It has been three months since Lorist had left the Maplewoods Bastide. It was already the sixth month and the weather was getting warmer gradually, thus relinquishing the need for winter clothing.
The first thing Lorist did after arriving was to go see Butler Gleis to give him a brief on the situation at Firmrock Castle. After the completion of the wall, Lorist had a few stonemasons carve out large characters of the castle's name onto it, hence officially setting the name of the place in stone quite literally.
To the old butler, it was already a great shame for the Norton Family bastide to have been under siege by the Kenmays Family that one time. After hearing about the resources they had taken and the state of the burnt down Redriver Valley Bastide, the old guy couldn't help but drag Lorist to the family's forbidden area to let the Norton Family ancestors know that the current heir did not let their hopes down and had successfully wiped clean the humiliation they had been forced to endure.
Slightly regretting informing the butler of the good news, Lorist could only push the butler's wheelchair into the cavern hesitantly and tried his best to not breathe the stench in. After listening to the old butler's ramblings for a whole hour, Lorist was finally allowed to leave.
Arriving at the building he usually stayed in, Lorist noticed that Supervisor Spiel was standing at his door and waiting for his return with a big stack of beastskin documents in his hands, obviously eager to report to him about the happenings within Maplewoods Bastide during the past three months of his absence.
Waving his hands in annoyance, Lorist said, "Don't you see that I'm quite worn out after my travels? Tell me about that tomorrow. Also, Supervisor Spiel, I've brought back lots of supplies on this trip so you should go see Shadekampf and make an inventory of those first. Additionally, don't interrupt my rest for tonight. Notify Knight Pajik and Supervisor Kedan to come here tomorrow as we will need to meet up to discuss something. I also want to be briefed on the status of the defense squads as well. Oh, and if Supervisor Kedan is at Poplar Coast, I want you to ask him to return to tell me about the situation there."
"Um, milord, would you want to ask Lady Pesha to come over as well?" Spiel stammered.
"Why would I call her over? She has given me nothing but trouble so far..." said Lorist as his gaze sharpened. "Did she cause any more trouble during the three months I wasn't here?"
"She didn't..." said Spiel in a panic. "That's definitely not the case. Ever since she was taught a lesson by you, Lady Pesha has been cooped up within her quarters. Apart from accompanying the illegitimate son of the late First Young Master, she has been practicing her swordsmanship day and night. Well, I only mentioned her because she is technically a knight of the family. It wouldn't be good if... Um... If she were to miss an important meeting like this..."
"Supervisor Spiel, I hope you understand that the child you mentioned is the bona fide descendant of my elder brother and not just some illegitimate child. Also, it's not that I'm leaving Pesha out of the important matters of the family; raising my brother's son is definitely a great contribution. As for her swordsmanship practice, I am pretty satisfied with that. At least she is not ignorant of her shortcomings and understands that she has still room to improve. Do you have anything else you want to say?" Lorist asked with a solemn expression.
"That's all, milord. Your subordinate shall leave now," said the supervisor as he bowed and left.
Pushing open the door to the guest room, Lorist saw Belnick, who was previously reading a book by the window, getting up hurriedly and paying his respects.
Lorist said, "It's alright, cut the pleasantries. Sit down. Let me see how much you've recovered."
Belnick sat down once again and placed his right hand on the table. Having been acquainted with how his lord checked for ailments and illnesses, he was quite curious with the technique Lorist used. However, he was under the impression that pulse-reading was a new medical technique that was being commonly used in Morante City, so apart from some fascination, he didn't think too much about its eccentric approach.
Lorist took a glance at the book Belnick was previously reading; titled 'The Journey of the Sage', the book was about one of the many legends that were passed down from the age of the Magic Civilization. It was part of the collection Lorist had brought back when he first arrived at the Northlands.
"Milord, I apologize for borrowing this book without permission. Recuperating alone in this room is really far too boring, so I couldn't help myself when I saw Irina dry some of the books under the sun," said Belnick.
"It's alright, you can read it as you please. Just make sure you don't lose it," Lorist said as he took the book and used it to prop up Belnick's outstretched arm before he proceeded to read his pulse.
"Your condition has gotten far better than before. Have you started training your Battle Force already?" Lorist asked.
