Lorist felt that the second wall was on a totally different league than the first one he managed to takeover himself. The latter was merely a simple 4-meter-tall pile of rocks whereas the one before him right now was double-layered with a 7-meter-tall outer wall and another inner wall that was easily above 10 meters in height. The surface of the walls was even covered by a layer of green clay, making it smooth and sturdy.

Upon getting up onto the walls, Lorist discovered that the 10-meter-wall he saw from the outside was actually a building that was erected on the walls that had its roof linked to the outer wall which was augmented to a saw-like pattern to match it. Within that building were some military equipment, living quarters for soldiers as well a room in which a broken ballista was kept; that was probably the one that Josk had destroyed previously.

Josk had already been waiting for Lorist for quite a while on top of the walls and greeted him when he saw him approaching.

Lorist said with dissatisfaction, “You were just lucky this time that the defenders were unmotivated mercenaries who only worries for their own lives. Had a proper garrison unit been stationed here, you wouldn’t have been able to take this place without a single casualty.”

Josk laughed and said, “You are right, milord…”

“Also, next time, don’t even dare to pretend that you didn’t hear me. You have to give me some face too, you know?” Lorist continued to complain.

Josk merely snickered in response.

“That aside, I heard that you discovered something important?” said Lorist after he remembered the main reason he rushed over in the first place.

Josk pointed further ahead and said, “It’s all in that room over there. You’ll know what I’m talking about once you see it for yourself, milord.”

Josk was pointing at the five buildings that were built by the side of the walls where a few guard squad members could be seen watching over a few prisoners.

The building in the middle of the five was the largest among the rest. It was about 6 meters in length with a width similar to the buildings beside it at 3 meters. Several large wooden gears and a huge winch could be seen within the room.

“Is this the mechanism used to open and close the portcullis[1][1]?” Lorist asked.

Josk nodded.

Usually, in large cities or cities ruled by a rich lord, a heavy iron portcullis would be installed beyond the main gates. Normally, they will be lifted up and left as is and only be lowered whenever the main gates are breached to serve as a secondary defense.

“Sol, is Viscount Kenmays showing off his wealth? To spend so much money to construct such an expensive fort… It doesn’t sound too practical to do this just to lock the Norton Family within the Northlands… What in the world is he up to?”

“Milord, look behind you. The answer to your question is right there,” Josk replied.

Turning to his back, Lorist could see a small room to his right within which several maps could be seen hanging on the walls. In the middle of the =room was a large sand table on which several castle replicas were placed.

On the sand table, a hill city beside a waterway could be seen surrounded by large spans of farmland. Further away was a mine and beside it was a model of a large factory facility. And at the end of the hill where the city was located was a heavily fortified citadel base.

“This sand table is pretty well-made. Where is that hill city?” Lorist asked.

Josk shook his head and said, “Milord, I don’t know about that. What I wanted you to see was not the whole sand table but rather that castle replica over there. I think the fort we are in right now is a castle in construction.”

Beside the sand table was a semi-complete model of a castle. But upon closer inspection, Lorist noticed from its double walls that was the exact replica of the one he was standing on.

“Heh, Viscount Kenmays really spent quite a lot of money on this project…” said Lorist as he stomped his foot. “Look, the floors and the walls outside are all covered with green clay! If he really intends to complete the construction of this castle, just based on the cost of the green clay required, it would go up to tens of thousands of gold Fordes! Wait, where is that big-bearded fella?”

Green clay was one of the main materials used for construction in the Grindia Continent. It is a lot like cement that was used in Lorist’s previous world and its compositions are quite similar too: both of the materials required lime, sand and clay to be mixed and heated at high temperatures. The main difference was that cement was cheap but green clay cost far more. Cement was usually mixed with water whereas green clay required a special type of glue to be added to the mixture.

Lorist’s attendant, Reidy, had come from the Romon Empire. Within it was a mountainous area where most people were forbidden from entry and trespassers were killed without a question because that was the place where the glue vines were planted. It was said that glue vines were originally not native plants of the Grindia Continent and was actually brought over by the magi from another planar world thousands of years prior. These vines only grew in dark, damp conditions and each one was as thick as a large barrel. When a cut was made on its stem, a light-green liquid would flow out.

While that liquid seemed to be almost as clear as water, when it was heated up, it would turn really viscous and sticky and become exceedingly hard once solidified. That liquid would usually first be diluted with ten times the amount of water and heated before it was mixed with clay, lime and sand to form green clay, the best and most expensive building material on the whole of Grindia. Each bucket of glue would sold for 1 gold Forde and the Romon Empire reaped a yearly profit of up to 1 million gold Fordes from the sales of that green glue.

