"A smart woman is a blessing and a curse."

'What should we do?' seemed to be what Reidy was trying to tell Lorist with his gaze.

Lorist made a pained smile and shook his head. He was completely powerless in his current state. Counting on Reidy alone to take on two blademasters was completely unrealistic. No matter which one of the couple Reidy manages to hold back, the other would definitely give Lorist a strike and that would be the end of him. All he could do now was pray that Arriotoli didn't call Lorist out there and then. No matter how big her boobs were, surely she did have some brains. After all, she was already a mother.

Lorist hurriedly pulled on Reidy's sleeve. He got down from the carriage with Reidy and lowered his head pensively, acting like a servant found out by his master for committing a mistake. He hoped that Arriotoli would be made aware of the situation after seeing them like that instead of leaping straight into Lorist's embrace with tears of joy flowing out of her eyes.

He was already regretting it deeply. I must be half conscious when I decided I would come to the Dina barony. It's quite a known fact that two of my concubines, Fennazali and Arriotoli, are members of House Dina, so it's obvious that the blademasters would search this area. I really jumped into this trap on my own accord this time.

That middle-aged couple gave Lorist a sweeping glance and thought him to be but a mere lowly farmer. Reidy on the other hand caught their attention. It was truly rather weird for one-star silver rank to be a farmer. Usually, those who awakened their battleforce in a dominion would be recruited by the dominion lord to be their subordinate or their soldier. Most wouldn't be allowed to continue working as farmers.

The middle-aged couple then turned to Arriotoli. Fortunately, she had already placed her hands down after covering her mouth from shock. She then marched over angrily and rebuked Reidy fiercely, "Krimando, why have you come back so late?! All I had you do was to accompany Kanon here to fetch some things outside! Don't give me the excuse that the axle of your carriage is broken. This carriage has already been spoiled by you three times this month already and we just got it fixed yesterday! If you keep this up, I won't let you serve as a House Dina knight! I also won't let our Sunirulu marry you, got it?!"

Huh? Reidy made a blank look. What the hell is going on? Did Arriotoli mistake me for someone else? I'm not Krimando, and since when was I going to be a knight of House Dina? What's the deal with letting Sunirulu marry me anyway? I know she's your maidservant and that she's pretty and all, but when I came with His Grace back then, you were the one who asked me to marry her! I already rejected that!

Lorist breathed out a sigh in relief and added ten thousand points to Arriotoli in his heart. He didn't think that the lass would turn so much smarter after becoming a full-fledged knight and mother. Her performance was truly stellar. He tugged on Reidy and gestured for him to not argue with Arriotoli before he withdrew his body and pretended to be afraid of Arriotoli's scolding. Reidy on the other hand had opened his mouth, only to say nothing before lowering his head again, looking unwilling and stubborn.

"What? You aren't pleased?!" Arriotoli poked Reidy on the forehead with her finger. "You're not able to finish such a simple task, and yet you dare to follow Uncle Masa to the frontlines?! Do you think I'll knight you after you achieve something there?! Dream on! If you laze on like that without doing anything useful, I'll exile you from the Dina barony!

"And you, Kanon!" Arriotoli snapped as she turned her attention to Lorist, "Even though I ordered you to watch this kid and make sure he works properly, you accompanied him on his fun journey instead! You two are not getting dinner tonight. Now you better get back in there and clean the tables. You'll be going to the mountains to pick herbs tomorrow too. These two revered herbalists are here to purchase some of our herbs and if you really do find some valuable ones, you'll get a tip for some drinks."

Herbalists? Lorist understood the situation after some thought. Those two blademasters were merely posing as herbalists on their way to purchase ingredients. Since Arriotoli was only a two-star silver-ranked knight, she didn't discover the couple's true identities. But now seeing Lorist return in that disguise, she got a feeling that both of them didn't want their identities revealed.

Even though the Dina barony was relatively near the mountains, they only produced some herbs of low value. The real place to purchase herbs was the eastern part of The Northlands. The Magical Dragon Mountains were famous for their herbs across the continent, and the herbs produced by Delamock were often sent to the eastern part of The Northlands to make up for the demand of the market there. Who would go all their way to the Dina barony just for those normal herbs? It was obvious that something was off.

