Chapter 123: Jerome’s Ascension (2)

Milton rushed towards the back of the enemy where Princess Violet was waiting with the reinforcements.

“……”

Siegfried’s expression hardened for the first time as he watched that scene.

‘Was he waiting for reinforcements this whole time?’

Siegfried thought he had captured all of them. Even as he was watching the enemy fighting inside the blockade, he had thought they were just making a final attempt. But now that he rethought it, they hadn’t been desperately struggling. The enemy had been fighting with a purpose. That’s why they purposefully left the castle and fought against the blockade. If they drew focus to the front of the blockade, then there would be a greater effect when reinforcements arrived behind their enemy.

That effect was now evident. 

When Princess Violet began to rampage in the back while Milton matched her from the other side, the blockade was no longer effective.

“My Lord, please allow me to go.”

Jake urgently spoke as he watched their blockade collapsing. However, Siegfried frowned as he spoke.

“It’s too late. If I was going to send you, I should have done it sooner. It’s too late now.”

“But…”

Just as Jake was going to say that they should still try…

“We’re through!”

“Now’s our chance! Escape!”

“Wahhh!!”

Almost as if a levee had collapsed, Milton and his men rushed out of the castle as the blockade Siegfried had created collapsed.

“Too quick. How could they escape so quickly…”

Jake was shocked at the sight while Siegfried only sighed.

‘As expected…’

He had already expected this when the enemy had appeared in the rear. Siegfried had known that the blockade would collapse before they could do anything. Jerome’s performance and Milton’s desperate fight had already broken the blockade by more than 70 percent. It would have been impossible for Siegfried and his men to respond to the sudden appearance of reinforcement from the back. 

Not to mention, with just one glance, Siegfried had known that the knight at the front of the reinforcement was strong. The Lady Knight at the forefront was dazzling and the other knights that supported her were also strong. If Siegfried wanted to keep such a powerful enemy in check, he would have to focus his troops in one place instead of dividing them. 

In the end, the enemy broke past the blockade and escaped. Then what should Siegfried do now? It was impossible for him to rebuild the blockade and recapture the enemy. If this was the Hildes Republic, it might be possible to take advantage of the terrain and order the mountain troops to hold the enemy back, but that wasn’t possible here.

“Retreat! We must leave the field! Retreat!”

“Wahhh!!”

As soon as the blockade had collapsed, Milton and his men ran away from the battlefield. 

‘Chasing after them would be difficult. I don’t see that archer, Trike. Maybe they have him standing by in case we chase after them?’

Just as Milton had looked into Siegfried, Siegfried had also done considerable research on Milton. He even knew about Trike, someone who didn’t have as much presence as Jerome or Viscount Sabian outside their own country. He heard that the archers that Trike commanded moved in chariots. If they were to pursue Milton and his men, then it was likely that the archers were waiting to ambush them and use their chariots’ mobility to quickly retreat. If that’s how the enemy responded, then there was nothing they could do right now.

“Damn it, so we lost them then?”

Siegfried had to accept the result. Thankfully, he was always quick to accept results and change plans and arrangements accordingly. Having accepted the reality, Siegfried commanded his army with a new approach. 

“Completely annihilate the enemies left behind in the blockade. We will increase our military accomplishment as much as possible!”

“Yes, Sir!”

He had missed the big fish he wanted. If he wanted to even out the cost in preparing for this particular operation, then he had to kill as many enemy soldiers as possible and increase his military contributions. 

‘I’ll kill every single one of them who couldn’t get past the blockade.’

The battle wasn’t over yet. Since he was now on the battlefield, Siegfried had no intention of letting them run free even if Milton had managed to escape. 

***

Defeat. You can win or lose a battle. But this was the first time Milton experienced a defeat this badly.

“How many do we have left?”

“15,000 sir.”

Jerome reported.

Milton closed his eyes at the number.

‘So the ones who couldn’t escape the blockade got wiped out?’

“Damn…”

The more he thought about it, the more it hurt. How could he have fallen for the enemy’s trick like this? No, the problem was that he had realized too late that Siegfried was involved in that battle.

Milton had unknowingly gotten careless as he won consecutive victories and this was the price he paid for such oversight. He would only know the final number after counting both the dead and the stragglers, but the estimated number of troops he lost in this battle was between 20,000 to 30,000. This was a painful loss for Milton. 

“Are you alright, Marquis Forrest?”

Princess Violet spoke up with a worried look from next to him.

“I’m alright, Your Highness. But more than that, thank you for your assistance. I survived thanks to your reinforcements.”

Milton bowed his head in gratitude. Princess Violet had been left behind because her personality didn’t fit the nature of the operation, but in the end, that ultimately became their saving grace. Milton had been able to save more troops because she had quickly knocked down the blockade from the back.

“Please stop bowing. I’ve only done what I should as an ally.”

When she was not fighting, Princess Violet was calm and gentle.

“Thank you, but I won’t forget the debt I owe you from this.”

Milton fell deep into thought after thanking her once again.

‘We lost badly.’

How much effort had he put in to raise such an elite force? All the elite troops that Milton had brought as reinforcement to this war had been mainly raised by Milton’s funding and efforts over the past two year.

It was a heavy loss. Looking beyond the loss of power, each man had been someone’s father and son. Because of his misjudgment, they would no longer return to their family’s arms. This was what war was. As long as they were at war, this was the inevitable reality. He had fought on countless battlefields and intellectually understood this reality. But..

