Chapter 122: Jerome’s Ascension (1)

‘These guys are really dangerous.’

Jerome’s mouth went dry as he felt a sense of crisis. The Ghosts were dangerous.

And because they were so dangerous... 

“Do you think I’ll let you pass?! You’ll never get to my Lord!” 

Although he had already expended a considerable amount of energy, he pushed through and found a last burst of strength. And at that moment…

Jerome’s willpower transcended his physical body.

Crack!

‘Danger…’

The first strike.

His arm moved before he even intended to. With a light swing, he cut a man in half; that man had been trying to find a gap in Jerome’s defenses.

Crack!

The second strike.

He stabbed the heart of the enemy who had been looking gap from behind his fellow soldiers.

Jerome swung his sword backwards.

Clang!

“Guh…”

Without looking, Jerome hit the enemy who had been trying to attack from behind him.

Clash!

The third strike.

Without missing a beat, Jerome swung his sword vertically and sliced another enemy.

Crack!

He killed three out of ten enemies in an instant. 

“What…?”

“Calm down. Don’t break the encirclement.”

Three of their allies had suddenly died. Even the Ghosts who seemed emotionless felt unsettled and afraid.  And once they were shaken, the encirclement weakened and created a small gap. Jerome took advantage of that gap and spurred his horse forward and broke through. 

“Don’t let him escape.”

“We have to trap him again.”

The Ghosts quickly chased after him. Jerome had seemed like he was escaping, but at that moment, he instantly turned his horse around. And then…

“Huh?”

“He… he’s coming!”

In Jerome’s eyes, the enemies were all lined up in a row. Jerome narrowed his eyes at his bewildered enemies.

‘Let’s do this!’

Before the enemies could encircle him again, Jerome kicked his horse’s side and charged forward.

‘There’s seven enemies left.’

Unlike his pounding heart and burning muscles, his head was cool as ice. It was a strange feeling. He was able to see what he should do next without much thought. It wasn’t impossible. It wasn’t difficult. He just had to do it. His mind turned blank while his sword moved on its own, without any conscious thought.

Four, five, six, seven strikes…

Jerome’s sword moved without stopping. His sword’s movements were clean, precise, and above all, beautiful. The Ghosts were entranced by Jerome’s swordplay that the thought of fighting back or escaping never crossed their minds. And once Jerome finished swinging his sword on the 10th strike…

“Mon… monster…”

Thud.

All ten Ghosts fell to the floor. 

“Whoo… whoo… whoooo…”

It was only then that Jerome began to breathe deeply.

‘What… just happened?’

Jerome was puzzled once he had come to his senses.

“Jerome! Are you alright? Jerome!”

His Lord, Milton, arrived just then. Milton had tried to come to Jerome’s aid when he saw the encirclement, however, it hadn’t been easy to get rid of the enemies in his way. Milton could only continue to get nervous as he watched the danger Jerome had been in. Just as he felt there was nothing to lose in recklessly charging forward, Milton saw it. 

Jerome’s status window had suddenly changed. 

[Vassal Jerome Taker has awakened. The martial path he should pursue has awakened.]

[A new trait, Transcendence, has been established.]

[Transcendence LV. 1: The mind transcends the body. As a warrior, it is the ultimate attainment and in the end, can become one with the sword.]

Milton was shocked.

‘Jerome, even in a situation like this, you…’

He was both pleased and dumbfounded. The only thing certain was that Jerome Taker had developed once again. Although Milton wanted to be happy and celebrate Jerome’s newfound higher status, it wasn’t the right time. 

“Can you move, Jerome?”

“Yes, My Lord.”

Milton gravely nodded when he heard Jerome’s response. 

‘At least he’ll be able to ride, but anything more than that’ll be difficult.’

Jerome had already spent too much energy on his aura. Not only had he recaptured the lost Eastern gate, but once they had left the castle, Jerome had stood at the front of the army and taken the brunt of the enemies’ attacks. Not to mention, after all that, he had taken down the unusually powerful Experts by himself. Even if he was a Master, there was a limit to how much aura Jerome can expend. Milton judged that he could not ask Jerome to do more than he had already done for their army. 

‘He’s done well enough to bring us to this point.’

While Milton had been acting as the bait, Jerome had single handedly stormed and broken free of 70 percent of the enemy’s encirclement. Now then…

“The Knights will follow me! We’re breaking through the encirclement and escaping!”

Milton personally went to lead the Knights in the front. 

***

It wasn’t Milton or Siegfried, who was in charge of the blockade, that was excited over Jerome’s skirmish with the Ghosts. Instead, the person who couldn’t contain his excitement and was trembling with anticipation was a large man with a massive two-hand sword on his back. 

“Be patient, Jake.”

That person was Jake, one of Siegfried’s hidden cards. He was the captain of the special Ghost Force and the hidden Sword Master of the Republic. Although it wasn’t publicly known, Jake had always hidden his presence and stood waiting by Siegfried’s side. Jake had always hidden his true personality and strength on Siegfried’s order. Anyone who saw him thought of him merely as decoration and didn’t know what kind of person he actually was.

