Afternoon on the next day, Lorist stood within the great hall on the first floor of Williamiles Castle. Sitting in front of him was a hawk-nosed, eagle-eyed man in fully-armored ]knight attire, wearing a breastplate that depicted a black bull’s head. This man was one of the Gold ranked illegitimate sons of the count that was stationed at WIlliamiles Castle. Sitting further away from him was four Silver ranked men in armor. The two at the front were Silver ranked illegitimate sons of the count with other two being garrison squad captains of the castle.
“You mentioned that this pike cavalry company you brought over has only been formed 3 days ago, and that you were sent here by my 21st brother?” said the hawk-nosed man as he stared hard at Lorist.
Lorist made a confused face and said, “That’s correct. I don’t know the reason myself, but the order I received clearly stated that our company was to make our way to Williamiles Castle to bolster its defense. I myself thought that there was some sort of battle going on here. It seems that our journey here was a complete waste. Oh, and, will you be letting my men into the castle? If not, we’ll have to go back to the city.”
“Go back? Yeah, right. Now that you’re here, you better stay put. What’s your name and Battle Force rank?” snorted the man.
Lorist nodded and said, “Milord, this one is called Lorist and I’m at the Three Star Iron rank.”
“Pffft!” A man with a receding hairline started to laugh out loud. “Soldiers nowadays really have no standards… For a puny Iron rank like you to be able to become a pike cavalry company captain… It’s a little too unreasonable for us Three Star Silver ranks to only be squad captains of garrison troops… It truly is ridiculous.”
“14th brother, I think that 21st brother is just trying to mess with us. Otherwise, there’s no way he would appoint a Three Star Iron ranked captain. We still have to face the allied noble armies on our front. Even though the recent situation has been quite stable, we might be more prone to enemy attacks if there is no pike cavalry stationed here at the castle. That must be why our lord father sent us this newly-formed company to make sure we’ll be well-defended from any potential threat,” said another man who wore a mail armor.
“Right, 19th brother’s words make sense. Heed my orders, let the pike cavalrymen outside into the castle and order them to gather at the plaza in front. You… Lok-something, you’re unfit to be the captain of the company, so train hard till you’re a Silver rank first. I will reorganize the pike cavalry in the afternoon, so you will be assigned to be a captain of a garrison troop squad instead,” said that hawk-nosed man.
Lorist stood there without making a sound as if he was dissatisfied with having his position taken away from him. The hawk-nosed man didn’t bother with it and started discussing with the other men beside him. “Which one of you will go command the pike cavalry company? Pick two among yourselves and mix some of our own troops into the cavalry company so that we’ll be able to better control the unit…”
At that moment, the hawk-nosed man once again looked towards the shivering Tarkel. “Oh, aren’t you Tarkel? What’s a coward like you doing in the pike cavalry company? Are you sick of being a prison guard?”
“8-8th master, thi-this one does not dare to disobey the 21st ma-master… And he said that an Iron rank li-like me should j-join the cavalry company… So I got al-allocated here,” stammered Tarkel.
Tarkel was currently regretting his previous actions a lot. How did he manage to make Lorist take a fancy on him? He wasn’t that much of a talented person and only loved to pay attention to gossip and analyze the situations surrounding them. Now that he had been picked to be Lorist’s personal attendant, he was even brought along to Williamiles Castle to participate in the surprise attack operation.
The one guarding Williamiles Castle was the 8th illegitimate son of the count, a Two Star Gold rank who not only excelled at combat, but was also a devious and attentive person who was not so easily dealt with. This could be seen from how only a small group including Lorist had been allowed into the castle for verification while the other soldiers they brought had been denied entry and were left outside.
Of all the people available, you had to pick me to follow you inside! Marksman Josk would’ve been so much more helpful for this purpose! Tarkel really didn’t understand why he was asked to come along. Was it because he had greeted some of his former colleagues outside the castle? Those were his acquaintances and it would only be more suspicious if he didn’t greet them. Lord Norton is also a really careless person. Even though he’s only an Iron rank, he actually came inside the castle with an Iron rank like me! It’s basically suicide for 2 Iron ranks to go up against 1 Gold rank and 4 Silver ranks!
