The bar housed village men who seemed to be a group of vigilantes. They looked towards Raven and his companions with expressions of high expectations but fear as well. They stared intently as if to gauge the skills of the newcomers.
It seemed that Jody was quite well known, as two or three people muttered while staring at Jody.
An errand boy came to their table. Jody took out a coin from his pocket and handed it to the boy.
“Sir Ramelda is here, right? Go tell him we’re here to take on his commission.”
The boy ran into the deeper areas of the pub, then quickly came out before waving to the group. Raven and Jody stood up from their seats and headed towards the boy.
“Welcome. Make yourselves comfortable.”
In the annex of the pub, there was a haggard man who looked to be around forty, and a younger man who shared similar features. Healthy young men were standing behind the two men.
‘Leo, Sir Derek Ramelda…’
Raven saw familiar faces for the first time after more than a decade. They were some of the few friends that his father and brother had.
Knight Ramelda was quite inflexible but also had a straight mindset. When the Valts were convicted three years ago, he was certain of their innocence.
As Raven’s father and brother were brought in, Derek Ramelda had been the only one out of the numerous nobles serving Count Bresia who petitioned to have the case examined more closely. Hence Raven had mixed up emotions when he saw Ramelda once more.
Perhaps that was the reason why he chose to stand on Ramelda’s side as soon as he heard about the conflict. Even though he was ready to do anything to get his revenge, he couldn’t betray the righteous.
“We’re here because we heard you’re looking for mercenaries.” Sitting down in the chair opposite the middle-aged man, Jody spoke.
“Including both of us, we have six people.”
Ramelda narrowed his eyes. Then he held a whispered conversation with his son seated beside him. After nodding several times, Ramelda continued.
“Were the six of you always together?”
“No, this friend here and his two companions joined us in Elma.”
Derek Ramelda examined Jody and Raven. Raven could see the weariness in Ramelda’s observing eyes, and he felt a little distressed. Even though a long time had passed, the Derek Ramelda he knew didn’t have such eyes.
“Did you stop by Moncha before you came here?”
“No, we came straight here.”
“How can we believe your words? You might compare the offers between Tylen and I, then side with them afterward.”
It was a justifiable suspicion. But Jody smirked and turned his glance to his side.
“My friend here wanted to come to this side. I’m just following his judgment.”
Ramelda looked at Raven with a curious gaze. It was hard to understand that the mercenary who looked older and more experienced was following the words of a young man who appeared to be barely twenty.
“What’s your reason? Tylen will probably offer you better deals and have more troops as well.”
“Did you ask the same questions to all the mercenaries in the pub?” Raven asked back in a heavy voice.
The answer came from Ramelda’s son, Leo, who was also friends with Raven’s dead brother.
“Most of the people in the pub are our acquaintances.”
Even though he didn’t answer, Raven nodded inwardly.
The Ramelda he knew would have friends who wouldn’t cling to a few pennies. Moreover, Raven had heard from his brother that when Leo Ramelda turned seventeen, he wandered the central and eastern regions for about three years and made friends with many mercenaries.
“Then why did you put out a commission in the first place? If you do not need us, we’ll leave.”
As Jody stood up from his seat with a frown, Ramelda answered in a somber voice.
“Because Tylen started to recruit men.”
Jody hesitated and turned to Raven. Both men had roughly grasped the situation, and Raven signaled at Jody to sit back down.
‘So that’s what happened…’
The dispute was likely initiated by Tylen. Ramelda believed that knights serving the same lord should not resort to violence. Most likely, he would have tried to resolve the conflict through conversation. However, when Tylen openly started to commission mercenaries and train soldiers, Ramelda wouldn’t have been able to stand still.
“I say this once more. We did not go to Moncha, and we came straight here from Elma. All the people in our group agreed that we would…”
Raven cut off Jody’s words.
The three men failed to hear Raven’s words and frowned. Raven spoke once more in a low, solemn voice.
“My name is Raven Valt.”
The four people’s eyes widened. Soon, Ramelda spoke in a suppressed voice.
“My mother’s name is Lorraine Valt. She said she was five years old when she was separated from her older brother Gray Valt.”
“Don’t lie. Gray never said that he had a…”
“Gray Valt has a burn scar on his waist from when he tried to steal a sword from the blacksmith when he was nine. My mother was very young when they were separated, so that’s one of the only things she remembered.”
Ramelda remained silent. He had seen the scar on Gray Valt’s side before, and when Ramelda had asked about it, Gray had shyly responded that it was from when he had tried to steal a sword from a blacksmith.
“But… it’s still not enough to prove what you’re saying.”
“What do I stand to gain from lying to you?”
“Many things! You could pretend to be on our side under Tylen’s orders and betray us once the actual battle begins!”
Leo stepped up on behalf of his father. Ramelda’s two nephews also glared at Raven suspiciously. Raven replied with a cold smile.
“Really? Let us say that is true. If I was following Tylen’s orders, do you think Tylen can offer me more than what it’s worth by revealing my identity as the traitor Gray Valt’s nephew?”
