Each of Shalor’s three pillars had their own area of expertise. Margrave Clark Gable, a Ritter, was an invincible force in Shalor. Margrave Campbell was a general well known for his wisdom, and most of the deployments and foreign affairs of the kingdom were handled by him.
Finally, there was Margrave Felippe. He was 'just' a businessman, one that did 'too much' business. It was not an exaggeration to say that he was even richer than the country itself. Among the Shalorians, he was called the god of prosperity. He, the king of battle, and the war god were quite distinct characters who were often compared.
It was a shame that this was all in the past. Shalor's three pillars no longer existed, and what was left was merely a poor old man. Felippe walked out of the palace slowly to his carriage. The coachman and guards looked at their patriarch respectfully.
With the support of the guards, Felippe got into the back seat of the luxurious carriage. After a shout from the coachman, it headed towards the margrave’s mansion.
Felippe was not actually a middle-aged man as his looks would suggest. In fact, he was already a 50-year-old man with many grandsons and granddaughters. The reason why he looked so young was because of his wealth. Whether it was precious medicines for prolonging life or other supplements, Felippe ate them like staple food.
In terms of indulgence, Felippe might pale in comparison to the Shalorian king, not that he dared compare himself with the king. However, in terms of food and many other aspects, he was more familiar with them than no other in the nation.
When he arrived at his mansion, he refused the support of the guards and forcefully dragged himself towards the main hall. From the outside, the mansion of the margrave looked like an ordinary compound, but it was more than meets the eye. The houses along the street were also his property.
All the houses were linked together from the inside, and the space within was large beyond measure. If one looked down from the top, one would find that the mansion was almost the quarter of the palace in size.
The large mansion also meant that the margrave had a long way to walk. Margrave Felippe was not in a hurry, stubbornly walking at his own pace without his servants' support.
When he finally reached the main hall, there were already many people gathering in the hall; all of them were his family members. The hall was sufficiently big and there were nearly a hundred people inside, all members of House Felippe.
Entering the hall and disregarding the greetings from his children and grandchildren, Felippe walked straight to the main seat. Seeing this, the family members also gave way to the margrave.
In a short time, everyone turned their attention towards him in his 'throne'.
Felippe looked down at his kin, not feeling any joy at the sight of his children and grandchildren at all. His dull eyes and serious face caused everyone to be unable to guess what he was thinking.
All the nobles in Shalor thought that he led his army back to the royal capital at the last moment because of his love for his motherland. What they didn’t know was that all the family members of this margrave had been under house arrest in this city since six months ago.
There was no way Margrave Felippe, who had been doing business throughout his lifetime and profiting throughout, would put all his eggs in one basket like that.
When he was young, he was quite the philanderer, especially during his twenties. The heirs of the other two margrave’s families had already shown their prominence back then; only Felippe dared go to the brothels every day, engaging in countless improper relationships. There were so many children and grandchildren here, and most of them were the result of his wild antics at that time.
The children and grandchildren in the hall quietly watched him. Although the margrave was promiscuous, he still treated his kin well. He had arranged a way out for all of them, regardless of whether they were illegitimate or not.
"Eight days from now, Faustian's army will attack the city," Felippe announced. Neither the king nor nobles were aware of this.
Everyone seemed shocked. Just as there were signs of a quarrel arising in the hall, Felippe suppressed it and the hall fell silent again.
"All of you, pack up and prepare. Let's fulfill our own destinies when the time comes..." Felippe stopped, as if all his strength had been exhausted. Ignoring their bewilderment, he left the hall.
Only the god of prosperity would have the kind of intelligence network spanning all industries and regions of the country to find out about the impending attack, as well as the fact that Campbell was the king's illegitimate son.
Maybe it was because he had too many children, spreading what little love and compassion he had for each child thin. Most of his children didn't have much affection for him, being far more in awe of him instead. He only knew a few children well. Every time one greeted him, those greetings came from the depths of their hearts.
"Glace and Kristin should have reached the Kingdom of Karaman." Felippe was lying on the rocking chair in his study, squinting at the horizon. His daughter Glace and granddaughter Kristin were the ones he cherished the most. He went to great lengths a few months ago to employ a small group of troops to secretly send them away without attracting the attention of the royal family.
