"The four wives that came with him are all pregnant again," added Jinolio.

It was Lundmorde's personal affairs, but Jinolio couldn't avoid mentioning it.

Charade and Lorist shared a shocked glance. What was that man drinking?

Lorist wanted to curse the man. Did he has breeder pig in his bloodline?

"Doesn't the bastard already have 17 children?"

"He did,Your Grace. He's become a legend. A few call him the 'heroic father'. Men teach their sons to aspire to his state, to have seven wives and countless offspring. His eldest turned seventeen this year. His currently studying at Dawn Academy."

"His wives are all bears. Who would want that?" asked Charade, dissatisfied.

He had two sons and a daughter. His wife was no less fertile than any of Lundmorde's wives, but he had only a fraction of his children. His wife had spoilt his son too much while he grew up; the boy was no nothing more but a run-of-the-mill noble brat. He preferred lazing around all day and reading a book here and there to training his body properly. The boy was also a real lecher. He was just 20 but he already had three concubines. Charade wished he could have a couple of concubines or a few more wives, but his wife wouldn't allow it and her blademaster grandfather-in-law stood behind her.

His other children were about the same age, they differed just less than a year and a half from one another.  His wife devoted herself to her daughter and neglected his second son. The boy was practically raised by his great grandfather, who spoilt him into a lawless brute with a superiority complex. He frequently picked fights with his older brother for the thrill of beating him. He'd even awakened his battleforce at just fourteen. Engelich had every intention of making the little barbarian his successor and was carefully teaching him everything he knew.

Charade was too busy to tend to his children himself, but he didn't approve of his grandfather-in-law's approach to rearing his second son. He was deathly afraid the old turtle would turn his son into a coward. The old man was a rank 1 blademaster, but he never did anything for the house. He hid away in his house and thought up every possible excuse not to be d up for service.

He'd also not made any progress in his cultivation since breaking through to become a blademaster, whilst Reidy and Shuss, both of whom started cultivating much later than Engelich, had not only caught up to him, but had surpassed him. Both were now rank 2 blademasters. The last time the old man had showed himself was when Lorist was being pursued by blademasters after his confrontation with the windstorm swordsaint. And he vanished the moment he received his first injury. It was barely more than a cut, but he refused to move again, claiming to need several years to recover from his grave wounds.

It took Charade a massive amount of effort to pry his second son away from the old man and send him to Nico Academy. He also courted Lorist as his son's future master for several years before he finally got him to agree to let the boy be his attendant when he turned sixteen. If the boy could gain Lorist's favor during his time as his attendant, he would have a swordsaint master. The eldest son was beyond salvation as far as martial ability went, but Charade was okay with letting him waste his life away since he could make his second son his heir instead.

He was betting House Charade's future on his second son and would even fight his grandfather-in-law to make sure the kid grew up to be a worthy heir. He was actually interested to see if the old coward would dare compete with a swordsaint for his great-grandson. He seriously doubted the old man would even manage to get a word of protest out of his mouth even if he somehow managed to muster the courage to confront him.

That was why Charade envied Lundmorde. It wasn't that his wife hadn't blessed him with children. He just couldn't compare, neither in terms of women, nor in terms of children. If he could have seven wives, his family would no doubt be merry. Even if he didn't have twenty plus children, he'd at least have more than ten. And it wasn't like he couldn't afford to raise them.

"Seventeen plus five and four more in four stomachs... It seems Lundmorde will soon be a father of 26... Looks like he's had quite a good life in Jekhano," joked Lorist.

Lundmorde was conscripted after offending a noble in Morante and sent to the battlefield. There he managed to save Jekhano's crown prince who took him in. His four wives left to search for him and eventually found him with the prince after several years. It was practically a play.

The Union declared him a traitor when he left with the crown prince and threatened his execution should he be caught. As a result, he was forced to stay in Jekhano until the Union could be removed from the picture. Only now that the Union was no longer a threat could he return.

"Don't forget he has three more wives in the dominion. I'm certain they won't let him rest until they're all pregnant again as well. It's quite likely he'll have more than 29 children before the end of next year. I don't think it'll stop there either. They'll probably keep popping out children until they're too old to keep going," spat Charade.

"I pity him. It must be tough to raise such a big family," said Jinolio.

"Yes. The poor sod only had one small silver as spending money last I heard. He became a doctor because he had to do extra work on the side to earn more money. He's probably more miserable than any of the peasants were before they became refugees and later our subjects. He can't spend just a little on his women, if he buys one of them something, the rest demand their share as well. Not to mention the birthday presents and parties," added Charade.

"Isn't he going to be made a baron this year?  You did pick a decent piece of land for him, right?" asked Lorist.

"I did," Charade nodded, "Lundmorde's barony will be near Sanderson mountain range. It's a portion of a valley in the mountain range's foothills. It's borders lie on the shore of a small lake in the valley, and into the forest up the mountain. It already has a castle and there's also a small silver mine just into the forest. We've already made a lease agreement under the title so he'll get a third of the mine's profits. That alone should be two thousand gold Fordes a year. If he makes good use of the other resources, he should get three thousand gold a year.  And if he develops the dominion well, it can be increased with taxes."

Lorist rapped his fingers on his desk and wrote a few lines on a piece of paper. He handed it to Jinolio as he spoke.

"Take this to Bowrey. Draw ten thousand gold from the vaults in my name. Charade, take Jinolio with you and visit Lundmorde. The money's a gift for him from to to thank him for his years of service and as a repayment for his years of hardship outside my territory and away from his family.

