Chapter 194: Clash of the Heroes (2)

SKIIIIIIID!

The first attempt at a fatal blow failed. Milton’s attack threw off Siegfried’s helmet while Siegfried’s attack destroyed Milton’s pauldron. 

‘He’s stronger than expected.’

‘He’s definitely a Master as well.’

Both had failed to injure the other. However, after the first attack, they quickly turned their horses around. Then, they exchanged their second blow simultaneously. 

CLANG!

The two Master’s Aura Blades clashed against each other and both clenched their teeth as it became a power struggle.

“It’s been a while, Milton Forrest.”

“You too, Siegfried.”

Having crossed their swords, neither looked away from each other as they continued their conversation.

“Why’d you interfere in another country’s war?”

“Why? What’re you gonna do about it?”

“Aren’t we still within the set time period of the armistice? Or are you going to break your promise?”

“Didn’t it become a nominal truce once you Republicans began clashing with the Empire?”

“Well, reasoning it internationally…

“Shut up! I don’t plan on having a verbal fight with you. Why don’t we just say you went against the treaty?!”

Milton shouted as he pushed Siegfried away. For a second, Siegfried seemed to take a step back, but he soon swung his sword as he spoke.

“Then die!”

Once there was a bit of space between the two of them, they began to vigorously exchange blows. The Aura Blades continued to spark between them as they clashed against each other. And then…

“Help the Lord!”

“Wipe out the Lester Kingdom’s knights!”

With Milton and Siegfried’s fight in the center, the Southern Knights and the Ghosts began to fight. Ghost Group 1, the best out of all the Ghosts, was currently facing Marquis Ryan Catel. However, Groups 4 and 5 were also quite good. Having been specially trained in fighting on horseback, they were specifically trained to fight against the knights. Average knights would find it difficult to gain the upper hand against them.

However, the Southern Knights that Milton personally commanded weren’t average. In the first place, for them to be protecting him meant that they were the elite among the elite. Not to mention, Rick and Tommy, who had grown beyond Milton’s aides and became deputy commanders of the Southern Knights, were giving it their all in the fight. They had been harshly trained by the Northern Knights and were now Intermediate Experts.

Even if it were the Ghosts, it was difficult for them to fight against such people like the Southern Knights when they had expended so much energy breaking through the encirclement.

“You skeletal bastards! I’ll bury you in the ground and turn you into a real skeleton!”

Rick was belligerently hollering at them as he fought against the Ghosts. In the past, Rick had been a rural knight who had failed to become an Expert, but now, he had gone through remarkable growth. However…

“What a noisy brat.”

At that moment, Rick had an eerie feeling. As his instincts prompted him, he swung his sword in the direction he heard the voice.

CLANG!

Thanks to that, Rick was able to stop the sword that had been flying towards his neck. While he had managed to block it, he could feel his wrist aching.

‘He’s strong. Just what kind of a guy is he?’

Rick clenched his teeth and looked at his opponent.

“Who are you?”

“The leader of Ghost Group 4.”

“I asked for your name, you bastard.”

“You don’t need to know. Die.”

“You son of a bitch!”

Rick began to fight against the Ghost Leader 4. The battle between the two was fierce and about 10 blows had been exchanged...

“Die!”

When another man joined in from the side.

“Guh… You…”

CLANG!

He quickly swung his sword to block it, but the uninvited ‘guest’ was also very strong.

‘He’s strong too.’

Duke Palan, Milton Forrest, Jerome Taker. Under the guise of training, Rick had been frequently beaten by the three Masters. That meant he had a lot of experience dealing with strong fighters. But even if the Ghosts that Rick was currently dealing with weren't as strong as the three Masters, they were still pretty strong. And since it wasn’t just one such opponent, but two of them working together, Rick was soon in danger.

‘Am I… Am I going to die?’

The moment that Rick felt his life was in danger.

“Die.”

With that one grim word, the opponent’s sword moved sharply in a Z shape.

SKIIID!

Unable to withstand the bizarre attack, Rick lost his grip on his sword.

‘Shit!’

Losing your weapon on the battlefield meant that you were dead. The moment one Ghost caused Rick to drop his sword, the other continued the attack and tried to behead Rick.

SWISH!

With the sound of a sword cutting through the air, an attack was aimed at the enemy.

“Tsk.”

Having been forced back by the outsider’s attack, the enemy spoke to the second uninvited ‘guest.’

“Who’re you?”

“I’m Tommy Croix.”

“So you’re Grand Duke Forrest’s aide.”

Tommy was a bit surprised when the enemy spoke as if he knew who he was. It was the dream of all knights to make their names known on the battlefield, but it was the first time that an enemy actually recognized him.

“And who’re you?”

“I’m the leader of Ghost Group 5.”

“Group 4’s leader.”

The two of them turned towards Rick, who had almost died but managed to just survive. 

“Then that guy must be Rick.”

“That’s right. I’m Rick.”

“So then they’re Rick Storie and Tommy Croix? That’s great.”

The two Ghost leaders’ eyes became bloodthirsty. At first, Rick and Tommy had caught the attention of Siegfried’s intelligence network because of their value as Milton Forrest’s aides rather than their individual skills. Then, their names became known due to their trek across the frozen lands of the North. After all, hadn’t the Hildes Republic fallen because of the success of the operation that Rick and Tommy carried out? After that, the two of them became fairly high-ranking targets to Siegfried’s subordinates.