Something flashed across his eyes, causing Felippe to close them tightly.
"What?! A siege on the fourth day after the new year?" Locke looked at Angelina in front of him in surprise.
Angelina did not speak, only nodding calmly.
She found another opportunity to meet him. The young princess enjoyed their time together. The reason for this visit was to invite him to participate in the new year's celebration organised by the nobles in the camp.
As the princess's saviour and with her blessing, Locke, a commoner, also had the opportunity to participate in upper-class gatherings.
Of course, things weren't as beautiful as one would think. Locke probably wouldn't be hanging around the real big shots, such as Kenzir, Marmen and the others. He would be mingling with a bunch of viscounts and counts most of the time instead. Angelina was here to give him some mental preparation.
Locke didn’t bother much about it; he didn’t even want to go to noble parties. There, he couldn't do anything except for eat good food and listen to gossip. He would rather spend new year’s with Suzanne, Glace and the others, getting together to have a barbecue, chatting, and admiring the moon.
But Locke couldn't bear to refuse Angelina's goodwill. Besides, he was a first-rate soldier in the camp, so there was no way he could turn down the invitation of someone of equivalent rank to a division jarl, not that she had to use that authority. Like their first meeting, she had never thrown her weight around a commoner like him.
There were only three days left before the new year, and the soldiers still hadn’t been deployed. The higher-ups only asked for all divisions to step up their training. Ordinary soldiers would probably spend their time in training during the celebration. For the veterans, this was nothing, for they had been through this before.
Wiping his longsword, Locke had both anticipation and dread for the upcoming battle. Although he was warlike, he didn’t like killing. He was warlike because of the four consecutive years of military life. He devoted a large part of his youth to the battlefield and it felt uncomfortable after not fighting for so long.
With a large sum of money, he bought the longsword in his hand, along with a set of exquisite full-body armour.
The raw materials of the longsword and armor were said to be made of brightyellow ore that had a hardness akin to steel, with its key benefit being its lightness. Although Locke had impetus, he was not a brute like Hans. Light equipment helped reduce his burden.
These new powerful equipment increased his strength even more.
Angelina didn't think it was enough when she saw it. According to her original idea, she was going to equip Locke with a full loadout, boots and cape included. He was a bit stunned when he heard about the cape. Wearing one was nothing short of tempting fate.
Locke, who had lived on the battlefield for four years, knew that the more he stood out, the faster he would die. He now only changed his weapons and armor, which was already considered uncommon among platoon jarls. If he changed even more, those Shalorians soldiers might think of him as a division jarl or mistake him for some other important figure.
Imagining a group of Shalorians soldiers rushing towards him, his scalp numbed. He was only a low-rank Knecht, unlike other division jarls which had at least the strength of a high-rank Knecht. What's more, every division jarl had at least one personal guard around them.
Although Angelina was a little disappointed, she did not intend to go against Locke's decisions.
"Is your military merit enough?" Angelina seemed to remember something, and said to Locke, "I'll give you some more if you need."
Locke felt dizzy after hearing this. He had ten thousand points, and his two pieces of equipment cost only three thousand. A knighthood only required five thousand, which meant that even without Kenzir’s promise to make him a noble, he could become one using his merit alone.
The two pieces of equipment were worth half a noble title, which in a sense reflected their extraordinary quality. There was no battle yet so Locke couldn’t test them, but he believed his two new partners would not let him down.
Angelina had a merit quota every month. She just got the coming month's and couldn’t wait to share them with Locke. Of course, this was not as much as last time. The number of merit points that could be allocated was only two to three thousand per month.
Angelina, as the Faustian princess, sister of Kenzir, and the king's precious jewel, did not lack any equipment at all. She could get anything she wanted. That was the reason why she could just give the points to Locke.
Locke also learned that she still had a secret magical item on her person which could withstand the full blow of a peak-level Knecht or high-level spell, truly a treasure among treasures outshining even those in the royal treasury. Some time ago, the Faustian king had ordered someone to specially deliver it to her.
His Majesty's concern for Princess Angelina was evident.
"You must come the day after tomorrow!" Angelina waved him goodbye. She could only stay with him for a limited amount of time so as to not arouse suspicion from others.