Chapter 25: Homeward (4)

Once he sent off the visiting lords, Milton summoned Administrator Max and Knight Commander Jerome and explained what had happened during the meeting. After hearing the story, Max couldn’t help but worry, “Would that be alright, My Lord?”

“And if it’s not? Should I do what they want?”

“……”

At Milton’s words, Max could only stay silent. However, the look on his face expressed that it wasn’t that he had nothing to say, but that he was reluctant to say it.

“If you have something you want to say, just say it. Whatever it is, I won’t get angry.”

Max immediately opened his mouth. “If I’m being honest My Lord, … I don’t think it’s a bad idea to do as they asked.”

“And your reason is?”

“While it’s financially profitable for us to sell to the merchants My Lord, I believe it’s disadvantageous for us to become enemies with the neighboring Lords for financial gains.”

“But will those Lords think like you?”

Milton might not have reacted angrily, but it didn't mean he agreed with Max.

‘He’s smart, but his intelligence is in administrations and not in political manipulations.’

Milton turned to look at Jerome, “Jerome, what do you think about this?”

“My Lord, my thoughts differ from Administrator Max.”

“How so?”

With Milton’s encouragement, Jerome explained his thoughts,“First of all, even if you sold them the food, there is no guarantee they would be grateful to you. Instead, the Lords might believe they were entitled to it. If that’s the case, a friendly relationship cannot happen.”

Max frowned, “But, if we don’t sell them the food, then they will certainly become our enemy. If we took this chance and established a friendlier relationship…”

“That’s impossible. A friendly relationship can only happen when both sides see eye to eye.”

“You only think that because you are a Knight, Sir Jerome; you believe that everything can be solved through sheer power. My Lord, I believe it’s better to avoid a fight entirely.”

“Administrator Max, your words aren’t wrong, but that’s an ideal thought and reality is different.”

Listening to them arguing, Milton felt that Jerome was right. Perhaps Jerome understood the mentality of a noble since he was one himself.

The reason the three Lords made such unreasonable demands was because they looked down upon Viscount Forrest. While the aristocratic society might seem noble and elegant from the outside, it was actually a society ruled by power. A friendly relationship cannot be established until the three Lords changed their perception about Viscount Forrest being 'weak'.

Milton interrupted Administrator Max and Sir Jerome’s argument, “Both of you, enough.”

Once he had their attention, he continued, “Since there’s no way to see the end results beforehand, there’s no way to prove which is right. However, Max.”

“Yes, My Lord.”

“Even if you are right, things have already been done and we can’t reverse it. You understand that, right?”

“…yes, My Lord.”

“And since that’s the case, make your complaints later and contribute to how we will handle what lies ahead of us. Isn’t that your duty as my administrator?”

Max nodded, “Your words are correct My Lord. Forgive me, I was shortsighted.”

“No, you don’t have to apologize. It’s also your duty to give me advice.”

Having convinced Max, Milton then turned to speak to Jerome, “Jerome, how are the troops?”

“As you’ve commanded, we’ve recruited more soldiers and as a result of restructuring the training regime, the men have steadily improved. Currently there are 200 soldiers and twenty in training and four knights including me, My Lord.”

“200 soldiers… that’s not bad.”

Hearing Milton’s words, Max couldn’t help but worry.“My Lord, are you thinking of the territory?”

“Of course I am. Why wouldn’t I?”

Max sighed, but silently nodded in his head.

‘We definitely have to prepare for the worse case scenario.’

As soon as Max expanded on his thoughts, the first thing that came to his mind was…

“Then don’t we have too few soldiers, sir?”

Max's immediate thought was to increase the number of soldiers. He had already calculated the number of troops in the neighboring territories. And when it came down to it, they were really lacking in troops.

“Viscounts Harmon and Rosswai have at least 300 men. And I believe Count Rosscaiz has over 700 men, My Lord.”

“Is that so. And if we combine all three territories, then they have about 1,300 men? That’s a lot...”

Max was distraught by Milton's nonchalant response.

“My Lord! That’s not just a lot. We need to recruit more to increase our troops or recruit mercenaries to increase our numbers.”

Max was correct. Since our enemies had a lot of men, we must also increase our numbers. It was a reasonable argument. However…

“Even if we increased our troops, they're of no use without a stable foundation; they would just waste our budget.”

Milton believed increasing the number of men would only become a burden to the territory later on.

“I also know that, My Lord. But I believe as long as the surrounding territories posed a threat to us, it would be better if we expanded our troop size. Isn’t that so, Sir Jerome?”

Max looked towards Jerome for his agreement. He believed that as Knight Commander, Jerome would agree with increasing the numbers of soldiers.

Jerome responded to Max with a smile,“As a Knight Commander, I am happy to hear you say we should expand our troop size.”

