Chapter 37: The Recruitment of Trike (2)

Preconception is a towering, thick wall to overcome.

No matter how much he displayed the excellence of his archery, in the end it was merely that: archery. In this world that most valued knights who wielded their aura to charge foolhardily into the enemy and run rampant, there was no one who truly recognized the value of archery - even with Trike’s godlike mastery.

At most, there were those who gave him recruitment offers with the attitude that he would merely be ‘useful’ if he served under them.

[I shall pay you three times the wages of a normal soldier. How’s that?]

[Is this not enough already? These are exceptional terms I am proposing, for an archer.]

[You have the audacity to decline the offer of a Count? I have never seen such impudence, and from a mere archer at that.]

But none of them acknowledged Trike’s true value. From some point in time, Trike became disillusioned with the nobles and decided he would rather live ever after as a mercenary. The Longbow Company was founded with that mentality.

Many more nobles would propose offers to him as his name spread, to which Trike would request the same each time.

[I’ll think about it if you give me a knight’s title.]

Not a single noble accepted that request. After all, how could this grub of an archer ask for the title of knight?

A knight was an occupation, but it was also an indication of one’s status. A title on par with that of nobles was not bestowed on anyone so rashly.

Whenever Trike would demand a knight’s peerage from the nobles, they would curse him and rebuff it immediately. Trike would then snort and leave, saying ‘It’s your loss.’

Instead of serving such nobles, he was determined to live freely as a mercenary for the rest of his life.

At least, that was how it was meant to be.

But…

***

“Hmm? May I ask, why are you crying?”

“It’s… it’s nothing. Right, so…”

Even Trike himself did not think he would shed tears. He was moved by having his abilities acknowledged properly for the first time since birth.

Seeing Trike cry tears of joy, Jerome nodded his head from behind Milton.

‘He’s not just an impertinent brat after all.’

In truth, Jerome understood Trike’s emotions quite well. 

He was like a ship lost in the open sea that one day suddenly discovered the shining beacon of a lighthouse; guiding him towards it, shining its bright light onto the place he was meant to be.

It was something that Jerome himself had experienced meeting Milton. He had thrown away his knight self and chosen a path of revenge as a mercenary – but ultimately, he could only be a knight.

The one who roused this revelation within him was Milton, and Jerome swore his lifelong loyalty and service to him. The emotions, the joy and the determinations he made in that moment were things he would never forget until his death.

Trike was likely feeling those same emotions right now.

Calming down, Trike opened his eyes and asked Milton again.

“So you’re really accepting me as a knight?”

“I will not be saying the same thing twice.”

“Then my loyalty lies with you from now on, Viscount Forrest.”

Trike made a concrete resolution at last.

As soon as he did so, a new message appeared for Milton.

[The Special Trait Awakening has levelled up.]

[Awakening LV.4: Awaken servants, increasing their abilities through psychological means and raising their loyalty.]

‘He did seem a little too touched by that talk after all… it looks like my Special Trait had properly popped off.’

Milton smiled contentedly.

After Trike swore his loyalty to Milton, his Loyalty stat shot from 0 to 82 in an instant.

‘Great! Ah… but…’

Milton was able to usher Trike into his ranks at last, but there was one final thing that lingered in his mind.

“With all that said…”

“Is there a problem?”

“You have not spoken of your third condition yet, have you?”

“Oh…?”

It was only now that Trike remembered he had said there were three conditions. He explained to Milton with a sheepish expression.

“Truth be told, there were only two conditions.”

“Then why did you say there were three?”

“People normally say there’s three at times like this, innit? It was kinda a spur of the moment thing…”

“……”

His skills were the real deal, but Milton had his doubts about the man himself.

***

Many drops make a shower.

Such a saying was perfect for the Forrest lordship of the present.

The Forrest lordship was originally nothing more than a small fief that called the Southern regions of the Lester Kingdom their home. The Southern region itself was dotted with countless small and medium nobles of similar import that were huddled together in these parts. In fact, when the nobles would gather at the Capital and share which homelands they hailed from, those that came from the South were quietly regarded as hillbillies.

However, it was an entirely different story if even these small lordships were to amalgamate.

The Harmon Viscounty had been consumed after a single battle, with the Rosswai Viscounty being assimilated after without a single drop of blood spilt.

The next year, the middle-class noble that was Count Rosscaiz – and the history that his House boasted – were defeated in a head-on conflict; thus merging the power of as many as four different territories.

Milton discovered the following when he tracked the Forrest lands’ situation through its status window.

Territory – Forrest Territory

Population – 48,910

Funds – 17,500 Gold

Main Products – Wheat, Barely, Oat, Lumber, Fur, Wool, Horses, Cheese

Available Developments – Copper Mine, Port

Army Strength – 15 Knights, 50 Probationary Knights, 200 Cavalry, 1500 Infantry, 500 Archers

The population and land size was no longer that of a run-of-the-mill Viscounty.

Milton’s work to do was as mountainous as the increased size of his lands.

The probationary knights that garnered achievements in the last war were promoted to formal knights, while newly recruited trainees came to fill their vacancies.

It was imperative that the number of soldiers in service was bolstered to match the increased size of his territory. Milton now had the financial means to sustain a regular troop force of at least 2000 men at all times.

The new products and commodities from the freshly merged lordships were another thing that was a happy concern for Milton to have. The Forrest Viscounty had begun this journey as a purely agricultural territory in terms of products, with nothing but grains to show for commodities – but now the situation was rather different with the newly integrated territories. 

The Harmon Viscounty had its lumber and fur from its wide-spanning forests, while the Rosswai Viscounty raised many sheep and specialized in wool. Finally, the Rosscaiz County, with its well-developed ranching and infrastructure for raising livestock, raised a large number of cows and horses. They had been manufacturing cheese for trade with merchants; but more than anything, they owned pastures abundant with coursers of good pedigree.