Leo paused and closed his mouth. Even though a few years had passed, it was hard to reveal one’s identity as part of a traitorous family. Even if he was the son of Gray’s younger sister, there was nothing to be gained from revealing his identity. Moreover, Tylen had taken over Gray Valt’s land after acquiring Baron Nobira’s permission.
Would he commission a member of the Valt family?
It didn’t make any sense. Rather, Ramelda felt that he could negotiate on the condition of handing over a member of the Valt family.
“I could hand you over right now to Tylen or to Count Bresia.”
Sure enough, Ramelda brought up the topic. Raven’s smile deepened.
“If you’re confident, you can try.”
Leo and Ramelda’s two nephews glared. Ramelda raised his hand to stop the three young men in the moment of tension.
“If these guys go on a rampage, we’ll lose a few men for sure. That’s only good for Tylen.”
The three young men’s complexion grew darker. Ramelda quietly observed Raven for a moment, then stood up.
“The down payment is five gold coins. We’ll give you ten more if we win.”
Leo and his two cousins raised their voices. But Ramelda didn’t spare them a glance and continued as he walked across the room.
“We set out for Moncha tomorrow. The longer we wait, the better it’s gonna become for Tylen.”
“We’ve gathered fifteen mercenaries after ten days, including these people. How many mercenaries do you think Tylen’s managed to procure?”
Leo bit his lips after hearing his father’s cold judgment. Given the disparity in their financial strengths, Tylen must have hired at least twice as many mercenaries.
“It is as you say, Sir Ramelda. There were over twenty mercenaries in the pub in Elma. Most were there after hearing about the dispute between the two families. As time goes by, more mercenaries are going to head to Moncha.”
Jody spoke up. Leo and his two cousins shut their mouths completely. The difference wasn’t just double. The number difference in just mercenaries alone was three times.
“Leo, show these friends to their rooms. Tell them about Tylen’s forces to them as well.”
“….Yes.” Leo answered helplessly.
Ramelda left for the pub and Leo, who stared at his father’s back for a moment, turned to Raven and Jody before speaking.
“Follow me, bring the rest of your companions.”
“Ruv Tylen has thirty soldiers under his command. About a dozen of them served under him from the beginning, and the rest come from various backgrounds, including working as mercenaries or as imperial soldiers.
“Hooh, they must be quite skilled.”
“If you’re scared, feel free to quit.”
Leo was still quite abrupt. However, Jody responded with a smile as if he were used to this type of treatment.
“Those soldiers, have they ever experienced a proper battle after being formed? Probably not, right? All they’ve done is probably chase some third-class mercenaries out of town and fight weak goblins or harpies that snoop around town, right?”
“That’s true, but…”
“I’ve worked as a mercenary for ten years. These two: five and three years, respectively. I fought against other mercenaries, and I have joined a monster expedition before too. Do you follow?”
Leo nodded as he looked at the three mercenaries with a newfound respect. He himself had spent three years wandering around the country while training as a knight, so he knew very well what was required to survive so long as active mercenaries.
“Then how about…”
His gaze turned to Raven, Isla, and Soldrake. Raven remained silent, and Jody giggled and replied while pointing to Isla with his chin.
“This quiet fellow is from Valvas. He’s a real Valvas Cavalier.”
“A Cavalier of Valvas…!”
Leo and his two cousins became astonished.
The Valvas region was in unending turmoil, and mercenaries and soldiers from that region were famous for their skills. However, the three men became even more shocked by Jody’s following words.
“And Raven is the one that the Valvas friend serves. You must know what it means for a Cavalier of Valvas to serve a man and not a lady?”
The three of them could not remove their gazes from Raven. Jody’s words signified that the young man named Raven Valt had been victorious in a battle against a Valvas Cavalier. Besides, Cavaliers of Valvas did not just serve anyone just because they were defeated. It meant that he had completely devoted his life and future to his master.
“And the lady over here is Sol… I do not know much about her except that she cannot speak and she is Raven’s wife. But Raven guaranteed her identity, I’m sure she’ll do her part since she is a cavalier’s sister.”
Jody shrugged. But the eyes of the three men were already fixated on Raven and Isla with astonishment. Raven felt rather fortunate that things had turned out this way and asked the young men.
“Are there any archers among Tylen’s men? Crossbows?”
Leo came to his senses.
“Well, there are a few of them, but it’s nothing to worry about. We’ll give you all shields, so…”
“I heard that the town of Moncha became a serf village. How many of them do you think there will be?”
“About fifty men if they gather all the working men.”
“Hm… the mercenaries recruited by Tylen should also number around there… There is a huge difference in our numbers,” Jody concluded.
The three young men were put in a dark mood. Their side was composed of vigilantes and mercenaries which totaled to less than fifty men. However, Tylen had twice that number with just his personal soldiers and the mercenaries. In addition, those men were real soldiers who were trained to kill. Even the quality was too different. More than half of their own men were from the vigilante group. They weren’t trained soldiers.
An anxious, awkward silence followed. After a moment of silence, Raven raised his head.
“Can you get me two horses? Those that are familiar with battles.”
“Why do you need them?”
“My friend and I will help you deal with Tylen’s personal soldiers and the serfs,” Raven replied casually.
Everyone became wide-eyed.Previous Chapter Next Chapter