A Fleeting Moonlit Dream (2)
The young miss Windsor, with her wide, charming eyes, was truly beautiful. At that moment, she seemed like a lone rice plant standing amidst a rice field that had been destroyed by a flood as she stared hard at Lorist with a hint of hope in her eyes despite her hopeless situation.
Being a person who had experienced many things in two very different worlds, Lorist was surprised to find that the desperate pleading of a weak, gentle girl had managed to shake him to the core and temporarily depriving him of his rationality. He gulped down a cup of water in one go, avoided the gaze of those mesmerizing eyes and said in a stuttering voice, "M-m-miss, if you do-don't mind... I... I can t-try to help you... a-analyze the si-situation of the Windsor family... and see if there's something w-we can do about it..."
Naturally, the young miss Windsor agreed. Charade handed Lorist another cup of water and said, "Drink up. You're already stammering."
Gulping another cup of water down and calming his mind, Lorist looked at the poor, fragile mistress of the Windsor house who had a woolen blanket wrapped around her. Feeling pity for the poor girl, he made a cup of hot tea, placed it on the table, and beckoned Charade to bring some snacks over.
Looking towards the blanket-clad girl, Lorist let out a warm smile and said, "Miss, why don't you warm yourself up and help yourself to some food first before we start our discussion?"
When Lorist brought the girl back from the lake yesterday, she was already unconscious, not from choking on water but rather her languish and suffering. While Lorist and Charade feasted their eyes on her beauty, they did not dare to change her into a new set of clothes and tried to dry them instead by laying her down beside two braziers. After that, they wrapped a blanket around her to keep her warm.
Only just noticing her predicament, she clasped the woolen blanket and nodded her head lightly with a slight blush on her face. After she ate some food and tidied herself up in the bathroom, she changed into a female student uniform Charade brought her and showed herself in front of the two men, who were subsequently stunned by her refreshed, beautiful look.
Snapping out of his daze, Lorist noticed her lips curve slightly. That girl was obviously delighted at the men's reaction.
Taking out a white sheepskin scroll, Lorist started scribbling down the situation of the Windsor family. "Let me list out the troubles the Windsor family is facing according to what I heard from Charade. Please let me know if I miss something out."
Number one: The Windsor family lost their dominion due to the conflict and had it divided among four other neighboring families. The original garrison soldiers and the local officials have been relieved of their duties and the remaining members of the Windsor family has been chased out of the land. It was apparent that the new lords of the land wished to relinquish any influence the Windsor family members still had on the people of the dominion.
Number two: None of the nobles of the Jigda Kingdom, including the duke to whom the Windsor house pledged their allegiance, wished to lend the Windsor house any aid. Although the Windsor family had a rightful claim to that land according to the kingdom's laws, the other nobles have already unofficially recognized the four neighboring families as the rulers of the land and refused to say anything on the Windsor house's behalf.
Number three: As Viscount Windsor had perished due to his injuries from battle, there was no one else within the Windsor family that had the ability to lead the dominion's soldiers. As the heir of the viscount was still only a seven-year-old boy, he was of no direct use to the current situation. Madam Windsor, on the other hand, was busy worrying about who the father of her child she was pregnant with was. There were more than 45 suspects but there was no way to determine the father within a short period of time. The young mistress of the Windsor house was a girl who had not awakened her Battle Force, so she was of no immediate help to the situation either.
"She's actually my stepmother, not my biological mother. Right now, only I can call the shots in the Windsor house," proclaimed the blushing girl with a hint of anger and embarrassment.
After some more explanation on the young mistress's part, Lorist came to understand that the current Madam Windsor used to be a widow to another baron. She got to know Viscount Windsor and eventually had an affair with him and got pregnant with the current young master, after which she got married and officially became his second wife. She had lived in the capital with her son until she moved to the dominion three years prior when the first wife of the viscount passed away. She was only 35 this year.
Charade, before knowing of her actual age, joked about the desperateness of the invading soldiers who had managed to knock her up, as he had estimated Madam Windsor's age based on that of this young mistress. In actuality, she was still under 35 years old and was still in the prime of her womanhood.
The stricken young maiden did not even notice the thoughts of the two men wander. Both of them let their fantasies run wild as they imagined the 'pleasurable' life the current Madam Windsor must have led in the army camp. Both men looked at each other with a funny gaze and snickered in a low voice.
Suddenly, the young mistress declared, "I will not forgive them for tarnishing the honor of the Windsor house and will definitely reclaim my dominion. Those who stood idly as they witnessed our demise will definitely pay..."
Picking up the sheepskin scroll on the table, Charade gave it a light poke or two and interrupted the young mistress's declaration. "According to the description of the situation, the Windsor house is already beyond salvation. Even if you were to wait ten or so years for the young master to mature, it is hard to say whether the people in the dominion will still stay loyal to the Windsor family. Having lost the dominion and lacking an immediate heir, the Windsor family is in deep trouble. I think you should just let it go and live out the rest of your life pleasantly with the property your father had left you in Morante City.
Lorist fully agreed to Charade's statement.
The young mistress was stunned to hear that. But she could not refute even one word of what he said. Her large crystal-like eyes started watering as she stood there without uttering a noise, anguished, with her shoulders shaking involuntary...
Lorist felt pained when he saw that sight. He breathed a long sigh, stood up, and handed her a facecloth as he told her, "Actually, there is a way that might help you reclaim your dominion..."
Her quiet sobs suddenly stopped and she asked him with teary eyes, "Is that true?"
Looking at the scroll again, Charade said, "It's impossible..."
Lorist, taking out another sheepskin scroll and a pen, began to mumble as he jotted down several points on the scroll, "Number one, people. Number two, spying. Number three, goal. Number four, logistics. And finally, support."
