"Why would Knight Belnick spend three whole years just to recover from his injuries?" Lorist asked.
He was currently within a roofed, two-wheeled horse carriage with Shadekampf. Supervisor Kedan was personally driving and guiding the two Northlander Horses in the direction of Wildnorth Town.
"Milord, that's because our family bastide doesn't have a herbalist. The only herbalist within our dominion is the family head of the Dunbarsen Family of Wildnorth Town. He is mainly responsible for Sir Belnick's treatment," replied Kedan.
"The Dunbarsen Family? Tell me about their background," said Lorist.
Kedan started explaining as he drove. "Milord, when the Norton Family first started recruiting for the garrison force, the first generation family leader of the Dunbarsens, an apprentice herbalist, was one of the first people who joined. When the standard of living of his family started to get better, he sent his son to his former herbalist teacher to learn the craft. Ten years later, his son returned as a rank 1 herbalist to the town and followed in his father's footsteps to join the garrison. After that, it had become a family tradition for the descendants of the Dunbarsen Family to become herbalists or apprentice herbalists.
"The Norton Family has tried several times to recruit the people from the Dunbarsen Family, but all of those attempts have been refused. The Nortons couldn't force them either because they were the only herbalist family in the whole of the dominion. However, we made an agreement so that they would help treat our injured family soldiers. The relationship between the Dunbarsens and the Nortons have been like that for the past 200 years or so. That's why Knight Belnick was sent to Wildnorth Town to recuperate from his injuries."
"What is the situation of WIldnorth Town right now?" Lorist asked.
"Milord, it is currently being controlled by the four great families of the garrison force. For the past 200 or so years, the garrison force have weathered over the years and it was common to see different families' being in charge of it. Currently, Wildnorth Town's garrison is jointly controlled by the Dunbarsen Family, the Mollin Family, the Hassen Family and the Qubim Family. The first illegitimate son of the Old Master, Molocinque, was born of a woman of the Mollin Family. This is why the Mollins and the other three families are supporting Molocinque to become the next family head with the precondition that after he gains power, he would take in the four families as vassal nobles and grant them the title of knights and officially enfeoff the land of Wildnorth Town to them as their dominion so that the town will be able to lawfully escape the control of the Norton Family."
On the Grindia Continent, noble families usually didn't grant their knights their own pieces of land, but rather a bastide and a yearly salary. That was also dependent on the knight's Battle Force rank. Silver ranked family knights were usually paid a yearly bonus and only those who have served a family for ten years would be able to obtain a bastide for themselves, which can be inherited by their descendants along with the noble title of a knight. That was why on Grindia, becoming a family knight of a landed noble was akin to being granted quasi-nobility.
When a noble family recruits a Gold ranked knight, or when one of their Silver ranked knights break through to the Gold rank, the family will have to start considering granting them with one such bastide. Normally, a knight's bastide included a castle, more than 600000 square meters of farmland as well as large lands for livestock grazing or mountains or lakes. Some knight bastides even had small villages or towns.
Even though that Lorist had recruited many good friends as his family knights, he would definitely have to start planning for their bastides to be built the moment they reach the Northlands and start settling down. However, he wasn't too worried about it as he believed that Charade would be able to take care of that matter for him flawlessly.
However, noble families granting their knights proper dominions were not without precedent. But it was usually only restricted to knights who have entered the realm of Blademasters or those who have made great achievements during their service. For example, the two Blademasters working for the Second Prince each have a small city or town that they were given total control of. The other reason for granting a proper dominion was due to the large size of the noble's own dominion. Usually, nobles with high ranks would grant their knights with lower-ranked noble titles and smaller dominions to make them their vassal noble families.
The families of the garrison of the Wildnorth Town actually had their eyes on knight dominions. Their explicit ambitions and intentions could be seen as a challenge to the authority of the Nortons. Should their plan actually work out, they would be able to leave the status of peasants and step into the realm of nobility. Even if they were still vassal nobles of the Norton Family, they had near-complete autonomy over their lands and could even ignore the orders of the Norton Family.
"Their ambitions are but a pipe dream," commented Lorist coldly. Given how well-informed Supervisor Kedan seemed to be about the situation of Wildnorth Town as well as their plans and intentions, he should've been quite wary of them for some time now.
