Locke and Angelina could only stay in Faustian for a month. Soon, they’d have to rush to the Sanctum to catch the spatial fortress’ departure; the two would be leaving Zauberia again. Being away from the Sanctum and Hall of Knights meant that they knew nothing of the current progress. Anyhow, they were determined to utilise their month-long stay in Faustian to spend more time with their families. Locke had spent every day with his parents while flirting with his lovers whenever possible. Life couldn’t be any better.
Locke ripped away the metal weights attached to his limbs and plopped his bottom to the ground. He couldn't bear his sweat, but some rest was needed. Despite being home, Locke had continued his daily strength training. He had always disagreed that impetuses were the core of a knight’s training, choosing to focus on strengthening his body instead. This decision was probably attributed to his military experience since he hadn’t been able to use impetus back then.
His approach was different from the knights that were brought up in aristocratic families because he never had a real mentor. He’d figured out and planned everything regarding his training. But admittedly, there were pros and cons in his methods.
The good thing was that Locke could adjust his regime to his needs. This would allow him to elevate his combat abilities to their maximum. Yet, this would leave behind hidden adverse effects. While tried and tested examples weren’t exactly perfect, it was at least a ticket away from troubles and a good reference for the future generation. However, since Locke had no direction whatsoever, he’d have to find his way around this.
He sensed someone approaching him. There was no need for visual confirmation, he just knew who it was through pure gut feeling. A faint fragrance wafted into his nostrils. It wasn’t the more grounded and richer scent that surrounded Glace nor was it the ethereal and charming fragrance Suzzane used.
A white towel dropped onto Locke’s exposed shoulder as Lia proffered a cup of water in silence. Locke quickly wiped his sweat to receive the offering. Then he resumed his efforts.
The boundary that separated high-rank Knechts and quasi-Ritters had always been vague. This was a stage where Knechts had successfully expanded their impetus reserves to their maximum capacity. While quasi-Ritters couldn’t replenish their reserves with the impetus particles readily available in the air, their impetus capacity was already on par with Ritters.
Locke’s current impetus vortex was about as big as an infant’s fist. It was sticky and pale green in colour, which was the trademark of the wind impetus. Currently, Locke needed to focus on compressing his vortex. When he’d finally mastered the technique of converting his sticky liquid vortex into solid projections seamlessly, he’d finally become a quasi-Ritter.
Locke had only managed to collect little information on the criteria for becoming a Ritter. From what he’d learnt from the books of the Princeton Imperial Academy’s Library, it seemed to require a state of harmony with one’s environment, which was vaguely described as 'unity with heaven’. The jargon was hard to comprehend; Locke had spent a full week in the library but failed to conclude anything useful.
Perhaps he hadn’t reached a status that’d allow him to get acquainted with stronger knights. However, now that he was nurtured by the planar war, Locke could finally understand the essence of the jargon. Despite his inability to pinpoint what exactly he needed to do, there was now a direction to develop towards. ‘To be one with heaven’ meant to sense the freely available impetus energy in the air as much as possible.
The biggest difference between Ritters and Knechts was their durability in planar warfare. Ritters were less affected by the plane’s suppression, which was the main reason why knights and casters below level one were never involved in past conquests led by the Three Western Isles.
The planar war on Botania had revealed the biggest issues of deploying Knechts and Lehrlings to war; they were weak and consumed a lot of resources. Up till this moment, the consumption of energy crystals by the Sanctum and Hall of Knights were astronomical. The organisations had mainly allocated these crystals to the Knechts and Lehrlings as power replenishments following each battle.
Honestly speaking, the Sanctum and Hall of Knights would’ve been better off purchasing more slaves to be cannon fodders than depleting their energy crystals for rehabilitation. Slaves were disposables and the institutes wouldn’t have spared them any concern anyway. Plus, their carcasses could even be fed to the other slaves as food and magic cores and other materials could be harvested to mend losses too. If the main forces of the Sanctum and Hall of Knights weren't waging war on Centauria, those below level-one wouldn’t have been involved in the Botanian invasion in the first place.
Once he was done with today’s training, Locke greeted his parents and headed straight for the Felorian Palace. Angelina had managed to leave the palace to meet Locke a few times recently. Since she’d ‘occupied’ Locke for more than a year, she’d grown more reluctant to spend time apart.
