Lorist traveled with Reidy and Tarkel to check out the development of the Felicitas Settlement, especially the defensive infrastructure that was just constructed within the various villages and towns. By the time they returned to the refinery at Bladedge Mountains, it was already the end of the 7th month.
Within the span of two months, many changes at that valley could be observed. Firstly, Grandmaster Fellin had moved his ballista workshop somewhere nearby the valley. He was currently inspecting a few ballista parts that were made according to Lorist's design and was discussing them with Master Julian quite audibly.
Other than that, a row of water-powered hammering machines of differing sizes and complexity could be sighted near the waterfall by the cliff. It seemed that the people at the refinery had also modified some of the machines to better suit their needs.
When Lorist approached Grandmaster Fellin and Master Julian, they both welcomed him gladly.
Grandmaster Fellin said, "Milord, the elastic steel plate you wanted is already complete. We've already used one to make a ballista to test the steel plate as well as decide on the final design of the prototype."
Master Julian smiled satisfactorily with his mouth wide open, revealing the whites of his teeth.
"Not bad. I'm really satisfied with your progress. Reidy, after this, reward Master Julian and Grandmaster Fellin 100 gold Fordes each. The others who have contributed will receive 10 gold Fordes each." In terms of rewarding skilled workers, Lorist was not one bit stingy at all.
"Thank you, milord. However, you should take a better look first. We discovered that the ballista we made according to your design has two problems," said Fellin.
The ballista Lorist designed was not made wholly out of steel. Apart from the arm, eccentric wheel and the loading mechanism which utilized steel parts, the rest of the ballista was still constructed from wood.
"Oh? What problems are there?" Lorist asked.
"Milord, the elastic steel arm allows the ballista's firing distance to increase to around 320 to 350 meters with a margin of error of 2 meters. During testing, we discovered that using wooden ballista bolts caused the bolt's center of gravity to be a little off, hence increasing the error margin. This is why it's difficult to aim with this new ballista. So, we made an iron ballista bolt and while the distance the iron bolt could be fired was only at around 280 to 300 meters, the error margin is far smaller with it being less than half a meter. The problem is that the iron bolts cost twice as much as the wooden bolts to produce. That's why we need your thoughts on which bolts to use for this ballista in the future," Fellin explained.
"Then, which type of bolt has more power?" Lorist asked.
"Naturally, it's the iron one," Fellin replied.
"Then we'll use iron bolts. I'll have a ballista bolt manufacturing plant set up with Master Julian as its head then," Lorist declared right away.
"The second issue is the rate of wear for the string on the steel ballista, which is far too staggering. The wooden ballistas could fire up to 20 rounds before needing its string to be replaced. However, the vibration caused by the steel arm of this ballista causes much more damage to its string, meaning that it has to be replaced after every seven to eight shots. Even so, we've started working with Master Julian to make a string that combines metal fibers, fur, and cow sinew. We'll be able to see the results in a while," Fellin reported.
"Good. Grandmaster Fellin, Master Julian, I'm assured that the two of you are working on this. I'll be leaving the matter of the new ballista to you and I hope you'll be able to finalize its design soon enough and put it into mass production. It's already the end of the 7th month and I hope that we'll have around 3000 of these ballistas by the 10th month so that we can be better prepared to deal with the magical beast wave," Lorist said as he nodded.
"Milord, we will not disappoint you," said Fellin.
Seeing Grandmaster Fellin order his apprentices and descendants around to conduct the tests, Lorist looked around him and asked Julian, "Why isn't Grandmaster Sid here?"
Julian pointed to the waterfall and said, "Milord, ever since these water-powered hammering machines were built, Grandmaster Sid got obsessed with them. The other machines over there were actually augmented by him. Currently, he's trying to make a water-powered wire-drawing machine so that we can take advantage of the waterfall to make some tight-fitting mail armor."
Lorist laughed out loud and said, "That's great. Grandmaster Sid truly is sharp and quick-witted as seen from his ability to apply the concept to something else so quickly. Reidy, don't forget to reward him with 100 gold Fordes as well and 10 gold Fordes for each of his subordinates."
After a round of rewarding his subordinates, Lorist returned to Firmrock Castle while feeling elated about the progress. Following a few days of making out with Telesti, Lorist finally thought of something important and climbed out of his love nest to instruct Reidy to summon Dulles from the carroballista unit to him.
"Milord, did I do something wrong? Why are you decreasing the number of troops in the carroballista unit?" Dulles said desperately. He was incredibly pained that the unit he had poured his sweat and blood into building was going to be downsized.
