The most prominent building in Hamidas, which also served as the center of power for the kingdom, was where Lud III would summon his nobles for meetings or wave to the adoring masses.

There were 36 huge pillars supporting the great hall. They were all made of a green and gold stone. On them were engravings of intricate patterns and murals that depicted the various legends and folktales of the era. The building was called Herbitra and was also known as the Palace of 36 Pillars.

At the moment, droves of people made merry within the great hall. Lorist was hosting a large celebratory feast to commemorate House Norton's victory and the Hanayabarta kingdom's extermination which fulfilled his promise that 'those who slight the Nortons shall be put down, far as they may be'.

"Let me dedicate this first toast to the heroic soldiers and fighters that have sacrificed themselves to wash away the humiliation of the house and to liberate the slaves!" announced Lorist before he poured the cup of wine onto the ground.

The hundreds of fully-armored knights and ten other elaborately-dressed officials within the hall did the same.

"This second cup shall be dedicated to the slaves who have suffered for the past century under the tyrannical reign of the Hanayabarta kingdom. They have been subjugated, emasculated and enslaved. Despite that, they were the ones who built this kingdom from the ground up. Do you see the 36 majestic pillars in this hall? Who would think for a second that those were built at the cost of countless numbers of corpses?! They have lost their freedom here and became nothing more than animals. In the eyes of the demonic slavers, they are no different from livestock!

"But that has changed with our arrival! House Norton has already exterminated this sinful nation! The slaves are finally free and their dignity has been restored, as all humans deserve. However, we did come a little too late, there are many others who we were unable to save. Let us mourn and grieve for their suffering. This toast is made in their honor."

Lorist poured the wine once again on the ground. While Lorist's true reason for attacking the kingdom was to gain the resources gathered over the century by the kingdom, he had to pretend that saving the slaves from suffering was his main goal in the interest of maintaining the facade of honorable intentions.

Lorist did not care for the liberated who would not join the Nortons' forces or help out with the harvest. He had given them freedom, so it was up to them to decide their futures. As long as they did not obstruct the house's operations, they were free to do whatever they wanted.

However, all the resources around the archipelago, down to the smallest grain, was the de facto property of the house, not to mention the ships that would be required to send those slaves off to their hometowns. Without Lorist's permission, not one of them would be able to leave the archipelago.

There were some free slaves that remained within the camp that had gotten sick of eating nothing but porridge and wanted to get some farming tools to harvest some wheat for their own consumption. They were stopped by patrolling guards right away. Almost all the property of the slavers was already in the hands of the Norton house.

The slaves were dissatisfied and argued that they deserved a share of the wheat because they had a part in cultivating it. It did not take long for them to be brought to the main camp and showed the corpses of near a thousand Norton soldiers who had died fighting the slavers. The slaves were given 20 canes each thereafter to ensure they understood the reason the wheat belonged solely to the house. The fortunate thing was that they no longer had to worry about starving, as they were punished to help out with the harvests for their transgressions.

All was according to Charade's plan to spread word that the Hanayabarta kingdom had fallen only because of the house's huge sacrifice to liberate the slaves. 'That's why everything on the archipelago belongs to us. Without us, you would still be slaves and your lives would be subject to the whims of your masters. Even though you're now free men, your freedom came at the expense of House Norton. We're under no obligation to sustain you any longer.'

The Norton soldiers were rather convinced by Charade's arguments. Additionally, House Norton did not leave the slaves to their own devices for survival. They did offer opportunities for the slaves to work for proper meals, clothing, shelter and even payment. Not only that, the slaves were not required to do anything remotely threatening to their lives. That was why the Norton soldiers despised the slaves that did not help out even when being given the chance. They considered them thankless and shameless fools.

"This third cup of wine is dedicated to the slave fighters who fell before the coming of dawn," Lorist said before he gave Blademaster Shuss and the other slave fighters a glance, "Without their painstaking resistance, our house would never have been able to occupy the capital with so few casualties. It was their life and blood that limited the enemy's ability to launch a last-ditch resistance against us, defending the dueling grounds until our forces arrived. This toast will be in honor of the brave warriors and their sacrifice."