“XX…”

This was the first time he fully understood it emotionally. With his first defeat, Milton felt the heavy sense of responsibility that weighed his shoulders. But there was someone who keenly felt the sting of defeat even more than Milton. 

“My Lord, Viscount Sabian and Trike led troops to join us.”

Trike and his archers returned. They had been waiting to ambush Siegfried if he pursued Milton and his men. With them came Viscount Sabian. As soon as he rejoined the army, Viscount Sabian threw everything to the side and immediately appeared in front of Milton.

Then…

Thud.

“I’m sorry, My Lord. Please kill me.”

He had gotten off his horse only to immediately kneel in front of Milton with his forehead pressed into the ground.

“……”

Milton looked down at Viscount Sabian with bitter eyes. It wasn’t that Viscount Sabian was blameless. Milton had told him countless times not to lose track of Siegfried, but Sabian had ultimately missed him. Berating him was natural. However, Milton only sighed deeply.

“Get up.”

“I’m ashamed of myself, please kill me, My Lord.”

“Get up. That’s an order.”

“……”

When Milton repeated himself, Viscount Sabian lifted his head. He was bleeding from his forehead. Milton got off his horse and personally wiped off the dirt and blood on Viscount Sabian’s face. 

“The war isn’t over yet.”

“……”

“Did you plan to escape by dying? You’re going to leave me to fight this difficult war by myself? Is that all your loyalty is worth?”

“Ah… no, My Lord.”

When Viscount Sabian finally spoke, Milton patted him on the shoulder.

“I trust you, Sabian.”

“…My Lord.”

Tears welled up in the prideful Sabian’s eyes. He had been feeling guilty about the defeat, so Milton’s words were a balm to his heart. 

Milton continued to speak to Viscount Sabian. 

“We’re going to retreat to Bells Castle. There, we’ll reorganize the army and counterattack. You think we can do that?”

“Yes, I’ll try my hardest, My Lord.”

Viscount Sabian responded in a loud voice.

“Good, I’ll trust you, then.”

“Yes…”

Viscount Sabian barely managed to respond in a tearful voice. At that moment, Milton saw Viscount Sabian’s Loyalty reach 100. This was the first time he had ever seen a Loyalty Stat of 100.

A message appeared in front of Milton. 

[Randol Sabian’s Loyalty has temporarily exceeded 100.]

[Abilities increased.]

[Strategic and tactical traits have merged into a new trait, the Battlefield Sage.]

“Ah…”

Milton was startled. Jerome had recently surpassed his limits and now Viscount Sabian has also managed to evolve.

Milton immediately checked the status window. There…

[Randol Sabian]

Grand Master LV. 7 

Strength — 12         Command — 85

Intellect — 97                Politics —89

Loyalty — 100

Special Traits — Battlefield Sage, Intuition, Level-Headed, Silver-Tongued

Battlefield Sage LV. 1: Both the strategies in discerning the overall flow of war and schemes used during fights will likely reach the level of a master. The probability of seeing through the enemy’s plan increases. When it reaches its peak, you will have the insight and skill to influence all the wars in the world.

Intuition LV. 7: Preemptively sense critical situations that approach your troops .

Level-headed LV. 8: High resistance to temptation and bribes, and can remain composed even in the face of death.

Silver-Tongued LV. 7: Able to persuade or subdue others through dialogue. May be counterproductive when utilized on an individual with strong pride.

When Milton checked the status window, he saw that Viscount Sabian had completely changed. 

‘Incredible. His Class changed into a Grand Master. Intellect Stat is finally at 97 and that Battlefield Sage trait?’

Viscount Sabian had evolved beyond just an ordinary advisor.

Truthfully, it had been difficult for Milton to completely forgive him. Viscount Sabian had failed to follow orders and because of that, they had suffered a great defeat. However, Randol Sabian wasn’t a man that Milton could afford to toss to the side because of a single defeat. 

Not to mention, Viscount Sabian seemed to feel a strong sense of guilt when he appeared in front of Milton. In the past, the First Prince’s defeat hadn’t been the fault of Viscount Sabian. However, Viscount Sabian had still gotten traumatized because of it. This was because as a genius, he was very proud of his abilities and sought perfection more than anyone else.

But, this defeat was definitely Viscount Sabian’s fault. If they had quickly attacked Litinque Castle as Milton had wanted in the first place, then they wouldn’t have lost this badly. This was the result of Viscount Sabian manipulating his Lord however he wanted and fighting a prolonged war…

However, Milton could clearly see that Viscount Sabian was racked with guilt and disappointment in himself. That’s why it had been so difficult. A genius who lost self-confidence was no different than a beast with no teeth. It was also the reason why Milton had approached Viscount Sabian so gently. Even if they had suffered a massive defeat because of him, none of Milton’s men could do better than Viscount Sabian. In the end, Milton’s choice was correct. 

Viscount Sabian had lost confidence, but he had been greatly moved by Milton’s comforting words and his Loyalty rose in return. Milton had forgiven him for failing and instead, trusted him once again. Viscount Sabian felt a sense of responsibility and determination to never let his Lord suffer another defeat. Any arrogance he had left was erased with that determination.

As with Jerome, Viscount Sabian surpassed his limits. As his previous Strategic Tactics trait reached its limit, it evolved into a new Trait — Battlefield Sage. 

His Class changed as well. From a simple Tactician, Viscount Sabian had now become a Grand Master. He had become someone a country could entrust with the fate of their war.

Milton suffered his first major defeat, but not all was lost. 

‘The war starts now.’

Milton made up his mind. 

Previous Chapter Next Chapter