This will be this week's 4th release.
I'd also like to let you guys know that this will be the last release of the week. My final exam paper is due next wednesday, so I will have to focus all my attention on studying. Rest assured that the missed chapter will definitely be made up for in the coming weeks (after the 8th) when I can continue translating at full force! See you guys until then!
"You two are as close to me as blood-related brothers. Don't be so tense around me. Relax," said Lorist.
However, his words did not cause the other two within the tent with him to relax at all. They looked each other in the eye and said even more respectfully, "Milord, if you have any instructions, we will definitely see it done even if it'll cost our lives to do so."
Lorist let out a troubled smile and sat back down on his swordtooth tiger skin seat. Taking a deep breath, he realized that ever since he did not heed the advice of the others around him and insisted to kill the 100 thousand subjects of the kingdom and use their heads along with those of the dead enemy soldiers to build the 33-meter-tall head pyramid, all the household knights and soldiers looked at him with deep, fearful respect.
One time when Lorist saw Els daydreaming, he secretly approached him and patted on his shoulder as a joke. But the moment Els turned back and realized that it was him, he was so surprised he jumped almost three feet high into the air. Charade also stopped interacting with him on an informal basis and maintained the demeanor of a proper subordinate, no longer calling Lorist by his nickname 'Locke'.
Additionally, the slave fighters who had originally intended to return home had changed their minds almost instantly when Lorist asked them to reconsider joining the forces of the Nortons. Even those who did want to go home promised gingerly that they would bring their family members to the Norton dominion before joining the house and stressed that they were not trying to run away from returning the grace Lorist had showed them.
Sigh, guess I've become the demon king after ordering 100 thousand people to be killed... Well, the Dread Monument was probably a big part of it. Even the situation at Port Nupite was completely in order. Despite having over 400 thousand people there, everything went without a hitch. All of the liberated slaves obeyed the policies and directives of the Norton house without so much as starting a street brawl. Everything looked eerily peaceful.
Sol, it seems that the liberated slaves fear me more than they did their former slavers.Lorist was at a loss at what to do. It was one thing to kill the 100 thousand combatant captives of the Hanayabarta kingdom. However, Lorist's hatred for the descendants of those pirates and slavers had driven him to kill off the civilians of the kingdom as well as he wanted to remove the seeds of vengeance from the get go so that they do not cause any trouble in the future. Additionally, he wanted to make an example of them to show the might of the Norton house to deter other fools from needlessly causing them trouble in the future.
Even so, his measures seemed to be a little too effective than he had hoped and caused him to be isolated by even his own men. The two within the tent, both of whom were technically Lorist's seniors, being his father's two illegitimate children, Molocinque and Wellickson, were on edge after they had been summoned by Lorist as if they were treading on thin ice.
"Norton Molocinque, three-star-silver-ranked household knight and current regiment leader of the third brigade of the heavy-armored division, you have shown heroic deeds and are greatly appreciated by your subordinates.
"Norton Wellickson, two-star-silver-ranked household knight and regiment leader of the third regiment of the light cavalry scouts division, your bravery and courage in battle has allowed you to stand your ground to defend your station despite your injury and eventually led to your victory."
Lorist tossed the folder in his hand onto the table and said, "Eight years has passed since I returned to the dominion and inherited the position of household leader. As my elder brothers sharing the blood of my father, you have performed incredibly well. I am incredibly appreciative of that and have allowed you to wear the surname of the family. I have asked you two to come because I intend to discuss a matter with you about the defense of the Hanayabarta archipelago.
"I believe that you are well aware that the archipelago has been taken in as our overseas territory. I intend to form a garrison division for the archipelago comprising five brigades. Molocinque, I want you to be the division commander with Wellickson acting as your aide."
Both Molocinque and Wellickson were shocked. It was already incredibly magnanimous of Lorist to see them as equals, given their illegitimate heritage. But never did they expect to be given a chance like this to prove themselves. In other noble households, illegitimate children were usually oppressed and looked down upon.
Lorist smiled and said, "Don't think too much about this. It is my fortune to have two talented brothers like you. In fact, I expect you to rack up more contributions to the house so that you two will eventually be given noble ranks and enfeoffed land of your own to form branch families of the Norton house. Only through that will the House of Norton continue to grow in might. Also, I've picked you two for this for a reason. I hope that you will use this opportunity to take charge and refine your abilities to manage and command to build a stable foundation for your future efforts."
Lorist rolled open a beastskin map of the Hanayabarta archipelago and continued, "Come over and look. I'll brief you two about the defense strategy of the archipelago. The garrison division the house is going to form has three land-based brigades and two maritime brigades, each numbering three thousand men. Their loadouts will be similar to the local defense brigades. The three land-based brigades will be stationed at the capital area, the hilly area and Port Nupite respectively. Citadels will be constructed at these respective sites as a defensive stronghold.
