Here's this week's third release. Enjoy the read!

Nobody could imagine that the 30 thousand folks of Wildnorth Town actually paid close to 200 thousand gold Fordes in deposits alone. Not only would it cover the costs of renovating the whole residential area, it would also be enough for a public square, fountain, park, roads, sewage, and defense facilities, much to Spiel's elation.

The costs of manpower and materials would no longer be a burden as half of the profits filling up the treasuries of the house. If Wildnorth Town's renovation alone netted them close to 300 thousand gold Fordes, then the 15 towns across Felicitas and Salus would probably enrich the house by another 4.5 million.

The one in charge of the town renovation projects, Kedan, however, didn't look too optimistic. After some detailed investigation, he penned a report that stated that the expansion of Wildnorth Town would increase its area over two fold and encompass the three villages surrounding it. The population would also grow from 10 thousand to 30 thousand. He suggested it be named a city instead.

The peace the town had experienced over the past decade had allowed its population to grow considerably. Each family had an average of two to three children and, thanks to the house's initiative for small business and factories in the town, the youths from the villages could easily find jobs there. Kedan suggested the 13 villages around Wildnorth Town be fused into seven, with the leftover farmland reorganized into farm units, accompanied by the construction of town-like residential areas for the folk.

The commoners of Felicitas were also rather rich. The apartment units in four-story buildings, thought to be in the highest demand, selling for 20 plus gold Fordes each, didn't do as well as the house had hoped. Instead, too few three-story, sloped-roof houses with attics built near a small park were planned, unable to meet the unexpected demand. Each of the houses cost at least 60 gold Fordes and there were 960 planned. Two hundred and forty would be grouped into a neighbourhood; four neighborhoods made a borough. The houses were bought out almost immediately. So, Grandmaster Ciroba changed his plans and designed three other boroughs to satisfy the demand. However, the four boroughs combined occupied two times the land of the current Wildnorth Town.

Kedan believed the fact that many households in Felicitas had family members who served in the military and the benefits they enjoyed as a result of that, such as the annual income of more than ten gold Fordes per house and the decreased taxes, was the main driving factors of their ability to purchase houses. Some households even bought two houses for their children to use when they formed their own families. As for the rich commoners that ran successful factories and business, they even purchased all of the units in the 'wealthy boroughs' situated right opposite the commercial district.

Lorist adopted Kedan's suggestion but refused to name the town a city. On Grindia, a city represented a settlement that had a population over 50 thousand and had complete administrative and public facilities. Wildnorth Town's continued development would only cause it to have around 30 thousand citizens, Lorist didn't think it would grow further. In fact, he felt it might lose some of its inhabitants.

The whole of The Northlands would soon become House Norton's dominion, and, as Charade had said, seven more settlements like Felicitas could still be built. The neighboring area would also be in the house's sphere of influence. Lorist didn't think many refugees would settle down in The Northlands. The Northlands had always had a lot of land compared to citizens, and Lorist didn't think it'd change anytime soon.

Having finished his administrative duties, Lorist traveled straight to the eastern part of The Northlands. The new Jaeger Legion was training there. Josk and Yuriy, the commanders-to-be of the legion, came over to receive him. When Lorist asked about the current combat strength of the legion, Josk explained that, so far, only one division of 15 thousand men stood a fighting chance against Duke Fisablen's Frontier Legion. The remaining three divisions still required a lot of training before they were battle ready. Josk and Yuriy had already decided they would resume training in the winter so the 2nd Jaeger Division would be ready for deployment in the coming spring.

Lorist expressed his satisfaction. Lately, since leaving The Northlands was forbidden, there was no way House Fisablen could know that Lorist had formed yet another light cavalry legion. It meant that when Tigersoar and Firmrock attacked the Iblia kingdom the following year and clashed with the Fisablen forces in Southern and Winston, Jaeger would be able to deal a fatal blow from the rear, catching them off guard and driving them all the way through Wild Husbandry. It would force the Fisablens to retreat to Eastwild to protect the greater and lesser golden creeks and surrender the initiative to the Nortons.

After leaving Jaegar, Lorist went to check on Tigersoar and Firmrock. The two had just returned to The Northlands. During their rampage to the imperial capital, Tigersoar played a pivotal part and rushed through one territory after another. Firmrock, on the other hand, came from the seas to assault Madras. The two's reputations soared almost instantly. The main focus was their relatively low casualty rates. After returning to The Northlands, the two legions rested in preparation to serve as the main force for the next year's campaign.

All the household knights were rather excited, apart from Ovidis, who seemed rather down. Lorist knew what he was worried about. When Tigersoar was on its way back, Lorist ordered 150 of the remaining catapults given to House Kenmays, 120 to House Felim, and 100 to House Shazin. The remaining 50 were left to Kobo's garrison.

All that remained of Thunderbolt Brigade were its members. Not a single catapult returned. He didn't understand why Lorist would just give the catapults away, even if the recipients were their allies. Those were the house's secret weapons! Their campaign across the empire was a testament to the might of the contraptions. The citadels that barred their way were unable to withstand the rocky barrages and fell one after another. Had it not been for the catapults, who knew how many would have had to be sacrificed to occupy the citadels.

Lorist patted lightly on Ovidis's shoulders.

"Didn't you notice that your catapults' firing range was getting shorter and shorter?"

"Yes, Your Grace," Ovidis nodded, "I noticed the catapults' original range of 400 meters decreased to around 300 or so by the time we fought the royal defense legion. I thought it was because of the irregular shapes of the rocks."

Lorist shook his head.

