There was a massive purple presence at the horizon. The Botanians were pinned to their spot by fear; together, they watched an impending ocean of bloodthirsty monsters under the setting sun.
The purple Akanasd let out a deafening roar, sending a tsunami of vile slaves towards the meek city. Botanian soldiers swarmed out of the city but their efforts were destined to be futile; the victor of the battle had long been decided ahead of its start. The participation of the purple Akanasd gave the contingent a boost. The small Botanian city that housed a population of thirty thousand inhabitants had fallen in less than a day.
Porscher’s vigour was unmistakable. Before the flames in his palm had gotten the chance to dissipate, he’d engaged the Botanian city lord in physical combat instead of his usual long-distance attacks. Perhaps Adamyrs was doing plenty to influence his lack of reservations.
The crimson flames burning along his arms faded away as Porscher plunged his palm into the Botanian’s chest. He picked up its heart, which was a green thumb-sized nucleus core, with pinpoint accuracy. The Magister bagged his spoils along with the lord’s corpse before turning to Parlina. “I can’t believe there is only one lord in the city.”
“There should be two city lords here based on our intel. The other must’ve escaped,” replied Parlina while lightly tapping the end of her staff against the ground. She and Porscher were the only ones available for this invasion since the other Magisters had yet to recover.
While the city wasn’t wealthy, Parlina was already content enough. The presence of only one city lord was a favourable situation and a single Botanian lord could barely do anything when overwhelmed by two Magisters and two transcendent-rank major monsters. With that, Porscher had attained an easy level-one Botanian nucleus core and corpse. Parlina, on the other hand, received some of his spoils as compensation along with a third of the high-grade materials available in this city. Even the transcendent-rank Akanasds were permitted to devour as many Botanians as they wished as a reward. Overall, it was a win-win situation.
A dark green scorpiondrake rummaged through the ruins of this unnamed Botanian city for food. Admittedly, the taste of Botanians wasn’t the best but their essence was irresistible to many creatures.
“Oh, quit it! Let’s go to the next location,” said a knight in half-body chainmail armour. He leapt onto the juncture of its neck and head.
The scorpiondrake was obviously uncomfortable with the added weight. It shook its huge head but was mindful to not disturb the knight on its back. Its nostrils huffed a puff of inky corrosive breath as it adhered to the knight’s instruction. The knight was none other than Locke and the scorpiondrake beneath his feet was the smallest out of the six base-rank scorpiondrakes, Angie’s sixth sibling.
Angie, who was the youngest among Adamyrs’ seven children, displayed the best innate potential. It had already advanced as a high-rank major monster before the age of ten but this was also highly attributed to the exceptional care it received. Locke and Angelina had been feeding it various precious magical foods, after all.
The sixth scorpiondrake was the other child that displayed good potential after Angie. It had become a base-rank monster by ninety-one years old, which made it a considerable prodigy among the major monsters. Unfortunately, said scorpiondrake was very lazy. Its favourite past-time in Morphey Forest had been sleeping to its heart’s content so it could only eat and sleep. Locke had no idea how it managed to advance thus far within a hundred years.
Despite being on foreign soil, the scorpiondrake had no intention to curb its bad habits. While its siblings were off devouring Botanians with their parents, the sixth scorpiondrake had shown little to no signs of interest at all. The scorpiondrake had piqued Locke’s interest and following a brief discussion with Adamyrs, the Akanasd sovereign had permitted its son to be Locke’s mount for the time being.
“Femur, go over there!” Locke patted its green head, gesturing towards the heart of the Botanian city. When translated from scorpiondraken, the Akanasd’s name was Fermoss, which Locke found a little too long for his liking. Hence, the nickname Femur was given. Embarrassingly, Locke found out that Angie was female only recently after close to ten years of rearing it. Fermoss was Adamyrs’ youngest son without a doubt.
Femur wasn’t the least bit irritated getting led around by Locke. It was as docile as any good mount could be, bringing the man to his intended destination without any sign of protest. Its obedience seemed to have stemmed from Locke’s ridiculous generousity.
