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Maestro of Battles
The Lair of Litvart was at the entrance of Grave Mountains, a three hours trip on horseback from the Citadel.
The colt Weed was riding on occasionally diverted off course, and even chewed on gra.s.s leisurely. He had to cajole it to stay on course.
In front of the lair, a soldier who would look after the horses was waiting for them.
“Johnson, take good care of the horses.”
The punitive force led by Sir Midvale left their horses to the soldier, and entered the lair. Weed was finally relieved of the colt.
“Ready for battle!”
“Set in battle formation!”
The punitive force s.h.i.+elded themselves with steel bucklers and armed themselves with spears and swords. Compared to them, Weed’s equipment was pathetic. An iron sword and a bow.
Sir Midvale in chain mail approached.
“Is that all you have, Weed-nim?”
“You are poorly armed to fight on the front line. Stay behind and support the troops.”
The troops held the bucklers forward and marched on the lair. Weed followed them from behind.
Making a little headway, they spotted five kobolds that were camping around a bonfire, cooking something. Surprised by the sudden appearance of the troops, the kobolds sprang to their feet.
“Enemy! Human attack!”
The kobolds are Lv. 20 midget-like monsters, below four feet in height, armed with coa.r.s.e wooden s.h.i.+elds and bronze swords.
“Drive evil human away! They wreck shelter! Rise, brave kobold warriors!”
When the kobolds rushed out, the soldiers got tense. New recruits, fresh out of boot camps, had not engaged in a battle before. Weed looked toward Sir Midvale, but the knight watched his men with indifferent eyes as if any casualty was acceptable.
‘Isn’t a knight supposed to care if his soldiers die or not? Perhaps he wants them to have firsthand combat experience on their own’ Weed thought.
The soldiers quickly formed a linear formation and charged against the wave of kobolds. A couple of kobolds flung stones with slingshots, but the projectiles barely troubled the troops. Outnumbering the enemy and better equipped, the soldiers gained supremacy over the kobolds with few casualties. Every time a kobold fell, a small piece of metal dropped on the ground.
“Buren, Becker, gather the spoils.”
The two soldiers whose names were called out by Sir Midvale began gathering the metal pieces. They were copper or poorly smelt iron of little value, yet sufficient for farming tools.
One of the reasons why the kingdom operated such a punitive force, other than to train new recruits and restore security to the outskirts was to collect war booty, a creative injection to the budget.
“I need to move in at some point…” Weed said to himself.
On the next battle, he took out the Bow of Theo Grande and aimed at a kobold’s neck.
‘Hold your breath, steady your hands and aim at the target.’
Weed’s high agility and handicraft skill guided his arrows precisely to the targeted kobolds.
You have leveled up.
When Weed slew three kobolds, a level-up message window popped up. Those kobolds at a level higher than twenty gave enormous EXPs to Weed who was only at level thirteen.
Every kobold shot by his arrow immediately fell because he picked those who were nearly drained of life.
Cleverly, Weed sniped at easy game from behind while the soldiers were risking their lives in the front line.
It was a selfish and secure tactic. An arsonist torching a house is more of a saint than the neighbor plundering jewelry and china from the burning house, isn’t he?
What Weed was doing was very wicked, taking full advantage of brothers-in-arms bleeding and sweating hard to fight the monsters. A good man could not create such exploitation.
On the other hand, Weed was concerned that this tactic could backfire once the soldiers began to notice it and criticize him. Imagine how duped they would feel if a kobold short of a final strike dropped dead because of an arrow from out of nowhere.
Weed only shot kobolds who were running away in a desperate attempt to survive, or when a soldier was helplessly surrounded by two or three kobolds.
You have leveled up.
Each time a kobold was taken down, Weed smiled gleefully. While the other soldiers were fighting hard in the battles, all he needed to do was to shoot arrows blindly from a safe place. What else was easier than that?
His level was skyrocketing as fast as the stock price of Google. Weed’s scheme to buy the bow right before the quest paid off.
On the way deeper into the lair, they found a wide, open place. Sir Midvale and his men circled around it, slaying kobolds as they were detected, and then returned to the place.
“Take a rest and prepare lunch,” Sir Midvale ordered.
“Yes, sir.” Buren and Becker rustled to take out large pots and light a fire.
As the youngest in the party, they were made to do ch.o.r.es. Weed walked to them and picked up a knife.
