With his palms tight around two green energy crystals, Locke circulated his impetus. He was sitting cross-legged in his room, currently in the middle of his personal training. A faint green glow shone from between the gaps of his fingers, and a stream of light soon followed the contour of his arm, gradually seeping into his body. He exhaled and allowed the silence to stretch on until a weak crackling noise rang out.
His eyelids fluttered apart, a glint flashing across his eyes. With the help of the energy crystals, he was now a fraction stronger compared to when he first became a high-rank Knecht. The wind element crystals in his grip were exhausted. They had been reduced to innumerable translucent shards subsequently discarded into a pile of trash.
This was the third time he used energy crystals this week. The rapid elevation of capabilities had been absolutely intoxicating. It was no wonder why some casters had chosen to remain single for the rest of their lives to focus solely on meditation. The pleasure brought by apparent advancements and enhancements seemed to be more charming than the prospect of maintaining relationships.
“Jeez, I’m burning through my stash of crystals,” Locke heaved out loud. Mid-rank energy crystals were his current go-to. He couldn’t bear to use the only five high-rank crystals in his possession - they were reserved strictly for when he hit a plateau with the mid-rank crystals or when his performance was unsatisfactory. Despite his reluctance, the number of energy crystals he owned wasn’t all that small.
Unsurprisingly, Locke and Molly’s illegitimate gig at the transfer zone had only grown bigger as time passed. They had achieved a certain measure of fame among the Lehrlings at the bottom of the Sanctum’s hierarchy as they could bring materials that no one could’ve imagined to the table. Their increasingly bolder moves were bound to attract attention from the authorities but the higher-ups could no longer afford to spare attention to the wellbeing of their cannon fodder with the approaching war. As long as Locke and Molly laid low and maintained good timing, they’d be alright.
Their customers were mainly mid-rank Lehrlings who wished to hone their abilities rapidly before going to war. The situation was rather dire; how would they dare to cut off their only source of help through whistleblowing?
With that, Locke was receiving a steady stream of five high-rank energy crystals per week. The crystals that were running low in mention were merely the wind element ones, which were incredibly helpful to him. He made a mental note to ask if Grandmeisterin Ashar was willing to trade a few wind element crystals for those he had. It shouldn’t be an issue since Ashar was wealthy as hell.
He hastily cleaned his room and left.
Locke had grown accustomed to his job at the warehouse by now. He was mainly in charge of helping Molly with casting soul imprints and Harris with loading the slaves into the floating ships. Today, however, he was headed towards an alchemy shop Molly recommended some time ago in the central area. The female Lehrling mentioned that it was a famed establishment that was almost seven hundred years old.
“Hello, how can I help you?” A middle-aged man whose complexion had a yellow tinge greeted Locke. He was an alchemist and also the salesperson of the store. Unlike the trading zone that specifically recruited attractive female Lehrlings as promoters, everything here was a touch more organic and simplistic. Locke had an inkling that the alchemist was most probably one of the great masters that frequently contracted the knights for material gathering missions.
“I’d like to make potions out of this.” Locke rolled a tube of a dark green fluid forward.
The material and packaging of the tightly sealed tube were the most advanced of their kind. The elaborate sealing system indicated the value of what it contained, which naturally piqued the alchemist’s curiosity. Despite his interest, the alchemist was a trained professional. He swiftly brought out a long silver needle and poked it through the cork sophisticatedly. Once the tip came in contact with the fluid, he pulled it out and watched the cork seal itself back. The tube was also a product of alchemy, a little something that Angelina created for fun.
The alchemist murmured a few lines at the needle before pulling out a pile of testing equipment from his spatial ring. It seemed like the appraisal would take a while so Locke settled for the couch and helped himself to some refreshments.
“Unbelievable! It’s the blood of a hilder!” exclaimed the alchemist excitedly. Fortunately for them, they were in a private cabin so there was adequate privacy.
“What do you think? Are you able to make use of it?” Locke asked with crossed legs. This was the blood of a level-one lifeform that he snuck out of Grandmeisterin Arshar’s laboratory last time. If regular major monster blood could do much to humans, Locke was confident that the hilder’s blood would be incredibly potent. The burst of energy sensed from when the level-one lifeform broke free of its shackles was an obvious indication that it had great raw strength, which was something that would greatly benefit brawny knights like him.
“Of course.” The alchemist reassured professionally. After some thought, he continued, “The blood can serve as the base material for the iron body and rapid dragon potions.”
