The Trade Union’s willingness to surrender came as a complete surprise to Lorist. Initially, most of the Norton higher ups believed they would continue the fight to the bitter end and would attack Peterson. That was why the Lorist’s forces prepared by sending Firmrock over to the defense line in Quadro.

Lorist and Malek had planned to use two years to slowly grind away at the strength and stamina of the Trade Union instead of going all out and defeating them in one blow. They would creep in step by step until their enemy could not resist any longer. From a militaristic view, it was the method that gave them the least casualties, Additionally, in another half a year, the Peterson’s royal army would take control of their own defenses. Only after they and the Union could face each other would Lorist sit on the sidelines.

As for the Trade Union’s salt problem, Lorist arranged with the duke to have a few people set up smuggling operations. They could keep the Trade Union teetering on the edge, whilst at the same time bleeding them dry. They would sell them rock salt at an exorbitant price and use the profit to fund their defenses. In essence, they were using the Union’s money to train soldiers against them. The duke was more than happy to agree.

But now, the Union had asked for peace.

Why didn’t you come earlier? You kept refusing when I was willing to negotiate, but now you want peace? Your doom is already rolling down the mountain towards you. Why do you have to go an make my plans a waste?

“Should we refuse?” Lorist asked Charade.

Knowing what was on his lord’s mind, he shook his head.

“The Union turned us down in the past because they thought we were being unreasonable and they still had breathing room. Now they have no choice, it’s either death or surrender. They may be suing for peace, but this is surrender by another name. We will be calling the shots since we have all the power. We can make whatever demands we want. If they don’t agree, we’ll just wipe them out. If we just chase them away, we’ll look like the bad guys and like our previous sweet words were lies.

“At the same time, we don’t have the authority to turn them down. Your royal mandate it to end the war and negotiate peace, so you don’t have the right to turn down overtures towards peace, only the king can do that. We should negotiate a deal that makes all our allies happy, then send it along to the king to give his final considerations.”

Lorist nodded. Charade’s words were true. The Union’s surrender meant they were giving up on making up for their losses. Acknowledging the four restored nations and Peterson and the Free Union’s sovereignty were the fundamental concessions. As for Chikdor and Mayflower’s territories, the Union had no choice but to give up on them because they could not contend with them in their current state.

All Lorist’s goals had indeed been met. He’d even got control of most of the continent’s market. Given that the Union was willing to surrender, Lorist didn’t have to play bad cop and could leave everything in Auguslo’s hands. Given the king’s nature, he would definitely not let the Union off easily, especially after how they had wronged him.

“Alright, I’ll do it your way. Tell our king to come here and handle the negotiations--“ Lorist suddenly thought of something. “--And, did the ambassador make any demands?”

“Only one. They demand unfettered access to the markets.”

“Hehe, so they’re not willing to give up yet. They want to move the war from the battlefield to the market square,” Lorist smiled, “The merchants are finally seeing the light. They know war is a matter for nobles. It’s still not too late. Looks like they still have some confidence, for them to be willing to return to mercantilism.”

“Should we refuse?”

Lorist rapped the desk with his fingers.

“No. The right to trade freely is no big deal. The alliance nobles also have all sorts of trading guilds selling their stuffs. The Union is just asking for the same rights. Agree to see them as equals.”

“Understood, Your Grace.” Charade stood up and prepared to leave.

“Hold on, Can you talk to Duke Peterson privately about the policy of his salt sale? Make sure he doesn’t allow anyone else to cross his borders. All salt sales to the Union must go through him. Since the Union lacks salt, if we have this exclusive arrangement, they can’t buy salt from anyone aside from Peterson. Tell the duke that, even though this agreement won’t be as profitable as smuggling, it would still net him a good profit. He will pay back the loan much faster. Also, tell the alliance forces stationed in Tenelik and Sylugnika to keep anyone from smuggling salt into the Union. As for the profit sharing, help mediate between them and Peterson and make sure things stay harmonious.”

Charade admirated his lord the more he listened.

“Your Grace’s suggestion is splendid! The Union will never climb back from this. No matter what they do, they’ll always be strangled by this noose. In the long term, their hate for the Peterson will fester...”

“Haha, the more hateful they become, the more assured I am. Even if they recover, they’ll have to go through the Peterson first. Otherwise, they’ll have to stay cooped up in their four provinces for good.”

Lorist raised his teacup and emptied it in one gulp.

Tarkel knocked and came in.

“A message from the capital. The new queen delivered a healthy young prince. His Majesty has named him Helleist.”

“Aha, looks like our king is quite industrious. Charade, prepare a congratulatory gift. Also, tell the king about the Union’s suit.”

“Understood, Your Grace. I’ll start immediately.

......

The Trade Union’s ambassador spoke with various representatives over the course of a month and finally took the first step to peace. The Union was incredibly humiliated. They had to recognize all the new nations, the kingdom of Chikdor, the duchies of Mokby, Cabasy, Samarita, and Zidkor, and the Free Union. As part of that recognition they had to forfeit all claims on the land the Free Union controlled. They were also saddled with 500 thousand gold Fordes in reparation payments.

The ambassador also met with Mireitas, who was now a duke under King Peterson, and they signed a non-aggression pact. They recognized each other’s territory and sovereignty.

Laughably, the two sides seemed to have forgotten that a third of the Union’s territory in Quadro was still controlled by House Norton. In their pact, they would respect each other’s rights and Mireitas welcomed Trade Union trade.

Charade, who presode over the negotiations, smiled secretly. I wonder how the Union will react after they learn that the Petersons have rallied the other four nations to an exclusive salt trade policy. Maybe they’ll tear the pact up and declare war again?

The pact allowed only Peterson salt to be traded within or transported through any of the kingdoms’ territories. Since they all but surrounded the Union, that meant that the Union could only buy Peterson salt. Even if they bought salt elsewhere, they could not get it back home.

The negotiations between the two Unions were far simpler. The Free Union did not put any airs. They immediately accepted the Trade Union’s offer of a million gold Fordes in reparations. They were also quick to agree on free trade and mutual recognition. Naturally, a large part of that was due to the ‘private visit’ the Trade Union ambassador paid to the Free Union negotiators.

The Trade Union’s only worry was that House Norton had yet to begin peace negotiations. The fat old fox Charade had publicly announced their peaceful intents for the war but now they were stalling for time.

The ambassador finally understood why when news arrived that King Auguslo was on his way south. He travelled with just a regiment of personal guards and started talks almost as he stepped through Morante’s gates.

The king had two demands. The Trade Union’s premier had to issue a public apology for their sins and the man had to boy before the king in apology to him personally. The second was a payment of ten million gold Fordes in war reparations.

The ambassador almost quit right there. The king had done nothing but almost lose the war. House Norton had won the war, but now he was making all the demands, and they were all focus on his personal prestige. He kept his cool, however, and sent the demands on to Duke Cobleit.

To his surprise, Duke Cobleit arrived a few weeks later and personally apologized to Auguslo. Auguslo settled on five million in reparations as a sign of good will after the duke’s show of sincerity. Two million would be an immediate deposit and the rest could be paid over the next five years.

Peace was finally restored.