To blend in better with the Sanctum’s crowd, Locke did something very unlike him; he ditched his usual armour for a grey cloak today. After all, his froststeel armour stuck out like a sore thumb among the vast sea of grey donning casters. Though his spatial ring was filled with a variety of treasures at this point, Locke still felt like he needed more, which was why he planned to visit the famous trading zone on the outskirts of the island today.
On either side of the Sanctum’s gate were two dark rock statues. Their ruby-red eyes seemed to glint with life, which made them feel like more than just decor; these dark coloured bat-like creatures looked like they could spring to life and hurt somebody.
Locke’s status at the Sanctum was an interesting one. While he wasn’t sure what the grey-cloaked Magister had told the others, he was now considered an intermediate between a caster and a regular person residing at the Sanctum. With that, most of its premises and public spaces were open to Locke but he wasn’t allowed into the academic buildings, where Angelina attended her classes.
He flashed the brown medal on his chest, which stored some basic information and his status, before striding past the gates. Those affiliated with the Sanctum were required to have their identity badge on them at all times. Without it, the two alchemical golems at the gate would instantly pounce him. Those were at least as powerful as a level-two lifeform.
To reach the trading zone from the institute, one would be required to travel through a sky corridor that hovered above the forest. The magical infrastructure made it really convenient to enter and exit the Sanctum, especially for Lehrlings that followed their Magisters around. Magisters beyond level one could use their seemingly endless mana reserves and strong mental power to be freed of gravitational pull without the need for any flight spells. Who would wish to walk when you could fly? After all, flying was a privilege of the strong. Locke could only watch on with envy from the ground as the Magisters soared through the skies effortlessly.
To Locke, the sky corridor had been one of the major surprises here. The transparent stairs beneath his feet were made of some kind of alchemical material. Since he knew nothing about alchemy, Locke found himself constantly worried about falling down. He was hovering above at a hundred-metre altitude. Even with his physique, he would end up as minced meat falling from this height.
But when he saw the many casters on the same corridor, he abandoned that notion. They were all headed for the trading zone as well. Occasionally, they’d stop to point at a major monster below and Locke would follow their line of sight curiously. So far, he’d seen high-rank and base-rank major monsters in the forest below where they slaughtered and clawed at each other. It was a dog-eat-dog world down there and that was a major monster’s destiny.
However, he wasn’t as excited as the other casters. He had seen his share of hostile monsters in the past two days. Even so, he couldn’t help but stop to study the monsters below once in a while. It appeared that most of their habitats were a distance away from the sky corridor. Perhaps the major monsters were avoiding this area deliberately or they had been traumatized by the Sanctum’s Magisters. Locke would only come across one after a long distance. He heard that a transcendent-rank monster, which was as strong as an Erdritter or level-two Magister, lurked amongst the foliage below. However, such a frightening being was nothing more than a discarded experiment subject that had been captured by the Sanctum’s casters.
The entire forest was man-made, even down to the plants within and the major monsters; they were brought in by the Sanctum's casters. Learning this piece of information sent chills down Locke’s spine. Its creation could be dated back to the early formation days of the Sanctum when the all-mighty Meister Banam had advanced to become a level-four Archmagister.
Had it been two thousand or three thousand years ago? Locke had a vague idea that it was carved into the coats of arms on the institute’s gates but the amount of information there had been too overwhelming for him to remember all of it.
He spent the whole morning travelling along the corridor even with the speed a high-rank Knecht was capable of, which really spoke volumes about the sheer size of the forest below. The Sanctum was built on a giant island so it was surrounded by the sea. Locke could see the pristine white sandy beaches from the sky corridor since arriving here. The sight was healing for the soul; he could feel his mood brightening up at the tranquil combination of clear skies and flying herons. He had always been someone whose mood was easily influenced by his surroundings. He could see multiple large cargo ships moored to the shore at a distance away. Despite the trading zone’s liveliness, there were no jetties as the casters despised noise.
Locke could recognize a few floating ships among the bunch of vessels anchored to the shore. The rest were regular cargo ships. With Aomar’s competency, building large transport vessels as such was a piece of cake. However, these weren’t all from Aomar. Based on the flags and decor of the other ships, Locke could see some came from the other two continents.
A small distance away from the shore was the bustling trading zone. A lively commotion immediately seized his ears as soon as he entered its grounds.
Since the casters weren’t fond of noise, the trading zone was comparatively calmer than a regular market. All the haggling and chatter were done in peace. While the Sanctum was segregated from the rest of the world, it didn’t mean that casters were free of human relationships and interactions. Casters were typically known for their sophistication but one could easily catch a pissed caster hissing at the merchants just to save a few moores in the trading zone.
Locke headed northwest, having heard that most knights from the hall would set up their stalls in that area. Since he was going to stay at the Sanctum for longer than expected, he figured that it’d be best to send a message back home; they must be worried sick. At this point, Locke wasn’t as concerned about the call to arms anymore. The grey-cloaked Magister had given assurance that he’d sort the situation out so Locke had nothing else to fret about. Locke would certainly need to tell Xith about his current situation. Since the man was still in Princeton, Locke was confident that he’d help him see things through.
It was easy to tell the knights apart from the crowd. Before long, Locke located the Hall of Knight’s stronghold at the Sanctum. It was always best to rely on official channels to relay messages home. They’d do a good job and give Locke peace of mind.
He jotted down his message on a piece of paper and passed it to the young man manning the counter. Locke was shocked to find that the man was just a low-rank Knecht but he was already working for the Hall of Knights.
“We’ll deliver your message to Princeton within a week at most. Please rest easy,” said the low-rank Knecht politely.
Locke was pleased with the reassurance. Since the floating ship journey had taken ten days to reach the Sanctum from Princeton, it was impressive that the hall could deliver his message home within a week.