Here's the second release of the week! Stay tuned for the third in another ten minutes! It's double release day!

Lorist only managed to return to SIlowas by the end of the 11th month along with the ten police brigades formed from the liberated slaves. The Oceanic Legion would not have any time to rest in the coming winter. Instead, they would have to continue shipping food and supplies, soldiers and liberated slaves all the way to Silowas. The whole process would continue until the 2nd month of the next year.

Currently, the Oceanic Legion numbered around 45 thousand men, with more than 400 ships spread out over the seas. Lorist ordered the legion's commander, Gold-ranked Knight Senbaud, to reorganize it after completing the transport process. He hoped to form two armed patrol-fleets with cannons as their main armament to defend The Northlands' coast and Silowas. He also intended to have three merchant fleets formed and release around 200 commandeered ships.

As for the 20 police brigades at the archipelago, they would join together with the five local defense brigades at the dominion to form a local defense legion, comprised of five divisions each divided into five brigades. In total, the legion would have 75 thousand men and would be one of the most important defensive forces for the Norton house.

Having benefited from the wealth of the former kingdom, Lorist had more than enough funds to reorganize his army. He not only formed the local defense legion but also intended to form two open field-battle assault legions. Firmrock Legion would be infantry focused, while Tigersoar Legion would serve as a shock troop unit comprised mainly of cavalry.

Time flew during those busy days. During the 3rd month of the next year, Lorist hosted a new year's knight festival at Firmrock Castle and announced his decision to reform their military. Firmrock Legion's formation would involve two heavy-armored divisions, one wheelbarrow-ballista division, and another division formed from the combination of the two scout brigades that were consolidated from the ranks of the mounted archers and light cavalry scout brigades, the Thunderbolt Brigade, and three other logistics brigades. The legion would total 60 thousand men divided into the four different divisions. It would be headed by Potterfang with Malek and Messen as his aides.

The Tigersoar Legion would be headed by Fiercetiger Loze, with Yuriy and Josk serving as his aides. It would be made up of two spear cavalry divisions, one carroballista division, and another division formed from a scout brigade, the female brigade, and three other logistics brigades. Sixty thousand troops would be part of the legion.

Finally, the local defense legion would contain 25 brigades, around 75 thousand men, with Freiyar as the commander, with two gold-ranked knights, Belnick and former slave fighter Jades, as his aides.

Apart from the three legions, Terman would continue in his post as the commander of the three Knight Brigades, nine thousand men. Lorist himself, on the other hand, would control his own personal guard brigade of three thousand men. Other than that, the Oceanic Legion Senbaud commanded had 18 thousand men. In other words, the total number of troops House Norton had was 225 thousand, and that didn't include the police brigades, garrison legion, and town and village guards that had more than 100 thousand people between them.

Firmrock Legion would be the main infantry assault force and would be stationed at Silowas. Tigersoar Legion would be stationed between Salus and Redriver. Given that The Northlands was desolate and mostly empty, it was the place where cavalry troops could shine with their advantage in mobility. The 25 brigades of the local defense legion were stationed at different locations. The first local defense brigade was assigned to Firmrock Castle, the second brigade to the port city, which was named Northsea by Grandmaster Ciroba. The third and fourth brigades were stationed at the citadels at Hidebull Mound and Tortoise Hill respectively to defend against any potential barbarian invasion.

As the western part of The Northlands had already become the Nortons' livestock-rearing area, Lorist agreed to Charade's suggestion to reinstate the smuggling path through the Bladedge Mountains. It was the path that the troops of Duke Loggins, led by Chevany and Hennard, used to sneak into the territory of the Nortons. With the passing of almost seven years, the vines that had been set aflame had long grown back and could be used again to construct another suspension bridge.

With the new path, the livestock produce of The Northlands did not have to be shipped through a large detour pass at Firmrock Castle into the dominion. Instead, they could be brought straight through the smuggling route at Bladedge Mountains into the dominion within only two days. Lorist did not plan to have a proper bridge constructed as he planned to have a vine bridge built based on the ancient bridges of Sichuan he saw in a documentary in his past life. He intended to build a citadel near the cavern where Chevany died and defend it with the fifth local defense brigade.

