In the early morning, old Billy donned the suit that he hadn't worn for nearly five years and asked his wife to tie a bow tie for him.
"Do you really need to be dressed so formally?" asked his wife.
"Of course!" Billy widened his eyes. "The young'uns from Quarryton are finally back. Shouldn't I, as the mayor, represent the whole town to welcome them back?"
He hadn't worn a bow tie in such a long time; the last time he'd dressed so formally was when he attended the banquet at the baron's castle a few years ago.
Billy endured the discomfort caused by the suit, straightened his back, and walked out. His house was located in the centre of the town. Now, he had to go to the entrance of the town with the other villagers to wait for the Quarryton soldiers to return home.
Before the frost completely melted at dawn, Quarryton had already become very lively. In fact, it was even livelier than the beer festival last year.
"Old Billy!" greeted an old man from Quarryton with a smile.
He was just an ordinary villager, but he could call Billy's name directly because they weren't that particular about formal address.
Billy was also used to socialising with his villagers this way. It made him feel like he had a close relationship with the ones he ruled despite being a commoner himself.
There were only two nobles at this moment - Baron Cardoj and Sir Wyr.
"Hey, Hancock!" replied Billy with a smile. "How are the crops now?"
Spring was approaching and the prices of crops had risen again this year. The villagers in Quarryton had to plant something during winter to fill their bellies.
"Sheesh, you just had to bring that up! The guinea pigs have almost eaten all of the potatoes!" scoffed the old man.
"Then you should head to Darwin's house in town to buy some poison," said Billy as he walked towards the entrance of the village. Darwin was currently the largest grocer in Quarryton, and he was also Billy's distant relative.
"I'm going to be broke if I buy from him," mumbled Hancock. Darwin was well-known for being stingy and black hearted. Hancock didn't have that much money to be taken advantage of. Though, Billy didn't hear Hancock's silent complaints. He smiled and greeted his villagers.
When the frost had completely melted at ten o'clock in the morning, almost all of Quarryton's citizens were already there. Nearly a thousand people were gathered at the small town at this moment.
Fortunately, there was a square in the town that was broad enough to fit all of them. Though, some of them had to wait at the entrance of the village to make space for the others.
Billy craned his neck and looked at the main road outside of the town.
"Why aren't they here yet?" asked Billy strangely. He'd received a letter from the baron's domain via pigeon post yesterday; Quarryton's soldiers should be arriving home today.
"Maybe they've run into a delay," said Aunt Mary, who was standing next to Billy.
Not only was Mary standing next to Billy, the families of the four platoon jarls were also standing beside him. Although Billy was old, he was still able to win the hearts of the four upstart families in this town.
"It's impossible. Aren't they already done with the battle? What else can there be?" Billy couldn't figure it out.
"Let's wait for a little while longer. Maybe they'll arrive soon," said a middle-aged woman next to him. She was Karl's wife.
"Yeah, we're not in a hurry anyway. Let's continue to wait." Billy agreed.
The number of villagers who waited outside of the town decreased as time went by. It was noon, and most of them had gone back to have their lunch. There was still no sign of the soldiers.
Locke's father leaned against a dead tree at the entrance of the town as he ate the white bread that the mayor handed out.
There was a young man close to him. He recognised this man as the second child of Yoshk's family who worked as blacksmiths in the town. This man had made Locke a weapon when he first joined the army.
"Hey, uh... kid, don't you have to look after the smithy? Are you waiting for your father?" Locke's father asked. He wanted to call out the young man's name, but he couldn't remember what it was.
"Yes, Mister, I'm waiting for my father." The young man nodded politely, he then continued, "My elder brother is in the smithy."
They then began chatting. The young man seemed to be about Locke's age. Locke's father thought about how Locke used to stand and talk in front of him like this as well when he was a child. Locke was also clingy and always wanted his father to carry him on his back.
The conversation with the young man made him miss his son even more.
"Yes, your shovel is of very good quality. I'm still using the one that I've bought from a few years ago..." Locke Senior nodded as if he was agreeing to something. He then realised that the young man had ignored him and was staring at the road in the distance just like everyone around him. His heart skipped a beat as he figured out what was happening.
A group of cavalrymen approached, followed by a company of infantrymen.
Although he hadn't seen his son for six years, he could recognise from the strange connection they had. The knight who was leading the group was his son, Locke.
