I don't need a friend whom changes when I change and nods when I nod; my shadow does that much better... Well, I don't NEED one, but I sure want one." ~ Norton Lorist

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Lorist had not expected that after word spread of his intention to marry Sylvia, he would receive countless letters from the household knights and officials. All of whom were against Sylvia becoming the house's matron.

As opposed to the officials who tried to come up with nuanced arguments about how that would be inappropriate, the household knights were far more forthright. Their argument was strong. They believed a woman from a defeated house wasn't fit to be House Norton's matron.

Charade predicted the situation's turnout well. Everyone opposed Lorist's decision. Hansk, governor of Silowas, was the leader of the officials who objected to the decision and most of the administrative officials agreed with him. How could Lorist take the descendant of an enemy house as his wife? It was completely different from their agreement two years earlier.

One of the people to express the strongest reaction was the chief finance supervisor, Baron Spiel. His reasons were different from the others'; he was against Lorist throwing a huge wedding ceremony. He believed the funds it would require was a huge waste. In his letter, he stated that if Lorist was marrying a princess from another nation, then a huge wedding ceremony was inevitable because it would increase the house's reputation. But Princess Sylvia's current status didn't necessitate that kind of spending. He believed a quiet ceremony would suffice.

Lorist was both glad and angry after he read Spiel's letter. He received Potterfang's letter soon afterwards. It was similar to Charade's. He was worried the soldiers would be swayed and their morale would fall. He also believed, like the other knights, that Sylvia, being a member of House Fisablen, had no right to become the duchess.

Thankfully, only six of the 16 gold-ranked knights publicly wrote him letters to object to the wedding. Josk and Yuriy had suffered a huge loss from House Fisablen's forces in Wild Husbandry, so their objection was only expected given their animosity. Loze and Dulles, commanders of Tigersoar, also expressed their objections. Loze was the representative of the knights that believed a member from a house they defeated didn't qualify to be married to him.

Dulles had only joined in the objection because of his close relations with Yuriy, hardly unexpected. Vice-Commander Belnick, stationed in Delamock with part of the defense legion, probably wrote his letter reluctantly, given his status as a knight from Maplewoods. The last one was Potterfang.

The ten other gold-ranked knights, apart from Senbaud, didn't express any opinions. As Charade knew Lorist's mind was set, he didn't bother to do much after advising him against it the first time. Terman's view was that it was a private matter, and a household knight only had to follow his orders and do his duty instead of objecting to Lorist's decision. The ex-bandit Ovidis would never dream of objecting given how enamored he was with him. He wouldn't dare risk crossing his bottom-line. Freiyar and Pajik kept their silence and didn't tell anyone what they thought no matter who asked.

The commander of the local defense legion -- stationed on Silowas -- Gold-ranked Knight Jades, and Messen, serving the legion from Firmrock, didn't dare express their opinion given their lack of understanding of the overall situation since they had only served the house for a short while since their liberation. As for Malek, he fought with Potterfang and believed his friend ought not write Lorist a letter of objection. However, he didn't express any support for the matter either. Last was Els, who merely laughed when he heard about Lorist's decision. As the leader of the guard brigade, he was the one most familiar with the relationship between Lorist and Sylvia. Given how well he understood Lorist's temperament, he didn't care much about those who opposed the decision.

The only one who wrote a congratulatory letter was Gold-ranked Knight Senbaud, commander of Oceanic Legion. He said he was glad that the two were finally able to get married. It was the first positive response he'd received, all Lorist did after reading it was snicker and call Senbaud a sneaky bastard. Even though he was also a member of the household, Oceanic Legion was a more independent entity that didn't have to care much about what the other knights thought.

House Norton had two other blademasters, one was Engelich -- stationed at Firmrock. Even though the old man was a rank 1 blademaster, he was so afraid of Lorist he acted as meekly as a mouse before a cat whenever he saw him. There was no way he'd dare object. As for Blademaster Shuss stationed on Silowas, he was preparing to break through to the second rank and couldn't be bothered to stick his nose into this matter. Even though Governor Hansk had tried to get him to co-sign the letter, he wasn't even allowed to enter his room.