“I’ll help you,”
Weed said, smiling sheepishly.
“Oh, no need,”
“Well, I like to cook. I am still an amateur, but wouldn’t it be nice if I serve you brave warriors who are devoting your swords and s.h.i.+elds for Rosenheim?”
“It is very kind of you, Weed-nim.”
Weed spontaneously won favor among the soldiers. A man who volunteers to do manual labor on a journey is always highly welcomed. For one thing, Becker and Buren’s att.i.tude toward Weed changed. They couldn’t help but like he who picks up the knife and slices beef.
Of course, he had his own agenda, and it had nothing to do with universal benevolence or whatever. Improve his Cooking skill.
Weed sliced and threw beef in the pot, added vegetables and flavors to make a stew. The ingredients that were needed to serve 32 men were quite a lot. Weed was aware that cooking plenty of food was the short cut to improve his cooking skill as fast as possible.
Level Up: Cooking Skill
Enhances the taste of meals.
Increases speed of recovery of stamina when served.
Increase life when served. (+5% LIFE)
Level Up: Handicraft Skill 
Enhances your craft skills in every field
Two message windows emerged almost together. Weed’s cooking skill rose while the Handicraft skill that had needed a few experience points for a level up ascended to seven. Two birds with one stone, indeed.
Weed tasted a spoonful of the stew—the privilege of being a chef.
Comparing this stew to cheap rye bread that said in any grocery store was an insult. It wasn’t as good as the pork barbecue that he had eaten the other day, but satisfying for his first attempt at catering thanks to his high handicraft skill that compensated the low Cooking skill.
“Everyone! Lunch is ready! Please help yourself.”
The soldiers who felt hungry because of the relentless battles were served a bowl of stew each, which they ate greedily.
“Oh, it’s delicious.”
“I can’t believe a meal could taste so good outdoors.”
“Somehow, I think he’s a better cook than my wife.”
They all gave the thumbs up to Weed. Their reaction told him that they wanted him to keep on cooking for them.
He filled empty bowls with beef stew continuously when asked, and in doing so, his stomach, too.
The soldiers emptied the pot, and when the lunch break was over, Sir Midvale came over to Weed. He asked cordially,
“Weed-nim, would you care to keep serving my men?”
Apparently, even a brave knight valued good cooking. Though, it was more likely that as a revered n.o.ble, he was too accustomed to fine meals that he could accept nothing less.
“Yes, sir. I will take care of meals.”
And so, Weed was named the official chef for the punitive force.
He found no reason to decline Sir Midvale’s request, as he could upgrade the cooking skill by preparing thirty-two servings of stew three times a day. Furthermore, he wasn’t confined to the field of cooking.
“Weapons and armors, I can fix them! Bring me anything damaged or destroyed if you have them.”
“Can you really repair my sword?”
“My buckler’s half damaged, low in durability…”
“Just show me what you’ve got. Repair!”
Weed used the repair skill to repair weapons and gear that some soldiers brought to him. It would cost a fortune to have a blacksmith repair damaged equipment back in town. If they were left with low durability, they could suddenly break in the middle of a battle.
“Thank you, Weed-nim!”
Weed was hailed by the troops. He could upgrade his handicraft and repair skills, and earned trust from soldiers as a bonus.
Sir Midvale, who had been skeptical of his friend’s recommendation to bring Weed along on the mission, was now more than satisfied with his role.
“You’re the man, Weed-nim!”
“Not at all, sir.”
Weed blended in with the rest of the troops.
Who knows what inconveniences they would have to suffer without him. They would have had to return to a nearby village from time to time when they needed to have broken or edge-nicked weapons fixed, and the meals would have revolted their stomachs.
Rarely obtained magical items would have needed identification scrolls, which cost several gold coins for each. Instead, Weed could identify them right on the spot with his identification skill.
For the soldiers, it would be torture to go back to the tasteless gruel that Buren and Becker used to claim was beef stew, especially after they enjoyed Weed’s version.
“We’re not cooks in the first place!” Buren and Becker cried in unison.
In this way, the soldiers and Weed formed an unimaginable relations.h.i.+p.
Whenever an arrow flew from Weed, a kobold turned grey.
The kobolds are considered relatively weaker monsters. They know how to use tools, but the cla.s.s of their tools is crude, as though made by children. They basically rely on numbers in battle.
