Locke woke up early the next day and made his way to the training camp. He had just broke through to a low-rank Knecht, so he needed to put in his hours for training and consolidation.
Additionally, it was a great way of avoiding Glace. Although he had the honour of being this lady's first, he hated it because of the transactional nature. There's a saying 'what remains unseen is deemed to be clean'. Training would take his mind off the matter.
Although it was very early in the day, quite a number of soldiers were already awake. Their respective squad jarls would start their daily drills soon. Locke attributed their success in defeating the Shalorians to the drills.
As the saying went, ten drops of sweat shed during training was one less drop of blood shed on the battlefield. Who was the one who'd said this? Locke couldn't recall, but he certainly took these words to heart.
Outside the camp, he greeted the two soldiers on guard duty and entered.
The training camp was still empty right now, but Locke knew it wouldn't be for long. Hans and the others would be taught impetus soon, and he told Hans privately that he would give him some help and advice.
Locke had only been promoted to platoon jarl half a year prior. Previously, he frankly had no authority to offer anyone advice. Now that he was a low-rank Knecht, he was considered a senior and could afford to guide to a newcomer like Hans.
Locke might not be an expert, but he did have a few practical tips and tricks that he'd discovered on his own.
Practice was boring. Today, there was no routine physical exercise; only sitting on the ground cross legged to circulate impetus. The strengthening potion yesterday stimulated his impetus all over his body, making him unable to suppress his aura.
He needed to gather all the scattered impetus in order to put them to use. He needed to emulate Mond: immovable yet agile. Locke was filled with admiration since seeing Mond defend himself against the attacks from Farlans and forcibly ascended the city gate.
As he had just advanced, Locke was not ready to do the same, because he didn't have fine control over his impetus. If he had gotten hit by one of the rolling rocks above the city gate, he'd be turned into meat paste.
Two hours of practice was enough to sort out his impetus but not enough to fully reach that stage. For that, he'd need at least a week.
There was enough time. Word around the camp was that Kenzir was planning to attack Audis after the new year's. For one, the occasional snowfall they were experiencing at the moment would hinder the siege. After the new year, the weather would pick up and it would snow much less.
Additionally, they needed to increase their manpower. Falcon and Lion had suffered casualties over the past few months, albeit to different levels. They were taking advantage of this time to replenish their troops and increase their winning chances of the upcoming siege.
Rumours were spreading about Gale joining in on this war too. Gale was notorious among the surrounding countries for initiating multiple massacres and pillaging incidents. If Faustian chose to let this corps participate in the war, the Shalorian troops left in the city would be left in dire despair.
Locke had no control over his superior's decisions. All he was responsible for now was working hard to build up his strength so he could survive this final battle between the two countries. After all, he was merely an ant on the battlefield, albeit a slightly bigger one now that he was a low-rank Knecht.
Of course, he had not forgotten his promise to Glace. Based on the way she carried herself, he suspected that she was a member of a noble family in Shalor. She behaved very similarly to Cardoj, even giving off a more noble impression than he did sometimes.
If Locke had still been a squad jarl just a few months ago, Glace would most probably have been arrested and handed over to Cardoj. The Faustian military would have given a handsome reward for the capture of a Shalorian noble.
But Glace was a woman after all, who had brought another woman and Kristin, who was only 12 years old, along. Despite the atrocities of war of which Locke was part of, he rarely acted on women, especially beautiful women.
Hey, I was just planning on hiding the beauty away! How could I have expected so many things to happen? Locke slapped his head in annoyance.
"What on earth made you decide to make that promise?" He murmured to himself.
Even when he was an entry-level Knecht, he was able to keep the three women in control. Laffey, who was also an entry-level Knecht, was not his match at all. He could keep them in check, whether by his own strength or the hundred soldiers under him. Yet, now that he was a low-rank Knecht, he was being strung along to their pace.
Locke could only blame himself for not being able to control his lower body and promising to help her enter the city, although she didn't know what this woman wanted to do there. Locke, who had always been very stable and straightforward, rarely did such thankless things.
Not a single fibre in Locke's body believed that Glace entered the city to feed information to the Shalorians. More than 70,000 people surrounded the city, which was only defended by a force of 20,000 to 30,000. Even if their war god Campbell was resurrected, it would be useless.
