Maple Village was a little different than usual tonight. All of the houses were brightly lit. Billy and the village chief stood at the entrance as everyone gathered at the village.
Locke Senior spilt the beans about Locke's impending knighting, and now the whole town knew about it. With the soldiers' corroboration, all of the townspeople in Quarryton became even more excited.
Locke was going to be the first noble from Quarryton! Billy burped after drinking a few glasses of beer as a thought occurred to him: if there was one noble, there would be a second one, and maybe it'll be someone from his family.
Other than the townspeople in Quarryton, people from other towns also came to congratulate them. Locke's family basked in the limelight for the past few days. Perhaps it wasn't a slip of the tongue and Locke Senior intentionally wanted to spread the news.
Locke only drank two glasses with a few soldiers that were close to him. He then went out of the village to have some time alone. The river outside the village flowed quietly at night. Locke sat on the riverbank and tossed some stones into it, splashing water everywhere.
No one bothered to help his family when they needed help last time. Now that he was successful, all of his relatives suddenly came looking for them. Just now, he met a thirty-year-old man who claimed to be his nephew. He was from Locksa Town, which was more than a hundred miles away from Quarryton. Locke wondered how he managed to bring his wife and children along.
Locke's father even took out the worn-out book that had his family tree in it and searched for the man for a long time. It turned out that the man was indeed Locke's nephew, but they had branched off the family five generations before.
It'd sent shivers down Locke's spine when he saw how the man addressed him as his uncle. He couldn't stand it anymore, so he left the man with his father alone with his 'grandnephew'.
It had been said that nobles valued the bloodline of their family very much. Locke wondered if he should accept these relatives who only turned to him when he became a knight.
Locke still recognised those relatives in Quarryton. At least they lived quite near and still talked to each other during these few years. As for the others, Locke shuddered at the thought of that man. He would stay away from that man as far as he could.
Caen and Hans suddenly appeared next to Locke with two bottles of booze each.
"Everyone is looking for you. The mayor even wants you to give a speech." Hans sat on the right of Locke and gave him a bottle.
"I'm not going!" Locke grabbed the bottle, took a sip and looked at the sky. Although this beer wasn't as good as Suzanne's brew, it had a nice aftertaste.
"What's the matter?" Caen sat on the other side of Locke and took a sip.
Locke didn't answer. He just continued to drink his beer.
When Caen and Hans saw this, they didn't say anything. They just grabbed their own and drank with Locke.
Locke finished his bottle quickly, and his cheeks were slightly flushed. He didn't use impetus to purge the alcohol. Locke had a low alcohol tolerance and he was already a little tipsy.
He threw the bottle in his hand away as hard as he could and stared at the reflection of the full moon in the river. He then said, "Who knows when we'll meet again in the future?"
After hearing this, the faces of Caen and Hans fell. Hans drank the last sip from his bottle and threw it away as well. On the other hand, Caen only drank two sips and put the bottle down next to him. He laid down on the grass next to the riverbank with both of his arms under his head as he looked at the bright moon in the sky. The three of them fell silent.
It was a quiet night and the chirping sounds of tiny insects could be heard. The three of them laid down next to each other like children.
"I might not be coming back this time." Locke broke the silence. "I'll be going to Felor first, then to Aomar, and then who knows where after that..."
Caen and Hans listened quietly. Hans couldn't accompany Locke as his family had just arranged a marriage for him. He'll be marrying a young lady from a family in the town soon.
It was the same for Caen. He was born as an orphan and had been wandering around and being homeless for years. It was time for him to find a place and settle down.
Caen wasn't stupid, he knew that Lia wasn't interested in him. He rarely appeared in front of her and just looked at her from a distance in the past two months. He planned to stay in Maple Village for two or three years before venturing out to find his true love.
"I'll go and find you after two years!" said Caen.
"Please don't. Do you know how far Faustian is from Aomar? Based on your strength, you'll probably die on the way there!" Locke stopped him.
He wasn't exaggerating just to frighten Caen off, it was simply fact. Faustian and Aomar were separated by three kingdoms and he would need to pass through several countries along the way. It would be difficult for him to reach Aomar if he wasn't tagging along a large army.
He wouldn't be able to deal with different types of situations and emergencies alone unless he had the strength of a high-rank Knecht. The thing was, Caen wasn't even practising his impetus now.
"I'll be back in five years," said Locke.
After hearing this, Hans and Caen smiled bitterly. It was five years out of who-knows-how-many years they had left in their lives.
