When Lorist received word that Princess Sylvia was on the way to Firmrock Castle with Count Kenmays, it was already near the end of the month and he had already stayed at the shipyard at Bullhorn Bay for almost an entire month. Currently, not only had the shipyard begun building three training ships and one survey ship, they were also researching an idea put forward by Lorist concerning speedy warships.
The current mode of battle used by nations with navy forces were only limited to traditional ship-boarding. For instance, when Lorist was studying in Morante City, he saw the fleet of the Forde Trade Union once. Their ships were basically like huge rectangular walls installed onto a floating bodies and during battles, two adjacent ships would only begin firing ranged weapons like ballistas and longbows when they were around 300 meters apart. And as the ships approached one another, the battle would shift to close combat between the two ship crews with the conflict only ending when one side was completely annihilated or forced to surrender.
It was too bad Lorist's experiments with gunpowder were unsuccessful. Otherwise, he could manufacture iron cannons and take the world of naval warfare by storm. As the owner of a workshop in his past life, Lorist was no stranger to sail-powered warships and he could easily make tens of miniaturized ones easily. However, without any cannons at his disposal, those ships would only be useful as merchant vessels at most.
Despite that, Lorist still designed one three-masted sail-powered warship with its focus on ranged weaponry and good mobility. As for the weapons, the steel ballistas and catapults could be installed on the ship for that purpose. The ship only had to avoid being approached by other ships at all costs and exterminate enemy ships by using kiting tactics.
"Alright, just design that ship according to my specifications for now. In terms of ranged attacks, if us, the Norton Family, claims to be the second best, I doubt anyone else would dare to claim to be the best. You must be at least that confident. After finishing the ship, I believe we can start running some drills. By then, we'll be able to see whether this type of speedy cruiser would be practical or not," Lorist said to the shipbuilders beside him.
After leaving the shipyard, Lorist returned to Maplewoods Bastide and spent three whole days with Irina while toying around with his slow-witted brat until he was satisfied before leaving for Firmrock Castle.
Before Lorist managed to wash off the grime on him that built up during the travels, Howard entered and informed him that Princess Sylvia had come over to visit. Having no other choice, Lorist could only wash his face and have a change of clothes before meeting his visitor.
Princess Sylvia only brought one maidservant with her on the trip and looked to be in an angry mood. The moment she saw Lorist, she began complaining immediately. After listening to her complaints for quite a while, he understood that Princess Sylvia had been shocked after the discussion with Charade. She believed that Charade's suggestion of three cows as ransom for each captured Frontier Legion soldier was far too ridiculous.
Lorist smiled warmly and said, "Since a princess like yourself had to make a visit over here personally, as a dominion lord, I will have to give you some face. How about this... Each Frontier Legion soldier's ransom will be only 1 cow, with a squad leader's ransom being 10 cows, a company leader's being 100 and a regiment leader's being 1000. As for Viscount Kristoph's ransom, it's up to you. Will that be acceptable?"
That was already incredibly magnanimous of Lorist as a mere 'favor' to the princess as the new ransom was only a third of the original one proposed by Charade. Princess Sylvia's face suddenly flushed red as she lowered her head and said in a shy tone," Thank you, Elder Brother Locke..."
Lorist didn't feel particularly deserving of that since this whole thing was nothing more than a good cop, bad cop charade he had planned with Charade beforehand. (Translator: No pun intended.) By giving Duke Fisablen this discount, the duke would owe the Norton Family a favor in the future. Additionally, it was even more significant since the one who made the visit was Princess Sylvia herself. As for how she addressed Lorist as 'Elder Brother Locke', there was nothing weird about it as she had been doing so when she was being escorted by Lorist on the way back to the Wild Husbandry Province some time prior.
This time around, Lorist intended to quickly settle this matter and send Princess Sylvia on her way back before taking a bath and checking out on Telesti and his daughter. As he had been gone for a month, he missed them quite a lot and he didn't really want to deal with Princess Sylvia anymore. Even though the princess was indeed the most beautiful girl Lorist had ever seen and was even considered to be a goddess by Count Kenmays, Lorist felt that she existed in a completely different realm from him. Psychological age aside, Lorist himself was 8 years Princess Sylvia's senior and he only considered her as he would a cute and energetic girl in the neighborhood.
