The king, Krissen Iblia, held the letter in his veined hands as his body shivered with rage.
As the Second Prince of the Krissen Empire, as well as the current king of the Iblia Kingdom, he felt that he had been insulted like never before. He would never even dream that the reply of the Norton Family leader would contain only two words: Top Kek.
The Second Prince had actually went to great lengths to collect intelligence about the Norton Family. When he first attacked the Madras Duchy, he received word that the Norton Family had a huge convoy that helped the Second Highness of the Andinaq Kingdom to tighten his hold on the kingdom and stabilize it. They also assisted the Second Highness in conquering Lichtana Citadel, ultimately helping them take the Yungechandler Province.
However, the Second Prince merely laughed it off and doubted the authenticity of the information. Even though the Norton Family was indeed known as the Family of the Roaring Raging Bear of the Northlands, after the previous successor of the family, Gold ranked knight Abelyde, died while serving him, the family had begun to spiral into one trouble after another. They were even pressured by the Kenmays Family, a merchant family he had personally entitled only recently. Since the Norton Family was no longer of any use to him, the Second Prince couldn't be bothered to care about their trivial squabbles with other nobles. To gain the support of Duke Loggins, the Second Prince even made the other nobles of the Northlands vassal nobles to the duke without their consent on his own accord.
Only after he conquered Kobo City did he get to know from the vagabonds that were left behind there that the Norton Family did indeed have a huge armed convoy of about 10000 carriages with more than 100000 vagabonds traveling with it. By that time, the convoy had already crossed Metropoulos River and the troops he sent could only watch them leave in futility.
After that, the Second Prince focused his efforts on sucking the other nobles of Delamock Province dry by putting them to death with the reason of siding with the Andinaq Kingdom and resisting the Second Prince's reinforcement army for the Madras Duchy. He also went around the province to fight the smaller personal armies of the various landed nobles and by the time he arrived at Kobo City, he had already put the Norton Family at the back of his mind.
His excursion to the Madras Duchy had yielded him quite a number of benefits. Not only did he manage to settle his debt with Duke Madras in one go, he also got lots of riches such as money, food and other supplies to fill his treasury with from ravaging the nobles of Delamock Province.
After losing the battle at Kobo City, the Second Prince had no choice but to give the order to retreat. Having experienced failures during the 'Daybreak Assault' and the 'Battle of Kobo', the casualties of the Second Prince numbered more than 50000. While most of the casualties were from his personal force, his father-in-law Duke Fisablen's Frontier Legion also lost somewhere around 20000 people, much to the dismay of the Second Prince.
In the time of chaos, military power reigned supreme. The Second Prince understood this principle deeply and he was prepared to use the spoils he got from the excursion to form another legion belonging to his kingdom to secure his position as the king as well as lay the foundations for the next time he attacks. However at that time, the Second Prince didn't consider the fact that there was no place in his kingdom where he would be able to train his soldiers in peace.
When the Iblia Kingdom was formed, it encompassed five provinces of the former Krissen Empire. The province of the Northlands itself already took up more than half of the area of the kingdom and was governed separately in its own right. Apart from suppressing the Duke of the Northlands to stay within the kingdom, the Second Prince had never found a way to truly integrate the Northlands into his control.
As for the Eastwild Province and the Wild Husbandry Province near the Great Eastern Plains, those belonged to Duke Fisablen himself and was also the home base of the Frontier Legion. Unless the Second Prince had gone insane, he would never even attempt to take those provinces for himself.
In other words, all that remained within the Iblia Kingdom was the Southern Province as well as the Winston Province where the royal capital, Windbury City, was located. However, the Southern Province was already ravaged really badly by Duke Melein and his Fiercegale Legion. If the Second Prince planned to train his soldiers there, Duke Melein might think that it would be a great opportunity for him to strike first to gain the upper hand. There was no way the Second Prince would allow Duke Melein to once again crusade his way to the royal capital like before.
When the Second Prince formed his kingdom initially, for the sake of his pride, he split up the Southern Province into three commanderies and the Winston Province which had a larger area was split into four commanderies. And to sustain his lavish lifestyle, he had long sold off his personal land to other nobles at a high price to the point that he wasn't able to find a place for himself to train his troops.
Just when he was worrying about his next step, one of the scouting teams of his vanguard brought him a few merchants. The Second Prince once again got intelligence from the merchants about the convoy of the Norton Family. According to them, the Norton Family convoy had defeated the allied noble army which had Duke Loggins as its leader and were completely victorious. To pay the duke back for what he did, the Norton Family even robbed the duke's dominion clean, which was one of the most prosperous areas of the Northlands, and even forcefully migrated the population away from there to their own dominion. Currently, there was no central power within the Northlands and it was in an anarchic state.
That situation was practically a godsend for the Second Prince's predicament and he sent his soldiers towards the Hendliff Suspension Bridge immediately. Without even sparing any effort, they managed to conquer the two strategic locations including the bridge and Freist Castle and proceeded to occupy Gildusk City. He also got to see Duke Loggins who was unconscious from vomiting too much blood from his anger.