Even though the walls of Wildnorth Town was within sight from the family bastide, it took up to 40 minutes of travel by a horse-pulled carriage to arrive at the area. Currently, the gates of the town were wide open and four unenthusiastic pike-wielding garrison soldiers could be seen chatting away. Seeing the carriage approach, they intended to stop it from passing. However, upon seeing Kedan at the coachman's seat, they merely waved and let them into the town without question.
"Milord, not one of the garrison soldiers were present during your inheritance ceremony yesterday. During your visit to Knight Belnick, if you see any of those garrison troops, please restrain yourself and endure it as we are currently in their territory..." reminded Supervisor Kedan earnestly.
Lorist lightly humphed to indicate that he had his own plans as he looked at the scenery of the town from within the carriage.
Like most small towns, Wildnorth Town only had two main gates, one at the north and the other at the south. A large road connected the two gates and effectively split the town into two halves. In the middle of the large road was a small plaza and at its south was a large mansion usually for the use of the Norton Family members built from wood and stone which gave off a bold and rugged look. However, during the years when the Nortons did not make their way into the town, it had started to deteriorate due to lack of maintenance.
At the northern part of the plaza was a small, grey-colored hill where the blowhole, which served as the town's main water source, was located. Deep waterways were made along the hill so that the water from the blowhole could be transported to various parts of the town for the use of its citizens.
Lorist noticed that many of the buildings atop the hill were made of stone and the roads there were far cleaner than the rest. There were even a couple of shops opened there. However, at the south of the plaza where the dominion lord's mansion was located, the houses were mostly constructed from miscellaneous materials with some being mere shacks rather than proper buildings.
"Milord, most of the residents of the stone houses of the northern part of the plaza are the family members of the garrison soldiers whereas those at the south are family members of deceased soldiers of our family. Even though many of them have familial relations with the garrison soldiers of Wildnorth Town, they didn't receive any aid or care from them and are instead treated like second-rate citizens of the town. Apart from them, the descendants of the previous ruling families of Wildnorth Town are also there. Their treatment within the town was the worst, causing many of them to join our family force during the past few recruitment drives," explained Kedan.
"Right now, what is the population of the town?" Lorist asked.
"The last population survey that the family had conducted was around 100 years ago, and the town had 3459 residents at that time. On the other hand, the people of the town who worked and lived in the family bastide numbered around 1842 people, making the total population of Wildnorth Town around 5000. In present day, there are more than 2700 people of Wildnorth Town living within the bastide, and the residents of the town itself is estimated to be around 5000 people. However, according to my observations, there should be a total of 7000 residents of WIldnorth Town. Just the four great families of the town alone have around 400 people each. Other than the official garrison soldiers, they can still rally more than 100 private soldiers. That's the main reason why the four families are able to reign over Wildnorth Town."
"Where did the four families get all that funding?" Lorist wondered.
"Milord, they've occupied half of the farmable land of the town, given that 80 out of the 200 members of the garrison troop are from the four great families. The families who have lost their right to be in the garrison either faded into obscurity or became serfs of the four great families to manage their farms for them. Also, they've been conducting a smuggling operation because the family refused to give them a proper permit to form a merchant convoy. The main commodities they smuggle are the salt they produce as well as the fur and pelts they get from hunting. Milord, we're here. Sir Belnick resides within the dominion lord's mansion," said Kedan as he stopped the carriage and helped open the doors.
After Lorist and Shadekampf got off, Supervisor Kedan went up to the closed door of the mansion and called out to the people within, prompting a young man to come out to receive them.
"Casey, move the carriage to the backyard. I've brought the lord to meet Sir Belnick," said Kedan to the young fellow.
"The lord?" The young man was stunned and he took a look at Lorist, before he quietly went to tend to the carriage without asking any more questions.
"Milord, this way," guided Kedan. They went into the mansion from a side entrance and passed through a corridor and a courtyard before they arrived at a small hut to the left of the mansion.
"Sir Belnick is staying here to recover from his injuries, milord," said the supervisor.
Lorist pushed the door to the hut open and saw a white-haired youth struggling to stand up.
"It's you... Big brother tough guy..." Lorist's memories of that man during his childhood suddenly flashed past his eyes. The white-haired young knight repeatedly tossed and caught the 8-year-old Lorist up and down in the air, causing him to laugh out ceaselessly. That knight was one of the most favored squires of Lorist's father and was also the person who Lorist loved the most to spend time with. The young Lorist frequently called him big brother tough guy because he thought that being able to toss him high up was a great display of strength...
