A huge man with the back of a tiger and the waist of a bear stood up from one of the seats at the back row, drew his sword and marched forward without regard to the others that attempted to stop him.
Lorist gave the man a cold stare and said, "Count Aslan? Haha, don't think it's just you who doesn't want to work together. The Norton Family will not let this matter slide either. I believe that you were aware of the actions of your own brother. Since the Aslan Family dares to challenge the honor of the Norton Family, you should be anticipating the vengeance of the Raging Bear.
"Your Highness, how do you think I should deal with Viscount Aslan here?" Lorist said as he turned back once again and passed the baton to the Second Highness.
The Second Highness looked incredibly grim and after staying silent for a few moments, he finally opened his mouth and said, "Count Norton, let me first apologize to you. The things that have happened at your dominion were definitely not a result of my intentions. As the senior noble of the Norton Family, I was too busy minding my own matters that I wasn't able to notice and straighten out small conflicts like that, and that is definitely neglect on my part.
"But Viscount Aslan is indeed the tax collection official appointed by the kingdom and even if he has committed a crime, he must be punished in accordance to the regulations of the kingdom's court. Additionally, he is still a person of noble status and your humiliating treatment of him is grossly unfit with the way of the nobles. Despite that, I can understand your rage since Viscount Aslan did infringe upon the honor of the Norton Family. That's why, I hope you can hand him to me and I will deal with him aptly. Let's end this matter here."
The Second Highness thought that he had managed to settle upon a perfect arrangement with his words even leaving some room for Lorist to step down the podium by stressing unity among nobles and trivializing the matter of the viscount.
But he didn't expect that his words would cause the atmosphere within the hall to chill all of a sudden. Everyone within the hall gave him a weird look.
Lorist's laughter resounded throughout the hall, carrying with it a sharp sting of arrogance.
"Your Highness, have you forgotten that the authority of us nobles is sacred and cannot be violated? If Viscount Aslan is to be let off so lightly after committing an act like this, does that mean that the royal family can do the same thing again to mess with the other dominion lords? I have brought Viscount Aslan here because he is the official you have appointed, but that doesn't mean you have the right to decide his fate..."
Lorist made his intentions known in a straightforward matter. In essence, he was saying, 'since you're my senior noble, I'm giving you face by bringing him here. Even though Viscount Aslan is the tax collection official appointed by you, as he has trampled upon the violation of the Norton Family, he must receive due punishment. If you intend to accept the responsibility but are unwilling to do anything about it, then we'll all flip out entirely and become lifelong enemies. Otherwise, no matter how Viscount Aslan is dealt with, that is a matter of the Norton Family and you, the Second Highness, can only offer your suggestion but have no right to make any decisions about it'.
The Second Highness was so embarrassed to the point of anger because he had uttered something wrong. Even though the nobles appeared quite subservient to him, his previous statement had touched upon the baseline that those nobles were willing to tolerate. The ideal scenario for Viscount Aslan currently was for him to be hanged by a dominion lord. If a senior noble was able to do as he liked when the true dominion lord was not within the dominion, then all the nobles there would refuse the senior noble's call to arms and stay within the dominion without heading out.
There were some things that could be done but couldn't be loudly proclaimed. As Lorist had just said, the authority of nobles is sacred and cannot ever be violated. That was common knowledge for all the nobles on the Grindia Continent.
As a senior noble, the Second Highness could use military might to force the nobles to mobilize their forces., just like the Duke of the Northlands who used the Northland Army to take advantage of the other nobles of the Northlands to gain more wealth for himself, or the Second Prince who forced the nobles' private forces heed his orders. But these methods could only be employed in secret and in the world where the strong devoured the weak, the ones who were taken advantage of could only blame their own misfortune.
But for a statement that the Second Highness had proclaimed in public in front of every other noble, it was as if he had the intention of sticking his hands into the dominions of other nobles and to take a huge bite out for himself. For these nobles, oppressing their subjects and fighting among themselves were private matters. But the Second Highness's decision about Viscount Aslan would set a precedent for them all.
If the Second Highness earnestly apologized and pleaded Lorist to hand Viscount Aslan to him while promising that he would definitely handle the matter according to the Norton Family's wishes, then Lorist would probably do as he said and give him the viscount. After that, he could contact Lorist privately and have the Aslan Family pay out a huge sum to make up for the wrongs of the viscount as well as to ransom him out to get the forgiveness of the Norton Family and spare Viscount Aslan's life. After all, nobody would fuss so much over money and the Second Highness's face would also have to be considered as well. After that, the matter would be wrapped up without problems and everyone would praise the Second Highness's wisdom and wit.
But refusing to accept any of his errors and fueled with the feeling of dominating power from having 300000 soldiers in his possession, the Second Highness began to see the Norton Family like the other small noble families that would cower before him and didn't think twice before he had uttered what he said just now. The situation he caused was grim as not only did his statement imply that he would further extend his influence into the lands under the jurisdiction of other nobles, causing them to start to be wary of him, they also forced the Norton Family to the absolute tipping point.