On the Grindia Continent, the less wealthy would purchase glue that was produced by boiling the skin of a Ground Wyrms to construct their homes (see chapter 25). However, the completed house would have a faint smell of the earth that would easily attract insects and insecticide must be sprayed once in a while to keep it infestation free. Another method was to cook a kind of black glutinous rice and mix it with lime, clay and fine sand to make it into a paste for building. However, buildings made with that allowed for moss to easily grow on it during the rainy season, so it had to be cleaned very often.

The ideal building material one could find was thus green clay that was hard as rock when it solidified and had a slight fragrance that aided to repel insects. Having lived in Morante City where green clay was frequently traded and sold, Lorist wasn’t a stranger to the properties of the material. He was really impressed with the ability of Viscount Kenmays to be able to afford using green clay for a castle in the Northlands.

“Milord, Ovidis has left with half of the guard squad to go capture some people,” said Josk.

“Capturing people?”

“That’s correct. According to the surrendered mercenaries, due to a lack of materials to make green clay, the main construction supervisor of this castle had sent early a thousand slave laborers to go collect lime, clay and sand. Ovidis has left to apprehend these laborers,” explained Josk.

Lorist then recalled that he did in fact not see any workers on the construction site when he came in earlier as they had been away for the aforementioned reason.

“Are the prisoners outside mercenaries? Get their leader to come in here, I want to ask him something,” said Lorist.

The leader of the surrendered mercenaries was quickly brought before Lorist.

What Lorist wanted to know from him was the current situation of the Norton Family.

The mercenary gave it some thought before he answered, “Milord, we have only been hired by Viscount Kenmays less than two months ago. However, I’ve heard that around half a year ago, Viscount Kenmays’s men had taken over the mines and went to attack the bastide of the Norton Family. However, they’ve lost tens of people and failed to conquer the bastide after besieging for up to half a month. After that, the viscount withdrew his troops and started the construction of this fort. By the time I made my way here, it had just been completed. For almost two months I’ve been stationed here, I’ve never seen a person from the Norton Family come by, nor did the scouts patrolling the area detect any of their spies. But, when I was on an assignment to send some supplies to the people at the mines, I heard a mercenary there say that he’s seen someone from the Norton Family back when the viscount was withdrawing his troops. After they discovered that their mines had been taken, there was no other news nor sightings of them.”

“Then do you know how the people who were managing the mines for the Norton Family are doing?” Lorist asked.

The mercenary leader shook his head and said, “I’m not too informed about that, but I believe they are probably forced to mine for the viscount. I remember there being a delivery of half a tonne of iron ore from the mines to the storehouse over here last month.”

At that moment, distant chatters could be heard outside the room before a guard came in to report that Ovidis had returned with the slave laborers.

Lorist and Josk went back out to the walls and could see a long line of slave laborers traveling towards the castle gates flanked by the guard squad troops on both sides with Ovidis leading at the front.

Letting almost 1000 slave laborers settle down took a number of hours, and that was after they had been escorted over obediently. It was fortunate that the camp that they had lived in before they set out to collect building materials was not dismantled yet.

Lorist gathered Josk, Shadekampf, Patt, Reidy and Ovidis and prepared to discuss what to do next.

When Shadekampf and Patt entered the room and saw the sand table, they both let out a gasp of exclamation. They said that it showed part of the dominion of the family and the area that the sand table was modeled after was the terrain of the Morgan Hills.

“Milord, look. That’s our copper mine! And here…” said Shadekampf as he pointed towards the citadel replica that was placed at a corner of the table. “That is where we are at right now. However, there isn’t a city on the hills here. The farmland they have on the table is nothing but forests at the moment. And that waterway on the sand table isn’t anywhere to be seen either…”

Upon hearing Shadekampf’s comments, Lorist’s curiosity piqued and he instructed Ovidis to bring the grand architect and the supervisor of the construction site to him.

The grand architect was a man in his forties and he claimed credit for the design of the castle without even being asked. However, he refused to answer some of Lorist’s question about the castle and even cursed Lorist for cowardly assaulting and taking over the construction site when their side was unprepared. He demanded for Lorist to leave the area or face the consequences.

Lorist and his men all stared wide-eyed at the architect as if he had a screw or two loose in his head. In the end, Lorist was furious at the constant bickering of the middle-aged man and said, “You guys came to my backyard to build your own little building. Don’t you think that I, the master of this land, should be pissed instead? Men, tie this fool up on the flagpole and give him 50 canes to make sure he knows his place.”

After that, the elderly head supervisor of the construction work who sported a goatee, Boris, was recognized by Shadekampf to be the head butler of Viscount Kenmays. He had met that old butler a couple of times during the negotiations between the Nortons and the Kenmayses about the issue of the right to ownership of the copper mine. He had unexpectedly been tasked to serve as the main supervisor of this construction site by the viscount.

The goatee-sporting Boris was actually quite a coward. The moment the pained cries of the architect outside entered his ears, he quickly answered every question that was asked of him without hesitation, swiftly revealing the reason the castle was chosen to be built here as well as many other information about the Kenmays Family.

