This here is the second release of the week, enjoy!
This chapter is still in an unedited state due to the exam season catching up with us all. The edited version will be updated as soon as it's available.
Lorist laid lazily on a luxurious-looking bed. Having slept for a whole day and night, he had just woken up not long ago and still felt rather drowsy and did not feel like getting up just yet.
Lorist's laziness was not because of him being in a weakened condition. He was just pondering about that blood red world he had just experienced. At afternoon the day before when he led the forces of the household on an attack to the palace, he had faced off against Rank 3 Blademaster Locksy Kabia. Logically speaking, Locksy should be far inferior than Blademaster Zarinan who was sent to assassinate Lorist some time ago. Zarinan was considered to be a quasi-swordsaint by many, meaning that his prowess was incredibly close to that of a true swordsaint. While Blademaster Locksy was still rather formidable, he was not particularly strong and was at a disadvantage when battling against Lorist.
Even so, Locksy Kabia was a rather stubborn person who had managed to keep Lorist occupied for more than two hours. From time to time, he would retreat and have the archers protecting the palace fire volleys in Lorist's direction, causing him much trouble. The most annoying part was that Locksy's swordsmanship attribute was not particularly weak against Lorist's own, with Locksy's being a similar sneaky, chilling type. In fact, he thrived off the cold temperatures generated by Lorist's swordsmanship.
In the end, Lorist once again entered that blood red world. Within that world, Lorist could feel his speed, agility, strength and other bodily qualities double or triple in intensity, allowing him to decapitate the rank 3 blademaster in a mere ten strokes, all the while fending off more than 20 hidden strikes from the royal guards.
The moment Lud III saw the death of Blademaster Locksy from the distance, he knew that he no longer had hope of delaying the inevitable, so he began to set his palace on fire. At that very moment, Lorist had just receded from the blood red world and felt incredibly exhausted. The moment he heard the guards ahead report on the burning of the palace, he laughed out in relief before collapsing into deep slumber.
Lorist was wondering about the nature of the blood red world. As much as he would like to call it a swordsaint's domain, it was a little different from what he had heard about them as described by others. Additionally, he felt that his swordsmanship still was not up to a swordsaint's standard. At best, he was only as skilled as Zarinan had been, being only at the quasi-swordsaint level.
The domain that was most-detailedly documented was that of the Windstorm Swordsaint of the Kalia kingdom, who had once deployed his domain for others to experience first hand. Those lucky enough to be present during the demonstration described it as being put directly into a storm all of a sudden that caused them to be unable to open their eyes from the wind and rain. In that situation, most would be unable to fight properly given the decreased visibility and other annoyances and could only wait for one's impending death.
That was the reason Lorist thought that even if he were to breakthrough to the swordsaint level, his domain would be one of snow and ice. That opinion was also shared by the blademasters that had faced him in combat. What, then, is this blood red world anyways? Even if it's not a domain, I feel absolute control over my environment after entering that world. I could even kill rank 3 blademasters like they are livestock. In this blood red world, with but a thought, I can appear wherever I want. Given how deeply this resonates with my soul, it feels like a domain, if not anything else...
However, Lorist could not be assured of two points. First, he had never heard of any swordsaint that had managed to master two different domains. Second, given how his swordsmanship still did not pose too much trouble to Blademaster Locksy to the point that the latter was able to hold on for two whole hours, it was apparent that Lorist's skills were still far from that of a swordsaint. Should it have been the opposite case, he would have defeated the old blademaster within 50 exchanges.
But Lorist suddenly remembered that he was not training properly in the battleforce technique he learned in his current life. Instead, he was using battleforce to cultivate the Aquametal Technique which he inherited in his past life. Perhaps, that would be a factor that would distort the nature of his domain. Thinking back at the insane boost in abilities the blood red world afforded him, it felt almost like a buff in a video game that boosted his abilities from 10 points to around 40. That was why Locksy was unable to take more than ten of his empowered strikes and fell at the eleventh one.
This blood red world should be a domain, then. When I am in that state, my abilities should rival that of a swordsaint's. That's why I suffer some fatigue as backlash after being in that state and have to rest up well.
Guess I should name this blood red world. What should I call it? Bloodred Domain? Lorist shook his head and recalled the night he engaged in slaughter with bodies littered all over him in the camp. Since a slaughter always succeeds the manifestation of the domain, let's call this the Slaughter Domain. I should work on familiarizing myself with this ability as soon as I can. Perhaps, I should adjust my training to focus in that direction and try my best to train my body until the state it is at within the domain.
Upon concluding his thought session, he felt rather relaxed and called out, "Hey, anyone?"