“Kiyoyo!” A platoon of nine kobolds charged at once.
‘Come on! My precious EXP points!’
A big grin forming on his face, Weed greeted the kobolds with silent cheers. He shot arrows arbitrarily, collecting easy EXPs. Defense was taken care of by the soldiers, anyway. All he needed to do was shoot as many arrows as possible.
You have leveled up.
You have leveled up.
New Skill: You have learned Archery
This was level-up madness.
Weed had also learned archery, a skill that was commonly exclusive to the archer cla.s.s. It was hardly surprising, considering that he had done nothing but shoot arrows as he never swung a sword, even once, in the battles.
Nevertheless, the soldiers were not jealous of him in the least. After the battles, Weed was the busiest one there. He cooked meals, repaired weapons and gear and tended the wounded.
Sir Midvale had a few healing potions for emergencies, but the soldiers in the punitive force could not afford such costly medicines. Weed rubbed herbs and rolled gauze on wounds with his handicraft skill.
Skill: You learned Bandage Skill.
Enables you to stop bleeding.
Increases life of the wounded when tended.
The maximum number of skills that a user can learn when his cla.s.s is undecided is ten.
Weed’s bandage skill, affected by the high handicraft skill, had impressive effects. As he was busy caring for thirty patients every day, the skill upgraded fiercely.
The troops roamed on the first and second floor, slaying kobolds, for a week.
Users were occasionally spotted watching Weed with envious eyes as he was privileged to join a NPC punitive force and hunt monsters alongside them.
The week of slaughtering kobolds upgraded his level to twenty-six. The repair skill hit level three, and the cooking skill, now level four, earned him a special option to increase 50 HP for those who were served with his meals until the satisfaction factor went down.
Still, he had a headache.
“Quest Information Window.”
Search and Destroy Operation in the Lair of the Litvart [II]
There are a hundred monsters inhabiting the Lair of Litvart. Kill each and every one of them at least once, and prove yourself worthy of the honorable cla.s.s. The completion of this quest will open a right path for your destiny.
Difficulty Level: Unknown
Quest Requirement: None
Number of Monsters Left: 100
Regarding the quest that Counselor Rodriguez had, the number of monster that needed to be kill has not decreased at all though Weed had already knocked down hundreds of kobolds.
After a week of warming up on the kobolds, the troops headed to the third floor of the lair—the goblins’ territory.
While hunting kobolds had been originally intended to give the new recruits firsthand combat experience, confronting goblins posed a grave threat to their life.
The level of the kobolds was in the twenties. The kobold rascals are level twenty-three, and the relatively stronger kobold warriors twenty-eight, but unt.i.tled kobolds were at level twenty.
On the other hand, the goblins are level fifty or above. Their weapons and gear surpa.s.s what kobolds are equipped with in attack power and defense. The combat strength of the goblins is five to six times that of the kobolds.
“Watch out now. When you find yourself in danger, retreat immediately.”
The solders could not hide their excitement and tension. Their levels ranged from twenty-three to twenty-five from hunting kobolds, but their confidence ebbed at the thought of facing an unknown enemy whose level was generally twice theirs. The only relief was that goblins gathered in lesser numbers than kobolds.
Weed let out an exasperated breath. His stomach curdled at the thought that if the troops fought goblins at that moment, they would surely suffer inevitable casualties.
‘One third? Or perhaps more? I hope we won’t get annihilated.’
Had Weed been in charge of the troops, he would have taken time to have his men build more experience and level up higher before he led them to the threshold of the goblins, not to mention that he would have taught them how to fight goblins efficiently.
But the command of the punitive force primarily belonged to Sir Midvale. Weed was left with two options. Either he followed them as before, only to sit back and watch them die helplessly, or he give up the quest and hunt more kobolds on his own until he leveled up enough to deal with the goblins. The second option, which would penalize him tremendously, was out of the question.
In fact, the reason Weed was so concerned about the welfare of the soldiers was more of a practical need that he didn’t want to see them die in vain when he worked so hard to build a friends.h.i.+p with them.
“They are coming. Get ready!—” Even before Sir Midvale finished his words, a few goblins dashed out of a cave.
There were five goblins. The total number of soldiers outnumbered them 6:1. Weed planned to shoot an arrow at the goblins to take the initiative and to seek another chance afterward—undoubtedly, a goblin yielded a tremendous amount of EXPs, and he was dying to get one.
