At the end of the month, Locke finally had the time to meet with Suzanne and the others for a few days.
The four Shalorian women were not used to living in Cardoj's domain as they couldn't communicate with others. Their accent was completely different from the Faustians', and this had made the civilians in the baron's town to be vigilant towards them. Even the Faustians from the rural areas in Dor province couldn't live well, let alone the four Shalorian women.
The people from Dor province were the most dauntless and were discriminated against in the whole kingdom. As they said that unruly people were typically born and raised in badlands, the civilians of Dor province were seen as uncivilised people as there were many mountains and forests in where they lived.
The women were very excited when they saw Locke, especially Kristin. She didn't behave like a little princess from a wealthy family at all. She jumped onto Locke the moment she saw him and clung onto his neck like a koala, and she wasn't willing to let go of him.
Locke took the four of them for a stroll around the town. The residents greeted him with open arms when they saw him in his military uniform with a longsword that dangled around his waist. Most of them were Locke's subordinates.
Most of the cavalry platoon soldiers were from this small town. Someone first spotted Locke when he was strolling around with the women. A while later, he was surrounded by a group of soldiers who went up to greet him. It was easier for Locke, who was also a commoner, to get along with these cavalrymen compared to a noble like Wyr.
Locke belonged to Kristin during the day, whereas during the night, he belonged to Suzanne. The little girl pouted as she was dragged to bed by Laffey reluctantly. Suzanne couldn't resist anymore and rushed into Locke's arms.
As money wasn't a problem to Locke, he had booked the most high-end room for them. The rooms were soundproof, so he didn't need to worry that the people next door could hear him. As he hadn't relished in his carnal desires for more than a month, he'd almost made Suzanne faint.
He went to look for Glace after midnight. He knew that they slept in different rooms. Locke pressed on her amid her exclamation. Glace didn't reject him this time and hugged him tightly as her nails embedded in his back. Locke was aroused by the pain and pounded on her more violently...
After spending a week with the four girls, Locke returned to Quarryton. He went to look for Cardoj before he went back. It was Locke's first time at the baron's castle; it looked like a blockhouse from a distance, but was completely different when it was in front of his eyes.
The towering walls and the strict security in the castle made him feel like he was in a stronghold rather than a residence. Johann, the old butler, brought Locke to the living room. He told Locke not to wander around and then went to look for the baron.
Locke looked at the castle's interiors with novelty. Although the castle wasn't as spacious as Felippe's mansion, its atmosphere was overbearing. It was the same atmosphere he'd felt in the camps, which made Locke feel very comfortable. Although it was his first time there, he was more intrigued by it than being unnerved.
After the baron arrived at the living room, Locke reported the incidents that happened in Quarryton in the past month, focusing on the suppression of bandits. Now, none of them would dare to show up within the radius of three hundred miles from Quarryton. This was also the main reason Locke could find the time to meet with Suzanne and the others there.
The baron acknowledged their achievements and rewarded the Quarryton soldiers with a considerable amount of silver thalers. When Locke was about to leave, the baron insisted he stay for lunch. Apart from Solon, with whom he dined, he was also fortunate enough to meet the baron's other son, Barton.
Although Barton's name sounded like he was a simple and honest person, Locke's first impression felt that this man of the same age as him was that of a sharp-witted person. Barton had taken care of Cardoj's domain for several years, and his temperament and demeanour were very similar to Cardoj's.
Though Locke didn't intend to make friends with him, they had a surprisingly pleasant conversation after lunch. Barton didn't act like a noble at all. Instead, he was humble and even addressed Locke as his brother. Locke was indeed a little younger than him, but it wasn't like he could choose to be born in September.
On the other hand, Solon left as soon as he finished eating. Locke was about to say hello to him and this had made him feel awkward. Although Barton was friendly to him, Locke knew that he wasn't interested in him. Instead, he was rather interested in his position and the rumour about his close relationship with Angelina.
Locke could tell from Barton's eyes that he held a slight disdain towards him. It was typically how superiors felt towards their inferiors as Locke had seen a lot of the same expression when he was in the army for the past few years; Barton was still not experienced enough.
Locke rejected Barton's invitation for dinner and rode back to Quarryton that very night. He'd also heard from the baron that Angelina had left Shalor in the middle of the month and was currently on her way back home. Cardoj had also vaguely mentioned that the princess might arrive in Felor around the 10th of next month, though Locke pretended to not understand his implication.
