The Hall of Knights cleared out an area in the west of Princeton city six months later. Tens of thousands of high-rank Knechts were gathered here, creating a tight network of knights that caused an intense fluctuation in the surrounding elemental essence. More than a hundred floating ships hovered above them, shielding away the sun rays and a portion of the blue sky from view. Apart from high-rank Knechts, there were a few Ritters amidst the gigantic crowd. One could easily pinpoint a group of level one and two Ritters but the most surprising discovery, however, was that there were more than a few level-three Ritters present too.
In one of the floating ships, an elderly Ritter in full armour asked the younger Ritter beside him, “How many have we gathered here?”
“Herr Yves, a total of 136,000 high-rank Knechts have been mobilised with the help of the Aomarian royal family. We also have 2321 level-one Ritters, 227 level-two Erdritters and 3 Himmelritters,” the knight reported dutifully.
“I wouldn’t have expected less from the imperial capital, there’s so many level-one and two Ritters here!” the white-haired elder hummed in approval. After all, this was merely one of the many gathering spots on the Missia continent and there were four in Aomar alone. An impressive number of floating ships had been dispatched to these spots to pick up forces supplied by the Hall of Knight.
Only Ritters and Magisters above level one were called to participate in the past planar wars. It was common practice for them to travel to the Hall of Knights or the Sanctum to report for duty prior to deployment. This was the first time floating ships were dispatched instead to pick the battalion up. The fully-armoured elderly Himmelritter, on the other hand, was a veteran who had been ordered by the Hall of Knights to oversee the moving of the knights here.
Soon enough, a pale blue beam shone from the bottom of the ships and knights soon began to float upwards. They weren’t fazed by the peculiar boarding method since they had been briefed thoroughly about the planar wall; this was nothing compared to what was about to come.
While the high-rank Knechts waited for their turn to board the ship, the Ritters stomped the ground and launched themselves upwards into the floating ship. Meanwhile, the level-two Erdritters that were capable of manifesting impetus wings, flapped their wings to board their respective ships effortlessly. The three Himmelritters were the flashiest in this department. Like radiant shooting stars, they marked the sky with streaks of light as they headed straight into the control room of the ship.
“Jeez, these three…” Yves laughed fondly. There were only a few Himmelriters on the Missia continent so they were naturally acquainted. It appeared that they were close friends.
The high-rank Knechts were ushered into ships in the centre of the fleet while the Ritters were assigned to those on the flanks; this was a deliberate protective arrangement. While the Three Western Isle’s Hall of Knights wasn’t wealthy, the ships that carried Ritters had an array of heavy weapons mounted near the walls. The most common weapons among the bunch were magic crystal cannons and magic energy cannons but the most domineering firearm on board had to be the Damocles cannon mounted on the tip of the ship. It was an alchemical cannon named after the most powerful Archmagister of the Sanctum that dominated the Three Western Isles 1500 years ago. A single blast from it was enough to sink a small island. There were less than fifteen floating ships of this calibre and all of them were reserved for Ritters only. In comparison, the ships that carried high-rank Knechts were like a piece of cardboard; merely sufficient to travel into foreign planes.
The impressive crowd of knights were all picked up before sunset, which was a shocking efficiency.
“Alright. Let’s head to the spatial fortress to report for duty.” The elderly Himmelritter gestured his arm forward and the fleet began to elevate towards a particular direction in the sky.
In one of the multiple lobbies in Ship 86, a high-rank Knecht took in his surroundings unamusedly. Everyone else was glued to the glass doors, intrigued by the sight of a shrinking Princeton city. Since he was a permanent staff of the Hall of Knights, it was Xith’s responsibility to know more about the planar war than the other high-rank Knechts. He had plenty of experiences with similar vessels but this was his first time on a floating ship that could venture into the astral realm. Xith told the knights to back off from the doors from his spot, but his mind was clearly fixated on something else.
“Where the hell are you, Locke?” Xith mumbled under his breath.
Half a year ago, Xith had received Locke’s message from the Sanctum. Locke had asked to deliver a handwritten letter back to his house on Sachiel Street and reassured Xith that he was safe and sound. However, nothing else had followed after that. There was no word of mouth nor were there any more letters. It was pitch silence.
Xith watched the darkening skies through the window. It was afternoon but harsh light was soon replaced by a river of stars. The floating ships marked with their plane's aura were smoothly freed from the planar barrier and entered the mysterious astral realm.
The fleet slowed down slightly but their course was clear; they were headed for the northwest corner of the plane, where the Hall of Knights and the Sanctum of the Three Western Isles had built a spatial fortress. The fleet was scheduled for a layover for necessary maintenance while awaiting further orders.
Meanwhile, on the 82nd floor of the Sanctum's tower, Locke was just done with his chores in Ashar’s laboratory.
“You’re leaving in a month. How’s your preparation coming along?” Ashar rarely talked about matters that were beyond the confines of her laboratory. It was uncanny for the Magister to voice her concern even.
“Everything’s alright,” answered Locke. His capabilities were indeed improving rapidly in the past six months. Thanks to the wind energy crystals, Locke had a better understanding of his impetus reserve and managed to max out its limits. Grandmeisterin Ashar’s shockingly huge energy crystal collection had brought much convenience to Locke than he could bargain for; he had been able to exchange for wind element ones without worry!