Belnick tried hard to stand up, but later discovered that he was unable to get off the chair no matter how hard he tried. "Little Locke, it's been long since we last met. I didn't expect that during our first reunion in so long, you have already become the dominion lord. I should address you as milord now."
"Yeah, it's been more than ten years. Back when I was 10, you've already vanished. I cried so hard back then," said Lorist as he got to the side of the chair and sat down on a stool.
"That's right, I was young back then and wanted to venture to all sorts of places. That's why I left the dominion for my travels. However, I didn't know that you've been exiled to Morante City until after I returned 5 years later," said Belnick as he laughed.
"Big brother tough guy, what's going on with your body?" Lorist asked.
"Milord, just call me Beck. You've already grown up into a magnificent dominion lord, the way you call me will make you a laughing stock," said Belnick seriously.
"As for my body, it's already ruined. Didn't you see it yourself just now? I didn't even have enough energy to stand up. Ooof..." said the white-haired young knight with an extremely melancholic expression.
"But, big brothe- Alright, Brother Beck, I've never heard of anyone who still couldn't recover after three years. Can you tell me about your injuries back then?" Lorist hurriedly asked.
"Back then, I was riding tens of meters behind the Third Young Master. Nobody would've imagined that a Northlander Bear, a ferocious magical beast, would show up at a forest nearby the livestock farm of the dominion. That bear was easily over four meters tall and it suddenly rushed over to our group, greatly stunning all of us. The Third Young Master's horse was so startled it stood right up and shook him off its back. However, one of the young master's feet was still in the stirrups, causing him to be dragged along as the horse ran around rampantly in fear. I quickly tossed my pike and nailed the horse onto the ground to stop it.
"However, the scent of blood from the dead horse stimulated the Northlander Bear and it rushed towards it instantly. The Third Young Master's feet at that moment was still caught in the stirrup and his whole body was also pressed to the ground by the dead horse. The garrison soldiers around us all fled in fear and I had no choice but to throw my only sword over to stop the bear. That sword dug into the bear's lower rib and enraged it even further and caused it to change its target to me instead. After being chased around by it for quite a while, I was knocked flying with only one hit from its paw. As I laid on the ground and looked at the incoming bear, I picked up a pike that was dropped by one of the garrison soldiers that escaped and infused the last of my Battle Force into the blade and managed to give the Northlander Bear a finishing stab before I lost consciousness."
Even though Belnick sounded very casual when he recounted the events of that day, Lorist could already imagine the danger and terror that he must have been in. Northlander Bears were the most fearsome beasts in the Northlands. Normally, the best move a Silver rank could make was to escape the moment one was encountered. Otherwise, he would most probably not be able to return alive.
"By the time I awoke, I got to know that three days had already passed. Master Dunbarsen said that it was practically a miracle that I managed to survive at all. Due to getting a hit from that magical beast, all of my ribs on the right side broke and many of my internals were pulverized. The Lord Baron had ordered for me to be sent to Wildnorth Town to recover and my condition only managed to stabilize after a year. Even so, during the past two years, my injuries kept acting up and caused me to be unable to continue training in Battle Force. Even though I wanted to attend your inheritance ceremony last night, I spat out black blood after only a little movement. Milord, sometimes I wonder why I didn't die along with that bear... That's far more straightforward. To be alive in this state is to some degree, torturous..."
Lorist furrowed his brow and said, "What did Master Dunbarsen say about this?"
Belnick lied back down onto his chair and said helplessly, "Master Dunbarsen also said that there was nothing he could do to help me because most of my injuries are internal and many of my organs are already ruptured. That's why even though my bones recovered rather quickly, the internal organs didn't and I'm not able to do any exercise at all, not even jogging. To prevent the recovery of my organs from being affected, I can't even eat bread or beef and can only have two bowls of oatmeal with salt every day with one small bowl of meat soup every three days. Milord, I've really had enough of days like these..."
Lorist expressed his sympathy and lifted up Belnick's hand before he lightly patted it as a gesture of consolation while he secretly tried to read his pulse.
Suddenly, Lorist's face flushed red from anger and a seething killing intent oozed out of his being. His voice suddenly turned deathly cold, causing the hairs of the people present to stand up as he said, "That cursed bastard..."