Here's the fifth release of the week! There will be one more out tomorrow to make up for last week's missed 5th release, so stay tuned!
Please note that this chapter is still unedited.
Even though Jillin Harbor used to be the only port city of the former empire at the Cursed Coasts, it was not that huge, with only a population of around 20 thousand people and incomplete harbor facilities.
Ever since the formation of the Andinaq kingdom, the new kingdom inherited the policies of the old empire that tended to neglect sea transportation. While Jillin Harbor did rise in popularity due to the increased risks of land travel during the civil war of the empire, due to the heavy taxes the second highness levied on goods transported by the ocean, the harbor gradually returned to its former tranquility.
When the smugglers no longer came to Jillin Harbor, all that remained there was the trading plaza for seafood. That was the largest seafood bazaar in the whole of the Andinaq kingdom. The fishing folk of Jillin Harbor toiled during the day only to sell their catch in the evening to the fishmongers, following which the fishmongers would deliver the food straight to the dinner table of the nobles of the Andinaq kingdom that very night itself.
In the past, fishermen of Silowas would sell their catch at that bazaar, but they have since stopped due to the oppressive business practices of the fishmongers. That was further reinforced by the fact that the consumption of seafood by the 60 thousand troops of Firmrock Legion that far exceeded their usual catch. Should they end up with extra seafood, they would dry them in the sun to preserve them instead of bringing them to Jillin Harbor to be traded. All contact that remained between Silowas and Jillin Harbor was the single ferry that traveled once every three days to-and-fro the places.
Lorist has always had plans for Jillin Harbor. Even though Silowas was a great place, it was an isolated island in the ocean. While it would be ideal as a consolidation point for goods, it was inferior to Jillin Harbor when it came to ease of distribution of goods to the main continent, which is what most merchants wanted. Currently, the salt merchant committee that Count Kenmays managed was fighting for market share at the northeastern area of the former empire. The influence of the salt merchant committee had already encompassed the Iblia kingdom and half of the Madras duchy. In recent times, the count's ambitions was to establish a new trade route to the four central duchies.
Given that Silowas was a little bit to the south, Lorist wanted to use the Peterson Merchant Guild to help distribute the products of his dominion to the areas which the Union had influence in. However, he did not think that the Union's sphere of influence had greatly decreased following the War of Glass as a result of many neighboring nations turning hostile against them and cutting off old trade routes. The Peterson Merchant Guild themselves suffered quite a bit of losses and could not afford to help Lorist out with his ambitions either, given that they had to spend at least two to three years to recover from the blow.
The coast from The Northlands all the way to Silowas was referred to as the Cursed Coasts because of the reefs that plagued the area, causing there to be no suitable place for ships to dock. That was the reason for Lorist's appreciation of Jillin Harbor. If he could get the harbor under the control of his house, Lorist believed that he would definitely be able to develop the place into a thriving port city in a few short years and expand the trade routes to the Redlis kingdom at the south.
The preface for Lorist's sending of Supervisor Hansk to the imperial capital was to show concern for the second highness's recent predicament, but in actuality, he wanted to use that opportunity to put in some effort to rescue his king. Naturally, there was a catch if the Nortons were actually asked to deploy their troops. After all, there are no free favors in this world. With the war between the Andinaq kingdom and the Redlis kingdom lasting for more than one year, even the rats within the treasuries of the Andinaq kingdom had starved to death. Lorist had hoped that his favor would be repaid in the form of jurisdiction over Jillin Harbor.
While it would be ideal if he could make the area around the harbor part of his dominion, he found that the second highness would hardly agree to such terms and thought better of it. Instead, he would only ask to be given administrative rights to that area. If the imperial capital agrees to those conditions, the Nortons would send their troops to Kanbona Province to help the second highness reestablish contact with the kingdom. However, Lorist did not think that Marquis Reid would refuse Lorist's offer for help like that and even had the garrison of the harbor be extra wary of Norton troops.
If the order to not allow the Norton soldiers to get on shore at Jillin Harbor had been made in secret, there was nothing Lorist could do about it. But never did he imagine that the knights escorting Hansk back to Jillin Harbor would reveal it due to a petty disagreement they had. They actually dared to reveal a sensitive order like that just to humiliate the forces of the Nortons. That allowed Lorist an opening to put his plans into action.
The former defense force at Jillin Harbor was the third division of the first royal local defense legion, with Gold-ranked Knight Fewermante as the commander. Once, he had brought his troops to Silowas in the name of assisting Viscount Aslan, but in fact, he was there to threaten the islanders into paying up. In the end, he encountered Lorist and was given a harsh wallop. Even though the second highness later saved him, he was worried that Lorist would not let the matter go and transferred the third division away from Jillin Harbor, resulting in the formation of a new two-thousand-strong garrison there.
As a localized defense unit, the garrison of Jillin Harbor was treated like the illegitimate child given birth to by one's mistress. The unit was severely under equipped, with a simple spear and wooden shield, with only the regiment leader and vice leader being given old and torn leather armor. The salary of each soldier was not stable either, with them going unpaid on some months, causing them to have to work at the bazaar from time to time for extra cash.
