When Suzanne came back to the residence, she went to get Laffey to help her put on the pair of earrings excitedly. Earrings had always been a proud symbol of Shalorian nobility; commoners had no way nor right to pierce their ears and wear earrings. However, Shalor was already facing its doom, so who else would bother about such conventions?
On one hand, Glace always had the air of nobility, which kept Suzanne from engaging in a conversation with her. On the other hand, Kristin liked to take advantage of Locke. Hence, Suzanne became most intimate with Laffey. Laffey was less hostile towards Locke after he found her bracelet. It wasn't hard for her to form a friendship with Suzanne, a fellow Shalorian.
She had mixed feelings when she saw the pawned earrings appearing in front of her again. Nonetheless, she remained silent about it and put it on Suzanne earnestly. "It might sting a little."
"Don't worry." Suzanne waved, not bothered by the pain of getting her ears pierced.
During dinnertime, everyone was fixated on Suzanne. "Does it look nice?" She happily flaunted the silver bracelet on her wrist while pointing at her new pair of earrings.
"Isn't that Aunt's--" Kristin finally recognised the earrings after staring at them for a long while.
At this time, Glace hit Kristin's head to stop her words. "Yeah, it looks good."
Suzanne, pleased with Glace's compliment, became more clingy to Locke and rested her head on his shoulder. Kristin got jealous immediately and clung to him too. The true origin of the earrings was a mere passing thought to her.
In the blink of an eye, he got one woman lying in his arms and another resting on his left shoulder, making it really awkward for him to eat. He could only use his spare hand to eat while nudging them from time to time. Ah, pain and pleasure were both sides of the same coin after all!
Meantime, Glace casually asked him where he got the earrings, to which he replied it was a gift from a smuggler as she had expected.
After dinner, the sky had darkened and everyone went back to their own rooms. Locke had entered the bedroom with Suzanne early since there wasn't much in lieu of entertainment in the city. His daily moments of happiness were the nightly activities he engaged in with Suzanne.
As if it wasn't bad enough that Glace couldn't sleep well in the past few days, with the recent nights were filled with moans and muted thumping coming from the other side of the wall, it was even worse tonight. To repay Locke's thoughtful gift, Suzanne exhausted her arsenal of techniques to treat him to the best night she could.
In the coming two days, the baron held a few meetings with the platoon jarls. Once they set their objectives for their mission, it was time to continue their journey. They were to reach the corps headquarters at the city of Canar within a week, and within a fortnight, their 2nd Infantry Division would have to join forces with the rest of the corps at Entil.
Entil was just next to the Shalorian capital, Audis. It was said that the city wall alone was 20 metres tall, and was heavily guarded by the remaining elite Shalorian troops. There was a reason why Faustia soldiers were met with extremely weak resistance after they breached the Felmo Grand Canyon -- Shalor had gathered the rest of their soldiers at Entil, Ellis and the capital, Audis, as a last ditch attempt of desperation.
Falcon corps had close to 30 thousand soldiers and six divisions, four of them infantry divisions, one cavalry division and another logistics division. Locke didn't dare let his guard down. As so many people were assembled just to attack Entil, it would no doubt be a tough battle.
After capturing Farlans, Cardoj left with the division after leaving part of his soldiers and caravan behind. Although he was leading a private army, they still belonged under Falcon in name. Moreover, he must join in the war since his father-in-law was the deputy jarl of Falcon.
As they had to regroup with the corps first, Cardoj and Cashel departed together with their soldiers.
Locke rode his horse in the middle of the group, whereas Suzanne, Glace and the rest were with the transport unit at the end of the group. He did not feel at ease about leaving Suzanne in Farlans, since riots did still happen in the conquered cities after the bulk of the forces left. He could not afford to risk her safety.
