"Locke, you and Angelina will board the floating ship to Battlezone 7 two days later, understood?” Grandmeisterin Carla had appeared with a sweet smile one fine afternoon, catching Locke completely off guard with her odd instruction. However, Locke wasn’t worried that the photomancer would try to harm them. Carla was Angelina’s mentor, after all. Her instructions were bizarre, though. Locke had an inkling that there was another layer of meaning to Carla’s words but he couldn’t pinpoint it.
Battlezone 7 was the Sanctum and Hall of Knight’s base of operations on Botania. It was also the first place where Locke and the others had landed after departing the spatial fortress. Through successive waves of planned attacks by the Zauberian force, there were no longer any wild Botanians roaming around the area. From what Locke could recall, Battlezone 7 was just a piece of barren land with multiple warehouses that held the captured Botanians.
Despite his confusion, he nodded without hesitation. “Understood.” It was best not to disobey the will of a Magister.
As the home to tens of thousands of Botanians, Thorn City was understandably massive. The mere thousands of slaves on their side could only erode the city bit by bit. Fortunately, the surviving Botanians had close to no capacity to retaliate since they were mostly weaker than mid-rank major monsters.
Grandmeisterin Jella’s explicit orders meant that the slaves were forced to ditch their plans to rest. Everyone was made to work through the night to meet her demand. The tough battle that spanned across three full days had been excruciatingly tiring even for Locke. Keep in mind that he was a high-rank Knecht with years of military experience! But really, he was more mentally strained than physically exhausted. His high-rank Knecht capabilities had given him the physique of a high-rank major monster but not its mental abilities.
Speaking of which, major monsters were capable of using magic too. Their nucleus cores were magic reserves and most of their utilisation was in the form of mental abilities, just like the casters.
Most casters in the contingent were fatigued too. Though staying up through the night was nothing difficult since they’d spent every possible hour in laboratories without proper rest or sustenance, the war had pushed their bodies to its limits.
A planar war on foreign lands was not as effortless as executing experiments in the laboratory, let alone going through a harsh battle that went on for three full days. The casters were already dead tired by the end of the first day. This was made the most obvious among Lehrlings of lower capabilities, which was why there was a special arrangement for them to attack in batches. This particular strategy, which was highly praised by Parlina, had been proposed by a quasi-Magister. With that, the Lehrlings were able to recharge their stamina better.
This was the first time the Three Western Isles had deployed lifeforms below level-one for planar wars. There were many things that the Sanctum and Hall of Knights failed to predict. Their losses and issues had been often things they’d least expected. Regardless, the issue had to be solved. Those who could propose a viable solution would be handsomely rewarded by the Sanctum and Hall of Knights.
At some point, Locke found Angelina with Daenie somewhere in Thorn City and led them to a wooden Botanian cottage.
“Get some sleep here for the night, I’ll pick you up tomorrow,” said Locke. The girls were already sitting on the bed. It was two in the morning. While their surroundings were filled with the roars and screams of battles, the noise barely amounted to anything to the exhausted.
“Okay,” answered Daenie incoherently, face bleary. She was a tad more drained than Angelina for she had taken part in the breach and was running around the battlefield as a healer. The hydromancer’s magic reserves were mostly depleted.
Though so, Daenie's first concern wasn’t to recover her magic powers. She merely wished to enjoy some good-quality slumber. Her lost mental powers would have to be replenished through either meditation or sufficient rest. Better yet, both.
Meditation tended to be uninteresting and dull so Daenie preferred good quality sleep. She was so exhausted that she’d completely ignored Locke’s presence. Without hesitation, she peeled off her periwinkle robe to reveal fuzzy pink pyjamas.
She must’ve bought the pyjamas in Princeton, mused Locke. It looked very similar to the set he’d gifted Lia some time ago.
Daenie pulled the sheets over her frame and promptly fell asleep.
“Are you not going to rest too?” asked Angelina.
“Nope. I’m still needed on the frontlines.” At least one-third of the casters had chosen to rest for the night. The slaves still needed a leader and despite the Magisters’ lack of instructions, Locke figured he should shoulder the responsibility. But of course, his effort would be rewarded by the Magisters. Paired with the spoils he’d loot tonight, his gain would be sufficiently satisfying.
“Then I’ll come with you!” Angelina sat up from her spot on the bed.
“No! You will rest tonight!” Locke rushed forward and pressed her back onto the bed. He quickly silenced her with a rough clash of lips. “I’ll come for you tomorrow morning,” murmured Locke as he closed the door behind him quietly.
“Alright,” Angelina mumbled back in the dark.
Angelina was in a daze, her head spinning from the searing kiss. Since she had grown up in a sheltered environment, exposed to nothing other than fatherly love. As such, she had always found herself mindlessly obeying Locke. Subconsciously, Angelina liked his assertiveness. However, this was a secret that she’d never tell. It was too embarrassing.
While Angelina battled with her palpitating heart and flushed cheeks, Daenie was already off to dreamland. There was a string of drool peeking out the corner of her cute lips.
The world outside the wooden house was still filled with shrill screams and battle cries. So far, the slaves and casters had only managed to round up three thousand Botanians; most of Thorn City’s population was still free.
Unfortunately, their freedom was bound to be short lived. The city gates were barricaded and the Botanian had no way to escape unless they dug a tunnel or flew away. Even if they did manage to exit the city, there was nowhere else to seek refuge. Most of the nearby Botanian cities had fallen over two months
Locke took out his time quantifier from his spatial ring. There were five hours until sunrise. While he hadn’t bought the time quantifier in the trading zone of the Sanctum, he had gotten it through another regular Lehrling. Everyone here owned one; it was a common and useful little tool among the mid and high-rank Lehrlings.
He tossed the equipment into his pockets and loosened his armour plates. It was time to utilise his remaining hours to fetch as many spoils as he humanely could. Locke waved a few nearby slaves closer and brought them on a looting spree across Thorn City.