“Then…”

“However, as the Viscount said, it becomes a different story if it would become a burden to the territory.”

Max frowned,“But don’t you need more men to win a battle?”

“That’s correct. However if we can win with the men we have now, then there’s no need to increase our numbers.”

Max responded with surprise, “You’re saying you can win even when the enemy has six times the amount of men than we do?”

Jerome answered with extreme calmness, “Yes. That’s right.”

Milton also responded as though it was a matter of fact, “I agree. There is no need to increase the size of our troop.”

Max couldn’t understand how Milton and Jerome could be so confident.

“My Lord, if the three territories combine their troops, they would have over 1,000 men.”

“I know that.”

“And while I may not know the exact numbers, they probably have twenty knights. And if we add in the trainees, then it’s at least an additional fifty, My Lord.”

“I assume so.”

Frustrated, Max couldn’t help but begin to lightly criticize, “But you still believe we could win?”

“We can win.”

“Yes, we can win.”

Milton and Jerome responded without hesitation. It was the voice of confidence. The voice of victory.

Bought over by their confidence, Max began to believe they could win as well.

“Max, when it comes to war, leave it to me and Sir Jerome. I swear on my name, we will be victorious.”

With Milton like this, there really was nothing more Max could say. If Max was still doubtful despite his lord making an oath upon his own name, then he would be a disloyal servant.

“Since that’s the case, My Lord, I’ll begin preparations with the assumption we have won.”

“You do that. Oh, and before that, take care of the auction.”

“Yes, My Lord.”

And with that, Max decided to devote himself to his duties rather than needlessly worry. Based on what he’s seen so far, Milton wasn’t someone who spoke empty words.

‘He’s really confident. I don’t know how it might turn out, but I’ll focus on my own work.’

After Max left, Milton and Jerome continued the discussion.

Jerome spoke first, “The Administrator seems to have a lot of anxiety about the battle.”

“He’s smart, but he’s lived his whole life peacefully on the territory. It’s only natural he’d be unfamiliar and nervous about it.”

“I understand. This territory, no, this whole country is peaceful.”

“That’s right. And more so on a border territory like this. I believe the last battle in this region was about fifty years ago?”

“I can’t help but be envious. That would be unthinkable in my homeland.”

Milton gave a bitter smile, “Hm… at a time like this, that’s not a good thing either.”

To Milton, the situation in the country wasn’t great. Jerome’s homeland, the Strabus Kingdom, was a military powerhouse.

As the kingdom was always in conflict with the three northern Republics, it had been constantly war-ready.

For that reason, the kingdom’s nobles were rough and violent. Frequent duels and battles happened between nobles too. Naturally, their armies were strong and their soldiers well trained.

To begin with, no matter how long they might have served, soldiers who hadn’t actually fought in a war were treated as trainees. Compared to that, this Leister Kingdom had been at peace for a very long time. And long peacetimes can make humans indolent.

With few experiencing actual battle, soldiers didn't take the military seriously and the Knights began to neglect their training. While it was great for a country to be peaceful… A peaceful country sinks first in tumultuous times.

“If we're judging based on the quality of soldiers, then there’s no way we would lose to those fools who haven't even seen battle once. However…”

“The enemy having 1,000 men is a bit bothersome, isn’t it My Lord?”

“Although they may be fools, it will always be bothersome when the enemy has five times as many men as we do. We’ll have to strategize if we want to minimize damage.”

“What do you plan to do, My Lord?”

On the Western Front, Jerome had discovered that Milton was an excellent commander. He was ready to carry out whatever Milton commanded.

“In a situation like this…”

Milton had already started the battle simulation in his head.

***

Disregarding the battle, the Forrest territory’s food auction had started: 800 bags of wheat, 1100 bags of barley, and 600 bags of oats.

While it wasn’t a lot in the past, it was a lot during this time where food prices were soaring, and many of the merchants wanted to secure supplies.

On the day of the auction. 

Many merchants gathered at the auction. Max, the Administrator of the Forrest territory, personally directed the auction.

“ I will commence with the auction now. There will be a three part bidding process.”

And so, Max officially opened the auction to the representatives of the merchant companies.

“First up is 600 bags of oats. The starting bid is100 gold.”

The cheapest of all grains, oat, was priced at one gold per six bags of oats. In the past, one could use 1 gold to purchase 20 bags of oats.

But what could be done? Now, there were so many people anxious to buy it at this pricemark.

“110 gold.”

“120 gold.”

“130 gold.”

As soon as the auction started, the prices began to rise. With over twenty members of the merchant companies competing, the price soon exceeded 150 gold.

In the end, the other merchants gave up when Merchant Bemeric called out 155 gold.

“155 gold. I have 155 gold. Do I have any further bidders?”

Max looked around, and at that moment…

“170 gold.”

One man raised his hand. The other bidders were flustered.

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