Chapter 120: Trap (1)

“Ugh… I guess, in the end, it just wasn’t possible.”

As the last person standing, Lieutenant General Bison looked at his men who had fallen first. He was going to die anyway, but he had still wanted to kill that big shot, Milton Forrest, with his own hands. He unintentionally began to laugh.

‘Ha, a big shot…’

In the beginning of the war, Lieutenant General Bison had treated Milton as a child. How could he have miscalculated this badly? How arrogant had he been? From the Lester Kingdom, a small country in the western part of the continent, an absurdly influential person had been born. When he thought about the price he had paid for not realizing that sooner, Lieutenant General Bison could only laugh bitterly.

‘Thankfully, our Republic also has monsters just like him.’

Lieutenant General Bison sighed as he thought about Siegfried. No matter how positively he tried to think, he still didn’t like him. But, as long as that man was there, even if he died right now, he didn’t have to worry about the future of the Republic.

‘There’s no need to hesitate now.’

Having organized his thoughts and gotten rid of his regrets, Lieutenant General Bison shouted as he spurred his horse forward.

“I am Bison of the Kobrook Republic!”

***

Lieutenant General Bison. He had spent decades keeping the Kobrook Republic’s borders safe, but unfortunately, his career didn’t end well. He had the bad luck to meet the influential figure named Milton Forrest in his later years. He left his name in history books as the person who was defeated by Milton Forrest and caused great damage to the Republic as a result. Even so, he did not run away even in that last second but died fighting valiantly with his men for his country. As a result, he had been able to preserve his honor in the end. 

Lieutenant General Bison had charged forward, but he hadn’t been able to last even 10 strikes against Milton before his throat was slit. However, even after Milton had cut off the enemy commander-in-chief’s head, Milton’s expression didn’t look good.

“This is the worst possible situation.”

In the end, Lieutenant General Bison and his officers had been able to achieve a small victory. 

Milton had to escape this inferno while trying to control his panicking army. 

“There’s no other way. Jerome.”

“Yes, My Lord.”

“Tell the entire army to go back, we’re retreating. We’re leaving through the gate we came through.”

“Understood, My Lord.”

They couldn’t give up just because it was difficult. They had to move fast right now. The quicker they moved, the more troops that would survive.

‘When we entered through the Eastern gate, Jerome completely shattered the gate’s windlass. We still have a chance to retreat.’

Milton turned his horse and rode towards the Eastern gate. But what Milton saw there was…

“How could this happen?”

The Republican Army was attacking them from outside the castle gates.

“Wahhh!!”

“Attack! Don’t stop, keep attacking them! They’re like caged rats inside the castle!”

“Don’t let your allies’ sacrifice go to waste!”

As if they had been expecting this, the Republicans had been waiting for Milton and his men to retreat. 

Milton scowled as he took in the elite soldiers standing at the forefront of the Republican Army.

“…Ghost?”

A black skull helmet and black armor. They were definitely the Ghost Force, the elite force directly under Siegfried. According to Bianca’s information, they took an elixir that would temporarily give them the strength of an Expert. Although Milton wasn’t sure exactly how many Ghosts there were, one thing was certain: they were Siegfried’s personal troops. The fact that the Ghosts were here meant…

“So you’re here, Siegfried.”

Milton clenched his teeth. The commander-in-chief had used himself as bait and lured Milton into a trap. By burning and sacrificing Litinque Castle, an important defense base for their country, the Republicans had trapped Milton and his men inside of it. 

When Milton thought about it, it had been strange that a veteran commander like Lieutenant General Bison would use such a daring tactic, but now that Milton saw the Ghosts, everything made sense. Milton didn’t know when they came, but one thing was certain. All of these had been Siegfried’s plan. 

“Siegfried…”

Milton gritted his teeth as he muttered Siegfried’s name. 

***

“By now, he should have realized that I’m involved.”

Siegfried muttered to himself as he looked at the brightly burning Litinque Castle.

“Used up an important base and a competent man as a sacrifice. I must have your life in return, Milton Forrest.”

Siegfried was confident. He was confident he could kill Milton Forrest with this trap.

***

‘What now? What should I do now?’

Milton clenched his hand into a fist and racked his brain. The castle was already engulfed in flames and the Republican Army was blocking the only way out. Not to mention, Siegfried’s elite force, the Ghosts, was beginning to enter the castle and killing his men. 

“Gah!”

“Don’t back dow… ugh…”

“These Republican dogs… guh…”

Everywhere he looked, the number of allies were decreasing. Soldiers and knights were fighting bravely, but in such chaotic situations, commands weren’t getting delivered. It was impossible for an army to function with a paralyzed command system. What was the best method for getting out of this situation?

‘No, not that. No, not that either…’

Despair. After a continuous streak of victory in the war so far, it was the first time Milton was experiencing such despair and desperation. 

At that moment, Jerome approached Milton and cried out in a loud voice.

“We need to quickly escape, My Lord!”

Milton responded in a slightly hopeless voice. 

“How… how are we going to escape? The only way out is blocked by the Republicans. Escaping from here…”

Slap!

Before Milton could finish his sentence, something cold slapped both of Milton’s cheeks. Jerome was tightly grasping Milton’s face with both hands.

“Please get it together. If you panic now, it’s all over, My Lord.”

“……”

“We’re still alive, My Lord! You and me, we’re both alive! And the soldiers and the knights are also still alive. They’re all waiting for your orders, sir. Quickly, My Lord! Please give us an order!”

At Jerome’s earnest words, Milton’s hazy thoughts gradually became clearer. The cold feeling of the gauntlets on his cheeks. The expression on Jerome’s face as he looked at him earnestly. The knights fighting desperately around them to keep them safe. All of this was real.

