Chapter 6: The Crow Fortress (1)

“I am at the level of an advanced expert.”

“Advanced?”

Milton looked surprised on the outside but was calm inside.

‘So, a strength of 85 means you’re an advanced expert. I guess you need to be above 86 strength to be an elite expert. I wonder what it takes to get to the master level.’

Milton spoke to Jerome in an apologetic manner.

“After hearing of your skill level, I feel like I’ve hired you for a pittance.”

Jerome waved his hand while replying.

“Not at all. I am satisfied with my pay.”

“Thank you. If my situation improves, I’ll be sure to give you some extra pay.”

“You don’t have to do that.”

Milton and Jerome were considerate of each other and kept up a pleasant atmosphere during their conversation.

***

From that point forward, nobody had any dissatisfaction when Jerome instructed Milton. If anything, Tommy and Rick put away their pride and asked to be instructed. Even if knights looked down on mercenaries, an expert level warrior was deserving of respect. It was also Rick and Tommy’s first time seeing an expert, after having grown up in the countryside. In fact, the feelings Rick and Tommy had for Jerome went beyond respect and approached admiration.

In that manner, Jerome ended up teaching swordsmanship to Milton, Rick, and Tommy. Jerome didn’t get paid for instructing them either. Rick and Tommy might not know any better, but Milton recalled from his time at the capital that a single private lesson with an expert cost over ten gold.

However, Jerome didn’t seem dissatisfied about teaching them without pay. Rather, he got closer to Tommy and Rick who were steadfast in their resolve to learn.

Watching things unfold, Milton speculated that Jerome was a knight who grew up in a rather privileged environment. He imagined that Jerome probably had no want for money, and could use his talent and environment to train to his heart’s content. Milton had his suspicions as to why such a person would turn into a mercenary, and harbor such anger toward the Republic.

‘It’s not something I should touch on just yet. I’ll have to take it slow until Jerome’s loyalty is much higher.’

Jerome’s loyalty, according to Milton’s information window, was at 62.

Since all other mercenaries had a loyalty value between 50 to 60, it appeared this was just the loyalty someone showed their employer out of duty. He felt they had gotten much closer from all the training sessions, but it seemed personal relations did not influence one’s loyalty stat by much.

***

Milton was efficient with the time remaining until they reached the battlefield, training daily without pause. As a result, he progressed from being an average sword user to an advanced sword user.

Jerome could not help exclaiming at how fast he was progressing, but Milton knew better. Milton would have progressed to his current state much earlier if he wasn’t so lazy about training. He was just catching up to where he should have already advanced. If Milton had trained wholeheartedly at the academy, he would have at the very least been an elite sword user by now.

‘I really want to rebuke my previous self.’

Milton let out a sigh and decided he could only train hard from now on. After a while, Milton and his troops finally reached the front lines of the battlefield. The first thing Milton did upon his arrival was to report to the Chief of Staff.

“I, Viscount Milton Forrest of the Lester Kingdom, have arrived at the Western Front.”

‘Even in this world, the first thing you need to do in the military is to report for duty.’ 

After putting strength in his stomach to shout out his presence in a disciplined position, Milton could not help but be reminded of his military service from his previous life.

“It’s good to have you here, Viscount Forrest. I am Count Ronnie Crable, a Second Command Center Staff Officer of the Western Front.

Count Ronnie Crable did not seem to have much interest in Milton. Milton had not brought a lot of troops and was not a distinguished knight. He just took Milton as one of the many nobles that came to help in the war. After looking through the documents, Ronnie spoke to confirm what he read.

“The number of soldiers that are joining is 104. There are two knights included in that count. Is that correct?”

“Yes, that’s correct.”

“Good. I appoint you as a 100-man commander with the authority delegated to me by the King of the Strabus Kingdom. From this moment on, the military law of the Strabus Kingdom will apply to you. Do you agree?”

“Yes, I agree.”

“I will entrust you with the reconnaissance and defense of the mountainous region. You will be part of Crow Fortress in the Grey Mountains.”

“Okay, understood.”

“I look forward to your earnest fight against the dogs of the Republic, Viscount.”

Milton was assigned his post and appointed as a 100-man commander with minimal dialogue.

‘Second Command of the Western Front? I have no idea what that means since I don’t know the military system of this foreign country. I should head back and ask Jerome about it.’

Jerome should have a good understanding of the system here since he was from the Strabus Kingdom.

“The Western Front is divided into four parts. The Second Command Center is one of those parts.”

Jerome replied simply to Milton’s question.

“I see. Besides the Western Front, what others are there?”

“There is the Northern Front and the Eastern Front. Of them all, the Northern Front is said to be where the heaviest fighting is.”

“What about the Western Front, where we are?”

“The situation is a bit better than the Northern Front for our allies, but there are always minor skirmishes. The mountainous area you’ve been assigned to reconnaissance is where the most battles occur with the Republic’s rangers.

“Is that so?”

‘They intend to work us to the bone.’

Milton had already expected this. Even if he was a noble, he was a noble from a different country. The Strabus Kingdom’s Command will want to deploy foreign allied forces to dangerous battles and minimize their own losses as much as possible.

‘However, this is what I wanted as well.’

Milton spoke to Jerome, “Jerome, you will temporarily work as my aide while we’re at the Western Front.”

“I am not a knight, but a mere mercenary.”

“However, you have the best military abilities amongst everyone here.”

“……”

“I won’t ask about your past, but I think nothing is more idiotic than not using the best of our abilities on the battlefield.”

Jerome stared at Milton with a surprised expression before asking for confirmation.

“Is that what you really think?”

