“An experiment assistant?” Locke blinked at Angelina.
“Yes. My mentor was looking for help so I went ahead and recommended you,” answered Angelina sheepishly. The situation had arrived out of the blue so she hadn’t asked Locke for his consent.
“But what about my job at the transfer zone?” He pointed at the cargo container filled with slaves behind them. Countless slaves were waiting to be loaded onto a floating ship that was moored to the back of the Sanctum. They were bound for the spatial fortress outside the plane.
“It isn’t very time demanding so it won’t affect your job,” she reassured.
“I see, that doesn’t sound too bad since I get to spend more time around you.” Locke nodded approvingly.
“But you’re not going to be helping out with my mentor’s experiment.” Angelina quickly halted him.
“You’re going to assist my mentor’s sister, Grandmeisterin Ashar, instead.”
That afternoon, Locke rubbed at his sore shoulder and left for the centre of the Sanctum Academy. He needed to report himself to Grandmeisterin Ashar. It was already evening when he decided to leave the trading zone yesterday, which meant that he’d reach the end of the sky corridor by midnight. Dawn was already breaking before he could even get a single wink of good sleep and before he knew it, he was already rushing over to the transfer zone for work. There was a lot to do at the warehouse. More slaves than usual were arriving at the Sanctum recently. Their workloads were swelling despite Molly voicing complaints to the authorities. There was not even the slightest increment to their pay!
Angelina had informed him that Grandmeisterin Ashar’s room was located on the 82nd floor of the Sanctum tower before promptly leaving for classes. It had only been ten days since they last met but Locke noticed that she had learnt to conceal her magic activity. It appeared that her capabilities were improving by leaps.
At the base of the tower, Locke flashed his identity badge to the guards and was swiftly allowed in. The Sanctum tower stretched kilometers into the skies. Locke had always wanted to visit it but his access was restricted. Due to its height, there was a special elevation portal inside that would deliver one to their desired floor with much ease. Currently, he was only permitted to floors below the 100th level, where most of the level-one Magisters resided.
He entered the portal and selected the 82nd floor. A crisp chime rang after mere seconds and the portal peeled open to reveal a long spacious corridor. “That’s too fast!” Locke blinked, sceptical about its rapid speed.
The corridor was at least four metres wide and its sides were lined with well-crafted wooden doors that had corresponding numbers displayed beside, which made it easy to locate Grandmeisterin Ashar’s room. He rapped his knuckles against the wooden door, letting dull knocks echo throughout the empty corridor.
No answer came. He persisted for a while longer and was finally convinced that the Magister wasn’t home. However, it was then that the door unlocked to reveal pitch darkness. He gulped audibly, braced himself and stepped inside. The presence of someone else could be felt. He could see nothing because the room was unilluminated and the curtains were drawn. The only source of light was the scarce lunar glow that snuck past the gaps of the curtains.
Bam! The door slammed shut.
“Oh, I wasn’t expecting you to be a knight.” A cold, feminine voice rang in the dark. Locke snapped his head towards a particular corner of the room; his instincts were telling him that there was someone there.
“Excellent senses, you’re quite sharp.” She snapped her fingers. Immediately, swaying candlelight illuminated the space.
There was a female Magister lounging on the couch. Her long black robe was as dark as her lustrous hair and her eyes were violet.
“Looks like my sister got me a wonderful subject for my experiment.” She mused to no one.
An experimental subject? That wasn’t what Angelina told him earlier. Wasn’t he supposed to be an experiment assistant instead?
Before Locke could correct her, the Magister lifted her chin to stare at him. Dread washed over him; he felt as if something bad would happen if he dared to mutter bullcrap. As she stared him down, Locke studied her.
Judging from appearance alone, Ashar had the allure of a mature lady. Even the sensual and graceful Grace was no match for her. Her mysterious violet eyes were hypnotizing. Locke could feel himself getting lost in her eyes as they locked gazes briefly. He quickly shook his head and lowered his gaze, only to notice a span of flawless white. The Magister was dressed loosely, opting only to clad her naked body with a huge black robe.
He willfully controlled his line of sight, aware that the woman before him was a powerful Magister. Locke quickly averted his gaze again, this time landing it on a pair of dainty feet in the poorly illuminated room. Barefooted, Ashar rested her legs atop the couch. His eyes couldn’t help but follow the series of movements as she bopped her feet up and down. Thankfully, his lowered head had shielded his gaze from the Magister.
Eventually, Ashar grew tired of lazing on the couch. She shifted her body, pale snowy limbs disappearing into the dark robe. Locke’s sigh could be heard faintly.
“How’s three high-rank energy crystals for six hours a day?” questioned Ashar abruptly.
Everything came with a price in the Sanctum. Knowledge, materials and even labour had a price. Since the Three Western Isles were governed by the Sanctum’s law, it went without saying that its premise needed to adhere to the same legislation. Ashar may be a Magister but she wasn’t allowed to infringe Locke’s personal liberties, at least at surface value. After all, he was someone who had a certain status at the Sanctum.
The offer was so tempting that Locke felt inclined to agree right away. However, he held his tongue. There was no mistake that he heard Ashar’s plan to use him as an experiment subject. How long could he survive under the whims of a Magister? Locke couldn’t bring himself to picture it. Angelina had frequently executed limb transplantation experiments on small to medium-sized major monsters so he was fully aware that six-legged toads were completely possible.
“I’m willing to be your assistant but not as an experimental subject.” Locke shifted his eyes. “Maybe I can help with sourcing materials instead.”
“Oh really?” Ashar’s violet eyes sparkled, intrigued by his proposition.
“I work part-time at the transfer zone. Perhaps I can help get relevant materials for your experiment from there,” Locke elaborated.
“Ah, the wartime transfer zone. Not bad.” Delicate fingers danced against her chin. She accepted his suggestion without much hesitation, her violet eyes opened wide like they were praising him. Despite the lack of curled lip edges, Locke could see that she was pleased.
“You can call me Grandmeisterin Ashar, by the way.” The female Magister introduced herself belatedly. It appeared that she had temporarily recognized Locke as an experiment assistant.