Chapter 33: Territory War (3)

‘This will all be over if we capture Count Rosscaiz.’

Sweeping out wave after wave of troops that blocked his path, Milton charged unstoppably to claim the head of his enemy.

“St-stop him!”

Count Rosscaiz frantically issued an order to impede Milton’s advance, but the situation had already taken a turn for the worst.

The scales had begun tipping from the moment their encircling net failed. The consequences of this had extended beyond the mere failure of a plan and rendered their formations into a disorganized mess, allowing Milton to trample all over the disheveled enemies.

‘We can get to him.’

While wreaking havoc all over the enemy lines, Milton assessed that Count Rosscaiz was within his reach.

“I’m coming for you! Men, follow my lead!”

Milton took the escort soldiers around him and decided to attempt a breakthrough to Count Rosscaiz’s position.

At that moment…

“I’ll be your opponent, Milton Forrest!”

One knight valiantly stood in Milton’s path, causing Milton’s galloping horse to abruptly halt and rear its head high.

‘At least his courage is commendable.’

“Very well. I accept your- hm?!”

Woosh!

Milton felt something sharp brush by his ear and shoot past.

‘What was that just now…?’

As he sensed a drop of blood roll down his cheek, Milton felt himself break out into a sweat for the first time in this war.

“Tsk, that fool just had to ruin things at the last second.”

The crimson-haired man clicked his tongue in disappointment, clutching his longbow. He had fired this arrow without drawing attention; but through a stroke of bad luck, his target stopped his horse and the arrow flew astray of its mark.

“It’s such a pain in the neck to catch ’em if the first shot’s off.”

He once again readied his abnormally large bow as he grumbled, pulling the string taut.

Creeeeeak!

As his massive back muscles bulged and twisted, his colossal bow bent to the point where it looked as if it may break. Then as he released his bowstring…

Twang!

With a brittle, harsh sound that reverberated through the air, the arrow came flying like a hawk locked onto its prey.

“Block it!”

“Protect the Lor- KUH!”

The second arrow cleanly impaled one of the knights guarding Milton.

‘It penetrated plate armor? What kind of arrow can do that? No, before that – where on earth are we being shot from?’

Since the county war began, now was the moment that Milton felt the greatest sense of danger.

“This is no joke.”

Count Rosscaiz – whom they had believed was within striking range – had retreated far back before they knew it. But they did not have the liberty of giving chase – Milton did not yet know who, but someone was sending unbelievably fast and powerful arrows aimed at him. Due to this archer, Milton was unable to resolutely pursue Count Rosscaiz who they had eventually lost track of.

“Shit, where is it? I get the general direction that the arrows are coming from, but where the heck is he hiding and shooting from exactly?”

Having assessed that this irritating archer absolutely had to be dealt with first, Milton began searching for his location. However, no matter how much he widened his eyes and scanned the battlefield, he could not spot the archer that was aiming for his life. Even though he knew the general direction of the shots, all he spotted in that vicinity were infantrymen engaged in bloody battle. It was inconceivable that the arrows were being shot from the midst of that chaos.

At that moment…

“Viscount! There’s a lone archer standing on top of that wagon over there.” A probationary knight next to Milton shouted.

Looking in the direction the knight indicated, Milton could barely make out the figure of someone standing atop the faraway wagon.

“Over there? But there’s no way. Looking at how much distance there is between us, how could…”

“Yet that archer is drawing his bow once more, my Lord.”

“You can see that?”

“Yes. I have a good pair of eyes on me as I come from a life at sea. He’s getting ready to fire his- oh?!”

Right on queue, something twinkled and came zooming straight for Milton.

“Argh!”

Klang!

Milton hastily raised his shield and managed to block the arrow. Then with a look of utter disbelief, he looked back at this enemy that he could not even see properly. From such a long distance, this archer had fired a perfectly aimed arrow at Milton despite all the knights tightly surrounding him.

“You’ve got to be kidding me. Is this for real?”

As if answering ‘yes, it is for real’, another arrow came flying.

Klang!

“Ugh…”

Though he managed to block the arrow once again, Milton felt the wrist of his shield arm starting to tremble.