The Second Prince waved his hands and ordered for the duke to be moved to Windbury City with the excuse that he would receive better treatment for his illness there. Everyone else understood that there was no way that the duke would be able to make it back to the Northlands during the rest of his lifetime.
Only after the Second Prince took control of the duke's dominion did he realize how badly it had been ravaged. He was actually unable to find even a single blacksmith or servant within the capital of the duke's lands, not to say much about the burnt remains of the villages nearby.
At that time, the Second Prince received a report that when his regiment of 2500 soldiers and another 3000 soldiers from the private armies of some nobles were about to raid the still-intact Evanson Town, their forces were assaulted by the former soldiers of the Northland Army that emerged from Cherry Blossom Ridge nearby, causing the Second Prince's forces to incur heavy casualties with more than 2000 soldiers dead.
Enraged beyond belief, the Second Prince mobilized his soldiers right away only to be faced with no less than 10000 soldiers that formerly belonged to the Northland Army with each of them mounted and equipped with a suit of metal armor. They were even led by two Gold ranked knights, one of them being Knight Hennard, the duke's former family knight, who referred to himself as Baron Shazin, and the other being Gold ranked knight Tabik. Being among the former five Gold ranked knights of the duke, they knew the Second Prince rather well. In fact, they could even be said to be old acquaintances.
Seeing his own disorganized men and the towering killing intent of Hennard's soldiers, the Second Prince understood that a battle would not go down well for him. So, he rode out from his troops and decided to talk. It was then when he found that Knight Hennard had actually inherited his father's title of a baron and currently, Cherry Blossom Ridge was part of the dominion of the Shazin Family. Tabik had also become the family knight of Hennard.
Thus, the Second Prince could only apologize towards Hennard for the fact that his men had trespassed upon the territory of the Shazin Family and told him that because of the condition of the duke, he had already taken over the management of his dominion in his place and even extended an invitation to Knight Hennard to join him.
Knight Hennard, the current Baron Shazin, also gave the Second Prince face and accepted his apology, saying that he was not mistaken as he was unaware of the situation. However, he said that he couldn't accept the Second Prince's invitation without the personal order of the duke and said that the duke has done him a huge boon by giving him control of the Northland Army in a time of crisis like that. Not only did he allow Hennard to inherit the title of his father, the duke also allowed Tabik to become his family knight and Hennard said that he was infinitely thankful for that. That's why Hennard said that if the duke personally willed him to serve the Second Prince, he would definitely do so without another word and would even be willing to die for the Second Prince.
Having had to endure his anger from listening to Hennard's excuse to not join him, the Second Prince returned to Gildusk City with the rest of his soldiers. The only benefit he got out of that trip was when he asked Knight Hennard curiously about the metal armor worn by his men. The knight then told him that he had traded them with the Norton Family.
And so the Second Prince once again began to gather more reports on the Norton Family. By the time he had read various smaller reports and information, the Second Prince got to see the bigger picture behind everything.
He found that the Second Young Master of the Norton Family who had been exiled for ten years since the age of 14 had actually learned a bunch of useful skills during his time away from the family. Even though his Battle Force was only at the Iron rank, he was able to defeat Gold ranked knight Tabik and caused him to spend one year in bed to recover from his injuries.
The moment he inherited the position of the family head, the Second Young Master intentionally instigated conflict with the Kenmays Family and burned down their Redriver Valley Bastide and even erected the Firmrock Castle at Morgan Hills. Faced with the harassment of Duke Loggins, he even eliminated the 4000 troops that managed to enter their dominion and even sent out soldiers in retaliation, all the while hanging the former horse breeder of the Second Prince, Baron Farad for harming one of the messengers of the Norton Family.
It was also rumored that the Second Young Master of the Norton Family had made quite an amount of wealth during his time away from the family. After he received summons from the family, he formed his own northbound convoy and had many Gold ranked family knights under his command, one of the most famous being a Gold ranked marksman who had headed to the dominion early with the young master before the convoy arrived. During the time the marksman guarded Firmrock Castle, the allied noble army formed by the duke wasn't able to penetrate it at all and ultimately suffered a defeat from the arrival of the convoy's main force.
After digesting the information about the Norton Family, the Second Prince understood three points. First, the Norton Family was incredibly wealthy right now. The wealth they pillaged from the duke's dominion was easily worth more than 1 million gold Fordes, not to say much about the huge northbound convoy of theirs with around 20000 carriages as well as their escorts who could afford to wear metal armor. Hennard even said that the armor he traded for his 10000 men were only less than a tenth of what the Nortons had.
Second, the Norton Family's forces were incredibly mighty with an estimated total soldier count of around 50000. They were far better equipped than the soldiers of the Iblia Kingdom and the Frontier Legion. So far, the Second Prince couldn't afford to antagonize the Norton Family and it was best if he could get along with them for now.
The third point was one the Second Prince found most laughable. The new family head of the Norton Family, the Second Young Master, had zero ambition and only shriveled within the dominion to defend it. If it were anyone else who had the forces the Nortons currently possessed and the least bit of ambition, they would've long devoured the delicious meal that was the rest of the Northlands, unlike the current Norton Family leader who retreated back into his dominion after defeating the duke and taking his wealth.