However, Princess Sylvia didn't leave even after the matter of the ransom was concluded and even tried her best to loiter around. A little annoyed, Lorist smiled and asked, "Your Highness, do you have any other matters? If you do, pray tell. I will definitely help you out to the best of my ability."
Princess Sylvia let out a relieved breath and said, "Elder Brother Locke, this time around I didn't just come to talk about the matter of the ransom. I was wondering if you could sell some weapons and equipment to the Frontier Legion..."
"Huh?" Lorist mused, shocked. Princess Sylvia's request was completely out of his expectations. He gave it some thought before he raised his head to look at the princess and said, "As a friend of mine, I hope that you can tell me the reason you've approached my family to purchase weapons and equipment."
With a troubled look, Princess Sylvia said, "Originally, the equipment required by the Frontier Legion are sourced from the Iblia Kingdom for no cost as my grandfather had an agreement with the king that stated that a third of the produce from the two iron mines of the kingdom would be made into equipment by the facilities of the king himself and provided to the Frontier Legion.
"But we didn't expect that after the king was defeated by the Norton Family and fled to the royal capital, he actually rented the only two iron mines the Iblia Kingdom relied upon to the Wessia Merchant Guild for 30 whole years. Even though the Wessia Merchant Guild still acknowledged the king's agreement with my grandfather, they were only willing to provide us with a third of the ores themselves and not pre-made equipment and weapons because it wasn't explicitly stated within the agreement...
"And just before I came over to your dominion, we received a notification from the Wessia Merchant Guild that they had to use two years' time to change their mining equipment and could only reimburse us with gold Fordes worth the value of the iron ore they ought to be giving us. However, we don't need money and instead require equipment.
"The main enemy of the Frontier Legion are the grassland barbarians from the northeastern plains. Even though the quality of the equipment produced by the kingdom is rather low and caused it to wear and tear quickly, we were still able to sustain ourselves with the constant influx of new equipment. But without the iron mines, we can no longer make up for the broken gear and in the recent smaller skirmishes, our forces were forced to fight with incomplete gear against the savage grassland barbarians.
"That's why, Elder Brother Locke, I hope you can lend a hand since the Frontier Legion is also defending the empire's borders just like what the Norton Family is doing and provide us with the armor and equipment produced by your family. The Fisablen Family and the Frontier Legion will definitely remember the kindness you show us..."
"The Wessia Merchant Guild?" Instead of answering whether he would agree to the princess's request, Lorist focused his attention on the Wessia Merchant Guild instead. "Weird, why has the Wessia Merchant Guild stretched their hands towards the Iblia Kingdom?" he muttered softly.
"Elder Brother Locke, you know about them? Oh, right, you mentioned that you studied at Morante City during your youth. Then you must know the merchant guild quite well then?" Princess Sylvia said after she heard Lorist's muttering with her keen aural sense.
Nodding, Lorist said, "That's right. I've heard of the Wessia Merchant Guild but I don't really understand them well, even though I was at Morante City for ten years. The Wessia Merchant Guild is one of the seven largest merchant guilds of the Forde Trade Union and they're ranked at third place. For a high up merchant guild like that, us mercenaries working at Morante City didn't have much interaction with them. However, they are most well known for producing good military equipment.
"You should know about Mizek Stainless Steel Armor, right? They're considered one of the armors with best defense around and are produced in the Temanda Kingdom. But the Wessia Merchant Guild holds all the rights to sell the 20 or so units of armor produced yearly. It can be said that the Wessia Merchant Guild is one of the largest groups dealing and producing military equipment."
