This release is to make up for the missed release of last week. Enjoy the read and see you next week!



"This trip will take another thirty minutes, Milord. There is a small stream up ahead, and after crossing it, we'll arrive at the valley of Wolf Mountain. That's where the barony of House Dina is located. There is a small hill in the valley on which their castle is built, their village is right next to it," reported Kumod.

He was the one who had come to the barony last time, along with Els.

"Let's go. We'll get some nice food and rest when we arrive. Curse this weather... To think it'd rain out of nowhere like that... Be careful, the road will be slippery," replied Lorist.

The 7th month's weather was usually rainy and stormy. Lorist had just experienced a very quick shift in the weather. It left half his guards dripping wet before they even had time to put on their raincoats. By the time they got them on them on, the rain had stopped.

The mountain path was wide but the rain had left it muddy. The horse's hooves were caked yellow with mud and they were unable to go any faster than a steady walk. The two carriages' wheels dug deep into the mud and brought quite a bit back up with them, at times it was hard to distinguish wheel from mud.

Lorist was on this trip to bring the girls and their young aunt away. When he had attended the Paradise Gathering the previous year, he had gotten to know a girl called Dina Arriotoli and her aunt, known only by her alias: Chessy. They had spent a fulfilling night together and the girl had said that she fancied Lorist quite a lot. She even promised she would no longer attend the gathering, but wait for Lorist for three years. If Lorist was willing to take her hand in marriage, she would wed him along with her younger sister.

In the previous year, Lorist had Els pay them a visit on his behalf and sent over a thousand gold Fordes with a bunch of other gifts. When Els returned, he reported that the girl was incredibly down after learning of Lorist's true identity. Given that she and her sister were of low status, they were not fit to be Lorist's wives. She originally thought that Lorist was just a knight, which she and her sister could marry without problems. If 'knight' Lorist tried hard enough, he might even be titled a baron.

Lorist did not wish to force them to come with him. Andinaq was in a dark situation, however, and their dominion was near the northwestern area of Redlis.The moment the second highness's forces were defeated, the northwestern area of Redlis would fall under the Union's control. If the Union sent their forces over, House Dina and its barony would be one of the first to fall. Lorist did not wish for the girl and her family to fall into the hands of the Unions mercenaries. The possibility was not something he was willing to ignore.

Upon exiting the forest, he was greeted with a large and gentle valley. At the foot of the mountains were some farmland. There was a small hill in the distance on which stood a small castle beside a village surrounded by a tall wooden palisade. It was the Dina's barony.

"Milord, it seems the barony is under attack," interjected Reidy, holding up a telescope as he did so.

"Oh?" mused Lorist. 

He took the telescope and looked as well. It was indeed so. A few knights were visible on the empty ground in front of the castle. A petite girl wearing yellowish-copper armor stood on top of the castle's small walls wielding a longsword heroically. Her posture and motion made it seem she was cursing at the knights below.

"Pfft!"

Lorist tried to stifle his laughter when he recognized the girl. She was Dina Arriotoli. He had not thought she was the kind to go on the battlefield herself. The main issue was her physique, it made her look a little awkward wielding a 1.4-meter longsword.

"Milord, it seems it's a skirmish among the local nobles. The troops at the camp over there are less than 500. Some are even armed with nothing but wooden sticks. They look like children playing a wargame," pointed Reidy as he continued to observe with the telescope.

Lorist turned back to look and saw the 200 or so guards he had brought with him, all of whom were mounted and lightly-armed.

"Reidy, take the guards with you and give them a hand. Crush their campsite and capture a few horsemen. Also, tell the troops not to kill them outright. Those poor farmers were only forced to fight by their lords. Try to catch them alive if you can," instructed Lorist.

He did not have the slightest interest in meddling personally.

"Understood, Milord," acknowledged Reidy before he barked a few simple orders.

The guards cleaned the horses' hooves, adjusted their armor, and waited for the order to charge after mounting once more.

Reidy waved his hand and the guards began moving at a trot. The distance was still rather great, so there was no point in starting a charge already. If they charged right away, they would be tired by the time they reached the camp. As the group advanced, a few orders from some company leaders saw the 200-odd cavalrymen split into four 50-man units. When there were only 300 meters between the guards and the camp, Reidy appeared at the front, gave a loud cry, and charged.

The people within the camp had already noticed the oncoming horsemen. The girl on the castle walls also revealed a look of shock. The knights who were beneath the castle walls turned back to the camp hurriedly, raising their arms and shouting at the top of their lungs.