Viscount Kenmays’s family actually had a merchant background. His father was the chairman of the largest construction merchant guild in the Krissen Empire. During the civil war, he had joined the Second Prince’s side and donated huge sums of money to fund his war efforts. When the Iblia Kingdom was first founded, the viscount’s father had managed to urge the Second Prince to grant his son the hereditary title of a viscount and a dominion in the Northlands in exchange for 200000 gold Fordes.

With the dominion in their hands, the Kenmays Family invested huge amounts of money into building a bastide at Redriver Valley. Being the chairman of the largest construction merchant guild in the empire, the father of Viscount Kenmays had an incredibly profound insight on the current situation. He believed that given the raving ambitions of Duke Loggins and his casual granting of titles to new noble families, the Northlands would definitely be in a long period of chaos before everything settles down. Even though the Kenmays Family had their bastide at Redriver Valley, it didn’t have a terrain that was advantageous to them and would easily fall to enemy attack. That was why the Kenmays Family sent lots of people to survey the area and finally discovered the Morgan Hills, which was near the Kenmays Family’s territory and within the dominion of the Norton Family. It was the ideal place to build a castle given the beneficial terrain. So, the Kenmays Family spent another huge sum to bribe the official that was in charge of drawing the borders between dominions to include the copper mine of the Norton Family into their own and used that as an excuse to start a war with them to force them away from the Morgan Hills so that they could start building the new settlement there.

According to Boris, even though the model of the castle is not yet finished, its blueprints were already completed and was beneath the sand table. When the construction finishes, the castle could house at least 10000 residents and the Kenmays Family intended to make it their main base of operations. As long as they station it with 3000 garrison soldiers, there was no way an enemy would be able to take the castle even if they had a force that was ten times that of the defending side..

As for the hill city that was depicted on the sand table, that was where the Kenmays Family intended to have their citizens live in. WIth it being able to house up to 60000 people and the ease of access to copper ore and timber from areas nearby, it would able to build an industry and economy around those resources. By the time the logging activities free up more land around the area, the waste area could be converted into farmlands. By that time, they could set up farming villages around the city and open up new irrigation channels to be able to sustain the demand for food in their dominion just from their yearly harvests.

To fulfill their grand development plan, the Kenmays Family had invested up to 300000 gold Fordes for the next five years of development to solidify its foundations in the Northlands. However, little did they know that only four months after the plan was started, Lorist had arrived.

“Do you know what the Kenmays Family intends to do with the Norton Family?” Lorist asked.

Boris replied, “I’ve heard the old master discuss it with the young master before. He said that he wouldn’t totally annihilate the Norton Family as they would make a good target for the barbarians of the mountains so that the Kenmays Family’s development will be unimpeded. The old master even said that he would offer the Norton Family help and support to withstand the barbarian attacks if necessary. He has mentioned that he is impressed with the martial prowess of the Norton Family and might consider making them a vassal noble house of the Kenmays Family.”

“If that’s so, then why did they attack the family bastide half a year ago?”

“Half a year after the former head of the Norton Family passed away, the young master sent someone over to negotiate if the Nortons would sell the Morgan Hills to the Kenmayses and end the conflict between the two families. However, the messenger that the young master had sent was insulted by the Nortons, and according to him, the Nortons have torn the young master’s letter apart and said to the messenger that they wouldn’t consider selling the smallest rock on Norton soil to the Kenmayses before chasing him away. That was why the young master besieged the bastide in a fit of rage, but he didn’t succeed anyway. After that incident, he decided to carry out the development plan early and seal the Norton Family off from the rest of the world so that they will one day come out begging him to be forgiven,” said Boris.

“Okay, then what’s with the grand architect?” asked Lorist as he thought of the middle-aged man who must’ve been insane.

“Milord, Grandmaster Ciroba is the most accomplished architect in the Iblia Kingdom! Two years ago, the Rose Palace which he designed had received critical acclaim and that project had caused the grandmaster’s name to soar to fame. He’s a treasured talent of the Second Prince. The old master has spent quite a lot of money to hire Grandmaster Ciroba to come over here to plan the construction of the young master’s city. Now that the main blueprints are complete, he should’ve been preparing to leave for the royal capital. Sigh, given his arrogant temperament, he even dares to not show any respect to dukes and marquises of the Second Prince’s royal court. I believe milord’s decision to punish him like that will definitely cause a lot of uproar,” said Boris awkwardly.

“Hehe…” Lorist laughed lightly and thought, so that grand architect does indeed have a couple of screws loose in his head. The dukes and marquises he dared to disrespect are merely honorary nobles that have no real power. But he is truly looking for trouble for being brave enough to act like that in front of a landed noble like me…

[1] Vertically-closing gates at a castle gateway. See: Wikipedia