"No wonder..." Princess Sylvia mused with astonishment. "After we received the notification from the Wessia Merchant Guild, our family knights were all fuming with rage and felt that they were being duped by the guild and requested to be allowed to teach them a lesson. But my grandfather only laughed bitterly as he refused their request with the only reason being that the Wessia Merchant Guild was one of the seven largest guilds in the Forde Trade Union and that it wouldn't be wise to provoke them. If relations with them really turned sour, the trade they have with the Eastwild Province and the Wild Husbandry Province might be cut off and that would cause the lives of the commoners to degrade badly..."
Lorist smiled without saying anything else and thought that even though Duke Fisablen has a force of 70000 plus soldiers and controls two whole provinces, his true might could possibly not even compare to that of the Kenmays Family. The two provinces he controlled encompassed only grasslands from head to end with not even a single mine available. Even if the Fisablen Family wanted to develop their agriculture, they must first invest huge amounts of funds to set up irrigation infrastructure. And it didn't help that they had to rely on merchants from outside the dominion for even a single earthen pot and only had cows and sheep as well as their related products for export.
Currently, the salt merchant committee managed by Count Kenmays did not only deal with salt. They were also responsible for the distribution of the daily-use products produced by the Norton Family, especially at the provinces controlled by Duke Fisablen. Even though the products were varied and trivial, the quantity produced and consumed brought the Norton Family up to 3000 gold Fordes of profit yearly even though they only had 10% share of the salt merchant committee.
Had it not been for the fact that Duke Fisablen was a mighty rank 3 Blademaster with his famed and elite Frontier Legion, there would've been no way for the Iblia Kingdom to be founded in the first place. From Lorist's point of view, it was extremely simple for him to deal with Duke Fisablen. He only had to close the borders between the two provinces and the Iblia kingdom and prohibit all trading activities there. In two to three years, the Frontier Legion would collapse without so much as a single fight.
"Elder Brother Locke, you still haven't said whether you'll sell the equipment to us or not," Princess Sylvia reminded.
"Selling them isn't a problem. I'm just worried that your family won't be able to afford it," Lorist said with a bitter smile.
"My family has enough money and will be able to take out a few hundred thousand gold Fordes," Princess Sylvia said in a dissatisfied tone.
Lorist shook his head and said, "It's not that I'm looking down on your few hundred thousand gold coins, but I'm afraid that amount of money won't be enough to outfit even a division of soldiers..."
"Ah? Is it that expensive?" Princess Sylvia said, a little dazed.
"It's not a matter of expensiveness but rather whether it's worth this amount. Your Highness, I see that you're not too informed about weapons and equipment. How about this, tomorrow noon, I will hold a banquet to formally welcome your arrival to Firmrock Castle. After that, I will show those equipment I have for sale for you to pick. With Viscount Kristoph also attending, you don't have to worry about me giving an unfair price since he's quite well-versed in these things," Lorist said.
"I apologize, Elder Brother Locke. I didn't really do any research into military equipment, so please forgive me for my tone just now. I will leave for now, so see you tomorrow," Princess Sylvia said with her head lowered.
"No problem, don't take it to heart. See you tomorrow," Lorist said as he waved his hands generously.
After Princess Sylvia bowed and took her leave, she turned back and said, "Thank you, Elder Brother Locke. You're truly a good person."
"Huh?" Lorist mused. What's with that all of a sudden?
On the next day, after the welcoming banquet, Lorist brought Princess Sylvia and some others to the hall on the second floor where various armor and weapons were on display.
"Princess Sylvia, Blademaster Xanthi, Viscount Kristoph, the equipment my family has for sale are all displayed here and you may make your pick. However, the price tags listed beneath each item are only reserved for members of our alliance. If your family wishes to purchase them, the price will be 20% higher and that's already a huge discount I'm willing to make," Lorist said without holding anything back.
"Ah! 100 gold Fordes per set?! Isn't this the armor used by the forces of the Kenmays Family?" Princess Sylvia exclaimed with astonishment. As she had visited the dominion of the Kenmays Family before, she remembered the gleaming silvery armor rather well. At that time, she only thought that it looked rather good but didn't expect that each set would cost this much.
Count Kenmays nodded and said, "Yes, Your Highness. This is indeed the armor set purchased by our family at that very price."
