Chapter 7: The Crow Fortress (2)

Milton saving Kerber was a complete coincidence. After getting dispatched to Crow Fortress from the command center, he had come across some ally forces engaged in battle.

“We must immediately attack the outskirts of the enemy enclosure!”

Jerome voiced his opinion that they needed to rush in immediately and defeat the enemy.

However, Milton calmly thought through it.

‘There aren’t that many enemy soldiers. If we were to attack from the outside, we can rescue our allies. The crossbowmen stationed at the high ground are bothersome, but there does not seem to be many of them. If the enemy were to be defeated, their path of retreat would be….’

Milton gave out his orders immediately after he concluded the probability of success.

“Jerome, lead the mercenaries around the combat area and cover their path of retreat. Attack when I give the signal. Tommy, Rick. You two will join me in attacking the weakest point of their perimeter. Let’s hurry!”

“Yes, Sir!”

“Yes, Sir!”

“Yes, Sir!”

The professor in charge of teaching tactics at the academy Milton attended was a real stickler, and would not give credits to students who could not score higher than average. He had grumbled in dissatisfaction the entire time, while earnestly learning the topic. He did not think he would ever have a use for what he learned, but the education allowed Milton to demonstrate a minimal level of command, even without any experience.

Once the battle started, everything from beginning to end happened as Milton predicted. Honestly, the circumstance of the battle itself was just too favorable.

Since Milton’s involvement in the battle was purely coincidental, the enemies could not react at all, and the perimeter broke down immediately. The proper reaction of the ally troops within the enclosure also served to increase the enemy’s chaos. As a result, victory came easily, while having Jerome block their path of retreat maximized the enemy’s losses.

Jerome, with his 85 strength, took the lead and swung his sword valiantly. Furthermore, Milton saw a notice pop up on top of Jerome’s head from a distance.

[Valiant activated. The morale of allied troops increases by over 50%.]

After which, the mercenaries that were together with Jerome noticeably increased in vigor.

“Stop running and fight, you bastards!”

“You should all die!! You sons of bitches!”

Mercenaries have a rough combat style, to begin with, but after their morale increased, they became even more aggressive. The enemy was also fighting fiercely, but the momentum had shifted. Above everything else, nobody could stop Jerome, who devastated the enemy line like a typhoon.

As a result, the enemy was decimated, and Milton was able to achieve victory in his first battle.

***

“You saved my life, Sir Forrest. I will never forget this debt of grace.”

“Don’t mention it. I only did what I should have as an ally.”

“A debt is still a debt. If you ever require my services while fighting in the front lines, you have only to ask of me.”

Kerber was a righteous man. After having received a favor from Milton, it seemed he was set on returning it.

“We’re almost at the Fortress. That is our base, Crow Fortress.”

“It’s quite large.”

“Yes, it’s a fortress that can accommodate up to 1,000 people. It’s easy to defend, and we’ve set aside plenty of food.”

Crow Fortress was surrounded by wood on all sides and used the terrain exquisitely. Since the border was a mountain range, it was essential to have a fortress as a base to defend against the enemy efficiently.

There were a total of ten fortresses under the purview of the Second Command of the Western Front. Those ten fortresses were used as the base of operations for the reconnaissance work, keeping the enemy at bay, and defeating any enemies that were encountered.

Kerber thanked Milton once again upon arriving at the fortress before departing.

As for Milton, he headed off to see the commander in charge of the fortress to notify the latter of his arrival.

“I’m Milton Forrest, and I’ve been ordered to join Crow Fortress.”

“Welcome, Milton Forrest. I am Nelson Cardinal, and I’m the one in charge of this fortress.”

The old man who introduced himself looked to have a lot of experience. He had a strong look on his face, unlike most nobles, and the outline of his bulging muscles were clearly visible through his clothes. The scar on the side of his face gave one the impression that he was a mercenary and not a noble.

The reason for that….

Nelson Cardinal was a man who lived on the battlefield for over 40 years. He was a veteran that had lived on the battlefield longer than Milton had been alive. His presence as the leading commander of this remote fortress indicated that his career had hit a dead end, but his abilities as a soldier were more than sufficient.

‘Well… Should I have a look?’

Milton quickly took in Nelson’s info from the status window.

[Nelson Cardinal]

Knight LV.9 MAX

Strength – 69 Command – 89

Intellect – 75 Politics – 25

Loyalty – 0

Special Trait – Unity, Night Raid, March, Fortify.

Unity LV.7: Command subordinates properly even during a dangerous situation. Able to cope well with situations like ambushes and night raids.

Night Raid LV.5: Decrease the confusion of ally troops while attacking at night and increase the chaos of enemy troops.

March LV.7: Troops march faster according to your level of leadership and the respect they have for you.

Fortify LV.8: When defending a fort, increase the morale of ally troops and increase your ability to command.

‘That’s really impressive.’

It was Milton’s first time seeing someone who had reached the maximum level as a knight. Putting aside one’s talent, a maxed-out level indicated that this person had made use of their full potential.

Nelson was also highly skilled and had four special traits.

‘He has a strength of 69 at that age. He’s almost at the level of an Expert?’

Milton realized that the old veteran in front of him was not just some officer who had been posted to his current office at the end of his career. Even a knight would become weaker with old age if they couldn’t reach a certain stage in their training.

Sansen Bruno from Milton’s territory was a good example of a knight who continuously trained but only had 52 strength. Nelson looked to be the same age as Sansen, but he had 69 strength.

‘He’s an impressive old man. He must expect a lot from his subordinates if he takes care of himself so well.’

Milton fixed his posture and stood at attention.

