Chapter 13: Hero of Pratinos (2)

As Milton delegated the dangerous tasks to the troublemaking trio, he himself began moving out to fulfill his duties as part of the supply troop.

Who would’ve known that such a lucrative, yet perfectly legal position could exist during wartime?

“Now this is the lucrative job I was looking for. If I were asked to park the brakes here and do this job for the rest of my life, I might actually consider it.”

Milton couldn’t help but hum a tune as he made his way to Pratinos with the supply troop.

As soon as they arrived at the city, the guards at the city gate received them with soldiery discipline.

“Welcome to Pratinos. If you may, please state your affiliation and reason for visiting.”

“I am 300-man commander Milton Forrest, hailing from Crow Fortress. We have come here to purchase and transfer supplies.”

“Understood, Sir.”

As military personnel were exempt from paying tolls, a simple identity check was all that was needed for them to pass through smoothly.

However, just as they were passing through, one of the guards spoke up.

“Excuse me… are you perhaps the Viscount Forrest that commanded the recent battle at the Valley of the Winds?”

“Indeed, I am. Is there a problem?”

As soon as Milton acknowledged this fact, the guard straightened up and spoke with respect.

“No, Sir. My name is Gordon, and I fought under your command in that battle. It is an honor to see you in person, Viscount.

“M-my name is Shawn, Viscount. It is an honor to see you in person.”

The guards greeting Milton had an unconcealable expression of respect on their faces. Milton receiving their stares that had a hint of envy for those under his command, Milton responded.

“Yes, yes. I am also grateful that you all fought together with me. It is because of you all that we were able to be victorious in the battle.”

The two guards became full of emotion. Just a bit more prodding, and perhaps they would have been moved to tears.

“Th…thank you, Viscount.”

“What am I to do with such undeserved praise...”

With that, the guards saw Milton off with the utmost hospitality.

“Please contact the city guard if any matters cause you discomfort during your stay at the city.”

“I shall put aside everything and run to your aid, Viscount.”

“Thank you.”

Milton received the guards’ overly friendly greetings and proceeded into the city. Jerome chuckled as he saw Milton’s bewildered expression and approached his side.

“Viscount, do you not understand the demeanor of the guards?”

“I must admit that is the case. Why are they acting in such a manner?” Milton questioned.

Jerome laughed and answered.

“The Command Center may have tried their best to trivialize your achievements on the battlefield, but the citizens of Pratinos know better; that is, the identity of the hero who saved them.”

“Bah, a hero…”

Milton thought they were way overvaluing his deeds. Milton’s position at present was a soldier stationed at the Grey Mountains; and as a soldier, it was only a given that he would protect the civilians.

Of course, such work was something worthy of thanks – but Milton thought there was no real reason he should be receiving a level of admiration that was closer to worship.

In the end, however, these were merely Milton’s personal thoughts; and Jerome, who hailed from the Strabus Kingdom, had something different in mind.

“Many wartime heroes have risen up in this country as the war with the northern Republics stretched on.”

“As is expected. But I do not think I am the kind of character deserving of a hero’s treatment, no?”

“At the least, it is the truth that you saved this city.”

“Yeah, well, that’s…”

“And not only that. The people of this country have grown up listening to the tales of war heroes since they were wee children, and greatly admire them. Viscount, your actions this time around have instilled in these people an emotion that is by no means ordinary.”

“The guards were probably just a bit of a special case.”

Milton thought they must have acted that way from the camaraderie of having fought together at the Valley of the Winds. Yet these thoughts of his were revealed to be wrong almost right away.

“Oh, Viscount Forrest! Are you saying you are the Viscount Forrest who drove out enemies ten times his number at the Valley of the Winds?”

“Oh… yes, I suppose so, but…”

‘No, it wasn’t ten times the number.’

The effect of Milton’s name was already apparent just in the process of booking the accommodation. With twinkling eyes, the owner of the inn gave Milton the best room.

