At the central plaza of the Sloph Bastide was a sea of people. It was the third day since Lorist’s group occupied the bastide.

In the middle of the plaza stood around 700 spear-wielding slave soldiers with their family members all gathered up beside them in the square, along with another thousand plus slaves who worked in the bastide’s vineyard.

Appearing before all of them on the balcony of a building that faced the center of the plaza was Lorist who could be seen holding an iron bullhorn in his hand. On the second day the bastide was conquered, his armed forces have moved over entirely to the bastide from the camp in the pine forest. WIth the miscellaneous matters out of the way, what followed was the force’s reorganization. Lorist intended to give a speech to the slaves present and inspire hope and dreams within them as well as confidence for them to join him on the journey to the Northlands.

Putting the bullhorn to his mouth, he said, “I’d like to introduce myself. I am Baron Norton, the head of the family of the Roaring Raging Bear of the Northlands.” Lorist introduced himself while shamelessly adding that he was the head of the Nortons even though the official ceremony of succession hasn’t been carried out.

“I believe that many of you here understand back then that my knights have paid quite a heavy price to liberate the likes of you from the grasps of the slave traders at Port Nupite along with your family members to join us on the journey to the Northlands and promised your freedom when we reach there. However, what I didn’t expect was for us to run into the assault of these asinine slavers who wished to deprive you of your birthright and treat you people like nothing more than products and property whose sole purpose is to make them profit.

“Before I could send reinforcements to your side, you have managed to fend of the attack of the slavers despite being not properly equipped and managed to keep the camp secure before my arrival. After that, you have also successfully swarmed the camp of the slavers and even occupied this bastide, which is their main base. During the whole process, you all have managed to fulfill your responsibilities and obey the regulations that we have set up and completed the tasks we have assigned you. Your performance has truly won my heartfelt respect, as well as earned yourselves the freedom you deserve.

“As the head of the Norton Family, I, Baron Norton, hereby declare that from today onwards, you are no longer slaves and are instead proud and noble soldiers of the Norton Family……”

“Yeaaahh! …….” All the slave soldiers at the plaza gave a loud cheer that shook the eardrums of everyone present.

Lorist waited for a while and gestured for the crowd to quiet down. “By the time we reach the Northlands, your families will be treated as free citizens and will be eligible to enjoy benefits that are entailed to family members of the Norton Family Armed Forces. You will also be assigned houses and farmland and will be able to lead the rest of your lives in peace……”

At that moment, the family members of the slave soldiers cheered loudly together as well.

“During this resistance against the slavers, 17 of our heroic soldiers has sacrificed their lives for our victory with four others injured and handicapped as a result. However, the Norton Family will not forget the contribution and loyalty of our soldiers. The family members of the fallen soldiers will still be entitled to the treatment of that of families with members in our army and will also receive 1 large silver every month as a pension for up to twenty years. This applies to disabled soldiers as well, but they will be able to continue receiving the pension for the rest of their lives. This policy of mine will definitely not change.”

The soldiers of the family were all moved by the speech with some of the family members of the fallen soldiers breaking out in tears. It was apparent that they were quite worried about being abandoned by the lord as they would effectively be a burden on the convoy. For normal foot soldiers who lived their lives walking on tightropes, their biggest worry was the fates of their family members after their deaths on the battlefield. If they served under a generous lord, their family might receive a few silver coins as reimbursement for their loss. But for selfish lords who didn’t care about the welfare of their families, not only would they blame the loss of the battles on their own soldiers, they might even sell the family members of the fallen soldiers to slave traders for a small profit.

The promises that Lorist had made were completely unprecedented in the history of the Grindia Continent. It was common knowledge that as the number of fallen soldiers reach the tens of thousands, the pension fee would add up to a rather large sum which would become an unbearable burden on the ruler. In the midst of a war-torn age, there was no lord who dared to make promises like that to their soldiers.

In actuality, Lorist had gotten into quite a big argument with Charade over the issue. Even Potterfang was against Lorist’s decision, citing his experience in the Whitelion Legion that the family members of the fallen soldiers were only paid a year’s worth of the soldier’s salary in a lump sum and not throughout the span of twenty years like Lorist had decided.

Lorist then brought up the battle with the slavers. By the time he had killed more than 30 people alone, which was not even half of the number of people the enemy had, the slavers crumbled and retreated right away. After Terman and Els’s assault, they killed another half of their forces but didn’t sustain any casualties at all, apart from the two jokers which had hurt themselves from tripping.

Lorist told Charade and Potterfang back then that he wanted to foster the kind of army that was willing to fight until their last breath and wouldn’t give up even during the gravest of circumstances, to the point that they would gladly sacrifice their own lives just to give their own forces the slightest age in battle, unlike the slavers they had fought who turned and ran the moment the battle was to their disadvantage. Only an army like that could become a force to be reckoned with and deter any other powers from preying on the Norton Family and make them think twice whether it would actually cause them more loss than gain should they decide to provoke the Nortons.

