"Caen, Hans, L-Locke... he... outside..." Caen and Hans, who were still chatting in the camp, were suddenly interrupted by Ferr who just broke in.
“Ferr, what are you talking about?" Hans frowned and asked. Of their former eleven-man squad, all of them apart from Caen, Hans and Ferr were dead after the battle with Blood Red, including Ade, who often liked to joke with Caen, or Peter who had always been an honest bloke.
Hans and Caen took quite good care of their long-time pal. Ferr was a recruit who had just joined the army for less than half a year. After the two were appointed as acting platoon jarls, they promoted Ferr, a serf soldier even after all this time, to a third-rate soldier on account of the friendship they built after surviving together for so long. Now, in the remnants of 4th Platoon, only the three of them could be considered to be remotely close.
Although Gulas, who once went to go to the black market with Locke, too had survived, he lost a leg and was no different from a cripple. The baron’s transport team had already planned to take Gulas back to the barony next month. Being able to return to his hometown alive with one leg fewer; it was hard to tell if he was fortunate or not.
Hans knew that Caen had always been affected by Locke sacrificing himself to let them escape. So, Hans prohibited their soldiers from mentioning Locke. They only needed to mourn in their hearts; there was no need to be noisy and yell about it every day and add to their grief.
It was not that Hans was cold blooded. He was actually the closest to Locke. They grew up together since childhood, and had been fighting together since they first joined the army. Nobody dared claim they had saved Locke more times than Hans. He was an introverted person and usually spoke very little, but he spoke the most in his actions. In regards to Suzanne’s situation, Hans was the one who helped out most.
"Locke, he...he...he is outside!" Ferr panted, and finally said the sentence in its entirety. He ran all the way from the front of the camp and back. His face was flushed from a mix of exhaustion and excitement.
Caen and Hans listened and froze, looking at each other in shock. Caen grabbed Ferr’s collar excitedly and asked, "What did you say? Come again! Where’s Locke?"
"There! Outside! Cough cough cough!" Poor Ferr who had been almost choked due to Caen’s sudden grab hurriedly pointed outside the tent.
The two immediately busted their way out.
“Locke, how are you still alive!”
“Locke, where were you?”
“Locke, is that really you?”
“Locke, what's that you're wearing?”
At this movement, Locke was surrounded by many enthusiastic soldiers. Although their battalion lost more than half of their own, there were still more than two hundred alive. The cavalry platoon itself did number quite a few. What's more, almost all the soldiers in camp had gathered together. Swarmed by people, Locke was almost squashed flat.
As Caen and Hans lived in the rear tent specially provided for platoon jarls, they came the latest. When they arrived, they saw hundreds of soldiers surrounding two wild savages dressed in fur. They could immediately tell from his haggard face and voice that he was Locke!
Locke also saw the two outside the crowd. He smiled at the fact that they survived.
They didn't need to say much. They could understand each other's mood with just a look. Caen and Hans were shocked and surprised. Locke too enjoyed the joy of reunion.
Locke’s prestige in the battalion had always been good. Not to mention, the soldiers that survived the last battle said that Locke had died to protect his subordinates and Solon. They were all in awe of Locke's heroic deeds.
In this rigorously hierarchical society, it was really rare to have superiors like Locke who thought about his subordinates and was willing to sacrifice himself for them. Which soldier did not want their superior to be the same as Locke? Now, he had unintentionally become the most highly regarded in the battalion.
Mond and Cardoj came from afar, and Mond yelled at the noisy soldiers impatiently. "What’s with all the noise?"
Most of them here were soldiers from 1st Platoon. No wonder Mond’s face did not look so good.
Hearing the reprimand from their superior, and seeing the pensive Cardoj, the soldiers all stopped their restless hearts. However, everyone could not hide their excitement about Locke still being alive.
The soldiers they passed unconsciously made a path for them. "What exactly happened?" Mond whispered. He really could not understand what these lads were doing at this time of day. On the way here, he occasionally heard words like 'Locke', 'in the battalion', and 'alive', but he didn't start to associate those words with each other.
