How to Live as a Wandering Knight – Chapter 57

𝐓𝐡𝐞 𝐒𝐢𝐞𝐠𝐞 𝐨𝐟 𝐒𝐚𝐧𝐝𝐚𝐫𝐣𝐮 (𝟏)

𝐓𝐡𝐞 𝐒𝐢𝐞𝐠𝐞 𝐨𝐟 𝐒𝐚𝐧𝐝𝐚𝐫𝐣𝐮 (𝟏)

The problem was that Ulrike-gong’s focus was not on Countess Abner’s territory.

Ulrike-gong was leading an army on a campaign.

“How long has it been since the last war ended?”

“It’s not that surprising.”

In this world, war was as routine as sleeping and eating. Soldiers were mobilized and battles fought for all sorts of reasons.

Suetlg said with a grim expression.

“Do nobles like war? What surprises me is the timing. It’s winter now. . .”

Wars typically started in spring, battles were fought in summer, and enemy fiefdoms were plundered in autumn. Starting a war in winter was foolish, as it was difficult to find food for the army.

“The ones who started this must have a reason.”

“Sure, like the wizard who got his head chopped off. Everyone has a reason, even that knight over there.”

Though Suetlg thought differently, Johan was also pondering this.

Ulrike-gong, as the heir to the Countess, had already received several fiefdoms as her property upon becoming an adult. She was not incapable of mobilizing an army.

The reason was guessable. The Abner family had suffered losses because of Count Jarpen and wanted compensation, no matter the adversary.

But wasn’t the timing too soon?

When an army is hastily raised, it usually indicates a strong motive. Johan was curious about what Ulrike-gong was relying on.

Especially now when he had to meet and say, ‘𝘖𝘯𝘦 𝘰𝘧 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘧𝘪𝘦𝘧𝘥𝘰𝘮 𝘳𝘪𝘨𝘩𝘵𝘴 𝘺𝘰𝘶 𝘢𝘳𝘦 𝘵𝘰 𝘳𝘦𝘤𝘦𝘪𝘷𝘦 𝘢𝘤𝘵𝘶𝘢𝘭𝘭𝘺 𝘣𝘦𝘭𝘰𝘯𝘨𝘴 𝘵𝘰 𝘮𝘦.’

“It’s good that you’re going with mercenaries. Never go alone if you don’t want to die like a dog.”

Suetlg’s obvious advice sounded ominously.

🔸🔸🔸🔸🔸🔸

But not all the news was ominous. A messenger who suddenly visited Johan was an example.

“What is it?”

“Countess Abner sent me.”

After following the custom of praising Sir Stephen, rewarding him, and granting rewards to the successful mercenaries, the messenger finally approached Johan.

The wax-sealed letter contained a simple message.

━𝐈𝐟 𝐲𝐨𝐮 𝐬𝐚𝐯𝐞 𝐒𝐭𝐞𝐩𝐡𝐞𝐧, 𝐈 𝐬𝐰𝐞𝐚𝐫 𝐈’𝐥𝐥 𝐫𝐞𝐩𝐚𝐲 𝐲𝐨𝐮.

“. . . . . .”

Johan’s face grew complicated. What did the Countess mean by sending this?

Johan was currently on his way to negotiate with Ulrike.

‘𝘐 𝘴𝘦𝘦. 𝘐𝘴 𝘴𝘩𝘦 𝘢𝘴𝘬𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘮𝘦 𝘯𝘰𝘵 𝘵𝘰 𝘯𝘦𝘨𝘰𝘵𝘪𝘢𝘵𝘦 𝘸𝘪𝘵𝘩 𝘰𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘳𝘴?’

If the negotiations with Ulrike failed and Johan turned to other forces, Stephen’s chance of survival would decrease, not knowing Johan’s situation.

Ulrike’s inaction was only when Stephen remained passive; it changed when it involved her inheritance.

Ulrike, please conclude this matter without harming Stephen!

‘𝘐𝘵 𝘴𝘦𝘦𝘮𝘴 𝘣𝘰𝘵𝘩 𝘥𝘪𝘧𝘧𝘪𝘤𝘶𝘭𝘵 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘦𝘢𝘴𝘺.’

But one thing was certain.

Countess Abner was still strong and creating a debt would be quite beneficial.

“And this.”

“?”

Johan received a certificate from the messenger, redeemable at a trading house.

“I don’t have any compensation to receive from the Countess, what does this mean?”

“She said it’s a personal token of gratitude.”

“I see. . . Well, I’ll keep that in mind.”

Johan suddenly envied Stephen.

Apart from intelligence, wasn’t luck something one was born with!

🔸🔸🔸🔸🔸🔸      

Countess Abner’s territory lies to the east of Sangdarju Castle.

Nestled among the mountains, it’s a vital transit point for those traveling from the west to the heart of the Empire.

