Two months later, thousands of slave creatures were once again sent to conquer another Botanian city on the eastern continent of Fertilia. The city had an ancient tree weaved around its perimeters and was guarded by a sole lord. There were also a few hundred slaves gathered further away from the city, which created intense elemental turbulence in the area. The city didn’t take much to crumble once spells began raining down on it.
Locke seemed more composed than he was two months ago. The calmness was a deliberate choice to conserve his energy, a forbearance he often practised on the eve of his advancement. He’d been compacting his impetus upon receiving feedback from many other established Ritters.
Wind impetus was never one to be associated with aggression and Falconim too was not a skill that required higher refinement, the latter being a silver lining to his impetus conservation attempt. But of course, it was easier said than done. Locke would have to concentrate his impetus to its limits to begin his breakthrough as a level-one Ritter.
There was a good reason why only level-one lifeforms were used in planar wars: Anything below that would be too vulnerable on the battlefield and no one had dared place their lives at the mercy of superior beings.
“Crush their defences and enslave them!” Locke waved his longsword, expression stone cold. His voice was amplified using his impetus. The city was doomed with its lord occupied with Magister Ashar; victory was right before the Sanctum’s eyes.
“The boy sure is growing up well,” Porscher commented to Parlina with a smile back in the camp. They weren’t needed out on the frontlines so Porscher had the luxury of donning a lavish robe embroidered with elaborated pyro patterns. Using impetus to amplify one’s voice was no simple feat. It was very similar to the casters’ amplification spell even.
“Indeed.” Parlina was stunned.
There was nothing for the Magisters to do since they were sitting on the sidelines today. Hence, they had all the time in the world to entertain themselves with Locke’s deeds on the battlefield.
Their progress over the last two months was pure satisfaction. They’d eliminated the more competent resistance forces and had even seen a gradual elevation of capabilities. Since planar wars were fundamentally raids, casters and knights were consuming Botanian essences for personal improvement.
It went without saying that observable advancements were difficult under the natural suppression of the plane. However, it didn’t mean that any effort would be futile. Many’d found ways to overcome their bottleneck and flourished. While big leaps were rare, there was plenty of commendable betterment to behold. It was anticipated that these high-rank Knechts and Lehrlings would welcome waves of successful breakthroughs once they returned to Zauberia.
It was shortly after the fall of the Botanian city that Angelina summoned Locke with great urgency. He barely had time to level his breathing even. There was a metal brooch on his chest, crafted meticulously by none other than the Faustian princess herself. It had been the crystallisation of her recent lessons, a contraption that enabled short distance communication. To no one’s surprise, she had an amazing affinity for alchemy.
“What’s wrong?” Locke still reeked of blood but Angelina paid it no mind. She grabbed his arm and began to walk.
“Grandmeisterin Carla said it was urgent but I’m just as clueless,” explained Angelina, her pace picking up. She turned around briefly to cast a cleaning spell over him.
The heart of the camp was rarely devoid of patrolling slaves. Everything was eerily quiet; there was not even the slightest appearance of a Lehrling. It felt as though they’d deliberately chased everyone away.
Locke’s attention was immediately drawn to a dark metal box ahead. He had never seen anything like this. While it looked to be a product of alchemy, Angelina too had no clue of what it might be. Her momentary observation had failed to glean any useful information.
That wasn’t the most pressing issue anyway. Angelina continued to follow the familiar mental energy and brought them to Carla’s tent. As soon as her fingers touched the curtains, Angelina felt a jolt of overwhelming mental energy. It had only lasted no more than a second but her complexion soon turned ghastly. Its intensity was beyond her comprehension; the strength of the mental swipe alone was a dozen times more brutal than Magister Ashar’s!
Locke’s response was relatively milder since he wasn’t as sensitive to mental energy, which was why he had more composure. Mental abilities were never a knight’s forte, after all. He fought his violent urge to flee and ignore the tense goosebumps, bringing Angelina further into the tent rigidly. They could sense the familiar presence of Ashar, Carla and the other Magisters alongside the overwhelming source of energy. Locke was confident that they were safe under their watch.
