Here's the first sponsored chapter of the week brought to you by Di Lac N. from the USA! Enjoy!

"Your Highness, Battle Force is contained within the bloodstream of our bodies. The various blood circulation nodes within the body are used to form a pentagonal or hexagonal star. The key to training in Battle Force lies in controlling the speed of the flow of blood to generate a rhythm. That's why people who have awakened their Battle force can move at explosively fast speeds, gain increased strength, vitality and endurance as well as various other boosts in the body's condition.
"The technique I train in however, should be one of the ancient techniques passed down by the eastern martial monks within the legends like your godmother speculated. However, my technique manual was an incomplete one, so I myself don't know where this training method will take me in the future. As the ancient chronicles state, after a millenia of dark times since the fall of the magical civilization, too much information had been lost. The best we can do in our time is to speculate the wonders they could achieve during the age of the magical civilization based on the artifacts we find within the ruins.
"While Battle Force exists within our bloodstream, the energy I use to train exists deeper within my body compared to Battle Force. For example, Your Highness, you should be know a bit about the vital organs, right? Just like how Battle Force forms a pentagonal or hexagonal star from the various circulation nodes within the body, my technique connects my vital organs into a cycle along which I circulate Battle Force. That is the reason why I say my internal energy exists deeper within the body.
"Why am I training in internal energy, you ask? Well, it's a long story. I left my home to head to Morante City for my studies at the age of 14 and back then, I only had the first part of my family's Battle Force manual and could only train up to the Three Star Iron rank. Right after that, civil war broke out within the empire and I lost all contact with my family. I was only 17 at that time, so to make a living, I worked as a mercenary. Oh, are you surprised that a noble like me actually worked as a lowly mercenary before?
"Your Highness, you don't have to apologize. It's fine, I don't mind. With no one to support me, I could only rely on myself to survive and earn enough money to pay off my tuition. While life was definitely hard back then, I managed to live through it. The only problem I had was that I wasn't able to find a Battle Force manual that was suited for my Battle Force attribute. Back then, I wasn't aware that my family's Battle Force technique was of the blood attribute, so most of the high-ranked Battle Force manuals I bought to research didn't fit me. As I was unable to continue training, I couldn't break through to the Silver rank and was truly depressed back then.
"But when I first arrived at Morante City, I came across a worn-out little book which contained a diagram of the human body, much like those seen in Battle Force manuals, but there wasn't any pentagonal or hexagonal star diagram to be seen. Given that it had piqued my curiosity, I bought it and placed it on my shelf once I was done browsing through it. Little did I know that it would come in handy later. As I was unable to find a suitable high-ranked Battle Force manual suited for me to train in, I was extremely frustrated and annoyed. And one night when I was at my tipping point, I pushed all the books off my shelf in a fit of rage before going to sleep.
"When I woke up in the middle of the night, I regretted my outburst and proceeded to pick those books up. I didn't even have a candle back then so I could only rely on the moonlight coming in from the window to see. And when I picked that old, worn-out book up and held it under the illumination of the moonlight, I noticed that the page where the human body diagram was on seemed to have several layers. I then peeled of the outer beastskin layer of that book and found a thin silk cloth hidden within that beastskin page which had a picture of a bald martial monk with a training method inscribed beside it...
"Your Highness, you should know how frustrated I was back then from my stunted progress in training. I couldn't hold my curiosity back after seeing a novel technique like that, so I gave it a try, only to find out later that I would no longer be able to advance in Battle Force for the rest of my life, causing me to be stuck at the Iron rank forever. Despite that, my internal energy training progressed rather well. Even so, I've already trained to the peak level as described by that piece of cloth and even I don't understand how much further I can progress with that technique."
Lorist inspected the princess's expression and confirmed for himself that she was incredibly entertained by his story of a young boy who was exiled to a faraway place from home and eventually lost all connection with his family and had no choice but to struggle and work as a mercenary to make ends meet. Driven to despair by the inability to progress in Battle Force training, a miracle occurred and conferred upon that boy another chance. It was a tale filled with adversity and hardship that ended on a happy note.
When Lorist heard Blademaster Xanthi describe his training technique as the ancient technique of the eastern martial monks of legend, Lorist gained a sudden inspiration. That's right, why can't I just say that the Aquametal Technique is something like that? Even though nobody directly asked him about it after witnessing him defeat so many strong enemies, they were indeed curious what training technique Lorist used. As he couldn't possibly reveal that the Aquametal Technique was a hereditary one passed down within his family in his past life, he could still pass it off as a lost technique of the ancient martial monks.
Thus, Lorist retold his story in a fashion similar to those chivalric novels by mixing fact and fabrication intricately. Princess Sylvia on the other hand didn't have a single doubt for Lorist's story as she believed that he had no reason to lie to her.
Lorist thus decided that he would use that explanation for his odd technique in the future as well. At that moment, Princess Sylvia asked, "What's the difference between Battle Force and internal energy?"
