Their job wasn’t as difficult as they’d imagined; Locke was able to grasp the full flow in just a day’s worth of work. The earlier training had clearly paid off. Angelina, on the other hand, was given the mere task of inspecting the energy recirculation circuits while Locke’s chore was to keep a close eye on the imprisoned Botanians there.
Zone B138 was located on the bottom left of the spatial fortress. The mere corner had covered close to a hundred thousand square metres since the structure was massive to start. It was very bewildering that Locke and Angelina were the only ones stationed here for its maintenance and operation.
Thousands of floating ships had risen to the skies in unison three days earlier, creating a majestic view that didn’t go unnoticed by the knights and casters below. The Botanians too lifted their heads and watched the crowded sky. It looked the same as it did six months ago when the invaders had arrived in their homeland. When these black dots had gone out of sight across the horizon, the Botanians had been gullible enough to think that they’d chased the invaders away.
The World Tree at the heart of the Holy City watched the cohort of floating ships solemnly. There was not a single hint of joy in its muddled eyes and soon enough, a tear came sliding down its bark. Its sole existence was to protect the Botanians, its lifeforce closely tied to the destiny of the plane and its inhabitants. The mother tree was pained to learn that nearly thirteen million Botanians had been loaded into these ships to be brought to the Three Western Isles.
Since Botanian essences were difficult to preserve, the Sanctum and Hall of Knights agreed to transport live Botanians back to Zauberia. The extraction of essences would only be done when needed.
Apart from Locke and Angelina, there were hundreds of maintenance technicians on the same floating ship headed for the spatial fortress. They too were the lucky ones that could return to Zauberia earlier than expected.
Borlon and Cassius looked out the top floors of the huge building in Battlezone 7.
“Who’s leading the current return trip?” Borlon asked his favourite pupil as they watched the floating ships take flight.
“It’s Grandmeister Mossenki, the Frostmourner.”
Once they reached level three, Magisters would coin themselves a sobriquet as a symbol of their strength.
“Oh, I see.” Borlon nodded in acknowledgement. He knew who Mossenki was since they’d been involved in a planar war together some thousand years ago when they were still level-two Magister and Ritter.
“Kaffee and Aunor are escorting the return too. I’m sure the trip should be pretty smooth,” Cassius chuckled.
“Yeah, they’re both pretty reliable after all. I can rest assured if they’re involved.” Kaffee and Aunor were level-three Himmelritters appointed by the Hall of Knights directly to escort the spatial fortress’ return. These elites were specifically approved by Borlon for their involvement.
Despite that, the spatial fortress’ journey back to Botania might not be as smooth-sailing as anticipated for the vast astral realm bore endless room for trouble. There were countless stronger lifeforms and if they’d accidentally entered alien territory, the fortress’ tough defences and overwhelming cannon might not be sufficient. The presence of a level-three lifeform was absolutely necessary. It would be better if there was a level-four lifeform onboard even; they were the only ones that could explore the astral realm without reservation.
Unfortunately, the only level-four lifeform here was Odis. The Himmelritter needed to keep a close eye on the progress of their conquest of Botania. If he’d left with the spatial fortress, it was likely that the Botanians would attempt a formidable counterattack.
Both the Sanctum and the Hall of Knights still had a million Knechts and Lehrlings on Botania at stake. If these young beacons were to die here, the Three Western Isles would face a serious shortage of talent soon. This was something that no prominent organisation wished to see.
But of course, Locke had no part to be concerned about. All he needed to worry about was how to manage the Botanians in Zone B138. Everything was a mess. There was no order nor were there any proper arrangement; all he could see was a heap of Botanians packed like sardines in this huge zone. The captured Botanians bore a diverse array of appearances but they shared something in common: they were essentially powerless, being only as strong as regular Zauberians at best. As Locke studied their shorter stature and skinny limbs, he had a feeling that even the feeble farmers in the mountains could easily knock them over unarmed.
There were about eleven thousand Botanians in Zone B138 and it was pretty unbelievable that the captured Botanians were put under the care of two people. But to be honest, there wasn’t much to do here. He’d only need to feed them once a day.
The spatial fortress was most certainly the state of the art; Locke had never seen magic applied this sophisticatedly anywhere else. To feed the Botanians, he’d just pull on a simple lever nearby and soil particles would come raining down from the ceiling onto the captured Botanians below. Though the feeding was simple, there was another harder task. Locke was also required to record and manage Botanians that had died in captivity.
If the dead bodies were left unattended, they’d trigger a severe disease outbreak within the next few days. While the Sanctum and Hall of Knights couldn’t be bothered with the Botanians’ wellbeing, the plague would contaminate the Botanian essence hence the authorities couldn’t afford to ignore the issue.
After feeding the Botanians in Zone B138, Locke walked the corridors and studied them through the transparent windows. Perhaps mealtime wasn’t the best for observation. The soil particles were insufficient to satiate every Botanian’s hunger; there was fierce competition among them for more food and they grew desperate as the days passed. All Locke could see now were countless Botanians on their knees while licking the ground intently. It was truly a pathetic and filthy sight. Since he didn't note anything useful, Locke decided he was better off having lunch with Angelina now. He could always resume his inspection when he returned.
On the other end, Angelina was responsible for inspecting the mana power circuit in the same zone. Her job was a tad bit easier than Locke’s; at least she wouldn’t need to pinpoint dead Botanians among a messy sea of nearly ten thousand Botanians.