However, the soldiers were frozen. They stood motionless as if nailed to the ground where they were standing. And fighting spirit radiated from the goblins! The soldiers cowered at the sight of an enemy who was level fifty. Their swords dropped downward, the bucklers trembled unmistakably.
‘Idiots…’ Weed clicked his tongue.
The goblins were not easy to defeat even if the soldiers stood up to fight fearlessly, and now they were already frozen before the battle began. This would lead to a calamity.
Weed shot a glance at Sir Midvale, who was standing beside him. Obviously, the knight wasn’t in the mood to motivate his men.
‘The weak deserve to die.’
The code of chivalry developed in Rosenheim kingdom was cold-blooded. Weed stepped forward. He flung his bow on his back and held the iron sword.
‘I have faith in friends.h.i.+p I’ve worked so hard to build,’ he said to himself.
Then, he did something that was unimaginable to the other soldiers who remembered what he had done in the previous battles. Weed shouted a war cry and charged toward the goblins!
Weed’s sword was deflected so easily, instilling a sense of futility in him.
He could make up for a gap between his level and the goblins’ with his inflated stats, but the shorter reach of his sword was critical. The sword wasn’t effective on the goblins that were armed with longer spears.
‘I’m not wearing any defensive gear. If they hit me, I’m dead.’
The goblins blocked Weed’s sword, and almost at the same time, they thrust their spears toward him. He crouched to dodge them. It needed a combination of his amazing reflexes and quick wits to save his life.
He had no intention of fighting the goblins seriously, so his subsequent attacks were half-hearted.
“Your sword sucks!”
With five spears, the goblins attacked at random places that were directed by raw instinct.
As long as Weed didn’t get close within the reach of his sword, he was free of the risk of being skewered by their spears.
Still, he pretended to be in peril, dodging the spears by inches. To the eyes of the soldiers, the scene looked like a hopeless struggle of the weak.
Even though it had been long since Weed’s level transcended theirs, their view of his role was fixed on a handy man working manual labor, such as repairs, cooking and first aid. That Weed was fighting the goblins! The eyes of the soldiers began to flicker with confidence.
After a couple more exchanges, Weed retreated a few steps and roared in a thunder-like voice,
“Look at them! These goblins are weaker than they appear! Look at us! We outnumber them! You are not alone; we have each other! Our comrades shoulder to shoulder are watching our backs!”
“Hoo-hah!” The soldiers regained their morale at once.
“It’s a shame on us if we hide behind Weed’s back like mice!”
“Get up—fight!” They charged directly at the goblins.
Weed quickly sensed a forthcoming melee and pulled himself from the battle.
“These b.a.s.t.a.r.ds are only using spears. If we fight within the reach of spears, it will only cause us more damage. Use your s.h.i.+elds. Hold yours bucklers up, marched forward, narrow the gap in between, and prevent them from thrusting their spears freely.”
“I will follow your command!”
Weed gave timely advice in a cordial manner.
Since friends.h.i.+p between them hit maximum, his command was directly taken on board by the soldiers.
They pushed back the goblins by force. Two thirds of them held their bucklers at the front, the rest grabbed the swords.
As the first two lines charged behind the bucklers, the spears that were thrust by the goblins bounced off, astonis.h.i.+ng the brainless enemy. Once the gap was narrowed, the sword line began to swing their swords.
Charisma has risen by 3 points (+3 CHR)
For Weed, who had been resting idly, had his charisma increased by three points. The charisma stat acts over NPC troops, and makes it easier to tame pets or hire mercenaries.
As the soldiers who were motivated by Weed’s speech got into action, his leaders.h.i.+p was recognized.
The goblins, in spite of their much higher level, could not defeat the troops, who outnumbered them six-fold.
Their coordinated offense turned one goblin after another into a gray flash.
These Roman legion tactics would have been ineffective when it comes to a battle between armies of equal number of soldiers, but an army of thirty soldiers with bucklers on, charging from four directions, devastated the goblins, which were armed with long spears.
Occasional arrows shot by Weed after he sheltered behind the troops distracted the goblins further.
Five goblins! ‘One of them is mine!’
Weed observed the battle scene, and when a goblin was near death, he shot an arrow precisely at the goblin’s neck.
You have leveled up.
Since Weed reached level twenty-six, kobolds had not yielded as much EXPs as before. It was still a lot whichever way you looked at it, but too low for Weed.
