In front of Lorist stood a short old man. While he looked rather unassuming, there was a shred of hatred that could barely be seen between his brows. The old man was breathing incredibly heavily with a terrified look. Lorist had been able to receive the tens of lightning-fast strikes he had launched. Not only that, he had not expected Lorist to get off his mount to strike at him first.
"Who... Who are you?" asked Blademaster Danhema as he struggled to stabilize his breathing.
Denhema was quite informed about fighters within his league within the Union but he had never heard of such a young blademaster. Most people who managed to make it to his rank rank were middle-aged men of at least forty to fifty years. Only a swordsaint could possibly revert to a slightly younger look after breaking through, but there were only three or four swordsaints on the entire continent. They either started their own sword schools or were hailed as national treasures. Which one of them would actually bother to visit Morante?"
"Hehe, who am I, you ask? I am the Northlander bumpkin that's been causing you guys so much trouble. You guys really are full of shit, you know that? Is twisting the narrative and pushing all the blame on me really that fun? You even had a crowd surround this place and wait for us to walk to our deaths. Is this what Morante has become? All the praises I hear belie what this place truly is. When we return, we'll make sure that all the continent's nobles know how low the Union nobility is!"
Two guards struck at Lorist during his speech, but their bodies joined their brothers regardless.
Danhema leaped forward and roared, "In your dreams..."
When the blademaster jumped forward, Lorist was still recovering his posture. The blademaster was fully intent on taking advantage of the situation and launched into another flurry of attacks.
"Old guy, I think practicing how to ambush others should be what you ought to do from now on," said Lorist with a cold smile as he took a few steps back and allowed the sword in his hand to dance and intercept his opponent's attacks.
Clang clang clang clang! Yet another chorus of blades resounded in the area.
"It's my turn now, old man," taunted Lorist.
His words had barely left his mouth when his sword began pelting the man like waves of rain in a thunderstorm.
Danhema already felt that he was in a bad spot. He had thought that Lorist was merely a rank 2 blademaster like himself, but the fact that Lorist was able to launch a counterattack despite having just parried his own was evidence to the contrary.
This is no rank 2 blademaster, he's at least rank 3!
Each and every of Lorist's strikes struck ethereally. Even though the silver moon was shining brightly in the sky, the blademaster saw nothing but sword strike after sword strike, more than he could parry.
"Wait... Wait a second!" cried Danhema, struggling to hang on.
Lorist did not pay the pleading any heed and pierced his sword into the old man's left shoulder. A kick followed his blade, and his blade his kick. Before the old man could recover, the second strike leveled Lorist's blade on his neck.
"What did you want to say?"
Danhema pressed against his injured left shoulder.
"Ki-kid... You've won. I've lost completely, so you may leave now..." said he, venom in his eyes.
An insidious smile crept over Lorist's face as he giggled.
"Did I need you to remind me of that? Anyone with eyes that can see already knows the result."
"Sp-spare me... I promise that the guild will no longer press this matter," said the old man stubbornly.
"I'm sorry, but if there's anything that I fear, your guild is definitely not it," said Lorist.
He flicked his wrist and Danhema's head tumbled to the ground like so many flakes of ash.
Lorist pointed at the nearest guard.
"Kill!" roared Blademaster Shuss, Baron Felim, and Baron Shazin in unison as they leaped off their mounts.
The 30 plus guards on Lorist's side followed quickly behind and slaughtered away at the guards. The first carriage entered the passageway with the second following behind. Josk was visible on it with his green bow outstretched. Bolt after bolt of green lightning flashed from his direction. It nailed guard corpses to the ground one after another.
The road ahead was finally unobstructed. Many Rosanji guards cast away their weapons and ran away like rats. Those that did not escape ended up on the ground, unmoving. Lorist grabbed the side of a carriage and flipped himself onto it.
"Let's go!" instructed he.
Sounds of bumbling carriages could be heard throughout the way to Hidegold Bay. Blademaster Mike stood in front of the hotel with his legs shivering and his hands cold, watching the carriages disappearing between the buildings.
What a close call that was! To think I thought of a ferocious tiger like him as a gentle lamb... I thought the only blademaster the group had was the rank 1 blademaster. I even attempted to stop them because I suspected them of burning down the storehouses...
Even though House Mireitas and the Rosanji Merchant Guild were at odds, the act of burning the stored food caused the citizens of Morante to lose much of their reserves. The price of food would surely rise yet again, worsening the food crisis for everyone.
Even though he sounded like he cared about Lorist and the gang's safety, it was naught but an excuse so he could hold them back and let the big-seven guilds deal with them when they return. That way, the issue would be addressed without involving the house.
Fortunately, they didn't do as I said... Otherwise, it would only end badly for me. I didn't think the normal-looking count could actually defeat Rank 2 Blademaster Danhema in a few moves... Come to think of it, the others preparing to leave before the count started fighting seemed to anticipate the result. They seem oddly confident about their chances. If I'm not wrong, the gold-ranked barons were whispering about a bet on how many strikes it would take Blademaster Danhema to be defeated...
The group consisting of one rank 2 blademaster, one gold-ranked swordsman, tens of silver-ranked swordsmen and more than 400 Rosanji guards could not even hold up against the charge of a small group of ten-odd people and even suffered heavy losses. Blademaster Mike looked at the corpses littered all over. Not all were dead, but none were saveable.
Thank goodness I let them leave, thought Blademaster Mike in relief.
The hotel's manager came over and looked at the bloody pool of corpses before he sighed.
"Even so many of the guild's guards weren't able to stop them?"