Coursers and warhorses were lucrative items. A horse of quality lineage that was raised properly could fetch a considerably high price. This was because horses were one of the undeniable building blocks for a military force in this world.

This much would already be more than enough, but Milton was drawing up an even bigger picture in recent times.

The ‘Available Developments’ section listed a copper mine and a port as possible projects. Out of those, the building of a port would bring especially large benefits.

If he were to construct a copper mine first, then develop a port from the money he earned from the mine, he could lastly call an artisan to craft ships from the plentiful lumber they had.

Then if the port was expanded further into a trading port…

“We’d make a killing.”

Milton formed a delighted expression as he thought about his future plans and his imagination made it rosier than it was.

In reality, there were some things that stood in the way of actioning these plans.

“As always, we’re short on money.”

Milton’s retained funds amounted to a little over 17,000 gold. The recent income was so fattening that this much was left after Milton had remunerated all his debts.

However, now that the Forrest lands had expanded, the costs in sustaining this size were also considerable.

The very first phase of copper mine construction was already a daunting task. The costs in contacting a prospector to find the ore vein, nevertheless constructing the mine itself, would be exorbitant.

‘If one thing’s for sure, this isn’t something within my own powers right now.’

Milton’s philosophy in managing his fief was to stick to the safe route. As he possessed the mindset of tentatively leaving at least 30% of his financial resources when proceeding with the territory’s projects, he could not dare gamble it all on prospecting a mine.

In summary, there were two courses of action available to Milton.

The first was the long-term approach.

Now that the lordship had expanded in scale, he could patiently gather the necessary funds and secure his wealth before going ahead with his project. It was a low-risk approach but would take some time.

The second was to get this over with in the short-term.

If actioning the plan within his personal means was so difficult, he could gather external investors to secure the funds needed. If Milton were to first find the ore vein inside his lands and publicly announce its discovery, gathering interested investors would be an easy task.

This came with a caveat: doing so could mean external parties would try and meddle in Milton’s future accomplishments and happenings.

‘That doesn’t quite sit well with me. It looks like taking things slow would be better after all – even if it takes some time.’

Having considered whether to take a short or long-term plan, Milton decided that biding his time and growing his territory with his own power was the way forward.

In some aspects, he felt like he was letting treasure in his grasp slowly waste away – but it was still better than paying a bigger price later.

‘I should stop entering external activities for now, and focus on arranging internal affairs.’

Milton doubled down in trying to stabilize the rapidly ballooning Forrest territory.

But try as he may, his wider surroundings would not give him much needed respite.

“My Lord, we have a letter from the Royal Office.”

Milton frowned at the single letter that the Chamberlain brought out.

“Let’s have a look.”

Opening and reading the contents of the letter, Milton let out a sigh.

“How bothersome.”

The letter detailed that the Forrest Viscounty’s peerage will be elevated to the status of Count to reflect the Forrest lordship’s increased scale through consecutive county wars. Accompanying it was a summons ordering him to come up to the Capital for an official ceremony of acknowledgement.

“This is such a busy time – though there’s not much I can do about a royal notice…”

Milton gathered his vassals immediately.

***

“Congratulations, My Lord.”

“Congratulations, My Liege.”

Milton’s subordinates brightly extolled him when he informed them of the summons and the reason behind it. He answered with his own smile and got to the point.

“I need to decide who will accompany me to the Capital. Firstly, Jerome…”

“I am more than willing to be of assistance, My Lord.”

“No, you should stay.”

Jerome was taken aback at Milton’s words.

“It is my duty to protect you at your side, My Lord.”

“It is not as if we’re going to war; I shouldn’t be in any physical danger at the Capital. More importantly, how would the training of the knight order proceed without your presence?”

Jerome slowly nodded after hearing Milton’s reasoning.

“You do have a point. Certainly, the knights’ training is about to make a breakthrough as well…  I will do as you command, My Liege.”

It was later said that the knight order was stricken with grief when they caught wind of this conversation.

Jerome’s training regime was literal hell on earth.

“I must advise that you take a guard to escort you regardless.”

At Jerome’s recommendation, Milton said the names that he had planned for from the start.

“Rick and Tommy, as well as Trike. I shall bring along the three of them.”

Jerome nodded in approval of his selection.

Rick and Tommy were seasoned senior knights that had served Milton for a long time, and Trike’s strength was more than reliable – even in Jerome’s eyes.

“While I’m gone, I entrust Jerome with maintaining public order in the land and Max with managing internal affairs. Any questions?”

Max raised his hand.

“You may speak.”

Max chose his words carefully upon Milton giving him permission.

“We do not have enough staff at the Administrative Office to account for the growth in our territorial size. If possible, I would like it if some more able hands from the Capital who have learned the ways of officialdom could be appointed to our cause.”

“Mm…”

‘Now that he mentions it, I’ve been spending all my time on bolstering our military strength and haven’t really paid attention to upscaling internal affair offices.’

Milton felt slightly sorry towards Max.

It was not like he had not assigned any helpers – but as Max was the most trustworthy Administrator of all, most internal matters of high import passed through him first.

Seeing the size of the Forrest lordship now, it was plain as day that Max was being overworked. 

Max’s request hit home for Milton, he himself having died from overwork in his previous life as he tried to meet unfeasible standards.

“How many staff will you need?”

Max responded gladly, relieved that Milton listened to him without objection.

“If possible, five – no, just three would be enough.”

“Understood, I’ll see to it.”

‘One more thing to do at the Capital.’

Milton called an end to the meeting, speaking to all his vassals.

“We will set off tomorrow at once. I will be entrusting the land in your care while I am gone.”

With that, Milton’s trip to the Capital was settled.

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