A goblin belonged to a different dimension than a kobold. When Weed had killed the goblin, it alone filled thirty-seven percent that remained for the next level, at twenty-seven, and took extra ten percent for change.
‘At level fifty, goblins give much better EXP than kobolds.’
Weed was tempted to kiss the goblin’s a.s.s. Only G.o.d knows what he would have done if the soldiers were not around him. It would be difficult to find a hunting ground better than this.
The soldiers exclaimed in triumph, throwing swords in the air. They were bolstered in confidence that they had successfully defeated the first goblins.
“Goblins are no match for us.”
“No, we won easily because we followed Weed’s command.”
“He has the gift of a leader.”
“He’s excellent in measuring the enemy’s strength.”
“Under his command, our chances of survival will be high.”
When the battle was over, the soldiers complimented Weed, patting his back.
The G.o.ddess of fortune was smiling on him! Weed, however, drifted his gaze to Sir Midvale cautiously.
If the knight was offended that his command was violated by a mere foreigner, he had every right to execute Weed without trial, though Weed a.s.sured himself that his friends.h.i.+p with the knight would prevent the worst in that case.
Sir Midvale looked at the corpse of a goblin, deep in thought for a moment, and then said to Weed,
“You are a good soldier, Weed-nim. I can see great talent in you. How about taking the path of royal guard?”
“A royal guard?”
“You will become an officer in the honorable army of Rosenheim kingdom. Your starting position will be a denarion.”
You have received a job offer!
If you accept it, you will take a military position of Denarion in the Rosenheim army. You will command ten foot soldiers. You are ent.i.tled to receive regular training, and a monthly income of fifty silvers. Will you accept this job offer?
Upon the completion of the regular training, a few basic sword techniques and a quant.i.ty of military equipment such as swords and s.h.i.+elds are given. Certainly, they are not the sharpest tools in town—an iron sword, or similar, and heavy armor with only defense options.
Weed shook his head because, according to his blueprint, it was too early to settle down in a specific career.
“I am honored you have such a high opinion of me, sir. But I cannot take it. A royal guard is undoubtedly what I aspire to be, but I want to devote myself to wandering freely to help the poor and the weak, and destroy evil monsters for the time being. A wanderer’s blood flows in me, Sir Midvale.”
“Well, so be it. If you ever change your mind, let me know. For now, take command of my men.”
“Can I really do that?”
“It is my duty, but it seems my men follow you, and learn a lot from you. I will watch from behind how far your leaders.h.i.+p can lead them.”
Sir Midvale transferred the command of the punitive force to Weed.
For now, the soldiers were obliged to obey him at least in this lair. Of course, he did not expect loyalty that could compel them to jump into a pit of flames from a single word.
Weed’s charisma was too low, so he counted on his friends.h.i.+p with the soldiers. Still, he was thrilled at his new a.s.signment.
‘Sweet! I’ll make the best out of this situation,’ he said to himself.
Weed swiftly packed the bow, took out the sword and held it up. It was a demonstration of his newly-acquired position. It would have been less impressive to hold the bow, reminding his troops of his past behavior in battles that could not strike them as honorable.
“Listen, soldiers! My name is Weed, and as of now, I take over the command of you. I ask you to follow my orders dutifully.”
“My foremost objective is to defeat the lair without any casualties. Do your best, and not a single drop of blood will shed in vain.”
Since Weed took over the command from Sir Midvale, the att.i.tude of his troops toward him had changed drastically.
“You are scouts now. Stay ahead of the army, and look out for enemy in the areas. Even when we are engaged in battle, you must look out for any approaching enemy.”
Weed marched his troops with the two scouts leading them. Soon, Buren ran back to him, panting.
“Buren reporting, sir! Seven goblins at twelve o’clock. Two female goblins and five goblin raiders.”
Goblin raiders were, according to Weed’s private database, Lv. 58 monsters.
“You did a good job, Buren. Everyone, halt!”
Weed ordered his troops to stay put in an open clearing, and set up a few traps. Then, he went alone to the location where the goblins had been spotted.
As Buren reported, the seven goblins were resting there. Weed took out his bow and shot at the farthest goblin. Before the arrow hit the target, he turned and ran away.
“Kyah, human!” The goblins looked around, spotted Weed and chased after him in a rush.
