The next day, Milton found over 150 mercenaries gathered at the mercenary guild.
“These mercenaries are all between the B to D level and have agreed to join the war.”
The receptionist had some dark circles underneath her eyes but a triumphant expression.
‘That must have been a LOOOOT of effort.’
Milton nodded his head with a cool expression before remarking, “You did well.”
He tossed the receptionist a gold coin for going above and beyond. Milton thought it was his duty to give an additional reward to the receptionist for getting the work done so seamlessly.
The receptionist looked quite pleased after getting the gold coin.
“Then, I will call over the mercenaries one at a time.”
The interview began in earnest.
“Where is your hometown?”
“It’s the Barlangs Kingdom.”
“How much do you want to be paid?
“I’ll have to receive five gold as a base payment. I’ll be thankful if you can pay me extra according to my accomplishment on the battlefield.”
The interviews calmly continued.
Milton started the interviews by asking basic questions, like their place of birth and how much they wanted as payment. However, the questions that went back and forth did not hold much meaning. In truth, Milton was checking out the information that was popping up behind the mercenaries.
“It’s regretful, but you may head back.”
“You’re going to hire the C level you saw before me, but you’re telling me to head back?”
“That’s up to me. Get out.”
Milton promptly cut down the mercenaries that bluffed using their ranking and did not meet his standard.
These mercenaries scrunched up their faces in disbelief, but couldn’t say anything outright to Milton, who was a noble.
‘There’s no need for anyone below 40 strength.’
You could not trust a mercenary’s skill just from looking at the ranking assigned to them by the mercenary guild. A mercenary’s ranking goes up depending on how well they’ve completed their tasks. Even without much skill, some mercenaries can rank up if they meticulously complete their assignments and have some luck. That was why the skill of mercenaries had such a large variance, even if they’re of the same rank.
However, it was a different story for Milton.
“I heard your story well. I’ll hire you on those conditions.”
“Thank you, Viscount.”
Milton continued to hire skilled mercenaries without paying attention to their ranking. The mercenary guild employee had a surprised look while watching Milton’s actions.
‘What is with this guy? Did an insider leak him some information?’
Milton was like the devil, as he continued to pick out the very best mercenaries during the interviews. Any B rank mercenaries with poor skills were dropped, but all the C rank mercenaries with quasi-knight abilities were picked up.
To the mercenary guild employee, Milton looked like a seasoned appraiser going over fine artwork. The employee had a bitter taste from thinking they were incurring a loss, as Milton picked out only the cream of the crop from all the mercenaries.
“The next one is the last person.”
“Is that so?”
Milton felt a bit tired toward the end of the interviews.
‘I’ve been interviewed before, but it’s my first time interviewing anyone. This is quite tiring too.’
In any case, he had already filled the required quota. It should be sufficient to just give the last guy a glance over.
“I am Jerome.”
The man who entered last looked to be about 190cm tall and was rather handsome for a mercenary.
Milton was at a loss for words as he watched the man.
‘Wh… What the? Who is this person?’
Milton was astonished upon seeing Jerome’s information.
Strength – 85 Command – 75
Intellect – 40 Politics – 19
Loyalty – 0
Special Trait – Valiant, Breakthrough, Dispassionate
Valiant LV.5: Increases combat power in battle and increases the morale of subordinates.
Breakthrough LV.7: Lead a troop of horsemen to penetrate straight through the enemy’s formation. The force of the breakthrough goes up as the level rises.
Dispassionate LV.5: Allows one to see the entirety of the battlefield in combat. Able to put allied troops in favorable situations while working as a flexible field commander.
‘Why is such a person working as a mercenary?’
According to the information window, the skills Jerome had were beastly. It was the first time Milton had seen a strength of 85. Jerome even had three special traits.
‘Breakthrough LV.7? How strong is this ability?’
Milton had seen the special traits of many people so far but had never seen a special trait at LV.7 before. Why was this person staying as a mercenary?
‘Jerome Taker? Having a last name means his original identity is not that of a mercenary.’
Milton realized two things instinctively. One, this guy must have a hidden past. Two, there was nothing to be gained from digging into it. Therefore, Milton calmly started a conversation while feigning ignorance.
“Jerome, where are you from?”
Milton wanted to give a normal interview but ended up being more respectful to Jerome, compared to the other mercenaries.
“I’m from the Strabus Kingdom.”
“I see. Are you aware that the battlefield we’re going to is also in the Strabus Kingdom?”
“Yes, I am.”
“I see. It’s good for me if there’s a person that’s familiar with the situation there.”
Milton let Jerome know of his genuine desire to employ him.
‘I have to get him no matter what.’
In truth, Milton was anxious inside. From Milton’s perspective, Jerome was like a jewel thrown on the side of the road. Who knew why the jewel was lying there, but it would be finders keepers, losers weepers. Milton pretended to be in deep thought before coming to a firm conclusion.
“Okay, I’ll hire you. How much do you want to be paid?”
“I’ll leave that for you to properly decide. However, I have a different request.”
‘Certainly, this person is not really a mercenary.’
A mercenary who didn’t dwell on their pay? That was the sort of stuff that would only come out in romance novels for noble kids. Real mercenaries literally risked their lives to earn a living. It was natural for them to dwell on their compensation.
However, Milton wasn’t surprised and calmly asked.
“What is your request?”
“When you enter the war with the Strabus Kingdom, please give me as many opportunities to enter combat as possible.”
“What is the reason for that?”
Milton continued to speak when he saw that Jerome could not respond right away.
