Chapter 195: Clash of the Heroes (3)

The Southern Knights were greatly flummoxed by the sudden recovery of the Ghosts.

“Guh…”

“Tommy!”

Tommy, who had been dealing with the leader of Ghost Group 5, had been hit so hard that his chest plate was in tatters and he spat out blood as he fell from his horse.

“You son of a b*tch!”

Seeing his friend seriously injured, Rick was furious as he rushed over. However, Ghost Group 4’s leader didn’t let him take his eyes off him so easily. He quickly reached out and grabbed Rick by the back of his neck. 

“Huh?”

He was confused, but soon, he was floating in the air. His opponent had grabbed him by the neck and thrown him onto the ground.

BANG!

“Ugh…”

Having knocked down both Rick and Tommy, Group 4’s leader went to finish them. However, Group 5’s leader stopped him.

“Our master is more important.”

“...mm.”

The two moved as if there was something more important to do than to finish off Rick and Tommy. They left to steal the two Destroyer horses that Rick and Tommy had been riding on. Group 4’s leader immediately got on top of one, while Group 5’s leader held the reins of another as he ran towards Siegfried. But before he left, Group 4’s leader turned to glance at Rick who had fallen to the ground.

“Know that you’re lucky.”

“Kughhh…”

Rick didn’t dare respond to that. No matter how strong Rick was, he wasn’t shameless enough to open his mouth right after he had lost. He was furious that he still lacked strength.

“We’ll see, you bastards…”

Rick helped Tommy up and retreated from the frontline for now. 

***

The Ghost Group 4’s leader, who had quickly rushed over, lashed at Milton who had been fighting against Siegfried.

“Die, Grand Duke Forrest!”

“What the hell is this?”

Milton, who had already been pushed by Siegfried, had no choice but to step back when Leader 4 suddenly attacked him from the side. Having finally arrived, Group leader 5 spoke as he gave Siegfried’s the reins of the Destroyer that he dragged over. 

“Sir, the situation isn’t looking favorable for us.”

“...Right. Guess it can’t be helped.”

Siegfried agreed easily. The Lester Kingdom was much stronger than he had thought. Thanks to the ‘cheat’ as he evolved, he had been able to somehow endure until now, but the fact was, the effect of the elixir was gradually fading away.  Instead of continuing to fight a difficult battle here…

“Blow the retreating horn! We’re retreating to the back and reorganizing our army!”

“Yes, Sir!”

Once the signal to retreat was heard, Siegfried mounted the Destroyer horse brought to him by the Group leader 5.

“Milton Forrest, we’ll determine the outcome next time.”

“How dare you decide that on your own!”

Milton burst out shouting and tried to attack Siegfried once again. However…

“Your opponent is us, Grand Duke Forrest.”

The two Ghost leaders blocked Milton’s path. Without hesitation, they drank the elixir and began powering up. 

“Move!”

Milton quickly swung his sword, but the two of them responded without hesitation.

CLANG!

“Guh…”

“......”

Milton’s strike caused them to stumble back. Even though he had the upper hand, Milton frowned.

‘Damn…’

It was just a single exchange, but Milton found his opponents to be formidable. Although they seemed a bit startled, they weren’t weak. In fact, once these two Ghosts drank the elixir, their level was an Advanced Expert. And if there were two such people, then even if he was a Master, it wouldn’t be easy for Milton to deal with them.

‘If I try to beat them, it’ll take at least half an hour. In that time, Siegfried will escape.’

In conclusion, he couldn’t capture Siegfried. Milton had been able to overwhelm him because Siegfried had been forced to expend a lot of power trying to break through the encirclement in the beginning.

“See you next time, Milton Forrest.”

With that one sentence, Siegfried turned and began to lead his Ghosts and the rest of the Republican Army into retreating. 

“It’s the horn for retreating.”

Jake, who had been in the middle of a fight with Jerome, swung his sword vigorously and pushed Jerome back.

CLANG!

