Charade went to the imperial capital to pay his respects. Lorist hadn’t gone, so Charade was there as his representative as well.
What a joke... Going to the imperial capital at this time?!
The reason Lorist was so against meeting the second highness was that he would definitely be asked to 'contribute' to the kingdom in every which way.
Another reason for his resistance to a visit was that he could not afford to take the risk of leaving and having the Chikdor Merchant Guild attack during his absence. Lorist felt that it would be best for him to stay put at Silowas Island and wait for the enemy to attack. This time around, he had to teach the Chikdor Merchant Guild a lesson they could never forget.
The preparations for the battle continued smoothly and those who wanted to evacuate left successfully. Patt also visited Lorist secretly and asked him to write a recommendation letter to be sent to Telesti.
Actually, he had successfully wooed White Restaurant’s Martha. Both she and her mother were willing to head to the Northlands to start a new restaurant by the port city. Business on the island wasn't going particularly well, so it wasn’t a hindrance to their decision.
However, Martha's mother, Nataya, hoped that their neighbor, Professor Hugo, and his family would be given the same treatment. After asking around, Patt found that Professor Hugo was actually a literature and history professor from the Royal Knight Academy at the imperial capital who had returned to his hometown to escape the civil war. Patt thought that, since Telesti was building Nico Academy, it would be a good idea for Lorist to write a letter recommending Professor Hugo for a teaching position there.
After asking around as he wrote the letter, Lorist realized that he had met Professor Hugo before. He was the puffy, drunk man at Whitebird Restaurant when Lorist had first visited.
No wonder that old guy didn't fear a dominion lord like me and even dared to say that all nobles are perverts... He must have seen lots of things in the imperial capital. He probably understands what truly lies beneath the pleasant and mannered visages of most nobles.
Not many of Silowas Island’s residents chose to leave. Most gave their familiarity with island-life and the absence of any desire to move as their reason. As long as they were allowed to continue to live as they had been, they didn’t care who their dominion lord was. House Norton hadn’t bothered to care for the island for five whole years after receiving it as a fief, so they felt little to no loyalty to it. They felt that they could live as usual whether there was a person lording over them or not.
In fact, there were quite a number of complaints after Lorist arrived at that island. Many of the residents felt that while the developmental plans their dominion lord had in store provided many money-making opportunities for them, it also gave them lots of trouble, affecting their peaceful daily lives.
However, the beauty, Martha, and her family managed to convince a bunch of island residents to head to the Northlands with them, roughly 100 people in total. They were families of substantial wealth. They were worried that their houses and belongings would be raided during the battle, so they felt it would be better for them to move to the Northlands.
The manager in charge of convincing the islanders’ move promised that they wouldn't have to worry about accommodation or work in the Northlands. The port city’s construction was completed, so there would be enough housing as well as some more benefits to make up for their losses. Additionally, the Northlands required all sorts of talents, they needed not worry about finding employment. Anyone with a skill would have no trouble finding employ.
In his conversations with Patt, Lorist got to know that Victor, the limping captain of Whitebird Town’s garrison, was also one of those who had been vying for Martha's affection. However, compared to the young, handsome, wholesome, and strong Patt (it should be noted that those were Patt's personal opinions of himself that do not in any way represent how Lorist perceives Patt), who also had two functioning legs – as opposed to Victor’s limp – Martha's choice was obvious.
It was part of the reason for the garrison of Whitebird Town’s objection to the construction of the citadel between the town and the commerce area. Patt was the leader of the third local defense brigade and Victor was the captain of the local garrison, with both of them vying for Martha’s favor, their units naturally experienced some friction between them as well. Patt, however, wore a face full of smiles the whole time. He radiated the aura of superiority belonging only to a victor (no pun intended).
It was fortunate that Lorist didn't snap in anger.