“I can’t accept such a request without even knowing the reason.”
Jerome let out a small sigh before revealing his true intentions.
“I want to kill as many of the dog bastards of the Republic as possible.”
It felt like Jerome’s eyes were ablaze with fire when he spoke.
“Do you have some sort of grudge with the Republicans?”
“I don’t wish to speak about it.”
It was a rude statement for a mercenary to make to a noble, but Milton didn’t pay any mind to it. For someone of Jerome’s caliber, this couldn’t even be considered rude.
“Very well then. I will hire your services. Your pay will be 10 gold a month, with additional bonuses for any accomplishments you make.”
Milton hired Jerome with the best conditions for any mercenary so far.
“Thank you, Viscount. Please take care of me.”
As Milton spoke patting Jerome’s shoulder, a new status window popped up when Jerome’s loyalty shot up from 0 to 60.
[Jerome’s loyalty has gone up by 60.]
Milton filled the requisite numbers he needed to join the war as a 100-man captain from the mercenary city Castlelot. He inadvertently ended up hiring an amazing mercenary, with over 80 strength too, before heading off to the battlefield.
The thing Milton paid most attention to during his travels was the training he never took seriously. It was uncertain how much benefit he could gain by cramming his training sessions while traveling. But he worked hard since he was told he had potential in his time at the academy previously. More than anything….
“Viscount, your feet and body are moving in different directions.”
Milton’s movements went into disarray, as the wooden sword came into him with exquisite timing.
Milton’s training partner, Jerome, put him in some precarious situations while instructing him with a flourish of his wooden sword.
“Always keep in mind how you’ll move next. Otherwise, you’ll continue to be put in a worse disadvantage.”
“I know that but… Ugh….”
Jerome’s wooden sword finally stopped in front of the pit of Milton’s stomach.
“You did a great job.”
“It can’t be said to be a great job when I was harassed the entire time.”
“You’re still much better than the first time. Your aptitude for swordsmanship is good.”
This was the biggest reason why Milton was training. Milton was using training to build a personal relationship with Jerome. Off to the side, Rick and Tommy had the expression of little kids waiting for their mom to hand them candy while waiting with wooden swords in hand.
“Sir Jerome, please advise me next.”
“No, I’ll be first today.”
Jerome made a bitter smile, as he watched the sparkling eyes of the two Knights.
“Sir Torris, Sir Croix, I am not a Knight. Please leave out the ‘Sir’.”
“No… How can we….”
“That’s correct. The way I see it, Sir Jerome has plenty of qualifications to be deemed a Knight.”
Milton smiled bitterly while seeing Rick and Tommy act like ardent fans of Jerome.
‘These dudes man. Why couldn’t they act like that from the beginning if it was going to turn out this way?’
The behavior of the two Knights towards Jerome wasn’t like this initially. Rick and Tommy naturally thought they would be Milton’s opponents when he started training. Contrary to their expectations, he named Jerome as his opponent, which left Rick and Tommy flabbergasted.
As Knights, they could not endure their Lord choosing a mercenary like Jerome to learn swordplay from, instead of themselves who were Knights.
Rick, being more straightforward, directly told Milton that this was not right, and told Jerome to know his place. Ordinarily, the situation would have resolved itself if Milton took Rick and Tommy’s side and gave them face. However, Milton chose not to, knowing full well that Jerome’s strength far surpassed the other two.
“The way I see it, Jerome’s skills are higher than yours. That’s why I’m asking for his instruction.”
“My Lord, what are you….”
“Let us put aside the pride we have from our identities. What we need to focus on now is only gettingstronger.”
“Are you saying this mercenary is stronger than us? I can’t accept that.”
Rick expressed his repulsion, and while Tommy didn’t say anything, his expression showed he was in agreement. This flow of events naturally led to a test of skills.
“I shall stake my honor as a Knight in this duel. I have to verify if your skills are truly better than mine.”
Jerome looked perplexed as he saw Rick throw down his gauntlet. He gave a troubled look towards Milton as if asking him to stop it, but Milton considered it an opportunity and let things commence.
“Teach him a thing or two,” Milton instructed.
Jerome lightly sighed before acknowledging, “Understood. Then….”
That was how the duel started. Spectators gathered around, and the mercenaries even took bets on the outcome.
“I’m Rick Torris.”
After the introductions to each other, Rick took out a large bastard sword before charging in bravely.
To skip the process and just announce the results….
Rick’s mentality was destroyed. He lost once, twice, three times, four times….
He challenged Jerome a total of seven times, and lost every single time. Rick wasn’t injured anywhere because his opponent had such fine control, but his pride was in tatters.
‘Are you supposed to be Meng Huo?’
Milton could only smile at Rick in dismay, who took seven losses before being able to realize his shortcomings.
Off to the side, Tommy quietly nodded with a grave expression and managed to keep himself from looking like a fool. It really gave strength to the phrase “silence is golden.” 
Rick was stronger than Tommy in terms of swordsmanship. Judging from their strength values, Rick’s 65 strength was above Tommy’s 55 strength. As a result, Tommy had no thoughts on avenging Rick who was being toyed around like he was a little kid.
Milton approached Jerome and spoke, “I knew you weren’t ordinary, but you’re much stronger than I expected.”
“I’m not deserving of such praise.”
“Can you tell me what level you’ve reached in your swordsmanship?”
Jerome hesitated briefly. Then Milton explained further.
“How can we fight together on the battlefield, when we don’t know your strength?”
Jerome must have thought Milton’s words held sound logic, as he quietly replied.