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Spiel objected to Lorist's plan. He brought out a large list that detailed the scale the house's military and its huge yearly expenses.

So far, House Norton had five legions in total. Firmrock, with 60 thousand men, Tigersoar, with 60 thousand, the reformed Jaeger, with 60 thousand, the 75 thousand of the local defense legion, and the 55 thousand of Oceanic Legion. In total, the forces numbered 310 thousand.

At the same time, there were the 15 thousand from Ragebear Knights, the three thousand from Lorist's personal guard, and another three thousand from the guard sent out to carry out top secret missions. Lorist's personal guard was basically two brigades. The total number of men would be 331 thousand people. They were all the soldiers that enjoyed tier one benefits, with their total salary alone amounting to 1.3 million.

The house had another ten police brigades in charge of guarding warehouses, prisons, factories and other household properties and serve as supply convoy escorts. There were also the garrison units of the various towns and villages that totaled around 40 thousand men. Even though they were tier two forces, their salary and other benefits were still worth 200 thousand annually.

"Your Grace, the total number of men we have exceed 400 thousand. The entire population of The Northlands is just 1.6 million. Even if we include Delamock and Winston and the citizens of our vassals, it's still only 2.3 to 2.4 million. Having a citizen-to-soldier ratio of five to one is incredibly dangerous. As if the burden of having such a military is not enough, our house has been involved in war consistently for the last two years and the military budget has grown immensely. If not for the 30 million gold Fordes plundered from Hanayabarta, The house would've gone bankrupt long ago."

Spiel looked rather emotional.

"Your Grace, that was only an estimate. If we include the expenses of Furybear in setting up a patrol unit in every town, and the pension paid out to the dead or injured soldiers, the total annual amount would exceed two million. It doesn't include the expenses incurred in replacing broken equipment and dead warhorses as well as lodging, clothing, food, medicine, and other necessities.

"We spent four million just last year. Forming Jaeger alone cost us a million, and conquering Iblia another three million. Even though by occupying Windbury, we obtained near two million gold Fordes, our expenses are still double our income! While the house has about ten million gold Fordes stored, if we continue like this, we won't even last three years! The house will collapse!

"I'm not exaggerating this at all, Your Grace. At first, I was thinking of telling you to cut the budget by half after we deal with the invasion. The number of soldiers our house employs rival that of the imperial family of the Krissen Empire! They could have so many forces because they controlled the entire empire. We only control three provinces. One legion is already enough to defend each. If war breaks out, we can emulate the imperial family and have our vassals conscript soldiers to mitigate our costs."

Lorist laughed bitterly when he considered the appalling difference in mentality. If Lorist acted like the former Duke of The Northlands, Loggins, he could've lived out the rest of his life in comfort and luxury, given the house's current standing. However, it was currently a raft traveling upstream. If it didn't progress, it would regress. The hidden threat the second highness posed, the longevity of the alliance, and the pressure of the countless knights jumping for a chance to contribute forced him to walk down the road of expansion.

Spiel wasn't wrong in that only one legion was needed per province. However, if the house wanted to expand, it had to possess a spear and a shield; Firmrock, Tigersoar, Jaeger, and Oceanic were the spear, while they only had the local defense forces as the shield. There was no way Lorist would give up his spear for a bigger shield. He would be wasting his previous efforts. House Norton would be constantly barraged with attacks until it lost all the power it currently had.

Spiel didn't have any ill intentions. He was one of the house's most loyal elders. Otherwise, Lorist wouldn't have allowed him to hold so much power as the chief finance-officer that managed all of the house's finances. However, as Spiel paid too much attention to its spending, he wasn't aware of the situation the house currently faced. While it seemed to be a rising star, with Madras's and Iblia's conquests under its name, and its widespread fame following the successful suppression of Duke Fisablen, dangers still lurked beneath every syllable of the song of victory being sung.

Needless to say, Lorist had made Duke Fisablen fall into endless despair. It was like he gave the wake-up 'kick' to his dreams of monopolizing the eastern part of The Northlands. With but a slap, Lorist had sent the duke falling down from his pedestal, with his troops ruined and him losing his chance of coming back strong. All he could do was lick his wounds in his own dominion. However, Lorist didn't dare to let his guard down. It was obvious that House Fisablen would become the house's worst enemy in the east, one deathly resilient as well. Lorist had to be on constant guard.

While Lorist was an Andinaq, being the Duke of The Northlands and having the impressive achievement of conquering Iblia, Lorist knew better than anyone that the second highness to the west was not one to sit quietly and watch that unfold. The greater Lorist's contributions, the greater the second highness's doubt of his house. The second highness might have been quiet during the last year, and hadn't incited any conflict with the four duchies or the Union, but Lorist didn't think he was up to nothing. Given that he had conspired with Kenmays to make the second highness incur a huge loss through the contract, he was definitely scheming to get back at Lorist.

Right now, House Norton's impressive military was what prevented him from acting rashly. If they crippled their own forces, the second highness would be the happiest person. He could launch one attack after another against the house by rallying more troops, slowly overwhelming Lorist.

The legions can't go. At the very least, their current numbers have to be maintained.

Regardless, convincing Spiel that was the case was not going to be easy.

Looking at the list of legions, and their units and scale, and thinking back at the cost, He couldn't help but feel the supervisor's criticisms were valid. Having a citizen-to-soldier ratio of five to one was egregious. Most other nations that reached that point were biting off more than they could chew and weren't far from collapse.

