Chapter 42: Duke Palan (1)

For Count Librador, this was an unthinkable gambit. At least he would have been able to fight if Milton had brought in an influential noble from the enemy faction. If Count Librador wasn’t able to fight Milton with his own strength, then he would have been able to ask his own faction for help. But as the First Prince said, it all changes if they were one big family. Not to mention, this was a situation where the First Prince had directly mediated. It was obvious what would happen if Count Librador refused to do as the prince said. Not only would he be marked as a troublemaker, but in the worst-case scenario, he may even be kicked out of the faction. 

‘No, that can’t happen'

It was terrible just imagining that. The political world was just like the wilderness, if you fall away from the herd, you would be marked as prey. And these days, with the factions’ fight for the throne worsening, you could really die if you were marked as prey. 

For those who believed that they were the smartest and had everything thought out, their delusions were their biggest threats. Count Librado’s heart grew cold as he thought of the worst possible future and he broke out in a cold sweat. 

“Count Librador, what’s wrong? You don’t look too good.”

Count Librador’s train of thought was broken by the First Prince’s question. 

“Ah, no, Your Highness. I’m alright.”

“Is that so? Well, I don’t believe I’ve heard your answer yet…”

Count Librador bowed his head in response to the subtle pressure from the First Prince. 

“Of course I will do as you say, Your Highness. How could I reject it when you’ve personally mediated?”

“Really. In that case, thank you.”

“No, Your Highness. I’m just sorry for disturbing Your Highness’s peace over a minor misunderstanding. Please accept my apologies, Count Forrest.” 

Was this what a politician was like? Because of his pride, Count Librador got into a dispute with Milton, but in the face of a stronger authority, Count Librador couldn’t prostrate and give in any faster. If he had a tail, it would have been wagging nonstop. 

‘I guess, in a way, it’s pretty amazing?’

Milton couldn’t help but respect such a person. When Milton checked Count Librador’s stats, nothing was extraordinary. Count Librador’s highest stat was his political ability at 75, but beyond that, he was average. However, there was one characteristic that stood out, and that was ‘Worldly Wisdom.’

Worldly Wisdom LV.9 (MAX): The ability to know which side to take in politics. The chances of protecting one’s body in a chaotic situation increases. 

‘Even a bastard like him has a trait that’s at MAX.’

In Milton's eyes, Count Librador was a powerful yet petty and narrow-minded man. Count Librador couldn’t acknowledge that his abilities couldn’t keep up with his high self-esteem or his lofty goals[a]. But there must be a reason even a human being like him could survive in the political sphere his entire life. 

Let’s not be careless and be caught off guard. After all, there’s no one in this world that can be treated carelessly or looked down upon.’  

Through Count Librador, Milton learned something new, and his criteria for judging people widened. He believed it was important to gain something from any situation. Doing so would lead to a better-developed future. Due to the First Prince’s mediation, the dispute between Milton and Count Librado was effectively over. Once that discussion was over, both Milton and Count Librador flattered and shared detailed stories with the First Prince before taking their leave. 

“Please be careful on your way back, Your Highness.”

“Of course, see you next time.”

Count Librado sighed as he saw Prince and Milton off.

“At least it wasn’t any worse.”

Count Librador grew cold just thinking about how his political life almost came to an end because of his petty quarrels. Count Librador suddenly remembered his father's will that said to keep your friends close and enemies closer. 

‘Who knew that brat would join the same faction I’m in. I’ve been completely defeated.’

He couldn’t help but admit that Milton Forrest wasn’t an ordinary person. But, there was one thing that Count Librador couldn’t understand. 

‘Exactly how valuable of an ally is he, that His Highness the First Prince personally intervened?’

Count Librador couldn’t directly ask the prince, but he was very curious about this. He knew that the First Prince was quite arrogant and authoritative. So, how could such a prince personally step in for Count Forrest, who was at best, an ordinary country noble? This was quite an unconventional move. 

‘So why? What exactly is the reason that His Highness, the Prince, personally stepped in?’

Count Librador just couldn’t understand it.

***

The moment in which Milton decided to accept his pride being bruised and bow his head to apologize to Count Librador and avoid trial. 

An unexpected guest came to visit Milton. 

“You are?"

That guest was...

“Are you Count Forrest?”

He was a middle-aged man Milton had never seen before. However, the man treated him naturally, and it didn’t seem all that awkward to Milton. There wasn’t an overbearing pressure, but from the neat appearance to the upright posture flowed natural dignity. He stared at Milton and repeated himself.

“Are you Count Forrest?"

“Ah... yes, that’s right. I’m Milton Forrest.”

"Right. Let’s go inside and continue talking.”

The man walked in naturally, and Milton couldn’t stop such a man. 

'Who the hell is he?'

Milton and the unknown middle-aged man sat face to face. Staring at Milton, the man nodded his head. 

“An expert at such a young age. You either have talent or put in determined effort.”

'How did he know?’

Milton was astonished that the other person instantly figured him out at just a glance. Either way, the other person continued to look at Milton with an evaluating gaze. 

“And your knights aren’t too bad in comparison to others’. Overall, not too bad.”

Hot-tempered as always, Rick quickly retorted. 

“Just who do you think you are to go around evaluating us?!”

“How energetic. But I’m guessing the people around you often say that you’re rash and impetuous?”

