Convoy Plans and the Oath of Allegiance
That's right, why don't I just head back? I can treat this trip back to the Northlands as an adventure and also resolve the inner conflict I have with the desperate desire to return home this body has. Whether I will inherit the position of the lord is a whole other matter altogether. If things are really that bad there, it'll never be too late for me to return to Morante City and live my life out in luxury. I wonder why I have been losing sleep over something as small as this...
Lorist's mood instantly turned for the better as if a huge burden had been lifted off his shoulders. Now that he had decided to go back, he couldn't just visit empty-handed and had to plan and prepare carefully and also wait for Patt to recover from the spinning chair...
On that day, Lorist stood by the window of his study seeing Reidy drag Patt across the yard like a dead dog and strapping him onto the spinning chair before pulling the rope and spinning it faster and faster. Patt, who had been tortured quite horribly for the past few days didn't have the ability to resist at all and didn't even have enough energy to scream for help. He only made a grunt or two from time to time in protest...
Hehe, he's reaping what he sowed. Did he think that dynamic vision is this easily acquired? Back in his previous life when Lorist was still serving in the military, his comrades who could endure unspeakable hardships without batting an eye and were even able to joke around as they used their knives to dig out bullets from their body, couldn't withstand more than two days on the spinning chair. The moment they tried it, they were scared shitless and didn't dare to get on the chair ever again.
The unpleasant feeling after getting on the spinning chair came from the intense vertigo that could turn a 7-foot burly man into a limp noodle within minutes. When Lorist used Reidy as his guinea pig four months back, it took him two whole months for him to be able to get used to the sensation. He also had Potterfang try it out once after he had just recovered but that was also the last time Potterfang used that chair. It seemed that unless one was forced to keep going on to the spinning chair, one would instantly lose that determination to continue using it.
Reidy was doing that exact thing to Patt just as Lorist had once did to him. It was no wonder he was so elated when Patt showed some interest in the training method. For some reason, it was in a human's nature to wish for someone else to experience what one had suffered from before. When one fell into a pit, one would also hope that someone else would suffer the same fate as well.
It had been seven days since Patt started training with the chair. It seemed that he would take at least two months to recover just like Reidy. Lorist decided that he wasn't going to return to his homeland with Shadekampf and Patt empty handed. He recalled that the merchant group led by his uncle was at least worth 1000 gold Fordes or more. Even though the scale of their operations were quite small when compared to the other merchant guilds in Morante City, they were able to earn about 300 gold coins of profit each expedition: that was more than 1000 imperial old head gold coins. Even though Lorist's annual income was close to that, that amount of money would easily boost the family's financial and military strength by a lot.
Now that Lorist did not lack any money, he decided to bring out a few thousand gold coins to form a merchant group or a supply convoy to alleviate the family's grim situation. Even though he still wasn't set on inheriting the position of the dominion lord, the least he could do was to contribute some resources to make up for the fact that he was currently occupying the original owner's body.
However, the process of actually forming a merchant group wasn't simple. The scale of the group and the goods to be delivered had to be carefully considered. Otherwise, if the family a certain type of supplies he brought, the whole trip would end up a waste of time.
He was thankful for the presence of Shadekampf for that. While he wasn't the most talented person when it came to Battle Force training, Shadekampf was quite well-informed of the status of the dominion and understood what type of resources would be most beneficial to the family given his prowess in management taught to him by Butler Gleis. Every night, Lorist had Shadekampf go to his study to tell him more about the dominion to make a list of the things that the family is really in need of.
Now that the question of the resources was settled, what about the manpower required to run the merchant group? Currently, apart from Lorist, Shadekampf and Patt, it was still uncertain whether Reidy would want to follow him back. After the new year, he would only just turn 17 and the highest he can reach while training within these few months was the One Star Iron rank. Lorist was also a little worried about Reidy joining as the trip to the Northlands would no doubt be filled with various risks and dangers. I guess I'll cross the bridge when I come to it. At most, I'll hire a few laborers for a high price. Lorist was quite confident that he would be able to accomplish that with the amount of gold Fordes he had.
The next problem was the route they would take. According to the map, there were three paths that lead to the Krissen Empire's capital from Morante City and there was only one route from the capital that lead to the Northlands. Lorist recalled that the journey when he traveled to Morante City with his third uncle's merchant convoy took about 57 days. The merchant convoy mostly had four-wheeled carriages and could travel about 50 km per day. That meant that the distance of the Northlands from Morante City was about 3000 km.
Before the fall of the Krissen Empire, it was much easier to travel to and fro. Now that the former empire's territory had been split up between 3 kingdoms and 7 duchies, various complications would arise when they cross borders and customs. Given that I'm a noble who's on the way back to inherit my position and my convoy isn't planning to conduct any business, I shouldn't have to pay a lot for the toll costs, right? I better make sure of that before I start the trip. Maybe I should try contacting President Peterson, thought Lorist, as the Peterson Group also had business connections with certain companies in the former empire's capital. If Lorist were to join them on the way to the capital, it would save him lots of trouble.