“Hooooooo…. Whoooooo…”

Milton breathed in deeply, then exhaled.

‘That’s right. I’m still alive. As long as I’m alive, it’s too early to give up.’

It was a crisis. It was a big crisis. Because of the enemy’s trick, he had been completely surrounded by them. But the longer he, as the commander, hesitated, the more damage there would be to his men and allies. 

‘Let’s go back to the basics and think this through. What is the biggest problem right now?’

The biggest problem right now was that there was no way out. The only way out was completely blocked by the enemy. In that case, there were two methods. Either charge through the enemy and break through the enemy’s blockade or create another way out. Milton quickly gave out orders.

“Jerome!”

“Yes, My Lord!”

“You and I, and the rest of the Knights will block the Republican Army from entering through the Eastern gate. We have to buy some time.”

“Yes, sir!”

“The others will spread out. Have them open a different gate and escape through it. There will most likely be enemies waiting outside, but they must break through them.”

“Understood, My Lord.”

The Knights moved quickly at Milton’s command. They hustled the confused soldiers to carry out Milton’s orders.

‘It was worth training them all to death.’

In such a confusing situation, that the army was able to function effectively was evidence that the men were all well trained elite soldiers. In that case, there was still hope left. If Milton and Jerome could stop the enemy from entering through the Eastern Gate, while the rest found and escaped through another route, then the Republican Army wouldn’t be able to focus their blockade in one location. Once that happens, Milton and the men with him will try to escape. This was Milton’s thought process. 

He knew it wasn’t going to be easy. Even if everything worked out, it was most likely there would be a lot of casualties. However, in order to not let go of their only hope, there was no other choice but to try, no matter what. In order to do so, Milton decided to use one of his trump cards.

“Jerome!”

“Yes, My Lord!”

“You can give it your all.”

Jerome asked for confirmation with a serious look on his face. 

“Are you sure, My Lord? This war…”

“It isn’t our war. But, we need your strength to turn the current situation around.”

“Understood, sir.”

Jerome nodded solemnly. He then ran out to the front and shouted.

“I am Jerome Taker! Come out if you want to die!”

As if to fulfill Jerome’s ‘request,’ the Ghost Forces rushed out wearing their skeletal armor. There were five of them. Seeing the aura clearly exuding from their swords, it seemed like they had already taken the elixir. Even amongst them, there were two that seemed quite skilled in the first place and were emitting an intermediate or higher auras.

“Sir Taker!”

“It’s dangerous. Back…”

The other Knights shouted out in shock at his actions. But Milton just mumbled calmly.

“Show me.”

The next moment…

“Ahhh!!”

CLANGG!!

Jerome swung his sword horizontally and defeated all five Ghosts. Two out of the five immediately died while the other three were severely injured and spat out blood. Having defeated five Ghosts with a single blow, Jerome shouted confidently from the front. 

“I will turn all of you into skeletons today. 

Jerome’s sword exuded a clear Aura Blade, the symbol of a Master.

“M… Master?”

“Sir Taker is a Master?”

“Oh… Ohhhh!!”

“Woah!!”

The soldiers shouted themselves hoarse while Milton sighed and muttered to himself.

“I wanted to keep Jerome’s strength a secret if possible.”

Then, Milton checked Jerome’s status window once again.

[Jerome Taker]

Knight LV. 7

Strength — 93        Command — 80

Intellect — 42                Politics — 25

Loyalty - 95

Special Traits — Valiant, Breakthrough, Cool-Headed, Unity

Valiant LV. 7: Increases combat power in battle and increases the morale of subordinates.

Breakthrough LV. 8: Lead a troop of cavalry to penetrate straight through the enemy’s formation. The force of the breakthrough goes up as the level rises.

Cool-Headed LV. 5: Allows one to see the entirety of the battlefield in combat. Able to put allied troops in favorable situations while working as a flexible field commander. 

Unity LV. 3: Command subordinates properly even during a dangerous situation. Able to cope well against situations like ambushes and night attacks.

Except for Politics, all of Jerome’s stats had risen. In particular, a Strength stat of 93 meant that Jerome had risen to the level of Master for some time now. To be more precise, it had been a year since Jerome became a Master. Milton wasn’t surprised Jerome had become a Master. Seeing Jerome’s rate of growth, Milton rather expected this result. In fact, he was more surprised to see that the Loyalty Stat hadn’t changed even after Jerome had become a Master. 

There were a lot of Knights’ whose Loyalty Stat fell a bit after they became a Master, no, even when they just became an Expert. This was because they felt that as their abilities increased, the way they were treated should also appropriately increase. In fact, there were Knights who switched their loyalty to a different Lord if their current Lord didn’t adequately satisfy their greed; in some cases, there were Knights who switched countries entirely. 

However, even after achieving the status of a Master, Jerome’s Loyalty Stat didn’t shake even a little bit. Milton couldn’t help but admire him when Jerome didn’t even consider switching loyalty. And because he greatly trusted Jerome, Milton asked a somewhat unreasonable request from him.

Milton had asked him to hide his status. It was a request that could be considered beyond unreasonable -  it was a cruel request. Any Knight wished for honor and the status of a Master was the highest honor possible for a Knight. There was no way Jerome didn’t want to shine brightly or make his name known by all.

However, Milton had asked Jerome to hide his status and made it a trump card instead. When Jerome heard Milton’s request, Jerome hadn’t hesitated at all and had immediately agreed. At that time, feeling grateful and apologetic at the same time, Milton had said to Jerome,

[I don’t deserve you, Jerome Taker.]

With those simple words that held no tangible reward, Jerome’s Loyalty had gone up even more. Jerome was that much of an honest and upstanding Knight. 

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