As everyone anticipated an end to their conversation, there was a switch in Ashar’s tone. “Locke is still lacking a mount. How about leaving one of your children here?”
Both Adamyrs and Locke couldn’t believe what they were hearing. They stared at her, dumbfounded. Fermoss had never been Locke’s mount. It was merely enticed by the various foods and benefits that came with servicing him on Botania. Now that the planar war was over, it was only natural for Fermoss to return to Morphey Forest with its family. Angie, on the other hand, would continue to remain with Angelina since they were bound by contract.
There was unmistakable tension in the air. The Akanasd sovereign was obviously appalled by the request. Yet, Ashar was an overwhelmingly powerful Magister and they were still on Sanctum territory. Adamyrs was stuck in a sticky situation, unable to form the correct words for a rejection.
There wasn’t ample time to ponder as Adamyrs’ train of thoughts was abruptly interrupted by a scoff packed with the mental suppression of a peak level-one Magister. It eventually gave in to the pressure. Adamyrs tried to comfort itself; its youngest child grew to become a high-rank major monster within a decade under Angelina’s care, perhaps leaving another child in their hands would be greatly beneficial.
With that, the brief exchange was concluded: Fermoss, who was yawning at the side, would now serve as a proper mount to Locke. He would have to formulate a valid contract soon with the help of some powerful Magister, just in case. A level-two Botanian nucleus core wasn’t nearly as useful as a base-rank mount at Locke’s current level. While he knew that this wasn’t the return Ashar had in mind, he couldn’t help but feel indebted to her once again.
The Akanasds let out a rumbling screech as the floating vessel thrust forward into the blue sky. Adamyrs and Shiva took to the flanks while Locke waved goodbye to Ashar and Carla below. They began their journey to the Missia Continent with Angelina’s skilful steer.
It was not until seven days later when the familiar scape of the Imperial Capital emerged on the horizon. Locke had learnt his lesson this time; remembering to drop the scorpiondrakes in a small forest before crossing the border. They had been placed in a forest with a few measly major beasts. The area was in the outskirts where no imperial soldiers were stationed so Locke was certain that the Akanasd family could be at ease here.
Daenie sighed longingly as her light hair danced in the wind. “I missed Princeton oh so dearly.” She stretched her arms into the space, almost as if savouring the warmth of her hometown. While Parlina had remained on Botania, her apprentice was allowed to return to Princeton with Locke and Angelina. Unlike the privileged couple, Daenie was finally home ever since leaving for the Sanctum seven years ago.
The soft and naive girl had experienced remarkable growth over the last seven years. The excruciating war had chased away her gullibility, transforming her into a strong and mysterious Sanctum caster with a firm and clear gaze.
“You should go meet Joaquin and the others soon. I’m sure they’ll be surprised at how much you’ve grown!” Locke teased with a grin, to which Daenie replied with a small smile.
Princeton hadn’t changed much from when they were back three years ago. The streets were still bustling with activity and the regular peasants bumbled around to make a living. It was only the affluent that could afford to travel around in their posh carriages in search of some entertainment. The shopping district was filled with noblewomen on a hunt for fancy jewellery and perfume as usual.
The appearance of their floating vessel had attracted the curiosity of the crowd below. There had been an influx in floating vessel traffic into Princeton over the last two days so thankfully, it hadn’t triggered any chaos. While there had been some commotion in the beginning, the proud citizens of the Imperial Capital soon grew accustomed to them. They considered it a great honour to have witnessed so many floating vessels in a year since Princeton was a non-coastal area.
Two level-one Ritters approached the floating vessel in the air. After a quick work of verifying the Sanctum’s emblem attached to its flank, they led the vessel over to the Imperial Academy, which had been turned into a temporary dock due to its massive space.
“Angelina, Locke, I’ll be heading home now. Catch you both later!” Daenie waved at them once she got off the floating vessel.
“See you.” Locke nodded in acknowledgement.
Locke and Angelina left the academy hand in hand once they were done declaring themselves to the imperial Ritters.
“Hey! Over here!” He snapped his fingers loudly, easily calling over a carriage that’d been waiting outside the academy’s gates. “To Sachiel Street, please.”
They were completely exhausted from travelling in the air for a week, quickly dozing off once the carriage lurched into motion. “Very well, Herr.” Thankfully, the coachman was tactful enough to pick up on their weariness. The carriage travelled smoothly along the great streets of Candem and Locke felt incredibly at peace at that moment.
It felt comforting to find their home looking the same as when they’d left. Nothing had changed; the doors were the same sturdy wooden build and the stone lions were spotless as ever. It became apparent that they were frequently cleaned and maintained.
