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Fresh blood flowed all over the ground as a thick, nauseating, iron-like stench permeated the hall. The tens of people who were just fornicating before had already become cold, pale corpses.
Lorist let out a big sigh and patted on Josk’s shoulder to wake him up from his trance. Just now, Lorist had only killed the men within but Josk went out of control and lashed out towards every person without regard to their gender. When Lorist came to notice it, everyone within the hall had been killed by Josk.
Exiting the hall while emitting a murderous air, Lorist walked around at a casual pace within the newly-built duke manor. After a while, Terman came to him to report that the manor had already fallen under their control and everyone within from guards to servants had all surrendered and were kept in captivity.
“Let Yuriy send a squad of light cavalry scouts to guard the four city gates and have another squad ready on standby. Order Mister Tim to send out four squads of his soldiers to help out with guarding the city gates as well and have him send the remaining men over here. Have Els bring his two guard squads to the duke manor to defend the place and order your knight squad gather up over here. We still have lots to do,” instructed Lorist.
Terman hurriedly sent some men to pass out the orders as Josk approached Lorist and said with an embarrassed voice, “I’m sorry… I was being far too rash just now.”
Lorist looked at him and said, “Joe, don’t forget that you’re a stellar marksman. A marksman must always keep his cool in any situation. Don’t let hatred cloud your eyes.”
“I understand… I will definitely take that to heart,” said Josk as he nodded.
When Els made his way to the duke manor with his men, Lorist had already asked a few of the captured supervisors of the manor about the situation of Geldos City. He had Els leave one squad of his men behind to take over the defense of the duke manor and had a supervisor guide the other squad to take control of the city’s food warehouses and stables. After that, Lorist brought Josk, Terman and his knight squad to the army camp to dispatch the remaining squad of garrison troops as well as tens pike cavalry that remained within the city before rushing over to the laborer camp.
The main issue Lorist now had was the lack of manpower. The citizens of Geldos City was filled with hostility and enmity towards his forces as the count had arranged for the family members of his men to live within the two newly-built street sectors to solidify his standing there. Even though Lorist was currently using stealthy ambush tactics to slowly wrestle the control of the city to him, he was worried that the moment he was discovered, the civilians there would instantly break out into chaos and cause his plan to fail. That’s why Lorist had his hopes placed on the laborers that were forced to help out with the construction of the city.
After removing tens of guards, Lorist easily conquered the slave laborer camp. The next step was to utilize the hundreds of men Tim had sent to gather up slaves that were acquainted with them. They ended up with 2000 or so men.
Terman picked a thousand or so strong youths and brought them to the armory that they had just taken over to give each of them a pike and picked a few senior soldiers from Els’s men and had them form two companies of pikemen. One of the companies was sent to the gates to replace the men that had been sent over by Tim and Yuriy while the other company was allocated to defend the warehouses and armories under Els’s leadership.
Lorist finally breathed a sigh of relief now that he had two more companies of men. However, he knew that the laborer pikemen were only good for looks as it was hard to say whether they were trained sufficiently for battle or not. Even so, now that the city gates were staffed with the laborer pikemen, it allowed for two of Yuriy’s units to be reallocated to form a subjugation force with Terman’s knight squad, effectively relinquishing Lorist’s worry of a civilian revolt.
At the moment, the slave laborer camp was under watch by 800 of Tim’s men with another thousand or so laborers who were tasked by Tim to move food from the warehouses and start cooking up a big pot of meat porridge for the rest of the men in the laborer camp. This was done to placate them and fill up their growling stomachs.
Els subsequently sent someone to report that after a rough inventory check, he noticed that there was equipment enough for two companies of pike cavalry and one regiment of garrison troops. After asking the supervisor about that, he found that those equipment was gathered up by the count to prepare for the expansion of his troops. Els had already let the laborer pikemen company change into the complete sets of equipment from the armory and had the guard captains allocated suitable weapons for them. Aside from a few laborers who were allocated pikes as they didn’t know how to wield anything else, the rest of the laborers were given the standard loadout of garrison troops and were split into squads of longbowmen and sword and shield users.
Els needed Lorist to send him someone well-versed in making inventories for the rest of the armory and more people to help the laborers that were stationed at the gates to change into the new equipment as well as some men to carry out miscellaneous tasks like making food for the soldiers who had been working throughout the day on nothing other than dried rations.
Lorist facepalmed as he had completely forgotten to let his men rest and recuperate while he was busy managing the affairs of the laborers. Had it not been for Els’s reminder, he would’ve been unaware of that situation until the next morning. It made him feel even more impressed with how Charade could always seem to handle so much without missing out on any small detail. He understood that he wasn’t as capable as Charade when it came to management given his tendency to gloss over the less significant but nevertheless important details even though he was quite adept at planning a long-term general strategies.
Lorist asked for Tim to come over and instructed him to pick several men who could do accounts and three hundred others from the laborers who were busy making meat porridge to report to Els and also had one of Els’s light cavalry squads escort them there. The laborers who were picked parted unwillingly with the pots of meat porridge and looked towards the food wistfully.
Tim angrily pushed and rebuked them, “Why are you still here? Don’t you know that I’ve just done you a favor? While the amount of food you get here will be rationed, you can eat all you can over there! What are you still waiting for?”
Tim’s outburst caused Lorist to laugh out loud. At that moment, Josk suddenly appeared out of nowhere. “Milord, please come over, there’s something that needs your attention.”
Josk brought Lorist to a corner of the laborer camp that was surrounded by a wall that seemed to be used for defensive fortifications of cities. There was a building that was even more sturdily-built from a combination of rocks and metal bars than the wooden housing that was used to accommodate the laborers outside.
