Here's the fifth release of the week! There will be one more out tomorrow to make up for last week's missed 5th release, so stay tuned!

Even though Jillin Harbor used to be the empire's only port city at the Cursed Coasts, it was not that huge. It had a population of only 20 thousand and incomplete harbor facilities.


Ever since the formation of the Andinaq kingdom, the new kingdom inherited the policies of the empire that tended to neglect naval transportation. While Jillin Harbor did rise in popularity due to the increased risks of land travel during the empire's civil war, due to the heavy taxes the second highness levied on goods transported by sea, the harbor gradually returned to its former tranquility.


When the smugglers no longer came to Jillin Harbor, all that remained was the trading plaza, which trading almost nothing but seafood. It was the largest seafood bazaar in the whole of the kingdom. The fishing folk toiled during the day and sold their catch in the evening to the fishmongers. The fishmongers would deliver the food straight to the nobles' dinner tables that same night.


In the past, Silowas' fishermen would sell their catch at the bazaar as well, but they stopped doing so due to the fishmongers' exploitative business practices. The choice to stop was made a lot easier by the Firmrock Legion's demand for seafood. Should the fishermen end up with extra seafood, they would dry them in the sun instead of bringing them to Jillin Harbor. The only contact Silowas and Jillin Harbor had was a single ferry that made a roundtrip every three days.


Lorist had always had plans for Jillin Harbor. Even though Silowas was a great place, it was an isolated island. While it would be ideal as a consolidation point for goods, it was inferior to Jillin Harbor when it came to how easily goods could be distributed to the continent, which was what most merchants wanted. Currently, the Salt Merchant Committee that Count Kenmays managed was fighting for market share in the northeastern area of the former empire. The committee's influence had already stretched over the entire Iblia kingdom and half of the Madras duchy. In recent times, the count's ambitions were to establish a new trade route to the four central duchies.


Given that Silowas was a little bit to the south, Lorist wanted to use the Peterson Merchant Guild to help distribute his dominion's products to the areas which the Union had influence over. However, he did not think that the Union's sphere of influence would decreased so severely after the War of Glass. The Peterson Merchant Guild themselves had suffered quite a few of losses and could not afford to help out with Lorist's ambitions anymore. It would take them at least two or three years to recover.


The coast from The Northlands all the way to Silowas was referred to as the Cursed Coasts.  The coasts were sheltered from the ocean by a barrier of reefs that made the entire stretch unsuitable for harbours. It was for that reason that Lorist  appreciated Jillin Harbor. If he could get the harbor under the control of his house, Lorist believed that he would most certainly be able to develop the place into a thriving port city in a few short years and expand the trade routes to the Redlis kingdom in the south.


The preface for Lorist's sending of Supervisor Hansk to the imperial capital was to show concern for the second highness's recent predicament, but in reality he wanted to use the opportunity to put in some effort to rescue his king. Naturally, there would have been a catch if the Nortons were actually asked to deploy their troops. After all, there are no free favors in the world. With the war between the Andinaq kingdom and the Redlis kingdom lasting more than a year, even the rats within the kingdom's treasuries had starved. Lorist had hoped to have his aid repaid with jurisdiction over Jillin Harbor.


While it would be ideal if he could make the area around the harbor part of his dominion, he found that the second highness would hardly agree to such terms and thought better of it. Instead, he would only ask to be given administrative rights. If the imperial capital agreed to the conditions, the Nortons would send their troops to Kanbona and help the second highness reestablish contact with the kingdom. He did not think that Marquis Reid would refuse his offer of aid and even have the harbor's garrison be extra wary of his troops.


If the order to not allow the Norton soldiers get on shore had been made in secret, there was nothing Lorist could do about it. He didn't think that the knights escorting Hansk would reveal it due to a petty disagreement. They actually dared to reveal a sensitive order like that just to humiliate his men. It gave him an opening to put his plans into action.


The former defense force at Jillin Harbor was the third division of the first royal local defense legion, with Gold-ranked Knight Fewermante as the commander. Once, he had brought his troops to Silowas in the name of assisting Viscount Aslan, but in fact, he was there to threaten the islanders into paying his taxes. In the end, he had encountered Lorist and been given a harsh wallop. Even though the second highness later saved him, he was worried that Lorist would not let the matter go and transferred the third division away from the city. His departure forced the formation of a new garrison.


As a locally formed defense unit, the garrison was treated like the illegitimate child given birth to by one's mistress. The unit was severely under equipped, they only had a spear and a wooden shielf. The regiment commander and his vice-commander were the only two that had been given something approaching armor: old, torn leather garments. The soldiers' salary wasn't stable either. They often went months without payment, as a result they often abandoned their posts to work at the bazaar.