At the words of the middle-aged man, everyone else nodded. As the person directly involved, Rick’s eyes sparked with fury. 

“Since I’ve been insulted, I demand a duel!”

"...Really? With me?”

“That’s right. I am Rick, a Knight of Forrest Manor. State your name.”

“Me? I’m Sean Palan.”

“Fine. Sean Pal… what?”

For a moment, Rick was stunned stupid while Milton immediately jumped out of his seat. He knelt down on one knee and greeted the middle-aged man with extreme courtesy. 

“I, Milton Forrest, greet Duke Palan, the sword of the kingdom!”

As Milton knelt down, Tommy and Trike quickly knelt as well. Seeing the kneeling Milton, the newly introduced Sean Palan spoke. 

“So you do know me.”

‘Of course I would…’

Milton broke out in a cold sweat.

***

Sean Palan.

Whoever doesn’t know this man wouldn’t even be considered a spy. This was because his name and prestige had spread beyond the kingdom and across the continent. Because the Lester Kingdom was originally a country with weak military power and weak knights due to the long-lasting peace, it was a target of ridicule by other countries. However, there was only one exception to the Lester Kingdom, and that was Duke Sean Palan. The only man in the kingdom of Lester to have reached the level of master. A legendary figure who became a duke with his own skills. The idol of all the knights in Lester Kingdom and the one knight who reigns at the top. That was Duke Sean Palan.

***

'Why is Duke Palan in front of me…'

From Milton’s point of view, Duke Palan was a prominent figure he had only heard of but never met. Milton couldn’t understand this situation where Duke Palan suddenly appeared and began to judge Milton. But before that, Milton was more curious about something else. What could a master’s stats be like?

[Sean Palan]

Knight LV.7

Strength -95         Command - 65 

Intellect-35         Politics-15 

Loyalty-0

Special Traits - Guarding, Detection, Caution

Guarding LV.8: Overall stats increase when guarding a person you are loyal to.

Detection LV.7: With the development of a sixth sense, the probability of predicting danger in advance increases.

Caution LV.7: Increases the probability of being aware of enemy ambushes or traps.

Overall, he seemed to be a knight specializing in guarding and security.

Rather than playing an active part in the war, it was characteristic of a royal guard protecting important people. But of course, what stood out the most more than anything else was Strength.

A Strength of 95. He definitely meets expectations. Just how powerful is he?

The strongest person Milton knew was his knight, Jerome.  Jerome’s Strength was 89, but this was an additional six higher. Milton couldn’t get a sense of how much stronger a Strength in the 90s would actually be. 

‘If my knights and I were to attack him all together right now, what would our odds be… would we even be able to cut off one arm?’

After thinking to himself, Milton came to the conclusion that there was just no way. To really understand him, Milton would have to personally fight him, but he knew that Duke Palan was a superman. Milton felt the overwhelming difference in Strength that could not be overlooked. The powerful Duke Palan looked at Rick and said.

“A duel... It seems like it's been 20 years, but it's not a bad idea. Good. Let’s do it. Shall we do it now?”

"No... that's that…"

Different from his usual hot-tempered personality, Rick was stuttering his words in a cold sweat. 

‘And he’s the reason there’s the saying, “If a fool holds his tongue, he’ll pass for a sage.”’

Milton sighed as he looked at Rick. He couldn’t abandon a knight as loyal as Rick. Milton stepped forward and intervened.

“My knight made a mistake. Please forgive him, Duke Palan.”

“My Lord....”

Rick was moved when Milton stepped in and apologized. Duke Palan looked at Rick as though he was regretting the missed opportunity. 

“Well, the purpose of coming here wasn’t to take his head so let’s move on.”

"Thank you. And Rick.”

“Yes, My Lord.”

At Milton's words, Rick replied with a moved expression. 

To the grateful Rick, Milton said, “Go over there and bang your head.”

“My… My Lord?”

“Would you rather smack your head or would you like to fight?”

Reluctantly, Rick went to one side and smacked his head.

'If I don't fix that temper, he’ll eventually die somewhere for a very ridiculous reason.’

Milton turned and looked at Duke Palan. 

“Thank you for forgiving my knight’s rudeness.”

“Don’t worry about it.”

Milton carefully got to the point.

“If I may, Your Grace, why did you personally come to see me?”

“I’ve heard that things haven’t been great for you recently.”

“Ah? ....Ah. Yes, Your Grace.”

Milton guessed he was probably talking about the conflict with Count Librador.

Abruptly and unexpectedly, Duke Palan said, “I’ll help you.”

‘How direct…’

From the perspective of those listening, Duke Palan’s straightforward words were rather embarrassing. 

“I’m sorry, but can I ask why you’ve decided to help?”

“Why? Do I need to have a reason?”

“I can’t understand why Your Grace would help me when we weren’t even acquaintances before. So I would appreciate it if you could tell me why you’re willing to help me.”

At Milton's words, Duke Palon frowned.

“Tsk, why do young kids think so much these days... If I say I'll help, then just say thank you and accept it.  What’s so hard about that?”

“Forgive me, Your Grace. However, it is very burdensome for me to have the help of the Duke.”

At Milton's words, Duke Palan struggled for a while and said, “What if I told you to just shut up and follow me?”

[a]added this part cuz it didn’t make sense that his abilities couldn’t keep up with his self-esteem?

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