The decision that was made on Malek Defense Line meant that yet another huge matter of the house had been solved and Lorist could finally return to his days of tranquility. As for the whole effort to dig a man-made river and build the embankment as well as the mobilization of three main household legions to guard the border of Montside, the Ministry of War and engineering department would take care of them.

Lorist was quite assured that Malek was appointed as the supervisor of the project. All he did was personally talk to him about the details of mobilization and the schedule. Lorist believed that there would be no need to bring all three legions on site at Montside. Only the area being worked on had to be guarded after all. That way, they wouldn't have to guard the whole border. NOt only did that save much manpower, the legions could also guard them in shifts. In terms of funding, it would save up to five or six million gold Fordes in five years.

He had no choice but to make such an arrangement as Ironguard was still busy at Yungechandler with the renovation of Lichtana Citadel, which would only be completed by next year. Jaeger was stationed at Wild Husbandry and was the only mobilizable legion of the house. Firmrock and Tigersoar on the other hand were moved to Montside, leaving only Terman's Ragebear Knights in THe Northlands. They would be the first responders to any emergencies and buy time for the house to come up with a response.

Though Lorist believed that there wouldn't be any huge issues in the dominion, or the empire, for that matter,  for the years to come, the completion of Lichtana Citadel and the relocation of Ironguard to Montside was the time when the house's forces were at their thinnest. The three provinces of Winston, Delamock and Yungechandler could only rely on their newly formed local garrison legions for defense.

Hopefully, the wary Auguslo doesn't cause me any trouble during the next few years... Lorist already made up his mind to not mess around with the emperor and spend his days in peace within the dominion. No matter what happened within the empire, as long as it wasn't a threat to the house's interest, Lorist wouldn't show up to solve it. Those responsible for instigating the matters would have to take care of their own ess.

It was currently the 10th day of the 8th month and Lorist would be traveling with his wife and four concubines and children to Northsea before taking the ferry to Platinum Beach for a vacation. That was in tandem with Kenmays's efforts to restore life to Platinum Beach. It was said that he invited many imperial nobles there to hold an exciting summer party.

Little did Lorist expect that he would hear news about Auguslo after just hoping that he wouldn't cause any trouble. Kenmays sent an urgent letter that Auguslo had accepted the invitation and showed up there. It was said that he wasn't there to join the fun, as stripping down on a beach to play around didn't really fit the image of an emperor. Initially, Auguslo refused to join the festivities using his busy schedule as an excuse, but surprisingly, he changed his mind in two days and replied to Kenmays that he would be going on a vacation as well.

So, Kenmays wrote Lorist an urgent letter to pose the question whether Auguslo had other intentions for going and asked him to be prepared for it.

Auguslo's going to Platinum Beach as well? Isn't that like the emperor wanting to have fun with commoners? I doubt he'd do something that meaningless. I'm sure he should be busy with all sorts of other stuff. How could he be in a mood to have fun? Lorist's eyes rolled; he more or less had a grasp of what was going on. "Jinolio, inform the matron to bring the four concubines and children to Platinum Beach. I won't be joining. If anyone asks, say that I'm busy dealing with a barbarian invasion in Montside."

"Is... is Your Grace intentionally avoiding His Imperial Majesty?" ask Jinolio with shock. The way he saw it, there was no reason to do so. Wasn't that intentionally causing House Norton's reputation to 

Lorist could tell right away what Jinolio was thinking and gave him a pat on the head. "Kid, didn't you read about the secret report we received a few days ago? Ever since Jillin Harbor raised the purchasing price for ores and other raw materials, Andalou was forced to raise theirs as well, but that also means that they'll suffer even larger losses. That young master, Selik, went to see the emperor a few times possibly to discuss the matter.

"And now, His Imperial Majesty is coming to Platinum Beach for a vacation. I firmly believe it has something to do with a suggestion for me to lower the purchasing prices at Jillin Harbor so that the both of us don't end up battered. After all, the emperor invested 800 thousand gold Fordes in Andalou from behind the scenes. Since it has to do with His Imperial Majesty's investment, he has no choice but to come and settle the matter personally. I don't want to be forced to give face to him and yield to this request, so I've decided to avoid him. Let Andalou continue to suffer the loss."

"Will it really end like that?" asked Jinolio doubtfully while scratching his head.

"Of course," Lorist replied with certainty, "the empire's borders have been rather peaceful as of late and nothing huge worth paying attention to has occurred. Apart from the fact that Whitelion is still entangled with the bandits in Phapsia, the only other thing worth paying attention to is our commitment to build Malek Defense Line. His Imperial Majesty will definitely not allow us to help Whitelion out, and there wouldn't be anything anyone can do about Malek Defense Line. The only thing left must be the raise in purchasing price by our house. His Imperial Majesty made the excuse to go on a vacation to meet with me so that nobody else will make a big fuss out of this."

"I understand. Since His Imperial Majesty said that the merchants stopping at the new trading point at Flowater Creek is part of free market competition, then our house's act of raising the prices is part of that as well. Since His Imperial Majesty and Andalou can't do much about that, they have no choice but to come to Your Grace personally to negotiate the matter to prevent a long term trade war.

"Even though it has only been a month, Andalou is already unable to hold on, so our emperor decided to come personally for negotiations. And Your Grace is avoiding the meeting because Your Grace wants to extend the trade war. As Your Grace mentioned, House Norton has the advantage of transport by sea, so we can break even or even make a small profit even with the high prices while Andalou has to suffer more losses the more they purchase because they have to pay a huge price for transport to maintain the trade route with the Trade Union," summarized Jinolio with understanding.

