Locke rubbed his full stomach with delight as he ground his teeth against the last bit of red melon flesh.
Ashar, who was deemed severely unapproachable, leaned back against her wooden chair with similar lax. There were red stains at the edge of her lips, a mess of tiny black seeds across her face. She looked far from being a posh Magister.
“I’m surprised that the watermelon Botanian’s blood could trigger a spawning response when inserted into regular watermelons,” commented Locke as he watched Ashar through the corner of his eyes. It was rare to see her in such an unkempt state.
Ignoring him, she snapped her fingers and her mess was gone.
“I’ll try another flavour next time.” She licked her lips, eyes glimmering with mischief.
Locke merely shrugged; he wasn’t against it nor was he accepting of it. Whatever Ashar had in mind for her next Botanian experiments had nothing to do with Locke, though.
A dehydrated watermelon Botanian corpse was haphazardly disposed of at no more than ten metres away from the cottage. Based on Zauberian standards, the watermelon was as strong as a quasi-Ritter. Yet, its entire blood essence had only managed to spawn three regular Zauberian watermelons.
Locke excused himself after a while.
One of the Sanctum’s troupe would be visiting their zone soon, to which they’d hand over the five thousand regular Botanians for a reward of Botanian essence. The Magisters had prolonged the contingent’s stay in Nimbus City for that very reason. Locke had been fortunate enough to participate in the handover since he played a commander-like role to the slaves.
Terrified Botanians were dominated by violence as a huge green-skinned monster danced its whip wildly. The monster hunter hound followed the crowd closely with flickering green flames in its eyes.
The floating ship that hovered above them was at least three hundred metres long; it was massive. However, its scale didn’t seem promising.
Locke gnawed on the tip of a branch as he approached a nearby Lehrling for answers. “Are you sure the Botanians can all fit into the ship?“
The Lehrling had just alighted the ship earlier. He was a mid-rank Lehrling with freckles and blond hair. The caster didn’t hesitate to entertain Locke’s query, seemingly being one of the rare talkative casters.
“Well, there’s only five thousand Botanians here. We could fit in seven thousand Botanians last time,” answered the freckled Lehrling with a smile. He had introduced himself as Ron and claimed to be a member of the Blitter Royal Family.
Locke hadn't heard of the Kingdom of Blitter. Since he couldn’t recall such a kingdom on the Missia Continent, Ron was most definitely from either one of the neighbouring continents.
Ron began introducing Locke to the huge floating ship and its spatial mechanism. “All we need to do is usher them inside. The interior space is equipped with a five spatial layer mechanism that was designed by Grandmeister Bamut. Theoretically speaking, there should be enough space to accommodate ten thousand Botanians.”
Even so, Locke was sure it would be a tight squeeze. There will be fewer Botanians left at the end of the trip since a good portion of them would’ve died from suffocation or getting stepped on. But really, the lives of the Botanians were none of Locke’s concern. The only thing he cared about was his two-gram reward of Botanian essence once the handover was done.
Locke was already looking forward to seizing Mist City. He had an inkling that his adequate storage of Botanian essence would transcend him into the peak high-rank Knecht stage or even further as a quasi-Ritter.
“Here, this is your next mission.” In the city hall of Nimbus City, Parlina handed Locke a black robe and a singular ochre crystal. The Magister had summoned him over to their temporary stronghold for a surprising briefing session.
Locke was to infiltrate Mist City! His identity would be concealed by the black robe in his grip, which happened to be powerful magic equipment that generated a glamour for disguises. The ochre crystal, on the other hand, was a useful tool that would project real-time translations into his mind.
Carla and Ashar were nowhere to be seen. If they were here, Locke would’ve questioned them about the high-stake mission but all Locke could do was relent. He had no right to defy the orders of a Magister despite the dangers of the mission. It was only until his begrudging departure that Ashar and Carla revealed themselves. They had been hiding their presence in the room for a while now.
“Will he be alright? He’s just a high-rank Knecht.” Carla couldn’t help but worry.
“It can’t be helped. Mist City isn’t as simple as we think. I’ve already submitted a report to the Sanctum and it’s best if we send someone over to investigate it.”
Mist City was segregated from the outside world due to its perpetual thick veil of fog. The fog wasn’t ordinary either; it prevented casters from looking into the city with mental powers.
Ashar watched Locke’s retreating back with disinterest, the only thing in her mind now was a trivial question of which fruit tasted the best. The watermelons spawned by the watermelon Botanian’s blood essence was scrumptious but there were a few other remarkable tastes that both Ashar and Locke tried as well. Despite the high stakes, Ashar wasn’t the least bit worried about Locke.
He put on the black robe and brought the monster hunter hound by its leash into the ranges of Mist City. To be honest, he wasn’t very convinced that the magic robe would do him any good. Locke figured it was best to complete the mission fast and leave as soon as possible.
The forest outside Mist City was filled with milky white crystals. Despite its crystalline appearance, it behaved more like a plant. Locke snapped one out of curiosity, noting that white liquid started to ooze from the crevices. It smelled oddly like tree sap. It became clear that the milky crystals were the main culprit behind Mist City’s constant veil.
Regardless, Locke still was frustrated about his current situation. He cursed the Magister internally for not attending to this mission themselves. Heck, even sending a smarter slave to handle the investigation would’ve been a better choice. Clouded by his irritation, Locke slipped up and kicked a rock.
“Who’s there?!” An odd voice rang out. Though Locke couldn’t speak their language, he could understand it well. The ochre crystal against his chest radiated with warmth. Trouble was coming.
Locke quickly kicked at the monster hunter hound. “Run!”
The hound shot towards the skies in a beam of red immediately.