Lush green grass filled the vast basin. With skies covered in fluffy white clouds, this felt almost like paradise. The cool breeze that caressed them blew away dead branches and fallen leaves, rustling the grasses ever so slightly in the process. Amidst the calming sound, a rough foot with sharp dark nails sank into the dirt.
Standing at two metres tall, the gorilla monster’s presence was profound. From its bulging muscles and tough coat, it was a warning sign to not mess with it. The high-rank gorilla monster was more than capable of terrorising Botania. Its heavy weight alone had destroyed countless vegetation but no one paid mind to it.
Trailing behind the gorilla were slaves of diverse forms whose movements trampled the grassland unintentionally.
Locke walked in the middle of the formation while holding onto the monster hunter hound’s leash, chatting with Angelina leisurely.
“Are we there yet?” asked Angelina weakly as she laid on her scorpiondrake’s back.
“No, we have another three more hours of walking to do,” answered Locke. Angelina had been repeating the question like an endless loop.
The effects of Botania’s suppression had never left them alone. Apart from the unwavering discomfort and dizziness, the strenuous journey of more than hundreds of miles had left the Lehrlings swamped. Unlike the Magisters, they had nothing to forgo trekking.
Angelina’s complaints were largely ignored by Locke. He had always thought that she had lived a sheltered life for too long; the planar war was a great opportunity to train her. A journey of a hundred miles within a morning was as easy as breathing to a knight like him.
“Why don’t we take a break soon?” suggested Daenie, who was riding on a five-coloured deer. Locke had snuck the deer over for her convenience; its soft fur made for a comfortable mount and she could steer it easily through its antlers. Overall, the deer was a better transport choice than the scorpiondrake.
“No. We have to reach the city by noon.” Locke refused with a shake of his head. He took one look at the sun; they were running short of time to fulfil Parlina’s strict orders. Locke quickly urged the Lehrlings and slaves to hasten their pace.
They needed to reach the city by noon, seize it in an afternoon’s work and gain complete dominance by nightfall. Locke seriously doubted that the grandmeisterin had no idea how conquests worked. However, his opinion wouldn’t sway the decision that was settled on by a few Magisters. Locke could only comply and complete the given tasks to the best of his ability.
Just as he sped up, a weak voice called from behind. “Locke…! Locke!”
Locke turned around to find a wheezing male Lehrling staggering towards him. He halted in his tracks but failed to recognise the caster. Perhaps the Lehrling was one of the quieter ones in the contingent.
“What’s wrong?” Locke had been waiting for half a minute now. The Lehrling was clearly struggling to close a small distance.
“Can you get me a mount? The price is up for negotiation,” uttered Lehrling straightforwardly as he attempted to sneak Locke a green energy crystal that was only as big as a thumb.
Locke took a step to the side and avoided his extended palm.
“Look, the slaves are not under my care. If you really want a mount, I suggest you talk to the Magisters instead of me,” replied Locke firmly. Surely, the Lehrling must be dumb. A tiny mid-rank energy crystal wasn’t sufficiently attractive as bribery. Locke was all the more unwelcoming to him since he was just a mid-rank Lehrling.
The Lehrling’s face grew red at Locke’s reply. No one could tell if the colouration came from anger or exhaustion, though.
“Just help me out, please…” Thankfully, the Lehrling wasn’t too dull. Ignoring his aching muscles, he presented a yellow mid-rank energy crystal. By this point, Locke had walked away.
Under the control of its soul imprint, the slaves were forced to obey every single instruction. If Locke heeded his request and brought him a mount, the Lehrling would be saved from walking and any possible danger. However, protection from even the weakest major monsters cost more than two energy crystals. Locke felt like he’d become stupid if he continued to entertain the Lehrling further.
Realising that Locke was intent on ignoring him, the Lehrling realized that he needed to present something better. He quickly dashed after Locke with newfound vigour.
“Look, I really can’t walk any further. I hope you can help a brother out.” The Lehrling forced four energy crystals into Locke’s palm.
Locke raised a brow in irritation. However, just as he was about to shoo the persistent Lehrling away, he noticed that something was different. He peered at the energy crystals, noticing that half were rare wind element ones. He tightened his fist around the crystals and waved at a metal arm ape at the back of the formation.
“Hey, you! Come here!”
An ape with yellow fur quickly leapt over at Locke’s call. The master of the slaves’ soul imprints were the Magisters and Locke was recognised as their spokesperson. Since the slaves possessed considerable intelligence, it didn’t take long for him to earn their obedience.
“Carry him!” Locke pointed to the Lehrling.
The metal arm ape scratched its scalp and jumped over. It scooped the Lehrling up and placed it atop its shoulder.
“Uh… Can I get another one instead?” The Lehrling had been eyeing Daenie’s five-coloured deer and was hoping to get something similar.
“Nope. This is all I have for you,” refused Locke nonchalantly. He stepped away as the Lehrling fumed and began chasing after Angelina who was already a distance ahead.
All mid-rank slaves in the contingent were worth a high-rank energy crystal at least; that was the unspoken rule here. If it weren’t for the two mid-rank wind element energy crystals, there was no way in hell that Locke would’ve heeded the stingy Lehrling.