The loud galloping sound of horses and the creaking of the carriage’s wheel didn’t go unnoticed by the mansion’s inhabitants. The door cracked open to reveal a curious Lia.
“Lia!” Locke dashed forward to hug his sister tightly, not minding Angelina’s close presence. Oh, he’d missed her so much.
“Locke?! You’re finally home.” Lia was a little taken aback by the sudden embrace, turning a little sheepish at Angelina’s presence. However, the Faustian princess didn’t seem to mind the interaction so she took the liberty to return the hug. More footsteps approached them.
“Big Brother!” The fastest to reach them had been Kristin. The young girl was now in her twenties but had pitifully lacked any ounce of ladylike behaviour. She threw herself onto Lia and Locke, eager to join the hug. Locke feared that her brashness would hurt her, quickly letting go of Lia to receive Kristin. The next to follow was Glace and Suzzane. While they hadn’t acted as desperate as Kristin for Locke’s attention, their gazes were absolutely smoldering and hot.
It was a lovely coincidence that everyone was home. Locke stepped into the mansion with a broad smile, one hand gripping Lia’s palm while the other arm lifted Kristin. Dinner tonight was made a special occasion, featuring a feast prepared with love and mastery of both Suzzane and Lia to celebrate Locke and Angelina’s return. Locke watched the wholesome interactions around the dinner table, feeling the warmth radiating from within his cavity. He’d missed his little family a lot.
At some point, Locke was reminded of something. He gulped down some soup and asked, “Lia, how did you know that we’d be back today?” It was a surprise to find his sister at the door seconds following their arrival.
“I know! I know!” Kristin shouted, capturing everyone’s attention effectively. “Sister Lia would always knit or practise spells in the yard closest to the gate. That’s why she was the first to greet you.” It appeared that Kristin was a little upset that she hadn’t been the first to hug Locke.
He froze, immediately understanding the implications. Locke tightened his grip around Lia’s palm, a wordless acknowledgement of her sentiments.
They didn’t remain long in Princeton as they flew to Faustian once they’d visited their friends. There were close to a hundred elite guards, planted by the Faustian king to ensure his daughter’s safety, escorting their trip this time. It was ironic since a near quasi-Magister had no use for guards that were only as strong as mid-rank Knechts. Angelina could stand her own ground at ease.
“Big Brother, am I hallucinating or has the scorpiondrakes grown rounder?” Kristin hugged Locke’s arm, pointing enthusiastically at the napping scorpiondrakes scattered across the deck.
He coughed a little at the soft sensation against his limb. Kristin was still as tactless as ever. Hadn’t she noticed that her Aunt Glace was watching them?
“True, they are indeed a little bigger now.” Locke tried to feign nonchalance. The base-rank scorpiondrakes had primarily fed on nutritious substances filled with rich life essence on Botania. He’d have to give them credit for the overall growth in their competence. While they were still far from becoming transcendent-rank major monsters, it was safe to assume that they’d achieve their parents’ height within a century or two of unperturbed growth.
Kristin suddenly grew red in the cheeks. She whispered lowly, “Are you sure they’re just a little bigger?”
There was a pause until it finally sunk in. Locke palmed his face and fled. He’d just satiated his lust after a wild night spent with both Suzzane and Glace; he wasn’t ready to return to a cold bed at Glace’s wrath.
Speaking of which, Kristin was a grown lady and her overflowing feelings for Locke were unstoppable. While Glace still found it difficult to stomach, she’d long convinced herself that this was alright. Glace yearned to bear his child but she was already in her thirties. She was no longer in the suitable age range for pregnancy so she’d decided to live vivaciously through her niece. Locke remained clueless about her psychological changes. To him, Kristin was like a child that never grew up. He could still get ahold of himself even if she may bear ulterior motives.
It was hours later at night when Locke, Suzzane and Glace were wrapped around each other on a silk-covered bed. They’d just finished a round of exciting physical activities, currently basking in the afterglow.
“Here, potions for you both. Keep them well, alright? Take a drop each day, either oral consumption or applying it as an ointment will do.” Locke produced two vials filled with pink liquid from his spatial ring.
“What’s this?” Glace asked with a quirked eyebrow as she twisted the lid open to get a whiff. She was currently a mid-rank Lehrling that majored in potion concoctions. Her fundamentals knowledge was solid so it went without saying that she was capable of formulating potions of decent quality.
“It’s a life-lengthening and anti-ageing potion.”
Glace’s eyes were positively sparkling. The strong essence of life emitting from the vial was enough proof of its potency.