The more Tarkel thought about it, the more afraid he got. At the moment when the 8th master instructed for Lorist’s men to be allowed into the castle, he feared that they would attack right away and cause their intentions to be discovered and set his demise in stone. When he first entered the great hall, Tarkel tried his best to not utter a voice nor attract any attention to himself. But, just because he coughed once, he was discovered by the 8th master. It was fortunate that he was witty enough to come out with an excuse on the spot.
“Hmm, 21st brother must’ve been drinking a little too much. Then again, Tarkel you coward, are you really that afraid of fighting? If you’re this nervous now, I wonder if you’ll faint when you’re on the battlefield! Hahaha…” laughed the hawk-nosed man out loud.
Lorist turned his body sideways slightly and looked outside the window of the great hall of the first floor from the corner of his eyes and saw that his men were already making their way into the castle. Good, the gates are already under our control. Right now, Terman is making his way to the two side gates with Yuriy’s light cavalry scout squad making their preparations at the plaza. Josk is also making his way here already.
The garrison troops of Williamiles Castle were not fully-armed for some reason and only gathered together to watch the spectacle. Maybe they had just finished their lunch and were still slacking off. Some of them were even sunbathing on the side of the walls. This was the perfect opportunity to launch the attack…
Lorist drew his sword and said, “He’s afraid because you are all about to die. He’s allergic to corpses, you see…”
The hawk-nosed man was surprised and enraged at the same time. “How dare you go against a superior officer? Your ambitions must have turned you crazy. For you to actually dare to draw your sword in front of me… Settle him, make an example of him for the other pike cavalrymen to see…”
Even though the 8th master was sharp, he actually misunderstood the situation. He thought that Lorist was rebelling because he wasn’t satisfied with being demoted from his position as a company captain.
Two of the Silver ranked garrison troops rushed over immediately without bothering to draw their swords. One of them thought, hmph, a mere Iron rank… My hands are enough to subdue him…
Tarkel instantly crouched on the ground and thought, it’s over. Is Lord Norton insane? Why did an Iron rank like him even draw his sword in front of 1 Gold rank and 4 Silver ranks? It’s like saying, ‘Please come and kill me!’ He even boasted that they were about to die… I think the first ones to die will be Iron ranks like me and Lord Norton… Why couldn’t you wait for your men to arrive first before lashing out? Now you even dragged me into it as well… Oh my poor wife and precious son… What would he do without me, his father, beside him?
Tarkel shut his eyes in despair, only to hear two instances of agonized cries. The first cry slowed into a moan while the other was swift and short. Eh? That didn’t sound right. Why was it two cries instead of one?He then opened his eyes only to be surprised by the scene of Lorist standing unscathed with the first Silver rank that leaped towards him rolling on the ground in pain with both his arms severed and asking for a quick death. He also found that Lorist’s sword had been embedded in the throat of the second Silver ranked squad captain that came after the first.
The hawk-nosed man and his two brothers jumped up in befuddlement. Nobody would have expected an Iron rank to be able to dispatch two Silver ranked garrison squad captains with only three strikes of the sword.
“Who the heck are you?” asked the hawk-nosed man as he stared at Lorist intensely while slowly drawing his sword.
Lorist laughed in a light tone and said, “My identity doesn’t matter. You only have to know that I’ve come for your lives…”
“19th, go sound the alarm! The pike cavalrymen are not on our side! They’re enemies!” shouted the hawk-nosed man to the one dressed in mail armor immediately after his realization.
“Okay…” he answered as he drew his sword and paced carefully towards the exit and broke into a run.
An arrow flew over in a flash and pierced through his chest, sending the man flying for three whole meters before he fell back down on the ground and spit out large mouthfuls of blood with both his hands clasped tightly onto the arrow in his chest as if he was trying to pull it out, before he let out his final breath and stopped struggling altogether.
At that moment, Josk showed up at the door of the great hall with a green longbow in his hand.
“Marksman Josk…” said the hawk-nosed man in stupor.
“Long time no see, 8th master….” said Josk with his bloodshot eyes. The hawk-nosed man, Count Corby’s Gold ranked 8th illegitimate son, also referred by others as the ‘8th master’, was the very person that had attacked Baron Omador’s castle during the wedding and was one of the main perpetrators that had caused the demise of Josk’s loved ones.
“Hold him down!” shouted the hawk-nosed man to the man with a receding hairline as he rushed towards Lorist while drawing an arc in the air with his sword.