As for his asset, Glace, he felt it was better to bring her along. Glace was different from Suzanne. If Suzanne's beauty was still acceptable, Glace's ethereal attractiveness would cause a ruckus among people. To avoid any unnecessary trouble, Glace and the rest sensibly put on a veil. The members of the transport unit also knew they were Locke's women and would look after them. Even so, some would still gossip about them. "Other platoon jarls would have two women at most. But this guy has guts... He has four at once! One is a kid too!"
As the news spread to other platoon jarls, they all also laughed about it. "Ah, youth indeed."
The journey was relatively free of danger. Heavily defended cities like Farlans were rare. Not to mention, resistance forces were nowhere to be seen across Shalor. While there were bandits around, they could only bully the Shalorians and would not even dare to appear in front of Faustian soldiers.
"Why are there no bandits here?" Kristin asked her aunt. Their journey from the capital to Farlans was not as peaceful as it was now. If not for the guard escorts, they wouldn't have gotten anywhere.
"Because wolves can only bully sheep. They run if they encounter lions," Glace uttered.
Kristin nodded, seemingly with understanding.
On the other hand, Locke also brought the smuggler, Korby, along, and assigned him to work together with Suzanne's brother for the logistics unit. Korby was a talented person, being a qualified appraiser which Locke had much use for along the way.
Besides, he had good connections. The caravan would have to pass through a few small towns and villages with little to no resistance fighters forces before they assembled with the main corps. The two barons wanted to bulldoze their way through the towns because they were not interested in small gains anymore. After all, they had enough from the battle at Farlans.
Although the barons were not interested, it was the opposite for platoon jarls like Locke as he privately discussed plans with Yoshk to make a killing.
As for Korby, he was shrewd enough to assess Locke's intention. Without Locke even asking, he astutely volunteered to raid his fellow smugglers' warehouses.
During times of war, smugglers lived a good life. He claimed that quite a few gangs existed in the vicinity of the towns. Their forces were also as large as Locke's in the past.
Locke promised Korby that if the raided valuables could amount to 100 gold coins, he would let him go. A hundred gold coins was no small nulber -- it could be exchanged into 50 gold thalers.
Before this, Locke sent 50 of his 200 silver thalers back to his hometown. Even though his only family were his parents and an elder sister, and they probably would not have much use for so much money, it was a habit for soldiers on the battlefield to send money back home.
He let Suzanne handle the rest of his finances since she had the experience of managing a business. In Locke's name, she planned to invest in the trade caravan. Indeed, 150 silver thalers were nothing to the merchants, but they still facilitated the investment with respect to his status as a platoon jarl.
This was where her wit shone. In the battles to come, he could rake in another tens if not hundreds of silver thalers. Not only that, his investment would only increase in value.
To make it in time, Cardoj and Cashel chose to send the cavalry away from the main troupe to invade the two towns and three villages that stood between them and their destination. As expected, the towns and villages were swept through without much difficulty.
However, instead of conducting a search in the towns, they only scattered the Shalorian armed forces to make way for the trade caravan and other units in the future.
This was a golden opportunity for Locke. He joined hands with Yoshk, leading fifty men each to pillage one of the towns. Although it was an ordinary town, it accommodated some few hundred people, so the loot was enough to feed Locke and his men well.
The other platoon jarls did the same. They could not hold back and each of them led their men to plunder the villages. To that, Cardoj turned a blind eye. He knew that to be a great leader, he had to learn to delegate power and tolerate his subordinates' wants.
The platoon jarls' actions might affect his battle plan, but he would not mind if the outcome was positive. Of course, if it was the opposite, his men would be held accountable. It was a simple application of carrot and stick.
In the end, even Cashel's unit could not resist the temptation and a few of his platoon jarls cleaned up the last town.
The loot from one town was enough for Locke and his hundred-man platoon. Yoshk taught him to leave the rest of the towns to others, or he would be envied and hated.
They chose to leave cities behind because they would have to endure huge risks and split up from the company. There was no way for them to breach the cities with tall walls even though they had scattered most of the enemy forces.
But even that didn't hinder Locke from making a fortune, since Korby brought many delightful surprises.