The remaining 20 local defense brigades would begin training within the dominion in things such as battleforce awakening, military engine training, and other martial training. Lorist informed his household knights that he hoped the Norton house would have an elite force, unparred in the whole of Grindia, that was fitting of the name 'Roaring Raging Bear' within the next two years.

Following the announcement of the military reorganizations, Lorist began to talk about the last year's developmental results. With the development of Redriver and Northsea concluding in the current year, the only development project that remained was Nico Academy, with the exception of the restoration of the smuggling path and the construction of the citadel nearby. Lorist assigned Shadekampf the task of maintaining the dominion's roads, which included widening and flattening them so that transportation within the dominion would improve.

The plan for Silowas' development would proceed as previously envisioned and the main workforce would stretch into the tens of thousands. Coupled with Firmrock Legion's aid, the development should be complete within the next two years. The main supervisor of the house's census department, Hansk, was appointed to be Silowas' governor.

Lorist found himself some free time after the meeting and headed to visit his disciple, Howard. When he left for the Hanayabarta kingdom, he had stopped Howard from accompanying him despite the latter's insistence. Given the dangers involved, Lorist would not be able to spare extra effort to look after him. But Howard had maintained that, given that he had broken through to the iron rank, he would be more than capable of defending himself from some random soldiers.

Lorist had merely smiled at his disciple's response and had got Reidy to start training him to develop dynamic vision, which Lorist stated was one of the main requirements a disciple of his had meet. Given that Howard was already an iron rank, Lorist advised him to take the chance during his absence on the expedition to develop dynamic vision.

Howard left with Reidy in the end. When Lorist returned to the dominion, Reidy reported to him that Howard had indeed successfully developed dynamic vision. However, given the difference in physical traits between Howard and Reidy, it took the former half a month before he got used to the vertigo-inducing ride on the spinning chair, the embarrassment of which prevented him from coming to see Lorist himself.

When Lorist arrived at the training grounds behind Firmrock Castle, he saw Howard training. It was apparent that his swordsmanship had improved quite a lot following his development of dynamic vision. Lorist was rather satisfied with the results. Howard would be more than capable of taking on silver ranks in another two years.

Apart from guiding both his disciples, Lorist went to pester Telesti on occasion or visit his concubine Irina to relieve his sexual needs. Two months later, both Irina and Telesti were pregnant once again. Irina was more than delighted at the news, but Telesti was furious beyond belief, given that she had to focus on the construction of Nico Academy in the following year. Thus, she declared Lorist an unwanted guest and refused to let him visit her.

Having no other choice, Lorist returned to Firmrock Castle and happened to meet Charade, who was preparing to submit his request for vacation. Charade intended to enter secluded training with Blademaster Engelich's personal guidance for two years to break through to the gold rank.

It was a matter Lorist had agreed to back when they were in Hanayabarta. After accepting Charade's request, Lorist opened a few bottles of wine, ordered some snacks and drank with Charade for one last time before his seclusion.

After a few drinks, Charade finally asked, "Why did you launch such a large military expansion effort right after exterminating Hanayabarta? Do you have another target in mind? Given the current number of troops, the military costs have long exceeded the income generated by the dominion. It would cost more than a million gold Fordes to maintain our military. I'm worried that this will become a huge burden for us in the coming years."

Lorist chuckled before he brought over a map of the Madras duchy, thumped his fist on it, and said, "No worries, the Madras duchy will be ours in less than two years."

When Charade wanted to ask more, Lorist had already slumped unconscious onto his sofa.

It did not take long for Charade's absence to cause a chain of problems of its own. Before ten days even passed, Dulles, Els, Jim, Waxima, Pajik, Pete and a few other silver-ranked household knights submitted their own leave requests, with the same reason as Charade. Even former bandit Ovidis of the Thunderbolt Brigade joined in.

"What the hell are you guys up to?! Are you going to go on leave too?" barked Lorist angrily at Ovidis.

Ovidis said in a troubled tone, "Milord, didn't you give me a high-ranked fire attribute battleforce manual when you first took me in as a household knight? Back then, I was already at the three stars. I've already familiarized myself with the contents and am at the peak of my rank. I feel that I will be breaking through soon, so I had to ask for a one-year leave."

"Ugh..." Moving closer to Ovidis, Lorist did, in fact, feel that he had the aura of peak three-star silver rank.

