Locke eventually learnt that the eldest sister was Airen, the second sister was Ailee and the youngest sister was Avril. It was after spending an hour or two resting in the same proximity that he finally decided to leave. He was aiming for the elven potion, the reward for the third place. Yet he’d already encountered a quasi-Magister and a powerful team of three stronger female Lehrlings at just the beginning of the event. His newfound resolution was to work harder. He was ready to turn away from the first prize, the Leaf of Life that would help advance as a level-one lifeform, for the sake of Tia, Old Loke and Suzzane.
He decided to head east, deeper into the heart of the Enchanted Forest Realm where better monsters and most cultivators gathered. In other words, the area would provide a great bolster to Locke’s points.
He waved the Roland Sisters farewell, flipped down his helmet visor and was off with a stomp. The sisters watched him leave and once he was out of sight, only did they begin to tidy up and resume their journey.
“Sister, where shall we go next?” Ailee asked her elder sister.
Airen weighed their options. “Let’s head north.”
“Why not the east? We can get more points there,” replied Ailee with furrowed brows.
“We’re only aiming for the elven potion. There’s no need for unnecessary risks.”
“Fair enough.” Ailee was effectively silenced by her sister’s firmness. The knight was already off to the east so what else did they need to fear? She felt the urge to prove themselves to him and yet, she would accept her elder sister’s decision since Airen was always thinking one step ahead.
“Let’s go. Once we get ahold of the elven potion, Avril will be able to improve her mana. Our family’s joint array will be at its strongest in history,” said Airen.
Avril, who’d been quiet all this while, clenched her unblemished fists. “I’ll do my best to catch up with you!” She was the weakness of their array and a boost from the elven potion would indeed make their attack a few folds more powerful. In fact, should the three sisters advance as quasi-Magisters at the same time, their array would be on par with a level-one elite!
Locke ventured along the river towards the east, watching the tranquil waters of the shallow river turn into rapid waters. He could sense the presence of a major monster or guardian of impeccable power inhabiting the waters here. His earlier battle with the rock elemental guardian had been a struggle. He’d much instead challenge regular major monsters or cultivators without enough spell scrolls.
Eventually, he arrived at a stretch of gold. Mermerri’s Cottage had created a plantation of low to mid-rank mana materials to satiate the consumption of their Lehrlings. These materials were only worth a few points, and some even required particular harvesting techniques. Locke had no intention to waste his time here but of course, things would be different if he spotted something worthy of his attention.
Compared to the materials lying around, Locke was more interested in the two who were fighting in the middle of the plantation. Though, it would be more apt to call it one-sided domination. A grey-robed caster, who reeked of death, was attacking a knight in pale gold armour relentlessly. The knight was reduced to a helpless heap, left with no room for retaliation as he was confined by a cage of bones. There were a handful of skeleton soldiers surrounding the contraption that drove their sharp bony projections into the gaps of the cage at random intervals. Safe to say, the knight was in a grave situation.
Casters were often able to overwhelm knights of the same rank with their wider range of techniques, ambush spells, mana barriers and elemental powers. On the contrary, knights could only depend on strength, which was why they often resort to assassination or ambush tactics to catch casters off-guard. But of course, competence and wits were still important factors. Locke was able to scare away the quasi-Magister terramancer with his pile of mana scrolls, a fortified body thanks to the Botanian essence, an invincible froststeel longsword and sturdy enchanted armour. Judging from the caster’s appearance and technique, he was most likely a member of the Scar of the Death Bell. Plus, he too spotted a skull-shaped brooch on the front of his robes.
“Oh? We’ve got company.” The caster raised his head over to Locke. His face was startling, looking dried and malnourished under his gray hood. The caster looked like the dead, his yellowing skin sticking close to the contours of his skull. Locke had never seen anything like this but it did provide some context to Ailee’s mockery.
Did all members of the Scar of the Death Bell share such a forsaken appearance? Locke had no clue since Old Korr hadn’t mentioned much about the faction’s affairs. Just as Locke pondered away absentmindedly, the grey-robed caster finally noticed his skull-shaped brooch.
“You’re a knight under the Scar of the Death Bell? How come I have no impression of you?” The caster’s voice was scratchy like a rough collision of metal shards.
“I’m a knight under the Bone Mark,” Locke quickly responded. Bone Mark was the higher circle of the faction, one that Old Korr was directly associated with. While the grey-robed caster seemed rather powerful, Locke didn’t wish to reveal the full extent of his power just yet. Yet, his brooch was hard to miss; it was brimming with intense energy.
Locke’s brooch had caught the caster’s attention. There was no mistake that it was rich in points but those that were below level one weren’t capable of masking its presence yet. The heaviness of the brooch was detectable in proximity so Locke quickly slid the brooch into the seams of his armour, right out of sight.
“Since you’re a knight under Elder Bone Mark, how about I treat you to a visual feast?” mumbled the grey-robed caster monotonously.
“Sure.” Locke nodded but dared not to be complacent.
“I’ve been toying with this knight for too long. It’s about time to end it.” The caster cackled and thrust his staff forward. The bone prison began radiating violent energy and the golden armoured knight could only yelp helplessly as more jagged bones were driven into his body. The skeleton soldiers around the cage soon threw themselves forward and ignited themselves, birthing a series of explosions.
White blinding flames were the trademark of phantoms and the supernatural. It was widely known as phosphorus flames and could only be used with intense accumulation of negative energy.
The knight’s suffering came to an end when the flames claimed its victim. The grey-robed caster reached his arms forward and lifted the knight’s brooch and spatial ring over with his impressive mental abilities.
“You said that you were a knight serving the Bone Mark, correct?” The grey-robed caster asked casually.
“That’s right.” Locke lied through his teeth once again.
“Ah, what a coincidence. I too am a caster under the Bone Mark so why have I never seen you around?” The caster unfurled his clenched fist and a cloud of phantom mana began wavering around Locke.