Tia took a sip of her tea. “I’ve made peace with your decision, but you must bring Kristin and Laffey.” Some things that wouldn’t be appropriate for Locke Senior to advise, hence the duty fell onto the mother’s shoulders.
“I’m sorry. Who?” Locke couldn’t believe his ears. What was his mother trying to get to? All the women were present at the dining table today, even Angelina, who’d just returned from the palace.
“It’ll be better for Kristin to study at the Sanctum than follow me.” Locke arched a sceptical brow.
“Glace told me that Kristin is pursuing impetus too, just like you. I’m sure she’ll benefit from your guidance.” Tia had indeed become a sophisticated woman of knowledge despite her humble commoner beginnings. There was a hint of desperation in her words. He looked around, noticing that Kristin was fidgeting restlessly with an evident blush. Ah. He smacked his head. Everything made sense now.
“But Laffey…” Locke was at a loss for words to convey his thoughts with the young servant being their proximity.
“Laffey has agreed to it.” Tia cut him off.
Locke didn’t need to look at Laffey to know that she was squirming at the absurdity of the situation. There had been no chemistry between them, save for the casual flirting. Even so, his parents’ insistence had left him no room for arguments. He could only relent in defeat.
Locke Senior, who’d been watching the exchange from the door, could no longer stand his son’s unwilling expression. He spewed hotly, “You bastard! You’ve got it easy and yet you’re acting like this?”
Locke flushed furiously at his words. It was true that his parents had handed him two relationships with him being the biggest benefactor. Laffey and Kristin were gorgeous women that looked as if bestowed from the heavens.
Surprisingly, Angelina had been quiet through the entire thing. Locke had been watching her reaction out of caution but found nothing unusual. She’d probably grown jaded to the polyamorous nature of this household or that his parent had talked her over.
Two months flew by. When the floating vessel that’d rested at the Felorian Palace had once again roared to life, Locke’s new journey with Kristin and Laffey began. They’d planned to stop at the Sanctum to drop off Angelina, Glace and Lia. Lifeforms below level-one were extremely vulnerable in the harsh reality and entering the Sanctum to hone their mana was the best way to boost their standing.
Suzzane stayed in Faustian with Locke Senior and Tia. Since she was a regular person, Suzzane could only run a few businesses as a pastime in their absence. Locke had planned to transfer her properties in Princeton to Billie. Losing some money was no big deal. Locke was wealthy and gold coins were mere numbers to him now. His numerous spatial rings were filled to the brim with the best items of the Faustian’s royal treasury, courtesy of Angelina.
King Kenzir and his queen had come to send them off with their son, who’d stared at the floating vessels with wide childish eyes. The occasion was joined by only a few court officials, most notably Margrave Shia who stood beside the king. The other Faustian noble present that shared a good relationship with Locke was Count Melson.
“Send me a transmission if you need anything at the Sanctum.” Kenzir couldn’t help but fuss over his sister on the eve of separation. He hadn’t arranged for any elite guards this time since unrelated personnel weren’t allowed to enter the Sanctum. Anyhow, Angelina was already strong enough to hold her ground now. There was also no need for attendants since she could easily purchase an alien slave from the trading zone for a dime. Alien slaves were easier to handle than humans too.
Kenzir gave a few curt reminders to Locke. He’d despised his debauchery and if Angelina hadn’t loved him wholeheartedly and that he wasn’t a quasi-Ritter, Kenzir would’ve long gotten rid of Locke.
Locke Senior, Tia and Suzzane waved at them from below as the floating vessel moved towards the horizon. Locke had promised himself a commitment of three years; he needed to become a Ritter and find a way to lengthen the human lifespan before time was up. Before anything else, the floating vessel made a stop at Morphey Forest. Locke figured it would be best to bring along Fermoss as a mount since he was bound to embark on a long journey.
They finally arrived in Princeton a week later, landing their floating vessel skilfully on the huge field of the Imperial Academy. Fermoss and Angie were napping on the deck without a single care. Locke ignored them and headed off to visit a few old friends with Angelina.
“You’re selling them to me?” Billie gaped, long emerald skirt touching the ground. There was a smidge of rouge coating her lips. Time had given her a mature allure and she had since begun to assume an active role in her clan’s businesses.
“Yeah. The price is yours to decide too,” offered Locke generously. He had a feeling that Suzzane’s shops wouldn’t amount to much.
