As expected, Ashar’s tent was erected further than the rest. It wasn’t that she was ostracised by the other Magisters, she just preferred to be alone. She didn’t wish to mingle with anyone.
Locke went over in the afternoon to clean her room and the makeshift laboratory. The shadowmancer rarely tidied her living quarters since she refused to make physical effort for something achievable via spellcasting. Though magic brought great convenience, it wasn’t the perfect solution for tidiness. It could only reach larger areas, leaving the small crevices essentially untouched.
Now that Locke had been her assistant for six months, he was fully aware of her preferences. While her room in the Sanctum tower was cleaned by tower spirits and slaves, Locke was the only help she could get on Botania.
This was all self-initiative; Ashar had never requested his help. Locke had never stopped assisting her despite the lack of reward, to which the Magister made an effort to acknowledge his efforts.
As he returned to his tent, Locke began to ponder about his future. Becoming a Ritter was the next step after becoming a high-rank Knecht. Even so, there was still an intermediate phase widely known by the public as a quasi-Ritter or peak high-rank Knecht.
Locke still had a long way to go before he could become a Ritter. Plus, he had yet to look into the specific criteria for its advancement. Speaking of which, he was already off to the Sanctum with Angelina as soon as he advanced as a high-rank Knecht.
The Hall of Knights had offered the most comprehensive knight training system in Zauberia. Locke had thought about joining another organisation but he was already a member of the hall; the hall had left a mental imprint on him during registration. All he needed to focus on now was to achieve the quasi-Ritter rank.
The injuries sustained during his infiltration of Mist City had left Locke feeling vulnerable. He felt lacking; before he could even encounter the level-one Botanian city lord, the lemon general was already a handful to handle. Locke would’ve died in Mist City if it wasn’t for the combination of the strong magic robe, his agility and mastery of wind impetus.
During his time at the Princeton Hall of Knights, Locke had been lucky enough to encounter quasi-Ritters and the group of spellbane knights at the trading street, who’d kindly shared with Locke some knowledge and their experience of quasi-Ritter advancements.
Simply put, it was bound to be a long process of accumulation. High-rank Knechts would need to hone their impetus to its peak and apply everything they’d learnt over the years to become a Ritter.
It was typical for all quasi-Ritters to have a unique skill set since it was the foundation for all level-one lifeforms and beyond. Locke was self-conscious enough to admit he had nothing special to offer. Compared to the other high-rank Knechts, his only advantage was his frequent participation in wars. Governed by the Sanctum and Hall of Knights, the Three Western Isles lived in peace. There were rarely wars on their territory so Locke’s survival experience was incredibly valuable. If Romm wasn’t a level-two Erdritter during the Shalorian war, Shalor wouldn’t have anything to offer in the battle; the Aomarian Empire wouldn’t have been forced to shut an eye for peace.
“I should try my luck with the towering major monster soon,” murmured Locke under his breath. There were four base-rank major monsters in their contingent. He had an inkling that the strongest among them was the dark towering major monster.
Locke required a copious amount of high-rank and above Botanian essence for the sake of his advancement. From what he knew, the towering base-rank monster had devoured at least one Botanian of quasi-Ritter capabilities during the attack of Mist City. Locke had consumed Botanian essence of that quality once and was pleasantly surprised by its amazing performance.
He didn’t need much; he just needed five pieces of supreme quality Botanian essence to pair with his daily training. Locke was confident that he could become a quasi-Ritter within two years.
Locke and the girls dug into their dinner that night in front of his treehouse. Apart from Angelina and Daenie, the massive scorpiondrake familiar too had joined them on the grass patches for a warm meal.
He rotated numerous meat skewers periodically over a fire, droplets of fat dripping downwards and producing audible sizzles. The smell was amazing, causing Angie who had been dozing off on the side to start salivating profusely.
The girls busied themselves to help with meal prep. Daenie was tasked with cleaning the meat with clean water while Angelina would control the fire intensity with pyromancy. Locke and Angelina made a good pair; they worked seamlessly together and there was barely any burnt meat. If there was any, they were all promptly fed to Angie. The three humans and one scorpiondrake stargazed on the cooling grass after a hearty meal. Their minds began to wander as they admired the dense network of stars above.
“Hey... No more risky missions, okay?” grumbled Angelina as she hugged Locke’s arm. She basked in the warmth of this moment.