Looking at the map of the Northlands and the marker that denoted the Firmrock Castle which segregated the Norton Family dominion from the outside world, the Second Prince really wanted to laugh as he believed that the mighty Roaring Raging Bear of the Northlands had turned into a cowardly tortoise that withdrew back into its shell. Even though their dominion was vast, most of it was merely wastelands. The Second Prince reasoned that they must be trying to develop the land based on all the people they recently just brought into the dominion.
However, he merely felt thankful that the new Norton Family leader didn't have any ambition. Had it not been for the fact that he had defeated the duke and left the dominion unguarded, the Second Prince would never have been able to occupy it so easily. He didn't really mind the lack of citizens either as the seven commanderies which he controlled within the Iblia Kingdom had more than enough refugees and farmers who had lost their lands. He had already ordered his men to have them brought over to utilize the farmland there properly. As long as the Second Prince was patient enough, by the time the refugees and farmers settle down, he would be able to convert the dominion of the duke into a place that produced much manpower and resource.
By occupying the duke's dominion, not only did the Second Prince extinguish all chance of Duke Loggins breaking free from the Iblia Kingdom to form his own duchy, he was also granted a place to train his soldiers and generate wealth. Brimming with ambition, the Second Prince resolved himself to hold tightly onto this land and force all the nobles nearby under his command to one day aid in his plan for complete domination.
However, the Second Prince believed that he still had time and didn't have to rush things all of a sudden. When it came to the Norton Family which he couldn't afford to anger for now, he didn't plan to just leave them be. He believed that the cowardly leader of the Norton Family wouldn't be able to resist his manipulation. He even thought that the Norton Family leader would be even easier to deal with than the Duke of the Northlands.
The letter he had sent was written after careful deliberation. The three conditions were also there as a test. The first condition which asked for the wealth of the duke worth 300000 gold Fordes was essentially a chance for the Norton Family to 'legalize' their raiding of the duke's dominion. Of the 1 million gold Fordes' worth of wealth they gained, the Second Prince felt that it was pretty reasonable for him to demand only thirty percent of that and believed that the Norton Family would jump at that opportunity so that they can proudly hold on to the wealth they've obtained without having to be held accountable for the loss the duke's dominion sustained. He was confident that the Norton Family would gladly hand the 300000 gold Fordes to him.
The second condition asked the Norton Family leader to pledge allegiance to the Second Prince as he had only just inherited his noble title in exchange for an elevation in his noble rank. This was both a good offer and a trap. As long as he could get the Norton Family leader in his presence, no matter how many Gold ranked knights followed along, he could pressure them with his own two Blademasters. That was also one of the reasons Duke Loggins didn't dare to break off from the Iblia Kingdom to form his own duchy despite the fact that he had five Gold ranked knights serving him.
The third condition for the Norton Family to send two armies to help the Second Prince stabilize the Northlands is also a test for the ambition of the Norton Family leader. Additionally, the Second Prince couldn't feel at peace with a mighty military force like that slumbering within the Northlands with his own. If that condition was accepted, that meant that the Norton Family leader is truly loyal to the Second Prince from the bottom of his heart. By that time, the Second Prince could slowly think of a way to reap enormous benefits at the expense of them.
The Second Prince felt that his mention of the bravery of the First Young Master of the Norton Family, Norton Abelyde, who had died on the battlefield, before mentioning his three conditions, was incredibly logical and sentimental. He could already imagine the sight of the Norton Family leader kneeling before him to pledge his allegiance, allowing himself to profit from the manpower, weapons and equipment and other resources the Nortons had in the meantime...
Just as he was smiling and daydreaming about that possibility, he opened the reply of the Norton Family leader which contained only two words: Top Kek.
A phrase like 'Top Kek' didn't exist in the Grindian language and nobody had used the word 'top' and 'kek' together like that. In the first place, 'kek' didn't even mean anything in their language. The letter didn't state 'fuck off' or 'buzz off', but the Second Prince could feel the seething mockery behind those words in the letter, as if he had been slapped squarely in the face.
The Second Prince slowly folded the reply. As a senior noble, he was sensible enough to feel the intent of the Norton Family leader. Sending Viscount Zinderson away, he gritted his teeth and swore that he would definitely make the Norton Family suffer through hell the moment he got an opportunity. After enough time for preparation, he would definitely force the new Norton Family leader swallow the letter down his throat. Ever since his childhood, he had never received so great an insult given his exalted status. He made a mental note to remember those words firmly within his mind...
 In actuality, the words Lorist wrote in his letter are '滚粗', which is Chinese netspeak for something along the lines of fuck off. It literally means 'roll' and 'rough' and is also wordplay on the phrase '滚出去' which means roll out (of this place). Here's an explanation of the phrase in Chinese for those interested. Link. I used 'top kek' as a replacement for that because it is an internet slang and it perfectly captures the thought of Lorist along the lines of 'What a joke! You think I'm going to agree to your conditions?! Top Kek(lol)!' A short explanation of top kek can be found here.