But now, he couldn’t hide his excitement. If Siegfried hadn’t stopped him, he would have immediately driven his horse onto the battlefield; that was how excited he was. The person who made him so excited was Jerome.

“Siegfried, sir, please let me go. I’ll bring you his head.”

It was rare for Jake to take the initiative to beg Siegfried for something, but Siegfried merely ignored Jake’s request.

“No. It’ll be better if we hid you as long as possible.”

The joker was more reliable if you kept it hidden than if you revealed it. Wasn’t that how Milton used Jerome? There was no need for Siegfried to use a trump card like Jake when they were currently winning the battle. But Jake begged once again.

“Please, sir. I really want to cross swords with him.”

The probability of Siegfried agreeing to a request he had already once denied was maybe 1:100. Despite knowing Siegfried’s personality very well, Jake couldn’t help but ask again. That’s how much he wanted to fight against Jerome. He had assumed Jerome was about the same as Duke Derek Brans. Because he had assessed Jerome to be similar to Duke Brans, Jake hadn’t been very interested. 

When Siegfried had sent the Ghost Squad 6, he had been convinced of Jerome’s death. Even amongst the Ghosts, Squad 6 was a group that had been intensively trained in siege warfare. They had also focused on training the members to work together in order to encircle and trap a Master. This was a group that had been created for situations where there was a Master but he or Siegfried couldn’t personally go to handle the Master. Having personally trained them, Jake knew their strength very well. 

They were so strong that even he, who was familiar with their training, thought he would lose once if he fought them 10 times. When Squad 6 had stepped forward, Jake knew without a doubt that Jerome would die. However, the result was the complete opposite. At first, things seemed to be going as expected, but then, it suddenly changed.

The problem was Jerome’s development during the fight. As if he was a butterfly emerging from a chrysalis, Jerome changed drastically during the fight. It wasn’t that Jerome got stronger or that his sword got faster. His aura most likely hadn’t increased either. But at that moment, Jerome had become much stronger.

How was that possible? It’s difficult to put into words, but simply put, the path of the sword had gotten clearer. 

What he should do… 

And how he should do it…

The realization of what he should do to advance forward and the finding his identity. 

Jake knew it very well since he had gone through it himself. His desire to compete with Jerome burned in his heart. For the first time in his life, he had the possibility of competing against a warrior who was at the same level as him.

Until now, only Siegfried had been able to fight against him on an equal footing. The problem was, Siegfried was Jake’s Lord. He was someone Jake had to hold higher than his own life and devote his eternal loyalty to. It was impossible for him to put his all when fighting against Siegfried. But now, for the first time, an ‘enemy’ appeared before him. He wanted to fight. He wanted a direct and honorable fight against him. Jake was convinced that if he fought against Jerome, then he would be able to surpass his own limits. However, a battlefield wasn’t the right place to satisfy the desire of a warrior.

“Even if you don’t go, we can still capture the enemy. I can’t let you rashly reveal your true strength.”

Siegfried decisively rejected Jake’s wish.

“But, Sir…”

“Are you going to disobey me?”

Siegfried’s face turned hard as he looked at Jerome. 

“…Forgive me, My Lord.”

Jake had no choice but to step down. It couldn’t be helped. For him, Siegfried’s word was law. Siegfried had been the one to completely change his life and Jake had vowed to follow him for the rest of his life.

‘I guess it can’t be helped.

Jake let out a sigh of regret. Jake watched over the situation on the battlefield while wishing in his heart for Jerome to survive the battle. Jake didn’t care about Milton Forrest, but he sincerely wished Jerome would survive so that one day, they could meet on the battlefield. 

***

“They’re fighting pretty well, but in the end, the enemy will fall.”

That was what Siegfried believed as he looked at the battle currently being fought. Now that Jerome was exhausted, Milton was the one who was leading the army. Although it seemed like Milton hadn’t been able to become a Master yet, he still looked very strong and powerful as he stood at the front, bravely wielding a sword as he fought against his enemies. However…

“The results won’t change.”

Siegfried smirked. 

Milton and his men easily broke through the blockade, but that was only because it had been deliberately planned so. The blockade purposefully hadn’t been strong, but made in ‘thin layers.’ Even if Milton and his men were able to break through one layer, another layer would quickly replace them to grab Milton’s army by the ankle. As it continues, their momentum would gradually decrease until they were fully surrounded by the enemy. That process was currently being played out in front of Siegfried’s eyes.

“You’ve given me a hard time, but this is the end for you, Milton Forrest.”

Just as Siegfried was about the smile in victory…

“Charge!”

Something he hadn’t expected happened. The enemy was attacking from the rear. 

***

‘They’re here!’

Milton’s eyes twinkled even as he continued to fight desperately. He knew instantly which army had appeared at the enemy’s rear. The flag of Florence Principality was fluttering in the wind and at the front, a Lady Knight and her horse was prancing in excitement. The reinforcements sent by Viscount Sabian had arrived.

‘This is our last chance.’

Milton bellowed.

“Now’s the time! Follow me!”

“Wahhh!!”

Milton led the remaining soldiers towards the reinforcement troops. The soldiers raced forwards as if they had also realized that their chance had finally come. 

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