And on top of that…

“I would not dare to charge you for the room.”

The owner would not even accept the room fee.

“Good sir, how could you not accept money when you are running a business?”

“Viscount, if it were not for you, I do not know what awful things would have happened to us at the hands of those Republican bastards. Next to that, must we make a fuss about a mere room fee?”

“No, but…”

“If I were to so shamelessly charge you for the room, my neighbors would label me a tightwad.”

With that, the inn owner adamantly refused Milton’s money.

The goodwill that poured out towards Milton did not end there.

“Are you really going to hand that over at this price?”

“Certainly. This is enough.”

Milton was purchasing the supply goods at a much lower price than he had initially expected.

“That’s way too cheap, no? Are you even incurring any return from this?”

“I won’t be making a loss.”

“No, no… Shouldn’t a merchant be aiming for a profit?”

“If it were not for you, Viscount Forrest, I would have needed to close up shop anyway.”

“He’s right. We are only alive today because you fought and repelled an enemy 20 times your number at the Valley of the Winds.”

’20 times?’

The number had increased yet again.

“Viscount, you have not a clue how impressed I was, when I heard that you felled hundreds of Republicans on the spot as soon as you started swinging your blade.”

‘Am I some sort of sword master now?’

It seemed a lot of strange rumors had started sticking to Milton.

“Viscount – if it does not bother you, would you please name my newborn son? It would be of great honor to my household.”

‘I’m thinking I should straight up name him dog poop and see what happens.’

The favors of the Pratinos citizens towards Milton had no end.

Among them, Milton Forrest was a figure that defeated an enemy 30 times – it had increased again – their size, and had formed the image of some sort of a legendary hero who had saved them. People would flock to him whenever word of Milton’s presence went around, and the city’s maidens blushed shyly as they shot passionate looks towards him.

‘Is this what it feels like when a celebrity hits his prime?’

While Milton was taken aback on one hand, on the other, he was certainly feeling good.

More than anything, Milton’s popularity was of real and substantial help.

Normally, a newly appointed supply troop officer would be targeted by the merchants as a top-tier chump. They were perfect targets to rip off due to their lack of knowledge regarding the market price of goods and general inexperience in trade.

Likewise, Milton was no different in how unskilled he was in business dealings – but the merchants did not dare to deceive him. The merchants who respected or felt indebted towards Milton handed the goods over at close to the cost price. Even the merchants that did not harbor such emotions did not even think about swindling him.

The moment that it was known one scammed Milton Forrest, they had to see to the fact that all of their businesses in Pratinos were as good as finished.

No. With the atmosphere being what it was, it might go well beyond business, and one might even be stoned to death by the citizens.

And so Milton was able to gain a massive profit margin while trading.

As they departed from Crow Fortress, the funds they had received for the purpose of purchasing supplies amounted to 30,000 gold. Of that, Milton was still left with 12,000 gold after buying all the goods.

“So, if 10% of this is my lot… is that 1200 gold?”

Milton grinned from ear to ear. He was well aware that this office was a money-making dream job, but he had not anticipated the earnings to be to this extent.

“Since the supply troop normally operates once a month… I’d be able to pay back my debt in just one year and still have some left.”

Milton had conjured a paradise in his head — a flowery field with butterflies fluttering around, and baby angels sitting on rainbows playing their little harps.

To put it another way…

“Lalalala la la la la~”

He was so elated that he had slightly lost his wits. At this rate, not only was it guaranteed that he would be able to pay back all his debts, but he might also be able to return with a proper stash.

Tired but feeling proud after receiving the welcomes and thanks from Pratinos citizens all day, Milton made his way back to the inn.

Then, he presented to the knights and soldiers that had accompanied him to Pratinos with some bonus coins.

“With the condition that it does not affect our return tomorrow, you may eat and drink to your heart’s content.”

“Yes, understood!”

“Thank you, My Lord!”