Locke would never admit their love affair. He was just a commoner and she was a princess. Sometimes, his pessimism made him think it would be better if their relationship ended in the future.
April and May were the busiest months for farming in the countryside and he was fortunate to experience it. Although they had about a thousand silver thalers in their savings, Locke Senior and Tia still continued to plant crops.
"We're not short of food, so why are we still working so hard?" asked Locke reluctantly while panting with hoe in hand.
"That money is for your sister's dowry and your betrothal gifts!" replied his father unceremoniously.
At this moment, Locke really wanted to take out all the money that he had kept to himself and surprise them. But unfortunately, he couldn't do so. He didn't know how to explain where he got that money from. After roughly calculating his current total assets, he had about two thousand gold thalers.
They were made up of the bribes from Melson, his spoils from Felippe's mansion and those he'd gotten with Wyr in Audis, and a sum of money that the squad jarls gave him as tribute. Locke turned into a rich man with 200,000 silver thalers in just one year, something he never would've dreamt of.
Most of the money was kept in Kristin's spatial necklace and the rest was with Henry. Henry had already made a fortune from the war, so he wouldn't steal such a relatively small amount of money.
Locke stopped thinking about it and went back to tilling the land. Locke and Lia always avoided the topic when their parents talked about their marriage. Locke wasn't interested in the girls in his village. Suzanne, Glace and Angelina were way much better than the other girls.
Lia's parents knew what she was thinking; they just didn't know how to persuade her. The people in Quarryton were very conservative and they wouldn't accept a relationship between siblings, even if the siblings weren't biologically related.
Locke had just drunk the cup of water that Lia handed to him, and he wasn't sure of his sister's thoughts. Perhaps he understood what she implied, he just didn't want to confirm it. Locke dug strenuously with the hoe, eventually finishing work that usually took his father one week to complete in just one afternoon.
He only cooled off after drinking a whole pot of bean soup that Lia had made for him.
Locke was easily irritated during these few days, probably because summer was approaching.
He wasn't a war maniac and loved to enjoy life. He had lived comfortably when he wasn't in a war during these few months. The main reason for his irritability was that his strength had stopped improving despite his overall strength changing drastically last year.
After he'd cultivated impetus, his strength improved at an incredible speed with the aid of redsea flower, major monsters' meat, and strengthening potion. It was rare to see such a young low-rank Knecht in Faustian.
However, his progression now was extremely slow. It wasn't that he was lazy; he was probably the most hardworking person among the group of people who had acquired impetus in Cardoj's domain. He would get up to train when Hans was still asleep every morning, but his effort wasn't proportional to the results. The best he could do was maintain his current strength.
Locke had thought of using the will-condensing potion countless times, but Angelina's warning always echoed in his ears whenever he had that thought. "You can only use it if you've reached peak level of the low rank."
"Why?" asked Locke.
"It's because this potion is mainly used to assist beginner-rank casters to make a breakthrough in their mental power. If you use it hastily, it'll stupefy you," replied Angelina. She wasn't exaggerating just to frighten him. The mental power of a beginner-rank Lehrling was comparable to a low-rank Knecht's, something which should be obvious to him after the time they spent together.
Since it was used for breakthroughs, he could only use it when he reached the peak level. Locke was only a low-rank Knecht now, and it would probably take him five years more. Locke finally knew why Mond was still a low-rank Knecht after so many years. If he'd just practised and trained by himself, he would never reach a higher rank.
Locke really admired Wyr's aptitude. He only had a satisfactory physique for cultivation, but Wyr was a true genius. He was a forty-year-old high-rank Knecht, yet he still had the potential to reach beyond that.
Soon came June, the hottest month. Something good had finally happened in Faustian during the hottest season of the year. No, it wasn't because it had rained in Faustian. Instead, the tense situation with the neighbouring nations had been resolved under the mediation of the Aomar Empire.
Aomar had already delivered a letter of acknowledgement regarding Faustian's conquest of Shalor's territory to Felor last month. Not only had Aomar's representatives cemented Faustian's claim over Shalorian land, it was also a major deterrent to the neighbouring nations.
The appearance of the representatives who were accompanied by an Erdritter had alarmed the bandits all around Faustian. The neighbouring nations either compromised or were coerced as they gave up on the idea of taking advantage of Faustian. Faustian had also made a lot of concessions for Aomar's support.