"Uncle Kris, I heard you say before that the metal armor provided to us by His Highness the king wasn't worth more than 10 gold Fordes each. Why are the ones sold by the Norton Family so expensive?" Princess Sylvia asked with a disturbed look. At that price, it would be exactly like Lorist had said: they wouldn't be able to outfit even one division of troops with armor.
As Viscount Kristoph had good understanding of military equipment, he laughed bitterly and said, "Your Highness, each set of armor sold by Count Norton here are all exquisite products with impeccable quality and defensive capabilities. Compared to these, the metal armor provided to us by His Highness is nothing but garbage, In other words, the metal armor we used was only slightly better than leather armor produced by our family and would spoil after only one year of wear. On the other hand, no matter which armor here you pick from, they will definitely be far better than those metal armor. If we care for them well, we might even be able to leave the armor for our children and grandchildren as family heirlooms."
Blademaster Xanthi nodded in agreement.
"However, our family doesn't have that much gold coins..." Princess Sylvia said as she hesitated.
"Please take a closer look at this set," Lorist said aptly as he led the others to a set of concise looking armor. "This set of armor was originally designed for my light cavalry scouts and comes with throwing weapons, a longsword and a pike. It's extremely suitable for your Frontier Legion's cavalry troops and is priced at only around 65 gold Fordes. Even though it's the cheapest armor we offer for sale, its defense capabilities are rather good and is only 20% weaker than the armor of the Whitelion Legion of the former empire. I think that this is more than enough for you to use against the grassland barbarians. If you don't have enough gold coins, I have another suggestion. You can pay us with cows and sheeps. What do you think, Your Highness?"
"Alright then, we'll trade the armor with you with livestock. If we don't have enough, we can simply rob more of them from the northeastern plains," said Viscount Kristoph excitedly without even waiting for the princess's agreement.
Three days later, Princess Sylvia left with Blademaster Xanthi, Viscount Kristoph and 3000 of the released Frontier Legion soldiers with the remaining 12000 only allowed to leave until the agreed upon livestock was delivered when they came to retrieve the armor and equipment they purchased.
"Good Sol, have you gone insane?" Charade said in one of his rare instances of swearing. "Are you going crazy along with the Fisablen Family? How can you agree so casually to accept up to 2 million cows and sheep for the ransom of their soldiers and the purchase 100000 sets of equipment? I don't think they have that much livestock themselves within their two provinces..."
"Viscount Kristoph said that he would lead his soldiers to rob the grassland barbarians for more cows and sheep," said Lorist lazily.
"Ugh..." Charade was stunned as he didn't expect that the Fisablen Family had that method to their disposal. "Even if they rob them, we won't have that much manpower to manage the livestock!"
"Hey, don't worry. The agreement states that they will pay in installments of 400000 plus cows and sheeps yearly for five years. We only have to leave around a few tens of thousands alive and kill some off to make dried meat and sell some away within the family dominion. I believe they will be sold out rather quickly since our dominion's population is already nearing 800000 and the demand for fresh meat will be high. As for the people required to manage the livestock, I've already discussed it with them and they said that they'll provide around 1000 households of herders, which equates to around 5000 people, to us and each household will be in charge of ten cows. By then, we can just set up a town at the west area of the Northlands for these herders to stay at and let them take care of up to 500000 animals."
Having heard Lorist's sound explanation, Charade left without saying anything else.
"Don't forget to close the door when you leave! I'm gonna take a short nap now, darn I'm tired!" Lorist said as he lifted both his legs and put them on the table before leaning back on his chair.
Bam! The sound of the door being slammed shut echoed throughout the room.
"Considering 'Mizek Stainless Steel Armor' is a full-plate suit of armor, most likely with matching chain mail, only producing 20 per year isn't that unbelievable. Even with an absolute army of 1000 armor masters and an unlimited supply of high quality steel it would still require a suit of armor to be completed every 2 days for every armorsmith. That's molding, shaping, hammering, tempering, and fitting, for several dozen pieces of steel plate." Credits to user Toddleson for his explanation.