"I apologize for putting this on you as well, but Lundmorde will likely not have time to come visit me, and it isn't appropriate for me to go see him myself, so I have to saddle you with this. It should be enough money to have a good celebration of his return and take a good, long vacation whilst still having some left to start up operations in his barony. I don't want him to have to borrow money anymore.

"It's long overdue, Your Grace. Lundmorde's misery is your fault, after all. You were the one that forced him to marry all seven of them. I'm sure Lundmorde will be grateful for the gift. I doubt he'll have saved up much in his time in Jekhano; his wives wouldn't have allowed it."

Lorist laughed heartily.

"It's not like he didn't deserve it. He can only blame his lack of self control. He should've known what would come if he got any of them pregnant. And don't make it sound like you're pitiful. You're very fortunate. Your wife's given you three children already. Give Lundmorde leave till the fourth month next year. He should be pretty happy to be made chief inspector of the police and we could do with the extra pair of hands."

Lundmorde was given a wonderful job as a gift as well! Chief inspector was one of the highest positions in the force below central command. Felicitas had seven towns, and each only had one chief inspector. Apart from maintaining security, chief inspectors were responsible for solving crimes and ensuring their beats were clean and hygienic and that the roads were clear and people weren't doing funny things on them.

He would probably be given a beat close to or around his barony, so he could also do the job from home. Not to mention he would have a salary worth 300 gold a year, at least several times what he could earn as a healer.

More importantly, however, since he would still be an active servant in the house, he would continue to accrue merits and could get promotions in the future, which meant he would be continuing to climb the ladder rather than having to climb off it to look after his dominion. He had a good chance of becoming a count something in his later life.

"Your Grace, my praise in Lundmorde and Dawn Academy's alumni's place." said Charade, bowing deeply.

He had been the one to invite Lundmorde, then a herbalism lecturer, to join them. Eight had since left them. Seven switched sides and joined Auguslo, of whom all but one were now dead, and one had been killed on the journey north. The remaining 28 had all stayed with Lorist and now occupied high positions in House Norton's government and army. Lundmorde was the only exception, the only one who had yet to climb high up the ranks. Instead, however, he outshone everyone when it came to family and offspring.

Lorist pondered alone in his study after his friend and disciple had left.

Lundmorde could not compare to other humans. Was he doping himself with some kind of drug?  Lorist had seven women as well, if his concubines were included, but he didn't even have half as many children, not to mention that most were bastards. And when Sylvia, Fennazali, and Daisy had wanted to become pregnant, it took him months to finally knock them up. Lundmorde, on the other hand, had his women pregnant within a couple of months of having given birth, consistently.

He was a legend for all the wrong reasons, especially now that he'd returned with yet more children and four wives pregnant yet again. Many shared Lorist's suspicions that he was using a special concoction to boost his performance. A few even held banquets to bribe him to give them some as well. Even Sylvia had asked Lorist to look into the rumours.

The days passed calmly otherwise. Lorist returned to Cherry Blossom Ridge with his family in the 10th month. He couldn't bear to stay in Northsea any longer, it was too cold. His years in the warm south had made him soft. He had originally wanted to return to Ragebear instead, but Sylvia refused to go with him, and wouldn't let him leave her either, so he was forced to accompany her to her mansion instead.

Lorist finally returned to his castle in Ragebear in the 12th month for the celebrations. The city was already bustling with parties and feasts. The new year's celebrations of his house had turned into a month of festivals and parties. The people were even calling the 12th month the Month of Joy. Even the cold weather and constant snowfall did little to dampen people's mood.  The snow instead became sculptures that lined the street. A few artists had even begun specializing in frozen art and had exhibitions and sculpting competitions in the city's parks.

People didn't just do it because it was an excuse to have fun. They wanted to give thanks to their duke's exceptional leadership, his achievements on the battlefield, and to celebrate his return to the city and be thankful for being his subjects. House Norton had also pulled out all the stops and were sponsoring many of the large events held in and around the city.

It wasn't just the peasantry that were in a celebratory mood.  The city was flooded with nobles from all over the soon-to-be empire. Many had come with hopes of meeting the kingdom's only swordsaint, others had come to attend the inauguration ceremony and to network with the new and up-and-coming Norton nobility, and yet others had come to network and socialize with those noble.  It was quite possible that, despite Auguslo's best efforts, this celebration would match, if not eclipse his ascension ceremony and celebrations.

As for those to be made peers, they included Spiel and Kedan, who were being given the title of count.  Sixteen knights, including Charade, Reidy, Shuss, Camorra, Hector, Kriston, Balk, Ciroba, and Tarkel, were being given the title of viscount in addition to their previous titles as barons.

Fourty six men were going to be made barons, one of which was Shadekampf. He'd been Lorist's attendant from the very beginning, and it was finally time to reward him for his decades of service. Howard was another. He was already a viscount thanks to Duke Felim, though he wasn't the duke's vassal. It was a dowry for marrying his daughter. He was technically a vassal directly under the king, since Duke Felim had given him the viscounty without demanding his allegiance, and since he had no title or land under Lorist. This barony would formally make him Lorist's vassal, if only in the capacity as a baron, since Howard's wife was technically the title holder of the viscounty.

Few doubted that this celebration would be remembered for years, if not generations to come, and not for being so close to the king's ascension to emperor.