"That's right, milord," said Belnick. "When I felt my energy returning last month, I tried to give Battle Force training a try and was surprised to notice that it has already returned to normal. I've been doing that daily ever since."
"It's better if you stop training in the standard military Battle Force technique. Right now, your body is still a little weak, and the Battle Force technique taught in the military taps into one's innate potential. Your current condition is less than ideal for it. You have a wood attribute Battle Force, right?" Lorist asked.
"Yes..." said Belnick as he nodded.
Lorist placed a high-ranked Battle Force manual on the table and said, "In the future, train in this technique. I trust that you'll be able to break through to the Gold rank within a year."
Surprised and elated, Belnick looked at the Battle Force manual on the table that was titled 'Viridian Battle Force' and said, "Milord... I... I..."
"What? Touched? Take it and train hard in that technique. I heard that the wood attribute Viridan Battle Force has a great healing property and will definitely be ideal for your condition. You can start serving me well when you reach the Gold rank."
"Yes, milord. I will definitely not let your expectations down," Belnick said with a resolute expression as he made a knight's chest salute.
After going upstairs, Lorist saw the maidservant Irina bow to greet him. "Milord, welcome back."
"Thanks, Irina. Prepare some bath water for me and notify the staff at the small kitchen to get some food prepared," Lorist said as he placed his two swords onto the table. Ever since Pesha attempted to snatch his swords away, Lorist had refrained from putting them onto the blade rack and carried both with him everywhere he went, not letting them out of his sight.
"Yes, milord," said Irina before she went into the mini bathroom in the bedroom to bring out a huge maple wood bathtub and ignited the fireplace before placing a kettle on top of the metal rack to start boiling some water.
Seeing Irina's busy form, Lorist started to wonder if he could try to build a solar-powered water heater. The principle was simple: he only had to get his hands on a large metal water tank and paint it black so that it absorbs the heat from sunlight more easily. The only problem is that he did not have access to any iron or copper plates. It wasn't possible with this world's current technology to make thin metal sheets, so the water tank he had envisioned would definitely be nothing short of a super heavy steel slab if he really commissioned one from the local smith. Forget it, he thought. Given that he had his own personal maidservant, there was no need for him to personally prepare all those things and go out of his way to make a new invention.
Within a few short moments, the bath water was prepared and as Lorist comfortably squeezed and settled into the bathtub, he saw Irina cleaning up the clothes he removed.
"Irina, come here," Lorist said.
Irina started shivering and caused two of Lorist's garments fell out from her arms.
"Come help me scrub my back," Lorist instructed.
With a flushed face, the maidservant gingerly approached as her petite body shivered ever so faintly.
Arriving by the side of the tub, Irina carefully took a bar of soap made from soap pod and started rubbing Lorist's back with it.
Soap pod was a kind of plant that was commonly available on the Grindia Continent. It was said that the plant had been used to make soap bars since ancient times. Soap made from that plant had a kind of fragrance that also helped to refresh the body and mind after using it in a bath.
After applying some soap, Irina used a fine linen cloth and started cleaning away...
"Irina, it's about time you cleaned the front..." Lorist said.
The maidservant did not make a single sound.
Lorist turned himself around only to see Irina shivering by the side of the tub.
With a sly smile, Lorist pulled Irina straight into the tub with him.
"Oh no, my clothes..." said Irina as she shivered.
"Oh, now that your clothes are dirty, I think they need some cleaning too," said Lorist as he stripped the wet garments off her body.
Closing her eyes and biting her lips, Irina allowed Lorist to continue working her clothes off without a sound. When she was completely stripped, she continued to shiver on in Lorist's embrace.
As Lorist's hands started caressing her body all over, the young maidservant laid her head on Lorist's shoulder and felt her body getting hotter by the moment. Every time her master's hands passed her sensitive spots, she would let out soft moaning sounds.
Finally unable to hold it back, Lorist stepped out of the tub stark naked and carried Irina towards the bed.
With her face flushed and eyes closed, Irina reminded Lorist, "Mi-milord... You still haven't had anything to eat yet..."
"Hmm, I've decided to have you first..." Lorist said.