"Well, the main ones I can think of are the observable effects and explosiveness," Lorist said after giving it some thought.
"Your Highness, Battle Force practitioners are able to manifest a blade glow to increase the damage of their weapons starting from the Silver rank, right?" Lorist said as he dismounted and approached a nearby boulder. " I believe you can easily split this boulder with your blade glow."
"Let me try," said the princess as she dismounted and approached the boulder with her sword drawn. Upon manifesting her golden blade glow and slashing, the boulder was split into two cleanly.
Lorist also took out his sword and said, "In that regard, we can say that there isn't much difference between Battle Force and internal energy. The only visible difference is that Battle Force gives off a blade glow while internal energy doesn't. However, infusing internal energy into my sword will also generate the same result, only without the flair of the blade glow."
Lorist then slashed downwards and split one half of the boulder into two separate pieces.
"Based on looks alone, it can be said that blade glows give off a more imposing impression. But in terms of explosiveness, internal energy is superior than Battle Force," Lorist said a he picked up a fist-sized rock. "Your Highness, if you don't use your sword, can you use your Battle Force to crush this rock?"
Princess Sylvia thought for a bit before shaking her head.
Lorist then clasped the rock with both his hands as he infused a little bit of internal energy into them, causing the rock to disintegrate within his grip with its powdered remains falling to the ground. Princess Sylvia widened her beautiful, big eyes in shock as she witnessed it.
"That is why I consider internal energy to be more explosive than Battle Force," Lorist concluded.
Princess Sylvia nodded and said, "My godmother told me before that the ancient eastern martial monks prioritized bringing out the inner potential of the human body from the inside like you said. According to her, their martial arts were more plain and trod a different path from Battle Force. As it was hard and arduous to train in, it was eventually lost in the passage of time. It must be fate that you managed to acquire a surviving copy of the technique."
"Perhaps. Never would I have imagined that my reckless action in the past would produce the results today. As I'm no longer able to train in my family's own Battle Force manual, many people look down on me because they think that I'm merely an Iron rank. Just like you did previously, princess, when you asked me to step down and have a Gold ranked knight duel for me," Lorist joked.
"You're still bringing it up..." Princess Sylvia muttered as she blushed. She then pouted and said, "You're the biggest liar of us all. Even though you can rival a Blademaster, you pretended to be an Iron rank to duel against a puny Gold ranked swordswoman like me... How shameless..."
After spending some time with Princess Sylvia, Lorist realized that the 20-year-old Gold ranked swordswoman wasn't the haughty and prideful noble mistress he initially thought she was but rather an incredibly curious, naive child. Having lost her parents at a young age and being spoiled by her grandfather and godmother, she trained hard in Battle Force and eventually matured into a most beautiful flower of unparalleled charm. But, as she hadn't experienced any turmoils of the outside world before, she was extremely curious about Lorist's own experiences and kept on questioning him about it. Even though she still acted a little spoiled, Lorist thought that she was merely a noble lady that hasn't truly matured through experiencing trial and adversity.
In another day, the group would arrive at the dominion of the Kenmays Family. In fact, they were already technically there, but ever since the Redriver Valley Bastide was burned down by the Norton Family. the Kenmays Family have given up on their original viscounty and focused all their efforts on their new territory in the eastern Northlands.
During most of the journey, the princess spent lots of her time pestering Lorist and asking him to tell her more stories about his days working as a mercenary at Morante City. Sometimes, Lorist would intentionally piss her off by talking bad of the Second Prince in front of her and saying things like how her grandfather Duke Fisablen was a warmongering lord, causing her to leave angrily as she couldn't make a retort. It became apparent that she was inferior to Lorist in both the sword and the word. But usually, she would come back after a while when her anger calmed to continue bugging Lorist for more stories.
Naturally, Lorist also got to hear quite a bit of rare intelligence from the princess, such as the fact that Blademasters were categorized into four ranks. For example, Blademaster Louinse who died from the bolt fired by the super ballista was merely a rank 1 Blademaster and he could be considered fortunate to have been able to reach that rank. But, his chances of actually becoming a rank 2 Blademaster was almost nil.
The princess's godmother, and her current teacher, Xanthi, was a rank 2 Blademaster while her grandfather Duke Fisablen was a rank 3 Blademaster, similar to the Blademaster serving the Second Prince, Zarinan. Princess Sylvia proudly declared that while Lorist managed to defeat her teacher and godmother, he would definitely stand no chance against her grandfather and would definitely lose within less than a hundred strikes.
Lorist said that it didn't matter because he was still young and could potentially outlive her grandfather. He said that he would challenge Duke Fisablen when he was so old that he could no longer hold a sword properly so that his victory would be assured.
Naturally, that statement pissed the princess off and caused her to call Lorist names like 'shameless' and such, which Lorist pretended to not hear.