“Of course,” Milton replied without hesitation, while Rick and Tommy nodded their heads in agreement.

“Understood. I may be lacking, but I will supplement the Viscount to the best of my abilities.”

Milton found that Jerome’s loyalty rose from 62 to 69 at this very moment.

‘What was that? Was there something that strongly influenced Jerome’s heart in our conversation just now?’

Milton didn’t know the exact reason, but he liked that Jerome’s loyalty approached close to 70. He felt that Jerome would work earnestly as an aide, given his current loyalty number.

The mountainous region of the Strabus Kingdom was an area where large battles were hard to come by. Over 80 percent of the border the Strabus Kingdom shared with the Hildess Republic was a mountain range. The harsh terrain for the Grey Mountains acted as a natural barrier and border between the two countries. As a result, the only battles in the Western Front were the small skirmishes in the harsh mountain terrain. The two sides would engage in battle if they met each other during their reconnaissance missions, like now.

***

“Die, you dogs of the Republic!”

The knight spurred his soldiers forth while doing his best to fight. Several enemy soldiers had already fallen by his feet. The knight had some ability by the looks of it. However, he had several arrows sticking out of him, as well as wounds both large and small, as a result of the fighting. Furthermore, the troops he had been leading, in their reconnaissance mission, had dwindled by more than half its original number. The current situation honestly….

“This is the worst.”

The knight couldn’t stop himself from spontaneously swearing. One of his own soldiers had caused the crisis.

They were dutifully performing reconnaissance on the planned-out route before heading back to the Fort. However, a stupid recruit decided to start a fire, to cook a rabbit he had caught somewhere. The knight panicked when he realized what happened. He wanted to cut off the neck of the recruit who mistook the reconnaissance mission as some camping trip, but leaving the area at once took priority.

“We’re moving out. On the double!” The knight encouraged his subordinates and tried to leave as soon as possible.

Marching through the woods in the dead of night was dangerous, but there was no other choice right now. The rangers of the Hildess Republic were capable of traversing through harsh terrain like it was flat ground. More importantly, they were sensitive to small changes in the environment. If the enemy discovered the smoke from the fire used to cook the rabbit, there was no doubt the enemy would not leave them alone.

He immediately led his troops to get out of there. No, he tried to get out. But….

“It’s the enemy!”

“There’s a crossbow on the right…. Ugh!”

The enemy had found them eventually. The rangers of the Hildess Republic had already besieged them. They were choking out the life of his troops, like wolves that had found prey.

“Damn it… Is this how it ends?”

The recruit he was going to drill half to death had already died from getting hit with a crossbow. Most of his other subordinates were also dying. The knight anticipated that his death would also be coming soon. Then…

“Attack!”

With a soft shout, a force of soldiers started to attack the besieging enemy from one side.

‘Allies?’

The knight instinctively realized that ally troops had joined in the fray, and did not miss the opportunity to loudly shout out.

“Ally troops have joined us. All troops are to break through towards 5 o’clock!”

The knight led his remaining troops towards the ruckus. The soldiers must have realized that this was their last opportunity to live, as they fought with all they had. One side of the enclosure finally broke apart. Through the gap, a man could be seen speaking.

“Tommy, the crossbowmen stationed above us are pressuring us. Take some archers and return fire!”

“Yes, My Lord.”

“Rick, detour around the slope to attack the crossbowmen. You’re to drive them off, but don’t go in too deep!”

“Understood, My Lord.”

He gave accurate orders to his soldiers, systematically destroying the besieging forces of the Republic.

Finally…

“Retreat! We’re going to regroup!”

“All troops are to retreat!”

The forces of the Republic could not resist and retreated. Once the rangers of the Republic started to retreat….

“Jerome! Now is the time!”

“Yes!”

With a loud order, a knight blocked the path of retreat, along with about 20 soldiers that had been lying in wait.

“Not even one of you shall pass!”

The leading knight shouted with a loud voice. However, the enemy made a decision after realizing they had the superior numbers.

“Break through!”

The rangers of the Hildess Republic had a lot of confidence. Some were even able to beat an average knight. However, that was a big mistake. The man in front of them wasn’t just an ‘average’ knight. As the enemy approached them, an aura began to exude out of his sword.

“An expert?!”

“Damn it….”

The rangers finally realized that they could not easily dispatch their enemies with their superior numbers, but it was too late.

“Don’t let a single man escape!”

Jerome let out a rough yell before dashing forward. He then one-sidedly pressured the Republic’s rangers.

“Ugh!”

“Sto… Cough….”

The rangers of the Hildess Republic may be at a high level, but facing off against an expert was still too much for them. Eventually, the rangers in the retreat path fell one after another, and only a few were able to escape after scattering. As the battle came to a close….

“Ha… Hahahaha….”

The knight who had been on the brink of death, but was able to live and vanquish the enemies, laughed like a crazy man.

“How was that? You bastards of the Republic!”

“Fall in hell!”

“I hope you die while running away!”

The soldiers who almost died happily mocked the fleeing enemy soldiers. The man, who looked to be the commander of the ally troops, approached the knight, who was spacing out.

“I am a newly appointed 100-man Commander, Milton Forrest. I have been ordered by the Western Front Second Command Center to join the Crow Fortress.”

“Ah… Thank you for saving us. I am affiliated with the same base and am 100-man Commander Kerber Francis.

“So, you’re Sir Francis. How are your wounds?”

“Hahaha… well I don’t have any critical wounds. They just hurt like hell.”

“Since your forces have been severely weakened, we will accompany you to the Fort.”

“Thank you, Sir Forrest.”

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