It's finally Chinese New Year, guys! There won't be a change to the number of releases, but be ready for unexpected delays here and there. Do any of you have special angpow for me? *stares expectantly*

Five days later, House Fisablen's light cavalry scouts bumped into the alliance's vanguard. The 100-man squad belonging to Third Frontier were attacked by a light cavalry unit that had the same numbers. Third Frontier retreated immediately, leaving 37 corpses behind. During the short skirmish, no more than 10 minutes, the Northlanders scored 37 kills for 13 casualties. This was recorded as the first of many battles in Southern by later historians.

The information Duke Fisablen managed to gather from the survivors revealed the attack wasn't carried out on a whim. Instead, it was a planned and prepared step to conquering Iblia. The Fisablen guards that escaped Windbury said they discovered three legions bearing the Norton banner and a knight brigade. There was another legion with the Pegasus banner.

The Nortons had mobilized Firmrock, Tigersoar, a local defense legion and Ragebear. The Felims sent Pegasus along. The move caused the duke much stress and worry. House Norton had already sent its entire main force to Winston. Were they trying to fight House Fisablen's forces to death? Or, had Lorist received orders to conquer the four central duchies right after conquering Iblia?

If it were the latter, the duke didn't mind keeping low and letting the duchies duke it out with the alliance. In fact, he would be secretly glad. The grudge the second highness held was common knowledge, and it wouldn't be surprising for him to order the four houses, who were loyal to him, to attack the four central duchies, after all. House Fisablen could most definitely wait until both sides were worn thin before it deployed its forces and claimed the spoils of defeating Lorist and the alliance.

However, his hopes was shattered completely two days later when a few riders delivered two pieces of bad news. First, the citadel at Pedro, the only place to cross from Winston to Wild Husbandry and vice versa at the Pisper Mountains, had been breached by Tigersoar. Only two thousand of the ten thousand-man division of Fourth Frontier managed to escape alive. The second piece of bad news was: Wild Husbandry had been attacked by the Nortons' light cavalry. Their casualties were horrible and up to twenty thousand citizens had been forcefully relocated to The Northlands. Fourth Frontier's commander, Gold-ranked Knight Bakri, was ambushed when he was leading his division in pursuit and perished on the battlefield from three arrows.

So far, only 28 thousand men remained in Fourth Frontier. After the vice-commander, Knight Benlyse, reported everything to Duke Fisablen, he requested reinforcements. As they had to defend the commoners' settlements, Fourth Frontier was at a disadvantage when they faced House Norton's Jaeger. Conflict broke out in Wild Husbandry and Jaeger was roaming freely in the province and moving droves of citizens, livestock, and horses to The Northlands. House Fisablen's losses were huge.

The duke smashed the golden cup in his hand on the ground in fury.

There's no need to wonder anymore. Lorist's campaign is definitely directed at House Fisablen! It was nonsense to think the four houses were loyal to the second highness. It's obvious they will only deal with the duchies after House Fisablen is no longer a threat to them! This is a war for the house's survival!

He knew, however, he couldn't afford to be distracted. During the past two days, House Felim's Pegasus had arrived in Southern. As a light cavalry legion, they were engaged in all out war with Third Frontier. There were more than ten skirmishes on a daily basis. It appeared, from the reports, Pegasus' light cavalry scouts had an obvious advantage. The northern part of Southern was slowly being taken by Pegasus and Third Frontier was unable to breach their defense lines.

The duke was being held back in Southern. He was most concerned about the Ragebear Knights. They had mysteriously stopped all advance the moment they arrived at Sehak near the border between Southern and Winston.

What's going on? Shouldn't they be forcing Third Frontier back to their camp by launching a coordinated attack?

