Chapter 19: The Crisis of Crow Fortress (3)

Nelson fought with incredible gallantry upon awakening his potential as an Expert. Although the enemy troops concentrated on penetrating through the gap caused by the collapsed wall, due to the small size of the entrance, Nelson was more than capable of acting as a stoppage no matter how many run-of-the-mill soldiers funneled through.

In order for ordinary troops to deal with an Expert, they normally needed to flank and encircle them, or bring out long-range weapons such as longbows and crossbows to attack them. But if one were to make their way in through the collapsed opening in the present situation, they had no choice but to charge head-on.

However…

Crack! Ka-thump!

Such a defense was only effective if there was only one entrance that needed to be blocked.

“This spot has also collapsed!”

“Attack! There’s not long left over here either!”

Multiple walls started breaking here and there, one after the other. Nelson was but one individual, and now he needed to defend the many more entrances that had appeared.

“Ugh…" Nelson gripped his chainsword tightly and bit his lower lip. ‘Is this how it ends?’ Their demise was looming in front of his very eyes.

“It seems the end is finally in sight. Who would have thought they would last for three whole days.”

Frederic shook his head as he watched Crow Fortress slowly give out.

Nelson’s talent in fending fortresses was something that had to be acknowledged, even from the shoes of an enemy. He had held out for three days despite such overwhelmingly unfavorable circumstances. Frederic’s offensive would have failed if the fort had just 200 more troops.

‘He may have been an enemy, but what an outstanding man. Is this what they call the result of experience?’

While Frederic felt awe and respect for the enemy, on the other hand…

“Hahaha… that was no big deal. I do not know why he put up such a meaningless resistance when they would fall like this anyway.”

Rather than Frederic, the one who was actually scoffing at them was Louis, who had been on the same side at one point. Frederic gave a slight smile in response.

‘Is this dumbfuck even aware of what he has done?’

In some respects, Louis Walker was a benefactor who presented Frederic a second chance from his perspective. But if he was to consider this objectively, Louis was a traitor who sold out his country for his own self-interest.

‘A dude like this would corrupt us from the inside no matter where you chuck him. I’ll take care of him right away when everything is said and done.’

Frederic knew he had to pick the right timing to dispose of Louis. At the least, now was not the time. This was because the follow-up forces were still on their way here with the assistance of the Walker family’s private army. Until those reserve forces arrived here in one piece, Louis Walker was still of some use.

With that rationale in mind, Frederic wanted the backup troops to arrive a moment quicker so he could get rid of this revolting human being beside him that much sooner. It was then…

“Captain Frederic. I’ve received word that the rear forces are to arrive now.”

“Now? I see that they come when everything has ended.”

According to the schedule, the backup troops were meant to arrive yesterday. But having experienced delays, they were arriving today when the battle was reaching its conclusion.

“It’s a relief that they’ve arrived at the least, even now. I shall go out to greet them in person.”

With that, Louis set off to guide the arriving rear troops. Frederic ridiculed Louis as he watched him trot away.

‘Does he mean to hang at the back so he doesn’t have to take part in the battle? I see he looks out for himself dreadfully well.’

Frederic did not pay Louis much heed beyond that, since he was slated to die soon anyway.

“Welcome, fellow men. It certainly must have been a great deal of effort to trek this far from the Republic.”

Louis greeted the leader of the reserve forces with a cordial smile. Since he was going to make a living in the Republic now, he intended to make the best impression possible to its people. Yet…

“……”

The man heading these troops had nothing to say. He continued marching his forces on speechlessly. Seeing this procession, Louis had a strange premonition.

“… wait, please halt, good sir.”

“……”

The subject of his requests kept advancing silently, and Louis shouted alarmingly.

“Halt! Stop right there. Remove your helmet and reveal your identity at once.”

It was only as Louis acted tough that the leader stopped where he was. And then…

“I guess this is as far as we go.”

Louis turned pale the moment he heard that mumbling.