Lorist had already stated very clearly that he had brought the viscount to him only because he wanted to give the Second Highness some face. But since he wanted to protect the viscount, Lorist decided that he wouldn't hold back.
"Then, what do you intend to do? Count Norton..." The Second Highness forced those words out of his mouth syllable by syllable and felt incredibly hateful as he did so.
"It's simple. Since Your Highness's suggested way of handling the viscount is not to our satisfaction, we can only settle this according to the Norton Family's own regulations," said Lorist before he made a cutthroat gesture. Freiyar then drew his sword and gave a light swing, separating Viscount Aslan's head from his body.
The whole hall fell into complete silence.
Not one of them expected that Lorist would order for Viscount Aslan to be beheaded on the spot, during a banquet that was hosted to welcome Lorist himself no less.
Shrieks of terror could be heard as a few of the noble ladies fainted from the sight of gore and blood.
Clang! The sword in Count Aslan's sword fell to the ground as he struggled to find his footing while looking at his decapitated little brother, before he turned to Lorist with a hateful stare and said, "Very well... You better expect the vengeance of the Aslan Family!"
After he said that, Count Aslan left the hall right away.
The golden cup in the Second Highness's hand was already dented from his grip. He felt that he had been smacked in the face in public! Lorist's act of ordering for the decapitation of the viscount didn't leave the Second Highness with any due respect. The Second Highness currently felt a boiling tinge on his face and was shuddering from the anger, with his rage ready to burst out at any moment.
"Madman! Are the people of the Norton Family all madmen?!" commented Marquis Reid, echoing the thoughts of most of the other nobles as well.
"Wow, you really don't waste any words. I like it..." That one who uttered that was Princess Carey. At that moment, her eyes were a little watery.
Bam! Second Highness Auguslo smashed the gold cup in his hand against the table before he stood up and said, "Count Norton, how dare you kill Viscount Aslan right before me... Are you disregarding the existence of the Andinaq Royal Family? Do you still consider yourself a noble of the kingdom?"
WIthout showing any weakness, Lorist stepped forward two steps to look the Second Highness in the eye and said, "The Norton Family has pledged our allegiance to the Krissen Imperial Family and has never shirked on our responsibilities. As the empire is already now in shambles, taking into account that the Andinaq Royal Family is the rightful heir to the legacy of the Krissen Imperial Family, we have also accepted your entitlement and enfeoffment. But when we were facing off against the Duke of the Northlands and the Second Prince, did the Andinaq Royal Family offer us any aid?
"And after traveling so far to our new dominion, we noticed it plagued with small fries causing trouble here and there. Was it because we weren't present at the dominion? Don't forget, Second Highness, about the children of those noble families that occupied the Seaview Manor unrightfully. Since you said that it's just an incident of unruly children messing around, I've already released them and took your will into consideration. Additionally, your subordinate's attempt at extorting the townsfolk by holding the town mayor hostage will be dealt with according to the military regulations of your family, as per your will, since you said that he acted on his own accord.
"But right now, this tax collection official that you appointed took the chance when we were absent from Silowas Island and treated it like his own dominion and even oppressed the residents so much that they almost revolted. Yet, you still seek to cover for him. Then let me ask you, Second Highness, do you even consider us, the Norton Family, as a noble family of the kingdom? What is your intention when you objected at my sacred right as the dominion lord?"
The Second Highness was completely flabbergasted and speechless. It was true that Lorist had already gave him a lot of face and abided by his decisions when it came to the children of the noble families and the Gold ranked knight Ferwemant. Additionally, the now-dead Viscount Aslan's transgressions were far worse those of the former two cases and Lorist truly didn't have a choice when it came to letting the matter go. If Lorist really compromised with the Second Highness again, then the Norton Family would no longer be able to hold their faces up high among the other nobles. That was a matter that concerned the honor and pride of the family, so it was no wonder that Lorist was willing to go all out.
But at that moment, the Second Highness's anger continued to build up as he thought, so you defended the honor of the Norton Family, what of mine then? He continued to glare angrily at Lorist with the latter looking right back, as if bolts of lightning could be seen between their gazes.
One figure suddenly stepped in front of the Second Highness. That man looked to be around 50 years of age and was dressed extravagantly while also boasting a huge build. He slowly drew his sword and said, "Lord Count, I don't wish to be a part of your dispute with His Highness, nor do I wish to comment on who was right or wrong. But I will definitely not allow you to hurt others in front of His Highness. Please step aside, I must let your family knights know what humility, manners and regulations are..."
"Who are you?" Lorist said while turning his gaze to the old man.
The old man gave Lorist a slight glance and said, "Please step aside, Lord Count. It is not my wish to hurt you. I am a Blademaster of the Royal Family, Davey Climonto."