“What is this facility for?” Lorist asked.
Josk responded, “Milord, this is the hard labor camp whose main purpose is to keep the slaves who have already awakened their Battle Force captive with their family members. Most of these slaves are soldiers who had been captured on the battlefield. The reason the count kept them locked up with their family was because he wanted them to change sides and serve under him. Most of the members of the count’s new pike cavalry company are people who have been picked from the slaves locked up in this area. As long as they agree to serve the count, their family members will be allowed to move out to the new street sectors and live there without having to experience any hardships.”
“How do you know about this?” Lorist asked.
“Milord, the guards that were in charge of watching the area told me about it,” said Josk as he pointed towards the stone building where two people in uniform could be seen standing. These men carried out their instructions faithfully under the watch of Tim’s men.
“How many people are locked up in there?” asked Lorist as he walked towards the building.
A chubby man walked over and bowed before looking at a thick book in his hand and saying, “Milord, there are 734 captive soldiers within this facility with 3151 others who are their family members, totaling up to a number of 3885 people.”
“Why is there so many?”
“Milord, this number is already considered pretty low. The record number of soldiers being held captive here was above 2000 with more than 7000 other family members. Currently, the men who had been locked up the longest was captured sometime a year ago with the most recent prisoners being captured about a month ago. According to the regulations here, those who submit to the count have to work three months of physical labor as the count reasoned that the people would not be completely loyal to him without experiencing some form of punishment,” replied the chubby man.
“I see,” said Lorist as he rubbed his chin in thought. The count really had his own way of messing with people. If they wanted their families to have better lives, they have no choice but to work for three months before they were allowed to serve the count! No wonder Count Cobry had managed to gather soldiers so quickly and easily.
At the same time, Josk asked the guards about the slaves who still had yet to submit to the count. The guard then flipped the book to the last page and showed it to Josk, to which he exclaimed in surprise, “So, it’s him… No wonder he still hasn’t submitted yet.”
With his curiosity piqued, Lorist went over to take a look.
Josk said, “Milord, you should definitely go see this person. His name is Chino Freiyar and he’s a 31-year-old Gold ranked mercenary who has quite a reputation in the northwestern parts of the Redlis Kingdom. It is rumored that he was orphaned from a young age and was raised by a kind female neighbor. When he grew up, he eventually got married to the neighbor’s daughter who gave birth to a pair of twins soon after. It was said that when the count’s pike cavalrymen raided his town, they broke into his home and ended up killing the woman who had raised him. In a fit of rage, he killed almost 20 of the pike cavalrymen but was later subdued by two Gold ranked illegitimate sons of the count who took his wife and kids hostage. Ever since, Count Cobry has been waiting for Freiyar to submit and serve him but he still hasn’t accepted the offer and has remained locked up here.”
“Alright, I’ll go meet this Freiyar. Hey you, bring me there. Tell me your name,” said Lorist towards that chubby man.
“Milord, I am called Tarkel,” he replied.
As Tarkel led Josk and Lorist around, he started talking about his woes. “Milord, even though he’s our prisoner, Freiyar is even more arrogant and bossy than the warden himself. He’s the true leader within the prison camp and there’s no way an Iron rank like me would dare to boss him around. Even when a few of the guards were beaten up quite severely by him, the warden didn’t bother to take any action; he was satisfied as long as he didn’t attempt to escape. To be honest, if it were not for his blind wife and his twins, he would’ve killed his way to the count for revenge long ago. Even though the count admired his abilities, doesn’t he know that there’s no way Freiyar would serve him given the grudge he held for his adopted mother’s death?
“Oh, Freiyar’s cell is just right ahead. Please be careful, there’s a ditch on the road,” said Tarkel as he led the way with a torch in hand.
The light illuminated the depths of the cell and revealed a tall, big-built man who was cautiously looking at the three who were approaching.
“Freiyar, it’s me, Josk. I believe it’s been two years since we last met during the martial arts competition at Kessads Castle,” greeted Josk.
“Josk?” said Freiyar in a surprised voice. “Marksman Josk? It’s you…”
After that, his expression returned to normal as he spoke in a low voice, “Are you serving the count now?”
“Ptooey! I can’t wait to feast on his flesh and drink his blood! Why would I ever serve that bastard?! You must be crazy,” said Josk with bloodshot eyes. The grudge he had with the count was so deep that it caused it to freak out at the mere mention of him serving the count.
“Oh, then why are you here?” asked Freiyar curiously. He inferred that Josk wasn’t brought here as his prisoner given the way the torch-holding guard treated him.
“Tarkel, open the door,” instructed Lorist.
“Freiyar, this is the man whom I serve now. He is my lord, Norton Lorist of the Norton Family of the Northlands. Geldos City has already been conquered by us under his lordship’s leadership,” introduced Josk.
“The Norton Family of the Northlands? The Roaring Raging Bear? I’ve heard of that family a few years ago when I visited the Northlands. However, why is he all the way here conquering Geldos City?” asked Freiyar suspiciously.
“I think it’s better if you let me explain,” said Lorist before he greeted Freiyar. He then told Freiyar about his journey to his homeland to inherit his title and position as well as the reason why they were in conflict with Count Cobry as well as the current status of the occupation of Geldos City.
“That pretty much sums it up. Even though the city is under our control, we don’t have enough manpower to manage it effectively. When Josk saw your name on the prisoner records, he brought me here right away. To be honest, I also hope that you, Mister Freiyar, will be able to lend me a hand in this matter,” said Lorist sincerely.