The rocks on the surface were tough, brittle and small. Locke kicked at a larger stone out of boredom as he turned to Angelina. “Can Botanians even survive in a place like this?”
“Maybe, at least that's what our intel said,” Angelina replied with uncertainty. Daenie paced beside her.
Locke may be a knight but he’d noticed that the Botanians were lifeforms that needed soil to live. Soil was a necessity since the Botanians absorb the rich energies and elements in it for sustenance. However, stones and dirt weren’t the same. Locke couldn’t help but wonder how such an arid land could sustain a population.
“Since the city is named Rock Fruit City, perhaps the population relies heavily on rocks?” Daenie suggested. The Lehrling was more talkative than she was a year ago; she wasn’t that bashful anymore.
“Probably.” Locke smacked his lips. The Botanian cities were usually named by the surveying knights and scouts, who were mainly Magisters and Ritters above level-one. They were the only group of people capable of exploring Botanian cities in uncharted territories.
However, elites of this calibre typically made extensive considerations for every single thing. Locke believed that the Botanian city was named Rock Fruit City for a good reason. Currently, the Magisters possessed the most information on the city, which would be disclosed to the Lehrlings once they neared the site. Slaves, on the other hand, were not given any information. Their sole task was to pledge complete obedience to the Magisters’ orders and risk their lives when told.
“Daenie, would you like to ride a scorpiondrake?” Locke smiled at the hydromancer.
She seemed tempted for a moment but quickly bit her lip. “It’s alright, I wouldn’t want to trouble you.”
“Nonsense, it’s barely a hassle! Give me a minute, I’ll go get one now.” Locke dismissed her reservations with a wave. It had been a year since they parted and Daenie’s growth was observable. Locke was impressed by her change; she’d gotten stronger without losing her remarkable gentleness.
Ever since Locke gave Fermoss skelochird grass, the other scorpiondrakes had begun to stick to him as much as possible. Their motive was obvious: the Akanasds wanted skelochird grasses too since it was extremely beneficial to their development.
Since the Akanasds had dominated Morphey Forest for centuries, anything they’d find useful had been long depleted. Treasures like skelochird grass that boosted their growth were thoroughly depleted to the point of extinction. It didn’t help that they were monsters that knew nothing about the cultivation and conservation of precious plants too.
There was virtually no way for Locke to get ahold of skelochird grass without Ashar. Even so, Locke had no intentions of being charitable; he was determined to utilise his last strand of skelochird grass in exchange for the scorpiondrakes’ full worth.
Soon enough, Locke brought over a scorpiondrake whose carapace was darker than Fermoss and Angie. He’d selected the third child of Adamyrs and Shiva for Daenie because it was female. But of course, the Akanasd wasn’t meant to become Daenie’s familiar or mount; it was merely a tool for her convenience. Skelochird grasses were precious but it was not something an Akanasd would whore itself for. Even so, this was sufficient for a mid-rank Lehrling like Daenie. She’d be able to conserve some energy and receive an extent of protection from the base-rank major monster during battle too.
“Thank you, Locke.” Daenie blushed.
“No worries, it’s nothing.” Locke shrugged nonchalantly. He really didn’t do much apart from sacrificing two skelochird leaves.
Rock Fruit City was within sight two days later when the contingent arrived in a mountainous region. There were oddly jagged stones and eroded rocks scattered around and the view was muddled by sand particles. Locke peered ahead, finding a stone castle-like building perched proudly in the middle of the mountains.
“Rock Fruit City is over there.” Locke pointed at the valley between two humongous mountains. Its entrance was guarded by a wall made of boulders that protected a population of tens of thousands of Botanians.
“The Botanians sure have gotten smarter,” a Magister from the other contingent scoffed. The wall was obviously rushed work; its craftsmanship was rough as seen from the many gaps in between each boulder. However, it was quite the feat that the Botanians had managed to gather sufficient materials for a functional wall in an eroded land.