"Other than that, the two maritime brigades will be stationed at Port Nupite, with 16 armed ships under their command to patrol the waters of the archipelago and drive away potential enemies. Wellickson, you shall report to Senbaud right after this and begin learning the ropes of sailing and training your troops at sea. There's no rush in training your maritime troops. You have three years to finish it.
"As for the three land-based brigades, they're yours to command, Molocinque. You also have three years to finish the construction of the three citadels as well as the training of your troopos. Maintain order around the archipelago and cooperate with Hector to ease the liberated slaves into their new lives. I hope that the archipelago can be self sufficient within the next five years and no longer require support from the house.
"Also, after three years, I hope that the archipelago will be able to supply the main household with a thousand elite and well-trained soldiers on a yearly basis. The inner city of Port Nupite will also be put under charge of Governor Hector as his main base of operations. He shall form another city defense brigade there that is directly under the control of the governor's office. Remember, the governor's office is above the chain of command of the garrison division, and the garrison division does not have any control over the city defense brigade, understood?"
Molocinque saluted and said, "I understand, Milord. I will definitely help Governor Hector out to defend the archipelago."
Lorist nodded and said, "The detailed plans for the division is with Knight Charade. While the governor's office has power over the garrison division, that is only limited to yearly supply and inventory checks. That doesn't mean that they can direct military affairs, unless there is an invasion or a large-scale rebellion. I believe that you two won't let me down and taint the name of the Nortons. Go now and report to Knight Charade to discuss the details and difficulties about the formation of the new division."
"Understood, Milord. We'll take our leave now."
In actuality, the largest benefit obtained from the extermination of the Hanayabarta kingdom was not the wealth and resources, but rather the manpower. The main reason Lorist had been unwilling to expand his military by recruiting civilians within his dominion was that he did not want to deprive the dominion of manpower it required to develop. The Norton forces was formed mainly of two umbrella units, namely, the standing assault units, and the defense units that defended the towns.
The assault units comprised mainly of two heavy-armored divisions, two spear cavalry divisions, one carroballista division, one wheelbarrow ballista division, as well as a mounted archer brigade, scout brigade, the Thunderbolt Brigade, guard brigade, knight brigade, the female brigade and five other local defense brigades. In total, there were 43 brigades that numbered roughly around 120 thousand people.
The defense units comprised of the new recruit brigade, five police brigades which were formed mostly from retired soldiers from the main force and accounted for the defense and security of warehouses and factories as well as transport of resources, and the various garrison units of the towns and villages, numbering in total around 60 thousand men. However, their benefits were not as good as those received by the assault units. For example, those in the police brigades only received half the salary of those in the assault units, with the garrison soldiers only receiving a third of that. In essence, both the police and garrison units were considered to be half soldier and civilian. Those in the new recruit brigade did not receive any salary at all, only some allowance and other benefits.
With Lorist's formation of the new Oceanic Legion that already numbered more than 17 thousand people, the Norton forces totalled up to more than 200 thousand soldiers. With the total civilian count of the dominions being at a little more than 1.11 million, the ratio of soldier to civilian was around one to five, which was already quite excessive. To expand the military of the house even further would be utter madness.
Even so, Lorist had his reasons for doing so. While the number of troops was no less impressive, only around 80 thousand soldiers of the assault units could truly be mobilized. For instance, the mobilization of only 45 thousand soldiers almost bankrupted the house from a logistical standpoint. Despite all that, the expansion of the military of the house was almost an inevitability, with the growing influence and territory of the house and the prisoners whose term of servitude were expiring soon.
After defeating the Duke of The Northlands, over 30 thousand youths were held captive. Following three years of service, 10 thousand among those were fit for military service and the house's forces grew to around 80 thousand. The house had no choice but to recruit them as it would do them no good for the released prisoners to join and serve other noble families. Following the defeat of the 100-thousand-strong army of the second prince, more than 60 thousand captives were taken in. Coupled with the civilian youths who wanted to join the military over the past few years, the forces of the house gradually grew to its present size.
In the first place, Lorist's recruitment of the released captives was so that the civilian population of the dominion would grow. Given the benefits one would receive from joining the military, the captives that joined the force would definitely bring their families over to the dominion to settle down and inflate the population of the dominion. Not only that, those who qualified to join the military already had their battleforce awakened, so refusing them was akin to pushing them to serve other noble houses. Only idiots would push away such a great deal.
Apart from the captives, the Norton house made no attempt to recruit soldiers from the civilian ranks, save for the formation of the Oceanic Legion, because that would adversely affect the development of the dominion. Given the thriving state of the dominion, manpower was in short supply and the slaves liberated from the extermination of the Hanayabarta kingdom would be a great place to start to satisfy that demand for more manpower.
