Charade rushed into Lorist's room with a folder in his arms.

“What's going on?" Lorist asked, raising his head.

Charade laughed bitterly.

"There was an incident while the Firmrock legion was practicing their landings. One of the rafts flipped over. Only 7 of the 25 onboard at the time survived."

Firmrock was the main force of the house’s invasion of Madras. Their camp had been moved to Whitestone Beach in the middle of the passage near Bladedge Mountains, the beach the four families lf Wildnorth Town had used as a part of their smuggling route. Reaching Sidgler province from the beach only took six short hours. Lorist had scheduled the invasion two months from now. Firmrock would be aided by the Oceanic Legion. No one had expected an accident, especially not one of this nature.

"How did it happen?"

"According to Potterfang, the rafts we’re using are designed to be lifeboats, not landing craft. The soldiers can’t control them well and they flip quite easily in a swell or strong breeze. The soldiers are also fully kitted – they are very heavy. They sink straight down once they’re in the water, even with a lofe-log. Firmrock just submitted a request for the improvement of the deployment rafts and equipment for emergency situations at sea," said Charade as he took out a beastskin document and handed it to Lorist.

Lorist stood up, his face dark.

This is due to my carelessness. When I came up with the plan, I didn't think the deployment through properly enough. The lifeboats we're using are far too bad at resisting the waves and winds.

It would be fine if those using them were sailors who knew how to swim and were also trained to preserve their lives as best as they could at sea. But most of the soldiers being deployed by ship didn’t know how to swim. Coupled with their full load of armor and weapons, they would be no different from iron blocks should the raft flip. Even though it was but a small accident, the lives of 18 household soldiers had been lost just like that. The wooden planks they used as floats that would be thrown to an overboard man were not of much use either, given the soldiers’ weight.

Lorist took up his quill and began drawing a few sketches of life jackets and some circular floats.

"Send these drawings to the metal refinery and have Supervisor Camorra make them. Stuff the jackets with small pieces of wood. As for these circular floats, they will be made out of wood and put around one's waist to keep one afloat."

With life jackets and waist floats, drowning was no longer an urgent concern.

What should I do about the landing craft? Adding a keel will help with the tipping but the raft will sit deeper in the water? So it won’t be able to get as close to shore...

Given that the time the soldiers would be deployed was around the end of the 12th month, the chilling weather made it so that no one would be able to resist the low temperatures of the water which might leave traumatizing injuries.

Wait, if I can't add a keel to the bottom of the raft, I can add more planks at the side. Not only would that increase the surface area of the raft to aid with buoyancy, allowing more weight to be carried, the weight would also be more evenly distributed. That's it! thought Lorist as inspiration flashed across his mind.

He began drawing a flat-bottomed landing craft that had three long poles laid horizontally on the boat, with each side having large planks that made contact with the surface of the water. The spaces between the three sticks would allow for the boat to be rowed forward without interference.

"Alright, this will do. These three horizontal poles will not be fixed in place to allow the boat to approach the shores more effectively. First, we'll deploy the boat as it is, install the three horizontal poles and load our soldiers on board. This will help reduce the chances of the boat from flipping over. I'll need you to have someone from the shipyard at Bullhorn Bay construct a few prototypes for Potterfang to test. Send some worksmiths over as well so we can change the design as needed," said Lorist as he handed Charade the blueprints.

Charade nodded and took out another file from his folder.

“Milord, this is a report from the Jaeger Legion. Josk and Yuriy have picked 28 thousand members from the various legions and garrisons and formed the legion’s first division, numbering five brigades of three thousand men, further divided into four regiments. There are also a carroballista regiment and a logistics regiment that have five thousand horses, 100 carroballistae and 100 four-wheeled cargo carriages. The second division is still under construction. So far, they're still recruiting members from the dominion."

"Oh?" Lorist mused, "Why does the Hunter Rider Legion need carroballistae? Shouldn't they focus only on swift attacks and retreats? Wouldn't carroballistae slow them down instead?"

Charade looked at the file and said, "Milord, Josk says that it's for the protection of his logistics unit from being attacked by enemy troops when the main unit is out for assault. That way, their horses and supplies would be safely guarded. Should they lose their supplies, the whole legion would crumble from having nothing to feed the horses with."

Lorist gave it some thought and nodded.

"Alright. Since Josk and Yuriy are in charge of the Jaeger Legion, I trust their judgment. They may have Supervisor Camorra send them the carroballistae they need."