"That's the idea. His Imperial Majesty initially refused the invitation, only to turn around two days later. It's obvious that the emperor wants to use this chance to meet with me and discuss the prices. You know our emperor has always loved to consolidate power and is all too busy doing other tasks on a daily basis. If it weren't because of his personal investment in Andalou, he wouldn't be in the mood to go to Platinum Beach for a vacation.

"I'm guessing that His Imperial Majesty wants to discuss boundaries on who is allowed to sell at which places. For instance, perhaps Jillin Harbor's market could handle sales from the northwestern area of the empire while Andalou can take care of the two southwestern provinces. That kind of compromise will help lower prices. It's too bad that the goal of our trade war is not to reach an agreement with Andalou, otherwise those terms would be rather appealing.

"The reason I don't want to go to Platinum Beach to meet His Imperial Majesty is because I can't be bothered to negotiate the prices. Andalou and His Imperial Majesty's investment is not the most important. What I'm concerned about is cutting off trade to the Trade Union altogether. For our house, any act that helps the Trade Union recover must be stopped. Before our emperor and the person in charge of Andalou, Selik, are aware of that, I refuse to negotiate with 

"Jinolio, write Duke Kenmays a letter and tell him to receive His Imperial Majesty as usual. Don't need to make any fuss over it. Apologize on my behalf that I won't be able to be there," instructed Lorist.

"Understood, Your Grace."

Though Lorist wasn't going to spend his vacation in Platinum Beach, he still had to send Sylvia and the four concubines as well as the children to Northsea for them to take the ferry there. He would have Sylvia deliver the letter of apology to Kenmays on his behalf. After the ferry left, Lorist turned back to the docks and headed to Nico Academy with Jinolio and his guards.

He was going to visit many people on this trip of his. First, he would see his lover, Telesti, and the two princesses she birthed him. He would also have to visit Dilianna's eldest son, Slophenk. Other than that, he would be bringing Charade's second son, Freilyde, to replace Jinolio as Lorist's attendant. If he performed well, Lorist might take him as his fourth disciple.

However, only two days into his visit at the academy, he received a secret report from Northsea that Auguslo had arrived with a light cohort of a hundred guards on House Kenmay's trading vessel at Northsea and was on his way to Ragebear.

Looks like he won't rest until he sees me. Guess he decided to come knocking after not seeing my at Platinum Beach. Lorist sent an eagle message to task Charade with handling the emperor and tell him to inform Auguslo that he was in Montside. If Auguslo really went to Montside, Potterfang, Loze and Malek would inform him that Lorist left urgently to Silowas to deal with a trade conflict.

Lorist brought Jinolio, Freilyde and his guards to Northsea to take a ferry that was heading to Silowas. Even though The Northlands was the dominion of the Nortons, Lorist couldn't be sure whether Auguslo had spies within it. If it was discovered that he was hiding in Nico Academy and refusing to meet Auguslo, it would turn out really awkward if he was cornered, so he decided to make an actual trip to Silowas and believed that Auguslo wouldn't go so far to chase him down.

He was the emperor after all, and it was only custom for the duke to receive the emperor personally instead of playing hide and seek like he did. However, that wouldn't be the case if he really was at Silowas. Lorist couldn't do much to Auguslo since he was an emperor anyway. Auguslo wanted to seek him out for a private chat about trade instead of summoning him officially for a negotiation on prices as that would be hugely embarrassing for an emperor like him.

Surprisingly, Lorist didn't think that Auguslo would be that persistent. After six days in Silowas, Lorist received word that Auguslo ordered the people of the house to provide a ship for him to travel to Silowas once he heard that Lorist wasn't there.

What kind of person would be that thick-skinned? Lorist felt that he was defeated by Auguslo in some capacity. He's going to meet me no matter what? Since he's being so persistent, I'll go to Mornate. I doubt he'd actually follow me there. The current situation wasn't like when House Norton controlled the city and Auguslo was able to travel there as he wished. Currently, Morante was the territory of the Free Union and an emperor like Auguslo couldn't travel there with just a light guard.

Five days later, Auguslo arrived at Silowas on the ferry, Whitebird. Governor Hector and Jillin Harbor Chief of Finance Camorra politely welcomed Auguslo and informed him that Lorist had traveled to Morante to resolve a trade conflict ss the matter involved trade with Jigda in the south of the continent. As that would require quite some time, it wasn't certain when Lorist would return to Silowas.

It was then when Auguslo knew for sure that Lorist was avoiding him. After staying at Silowas for five days he prepared to leave for the imperial capital. Before he left, he had a deep discussion with Camorra and criticized House Norton's raising of prices was only harming others and themselves and wasn't sustainable in the long run.

But Camorra's reply almost caused Auguslo to spew blood in rage. He said that even though the high purchasing prices caused the house to lose a lot of profit, it also resulted in the imperial nobles having more money and that raised demand for the luxury goods sold at Jillin Harbor. They were more willing to spend even more money to purchase things. In terms of revenue, it rose by fifty percent compared to the previous year and increased House Norton's profits even more.

According to the agreement between Lorist and Auguslo, Jillin Harbor would be given to House Norton for management and a market would be formed there. The profits from that market would be split in two between House Norton and Auguslo. However, the Norton-produced goods were not part of that deal. The deal only applied to profits made from the sale of ores and raw materials purchased from Jillin Harbor.

In other words, Auguslo's support of Andalou from the background to wrestle trade from Jillin Harbor only harmed his own profits. House Norton was able to earn even more through the sale of their own luxury goods and products and make up for the losses at Jillin Harbor. How could Auguslo remain calm after hearing that news?

In the end, he left Silowas in low spirits. Camorra calmly instructed, "Write His Grace an eagle message to inform that His Imperial Majesty has left for the imperial capital. His Grace can come back now."