Chapter 29: The War with the Harmon Territory (2)

The main forces of Viscount Harmon broke away from the conscripts and began to fiercely give chase -- but they could not catch up to the enemy in the least. Although both sides were infantrymen, the troops of the Forrest county were handpicked for their agility and had been given the lightest equipment.

Not being able to match their pace, Viscount Harmon decided to use his next resource.

“Send the knights forth. Don’t let them slip our grasp!”

Viscount Harmon ordered forth the knights that were escorting him, assessing that no enemy infantryman could possibly outrun knights on horseback.

“Yes, my Lord!”

Viscount Harmon’s knights immediately spurred their horses on at his command. The number of horses that broke away from the rank and file was ten. This was the entirety of Viscount Harmon’s knights.

But right then…

“It seems they’re all coming out.”

Tommy surveyed his surroundings before whipping out a small object and holding it to his mouth. And then…

Piiiiieeee!

The sound of the object spread far and wide.

“Whoa, how is that louder than a horn even though it’s smaller?”

Rick watched Tommy with fascination.

The tool that Tommy was using had not actually existed in this world until now, but Milton had commissioned a blacksmith to produce it: a whistle. Milton had it crafted so that Rick and Tommy may send a signal once they and their troops reached the assigned location.

And right on cue, two throngs of soldiers appeared from either side.

“The enemy has fallen for our trap!”

“Don’t let a single one of them go!”

These forces were led by Milton and Jerome respectively.

Leading a unit of 50 men each, Milton and Jerome lay in ambush on either side of the path, emerging at the signal of the whistle.

At the same time, Rick and Tommy’s retreating unit turned around and counterattacked the enemy.

Viscount Harmon’s knights were greatly bewildered by an attack incoming from three different sides: the front and both flanks.

“Respond to them immediately!”

“Don’t panic! The enemy is less in number!”

The knights commanded their troops in order to maintain the battle lines with whatever means available and put up a fight, but such a feat was impossible. The battle formations had already been broken during their vain pursuit, and now they were being ambushed by an unexpected enemy.

The troops were stricken with fear, and the knights were also indeed unable to assess where they should respond to first.

It was the worst situation imaginable.

On top of that…

The most decisive factor was Jerome Taker.

“Your life is not worth my effort! Move!”

“KUUUH!”

Several knights tried to block Jerome’s path; but it was impossible to impede him, let alone slow his advance.

“H-… he’s a monster.”

“Kuh… someone do someth-… UGH!”

Jerome led the attack head-on and pressured the enemy one-sidedly. As he did so, the unit following his lead was filled with a rush of vigor.

“Follow the lead of Sir Taker!”

“The enemy are on the brink of destruction!”

“Uooooooh!”

The morale of the troops skyrocketed as they brutally assaulted the enemy lines with valor.

On the other hand, Viscount Harmon’s troops were struck with terror, their spirits having been completely consumed by their enemy. There was no way they could be a match.

Compared to the hardened soldiers of the Hildess Republic that they fought against on the Western Front, Viscount Harmon’s troops were nothing more than weaklings who had never experienced a proper battle before. Jerome trampled all over them without holding back, soon followed by Milton, Rick, and Tommy who also crashed into the enemy without hesitation.

“Who… what on earth is that monster? How did the Forrest county come upon a guy like that?”

Viscount Harmon commented with a dispirited look as he watched his forces being destroyed.

He was a man who had lived a life far from the fires of war, as a noble in the peaceful countryside of a peaceful nation.

Through learned knowledge, he was roughly aware of what an Expert grade swordsman was capable of. Moreover, he also saw that the Expert knights were clearly given special treatment by the royal Capital. But this was his first time witnessing the skills of an Expert at full display on the battlefield.

This was not what he had imagined.

Experts they may be, Viscount Harmon did not think they would be this ferocious.

His entire body was overcome with terror as he watched his knights – whose armaments he had poured a fortune into – be unable to turn to every which direction to fight like a bunch of stiff scarecrows, as they were felled one by one.

“Viscount Harmon is over there!”

He was jolted back to his senses by an enemy soldier’s announcement.

“ST-… ST- ST- STOP HIM!”

Viscount Harmon ordered his subordinates to impede the charge of enemy troops towards him.

Meanwhile, he himself turned his horse around and began his escape, not glancing behind him even once.

“He’s ticking all the boxes for lowering his troop’s morale.”

“It takes a special kind of talent to do that.”

Milton and Jerome conversed as they saw Viscount Harmon leave his subordinates to fight and retreat by himself.

Before long, the two had routed the enemy and were giving chase to him. Galloping along behind the two were the probationary knights who were originally mercenaries. It was excellent that they had lured the enemy into an ambush and crushed them, but they could not afford to let the grand prize slip by.

“Shall we place bets on who catches him first?”

Jerome laughed at Milton’s cheeky suggestion and replied.

“You seem confident in your riding skills, My Lord.”

“I figure my odds are higher than for swordsmanship.”

“Hahaha… really now?”

The two glanced at each other with a grin, then...

“Giddy up!”

“Hup!”

The two riled their horses into a gallop.

Viscount Harmon had an impending sense of doom as he frantically made his retreat. This creeping sensation, which even the dim-witted Viscount could feel, was like when a predator set its eyes on prey.

“Heeeek, stay away!”

Viscount Harmon desperately spurred on his horse as he fled, but there was no way he could outpace Milton and Jerome’s pursuit with his own equestrianism that was only accustomed to cultured leisurely trots.

Dududududu…

Viscount Harmon felt the blood drain from his face as the sound of his pursuers’ hooves rang closer and closer.

And at long last…

Pow!

Neiiigh!

Viscount Harmon’s horse was struck, keeling over with a loud cry.

