A convoy approached the fringes of Morphey Forest. Following the mass exploitation of the forest’s resources, settlements began to appear along the Bering mountain ranges in recent years. However, they weren’t looking to inhabit the mountains permanently. They were here to harvest the magic ingredients and major monster fur coats that were abundant in the forests.
The roads were marked with yellow, trudged on by various adventurers and caravans. However, the convoy that appeared today was different from its usual patrons. Apart from its standard military arms, the convoy was escorted by a considerable number of casters.
In the frontmost part of the carriage was Locke. Dressed in silver chainmail, he seemed to be deep in discussion with Angelina, who had donned a pale gold robe.
“Do we really need to enter Morphey Forest again?” Locke couldn’t help but ask.
“Yeah. This is the most befitting place for Angie’s advancement,” came Angelina’s firm answer.
Since Angelina was determined to keep her plans, Locke held his comment. His right grip around his longsword tightened, ready to pounce at any immediate emergency. It had been half a month since Locke and Angelina returned to Faustian. There wasn’t much time left. Angelina had managed to reach the benchmark of becoming a high-rank Lehrling but her attempts had been futile.
It was after rounds of deduction that Angelina hypothesised that the issue may have been Angie all along. The growth of a familiar and that of its master was interwoven. Angie had a surge in power after consuming Botanian cores earlier, which helped elevate Angelina’s mana capacity as well. Now that Angelina’s mana was at its most potent phase, the familiar’s activity came to a halt.
Tonnes of food had been fed to the scorpiondrake over its half month in Faustian. However, rather than boosting its capabilities, all it did was fatten it up. Angie’s presence still registered as a mid-rank major monster. While the richness of its activity wasn’t comparable to a high-rank major monster, its aura was finally that expected of scorpiondrakes.
It was completely Angelina’s idea to bring Angie back to Morphey Forest. The Faustian princess was desperate to break through and she was willing to try every solution possible. Unlike its master and Locke, Angie felt nothing about returning to its birthplace. The scorpiondrake was extremely cold-blooded in every sense. All that crossed its mind since entering Morphey Forest was to find an aged tree to leave behind a pile of crap. Before it had gone to sleep last night, it had wolfed down a pyro mane bull. The low-rank major monster was a size bigger than regular cows but it was only sufficient as Angie’s dessert.
Since Angie had left Morphey Forest as an egg, Angelina and Locke weren’t expecting any particular reaction from it upon return. After a short conversation between the couple, Angelina returned into the carriage to concentrate her mana. Locke, on the other hand, climbed onto the scorpiondrake’s back and went into position beside the vehicle. He watched the surroundings cautiously.
This time, there were no stronger knights among the escorts and there was still a family of scorpiondrakes lurking around in the forest. Either one of the base-rank scorpiondrake couple was enough to devastate them.
The few level-one lifeforms of Faustian had been brought away by Erdritter Romm to the Botanian conquest. The foreign plane was huge and the battle zones allocated to the Hall of Knights had hit an astounding number of twenty. Despite Locke and Angelina’s long stay on Botania, they hadn’t managed to meet any of the Faustian Ritters.
The only level-one Ritters that remained in the kingdom was Margrave De Sandro and a Shia clan knight. However, Margrave De Sandro’s age was catching up to him so he couldn’t afford to follow them to Morphey Forest. The Shia clan knight, on the other hand, was handed the heavy task of safeguarding the royal capital. He had no way of leaving his responsibility.
Honestly, Locke didn’t need to worry about their safety. The old king had mobilised the most competent combat forces available for their sake. The convoy consisted of a high-rank Lehrling, two high-rank Knechts and a group of low to mid-rank casters and knights. They would be unscathed as long as they stayed away from the heart of the forest.
Despite the presence of so many competent people, Locke remained anxious. He knew of Angelina’s true plan. If they kept away from the heart of the forest and strayed away from the scorpiondrake family, how was her familiar supposed to break through easily?
The forest was eerily silent, the only thing audible was the monstrous roars and chirps that resonated from afar. It was a stern reminder to everyone that this was Morphey Forest; a forest that’d see hundreds of deaths per year.
A dumb longhorn deer entered their vicinity and stared at the knights and casters. It blinked and stopped paying attention. How did this longhorn deer manage to live this long? Locke studied its body: it was almost two-thirds the size of a warhorse. Animals would live to be sharper but the longhorn deer was clearly an exception. It began to bury its head in the nearby grass and grazed away. It inched closer to the convoy.
A royal archer pulled his bow taut. Once he released his hold, the dumb longhorn deer would see the end of its stupid, meaningless life.
Rustle. A breeze roused the leaves and it began raining down from the trees. Everyone assumed that it was just regular wind. The archer’s hold on the bowstring was half-loosened and before the arrow could escape, the longhorn deer dashed into the dense forest with a logic-defying speed.
In that split second, the odd response of the longhorn deer immediately piqued the knights’ attention. But that was all there was to it. Just as everyone’s gaze moved away from the deer’s initial position, a dark looming figure emerged from behind a tree. It was more than seven metres tall but no one had managed to detect its presence despite its increasing proximity. It hid behind the old gigantic trees, inching closer to the convoy bit by bit. It was only after it entered their immediate proximity that the sharper casters and archer noticed it.
“What is that?!” A heavily-armoured high-rank Knecht barked. He was one of the leaders of the royal army, sent personally by King Faustian to protect his daughter.
All the casters aimed their staff at the creature, the knights following suit with a brandish of their swords and spears. The archer immediately loaded his bow and pulled it taut. The dark figure revealed itself: It was a huge dark-green scorpion. Its venomous hook glimmered among the foliage and its sharp-edged scales that covered its body was sinister. Everyone couldn't help but note the similarities; it looked just like Angie!
Locke gaped at the sight. He stared at the scorpiondrake with wide eyes. It didn’t take much to realise that this was one of Angie’s siblings. The scorpiondrake displayed the same reaction. It stared at the smaller Angie dumbfoundedly. The familiar was still a lighter green. Apart from its paler scales and smaller stature, it was an exact copy of the scorpiondrake.
Surprisingly, Angie’s response was the calmest among all present here. It scratched its face with its claws, fully ignoring the appearance of a possible enemy and Locke that rode on its back. It simply laid down, shifted into a comfortable position and dozed off.