The group of cavalrymen arrived at Quarryton before dark. The town was very quiet at night, with there being no other sound around except for the whispers coming from the houses. The return of the cavalrymen sent a ripple through the peaceful town.
Ever since Locke and the others had left the town, Billy stayed with Karl and accompanied him to guard the village entrance. Billy ate the dinner that his mother-in-law brought over as he chatted with Karl, turning to look at the main road occasionally.
Karl could tell that Billy was worried deep down. He smiled and comforted him, "Don't worry, they're just a few bandits."
Despite the reassurance, he couldn't help but overthink. Billy had suffered a lot of losses from these bandits in the past few years. As soon as the cavalry platoon returned, Billy stopped eating, wiped his mouth on his sleeve and ran towards them.
The cavalrymen made a lot of noise when they came back. Most of the townspeople in Quarryton ran out to meet them. Each of the villagers felt a strong sense of security when they heard the dull sounds caused by the iron-clad hooves stomping on the ground and saw the orderly formation of the cavalry platoon.
Almost all of the cavalrymen were covered in blood, and most of the people could already smell the scent of blood from a distance away. Billy endured the discomfort of the smell and continued walking towards them.
Locke's bright yellow armour was also smeared with blood. He looked like a bloody demon under the sunset glow.
"How was it?" asked Billy. Although he could guess the answer from the imposing feel that the cavalrymen gave off, it was getting dark and he couldn't tell whether there was anyone missing from the cavalry platoon.
Locke merely whistled and the cavalrymen flung the sack that was tied to their horse's leg into the air. About twenty or thirty bloody chunks flew out, spilling blood everywhere.
A few courageous townspeople walked nearer to the cavalrymen to see what came out and threw up. Billy was nearest to Locke, so he could see it the clearest. The head that was thrown out by Locke was the leader of Red Maple, who'd harassed their town the most and caused the most harm. He had a scar on his face, and he'd gone to town last month to extort a huge sum of money and food from Billy.
But when Billy saw the deformed head of the leader with the scar on his face, it reminded him of a centipede crawling on a winter melon, and it'd made him nauseous.
Billy, being the mayor, quickly adjusted himself to the situation and said, "Nobody escaped, right?" Since Red Maple had horses, their town would be in endless trouble if anyone managed to flee.
"No," Karl answered for Locke. He patted Billy on his shoulder and said, "Don't worry, nobody can escape from the baron's cavalry, not to mention we have Locke leading us."
Although Billy was still doubtful, he didn't express anything because he didn't see any unoccupied horses nor any treasures that were captured by Red Maple.
Karl wasn't interested in boasting about the combat powers of low-rank Knechts were to Billy, nor did he think much about what was on Billy's mind. He shouted to Locke, "You should head home first. I'll stay here and keep watch."
Locke nodded, edged his horse, and rode towards Maple Village. Under Karl's command, the remaining cavalrymen rode into Quarryton in an orderly manner. Locke held a solemn expression as he galloped along the bumpy mountain roads. He realised that he was very different from ordinary people.
The townspeople of Quarryton didn't celebrate when the cavalry returned from a victory. Instead, they were shocked and he could feel a sense of dread from them. He could even see the fear in their eyes.
Locke and the soldiers from Cardoj's unit were already used to seeing blood and death. They'd seen even more tragedies before this, so the mere smell of blood was nothing to them.
But it was different for ordinary civilians. More than half of the townspeople vomited when they smelled the ironlike scent of blood at such a close distance. Those who didn't, didn't see what was inside the sacks.
Locke rode off in the dark under faint starlight and he could see the big tree at the entrance of Maple Village. He wasn't in a hurry to enter the village; he rode towards the river at the village entrance. Although the river thawed in March, it was still chilly. Plus, it was already night-time.
He dismounted and jumped directly into the cold water, feeling the pins and pricks all over his body as he washed away the blood on his body. His horse tilted its head as it watched its owner's strange behaviour. It then snorted, as if it was mocking him for being crazy.
Locke saw that there were bloodstains on his horse's body as well. He then dragged his horse into the water ruthlessly as it neighed in fear. As a low-rank Knecht, Locke's arm strength was now comparable to a brown bear's. After staying in the river and washing the odour away for three whole minutes, Locke swam ashore.
