Locke's return to a military unit reminded him of his days in the Faustian military. Once his assignment was done, he returned to the imperial capital. The realization that he was already twenty-two felt a little surreal to him.
As he was a student from the imperial academy, Locke and some other knights weren't just assigned to some random combat unit. They all led squads with ten men of their own, all of whom were beginner-rank Knechts.
That alone showed that Aomar's strength was a few times more than Faustian's. Anyone who served in the military for two years was awarded an impetus technique, something Locke learned on his second day. It shocked him greatly. The techniques given away for free were of the kind normally reserved for nobles in Faustian.
Locke had seen the manuals before and they were well-rounded. They didn't particularly excel in any aspect, unlike his own Falconim, which gave him an agility boost or some other technique with special features.
If one had enough power, one could easily overpower another person. But on the same level, soldiers that learned impetus in the military might not be able to defeat knights that learned specialized impetus techniques. Even so, that was more than enough as no soldier fought alone in war. As long as the coordination was in place, even a few beginner-rank Knechts would be able to kill a low-rank one.
Locke fit in perfectly with the troops and easily took over his squad. He knew what the soldiers needed and understood their psychology. Within a short week, they began to call him boss with much familiarity, reminding him of his days with Caen and the rest.
The suppression of the rebellion in Osdale didn't take up too much time. Faced with the powerful Aomarian force, they were quickly crushed. At the end of the third month, Osdale's royal family managed to reassume control over the kingdom, and by the start of the fourth month, Locke's unit was on their way back home, though it wasn't really Locke's own home. He saw it at best as half his home.
As they rode back, Locke chatted with a few other knights from the academy. Their noble ranks were much higher than his despite their similar power at the mid rank. However, nobody in the military really cared about noble rank much, so Locke wasn't left out just because he was a quasi-noble.
"Locke, what is with all those wounds on you?" asked a handsome knight.
"Yeah, I was so shocked while I saw it when we took a bath yesterday," said another knight with an even worse complexion. Even though he wasn't as handsome as the former, his bangs peeked through his helmet stylishly. They were all squad leaders in the same unit and often hung out together, having become friends over the past six months.
"Oh, I got them a while back," Locke said.
The rest knew that Locke was a Faustian and had military experience, so it didn't come as too much of a surprise.
"I didn't think a mission from the academy would see us sent all the way here," said the less handsome knight.
"You don't say. If I knew we would have to leave the country, I definitely wouldn't have signed up," said another blonde knight.
These three were the closest ones to Locke. The handsome one was called Rafael, the less handsome one was called Bond and the blonde one was Gauss. The four of them frequently worked together.
"Stop complaining. We were lucky enough, unlike Ramo... He didn't make it out alive to go home with us," Bond said.
Ramo was also a fellow squad leader from their group and the acquaintance of Rafael and the others. He was from the Ironwill faculty of the academy. He didn't mesh too well with Rafael and the others and got rushed by a horde of hundreds of normal Osdalean soldiers. In the end, even a mid-rank Knecht like him got overwhelmed, making him the perfect tale of caution for the instructors of the academy. Rafael and the rest who didn't have much war experience learned for the first time that even a mid-rank Knecht wouldn't be able to take on a hundred enemies. They still have much to learn.
"Hey, Locke, are you going to advance to the high rank soon?" Bond asked.
Unlike Rafael and Gauss, who were set to inherit their families' noble titles and had their futures set in stone, Locke was the only other person who had higher ambitions.
Despite his remark, his training over the last two years had developed his prowess at the mid rank fully. He was going to attempt to break through after just a few more missions.
"I have something else for you. Do you know what blood essence is?"
That wasn't something with which he was familiar, though he had read about it in the library.
"Do you mean a liquid distilled from the blood of powerful lifeforms?" he asked.
The knight who answered his question was somewhat weaker than Locke. It would take him another four or five years of training to reach the peak of the mid rank.
Like crystal cores that formed in the brains or liver of monsters, powerful monsters could also create blood essence from their hearts. Usually, only large monsters like bears, elephants and the like had a chance of making some. They weren't ubiquitous like crystal cores. Blood essence cost about as much as magic items, which was quite expensive. They were very useful to knights, so they were highly sought after.