Being rather furious, Lorist decided he would teach these fellows who didn't know what's good for them a lesson. He hosted a grand meeting at Firmrock and called all the knights and officials that objected to his marriage with Sylvia. During the meeting, Lorist let his rage explode as he rebuked those present about how they'd forgotten their place and criticized the head of the house for something as trivial as marriage and overstepping their bounds. During the most climactic point, he got hold of a vase and smashed it hatefully on the ground before storming out of the room.

The household knights and officials didn't imagine Lorist would react that strongly. Seeing the smashed vase and Lorist's figure leaving angrily, they all began to feel unnerved. Some more fearful ones were covered in cold sweat, while others started to reflect on whether their objection to the marriage was appropriate.

Just as the panic started to build up, the 'good cop', Charade, got on the podium. As he consoled his colleagues, he reminded them.

"House Norton is only able to achieve its current glory thanks to none other than the current duke. While His Grace is rather agreeable most of the time and respects the opinions and suggestions of all of you, as seen with how he frequently promotes those with good problem-solving abilities, that is only when it comes to public matters. It comes as no surprise that the duke, most impressive leader of House Norton, to be consumed by anger if he was criticized by his subordinates on a private matter like his marriage.

"But worry not. His Grace was only angered by the fact of the matter, not the people involved in it. The reason for His Grace's rage was because you interfered in a private matter. If you contribute well in your duties, His Grace will still reward you fairly without question. What you need to know is that the marriage between His Grace and Her Highness Princess Sylvia is already set in stone, and that your objections will not sway His Grace's dedication in the slightest. I advise you not to waste any more of your attention and energy on this matter and carry out the duties you ought to in service of the house. Naturally, if there are those who can't to accept this and decide to leave, the house will not stop you."

Naturally, no one did. Only idiots would leave at a time when House Norton was in its prime. The officials and knights only had their current positions because of Lorist's leadership. Many had only joined in the objection because they didn't want to feel left out and went with the flow. When Lorist showed his anger, they were already drowning in endless regret. Who wouldn't take the opportunity to step down after Charade's pep talk?

"Think about this. His Grace brought us to The Northlands and turned the desolate dominion into paradise. Which one of his decisions has been wrong? Ours is not to reason why, ours is but to do and die. One can only look afar from a high vantage point. Given His Grace's high position, it's only natural that he'd be able to look further than we can. His decision is not something we should question. Only time will prove this decision right or wrong."

He adjourned the meeting and went to Lorist to report the results of his consolation.

Lorist wrote a letter of explanation to Hansk that carried a hint of scolding to remind him of his position as an official and not to meddle in his private affairs. But at the same time, he praised him for his loyalty and expressed his recognition of Hansk's contribution to the house given how Silowas had entered a new age of prosperity under his management, turning into an island with filled fishing and trading activities.

Lorist's letter to Spiel contained one simple message. Either he shut up and obey his orders to serve as the chief financial supervisor or go mine for gold in Goldridge since he likes it so much.

It was said that Spiel was so mad that he couldn't even eat after receiving that letter. It was only after Sid's consolation that he came to an understanding. Since Spiel was one of the house's old officials, it wasn't that hard for Sid to convince him. He reminded Spiel how much money the bastide had when Lorist first inherited the title and how much the house had now. A simple comparison showed the immense difference which wouldn't have been possible without Lorist's efforts. And, since he practically earned all the money, he should be allowed to spend some of it, all Spiel had to do was supervise and record the spending for Lorist's reference. He had no right to tell Lorist how he should spend it.

Spiel was initially vexed and believed Lorist had wrongly blamed a loyal official like him for worrying over the house's expenses. But after Sid's explanation, he realized his shortcomings and no longer said anything.