Lorist was really curious to know where Marquis Reid got his confidence from.  Did he really think Jillin Harbor's garrison posed a threat to his forces? Wherever he got it from, he had enough of it to order his troops to stop the Norton soldiers from getting on shore.


At that moment, Lorist was standing at the port of Jillin Harbor with a regiment of a thousand guards getting off the ship behind him and into formation. Jillin Harbor's hundreds of garrison soldiers gathered around and witnessed the sight with amused chatters. All they could do was be envious of the awesome and complete gear the Norton guards were assigned, not a single soldier stepped forward to stop them from disembarking.


However, it did not take long before someone attempted to smash a rock using an egg. Two half-armored knights rushed out of a tavern nearby and began roaring. With their alcohol-tainted breath, they called for the guards on shore to leave the port immediately.


Lorist tilted his head and a few of his men gave the knights a harsh beating. It only took a few moments for the knights to begin crying for their parents.


"Let it be known that any who dare bar my way, the way of Count Norton, will be deemed an assaulter of my person. Have them write their testimonies complete with their thumbprint before throwing them into the harbor's prison. For now, follow me to the administrative center. I'd like to see who at the imperial capital gave that order," instructed Lorist.


As a noble, it was well within Lorist's rights to travel with an escort. Even though Lorist brought a regiment of a thousand guards and a division of five thousand soldiers with him, he could easily explain it away as him being extra careful and bringing more soldiers with him precautionarily. As long as Lorist's troops did not harass the locals and was fed from Lorist's own pockets, there was nothing wrong with them following Lorist around.


As for the order from the imperial capital to not let a single Norton soldier set foot on land, it was nothing more than a joke. It was not like the Norton troops were rebelling, so there was no legitimate reason for Lorist to be denied his escort. The order could be argued to be putting Lorist himself in unnecessary danger. Even if the matter was brought to the second highness, Lorist would definitely still be in the right.


As the one in charge of Jillin Harbor's security, Baron Fenston was rather satisfied with his position. The bribe he had given the men serving the second highness had paid off. As a noble, Baron Fenston felt that only idiots would be satisfied with the income of their own dominion. He was well aware how poor the folk in his dominion were. Instead of investing money to develop it, it would be far better to bribe his way into a well-paying position. It certainly had a far greater return on investment.


Having been the security chief of the harbor for over five years, Baron Fenston had long earned the cost of his bribery back. And now, his salary was easily several times more than the income his dominion provided. He was currently trying to form a small fleet with seven medium-sized armed ships so that he could purchase some luxury goods and fashionable clothes from Morante. He would be able to get acquainted with some powerful men at the same time as well. He could also use the fleet to conduct business with the merchants or nobles at Jillin Harbor. Through that, he would be able to profit alongside those who chose to invest in him without spending all his capital.


However, he was rather troubled by the order he had received from the imperial capital two days earlier. It required him to increase the garrison to prevent the forces of the Norton household from getting on shore.


Baron Fenston was of the opinion that the one who gave the order probably got rabies, for him to dare lash out at just anyone without giving any thought. Given that the king was trapped within the Redlis kingdom, the kingdom's situation was far from stable. The people in charge of the imperial capital still dared to challenge the Nortons at a time like this? He recalled that the Nortons recently sent an ambassador to the imperial capital. The baron was certain that he had somehow offended the people in power. Either that, or they did not bring with them a fitting gift for the visit.


Baron Fenston really wanted to throw the decree into the wastepaper bin. But he thought better of it and kept it instead. After all, the imperial capital sent six knights with the decree. Not only were they supposed to take over control of the garrison, they would also be reorganizing it into three regiments with three thousand men in total.


Thus, Baron Fenston decided to go along with it. After all, he did not have money nor equipment and could only barely pay for the salary of the troops in his garrison. He would want to see what the knights could do with his force.


Hmph, do those guys think the Nortons are to be messed with so lightly?


He recalled that one of his family members made a trip to Morante recently and brought back one of the newspapers. It's headline was of the Hanayabarta kingdom's extermination. Not only did the Nortons exterminate the slave kingdom, they also slaughtered 170 thousand of the kingdom's civilians and used their heads to build a pyramid.


The baron believed the report without question the moment he first read it. He had received a secret order from the king not too long before he had set off on campaign. He was to monitor House Norton's activities and report any suspicious moves. He had done so dutifully and diligently until everyone lost contact with the second highness. However, the baron did not forsake his duties and continued to receive reports from the sailors that traveled to Silowas once every three days. Baron Fenston would collect and compile the reports and submit them to the king when he returns.