Lorist stroked his chin and thought frustratedly, Why do I feel like I don't have enough soldiers even though we already have over 400 thousand?

He recalled a very famous saying on the web in his previous life.

Hmm, it must be a qualitative problem. What, then, is wrong with the house's forces?

Charade's laughter entered Lorist's ears.

"Hehe, Supervisor Spiel, your citizen-to-soldier ratio is mistaken. Instead of five to one, it is actually 20 plus to 1. We're definitely capable of having more soldiers than we do now."

Spiel flipped out in rage and flailed about as he stood up.

"Ridiculous! The figure isn't wrong, neither is the population count of The Northlands! Also, our military spending doesn't lie either! Strictly speaking, the ratio is four to one! Not five!"

"Please sit back down and calm yourself, Supervisor Spiel," Charade said calmly, "I wasn't suspecting the figures. I was just pointing out that the citizen-to-soldier ratio is mistaken. We shouldn't take the total number of soldiers and divide it by the population of the dominion. If the ratio was really as you said, then our dominion would have collapsed long ago. It wouldn't look prosperous and developed like it is now. Actually, you forgot two important things.

"The first is that our household has only launched a recruitment drive for the forces three times. The first was when we were recruiting marines for Oceanic -- I believe we got 20 thousand men -- rest of the 55 thousand were made up of mostly rescued slaves and pirates. The second time was when we were forming the wheelbarrow-ballista division, which saw 15 thousand people sign up. The third was carried out last year during Jaeger's formation. We recruited around 27 thousand soldiers and mixed them with 20 thousand veterans from other legions. Even though Jaeger's troops should number 60 thousand, the ranks were never filled. Only three of the divisions were successfully formed.

"In essence, we have only recruited a little under 80 thousand men from the dominion. Compared to the population of 1.6 million, the actual ratio is less than 20 to 1. Not only that, the space available in our legions is limited, resulting in many able-bodied youths being unable to join the ranks, having no other choice to join the garrisons. The youths serving in the patrol units across The Northlands frequently complain about how they're unable to join our forces despite their desire to.

"The second point you've forgotten is the origins of the soldiers that make up most of our forces. They weren't our subjects when they joined. Instead, they were mostly captives or rescued slaves. To be precise, they are serving as work-for-hire, hence the high military expenditure. The formation of Firmrock and Tigersoar was a result of the captives we got with the defeat of Duke Loggins and the second prince. These captives served our house for three years and obtained freedom. To avoid them having no other place to go and wandering around aimlessly, we recruited them.

"The formation of the local defense legion was a direct result of the 200 thousand slaves we liberated. As our dominion wasn't able to integrate such a huge workforce in a short time, we formed the legions to limit the chaos the slaves could cause. Not only did the formation of these legions not involve our youths, they're comprised mostly of captives and former slaves, who helped the dominion's population grow. The family members of these soldiers also moved to our dominion because of them serving in our military.

"Supervisor Spiel, I don't deny our military spending is high. But it's because of this kind of treatment and arrangement that our forces hold superior combat ability and are unstoppable on the battlefield. They are also incredibly loyal. Take, for example, the serious defeat of Jaeger at Wild Husbandry. Even though they were in an incredibly hopeless situation, the men still continued to fight. While we lost 30 thousand, the enemy suffered more than us. Following their defeat at the hands of the 23rd local defense brigade at Pedro, their morale dropped quickly and they soon lost the will to fight.

"Without our household forces, House Norton wouldn't have achieved these heights. It was precisely thanks to our forces that we were able to exterminate Hanayabarta and obtain so much wealth. Now that Delamock and Winston have been added to our dominion, our sphere of influence has greatly expanded even though we didn't obtain many resources. We are now the sole hegemons of The Northlands, and this will bring bright prospects in the near future.

"This time around, His Grace's plan to reorganize and expand the local defense legion isn't without good reason. It is intended to keep Delamock and Winston in our hands. Also, His Grace isn't planning to recruit soldiers from the dominion. Instead, he has his sights on the 100 plus thousand ex-Madras soldiers. Even though our military spending will increase by a bit more, we can integrate Madras's former forces into the house and better control unstable variables. It is extremely beneficial to us.

"I've always thought of having the captives of our house join our forces officially after serving their term. Not only would it increase their solidarity after serving in the forces with our own men, it would also make their families become our subjects willingly. While the military costs would stay high for a little longer, the house's income will increase as well. After all, we obtained two additional provinces. The local defense forces' expansion won't be a huge burden in the long run."

As the house's chief administrator, Charade understood it's situation exceedingly well. His arguments were so well-formulated that Spiel couldn't pick at any shortcomings. Everything Charade'd said was fact.

After some thought, Spiel found that Charade made a lot of sense. The house has always expanded its military through the captives first without affecting the development of the dominion. In that sense, Spiel's citizen-to-soldier ratio of five to one was inaccurate as the soldiers that were recruited into the force weren't subjects of the house in the first place. In fact, if the captives were allowed to do as they pleased after they obtained freedom, huge problems would easily arise. At the very least, the internal security expenditure of the house would increase. The free captives who were used to fighting and skilled at wielding weapons could easily be driven to the path of desperation for food and shelter. Recruiting them in the force would, therefore, be the better alternative.

"Very well, I agree to His Grace's plan to expand the local defense legion," said Spiel without objection, knowing when to step back when he was mistaken.

Lorist was elated that he no longer had to waste so much energy trying to convince Spiel. Charade really outdid himself this time.