Locke confined himself at home for the next five days. The courtyard bestowed by Angelina was indeed lovely for there was plenty of room and ample tranquillity. In short, it was the best location for his training.
He popped a Botanian nucleus core down his throat and began to circulate his impetus in one of the larger rooms. Advancing from a high-rank Knecht to a quasi-Ritter wasn’t that difficult a leap. However, its vagueness could simply be an indication that he’d been trapped in a boundless bottleneck or it could just be a negligible stagnant phase. No one could tell for sure.
The difficulty of the advancement was fully dependent on the person. The stability of his foundation and the limits of his impetus reserves were keys to success, both of which he thankfully didn't lack.
Locke had brought back many treasures from Botanian. The sheer number of Botanian essences collected was enough to push Locke to the next rank effortlessly. He could rely on these resources along with other supplies for an easy life in the coming years even. Locke had already thought things through: He’d take a long holiday once the planar war ends.
Before he’d known it, Locke had grown from a teenager with nothing to a twenty-seven-year-old man who’d achieved plenty. He was already in his middle age based on the average lifespan of the Faustian population.
Admittedly, the continuous stream of cultivation, breakthroughs, adventures and war were taking a toll on Locke’s enthusiasm. He wasn’t the most ambitious and he didn’t yearn to achieve anything beyond becoming a quasi-Ritter.
Sure, the idea of a lengthened lifespan that came with becoming a Ritter was attractive but Locke didn’t wish to live just for the sake of living. His war experiences and proximity to death had reshaped his worldview.
While Ritters were widely praised, being a quasi-Ritter still had its own merits. Locke figured it would be best to utilise his time on Zauberia to its fullest before leaving for Botania. He didn’t wish to disappoint Magister Carla and Ashar’s intention behind sending them home. This is for the sake of our survival, thought Locke as he retrieved another auxiliary potion from his spatial ring and downed it.
Frankly, the whole advancement process was underwhelming. There was no odd weather phenomenon nor was there any major event. Locke was already a quasi-Ritter when he emerged in front of his family a few days later. This meant that he’d increased the intensity and reserves of his wind impetus to its ceiling. The climb looked easy but it was anything but.
If not for the copious amounts of Botanian essence collected during the war along with the many treasures meant for cultivation, Locke would find it impossible to advance further without five to six years of proper training. His achievement had brought him one step higher towards the pinnacle of the Three Western Isle’s power hierarchy; Locke could very well be the most powerful person in places without level-one lifeforms and beyond. Locke wasn’t too stoked about it, though.
Multiple intruding presences began crowding over from different corners of the kingdom as soon as he emerged as a quasi-Ritter. A careful calculation had revealed that eight were from the palace and aristocratic families in the capital.
This was a shocking find since the Hall of Knight’s order was still ongoing. Why were there still so many quasi-Ritters in Felor? Apart from the eight presences, there were two that were profoundly deeper and cryptic. They could be traced to the heart of Felor and the northeastern corner, which happened to be the palace and Margrave De Sandro’s estate respectively.
The two level-one lifeforms were drawn to Locke as soon as he succeeded since quasi-Ritters were prized assets of the kingdom. Every influential clan thirsted for such talent. The two lifeforms peeled their gazes away after watching Locke for five seconds. They’d heard plenty about Locke who’d returned with the princess from Aomar. While they weren’t too surprised nor did they put too much thought into his existence, they noted that Locke was no longer someone to be messed with.
Locke was quick to share news of his success with his family and lovers. It was a little unfortunate that Old Locke and Tia knew nothing of high-rank Knechts and quasi-Ritters. Instead, the couple was surprised that Locke had only managed to become younger as he lived, before rattling on about how he should think of settling down.
Old Locke and Tia would be past forty-eight years old by the end of the year so they’d reach the upper limits of the average Faustian lifespan. They’d begun to worry if they’d live to see Locke marry and bear them grandchildren, which made them pester him more about marriage.
They even made it clear that they’d gladly accept anyone, be it Glace or Suzzane. Old Locke and Tia were initially disapproving of their age but eventually grew soft towards them. The women had been incredibly kind and caring towards them, which ultimately won the older couple over.
Old Locke and Tia had worked the fields for most of their lives and it was with great luck that they could enjoy such a lavish lifestyle before death. They’d like to push their blessings further and try to get ahold of chubby grandchildren before they were buried six feet under.
Tia had even pulled Locke aside to get her point across following a few days of meticulous observation. She was even fine with making young Kristin her daughter in law. Jeez. They sure were hellishly desperate for grandchildren.
There was one thing in particular that upset Locke, though. Old Locke and Tia seemed intent to find a good match for Lia since his sister was maturing too. She was a year older than Locke, making her one of the older unmarried ladies in the kingdom. She’d left for Aomar with hopes of something more happening between her and Locke but no one could’ve foreseen that he’d bring more women home.
Even so, Locke had an inkling that this was a mind game to force a decision out of him. His partner options were laid clearly; it was either Lia, Glace, Suzzane or Kristin.
Locke was completely numb to his parents’ impatience. He wanted to have all of them as wives but he was still unprepared for such a huge responsibility. Locke still had much to improve on.
Another piece of good news had arrived from the palace a day after his successful breakthrough: Angelina had successfully become a high-rank Lehrling too! Locke quickly packed up and left for the palace. Angelina should be just done with her meditation by now. Her mental powers were still unstable since she’d just passed her breakthrough. There was still a dire need for the Faustian princess to maintain her concentration.
Locke paced into her garden, stopping briefly to pat Angie, who was watching the door when Angelina emerged from her room. He asked, “What do you think about the scorpiondrakes in Morphey Forest?”