For the sake of easing his entry into the palace, Angelina had even handed him a medallion that would allow freedom of movement within royal grounds. This was often reserved for members of the royal family that were specifically blood relatives of favour.
Locke gulped. Could Angelina have given him her medallion?
Anyway, Angelina never needed one to enter the palace. Her magic activity and unique beauty were unmistakable. Even if the seasoned guards stationed at the gates were to go blind, they could never fail to recognise her.
Unlike before, Locke wasn’t here to spend some alone time with her today. He was visiting to follow up on her current progress. They’d been in Felor for almost a week. Despite his identity as a mere knight, he had been caught up in endless waves of appointments. The few nobles that he’d gotten acquainted with in Felor started to pay visits to his mansion. Though he was bothered by their appearances, he could only smile as a courtesy.
He couldn’t just chase them out, right? Even if he had no plans to stay in Felor, his parents still lived here. Everyone knew that nobles were vengeful gremlins so Locke learnt to tread carefully around them.
If Locke was busy, it went without saying that Angelina was even busier. He could only hope that the eager nobles wouldn’t hamper her progress. A high-rank Lehrling was an intermediate existence among the casters. The strongest caster in the kingdom was Angelina’s first mentor and the old man was just a high-rank Lehrling.
If Angelina were to succeed, she’d become the youngest and most magically competent caster in Faustian. This was a major feat even in the Sanctum for she was a few years shy of turning twenty-five. The advancement of a caster was much more gruelling than that of knights, after all.
Following directions from a few servants, Locke crossed many corridors of the elaborate palace towards the princess’ chamber. The palace was indeed different. While Locke had visited the palace many times in the past, he hadn’t managed to trek every corner of its premises. He did, however, manage to conjure a mental map of the Faustian palace.
Some of the courtyards were debate grounds for state affairs while some were chambers for the princes and princesses. There was also the servant’s quarter somewhere in between. The majestic Faustian palace had occupied an area as big as the Princeton Imperial Academy.
Locke had wished to visit the Royal Library the most among many places in the palace. It was said that it housed an ocean of books and the collection wasn’t just focused on the founding of the kingdom. But of course, Locke wasn’t after its literature works but more rather the various records of combat techniques.
Locke’s Falconim impetus ranked middle among the many knight cultivation techniques. The wind element was never an aggressive element so many knights had gravitated towards the more mainstream pyro or terra element.
Though it was too late for Locke to change his cultivation direction, he did have a plan: Locke was going to study impetus techniques of other elements to see if he could pick it up. Hence, past combat records of other elements were very attractive to Locke.
Once he’d arrived at Angelina’s courtyard, the servants and maids bowed and took their leave. It was currently Angelina’s training time and no one was allowed to interrupt her. But as expected, Locke had always been her exception. He made a beeline for her training room with ease. Apart from the two guards that were stationed along the way, Locke had failed to spot any other nobles in the vicinity.
There was an inky-green scorpiondrake lazing on the grass patch outside Angelina’s training room. Angie lay comfortably under the warm sunlight as it dozed off. It was nearing its advancement to become a high-rank major monster so its drowsiness had grown severe recently. It had spent its time apart from sleeping to feed on specially formulated food by the royal experts.
Since the major monster ingredients sourced from Morphey Forest was limitless, Locke felt like Angie had swelled up a lot in just a week. This was good since the scorpiondrake was expected to grow larger once it emerged as a high-rank major monster. Its current five-metre length would change to six metres after the breakthrough.
The door to Angelina’s training room remained shut so Locke decided against disturbing her. He found a spot on the grass and began caressing the scorpiondrake softly. It was thirty minutes later when Angelina emerged behind the door.
“Ah, I was worried that you’d be disturbed by an endless stream of visitors. It appears that I’ve been overthinking it.” Locke chuckled.
Angelina answered, “Well… I did hope to be disturbed by this very particular person. It’s just unfortunate that he can only visit me once in a very long time.”
Locke laughed but left her hanging. He’d just met Angelina yesterday. He couldn’t tell if her growing clinginess was a good thing or not.