The camp's construction was far too flimsy. It didn't even have a trench around it. Reidy tightened his legs around his mount, it leaped upwards over a meter-tall wooden fence, before he gave his greatsword a swing. He used the flat of his blade to stun a huge soldier who was merely standing there in befuddlement. The man collapsed. The man should have thanked Reidy for lightly swatting him away. Otherwise, he would have been crushed by Reidy's steed.

The skirmish concluded soon after the guards stormed into the camp. The knights didn't even make Reidy break a sweat; they all collapsed with a single strike. Even though he wielded his greatsword with only one arm, it easily weighed two times what a normal two-handed greatsword would weigh. Thanks to Reidy's unnatural strength, he was able to use such a heavy sword as deftly as he would a delicate needle.

After the horsemen fell, the farmers in the camp surrendered nearly instantaneously. There were ten-odd fellows equipped with leather armor and armed with shield and sword who cast their weapons away the moment they saw what happened before raising both their hands in submission, obediently following the guards' instructions.

The girl on the walls began cheering out loud. She probably realized the guards were on her side. Perhaps, she knew that their armor was that of House Norton, given that Els had gone there once the year before. The girl soon vanished from the walls and was probably preparing to lower the drawbridge.

When Lorist arrived at the camp with ten-odd guards and two four-wheeled carriages, the drawbridge had already been lowered. The girl walked out of the castle with six armed guards. She was currently talking to Reidy, who was keeping watch on his mounted captives.

One of the kneeling captives cursed them as cowards for using a sneak attack without a formal declaration of war and berated Reidy for not having any chivalric spirit. Before Reidy could retort, the girl had already pointed her fingers and started cursing the man. Her guards reacted immediately and began pummelling the old knight. The girl did not fail to sneak in a few kicks at her leisure.

Lorist watched it all happen with a face full of cold sweat. He had not once imagined that the soft and gentle girl he had once caressed and embraced would be so brash. Lorist rode forward and leaped off his horse before smiling at the girl.

"Should I call you Daisy or Arriotolli?"

The girl wore a stupefied expression before her eyes reddened. She tossed her two-handed greatsword to the side and began pummeling away at Lorist's chest with her fists.

"So, after all this time, you finally thought to come and see us. You big meanie..."

Lorist chuckled as he caught her fist.

"Apologies, I have been far too busy lately and haven't had the time. That's why I sent my subordinates here to see you last year. Haven't I come to see you now, the moment I finally have some time for myself?" asked he.

The girl looked like she was about to say something, but pouted instead

"You liar, you told me you were a knight. Your subordinate told me that you're actually a count. Why did you even bother to come?"

"Well, I couldn't help myself, since a certain foolish lass said she would wait for me for three years. I just couldn't stop myself from worrying, so I'm here to take you away," said Lorist as he stroked the girl's long, brown hair.

"Hmph," the girl mumbled as she jerked her head to avoid Lorist's hand, "You are a great and mighty count. I'm merely the sibling of a baron. I must be no different from a village girl in your eyes. And there's no way you'll be able to take us as your formal wives, so why bother coming for us? Do you want us to be your concubines? I will never agree to it."

Lorist only looked at her with a smile, "Alright, stop fussing. Let's deal with the mess facing us right now first. What's going on here? Who are they and why are they attacking your castle?"

The matter was cleared up soon enough. The barony actually only occupied half of the valley. The other half was controlled by the old man kneeling not too far away, Baron Andrew. When the second highness launched his campaign against the Redlis kingdom, the two sons of Baron Andrew had joined the second highness's army. His older son Pulist was one of the many involved in the occupation of Frederika. While he was fortunate enough to survive crossing the Cloudsnap Mountains, he was only half alive when they arrived. After the successful occupation, the second highness made the noblemen that made contributions knights of the royal family.

When the soldiers at Kanbona surrendered to the second highness, the newly-appointed knight of the royal family was brought back home by his brother so he could recover. So he managed to avoid being trapped with the second highness in Redlis. After half a year, his injuries had mostly recovered.The two brothers were terrified of the second highness's ambitions and no longer felt like returning to his side. So, they holed up in their homes with the excuse of recovering from their injuries.

The Dina barony and the Andrew barony was relatively similar in size, and both houses were 'fallen' nobles whose prime had long passed. The two houses used to have a mutually-beneficial relationship. But since the older son of Baron Andrew had become a royal knight, he felt that he had more of a backing and started to get more ambitious. He starting to eye the Dina barony for himself.