Just as Mond started to think about how two savages were let into camp, one of the savages raised his head, revealing his face. Mond seemed to have something stuck in his throat; his mouth was wide open, and yet he couldn't utter a word.
“Herr Baron! Uncle Mond! I’m back!” Raising his head, Locke greeted Mond and Cardoj who were walking over.
Cardoj did not bother about Locke, instead he stared straight at the stranger Locke was holding, the stranger that no one seemed to notice.
The camp was very lively today, almost like they were celebrating new year's; every soldier’s face was filled with joy, and the cooks in the logistics department received instructions from the baron to set up a banquet. Aside from the absence of wine, it was no different from a new year's feast.
In the central tent of the camp, Yoshk, Karl, Locke, Hans, Caen, and several new platoon jarls all gathered around a table. They were talking loudly and happily.
Locke was talking with Yoshk and Karl, describing how he had spent the past month. They also briefed him on the major events that happened in their battalion. Caen, Hans and some others also chipped in from time to time.
In addition to Caen and Hans being the new platoon jarls, there were three other new platoon jarls here. They had been all promoted by the baron this month. Although the soldiers in the battalion had suffered heavy losses, all the baron needed to do was start a recruitment drive in the domain. It would be possible to recruit another batch, but officers were not as easy to come by. The baron, being a good judge of character, however, was able to discover these new platoon jarls, including Caen and Hans, with outstanding abilities.
During the day, Yoshk had been sent by the baron to lead his soldiers to take care of the affairs of the transport team. Karl on the other hand had been stationed in the town outside the camp. It just so happened that when Locke entered the camp, he missed Karl who was stationed outside. The two were notified by the baron and rushed back.
Not long after, Cardoj and Solon walked into the tent.
When Cardoj entered, his usual solemn and calm face changed, showing a friendly smile and greeting everyone in the camp.
Solon's expression was rather awkward. Earlier on, he had already received the news that Locke had returned to camp at noon. However, he put off seeing him until now because of what had transpired.
Wyr and Mond did not come. Except for a few newly promoted platoon jarls who were puzzled, everyone else was not surprised; they all guessed the reason for their absence.
Angelina was not by Locke's side at this time. She was now closely guarded by a high-rank elite Knecht in the central camp of the baron. Moreover, there was a platoon of cavalry on standby. With these measures in place, it was not easy for Locke to see her.
As for Mond, he was dispatched by the baron to send a letter to the frontline command. The baron’s old butler went along as well. What kind of news could require two low-rank Knechts to deliver other than the obvious?
The dinner went on merrily, with everyone expressing their heartfelt joy for Locke’s return. The losses in the battalion were too heavy this time, and even a single loss undone was significant.
After the dinner, Cardoj conversed with Locke privately for a while. The kindness he showed flattered Locke. In his eyes, the baron had always been mysterious, majestic, and solemn. The baron had never engaged in such a warm conversation with him before.
The conversation basically entailed him` asking Locke to keep bringing Angelina back a secret, and also to affirm his achievements.
Locke secretly informed Cardoj about Angelina’s identity after he saw him at noon. Actually, he didn’t need to tell him. Cardoj had already guessed it. After receiving his confirmation report, the baron treated Angelina like a god. He sent all the high-class items he could get his hands on to her tent, even having his most elite cavalry platoon guard her tent.
Cardoj was also very kind to Locke. The thick-headed soldiers in the battalion might not have noticed, but the observant baron definitely didn't miss it. Locke had been holding her hand all along. Coupled with the intimacy shown by the two, the baron obviously managed to guess the fishy nature of their relationship.
It sounded very absurd for a commoner boy to hook up with the noblewoman with the highest status in Faustian. Any nobleman with half a brain would never expect any good outcome from their relationship. Despite that, Cardoj was no ordinary person; he would not underestimate anyone. Towards this commoner boy who was from his territory and had been raised by his own hand, it was only right for him to lend him a helping hand from time to time.