Anyway, Tommy stood by Rick’s side and spoke to him as he passed over his reserve weapon.

“2 on 2? You wanna do it?”

“Sure, who do you want?”

“I’ll take Leader 4.”

“What? No way. I called dibs on him first.”

“Then why’d you ask?”

“Um… Just cuz?”

For a second, Tommy wondered why he even bothered saving this idiot. However, the relaxed atmosphere soon came to an end as the two opponents in front of them didn’t join in their joking.

“Both of you can die.”

“I will be your opponent.”

The leader of Group 4 rushed towards Rick while Leader 5 charged towards Tommy.

“Here they come! Focus!”

“I kno… gah…”

And so, the four of them clashed against each other and a full-fledged battle took place. For Rick and Tommy, the Ghost Leaders were definitely tough opponents. Fortunately, the two of them had often been thrashed by opponents who were much stronger than the Ghost Leaders. They knew how to survive against opponents who were much stronger than them. Thanks to that, even if they weren’t able to gain the upper hand, Rick and Tommy were still able to somehow hold on.

‘The rest is up to My Lord now.’

Tommy clenched his teeth and prayed for Milton’s victory.

***

“Stop dodging!”

“That’s up to me.”

As time went on, the duel between Siegfried and Milton turned into Siegfried constantly attacking and Milton skillfully defending. The reason for this change in the fight was because Milton wanted this result. Siegfried had spent a considerable amount of Aura to break through the solid defense of the Iron Wall Unit. Milton, by comparison, was full of energy.

Currently, Siegfried’s Strength Stat was at 93, while Milton’s was at 91. It was a small difference, but that meant Siegfried was a bit more stronger than himself. However, that was only when Siegfried was in good condition, now that he was exhausted, he had to hurry up and end the fight. Milton had realized that in the middle of the fight and had subtly been dragging things out.

“Cunning bastard…”

“I don’t want to hear that from you. You’re the icon of cunning.”

“......?”

For a second, Siegfried was speechless. He had heard something that just didn’t make sense to him. Either way, that wasn’t important.

‘He’s dangerous. He’s really…’

Because Siegfried was smart and able to think quickly, he realized how much of a dangerous situation he was in. If the duel prolonged any longer, the one to lose would be himself. When he glanced around, he realized that there was no one who could help him. The Ghost members were all in a state of exhaustion. While he was struggling against a formidable enemy, most of the Ghost members were also just barely protecting themselves.

On top of that, the biggest problem was…

“Guh… the time…”

One of the Ghosts suddenly ran out of strength. At that moment, the Southern Knight he was fighting against beheaded that Ghost member as if he had been waiting for this very moment.

“Die!”

Just like that, one of the Ghost members, the elite of elites, fell down. A similar scene was happening all around them.

‘The elixir’s power is wearing off.’

This was the biggest problem. The Ghosts’ biggest weakness was that when the elixir’s effect wore off, they completely lost all their energy. In which case, it would be difficult to fight against a couple of skilled soldiers, let alone a knight. 

‘Is this how it all ends?’

Everywhere he looked, he could see nothing but despair. This was the first major crisis in Siegfried’s life. 

‘Is this how my ambition ends? Is this my limit?’

When he realized, fully realized in his head, that death had come for him, Siegfried’s heart trembled. If Siegfried was simply a smart man, he would have obediently accepted his reality. But, he was different. His dream was to overhaul the current era and usher in a new era and he planned to give it his all to make it happen. A hero. Siegfried was the person who best matched this word in the current era.

“Fate! If you lead me to die here, I will consider it my heavenly duty to go against it!”

Suddenly picking up speed, Siegfried attacked Milton with an incomparable amount of strength and momentum.

“Keugh, that guy couldn’t have…”

Milton was both startled and dumbfounded. It wasn’t because the enemy’s momentum had suddenly gotten rougher, but because Milton’s ability had informed him of the extraordinary changes that were taking place inside of Siegfried.

[The enemy has evolved from Social Climber to Someone who goes against God’s Will.]

[The enemy has a new trait, Indomitable Fighting Spirit.]

[Indomitable Fighting Spirit LV.1: Invoked at the moment of crisis and increases the ability of both himself and his people when used by a person with a monarch’s spirit. No matter how desperate the situation is, he does not surrender and does not give up. In order to break down the current situation, he is constantly seeking the best decision.]

“You crazy bastard!”

Milton freaked out. He thought he had pushed the enemy into a dangerous situation, but suddenly, the enemy had evolved. After Jerome, it was the first time since Milton had witnessed the evolution of someone with his own eyes. But that had to be his enemy? Not to mention, the newly awakened trait was dumbfounding. Not only was it an ability to increase his abilities, but the ability of his subordinates as well?

‘This is a scam. It’s a cheat, damn it!’

Just as Milton was thinking this, the leader of Ghost Group 4 suddenly shouted.

“Our master is leading us! Ghosts, don’t be afraid of death!”

“Defeat the enemy!”

“Ooooooh!!!”

The Ghosts, who had been cornered, began to exert their strength in a different way from the effect of the elixirs.

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