"In marriage there are no manners that must be kept, and beneath the wildest accusations no criticism.  Each is familiar with that ancient child in the other whom may erupt again at any moment. We are not ridiculous to ourselves; we are ageless.  That is the luxury of the ring." ~ Empress Fisablen Sylvia on marriage in a letter to her daughter.

"Your Grace, word of Princess Sylvia burning all of the gifts Duke Fisablen sent has spread all over Ragebear. The knights and officials, as well as the landed nobles, are praising Her Highness. They all have good things to say about her becoming house matron," reported Charade the next day.

He himself found Sylvia's actions quite praiseworthy. Lorist didn't really know how to react. Human imagination was practically boundless. Sylvia had burned everything the day before to vent her feelings. She was torn when she saw Duke Fisablen send over everything she'd ever owned, as if he wanted them out of the house, as if he no longer acknowledged her as his granddaughter. Why hadn't even a single member of the House come over to attend the wedding if this was not so? She took it as an act of cutting ties with her. She was filled with grief and pain. In a fit of rage, she'd burned all the toys, clothes, and products she'd used since her childhood.

Since you won't acknowledge me, I won't acknowledge you. Let's burn it all so nothing remains to remind me of you. I'll have nothing to do with House Fisablen from now on.

After accompanying Sylvia for the night, Lorist had realized she was rather naive when it came to such things. She was like a ten-year-old lass, still immature. He could understand why this was the case, though; she had, after all, grown up in a very isolated and protected environment. She simply had no way to know the world's woes and the human mind. Which was why she had jumped to the conclusion that House Fisablen had been trying to cast her away.

He thought further than that, though. He was reasonably skilled at reading between the lines. He believed the duke had no intention to abandon Sylvia. Instead, it was meant as a reminder to Sylvia of the time she had spent in the house, to remind her of her origin. There was no need to send them over otherwise. The servants were also brought over so Sylvia would have people she could trust to help her manage her daily life. Additionally, there would be someone available to deliver any messages to the house. As for House Fisablen not allowing anyone to participate in her wedding, it was probably to avoid arousing the others' suspicion and to not put Lorist on alert. Unfortunately, the duke had not expected the usually intelligent princess to be ignorant when it came to emotional matters.

Lorist's stomach ached from his suppressed laughter, but he had to maintain his solemn facade and console the girl. When Duke Fisablen received word of what had happened from his envoys, he would definitely be dumbstruck and regret his decision.

Hehe, old fox, you didn't think there would be this kind of misunderstanding, huh? It'll be even harder when you come to clarify things later. While it's easy to stick and pull out a thorn in a person's heart, healing the wound left behind is not so easy.

Though the matter seemed relatively simple, word was that Sylvia had burned the duke's gifts in the name of House Norton and cut off all relation with House Fisablen. Many people praised her. There were no idiots; everyone understood the implications of leaving Firmrock at the borders of Southern and Eastwild as well as Jaeger's reformation. Even if they had signed an armistice, House Norton still considered Hous Fisablen an enemy. They were even preparing for the next war when the last one had barely ended. Naturally, Lorist didn't bother to correct the misunderstanding. In fact, he couldn't be happier. He just asked tarkel to watch House Fisablen's servants closely and make sure they didn't linger in the dominion. Given how Sylvia had already heavily rewarded them, even if they had been exiled, they should be able to start a new life somewhere else. If they really remained in Ragebear, it was a sign that they probably had other intentions. Lorist would not allow them to meet Sylvia, lest she pity them and allow them to stay at her side. It would only sow the seed of turmoil.

After sending Tarkel off, Lorist lay on the couch tiredly. Sylvia had been crying and couldn't sleep the night before. He had naturally lost his sleep as well.

"Sigh, tell me, how many nobles must I greet today?"

"None, Your Grace. I've refused all requests for audiences. You may rest."

Charade was rather considerate when it came to such matters.

"Thanks," Lorist said as he rolled on the couch to find a better position.

