It was getting dark. Locke and Han's family returned to Maple Village together. Locke's relatives originally wanted him and his family to stay in town for the night, but Locke refused as there were too many people. Caen also returned with the two families.
The journey back to the village was a fulfilling one. They all talked and laughed along the way; Locke and his family went on without end.
Though, Caen seemed to have something on his mind and didn't talk much. Locke and Hans knew him very well, and they were surprised by his unusual behaviour.
It was already late at night by the time they'd arrived at Maple Village. They could only see the full moon and the stars sparkling in the sky.
The two families bade farewell and returned to their respective homes.
Hans' house was bigger and had more rooms, so he brought Caen to sleep in his house.
Locke's house was very small and only had two bedrooms in it. Locke's parents were very excited with their son's return and they kept asking him all sorts of questions. Six years had passed, and now, Locke was already a head taller than his father.
In the end, Lia stood up and dragged her parents back to their bedroom. They were old and they needed their rest.
Meanwhile, Locke looked at his sister who hadn't spoken much today. He wanted to start a conversation with her, but he didn't know what to say.
Locke's parents shouted from their bedroom, "Both of you should sleep earlier too!" The room fell silent a while later. They had a long day and were already tired. Only Locke and Lia were left in the house.
"Nice scarf," Locke pointed at Lia's headscarf. This was the first thing he'd said to his sister ever since he returned.
"Yeah," Lia lowered her head.
"Let's head to bed too," suggested Locke after he noticed the awkwardness between them.
When Locke went to his bedroom, he realised how stupid his suggestion was.
Locke and Lia shared the same bedroom. He was only fourteen when he joined the army and they'd always slept in the same room before that.
In fact, he'd complained that his bed was too small when he was young. So, they joined their beds together and he would sleep in his sister's arms.
Now that he was already nineteen, it wouldn't be appropriate to sleep in the same room with his sister anymore. But it was already late and he couldn't find somewhere else to sleep.
"Go and sleep on your bed," said Lia indifferently as she pointed at Locke's small bed. She treated Locke as if he was just her little brother just like the old times.
Since Lia already made up her mind, Locke was no longer embarrassed. He took off his armour and went to sleep.
Lia took off her headscarf, letting her long, flowing hair down. She then laid down on her bed, separated by only a small bedside table.
He'd been riding nonstop and hardly had a good night's sleep in the past few days. He should be exhausted by now, but he couldn't fall asleep as he laid down, smelling the familiar scent of his bed. Locke only managed to fall asleep as the sun rose up.
It was noon the next day when he woke up. He opened his eyes abruptly and tried to grab his scabbard with his left hand, only to realise that he was now home and the war had already ended.
Locke thought of something and turned his head to look at the bed that was next to him. There wasn't anyone there.
He stretched and loosened up his tense muscles. Crackling sounds could be heard from all over his body. His armour and his sword remained untouched in his room. Locke walked out of the room in his uniform.
His mother, Tia, was feeding the chickens in the courtyard. Lia, on the other hand, was chopping firewood. A pot of soup boiled on the stove on one side.
"Let me do it!" Locke walked towards his sister and grabbed the axe in her hand before she could say anything.
Lia was currently wearing the sackcloth with a towel wrapped around her head. Although she wasn't as pretty as she looked yesterday, Locke preferred how she looked now.
He asked his sister to move away from him. He then swung his arms and began chopping the firewood.
It was a walk in the park for Locke to chop the firewood with his burly physique coupled with the strength of a low-rank Knecht that he had. A while later, the chopped wood was stacked neatly into a pile that was as tall as a person, enough for their family for one week.
While chopping firewood, Locke asked, "Where's Dad?" He hadn't seen his father since he woke up.
"He's at the fields harvesting some potatoes and rice. We're having rice, chicken stew and mashed potatoes today," replied Tia with a smile.
There wasn't a lot of good food at home. But since it was a joyous occasion, as Locke had been away for so many years, his parents had already decided what to make a long time ago.
Locke was pretty sure that the old hens in his courtyard would be used to make the chicken stew, but he didn't mind it at all.
Based on his current assets, half of it would already be enough for his family to live comfortably for the rest of their lives; they didn't need to save on their meals anymore.
He'd already made up his mind to buy a house in the town that was ruled by the baron in the near future. After he received his rewards, he would buy a manor for his parents.
He hadn't forgotten about the knighthood that Kenzir had promised him. He wasn't in a hurry to tell his parents about this matter, choosing to keep it a surprise for when the time was right.
Lia didn't slack off when Locke was busy chopping the firewood. She went into the house to get some vegetables and condiments to enhance the flavour of the soup.
A while after Locke Senior returned, Locke and his family sat down together at the dinner table for a merry lunch. This was the first time after five years that Locke had a meal with his family.