Lorist wanted to know where Marquis Reid's confidence that the garrison of Jillin Harbor posed a threat against the Norton troops came from, that he dared to order his troops to stop the Norton soldiers from getting on shore.
At that moment, Lorist was standing at the port of Jillin Harbor with a regiment of a thousand guards getting off the ship behind him and getting into formation. The hundreds of garrison soldiers of Jillin Harbor gathered around and witnessed the sight with amused chatters. All they could do was be envious of the awesome and complete gear the guards of the Nortons were assigned, with not a single one of them stepping forward to stop them from getting on shore.
However, it did not take long before someone attempted to smash a rock using an egg. Two half-armored knights rushed out of a tavern near the port and began roaring out loud. With their alcohol-tainted breath, they called for the guards on shore to leave the port immediately.
Lorist tilted his head and a few of the guards gave the drunk knights a harsh beating right away. It did not take long before the knights began crying for dad and mom in pain.
"Let it be known that any who dares bar the way of I, Count Norton, will be deemed to be committing assault against my person. Have them write their testimonies complete with their thumbprint before throwing them into the prison of Jillin Harbor. For now, follow me to the administrative center. I'd like to see who at the imperial capital gave that order," instructed Lorist.
As a noble, it was well within Lorist's rights for him to travel with a guard escort. Even though Lorist brought with him a regiment of one thousand guards and a division of five thousand soldiers, he could easily explain it away as him being extra fearful for his life and bringing more soldiers with him as a precaution. As long as Lorist's troops did not harass the locals and was fed from Lorist's own pockets, there was nothing wrong with them following Lorist around.
As for the order from the imperial capital to not let a single Norton soldier set foot on the shores, that was nothing more than a big joke. It was not like the Norton troops were rebelling, so there was no legitimate reason for Lorist to be forbidden to bring an escort with him. The order could be argued to be putting Lorist himself in unnecessary danger. Even if the matter was brought to the second highness, Lorist would definitely still be in the right.
As the one in charge of the security of Jillin Harbor, Baron Fenston was rather satisfied with his position. He bribe to the men serving the second highness had paid off. As a noble, Baron Fenston felt that only idiots would be satisfied with the income of their own dominion. He was well aware how poor the folk at his dominion were. Instead of investing money to develop it, it would be far better for him to bribe his way into a good-paying position. That method was far better in terms of return on investment.
Having been the security chief of the harbor for over five years, Baron Fenston had long earned the cost of bribery back. And now, his salary was easily several times more than the income his dominion provided. He was currently trying to form a small fleet with seven medium-sized armed ships so that he can purchase some luxury goods and fashionable clothes from Morante all the while getting acquainted with some powerful men. On the other hand, he could also use the fleet to conduct business with the merchants or nobles at Jillin Harbor. Through that, he would be able to profit alongside those who chose to invest in him without spending all his capital.
However, he was rather troubled by the order he received from the imperial capital two days ago that required him to increase the defense of the garrison at the harbor to prevent the forces of the Nortons from getting on shore.
Baron Fenston was of the opinion that the one who gave the order probably got rabies, for him to dare to lash out at just anyone without giving any thought. Given that the king was trapped within the Redlis kingdom, the situation of the Andinaq kingdom was far from stable to say the least. And the people in charge of the imperial still dared to challenge the Nortons at a time like that. He recalled that the Nortons recently sent an ambassador to the imperial capital and the baron was sure that the ambassador had somehow offended the people in power at the capital. Either that, or they did not bring with them a fitting gift for the visit.
Baron Fenston really wanted to throw that decree into the wastepaper bin. But he thought better of it and kept it instead. After all, the imperial capital sent over six other knights along with the decree. Not only were they supposed to take over control of the garrison at Jillin Harbor, they would also be reorganizing it into three regiments with three thousand men in total.
Thus, Baron Fenston decided to go along with the six knights. After all, he did not have money nor equipment and could only barely pay for the salary of the troops in his garrison. He would want to see what the knights could do with his force. Hmph, do those guys think the Nortons are to be lightly messed with? He recalled that one of his family members made a trip to Morante recently and brought back one of the newspapers there. On it, the extermination of the Hanayabarta kingdom of the Nortons was reported. Not only did the Nortons exterminate the slave kingdom, they also slaughtered 170 thousand civilians of the kingdom and used their heads to build a human head pyramid.
The baron believed the report without question the moment he first read it. As the security chief of Jillin Harbor, he had received an order that was secretly sent to him by his king: monitor the actions of the Norton house in secret and report any anomalies to him, which he did so dutifully until the loss of contact with the second highness following his campaign. However, the baron did not forsake his duties and continued to receive reports from the sailors that traveled to Silowas once every three days. Baron Fenston would collect and compile the reports and submit them to the king when he returns.
