“Brother Locke, are you going to leave Faustian after this?” Melson’s flabby arms retrieved his glass from the servants. He clinked it against Locke’s and downed it in a gulp.
Locke mirrored the twirls and elegant sways of the Faustian nobles with his glass absentmindedly. His mind was buzzing with thoughts; Locke hadn’t registered any of Melson’s words.
Melson wasn’t irritated by the lack of response, though. He raised his hand to ask for more wine. Melson wasn’t powerful enough to learn about the planar war. However, his wide business connections that spanned across multiple kingdoms along with his profound perceptiveness allowed him to realise that something was amiss.
The air was thick with tension and jitters recently. Melson had always felt chills down his spine when he attempted to link the mass disappearances of high-rank Knechts to the weird atmosphere.
His Uncle George was a high-rank Knecht too. Melson had done his best to pry information from the old man but George didn’t have much to spare. The older man had only known that those knights had left to answer the Hall of Knight’s call to arms.
George was getting old and he’d just been through two wars; his body was at its limits. The man was able to exempt himself from the mobilisation after paying a large amount of assets to the hall.
Plenty of high-rank Knechts across Missia, especially those that stood at the pinnacle of power, had done the same. After all, they were the only ones that could afford the fine that came with defying the hall’s order.
Locke was a high-rank Knecht that just came from Aomar, which was why Melson was eager to hear his perspective. The Kingdom of Faustian was far from Aomar, so there must be some news that they hadn’t learnt of yet. This was Melson’s gut feeling as an excellent trader.
From the looks of it, Locke had refused to answer further. Melson saw no point in forcing out an answer so he retrieved his glass from the servant and downed another serving of wine. Locke’s silence was an obvious cue; Melson understood that the answer was something he shouldn’t dabble into. Locke obviously knew a thing or two.
Even so, they moved past the topic and carried on. The garden began to fill with more nobles that were out for a dance. The sight of merry dancing made Melson itch to mirror their fun too. He turned to Locke, “Don’t you feel like dancing too?” He glanced over to Glace and the other girls. Melson was probably one of the very few in Faustian that knew of Locke’s wildness.
“No thanks. But don’t let me stop you from having some fun.” Locke shook his head and took a sip of his wine.
Truth be told, he didn’t know how to dance at all. The last time he’d danced was seven years ago when he and Angelina made it out of Morphey Forest. She’d taught him the basics during the prince’s banquet but it had been so long ago that Locke forgot everything. It went without saying that Glace could dance. Kristin and Laffey most likely knew how to dance too. However, Locke wasn’t in the mood to ask them for a lesson.
Apart from his growing homesickness, the other reason behind his reservation was the king. Locke wished to leave a good impression on his future father in law. The king’s coldness towards him earlier was very much felt. Despite his many encounters with fierce battles, near-death dangers along and the thrilling Botanian conquest, nothing could’ve prepared him to face King Faustian. The old king looked like any ordinary man but Locke had always felt apprehensive in his presence.
Locke cared not about noble titles and the power they came with. His hands were stained with the blood of at least hundreds; he’d slaughtered Shalorians, Aomarian thieves and alien creatures in the past. Yet, the souls reaped by his longsword had brought no substantial improvement to him. It did, however, bring huge changes to Locke’s perspective of the world.
Before he knew it, his new outlook had given him a special aura. Locke would usually suppress this aura at the bottom of his heart. Only Count Melson, who’d dealt with people of all walks often, could steal a glimpse or two. Was nobility the answer to a legitimate life? Could knighthood even dampen enemy attacks? Obviously not. Locke could chase after power just like everyone else but he could never lose himself in the process. His will was strong and he knew what to stay away from.
The king can do whatever he wants to me, thought Locke with his arm over his face, back pliant against the cold stone bench. Worst came to worst, he’d just bring everyone he loved away from Faustian and elope with Angelina! He was confident that the princess would follow him if that ever happened. However, he didn’t wish to see Angelina torn between family and love. He drew a sigh. Locke could only hope that the king would not break them apart.
It felt almost as if the world ran on power. Locke seethed in his mind. If he was a quasi-Ritter or better yet, a Ritter, the king wouldn’t have displayed such reluctance to approve of their union. Locke wouldn’t stand a chance at becoming a Ritter even with the resources they brought back from Botania. However, having him advance as a quasi-Ritter wasn’t too far of a stretch.
While Locke’s mind was plagued with a storm of thoughts, Melson had moved his big belly into the hoard of dancing aristocrats below. Many young and beautiful noblewomen began to flock to him with charming smiles.
Melson was in his thirties but he was still unmarried; he was the only bachelor among the high-ranking Faustian nobles. In his words, he’d like to enjoy a few years of freedom before thinking about settling down to build a family. However, his wish had made him the most radiant diamond among the Faustian aristocrats. The noblewomen were either after his influence or his wealth. But one thing was almost certain, no one was here for his looks.
As Count Melson began waltzing across the dance floor, Ranz entered the hall and went straight into the hall. At that moment, Princess Angelina and King Faustian were in the middle of a hearty conversation high above everyone else. Ranz made a beeline for the group of nobles on the left of the space.
“How did it go?” asked Kester blankly as he took a sip of wine. He stood by the window for an unobstructed view of Angelina’s beauty.
Ranz leaned over and whispered lengthily into Kester’s ear.