Milton’s company smiled from ear to ear as they started a festivity of booze, and Milton kept his seat in the celebrations for just the right amount of time before retiring to his quarters. He was a little tired, and he was also of the belief that at times like these, it was appropriate and good for the superior officer to feel out the air and retire early in good faith – so as not to make one’s subordinates needlessly wary during their merriness.

“Oh maaaaaan, I’m tired. Should I catch some shut-eye now?”

With that, Milton was about to hit the sack. However…

“…-aster, so I implore you…”

Milton heard someone having a quarrel outside the window.

“What’s this? At this late time...”

Milton opened his window to tune in to the sounds of the argument occurring outside. As he opened the window, Milton spotted two men having a dispute at the back of the inn.

One of the men was a well-groomed gentleman who appeared to be of middle age, while the other was a person that Milton knew all too well: Jerome.

‘Is that Jerome? What’s this about?’

Now that Milton thought about it, Jerome had left the table earlier than he had. He had wondered why Jerome left early, but now it appeared it was because he was meeting someone.

Instilled with curiosity, Milton hid his presence and focused on the conversation the two were having.

“Could you not possibly have a change of heart?”

“My decision is as firm as stone,” Jerome replied.

“But Young Master, what you’re doing will not bring Lady Illiana back to life.”

“As I too am aware. I am aware, yet… if I do not at least avenge her, that poor child will not truly be at rest.”

“Young Master… but if my Young Master were to reside as a mercenary, who will raise the House again?”

“House Taker has already collapsed. I am simply a mercenary called Jerome – nothing more.”

“Young Master, how could you say such things…”

The middle-aged gentleman looked at Jerome with sad eyes before speaking again.

“There is nothing we can do about it. This is the truth of things. Let us accept that.”

“Ugh… good man, as the last descendant of the House of Taker, I give you my thanks for the loyal heart you have displayed to our House. However, it is time that you live your own life now,” Jerome remarked and turned his back on the man.

And a moment later…

Knock knock.

Milton heard a rap on his door.

“May I enter, Viscount?”

“You may enter.”

Milton answered coolly as if he had anticipated this.

And as soon as Jerome entered, he bowed his head to Milton and spoke, “I must apologize that you had to witness such an ugly display.”

“No, that was not so.”

‘Looks like he indeed knew.’

Milton had tried to conceal his presence to the best of his ability, but there was no way that someone like Jerome would not have detected him.

“So, what business has caused you to seek me?”

“First, I believe it is right for me to apologize. I feel like I’ve unintentionally hidden my true identity from you, Viscount…" Jerome started his explanation.

Milton let out a snort of laughter.

“Whatever do you mean by “hidden”? Are you referring to the fact that you come from a noble house?”

“Yes. I believe that is the precise point I have to apologize for,” Jerome gave an honest and respectful apology.

Milton responded with a dumbfounded expression.

“Did you, perhaps, think that you had hidden this fact without letting off so much as a hint?”

“Are you possibly implying that you caught wind of it?!”

“…It would be more strange if I didn’t.”

“This… What on earth gave it away?”

“Everything.” Milton answered nonchalantly.

Jerome made a face that looked like he was struck with a hammer. Milton clicked his tongue upon seeing Jerome’s reaction.

“Tsk tsk, I could tell just from your actions. Where does there exist a mercenary that has good manners and is as disciplined as you are? Anyone could see that you were a proper knight.”

“So then, were there others who could guess my identity?”

“They might not know which House you hail from, but they would have been aware that you are a noble.”

“……”

From the look of things, Jerome was probably having some absurd thought such as how he had perfectly concealed his identity until now.

‘How dense.’

Milton was simply at a loss for words.

“Ahem… anyway, I must apologize as my conduct has been no different from lying.”

“No, I’m alright. And rather than an apology… I would like to hear the story of your past.”

“Are you asking about my background?”

“That is so. Well, you do not have to do so if it does not sit well with you.” said Milton.

Jerome thought for a bit before coming to a determination.

“I am…”

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