Locke waved his whip as he rode on his warhorse, galloping through the mountains.
He was together with nearly a hundred cavalrymen, with Cardoj leading them.
Locke and Wyr were right behind the baron. The cavalry platoon seemed majestic as the horses galloped together.
When they reached a slope, Cardoj pulled the reins, stopping his horse. The cavalrymen behind him followed suit.
"Where are we?" asked Cardoj.
Locke took a scroll out from his armour and roughly looked through it. He then put it away and said, "There's a town named Aimo up ahead. We'll reach Bideslane in two days' time."
The map used by the Faustian army was quite detailed. Locke was a little illiterate, but he still knew the names of a few places.
"Okay." Cardoj nodded. He then pointed at a soldier and said, "You, go and report to the cavalry division behind that everything is fine."
"Yes, Sir!" The soldier made a U-turn and headed towards the rest.
"Let's continue our journey." Cardoj edged his horse on and continued leading his platoon.
It'd been more than a week since they'd left the joint camp. Locke realised that the troops that were transferred back to the kingdom consisted of two cavalry divisions from Falcon and Lion, and one infantry division.
Aside from the cavalry division, the infantry division actually turned out to be 1st Division, the most elite unit among the two major corps. This made Locke wonder if they were really just returning home. The act of transferring two major corps and the most elite unit back had attracted the attention of many observant people like Locke.
Of course, Locke had no choice but to obey the orders of the elites for now. Locke's cavalry platoon was currently together with Falcon's cavalry division, while the infantry platoon followed 1st Division.
As the vanguard of the returning Falcon troops, the mission of Locke's platoon was to lead the way for the whole army.
The places that they'd passed through along the way were all occupied territories. Almost every inhabited town was guarded by Faustian's soldiers. It wasn't safe nor comfortable.
Anyway, Locke felt that he had been on a sightseeing tour for the past week. He hadn't paid much attention to the scenery during the war, but now that he'd taken a closer look, he realised that Shalor actually had many breath-taking sights.
The cavalry platoon finally arrived at Aimo in the evening. The Faustian garrisons in that town welcomed them with open arms; they were told in advance that one of the major returning troops would pass by their town.
There was only one unit because Lion and Falcon had different routes. Although both of their destinations were cities in Bideslane, one unit headed south and the other headed north.
Locke and his platoon's job wasn't done. Cardoj and the commander of the garrisons had already gone outside of the town to look for a place that was large enough to accommodate nearly 10,000 soldiers from Falcon. The rest of the troops would probably only arrive at night.
"Brother Locke, how about we go and have some fun?" The soldiers of the cavalry platoon were already very close to him. They went up to him and invited him to go drinking and looking for women.
They took advantage of the baron's absence. With Locke or Wyr accompanying them, they could have as much fun as they wanted.
"No thanks, you all can go ahead," Locke refused as he shook his head. He'd already drunk with these soldiers several times in the past few days; he didn't feel like drinking tonight.
As for women, he already had Suzanne, Glace and Angelina, who were all very beautiful. He wouldn't be interested in mere decent-looking ones.
"Oh..." The soldiers were not as excited anymore when Locke turned them down. They then walked towards the town.
It was impossible to invite Wyr. Most of the soldiers in the cavalry platoon were trained by him, and they were already considered lucky if Wyr had let them have some fun. He would never join them.
"Don't stay out for too long!" Locke reminded the soldiers who hadn't gone far.
In the end, they had to saw off a small forest outside of Aimo to accommodate the rest of the troops that would arrive later.
They continued to set off after resting for one night. As they rode along the roads of Bideslane, there were farmers cultivating crops in the fields on both sides of the road.
"This wheat was planted in October last year and they'll be harvested in two months' time," Cardoj bragged to the soldiers around him.
Locke listened while looking at the wheat field that looked like a green carpet. Although the soil was still covered with some snow, the wheat in the field stood tall and neatly like soldiers in formation.
Locke thought about the few acres of land in the village that belonged to his family. As they were located in the south of Faustian, a warm region, Locke and his family would plant crops twice a year. They would plant wheat in spring and potatoes and rice during winter.
Although bread was delicious, they would only eat it when they had no other choice. Most of the civilians would choose to plant enough crops that could fill their stomachs during the new year.
