Chapter 90: Rebuilding Lester Kingdom (2)

Milton was truly surprised. What on earth was their reason for this? Returning their swords? This meant that the knights wanted their lord to take back their lord and vassal relationship.

“What do you… Did I do something to upset you?”

Rick shook his head as though Milton’s question was unjustified. 

“That’s not the reason, My Lord.”

“Then why are you returning your sword?”

When Milton shouted at Rick, Tommy spoke up from next to Rick.

“To be honest, My Lord…”

Their reasoning was…

“You think you lack the skills to be by my side, so you want to wander around the world and train some more, is that what you’re saying?”

Rick and Tommy nodded.

After talking it over with each other, Rick and Tommy had decided to leave Milton’s side for the time being. They had recently noticed something after watching the junior knights who had joined later than they had. While Rick and Tommy had been picked from a group made up of talented knights from the southern region, it wasn't difficult to find juniors with better skills than their own. 

Disregarding their abilities, Rick and Tommy were Milton’s oldest aides. But, if based on abilities, Jerome, a newcomer, had also become better and more useful than they were. So even though other people still respected them, Rick and Tommy felt that the respect was rather burdensome. They weren’t arrogant enough to take for granted a position that their skillset couldn’t match. 

Take this war for example. Milton had a great number of accomplishments, but Rick and Tommy hadn’t really played an active role in the war. As a part of Milton’s entourage, they had merely followed his orders, and in Rick’s case, Milton had even saved his life. Because his ability as a knight was lacking, he owed his life to his lord. Having been taught the knight’s code and chivalry by Sansen, Rick found it shameful. 

“My Lord, please give me some time. I’ll definitely return stronger than before.”

“My Lord, I feel the same way. I will return once I become strong enough that I won’t be ashamed of myself in front of you and your prestige.”

Milton struggled as he listened to Rick and Tommy’s serious request.

‘What should I do?’

To be honest, Milton didn’t want to let them go. Although they weren’t Experts, they weren’t an embarrassment as Knights. But above all…

‘I’m attached to these two…’

Even before the memories of his previous life awakened, Milton had grown up with Rick and Tommy. When they were young, they had trained together with wooden swords under Sansen’s guidance. With that kind of attachment and affection towards them, Milton didn’t want to let them leave. But then, wouldn’t Milton’s selfishness hinder their potential for further improvement?

‘Do I have the right to do that?’

Milton sighed.

Seeing how his heart and his brain were saying different things, Milton didn’t know how to answer them. So, Milton decided to change topics and turned to speak with Viscount Sabian. 

“Viscount Sabian, why did you come?”

“I was on my way to look for you when I saw them, so I came in together with them. If I had known they wanted to talk about such a serious topic, I would have come at a different time, Marquis Forrest.”

“So, what was your business with me?”

Viscount Sabian responded with a smile.

“Marquis Forrest, please accept me, Randol Sabian, as your vassal and become my Lord.”

Viscount Sabian’s business was the opposite of Rick’s and Tommy’s.

‘I guess his Master’s funeral must be over now.’

When Milton had previously asked Sabian to join him, Sabian had refused because of his Master’s funeral. But now that the funeral was over, Sabian had no reason to restrict himself and had come to offer his talents to Milton. 

“I heard that Her Highness, Princess Leila, tried to offer you the rank of Count and the position as an Advisor, Viscount Sabian.”

“I was honored by her offer, but I refused.”

“And then you came to look for me?”

“Yes, that’s right, Marquis Forrest.”

Although Milton didn’t outwardly express it, on the inside, he was very happy with Sabian’s answer. But what could have caused Sabian to make that decision?

Milton smiled as he asked for the reason.

“Do you have a reason for choosing me over the Princess, Viscount Sabian?”

“I think the Princess is an admirable and an excellent monarch, but…”

“But what?”

“I have a hard time reading her intentions so I wasn’t comfortable.”

“……”

“I feel that the Marquis, who is simpler, is more compatible with me.”

“Aren’t you being a bit too honest?”

Viscount Sabian merely smiled at Milton’s affronted expression. 

‘I shouldn’t have asked.’

In life, there were moments when it was better that you didn’t ask, and it seemed as though this had been one of those moments. Anyway…

“Welcome, Viscount Sabian. I will take you and your talents seriously.”

“Thank you, My Lord.”

There was no reason for Milton to refuse Viscount Sabian. Where would he get a tactician of this caliber again? He definitely had to tie him down.

“Now the problem is the two of you…”

Milton mumbled as he looked at Rick and Tommy who had remained on their knees and were offering up their swords. He didn’t want to let them leave. He really hated the idea of them leaving.

But…

‘Letting them leave is the right thing to do.’

Just as Milton was going to respect their free will and allow them to leave, Viscount Sabian spoke up.

“My Lord, I know I just joined, but may I offer an idea?”

Milton turned towards Sabian.

“Do you have a suggestion?”

“There is a way to agree to the two knights’ wishes while still maintaining the lord and vassal relationship, My Lord.”

If there was a good option, there was no way Milton wouldn’t listen to it.

“Continue.”

“Yes, My Lord. So…”

***

The next day.

Milton led a large procession back to his territory. The Central Army, as well as the Southern Army and on top of that, a large number of refugees, was heading towards his territory that had become the temporary capital. Half of the refugees had been left behind to rebuild the capital while the other half was heading down to the Forrest Territory that had been designated as the temporary capital.

Rick and Tommy just stood watching the procession.