Weed knew that, if he was surrounded by the seven goblins, he would not stand any chance. He just prayed his feet would not fail.
Thump As Weed heard the goblins gaining on him from behind, he s.h.i.+vered.
Holding spears, the goblins were running with heavy strides.
‘G.o.d, they even sent a chill down my spine. This is what you call an awesome game. No, the coolest job for me,’ he said to himself.
Although in a dangerous spot, Weed’s thoughts were still positive. He was alone, but he would be safe once he reached the place his troops were hiding. Weed ran like his tail was on fire, and arrived at the clearing.
Buren and Becker were the first faces he saw.
“Get ready for the battle. Goblins are incoming!”
While Weed’s call was echoing through the s.p.a.ce, the seven goblins sprang out of the cave. In only a moment, their fate would be decided.
The goblins that were stupid and witless were mesmerized at the sudden appearance of the soldiers from the rocks they had been taking cover behind. Then they threw burning torches at the goblins.
“These b.a.s.t.a.r.ds are trapped!”
“They have spears. Be careful of their spears! Anyone who is injured must step down, be it severe or not.”
Had Weed foreseen that he would be in charge of the troops, he would have bought more snares and traps. The best idea he could come up with when there were no other tools was to throw torches at the goblins.
Nonetheless, the soldiers were fighting very well. The thirty troops were a big machine driving the goblins into individual segments and destroying them one after the other. They were strengthened by an incalculable variable called morale.
Whether it comes to monsters or NPCs, morale is always a decisive factor in battles. The soldiers believed in their newly appointed leader, Weed. On the other hand, confused by the torches thrown at them, the goblins realized that they had walked into a trap, surrounded by many humans, so they lost their will to fight back.
“Cheating humans attack us!”
“Kieeekk! Run for life!”
“Who do you think will let you get away alive?”
While the soldiers pushed relentlessly towards their enemy, Weed’s eyes flashed.
“Surround them. Block the entrance of the cave!”
“Let the wounded retreat and give first aid. The other soldiers with full life—focus on defense. Those who are healed should remain in the waiting position. You will get ready to join the battle when I give you an order.”
Under Weed’s command, the soldiers immobilized the goblins steadily, two of whom were felled by his arrows.
As he had put his life at risk, he justified that he deserved at least two goblins to make ends meet.
The high-level goblins held on for a considerable period in spite of low morale, but when Weed divided his troops into three groups, and ordered them to take turns exhausting the enemy, the monsters ended up as gray flashes.
The goblins left nine silvers, a steel s.h.i.+eld and a bronze spear.
When Buren and Becker picked them up as ordered, Weed interfered.
“Everyone, listen! I am proud of your valor. I will divide spoils in a different manner than before.”
“I will reward the man most who fights goblins most bravely. On one condition—he should not be severely injured enough to be disabled for the next battle. My priority is to bring you safely back to your loving families.”
At Weed’s speech, the eyes of his troops filled with admiration.
Charisma has risen by 2 point. (+2 CHR)
Weed would have swallowed all the items if he could, but he kept himself in checked. If his friends.h.i.+p with the soldiers dropped, his low charisma could not save him from the possibility of a mutiny, or even a hanging.
Sir Midvale’s presence further weighed on him to bury his unreasonable greed. Leading his troops, Weed systematically cleaned out the goblins on the third floor.
One day, however, Sir Midvale said with a grimace,
“Weed-nim, the pace of the mission is slow. I advise you to pick up the pace.”
“I beg your pardon, sir?”
“I borrowed these soldiers from other regiments. I am not allowed to keep them indefinitely. They must finish the quest within a month, and return to their original regiments.”
Weed had never heard of the deadline. It seemed that only the soldiers were bound to it. Still, he didn’t hasten the pace.
Against six or more goblins, he always drew them to the nearest open s.p.a.ce by shooting one or two arrows where his troops overwhelmed them. In case of fewer than six goblins, he led them straight to fight with the enemy.
Weed avoided a battle unless the soldiers were fully healed to the last man, and he still made stews and repaired damaged weapons and gear to maintain their condition at their best.
* * *
When the punitive force succeeded in conquering the third floor of the lair, Weed hit level thirty-seven, and his men thirty-four. There it came. Time for the true hunting
“Keep the formation! Charge!”
At Weed’s command, the soldiers moved like people who had gone berserk, surrendered to madness. To them, the goblins were as nothing.
