“Well done!” Ashar's violet eyes blinked, immensely pleased with what Locke brought today. The replenishment of materials was just in the nick of time since one of her experiments had reached its most vital stage.
“Here, your reward!” Ashar tossed a small bag over. The telltale crisp clacks of the energy crystals inside were music to his ears. Magisters adhered strictly to the practice of equivalent exchange. While Ashar often had her mind occupied by experiments, she was still a true Magister by nature.
Locke hesitated slightly before picking up the bag of energy crystals. Most of the energy crystals that he received from his day job at the transfer zone were reserved for personal usage. Possessing more crystals meant that speedy improvements were completely possible. He had yet to reach his limit, after all.
“Change into this and come assist me with this experiment.” Ashar lifted a finger to levitate the pile of materials on the table. They followed her into the laboratory.
“Huh?” Locke was caught aback. Oh, right. He was supposed to be her assistant.
He put on a navy-coloured full-body suit which only had two hollowed spots for his eyes. The suit was made from the skin of some alien invertebrate species, said to offer full protection against odour and radioactive waves. He had no idea what ‘aseptic’ meant but he knew that this protective suit was a guaranteed defence against microbes in Grandmeisterin Ashar’s laboratory. From the marble-sized holes, he watched the Magister work a scalpel on the huge lifeform bound to the bench.
Since she was a level one Magister, Ashar didn’t require heavy protective layers. She was able to create a vacuum around her body using mana and mental ability alone.
“Hey! Focus! Hold it down!” Ashar snapped.
Locke quickly circulated his impetus, focusing his strength to both arms and pressed down on the unconscious green humanoid monster. Its body was huge and it had two antennae sticking out of its forehead. From the monster’s sharp fangs and rock-hard musculature, Locke didn’t need much to know that this was something he shouldn’t mess with.
Despite it being unconscious, the green humanoid monster was spasming violently from the pain, jerking abruptly and making it difficult to keep it still. Its strength had far exceeded that of a high-rank Knecht; the monster felt almost as strong as a quasi-Ritter or level one Ritter at best!
Just as Locke’s biceps were about to give up, Ashar was done with her extraction. The antennae on the monster’s forehead were removed and stored inside a block of ice after what felt like an eternity. A relieved sigh escaped his throat, Locke could finally let his arms fall limply. The short half-hour experiment had him feeling as though he had experienced an intense battle. Since he was very in tune with every fibre of his muscle, he could sense that his shoulder blades were a tad misaligned from the ordeal.
Before he could rub at the sore spots, there was a sudden spark of dread. The green humanoid monster had awakened at some point. His obsidian eyes were filled with unspoken wrath! The shackles that bound the monster to the bench broke apart following an instant surge of destructive power. It was a level-one lifeform, something which Locke could’ve never imagined.
Everything was happening too fast. Sharp claws were coming for his face. There wasn’t enough time to defend himself; his body refused to respond. All he could do was to incline his body slightly to the side. The effort was bound to be futile. As a seasoned combatant involved in battles of various scales, Locke could already see what would happen next; his heart would be crushed by those horrifying claws in the next second.
It was a dire situation but he could only let his subconsciousness take over. Locke closed his eyes and waited for death’s embrace.
One... two... three...
Time froze. Locke could no longer feel the presence of danger nor the anticipated pain. His chest didn’t feel like it was pierced through. He blinked his eyes open slowly, noticing that the lights in the laboratory were still on full blast. He then looked downwards.
The green humanoid monster’s pupils were shrunk. Its murderous fangs were bared but no threat could be sensed. It was murmuring incoherently. Locke noticed something on its chest; there was a hole that was as big as a fist. Its vital organs were emptied out of its chest cavity, including a portion of its spine.
The sharp scent of blood permeated the air as dark green fluids soaked through the bench, filling the air with a corrosive mist. Upon closer inspection, there was a circle of dark corrosive matter on the fringes of the monster’s wound. Ashar, who was floating in mid-air, still maintained a pose after shooting a beam through the humanoid monster’s chest.
Despite the near-death experience, Locke was unfazed. He peeled off his protective suit as if nothing had transpired. He had witnessed countless deaths and was prepared to welcome his end at any given moment. The sudden turn of events had merely taken him by surprise.
“You’re pretty ballsy!” Ashar landed whilst panting heavily. The black beam of death was taxing on her powers.
“Thank you for saving me.” Locke was grateful. If Ashar had been a tad slower, he would’ve died right here and then.
She ignored him, turning around to pick up the ice with the monster’s antennae. She left the laboratory. “Clean this place up a little. Be careful not to touch the corpse.”
He set off to work. The operating bench was a complete goner. The corrosion earlier had created a deep hole on its sturdy surface. Since it was able to restrain a level-one lifeform, the damage spoke volumes about what Ashar was capable of. The Magister was able to take out the green humanoid monster, which was as strong as a level-one Ritter, in under a second. Was there really such a huge power difference between Magisters and Ritters or was Ashar just that powerful? Locke couldn’t help but slip into deep thought.
He continued to work absentmindedly, attention suddenly caught by the pool of dark green blood on the ground. It was the blood of a level-one lifeform. Ashar said that he shouldn’t touch the corpse but what about that?