There was a spacious treehouse in the heart of Nimbus City. Ashar was sitting cross legged as she toyed with a pale red sphere. Her unblemished legs, which were now exposed from beneath her black robes, left little to the imagination. Yet, the shadowmancer paid no mind to her chances of exposure. Parlina and Carla were sitting at different corners of the treehouse.
“So you’re telling me that a total of two thousand Botanians escaped our grip?” There were two new wrinkles across Parlina’s forehead.
“Yes,” affirmed Locke.
Nimbus City had a population of ten thousand Botanians, which made it the largest city they encountered since entering Battlezone 17. The siege alone had brought them a generous amount of spoils.
Parlina sighed heavily. “Nevermind. Let them be.” The outcome wasn’t too surprising since their contingent was short of manpower. Plus, she did leave an opening on one side of the city walls as part of the strategy.
“What is the extent of our losses?” asked Carla. She was their most valuable asset when it came to healing. Photomancers were considered rare gems at the Sanctum.
“Five unfortunate Lehrlings got hit by Botanian mucus while dozens are in a weakened state, suffering from mana exhaustion,” reported Locke.
There was silence in the air. No one asked more about the five Lehrlings who contracted the Botanian mucus so Locke didn’t elaborate. The deadly secretion could corrode a major monster’s toughest armor, let alone the vulnerable skin of a caster. The aftermath of the five Lehrlings was painfully obvious.
Mana exhaustion was anticipated since they weren’t on Zauberian soil anymore; there was no suitable elemental mana in Botanian air that casters could absorb as replenishment. Without sufficient energy crystals as an auxiliary source, the Lehrlings quickly deteriorated upon mana depletion. Mid-rank Lehrlings were the most affected bunch since they were the only ones who couldn’t afford more energy crystals.
Like Locke, casters too required crystals of compatible elements to replenish their lost mana. Fortunately, the spoils from the earlier invasion on Nimbus City were bountiful; there was enough to go around to make a full recovery.
More than four hundred slaves had died in this corner of Botania. If they weren’t smothered by a tsunami of Botanians or corroded by their mucus, they would’ve been killed by the chain explosions triggered by the clashing of various spells.
The pitiful slaves had fought bravely for the sake of the casters’ survival but ended their lives as nothing more than a pathetic pile of crap. The casters hadn’t bothered to pay them the simplest respect either; they tossed their remains to the surviving slaves after harvesting usable parts off their carcasses.
Compared to the fresh taste of vegetables and fruits, slaves much preferred the taste of blood and flesh. Consuming the flesh of their comrades would speed up their regeneration process and the fast recovery was bound to keep them alive in the subsequent battles. The death of four hundred slaves was nothing but a mere number to Parlina.
After all, there were still many cannon fodders below level-one to spare. More slaves would be sent to Botanian soon once the Three Western Isles had accumulated enough. They would be carried here when the spatial fortress returned to base next time.
“Very well, not bad.” Parlina shot Locke an approving look. “You deserve a reward.” There was a green bead in her proffered hand.
Locke received it carefully. It looked similar to the red sphere in between Ashar’s fingers but upon closer inspection, he noticed that its energy activity was significantly weaker than the one Ashar had.
The red sphere was the core of the level-one apple Botanian, which contained the apple’s full power and Botanian essence.
Truth to be told, a Botanian’s core was more valuable than the essence itself. Yet, this was only applicable if the core was harvested from a level-three Botanian. The apple’s core had merely consisted of four grams of Botanian essence of higher purity.
Locke’s green bead was probably the nucleus core of a quasi-level-one Botanian, which would make it almost as strong as a quasi-Ritter. Judging by the scale of Nimbus City, Botanians of such calibre were certainly not a common occurrence.
He thanked Parlina profusely, leaving the treehouse with plans to find a suitable place to make full use of the nucleus core. The Botanian essence inside was definitely of high quality and absorbing it would be beneficial to his advancements. The resulting elevation would be at least by one-tenth.
Not to mention, Locke had managed to pocket a few loose spoils from the earlier battle. The most valuable of them being nucleus cores that were harvested from two Botanians of high-rank Knecht calibre. They were rather competent; Locke was forced to use the Speedy Dragon potion even. Added with the help of a few other slaves, it was only then that Locke managed to defeat the Botanians.
The Speedy Dragon potion was indeed extraordinarily potent since it was made with the blood of a level-one lifeform. His success in slaughtering the two Botanians was a milestone; Locke was finally capable of defeating similarly competent enemies.
In comparison, a quasi-Ritter could defeat three to five high-rank Knechts at the same time. Locke still had a long way to go before he could reach that level. However, the three nucleus cores accumulated so far would be his shortcut.
Locke sighed, allowing his heart to calm down in an empty wooden house. He tossed the three nucleus cores to the back of his throat.
Wolfing down a whole Botanian was perhaps the best way to absorb its essence entirely. However, Locke’s appetite wasn’t big enough to stomach them whole and he refused to waste his time just for a little more essence. The nucleus core had carried most of the Botanian’s essence anyway.
The elegant and sophisticated casters weren’t fans of such primitive ways. They’d harvest the nucleus cores and have the slaves handle the Botanian remains.
Perhaps Locke had been spending too much time with the casters. He had already picked up on a few of their ‘snobby’ antics without realizing it.
Angelina, on the other hand, was vehemently against absorbing Botanian essence through its nucleus core. Surprisingly, this wasn’t a product of her sheltered life. The Faustian princess regarded Botanians as civilized and intelligent beings that were similar to humans. She just couldn’t bear to consume their nucleus cores; she would only ingest Botanian essence after it was processed into refined products.
Unbeknownst to Angelina, the extraction process of Botanian essence via magical machinery was much more inhumane than directly ingesting nucleus cores. Perhaps it was best if she remained blissfully unaware that the refined products she preferred were made through crushing and juicing Botanians alive.