Two months later, the newly arrived Knechts and slaves were lined up at the borders of Battlezone 16 to be inspected by two Erdritters. However, the Erdritters paid them no mind. The knights walked over to an army of casters at the other end instead.
“Pardon my intrusion, are you Grandmeisterin Jella?” asked one of the Erdritters, who donned a suit of white armour.
“Yes.” A cold mature feminine voice rang from under a maroon cloak.
“Pleased to meet you, my name is Gunter. I’m terribly sorry for Herr Savalon’s absence, he’s currently battling a Botanian.” Gunter quickly apologised.
“That’s alright. If that’s the case, we’ll head to the next battlezone now,” answered the Magister. Jella was a level-three Magister that even the Erdritters had to be courteous with.
Without further ado, the dense crowd of slaves and casters began moving to Battlezone 17. A majority of Jella’s casters were level-one Lehrlings. There were less than a hundred Magisters involved and there was only one level-three Magister present. Yet, they were independently in charge of a whole battle zone since the Sanctum had faith in their competence. As long as there was sufficient cannon fodder on the frontlines, the casters could steep deep fear in every Botanian on the plane.
The Sanctum was known to possess immense wealth across the Three Western Isles. In this planar war alone, it had provided two-thirds of the enslaved creatures along with subsequent reinforcements. The casters had nearly three-quarters of the total participating slaves under their belt even.
“Lauren, have you heard? Herr Agus was ambushed by a few Botanians and got badly injured!”
Locke, who was in the middle of a crowd of casters, picked up on a conversation between two level-one Ritters. It was rather ridiculous that the other knights hadn’t noticed Locke among the casters. The constant but faint radiation of the caster’s mana was enough to conceal any foreign presence, which made it difficult even for a Ritter to detect him.
“Of course! Did you know that Herr Eugen went to Herr Agus’ aid?” Lauren was eager to share what he knew.
“Huh? Really? I thought Herr Eugen and Herr Agus always had beef between them,” exclaimed another in surprise.
“Who knows? They are comrades from the same plane. Herr Eugen doesn’t seem like a person that’d refuse to help a comrade in distress,” Lauren reasoned.
“Still, I can’t believe there’s something that could hurt Herr Agus on Botania.” The other knight couldn’t help but shiver. Looks like the Botanians weren’t as incompetent as they thought.
“Didn’t Herr Savalon leave to check on a suspected level-three Botanian that appeared in our zone the other day?” asked Lauren. As if remembering something, he continued, “Hey, Poco! Is it your team’s turn for patrol duty tomorrow?”
“Yeah.” Poco’s expression was bitter. It appeared that capturing Botanians was a difficult task even for level-one Ritters. As many stronger Botanians began to emerge, the stronger Ritters were starting to suffer significant casualties.
Level-two Ritters could usually hold out until other Erdritters or Himmelritters arrived on the scene but it wasn’t the same for level-one Ritters. While they could hold off level-two Botanians with enough numbers, the appearance of a level-three Botanian was a death sentence.
“You should be grateful. Patrolling isn’t so bad compared to seizing new battle zones!” Lauren pulled his lips taut.
Battlezone 16 had basically been infiltrated by the Hall of Knights’ troops; only a third of the territory remained untouched. Level-three Himmelritter, Savalon, was currently leading a group of Ritters above level one on an expedition into the untouched areas. An army of high-rank Knechts, on the other hand, was tasked with capturing Botanians within the zone.
Each low-rank Botanian was capable of offering one to ten milligrams of Botanian essence. In the absence of a portable extraction machine, they could only capture the Botanians and imprison them somewhere where unified extraction could be done. That was the best approach to maximise extraction.
Fortunately, there weren’t any level-one Botanians left in the area ploughed by the Ritters. Botanians that were close to becoming level one were almost gone too, which caused the casualties suffered by the high-rank Knechts to only go as far as twenty percent. This was a much better outcome than what the Hall of Knights had projected.
As he listened to the Ritters’ conversation, Locke mentally prepared himself for his subsequent battles.
On the eve of arriving at this zone, many Magisters of levels one and two had organised a briefing for the Lehrlings. Despite being a knight, Locke leaned in and listened. Battlezones under the Hall of Knights were heavily reliant on high-rank Knechts to manage the low-rank Botanians. The Lehrlings, however, had a slight advantage over the Knechts during the war: they could use the slaves as meat shields as they saw fit.
“Stick close to me tomorrow, okay?” Locke whispered to Daenie and Angelina amidst the crowd. While the girls were apprentices to level-one Magisters, Grandmeisterin Parlina and Grandmeisterin Carla were expected to be fully occupied by the battle to spare them protection; the Magisters had their own fights to tend to.
“Alright.” Angelina was fully aware that Locke was stronger than her and Daenie in battle. By staying together, their little three-member party would be safe as long as they weren’t sent anywhere dangerous.