“Is he really an illegitimate son?”
“That’s not important. The point is, using this as a pretext, the Abner family can avoid criticism.”
Beheading a guilty castellan and returning the castle to his child without any repercussions provided an unquestionable justification.
Of course, this was nothing but a deception.
The child of the castellan would be given no real authority. The Abner family would control the castle and the nearby town.
Ulrike looked at Johan with a surprised expression.
“Why do you say that?”
“I never thought the commander could come up with such a scheme.”
“It’s nothing. I owe it to the advice of Suetlg-nim.”
“The counsel of a philosopher is not for everyone, nor is it understood by all who receive it. Yes, a good plan. We must do it immediately. Hey! Prepare and dress up the “son” of the castellan.”
Whether he was a real illegitimate son or not didn’t matter. If they strongly assert it and it seems plausible, then it becomes the truth.
Marquis Crucho felt a suffocating sensation in his chest.
“The castle has fallen?”
“And. . . the son of the castellan has succeeded the position.”
“Nonsense! The castellan had no children!”
The castellan had no children, only relatives. If the castellan died, his brothers should have succeeded him.
Regardless of Marquis’ anger, a neatly dressed new lord of Sangdarju Castle looked down at them from the castle walls. He was clearly just a boy.
“How dare they bring in such a boy after killing the castellan and expect such an excuse to work?”
“The former castellan launched a surprise attack while sending a surrender envoy.”
Marquis Crucho clenched his teeth in anger. The opposition had annoyingly secured a moral high ground.
They executed him for violating the customs of surrender and returned the family estate as they didn’t intend to conquer the family.
“One cannot arbitrarily change the emperor’s vassal!”
“Succession is the rightful right of a vassal, according to customary law, imperial law, ecclesiastical law, and the laws of the world.”
“But wasn’t that succession forced?”
“Then file a lawsuit.”
The knight, acting as an envoy, responded brazenly. Marquis Crucho had to restrain his desire to draw his sword. Filing a lawsuit would be futile as they wouldn’t comply easily.
Knowing it was futile, Marquis Crucho issued an ultimatum.
“Open the gates! I must meet the new castellan and understand the whole situation.”
“Are you trying to take a vassal’s rightful land by force, like your lord often does?”
“. . .Watch your mouth. I’m not so weak that I can’t kill one like you!”
“Try if you can. The walls of Sangdarju are high, and the weather is getting colder. Let’s see what you can do from outside.”
The envoys laughed and went inside.
Unable to refute their words, Marquis Crucho despaired.
“Do you think we should retreat, or should we attack?”
“Won’t you retreat?”
“I bet on attacking.”
“Wasn’t the opponent said to be an experienced commander?”
Ulrike looked at Johan. No matter how she thought about it, he was a unique knight. It seemed like the characteristics of many people were combined in one person.
Devising strategies seemed noble or scribe-like, but the aggression and momentum in battle were that of a knight among knights. Yet, for a knight, his blood was too cold.
In such situations, no knight would speak of retreating. It wasn’t a matter of high walls or disadvantage. Honor, pride, and face as a knight. . .
These were things that flowed deeply in the blood of knights, beyond any cerebral calculation.
If one were to retreat just because it was disadvantageous, then there would be no reason to be a knight.
“Because. . . If it were me, I would have attacked.”
Ulrike’s words were spot on.
That night, Marquis Crucho initiated an attack. It was a desperate, almost flailing attack.
And that attack did not last even a week. Before a week passed, Marquis Crucho’s army began to withdraw.
“I’m not thinking of capturing the Marquis.”
“For that, your eyes are burning too fiercely.”
Unlike a castellan, the Marquis came from a very wealthy family. He was a hostage worth a large ransom from his southern fiefdom.
It was the same for Johan and the other knights. They were burning with the desire to target the retreating army of the Marquis.
“Don’t overdo it. Overdoing always leads to trouble. I’ve never seen anyone fare well going against the flow of a river.”
“I understand. Flowing water doesn’t race to the front.”
“That’s a good saying. Where did you hear it?”
Johan didn’t answer but lifted his spear.
The pursuit force was mainly composed of cavalry. They would quickly follow and bite into Marquis’ army.
“Sir Johan, will you lead the front?”
The knights proposed without needing to discuss who should go first. Stephen looked on enviously.
Johan had no connections under Ulrike, nor did he have the backing of a powerful family. Yet, he had gained the recognition of all knights solely through his skill.
Is this what a true knight is?
Johan, standing at the forefront, drew his sword. A robust cheer erupted from the knights.
It was almost time for the hunt.