Silowas had recently suffered a pirate attack and the island itself had become living hell. Back then, even the ships at Silowas were caught in the attack. Fortunately, the ferry captain managed to escape when he felt something was off. Jillin Harbor was also thrown into disarray during the attack as they feared that the pirates would come for them too. After being on full alert for a whole month, they only got to know that the pirates had departed when the Norton ships traveled to Jillin Harbor to resupply. The remaining pirates were all annihilated and Silowas reclaimed.


Later, House Norton gathered large numbers of troops and ships at Silowas. Fenston soon came to understand the extent of their military might. The soldiers soon disappeared and returned two months later with an abundance of resources. Even though the captains and sailors were prevented from getting off the island, they could easily estimate roughly how much resource and people the ships carried.


After reading the newspaper report, Fenston came to know that the resources had definitely come from the Hanayabarta. It was no wonder his king was so wary of House Norton and instructed him to keep an eye on them. He recalled one of the rumors he had heard some time earlier. It said that Count Norton had some enmity with Count Aslan. As a result of his enmity, the latter brought ten thousand men to encircle the count's group without notifying the king. In the end, not only were Count Aslan's forces defeated, the count himself also lost his life. The king had eliminated the whole of House Aslan in a fit of rage and was unable to do anything to Count Norton either.


That was why, when he heard that Count Norton had come over to his place, the administrative center, he instinctively understood the reason for the visit. Not only did he receive Lorist warmly, he also brought out the decree he received and showed it to Lorist. He also made sure to insult and berate the nobles at the imperial capital for giving such an asinine order.


Lorist waved the decree in his hands and said with a smile, "Since the imperial capital has already ordered for the garrison's expansion, but Jillin Harbor isn't able to afford such an expense, House Norton will contribute for the sake of the kingdom. We will help out with expansion. What do you think, Lord Baron?"


"That would be wonderful!" Fenston exclaimed, "Lord Count, your patriotism and loyalty to the kingdom is beyond description. It truly is worthy of my deepest respect. I'll be counting on you for the expansion then."


"Will it be okay with you if I bring the garrison soldiers to Silowas for three months of training and reshaping?" asked Lorist.


"There definitely won't be a problem. I will leave it entirely up to your discretion, Lord Count. I've long heard about the unrivaled might of House Norton's troops. There can't be a better candidate than you to restructure the garrison. To be frank with you, Jillin Harbor's garrison is stepping out of bounds quite often. While they try to bolster their esteem by bullying the common folk, they are completely useless when sent to the frontlines. Lord Count, please feel free to discipline them as you see fit. Heck, you can even kill them as punishment. You must know how troubled I am for receiving more than 20 complaints daily about the garrison soldiers... I even have to clean up their mess."


"Well, there's no secret in raising disciplined and strong soldiers. All you need is to pay them and feed them well, and provide them with appropriate equipment. When training them, make sure to not let them feel like they're expendable fodder that are inconsequential and disposable. Also, make sure to be strict on military regulation and teach them to be proud of being part of the military. Doing this will naturally raise their combat ability. How about this, during the time the garrison is trained, let our house take care of security. It's fortunate that I brought a division of soldiers with me on this trip. Let them stand guard here for three months. Will that be alright, Lord Baron?"


Baron Fenston thought, I don't think there has been a noble that brings a whole division of troops along on a casual trip. Sheesh, he really has too much money to spare. I wonder how much it costs to maintain a division of soldiers for a day...


Smiling, he said, "That's great! I was just getting worried about the security here during the absence of our garrison. With your division stationed here, I'm relieved. But Lord Count, the financial situation here at Jillin Harbor is a little tight nowadays, so I'm not sure if it can sustain a whole division of soldiers. Is it possible for you to decrease the number of soldiers you station here?"


Lorist shook his head and smiled before saying, "There's no need to worry, Lord Baron. All you have to provide is the food that you usually give to the three thousand garrison soldiers. The House Norton will take care of the additional expenses. Actually, I have another reason for bringing a division of soldiers with me. I've heard that there are a lot of refugees within the kingdom's borders. We are trying to recruit some to help develop The Northlands' wastelands. It will also lessen the kingdom's burden to feed them."


Fenston said with a respectfully, "Lord Count, you are far too magnanimous and benevolent. To think that you are willing to provide a means of living for the poor refugees... You are truly the prime example of what a noble of the kingdom should be. Alright. I will now draft the necessary paperwork to let your house take charge of the security here at Jillin Harbor."


Since Baron Fenston was being so cooperative, Lorist nodded and said, "Lord Baron, if you have anything you might need us to help you with in future, please don't hesitate to look out for us. We will definitely aid you in any way we can. This is the pledge of I, Norton Lorist."


"Thank you!" said Baron Fenston with a genuine look of gratitude.


And so, on the 3rd day of the 7th month, Jillin Harbor fell under the jurisdiction of Firmrock Legion of the Norton house.