It was no wonder Dulles would react like that since Lorist had ordered that the 12 small ballistas be transferred to Els's guard division. Apart from that, only the best ballistas from those of the Whitelion Legion's would be kept with the remaining 300 plus ballistas being sold away.
To Dulles, there was no point of the carroballista unit's existence without those ballistas. He was so sad that tears formed at the corner of his eyes as if he was about to cry at any moment.
Lorist on the other hand was surprised at Dulles's overreaction and thought, what the heck is this fellow imagining?
"Dulles... Dulles!" Lorist shouted.
"Ah, milord..." Dulles said as he snapped out of his stupor and paid attention to Lorist.
"After gathering up the ballistas that are to be sold and handing them to Supervisor Spiel, begin recruiting more men. I plan to organize the carroballista unit into a full-fledged division containing five regiments in total with each regiment having 2500 soldiers equipped with 500 carroballistas within three months' time. By the 10th month, these preparations should be completed and you will then receive the new steel ballistas. I've already assigned ten plus family knights some posts within your carroballista division and the equipment for the recruits are mostly in place. Now, I only need your signature to distribute the equipment. This coming winter, the carroballista division will serve as the main force against the magical beast wave, understood? Don't screw this up, alright?"
"Mi-milord... So you're not downsizing my unit but expanding it instead?" Dulles asked, now with an incredibly bright expression on his face in stark contrast to his previous one.
"That's right, you fool. Did you understand what I just said?" Lorist asked as he looked at Dulles with annoyance.
"I-I understand, milord! I will begin work right away," Dulles said as he hurriedly rushed out of the door, before sticking his head into the doorway again to ask, "Milord, are you really going to give us so many new ballistas?"
Lorist nodded and said, "Of course I am. Additionally, these new ones are far better than the defense sentry ballistas you're using now. Otherwise, I wouldn't allow you to sell those away."
"Yahoo!" exclaimed Dulles before he rushed off again.
"That idiot..." Lorist mumbled as he shook his head and continued to browse the documents that had piled up on his table during the months of his absence.
During the end of the 8th month, the family dominion fared rather peacefully with one piece of good news coming after another. The potatoes that were planted during the 4th month were just harvested during the 7th month and totaled up to around 35 million kilograms, almost completely replenishing the food stores of the family. The various kinds of millet that were planted during the 5th month would also be ready for harvest on the 9th month. The weather was mostly pleasant for most part of the year, allowing for the crop to grow with abundance. Even though the area of the farmland wasn't that huge and wasn't able to accommodate the food consumption of over 500000 people within the dominion, it was still heartening news.
Other than that, the clearing out of the remaining magical beasts within Felicitas Settlement had completed during the 6th month, with more than 100000 magical beasts becoming the main source of meat for the dominion. According to some reports, magical beast meat with potatoes had already become the staple food of the people of Felicitas Settlement. However, hundreds of family soldiers had either died or gotten injured while hunting the carnivorous magical beasts. Had it not been for the numerous Gold and Silver ranked knights that were helping out, the casualties might have been even worse.
However, Lorist believed that the addition of Dulles's expanded carroballista division will further decrease the casualties of the family soldiers during the extermination of the magical beasts next year. According to Potterfang's report, apart from Josk's mounted archer unit and Pesha's female garrison unit, the other units have been temporarily disbanded so that the soldiers could help out with the construction of the defensive fortifications within the various villages and towns of the settlement.
As the chief supervisor of the mining operations within the dominion, Old Man Balk submitted the most reports and was also the one to bring most of the good news. Currently, the Bladedge Mountains' salt farms were outputting huge amounts of high quality salt. Not only did the production manage to match the consumption of the dominion folk, there was extra left over that could be exported to other areas. Additionally, the green vines within the valley had also started producing lots of green vine glue. However, most of the supply of the glue was being used by the construction operations within Felicitas Settlement. Given the developing state of the dominion, it was foreseeable that the family would require all of the supply within the next five years. They would probably have to import more to accommodate the need.
What pleased Lorist the most was the fact that the factories managed by Balk to produce daily use products for the dominion folk were incredible successes. The reports indicated that up to 50000 people were hired to work in those factories, with the beastskin processing factory having the most workers at roughly 10000 people. With the recent gain in leather and furs from the magical beast wave, the estimated production of beastskin documents that year was as high as 500000 pieces that was worth about 20000 gold Fordes. There was more than enough beastskin documents to satisfy the number required for the administration of the dominion.
When it came to managing the factories, Balk used a competitive model; he set up two of each type of factory with their own unique specialties and allowed them to compete mutually. For example, there were two pottery workshops. One of them produced bowls and plates while the other produced pots and jars, hence eliminating the possibility of monopoly by either firm.
