Chapter 35: The Last of Count Rosscaiz (2)

In a siege battle, there were three methods of attack that the invaders could assume. First, they could destroy the castle gates. Second, they could destroy the castle walls. Third, they could scale the castle walls. One could diverge further into many more methods if they so chose, but these did not deviate much from the main three strategies.

As far as Milton knew, the majority of siege battles in this world revolved around the first two tactics: destroying the walls, or destroying the gates.

In all technicality, climbing over the walls was still an available option. For the attacker, the two staple methods of doing so were hooking oneself up or raising ladders against the wall and climbing them.

However, both of these methods lacked in practicality. Not only was pulling oneself up with hooks difficult in itself, but one would be defenseless against attacks raining down from above. Using ladders was negligibly safer; but without the appropriate support, the ladders were vulnerable to being pushed off with poles from the top end.

But this world was different to Earth.

In ancient Asia, siege weapons called escalades were used for the purpose of climbing over castle walls. Though each nation had subtly different shapes and sizes, they all served one objective: to create a more effective method of scaling walls than would otherwise be possible.

A ladder would be fastened onto a wagon in a slant, which provided a sturdy foundation that could not be pushed over. This contraption was so effective that it was treated as a necessity for sieges in ancient China.

But currently, the greatest strength of possessing escalades was not in their effectiveness or practicality. The single greatest advantage was that the enemy did not know what an escalade was: unfamiliarity.

This was the reason why new weapons were always feared on the battlefield. The enemy would be greatly confused and unable to know how to respond constructively, thus further increasing the new weapon’s effectiveness. 

Just like now.

“Push the ladders away! Knock them away before the enemies come crawling up.”

“That’s… that’s not possible, sir. The ladders won’t budge.”

“You fool- if you can’t push them away, at least try to break them!” Count Rosscaiz madly barked his commands, but it was already too late.

One knight had already climbed the escalade and made it atop the ramparts. Moreover, this knight was…

“Lower your weapons if you value your life!”

It was the one who had decimated Count Rosscaiz’s right flank only accompanied by a small detachment in the last battle: Jerome Taker. He was the first to step foot on the castle walls.

As Jerome spouted his distinctive aura, the enemies could only surround him and did not dare to pounce in. Not missing this opportunity, other knights and troops successfully climbed their way up using the escalades, solidifying their presence.

‘The lord’s idea was superb after all. With a weapon like this, the knights could play a more active part in siege battles.’

As Jerome checked behind him that enough of his subordinates had climbed onto the ramparts, he shouted, “We are widening the foothold for our men to climb up! Everyone, after me!”

“Yes, sir!”

Then Jerome and the knights jumped into fighting along the castle walls in earnest.

“This… how could this be…”

Count Rosscaiz sank on the spot with a thump.

These walls had been built through the generations of his House and endured many battles – but they had never fallen into the hands of an enemy. It was the pride of his House, one that Count Rosscaiz had heard ever since he was a child growing up. No matter what crisis were to befall them, he thought that they would never see ruin if he steadfastly kept the gates shut and weathered out the storm.

But these castle walls were about to collapse with but one battle. The two siege weapons he had never seen before had both already been propped against the ramparts, and the knights that were penetrating using those ladders were wreaking havoc like wolves thrown amongst a flock of sheep.

He had already sensed this before; but while his knights were greater in number, the Forrest knights were of a higher standard. This still held true when one excluded the easily distinguishable Jerome and only considered the other knights.

In the first place, quality over quantity was an important rule in the tight corridor that was a castle rampart. For the Forrest knights that were already difficult for the Count’s knights to handle, it was inconceivable that his ordinary troops would be able to block them. Every moment, the size of his own forces atop the walls shrank while the enemies grew.

And at last…

“KUH!”

One of his escort knights was cut down, and standing before him was an enemy knight. The enemy knight spoke with a composed voice that was not out of breath in the least.

“Would I be correct in assuming you are Count Rosscaiz?”

“… that is so. And you are?”

“I am Jerome Taker.”

“Ah… I see.”

Though Count Rosscaiz had just learned his name, it was already one that he would never forget for the rest of his life – only that he did not know how exactly how long the rest of his life would be.

“Will you surrender? Or will you fight until the very end?”

At Jerome’s words, Count Rosscaiz looked upon him with a hollow expression.

Surrender? What would happen if I surrender here?

He had heard that Viscounts Harmon and Rosswai – who had lost to Milton prior – had their territories confiscated and were banished to foreign lands, with only their noble peerage and some personal wealth intact.

The same would probably happen to him.

However…

‘I can’t stoop down to their level.’

For the first time in a long while, Count Rosscaiz drew his sword and assumed his stance. He replied to Jerome with glittering eyes.

“If I do not put my honor before my life, how can I be called a noble?”

Jerome nodded at Count Rosscaiz.

“I respect your decision, Count.”

Jerome personally raised his sword to become the last opponent Count Rosscaiz would face.

“I thank you. Who would have known my last would be an Expert? I shall be proud about this in the afterlife.”

“I shall respectfully begin.”

“Don’t sully my name and do your best.”

With that, Count Rosscaiz courageously dashed at Jerome first.