“You… no way…?”

His voice was one that Louis recognized all too well. After all, it was a voice that made his blood pressure rise every time he heard it.

“Milton Forrest?”

“ATTACK!”

The answer to Louis’ question was Milton’s attack order.

“UOOOOH!”

“Die, you dogs of the Republic!”

With that, the 500-strong force Milton was leading began their assault on the enemy’s rear.

“Commander, allied reinforcements have appeared behind enemy lines.”

Nelson, who had braced himself for death and was giving it his all, widened his eyes at his subordinate’s report.

“Friendlies? Where are they affiliated with?”

“They say it’s Sir Milton Forrest.”

“Milton! You mean to say our good friend has returned?”

Nelson’s whole body felt completely electrified by this news. He raised his sword high and shouted to his troops.

“Allies have joined us! Drive out these Republican mongrels!”

“Uoooooooh!”

The dying embers of the defenders were once again relit. To the forces of the Strabus Kingdom, Milton Forrest’s entrance was a hope-filled reversal of fate. Conversely, to the forces of the Republic, this was an unexpected catastrophe.

“The enemy you say? How on earth?”

Frederic’s expression implicated that this just could not be. Crow Fortress was in a state of perfect isolation at the moment. The enclosing formation was constructed without a single gap for riders to escape, while not one messenger pigeon remained within the fortress walls.

So how was it that the enemy sent reinforcements?

‘No… the most important thing right now is a response plan, not trying to get to the root of this.’

Frederic clenched his teeth and focused. He looked at what was unfolding around him as objectively as possible.

The reinforcements that had suddenly appeared from the rear were not that large of a number. At most, they would amount to approximately 500, and they appeared quite fatigued as well. Albeit, the fortress at the frontlines reacted positively to this development and had commenced their own renewed counterattack, causing the battle formations to start breaking apart.

The textbook method in this situation was to concentrate on settling one of the two problems first.

‘To form an avenue for retreat, breaking through the weaker spot is standard procedure. But trying to retreat after losing this battle would be difficult. If that’s the case…’

This was a battlefield he had to see the end to either way. Frederic drew his own sword and galloped to the rear as he shouted, “We shall settle the rear first. Follow me!”

Frederic decided to stabilize the tail end first.

“Follow the Captain!”

“Let’s show the might of the Republic!”

Due to Frederic’s fast and decisive resolution, the Republican soldiers were able to fight while maintaining their battle formations for now.

The defenders of the fortress at the frontlines had already become frail pushovers, now that they were extremely fatigued. Thus calculating that they could win this battle if they just handled the forces at the rear, Frederic personally drew his sword and started cutting down enemies head-on.

“Argh!”

“Take heed. This one’s an Expert!”

“Don’t approach him carelessly! Keep your dist- URK!”

Frederic considered himself to be more of a strategist, but he certainly did not slack off on his swordsmanship. As he had both the talent and invested the effort, he reached the Expert level regardless of where his true talents lay. It was because he had confidence in his own skills that he was swinging his sword at the frontlines at this moment. And as Frederic cut and stepped over each enemy, he searched for this unit’s commander with a sharp glint in his eyes.

‘It’s that guy!’

Having found his objective in this clamor, Frederic galloped towards his goal in a beeline.

“Move, little children!”

As he swiftly cut down any lingerers who blocked his path, Frederic closed the distance in one breath and reeled to strike the enemy’s neck.

‘This is the end!’

The moment he thought this blow would reach his enemy and assure his victory…

“Hup!”

Clang!

His opponent swung out with his own sword to meet Frederic’s blade, deflecting it.

“Kuuuh…”

Although his adversary was not able to withstand the impact of the blow and stumbled backward, he had successfully blocked the strike.

“My Lord!”

“My Lord! Are you alright?”

Right away, what appeared to be his escort knights surrounded him protectively and eyed Frederic.

‘This isn’t good.’

