It was said that Auguslo's blunder at the encampment of Whitelion became a huge joke. The incident stemmed from his deep dissatisfaction with the current state of the legion. He had intended to teach them a lesson. First, he rebuked Sybek, who had rushed back quickly after hearing the news, harshly and had him wait for his punishment while he blew the horn to gather the soldiers who had left to work.

But after three blows, only tens of Whitelion soldiers returned lazily after half an hour while complaining about some of them blowing the horn for no good reason and interrupting their earning a living for their families. Auguslo, greatly enraged, barked at the ten plus soldiers and had them scram immediately.

As one of the two main legions of the empire, the Whitelion soldiers and their family members enjoy certain tax benefits that the commoners don't. Auguslo had taken a page out of House Norton's book for that. Even though he couldn't afford to give identical benefits the Nortons gave their troops, decreasing some taxes and giving the families of the soldiers some extra care were within his capabilities. So, those two legions were easily able to attract lots of applicants.

Auguslo believed that firing the ten plus soldiers was a harsh punishment. Had it not been for the fact that most soldiers had gone to do a part time job, Auguslo would've wanted to kill them outright. But given the sheer number of people he was dealing with, that wouldn't be an appropriate punishment and the soldiers who went to work might be aggravated into revolt. After some thought, Auguslo decided to fire them from the legion and take back the benefits it afforded them. He was almost certain that the soldiers would regret right away before begging and groveling to be forgiven.

However, the soldiers couldn't be happier to leave. "Great! I can leave with my wife and children for Yungechandler immediately!"

"Yeah, I want to go too! My dad was grumbling that I shouldn't have joined the army in the first place. Our neighbors left for Yungechandler already and not only did they get farmland and houses, they also managed to secure a good living at the factories. They're earning around ten gold Fordes yearly..."

"That's great! Let's there together! I want to tell my family the good news first."

Auguslo was completely speechless. Seeing the fired soldiers leave the camp happily instead of crying and begging felt off somehow. Just as he was pondering the matter, more soldiers returned to camp from work. The moment they heard that some soldiers were fired and kicked out of the legion, the envious looks in their eyes couldn't be more apparent. They all swarmed to Auguslo and said, "Your Majesty, we violated military law as well. Please discharge also..."

Troubled, Auguslo pointed at the soldiers preparing to leave and cried, "Wait, before you leave, remove your equipment and armor! That's property of the military! You can't take them with you."

He didn't expect the soldiers to reply, "We bought these ourselves! They're private property and have nothing to do with the military!"

Bulltshit! These are specially made mithril armor! Each set cost 40 plus gold Fordes at least! How could those poor hicks afford it?! However, Auguslo immediately wondered, wait, since when did I provide mithril armor that good to Whitelion?

Most of the 50 thousand pieces of armor Lorist donated to Whitelion back then formerly belonged to Whitelion in the first place. They were mostly ruined after many battles, with only around ten thousand pieces remaining. Auguslo reclaimed them for use with the imperial guard. During the reformation of the two legions a few years ago, Auguslo recalled giving mostly cruddy old leather armor to Whitelion. There were less than a thousand sets of metal armor which were harvested from corpses and weren't maintained.

Yet, the armor worn by the Whitelion soldiers were of mithril make. Auguslo felt that the legion had almost changed completely. He looked closely and noticed that it was an elite legion that seemed even more disciplined and capable than the imperial guard he so painstakingly formed. Other things aside, the soldiers that returned to camp were decked out in complete gear and well-disciplined. They quickly formed together into many orderly square formations and appeared rather menacing.

"Your Imperial Majesty, the armor they are wearing are indeed their personal property. They spent their own money to buy them. Nobody was willing to wear the leather armor we provided given the quality and weak defense capabilities, so the soldiers spent their own money to buy those equipment. Right now, the equipment owned by the legion are mostly stored within the storehouses. There are inventories that take account of them," said Sybek, who was just reprimanded not long ago.

"How... how could that be possible?" Auguslo pointed oddly at the battle formations. "There are around 50 thousand troops here! They earn only around two gold Fordes per year and wouldn't be able to afford metal armor like that without saving for at least 20 years! How could there find the money to buy so many pieces of equipment that matched together?"

"It is true, Your Imperial Majesty," Sybek said a little troubledly, "Back during the Battle of Bluwek when House Norton defeated the Trade Union forces' army of 200 thousand, many of their soldiers were captured and these equipment were basically stripped from the prisoners. Since the Norton forces don't see much point in using them, they sold them to our soldiers in Whitelion for cheap."