“Ugh…”

Once Jerome stumbled back, Jake mounted his horse as he spoke. 

“This is it for today, Jerome Taker.”

“Are you running away, Jake?”

“It’s a good thing for you, isn’t it?”

“......”

Jerome bit his lower lip and couldn’t say anything.

He had an honest character so he knew that even if their duel made it seem like the two of them were equal in strength at first glance, after the midpoint, the differences between them had gotten bigger. It was just a subtle difference, but that subtle difference was giving Jake the advantage. If the duel had continued on like this, then 7 to 3, his head would’ve been separated from his body.

“If the next time we meet, you still have the same skill level, I’ll kill you. Try to advance some more.”

Left behind, Jerome could only close his eyes tightly as he let out a sigh.

***

The retreat of the Republicans.

It hadn’t been a complete defeat, but because the Ghost’s elixir was wearing off, Siegfried had chosen to retreat. 

Of course, Milton couldn’t just sit there and let it happen. Even if Siegfried couldn’t be caught, he still had to make as many war achievements as possible.

“Chase the enemy!”

Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!”

“Let’s beat the Republican bastards!”

The Lester Kingdom’s army used the long range of their composite bows and the terrifying powers of the Destroyers to bite at the heels of the Republicans as much as possible. Even if they lost the big fish, thinning out the Republicans would be enough. But more than anything else, they had gotten two very important achievements.

“My Lord, as you’ve ordered, we’ve captured a few of those called the Ghosts.”

Milton nodded when he heard Jerome’s report. 

“They might kill themselves, so make sure you keep a strict eye on them as we take them back home.”

“Yes, My Lord.”

“And what’s the status of Marquis Ryan Catel?”

“He’s been saved, but he’s seriously injured, sir. He’ll need at least half a year, maybe even a full year to recuperate.”

Marquis Ryan Catel had consumed a lot of his energy fighting against the elite Ghost Group 1. Fortunately, his life had been saved, but it seemed that he would need a lot of time to fully recover.

“What a headache. Well, take good care of him. And report to me immediately once he regains consciousness.”

“Yes, sir.”

With his chin on his hand, Milton muttered to himself once all the reports had been dealt with.

“Well, we’ve already started, how far should I go?”

***

The intervention of the Lester Kingdom. This was something that no one had imagined, not even the Valence Kingdom. How could the Lester Kingdom have done this?

To begin with, there was the geographical strain. The location that the Lester Kingdom’s army had appeared in was the central part of the Valence Kingdom. If the Lester Kingdom’s army had crossed the borders of the Valence Kingdom, then that should have been known a long time ago, but they had just suddenly appeared one day.

From the perspective of the Valence Kingdom, it was impossible to figure out the reason behind it. However, their question had been answered by Duke Sebastian when he brought back his army and retreated to the capital of the Valence Kingdom. 

[In the name of the Empire, I ordered the Lester Kingdom to enter the war.]

In consideration of the Empire’s prestige, he had used the word ‘ordered,’ but the reality was, the Empire had asked for reinforcements. Before attacking Siegfried’s main army, Duke Sebastian had listened to Marquis Catel -- as insurance, he had sent a letter to the Lester Kingdom.

With the backing of the Empire, Milton had been able to cross the borders without any rumors. And as they had been crossing the border, he made sure to tell everyone not to report the fact that they had crossed because it was a top secret operation. It had been Viscount Sabian’s idea since he believed that it was necessary to keep silent about it for it to be the perfect surprise when they didn’t know where that information might leak to. The nobles of the Valence Kingdom thought it was a bit far-fetched, but they didn’t dare go against the Empire. 

As a result, it was a great success. They had dealt Siegfried a great blow and currently, Siegfried was withdrawing to the back to regroup. Thanks to that, the Valence Kingdom, which had been on the verge of collapse, was able to take a breather. 

However, instead of being completely happy, they couldn’t get rid of this nagging and unpleasant feeling. Because once they accepted the fact that they had only been able to get out of the crisis by borrowing the powers of countries, they realized they were very incompetent and weak. 