And to build that army, Lorist said that the first thing that should be handled was the alleviation of the soldiers’ worries and attachments so that they would not hesitate to perish for the sake of their families, which was what the whole point of the pension plan he had in mind was centered around. He also told Charade and Potterfang that the pension fund wouldn’t be that big a burden that they had thought: twenty years worth of pensions for a fallen soldier would only amount to 240 large silvers, which was equal to 12 gold Fordes in total.

Even though 12 gold Fordes might not seem like a huge amount to a soldier on the battlefield, it would be able to provide their families with 20 years of security and comfortable living. Additionally, the pension was to be handed out gradually and not all that once. It was akin to the Norton Family borrowing 12 gold Fordes and paying an interest of only one large silver a month and the money could be used to develop many things in the dominion. A large silver of interest per fallen soldier was actually a relatively small amount.

It was at that moment when Charade and Potterfang realized the real benefits of the plan and felt that they didn’t think as far as Lorist had. Lorist also mentioned that this was only the first step, and that there were still many things to be managed within the family’s armed forces such as educating the soldiers to obey orders and regulations, as well as developing their sense of pride and belonging to the armed forces of the Norton Family. However, that wasn’t something that could be done in a short amount of time and had to be gradually nurtured and polished from long periods of training and participation in battles.

As the cheers from the people at the plaza started to quiet down, Lorist once again raised his bullhorn and said, “Soldiers of the family, the Northlands are still far away and the journey will no doubt be arduous. Before we resume our march, you will have to undergo reorganization and further training. I will provide you with helmets to protect yourselves and sharp weapons for you to cut down anyone who dares to bar our way. Whether they’re bandits or greedy lords who dare to set their sights on us, they will no doubt end up as ash and dust beneath the wheels of our chariots! Nobody can stop us from going home! I promise that I will not abandon any single one of you in the name of the Raging Bear! We will definitely return to the Northlands and live the rest of our lives in bliss!”

The crowd in the plaza instantly erupted and began chanting, “Norton! Norton! ……”

Once again raising the horn to his mouth, Lorist addressed the slaves who had been liberated from the bastide and the enemy camp. “There are no slaves in the Norton Family, and the family will also never deal with slaves. Hence, I am declaring the slaves who were liberated by us from the camp and the bastide free men and women!”

Once again the people at the crowd broke into loud cheers.

“However, even though you’ve regained your freedom, you will not be allowed to leave just yet and will temporarily have to remain in this bastide until the day we depart for the Northlands. At that point, we would also provide the ones who wish to leave with funds for transport and food. If you have nowhere else to return to, we also welcome you to join our army and let your families enjoy the benefits of being one of our soldiers. For those who do not wish to stay, you shall be assigned work and be paid for your efforts before we depart.”

He then placed the bullhorn down and waved to the crowd, triggering loud applauses and cheers once again before he turned and left the balcony.

“Giving a speech in front of so many people is still a first for me. I was nervous as heck,” Lorist muttered, before receiving the linen cloth Shadekampf passed over and wiped his face with it.

The lounge on the second floor of the building was currently fully-seated with Charade leaning on a soft couch and Terman and Yuriy seated beside him. Opposite to them sat Potterfang and his two comrades with the rest of the people in the room being the 38 senior students from the Dawn Academy, some of whom were still wearing bandages from the injuries they had sustained.

Els and Patt were absent from the meeting as they were tasked with patrolling the area while Reidy brought Alisa to the park in the bastide for a walk. Howard on the other hand, stood beside Lorist as his personal attendant with a solemn look on his face.

Aside from them, Engelich could be seen leaning on a wall at a corner of the room with his beautiful granddaughter beside him, patiently waiting to hear what Lorist had in mind for them.

Lorist sat down on his seat and Shadekampf stood at his place beside Howard.

“So, we’ll be executing it according to what we’ve discussed for the past two days,” said Lorist. “Knight Pog, I will assign the task of reorganizing a 500-strong heavy-armored battalion to you.”

Potterfang stood up and saluted before he said, “I will not let milord down.”

“Yuriy, the reorganization of the 60 men light cavalry must be hastened and not taken lightly as that unit will serve as the eyes and ears for our army.”

“Yes, milord. Please be assured,” replied Yuriy as he got up.

“Terman, your knight brigade is a little too small with only 14 men in it. How about this, let every one of your knights pick two attendants who will be granted the rank of a squire when their Battle Force reaches the Silver rank. Should they earn an achievement, they will also be allowed to join the ranks of the family knights.”