Locke wasn't sure if the potatoes and rice had been harvested at home. The scene of him working with his father and sister when he was a child popped up in his mind. It was still snowing, Locke was so cold that he rubbed his hands and stomped his feet in the field. Meanwhile, his father and his sister, Lia, held the shovel with their frozen hands and dug out the crops from the solid ground.
He smiled at the thought of his sister and father. He didn't forget about his mother as well, who'd devoted herself to her family wholeheartedly without complaining.
Cardoj waved his whip to pick up the pace. They would arrive at Bideslane in the afternoon if everything went well.
The troops had arrived at Bideslane two days ago. Unlike the mountains and forests that they'd seen along the way, the vast meadows were representative of Bideslane.
By now, the Faustians had planted countless crops on the meadows to make up for their expenditures this year. Nearly 30,000 Faustian soldiers arrived in Bideslane on the same day. Lion and Falcon each came from different routes. It was really a coincidence that they'd arrived at Peterstown on the same day.
Locke, Hans and Caen rode side by side on the avenue of Peterstown. After entering the city, Cardoj reminded them about some precautions and dismissed the troops. Of course, the soldiers still had to train and be on duty as they should in the camp.
Meanwhile, the platoon jarls sneaked out of the camp and slacked off.
Locke was the one who got Caen a horse. There were more horses than men in the cavalry platoon, so it was easy to pick a horse out, though it had to be returned afterwards.
"Where shall we go?" asked Hans. Among the three, he was the one who didn't have a mind of his own.
"Of course we're going to the famous red-light district to broaden our horizons," said Caen as he jumped off.
Countless Shalorians had left their homes due to the war and Bideslane's ample food production attracted many desperate refugees to seek a living there.
Most of the men had gone to do hard labour. The war had caused a shortage of labourers, so there were a lot of vacant jobs. Though their wages weren't high, it was just enough for them to survive without starving to death.
Women that had a family didn't fare too badly, but for those who didn't have any support, they could work in manual labour, but it wasn't enough to fill their bellies. If they really couldn't live off that job, they had no choice but to sell their bodies, and this had stimulated red-light district's growth in Bideslane.
Caen had heard from the other experienced soldiers that Bideslane was most famous for those looking for such services.
The influx of tens of thousands of Faustian soldiers brought new vitality into Peterstown, a settlement that had just emerged in recent years.
Every soldier had bulging pockets right now, and they had the habit of spending extravagantly; they would probably boost Bideslane's economic growth by a lot.
Fortunately, they had a leader like Cardoj, who kept most of them under a leash. They would just sneak out to have a little fun at most, otherwise, they would definitely be in trouble.
"What kind of place is that?" Caen said, prompting a glare from Locke. Actually, Caen was the most upright among the three of them. Although he seemed like a playboy, he could suppress his desires when it really counted.
"Let's find a place to eat first," Locke decided.
Before the three of them left, they'd already mentioned that they were not eating in the camp. Now that they'd been walking around and couldn't find anything to do, they might as well go and have a meal.
When they reached a bustling area, they faltered and stopped walking.
There was a row of pubs on the right with many ladies standing by the roadside soliciting customers; their targets were soldiers like Locke.
The revealingly dressed ladies, coupled with their perfume scent, had made the three of them gulped. Although it was winter, the three of them felt a rush of heat in their body.
On the other side of the street was a row of restaurants, but there wasn't anyone outside who solicited customers. The environment of the restaurants was obviously better than the pubs on the right. There were only a few waitresses standing under a chandelier in front of the entrance.
Although these waitresses were dressed more conservatively, it was their dignified appearance that attracted Locke's attention.
"So, which side are we going to?" asked Hans. He was staring at the waitress at the left who was crossing her arms.
"Of course we're going to the right side, let's go for a drink!" Caen said, looking at the ladies outside the pubs. Basically, he would stare at anyone who dressed revealingly.
Locke then decided to bring the two of them to a place called 'Dows' Skirt' on the left.
They'd been to the pubs for who knew how many times, but they'd never been to a high-end place like this. It would be a good idea for them to broaden their horizons, rather than appealing to their base desires like Caen was about to.
"Welcome!" As the three of them stepped on the red carpet at Dows' Skirt's entrance, the waitresses bowed and greeted them.
Although Locke was alarmed by the exaggerated greeting, he went in with his two comrades calmly.