Chapter 28: The War with the Harmon Territory (1)

Viscount Harmon had a good feeling when he first heard of the letter’s arrival. Guessing that the upstart youngster was finally getting to grips with his situation and submitting to him, Harmon excitedly tore off the seal of the letter and began reading.

Dear Viscount Harmon,

Recently, some leavers from your county have come to us and are causing a commotion.

I do not know how awfully one has to manage their territory in order for good, upstanding members of your county to be ready to up their roots and come to ours. Regardless, as a result of them, our territory is now undergoing considerable strain.

No matter how incompetent one is, they should not cause trouble to others because of their own ineptitude – would you not agree?

Keeping in mind the relationship you had with my forebears, I shall forget the wrongs you have inflicted unto me until now.

However, in the event that your people continue to breakaway to our territory in the future – you shall pay the appropriate price.

Kind regards, Milton Forrest

Viscount Harmon tore the letter to pieces and screamed.

“This impudent brat!!”

His patience, already at its breaking point like water sloshing in a cup, finally reached its limit. The contents of this letter went beyond the point of mere impertinence, openly criticizing Viscount Harmon’s incompetence and blatantly asking for a fight. His patience was not strong enough to stay put, while being treated by a green-as-can-be youngster like Milton in this manner.

“Gather the knights! We’re attacking Forrest county immediately.”

“My Lord, how about we think this throu- UGH!”

Pow!

For the chamberlain’s efforts to calm the Viscount down, he received a boot that sent him rolling.

“Stop fluffing about and do as I say at once!”

In the end, the pact he had made with the other two nobles was erased clean from his mind as he promptly rounded his soldiers.

“Milton Forrest! I shall quell my anger by taking your head myself.”

Enraged, Viscount Harmon resolved to personally lead his army to them.

Viscount Harmon mobilized his troops without a declaration of war.

Even if this was a county war – no, specifically because it was a county war – in order to properly lay claim to captured territory as a victor, it was important to declare the justification for war and perform due procedure. However, after having his anger stirred, Viscount Harmon cleverly (?) decided to attack the Forrest county unannounced, to take what would be the astonished Milton’s head.

However…

“My Lord, they say that Viscount Harmon’s army has begun moving.”

“Is that so? All according to plan.”

Regardless of whether a declaration of war was received, Milton had already established a reconnaissance network to preempt Viscount Harmon’s movements.

Next to Milton, Jerome was dumbfounded.

“He is more naïve than I expected. To think a single letter would bait him into moving his army…”

“You see, he’s a rural noble with the stubbornness of a Duke. I’m sure all other thoughts were wiped clean from that head of his after I insulted him.”

“In all honesty, I nevertheless did not think we would catch him so easily. It’s like he bit the hook when we haven’t even stuck the bait on yet.”

“He’s a frog, not a fish – in the way that he moves without thinking, just like a frog eats things first and then sees what happens.” Milton mocked the Viscount.

Now that the enemy was mobilizing, Milton’s first scheme had hit its mark.

No matter how confident he was in his prospects of winning, facing off against three counties at once was a tad too much to handle. So Milton formed a plan to face only one of them for the present. The target of that plan was Viscount Harmon.

He was famous for his impatient personality around these parts, and Milton had personally confirmed those rumors to be true in their recent meeting. Subsequently, Milton sent a letter that openly picked a bone with Viscount Harmon in order to provoke him. In fact, if this letter did not work, they had a Plan B and C prepared to continue provoking him – but Viscount Harmon fell for it hook, line and sinker with only the letter, causing him to mobilize his army.

“How large are their forces?”

“Sir, they are shaping up to be around 600 men strong in total.”

“600? That’s more than we expected.”

“Yes. Word is that they have recently been hiring mercenaries in preparation. And…”

“And what?”

“Our scouts say that he mobilized a great number of his county’s common people. A large portion of them are poorly armed males.”

“He rounded up his civilians? What a lunatic.”

“Indeed, he does not seem to be of sound mind.”

A lord’s subjects were meant to be protected by him. The people paid taxes to the lord in exchange for living in a lord’s territory – but in turn, the lord had a duty to protect them.

Of course, there were instances where common civilians had been forcefully conscripted, in critical situations such as large wars that affected the entire nation; but even then, this was a last resort.