While that seemed obvious in the eyes of Milton and Siegfried, it couldn’t be easily accepted by the leading class of the Valence Kingdom. It was fine if the Empire was stronger, after all, the Empire was originally the ruler of the continent and recognized by the world as a strong country. But the Lester Kingdom? Even if their recent growth was surprising, most nobles in the Valence Kingdom still couldn’t abandon the image of the Lester Kingdom as a weak country. It was only natural for the Valence Kingdom to feel uncomfortable after receiving help from the Lester Kingdom when that was the image they had. 

Under such circumstances, Milton entered the capital of the Valence Kingdom

***

Milton left most of his troops outside and only led his officers into the capital.

“Is that person Grand Duke Forrest?”

“I think that’s the hero that ever won against that devil Siegfried?”

“Wonder which one’s Jerome Taker.”

“Isn’t that him? The one closest to us, the most handsome knight there.”

“Oh? He’s smaller than expected? I heard he was a giant whose height was over 2 meters.” 

The residents of the capital all murmured as they saw Milton and his officers. Unlike the citizens who lived in the countryside, the people who lived in the capital weren’t imbued with republicanism, and so, they gladly welcomed Milton and the Lester Kingdom’s troops who had come as reinforcements. Until recently, they had been preparing to evacuate when Milton had appeared and pushed Siegfried away. From the perspective of the residents, Milton’s achievement was touching.

However, that was only the case with the residents. Would the leading class of the Valence Kingdom feel the same way?

“Welcome, Grand Duke Forrest. I am Nicholas Theron Valence.”

Along with his nobles, King Nicholas had personally come out to the front of the royal palace to welcome Milton. On the outside, he had a very bright smile, but on the inside, he felt very complicated.

‘Well, that makes sense. From your point of view, I was a completely unexpected variable.’

Milton knew exactly what King Nicholas was thinking but was nonchalant in front of them. Dismounting from Leonard’s back, he stood directly in front of King Nicholas and smiled as he spoke. 

“I’m Milton Forrest of the Lester Kingdom. It’s a pleasure to meet you.”

When Milton spoke semi-formally, some of the Valence Kingdom’s subjects’ faces wrinkled in displeasure.

‘Only ten years ago, he was just a country noble…’

‘Ha, so you think you got backing just ‘cause you married well.’

To be honest, the title that Milton held, the Grand Duke of the Lester Kingdom, wasn’t just as a member of the royal family. That title held the actual authority and power of a ruler. In fact, Queen Leila was in charge of affairs within the country and diplomacy while Milton was in charge of the military and foreign trade. The fact that there were two leaders in charge of a country could have led to a power confrontation and a division of the nation. However, because Milton and Queen Leila were married, that hadn’t been an issue. Instead, the Lester Kingdom was in a golden age by using the two-leader system. In other words, Milton was on the same level as a king of a country.

It wasn’t that the nobles gathered here didn’t know that. It was just that none of them wanted to acknowledge it. For them, Milton Forrest was nothing but a young man who had coincidently made a contribution to the war, met a very good woman who gave him power, and had made a series of contributions thanks to his luck. In other words, they were blinded by jealousy.

Milton could feel the blatant jealousy stabbing into him, but he said nothing. He just continued to smile nonchalantly at King Nicholas as he looked at him. Milton was trying to figure out King Nicholas’s capabilities.

[Nicholas Valence]

King LV.8

Strength - 08                 Command - 88

Intellect - 65                 Politics - 71

Loyalty - 00

Special Traits - Coercion, Persuasion, Diplomacy, Toadyism

Coercion LV.8: Able to force lower-ranked individuals to sacrifice for his own goals.

Persuasion LV.5: Able to bend the will of those in disagreement to align better with his own.

Diplomacy LV.5: The ability to propose conditions that are more advantageous to his nation during negotiations with other nations

Toadyism LV.8: A strong dependence on stronger countries. Most decisions are made from the standpoint of the great countries. 

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