"I leave the rest to you. Also, the wedding is in seven days. Is everything in order?"

"Don't worry, everything's prepared. Will Your Grace stay here or travel after the wedding?"

Though the folk of Grindia didn't have a tradition of going on honeymoon, nobles would usually go for a trip. Normally, they would travel around their dominion. Some would travel to places with good scenery. Their trips were always expensive. There had once been a king who had spent three years on the road with his wife. He had traveled to nearly all the nations on the continent. It was recorded as the longest post-wedding trip in history.

"Well, I'll live in Cherry Blossom Ridge outside the city," Lorist said, "Winter will come soon. I'm too lazy to go around traveling. I'll spend winter on the estate and travel around the dominion with Sylvia come the 4th or 5th month while I check the defenses and troops. Since we don't have any major undertakings on the table for next year, we just have to keep our forces in shape, and my dominion secure. I leave the administration in your care."

Charade nodded.

"Very well. You ought to rest."

Lorist and Sylvia's wedding cost 1.37 million gold Fordes and was known as the most expensive wedding in the last century. The cost of the ceremony itself was around 100 thousand gold Fordes. The greatest expense was the gifts. To get all the citizens into a festive mood, all commoners received a gift bag including a small silver. Men would receive half a kilogram of meat and half a kilogram of wheat wine, women a set of fine cutlery or some other daily necessities. As for retired soldiers, they received meat, wine, and a large silver coin. That alone cost nearly 800 thousand gold Fordes.

Surprisingly, Spiel wasn't that stingy this time. The main reason was that the mining in Goldridge had begun. The income the mines brought the house was estimated at around two million gold Fordes. Secondly, House Fisablen had signed an armistice, and the resumption of trade on a large scale gave the house quite a boost. Lorist had also said that during the last three years the house had spent exterminating Madras and Iblia, the production of goods had been affected somewhat. The products that piled up in the warehouse couldn't be sold and the economy didn't look too good. So, giving them away as gifts would not only clear up storage space for new stuff to kick off the economy in the following year, it would also give the citizens who received the goods a taste of what they considered expensive. It would encourage them to spend their money acquiring the goods in the future instead of burying their wealth.

Spiel found Lorist's reasoning incredibly sound. Just like how the house was giving away meat and wine, a few years back, the house had traded weapons with House Fisablen for livestock and made the western area of The Northlands into pastures. They initially thought the citizens' demand for beef and mutton would explode. They hadn't thought that apart from the household forces, the commoners were exceedingly thrifty. They would more or less only purchase meat once a month for a taste. They were used to hardship and loved to store their money up for the future just in case of any emergencies. The low demand resulted in an explosion in the livestock population instead. They had soon run out of places to make pastures. So, the house slaughtered some livestock every year and made jerky for convenient storage.

Using the opportunity, House Norton conducted a detailed survey of the population. The survey revealed that the region's total population had grown to about 1.67 million. The Northlands now once again had the same population they had had during the empire's golden age. It was a really impressive figure. Though most of the population were migrants, it was only to be expected given how much damage the civil war had wrought on the empire, especially with the chaos caused by Duke Loggins and the other conflicts between the Northlander nobles.

There was nothing much to say about the wedding. The whole city was immensely decorated and there were seas of meat and wine all over. Though the permanent residents of Ragebear weren't too many, the ones invited to observe the ceremony filled the city. First, Lorist and Sylvia paraded in the streets in a grand carriage. They then hosted a large feast and ball in the castle for the nobles and household members. When the silver moon was high in the night sky, the couple took up their place on the stage. Bathed in silver moonlight and with the nobles present as witnesses, they swore their love and respect and recited their nauseating oaths. They exchanged rings and had a Church of the Wargod cardinal officiate their lawful wedding under the Wargod and Silvermoon Goddess' purview.

The wedding was planned to be an incredibly traditional one by noble standards. Lorist felt it was not all that different from weddings in his previous life, with all the associated routines and the bride and groom being ordered about by others. In his previous life, after he'd retired from the military he took over his father's little workshop and toiled to keep it running. By the time the workshop was running smoothly again, he'd realized he was already over thirty, so he had his relatives introduce one partner after another. There was even a month where he attended eight marriage meetings.