But who would forcefully round up his own civilians, not in a dire war of a national scale but for a territorial tussle?

This was a complete abandonment of one’s obligations as a lord.

‘I already knew he was a trashy guy, but… who would’ve known he was this much of a snowflake.’

Milton was dumbstruck, while Jerome could not hide his disgust.

“My Lord, simply give me the command, and I shall take the head of Viscount Harmon at once.”

Jerome’s spirits were simmering as he wanted to lead the troops in a sortie immediately.

That was the original plan anyhow.

The plan was for Jerome to take the lead and break through the enemy lines at a single focal point in one fell swoop, with the objective of striking their commanders. It was a simple plan, but they had the conviction that it would work. Although their numbers were inferior, the quality of their troops was of an overwhelmingly dominant position; and more than anything, it would be greatly advantageous that Jerome was leading the counterattack.

There was no way that an Expert knight would be residing under a countryside county such as Viscount Harmon’s. But not only that, Jerome was of the highest possible caliber for an Expert. If he were to take the charge and push into their lines, the enemy would not have any way to impede the rush of their soldiers.

This was the best choice with the greatest chances of victory from Milton’s perspective.

Yet…

“We should rectify our operation a little.”

Jerome raised an eyebrow in puzzlement.

“What is the matter, my Lord?”

“Word is that the enemy conscripted their civilians, correct? Then it would be preferable if we could minimize the harm caused to the guiltless.”

“Oh!” Jerome exclaimed as if he had not thought about this yet.

Milton was actually planning to integrate Viscount Harmon’s fief into his own after defeating him.

However, Milton was endeavoring to act with the future in mind as it would be hard to sway the hearts of the people if their newly appointed lord was responsible for a slaughter.

“It would be difficult to completely avoid harming civilians, but we should at least try to minimize the blood spilt where we can.”

Jerome seemed deeply moved by Milton’s concerns.

“Indeed, that would be ideal. I had not quite thought that far yet.”

Jerome was an individual who concretely adhered to the knight’s code and pursued the upholding of righteousness - but nonetheless, he hailed from a high-ranking noble household. As such, there were times when he himself unknowingly did not consider things from the perspective of ordinary folk.

In this instance, he was incensed that the common people had been conscripted; but this anger was more directed at the lowliness of Viscount Harmon to resort to such measures, rather than accounting for the unfair plight being forced on the commoners by their recruitment. Although he was yet lacking, Jerome still had the morals to agree with Milton immediately when he was reminded of these issues. Watching Milton be considerate of the weak, no matter the situation, made him one step closer to the ideal lord in Jerome’s eyes.

‘Following this man wherever he goes for the rest of my life wasn’t the wrong choice after all…’

Jerome lowered his head to Milton in respect.

Meanwhile, Viscount Harmon was boldly marching towards the Forrest territory with his army.

‘That youngster… I bet he won’t see me come knocking on his door with my soldiers.’

He believed his surprise attack was an exquisite plan.

In actuality, it was more like he was engaging in barbaric conduct by omitting the most basic of rules in war: to declare it in the first place. But sleazy men such as Viscount Harmon rationalized their actions with their own warped logic. In his mind, he did not consider for even a second that his “surprise attack” was a cowardly move.

All he did was smile at the thought of a future where he blitzed Forrest county and took Milton’s head, reaping the sweet rewards.

In that moment…

“My Lord! The scouts have found the enemy waiting ahead of us.”

“What did you say? The enemy’s at the front?

“Yes, my Lord. They say that two knights from the Forrest territory have taken an advance position leading 50 troops.”

“50? Hahahahaha… I know we’re all rural counties here, but 50?”

Viscount Harmon was slightly nervous when he first heard the news that the enemy had appeared, but his spirits actually became higher now that he knew the enemy was small in number.

“Get rid of them at once.”

“Should I mobilize the knight unit?”

“No, that’s a waste. Instead, put the conscripted soldiers up front and order a line of our real troops behind them to charge.”

Despite the fact that the enemy’s numbers were small, Viscount Harmon decided to completely avoid the risk of harm to his knights’ strength by sending his conscripts first.

The conventional soldiers lined up behind them as ordered and aimed their spears towards them.

“Form your ranks. We charge the moment the Viscount gives his command.”

The conscripted draftees did not have a single piece of armor, and held nothing in their hands but old, worn-out spears. It went without saying that they did not want to fight.