“Surround the perimeters and set camp. We’ll attack tomorrow!” Porshcer ordered.
The majority of Rock Fruit City’s population were rock fruit Botanians. Their appearances were unique with grey skin and a rock shell over their heads. The surveying Magisters realized that these rock shells were the main contributor to the Botanians’ grey-green mucus.
“Remember to hide behind Angie during the battle tomorrow, okay?” Locke reminded Angelina sternly before they went to sleep. The exoskeleton of a high-rank major monster could at least resist hefty Botanian mucus loads to a certain extent.
“Don’t worry, I’ll do that. Daenie and I will look after each other too,” answered Angelina lazily.
Silence followed soon after.
Adamyrs’ deafening screech marked the beginning of the invasion. It was finally time for the contingent to face the unique Botanians. Thousands of rock fruit Botanians clambered atop the city wall, throwing down weights within their reach while splurting acidic mucus.
Adaptation was a universal concept; the Botanians who only knew to use their mucus had now learnt to utilise their available resources and environment to their advantage. While the weights they’d chosen were astonishingly heavy, it did nothing to the casters who were further behind. It did, however, cause some inconveniences to the cannon fodders in front. Mid-rank major monsters buckled under the relentless attacks despite being physically tough. The Botanians had managed to stall their progress by outnumbering them! Unfortunately, the success was short-lived. The casters soon intensified their spell outputs, which elemental tide birthed a small tornado in the middle of the battlefield.
Countless spells were aimed towards the top of the city wall, conjuring a splattering blood fest much to the Botanians’ horror. The rock fruit Botanians slid down the wall in their clay armour and marched towards the casters with unmatched fury. The responding spells had only managed to shatter the Botanians’ armour, leaving much of their actual selves unscathed.
Despite that, the casters barely flinched at the approaching rock fruit Botanians. A purple and blue presence soon appeared above them; Adamyrs and Shiva were ready to engage their enemy.
Bam! A violent flame brought dozens of Botanians to an agonising death. Crash! Asteroids smashed the crudely built wall, causing it to come apart under the vehement impact. Green fluids began to seep through the bottom of the asteroids; many Botanians were crushed beyond recognition.
Blinding lightning, sharp ice spears, wild sandstorms and mysterious occult forces danced across the chaotic battlefield as the casters showcased their catastrophic powers. There was bloodshed everywhere.
Deadly Botanian mucus reduced the slaves to green smoke before they could even come close to the wall. These slaves barely lasted despite their fortified exoskeletons. The sacrifice was worth it, though. The bravado of the troops at the frontlines would boost the contingent’s morale despite their current disadvantage. The valley was flanked by cliffs, limiting their attacks to one direction.
Overwhelming spells accompanied by the slaves’ feral attacks began to tilt the scales in the Sanctum's favor. However, victory was yet in sight since they were still largely outnumbered by the Botanians. Based on past experiences, this battle might span over three days due to geographical disadvantages. Right now, their hope is in the five blinding glows in the sky.
The two transcendent-rank Akanasds distracted the city lord, allowing Parlina and Porscher a prime opening to deliver a fatal blow. The city lord’s clay armour began to crumble in the air, it fleeted its hardened gaze between its four enemies. They were equals but the Botanian city lord refused to buckle. Its determination to protect its homeland was strong.
Unlike the hostile pitaya Botanians, rock fruit Botanians were comparatively grounded. The city lord knew there was nowhere to escape; its best option was to fight. It decided It was prime time to give these demons a taste of Botania’s wrath. Sadly, their inevitable submission was already destined since the beginning of the planar war.
“We need to defeat the city lord as soon as possible. Magister Ashar is the only one managing the situation below,“ muttered Parlina lowly.
“Very well.” Porscher promptly set himself ablaze as his staff morphed into a flaming sickle. He lunged towards the Botanian.
Roar! The transcendent-rank Akanasds bared their sharp fangs and claws and charged towards the Botanian.