With its hunger satiated with one whole Botanian, Angie wasn’t bothered by Laney’s presence. It had just devoured half a nucleus core of a quasi-Ritter Botanian so it was feeling a little drowsy. Based on Angelina’s experiences, its recent lethargy was a sign that the scorpiondrake was about to advance and become a high-rank major monster soon.
This was impressive. Angie was barely ten years old and it was already at this calibre. No words could describe the sheer speed of its progression. The scorpiondrake would’ve just been out of its juvenile stage if it hadn’t entered a contract with Angelina; it would’ve only been as strong as a low rank or mid-rank major monster at this point. Major monsters with higher potential lived longer lives. Angie’s stomach was filled to its brim. However, it looked like it wouldn’t be able to enjoy a peaceful nap since a female spellbane knight was caressing its scales constantly.
“It’s so smooth!” Laney’s eyes were positively sparkling. Angie’s inky green scales felt almost as if it had a layer of oil slathered on. It was chill to the touch and unbelievably smooth.
“My familiar is very particular about its hygiene!” said Angelina proudly. The scorpiondrake could use hydromancy and it was not typically associated with cleanliness. The main reason behind its ability to upkeep its tidy appearance was its strict master.
Angie had been subjected to the Faustian princess’ harsh conditioning since young. Any refusal to bathe would result in no meals. It soon became a routine for the scorpiondrake to be washed at least once every three days; the last time it had been cleaned was before boarding the floating ship. Though Angelina hadn’t gotten the chance to release Angie out of its pouch, it was capable of maintaining its hygiene thanks to her effective training.
Laney’s stare grew hotter. Ignoring the enticement of good food and malt beer, she stuck closer to Angelina to hear more about her experiences with familiar domestication. Caster had familiars while the knights’ equivalent was a mount; Laney had long yearned to get herself one. However, the major monsters sold at the Hall of Knights were ridiculously expensive and those that she could hunt herself were too plain to her liking. That was why she hadn’t gotten one till this day.
Horses were no longer suitable mounts for high-rank Knechts since their physiques were similar to major monsters'. Besides, their presence would be too strong for regular animals to handle; they’d intimidate the horses greatly and affect their performances. Though her brother, Wright, had also promised to help her capture a suitable major monster, he hadn’t done so yet.
“Where did you find your scorpiondrake?” asked Laney after a round of lighthearted jokes. It was apparent that she wanted to get one too. Considering that regular scorpiondrakes were only as strong as mid-rank major monsters, a powerful collaboration between Laney and her brother was bound to warrant success.
“I got her from Morphey Forest, within the Faustian territory,” answered Angelina.
Angelina had learnt that Laney was from the Ligia Union from their earlier exchanges. Though she despised her stepmother, who was associated with the Ligia Union, she had nothing against its people. There was a welcomed sense of familiarity since their hometowns were near each other. The female spellbane knight was a genuine and honest person. Angelina had never met anyone like that; people like Laney made good friends since they had no ulterior motives.
As the girls continued their talk about the plethora of major monsters in Morphey Forest, Locke and the other spellbane knights continued their lively conversation. Before they knew it, their booze had already run out.
It was a surprise that the brew wasn’t strong, since this was an establishment that catered to knights. Perhaps it was a deliberate choice since there was a higher risk associated with drunken accidents on foreign planes, which could easily lead to unnecessary deaths.
“The booze here is just so-so. When we get back, I’ll treat you to better beer from our hometown!” Wright guffawed, the scar across his face contorting with his facial muscles. Despite the rather grotesque display, Locke didn’t feel uncomfortable with it. Wright had been nothing but generous so he gladly accepted his invitation.
“Sure! Just hit me up and I’ll be there, Brother Wright!”
No one knew when the planar war would end and their return to Zauberia felt out of reach. Unlike the Ritters that’d lived for centuries, what would be regarded as a ‘short’ two to three-year war was excruciatingly long for high-rank Knechts and Lehrlings.
The average human on the Three Western Isles only lived to fifty years of age while impetus and magic users would live a little longer. Even so, a lifespan of seventy to eighty years of age was already their limit.
“Oh, Nier… Poor Nier can no longer join us…” Now with a few mugs of booze down their bellies, one of the spellbane knights grew emotional at the thought of a fallen comrade. Tears began to spill out of his reddened eyes.
At the mention of Nier, the other knights fell into a sombre state. Wright, who was just laughing with Locke earlier, immediately felt sorrow grip him. Laney’s expression was crestfallen as well.
Spellbane knights were outcasts among the knights. They were lone wolves by nature. Yet, they were the most united group of all. They’d form an inseparable bond through years of hunting down formidable dark casters. Locke didn’t need much to tell that Nier was part of their spellbane cohort and had died in battle. While spellbane knights were desensitized to death, their hearts still ached at the passing of a beloved friend.
It was true that a knight only real necessities were their armour and sword. Despite that, they were still humans that required quality companionship; there was no way anyone could endure eternal solitude.
“A toast to your beloved Brother Nier!” Locke raised his mug solemnly.
“Rest in peace, Brother Nier.”
“To Brother Nier!”
Locke’s heartfelt gesture won their hearts, immediately earning their approval.
Locke could put him in their shoes easily since the Shalorian War had robbed many of his comrades’ lives. He considered himself lucky that his closest friends and lover were still beside him. At this very moment, Locke solemnly swore to protect his loved ones for eternity.
Their booze was destined to be bottomless as the group continued to drink and talk past noon and until sunset. The knights had never once left the premises and there was no pause to the noises they were making. It was only until the tavern was about to close for the day that the knights finally decided to return to their cabins. They helped each other up and lifted their drunken comrades back to rest.
Laney bid farewell to Angelina in front of the tavern. Wright was leaning heavily onto Laney’s side and Angelina helped Locke walk. The two girls had promised that they’d delved deeper into familiar domestication when they’d meet again.