Those two bastards are actually treating the house's development plans as a game! To think that I thought the folk of Whitebird Town were actually against the plan... So it was because of these two's personal grudge... Well, that limp isn't a member of the house. When the house stabilizes here at the island, there would be many chances to deal with him. As for Patt, a family knight, how could not realize the weight of the matter…
Naturally, it wasn't that Lorist wanted Patt to have given up on the beauty. But that, at the very least, he should have informed Lorist of the true nature of the situation at the first opportunity. That way, he wouldn't have to move the third local defense brigade to the soon to be abandoned Farama Village. Relying on the limp Victor and his 500 untrained garrison soldiers to defend Whitebird Town was not the best idea.
The days passed one after another, but the enemy had yet to arrive. Each day felt as long as a year for Lorist. He awaited the arrival of the Chikdor Merchant Guild for so long that he thought that he was turning into a rock.
During this period of time, Freiyar had completed the formation of the two fleets, one was led by Senbaud to the Northlands to both send the evacuees there and to bring food to the island. After five days in the Northlands, Senbaud returned. He was far more respectful towards Lorist when he did so.
"I didn't expect that milord's family would be so mighty," said Senbaud.
He finally understood why Lorist had the confidence to fight against the Chikdor Merchant Guild. He had his horizons truly expanded during his trip to the Northlands. However, he was still rather confused about Lorist's rank. Despite being peers in title, Count Lorist and Count Seleih were worlds apart; the latter was nothing more than a beggar compared to the former. Whether it be in terms of his dominion, or his household forces, Count Seleih couldn't compare to Lorist in the slightest! In actuality, House Norton's forces had already exceeded that of a duchy.
Senbaud was working hard to eventually become a knight of House Norton now, but it wasn't going too smoothly for him. Even though a gold-ranked swordsman would be more than welcome to enter the ranks of the knights of most other noble houses, it wasn't the same for House Norton. It prized achievements and contributions the most, though hard work could also be an acceptable substitute for stellar performance. Without one of those, however, one would not be accepted as a knight of the house.
However, after taking a quick stroll around the dominion of the Nortons, Senbaud had resolved himself even more. He wouldn't join any other house, even if they came over to invite him, after what he had seen. Based on the eight manors built for the house’s gold-ranked knights at Salus Settlement alone, Senbaud was already filled with desire. The facilities of the manors were complete and not lacking in the slightest. They even with servants and workers already in place. Each year, the manors would produce at least 500 to 800 gold Fordes in profit.
It had to be noted that Senbaud only earned around 100 gold Fordes annually from toiling away and risking his life as a pirate. But now, even before he was a gold-ranked knight, he was receiving a salary of ten gold Fordes a month, which was more than enough for his wife and children to live comfortable, even luxurious lives.
I absolutely have to become a gold-ranked knight of the house and get a manor for my wife and children, thought Senbaud resolutely.
On the 22nd day of the 1st month, Charade returned from the imperial capital. Even by then, the Chikdor Merchant Guild still hadn’t shown up to attack. Even Charade was suspicious of the situation. Was the Chikdor Merchant Guild intending to wait for winter to pass? Would they only attack in the 4th or 5th month?
Charade took a breath of cold air as he spoke of the rumors he heard in the capital.
"The second highness is truly cruel. He actually lopped off Second Prince Iblia’s head and put it in a silver basin in front of the Third Prince's altar as a sacrifice. The poor Second Prince never would've expected to die at the hands of his own nephew. Even in death, the prince’s severed head still wears an expression of shock and terror. What a horrible way to die...
"Also, Second Highness Auguslo gave a rousing speech at the plaza in front of the palace. He claimed that nobody can suppress the desire of the empire’s people to reunite and said that anyone who wanted to stop them would be mowed down by his army...
"Naturally, the tens of thousands of people cheered after the speech ended, shaking up the whole capital. All of the people there – soldier and civilian alike – felt that something was lifted off their shoulders following the death of the third prince. Right now, Second Highness Auguslo’s army is making the final preparations for war. I estimate they will engage Redlis’s forces in the 4th month after the harvest of the winter wheat."
Lorist continued to wait on the island until the 11th day of the 2nd month, on which two large-class, long distance merchant vessels of the Peterson Merchant Guild arrived at the island. The vice president and several others from the guild were onboard, as well as Dulles and the 40 or so talented men he had recruited in Morante City.
