The Faustian envoy weaved through the domains of the Ligia Union, allowing Locke a good glimpse of how different the peasants had lived from one territory to another. The socioeconomic gap was the most pronounced among the farming community since their stability and comfort were heavily dependent on local governance. It was almost surprising to see how stark the gap was between two neighbouring territories.
“Why aren’t the higher aristocrats doing anything about the smaller clans?” Locke gingerly peeled the skin off a grape for Angelina as he asked the toady attendant.
“Well… Our master has his hands full of other pressing matters, which is why his lordship hasn’t been able to tend to the crisis,” the attendant muttered sheepishly.
The Ligia Union had elected Margrave Kent as their leader and chaos was a given with continued ignorance.
“What about the other margraves?” asked Locke.
“Margrave Troredar tends to stay out of politics while Margrave Warren had retired from the circle six years ago.”
Locke cast a meaningful gaze on the attendant. The man was surprisingly honest despite his exaggerated flattery.
“I’m afraid that’s not the case for Margrave Kent. The entire union is in jeopardy because he simply can no longer control his subordinates.” Angelina chuckled behind her palm.
The attendant pretended to be deaf.
“Where are we heading next?” Locke asked.
“We’re going to the Neula domain. They’re best known around here for their dori sheep. The meat is of superb quality,” introduced the attendant swiftly. He was entrusted with guiding Locke and Angelina throughout their visit, after all.
“Oh.” Locke simply nodded. While he was the person who’d mapped out the envoy’s direction, the particulars were mostly filled in by Margrave Kent’s attendant.
The various domains were namely, the Neula domain, Shayney domain, Psypaber domain, Wroyaler domain, Herdorian domain, Ansher domain, and Dryagron domain. They crossed many territories as they moved north from the west.
Locke leisurely watched the people go about their lives from his seat in the carriage. It was rather unfortunate that the Kingdom of Aryandor to the west of the Ligia Union had barely interacted with the Kingdom of Faustian. In the east was the swampy Cardover area, which didn’t make for the best tourist destination.
They’d been in the Ligia Union for almost a month, having spent their New Year in a small town called Shartar. The joyous transition was spent in a foreign land, which left both Locke and Angelina with romantic memories that they’d cherish. Following that, they continued northwards, finally returning to the Kent domain to retrieve his documents.
There was a spatial ring hidden beneath the stack of papers, which Locke couldn’t possibly refuse. He was in disbelief; he certainly hadn’t expected to receive more than a relaxing trip this time around. Plus, bribery from a member of nobility wouldn’t be cheap. The margrave's request was obviously listed in the documents. Margrave Kent’s struggles were rather plain in sight; he was at the risk of losing his control over the smaller clans if the current situation was prolonged.
The envoy was significantly smaller in the absence of the heavy cavalry. Even so, its scale remained huge. They resumed their journey northwards, deviating from the initially mapped route with intention of passing by the Kingdom of Jose.
It was convenient since the Kingdom of Jose was right next to Faustian. Its overall competence was weak and its size was only as large as the Dor province. Its foundations weren’t as solid as the Ligia Union either but that didn’t mean that Jose was entirely vulnerable and helpless. Surprisingly, their ever-improving governance and policies had allowed their presence to stand on par with the Ligia Union.
The Faustian envoy had two hundred armoured soldiers so it was only natural for the Jose guards to stop them at the borders. The kingdom hadn’t been expecting their presence since Locke wasn’t here on an official purpose. He planned to merely pass by but the Jose Royal Family couldn’t help but be on high alert.
One of the Jose counts was sent to the border with a squad of royal cavalry. The situation was thoroughly assessed and the final arrangement was decided: the Jose royal cavalry would ‘escort’ the Faustian envoy to the Faustian borders.
The Jose royal cavalry had only consisted of four thousand soldiers and was considered their strongest defence. Locke was very flattered that they’d dispatched a quarter of the army to watch over them.
“Their light cavalry soldiers are said to be as strong as the Ligian heavy cavalry.” Angelina leaned against the window to point at the soldiers that crowded around their formation.
Locke nodded with a hum. “It’s true that they’re pretty competent.” In terms of a regular person’s capabilities, the Jose light cavalry members were indeed outstanding. Their every movement was effortless and the sharpened longsword on their belts appeared more functional than that of typical cavalries.
The feeling of being constantly watched and ‘protected’ wasn’t the most comfortable, especially when a thousand foreign members were surrounding the convoy. The Jose cavalry was on high alert, which made taking the slightest break to stretch their limbs worthy of suspicion. It was almost impossible to admire the scenery.
We shouldn’t have come if this was going to happen, Locke thought. While he was a quasi-Ritter, it didn’t mean that he was invincible enough to do as he pleased. There was a quasi-Ritter of similar calibre in the crowd of Jose soldiers and there were even a few high-rank Knechts in the mix.
Those below level-one were still subjected to the limits of the regular human. A quasi-Ritter may be capable of squashing hundreds, thousands or ten thousands of regular soldiers alone but that didn’t mean that they wouldn’t risk exerting themselves to death. Not even a level-one Ritter would dare to challenge an army of ten thousand people alone. Erdritters were the only ones that could solve an outnumbered situation since they were free from the shackles of gravity.
While Locke couldn’t fully enjoy what Jose had to offer, he did manage to notice a few things. Unlike the Kingdom of Faustian which lived under absolute ruling, the Ligia Union members that coexisted or the Aomarian Empire that had centralised governance, their structure greatly resembled that of the fallen Kingdom of Shalor. The citizens of Jose were relatively simple, which made them easy targets. If it wasn’t for their powerful leaders, Locke couldn’t picture how they’d fare in such a harsh political climate.
At this moment, the Josean count rode his horse to the carriage. “Your Highness, the border of your kingdom and our kingdom is just right ahead.”
Faustian had been plagued with constant instability when it annexed Shalor a decade ago. It was during that moment of vulnerability that Jose and the surrounding territories came forth in an attempt to reap some benefit. Despite that, Faustian’s monstrous growth influence and prosperity had now forced Jose into submission. Locke had to admit that he found utmost delight in the count’s humbled mannerisms.
“Oh? What’s that over there?” Locke pointed to the other end, where a whole regiment was stationed on the periphery. Their numbers were so huge that the formation stretched onto the Faustian borders.
The count looked up. “That’s the border of Gondor, Your Highness.”