Locke panted raggedly as he tried to lean against the wooden door as quietly as possible. The streets outside were filled with chaos as a dozen Botanian guards searched through every household under the lemon Botanian’s instruction. He attempted to calm his raging heart through the impetus breathing method. Then, he waited for their arrival.
“Is anyone home? Open up!” Someone banged the door violently.
Running his palms against his face, Locke pretended to be in a daze; he was going to act as if he had been awakened by the commotion. He quickly pulled on the military uniform received this morning and plastered the three leaves on his shoulder.
He opened the door just in time to stop a strawberry Botanians from barging in with a spear.
“Hey! Hey! Hey! What are you trying to do?!” Locke wasn’t about to let him in so easily. He quickly blocked the strawberry’s path by extending his arms. Funnily, their height difference made it look as if Locke was bullying a child.
The strawberry Botanian wasn’t dull. He quickly lifted his chin.
Locke’s unusual height was stressing the strawberry out. Despite that, it was actually his current attire that caused the Botanian much panic. The strawberry couldn’t help but stare at the three leaves on Locke’s shoulder.
“Ah! Pardon my intrusion, Senior Officer!” The strawberry quickly straightened himself and saluted.
“What’s going on?” Locke leaned across the door frame, keeping the insides of the house out of sight.
Since Locke was a member of the city guards, the strawberry Botanian decided there was no need to search his house. The strawberry held his spear up and answered, “Sir Ajin noticed someone suspicious so we’re searching for them.”
“Huh? Could it be an invader?” Locke feigned shock, making sure to introduce a slight tremor to his voice.
“No, it wasn’t one of the invaders.” The strawberry shook his head fervently. “It was a watermelon that managed to enter the forbidden zone--” The strawberry slapped a palm over his mouth. They weren’t supposed to disclose the existence of the forbidden zone to anyone, not even Locke who was also a city guard.
Locke feigned a look of understanding upon seeing the strawberry’s response. He patted the strawberry and slipped some grey soil into his pockets.
“Thank you, sir!” The strawberry immediately broke out into a smile. He wanted to refuse it at first but the slight hint of grey had him thinking otherwise.
“Go on, I don’t wish to interrupt your job.” Locke gave the strawberry a slight nod and watched the strawberry scurry to the next house.
There was unrest in the southwest of Mist City today, having been turned upside down by the city guards in the early morning. Many Botanians tried to theorise what might’ve transpired.
Once the strawberry Botanian and his squad were out of sight, Locke finally went inside. In that split second, something felt terribly wrong. Locke instinctively palmed his right shoulder, now noticing deep red seeping through his uniform. A bruise had formed on the pear Botanian’s yellow skin.
The magic robe could only offer a disguise; the illusion was incapable of masking his bodily injuries.
Locke quickly retrieved some potions and bandages from his spatial ring. Clenching his teeth, he began to slather medication over his wounds.
Meanwhile, in the lord’s manor of Mist City, a crystalline Botanian couldn’t hide his shock at his subordinate’s report.
“You’re saying that a suspicious watermelon was loitering in the forbidden area?” The city lord’s eyes went wide.
“Yes, My Lord.” A lemon Botanian knelt before the crystal fruit Botanian.
“Have you arrested him?”
“No, My Lord.” The lemon looked slightly bitter. He was one of the city lord’s trusted subordinates. Yet, he had failed to capture a regular watermelon Botanian.
“Increase patrol efforts around the forbidden area. We cannot afford to let anything go wrong there!” exclaimed the crystal fruit city lord sternly.
“Yes, My Lord!”
“I have a feeling that the invaders are coming soon.” The crystal fruit city lord was a level-one lifeform; he had been sensing a strange presence in the air lately. While the mist that surrounded the city was a visual obstacle to both Botanians and casters, the crystal fruit’s senses remained unaffected.
The crystal fruit had a feeling that the cruel invaders were just at the southwest of his territory.
The lemon general’s expression shifted. He quickly added, “With you and the Lady here, I’m sure Mist City will be--”
The crystal fruit interrupted, “No, Mist City is a goner if the crystal mist dissipates.” The city lord and his wife were the two level-one Botanians of Mist City; they were also the leaders of the crystal fruit tribe in the area.
There was an unmistakable weight in his lord’s tone, which allowed the lemon Botanian to understand the severity of the situation. The general quickly excused himself and left the manor.
The lemon couldn’t stop thinking about the watermelon Botanian last night. The watermelon had been fast enough to notice his presence and was able to start running in time. Something felt amiss. The most confusing part, however, was the lemon’s failure to catch up with the watermelon. Though he did manage to cause some damage to the watermelon, it was barely enough to kill him.
“Since when was there someone that strong in the city?” The lemon general pondered.
The lemon’s capabilities were placed just after the crystal fruit city lord. By Zauberian standards, he was already in the range of a quasi-Ritter. The numbers of Botanians of such calibre in this city wouldn’t run out of fingers to count.
Locke coughed out the last bit of blood left in his chest with one last heave. Colour was starting to return to his face and his wounds had been dressed in white bandages. From the outside, Locke the pear Botanian looked unscathed, save for his pale complexion. However, this was fine since pears all had yellow skin.
“It’s time to go check on the city guards.” He quickly cleaned up the room, tossing everything relatively suspicious into his spatial ring.
When Locke’s gaze landed on the crystal ball, his mind couldn’t help but wander to the odd place he had snuck into last night. From what he remembered, the area was almost barren. The soil was dry and sandy which didn’t make sense since Mist City enjoyed an abundance of water. The most eye-catching thing over there, however, was a seven-metre-tall tower in its centre.