The distance from the Forrest county to Lorentia, the Lester Kingdom’s capital, could be covered by a fast steed in around a week.
However, if one was accompanied by three knights and twenty soldiers as Milton was, the travel speed was bound to be slower.
Arriving at Lorentia after ten days, the person who was most eager was one of Milton’s ever-faithful knights, Rick.
“Wow… so this is Lorentia. To think I would visit the capital in my lifetime.”
Rick strongly romanticized the grandeur of the capital. Although he was a knight, he was born in – and spent his entire life in – the Forrest lordship, and thus only learned about the capital through rumors.
The buildings were big, the streets clean and decorated with glittering gold, and the people refined – men who were brimming with confidence, and ladies who were all beauties without fail…
The rumors surrounding the capital were all hot air along these lines.
Having heard such rumors all his life, Rick was likely feeling a wide plethora of emotions now that he was finally here.
“Huh? What’s that? There’s a spring that’s spraying water… can I drink from that?”
Rick would have gone around drinking from public fountains if he were left all alone. Milton was about to stop him, but Tommy intercepted him first, grabbing him by the scruff of his neck and shaking him.
“Stop letting everyone know you’re a country bumpkin, you big old chump.”
Rick responded in kind to Tommy’s snapping.
“What’s wrong with that? It’s only natural since we are from the countryside. Isn’t it?”
“It’s not you that’s the problem – you’re staining our lord’s good name. You stupid musclehead.”
Rick realized the gravity of his mistake.
“I must apologize, my lord. My eagerness got the better of me, and I-”
“It’s fine. Don’t pay it any heed.”
Milton chuckled at Rick’s apology.
As if trying to restore his liege’s tarnished reputation, Rick pumped out his chest and gazed forward with as much confidence and hurrah as he could muster, trying to appear as intimidating and serious as possible.
‘I think it might have been better before actually.’ Milton thought as he watched Rick.
Rick now well and truly exuded the air of a hillbilly who was pretending to know what was going on. It was obvious that passersby were having a laugh as they spotted him.
Milton resigned himself.
In truth, he had anticipated that this would happen from the start.
The straight-laced Rick was a given, but anyone could tell that even the careful and cautious Tommy was a countryside knight who was visiting the capital for the first time, as he restlessly looked left and right with wonder.
Trike stayed composed at the least, as he had travelled around the city districts many times as a mercenary.
‘It’s good for them to experience something like this time and again.’
In a way, bringing Rick and Tommy was a sort of reward for their long service and hardships. These two knights had stayed loyal to House Forrest since their birth.
‘Though it remains to be seen whether the capital would grow on them.’
Having lived in the capital in the past to receive a knight’s education at the Academy here, Milton was all too aware of how daunting and irritating it was to adapt to life in the city.
Milton moved into an inn that he had booked out whole with his knights and soldiers.
Typically, many powerful nobles owned a separate place of residence at the capital, but the Forrest House was not so influential. Nevertheless, Milton had borrowed a whole inn as he did not want disputes brewing with other potential residents.
As they settled in, Milton gave Rick, Tommy and Trike a pouch of money each.
“Go into the capital and buy yourselves a knight uniform to wear.”
“Huh? A uniform, you say? Why so?”
Exasperated, Milton forcedly smiled at Rick’s naivety and explained himself.
“You will all continue to escort me everywhere while we are staying at the capital.”
“I am aware, my liege.”
“There will come the time when we visit the royal palace to meet His Royal Highness, and likely times where we will meet other nobles. If you are not wearing the appropriate clothes of formality in those moments, you may not be allowed to continue accompanying me.”
“Ah… I see.”
Rick nodded in understanding, while Tommy and Trike made similar expressions of revelation. It seemed that all three of them had not considered this.
“Then I shall purchase a uniform and return as you command.”
“Certainly. I don’t mind if you have a look around in the meantime, but please be back by evening.”
“Yes, my lord.”
With that, the three countryside knights set off to purchase proper uniforms. Milton muttered to himself as he watched them leave.
“They can’t be going around causing trouble because of their bumpkin looks.”
They say words sow seeds.
A detachment of capital guards came knocking at the inn’s door while Milton was at ease and resting.
“Viscount Forrest, your knights are being detained in custody after getting involved in a brawl.”
Bewildered, Milton responded after a pause.
“I believe it would be best if you hear the details in person. You need to first come with us for your knights to be extradited to your care.”
Milton found the whole situation preposterous but did not have much of a choice.
“Take the lead.”
Many thoughts ran through Milton’s head as he followed the guards.
‘A brawl? Why on earth?’
Did his knights really get into a scuffle on their way to purchase uniforms?
It would be a different matter if they had a couple drinks at the bar; but with what reason did they get into a fight at the garment shop?
‘I’ll find out when we get there.’
Milton would not let them off the hook so easily if it was over something trivial.
The guards led Milton to his knights shut inside a prison cell. Rick, Tommy and Trike looked at him apologetically.
“What the hell happened?”
Tommy was the one to come forward to answer Milton’s steely expression.
“I’m sorry, my liege. I couldn’t help myself, and…”
Milton was shocked at this development.
“You, Tommy? Not Rick or Trike?”
This was completely outside his expectations.