Of course, Locke would not take any risks. He wouldn't send Glace off in front of tens of thousands of people. This was treason and the punishment that awaited him was being burned at the stake or being hanged. Locke really couldn't imagine the consequences.
Locke was thinking of waiting for the siege to begin before sending Glace into the chaos, or waiting for the gate to be breached. At this time, even if she had any plans on feeding information to the Shalorians, it would be too late by then. He could also follow her to see what she wanted to do so badly in the city at the expense of her chastity.
Sending her in after the city was breach was only something a veteran like Locke could think of. Indeed, this was in line with her request, but if the city was breached, she wouldn't need his help. She could probably go in by herself anyway.
Why not wait for Shalor to fall before sending Glace in? This wouldn't pose any risk to him. He shook the thought from his head. He may be shameless at times, but even he had his limits. After all, she was committed to him, and he had to hold up his end as well.
But even if the siege began, things were not so easy to handle. Locke needed to plan carefully. It just happened that Wyr owed him three favors, which would be coming in very handy indeed.
Since Locke hadn't done any strenuous exercise during training, he left the camp with a rather dry shirt. The two soldiers guarding the training ground were rather surprised, given that they'd never seen their jarl exit the camp without being drenched in sweat.
Ordinary soldiers like them admired Locke, who was also a humble commoner. Watching him train with the intensity that he did was awe inspiring.
Locke could not have been bothered about the two soldiers' thoughts. Being occupied by Glace's issues, he was in no mood to train. It was a miracle that he mustered enough patience to practice his impetus.
Back at his tent, Glace had disappeared. Instead, Suzanne was there.
Locke knew that Glace and the rest had dragged Suzanne back to the place where they lived. As soon as the Kristin started acting spoiled, she was stuck there. Glace said that she came to Locke to inform him that Suzanne was not coming back. However, Glace hadn't been seen all night. Obviously, Suzanne knew why she left her there with the rest.
With a bit of bitterness in her heart, Suzanne gently asked if Locke was tired from training, and if he wanted to drink some water. She then scrambled to find a kettle to pour him some.
Suzanne was still the best. She never had any ulterior motives and treated Locke wholeheartedly and sincerely. Stepping forward to hug her, Locke whispered, "It's alright."
As Locke wrapped himself around her, Suzanne felt an endless sense of nostalgia. She knew she was much older than him, and that Glace was far prettier than her. She couldn't bear the thought of him anymore. She was also mentally prepared for him to have several women in future. It was normal for a platoon jarl like Locke to have multiple wives after the war.
It was all not always correct to say that women, children and old people were the ones suffered the most in war.
Throughout the war, the Faustians were still very restrained. Although they were fighting in Shalor, they did not lay their hands on the ordinary civilians, especially the elderly and children. The Faustians had morals too. They would not attack the weak.
The ones who died the most were undoubtedly men. In this war between the two countries, Faustian lost 50,000 to 60,000 soldiers. Shalor was estimated to have lost nearly double this amount. Both countries initially had a similar population of around 2 million.
Most of the soldiers who died were young to middle-aged men. After the war, the number of women of similar age far surpassed the men. Any ordinary man could afford to have more than two wives if they wanted to. What more to say about Locke, an officer with a high rank in the military?
Locke didn't think so far ahead anyway. This was all Suzanne overthinking. Among the three women who were involved with him, he had the deepest feelings for Suzanne and Angelina. The former had been with him early on, while he had spent two months with the latter for survival. He only had one night of intimacy with Glace, so there were barely any feelings between them.
Suzanne didn't have to worry about Locke casting her aside for someone new.
Twenty days before the new year, the new soldiers Cardoj recruited from his domain arrived one after another. Additionally, a platoon of mercenaries came as well.
Although there were only about 60 to 70 soldiers enlisted in the territory, it had been very difficult for the four towns in the territory to put together this force.
The Cardoj domain was just a small barony with a population of several thousand. Roughly 800 soldiers from the region came in over the four years. The ratio of ordinary civilians to soldiers was now 5 to 1, and the barony's war potential had been exhausted.
Fortunately, the war was about to end. The rest of Faustian was experiencing similar struggles to the barony. Although the four major corps were still alive and strong in combat, they were starting to run out of steam.