“Splendid. How much will that be?” The names of the potions were new to his ears. However, since the blood of a level-one lifeform was involved, the performance and outcome surely wouldn’t be shabby.
“There’s enough blood to brew three vials. How about we concoct one tube of iron body and rapid dragon potion each while the remaining blood will serve as payment?” suggested the alchemist.
Locke lowered his head and entertained the thought. There was a brief silence before an agreement was reached. Since he had needed to sneak the blood out of Ashar’s laboratory, it must be of considerable value. The alchemist had taken the honest approach to request for a portion so Locke had no qualms agreeing to it.
The main backbone of the seven-hundred-year-old establishment were the Magisters. Since the middle-aged alchemist held the hilder’s blood with much regard, it went to show that Locke had gotten ahold of something incredible. The level-one hilder was captured from a minor plane in Zauberia’s proximity. Due to its above-average competence, the Sanctum and Hall of Knights had never considered invading it. Yet, it was a frequent hunting spot for casters and knights alike.
The hilder people were literal gold mines. It was said that the heart of its high priest could further lengthen the lives of lifeforms above level one, which became an attractive motivation for many multi centenarians to go after it.
“Do you think you can fix this sword too?” Locke brought out his long sword and a broken pitch-black sword from his spatial ring. The broken sword, which had been disqualified by a certain Ritter, was purchased from the auction in Princeton.
“From what I can see, there’s cloud ink metal in this sword. It’s a common mineral so smelting it into your weapon won’t be difficult,” answered the alchemist after a thorough inspection of the broken sword. Locke’s long sword was completely ignored as a mid-rank Knecht’s gear was nothing special to the alchemist. “Consider this a bonus. I’ll smelt this sword for free.”
“Alright! It’s nice working with you!” Locke extended a palm over.
“The pleasure’s mine.” The middle-aged alchemist chuckled.
Locke returned to Grandmeisterin Ashar’s place after that. The level-one shadowmancer had presented much shock and surprises into his life as days went by.
When Ritters advanced to become level-one lifeforms, they were presented a choice between specializing in impetus techniques or physical strength. Magisters, on the other hand, had more diverse career choices. There were Magisters that chose to master occultism and curses; elementalists who were proficient in elemental magic; summoners that were skilled at trading and summoning from foreign planes; blood sorcerers that could integrate the blood of powerful creatures into their bodies and many more!
The diversity had allowed Magisters to quickly surpass Ritters fully immersed in physical training once they advanced to level one. There were rumours that a group of talented Magisters had established a unique branch of blood sorcerers based on the Ritter’s cultivation path; the art of body refining had taken root in some parts of Zauberia.
Locke’s admiration towards Ashar wasn’t without reason. While she was already a powerful shadowmancer, she was learning occultism herself whilst working as an alchemist.
Ashar had a wildly erratic tendency of testing out newly attained occult techniques on those around her, which had ultimately driven away all the Lehrling assistants before Locke. Surely, no one would wish to wake up to find themselves with a few extra limbs or as a toad.
The fundamental concept of occultism and magic was completely different. Spells could turn people into frogs temporarily and the intensity of mana would influence the duration of its performance. Meanwhile, occultism meant complete structural alterations; a Lehrling that was turned into a toad through occultism would remain a toad forever. Since occultism involved a collection of taboo practices spanning the astral realm and universe, casters generally lumped anything incomprehensible in with it.
He rapped his knuckles against Ashar’s door despite having a set of her keys. Locke found it plain rude to barge in unwelcomed.
“Come in.” The Magister’s lazy drawl was heard after a beat.
Locke helped himself in and made a beeline for the couch. Ashar despised mornings and was technically a night owl; her biological clock was a complete mess. It became apparent that her experiment yesterday had lasted till dawn before she could finally retire to bed. Locke was forced to sacrifice a lot of rest due to her irregular schedule. Perhaps Ashar’s pasty complexion was an attribute of the lack of sunlight. Apart from that, the Magister rarely paid attention to her appearance. Her unintentional exhibitionism had never failed to catch Locke off guard.
“Hey, you’re going to help me formulate new alchemy materials today.” Unsurprisingly, Ashar exited her bedroom clad only in black sheets. The surface area of the clothing was small, merely sufficient to conceal her important bits while leaving everything else for the world to see.
“Alright.” Locke frantically nodded while averting his gaze downwards. He dared not look elsewhere.