"How cheap? Perhaps we can also..." Auguslo looked rather interested. If House Norton doesn't want them, they can sell it to me! I might be able to get some free food and supplies from them too.

Sybek shook his head awkwardly. "Your Imperial Majesty, back then, I also wanted to buy some equipment on behalf of the legion. However, House Norton refused to sell to our legion, but said that the soldiers could spend their own money to buy them. That way, they can take the gear back home when they retire as a sort of benefit for them. As that armor may be the difference between life or death on the battlefield, and our soldiers' spoils and bonuses happened to be distributed, almost all the soldiers bought a set. I heard that the cheapest ones sold for around eight large silvers..."

Auguslo's teeth were grit so hard that he didn't realize blood was coming out. Eight large silvers? That's dirt cheap! One gold Forde was worth 20 large silvers, and mithril armor like that was usually worth more than 40 gold Fordes. How could they have sold for so cheap? How could they have ended up in the hands of the Whitelion soldiers?

"H-h-house... House Norton... Do they still have any armor from captives for sale? I... I'll pay... one... no, two... two gold Fordes per set." Auguslo's eyes were bloodshot with his nose bulging. Who wouldn't take advantage of that kind of deal? Two gold Fordes was a far better price than eight large silvers anyway and he felt that the price he offered was really appropriate.

However, Sybek's reply completely extinguished his flaring expectations. "They're long gone, Your Imperial Majesty. Apart from the ones our soldiers bought, a part of the equipment was given to the newly formed defense forces of the Free Union. The remainder had been sold to the four restored nations in Falik Plains for a thirty percent discount. Each set was sold for the rough price of 30 gold Fordes."

Auguslo was both disappointed and angry. House Norton is obviously trying to mess with me... They actually sold such good armor to my soldiers for such a cheap price... Are they trying to butter up to them? Auguslo had already forgotten how he consigned them to their fates as enemy fodder in the first place.

He also conveniently forgot about the rations and payment he owed Whitelion. In his eyes were nothing but the armor worn by the Whitelion soldiers as well as the fine weapons they were carrying.

No nation on Grindia would forbid their members from buying their own weapons to use. Not only would that allow them to use the weapons they were most familiar with to achieve their full potential on the battlefield, that would also serve to decrease the burden on the military budget. In fact, they couldn't want anything more than getting the troops to use their own weapons. Whitelion was the perfect example of such a case.

Auguslo drooled as he saw the weapons and armor the Whitelion soldiers bought for themselves, but he had no reason whatsoever to claim the weapons that belonged to the individual soldiers. After much consideration, Auguslo made a tough decision. "Sybek, I'm going to use the high price of five gold Fordes to purchase each set of armor and weapons. Order them to remove their armor and discard their weapons for collection now. I will pay them the coins at a later date..."

"That's impossible!" Sybek refused the order almost immediately. The condescending glare he shot him cut ever so deep and discomforted Auguslo greatly. "Nobody's a fool, Your Imperial Majesty. If this order is announced, the whole legion will explode with rage. Even if you're the emperor, you can't use such a low price to purchase the personal property of the troops..."

"Such a low price? Didn't you say that they got them for a steal? Five gold Fordes is almost ten times the amount they bought it for! People can't be too greedy, General Sybek!" snapped Auguslo out of embarrassment and anger.

"These are the things the soldiers use to survive on the battlefield. Back then, salt merchant committee wanted to buy them for 35 gold Fordes a set, yet none of them were willing to sell! Many of the soldiers are going to pass them on through their families as heirlooms. So I seriously don't understand why Your Imperial Majesty thinks that five gold Fordes is enough for a set of armor and weapons. Does Your Imperial Majesty think that one gold Forde can be used as ten?" Sybek didn't bother with courtesy and spoke his mind without reservation.

Auguslo's face flushed red again, but he wasn't able to get angry no matter what. Fortunately, he hadn't given the order just now. Otherwise, the soldiers might just revolt. Though salt merchant committee had offered 35 gold coins to buy each set, the soldiers of Whitelion didn't take the deal. If Auguslo ordered them to sell them at five gold Fordes, he would end up a huge laughingstock once more should word of that spread. His reputation of greediness would only be reinforced.

Actually, Auguslo had a good eye for the equipment and he could tell that each set of armor was in fact worth more than 40 gold Fordes. If the pikes, shields and swords were included together, the price would go as high as 50, especially when the design and make of the equipment were of the same series. If sold in bulk, perhaps the price might even rise ten or twenty percent. After all, getting armor of completely similar design wasn't an easy task.