Apart from the 40 thousand refugees and six thousand islanders abducted from Silowas, there were another 410 thousand slaves liberated, including over 100 thousand women and children. Of all of them, 170 thousand liberated slaves elected to stay at the Hanayabarta archipelago. Most of them were second or third generation slaves that had been born there and came to see the archipelago as their home.
Among the remaining 240 thousand slaves, 30 thousand plus wished to return to their homelands. Apart from that, most were able-bodied youths who had lost their families and had no homes to return to, with most of them being the civilians of the former Krissen Empire. They were either sold into slavery by their dominion lords or had their villages raided and pillaged by slavers. Lorist ordered Potterfang to pick out 60 thousand of them to form 20 police brigades. He also intended to form a garrison division and a city defense brigade there, leaving only 120 thousand of them remaining, whom Lorist intended to bring back to The Northlands to hasten the development there.
The expansion of the military was motivated mainly by the lack of military might to appropriately defend the dominion. Being a time of chaos, conflict was never in short supply. The second highness was leading his force of 300 thousand across the Redlis kingdom. By the time he manages to reunite the empire, it was possible that he would set his sights on The Northlands next. Lorist had already warned Count Kenmays, Baron Felim, and Baron Shazin to strengthen their military in preparation for that. Naturally, the Nortons would not hide behind the protection of their allies and would also offer their undivided support.
"Milord, Sir Senbaud has returned," reported Jim as he entered the tent, breaking Lorist out of his train of thought.
Senbaud was incredibly busy as he had to manage more than 300 ships for the transport of resources from the Hanayabarta archipelago to Silowas. He had already made more than two trips during the 9th and 10th months, but only a tenth of the resources had been transported so far.
Lorist was currently rather reckless with his financials given that the wealth of the whole Hanayabarta kingdom had just been added to the treasury of the Nortons. Putting other things aside, the money the kingdom had already amounted to 17 million gold Fordes. More than six million had come from the underground treasuries under the palace burned down by Lud III much to the shock of everyone.
Lorist did not really understand why the descendants of those pirates liked to bury their stuff underground. It only took some simple questioning on the servants of those slaver nobles for the underground vaults to be determined, easily netting them millions of gold Fordes' worth of goods. Looking at all the goods he unearthed, Charade smiled greedily with satisfaction and knew that all that would last the house for at least the next two to three decades to come.
"Have every knight and those above the regiment leader rank head to the main tent for a military meeting to discuss our future plans," instructed Lorist.
All those who were summoned did not really understand the reason for the meeting, given that the Hanayabarta kingdom had already been eliminated. All within the tent wondered whether Lorist intended to start another war.
"Silence! The Lord Count is here!" announced Els, causing the rest within the tent to quiet down and get into order hurriedly.
Lorist entered the tent with two blademasters, Engelich and Shuss, followed by Jim and Tarkel from behind.
"We pay our respects to our lord!" called out the household knights as they saluted.
"Alright, take your seats, gentlemen," said Lorist as he waved his hand dismissively, before he headed to the tigerskin chair. Engelich and Shuss stood at the sides of Lorist while Jim, Els and Tarkel all stood behind him.
"Tarkel, report the intelligence you gathered to everyone here," instructed Lorist.
"Understood," Tarkel said as he stepped forward and opened a folder in his hand, "The northern fleet of Chikdor Merchant Guild travels to the Hanayabarta archipelago to engage in trade every 5th and 10th month. Their fleet includes around 40 to 50 ships, among which are 16 to 20 large-class, long-distance cruisers with the rest being middle-class armed ships. Their crew number around six thousand men and there is one rank 1 blademaster among them.
"During every one of their trips, the northern fleet of the Chikdors would first travel to the Shyarsia kingdom to trade for spice before making their way to the Hanayabarta kingdom for trading and ordering daily goods, weapons, alcohol and fashion or luxury goods. It is said that the yearly profits obtained by the northern fleet amount up to 400 thousand gold Fordes annually.
"During the end of the 5th month this year, the third young master of the Chikdors, Moribak, had traveled to the Hanayabarta kingdom and revealed to the slavers during a banquet about our recruitment of more than 60 thousand refugees to Silowas to aid in development, which ended in the slavers' invasion of SIlowas, causing us to sustain major damages."
After Tarkel finished his report, he stood back down. Lorist looked at the household knights within the tent, furrowed his brow, and said, "I don't have any evidence whether the third young master had intentionally conspired with the slavers of the Hanayabarta kingdom. But based on the hostile relationship between Chikdor Merchant Guild and the Norton house, we will consider our two parties as being in a state of war. That is the reason I've called for this meeting. We shall discuss whether we should exterminate all of the ships of the northern fleet when they come to Port Nupite without letting a single one of them off!"