His horse didn't seem to know how to swim as it kicked viciously through the water. In the end, Locke used some impetus and managed to drag his horse ashore safely. Even though he was a low-rank Knecht, he didn't want to fight against his horse without any amour on him or impetus protection. His horse trembled and whimpered as it looked at him.
After Locke got on his horse, it ran on its own while shaking the fur on his body. When they arrived at the village entrance, its body had already dried off. A few soldiers were still on duty at the entrance. They were the ones that Locke had ordered to stay before he left this morning. They were all very dedicated to their duty and nobody slacked off.
"Brother Locke!" The soldiers recognised Locke as soon as he approached them; his armour was too iconic.
Locke hummed in response. "All of you don't have to keep watch together. Split yourselves into two groups and take turns to be on the lookout," said Locke. He then left with his horse.
The front door was already open when he arrived at his house. His father knew that Locke was the cavalry platoon jarl, so he knew that his son was back when he heard the clatter of a horse's hooves.
Tia went to close the gate and Locke's father looked at the horse that Locke had brought back in awe.
"It's stronger than the horses at the courier station in town and it's as energetic as the ones from the baron's caravan!" Locke's father reached out his hand and wanted to touch the fur on its neck, but the horse took two steps back and looked at him vigilantly. It'd also raised one of his hind legs as if it was ready to kick him at any second.
"Yes?" Locke glared at it and placed his palm gently on its back. The horse instantly became obedient like a baby and allowed Locke's father to stroke its beautiful fur.
"Why are you still wet? Quick, take your clothes off. Lia will wash them for you." Tia was more concerned about him.
He took off the heavy armour and handed the wet clothes that he wore underneath to Lia, who'd been watching for a long time.
"Have you eaten? I'll get something for you to eat if you haven't, there are some leftovers," asked Tia.
Tia immediately went into the house to get some food for Locke. There were two cakes and half a pot of vegetable soup left from dinner; Locke could eat them after the food was reheated.
"What does your horse eat?" Locke's father was still with the horse. It'd turned into a large hedgehog after being caressed by him.
"Don't worry about it, it won't die from starvation." Locke brushed over the question. He had been careless and forgotten that there wasn't any fodder for his horse in the village. He had to go to the town tomorrow to feed it.
It was one of the cavalry platoon's finer horses, so it wouldn't be a problem if it didn't eat for one or two days. When they had to deploy urgently, the horses usually didn't eat for one whole day.
Fortunately, the horse didn't understand human language, otherwise, it would cry its eyes out. It was exhausted after following Locke on an expedition for the whole day. All it got, in the end, was being dragged into a river for a cold bath and now it couldn't even get to eat.
Locke had been fighting the whole day today, so he laid down on his bed when it was still early.
Lia was still washing Locke's laundry. She seemed to have smelled something weird from the clothes. As she moved closer to the clothes, her nostrils picked up a faint smell of blood and Locke's musk.
Lia blushed and hurriedly pressed the clothes into the water. As long as the blood wasn't Locke's, she didn't care where it came from.
When Locke took his clothes off just now, she saw a lot of scars on his body, but they were all scabs from old wounds. She didn't notice any fresh ones.
Lia's heart started to flutter as she thought about Locke's muscular body. She scrubbed the clothes even harder.
Tia was already asleep, but Locke Senior was still awake. He felt that he should feed the horse something. He might need to pay for compensation if it died from starvation.
The more he thought about it, the more he felt that it was sensible. He got up in the middle of the night and went to the woodshed where Locke had placed his horse.
The horse stared at him as he entered the woodshed. It was still traumatised by its owner's behaviour just now, so it didn't dare to mess with this old man.
It snorted annoyedly as it thought that he was here to play with its fur again. It then moved his neck towards him voluntarily, wanting it to be over quickly.
There were a few small pieces of potatoes and rice on Locke Senior's hand, the horse lowered his head and stared at them. It'd never seen those things before.
It went closer to his hand and took a sniff, as if asking 'Can I eat these?'
Locke Senior smiled.
Locke woke up at ten in the morning the next day. He stretched and practised his bare-hand techniques as usual. He'd learned them by himself through exploring from his insights and thought that they were very practical.
He'd originally planned to go to town at noon to see whether Hans and the others were back, but the plan was put on hold. His horse seemed to have an upset stomach.