By the time Lorist awoke, the sky had already gone dark with the silver moonlight passing through the window and illuminating Irina's sleeping form on the bed, making her seem like a serene jade sculpture masterpiece. Already fast asleep on the bed, remnants of her tears could still be seen on her fair face.
Putting a blanket on her and wiping her tears clean, Lorist started to reflect on his previous actions. The girl wasn't like him and didn't have her Battle Force awakened, so there was no way she would be able to endure intense intercourse with him. Even though she teared up as she neared her physical limits, Irina still had to accept Lorist's lust that was pent up for 3 whole months before she fainted out of exhaustion.
I really can't be so reckless anymore in the future in case she starts developing a trauma towards intercourse. Even though this should've been a pleasurable thing for both parties, there wouldn't be a point if it always ends up like this... However, Lorist wondered why he somehow felt an urge to bring Irina into bed every time he saw her shivering look and found her reluctance rather stimulating.
Gosh, I gotta stop thinking about that. It must be all those mature movies I've seen in my previous life. Otherwise, why would thoughts about bondage, whips and dripping candles pop up in my head, thought Lorist as he slapped his forehead twice while chanting 'I'm not a pervert' a couple of times to calm down. Putting on a sleeping gown and going to the windowsill, Lorist stared outwards into the distance.
Further away, Whitedeer Mound could be seen blanketed with a veil of silver. A number of white deers could be seen hopping around in joy while displaying their grace and beauty, as if they were acting out a silent play. As Lorist continued to witness the breathtaking scene, he felt his emotions calm down and his restlessness seep away into nothing. Almost subconsciously, he got into the horse stance and started training in the Aquametal Technique.
When Lorist was still at the Dawn Academy, he took advantage of the life-and-death battles during the expedition to the Relic Islands and finally broke through from the Bright Stage to enter the Dark Stage. However, Lorist had no clue how to progress his training from the Dark Stage onwards as he had not reached that level even in his past life nor had he received any instruction from anyone who had. Without a single clue, he could only fumble in the dark and find the way to train for himself. Lorist believed that it might take a couple of years, maybe even more than ten, to reach the latter part of the Dark Stage. There was not much Lorist could do except for training with his usual routine as often as he could to hope for some improvement. As for reaching the legendary Transformative Stage, Lorist didn't hold much hope for it.
But at that night, as Lorist started training and circulating his ki according to the Aquametal Technique, it was as if he had been transported the bank of a limitless azure lake. The water within the lake was tranquil without a single ripple to the point that it even seemed reflective like a mirror which caused Lorist to feel boundless freedom. From the mirror-like lake surface, Lorist could view from a third-person perspective his battles with the Silver ranked instructors on top of the dueling platform. Gradually, the mirror kept on dividing and each one of them showed scenes of Lorist's battles which eventually displayed the scene where Lorist killed the two Gold ranked assailants back in Morante City and gradually shifting to the battles he had experienced during his journey north.
As he silently watched the battles, Lorist started gaining new insights. Never had he been able to so clearly seek out every weakness he had displayed from his past battles and improve upon his own mistakes. The scenes even included those of the defeat of the twin Gold ranked shield-bearers and the decapitation of Crew Leader Adams.
A loud sound of breaking glass could be 'heard' by Lorist from the core of his being, and following that, he felt a sudden wave of bliss and relaxation as if his body had been rejuvenated after shedding its old husk. He could hear the whispers of the wind around him and upon opening his eyes, he could see every detail of Whitedeer Mound in the distance with perfect clarity.
Gradually standing up, he noticed that his whole body was covered with sweat with a slight stench emanating from his drenched sleeping gown.
Seeing Irina sleeping soundly in bed, Lorist took a couple of new clothes and silently went downstairs to the well in the yard to give himself some good wiping down to clean himself up.
Just as he was returning upstairs, Lorist bumped into Patt, who was just about to exit his room. "Milord, it's you. I was wondering who just went outside. Huh? Milord, you look a little different..."
Lorist smiled and asked, "How so?"
Patt furrowed his brow and gave it some thought before he said, "Well, somehow you look far more invigorated than usual. That's right, invigorated and energetic are the best words to describe how you seem right now."
 Soap pod/Soap bean (Gleditsia sinensis) See Wikipedia.