Fifth Frontier would arrive in another two days, so Duke Fisablen would have a total of two legions under his command, approximately 70 thousand men. However, the duke really doubted the capability of Fifth Frontier. From the reports sent over by Third Frontier soldiers, Pegasus wasn't much stronger than Third Frontier. In fact, they paled in comparison when it came to courage and hardiness. However, they had an edge in terms of equipment. If a soldier of Third Frontier got cut with a sword, his guts would spill out, followed shortly after by death. However, the soldiers of Pegasus would suffer just some damage to their armor. While they might end up gravely injured, it wouldn't be fatal. It reminded the duke of what Lorist had said about how one copper coin could only buy goods worth one copper. The equipment House Fisablen bought from the Nortons were the cheapest ones.

If the Ragebear Knights attacked Third Frontier's camp, he was confident his defensive arrangements would be able to fend them off and inflict huge casualties. Even though Ragebear Knights were heavy-armored cavalry that far exceeded Third Frontier in terms of both attack and defense, attacking a fortified camp was another story. He had his own method of dealing with those walking tin cans.

He wasn't surprised that Ragebear Knights were the Norton unit to arrive at Southern. He had paid great attention to their troops since for some time now. Firmrock was comprised mainly of heavy-armored infantry and it would take more time to arrive. Tigersoar was a spear cavalry unit somewhere between light and heavy cavalry and would remain at Pedro for the time being. The local defense legion was a defensive unit only sent to Winston to take over the defense of strategic locations. It made it possible for Ragebear Knights, a heavy cavalry unit, to be the first to arrive at Southern.

What in the world is Lorist up to? Don't tell me he intends to gather all his house's forces for an all out battle in Southern? What reason would Ragebear Knights have for staying put at a stronghold like Sehak otherwise? Defending? That can't be right. Knight brigades aren't used for defense. Weren't they giving us time to mobilize our forces by leaving their knights just sitting there? The correct way to do this should have been attacking without hesitation to drive Third Frontier out of Southern so we wouldn't be able to join up with the duchies' reinforcements...

Duke Fisablen couldn't leave Southern at the moment. He came to the sudden realization that he had to defend the route to the duchies by himself. Not only that, the invading forces were able to move about unhindered and didn't even take the forces stationed around Southern's crucial transportation points seriously. Not only did House Norton station Ragebear Knights at Sehak, House Felim also occupied the northwestern part of Southern and set up a tight defense. They even began eliminating bandits in the area.

What's going on? thought Duke Fisablen as he scratched his head, confused.

He only realised Count Felim was reclaiming his house's old dominion after staring at the map for a long time. It had already become a wasteland over the years, however, hence the duke's confusion at first. It was no wonder Pegasus set up a tight perimeter around the old dominion's borders.

Duke Fisablen snorted.

Southern's going to be embroiled in war soon enough. What's the point of occupying your old dominion? To develop it? You might as well throw gold coins straight into the water!

There wasn't anything left in the old dominion. No castle, farmland, manors, commoners, no nothing. Only bandits all round. Developing the area was a huge endeavor that would consume gold, manpower, and time. The efforts would be wasted during a time of war and chaos.

House Felim's dominion occupied up to a quarter of Southern. Even though it was in the northwestern and Pegasus had the advantage in a confrontation with Third Frontier, it was House Fisablen who held the initiative. There was no way the northwestern part of Southern could escape involvement in the upcoming battles. Other than that, no matter how huge Pegasus was, it was only a light cavalry legion. All House Fisablen had to do was send out two of their own frontier legions to wipe it out.

I'll spare House Felim's legion for now and let them do their thing, thought Duke Fisablen.

He had to deal with the Nortons first. Ragebear Knights' halt at Sehak possibly revealed Firmrock's low mobility. It would take a few more days for them to arrive.

It seems Lorist is intent on having a field battle… Does he think I'm an idiot?

Duke Fisablen would never engage in a field battle with the Nortons if he had the choice. Trying to ram against heavy cavalry and infantry with light cavalry was a move an imbecile would make. The duke's original plan was to fortify the campsite's defensives and drag the battle out as long as he could to sap the enemy's morale before ambushing their supply lines and harassing their advance to force them to retreat from Southern. It would leave a void for the frontier legions to fill and take Winston. The conflict would be ended there.