Right away, his rage turned into joy as he patted on Ovidis's shoulder and agreed, "Alright, I'll approve your leave. Work hard and make your breakthrough soon. The sooner you become a gold rank, the sooner the house will have another gold-ranked knight. I already have a manor at Redriver ready for you."

On mention of the manor, Lorist suddenly understood the reason for the sudden rush to take leave by all the three-star silver ranked knights. With the eight manors at Salus already given to Potterfang, Loze and another six gold-ranked knights, and three manors at Redriver assigned to Senbaud, Jades, and Messen who joined not too long ago, only five manors remained. All the three-star-silver-ranked knights were worried that they would be one step too late to claim a manor for themselves.

"Gosh, these bastards... Why are they all in such a hurry? It's not like the house is short on manors! There's no point in rushing to see who's first!" exclaimed Lorist. Despite that, he agreed to let the knights take their leaves. It did not seem that the house would be in any conflict in the next two years.

He opened a map of The Northlands and contemplated which part of it too develop next.

On the 23rd day of the 5th month, Lorist returned from his visit to the gunpowder research lab.

Before a suitable metal alloy is developed, there's no point in developing firearms. It seems like the age of firearms won't come anytime soon. All we are able to make now are bronze cannons; focusing too much effort on smaller firearms simply isn't beneficial in the long run. After all, Grindia is a world of battleforce, and cold weapons are far better than firearms for warfare under these circumstances.

Other things aside, the steel ballista House Norton developed could fire up to 300 meters away, whereas the firearms they made could only shoot up to 150 meters away. In a line formation, ballistae still far outperformed conventional firearms.

Howard knocked on the door, entered, and said, "Milord, there's an urgent report from Northsea that states that the Flying Fish of Dawn has returned from Silowas with news of the latest developments in the wars. The Forde Trade Union has already conquered the Redlis kingdom's Kanbona province. The 170 thousand soldiers led by the second highness is trapped in the kingdom's three remaining provinces and has already lost contact with the Andinaq kingdom. Additionally, the Chikdor Merchant Guild's first young master, Serihanem, has just arrived at Silowas. He says he's come as an ambassador of peace and wishes to have an audience with you. Supervisor Hansk had him wait at Silowas and is waiting for further instructions."

"What?!" exclaimed Lorist.

During the 9th month of the previous year, the report he received about the second highness's campaign concerned his successive losses at the Majik province. At that time, however, he still had more than 200 thousand troops at his disposal, not including the 100 thousand he stationed at the Andinaq kingdom and the various provinces he conquered. Lorist thought that, with the number of soldiers the second highness had, victory was only a matter of time.

Upon his return, the first thing he heard of the second highness was that he was still entangled with Majik's nobles. Second Highness Auguslo had sent 100 thousand troops to the Handra and Farkel duchies to demand that the four central duchies relinquish their status as sovereign states and swear fealty to the empire.The four dukes, however, refused and formed a combined army to resist him. They even started supporting Majik's nobles. Lorist had been more than happy to hear about the second highness finally facing the consequences of his actions, he knew that anything was now possible.

He thought back to their meeting at the imperial capital. The second highness had announced that the four central duchies' dukes were still loyal to the empire and would soon join his ranks. But now, things had started going south. While Lorist was part of the Andinaq kingdom, he understood that Second Highness Auguslo was more than wary of the military force of his house, to the point that he had never summoned them to join the war. Lorist, however, had felt that the second highness would be able to hold on despite the odds so he didn't pay it too much attention either. Sending soldiers to meddle in the conflict without a formal summons could be considered treason, after all.

Given that he was under no obligation to send any forces, Lorist holed up in The Northlands once again. He didn't expect that, with the passing of half a year, not only was the second highness's attempt at exterminating the Redlis nobles' forces unsuccessful, he was also stabbed in the back by the Union and lost Kanbona and contact with the Andinaq kingdom. Currently, Frederika, Anderwoff and Bodolger, which he occupied were considered the Redlis kingdom's territory. Coupled with the chaotic front at Majik, the second highness was in a precarious spot. With his supply line broken, it was a huge uncertainty whether he would even be able to hold his ground.

"Weird, where did the Union get that kind of force?" Lorist mumbled as he stood up.

He turned to Howard and said, "Pass the news down: I intend to make a trip to Silowas."