After the three toasts, the atmosphere within the hall reverted to its former merriness. Everyone began to celebrate again. A group of young and beautiful female slaves with varied talents put on a magnificent show of dancing, sleight-of-hand tricks, and performances for the conquerors of the Hanayabarta archipelago.

As it was a celebratory occasion, the soldiers received a great number of bonuses. Those who participated in battle were awarded ten gold Fordes. The injured received double the standard bonus. They were also treated to a sumptuous feast. As for the volunteers that helped out, they received a large serving of ale and a huge piece of smoked meat. Even the slaves who did not contribute got two pieces of black bread sandwiching a piece of meat.

On the next day, Lorist gathered the house's knights and important officials for a meeting about the archipelago's fate.

Nobody had any objection to making the archipelago one of the house's overseas territory nor Lorist's plans for the 400 thousand slaves there. Some had differing opinions about what to do with Hamidas, however.

Hector and some other administrative officials believed that the capital should be kept intact, especially a palace as magnificent as Herbitra. While it did have a tainted history, it was still a magnificent building that should be cared for over the generations.

Blademaster Shuss and two gold-ranked slave fighters, Jades and Messen, who were attending a meeting like this for the first time, stressed that the capital had to be demolished, especially the dueling grounds. It reminded the slaves too much of their painful past. Countless comrades of theirs had fallen there and only the demolition of the symbol of their pain would appease them.

Potterfang, on the other hand, believed that the capital's demolition would allow them to gain favor more quickly with the slaves. During his time in charge of the slave camps' security, he had learned that all the slaves had a deep hatred for Hamidas. Some even called it a devil's den, while others thought it no different from hell. The slaves would definitely be more obedient following its demolition.

Malek thought that demolishing the capital would save them quite some trouble when they excavate for the slaver nobles' hidden riches; they would no longer have to ensure the integrity of their buildings during their operations.

Charade approached the matter from a different perspective. He thought that demolishing the capital would be far more beneficial for the house's administration at the archipelago. For one, Hanayabarta was quite far away from the main dominion and maintaining a castle as large as the capital would definitely put quite a heavy burden on the house's finances. Since the house would not be moving their headquarters to Hanayabarta, there was no need for the capital to be kept.

Herbitra alone would cost at least 300 gold Fordes annually to maintain. While the annual amount was by no means astronomical, over decades or a century the upkeep would be staggeringly high. That way of spending was no different from dropping gold coins into the sea; one would not even hear the coins reach the ground.

Not only that, given how far Hanayabarta was from the house's dominion, an enemy attack on the island was only a matter of time. As a measure of precaution, the capital's demolition would make it easier for the house to rule over the various islands and their forces would not incur as many casualties to quell any revolts or chaos.

Also, while there would be over 100 thousand slaves staying behind, it would require farmland and houses, only a brigade of soldiers would be left to defend the area at most. The area that had to be defended had to be decreased. In future, the area around the capital would only serve two purposes. It would be a trade center and a storage hub for food and other resources.

The reasons Charade brought up cemented the decision to demolish the capital. Lorist decided that apart from the business sector, which would be retained and expanded, the capital would be demolished. It would only happen after Malek and the rest finished scouring the noble sector and royal sector for their treasures, however.

Lorist also managed to convince them to retain the 36 pillars and the half of the dueling grounds' audience seats to serve as a reminder to future generations about the two buildings that were the cornerstone of the slaves' suffering.

Upon deciding Hamidas's fate, Lorist declared Hector the first governor of the archipelago. His first term would be five years. His primary duty was to ensure that the 100 thousand slaves were given farmland and houses so they could settle into their new lives and become the subjects of the Norton house.

Josk and Yuriy would check the manors at the plains around the capital once more to capture any subject of the Hanayabarta kingdom that might have escaped. None of them were to be spared. They were also tasked with the transport of all the goods found at the manors to the capital.

Malek was put in charge of the scavenging of valuables within the capital as well as the transportation of the goods found in the city's western sector. Apart from some food and other supplies, the rest were to be brought to Nupite to be shipped to Silowas.