‘The force behind these arrows is…’

Despite the long range, the sheer power of these arrows was similar to blocking a crossbow shot at close range. Whatever the case may be, it was now certain that this archer was aiming for him.

“I guess we need to get him.”

Milton muttered under his breath before issuing orders to his vassals.

“Follow my lead. We are charging!”

With that, Milton spurred his horse on in the direction of the harassing archer. Although he was but one archer, Milton had a hunch that this one would become a pain in the neck if he was not dealt with, right here and now.

“Is he coming for me?”

The fiery-haired mercenary archer mumbled as he watched Milton charge precisely towards him.

“Boss, what should we do? Should we send out the troops and bide our time?”

At the advice of a subordinate mercenary next to him, the archer pondered for a moment before responding.

“Nah, we’d just waste some good men in a scuffle since he seems like an Expert.”

He then drew out two arrows, clutching them in one hand as he reassured hintingly.

“I’ll end it with this.”

“What an outstanding archer. It’s like someone’s going after me with a rifle…”

The more Milton closed the distance between them, the more he was impressed with his adversary’s archery skills.

In this world, archers were simply one of the types of soldiers. Of course, experienced archers were important human capital that were valued troops on the battlefield.

However, archery was an occupation that was rather shunned amongst knights and mercenaries. In order for one to study and preen their own aura, they had to undergo strenuous physical activity; thus using weapons such as swords, spears, or axes. Bows did not satisfy this criterion, and thus were unpopular.

Therefore, while this world had many veteran archers, it had not produced any archer great enough to be called a legend or god-hand. Indeed, it seemed there would never be one unless the fabled race of elves came out themselves.

Nevertheless, there were freaks of nature wherever you went in the world. Some humans could only be satisfied and scratch their itches if they were the first to walk a path that others did not take.

The fiery-haired mercenary currently shooting at Milton was exactly that kind of man.

Anyhow, the arrows were not only much faster and powerful than average, but also more accurate. Rather than merely taking steady aim and firing, each arrow was targeted at exposed areas that were not protected by armor.

‘That being said, an arrow is an arrow. If I focus, they can be deflected safely.’

Milton erred on the side of caution, but he did not think that he would actually be hit by the arrows. And indeed, he was successfully blocking all the incoming arrows after specifying his enemy’s position.

‘What’s really a pain is the increasing power of the arrows the closer I get, and the fact that we don’t have a way of catching him if he runs…’

Milton urgently spurred his horse forward quicker. What worried him was the archer being alarmed by him drawing near and retreating early. That would make pursuing a difficult task.

‘I have to get him before then.’

“Giddy up!”

Milton sped up his horse with these concerns in mind.

Whooosh!

Milton noticed yet another arrow come flying in his direction as he galloped forth.

‘Does he not know that this won’t work anymore?’

Milton whipped his sword in a flash and easily deflected the arrow.

Klang!

And the moment he deflected it…

“HUH?!”

Milton’s eyes widened in shock.

He had definitely struck down the arrow.

Yet…

Immediately behind the arrow he had deflected, following the exact same trajectory was another arrow – that Milton could have sworn was the same arrow – which had been hidden behind the first.

After the first shot, the archer had let a second shot fly at a blindingly fast speed before the first one even hit his enemy – and at an identical trajectory at that.

It was a superb technique worthy of being called mastery.

‘I need to-… it’s impossibl-’

Without time to even think properly, Milton cocked his head to the side best as he could.

Pow!

“My Lord!”

“Viscount!”

Milton was struck by the arrow and knocked off his horse. Astonished, the surrounding probationary knights immediately clustered around him.

“Protect the Viscount!”

“Raise your shields. Cover his body so no arrow can find its mark!”

Hearkening back to their mercenary roots, the seasoned probationary knights mustered around Milton without a single gap and shuffled into retreat while maintaining that formation.

“Boss, we did it.”

“You made a sweet catch as usual.”

“That’s our boss for ya!”

All around the fiery-haired mercenary, his fellow mercenary subordinates exclaimed with songs of praise. They had properly witnessed the spectacle of their boss felling the enemy with his own bow. Yet the subject of the festivity himself wore a rather sour expression.