Historically, the lords of Sangdarju Castle have had several frictions with the Abner family. The castle’s ability to challenge the Abners, who control several fiefdoms, stemmed from a single reason.

A powerful backing.

The territory of Sangdarju Castle was directly granted by the Emperor of the Empire.

Influential feudal lords might scoff at the Emperor, but that doesn’t mean the Emperor is powerless.

The Emperor, like the feudal lords, also had his own set of powers, just not as prominently proclaimed.

After all, one couldn’t buy the support of the prime nobles with gold if they weren’t a feudal lord themselves.

But now, Ulrike-gong is sweeping through the castellan’s territory, seemingly unconcerned about such matters.

“A wise choice.”

The village chief trembled, prostrating himself. In front of him lay a pile of silver coins, scraped together from the town.

This tribute was originally meant for the feudal lord, but now, an angry army glinted at the town’s edges.

At Ulrike-gong’s command, the town could be set ablaze in an instant.

Ultimately, the blame lay with the feudal lord who failed to protect them. Why else would they loyally offer tributes and labor?

“They’re not coming out, are they?”

“No. They didn’t even have time to hire mercenaries, just sent a warning message…”

“*ssholes. They still don’t understand the situation. After plundering, we head to Sangdarju Castle! I want to see the castellan’s face myself!”

The army roared in response to Ulrike-gong’s cry. An employer who offered gold and plentiful plunder was always popular.

🔸🔸🔸🔸🔸🔸

“. . .This feels familiar.”

“Shut up.”

Stephen reddened and growled at Johan’s remark. The situation indeed mirrored a past one.

The situation when they were absurdly defeated while besieging Count Jarpen’s Boson Castle!

Although Sangdarju Castle was smaller and less fortified than Boson Castle, a castle was still a castle. The army could only besiege it, not daring to attack.

‘𝘛𝘩𝘦 𝘮𝘪𝘭𝘪𝘵𝘢𝘳𝘺 𝘥𝘪𝘴𝘤𝘪𝘱𝘭𝘪𝘯𝘦 𝘪𝘴 𝘤𝘦𝘳𝘵𝘢𝘪𝘯𝘭𝘺 𝘥𝘪𝘧𝘧𝘦𝘳𝘦𝘯𝘵.’

Stephen’s army seemed loose and full of gaps, but Ulrike-gong’s forces were the exact opposite.

“Even at a glance, it’s over a thousand. . . That’s right.”

“?”

“It’s better to be cautious. Ulrike clearly has the support of the Erlans royal family.”

“!”

A source of confidence that allowed you to be indifferent whether the Emperor was behind you or not.

That was the only thing you had as a feudal lord.

“Is that true?”

“It might not be, but there aren’t many places where Ulrike could get support. Besides, everyone knows that King Erlans is interested in the Empire’s situation.”

Your misfortune is my happiness.

The King of Erlans would be very pleased if the Holy Empire Emperor and the feudal lords clashed.

“And the Emperor. . . as you know, has made too many enemies. Too many urgent fires to fight to intervene here.”

“But inaction will erode his authority.”

“A dilemma. But it’s all self-inflicted.”

While they whispered, knights came out to meet them in the camp, cautious due to Johan and Stephen’s status.

“Please, come inside.”

🔸🔸🔸🔸🔸🔸      

“Isn’t that too rude?”

Suetlg spoke with a calm fury.

Inside the tent, crossbowmen with loaded crossbows and armed knights stood firm, ready to throw themselves in the way if necessary.

There was no custom of welcoming a visitor in such a manner.

“Forgive my rudeness. I’m a bit cowardly.”

Ulrike responded without batting an eye. From her perspective, it was natural.

It was widely rumored that the foolish Stephen, relying solely on his name, had been caught by an unarmed knight.

She did not want to become the second fool of the family.

“You should have been moderate!”

“Let’s not argue about right and wrong here.”

Responding to Suetlg’s whispered words, Johan walked forward.

There was never an intention to take hostages, but now it seemed certainly impossible.

“Have you been well, Ulrike-gong?”

“I’ve been fine, Sir Johan. Pleased to see you like this.”

Johan scanned Ulrike’s face. It was definitely bright and cheerful.

‘𝘐 𝘨𝘰𝘵 𝘤𝘰𝘯𝘧𝘪𝘳𝘮𝘢𝘵𝘪𝘰𝘯 𝘧𝘳𝘰𝘮 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘊𝘰𝘶𝘯𝘵.’

Indeed, telling Stephen to ‘𝘥𝘪𝘦 𝘰𝘳 𝘨𝘰 𝘵𝘰 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘚𝘪𝘭𝘦𝘯𝘵 𝘔𝘰𝘯𝘢𝘴𝘵𝘦𝘳𝘺’ was a clearer message than a hundred words.

Knowing there was no further loss of wealth, her composure was understandable.