Fiercetiger Loze would command half of the Norton troops that would stay behind and assist Malek with the resources' transportation. He would also guide the rest of the slaves to Nupite. Only those who wanted to stay would be allowed to remain at the plains near the capital. The rest had to leave. However, the house did promise those who wished to return to their homes that they would be guaranteed safety and transport to the mainland for no fee at all.

Lastly, Lorist made Jades and Messen aides to Potterfang. The three were given only three tasks: the formation of the ten new brigades via the recruitment of the 16 silver-ranked and 400 other bronze or iron-ranked slave fighters, the transport of the 100 thousand plus subjects of the Hanayabarta kingdom to Nupite, where the other captives were held, as well as the the battlefield's cleansing. The last task involved the decapitation and embalming of the enemy corpses' heads. They would be sent to Nupite. The corpses themselves were to be cremated.

Some felt that Lorist's order to keep the enemy's heads was a little weird.

"How will we deal with the 100 thousand captives?" asked Charade.

Lorist stayed silent for a while with a gloomy look on his face.

"Behead them all," answered he finally.

The answer shocked everyone. Hector and Charade jumped in terror.

"Milord, you can't do that! That's a hundred thousand lives!" shouted they.

"They are not human, merely animals wearing human skin," Lorist said, thumping heavily on the desk, "They have never seen the slaves as fellow humans. They are the demons of this sinful kingdom. Even if they are commoners, they have lived in prosperity thanks to the slaves' blood, tears and death. Not only that, I've made an oath to bury 100 Hanayabartans alongside each of our dead soldiers. The 100 thousand we have is not enough to make amends for our comrades' deaths. My decision is final, and I will shoulder all the consequences!" exclaimed Lorist, before he left, signaling the end of the meeting.

On the 24th day of the 10th month, Year 1773, Count Norton Lorist ordered the beheading of 100 thousand Hanayabartans at the shore around Nupite. He used 176243 heads to build a 33-meter-tall pyramid. It became known as Dread's Monument.

Right before the beheading, the governor of Hanayabarta, Hector, had kneeled to Lorist and begged for seven whole hours before he finally received permission to spare the lives of 12 thousand young women. They were to be made the wives of liberated slaves. The Hanayabartan Genocide was deeply imprinted in the hearts of many.

During the 3rd and 4th months of Year 1774, when many of the slaves that left the archipelago to return to their homes, word of Lorist's use of more than 170 thousand heads to build a pyramid spread across the nations of the continent. Almost overnight, the name of the Roaring Raging Bear became the go-to tale that mothers told their misbehaving children.

In the 5th month of Year 1774, word of the Hanayabarta kingdom's extermination spread to another island-based nation -- the Shyarsia kingdom. The queen of the nation so famed for their spice production, who was also the younger cousin of Lud III, cried until she fainted. Her son, the young prince, instantly ordered his royal uncle to mobilize their troops against the Hanayabarta's occupiers.

The army the kingdom deployed numbered 18 thousand. They left with a fleet of 40-odd ships. It was the latter half of the 6th month by the time they arrived at Nupite. It was noon when they arrived, the pyramid was the first thing that caught their attention. At that time, Nupite was defended by a brigade of 3000 soldiers and the defenses were still incomplete. As the garrison's knights prepared for battle, something incomprehensible happened.

The fleet turned around just offshore from the pyramid... and left. They left just like that. It was as if they had just come to see the pyramid for themselves. Not one soldier came ashore, not a single blow exchanged.

In the 8th month, Senbaud's Oceanic Legion arrived at the archipelago with six sail-powered, cannon-equipped warships to patrol the area. The moment Senbaud heard of Shyarsia fleet's arrival, he set off for the kingdom. When his fleet arrived, before they could even fire the first volley, the kingdom raised a white flag over the castle. He came to hear much later that the entire kingdom was terrified out of their minds by the pyramid. They feared, more than anything else, the erection of something similar in their kingdom, so they surrendered immediately.

The Shyarsia kingdom became the first nation to willingly bow to House Norton and become their vassal. With this, came the beginning of a new era.

A tall tale, this is not.