Jim came in and asked, "Milord, what do you need?"
"Oh? Why are you here? You're still injured. You should rest up," said Lorist.
"Milord, I'm already fine. The military herbalist gave me a checkup yesterday and said that my body has recovered completely, thanks to the medicine Els brought to the dueling grounds that time. I only need another few days of rest for a complete recovery. Also, I'm the vice leader of your personal guard. I am only fulfilling my duties as soon as possible," replied Jim.
"Fine, suit yourself. Just make sure you don't overwork yourself," Lorist said, "Who's in charge of the situation right now?"
"Sir Charade is, Milord. Sir Loze had already passed on the duties to Sir Charade the moment they met and went on to take charge of the security of the capital," reported Jim.
"I see," Lorist said as he nodded, before he instructed, "Get me some food and drink. I'm starving to death already."
Right after Lorist downed two pieces of bread, Charade entered the room with a thick stack of folders and said, "Milord, you're finally awake."
"Aren't you handling things just fine?" asked Lorist as he picked up another piece of roast chicken.
"Ugh," Charade groaned, "Locke, I was originally going to thank you for coming into the dueling grounds alone to rescue me, but now I understand that you did all that just so that I could take over most of the work again!"
Lorist laughed and said, "Fatty, aren't you the one who likes desk jobs the most? Why did you change your mind all of a sudden after being taken captive?"
Charade sighed and said, "Actually, I want to take a break."
"Thinking back at the household soldiers who had died protecting me at the dueling grounds, like Knight Fad, I know this can't go on any longer. I want to take a break to properly train and break through to the gold rank. If... If I were a gold rank, there would be far less household soldiers who had to sacrifice themselves for my sake. At the very least, that rat-faced blademaster wouldn't have used me to threaten Els. Because I've been neglecting my own battleforce training, I caused so much trouble in the end," grumbled Charade.
"That's not your fault. You're the chief knight of the household and it's only right for the household soldiers to defend you. However, I do agree that it's about time you raised your abilities. I'll agree to let you off on a break, but that can only happen after we return to The Northlands. For now, you'll still have to help me deal with the bulk of matters here at the Hanayabarta archipelago," said Lorist.
"Naturally, we won't be staying here for too long. I promise you that we'll return to Silowas by the end of the 10th month or early next month," added Lorist.
"Then what will happen to the archipelago?" asked Charade.
"We'll take it as our own dominion. This place will be yet another overseas dominion of our household."
"However, we don't have the official mandate from the Andinaq royal family to do so. I'm afraid we can't make this place our dominion, Locke," reminded Charade.
"No worries," Lorist said as he waved, "The second highness didn't care about us when we mobilized our forces. Additionally, the kingdom we exterminated isn't officially recognized by many other nations of the continent. They're nothing but pirates gathered up in one lair. If we leave these islands be, it might actually become the homes of real pirates in the future. That's why we can't leave this place lawless and unattended. Forget about an official mandate. I don't care if others don't acknowledge this archipelago as our overseas dominion. If there's anyone who objects to our claim here, I'd like to see them try to defeat our Oceanic Legion to reclaim these islands."
Since Lorist was dead set on keeping the Hanayabarta archipelago under the jurisdiction of House Norton, Charade no longer advised against it. After all, there were benefits in having yet another overseas dominion.
"Locke, I understand. Oh, and, make sure to sign these documents," said Charade as he passed over the folder stack.
"What are these?" asked Lorist.
"The forms for distributing food and other supplies, reward for distinguished soldiers, and a list of items the fleet will be sending back to Silowas. Also, there are some distribution permissions for weapons and equipment for the new local defense forces."
Lorist sighed and began signing one document after another.
"Aren't you going to look them over?" asked Charade.
"The fact that you brought them to me for a signature means that you've already given it a good look. There's no need for me to spend that much effort to recheck everything," replied Lorist.
"Alright, thanks for having so much trust in me. Actually, I still have another thing I want to discuss with you," said Charade.
"What's it about?"
"It concerns the slaves. Currently, there are more than 100 thousand slaves settled in at the capital. Apart from the 30 thousand or so that are under the command of our forces, the rest are mostly those that worked in the manors of the royal family. If they are left to their own devices, they'll be nothing but a leech on our food and resources. Additionally, the wheat in the fields of the manors are ripe and ready for harvest, but are so far left alone. I believe that it won't be too good an idea to force the slaves to do so. What should we do about this?"
Charade felt rather troubled that perfectly good wheat was being left to rot as well as the fact that they were feeding the 100 thousand slaves for nothing in return. The sight of food being moved out of the warehouse to the unattended slaves around the capital pained his heart. But even so, there was naught he could do to the slaves who had responded to the house's call to rebellion.