She shifted leisurely into a more comfortable position and sipped on some tea. “You’re an old friend so I’ll buy them at a proper price. How does three hundred thousand gold moores sound to you?”
“Isn’t that too much?” Three hundred thousand gold moores was a huge sum for the average Aomarian noble clan.
“Trust me, it’s worth that much.” Billie returned an affirmative nod.
Suzzane had borrowed Billie’s network to expand her business into many areas of the Aomarian Empire while Locke was in Botania. Some of them had seen considerable success in certain places, so much so that even Billie’s clan had come to borrow her influence in turn. The first few years hadn’t seen the best results but Suzzane’s growth in the industry was still shockingly impressive. It hit Locke that he’d underestimated Suzzane’s achievements. A bid of three hundred thousand gold moores was considerable even for his current wealth status.
He told Billie about the interesting things that’d happened throughout the years before leaving for Joaquin’s place. Angelina would join them there with Daenie and her other friends too. As they travelled, Locke suddenly got curious. “I heard you hadn’t gotten married yet?”
Billie blinked, taken aback by the unexpected question. “That’s true.”
“Even Kris and Pablo have settled down. Are you and Joaquin not in a rush to do so?” He said with a small laugh.
Since Daenie was involved in the Botanian conquest, it was understandable she hadn’t had the time to seek a partner. Mina, the rare wind caster from their little mission group back then, had married an aristocratic caster in Princeton a few years ago.
“We’re still young so there’s no rush.” Billie chuckled, fingers threading through her silky hair.
He said nothing else, changing the subject.
The floating vessel took flight once again, disappearing into the distance gradually. With her arms across her torso, Billie turned to watch Joaquin. The other woman’s gaze was distant, thoughts spiralling into something unknown.
“What do you plan to do next?” Billie broke the silence.
While they were still able to gather and interact like before, the gap between their statuses had begun to show since their lives had diverged from one another. Danie used to be the meek hydromancer. Yet, she was already close to becoming a high-rank Lehrling. Billie and Joaquin, on the other hand, had stagnated as a mid-rank Lehrling for years.
“I think I should head out and see the world like Locke,” replied Joaquin as she shifted under the tree’s shade.
“You wish to join him?” Billie raised a questioning brow.
“Of course not,” she clarified. She didn’t even know where exactly Locke was heading.
The two fine graduates of the Imperial Academy continued to sit in silence.
Joaquin stood up. “I don’t know if we’ll meet each other again.”
Billie watched her back to the edge of the path before looking away. She replied firmly, “I’m sure we’ll meet again. I’m not going to stop here either.” She left for a different path. All roads led to Rome and everyone was in charge of their own lives.
The Sanctum’s dock was bustling with activity as usual. There were countless floating vessels landing and departing the island without rest.
“Wow! That is a lot of floating vessels!” Kristin exclaimed excitedly. This was her first time at the Sanctum and the sky corridor, the huge diversity of the alien slaves held in the transfer zone and the institute’s grand structure were like nothing she’d ever seen. She marvelled at the true height of casters.
“Follow us to the registry before scrambling off,” Locke called after Kristin before she could venture further.
Angelina took a good look at Fermoss, who remained pliant on the deck. “I’ll go ask Grandmeisterin Carla for a familiar pouch.”
“There’s no need to trouble Grandmeisterin Carla. I can easily buy one myself.” That was something money could easily solve anyway.
Since knights didn’t possess sufficient mental abilities to use magic equipment, they would require a special contraption to use spatial pouches for familiars. This made spatial pouches expensive and sometimes difficult to attain for their lot.
While it may be rare, a spatial pouch that knights could use was in high demand. It shouldn’t be an issue to find one in the great Sanctum; it would just be a matter of effort. If not, he’d just splurge a little at the institute’s trading hall.
Fortunately, Glace and Lia were directly approved into the Sanctum without hiccups with Carla’s recommendation. The Sanctum needed Lehrlings since many of their best talents had perished during the planar wars. It was time to rebuild their legacy again. As long as Lia and Glace worked hard enough, it would be easy for Angelina to help them stand out.
Ashar had moved to level 96 of the Sanctum tower over the year, which was a great leap of ten floors from her last residence. Was this a result of genuine acknowledgement from the Sanctum, or had the institute lost too many powerful Magisters in the conquests? Both factors could be in play with everything considered, though.
“If you’re serious about going on a quest, I’d recommend visiting the east coast,” said Ashar.
Her room was still as dark as Locke remembered. The shadowmancer really did favour such an environment.