“Death on you! You ugly monsters!”
“You cheese-eating dirty frogs. I’ll clean you off the earth.”
The soldiers pushed on with their bucklers ahead. They were as foul-mouthed as ever because Weed had taught them four-letter words from Rodriguez’s dictionary.
They sometimes roared menacingly, and charged under apparently impossible circ.u.mstances. Their swords became more dynamic, penetrating openings of the goblins that were armed with spears.
Weed still maintained the same formation for his troops to ultimately rely on their comrades, but they were more reckless and faster. They had slain goblins repeatedly, leaving thousands of corpses behind them.
Adopting Weed’s tactics aggressively, his troops crushed the goblin defense with thoroughly coordinated attacks.
Now it took just the blink of an eye to destroy a platoon of six goblins as an army of thirty veteran soldiers rushed on fiercely and devastated the enemy.
“Battle is won. Let me distribute items based on individual prowess. Hosram and Dale.”
“Any soldier who needs a repair or a rest?”
“Then, let’s move on. Scout, report!”
Buren and Becker, in turn, scouted and reported the location and number of the nearest goblins.
“Becker reporting, Commander! Eight goblins have been located a hundred yard away at nine o’clock. One goblin alchemist, six goblin warriors, and one plain goblin.”
The soldiers ran at a comfortable pace, neither fast nor slow. Galloping, they were recovering from battle fatigue and preparing for the upcoming battle.
“Enemy, kill them all!”
The goblins began to put up resistance, but it was almost meaningless.
The soldiers, now veterans in combat experience, already dominated the goblins in morale—and Weed’s arrow was a death sentence.
His level in archery rose fast as he was actively engaged in battle, and his arrows were no longer aimed only at dying goblins.
Weed now shot arrows in order to take the initiative, and when goblins were grouping to break through his men’s encircling net, he hindered their movement with warning shots. The main target was, though, any goblin that threatened the life of one of his troops.
Imagine that when a goblin’s spear is flying at you, your leader’s arrow bores a hole in its head, then you will feel saved and thus more loyal to him, won’t you? The same logic went for a number of soldiers whose life was saved by Weed at the last second.
His troops hunted goblins in the most efficient and time-saving way. They conquered the fourth floor faster than the third one, and even kept the same pace on the fifth one where they encountered a score of goblins in each battle.
As the soldiers were mature in combat skills, giving them the status of veteran at a high level, they were capable of one-to-one combat with goblins.
Nevertheless, Weed stuck to the old tactics of focusing on defense and outnumbering goblins. Some of his men got c.o.c.ky and suggested to him that they drop it and, instead, fight goblins fairly on a level playing field.
Weed stood his ground, though.
“Do not consider that filthy goblins deserve fair play! Have you ever heard of a knight asking for a duel with monsters? If there were one, he would be stupid to defend his honor against monsters. We are fighting them in order to restore peace and protect the people of Rosenheim. Keep in mind that if you hesitate to put an end to a goblin because you are trying to be ethical, your comrades will pay the consequences!”
Weed’s charisma controlled his army of thirty men.
One who fought a goblin alone was denied his share of recognition. He was later excused from the next battle. He was at first excited to stay out of danger, but soon realized that he had to sit back and watch his comrades leveling up.
This example taught everyone a lesson, so the troops went as far as stabbing goblins in the back if it became available. They were brainwashed beyond doubt by Weed’s tongue. Infantry Combat Tactics 101.
For less than a month, Weed led the punitive force to sweep over the Lair of Litvart. As a week was still left, they went back down to the third floor, and on the way back to the bottom, rooted out regenerated goblins.
Once a battle began, the soldiers spread in wings, formed an encircling formation and slew their foe within a few breaths. As soon as the battle was over, they advanced to the next one.
Not one soldier died.
They finished the Search and Destroy Operation of The Lair of the Litvart quest with the overall levels of the troops reaching fifty-seven, Weed’s sixty-two. Considering that the average level of denarions in the Rosenheim Army was forty, what Weed had accomplished was terrific.
“Good job, Weed-nim. You have done a great service to us.”
Sir Midvale didn’t hide the fact that he marveled at Weed.
“If we had five more men of your courage and leaders.h.i.+p, then Rosenheim kingdom wouldn’t ever be hara.s.sed by monsters. By the right of a royal knight, I hereby wish to appoint you centurion. Would you accept my proposal, Weed-nim?”