Of the 38 senior students from the academy, only 13 others and Terman have formally received training to be a knight. As knights served as the main assault force on the battlefield, Lorist decided to add a couple more to their ranks even if they weren’t properly trained ones so that the brigade would seem more domineering and threatening on the battlefield.

“Understood,” replied Terman.

“Dulles, I’ll leave the 12 carroballistas to you. Assemble some people to operate them as soon as possible.”

“Yes, milord,” saluted Dulles.

“Lundmorde, how’s the formation of your herbalist unit going?” asked Lorist.

“Milord, I have found a beginner rank herbalist as well as two herbalist apprentices from the slave camp. Unfortunately, those three were the only ones who had remotely any knowledge in the field. I’ve already recruited them into the unit. However, there seems to be a man and his daughter in the bastide who are respectively mid-ranked and beginner rank herbalists who were employed by Sloph and are currently in detention. Milord, how about it?” said Lundmorde, standing. He was one of the senior students at the academy who had the qualifications of a beginner rank herbalist, but had somehow gotten into an argument with a herbalism professor in the academy, Nate Borg, and had his own status as a herbalism instructor revoked. He was then convinced by Charade and joined the northbound journey in the heat of the moment.

“Hmm, go ask the slaves and see if the father and daughter have committed any atrocities towards them like their masters. If that is not the case, then release them and return their belongings before asking them if they want to join us. Should they be reluctant to do so, do not force them and let them leave as they please,”said Lorist.

“Yes, milord. I will do as you will.”

Sigh, we’re still quite lacking in capable people, thought Lorist as he started to set his sights on Potterfang’s two other comrades.

“Mister Mons and Loze, can I ask the two of you for a favor?” asked Lorist politely.

Loze gave a carefree smile and said, “Lord Locke, please do not hesitate to state your request. We’ll be honored to be able to help you out.”

Mons Malek also nodded in agreement.

“Well, the thing is, I want to form another 360-strong company of crossbowmen with another pike infantry regiment. Can I temporarily invite the two of you welcome guests of the family to serve as the officers in charge of these two units? I believe you also know that many of my mates from the academy have no experience in the army and wouldn’t be too appropriate for the role of an officer at the moment. Given that the two of you are experienced military officers, would you mind lending me a hand in this matter?” asked Lorist.

“No problem. How about you, Malek?” Loze answered quickly without hesitation and looked at his partner for his response.

Mons Malek merely nodded.

“How about this, since Malek was originally the military judge of the Whitelion Legion, let him take charge of the crossbowman company. I’ll lead the pike infantry regiment since getting up close and personal with the enemy is more of my thing,” said Loze.

“Then I’ll be relying on you two from now on,” said Lorist with much joy.

“Currently, we only have about 700 official members in the family’s armed forces. But we have liberated over 3000 slaves just recently and most of them are strong youths whose families have been either killed or captured by the slavers. That’s why I hope that you guys will do your best to encourage them to join our army. But make sure you do not force them to join unwillingly, alright?”

“Yes, milord,” replied everyone in the hall.

“Knight Charade’s task will be the heaviest of all of you. He’s the chief supervisor of our convoy and all matters large and small must be handled by him. I have also appointed Shadekampf to be his aide. Other than that, I will also have Knight Els recruit some people to form a constable unit that will be in charge of maintaining the order of the people of the convoy,” said Lorist. He then looked towards Engelich who was leaning on the wall and his granddaughter before waving for them to come over.

“You guys are really lucky,” said Lorist as he looked at the pair intriguingly. “I have just made an oath publicly that the Norton Family will not have slaves, so you two are still free people. However, the fact that Engelich had participated in the fight against our forces still stands true. Even though I’ve spared your life, you must still pay for the consequences of your actions. I have here two contracts for you and your granddaughter to sign. Don’t worry, they’re not slave contracts but servant contracts instead. After ten years of service, the two of you are free to leave the Norton Family.”

Shadekampf came over from the side holding two beastskin parchments and a pen and handed the items to Engelich and his granddaughter.

Staring at the contract with his face twitching for quite a while, Engelich gave a large sigh before signing his name and putting his fingerprint on the contract. His granddaughter followed suit with a pale look on her face.

“So, you’re called Molise?” Lorist asked as he looked toward that pale-faced girl.

“Yes, milord,” replied the girl in slight fear.

“Your handwriting is really neat and the Battle Force manual I had you copy for me was nicely done without any errors. Don’t worry, I won’t be letting you do menial chores like serving drinks and the such. Do you see that fatty over there? He was hurt by your grandfather and is unable to write due to his injuries. That’s why from today onwards, you will be his personal maidservant and act as his right hand. Not only would you have to look after him and attend to any of his needs, you’ll also have to write down whatever he needs you to. Your role is to basically be his assistant and secretary, understood?” said Lorist as he pointed at Charade.

The girl bowed and said, “Yes, milord. I will do as you wish and serve as his maidservant and secretary.”

