As they arrived at the doors to the royal quarters, the attendant advised them.
“I’m afraid the knight sirs cannot pass beyond this point.”
“Yes, my lord.”
As they parted, the attendant announced his presence loudly.
“Viscount Forrest, a loyal subject of the kingdom, will enter.”
With that, the doors in front of Milton opened.
‘Phew… shall we do this?’
Milton was a little nervous. This was his first time meeting the country’s king.
Stepping inside onto the red carpet of the throne room, Milton proceeded to the center and bent his knee, introducing himself with bowed head.
“I, Viscount Milton Forrest, appear humbly before the dominion of the kingdom.”
“Raise your head.”
At the king’s consent, Milton slowly looked up.
‘Is this person our country’s king?’
With a beard and wrinkles that revealed his advanced age, at first glance he was the spitting image of an old man – though his eyes still had their twinkle.
His dignified body language let anyone know in one glance that he was the ruler of the people.
Struck with curiosity, Milton opened the king’s stat panel.
[August von Lester]
Strength – 08 Command – 91
Intelligence – 70 Politics – 85
Loyalty – 00
Special Traits – Coercion, Bribe, Persuasion, Selection, Diplomacy
Coercion LV.8: Able to force lower-ranked individuals to sacrifice for one’s own goals.
Bribe LV.7: Induce others to act according to one’s intentions by offering what they desire.
Persuasion LV.7: Able to bend the will of those in disagreement to align better with oneself.
Selection LV.5: Select individuals that fit one’s objectives, and assign them to the right places where they are most effective.
Diplomacy LV.3: In negotiations with other nations, better propose conditions that are advantageous to one’s own nation.
‘Is he good or bad?’
Milton was a little troubled as he observed the king’s stats.
For starters, his Command and Politics values were on the higher end, albeit this was well within expectations for a king of over 30 years.
Compared to his Command and Politics, Milton assessed that his Intelligence of 70 was rather low, all things considered.
But more than anything, Milton did not at all have a good feeling about his Special Traits.
Coercion, Bribe, Persuasion… those were the three highest level ones.
These being the highest level meant that they were the most utilized. In other words, it meant the king of this country had threatened his vassals with coercion or bribed them from time to time, or manipulated them through whatever means of persuasion; all in the course of running this country.
To some, these could be seen as deeds that had to be done in the position of a king, but Milton was not pleased. To add to that, the traits of Selection and Diplomacy - that were comparatively more important to a king - were of a much lower level.
‘No matter which way you see it, he’s a painfully average king at best.’
Milton did not show it on his face, but his assessment of King August was concreted at heart.
King August looked at Milton with indifference.
“Please, Your Majesty.”
“I’ve heard you abruptly started a war and absorbed quite a few territories as a result.”
‘Is he testing me?’
Milton felt some prickly thorns in the king’s rather direct statement. He bowed his head and replied.
“I am ashamed of it, but I did not have a choice as my opponents were the first to show enmity.”
“Be more prudent from now on.”
The king said in a low voice.
‘It’s a warning.’
It implied that the Capital would take direct disciplinary action if he caused another war between lords.
Milton exaggeratedly bowed his head and replied with a firm voice.
“Having received these divine words, I, your loyal subject Milton Forrest, will engrave these words in my heart, your Royal Highness.”
King August nodded his head contentedly at Milton’s subservience, after which he rose from his throne and approached Milton. He received a blade from the guard next to him with which he lightly tapped Milton’s shoulders on both sides.
“I promote Viscount Milton Forrest to the title of Count. This is my will as the king of the Lester Kingdom.”
Realizing the fearsome power of the king’s authority granted by his royal prerogative, Milton prostrated himself as much as he could and replied.
“I thank Your Majesty for this grace and pledge my loyalty forever more.”
With that, Milton’s ascension ceremony was over.
Milton was glad that the ceremony was relatively brief for two reasons.
For one, he was relieved that the promotion procedure was not as complicated as it could have been. He did not prepare for, nor desire to go through a more complex process than it already was.
Secondly, he was especially glad that the sinister king still saw him as nothing more than a countryside noble.
‘I assume that by implying I shouldn’t get involved in more wars, he doesn’t want me to expand my influence any further.’
Milton trajected that the present king was a man who was most concerned with maintaining his power. The moment he was recognized as a hindrance to that plan, the king would make his move on the Forrest lands. Since Milton was at the doorstep of upgrading his estate, he wanted to avoid such a bothersome development at all costs.
To that end, he feigned submission for the time being – and thankfully, that appeared to have worked.
“Congratulations on the elevation of your peerage, my lord.”
“I see you’re a Count now.”
The knights congratulated Milton upon his return from the audience with the king. Rick fired questions at Milton with sparkling eyes.
“Did you get to personally see his Royal Highness? What kind of person was he? Was he as majestical as they say?”
Milton chuckled at Rick’s brimming anticipation and fantasizing.
It was more like tragedy if they got involved with the king – but he did not feel any sense of majesty.