After he reported his identity, the old man puffed out his chest as if he was waiting for Lorist to show a look of surprise before trying to appease himself in a panicked manner.
Oh, so this is the father of that handsome guy? Don't the old ones usually come after their young are hurt? Why did you jump out when I didn't touch your son?
Lorist glanced at the Second Highness and saw that he had relaxed and sat down with a smile.
Bastard... So you're trying to teach me a lesson, are you? Alright, let's see who has the last laugh, cursed Lorist in his mind as he drew his ceremonial sword.
"You think you're invincible just because you're a Blademaster? If you want to teach my knight a lesson, you have to go through me first." Lorist then spat out right in front of the old man.
With his face reddened with anger, the Blademaster said, "Kid, you dare to be rude to me?!"
Spitting in front of someone was considered a gross insult and the old man really didn't understand why a twerp that wasn't even at the Silver rank dared to disrespect a Blademaster like himself. However, that didn't stop him from teaching that arrogant count a lesson he would never forget.
"Old man, come at me. Don't be all bark and no bite," Lorist provoked.
The old man cursed as he swung the flat of the blade of his sword horizontally towards Lorist's left cheek, intent of giving Lorist a harsh smack in the face. If that strike connected, not only would his face be swollen to no end, at least half of his teeth would fall off.
Even though Lorist wasn't too used to wielding the ceremonial sword that was markedly different from his custom made sword, it was more than enough for him to face off against a rank 1 Blademaster, especially when the old man was attacking while underestimating Lorist's abilities.
The Second Highness then sat down calmly and thought, good, Locke... As you had the high ground just now, I couldn't do anything against you. But now, i can crush you and make you submit with my power. Do you think that your family is so mighty just because you have a handful of Gold ranked knights? Just like a frog in a well, you've not the slightest idea how many Gold ranked knights I have. Additionally, I have a Blademaster as well...
I will use my Blademaster to teach your knights a lesson and make you understand that you have no right to be so domineering in front of me. Forget my 300000 soldiers, even you are not able to match against me in terms of personal strength. The present is different from five years ago and at that time, your family's force was indeed impressive. But you're only a small family while I have a kingdom under me. To think that you would find trouble for yourself and fight against a Blademaster, you really don't know your bounds. Blademasters can wipe the floor with you whenever they please.
But soon after, the Second Highness stood straight up with surprise, with the other nobles present all letting out gasps of shock. It was apparent to them that the one being pushed back was Blademaster Climonto instead. He was sweating heavily while barely parrying Lorist's lightning-fast strikes. Faced with Lorist who was fighting like a frenzied tiger, it was apparent that the Blademaster was at a disadvantage and would soon lose.
Standing in the middle were Freiyar, Els, Jim and a few other guards who looked at the Blademaster sympathetically. While it was normal for him to show off to others usually, acting high and mighty in front of their family leader, Lorist, was only looking for trouble. Even Viscount Kristoph, a rank 1 Blademaster, was eventually scared from sparring against Lorist all the time. While he was able to withstand around 100 or so strikes in the beginning, as they continued to spar, the Blademaster was no longer able to last more than 40 strikes, causing him to curse at Lorist for being a complete freak.
Clang! The two swords intersected once again and the Blademaster's own longsword was knocked flying before it landed in front of the Second Highness. Lorist then tapped onto the old man's face with the flat side of his ceremonial sword and said, "A Blademaster, huh? Haha, did you think you could teach my knights humility with your level of ability? Come to me for a rematch when you reach the level of Blademaster Zarinan."
"You've fought against Zarinan before?" said the old man, stunned. Blademaster Zarinan was well known as a quasi-Sword Saint and was considered to be the only Blademaster that stood a good chance to become a Sword Saint during the days of the former empire.
"He's been killed by the forces of my family," Lorist said casually. "After we defeated the 100000-strong army of the Second Prince and killed Blademaster Louinse, the Second Prince escaped back to his dominion and sent Blademaster Zarinan to assassinate me, only for him to end up dead from my family force."
"That's impossible!" cried out the Second Highness with shock as the other nobles began to chatter incessantly. While defeating the Second Prince's 100000 soldiers was a plausible feat, killing two of his Blademasters was incredibly hard to believe. Everyone knew that Blademasters wouldn't be that idiotic to stand still and be swarmed by a whole army and would escape once the situation was grim.
It's already almost been one year and you guys still haven't received the news? Color me impressed. You think that you can unite the empire with only 300000 soldiers? In your dreams, Lorist thought.
"What's so impossible about that? I even put Blademaster Zarinan's corpse up on display, but most of him is rotted now, leaving behind only a few bones," Lorist said as he turned back. "Bring in our proof! This is also our gift to the royal family. Let everyone see, who really is the one loyally working to serve the kingdom!"