"Milord, you should stop waiting here like an idiot. The trade union is already in a bloody battle with the Teribo Kingdom and have no time to bother with taking Silowas Island," said Dulles after greeting Lorist.
After hearing Dulles and the vice president’s explanation, Lorist came to understand that the move he made before leaving Morante City, that is, the release of the two letters, had an unintended effect. The letters actually served as a catalyst for the conflict between the trade union and Teribo, and the smaller conflicts at their borders eventually developed into an all-out war.
Lorist was more than elated when he heard the news. Initially, he only thought of causing some trouble for the trade union by releasing those two letters. However, he only thought that this would cause enough tension between Teribo and the trade union to cause them to dissolve their friendly relations. Never would he have thought that he would be able to cause a war between them.
Then again, the letters were only able to play their part thanks to the cooperation of the strait-laced Teribo VII. After the assault incident on the Mayflower Merchant Guild, a third of the inner city of Morante City was ruined. As a result, many of the high officials of various merchant guilds and their family members lost their lives. That did not only involve those from the big-seven guilds, but also the smaller ones that were situated at the inner city as well.
All the residents in the city were boiling with rage and the big-seven guilds were completely unable to suppress the people. It was especially the case with the smaller merchant guild fanning the flames. One representative of the council after another gave their speeches in the public streets, all carrying the same rhetoric of punishing Teribo so that the innocents would be avenged. There were even some that chanted the slogan, 'Attack Feyers City, and catch Teribo VII alive!'
However, the big-seven guilds were more rational than that. Even the Mayflower Merchant Guild which suffered the most losses attempted to suppress the desire of the citizens for revenge. The big-seven sent an ambassador to the capital of Teribo, Feyers City, to get an audience with Teribo VII. The ambassador suggested the kingdom hand the rank three blademaster and rank two blademaster who had managed to escape to the trade union to be punished as murderers so that the citizens of Morante City could be appeased. Additionally, the ambassador requested Teribo pay for the damages incurred by the trade union and was even ready to renegotiate the tax-free benefit the kingdom had with the union on the glass trade.
The big seven guilds felt that their handling of the matter was already really generous, but they didn't expect Teribo VII to so stubbornly refuse all of the suggestions of the trade union. He stressing that the attack on the Mayflower Merchant Guild didn't occur on his orders and that he didn't bear any responsibility for the matter whatsoever.
He even began to utter nonsense in front of the ambassador of the trade union, saying that he thought the blademasters and gold-ranked knights who attacked the Mayflower Merchant Guild must have been incredibly patriotic subjects of the kingdom who acted on their own behalf seeing their kingdom's plight. Teribo VII said that those valiant warriors must have been unable to overlook the trade union’s sly betrayal and decided to take action against the Mayflower Merchant Guild regardless of their own lives to destroy those letters so that the kingdom’s secret could be kept.
That was how Teribo VII argued that the kingdom bore no responsibility whatsoever for the actions of those patriotic and heroic subjects. They also insisted that the ambassador's demands were nothing but nonsense.
Teribo VII’s response infuriated the ambassador of the trade union to the point that he almost spit out blood in anger. Even though the proof was laid in front of him, Teribo VII refused to admit to the allegations. The ambassador really couldn't believe a matter between two nations was being handled in such a childish manner.
Just when the ambassador was leaving, having said that Teribo VII would definitely bear the consequences of his actions, Teribo VII lashed out once again. He gladly declared that he would award the brave warriors with the highest honor and hold a ceremony at Feyers City in memory of the brave heroes that were willing to give their lives to protect the interests of the kingdom.
This time around, the ambassador truly coughed up blood.
By the time the big seven guilds received Teribo VII's official reply from the insulted ambassador, they felt as if they had been slapped squarely in the face. So, they made a joint decision. During the 5th day of the 12th month when the auction was held, the Mayflower Merchant Guild made their own bid and purchased the oil and green glass production method letters with 23 million gold Fordes.