"There's one more thing. Josk and Yuriy both submitted a request yesterday, asking for us to confirm the ranged weapons and other equipment they will use for their legion so that they can begin training to raise their mastery to increase combat ability. They think the current equipment of the household soldiers aren't suitable for use for the legion. They hope the house will provide even stronger armor."

"I already know that without needing them to tell me. This afternoon, Grandmaster Sid and Grandmaster Fellin will bring the aforementioned items here. You should stay back and check them out too. I've already had Els send for Josk and Yuriy," Lorist said, "Is there anything else?"

Charade brought out yet another document and said, "Milord, this is the report Supervisor Spiel submitted. During the past two years, the house has been spending money like water. We've already reorganized 20 local defense brigades in the previous year, costing us almost three million gold Fordes. Not only that, the transportation of the liberated slaves to The Northlands for the development of Greatriver is estimated to cost a million. Coupled with the cost of other miscellaneous spendings, the house is over budget by almost five million gold Fordes.

"Even though we'll be able to earn that amount in our deal with Duke Fisablen, the research funds of one million gold Fordes each you intend to allocate to Grandmaster Sid and the gunpowder lab, the two million gold Fordes you've used to purchase warships for the Oceanic Legion, as well as the cost of giving away daily necessities, buying military supplies, and the payment of pensions all amount to one million gold Fordes. We've already spent most of what we earned from the arms deal.

"And now, we're trying to form a whole new legion which will cost us at least three million. Your preparations to attack Madras will easily cost us a million as well. And don't forget the relocation of House Kenmays which will also cost a million gold. The various costs you have to bear for launching Dawn Academy at The Northlands will also cost quite a significant amount, making us over budget by six million gold Fordes this year.

"Supervisor Spiel wrote this report to caution us on our spending. Even if the extermination of Hanayabarta netted us a staggering 27 million gold Fordes, our treasury will run dry if you keep spending like this, Milord."

Lorist laughed like it was the most natural thing to do.

"Supervisor Spiel's always like this. He can't help but stuff the treasury full with gold coins. I'm sure you know that gold coins won't reproduce in our treasuries. If you take inflation into account, one cow that costs five gold Fordes this year will cost seven to eight in a few years. Only by reintroducing the gold coins into the market can we gain even more of them. Even though my recent spending is huge, that doesn't mean it’s done recklessly. These are all investments to solidify the foundation of the house's future."

Charade made a bitter smile.

"Milord, this is 27 million gold Fordes we're talking about. While I can agree with what you said about investment, I feel the investments we make won't pay off until the time of our grandchildren. If we didn't form a new legion and sink funds into military conflicts, our income during the past two years is actually rather good. If we're savvy, we'll have a net profit of a few hundred thousand gold Fordes.

"Additionally, the house's policy is to enrich the commoners. We've already completed development on Felicitas, Salus, Redriver Valley and Northsea, but we're only charging 40 percent in taxes, 30 for the household of garrison soldiers, and 20 for our household soldiers and officials' families, while only ten for the households of our knights. Even though some of the tax collected remains after paying off the administrative costs, it doesn't help at all with the spending of our military.

"So far, our military spending is dependent on the business of the factories the house helped launched as well as the profits we gain from selling daily necessities to the territories of House Fisablen and the Iblia kingdom through the salt merchant committee. But if House Fisablen really establishes a trade route to the four central duchies, their purchases from the salt merchant committee will no doubt decrease. Should that ever happen, our military expenditure will be nothing but an unnecessary burden.

"Milord, Supervisor Spiel has suggested that the house raise the tax rate by ten percent across the board and increase our shares of the factories and shops our house helped open from 30 to 50 percent. As for the smaller stalls and shops that we only collect ten percent of earnings from, we'll raise it to 30 percent. Compared to the other nobles who take 60 to 70 percent, we're still far better off. Not only that, we'll be able to collect an estimated additional 300 thousand gold Fordes from doing so which can sustain a little more than half of our military expenditure."

Lorist shook his head.

"Raising taxes is one of the dumbest things we can do. There are many ways we can get the common folk to give us the coin in their pockets. Just leave Supervisor Spiel's report over here, I will write him a reply when I'm free. While I am thankful for his consideration and contributions to the house, I can't use his suggestion at all because that would sway the loyalty and trust our subjects have in us."

"Alright then. I will sort out the things you want done. See you later in the afternoon," said Charade before he left.