“What’s troubling you, boss?”

“It seems I may have failed.”

“Pardon? Boss, are you saying he got one of your arrows straight to his skull and he’s still fine?”

“Well, he wouldn’t be fine. But those guys wouldn’t withdraw huddled so tightly around a mere corpse.”

“Then are you saying he’s still breathing?”

“That may very well be.”

At his words, his subordinates readied their weapons as if they were prepared to jump in immediately to finish the job. They could not afford to let a caught fish slip out of their grasp. But the red-haired mercenary knew that would be biting off more than they could chew. The reason being…

“My liege!!”

One of the knights who was fiercely ravaging their army lines was coming towards them at a breakneck pace. The archer calmly glanced at the rapidly advancing knight as he pondered.

‘He’s the knight who laid waste to the right flank. In terms of skill… he’s a lot stronger than Mr. Viscount over here, isn’t he?’

The archer shook his head as he watched Jerome wreaking havoc.

“There’s no need to overdo it. We’ve saved our employer’s life, so we will retreat back as things are.”

“Yes sir!”

With that, the fiery-haired mercenary and his subordinates made a leisurely retreat.

***

“Gah!”

“Ugh!”

“Aaaaah!”

To sing like a bird was perhaps a saying that was made for circumstances such as these. Namely, when receiving corporal punishment from one’s superior…

Pow! Pow pow!

At this point, the scene was more akin to simply being pummeled than punished. Yet those on the receiving end did not dare to let out so much as a squeak of complaint, because…

“You incompetent scoundrels! You call yourselves knights, and you were right beside our lord – and yet you still let him get injured?”

The officer who was dishing out the punishment was the captain of the knights, Jerome. In neither skill or rank did they have a right to be sassy with him. More than anything, this incident was bad enough that they themselves thought there was no room for objection to being hit.

Though they were still in training, a knight was still a knight. The greatest priority was always protecting their liege. A knight who lost his liege but was able to keep his own life would not only be mocked, but become the target of contempt and spite. Even if it meant death would befall them, the knight’s code mandated they protect the lord they had sworn loyalty to.

Yet despite being right at Milton’s side, there was not a thing they could do while he was being hit by the arrows – though they had at least succeeded in protecting Milton after he was knocked off his horse and retreated safely.

If they could not at least do that much, Jerome may have very well exercised military law to deal with them.

“The Lord has awoken.”

What finally prompted Jerome to stop tormenting the trainee knights was Tommy’s entrance and message.

Sigh… Tommy.”

“Yes, Captain.”

“I’ll pass on the task of flogging them into shape to you. Snap them back into the right state of mind from square one.”

“Would it be fine to do so during warti… yes. Understood!”

Tommy tried to cut some slack for the probationary knights, but he conceded the moment he noticed the killer glint in Jerome’s eyes.

‘What else can I do? I want to make it out alive as well.’

With that, Tommy instructed the trainee knights.

“Alright, let’s go for a jog first. Don’t push yourselves too hard – just enough to cough up some blood, get those lungs working.”

The trainee knights were looking increasingly defeated.

***

“My Lord, is your body in a good state?”

When Jerome entered the barracks, he was met by Milton with more than half his face covered by a bandage.

“Hah… thankfully, yes.”

Milton laughed bitterly.

He may be laughing, but Milton still broke out in a cold sweat when he recalled that moment. The enemy’s arrow came in a perfect line for his forehead; and while he managed to dodge a head-on impact by hurriedly swerving his head to the side, the arrow still struck his temple, grazing past. As a result, it seemed a long scar running to the side from the tip of his right eye would form.

‘Damn, and here I was thinking my face didn’t look half-bad – at least compared to my previous life.’

Milton grumbled on the inside with a dry snort. Anyhow, he had survived. He reconcentrated and turned his attention back to the matters at hand.

“How’s the present situation?”

“My Lord, the enemy undertook a mass retreat into their county’s castle and are now in the midst of preparing to hold it.”

“Tsk, I wished to see an end to this in today’s battle so we do not have to engage in a siege.”

Milton clucked his tongue in disappointment.

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