Tommy had a cautious approach to things. He did not like standing at the forefront and was more the type of man to take one step back, quietly supporting from the rear.
Truth be told, Milton thought that the scuffle was 80 percent likely to be caused by Rick – with the other 20 percent being Trike. He did not at all think Tommy would cause a scene.
‘There’s no way this guy would cause trouble without good reason.’
“So what happened?”
Milton wanted to hear the whole story.
“My lord, what happened at the garment shop was…”
It was an unspoken rule that knights wore formal wear for official gatherings. Rick and Tommy, born as commoners in the Forrest lordship, had worn armor but never formal apparel after being knighted. Consequently, Rick was over the moon at the prospect of purchasing uniform wear for the first time in his life.
Rick became excited like a young child as he scanned the uniforms up for display in the garment shop.
“Wow, there’s so much variety!”
“Now now, don’t look so easily impressed.”
“What’s wrong with letting my bumpkin side show every now and then when our lord isn’t here?”
“You’re embarrassing us. Would you not agree, Sir Low?”
Low was the surname that Trike was bestowed with by Milton upon his knighting.
Trike Low: as a knight, this was the name he was now known as.
“Well, let’s let bygones be bygones.”
Truthfully, this was also Trike’s first experience with non-combat knight wear. Armor would have been a different story, but where would a mercenary such as himself have had a situation to wear formal wear?
“See? Sir Low’s fine with it.”
“He’s not fine with it, he’s given up. You senile dimwit.”
“Stop with the nagging, you little squirt.”
Rick and Tommy were bound to quarrel if left alone, having grown up together since their early years.
There were others in the boutique who found the two’s bickering to be grating to their ears.
“How about you two pipe down and have some dignity? Does this look like a marketplace to you?”
Someone said pointedly to Rick and Tommy.
Now looking around them, several other knights were choosing clothes. Unlike the three plainly dressed knights under Milton who appeared no different than commoners, the other buyers wore incredibly extravagant and flamboyant outfits. They wore spotless uniforms and donned a hat decorated with a feather; and even the swords strapped at their waists were decorated with fancy embroidering at the hilt.
Tommy bowed to them with composure as he spoke.
“Our apologies for causing a row.”
Tommy cleanly apologized without making any excuses. In response, the receiver’s lips curled into a smile and broke into a laugh.
“Now that I’m watching closely, you look like you’ve come up from the outer regions. First time in the capital?”
The manner with which the knight struck conversation was not the demeanor of one treating their equals, but the discourteousness brought about of treating another as inferior.
The grins lingering on the faces of his fellow company betrayed their blatant scorn and mocking.
They had found a new toy to play with.
Trike had the wits to see Rick’s short fuse being tested and quickly grabbed his sleeve to hold him back. Causing a disturbance in the capital would not only guarantee their punishments, but could also cause harm to their liege, Milton.
“We hail from the Forrest lordship.”
While Trike calmed Rick down, Tommy came forward to respond.
“Forrest…? Where’s that exactly? Is that in another country entirely?”
Though Milton’s name had begun spreading in recent times, this was only in the Southern regions. The Forrest Viscounty was still close to unknown in the capital.
“We reside in the South.”
The moment Tommy explained himself further…
“The South? The South, you say?”
The knights they were talking to erupted with laughter. The faces of not only Rick, but Tommy and Trike became red with anger at the sheer disrespect. Now Trike came forward.
“What do you find so funny?”
“Phew… apologies. You see, it’s my first time meeting Southern hillbilli-… I mean, knights.”
“I thought they might have come from a weak house because of their clothes, but… pfff, to think they came from the South.”
The Lester Kingdom had enjoyed lasting peace for a long time now. Power had become concentrated in the Central region in this peaceful era – and with it, the capital’s nobles and knights formed a habit of looking down on the nobles and knights from outer districts. Milton himself experienced this discrimination often when he resided at the Academy.
The knights now transformed into mischievous little children playing with their newfound toy.
“This is my first time hearing that there exists knights in the South. If I may ask, which Academy did you graduate from?”
Rick responded bluntly.
“What does it matter to you?”
“Hmm? Seeing as you aren’t answering the question, could it be that you have not been to an Academy?”
Rick was unable to respond.
Feigning shock, their adversary exaggeratedly slapped his forehead and mocked them.
“How could this be? Truly, did you not go to an Academy?”
“You became a knight without graduating from an Academy, you say? What a comfy place the South is.”
Each and every word prodded the three’s temper. This was plenty to make anyone heated – not just Rick.
“Are you asking for a figh-”
Of course, Rick was about to explode.
“Rick, hold it in.”
Tommy hissed at Rick.
“But those bastards are…”
“Are you that set on ruining our liege’s ascension ceremony?”
Rick ultimately clenched his teeth and turned away, indicating that he did not wish to involve himself any further and would rather ignore them completely.
“Oh? I thought you were about to come at us?”
“What a shame. I wanted to experience how biting Southern swords are.”
“You mean, you wanted to experience self-taught swordsmanship that has never gone through an Academy.”
Their mocking made Rick reach boiling point, while Trike regretted becoming a knight for the first time.
‘The audacity of these little brats who’ve never even gone to war before…’Previous Chapter Next Chapter