"Apologies, you two, for having to let you see this joke of a scene. It's all the fault of those two lazy ones." Arriotoli's face bloomed once more after she finished reprimanding Lorist and Reidy, smiling at the middle-aged couple brightly. Women were truly fickle after all.

"No worries. It's expected for a dominion lord to deal with things such as these. We have to apologize for disturbing your busy schedule," the man said with a smile, before he looked at Reidy and Lorist as the two of them entered the hall and added, "That young man's not bad. He's already a one-star silver rank. I think he can become a gold-ranked knight of your house after good training."

"Him?" Arriotoli snorted, "Master Herbalist, don't joke around with me. I'll be thankful if they don't anger me to death. You might not know this, but that fella's father used to be my father's subordinate. He fell on the battlefield together with my father. At first, I was considering giving him proper training, but that kid actually followed a traveling mercenary and said that he would learn the skills necessary to avenge his father! And then he left for almost eight years.

"After our house got the protection of the Duke of The Northlands and had our dominion moved over here, that fella somehow managed to make his way back as a one-star silver rank and said that he wanted to become our household knight and marry the girl that used to be his neighbor, my own maidservant Sunirulu! I tested his swordsmanship and found that he had learned a bunch of muddled crap from the mercenaries instead of the proper technique!

"So, I decided to have him forget the bad habits he learned from the mercenaries first before he would be properly trained in the techniques of a knight. Little did I think that he wouldn't focus on his training and instead spend his time traveling all over the place to slack off. He even secretly tried to make his way to the frontlines with our house's Knight Massa to rake in some achievements for himself to achieve his goal!"

Arriotoli had turned into a gossipy old maid and yammered on with the couple without end. The couple's faces contorted as time went on. How could they be bothered with the backstory of some one-star silver-ranked mercenary? They were just casually asking around, yet Arriotoli actually started chattering nonstop. After she finally finished, the couple politely declined her offers for further hospitality and prepared to make their way off.

But before they left, the middle-aged man made a last-ditch effort. "Oh honorable knight, Lady Dina, do you truly not want to buy a cheap high-rank medicine from us? It's a rare chance and we happened to synthesize a few extra bottles back then. Since you treated us so warmly, we want to sell them to you for a low price. Just buy one for emergency's sake. We can assure you that this medicine really works well. As long as they can still breathe, we're sure it will help bring them back to full health. It'll even accelerate the speed of their recovery."

Arriotoli's long eyelashes fluttered as she blinked, seemingly with understanding. "But... but those medicines truly are too expensive! It's ten gold coins for one, and the expiry date is far too soon with less than half a year remaining. I really don't see a use for it even if I buy it! After half a year, ten gold coins would just go poof! It's not like our house needs medicine of that high rank anyway. We can just buy the most common medicinal concoction for a few large silvers for commoners who get injured."

The middle-aged woman smiled and said, "Alright, Jack, stop promoting those high-rank medicines. Lady Dina already said that she doesn't need any, so it'll just be a waste for her to buy some. It's about time we left. Thank you so much for your hospitality. We'll return a few days later to check on the herbs you gathered."

Arriotoli bowed and said, "Master Herbalists, won't you reconsider lodging by us for the night? Even though it's rather run-down here, we'll try our best to accommodate you to your satisfaction."

"There's no need. The thought is enough. We've already booked our own room at the tavern downtown. Should you require our service, please don't hesitate to seek us out at the town of Daphne in Viscount Sibok's dominion You can also leave a message for us at the inn's counter. We'll definitely try our best to come as quickly as we can," said the middle-aged man politely.

"Alright, thank you for your kind intentions. I won't hold back if I really need your service. You are always welcome to visit the barony," said Arriotoli as she made a knight's salute.

The middle-aged herbalist couple came and left on horses. It was until their silhouettes vanished on the distant highways that Arriotoli returned to the hall of her wooden castle.

Lorist and Reidy were wolfing down food in the hall at a table served with delicacies. Arriotoli's maidservant, the beautiful Sunirulu, was pouting right beside them as Reidy scared her as he wolfed his food down and mocked her for not being able to marry someone because she was ugly.

"If nobody marries her, then you'll be his husband," Arriotoli said with dissatisfaction as she entered, "Locke, what's going on? What's with the getup?"

Lorist put the blackwheat bread back into his plate and gave Arriotoli a thumbs up. "You really reacted quickly today and put on a great performance. I almost died in the hands of that couple."