In actuality, the academies didn't really receive such a huge amount of money for the letters. A day before the auction, an agreement was made with them. Each academy would receive 1.5 million gold Fordes apart from the Dawn Academy, which got 2 million gold Fordes. After that, Academy Head Levins would announce that the letters were indeed sold for 23 million gold Fordes and 'donate' 20 million to the restoration of the inner city. The remaining 3 million gold Fordes would be used to set up the Mancheny Fund to support poorer students in their studies. While that was the cover story, all parties involved made quite a huge profit off the deal. However, Dawn Academy managed to also greatly improve their reputation.
Upon receiving the letters for the glass production methods, the trade union announced that they would produce and market their own glass products and refuse to import those produced by Teribo, thus completely severing any and all benefits afforded to the kingdom in the process.
The moment the kingdom received word of that, Teribo VII jumped in rage.
What?! So the two letters that were destroyed at the cost of so many blademasters and gold-ranked knights were fakes?! The trade union truly is sly... No wonder nobles always get the short end of the stick when dealing with merchants. It was all because of the paranoia of the merchants that caused us to fall for their ploy and suffer so many losses in the process...
Teribo VII, who automatically victimized himself, began to boil in rage. There was no way he could form another group of blademasters and gold-ranked knights to steal the letters back. Thus, he decided to mobilize his army of 50 thousand to the border of the trade union. He was prepared to use his military might to force the trade union to cease glass production immediately.
However, Teribo VII forgot one crucial fact. Even the impressive Krissen Empire boasting an army of 300 thousand men wasn't able to make the Forde Trade Union cower, not to say much about the Teribo Kingdom's 50 thousand. The trade union soldiers often bumped into Teribo Kingdom soldiers and would delve into a round of verbal abuse. It was fortunate that both sides didn't fight with their weapons, but bare-handed brawls were not uncommon.
In the end, one of the trade union’s villages near the border fell victim to a squad of Teribo soldiers. They barged into the village for some food and rest. In the meantime, some of the soldiers felt the need to show the womenfolk of the village what a true Teribo man was capable of in bed.
Who would've expected the soldiers to encounter a Morante City mercenary group there? Mercenaries weren't beholden to as many regulations as formal defense soldiers. Normal soldiers would have to first lodge a formal complaint after sending the offending enemy soldiers back to their camp and request the other party to punish the offenders for violating military regulations.
However, when the mercenaries realized the village folk were oppressed to no end, they instantly broke into a fight. The Teribo soldiers that managed to escape reported that they had been ambushed, causing several squads of reinforcements to be sent to the village. As a result, the slaughter of the mercenaries began. That incident attracted the trade union’s defense forces, further growing the scale of the border conflict.
When Teribo VII heard about the battle at the border and the number of deaths among his soldiers, he was elated and thought that he could use that as an excuse to teach the trade union’s unruly mercenaries some manners. So, he ordered his 50-thousand-strong army to launch an attack on Morante City, intent on encircling the city and forcing the trade union to sign a treaty.
The war effort progressed without trouble at first as the trade union didn't think that Teribo would actually launch an attack. They had been assaulted in a completely unprepared state, allowing the Teribo Kingdom's army to occupy the two cities at the border of the Falik Plains. The act was akin to prodding a nest full of hornets. The trade union declared war against Teribo immediately with the pretext of self-defensive retaliation. They wanted to let Teribo VII taste the consequences of his own actions, which had started the war.
The moment the trade union unleashed their forces, Teribo came to understand the saying, 'a dog that bites doesn't bark'. Right before Dulles boarded the ship heading to Silowas Island with the others, not only did the trade union take back the two occupied cities, their forces even breached Teribo’s defenses and crossed its borders, conquering seven of its commanderies, which was about half of the kingdom's whole territory.
The Teribo Kingdom only occupied an area roughly equivalent to four provinces of the Krissen Empire, it didn't use provinces to split up its territory and instead split it up into 15 commanderies.
"Right now, Teribo VII is crying out for the neighboring nations to reinforce him and even mobilized everyone he could in his kingdom. swearing that he would resist the heartless enemy that forgot all the aid his kingdom had offered. He said that the army of the trade union even broke a taboo by taking over heaps of the kingdom's territory," said Dulles in a snickering voice.