"How much goods did we obtain from this place?" asked Lorist without even answering the earlier query.
"It's not completely accounted for yet," Charade said as he flipped open a brown-colored folder, "Milord, this is the report on Port Nupite from Hector. There are more than 5 million gold Fordes alone confiscated there, with another 3 million gold Fordes' worth of silvers and coppers. Also, there are lots of valuable luxurious goods that also add up to millions. Hector stated in his report that he had formed a slave scavenging unit to dig up the underground warehouses of those slaver nobles and traders. He believes that we will gain another few million gold Fordes' worth of goods by the end of the month.
"Also, we sealed the three treasuries of the royal family and there are at least 1 million gold Fordes' worth in there. I believe that after we scour the noble sector, we will gain even more. Locke, the lack of funds for our house is practically solved already. The funds we gained from the Hanayabarta kingdom alone is enough for us to continue development for ten more years."
"Hehe," Lorist chuckled, "I was the one who said it first. Money comes fastest when it's taken from the hands of a kingdom. Naturally, that only applies if we can obtain victory with the least sacrifice. The only sad part is that the dominion of the house is located far too remotely, leaving only other poor folks or troublesome ones around us. Sometimes, I really wish that our dominion is located at the Falik Plains next to a juicy piece of meat like the Teribo kingdom. Just the thought makes me drool..."
Charade laughed and said, "Milord, we're nobles, not bandits! Don't say these kinds of things in front of others. Also, you said that we attacked the Hanayabarta kingdom as an act of retaliation of their slavers and slave traders that attacked Silowas. We are perfectly in the right for fighting back and exterminating their kingdom. We did not do this out of need for money."
"No worries, I know. Earning money is just one of our side goals. Everyone understands this," Lorist said with a laugh, "Since we earned so much this time around, we can afford to be a little lenient on our spending. Post notices all over the capital later stating that we are recruiting the slaves for the wheat harvest. We will need to put the fields at the plains near the capital to good use and plant winter wheat after the current harvest. Even if we have enough stockpiled food, we can't count on those completely.
"Those who help with the harvests will be guaranteed food, shelter and good clothing. We will also pay them a salary. I believe that those freed slaves would love to start accumulating wealth of their own. Those who work hard will be compensated a small silver a day. I believe that will entice lots to join in.
"Also, from tomorrow onwards, the slaves that refuse to help us out will only be served two bowls of porridge a day with no bread or meat. Those who don't work don't even deserve food in the first place, and our provision of two servings of porridge is already more than we're obligated to provide. We don't have any special relationship with them, so there's no need for us to feed them well."
Charade stared wide-mouthed and said, "Milord, that won't be too good, right? I don't recall you asking the light cavalry scouts to announce that when you were riling them up for revolt."
Lorist shook his head with a smile and said, "No. All we promised in exchange for them to help us resist the oppression of the royal defense army and the capital's cavalry troops was freedom. Right now, they are free to go wherever they want and do whatever they want. No one would look at them as slaves anymore. We have already fulfilled our end of the bargain, so that doesn't obligate us to sustain them for the rest of their lives, understood?
"If these free men are willing to labor for us in exchange for other benefits, they are more than welcome to do so. Our house requires that kind of hardworking people who are willing to work for their own livelihoods, not parasites who don't want to put in their part of the effort. If there are any that oppose our decision, we will show them the wrath of the Raging Bear!
"Also, you can make it known that we will soon be recruiting those among the slaves to expand our army. Make sure to spread the word that we aren't looking for the fittest or strongest to join, but rather those who served us the best."
Charade understood Lorist's intentions and said, "Milord, I understand."
"Good. There are over 400 thousand slaves here on the Hanayabarta archipelago, with most of them being youths that aren't tied down by other family members. If we use them wisely, they will grow the manpower of the Norton house by far. Failing that, they will become very troublesome for us. I plan to leave around 200 thousand slaves here at the archipelago and give them farmland and houses. They will live here as subjects of the house from then on.
"Other than that, I plan to recruit ten brigades of soldiers. Coupled with the ten brigades already formed at Port Nupite, there are more than 60 thousand soldiers, which are just enough to make up for the house's inability to keep this place defended. In chaotic times, one must have enough might to protect oneself. As for the rest of the slaves, those who don't wish to return to their homelands can be allowed to move to Silowas to replace the lost subjects there so that we can continue to develop that place. That will be the rough outline of the plan. What do you think?" asked Lorist.
"That sounds appropriate, Milord," replied Charade.