It was House Norton's invention of water-powered machines that greatly decreased the demand for manpower in the production of large quantities of weapons and armor. But due to the blademasters that were sent to assassinate Lorist in The Northlands, the designs of the machines were leaked. Following that, the Trade Union rebuilt the exterminated Wessia, that used to be known for their forging, to fashion their own water-powered machines. Only then did could large numbers of mithril armor and weapons be made for the Trade Union forces.

As General Sybek said, the weapons and armor were indeed what the soldiers of Whitelion were counting on to survive. Even though the world of Grindia was one of battleforce, with silver ranks and above being able to manifest threatening blade glows,s set of good mithril armor was still the best way to ensure their safety when facing the enemy.

For instance, people without battleforce wouldn't be able to pierce the mithril armor no matter how great their weapons, and enemies of iron or bronze rank would at best be able to wound mithril-armor-wearing soldiers without actually killing them. As for silver ranks and above who could use blade glows, they might run out of battleforce after facing around a hundred enemies wearing only leather armor. However, when faced with soldiers clad in mithril armor, they would only be able to take on around ten enemies before running out as the mithril would serve to drain away much of the energy of the battleforce and the blade glow.

Currently, Auguslo found himself in a rather troubled spot. He wasn't able to find a good way to step down. First, he had wanted to strip the leaving soldiers of their personal property in quite a hasty blunder. After that, he wanted to buy the equipment of the soldiers for a cheap price, only for that notion to be shot down by Sybek. He now hung in a position that couldn't be more awkward.

Inwardly, Auguslo felt a huge tantrum brewing. He really wanted to bark at the soldiers who went part timing for House Norton, but the joyful departure of the tens of soldiers had given Auguslo a strong reminder Perhaps the soldiers just couldn't wait to leave. He didn't exactly have a good reason to chide his troops either, as it was the lack of payment that caused them to go seek out other employment opportunities in the first place.

Looking at the troops that stood in neat formation, Auguslo felt an oncoming headache. He really wanted to completely kick them out and reform the whole legion. That way, the soldiers that would stand before him after that would all have poor equipment. But no matter how friendly Whitelion was with House Norton, he had to admit that the legion that stood in front of him was nothing short of elite. If they were disbanded, there wouldn't be a doubt that they would fall in with the Nortons. Wasn't that just making trouble for himself? Perhaps the Nortons would be able to form another legion from the soldiers who just lost their jobs...

No matter how he chose to deal with them, Whitelion would prove to be a huge problem. It was obvious that letting them stay in Southern was no longer acceptable. They were going to do nothing but fish for the Nortons and help them fill their labor needs. After much consideration, Auguslo finally thought of a solution. He gave Sybek the order for the troops to be relocated to the central provinces for the extermination of bandits. This time, they would do that for real instead of block the trade routes of the four houses.

"'His Imperial Majesty left just like that after the order without dealing with Whitelion in any other way,' was what was included in Els's report. General Sybek sends his regards and requests for Whitelion to be allowed to go through Yungechandler and Egret Swamp to head to the central provinces for bandit extermination. General Els also asks if our house be participating as well," reported Jinolio.

Yungechandler was a territory under Norton control, so Whitelion, a legion belonging to the imperial family, had to first apply to be let through. If Lorist refused, the legion would have to travel south through Bodolger and Frederika, which was a huge detour that almost doubled the distance they required to travel.

Lorist rapped the desk with his fingers. After a while, he nodded. "Of course we'll let them pass. Whitelion is a friend of our house. We will be more than willing to help. However, send Els an eagle message to tell General Sybek this: it's already the end of the 11th month, so if Whitelion is willing we can bring the legion to the central provinces during winter from the 12th to 1st month next year on sleds. That would spare them the need of traveling a long distance in the mud after the rainy season."

"Alright, I'll notify Lord Els about it," Jinolio said, "Is Your Grace going to respond to the letter His Imperial Majesty sent? It has been more than a month since it was received."

"Hahahaha..." Lorist cackled heartily. "Forget that letter. Let's pretend we didn't receive it. I just hope that His Imperial Majesty will grow wiser after these two incidents and stop ogling us with his greedy eyes in hopes of getting free stuff he doesn't deserve. What he really needs to do is to manage his empire properly and ensure the living standards of the people and the functioning of his administration instead of threatening others with force to get what he wants."