They arrived at a Botanian city that was built around a cliff. The Sanctum contingent had once again moved on to their next target on the eastern Fertilian coastline. The air here was salty and sticky with the sea’s distinct humidity. The sound of waves slapping against the rocky shores rang without pause. There were many Botanian soldiers crowded atop the citadel, forming a protection circle around three city lords and a leader.
“I wasn’t expecting such a strong lineup,” said Parlina, who rode on the shell of a massive turtle major monster.
“Well, I wouldn’t expect less considering their desperation. There’s nothing special about finding a Botanian leader in a city that housed three hundred thousand inhabitants,” Porscher commented with a nonchalant shrug. The two Magisters were barely bothered by the presence of stronger Botanian forces.
Charles, the masked Magister, turned to Carla and Angelina. “I’m far from being a master in alchemy and the only magic equipment I own is this ghastly mask I inherited from my grandmaster. Yet, I shall give you that level-two Botanian’s nucleus core to celebrate our meeting.” His tone sounded rather arrogant but the mentor-mentee pair was ultimately unfazed.
Charles’ sleeves fluttered in the wind as he leapt into the sky without a single hint of his powers. Even so, the Lehrlings and slaves wordlessly moved out of the way to form a fifty-metre wide path.
Locke watched the sky above on the scorpiondrake’s back, grip tightening around his spear. He was about to witness the doom of yet another Botanian city. The Botanians, on the other hand, watched the troop from behind their walls. The invaders were rooted to their spots! Were they intimidated by their Master Tartalian?
Master Tartalian had the whole city’s hopes and dreams riding on its shoulders but it couldn’t help but start feeling queasy. What was happening? The invaders beyond their gates were no stronger than them and Tartalian could sense that the floating enemy was radiating energy waves equivalent to that of level-one lifeforms. His existence was nothing to fret about.
While Tartalian reassured itself, Charles reached an arm forward. A complex hexagram immediately took form at the tip of his fingers and the intensity of his mana grew stronger with every anticlockwise turn. The energies were at least thirty times more devastating in just two seconds!
“Shit!” Dread seized the Botanian leader.
A scarlet beam shot through the walls before Tartalian could get out of its range, leaving behind a spherical hole thirty metres wide. Weaker Botanians were vapourised completely while the relatively competent ones were reduced into chunks of flesh. Most of Tartalian’s skull was melted away by the explosive synergy of pyromancy and photomancy. It didn’t help that it was the focus of Charles’ assault, to begin with. There was no way it could survive even with its outstanding level-two physique and regeneration abilities of its innate Botanian essence. The nearby city lord too had half of its body torn away by the beam, which immediately brought it to its end.
The rampant fire and light element leftovers birthed sparks in the air. There was a brief moment of silence before everything started to sink in. The Botanians on the citadel spiralled into chaos a few beats later. Their great Master Tartalian had died in a failed attempt to halt these terrifying invaders! The regular Botanians began to flee, fearing the reoccurrence of the catastrophic scarlet beam.
The deaths of two stronger Botanians and the breach in the wall had made it easy for the monsters to flood into the city. A blinding ray and a mass of shadow zoomed across the sky for the top of the citadel. The Akanasd sovereigns, Adamyrs and Shiva, were launched into action. The casters in the back began to chant and exert their mana, transforming it into hundreds of spells that overwhelmed the sturdy citadels. More trouble ensued for the frightened population.
“That Botanian is mine!” Ashar lurched towards the brinjal Botanian city lord as a ball of shadow.
“The Akanasd and I will handle the other one.” Porscher quickly followed as a ball of flames. He zoomed towards the apple city lord, who was now entangled in a battle with Adamyrs.
The masked Magister’s powers had never failed to impress Angelina. While the display was nothing new to her, watching Charles kill elite enemies in a matter of seconds had never been less baffling. Charles was a man of a few words; describing his strategy curtly while leaving much to be expected. Once he’d handled the Botanian leader with mind-blowing ease, he flew back to camp. Angelina knew that he’d gone back to work on his unfinished experiments.
