Locke touched the dagger that was in his boots, which a linen cloth soaked in blood for many years wrapped around. He imagined that it was as if his sister, Lia, was standing right in front of him while smiling at her mischievous brother.
Knowing that everything was well at home, Locke felt much relief. He got along well with Henry and Bruce. He'd even casually mentioned that he'd become a low-rank Knecht during their conversation, and he'd gotten a lot of compliments and admiration from both of them.
Locke also found out from both of them that almost all of the caravans that were sent by the baron had been ordered to return. He knew roughly of the current situation in the camp, so it wasn't difficult for him to guess that the baron was consolidating his strength in preparation for the final battle against Shalor. He'd already given up on the economic development that he previously focused on.
After bidding farewell to Henry, Locke changed his mind about going to Suzanne. He'd found out from Henry that Glace, Laffey and Kristin were here too and decided to go and find them first. Although his relationship with them was always lukewarm, they were always there for Suzanne and had helped her through tough times when Locke wasn't around.
He walked towards the horse-drawn carriages and saw Glace and the others from afar. Laffey, the maidservant, was wearing a leather armour which was neither fish nor fowl and was reprimanding a Shalorian man with dishevelled hair next to a carriage. On the other hand, Kristin was sitting on a carriage, shaking her legs while looking at the unusual scene around her.
As for Glace, whom Locke had always coveted for her beauty, she was standing gracefully beside the carriages. She stood there quietly under the light of the setting sun. An elegant lady with the sunset in the background formed a beautiful and exquisite picture. Locke didn't even dare to disturb this stunning view.
As Locke was looking dazedly at Glace, Kristin, who was just idling around not far away, spotted Locke and brightened up. She jumped down from the carriage and ran towards him.
Kristin jumped into Locke's arms. As she'd been through a lot of ups and downs and was exhausted from a long journey, she was a lot thinner and smaller than girls of her age. Locke's strength grew much after his breakthrough, so he was able to carry her easily.
Seeing how excitedly she ran over, Locke threw her upwards a few times. Kristin wasn't scared by Locke's actions and kept giggling instead.
"Did you miss your big brother?" Locke had always treated Kristin as his younger sister, and he'd made her call him as her brother when they were in Farlans.
"Yes!" Kristin squeaked. She didn't have the shyness and reservedness of a little girl at all.
Their laughter caught the attention of Glace and Laffey. They were at the Faustian's joint camp and there were many powerful people around, so Laffey didn't notice Locke's arrival.
When Laffey saw Locke, she stopped reprimanding the man who kept nodding and bowing at her. Glace just looked at him calmly.
"What's going on?" asked Locke. He didn't dare to look into Glace's eyes as he wasn't used to her mature and calm expressions. He could only use his strength and muscles to dominate the atmosphere around her, just like how he took them away forcibly in Farlans.
"This guy made a mistake when transporting the goods!" Laffey pointed at the man next to her.
From the looks of the man's dirty clothes and his heavy accent, it wasn't difficult for Locke to guess that these were the Shalorian refugees that Suzanne had working for her. She'd gathered a large number of refugees from Giza and brought them to trade with Cardoj's caravan, a feat which impressed Henry a lot.
"Just forget about it if it's not a big deal. I'm sure Henry will give me some face!" said Locke. It wasn't that he pitied the Shalorian refugee leader, he just didn't want to waste time on these insignificant matters.
Laffey didn't expect Locke to say such things. She was taken aback by his words for a moment and nodded in agreement. Glace gave him a meaningful look.
The leader of the Shalorian refugees looked at Locke gratefully. He had fled from the southeast border of Shalor. They didn't harvest enough food during the autumn harvest due to the heavy taxation by the lord of the territory and the losses they suffered from the war, so they had no choice but to leave their homes.
When they fled to Giza, it just so happened that Suzanne was recruiting labourers. Although they were only given one meal per day, the refugees had no other choice. This unkempt middle-aged man was put in charge of things as he was an honest man.
But he was unlucky. The wheat that had been counted correctly in Giza was missing a little when they were shipped to the joint camp. Someone had probably sneaked some away. Back then, Suzanne and Henry had turned a blind eye to this matter.
The loss of a small amount of wheat wasn't a big deal. But it was different this time. It had made the Shalorians go weak at the knees just by seeing the countless Faustian soldiers who were outside guarding this huge military camp. This middle-aged man was really afraid that Laffey would hand him over to the Faustians because he had made a mistake.
Although Faustian had invaded and severely defeated the Shalorians, they were more afraid of the Faustians soldiers rather than hating them.