“Here, you can snack on these nucleus cores. I’ll get you a base-rank crystal core when we’re done today.” Locke continued, “Come with me and I’ll guarantee you a meat-filled meal twice a day. By meat, I’m talking about actual Zauberian meat and not the corroded Botanian corpses. Oh, you want skelochid grass? I think those are precious materials that are treasured even by high-rank Lehrlings. Don’t worry, I’ll try to get some for you from Magister Ashar later.”
Locke’s sugar-coated promises had Fermoss pliant. Femur’s step shook the ground as it chewed on a strand of dull grey grass. The plant in its mouth was the skelochird grass Locke had painstakingly begged from Ashar. It was a rare plant that grew only on magical soil rich with minerals, which made such materials scarce even in the shadowmancer’s possession. She’d cultured these skelochird grasses using the corpses of two stone element arma-lizard monsters as a medium in the Sanctum’s greenhouse. The fact that Ashar was generous enough to pass Locke two went to show that he was well treated.
Locke was determined to repay her goodwill. She seemed to lack nothing but had a fondness for scrumptious delicacies, which was what brought him into the depths of the fallen Botanian city in search of a treasured and suitable Botanian species. The fruits spawned by Botanian blood essence was unforgettably tasty, after all.
Distressed regular Botanians were tormented by rampaging slaves at every corner of the fallen city. Locke had spent hours scouting through the city, his quest to locate any rare Botanian species seemingly a failure since the only thing he’d gotten was a few mid-rank Botanian nucleus cores.
Femur let out a burp below him. It was getting drowsy after a hearty meal of four mid-rank Botanian carcasses. Will two watermelon Botanians be sufficient? Locke rubbed his chin in thought. There was indeed a few watermelon Botanians that were chased around by slaves ahead. Among the many Botanian species tasted, Ashar and Locke both agreed that the watermelons were the sweetest and best tasting so far.
“I guess watermelon Botanians it is.” Those fumbling watermelons seemed to be his best option now. Locke urged Femur forward, letting its base-rank presence intimidate the slaves ahead. The watermelon Botanians and the slaves were startled by the sudden suppression; they froze immediately.
The slaves were as tall as regular Zauberian humans and had three legs with a long sapphire tail that extended from the base of their spine. They were only as strong as mid-rank Knechts, which caused them to cower away from Locke and Femur’s gaze. Though they weren’t afraid of Locke, they were more concerned that he’d seize their soul imprints. Their soul imprints had robbed away all autonomy. Strictly speaking, these slaves were nothing more than soulless puppets for the Sanctum’s conquest.
Locke ignored them to select three watermelon Botanians out of the shuddering bunch. He promptly knocked them out and tossed them over the scorpiondrake’s carapace haphazardly. The watermelon Botanians were barely half the height of a regular Zauberian human so it’d been easy to subdue them. Fermoss was already uncomfortable enough with Locke’s weight and the three added watermelon Botanians were really testing its patience.
“Move! Quit stalling.” Locke slapped its head. His spatial gear wasn’t advanced enough to store living beings. Femur scoffed at Locke’s rough treatment but relented.
This Botanian city was another without great wealth. Most of the better spoils had already been claimed by the Magisters and the remnants were uninteresting even to a quasi-Ritter like Locke. He circled the city twice, collecting a few more mediocre spoils along the way before returning to the camps outside.
Angelina had excused herself since the start of the invasion. She’d returned to Carla as soon as the city gates were breached and when Magister Parlina and Porscher had managed to tackle the city lord with the Akanasd sovereign. Frankly, Angelina’s concern was unnecessary as Magisters could still fare well even when bedridden. This was an act fully driven by Angelina’s gratitude.
Locke was supportive of her decision. Magister Carla had treated Angelina really well, much like how Ashar had supported Locke tremendously throughout the years. Now that two of their biggest benefactors were injured at the same time, both of them were doing their best to express their sincerest concerns.