Finally, we're at the 300-chapter mark. It truly has been a rather hectic (and rewarding) journey for us. Here's to the next smooth-sailing release of the next 100 chapters! Hope you all enjoy the read!

P.S. it's the fourth release of the week.



Lorist furrowed his brows as he looked at the sails slowly sinking beneath the horizon. First Young Master Serihanem was aboard. As the northern fleet's 6000-odd sailors would not fit on one ship, Serihanem had casually hired the house's men to transport the ransomed crew back to Morante.

Lorist was not concerned for the safety of the transport ships, there was no chance the Chikdor Merchant Guild would get into conflict with House Norton for the sake of ten-odd measly ships. However, before Serihanem left, he had revealed where the Union's troops, the ones that had occupied Bodolger, had come from. Even Lorist could never have imagined something like that being pulled.

A few days earlier, following his conversation with Serihanem, Lorist had come to know a few more details regarding the Union's internal affairs. Ever since the Union obtained victory in the War of Glass, the nations neighboring them had sealed their borders and erased the trade routes in a kneejerk reaction to the Union's sudden expansionism. But given that it had occupied seven other nations following the war, their territory had expanded at least four or five fold. As long as they allocated and managed their resources well, there was no cause for concern.

However, after the big-seven guilds obtained their own dominions, they refocused their efforts and resources to their own territory. In this situation, their control of the Union itself had waned. At the same time, the sub-council, usually relegated to the sidelines, had increased their influence. The consequences of the War of Glass had begun to show.

The Union's sub-council was made up of mostly elected representatives of the common citizenry, the second-rate merchant guilds, and representatives of craft guilds. The sub council's main purpose was to take care of miscellaneous stuff like enforcing security and ensuring there was a steady influx of immigrants. Following the war, the big-seven had managed to successfully realize their goals to expand the Union. But even though the Union's territory had expanded greatly, most of it was swept up by the big-seven guilds and some other outstanding second-rate guilds. As a result, there were those who still had yet to have their fill.

In wartime, the short-sighted merchant guilds and mercenaries only focused on plundering the wealth of the nations they invaded and disobeyed the military's orders, much to the dismay of President Cobleit, the then commander of the Union Army. In response, the president decided to get back at the disobedient folk when the time came to split up the rewards. He decreased the benefits they received greatly and kicked a few that were promised noble titles off the list.

It was too late for these guilds and mercenary groups to regret. It did not stop enmity from building up in the sub-council's discussions. But, given that the war had ended, there was no more land they could give. The Wessia Merchant Guild, one of the big-seven, came up with an idea.

The Union had good reason to be wary of the second highness and his army. But, given that he had been entangled with the Redlis kingdom's nobles ever since the War of Glass, the Union had begun to see through the second highness's facade. If the second highness eventually managed to occupy the whole of Redlis, he would proceed to the Lormo duchy and force Duke Lormo to once again come under the empire's banner. This was something the Union would never allow. Since Second Highness Auguslo was bound to be their enemy eventually, the Union did not mind driving the proverbial knife up the second highness's back a bit early.

Other than that, while the big-seven had obtained their own dominions, the nobles who originally controlled those lands were not easy to deal with. This would be a good opportunity to send them to the frontlines to earn achievements.

The military intervention was thus conducted in Bodolger. Only the Wessia Merchant Guild participated. The rest were busy settling down in their new dominions. It did not help that the second highness had made an error. He chose to gather his troops in Majik. He left only a small number of old garrison-troops at the citadels around Kanbona. Perhaps, he had thought that there would be no point in stationing so many soldiers at places so far behind his army.

Second Highness Auguslo never expected the Union to launch a surprise attack and actually manage to conquer Kanbona. Given that the citadels were his only connection to Andinaq, the Union's strategy could be said to have been executed with surgical precision. With but one strike, they had cut off the second highness' lifeline. Not only that, the four central duchies had once more refused the second highness's beckoning and even formed a combined army to face off against the second highness and reinforce the troops in Majik. The second highness was now completely surrounded.

Lorist breathed a long sigh.

"What are you worried about, Milord?" asked Potterfang.

"The second highness's situation," revealed Lorist.

He did not feel the need to hide anything from his treasured subordinate.

"There's no need for you to concern yourself over this," Potterfang asserted.

Ever since the experience of being manipulated and used by the second highness, he had held a grudge deep in his heart, especially with regards to some of his friends which the second highness had poached.

"Since the second highness hasn't asked us to deploy our troops, there's no need for us to go out of our way to clean up his mess. Even if he's considered our superior, we've always fulfilled our obligations. I believe that Milord shouldn't have sent Supervisor Hansk to the imperial capital. You also shouldn't poke your hands into this affair. It's best for our house to rest up in the coming years and reorganize our military. We should wait for better opportunities."

Lorist shook his head.

"No matter what, the second highness is still my superior. I should at least worry about him a little," Lorist countered, "If the capital requests that we to deploy our troops to rescue the second highness, all we'll do is send our forces and breach the front at Kanbona. As for the Redlisian nobles in Majik, I can't be bothered with them, unless I stand to see the first prince gone for good. Weird, as the Redlis kingdom's sovereign, why is his whereabouts still unknown? It's already been a year and a half since his disappearance..."

Supervisor Hansk returned at the end of the 6th month. Lorist was sparring with Blademaster Shuss at Seaview Manor at the time. After resisting over more than a hundred strikes, Shuss discarded his weapon and surrendered. As Lorist wiped some sweat off his face, he received the letter that Hansk had brought with him.