Of course, Laffey wouldn't hand this middle-age man over to the Faustian soldiers. As a Shalorian herself, she wasn't pleased with helping Faustian's caravan. If Glace hadn't forced and ordered her to help Suzanne, Laffey would've just minded her own business.
In fact, Laffey wasn't fond of any Faustians other than Locke, especially Henry. He was a vampire and actually planned to only give the Shalorians half a piece of a chestnut a day as their payment. If it hadn't been for Suzanne who stood up and opposed it, Henry wouldn't have changed his mind and replaced it with a piece of black bread. Laffey wanted to kill this Faustian so badly.
After sending the Faustian refugee away, Locke calmed himself down and took a few glances at Glace and the other women. He hadn't seen Kristin for almost two months. Her height hadn't changed much, but she'd lost a lot of weight. Locke planned to find Corey, the chef in the logistics department, to cook something for her to make up for it.
Laffey seemed a little heroic with the leather armour on her. Although she wasn't holding a long sword, she gave off a charming bravado. She wasn't given a weapon because she was a Shalorian, and Henry didn't want to risk something going wrong on his watch.
As for Glace, she was wearing the same robe as when Locke had met her for the first time with a big hood covering her hair and face, but it couldn't hide the elegant and noble temperament that she gave off.
Speaking of temperament, among all of the women that Locke had met before, only Angelina could surpass her. But Angelina had a hint of youthfulness, and Glace was full of maturity and intelligence. This was why he was still not used to exerting his dominance.
"How are you guys doing?" asked Locke casually as he didn't know what to talk about.
Laffey didn't say anything. She always had a relatively weak presence among the three women. He had also found out that she was a mere maidservant. Kristin was still hanging on his neck and having fun.
"Not bad," replied Glace.
"Where's Aunt Suzanne?" asked Kristin suddenly, who was still hanging onto Locke. She got very close to Suzanne in the past two months.
Kristin had been very close to her aunt, Grace, due to the lack of love from her parents since she was a child. She'd then met Suzanne, who liked her a lot. She even kissed and hugged Kristin to sleep at night. Suzanne gave Kristin a kind of maternal love that was different from Glace's.
"Aunt Suzanne is on the other side. Let's go, I'll bring you all there!" Kristin was still hanging on Locke's back and he led the three of them to where Suzanne was living.
When they were halfway there with relatively few people around, Glace grabbed onto Locke.
"What's the matter?" Locke had always been curious about this mysterious and thoughtful woman.
After pondering for quite some time, Glace finally lifted her head up, looked at Locke, and said, "I hope you can find a way to bring me into Audis."
At this moment, both Kristin and Laffey looked at him expectantly. It seemed that the three of them had thought about it in advance.
Locke was surprised by Glace's request. He then rejected her without much consideration. "Let's not first talk about whether I've got the capability to do so. Why should I do it?" asked Locke.
He'd always felt like the three of them always kept him at arm's length. Except for Kristin who was quite close to him, the number of times Laffey and Glace had talked to him ever since they'd met in Farlans could be counted on one's fingers. He wouldn't take such a big risk just because they'd helped Suzanne.
"I'll promise to be your woman!" blurted Glace. Laffey and Kristin were also shocked by her words. It seemed like they'd not discussed this before.
"You'll still become my woman even if I don't help you!" said Locke assertively. No matter what status Glace used to have, she was in his hands now and he wouldn't let her leave.
"Then all you get is my corpse," sneered Glace. It seemed like she would rather die with honour than to live with shame.
"Am I not the person that you've always wanted?" Glace pressed hard on him and looked at him with keen and sparkling eyes. "As long as you agree to it, I'll be your woman willingly."
This sudden situation had given Locke a headache. But there was one thing in his mind that he was clear about: it was impossible to agree to her request.
"What you want is beyond my ability, so it's useless even if you promise that." He then put Kristin down and stomped away.
Did they think they could just enter Audis as they wished? There was now a whole army of more than seventy thousand soldiers surrounding Audis. There were no other method unless Locke turned into a mole and burrowed his way in.
Locke reckoned that as long as he dared to bring someone close to the gates of Audis, he'd be covered by a rain of arrows from the Faustian army behind him. Putting aside that he'd saved the princess, even if he'd saved the king, he believed that Prince Kenzir wouldn't hesitate to do the same. Locke looked up to Kenzir the same way he'd looked up to Cardoj when he was just an ordinary soldier. He really admired such people.
Moreover, Kenzir and Marmen had treated him really nicely. The prince had also promised to make him a noble. Locke would definitely not do anything treasonous just for someone from a foreign kingdom like Glace. He'd never forgotten that they were Shalorians.