Due to the inconvenience caused by the long journey between Faustian and Aomar, it would take four months for the convoy from Felor to reach Aomar, so it was unlikely that he would return home when Angelina was studying abroad. A Lehrling's course typically lasted for five years.
The three of them opened another bottle of beer and continued to drink. They could only numb themselves with alcohol to reduce the pain of the imminent parting. They drank for quite some time. The bottles that Hans brought back were all empty. The three of them were now holding each other's hands and feet, rolling on the ground, lying on the riverbank drunkenly.
Locke had a slight headache. Just as he was struggling to open his eyes, a stinky foot poked his nose. After a slight daze, he slapped the stinky foot away with his hand. It was Hans' foot; he was currently hugging Caen while drunk-talking to him.
Locke pulled his arms and legs out of the tangled mess of bodies. He then stood up and sobered up. A gust of wind blew past, giving him goosebumps.
It was now late at night and there was pin-drop silence. Even the insects on the tree branches were no doubt asleep.
Locke washed his face by the river. He then went back to kick Caen and Hans and tried to wake them up, but they didn't budge at all. He didn't bother to care about them anymore. Given how fit they were from being in the army for so many years, they wouldn't freeze to death if they slept outside for a night.
He staggered back to the village. Although he could clear the alcohol out of his body by circulating impetus in his bloodstream, he didn't do so as he wanted to remember this unforgettable night. He would be heading to Felor with his family tomorrow.
As he walked into the village, he could hear some chattering voices. Maple Village was too small, so there weren't enough rooms to accommodate the sudden influx of people. Those who couldn't fall asleep could only sit in the courtyard outside and chat with each other.
Everyone greeted Locke cautiously as he walked past, just like how he treated Solon in the past. Although he was drunk, he was very pleased with what he was feeling. There was a seed of ambition germinating in his heart.
He smiled at everyone who greeted him and walked towards his house. A group of people whispered to each other and talked about him behind his back. As he got nearer to his house, he could hear people arguing inside and it sounded like someone was crying as well.
He stood outside the door and listened for quite some time. When he realised that it was his sister who was crying, he didn't bother about the argument that was going on inside and kicked the door open with all his strength. He kicked it so hard that he even broke the door hinge.
The sudden kick of the door alarmed the group of people who were arguing inside. He saw a man who was as thin as a bamboo stick pulling Lia's shoulder complacently. At the other side, a tall and skinny man who looked like his father and a middle-aged woman kept talking to his parents. Locke heard their conversation vaguely. "My son and your daughter are a perfect match..."
The so-called relatives next to them were also helping out to persuade Locke's parents to agree to this marriage, causing both of them to flip out. They also couldn't get anywhere near to their daughter.
"What do you think you're doing?!" roared Locke. He was still drunk, so he unconsciously used a little impetus when he spoke. His voice was so loud that he'd awakened the whole village.
The people in the courtyard were the first to bear the brunt. Everyone was shocked by his sudden roar. Locke Senior and Tia grabbed this opportunity to run to their daughter.
Locke was faster than them. The muscles in his right leg contracted and he was immediately next to the bamboo stick-like man. He then punched the man in his right rib with all his strength. The man spat out a mouthful of blood that contained chunks of his internal organs, falling like a kite with a broken string. He fell to the ground, seeming nearly dead.
Everyone in the courtyard screamed in horror. The bamboo-stick-like man's parents rushed to him and looked at their unconscious son worriedly. The whole village heard the commotion that happened in Locke's courtyard. A while later, everyone rushed over to see what had happened.
Caen and Hans, who were sleeping by the riverside outside the village, were the first to arrive. Both of them rushed in with their longswords with countless soldiers who had swords in their hands following closely behind. They had all heard Locke's roar.
Dozens of soldiers surrounded the people in the courtyard. Although they weren't wearing any armour, the swords in their hands and their gaze that looked like they were looking at dead bodies had frightened those people out of their wits. They all tried to explain what happened and even asked Locke Senior and Tia to come over and intercede.
Yoshk was the last to arrive. He glanced coldly at the people in the courtyard and then looked at Locke's family who was busy comforting Lia. He gave an order to the soldiers, "Take them all away!"
The group of soldiers brought Locke's so-called relatives out of the courtyard.
Yoshk signalled Billy with his eyes. Billy then yelled at everyone who was watching the scene to leave.
When Locke grabbed Lia's hand and wanted to comfort her, she hugged him tightly and refused to let go.
Their parents cast an odd look at the siblings.