“Ugh!”

He was knocked off his horse soon after.

“I win.”

“Tsk tsk, there was a hair’s difference...”

Harmon fearfully stared at the two predators as they smacked their lips at their captured game.

“Pl-…please spare me.”

As Viscount Harmon threw away all face and begged for mercy, Milton formed an icy smile in response.

“We’ll see how you fare.”

It would have been a different story if he was killed, but Viscount Harmon still had some uses now that he was captured alive.

The battle between the two counties came to an almost tasteless end. They had clashed with each other only once, yet that was enough for Milton to successfully capture Viscount Harmon. The fighting ended smoothly with the rest of the Viscount’s forces surrendering when their captured lord was put on display.

Needless to say, Milton had already expected their victory. What was truly important were the next steps of action they were to take.

First, Milton needed to request the “cooperation” of the captured Viscount Harmon.

He brought the hostage Viscount Harmon to a table of negotiation and began their talk.

“I assure your personal assets will be preserved as long as you hand over your territory and step aside. Please, leave these lands and begin a fresh start in a new country with your resources.”

Viscount Harmon was enraged at Milton’s proposal and replied heatedly.

“How preposterous! I’ll have you know that the authority of House Harmon as a Viscounty is vested in my lands, one that has been passed down through the generations.”

“Not anymore. I’m sure you’re aware of what happens to the loser in a war between lords, no?”

“……”

Viscount Harmon clenched his teeth and glowered at Milton. Even though this battle was already done and dusted, he was being stubborn with the ludicrous rationale that he could not just meekly hand his land over. In one corner of Viscount Harmon’s mind was the baseless conviction that something was bound to go in his favor if he were to be persistent.

But Milton was not wasting his time dealing with the pouting of this uncle past his prime.

“Recently, I’ve spread a certain rumor around these lands.”

“What rumor… if I may so ask?”

Milton formed a wry smile and answered.

“That after I won our battle, Viscount Harmon suffered a serious injury in the process of his capture – something along those lines.”

“What do you mean?”

Surprised, Viscount Harmon queried again – unable to discern why he was being mischaracterized as being wounded. Milton ever-so-kindly offered a further explanation.

“As far as the lordships around us know, the Forrest county is currently treating Viscount Harmon’s wounds to the best of their ability. But wait… how could this be? I have a hunch that Viscount Harmon will unfortunately reach his end, even despite our best efforts.”

Milton’s words made Viscount Harmon’s heart skipped a beat.

“Are… are you saying you will kill me?”

“Why would I? I would only be labeled as a cruel barbarian among the nobles if I were to execute you after capture.”

“You most certainly would.” Viscount Harmon responded with as much conviction as he could muster.

“That said, there’s not much more we could have done if you were to die despite our best efforts and treatments. Is that not so?”

“H…how could you say such…”

In essence, it meant that they would kill him if he did not do as they said.

Viscount Harmon was drained of his spirit now that he fully comprehended his present situation.

‘I don’t have a say.’

Watching Viscount Harmon seemingly age ten years from his dilemma, Milton stood up and made his offer.

“I shall give you the most of three hours to decide. I do hope you think through this with a calm mind and heart, and make the wise choice.”

When Milton returned, Viscount Harmon had changed into a quiet, soft-spoken man.

It appeared he had come to the conclusion that the most important thing was ultimately his own life.

That may have been an obvious conclusion to any other, but this was perhaps the smartest choice that Viscount Harmon had made in his life until now.

On the condition that his personal assets were preserved to a certain extent, he agreed to pass his lands over to Milton.

And the moment Viscount Harmon stamped his seal onto the official document detailing this agreement…

[You have achieved your first victory in a territory war. You have leveled up.]

[The new lands of the Harmon Viscounty have appeared. Would you like to merge your lands or manage them separately?]

[Merge or Separate]

Two messages appeared. Milton had seen the level up message before, but this was his first time seeing a message which imposed a choice.

After some thought, he decided to resume with his initial plans.

‘It’s not like these lands are far from mine. Merging would be better for convenience.’

When Milton selected ‘Merge’, another message appeared.

[The hostile forces of the Harmon Viscounty have been eliminated.]

[The Forrest territory has been upgraded. Your population and domain have expanded.]

[New sovereign authorities have been added.]

[You now have the special trait, ‘Bargain’.]

‘Nice, nice.’

Milton desperately refrained himself from grinning.

He wanted to open his status window at once to check what had changed, but concluding the business with Viscount Harmon was the priority.

“Are you letting me go now?”

“That would appear to be difficult at the moment. After all, you’re meant to be suffering from a rather critical injury.”

“That’s… This is different from what was promised, is it not?”

Viscount Harmon almost sounded upset.

He was not on his high horse as he had been before, now that his spirits were at rock bottom. But seeing a middle-aged senior choke up like this wasn’t a particularly pleasing sight either.

“You do not need to worry for I will keep our promise. It’s more that I would like this war to be over at the least before I release you.”

“Has it not ended already? I’ve even signed the surrender paper…”

“Yes, the war with the Harmon Viscounty is over. Yet surely you yourself are aware that this is not the end?”

Milton’s words startled Viscount Harmon, who decided to zip it.

Milton whipped out another sheet of paper and slid it towards Viscount Harmon.

“Please, place your seal on this. Do this and I won’t expect anything more of you.”

Viscount Harmon scanned the contents of the paper.

And then…

“This is… Is this the truth? This is really…”

“It’s none of your business.”

“……”

“Just stamp your seal here, please.”

It was now that Viscount Harmon came to the realization -- the man he thought of as nothing more than a greenhorn who didn’t know his place was in fact a sleeping giant, now awakening from his slumber.

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