This was because the place they were heading towards was in the opposite direction, they were heading North. 

“Do you wish to follow them?”

Duke Palan asked from behind them.

“No, Sir. This was our own decision.”

“Until we become capable of helping our Lord, we won’t go back.”

Duke Palan smiled at their firm answer.

This had been the option that Viscount Sabian had offered the two of them — join the newly established Knights in the North. Viscount Sabian had persuaded them that it was better to train under Duke Palan than to fall for the romantic notion of wandering around the world to train themselves as in the novels. As a result, the two didn’t return their swords to Milton and were now under the command of Duke Palan as knights from Forrest Territory. For Milton, this was much more satisfying than just dismissing them. 

“Alright. If you really want to be of help to Marquis Forrest, then you have to be at least an Expert. Are the both of you really determined to become stronger?”

“Yes, Sir. That’s right.”

“Yes, Sir. We’re certain.”

Hearing their unwavering answer, Duke Palan gave them a pleased smile. 

“That’s right. You’re still young, you should have at least that much guts. Leave it to me, I’ll turn you two into Experts.”

“Thank you, Duke Palan.”

“We’ll never forget this, Duke Palan.”

The two of them were deeply moved. Master Sean Palan was personally going to train them? Could there be a bigger honor than this?

“Then let us be on our way. It’s a long way up North.”

“Yes, Sir.”

Just as the two of them tried to mount their horses, Duke Palan stopped them.

“Hm? What do you think you’re doing?”

“Sir, we’re mounting our horses…”

“Didn’t you say you wanted to become stronger?”

“Yes sir, we did…”

“Then you’ll have to work hard every day, right?”

“Yes sir, that’s right…”

Each answer was weaker than before as Rick and Tommy lost their confidence. 

Duke Palan spoke.

“I’m glad you understand. So, the two of you will run after us.”

“… To the North.”

“Of course.”

“Wearing our armor, sir?”

“The armor should be considered as the knight’s skin.”

“……”

“……”

“And, if you fall behind, you’ll have to run another lap.”

“Hahahaha… that’s a joke, right, Duke Palan?”

Listening to the duke talk about the distance from the Capital to the North as though it was the military training grounds, the two of them dearly wished he was joking. No, logically, shouldn’t this obviously be a joke? It’s not like they were trying to set a Guinness record by running around…

But Duke Palan just continued to stare at them seriously.

“You said you were going to become an Expert?”

“Yes, sir, that’s right…”

“Then run.”

A while later.

Heavily armored, Rick and Tommy ran at the end of the procession heading North.

***

“Hip hip hurray!!”

“Long live Marquis Forrest!”

Having returned from the battlefield, Milton was warmly welcomed by the people living on his territory. This welcome hadn’t been prearranged by the territory’s administrators but freely done by the citizens when they heard their Lord was returning. Although Forrest Territory had been far away from the battlefield, they had still heard about Milton’s actions. 

A great commander who had gone to war, won consecutive victories, and created a legend of invincibility.

A hero who saved the country when they were in danger and had defeated the Republic.

A loyal knight who had the trust of the benevolent(?) princess. 

Milton’s reputation amongst his people had already been great, but now it went beyond great.

“He’s coming!”

Wahh!!! Please! Look this way!!”

“Long live Marquis Forrest!”

“He looked this way! He seriously looked this way!!”

At this point, even if Milton took off all his clothes and performed the Gangnam-Style horse dance, they would all accept it as a divine act.

‘Isn’t this a bit too much?’

Milton had a wry smile as he waved at the people from atop of his horse. He had seen a young woman faint after making eye contact with him. Perhaps this was an effect of the new trait, ‘Hero’s Halo.’ Either way, it was a good thing that he had this much influence over the people. 

After he had rode past all the cheering citizens, Milton was welcomed by his vassals inside his castle. 

“Congratulations on your victory and your new title, My Lord.”

“Congratulations, My Lord.”

Milton dismounted from his horse as his vassals continued to welcome him. 

“You’ve all worked hard while I was gone. On my way back, I saw that the territory has developed a lot.”

“Thank you, My Lord.”

Max, the administrator of Forrest Territory, bowed his head. 

‘Hooo… He must’ve improved a lot?’

Milton was slightly surprised as he looked at Max’s stats.

[Max]

Administrator LV.5

Strength — 17                Command — 45

Intelligence — 79                 Politics — 85

Loyalty — 95

Special Traits — Taxation, Improvise, Agriculture

Taxation LV. 3: The ability to collect and operate taxes increases. Calculation errors are reduced.

Improvise LV. 6: React to unforeseen circumstances with the best possible method.

Agriculture LV. 6: A deep understanding of farming. Increases the amount of produce harvested from farmland. Reduce the effects of drought and flooding to a minimum.

Overall, his stats had gone up, and a new special trait called ‘Taxation’ had also emerged. But most importantly, his Loyalty was now 95.

‘What was his Loyalty level when we first met? Was it 52?’

Although Max’s ability had been useful, because of his pride, his Loyalty level hadn’t risen a lot. But as Milton fought on the battlefield and increased his reputation, Max’s Loyalty to him had also increased. Some might have considered Max an elitist, but Milton didn’t think so. 

‘This guy knows his worth.’

Large birds have to sit on thick branches, and large fish have to live in wide-open waters — birds of a feather flock together. Max was well aware of his skills’ worth and so had been wary whether Milton was worthy of his loyalty. But now that Milton had proved himself, he had no worries that Max would betray him. 

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