Thousands of floating vessels left Botania for the two spatial fortresses waiting beyond the plane’s barrier through the crack. The deaths of the plane’s protectors and the massacre of its natives packed a lethal punch to the plane’s will, allowing the opening created by Odis to remain as wide as ever in his absence. The level-four lifeform’s attention was no longer required and a level-three Magister was called to stabilise the path to ensure its continuity. Locke and Angelina watched Botania from the windows along the fortress’ corridor. It grew smaller with distance and soon enough, it was out of sight.
“The vastness of the astral realm never fails to humble me. It ignites a flame in me to seek answers to the myriad of mysteries we live with, just like the great Magisters,” said Angelina as she melted into Locke’s embrace. Her eyes were filled with the sparkling stars that surrounded the defeated plane. Each star was a distant plane. Many planes had coexisted in the boundless astral realm and its number was something that the intellectuals held no answer to.
Locke didn’t share the same amazement. They were getting closer to home and all he could think of was his family. He was never one with great ambitions; he’d say he was more of a family guy. He ached to see his family and women back on the Three Western Isles.
Once the routine check on elemental pools and mana circuits were given the green light, the spatial fortresses painted fiery streaks across the dark space. Their journey home had begun. The spatial fortresses deployed this time were far more spacious, permitting enough space to fit all Lehrlings and Knechts involved in the conquest. The slave monsters were left behind on Botania to assist with the finishing touches and everyone was given ample room to be shared with another person or two. The casters were nonchalant about the arrangement while the knights were overjoyed. They had enough of sharing space with eight other colleagues.
Locke and Angelina weren’t tasked with maintenance chores time around. Apart from spending their four-month journey on training, they too had set up a stall at the small common square of the fortress. The square had a capacity for a crowd of 1500 and was a great boredom breaker for many, told by the sizeable traffic that graced the perimeters all day round.
If Locke and Angelina weren’t backed by several level-one Magisters, it would’ve been impossible for them to secure such a strategic spot. Their merchandise consisted of Angelina’s alchemy works. Based on the current competence range of the Lehrlings and Knechts, there was a great demand for low-rank magic gears.
It turned out that the masked Magister wasn’t as much of an unskilled alchemist as he claimed. Angelina’s rapid improvement in the craft was partly owed to Charles’ occasional advice. She’d eventually found out from Carla that Charles was a powerful level-three Magister majoring in pyromancy and photomancy simultaneously. However, Angelina had a feeling that was not even the tip of the iceberg since his title of Faceless Masked Magister had nothing to do with his elements.
It was a general conception among the knights that anything created by a caster would be of promising quality, which was why Angelina’s magic tools were well received in the market. Most of the high-rank Knechts had hailed from various kingdoms and duchies on the Missia Continent. They’d enjoyed a great deal of influence and power since they were typically part of their territory’s high and middle circle. Even so, the horrid war had highlighted the painful gap in their capabilities among peers. Apart from the utilisation of different impetus circulation techniques, they quickly noticed that they were severely lacking in the equipment department.
It was no surprise that high-rank Knechts from the Aomarian Imperial Capital were typically stronger than their duchy counterparts due to better exposure and training structure. Angelina, on the other hand, was a fine graduate of the Imperial Academy and a skilful alchemist affiliated with the Sanctum. Her wares were bound to be the Knechts’ ticket to rapid advancement.
The five-year war had allowed the knights to assemble quite a huge sum, which was why they barely flinched at Angelina’s price of a high-rank Botanian nucleus core. If the items didn't take an exorbitant time and concentration to complete, Locke was sure they could make much more money in a short time.
Four months was short but excruciatingly long for the homesick. Locke and Angelina were surprised to chance upon Erdritter Romm and many other Faustian knights at some point of the journey. Botania was vast and the spatial fortress was huge, it was a pure stroke of luck that they were able to meet before arriving in Zauberia.
Erdritter Romm’s presence was more settled and intense than before, meaning that he’d been able to leave the war unscathed. The Kingdom of Faustian would be safe from prying eyes for the next century or two under Romm’s watch. He swiftly led two level-one Ritters and a dozen high-rank Knechts over to greet their princess.
Locke thought that he’d find Wyr among the high-rank Knechts, yet the man was nowhere to be seen. Wyr had extended him with much care during his days in the military. Locke wasn’t close with the knight so he had no idea if Wyr had perished in battle or that he hadn’t taken part in the conquest. The most likely answer, unfortunately, seemed to be the former.
The passengers of the spatial fortress were soon asked to board the floating vessels when they finally arrived before Zauberia.
“Your Highness, would you return to Faustian with us?” asked Erdritter Romm.
She shook her head softly. “No, I’ll be returning to Princeton. I’ll be back in Faustian in two months, though.”
“Understood.” Romm nodded. This was the princess’ call and he had no right to interfere. He couldn’t help but sneak a glance at Locke as he turned around to leave. The Erdritter had never expected them to end up together and he wondered if the king had given his blessings. Romm felt a little nosy today, unlike his usual rigidness.
Locke brought Angelina closed by the waist once they were on the deck of the floating vessel to the Sanctum. “Have you heard when Grandmeisterin Parlina would return?”
“No. Grandmeisterin Carla hadn’t mentioned anything about that.” She shook her head.
Those that were above level one and officially sworn to the Sanctum and Hall of Knights had mostly remained on Botania to assist further development. The elites would return in batches once things were on track, but achieving that alone was expected to take two to four years. Anyhow, time wasn’t a concern to those who’d enjoyed extended lifespans. Magister Ashar and Carla had returned with them, though.
Dozens of floating vessels landed on the outer strip of the Sanctum Island. While the Magisters were nonchalant as ever, most of the Lehrlings could barely contain their tears of joy at the comforting familiarity. They were finally home after six long years!
Two days later, Carla and Angelina found themselves on the dock again.
“Be sure to enjoy your long break, okay?” said Carla gently, clad in her pristine white Magister robes.
“Thank you for everything, Grandmeisterin Carla.” Angelina bowed with overflowing gratitude.
On the other end, Ashar, who was dressed in contrastingly dark robes, stared at Locke. The knight was more than ready to leave for home. “Are you sure about leaving such a precious item to me?”
“Of course. You’ve looked after me plenty throughout the years and this Botanian core is only best in your hands,” came Locke’s earnest reply. He’d given her the level-two Botaian nucleus core upon finishing their last experiment. The shadowmancer had treated him best even though she’d thought of using him as an experiment subject many moons ago.
“Casters never forget favors.”
Locke grinned widely. Frankly speaking, he wasn’t expecting anything in return from her.
Ashar turned to the Akanasd sovereign, whose wings were outstretched. “How about you? Are you not going to consider living in the forest here?”
Adamyrs turned a little sheepish at the question. “We’ve lived in Morphey Forest for centuries. It is home to us and nothing can compare.” Jeez. Why would Adamyrs choose to live near the Sanctum and subject his family to possible experimentation? That would be plain idiotic.
The forest was in reality a large zoo. These scorpiondrakes were so used to freedom that there was no way they’d willingly serve the casters, unless under threat. Plus, there was an array of base-rank and transcendent-rank major monsters lurking inside; there was even a level-three demigod monster! Adamyrs didn’t wish to be stuck with such terrifying neighbours. Morphey Forest was the best place for the scorpiondrakes to flourish and there was nothing that could change its mind!