Locke felt very dejected. They were supposed to reach Quarryton in the morning, but they took a wrong turn and had to use a longer route. In the end, they met up with Yoshk and the other infantrymen and they all returned together. However, his downcast mood was dispelled when he saw his family.
All of the soldiers ran like the wind towards their family members, especially the infantrymen. They ran faster than the cavalrymen. The villagers of Quarryton also walked towards the soldiers excitedly as they looked for their respective children, husband or brothers.
Locke wore a bright yellow armour that was very different from the other soldiers'. He held onto the longsword that was at his waist and rode his horse towards his parents and sister slowly.
In the evening, a grand bonfire party was held in the middle of the town. The soldiers hadn't seen their family for so many years, and they'd stopped wearing the stoic expressions which they donned during the war the moment they saw their family. Some of them even cried while hugging their family members on the spot.
"Little Locke has grown so big in a blink of an eye." Mary smiled. Her family was currently with Locke's family.
Locke touched his hair awkwardly. He had always been a nuisance to Mary when he was a child and was well known for being mischievous in the village.
Hans and Hank were not far away from them. Hans was chatting with his dad, while Hank and Caen were whispering to each other.
"Look, what did I tell you? Locke's sister is a rare beauty in this village!" Hank patted on his chest and pointed at Lia, who was not far away, as if he was talking about his own sister.
Lia was like a lily that stood there quietly at the side while looking at her brother.
Since Caen didn't have a family, Locke and Hans decided to drag him along to Quarryton with them. As comrades, they wanted Caen to feel the warmth of a home as well. Their home was also Caen's home.
But at this moment, Caen didn't feel any warmth of a home. Instead, he was hooked by Lia and couldn't stop staring at her.
Hank noticed that Caen was acting weird. "Brother, don't tell me that you're interested in her?" yelled Hank in surprise. He'd known Caen for a few months and had never seen this look on his face before.
"Shut up!" Caen covered Hank's mouth, pulled him aside, and asked about Lia.
"Lia is a very virtuous woman and she's probably the most beautiful person in our village," said Hank.
"What's her personality like?" asked Caen.
Hank realised that Caen was being serious and wasn't joking about it. "Brother, you can ask Locke about that. I'm sure he knows his sister best." Hank scurried off. He was just Caen's apprentice.
It was not that he was unwilling to help Caen. He knew that his beautiful neighbour, Lia, had already rejected the proposal from many suitors, and he didn't want Caen to run into a brick wall. Plus, he didn't want to trouble Lia.
After he was left alone, Caen looked at Lia infatuatedly from a distance. "Locke isn't handsome at all, yet why is his sister so beautiful?" Caen was overwhelmed with mixed emotions.
Luckily Locke didn't hear what he said, otherwise he would definitely beat the crap out of him.
On the other hand, Yoshk was talking to Billy. The former was the most prestigious among the soldiers and the latter was the mayor of the town. Now that the war was over, both of them would be cooperating a lot in Quarryton.
Meanwhile, Karl was with his wife. Locke had learned from the small talks with Karl that while he and his wife didn't have any children, their relationship had always been very close. Karl was a hunter before he joined the army and his wife was just an ordinary peasant woman.
Karl didn't tell anyone in the town that he'd lost an arm on the battlefield because he didn't want his wife to worry about him. Now that he was back, he couldn't hide it anymore. His wife was in tears as she held tightly onto the sleeve that didn't have Karl's arm.
The bonfire party was very lively. Every family took out the food that they'd brought. The soldiers who'd just returned also took out the various specialities that they'd gotten along the way. Shalorian cuisine tasted very different from the food in Faustian, and the villagers were very curious about how it tasted.
Other than that, almost every soldier had brought a few kilograms of meat back with them. The soldiers who had been in the army for more than two years had acquired good hunting skills. Although it was still winter, there were a lot of animals foraging for food for early spring in the forests of Dor. They could still manage capture some animals if they put their hearts into it.
There was meat, bread and wine. Aside from the soldiers' private alcohol stash, Billy also brought out all the remaining alcohol from last year's beer festival. It seemed like he wanted the whole village to get drunk.
The liveliness didn't die down until it was late at night. Every family either went back to their own village or went to the town to stay for the night.
"Rest for a week, and gather in the town square on the eighth day!" After Yoshk issued an order, he stopped caring about where the soldiers scurried off to.
Although the war was over, the army wasn't disbanded yet. They still had a lot of missions they had to accomplish.