‘. . .𝘛𝘢𝘭𝘬𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘢𝘣𝘰𝘶𝘵 𝘵𝘢𝘹 𝘳𝘪𝘨𝘩𝘵𝘴 𝘴𝘦𝘦𝘮𝘴 𝘮𝘰𝘳𝘦 𝘥𝘢𝘶𝘯𝘵𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘯𝘰𝘸.’

It felt like dampening someone’s good mood.

“Regret it?”

“?”

“You should have accepted my offer. We could have been so happy.”

Ulrike’s words puzzled Suetlg, while Stephen’s face reddened with anger and fear.

Only Johan and Stephen understood the meaning of that proposal here.

“But the chance is over. Opportunities are like arrows; once shot, they can’t be caught again. Hope your upheld honor is worth it.”

“It wasn’t exactly for honor. . .”

“Enough, answer first. It’s a rejection.”

“?”

“Obvious. Stephen’s thoughts. Failed in monster subjugation, but doesn’t want to go to the Silent Monastery, so he thought of leading mercenaries under me as a workaround. But it’s not necessary.”

Suetlg, listening, asked.

“Wouldn’t over two hundred mercenaries be helpful. . .”

“It would be nice. But I don’t want to be associated with that incompetent knight. Take the mercenaries and leave. Come back without that knight next time.”

Ulrike pointed at Stephen.

Two hundred mercenaries would be helpful, but she didn’t want to give even a slight honor to Stephen.

Unwanted and disliked.

That was Stephen.

“Ulrike-gong.”

“What? Anything else to say?”

“First, a correction. . . the subjugation was successful.”

“. . . . . .”

For the first time, Stephen felt triumphant. Ulrike’s expression justified it.

“. . .I thought I would let it go. Definitely. I underestimated your ability.”

It dawned that the philosopher from Ipaël River couldn’t have been called by Stephen. Surely, it was Johan’s doing.

“Thank you.”

“So? You came to boast about your successful subjugation?”

“The following conversation. . . I’d like to have it more privately. . .”

“Ulrike-nim!”

The tent flap was pushed aside, and a mercenary captain rushed in.

“Sangdarju Castle is ready to surrender!”

“!”

🔸🔸🔸🔸🔸🔸      

Thanks to that, the private meeting with Johan was postponed. The castellan was ready to surrender, so naturally, that had to be addressed first.

“That was quicker than expected.”

“It’s thanks to Ulrike-nim’s command.”

“I just waited doing nothing, so spare me the useless flattery.”

Her tone was cynically similar to Countess Abner’s.

But it wasn’t entirely wrong.

The surrounded castellan had limited options: either resist to death or surrender.

The lord of Sangdarju Castle chose the latter.

The castle gates opened, and a delegation bearing a white flag emerged. Ulrike, unknowingly, smiled. In such a situation, no one could help but smile.

“The surrender documents?”

“Here they are. . .”

The envoys’ faces were dark and haggard. It was natural, having resisted under siege before coming out to surrender. Ulrike signaled with her chin, and her subordinates began to read the documents.

Meanwhile, Johan was blankly spectating from behind. Stephen asked cautiously.

“. . .Do you think the negotiations will go well?”

“Well, logically, it should, but people don’t think with just their brains. . . Shouldn’t you have been more careful about making enemies?”

“It’s not like I wanted to make them!”

“Being foolish is also a sin. If it were me, I would have been careful even while breathing.”

“Enough of this pointless talk. There are many ears around.”

At Suetlg’s words, Johan nodded. Speaking here was pointless anyway. The negotiation would be decided in the meeting with Ulrike.

“…?”

Johan sensed something off in the envoys’ expressions. It was a familiar look.

In that moment, Johan realized why their expressions seemed familiar.

“Gerdolf!”

“S-Sir!”

“Lead the mercenaries and block the left flank!”

Before finishing his sentence, Johan dashed off like a madman. There was no time to find and mount a horse.

Their expressions were familiar because they had the same thought as Johan had before.

Ambush!

‘𝘊𝘳𝘢𝘻𝘺 𝘧𝘰𝘰𝘭𝘴!’

However, the meaning was the opposite.

Johan, in front of others, built a just cause while flaunting the honor of a knight. As the cause was with Johan, the knights present accepted it.

But these people came out as surrendering envoys and were attempting to ambush. Such an act was dishonorable enough to not deserve noble treatment.

Even Ulrike hadn’t expected the opponent to stoop to such levels. . .

“Ulrike!”

“What? Have you lost your mind?”

Ulrike, recognizing Johan’s voice, turned her head in disbelief. Calling her without formalities, were they that close?

“Get back!”

“What nonsense are you. . .”

Ulrike stopped mid-sentence, a chill running through her mind.

“Capture Ulrike-gong!”

The haggard delegation drew their weapons. With a beast-like ferocity, they lunged at Ulrike.


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