He could see the letter asked for House Norton to stay put and not involve themselves in Andinaq's military affairs. The letter was even sealed with the insignia of the kingdom's regent.

Lorist read the letter over and over before turning to Hansk. 

"Who's in charge at the capital right now?" inquired he.

"The one who received me was Marquis Reid, Milord. When he read the letter you penned, he respectfully refused our help and said that he had already ordered the second royal local defense legion to barge through Kanbona and arrive at the frontlines to reestablish contact with His Majesty. He then wrote this letter and had me deliver it," replied Hansk.

"Marquis Reid?" Lorist murmured, as he recalled the old man he saw at one of the banquets. 

While he could not quite remember how the man looked, he did remember the young son had brought a bunch of other noble youths to occupy Seaview Manor for up to five years. They were only punished for their misconduct and misdeeds with Lorist's arrival.

"Hahaha..."

This old guy is definitely doing this out of spite. Sol, for him to let his private feelings affect his decision on the military matters of a nation and deal with this in such a childish manner... Hmph, you think I wanted to send my soldiers out? You just saved me a bunch of trouble, old fool!

With this letter in hand, Lorist had all the reason in the world to completely ignore the second highness no matter how dire his situation.

"Well, Howard, make sure to keep this letter. This is extremely important," finished Lorist as he handed the letter to Howard.

"Milord, just before I started heading back, Marquis Reid assigned me an escort. When I arrived at Jillin Harbor, I heard the garrison squad leader order that they not let the soldiers of our house take even one step on shore," added Hansk.

"What is the meaning of this? Are they treating us like enemies?" asked Lorist, a question mark on his face.

"Well, I don't know why myself. But that was the order I heard. They were also told to watch our troops closely," replied Hansk bitterly.

"Even if they give such an order, they shouldn't say it in front of you! Did you offend anyone of the escort?" interjected Howard.

"Hmmm," Hansk mumbled, scratching his head in thought, "I don't think so, all I did was stop them from attacking some helpless refugees on the way back... Did they have to offend us just because of that?"

"What's that about the refugees?" Lorist asked, "Tell me about it in detail."

"Well, it all started like this: we encountered lots of refugees during our stay at the capital who were originally from the two southwestern provinces. We even managed to recruit 60 thousand to go to the island and help out with the development. But after the second highness's assault on Redlis' capital, Frederika, he conquered Kanbona without even a single fight. The second highness settled the refugees at Kanbona temporarily. But now that the UNion's forces have occupied Kanbona, the refugees have nowhere to go and came back to the capital," explained Hansk.

"Why would they go to the capital? They could always head to the Union's territory or even Morante," said Howard.

"Because the Union doesn't welcome them. They were all, after all, citizens of the Krissen Empire when it still existed, a scapegoat for the Union's hate. The empire had been at war with the Union for almost a century and who knows how much blood has been spilled. Both sides hate each other. This is a grudge borne for life, it is ingrained deep in their bones. Don't be mistaken about our amicable relationship with the Peterson and Chikdor merchant guilds. They are merchants, and they don't believe in justice or injustice, only profits. However, the civilians under their rule are different. It'll take at least another century for the grudge to begin to fade," explained Lorist as he stroked Howard's head.

Having lived at Morante for almost a decade, he understood the citizens' mindset well.

"That is indeed so," affirmed Hansk, "The refugees told me the same thing. According to them, the soldiers occupying Kanbona would attack them for no reason. There have already been plenty refugees murdered. The refugees simply couldn't stay. Fortunately, they set out on their journey early. Given that the Union's forces have already arrived at the two southwestern provinces, it won't take long for them to reach the capital."

Hansk clutched his chest in worry, "On our way back, we frequently encountered refugees. My escort didn't hesitate to cut them down. They even cursed the refugees for being cowardly leeches that allowed Kanbona to slip through their fingers."

"Good Sol!" Lorist cursed, "How did knights like them even think that the refugees are responsible for this war? It's not their fault that Kanbona Province was lost! Their brains must be rotting!"

"Too true, Milord. Those knights' behavior got on Sir Reidy's nerves. He walloped them with several good slaps. Oh, now I know... The knights must have been pissed that they lost face. That must be why they announced their orders right in front of us. They were trying to shame our house," said Hansk, his face turning a gentle red.

Both Els and Jim had gone on vacation to break through to the gold rank, so Lorist had Reidy take over as the guard brigade's leader temporarily and accompany Hansk on his trip.

"Haha, they wish to shame House Norton? I'd like to know where they got the guts," Lorist snickered, "Howard, have Senbaud prepare his Oceanic Legion and get Potterfang's first division on board the ships. I want to head to Jilin Harbor to see for myself the one who gave the order forbidding Norton troops to set foot on the kingdom's shores."

"Milord, if you do that, they'll think we're trying to rebel," dissuaded Hansk.

"Worry not, my governor. I won't be stupid enough to actually order our troops to attack Jillin Harbor. All I want is to bring my guards there for a shopping trip. I'd like to see whether the garrison will dare to attack a count of the kingdom. It's well within my rights to bring a guard escort with me around the kingdom. The moment they attack, I'll charge them with treason. We'll be fully within our rights to defend ourselves. I want to see evidence for the order to not let us get on shore with my own two eyes no matter what!" said Lorist.

He did not act rashly like Hansk had predicted, however. He was rather clear-headed instead.

"Lord Locke, let me come along with you for a stroll," chipped in Blademaster Shuss.

"Alright, we'll leave right away. Let's see which fool dares come to cause trouble for House Norton."