Hans and Caen, who were next door, were drawn in by the fragrance of the chicken. They then went over to Locke's house and ate with them shamelessly.
Both of them had also just woken up. Sleeping at home was way more comfortable than sleeping outside when they were soldiers. The soldiers who weren't on duty always slept till noon.
Locke stayed at home with his family for seven days straight. He would either follow his father to work at the fields behind the mountains or help out with the house chores with his mother and sister.
"We don't need these old clothes any more, let's get new ones," said Locke as he pointed at the old shirt that Lia was sewing.
"Why should we? This shirt is still wearable," Tia was the first to stand up and object.
"We're not short of money anyway," said Locke. He just realised that his parents had saved most of the money that he had sent back in the past few years.
"Don't you need money to get a wife? Don't you need money to build a new house?" Although his mother had always been good tempered, she wasn't much different from Aunt Mary when she was furious.
Locke wanted to tell his mother badly that he already had three women, and among the three of them, two were incredibly rich and one was good at earning money. There wasn't a need for his family to spend any money on the marriage.
Angelina was the princess of Faustian, and if he'd really proposed to her, there was no need for betrothal gifts. Angelina's dowry alone could probably buy out several towns like Quarryton.
Locke had also not forgotten about the spatial gear that was in Glace and Kristin's hands. They contained a lot of precious items from Felippe's treasury, and if they were all converted into thalers, a person could drown in that sea of thalers.
And then there was the heavy armour that Locke had taken a lot of effort to put it on. It was a very rare piece of equipment as there were only two of those in Shalor. Plus, the armour could only be destroyed by high-rank Knechts. So, one could easily guess how high the value of it was.
Lastly, there was Suzanne. Locke only gave her a few hundred silver thalers in the beginning, and she managed to earn ten times of that in an instant. She really had good business acumen.
Though, Locke couldn't tell his parents about this directly. He couldn't just reveal Angelina's identity as he wished and he couldn't tell his parents that Glace, Suzanne, and the others were Shalorians. He had no choice but to accept his peasant's mother nagging.
Locke noticed that Caen acted strangely during these few days. Caen looked at his sister the exact same way he looked at Suzanne when he first met her.
He somehow felt a little uncomfortable about it. Although they were all close comrades, he felt as if someone was eyeing his belongings, and he hated this feeling. Fortunately, Lia was always lukewarm to Caen, and this had made Locke feel much better.
But this had destroyed Caen's confidence. He was dispirited for several days when Lia gave him the cold shoulder.
Actually, it wasn't just Caen. Lia treated all her admirers the same way. She'd just known him for two days, and she could already sense that her brother's comrade was interested in her.
Unfortunately, Lia didn't feel the same towards him. If it wasn't for Caen who was Locke's comrade, she would've gave it to him bluntly like how she treated the other men in town.
Locke felt most relaxed when he was home. Every morning, he would practise his bare-hand fighting techniques and chat with his family. If he was bored, he would head to the forest behind the mountains with Caen and Hans to hunt. He felt truly free for once.
Yesterday, Locke gave it some thought and decided to take a part out of his savings, only about ten gold thalers, as he didn't want to startle his family. Little did he know that his parents would think that they were mere copper ones.
"Why is there a crown in this thaler?" Locke's father furrowed his brow and inspected it carefully. He was worried that they were counterfeit coins.
When Locke told them that they were gold thalers, his parents asked him whether he'd stolen them. He didn't know whether to laugh or cry. He was a cavalry platoon jarl and he would never do such a thing.
Locke's parents couldn't be blamed for it. Ten gold thalers were worth a thousand silver thalers. Locke had been sending his salary to his family in the past few years, and his parents had only saved a hundred silver thalers from it. This amount of money was enough to make up for a satisfactory betrothal gift for a decent wife.
When Locke brought out so much money, his parents were proud of his success and stopped asking him to save money for his future wife. The girls in their village weren't up to their standards anymore; Locke should go to the town or even the baron's town to find a better woman.
His parents didn't want the money because they were already old and they didn't need so much. Even so, Locke insisted on giving it to them as a display of filial affection. He, once their mischievous son, was now sensible and thoughtful. His mother started tearing up at the thought of it.
Locke, Hans and the others went to the mountains to hunt for wild animals again. It wasn't that the chickens at home weren't good enough for them; their parents had raised for several years and felt sentimental towards them. Not to mention, the chickens weren't enough for them as they ate like horses. The deer, hares and guinea pigs in the mountains would be far more appetising and filling for them anyway.
Other than Locke, Hans and Caen, several soldiers from Maple Village also tagged along. They wanted to take this opportunity to befriend the two platoon jarls. It wasn't until the evening that the group of men descended the mountain merrily with their prey in hand.