Lorist's third letter was addressed to Loze. In it, he didn't scold or criticize him, instead, he thanked the soldiers for resisting House Fisablen and fighting to wrestle Sylvia from the duke's hands. At the same time, he wrote that he would be making commemorative gold badges to be distributed to every soldier who had participated in the war and asked Loze for his opinion.

Lorist understood Loze well. He was a freak for battle who would fight in every conflict that came his way regardless of whether it was for conquest, or, as Lorist put it, 'wife taking'. The reason Loze objected to the marriage was that he saw House Fisablen as the loser instead of being against Sylvia herself. As expected, Loze was happy to receive the letter and incredibly pleased by the notion that they'd fought for the sake of Lorist's marriage. He quickly replied that the soldiers were looking forward to receiving the medals and had already forgotten that he had objected to the marriage in the first place.

The last one Lorist wrote to was Potterfang. He didn't hold back in this one and rebuked him with two whole pages before sending it to him with a messenger eagle.

Charade laughed when he read Lorist's letters. He understood the reason he was so cordial with Hansk was that he didn't trust him that much. As for Spiel, while it was apparent that he trusted him, there was a hint of annoyance at how stingy the supervisor was being. It was also apparent that Lorist not only appreciated Loze as a general, but also understood his personality incredibly well. The letter was completely on point. As for Potterfang, it could be seen that he was the knight that Lorist trusted the most. Otherwise, he wouldn't have dared to scold him that harshly.

"Your Grace, don't forget about Josk and Yuriy."

Lorist didn't intend to write any more letters. He just nodded.

"I know. I plan to visit them personally at Jaeger's camp and give them an explanation. They only have so much animosity for House Fisablen because of the loss they suffered. I'll tell them that even after taking Sylvia as my wife, House Fisablen will still be our enemy. I trust they'll understand. As for Dulles and Belnick, they only joined in because of their positions. There's no need to write back. Let's spare them the awkwardness."

Lorist sigh after dealing with the house's opinions. Before he resumed his days of bliss with Sylvia, Freiyar and Belnick hurried to Firmrock to report. The two barons were summoned to deal with the reorganization and expansion of the local defense legion. After Charade briefed them, the two were called to attend a meeting.

"The local defense legion will be expanded into four units. I plan to have the first and third take care of The Northlands. The second and fourth will be stationed at Delamock and Winston respectively. You two will serve as the commanders for one of the legions. In which would you prefer to serve?"

"The fourth, Your Grace. Given that Pedro and Southern might come under attack in the near future and that I am already familiar with Winston, I'll stand guard there," said Freiyar first.

Belnick complained with his arms opened wide, "Freiyar, that's not fair. You chose the spot where conflict will break out again. Your Grace, which legion will defend Goldridge?"

"The first," Lorist replied, "It will also take care of Firmrock and the dominion. Goldridge will come under the first after the renovations there are complete."

"Alright, I'll take the first then. If the barbarians come, I'll get to vent as well," said Belnick.

"Then, do you guys have any commanders you could recommend to head the second and third?"

"Knight Jades is a decent candidate," offered Freiyar.

"Even though Ovidis has been serving you for so long, he's only the leader of a brigade. It's high time he's promoted," recommended Belnick.

"Then, what will we do with Silowas? We need to station a gold-ranked knight there."

After some thought, Freiyar said, "Let Pajik serve there for a few years. He's mentioned that his wife and children quite like the scenery there. He also said that his prospects for training are already limited and that he will find it hard to break through to the two-star gold rank. It's a little dangerous to have him serve in Tigersoar's vanguard."

Hmmm, makes sense.

Lorist thought of the two times Tigersoar had charged into battle as the vanguard. While Loze hadn't been injured, Pajik had gotten some light injuries a few times. His skills paled in comparison to Loze's.

"Alright then, we'll have Pajik stationed on Silowas."