He had been rather optimistic at first and had hoped he could find a partner that shared his values. He soon gave up on the idea. The millennial women he met were very materialistic and talks about his car, house, and bank account were the focus of the conversation. In the end, he stopped being picky. After shacking with the one who would be his bride for two months, he got her pregnant and they soon got married.

His post-wedding life was plain, to say the least, and the couple didn't have many topics about which they could talk. It wasn't really a problem that his wife hadn't been a virgin. Most of the people in undergraduate studies probably messed around quite a bit anyway. He didn't have any specific requests, so he just went with it. The problem was that he and his wife held really different views. Though he wasn't really educated, he had served his country and shed blood and tears for it. But the contribution of which he was so proud was considered something only a fool would do by his wife. She believed he had wasted his most important years: his youth. If he hadn't enlisted in the military and actually picked up some real skills, he would've probably managed to develop his little workshop into a large listed company. They would have had enough money to emigrate.

Their first argument happened when one of his comrades came to visit him. It was his first time beating a woman in his life: he gave his wife a harsh slap. A cold war followed for half a year. They weren't willing to say a single word to each other. Had it not been for not wanting to hurt their daughter, they would've filed for divorce. The two slept separately, and, as a result, Lorist bed his secretary. Since the secretary, ten years his junior, was really open and didn't mind relieving him of his manly desires, he didn't mind doing it. She didn't have that good a relationship with her own husband either, anyway.

The flashback gradually faded. Right now, he had completely integrated into Grindia. Sometimes, he felt his past life was nothing but a distant dream he hadn't experienced himself. He was currently the head of House Norton, Duke of The Northlands, a duke of the Andinaq kingdom. He had hundreds of thousands of elite soldiers at his beck and call. And now, he had a beautiful, fairy-like girl bound to him in matrimony. Just like the netizens of his previous life would say, he was in the prime of his life.

After the wedding, Sylvia clasped his arm and took a walk across the venue. They received the greetings and congratulations of the household knights and officials, and the guests. She wore a blissful smile on her beautiful face and seemed more blinding than usual. When the midnight bells struck Lorist took her to their new room.

As opposed to Lorist, who was a little worn out from dealing with the pestering nobles, Sylvia was extremely serious. This would be the most important night of her life, the night she gave her innocence to her one, true love. Upon entering the room, to hide her anxiety, emotional turmoil, and fear, she looked for things to do. She made Lorist some macks, wiped the table, made the bed, and realized that she was sweaty all over by the time she ran out of things to do. She had her two maids prepare a bath. When she was bathing, she felt a little anxious about Lorist coming in with her, but also hoped e would at the same time. Her feelings fluttered with the contradictory notions.

Lorist, however, didn't give it that much thought.

You're already meat on my table. Delaying the deed won't help!

He let her go about however she wished. He felt physically and mentally worn out. Interacting with all those nobles had really taken a toll on him. Just like wearing a mask, he had to put on a hollow smile and think of something pleasing to say. It was far too troubling and tiring. Sometimes, he felt more willing to take on ten rank 3 blademasters at once than dealing with nobles. The former was probably much easier. The moment he thought about how he would have to deal with the nobles in the future as well, his head numbed. Sentiments what could be expressed in a few curt sentences took ages for nobles to express; they beat around the bush too much. Though he mocked himself from time to time, the nobles regarded him with caution in fear of offending someone with his status.

What's the point? It makes things difficult for everyone... Oh gosh, I'm tired... I suppose I ought to lie down for a bit...

When Sylvia had finished her bath, she saw Lorist snoring.

Bastard, this is the most important night of my life! How can you fall asleep?!

She stopped caring about hiding her body modestly and let her towel drop to the ground. She got into bed naked, bore her fangs, and gave Lorist's shoulder a harsh bite.