mid-rank crystal cores were no small amount; it was worth at least two thousand gold moores.
“Are you a member of any particular organization?” The grey-cloaked Magister questioned casually.
“Well, I’m with the Hall of Knights,” answered Locke. In Missia, the Hall of Knights was a powerhouse on par with the Sanctum. There was no way the Magister hadn’t heard of it.
“Ah, I see…” The grey-cloaked Magister nodded. There was a slight moment of hesitation before he finally continued, “Say, I have a job for you but I’m not sure if you’d be interested in taking it up.”
“Meister, pray tell.” It was obvious to Locke that Grandmeisterin Parlina only had eyes for Angelina. The grandmeisterin hadn’t placed much thought into him so he wouldn’t dare to offend another Magister without Parlina’s protection.
“There will be continuous imports of slaves from three mainlands in the next six months. They’d be stopping over at the Sanctum for one or two weeks and I’m the person in charge. However, I have a few experiments to tend to...” Though the rest was left unsaid, the Magister’s intention was made clear.
“Six months…” Locke was taken aback. He planned to return to Aomar after two months at most. How could he possibly stay to look after the slaves for half a year in the Magister’s stead?
“But... The Hall of Knights had issued a call to arms...” Locke attempted to reason. He was a newbie so he’d only received the notice that was much delayed by all the bureaucracy. But that didn’t mean that he could defy it. Answering the call to arms was mandatory and no knight would risk the consequences of defying it.
“Call to arms?” The grey-cloaked Magister blinked, his expression relaxing after a beat. “Oh, don’t worry about that. You can complete your task from the Sanctum!”
Before Locke could even pry for further information, the elder cut him off, “You’ll start working at the transfer zone tomorrow. I’ve already gotten your check-in procedures done!” In stunned silence, all Locke could do was gape while the grey-cloaked Magister left towards the tower languidly.
“What’s wrong?” Angelina asked in concern once Locke had caught up to them.
“Looks like I won’t be leaving for a while.” Locke felt like he was trafficked off.
The floating ship had ferried fifty Lehrlings over to the Sanctum. Swiftly, eight seniors emerged and began guiding them through the enrollment procedures.
“Which continent are you from?” A high-rank Lehrling, who seemed to be their leader, asked the crowd.
“We’re from the Aomarian Empire’s Princeton Academy.” answered a Lehrling.
“Aomar? That would be the Missia Continent. Merlin, why don’t you lead your fellow Missians to collect their identity badge?” The high-rank Lehrling handed his job to a chubby male beside.
“Sure.” The chubby male nodded. “This way, please!”
The Sanctum was a mass gathering of the brightest casters of the Three Western Isles. The annual intake had never exceeded two hundred students and every continent was given an allowance of not more than seventy recommendations. Fifty of them would be Lehrlings like Angelina, whose acceptance was based on their innate talent and capabilities. The other twenty were accepted through a different channel. For example, the Aomarian royal family would be given 10 slots each year; there was nowhere better than the Sanctum for the princes and princesses to dilly-dally around. Apart from that, reclusive powerhouses across the continent were also given one or two slots for a recommendation.
Those who could enter the Sanctum were highly regarded; they were the ones blessed with natural gifts. The graduates would walk away to become at least one of the best high-rank Lehrlings in existence.
As for a mid-rank Lehrling, they’d perhaps need to remain in the Sanctum for a lifetime if they failed to advance till the very day they died.