"Huh? That middle-aged couple?" Arriotoli said with surprise, "They were merely herbalists here to purchase some herbs. Why would they kill you? Also, I was there, wasn't I?"

Lorist rolled his eyes. "Dumb lass, those two were blademasters. They came here to check whether I was hiding out and recuperating here. I suspect they were sent by the Union to hunt me down and kill me. Otherwise, they wouldn't come all the way here to buy some common herbs."

"It's no wonder they kept on asking me whether I needed to buy some high-rank medicinal concoction at such a cheap price. I knew I should've got some," said Arriotoli in stark wonder.

"If you did, they would've known that I was there right away. I am thankful that you didn't do anything as stupid as buying those high-rank medicinal concoctions. You should know that each of those cost at least 30 gold Fordes and unless a dominion lord is injured, nobody would spend that kind of money to heal someone else. They offered you that at that low price to see if I was here with you," replied Lorist.

Arriotoli began to tear up immediately. "Locke, haven't you recovered from your injuries yet?"

Lorist gave a pained smile. "It won't be that easy. While I'm more or less fine on the outside, my internals are still a mess. I'm no different from a cripple now. I can't even lift a sword. I thought that I could stay here for a year and a half to recover at first but it seems that it isn't really safe here either. It's best if I left lest I drag you and your child down with me. By the way, where's Terryke?"

Terryke was the son of Lorist and Arriotoli. He was three that year and pudgy and likable. However, Arriotoli had him bear the Dina name and he didn't count as a Norton family member. So, he was just an illegitimate child.

"Terryke played around like crazy outside the whole day and went to sleep right after dinner. I had Sunirulu bathe him and let him sleep early," replied Arriotoli.

"And there I thought I could see that little pudgeball. To think that he's already slept," Lorist complained, "Arri, have your garrison forces been deployed at the frontlines as well? Didn't I ask you not to send them?"

"Well, our house wasn't going to participate at first, since His Majesty was being pushed back quite badly after all. But when your house's three legions swept Armenia and Malivia, His Majesty managed to defeat the Union and reclaim those two provinces from them. Right now, they're already attacking the Falik Plains, so I head Uncle Massa bring the garrison to haul some benefits back from the battlefield. Since they're with your house's forces, I doubt they'd be in any trouble. The Falik Plains are rich with wealth and it'd be a shame if we didn't snag a part for ourselves," reasoned Arriotoli.

Lorist, resigned by that greedy woman, thought that the Dina house forces would at most be tasked with simple things like guarding the captives and campsites as well as delivering supplies. They probably wouldn't be made to charge in the vanguard or head a siege, so they'd be more or less safe. It's no wonder Arriotoli was so eager to send them to the battlefield, seeing that they would return with some spoils as well.

"Your Grace, are we leaving tonight?" Reidy had already finished biting the roast goat meat off the thigh bone and tossed it aside, before grabbing a linen cloth to wipe his mouth and hands from Sunirulu, earning himself an angry glare.

Just as Lorist was going to say something, Arriotoli butted in first. "You can't leave. It's dangerous to do so."

Lorist shook his head. "No those blademasters already have their eye on this place. Fortunately, those two that came today didn't recognize us. But if some others do, then it's over for us."

Arriotoli laughed and said, "Locke, only I can recognize you with your full-bearded look. I'm sure the others will only think you a mere farmer. As for Reidy, he already shaved his little mustache off. If it weren't for Sunirulu, who's pining over him all day and night, nobody would've been able to recognize him. How about this? There's a hunter's cabin at the western side of the valley. The two who lived there followed Uncle Massa to the frontlines already. I'm sure nobody would suspect you if you stayed there.

"Also, those two were named Krimando and Kanon, the names I called you in front of the two herbalists. They will come over again in a couple of days and I'm sure they won't find anything out, so you can just rest well here. Also, Locke, are you sure you don't need that high-rank concoction?"

Lorist refused, "No need. You know that I'm a herbalist myself, a rank 2 one at that. As long as I'm able to get some ingredients, there's no need to buy any myself. I'll head to the cabin you mentioned with Reidy tomorrow and stay there if it's suitable. However, I hope that only the two of you know of our presence here. Don't tell your sister about it when you write to her, and don't contact The Northlands, understood?"