While the daily product factories within the dominion was still young and were only run on a rather small scale, it was quite impressive for them to be able to sate the demand of more than 500000 people. By the time everything stabilized, the factories would be further developed. As long as they can come up with a product unique to them, the dominion would have yet another staple export which they could trade with other areas.
The next reports Lorist read were from the three main administrative departments of the family. Supervisor Kedan from the human resources department submitted a report that expressed his immense satisfaction for one of his managers and even recommended heartily for the manager's promotion.
Lorist smiled when he saw the name written on the report as that manager was in fact Camorra.
After Camorra was rescued from Duke Loggins's water dungeon, he refused Lorist's offer to serve as one of his aides and insisted that he wanted to live the rest of his life as a commoner. However, his talents didn't go wasted for long as he had signed up to be one of the administrative workers when he arrived at the dominion and started his career as one of the lowest ranked administrative officers. It didn't take long for Camorra to show his impeccable performance that even earned him the trust and recommendation of Kedan.
Lorist then wrote a message that authorized Kedan to promote Camorra as he saw fit. In actuality, Lorist had other plans for him. For now, he allowed Camorra to work for his subordinates. But he believed that there would be a time when he would need to rely on Camorra's abilities for something important in the future.
The last report he read was submitted by Charade. Having experienced his failures, Charade got his act back together and spared no effort in the tasks he was given. Within only half a year, he had finished the plans for Firmrock Castle's rear city, the valley city as well as the industrial city located between the Morgan Hills and Bladedge Mountains and even began construction on all the projects. The finer details of relocating the people as well as agricultural and industrial development had also been arranged perfectly.
With the industrial city being the most important equipment production hub of the dominion in the future, everyone related to the production had already been moved to where the city would be built to help out with the construction of the means of production and residences. The valley city at Firmrock Castle on the other hand was planned by Charade to be a hybrid location for agricultural and industrial production, with most of the daily life product factories being located there. Additionally, the family members of the miners working at Morgan Hills were also moved there. Coupled with up to 30000 farmers, the valley city was easily one of the most populated locations within the dominion with a combined citizen count of around 70000.
The main immigrant camp near Firmrock Castle that was packed to the brim before had only around 40000 people left who were family members of the soldiers after the various citizen relocations. The rear city that Charade had planned was to be built on the location of the camp and that project was also the one that progressed the slowest. However, more than 70000 square meters of farmland had already been developed outside the rear city. Charade's plan involved the construction of irrigation routes in the following year so that the rear city would become the main food producer for the family dominion.
When Tarkel entered the room, Lorist was reading a report about the mountain barbarians.
Perhaps it was due to the passing of the magical beast wave that caused large numbers of carnivorous magical beasts to be left within the dominion, the barbarians haven't trespassed the family dominion's borders for an attack for the past half year. According to the leader of the Pentasword Mercenary Crew that was stationed there, even though they did detect traces of barbarian activity within the vicinity, they deduced that they were only there to hunt. So far, no signs of any imminent barbarian attack had been discovered.
Lorist humphed softly as he recalled the time last year when the mountain barbarians mounted a large scale attack with roughly 1000 troops with the intention of taking control of the army base that controlled the area where the river could be accessed. The Pentasword Mercenary Crew lost 13 members during that assault, but the smoke signal they made summoned Josk and his mounted archer troops as well as Pajik's garrison company to the scene, causing the barbarians to incur huge losses as a result with half of their numbers culled before the rest were able to escape. Lorist hoped that the barbarians had learned their lesson and thought that he would first focus on wiping out the magical beast wave with the barbarians being next in line.
"Milord, I'm back," Tarkel greeted respectfully.
"Oh, how are things going on your side?" Lorist asked as he put down the report.
When he surveyed the Felicitas Settlement a couple of months ago, Lorist brought someone with him to inspect the gorge that Tarkel had mentioned where the gigantic magical beasts would be trapped and left with much satisfaction. The reason Tarkel knew about that place was because he had joined Yuriy's light cavalry scouts to make a living and had traveled throughout the family dominion during his service.
"It's already completed. When winter comes, we can begin strengthening of the walls at the front lines. I promise you that once the magical beasts enter the gorge, they will no longer be able to leave," Tarkel replied.
Lorist stood up, walked to Tarkel's side and patted on his shoulder as he said, "You did well. When the magical beast wave comes this year, we can begin our plan. Whether we succeed will determine whether we can stabilize the family dominion for further development. Tarkel, continue to work hard. When you reach the Silver rank, I will recruit you into the ranks of the Norton Family knights."
"Yes, milord. Thank you for giving me this opportunity," Tarkel said.