Pointing at the words he wrote, Lorist looked towards the other two and started explaining. "The first main factor is the people. Although Viscount Windsor has passed away on the battlefield, many of his loyal subjects have survived and are scattered across the various villages around the dominion. Madam Windsor and her son only managed to come over to Morante City due to having a group of surviving garrison soldiers escorting them along the way. The Windsor family should not give up on the people who are still loyal to them and rally them up so that they can be sent into the dominion and seek out others who still hold the Windsor family in their hearts.
"These people who will eventually form a resistance against the current lords will serve as a reminder to the people in the dominion that the Windsor family has not given up on them.
"However, the leader for the resistance army must not be casually appointed. Ideally, it would be someone who is highly respected who used to serve under the viscount directly and is powerful enough to defend himself. Do you have such a person in mind?"
The girl gave it some thought and nodded, "I think Uncle Somm is perfect for this. He used to be a knight of our family and is of the Two Star Silver rank. He was a trusted subordinate of my father and served in his personal cavalry guard. Right before my dad died on the battlefield, Uncle Somm got wounded and was sent along with his family to my father's manor to undergo treatment. My mother's escort brought a letter from him that states that he had already mostly recovered still couldn't ride a horse properly yet. He will be coming over to join me in another one or two months. Oh, and Uncle Somm's daughter, Lina, used to be my personal handmaiden."
"Not bad. According to your description, he indeed is an ideal candidate for the leader of the resistance. Let's move on to the second point: spying," Looking at the slightly confused girl and Charade, he asked, "Do you know what spying is about?"
"I know," the girl scrambled to answer, "Isn't it about secretly hiring spies to gather information? They'll hang out at places like taverns and pay attention to any strangers that show up. The dominion lord in turn pays them for the information they gather."
Charade nodded and agreed to her description.
Lorist shook is head and disagreed, "No, not that kind. It's way too obvious. If it were me, I would pick the tavern owners, servants, smiths, fishermen, farmers, tailors as well as the guards to be my eyes and ears. These people are the ones who can really observe the enemy's every action, even their every meal, without arousing any suspicion."
"But what's the point of knowing what they eat? Wait, are you going to use poison!?" asked the girl with her face pale, as if she had come to understand the sinister truth.
Charade was surprised by the sudden enlightenment. "Of course! As long as we have these people working for us, nothing can escape us and we can easily respond to any of the enemy's moves!"
Looking at the confused young mistress, Lorist said, "Miss, did you hear what the fatty said just now? Think about it, if we have this network of people feeding us information, we can anticipate the enemy's every move and respond accordingly. This would also serve to cover the resistance army's tracks and set the enemy forces on a goose chase, hence allowing the resistance more freedom to expand their influence."
The girl blushed as she came to understand what Lorist had just said.
"The non-combatants, ex-officials and the ex-soldiers in the dominion who are still loyal to the Windsor family would be the perfect for this job. They can serve as your resistance's eyes and watch the enemy's every move and find the perfect opportunity for the resistance to strike.
"The next factor would be the goal of the resistance. The focus of the resistance army should not be on attacking the castles of the rulers nor their soldiers but rather their tax collectors, officials, spies, convoys as well as their storehouses. This would effectively blind the current rulers and make them unable to effectively take action against the resistance. Eventually, these attacks would serve to bleed out the current rulers and wear them out gradually. The army must be organized into many discrete units so that they can react to any situation swiftly and effectively.
"The fourth point we have to emphasize is logistics. To ensure the resistance has enough momentum to keep their operations going, there must be secret bases where the fighters can rest and recuperate. The Windsor family should provide them with resources such as weapons, food and even women. Only by setting up many bases across many locations can the resistance army hold together in the long run.
"Finally, you cannot neglect support. Forming the resistance army is not just about sending people there and ordering them around. To ensure that the army remains under the control of the Windsor family and remain dependant to it, the family must actively support them with resources and manpower. One way to do this is to hire Silver ranked mercenaries on a mission-by-mission basis for each major operation. This will allow the resistance army to put sufficient pressure on their enemies while minimizing the casualties.
"As long as this holds up for several years, the resistance army would become a nightmare for the rulers and they will come to regret their decision to split the dominion of the Windsor family among themselves and want to be rid of their responsibilities on governing the land. At that time, the Windsor family can just step in and negotiate with the current rulers and even offer them some form of reimbursement. I believe they would be glad to return the lands to the Windsor family," concluded Lorist.
"So there was a way to get it back after all..." mused Charade.
The girl, on the other hand, was revigorated and a hint of life returned to her gaze.
"But there are two repercussions by using this plan," Lorist said, dampening the mood once more. "With the existence of the resistance army, the lords of the dominion might let their frustration out on the people of the land. Even if the Windsor family does reclaim the land one day, a lot of money must be spent in order for the people and the economy to recover. Another thing is that the Windsor family will be on hostile terms with the four neighboring noble families after regaining power and must expend lots of money to hire a group of elite soldiers to ensure the protection and security of the dominion. My point is, this whole exercise would be futile if you don't have the money to fund it. According to my rough estimate, it would require at least a thousand gold coins to maintain this operation each year."
Gathering a thousand gold coins per year was definitely not an easy task. Even Lorist, who was recently appointed to be a swordsmanship instructor for the academy, only had a monthly salary of 3 gold Fordes. As for Charade, being the head of the Enforcement Division, he boasts a monthly salary of five gold Fordes. Their job was already considered to be among the most high paying ones in Morante City. McDuffin's family, before meeting Lorist, only earned up to six large silvers every day and even that was enough for them to live a comfortable life and have some plenty left over for savings.
How was the Windsor house going to reclaim their dominion given the state of affairs of their finances?
A portable heater that works similarly to a fireplace.