"Teach them a lesson, but don't kill anyone," ordered Lorist.

"Understood, Your Grace."

Patt and his accompaniment rubbed their fists together. Soon sounds of thumping and cries echoed up and down the street. The watchmen tried to stop them but were beat up as well.

Patt lifted the sword with one hand and the bearded watchman with his other.

He dropped him in front of Lorist before announcing, "Done."

"Kneel" shouted he as he stomped on the man's thigh. Two guards came over and lifted the sack of flesh up.

He put up a token struggle but could do nothing.

"You... who are you... Who dares disobey... His Majesty's ban on k-killing and r-resists arrest... T... turn yourselves in... Just wait... When His Majesty finds out..."

Pat slapped him a few times.

"Are you blind? Can you not see our insignia? Aren't you brave? You actually dare disrespect His Grace? Are you sick of living?"

"Raging bear... You are Nortons?! D-duke... Duke Norton, the sw-swordsaint… S-sorry... Duke Norton... Y-your Grace, it's our fault. W-we shouldn't have b-been so restless... W-we deserve this... Please forgive u-us..."

The bearded man planted his head in the ground and begged for forgiveness.

"Alright, kneel properly. I only want to ask why you didn't stop the idiot when he was harassing my women?" replied Lorist indifferently.

"I-it's not our fault, Lord. His Majesty told us only to maintain order and stop fights. Ball invitations don't disturb the peace and aren't fights. We cannot interfere unless a fight breaks out. A-a-and... This is butler is Count Wecksas's servant. W-we can't afford to offend him... A-a few days ago, Duke Handra's daughter was pestered and had no choice but to take the invitation before being allowed to leave."

"Oh? Taking the invitation is all it takes? What if she didn't attend the ball?" asked Lorist.

"... I'm not too sure. It seems Duke Handra's daughter didn't attend and Count Wecksas visited her residence the next day. Duke Handra had to send the count away personally before he would leave. I heard the two got along very well though."

"Hehehe..." Lorist chuckled.

So that was why the bastard was being so shameless? Low-ranking nobles would have no choice but to have their daughters attend, and he'd personally visit nobles that had the power to ignore him and did so and use the chance to get on their good sides. Lorist, however, neither had to let his women attend the ball, nor had to give him face in any other way.

"Give them their weapons. We're leaving. You know how to deal with this, yes?"

Lorist was upset by this whole business. He might have killed the bastard that had pestered his women, but he'd lost a lot of face in doing so. He'd had someone killed for having a foul mouth, which everyone would consider very tyrannical.

"I do," the watchman answered, "Thank you for your mercy, Lord. I will deal with this properly."

Lorist nodded and left. A commotion marched down the street, however. The guards chased off earlier were returning with a hundred more. They pointed at the departing Lorist as they shouted.

"It's him! He ordered them to kill Butler Hamm!"

A man in his fifties stepped out of the crowd and pointed at Lorist with his sword.

"Kill them all. They're traitors.  Leave the women, the lord will decided what to do with the."

The watchman lost his cool immediately.

"Stop! Are you crazy?! He's Duke No--"

But nobody listened to him.  The new arrivals charged at Lorist and were met with his own men. His had no reservation about killing since they'd done so already just a few minutes earlier. They were outnumbered, however, and could only hold up so many. Twenty enemies met no resistance and charged at Lorist.

His expression darkened and he turned to Patt.

"Kill them all."

"No!" cried the watchmen.

"With pleasure!"

Patt charged into the fight with the two that had been holding the watchmen. The four gift-holders put their loads down and joined soon after.

It wasn't a slaughter as Lorist had expected, however. The enemy were far more capable than he'd expected. Their leader was a gold rank and could match Patt with the help of three of his subordinates. Patt was soon beginning to lose. If he hadn't been a shield-user adept at defense, he would've been injured already.

The two guards accompanying Patt fared no better. One was cut by a blade, though he avoided a serious injury. The other four barely held their ground. The bodies soon started piling up. Lorist's side wasn't spared injury, though none had died so far.

The crowd cleared enough space for the combatants but didn't disperse. New quickly spread of the fight and many more came to watch. Count Wecksas had finally run in with another noble. Everyone was curious to see who had the guts to go against the king's offspring, bastard as he may be. Not to mention that it was just days before the king's ascension. He would most certainly not take kindly to someone pooping on his parade like this.