You have received a job offer!
If you accept it, you will take a military position of centurion in the Rosenheim army. You will command one hundred foot soldiers. You are ent.i.tled to receive regular training, and a monthly income of three gold. Will you accept his job offer?
An officer in command of a hundred troops, a centurion is deemed to be a sub-knight who is qualified to embark on an annual trial of promotion to knighthood in the Red Order. If it were other users, they would have accepted it willingly, but Weed wasn’t swayed.
“I’m glad to hear that, Sir Midvale, but this is more than I can accept.”
“Freya forbids it! Tell me if you want additional benefits, Weed-nim. I believe we can find common ground.”
“Your offer is… beyond my dearest wish. But all I want is peace and prosperity in Rosenheim Kingdom. As my heart leads me to travel to many places and help those in need, it seems too early to settle down. If you have another mission to destroy monsters after the autumn harvests, or if Rosenheim is invaded, I will be the first one to run to you and offer my service to command courageous soldiers in the Rosenheim army.”
“Your spirits are well understood, Weed-nim. The door to the Royal Army will be always open to you.”
Sir Midvale withdrew his proposal with a content look.
“Now that we have finished the quest, I am leading them back to the Citadel. Will you join us?”
“I have something to be done here, sir.”
“May I inquire as to its nature?” Sir Midvale looked curious.
For the last four weeks, Weed had made thirty-two servings of stew three times a day. His experienced cooking skill delivered great food on time, and Sir Midvale was one of the beneficiaries who had fallen in love with it, forming a solid friends.h.i.+p with him.
“I must take care of a quest for the sake of Counselor Rodriguez.”
Weed had a.s.sumed that the annihilation of the goblins would meet the quest’s requirement, but it was a serious miscalculation on his part.
The numbers of monsters that he was supposed to destroy was still a hundred without any sign of decrease. Anyway, the number of goblins in the lair was hundreds on each floor, at a conservative estimate.
Rodriguez’s quest was to sweep away all the ‘monsters’ in the Lair of Litvart, and the kobolds and goblins were not possibly the target because they greatly outnumbered a hundred.
“I see, Weed-nim. A quest by the Counselor… I understand. I was looking forward to returning to the Citadel with you, but it seems destiny directs us to part our ways here. Instead, I will lend you a.r.s.e.”
“a.r.s.e? Whose a.s.s?”
“Have you already forgotten the name of the horse you rode here the other day?”
“Don’t tell me…”
Weed’s head suddenly felt thick and heavy. The colt that had kicked him with two rear legs and bit his hand! Now he remembered the colt’s name was a.r.s.e.
What a shameful name for a would-be stallion.
“The trip to the Citadel will cost you valuable time without a horse. a.r.s.e is at your service.”
“Thank you, but no thank you, sir. I don’t need any horse.”
“I am only returning your favor, Weed-nim. Please take it. Return it to the Royal Stable when you finish your quest.”
Sir Midvale turned as soon as he delivered what he wanted to say. His att.i.tude implied that there was nothing else to hear, case closed. The knight meant well for Weed’s sake, but he wanted none of it. How in the world could he stand such a wild colt?
Weed absolutely hated this pain in the b.u.t.t, but he had to accept it, or he would make the royal knight lose face once again.
“Commander, we will miss you.”
“We are all going home alive, thanks to you!”
“Please visit my place when you come to the Citadel.”
“I run an inn in the central avenue. You are always welcome.”
“My family owns a restaurant. My wife will serve you a delicious meal, though it’s not as good as yours!”
The soldiers came up to Weed and said farewell.
As high-level veterans, they would probably be promoted upon their return, at least, to denarions while one or two soldiers who score the best could look for a better position.
Weed shook the hand of every soldier who used to be his subordinate. His hand was warm, and its grip held on for a few seconds.
“Do you really have to leave?”
“I want to stay here with you, Commander, but I’m a proud soldier of Rosenheim Army. I must return to my regiment.”
“Commander, I will miss you!”
Weed’s eyes shone darkly with reluctance. What troubles he had gone through to train those soldiers! He was the first to have credit for transforming once new recruits at level twenty into veterans in combat skills. Now Weed felt as though he were being robbed of them by the kingdom.
“Everyone, safe trip!” Weed said.
“Commander, you must stop by in my place later!”
After reluctant farewells with his former troops, Weed was left alone.
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