The last concern Lorist had was the issue of defense and security. Given the volatile state of the former empire's territory, it was not uncommon for convoys to be attacked and pillaged by bandits along the way. After deciding that he would hire a group of mercenaries for a high price to protect his convoy, Lorist went to the mercenary guild to get an idea of the fees required, only to return later on that day with a grim expression. Nobody would have expected that a team of 45 mercenaries would cost 1000 gold Fordes to hire. There was even a restriction that the convoy couldn't be too large. The Gold ranked mercenary band leader was very clear that the price was the best they could offer. If there were to be more than 12 carriages or if the convoy transported weapons and equipment, the price would have to rise even more as it couldn't be helped.
After 6 years of constant conflict, the territories that once belonged to the Krissen Empire lacked resources so much to the point where certain nobles even impersonated bandits to pillage unknowing merchant groups. If the bandits were to get their eyes on the weapons or equipment, the convoy would instantly become a lucrative target and cause the mercenary protectors to inevitably incur losses and casualties.
Coincidentally, Lorist intended to transport some weapons and armor as Shadekampf had listed that as a resource that the family was in dire need of. The 2000 gold Fordes required to hire a mercenary group was far more than the price he used to procure the resources. Instead of hiring mercenaries, Lorist figured that it would be better for him to form a group of 100-odd armed force to protect the convoy and believed that many Silver ranked mercenaries would be willing to tag along for the trip to the Northlands for a couple of gold Fordes. Sigh, let's settle the issue of security when the time comes.
That was how busy Lorist had been in the recent times, going around the city's Business Sector frequently to check on the prices of the resources he intended to transport to his homeland. At any rate, Lorist didn't plan to stay at the Northlands for long. He could be said to have fulfilled the least of his responsibilities to the family by sending them resources to make his contribution. He would later return to Morante City again to enjoy the rest of his life.
What Lorist didn't expect was the suggestions from a few people to him when he was busy with the preparations. The first one to approach Lorist was Reidy. "Master, are you planning to return to the dominion?"
Lorist nodded and said that he was indeed going back for a while, but he wasn't sure if he would inherit the position yet. Now that Reidy was here, he was about to tell him that he had planned for Reidy to stay at the city. "Reidy, I think you should remain at Morante City. The journey to the Northlands will no doubt be a long and arduous one, not to mention the risks involved..."
"No, master. I'm definitely following you along," Reidy replied resolutely, cutting off the rest of what Lorist had to say. "I'm your personal attendant. How can I ever leave your side? I will not let you leave me behind."
Lorist felt rather surprised and said, "What if Old Char and Els object to it? It's going to be a rather dangerous trip, you know..."
"The main reason I came to Morante City was to join a mercenary group. But for some reason, it had morphed into a syndicate instead and I have no intention of hanging with the likes of them. I already have no other relatives so I am free to go wherever I want, including following master along, so other people's objections don't matter!" exclaimed Reidy with a resolute face. It seemed that he had already set his mind to it.
"Alright, then you can come along," agreed Lorist. He didn't want Reidy to feel that he had been left behind. Since this attendant of his was stubborn and loved challenges, Lorist thought that it wouldn't be too bad for him to experience an adventure like this and thus allowed him to follow along.
The moment Shadekampf left the study, he bumped into Potterfang outside and hurriedly apologized to him. He has always been quite curious about the mercenary who his master had cared so much about. When Potterfang came back and finished his mercenary mission, he even called for Shadekampf to talk about the situation of the Norton Family. It was then when Shadekampf got to know that Potterfang was also a Northlander who even used to be a military commander in one of the former Krissen Empire's most prestigious armies.
"Is Locke in the study?" asked Potterfang.
"Yes, he is," he replied.
Lorist was currently looking over the list of items and resources that he intended to bring back to his homeland which he had gone over once with Shadekampf just moments ago. It could be seen from the list that the homeland was really bereft of even the most basic resources to the point that it was questionable how the family could survive till now. The amount of resources required posed quite a problem to Lorist as it required over 100 horse carriages to transport, which was something he couldn't afford to do at the moment. It seems that I have to cut down on some of them and only bring the essentials. It'll be much easier to take care of the convoy with only 20-30 carriages.
"When are you leaving?" Potterfang asked Lorist.
"Ah, Pog, you're here," Lorist greeted as he stood up and stretched for a bit. "Well, the soonest I can leave is when Patt fully recovers, which is in another two months or more. I hope that I'll be able to depart around the 20th day of the 11th month."
"Oh..." Potterfang merely nodded. "Two days ago, I asked Shadekampf about the situation of your family and it does sound pretty dire. I was under the impression that you wouldn't go back there."
"I don't have a choice, my family needs me now. As a descendant of the Norton Family, I have the obligation to go back and share the burden with them," said Lorist as he smiled and shook his head in futility, feeling that he sounded a little too pessimistic when he said that, as if he was going to give up on everything here in Morante City and actually go back to help his family out for real.
"Oh, Pog, you're just in time. I have something to give you," said Lorist as he changed the subject.
He reached into his drawer and took out a high-ranked Battle Force manual with five other gold coin notes and placed them on the table.