Lorist was not amused. If only his men had been wearing legion armor, this wouldn't have happened. Everyone knew his armor. But he'd decided to travel light, they would never get into a fight in the capital after all, and if they did, it would not merit using their armour. So he had his men just wear some thick cloth and put on a couple small embroidered badges.

Nobody associate this with House Norton, however, and the badges were hidden behind the packages, so everyone thought they were just some inconsequential noble family. Even Kenmays had had to be told they were Norton uniforms. It worked well when nobody was making trouble, since you could move around incognito, but when it was good to have a big presence, it didn't help.

That butler no doubt thought exactly the same and tried to force the invitations on the women. Nobody would have expected them to actually be associated with a duke, much less Lorist, and that Wecksas, a mere count, would thus have no grounds for his invite and that they would thus naturally ignore him.  Hamm naturally resorted to pestering when they did and this all came about...

Lorist could imagine the consequences, but he was suspicious of Wecksas' current wealth and position. He was a nobody before his father acknowledged him, and completely unknown before the incident with the late queen. Where had he gotten the money and influence to hire a gold rank as a guard and so many other powerful people?

And where did he get the savvy necessary to run a guild? The men weren't normal silver ranks either. Lorist's men were veterans and trained in some of the best techniques the continent knew, no ordinary silver rank could match them.

Even outnumbered as they were, ordinary silvers would not be able to give them this much trouble, but these managed to hold the fight at a stalemate.  As Lorist watched, he noticed that the enemy was fighting using military tactics, not something civilians guards ought to know, and they appeared quite well-trained in them. Where did that little pest get them?

The only explanation Lorist could come up with was that it was actually Auguslo. The king must be backing his bastard from the shadows and using him to go against Lorist and the salt merchant committee.


His thoughts having gone to this point, he decided to act personally. He took a step forward, but was stopped by a familiar voice.

"I'm here!"

It was Loze. The man didn't stop to salute Lorist, he just charged right into the fight.

He took one enemy with a swing of his sword. Blood spurted everywhere behind his blade as he slaughtered his way up the street.

Fiercetiger Loze was too dominating. It only took a few minutes for the tide of the battle to turn as the numbers quickly evened. The enemy gold rank backed away as Loze closed in.

"Treasonous scum, en grade!"

Their swords met and the man screamed.

"Blademaster?!"

"Well done!" Loze smiled, "First time anyone's called House Norton traitors. You have a lot of balls, but not a lot of brains, huh? You gave me an excuse to fight a good fight right after I broke through. I owe you one.  Now let's enjoy ourselves!"

The gold rank's expression changed immediately.

"H-house Norton?!?! Stop! This is all a misunderstanding!"

"Aaaah!"

Another cry. The men fighting Patt were no match without the gold rank's support and were cut up.

"His Grace told us to kill them all," Patt shouted at Loze before rushing off to another grou nearby.

"Hehe..." Loze licked his lips, "I love his orders the most. Now give me a good fight before dying for daring to go against my lord!"

"Nonono! This is a misunderstanding! We didn't know who you were!"

"I don't care. You raised your swords against us, so you will die!"

"Nooooo!"

The fight lasted all but ten seconds.  The man screamed the whole way… until Loze's sword cut off his jaw and stoppered his throat.

The last enemy fell less than a minute later. No one had escaped. Patt had the men cut off their heads and stack them in a mini pyramid in the middle of the street, the third Lorist had built so far, if much less impressive.

The sun backed the street, but everyone watching the scene was shivering.

"What's going on, Locke?" Kenmays asked as he wobbled over.

Lorist had charged out as he'd been busy going over the arrangements for the night's ball with Loze. A few minutes later the shop manager ran into the office and gasped something about a fight outside and Loze charged out as well.

Kenmays had to wobble over awkwardly with his guards and try to push his way through the crowd.

The man stared at the headless corpses. For a few moments before he recognised the blood-stained uniforms.

"Why'd you kill Andalou's guards? What happened?"

"Andalou... Oh, it's Count Wecksas's business, right? Where's his shop?" Lorist asked, ignoring Kenmay's question.

"Over there. He has the best spot and the largest building," Kenmays answered, in a daze.

"Loze, Patt, tear it down! Kill everyone that resists!!"

"Yes, Your Grace!"

Kenmays watched on speechlessly.