“I couldn’t say no. It was a mission given by your grandmeisterin.” Locke tried to explain himself.
“I’m going to need to speak to her if it happens again!” Angelina gritted her teeth. Despite treating Parlina like her own grandmother, it appeared that she could be angry at her.
“Shh… It’s alright.” Locke caressed her long blonde locks.
Daenie stayed out of their interaction. Though she was once afraid of the vicious-looking scorpiondrake, she had a complete change of perspective after having the chance to rest on its back.
Angie was only eight years old at most. Under Angelina and Locke’s training, the familiar was now incredibly ruthless towards enemies but very kind to its allies. Often, one would find the scorpiondrake salivating and brandishing its fangs as a greeting. Locke would always punch it away whenever that happened.
Daenie, on the other hand, wasn’t as merciless as Locke. Though Angie’s saliva was soaking through her periwinkle robe, she still liked the intimidating but innocent scorpiondrake regardless.
“Hey! If you keep feeding it, it’ll grow fat and it won’t be able to carry you around anymore.” Locke was quick to chastise Daenie, who had been feeding the scorpiondrake non-stop.
Angie was still a mid-rank major monster; it was only about as strong as the weakest cannon fodder of the slave army. Yet, it was lucky that its owner was someone of a stronger background. Angelina had always brought it around the battlefield after the war to gather spoils. Since Angelina was Grandmeisterin Carla’s mentee, all the casters would turn a blind eye to her antics.
The potential of the scorpiondrake’s bloodline was major. Angie’s advancement from birth to becoming a mid-rank major monster had been smooth sailing. Every step of its journey had been so easy that even the most talented Angelina was jealous of her familiar.
The fastest way for a scorpiondrake’s advancement was to feed continuously. The elemental compatibility of its nutrition wasn’t all that crucial; while there weren’t many dark or dragon-attribute monsters in the camp, there was plenty to eat here.
Flesh, blood and crystal cores of other elements brought limited performance for scorpiondrakes. However, they had lots of major monsters in the contingent to work around. Angie’s capabilities were improving exponentially through the effort of accumulation. Its size was the biggest testament to its growth. It was considerably massive now but Locke knew that the scorpiondrake was heading towards a five-metre length very soon.
“I’m sure Angie will become a high-rank major monster in three months or less,” said Angelina.
Locke’s heart couldn’t help but sting at that. His route to becoming a high-rank Knecht had been incredibly gruelling; he was close to death by the end of it.
The scorpiondrake’s advancement would bring added advantages to Angelina. Through their bond, there would be a considerable transfer of power between the master and the familiar. Angie would become a reliable bodyguard and a source of power to the Faustian princess.
With that, Angelina could rely on Angie’s capabilities to calibrate her mental abilities and magic to the same level of competency. Even without it, Angelina was bound to become a high-rank Lehrling in the future since she was already under the tutelage of Grandmeisterin Parlina and Grandmeisterin Carla.
When morning arrived, Locke was quick to roll out of bed. He’d do his daily training and greet Angelina before setting out for the slave camp. Today, he was going to meet the dark towering base-rank major monster.
Angelina had taught him much about the base-rank slave. It was a komodo monster native to Zauberia that probably committed a crime so bad as to garner enslavement. Locke wished to trade with the komodo monster. From what he had learnt, the major monster used to serve Magister Reiner; Locke would have to display some sincerity to achieve his goal.
“I’ll trade everything here for one Botanian core fit for quasi-Ritters.” A colourful line of potions was spread in front of the slave. There were even two high-rank major monster hearts that were still palpitating, which Locke had gotten from a well-acquainted Lehrling. The fresh beating hearts belonged to a stone and terra element monster respectively, there was no way the komodo monster could resist that.
“If that isn’t enough, there is more!”
The slave’s eyes widened at a glimpse of the half-filled silver potion tube in Locke’s grip.
It was the Iron Body potion concocted with a base of a level-one hilder monster’s blood. Locke was offering his trump card! The potion boasted an intense temporary boost to one’s defences and could even permanently fortify the resistance of one’s skin. Yet, the dark towering major monster remained silent.
While Locke considered offering the remaining half of his Speedy Dragon potion, an excruciatingly pungent smell permeated the air. Bit by bit, two differently sized Botanian essences came rolling out of the komodo monster’s salivating jaw.