Charade had a stunned look on his face. “Milord, milord… Locke, stop kidding around. I don’t need any maidservants. Why don’t you keep her by your side?”

Charade was so flustered to the point he called Lorist by his nickname.

Lorist responded with a straight face, “This is my decision and it is final. It’s not like I need a scribe following me around anyway. I’m sure you’ll appreciate the extra help as you’ll get pretty busy soon enough. Also, your tent is as messy and dirty as a pig’s sty! You’ll definitely need to have someone help you keep the place orderly. Also, you can also use the other slaves who helped you out with the writing to carry out your errands and help you out with the matters of the convoy.

“Oh, and Molise here also has a maidservant herself. According to what I’ve heard, her parents were both killed by slavers and Molise was the one who purchased her from the slavers. Right now, she has regained her freedom. Charade, you may also get her to sign the servant contract and have her serve you together with Molise. Engelich, please stay by Knight Charade’s side for now and obey his instructions.”

“Understood, milord. Your will is my command,” said Engelich as he breathed a relieved sigh. He was satisfied as long as he would be able to be by his granddaughter’s side.

……

Everyone had left after the meeting, including Howard who had gone to look for Alisa. Rubbing his temples gently, Lorist thought, gosh, it’s so tiring being the head of the family… I need to manage almost everything. Thank goodness I have Charade helping me out. Otherwise, I’ll definitely go crazy from doing every little thing by myself.

“Hey, Locke, I heard that you gave a beautiful young lass to that fatty.” The only one who dared to speak like that to Lorist was no other than Els.

“Ah, you’ve come,” said Lorist as he raised his head to see Els rapidly approaching.

“Just now, I heard Yuriy and the gang talk about how jealous they were of Charade when I passed by.”

“Surely they can search for their own maidservant, right? I heard from Shadekampf that we have liberated more than ten beautiful virgin girls from the slaver camp who were originally going to be sold for high prices at Port Nupite. Shadekampf even tried to get a few of them to be my personal maidservants but I’ve rejected that offer. Later, you can tell Yuriy and the others that they are allowed to let any of the girls sign a servant contract, but only if they do so willingly,” said Lorist.

“Huh? Something’s not right. Locke, are you not feeling well or something?” asked Els curiously.

“Hmm? What about me?” Lorist was also confused as to why Els asked something like that.

“Let’s see, there was that one time you did it with Louise on your birthday, and then there were five times with Nina over the years, four times with Sala, three or four times with Jumile and finally, we have the new girl Molly, whom you did it with the most, somewhere around seven times. You’ve basically bedded almost every girl in the inn. It’s not like you’re impotent or against having intercourse with women. But this time, not only did you give such a great beauty to Charade, you also refused to take in the pretty, young girls as your servants. Is something wrong your junk?” said Els as he looked at his hands and recounted the times Lorist engaged in coitus.

“Good Sol……” Lorist really didn’t know what to say and freaked out by grabbing hold of Els and gave him a good pummeling. “I’m a man who has needs too you know. At that time, I’ve just broken up with my girlfriend, so where else do you think I could have gone for some intimacy? The brothel you’ve opened? Who asked you to peep, huh? Who gave you the permission?”

Needless to say, the fact that Els was so informed about the matter was because he was observing every one of Lorist’s encounters in secret. Even Lorist himself wasn’t that clear about the number of times he had intercourse with a woman.

Lorist felt much better after giving Els a good beating. Sitting back on his chair, he said, “Sigh, Els, you should understand best… We haven’t even started heading north, but we’ve already run into our first obstacle. Who knows how much tougher it will be on us during the rest of the journey? What do you think others will think of me if I lust after women at this point in time? Wouldn’t they be disappointed and leave me in disgust? You’ve also been the leader of a syndicate yourself. Surely you understand how the people who follow you think. If I’m really that desperate for women, I wouldn’t be leading this convoy in the first place.”

Els stood up again and nodded. “You do have a point. But still, a girl that pretty is really a shame to not have by your side.”

Even though he pummeled Els in the face, Lorist didn’t use too much force and Els got up looking fine without showing any sign of pain nor injury. Then again, it wasn’t the first time Lorist hit him like this.

“That’s hardly anything to feel unfortunate about. Beauties are all over the place. During this journey north, I must also make sure the senior students that followed me get some benefits as well. It is my hope that they find their soulmate during the journey so that they may settle down in the dominion when we finally arrive there. Also, Els… You’ve reminded me of something. Didn’t we also detain the concubines of Sloph and Blademaster Pike? You should go get Loze and Mons Malek and let them pick one girl each to be their maidservant. Let the rest of the senior students choose from the remaining ones after that. Actually, you can pick one yourself too,” said Lorist.

“Understood, milord,” Els answered as he bowed and saluted.






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