The old man came up with a most splendid plan, he would form a marriage alliance with the Dina barony. He had two sons and the Dinas two daughters. His wife had also passed away recently, so he was the perfect match for their widowed aunt. A triple marriage to seal the alliance was completely possible. As for the ten-year-old Dina heir, he could take him as his own adopted son. That way, he would have the Dina barony for himself.

However, the moment the old man proposed the idea, his dreams were shattered in the most amazing fashion. The current temporary head of the Dina barony, Arriotoli, cursed the old man so harshly that he almost suffered a heart attack. Baron Andrew had never seen anyone scold someone with such fervor. With the two baronies interacting over the years and given Arriotoli's excellent memory, she managed to recite each and every one of the old baron's past shameful mistakes and used them as ammunition for her rebuke. The old man had never felt so humiliated in his life, especially since they were in full view of the peasant farmers when the scolding happened. The grudge formed that day was not one that would go unpaid.

The angered old baron rallied up around 500 farmers the moment he went back and declared war against House Dina. Baron Andrew himself had twelve garrison soldiers while the Dinas only had eight. Baron Andrew was a two-star iron rank, his older son was a one-star silver royal knight, and his younger son was a three-star iron rank. House Dina, on the other hand, had a two-star silver household knight, who had also been the late baron's personal bodyguard, and Arriotoli herself who was a one-star iron rank. Both sides were of roughly equal strength.

In terms of numbers, however, Baron Andrew had the advantage. The farmers and refugees he recruited as well as the servants numbered over 400 people, whereas the Dina barony only had around 200 male and female youths, half of what the enemy was capable of fielding. But they did have the protection of the castle, so both sides were tied again.

That conflict had already been ongoing for a month and seven days with casualties on both sides... only numbering less than ten injured. Not even a single one had died. The unluckiest casualty was none other than Knight Pulist, who had suffered two broken ribs as a result of being stepped on by his mount. The main method employed in the siege was none other than trash talking. Baron Andrew and his two sons shouted at the top of their lungs at the walls, with Arriotoli shouting back. Basically, the insults boiled down to 'come down if you dare' for the Andrews and 'come up if you dare' for the Dinas.

It was no wonder all that seemed like child's play to Reidy.

"How do you think we should deal with them, Arri? Let's just have them hanged, alright?" said Lorist with displeasure, feeling more than willing to kill off the enemy that annoyed him.

The three captives were horrified at having the fate of their lives so casually decided, even though they were supposed to be exalted nobles of a mighty kingdom. In territorial conflicts between nobles, captive ones were not supposed to be killed, only held prisoner until their ransom was paid.

"I... I'm a knight of the royal family... The kn-knight of the king himself... You... You wouldn't dare to kill me..." said the puffy-faced Pulist.

"Oh, a mere knight of the royal family. I once attended a banquet and killed a viscount in front of the second highness himself. After that, the elder brother count of that viscount I killed brought ten thousand men seeking me for revenge, all of whom were killed by me, of course. I supposed there were a number of royal knights among those I killed, but I didn't keep count back then. Even so, the second highness didn't do anything to me," said Lorist without batting an eye.

"Yo-you're Count Norton? T-the Raging Bear of The Northlands..." mumbled Pulist with a pale look. The incident concerning the Aslan brothers was taboo which no one dared mention in front of the king. However, the grapevine in the army was rather far-reaching. With Pulist having served under the second highness once, he had heard of many retellings of the incident concerning Lorist and the two brothers.

"Arri, please spare us. Remember when we were young? You were our boss lady," begged Pulist. The moment he recognized Lorist, he changed his attitude right away.

"Eww, don't bring something so far back up again. And weren't the three of you boasting that you'll make me your wife?" humphed the girl with dissatisfaction.

"But Arri, I really like you for real. It was you who didn't consider us brothers seriously. That's why we agreed to help our father out with his ambitions. After all, if we succeeded, I would satisfy my own desires as well," said Pulist in a frustrated tone.

The girl seemed to be in deep thought before she regained her cheerful demeanor. Raising her head, she told Lorist, "Whatever, let them go. It's pointless to go further than this anyway."

Lorist waved his hand and a few guards returned the weapons and mounts to the three men. Actually, even the guards did not crave the stuff that they just returned, given their impressive loadouts.

"Arri, will we never be able to meet again?" Pulist said as he stopped and turned back after walking a few steps with his horse.

The girl did not bother with him and headed into the castle, clutching Lorist's arm.