A total of two grams of Botanian essence was absorbed from the three nucleus cores. Locke’s eyes were glowing with a sheen when his eyelids fluttered apart again.
The effects were stronger than anticipated. It was no wonder that the Botanian essence was highly sought after by the Sanctum and Hall of Knights. There were remarkable changes to his body and his internal energy improved in both purity and volume.
The new synergy between the Botanian essence and his body was obvious since Locke was very in tune with his blood vigour. Those were telltale signs of improvement.
He retrieved a towel from his spatial ring and cleaned off the filth on his skin, which was left behind by his multitude of internal injuries accumulated over the years. Deep cleansing of the body was one of the many benefits of Botanian essence. Locke didn’t mind the scars that littered his body. An unscathed knight was not considered a knight, after all. Scars were the best badges of honour knights could ever have.
Wiping away the pungent filth revealed tanned, healthy muscles. Locke slipped into a long robe and soon left to look for Angelina and Daenie. There was no need to don his armour and longsword since there was hardly anything of threat left in Nimbus City. Those that remained were weak regular Botanians who were weaker than regular Zauberian farmers. Locke’s skin wouldn’t break even if he stood still and received all their attacks since his muscles and skin were almost on par with a mid-rank major monster now.
Angelina and Daenie were still chatting in the yard. Casters possessed a natural sensitivity that came with the development of their mental abilities. In certain aspects, they were faster at detecting presences than knights. Just as Locke approached the yard, Angelina raised a brow ever so slightly. Joy bloomed across her face as soon as recognition set in. She quickly turned to the left with hopeful eyes.
Daenie’s magic wasn’t as strong as Angelina yet. Though she couldn’t sense Locke’s presence, Angelina’s reaction had given everything away.
The typical wooden Botanian houses were short since their average height had ranged around 1.5 metres. Their fences were only two metres tall, which Locke could jump over effortlessly.
Without a word, Angelina rushed forward and stayed in his embrace. She had no intention to let him go just yet.
Locke caressed her head lovingly. “Are you not going to train today?”
Her mentor, Carla, had given Angelina a similar Botanian nucleus core too.
“Grandmeisterin Carla mentioned that the essence is better in potion form,” she explained.
Casters tended to utilise their resources in the most efficient manner. Indeed, refining Botanian essences into potions was the best approach but there was no suitable venue and materials for that on Botania. Under those circumstances, direct consumption was a better choice.
“Ah, I see,” said Locke.
Botanian essence was prized for its ability to heighten its consumer’s internal synergy and lifespan increment. Angelina, however, wasn’t in dire need of those yet.
The sky gradually darkened. Daenie figured that it was best to leave soon. She quickly bid farewell and left for her quarters hurriedly. Locke and Angelina were getting handsy again.
It had been a full year since Locke left Princeton City, which meant that he had kept abstinent the whole time. Though Locke and Angelina’s intimacy hadn’t reached home base yet, they had done many other things instead.
She blinked her hazy eyes, cheeks faintly pink. She darted forward to seal Locke’s lips before he could say anything more.
Botania’s moon was an unfamiliar sight. Unlike the spherical moon back in Zauberia, the Botanian moon was an irregular polygon with edges and corners. The nights here were longer too; its horizon lighting up at an hour later than Zauberia.
It was already noon when Locke rolled out of bed at Angelina’s insistence. Oversleeping was a regular occurrence after each cultivation session. Angelina’s hypothesis behind his odd behavior was that his bodily equilibrium had been disrupted. His body was probably trying to balance out the new influx of energy with his exhaustion. Anyway, it wasn’t anything bad; he’d just view this as a little reward for working hard. Locke stretched his limbs and travelled to the slave camp.
Apart from the slaves, the camp in the west of Nimbus City had held the regular Botanians as well. Their contingent had captured thousands of them during the earlier siege. Locke’s presence at the camp immediately attracted eager eyes.
While the slaves’ soul imprints were under the control of the Magisters, Locke was recognized as their de facto masters. Major monsters above mid rank possessed considerable intelligence. The monster hunter hound whom Locke frequently summoned quickly came over with its wagging tail. The hound’s competence was below average for a mid-rank major monster so it was a surprise that it survived the battle without Locke’s help. Upon closer inspection, the hound seemed to have grown slightly taller even. Perhaps it had been lucky enough to fetch a few Botanian carcasses.
He gripped the leather collar around its neck and led it around the camp for his daily patrol. Noticing that the hound was Locke’s choice for the day, the other slaves quickly backed away. Locke tended to rotate between a handful of slaves, most of them being mid-rank major monsters while only a few were high-rank major monsters. They were always eager to win his favour.
The slave camp was divided into three areas, dominated by three different base-rank major monsters respectively. They were seen as leaders among the slaves as major monsters shifted towards hierarchical living for the sake of survival. Other than the towering dark major monster, the other base-rank monsters were a golden-armoured steel pangolin and a gigantic marsh crocodile. The number of members was equally distributed among the three leaders.
He circled the camp twice, stopping a tad bit longer to check on the three base-rank monsters before leaving to report to Parlina.
On the other end of Nimbus City, Porscher and Reiner initiated a discussion with Parlina in the city hall. The male Magisters had finally come to terms with her leadership yesterday, which prompted Porscher to bring talks of the contingent’s next strategy to Parlina’s attention early the next morning.
Botania was indeed a gold mine. The Magisters could each receive ten grams of Botanian essence from the few thousands of captured regular Botanians. Plus, Nimbus City’s treasury was loaded with precious minerals and distinct Botanian crops, many of which could fetch an impressive price if brought back to Zauberia.
The Magisters possessed lots of spatial storage equipment, so it went without saying that they’d be keeping the spoils to themselves. They deemed this a deserving reward for their efforts and the Sanctum would definitely stay out of their hair.
“How about we attack Thorn City next?” Porscher’s thick finger pointed at a map on his crystal ball where an area was highlighted.
Parlina shook her head. “I don’t think that’s a feasible idea. From what we know, the city is governed by three city lords. I think it’s better if we attack Stick City. It’s less dangerous.”
“What about Mist City instead?” Reiner tried to suggest a middle ground. The Sanctum’s intel had revealed that the city was led by two city lords that were no stronger than level-one. Their contingent could handle that.
Victory wasn’t guaranteed despite the presence of five level-one Magisters in their contingent; the plane’s suppression must not be ignored. It was considered good enough if the Magisters could perform at 80% of their usual potential. Going against three level-one city lords was plausible but the risk was high. Parlina needed to make careful decisions.
Porscher had just narrowly escaped death from his encounter with the bamboo shoot city lord. Even so, the incident hadn’t dampened his spirits. Unlike his kind and unassuming appearance, the chubby Magister had a fiery heart that itched to conquer.
Locke had no place to comment in a discussion between Magisters. He stood blankly at a corner in absolute silence. For some reason, Porscher had reminded him strongly of Merlin.
Merlin and Locke were still talking when they were still in the spatial fortress. However, they had unfortunately lost contact after landing in Botania. Locke could recall Merlin’s repeated complaints about his misfortune; both he and his mentor were unlucky enough to be stationed at Battlezone 10.
Appearances of level-three Botanians in Battlezone 10 were very frequent and level-two Botanians were common occurrences. It was the only zone after Battlezone 7 that had yet to be fully dominated by the Sanctum and Hall of Knights.
Locke sincerely hoped that Merlin would be alright. He was a very hardworking Lehrling with a bright future, after all.