Count Rosscaiz was born into a storied nobility with a deep history that stretched through the generations. In the end, it appeared that more than changing this life of his that was close to 50 years, he would rather die. Was that why? Even as he lost his life to Jerome’s blade in his last moments, it looked like he had no regrets.

***

The winner became the righteous, and the loser paid the price. As harsh as the wars of nobles were, they clearly decided the winner and the loser in kind.

“I did not think he would choose death on his own.”

Milton felt torn after he received word that Count Rosscaiz met his end after crossing swords with Jerome. Seeing his state, Jerome respectfully continued his report.

“Though he was defeated, he defended his honor through until the end.”

“Mmm…”

Milton had judged Count Rosscaiz to be a materialistic snob – and an exasperating boomer – who was overcome with greed and coveted other’s belongings. But now after hearing Jerome’s reports, his image of the Count changed a little.

‘They say that a person’s true nature comes out when they face death, right? In that case, that man was a noble right down to his bones.’

Milton let out a sigh and spoke.

“We will be preserving the private assets of Count Rosscaiz’s family as they are and distributing further compensation funds so they can settle down in other lands. Also – if any of his knights wish to follow them, allow it.”

“A wise and benevolent course of treatment, my Lord.”

The way the defeated were treated was, indeed, wholly the choice of the victor. Milton was much more generous in his handling of Count Rosscaiz’s family than in his prior treatment of Viscount Harmon and Viscount Rosswai.

After finishing his business with Count Rosscaiz’s family, Milton received a report outside his expectations.

“Where did you discover it?”

“It was in the basement jail.”

“…….”

Milton was bewildered speechless.

‘I really have nothing to say to that one.’

Momentarily taken aback by the sheer ludicrousness of the report, Milton queried.

“That man… so you are saying the archer called Trike has been found in the basement jail?”

“Yes, that is so.”

“What were his offenses? What did he say he was in for?”

“He says that after our battle, he was arrested for disobeying orders and attempted desertion.”

“This is absurd.” Milton shook his head.

Trike’s full account was as followed.

After Milton and Count Rosscaiz’s battle on the plains drew to a close, Trike assessed that this war’s outcome was good as decided.

The enemy had two Experts, and the knight’s order of the other side was considerably stronger than their employer’s. Furthermore, their prime advantage of numbers was also greatly reduced. They had suffered too large of a blow in the first battle, after attempting to form the crescent formation and failing.

There is no mercenary that would participate in an unwinnable war until the end.

Thankfully, the Longbow Company which Trike lead was on a short-term contract. They did not have to fight until the war’s conclusion but were rather employed on the condition that they participated in only one battle. In actuality, Count Rosscaiz had written up this conditional contract so he could reduce his momentous spending on mercenaries where he could. And so after Trike notified that their contract expired, he intended to receive their remuneration and leave.

But Count Rosscaiz did not permit this. This was because he had created the one-battle contract with the certainty that he would be the victor. With the situation deteriorating after the defeat, he could not approve the leaving of troops. 

Though the Count attempted to coerce Trike into entering the next battle, Trike denied him. Angered, Count Rosscaiz shut Trike into his underground prison instead. His charges were disobedience of orders and desertion.

With Trike captured, the Longbow Company which followed him was also unable to leave. Their hands were tied as they had not yet received their payment – and they were highly loyal to their leader.

“That is unbelievable. Dire situation or not, to treat a fine man who saved his life in this manner…”

The compassion and sympathy that Milton felt for Count Rosscaiz after hearing of his last moments were slowly fading again.

If this man named Trike was not in his service, things would not even have reached the siege stage as Milton would have captured Count Rosscaiz in the first battle, ending the war. What had thrown the outcome of this otherwise decided battle into the air was Trike’s inhumane archery. Due to him, Milton was wounded to the point where he could not personally participate in the final siege, and had to be sidelined to a pure commander role.

To neglect such a contributor like this…

‘No wait, isn’t this more of an opportunity for me?’

Milton thought only briefly before standing up from his seat.

“Where’s the basement jail?”

“Pardon? My Lord, what do you intend to do?”

“I’ll go seek him out in person.”

“My Lord, I am concerned that you are affording him more respect than he deserves.”

At Jerome’s words, Milton shook his head and assured him.

“I won’t keep hitting him up.”

“…. sorry?”

“But you’ve still got to shoot your shots.”

“……?”

Jerome simply could not comprehend what his liege was saying sometimes.

At times like these…

“Yes, understood.”

He just followed faithfully as a knight should.

Milton exclaimed as he entered the underground prison and came face-to-face with Trike.

“Hoh…”

[Trike]

Mercenary LV.4

Strength – 79 Command – 81

Intelligence – 45 Politics – 11

Loyalty – 0

Special Traits – Farsighted, Snipe, Rapid Fire

Farsighted LV.9 (MAX): Improves eyesight. Possesses vision that surpasses ordinary humans and is second only to hawks.

Rapid Fire LV.8: Increases the speed of firing consecutive arrows. Accuracy does not decrease even as arrows are fired in succession.

Snipe LV.7: Power and accuracy of arrows do not decrease as the distance increases.

‘Amazing. This is my first time seeing someone with a MAX Special Trait.’

Now that he checked his adversary’s stats, Milton was even more hellbent on recruiting this man.

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