Additionally, the princess also mentioned that age was not a factor for the various ranks a Blademaster could reach. Instead, profound insight was required. For instance, while Blademaster Xanthi did lose to Lorist in their duel, she did gain lots of inspiration from the duel and spent most of her days during the escort trip within the carriage to meditate upon them. That's why the princess was not obstructed from interacting that often with Lorist.
Ah, I see, Lorist thought as he came to realize that the reason Blademaster Xanthi did not meet him wasn't because she held hard feelings for losing but rather because she was meditating upon her insights within the privacy of her carriage.
Lorist laughed and said, "I believe that it would be quite difficult for her to gain any benefit from the insights she gained from the battle with me because the style of her swordsmanship is inherently quick and agile. When I realized that, I changed my approach to one that was as stable as a mountain and used weight to combat her lightness and accuracy to match her rapid strikes. While my sword style seemed slow to the eye, it was the perfect counter for her quick and incessant strikes, ultimately causing her to lose. If she intends to improve, I would recommend her to experience the wind. Be it a light gust or a windy storm, as long as she can comprehend the irregular flow of the wind's rhythm, I believe she will definitely benefit quite a bit from it and be able to improve her swordsmanship."
Princess Sylvia was stunned for a while when she realized Lorist was giving her godmother free training advice. When she recovered, she said, "Thanks, Locke. I will tell her about it right now."
The head of the Kenmays Family had been waiting for the group's arrival at the border of his dominion. After greeting Princess Sylvia, he told Lorist that five days ago, the Second Prince brought tens of guards to cross the metal suspension bridge of the Kenmays Family, presumably heading to the dominion of Duke Fisablen to borrow more soldiers from his father-in-law before returning to the Northlands for revenge.
Lorist said that it didn't matter since the four families had already formed an alliance. He told Count Kenmays's father that if the Second Prince came, he only had to stall him on the other side of the suspension bridge and within less than two days, the reinforcements from the three families would back him up so that the Second Prince never sets foot into the Northlands again.
When they were in the presence of the head of the Kenmays Family, Princess Sylvia was very conscious of her own behavior and no longer sought out Lorist that often as she did previously, once again putting on her polite princess persona, much to Lorist's delight as he hasn't had such a quiet and relaxing day for quite a while.
On the next day, Princess Sylvia set foot on the metal suspension bridge and the moment she crossed the river, she would be at the Wild Husbandry Province and Lorist's mission to escort her would end. He returned to the family dominion right away after bidding the princess goodbye.
On the way back within the carriage, Princess Sylvia sulked. Her godmother, Blademaster Xanthi, pulled her into her bosom and asked, "What's wrong? Did he move your heart?"
"Of course not, godmother... I only feel that Count Norton is quite different from the other nobles I've met. His stories are really interesting," said the princess as she started to blush.
"He is indeed a weird one. I couldn't read him at all. Sylvia, did you take a close look at the forces of his family? A little more than half of the soldiers are Iron ranked with the rest being Silver ranked. A random squad from his forces could even match up to your personal guards. Additionally, his soldiers are veterans that have experienced true combat and each of them radiate a strong killing intent. It is obvious that their combat ability far surpasses that of your personal guards.
"But here's the weird part. Even though the Norton Family has such competent and loyal soldiers equipped with quality equipment, rivaling even the personal guards of your grandfather, the count only stays within his dominion. If it were some other noble, they definitely would've conquered the whole of the Northlands right after exterminating the 100000-strong forces of the Second Prince. But what did he do? He actually formed an alliance with the three other families and let the land that would rightfully belong to the Norton Family remain in the hands of others!
"I really cannot fathom how he came to that decision. Even though I can't necessarily call him an idiot for doing so, he definitely lacks even the tiniest shred of ambition. Given the recent times, the various factions within the former empire are all gearing up for war. In another year or so, the peace treaty between the kingdoms and duchies will expire and the times of chaos would come again, spreading the flames of war all throughout the land. Even a person like your grandfather is worried for the future of the family.
"Your grandfather is an extremely prideful person. Had it not been for the fact that he was a general of the Frontier Legion, he definitely wouldn't have supported a wolf like the Second Prince. Additionally, the young generation of the Fisablen Family doesn't have any talent apart from you. Your grandfather also knows that he has made lots of enemies, so he places his hopes for the family on you. A person like Count Norton who doesn't have the slightest ambition is not even worth the attention of your grandfather, so he definitely wouldn't approve of you getting into a relationship with the count."
Blademaster Xanthi continued to stroke the princess's hair lovingly as she sighed inwardly. Even though this girl has always set her sights high, why would she be smitten by such an unimpressive person like Count Norton? This is going to be troublesome...
"Godmother, that's not true at all. I've never thought of having him as my partner... He's far too detestable and keeps bad-mouthing grandfather. He even said that he would duel grandfather when he's too old to hold a sword properly and win, how despicable..." Princess Sylvia muttered as she buried her face in her godmother's bosom. After that, the two no longer talked and only the rattling of the carriage's wheels could be heard.