But there was not much they could do except follow orders while the soldiers behind them brandished their spears threateningly.

Before long, Viscount Harmon’s battle-ready army encountered the enemy, led by none other than Rick and Tommy.

“Halt! Who are you to dare try to invade our county? Are you not aware that these are the lands of Viscount Forrest?!”

The one yelling from the frontlines as if scolding them was Tommy, a knight of the Forrest Viscounty. Recognizing who it was, one of Viscount Harmon’s knights gave him a report.

“That insolent brat is Tommy, a knight of the Forrest territory. The one beside him is named Rick. They are both ordinary knights of his.”

“Hmmm… I see.”

Learning that his opponents were knights, Viscount Harmon came forward himself and bellowed back to them.

“I am Viscount Rayder Harmon. Henceforth, I have come to requisition the Forrest county. If you surrender peacefully, I will usher you all under my command.”

Viscount Harmon proposed while maintaining the most solemn and dignified air he possibly could. Since the difference in numbers was overwhelming, he anticipated that if he personally made an appeasing offer, the enemies would follow suit and surrender.

However…

“You senile old lunatic! You dare to propose that we surrender after sneaking in without so much as a war declaration, like the bunch of rats you are? Would you surrender to a pack of chittering rats?”

What came back were Rick’s curses and provocation.

“Ex… excuse me?”

Seeing Viscount Harmon doing a double-take on what he just heard, Rick provoked him once more.

“Are you now deaf as well as senile? Rather than serving a coward like you whose X doesn’t even stand up straight, I would sooner pledge myself to a donkey in heat!”

“Puhahahaha…”

“Well said, sir knight.”

An uproar of laughter burst from Forrest’s troops as Rick flung his string of curses.

And having been insulted like this for the first time in his life, Viscount Harmon turned bright red and screamed.

“I will slaughter you all! ATTACK!!”

At his roar began the stampede of 600 men.

Seeing the enemy attacking, Rick bared his teeth in a sneer and muttered under his breath.

“Come, let’s see what you got. I’ll face off against each and every one of… ow! What was that for?”

From beside Rick, Tommy pulled Rick’s head by the ear and snapped at him.

“Have you forgotten our plan? What will we do if we fight here and now?”

“…Oh!” Rick’s exclamation implied he had really forgotten their strategy in the heat of the moment.

Tommy let out a sigh and ordered the troops.

“The enemy’s numbers are greater than we anticipated. All troops, retreat and regroup with the rear detachment!”

“Yes sir!”

On his command, the 50 Forrest troops began retreating without objection. Watching the enemy retreat promptly as if they had prepared this all along only served to pique Viscount Harmon’s restlessness even further.

“Chase them! Don’t let them be!”

“My Lord, these bastards are retreating too quickly. The conscripts cannot match the enemy’s pace with their marching speed.”

Hearing the counsel of one of his knights, Viscount Harmon grinded his teeth and demanded a solution.

“Then we can leave those ones behind and track them with our main forces, can we not?!”

“That would break our formations. I believe it would be better if we slowly… AH!”

Crack!

“Stupid fool!”

Viscount Harmon struck the knight’s cheek with his horse whip, screaming at him with a fiery rage.

“The enemy only numbers 50, correct? Who cares about the formation?! The main army is more than enough!”

“That may be so, but with all due respect the stability of our battle formation comes first according to standard proce-”

“You fool! Do you still not understand? Did you not hear the enemy say that they will join their main forces before retreating? If we lose them here, we have a harder battle awaiting us later! Is this the time and place to be mentioning standard procedure?!”

Viscount Harmon’s face was like a well-done carrot, filled with rage.

In truth, it was not important whether the knight’s advice was correct or not.

At this point in time, what was important to Viscount Harmon was whether or not his subordinate would do as he was told. Completely unacquainted with how dangerous a stubborn commander could be in the elevated circumstances known as war, Viscount Harmon single-mindedly pressured his underlings to do exactly as he said.

“Hurry and give chase. Hurry!”

With not much choice left but to obey Viscount Harmon’s relentless grilling, the main army started pursuing the enemy.

In that detachment, several knights thought to themselves, ‘this can’t end well’; but they could not appeal to Viscount Harmon, who incessantly demanded in his tantrum that they bring the head of the bastard named Rick.

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