"Pog, your Battle Force is of the metal attribute, right? Here is a Battle Force manual that I've prepared for you that'll enable you to train all the way up to the Gold rank. It even contains some insight from the original owner of the manual who had managed to break through to the rank of the Blademaster. This was given to me by my ex-girlfriend as a memorial gift before breaking up with me, but I have totally no use for it. I'm giving this to you in hopes that you will be able to break through into the Gold rank. As for whether you can become a Blademaster, it'll have to depend on your ability and effort. Don't even bother rejecting this gift. Count it as a parting gift from me."
Potterfang looked downwards to the manual and his whole body was shivering uncontrollably......
However, Lorist didn't take note of any of that. He continued to tell Potterfang his plans, "As for these 500 gold coins, it's not for you. It's my gift as a teacher to my precious disciple, Howard and my cute Alisa for you to hold on to. While Howard's physical qualities are rather good, don't neglect his nutrition as well as his physical training and teach him some of the basics of Battle Force when he finally awakens his own. If his Battle Force attribute is different from yours, then I will find a way to help him acquire a high-ranked Battle Force manual.
"Also, I believe that you won't be willing to continue staying here after I leave no matter what I say. I've already had Els purchase a house near the Red Grace Inn for your family to move in in the future. This way, Charlando, the owner of the inn, can help you take care of Howard and Alisa when you're out on mercenary missions and private requests. Actually, Pog, I hope you can reconsider letting me get you a place as an instructor at the academy so that you will be able to continue living here when you become a Gold Swordsman. It'll be better for the kids too..."
Before Lorist finished, Potterfang suddenly stood up and left the room without saying anything.
"Erm..." Lorist was stunned. What's the meaning of this?
In a moment, Lorist heard footsteps from the corridor outside followed by a knocking sound on the door. Potterfang had returned to the room.
However, he was dressed very differently than before. He was currently wearing a ceremonial military officer outfit of the former Krissen Empire with a sword strapped to his side. Potterfang move forward solemnly and knelt before Lorist on one knee before raising his sword over his head and announcing, "I, Grei Potterfang, captain of the 9th Brigade of the 3rd Heavy-Armored Corps, am willing to take Norton Lorist as my lord and liege and pledge my allegiance to the Norton Family. Under the witness of the War God, I am willing to give my utmost to contribute and serve under the banner of the Nortons and will absolutely not let my lord down."
Lorist was so surprised he jumped in his seat. This was the oath of allegiance which was commonly initiated to represent the pledging of one's service to an emperor, a king or a grand duke of a duchy. If this ceremony was carried out to nobles not of that rank, it signified that the initiator of the ceremony was willing to share the fate of whom he was pledging his allegiance to, regardless of good or bad times and be loyal for the rest of one's life and even be willing to follow one's lord into rebellion if necessary. This relationship was even closer than that of a lord and the knights of the family.
"Pog... This... this is..." Lorist was totally without a clue on how to respond.
Potterfang remained kneeling with his head lowered without a single movement.
Aren't these ceremonies only carried out after communication between both parties? Coming at me all of a sudden is unfair! Not being able to do anything else, Lorist stepped forward and received Potterfang's upheld sword and unsheathed it before tapping the longsword on Potterfang's head, followed by each of his shoulders as he announced, "From today onwards, our fates will forever be intertwined. You shall see me as your liege and serve as my arms and feet. Let the War God be the witness of this oath and may time engrave this relationship in the prestigious future that is to come."
Lorist had no choice but to respond as such. If he had hesitated for a little too long, the person who initiated the ceremony would feel that he was ignored and this was a grave insult to the initiator. If it was serious, the initiator would slit his own throat on the spot. Otherwise, he would view the other party as a sworn enemy for the rest of his life.
Taking the sword back from Lorist, Potterfang stood back up and made a deep bow towards him before saying, "My lord."
Lorist gave a bitter laugh. "Pog, is there really a need for that? You could've been so much better off here in Morante City. Why did you choose to jump into that fire pit with me?"
Potterfang also laughed lightly before saying, "I wouldn't have stayed in Morante City either way. To be honest, I've been wanting to go back to the Northlands for quite a while. Since I would have to serve some family one way or another to make a living there, I might as pick you. It makes even more sense considering all that you have done for me."
"Then what about the two kids?" Lorist was already starting to worry about them......
"I've already asked Howard about that. He said that you're his master, so he definitely wants to accompany you on this journey. As for Alisa, she's like a redbud flower that grows in the wild and not a weak flower that grows in the safe shelter of the greenhouse. I personally think that you, my lord, pampers her far too much. As a daughter of the Northlands, she'll definitely need to go back and experience the polishing of the harsh wind and snow there," replied Potterfang.
"Sigh......" Alright. I guess Potterfang's family is coming along to the Northlands as well.
Potterfang then took the high-ranked Battle Force manual and said, "Great, I can finally accept this proudly with my head held high. I hope that I will be able to break into the Gold rank within two months so that I will able to better serve you." He then turned and left the room.
"Pog, please don't call me 'lord' and use my name like you always do," said Lorist.
"Alright, Lord Locke."