“Good day, I’m the appraiser for Mermerri’s Cottage,” An elderly caster with a crown of white hair introduced himself.
Locke ignored the blonde’s disappointed look as she turned to leave the room. This was no place for a caster apprentice like her to stay.
“Are you a knight? Are you affiliated with any of the factions here?” It turned out that the appraiser was great with words. He’d been able to maintain a flowing conversation as soon as Locke stepped through the door.
“Not at the moment, Meister. Does Mermerri’s Cottage have vacancies for knights?” asked Locke.
“Of course. Our guild has close to ten thousand mid-rank Knechts and around hundreds of high-rank Knechts like you.” The caster smiled. He was just a mid-rank Lehrling hence he couldn’t sense that Locke was actually a quasi-Ritter.
Locke interrupted him, “How about we close the transaction and discuss the rest later?” It was a deliberate move to end the conversation. Locke refused to join anything before getting a clearer picture of the region’s distribution of power.
“I apologise. The old man got a little carried away,” The appraiser replied sheepishly. The hard-selling was deliberate since Mermerri’s Cottage had been seeking high-rank elites over the last two years. The reward of a successful referral fed his enthusiasm and he rarely came across people as strong as Locke with his desk job.
“Oh! A pair of antlers at 98% condition!” The appraiser turned to the next item, eyes going wide. “And an enchanted striped deer heart at 70% vitality?”
The caster made a noise, pinning his surprised gaze on Locke. “I apologise for my earlier intrusion, I didn’t realise that you were such a powerful knight.” The older man quickly bowed his head in apology. Enchanted striped deers were notoriously difficult to handle and if that wasn’t enough as a picture of Locke’s capabilities, his years of education might as well be for naught.
A thought clicked in the caster’s mind. If he could bring Locke into Mermerri’s Cottage, he’d be rewarded handsomely. Even so, it wasn’t good to push things further. The appraiser expertly schooled his expression to nonchalance. He could tell that Locke hadn’t considered any factions so it was best to cultivate their goodwill and extend the invitation later on. After all, lone wolves were rare on the east coast. Knights and casters who wished to emerge on the top would pledge to a faction. The elderly caster was confident that his impeccable socialising skills would eventually bring Locke into Mermerri’s Cottage, which was the best guild out of the three largest caster forces of the Marharden Kingdom.
Locke admired the Laurve potion that he yearned for before leaving the room as soon as he was done exchanging contacts with the appraiser. He slipped into deep thought as he paced down the wide streets of Morrington Harbour. Mermerri’s Cottage was the second guild that’d extended an invitation to him, following the Phantom Tower. Was the demand for talent on the east coast that high?
Locke’s group stayed around Morrington Harbour for another two weeks. They visited various mission locations for a better glimpse of the foreign land before settling on a new destination -- Brurashire.
Brurashire was one of the provincial cities of southern Marharden, which also happened to be one of the nearest thriving cities to the harbour. Locke had managed to utilise his connections with the caster guild to hire a group of adventurers to serve as guides. After all, they need to cross a handful of forests over the stretch of a thousand-mile journey to arrive in Brurashire. Locke had a feeling that they would’ve spent two months going in circles without proper guidance.
He remembered seeing a few requests for local guides in the mission lobby so he figured to file a posting as well. The issue was quickly resolved with Locke’s quasi-Ritter status and a whole lot of gold sorres, which amount wasn’t too taxing considering his wealth.
“Herr Locke, when are you expecting to arrive in Brurashire?” asked one of the younger knights in a half-body chainmail armour. The man was a low-rank Knecht and yet his blemished armour and dishevelled goatee pointed at rich experience.
“Best if we can arrive within two weeks,” Locke replied curtly. He was dressed like an aristocrat, his body covered by a luxurious shirt and boots shined to perfection. Even without the spotless top hat perched on his head, Locke was still a true noble.
“I’m afraid two weeks is a little too rushed. Unfortunately, we, Team Dawnlight, aren’t capable of fulfilling your request,” The leader of the group apologised. She was an average-looking caster with chestnut hair.
“Three weeks is fine too. Plus, I also have my own guards following the journey,” Locke negotiated confidently, not unlike a well-educated and sophisticated young lord.
“Three weeks is good for us. We’re more than happy to take the task.” The chestnut-haired woman finally caved in. Locke was offering a generous payment and their lot needed the fund.
The guards Locke mentioned were none other than Laffey and Kristin. The journey to Brurashire was bound to be low-risk with guidance from the Dawnlight Team. He could lean back and relax, fully assured that the two would be out of harm’s way while treating this as stamina training.
Kristin had been the mastermind of Locke’s noble ‘disguise’. She truly was a sharp-minded one but he didn’t know what to make of his current situation. Locke wasn’t sure whether to laugh or cry at this.
They’d depart tomorrow so that Team Dawnlight would have ample time to fetch necessary supplies and necessities.
“Here’s your deposit.” Locke tossed over a pouch of coins to the chestnut-haired caster but was instead received by the young knight in chainmail armour. The bag was densely packed with two hundred silver coins, which landed heavily with a muted clink.
Locke, Kristin and Laffey returned to the inn for the night.
“Hehe, who would’ve thought that the young lord that required escorts was a quasi-Ritter,” Kristin grinned widely. Unbeknownst to Locke, the young woman had been a menace to society in his absence. She was a notorious character back in Felor, having bullied many aristocrats with her affiliation to the prince consort.
“Yeah, exactly. And I’m going to just watch you and Laffey suffer.” Locke smacked her bottom loudly.
“Ha! You’d never stand and watch if we're ever in a pinch.” Kristin rubbed her sore buttcheeks with an indignant pout. Their interaction had grown increasingly intimate over the months and the casual skinship was always welcomed. It was at this moment that Laffey entered the room with a bucket of hot water.
“Oh, yes! Let’s soak our feet together!” Kristin declared boisterously.
The other woman’s cheeks grew red. Compared to Kristin’s enthusiasm and lack of reservation around Locke, Laffey would still shy away from such intimate gestures.