He peeled away the flaps of the tent to find the Magisters crowded around the middle. Ashar still had green Botanian blood clinging onto her garments, obviously having just returned in a flurry. Porscher and Parlina were behaving more courteously than usual, their level-one Magister pride nowhere to be seen.
Upon closer inspection, there was a peculiar Magister standing close to Magister Carla. His features were hidden beneath a white mask that was merely a smooth surface. There were no etchings of any human features nor were there any holes for his eyes. It was weird and Locke dreaded the thought of staring at it for longer. He felt as if he’d be pulled into it the more he looked at it.
He tried to suppress his fear, standing stiffly at the entrance with Angelina. They couldn’t take another step further as every inch of their body was begging to not get any closer to the Magisters. There was a possibility of sustaining considerable internal injuries if they inched closer to the intense pool of energies. A quasi-Ritter was vulnerable to such and it’d be worse for the frailer caster.
“So this is your mentee?” The masked Magister turned to the entrance.
While the white mask couldn’t suggest otherwise, Locke could feel the Magister’s stare on the both of them. It was more specifically aimed at Angelina, who was now slumping against his hold.
“Her will is strong but it’s a pity that her physique isn’t the best.” The masked Magister’s energy dissipated away after the curt comment. It seemed as though he’d unmasked his full presence as a deliberate test to gauge Angelina’s potential.
“Brother disciple! You’ve frightened my mentee!” Carla scorned. Locke was taken aback at the display. He’d never seen such displeasure adorn her gentle features.
“Since she’s your mentee, she’s considered a part of our faction. I’ll compensate her appropriately for this,” said the masked Magister. His tone was stiff since he’d barely interacted with anyone else.
Carla was no stranger to his weird temperament. She sighed, casting a silver light over the terrified couple. Their internal injuries were quickly soothed by her mana, which had also healed away most of their smaller injuries from earlier battles.
Locke and Angelina didn’t miss how she’d call the masked Magister her ‘brother disciple.’ They kept rooted at their spot, not daring to cross the respected Magister in any way possible. It was clear that the masked Magister was the strongest out of the bunch but his true vehemency remained a mystery.
Locke had at least witnessed Ashar and the other Magisters’ full potential during the war. Even so, none of their impacts had come close to the mindless presence of the masked Magister. He’d heard plenty about this famous brother disciple of Carla, yet he hadn’t anticipated such devastation. His powers were even more enormous than level-two Erdritter Garcia.
The masked Magister’s energy turned subtle, not any more pronounced than Angelina, who was a high-rank Lehrling. This was even more of a warning to not underestimate him. While Locke's knowledge of presence-masking was surface at best, he’d learnt that anyone capable of such mastery was a force to be reckoned with. Erdritter Garcia hadn’t displayed such an ability so Locke could confirm that the masked Magister was perhaps the most powerful lifeform he’d encountered thus far. He was definitely more powerful than the Himmelritter in Battlezone 7.
Porcher and Parlina exchanged a few pleasantries with the masked Magister before quickly leaving the tent. Ashar too didn’t stay long despite her familiarity with the masked Magister since he was her sister’s brother disciple, after all. The shadowmancer stopped briefly to drag Locke out of the tent. This was a gathering for Carla’s faction and it was no place for an ‘outsider’ to stay.
“There are still many level-three Botanians lurking around the city. Bring me three nucleus cores for my experiment.” She left him with simple instructions once they were away from the tent. Angelina, Carla and the masked Magister were now the only ones left in the tent.
“Since the passing of Grandmaster Albino, we were the only ones left to continue his legacy. I must say that I’m surprised you found a mentee after a few decades apart. I guess this is new hope for our faction,” rambled the masked Magister to Carla.
He moved closer to Angelina. “My name is Charles, the Faceless Masked Magister. You can call me the Masked Magister or if you prefer, Grandmagister Charles.”
Angelina settled for the latter. She crossed her right arm over her chest and delivered a standard caster’s curtsy. “It’s an honour to meet you, Grandmagister Charles."