“Just what I needed!” exclaimed Lorist as he raised his sword to meet the incoming blade. The moment the two collided, sharp sounds of metal clashing echoed rapidly throughout the great hall.
The 8th master had intended to let the half-bald man hold Josk back while he took care of Lorist before moving onto suppressing Josk together with his partner. That way, they would have a better chance to turn the tide of the battle, since Lorist was only an Iron rank. He thought that no matter how good Lorist’s swordsmanship was, it would only allow him to take on Silver ranks at most. Given the 8th master’s Gold ranked Battle Force, he would be able to easily defeat Lorist by brute force alone regardless of the level of swordsmanship given the disparity of raw power between their ranks.
That was the 8th master’s first mistake. Never in his wildest dreams would he expect that the moment he first crossed blades with Lorist, his Battle Force felt like it didn’t have any effect at all, causing a Gold rank like him to stagger backwards against a supposed Iron rank and even almost getting slashed. Even the half-bald man who was busy with Josk stared dumbstruck at the result of the first clash.
Tarkel was looking at the fight with his mouth wide agape with saliva leaking out of it, making him seem like a dumb idiot. So Lord Norton wasn’t insane and was confident in his abilities all along! This swordsmanship is truly godly… So much so that he is able to hold back a Two Star Gold Swordsman like the 8th master to the point where he had no choice but to be on the defensive!
The half-bald man snapped out of his stupor and noticed that Josk was still entranced by the battle between Lorist and his stepbrother. Extremely delighted, he carefully inched backwards and intended to escape. This was the 8th master’s second mistake: he overestimated his subordinates’ loyalty to him.
As a stellar marksman, Josk had noticed the half-bald man’s slight movement immediately. He quickly held his green bow up, stretched it wide like a full moon and unleashed three arrows in quick succession.
The first arrow had been blocked by that man, but it took him a lot of effort to do so and he had retreated 3 steps backward as a result. The second arrow broke that man’s sword into two and caused the man to cough out some blood. By the time the third and final arrow arrived, the baldy had already lost all his power to resist and could only stare at the arrow expand within his field of view until it inevitably entered his mouth and lifted him into the air, nailing him onto the wall nearby behind.
Having witnessed the death of the middle-aged man, the 8th master started to panic. He already had his hands full with fighting Lorist. Now that Josk had taken care of that half-bald man and had started aiming his bow towards him, the 8th master started to feel even more nervous. In his disturbed mental state, his hands missed a beat and allowed Lorist the opportunity to inflict the final blow. With a flash of a blade, the savage looking 8th master let out a pained grunt before his head separated from his body and flew through the air. Lorist backed off quickly to avoid the fountain of blood that had erupted from the stump of the man’s neck.
“How long are you going to stay flat on the ground like that, Tarkel? Quickly get up and hang these heads on the veranda and announce to the soldiers that Geldos City is already under our control,” instructed Lorist.
By the time the five heads were put on display at the first floor veranda, the whole castle broke into a panic that was quickly suppressed. That was especially the case after 7 or 8 soldiers who were dead loyal to the count started to fight back against the pike cavalrymen entering the castle, only to be shot to death with one arrow each by Josk, further accelerating the surrender of the castle’s garrison troops. By the time evening came, Lorist’s men had already taken full control of Williamiles Castle.
“Yuriy, after resting for one hour after dinner, I’m going to bring Terman’s knight squad and Knight Josk back to Geldos City. I will leave Williamiles Castle in your care. Make sure you let your light cavalry scouts patrol the surrounding area from time to time, but don’t attack the surrounding allied noble armies unless they initiate the attack, in which case you may retaliate. Tarkel, stay here and placate the garrison troops’ mental state and tell them that by the time the soldiers that are coming to take their place to guard the castle arrives, they will be allowed to go back to Geldos City to check on their family members. Don’t worry, it won’t take too long. I’m confident that I’ll be able to send a messenger over within ten days,” said Lorist as he bit into a piece of bread in his hand.
“Milord, I understand. Please leave the place to me,” said Yuriy before he continued his meal.
Tarkel placed the piece of bone in his hand onto his plate, rubbed his mouth with his sleeve and said, “Milord, as long as I’m here, I’ll ensure that the garrison troops don’t cause any trouble.”