"No, the problem lies with the catapults themselves. As they rely on the compressed steel springs to fire, it's only natural they'd wear down over time. Grandmaster Julian had tested them before and learned that the springs would wear out after around a thousand shots. The contortions are hard to spot with the naked eye and can only be noticed under close scrutiny. As a result of the wear, the catapults' ranges are constantly decreasing.  Only replacing the springs will remedy the situation.

"Your Thunderbolt Brigade turned the tables of many battles and it's no doubt a great achievement on your part. We could've transported the catapults back and switched out the steel springs, but Baron Camorra, in charge of logistics, thinks changing to new ones would save more money. There's no need to be sentimental about the old catapults. Since our three allies have long expressed their interest, leaving the catapults with them and gaining their favor and funds was the best course of action. That's why I followed Baron Camorra's advice.

"You should go look for the baron. He's already prepared 500 new catapults for you. During next year's campaign, you'll be deployed defensively most of the time, though. You'll also, once again, leave the catapults behind when you're moved."

"Will we get replacement catapults then again?" asked Ovidis joyfully.

"No, I will give you an even better weapon. The catch is, you'll have to put in a lot of effort to familiarize yourself its operation. I promise you'll definitely fall in love with it after witnessing its might."

Lorist was referring to the bronze cannons he had originally intended to allocate to the various legions. He felt it was a little too difficult to arm so many units; the cost was just too high. Each shot cost a lot of money! While the catapults could use rocks in nearby areas as projectiles, the same couldn't be done with cannons. Each shot cost at least a few large silvers.

Not too long ago, grandmasters Sid, Fellin, and Julian were so moved by their entitlement that they dove straight back into their research. A little later, they sent Lorist a report and stated that a new bronze alloy would decrease the production cost of the cannons by a third and increase their durability as well. They were still testing the material, and should it ever work out, they could begin producing even more of them.

The cannons' construction, however, was relatively cheap compared to the costs of gunpowder and projectiles used. Even if Lorist desperately wanted the cost to produce gunpowder to decrease, he could only hope. Professor Balbo's gunpowder research lab had, so far, not yet found a replacement for saltpeter, so they could only be obtained laboriously using the regular way of scraping them off wall corners.

The new alloyed bronze cannon grandmasters Sid and Julian designed did have another redeeming point: its weight. It made them easier to transport. Lorist believed when Ovidis saw the cannons for himself, he would definitely ditch the catapults like a heartless man who found a hot new lover.

Ovidis, who was in a rush to meet Camorra, made a knight's salute before he left in a hurry. He seemed to recall something just as he was about to close the door behind him and stopped.

"Your Grace, I'm not sure if the commander has reported this to you... I don't know if I should bring it up."

"Feel free."

"Well, when the legion was at the imperial capital, didn't His Highness want a few catapults for himself? After he was refused, His Highness brought a few scholars and worksmiths to our camp to inspect them. As it was His Highness, it wasn't my place to stop him, but later, I was severely reprimanded by the legion commander. He said I shouldn't have let him into the camp. It was His Highness, though. I didn't dare to refuse! In the end, I took responsibility and submitted a report. I wonder if you've received it from the legion commander? I've been waiting for my punishment for a good while now."

Lorist laughed. Loze had indeed informed him of the matter earlier, but he hadn't submitted the report. Lorist didn't really mind, he had been prepared for the technology to leak the moment he deployed the brigade. It was only a matter of time; Grindia was rife with talented people who could reverse engineer the catapults. Just like a sleight of hand, once the illusion was understood, it would no longer be worth witnessing any longer.

While Ovidis was a crude man, one who had been a bandit at one point, he was a deserter before that and used to serve as a squad leader in the Krissen Empire's forces. Naturally, he had an innate fear of the imperial family and really couldn't find it in him to stop the second highness. Since his status was far from Loze's, he couldn't afford to not give the second highness any face.

"I already know. Even if they copy our design, they won't be able to make catapults like ours. They can't fabricate the steel springs we use. They won't be able to replicate them even if they had one in their possession. I forgive you this time, Ovidis. But I don't want to hear anything like this again. Don't forget that you're a knight of House Norton. You don't have to care about anybody not your commanding officer, not even a king. Besides, I didn't assign Thunderbolt Brigade to you because of your careful attention to detail, but your courage and work ethic," said Lorist calmly.

Ovidis's face flushed. He straightened his back and gazed directly at Lorist.

"There definitely won't be a next time, Your Grace! I promise!" replied he.

"Good. Remember it well. Now, go see Baron Camorra."

Lorist felt a little annoyed after sending Ovidis off.

That bastard was so shameless he even dared to send people to inspect my catapults... Even though he can't exactly make identical ones, the principle behind how they work isn't difficult to understand. It won't take long for counterfeits to start popping up... I guess battles in the future will definitely involve both sides throwing rocks at one another.

Just as he sat down to take a sip from his cup of tea, Tarkel rushed over.

"Your Grace, something bad just happened! Sir Reidy is being hunted down!" reported he.

Lorist raised his head ferociously.

"What? Wasn't Reidy traveling in the four central duchies? I thought he was heading to Morante next! What happened? Who are his pursuers?" exclaimed he.

"Sir Reidy was there when we were setting up our information network, so I asked him to kill a few pests in our way. He was eventually confronted by a messenger from Duke Fisablen in Handra who accused him of being a spy. In a fit of rage, Sir Reidy killed the man.

"Now, he's wanted by the four central duchies and being pursued as we speak. Sir Reidy killed a good number of their gold-ranked knights, so the four central duchies sent two rank 1 blademasters after him. Duke Fisablen also sent Blademaster Xanthi to seek revenge for their messenger. Right now, our informants aren't able to interfere. All we know is that he was last seen near Egret Lake."

"Blademaster Xanthi?! Hmph!" Lorist spat before he stood up angrily, "Prepare my horse! I will find Reidy!"