Silowas had recently suffered a pirate attack and the island itself became living hell. Back then, even the ships at Silowas were caught up in the attack. Fortunately, the ferry captain managed to miraculously escape when he felt something was off. Jillin Harbor was also thrown into disarray during the attack as they feared that the pirates would come for them too. After being on full alert for one whole month, they only got to know that the pirates had departed when the Norton ships traveled to Jillin Harbor to resupply. The pirates that remained were all annihilated by the Nortons, with Silowas reclaimed.
Later, the House of Norton gathered large numbers of troops and ships at Silowas, and that was when Baron Fenston came to understand the true extent of their military might. The soldiers soon disappeared and returned two months later with an abundance of resource. Even though the captains and sailors were prevented from getting off the island, they could easily estimate roughly how much resource and people those ships carried.
After reading the newspaper report, Baron Fenston came to know that the resources had definitely came from the extermination of the Hanayabarta kingdom. It was no wonder his king was so wary of the Norton house and instructed him to keep an eye on them. Baron Fenston recalled one of the rumors he heard sometime back that stated that Count Norton had some enmity with Count Aslan, causing the latter to bring up to ten thousand men to encircle Count Norton's group of five hundred without notifying the king. In the end, not only were Count Aslan's forces defeated, the count himself also lost his life. The king had eliminated the whole Aslan house in a fit of rage and was unable to do anything to Count Norton either.
That was why when he heard that Count Norton had came over to his place, the administrative center, he instinctively understood the reason for the visit. Not only did he receive Lorist warmly, he also brought out the decree he received and showed it to Lorist. He also made sure to insult and berate those nobles at the imperial capital for giving such an asinine order.
Lorist waved the decree in his hands and said with a smile, "Since the imperial capital has already ordered for the expansion of the garrison, but Jillin Harbor isn't able to afford such an expense, the House of Norton is willing to make some contributions for the sake of the kingdom. We will help out with the expansion of the garrison. What do you think about this, Lord Baron?"
"That would be wonderful!" Baron Fenston exclaimed, "Lord Count, your patriotism and loyalty to the kingdom is beyond description. It truly is worthy of my deepest respects. I'll be counting on you for the expansion of the garrison then."
"Will it be okay with you if I bring the garrison soldiers to Silowas for three months of training and reshaping?" asked Lorist.
"There definitely won't be a problem. I will leave it entirely up to your discretion, Lord Count. I've long heard about the unrivaled might of the troops of the Norton house, so there can't be a better candidate than you to restructure the garrison. To be frank with you, the garrison of Jillin Harbor is stepping out of their bounds quite often. While they try to bolster their esteem by bullying the common folk, they are completely useless when sent to the frontlines. Lord Count, please feel free to discipline them as you please. Heck, you can even kill them as you like as punishment. You must know how troubled I am for receiving more than 20 complaints daily about the garrison soldiers... I even have to clean up their mess."
Seeing Baron Fenston's thankful behavior, Lorist laughed and said, "Well, there's no secret in raising disciplined and strong soldiers. All you need is to pay them and feed them well, as well as provide them with appropriate equipment. When training them, make sure to not let them feel like they're expendable fodder that are inconsequential and disposable. Also, make sure to be strict on military regulation and teach them to be prideful to be one of the military. Doing all that will naturally raise their combat ability. How about this, during the time when the garrison here is trained, let our house take care of the security over here. It's fortunate that I brought a division of soldiers with me on this trip of mine. Let them stand guard here for three months for now. Will that be alright, Lord Baron?"
Baron Fenston thought, I don't think there has been a noble that brings a whole division of troops along on a casual trip. Sheesh, he really has too much money to spare. I wonder how much it costs to maintain a division of soldiers for a day... Smiling, he said, "That's great! I was just getting worried about the security here during the absence of our garrison. With your division stationed here, I'm relieved. But Lord Count, the financial situation here at Jillin Harbor is a little tight nowadays, so I'm not sure if it can sustain a whole division of soldiers. Is it possible for you to decrease the number of soldiers you station here?"
Lorist shook his head and smiled before saying, "Lord Baron, there's no worry. All you have to provide is the food that you usually give to the three thousand garrison soldiers. The Norton house will take care of the additional expenses. Actually, I have another reason for bringing a division of soldiers with me. I've heard that there are a lot of refugees in the borders of the kingdom, so we are trying to recruit some of them to help develop the wastelands of The Northlands. That will also lessen the kingdom's burden to feed them."
Baron Fenston said with a respectful expression, "Lord Count, you are far too magnanimous and benevolent. To think that you are willing to provide a means of living for the poor refugees... You are truly the prime example of what a noble of the kingdom should be. Alright. I will now draft the necessary paperwork to let your house take charge of the security here at Jillin Harbor."
Since Baron Fenston was being so cooperative, Lorist nodded and said, "Lord Baron, if you have anything you might need us to help you with in future, please don't hesitate to look out for us. We will definitely aid you in any way we can. This is the pledge of I, Norton Lorist."
"Thank you!" said Baron Fenston with a genuine look of gratitude.
And so, on the 3rd day of the 7th month, Jillin Harbor fell under the jurisdiction of Firmrock Legion of the Norton house.