At noon, Lorist shared lunch with the pregnant Dilianna. She had already been pregnant for six months, so her stomach was visibly swollen. A herbalist, who came over to check on her, said she could be bearing twins and required more nutrients, so the young aunt of the Dinas had grown quite puffy in recent days, almost twice the size she used to be. Apart from her change in figure, she also craved sleep frequently. Right after finishing lunch, she yawned and made her way to her room for more shuteye.

As for Arriotoli, who had just recently broken through to the silver rank, she had dragged her younger sister with her excitedly to Nico Academy to visit her younger brother. A knighting ceremony of the Dina house would also be carried out there to make Arriotoli a knight of the house, as well as the leader of the house in her brother's stead. Only when her brother reaches the age of 18 would the position of leader be handed to him. The two Dina sisters wouldn't return to Firmrock Castle anytime soon.

Lorist also took a short nap after the meal. He went to his study thereafter. One hour later, he received a report from Howard that grandmasters Sid and Fellin had arrived by carriage. Not only that, Josk and Yuriy have been waiting for quite a while at the guest's hall.

"Have them come up to the meeting room on the third floor. There's a courtyard over there near the rear mountain, so if the grandmasters brought over some long-ranged weapons, that would be the ideal place to test them out for Josk and Yuriy to see. Get Charade to come over as well," said Lorist.

"Understood, Milord."

It didn't take long for all of them to gather at the meeting room. The two grandmasters had brought with them three huge boxes this time around, the first of which contains a mesh and chain hybrid mail that was unlike any currently worn by Norton soldiers. The helmet accompanying that set was made in the shape of a conical hat, much like a round, point-tipped shield.

Grandmaster Sid began his introduction, "Milord, this set of armor is designed per your requirements for the armor of the Hunter Rider Legion to be light and tough along with the suggestions I gathered from many light cavalry scouts about how their armor can be improved. As our house's new unit will mainly be pit against Duke Fisablen's cavalry troops, who use the armor we designed, the armor we designed for our Hunter Rider Legion is a modified version of the one they use. Not only is it lighter and more agile than armor set 103 bought by the Fisablens, it is also far tougher.

"The main method of attack used by the duke's cavalry is mid-ranged weapons. Their troops would frequently dismount when their enemy is a hundred meters away to fire three subsequent volleys of longbow fire before mounting and leaving once more. They also use mangonels with an effective range of 50 meters, and use javelins or throwing axes when they are even closer to their enemy. That's why, the Hunter Rider Legion must mainly be protected from the ranged attacks of the duke's cavalry instead of charging attacks like our own.

"The most effective type of armor against ranged attacks is this chainmail. We made the individual linked chains with steel wire meshes, allowing for greater defense against ranged attacks when compared to plate armor. That's especially the case with the conical helmets that will render longbow attacks useless once tilted at an angle. It can also be used as a shield for close-range encounters. A layer of magic bull leather armor will be worn over the wire-chain mail that will increase the defense slightly and also serve as a windbreaker to keep warm.

"Not only that, we also embedded the steel wire mesh into the armor of the mounts to give better protection for them from attacks from the front. The whole armor set, including the armor of the mount, weighs in at 80 percent of the weight of armor set 103 and is definitely more heavy duty as well. We also made improvements to the saddles and stirrups of the mounts so that they'll last longer and control easier compared to the older version."

"Very nice," Lorist praised, "Thank you for your efforts, Grandmaster Sid, Grandmaster Fellin. I am very satisfied with how thorough you've been when designing this new armor set. What I worry about is whether the production can keep up with our demands."

Grandmaster Sid, elated to receive Lorist's praise, said, "Of course, Milord. The production of steel wire can already be automated by our watermill machines. I've also designed a machine that can easily cut the wire into set lengths and roll them up. The only part that still requires human hands is the weaving of the armor. The estimated rate of production is a thousand sets per day."

"Good, then it's decided that the Hunter Rider Legion will be using this armor set. I will instruct Supervisor Camorra to arrange the necessary manpower for the formation of the legion. On another note, Sid, I'd like to ask you whether you've finished designing a ranged weapon for our soldiers of the new legion? I hope that the Hunter Rider Legion will have an advantage in terms of ranged weapons against the duke's cavalry troops to stand a better chance in battle," said Lorist.

"Hehe, Milord, please witness the culmination of Grandmaster Fellin's and my effort!" announced Grandmaster Sid as he opened the second large box and took out an oddly-shaped crossbow.

"Milord, this is the compact crossbow! The most cutting-edge ranged weapon yet!"