It had been a month since that incident in Grandmeisterin Ashar’s laboratory. Locke's daily routine alternated between his job at the transfer zone and assisting Ashar. His days may be filled, but Locke was adamant about sticking to his personal training. Luckily for him, there wasn’t always a lot of work at the Magister’s place. Even so, Locke had made it a habit to visit her even if Ashar hadn’t asked for him that day. Showing up and making his presence known were good manners, after all. Plus, the fact that the Magister could take down a level-one lifeform in seconds was exceptionally shocking.
“This is my stocklist. Is there anything you’d like?” asked Locke. He had gathered a small crowd of mid-rank Lehrlings at a secluded corner of the Sanctum. They passed around his notebook, meticulously reading everything recorded before settling on a few items they desired.
Locke had established a catalogue system that brought much convenience to produce the corresponding items from his spatial ring. “That will be 41 energy crystals.”
“Sure.” The Lehrlings barely flinched at the price. They left with relaxed shoulders once the transaction was completed. As if suddenly reminded of something, one of them turned around to shout, “If you manage to get ahold of a flarebird’s beak, do reserve it for me!”
“No problem!” There were many flarebirds in the warehouse. They were relatively strong mid-rank major monsters and were deadliest in a flock. Their long beaks were popular materials for pyromancy equipment and scrolls, which explained the sudden surge in its demand due to the approaching war. Items and materials that aided in enhancements were facing intense price increments as well.
Locke had presented twenty flarebird beaks to Angelina in this month alone, which she subsequently used to create fifteen Firewall scrolls. The other high-rank Knechts had finally received their call to arms too. Since pyromancy was known for having incredible destructive potential, these scrolls proved to be a big hit with the knights at the trading zone and garnered considerable wealth for Locke and Angelina.
Everything at the Sanctum had a price, whether it be knowledge, materials and even magic. Even the Faustian princess was facing the threat of an empty wallet here for she had to borrow some energy crystals from Locke to exchange some pyromancy skills from her mentor.
Balancing the newly acquired bag of energy crystals on his palm, Locke paced towards the transfer zone. Nothing had changed in the warehouse throughout the last two months, cages that held slaves were scattered across the transfer zone but most of the creatures, however, were new faces. The old ones had been transferred off to the spatial fortress in a timely fashion long ago.
“Hey, Harris. Where’s Molly?” Locke shook the bag of crystals casually.
“She’s over there placing soul imprints on the slaves.” Harris pointed in a direction. Molly’s bulk of the job was the heaviest in transfer zone number 43; casting soul imprints on the slaves was a difficult task.
“Okay. I’ll go check on her.” Locke nodded and pressed seven energy crystals into Harris’ palm, to which the mid-rank Lehrling smiled knowingly.
Locke later found Molly, who was busy casting soul imprints, at a certain pile of cages.
“Hey, I brought you some lunar water from the canteen. It’s about time you take a break.” Locke approached her. Lunar water was a special beverage served in the Sanctum that helped with mental ability recovery. As curious as he was, Locke did try a sip but found it to be too sweet for his palate.
“Thank you!” Molly received the proffered mug, quickly noticing the small pouch that came with it. She ignored the beverage to open the pouch to find twenty low-rank energy crystals and one mid-rank energy crystal.
“This is all I received in the last three days,” explained Locke. Molly’s share was five times larger than Harris's since the allocation was purely based on contribution. As their leader and the only one capable of casting soul imprints, Molly deserved it.
“Aren't there any high-rank energy crystals?” Molly pointed out helplessly. Mid-rank energy crystals weren’t all that useful to her and low-rank ones could only be used for mana recovery.
“Sorry, our main customers are mostly mid-rank Lehrlings. They just don’t have the buying power.”
Despite his courage and Molly’s tacit support, they just couldn’t muster up the guts to meddle with high-rank major monster slaves. Unlike their mid and low-rank counterparts, they were specially cared for by the Sanctum. Locke and his team had only managed to gather six high-rank major monster materials in batches so far, of which they received five high-rank crystals in return; three went into Molly’s pocket, two were kept by Locke while Harris received crumbs.
“Shall we do another one then?” Molly turned her face towards a cage behind her, where a high-rank gorilla monster was soundly asleep inside.
“No, we just did one a few days ago,” Locke promptly rejected. He was in charge of calling the shots.
“Okay.” Molly let out a sigh. She was thankfully a sensible one.
Unlike Molly, Locke didn’t need to rely on the secret income to fuel his improvement. Working with the Magister had opened doors to more privileges but it wasn’t any less shady than their illegitimate trade. Ashar was an enigma but her darker sides became more apparent with every experiment session. Despite everything, he had to admit that she was very generous. The act of smuggling materials from the transfer zone was insignificant but the Magister had always rewarded him graciously for the deed.
Locke had taken it upon himself to keep a special eye out for new and useful slaves at the transfer zone on Ashar’s behalf. As soon as he found something rare that fit her requirements, he’d report it to her so the Magister could subsequently apply to the relevant authority. The shadowmancer Magister appeared to be immensely wealthy, unlike the other level-one Magisters that were rudely bringing out slaves unannounced. Essentially, Ashar had no qualms forking out money for anything that cost below thirty high-rank energy crystals.
The upcoming planar war was a great burden on everyone, be it Locke, Molly or the knights that were gathered on the island. They were in a race against time to grow stronger to survive the ruthless battle and time was running scarce.