After much consideration, he decided he would ignore the situation in Wild Husbandry for now. He penned a letter for the vice-commander of Fourth Frontier, Benlyse, to appoint him as commander, inform him about the situation, and that the house couldn't offer any reinforcements at the moment. If they couldn't hold on any longer, they were to evacuate all the commoners to Soxius's east shore. They could effectively hold their ground along the river while waiting for the situation to turn for the better when House Fisablen regains their advantage.

Soxius originated from the mountain Pisper and flowed across Wild Husbandry into the great plains. It was Wild Husbandry's main source of water for both domestic use and husbandry. Soxius' shores were Wild Husbandry's most fertile land but they weren't near the province's center. They were closer to Eastwild. The implication of the duke's order was the loss of two-thirds of Wild Husbandry. But it was enough for the battered Fourth Frontier to hold the river's eastern shore. To the duke, Southern's situation was far more important.


On the 32nd day of the 5th month, Firmrock Legion finally arrived at Southern.

Lorist was rather troubled by how long it took. It's all that cruddy road's fault, being muddy and moist. The journey that should've taken only twelve days got extended to 26. As a result, Firmrock Legion also served as road repairers during their travels. If they didn't do so, even if they arrived timely in Southern, their supply line would be unable to effectively support them given the condition of the road.

Lorist finally understood why the second prince and the nobles of Southern didn't think about going back to the province and instead moved to Windbury even if it meant being in conflict with the nobles of Winston. Apart from the fact that Southern was a wasteland, the roads were already badly ruined. While a small merchant convoy or two could barely travel there, it was impossible for a large convoy to do the same. In other words, that main highway was even harder to travel on than a pedestrian's path.

However, the delayed arrival of Firmrock also brought with it some benefits. Firstly, Loze managed to conquer Pedro with Tigersoar. The remains of the Winston soldiers were also wiped out at the same time. Winston was already under complete control of the house. Next, Josk, leading Jaeger Legion, managed to greatly damage Fourth Frontier Legion. He even managed to kill Two-star Gold-ranked Knight Bakri with a surprise attack of three arrows, allowing Jaeger Legion to control the pace of battle against Fourth Frontier Legion, managing to beat them back haggardly.

With Winston and Windbury under the house's control, the supply lines could be arranged without problem. Baron Camorra had already initiated the transport of resources from Gildusk to Windbury. Military supplies such as rations and wealth obtained at Windbury also greatly pleased Lorist. He didn't think that the wealth Duke Fisablen confiscated from the nobles he exterminated would fall into the hands of the house. It truly was a gift that popped out of nowhere.

As for the four brigades of fifth local defense division Baron Freiyar commanded, they were headed for Dawok, Pedro, Windbury and Twilight Lake Town respectively to begin work on the construction of defensive citadels. The remaining 25 local defense brigades were headed for Southern. As Ragebear Knights was going to make Sehak their main camp, they would save lots of construction work for the 25 local defense brigades.

However, the original plan to launch a lightning-fast attack had been ruined by the accursed road. Lorist had actually planned to chase Duke Fisablen out of Southern before setting up a few defense perimeters at key locales and digging lots of moats to completely incapacitate cavalry troops. Given the situation at Southern, it seemed that Duke Fisablen would be fighting a defensive battle. While Lorist was still on the way, he received reports from the cavalry scouts on Duke Fisablen's deployment layout implied that the duke intended to wear down the Norton forces gradually. After all, defending was far easier than attacking.

It's a shame you miscalculated, old guy, Lorist thought with a gleeful smile as he watched the catapults being transported along the repaired road, You'll quickly be able to witness for yourselves the might of these weapons our house developed. Times have changed, and an old relic of a wargod like you should retire already.