To describe him further, the king was more like a bear that had hoarded the treasure of power and was keeping watch over it with wide open eyes.
“I suppose he was. He was as majestical as they say. My heart is still trembling a tad from the encounter.”
Milton glossed over the matter.
While only his knights were currently before him, one never knew where the royal palace had their eyes and ears. Milton was not so naïve as to boldly speak of his true feelings in this place.
With the ceremony over, all that was left to go back down to their estate.
‘Ah right, I need to recruit some men for internal management.’
Milton remembered what Max requested of him. He had left it to the side as it was such an easy task and nearly forgot about it.
Scouting officials for internal affairs was not difficult work. Unlike knights which one could never have enough of, administrative bureaucracy had a limited number of spots.
For the ones that had completed an official administrative education at an Academy, the most sought-after role was as a national state official. They had the most power and the remuneration was not bad – but most of all, it was safe.
Whether it was the Republic of South Korea or the Lester Kingdom, public service was ever the popular option.
If that was not possible, the alternative was entering the service of nobles.
If even that did not pan out, what became of them?
They became unemployed youth with nothing more than a good educational background to show. As far as Milton knew, the capital was dotted with many such people. He only needed to spread a proper notice of recruitment for any number of them to gather.
That was how he intended to conclude his business at the capital, but…
“A lawsuit, you say?”
“That is so. You can read the details here.”
Milton grimace as he checked the documents that a capital official brought him.
“Count Librador? An assault by my knights? Is that why he’s filing a lawsuit?”
Milton was incredulous.
A brawl between knights was most certainly an unpleasant matter. But did that really warrant a lawsuit?
‘Who is this guy?’
He would at least have understood if they were challenged to a duel of honor instead.
But a lawsuit?
Knights were an existence that proved their value through a show of their strength. If anything, a normal knight would hide the fact that he was beaten up from the shame.
But how could they be suing instead?
This not something that could occur if a knight’s honor were considered for even a moment.
Milton was flabbergasted, but he found his composure with time.
First, he devised several plans of action and enacted them immediately.
One of them was the aforementioned duel. When nobles had their honor stained, deciding who was right and wrong through single combat was the unspoken rule amongst them. Since the gods always stood with the righteous, emerging the victor of a duel implied the same as being chosen by the gods. It was thus also convention for the loser to follow the winner’s demands.
To Milton who had the memory of a 21st century earthling, such an explanation was not convincing at all, but he knew it was all simply pretext.
Milton wrote a letter requesting a duel to decide who was right and wrong. However…
“My lord, Count Librador declined our challenge.”
“Damn, is that how it is?”
Milton clicked his tongue and frowned at Rick’s report. He had anticipated this, as his opponent would have challenged them to a duel first if they were confident instead of taking this roundabout approach of suing them.
Applying this logic, they likely filed a lawsuit because they were confident that they could win in that arena.
“My lord, I am not very knowledgeable on this subject, but – even if this goes to trial, we would not be particularly disadvantaged, would we?”
Rick suggested cautiously.
“What makes you think that?”
“Well… we haven’t committed any serious wrongdoings, have we? Not only did they provoke us first, but they sullied your honor as well. That makes me believe our attack was just.”
“That is a valid point.”
“Furthermore, their side had the greater number, and drew their weapons halfway through the scuffle. Despite this, we subdued them without slaying a single man. I believe we would have the upper hand even if this matter goes to court.”
Contrary to his usual simple personality, Rick seemed to have considered this matter thoroughly.
However, Milton was of a different opinion.
“I also do not think the three of you were in the wrong. Your adversaries were disrespectful, and you did what you had to do as a knight.”
Rick proudly pumped out his chest and nodded in response. Milton continued.
“Be that as it may, going to trial would not be a wise course of action.”
“Pardon? How so…”
Rick looked puzzled, but Milton did not take the pains in explaining himself.
Rick’s reasoning and logic was based on the premise of the knight’s code, but reality would likely not fall in line with his expectations.
Milton had hurriedly researched which House Count Librador hailed from and learned that he was a typical Central noble bureaucrat. It was likely that the judge would be as unyielding, and his personal connections as expansive, as the long time he had worked as a capital official.
It was a tall order for them to expect a fair trial.
If Count Librador used his extensive network to buy off the judge, Milton would only be able to sit and watch as he was slowly cut to pieces in the courtroom.
“Tsk, this is a little troublesome.”
As Milton clicked his tongue, Tommy bowed at the hips with remorse.
“I apologize, my liege. My lapse in judgement has come to cause you pain.”
“Enough, do not reproach yourself over that incident.” Milton assured him.
“I have already proclaimed that you did the right thing. By being insubordinate and continuing to apologize to me, are you suggesting my assessment was wrong?”
“No, I would never-”
“Then stop blaming yourself for this matter. This is an order.”
Tommy’s voice sounded slightly emotional when he responded.
Right at that moment, Tommy’s Loyalty increased to 85; perhaps because he was moved from Milton’s solicitude.Previous Chapter Next Chapter