“Don’t forget your gift,” Charles’ voice rang faintly in the air. Ah. The gift in mention was none other than the nucleus core of the Botanian leader whose head was mostly gone.
The battle had ended sooner than anticipated and the contingent had been able to wrap up before twilight. The Botanian city of considerable scale had fallen into their grasp in a day. Their efficiency was unprecedented, obviously owed to the masked Magister’s involvement. It was without a doubt that his presence had brought them a strong momentum.
The contingent’s deliberate choice of tougher Botanian cities didn’t go unnoticed by Locke. He was starting to see a pattern as they travelled from central Fertilia to its coastlines. He called it a day, delighted with his recent loot of four high-rank Botanian nucleus cores. The weather here was unbearably humid so he searched for a house of higher elevation to spend the night in.
“Locke! Over here!” A familiar voice called. He turned around to find Angelina waving at him with Daenie in tow.
“Don't you have lessons tonight?” Locke asked as he paced over. Angelina’s schedule was packed and she’d been more exhausted than he was. He knew that Carla tended to hold her lectures at night.
“Of course I do. I’ll be heading there later with Daenie.” Angelina smiled sweetly. “I have something for you.” She pressed a spatial ring into his palm.
The ring’s construct and material had strongly suggested it was Angelina’s handiwork. She was truly a wonder of an alchemist, being able to master the concept of dimensional manipulation and create such refined work in her twenties. The Faustian princess was perhaps the only alchemist capable of crafting spatial equipment out of the many casters in her kingdom.
She wasn’t one to boast so Locke was sure that wasn’t her intention. Before he could question further, Angelina had tugged Daenie away in a fit of giggles. The lovely ladies began a discourse on using Botanian essence as skincare with the occasional spellwork topics. He watched them leave before dipping down to observe the newly-acquired spatial ring.
This was unusual. Why had she left him with it? Upon closer inspection, its capacity was a mere half a square metre and the only thing inside was a round translucent Botanian nucleus core that emitted a warm yellow glow.
“This…” Locke gaped. The quality of the nucleus core was even more polished than the level-one cores he’d seen in Ashar’s laboratory.
“It’s a level-two Botanian core!” He finally realised. Locke gingerly placed the ring inside his armour. A treasure of this calibre would only be a waste on them now. An idea suddenly popped into his mind; he’d figured out where to store the level-two nucleus core safely.
“Crush them all!”
“Run for your lives! The invaders are here!”
Fertilia finally succumbed to its fate after seven months of torment. The powerful Botanians were annihilated and many of its regular folks had lost their homes, becoming helpless prey to the slave trade. It was finally time for Locke to travel to the final Botanian sanctuary: Aqualilia.
Four demigod Ritters joined forces, effectively crushing all resistance forces formed by the surviving level-three Botanians. Most of Aqualilia was conquered in six months and the war had already progressed to its final stages when Locke’s contingent arrived.
The final obstacles between the Three Western Isles and completion were a vineman, a banana Botanian and the sunflower priest. The demigod Ritters and Himmelritters had exterminated them in succession, which gave rise to another panicked frenzy on Aqualilia.
“Why can’t I defeat you…?” Arnold the Banana groaned weakly. The wooden handles in its grip were broken and there were countless gashes and wounds across its body. It was bleeding profusely and its regeneration abilities could no longer weave the openings shut. The most prominent prodigy in recent Botanian history was teetering at the edge of death.
A few invaders of intimidating presences began bombarding the bottom of a nearby crater. There was a complex network of vines sitting at the bottom and its energy grew weaker, finally fading into nothingness after a prolonged moment.
Arnold laughed breathlessly; its longtime friend, the vineman, had died. They were level-three heroes of the same generation and they’d shared a close bond. While Arnold was a recluse living in the mountains, it’d still made an effort to communicate with the Aqualilian vineman.
It sighed longingly, “So this is it, huh.” Its grip around the wooden handles remained tight. Arnold could feel the invaders moving closer. There was still much it wanted to do with life. Arnold wasn’t ready to bid its wonderful homeland and beautiful life farewell just yet.