Frederic astutely racked his head and assessed the situation quickly.

First, his opponent was indeed the enemy’s commander. If he were to get this bastard, their chances of steering this battle to a victory would increase. The problem was the enemy knights encamping around him. The solution to taking care of this man with certainty and speed was…

“I am Captain Frederic hailing from the Hildess Republic! I challenge you to a duel!”

Thinking rapidly, Frederic came up with the solution of appealing for a duel, to drag the enemy commander out from behind his escort knights.

Unlike the soldiers of the Republic, the knights and nobles of the Kingdoms considered honor to be of great import. It was certain that this commander would accept the challenge, at the very least to save face when all his subordinates were watching.

At least, that was what Frederic calculated as he shouted his challenge at the top of his lungs so all around them could hear.

Except…

‘A duel? Why would I?’

The problem was that his opponent was Milton, who did not exactly concern himself with honor or dignity. It may have only been a single exchange of blows, but Milton suspected that his opponent was stronger than himself. There was no possibility that he would risk his life in a one-on-one.

“Don’t make me lau-”

As soon as Milton tried to turn it down…

“I see you lack fear for a dog of the Republic! The audacity of one such as yourself to dare challenge our Lord to a duel...! You shall regret that decision in hell!”

At Milton’s side, Jerome bellowed back.

“……”

Milton kept opening and closing his mouth while staring at Jerome, but no words came out. The glint in his eyes held the message of, ‘Why are you like this?’

“Hoooooh… I see you are quite confident. Very well.”

Frederic retorted with a smile of satisfaction at the implication that his opponent would accept.

“That is so. Our Lord will personally see to it that it’s off with your head. Know that this is a glory wasted on a dog of the Republic such as yourself.”

“Very good. Step forth. Let us examine whether your skills match your confidence.”

‘Wait, what did I even get to say?’

This whole situation was unfair for Milton, but Jerome wore a wide smile by his side.

“My Lord, the stage is set. Please teach that one a lesson about his place through his death.”

If Milton could not see Jerome’s Loyalty stat of 92, he would have thought that this man was conspiring to send him to his own death. But the issue was…

“Ooooooh! Sir Forrest!”

“The hero of the West!”

“Teach that Republican dog how we do things around here!”

“Everyone make space! Sir Forrest’s duel is happening!”

The atmosphere had become one in which there was no way he could turn down this challenge.

‘Shit…’

Ultimately, Milton stepped forward and drew his sword.

“I am Milton Forrest. Let us observe what a shamble the swordsmanship of the Republic is.”

“Uooooooooh!”

Klang klang klang klang klang!

The surrounding allies raised their war cry and beat their weapons as they welcomed Milton’s entrance. Milton himself really felt this was going to end in his death.

Milton and Frederic stood face-to-face in this opened space and assumed their stances. Frederic’s sword looked light, but an aura was definitely lingering around it.

‘He is an Expert after all. But he’s not much compared to Jerome.’

Milton believed his opponent was not one that was all that unwinnable as he eyed him. This was because he could see his opponent’s special traits and capabilities exactly as they were.

[Frederic]

Soldier LV.5

Strength – 71 Command – 85

Intellect – 82 Politics – 71

Loyalty – 0

Special Traits – Ambush, Siege

Ambush LV.5: Capitalize on advantageous terrain to lie troops in ambush. If successful, it has a high probability of causing confusion for the enemy.

Siege LV.3: In a siege battle, the ability to command allied troops increases. The rate of fatigue for your troops decreases.

Judging from Frederic’s stats and special traits, his adversary was a soldier that was closer to a strategist than a warrior. Although it was amazing that he reached the Expert stage despite this, his Strength was only 71. Milton’s Strength was 70, so there was no more than a 1 point difference in actuality.

‘I reckon a 71 Strength Expert is more than doable, after being whooped like crazy by Jerome and his 89 Strength on the regular.’

With that belief in mind, Milton focused on his opponent.

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