Nelson gave Milton a smile before speaking.

“Don’t be so anxious. We can talk comfortably.”

“Yes, Sir. Understood.”

Nelson sat across from Milton as he started his conversation.

“I saw that you are a Viscount from the Lester Kingdom.”

“Yes, that’s correct.”

“It hasn’t been too long since you’ve become a Viscount. Why did you enlist in the war?”

Hearing Nelson’s question, Milton pondered if he should be truthful or give him a generic excuse. He could make up several reasons if he wanted to. He could say something like, he joined the war to prevent the invasion of the wicked Republicans. However….

“When I inherited my House, I found that we had an enormous debt.”

“That’s a pity….”

“This was the only way to avoid bankruptcy and make money to pay off the debt.”

Milton told Nelson his honest thoughts. After looking at Nelson’s relaxed gaze, he didn’t think he’d be able to lie to him. Therefore, he just told Nelson the truth.

“Thank you for telling me the truth. I despise youths that lie.”

Milton had made the right decision. At his core, Nelson didn’t like people bootlicking and using flattering words. That was also why his superiors didn’t like him and his career was cut short.

Nelson must have had a favorable opinion of Milton and started speaking more casually.

“How much is the debt of your Household?”

“8,500… No, it’s a bit over 10,000 gold.”

Nelson momentarily had a dumbfounded look.

“Did your father happen to have a gambling problem?”

“……”

“Cough. Excuse me. Still, 10,000 gold….”

Nelson shook his head from side to side as he spoke.

“If you plan to pay off all that debt by staying at the frontlines… You’ll be staying here until you’re old and grey like me.”

‘This guy is cursing me to a lifetime of military service.’

Milton did not want to spend his entire life in the military, by any means.

“I’ve heard that we’re also awarded based on our achievements in the frontlines?”

“That’s true. If you are a citizen of the Strabus Kingdom, you’re given peerage and territory. For a foreigner like yourself, the award will be cash.”

Nelson smiled before speaking again to Milton.

“Did you plan on getting those awards to pay off your debt?”

Nelson's expression indicated that Milton was a dreamer from the countryside who didn’t know how things worked in the real world.

In truth, Nelson had met many nobles in the same situation as Milton. There were plenty of fallen aristocrats that were desperate like this, and youths who thought they could make a big contribution to be handsomely awarded.

However, there was rarely anyone who achieved such a goal. War was not a trifling matter, and many young men died while trying to get a war achievement.

Nelson made a bitter smile before speaking to Milton.

“I won’t stop you from trying to make an achievement since that’s what you said you’re here for. However, keep one thing in mind.”

“Okay.”

“The top priority in war is not to win.”

“……”

“It’s to stay alive.”

These weren’t fitting words, coming from a commanding officer, but the words struck a chord in Milton’s heart.

“I will keep that in mind.”

“Your tasks will start a week later. Rest up until then.”

“Yes, Sir.”

That’s how Milton’s life at Crow Fortress started.

Including the reserve troops, Crow Fortress had a total of 800 soldiers. Nelson had the official title of 1000-man commander, and under him were five 100-man commanders.

The 100-man commanders had to periodically lead their troops to scout the vicinity. The reconnaissance missions were quite dangerous, so the entire company of 100-man would move together. The rangers of the Hildess Republic were highly versed in mountainous combat. A chance encounter with them while leading a small group of soldiers was a sure way to be annihilated.

“The most important thing is to not give away our location. The worst possible scenario during a skirmish in the mountains is when the enemy knows of our position, but we don’t know where they are.

“I see. That’s very helpful.”

Kerber was the friendliest to Milton, of all the five 100-man commanders in Crow Fortress. They became close friends, as Kerber taught Milton what he needed to know and watch out for during his time at Crow Fortress. Except….

“It’s good to see that the country boy and the idiot are getting along well.

The other three 100-man commanders disliked Milton. They were Louis Walker, Butland Rigor, and Marez Cardia. These men were the other three 100-man commanders of Crow Fortress who hated Milton for being a foreigner.

“Sir Walker, your words are too much.”

Kerber got up to speak, but Louis looked indifferent as he replied.

“My words are not too much at all, they’re the simple truth. One is a country boy who came from a foreign country to join the war, the other is an idiot who went out scouting and lost over half his men. Isn’t that right?”

Kerber’s face turned red due to Louis’ words. It was undeniable that he had lost a lot of men, and barely came back alive in his most recent reconnaissance mission.

Just then, Milton got up from his seat to speak.

“Have you never failed even once during your missions?”

“Hah, at the very least, I’ve never returned after losing over half my troops like this idiot.”

“So, that means you have also failed previously.”

“……”

“That’s enough to make you an idiot too. Isn’t that right?”

“This bastard!!”

Louis was about to rush Milton in a fit of rage. However….

“Just leave them alone, Sir Walker.”

“Is there anything to be gained by throwing hands with a country boy?”

The other two 100-man commanders next to Louis held him back.

They didn’t think Nelson, who had a reputation for strict military discipline, would act kindly when hearing about a fight between the officers.

Kerber looked worried as the commotion died down.

“Will you be okay, Sir Forrest?”

“What do you mean?”

“Those three will not stop at this. They’ll continue to harass you. They may even go beyond that,” Kerber replied.

Milton let out a sigh and said “That’s not something I can do anything about. Tell me, why do those three despise me anyway? It doesn’t seem like just a hazing ritual for a rookie like me.”

Kerber smiled bitterly before replying, “Those three didn’t come to the frontlines of their own volition. They’re serving time here for some crime they’ve committed.”

“Huh? What does that mean?”

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