The blademaster shook his head.
"It's not that they didn't try. The Northlanders are far too powerful. Even Blademaster Danhema was killed in a few bouts. Without him, the rest of the guards were no more than a bunch of panicking pigs at a slaughterhouse. Either way, the Rosanji Merchant Guild is done for."
Lorist arrived at Hidegold Bay and lead the carriages to the port. On the way, he had Lundmorde arrange a few carriages filled with firewood prepared as a surprise gift for their pursuers. It was a shame that the Moranites' focus of the night was on the food storage area's blaze -- no one witnessed Lorist's slaughter. After the first assault, however, not a single person dared to give chase, so Lorist's carriages went to waste.
When everyone got on board the ship, Lorist penned a letter each for President Peterson and Academy Head Levins and had the port supervisor send the carriages and horses back to Dauslyke after tipping him a small sack of gold Fordes. With the carriages on their way back, Lorist set sail for Silowas.
Seeing the skies above Morante tinted red, Lorist could not help but snicker. Count Kenmays, Baron Shazin, and Baron Felim all revealed hints of smiles on their faces as well. While their trip to Morante was full of dangers, they managed to leave completely unscathed, and that was certainly something worth celebrating.
Beside Lorist, Josk mused, "Milord, I really don't know what you're so glad about. Even though you've lived in Morante for ten years and are practically half-Moranite, you were chased away during your two recent visits."
Upon being reminded of that, Lorist was no longer able to smile fondly at his memories of the city. He gave Josk a hateful glare.
Before Lorist even got two full days' rest after arriving at Silowas, Count Kenmays suddenly got the impulse to go to the imperial capital for a vacation. Lorist was incredibly troubled as Queen Carey was the current ruler of the kingdom. If he traveled there just like that, it would be akin to jumping into a trap. In the end, he could only send Blademaster Shuss and 500 guards along to protect him, Baron Shazin and Baron Felim on their trip to the capital with Baron Fenston at Jillin Harbor accompanying them as a guide.
This time around, the three nobles did not bring their loved ones with them, lest they have to fight their way out of a predicament once again. Lorist worry was unwarranted, fortunately. He received news soon after their arrival that the three were fitting in lie fish in water. He even heard tell that Count Kenmays had obtained the queen's favor with his adept way with words. Not only did he become one of the queen's honored guests, she even organized a few paradise gatherings for the three. They were indulged in so much pleasure that they almost wished they would not have to return.
During that time, Lorist was busier than ever before. The big-seven guilds had returned to Morante and sent the Peterson Merchant Guild's vice-president to Silowas to meet with Lorist. Firstly, the vice-president expressed his deepest apologies for Lorist's recent experience and mentioned the way the big-seven guilds had dealt with Marquis Bejisanro.
Given that the marquis had defended his son's criminal deeds and tainted the reputation of the Union, Marquis Bejisanro was stripped of his title as well as his position as chief speaker of the sub-council. Not only that, his guild was fined heavily for using old and expired wheat to make ale, putting the citizens' health at risk. The guild was basically no more and Marquis Bejisanro had little choice other than suicide to relieve him of his pain and shame.
Hmph, the big-seven are merely splitting the spoils among themselves, Lorist winced, I bet they see the Rosanji Merchant Guild as a fat, juicy pig waiting to be slaughtered. I was just the unlucky fellow that happened to be at Morante to provide a reason for them to carry out their scheme. Even if the Rosanji Merchant Guild didn't dream of a seat on the high council, they would've been fed on sooner or later...
After discussing the guild's fate, the vice-president began to voice his objections to Lorist's actions. He was of the opinion that Lorist should be held accountable for setting fire to the food storage area. After all, the 800 thousand citizens of Morante relied on it for sustenance, and torching the whole area was really over the board.
I even wanted to set the whole of Morante on fire. Burning only one storage area is relatively calm even for me. Also, the food over there was used for paying the crowd to stick at the hotel, so if I didn't burn it, I would still be in trouble, he laughed.
As expected, the vice-president began to lay out his demands after finishing his complaints. He hoped that Lorist could supply the Union with food, as much as possible, to relieve the food crisis, even if it would cost them more. Lorist instantly shook his head. He could not help since his own dominion was rather tight on food.
He did give the vice-president a suggestion, however. They could target Andinaq's food supplies. Two years back, the second highness had prepared a large amount of food to feed his army. But after obtaining large amounts of resources following the occupation of Frederika, there was no need to touch his stockpiles, most of which still lay in their silos, completely untouched.
During the past two years, the campaign against Redlis also went rather well and further filled their stockpiles. If the Union was willing to spend lots of money to purchase food, the hedonistic princess, Carey, would be more than happy to oblige and sell off all the extra food, relieving the Union's crisis. As for transport, as long as they could get the food to Jillin Harbor, Lorist would be willing to offer his own transportation fleet to help out with the effort at a discount price.
The vice-president was so racked with joy that he did not even stay for his welcoming banquet and left for the imperial capital immediately.
Twelve days later, the vice-president returned and reported that he had successfully made a deal with Andinaq and had purchased over 5 million Pors of food, more or less 250 million kilograms, and would be tasking the Norton house's transportation fleet to send everything to Morante.
The fleet returned in the 9th month from their first trip to Morante. Onboard were a handsome couple, Blademaster Claude and Instructor Anfya, as well as three other instructors from Dawn Academy, two of whom were Lorist's former course mates.
Count Kenmays, Baron Shazin, and Baron Felim had finished their month-long vacation at the imperial capital and were sailing back to The Northlands aboard Northsea at the same time.