Chapter 5:

CHAPTER 3: ALL ABOUT LOGISTICS AND MERCENARIES

The Human Saint is Bored, so I was Summoned to Another World Vol. 5


This was a strange war.Bookmark here

Sure enough, we did all that ‘War Room meeting’ and everything, but then, once the plans were made and responsibilities assigned, it looked like all went back to normal.Bookmark here

Lily had strictly forbidden that we talk about the matters concerning the ‘Holy Coalition’ whenever we’re outside the War Room and Maddie’s personal quarters. Well, her move makes sense. After being betrayed by Eris—who, by the way, was still allowed by Maddie to work inside the Palatial Gardens to avoid the perception that she was ‘excommunicated’, I don’t think we could still let our guards down…not until this conflict was resolved.Bookmark here

I think the only ones who know about the ‘Coalition’ inside the Holy Palatial Gardens are Maddie, Lily, Ruro (because it’s pointless to hide it from her—she can read minds), and me.Bookmark here

Hm? What about the coalition?” Her Fluffy Holiness asked me. I guess she’s been reading my mind once again. We’re just sitting idly around inside my room, with me reading a book, and Ruro was in her ‘little’ wolf-form trying to cool off the hot day.Bookmark here

“Well, I was just thinking that it was a weird war,” I admitted to her.Bookmark here

“What do you mean? This is pretty normal, for starting wars, of course.”Bookmark here

“Eh?”Bookmark here

“Oh, are you talking about wars in your world, Master?” Ruro laughed, “Well, in our world, wars are like this. 90% of it was spent in waiting, and only 10% goes to actual fighting.Bookmark here

Well, I’ve read about wars being fought with a large part of the time went to preparing defenses, marching, and other mundane tasks that would kill a soldier in boredom rather than in combat. But still…Bookmark here

“…”Bookmark here

If I could compare the situation, it reminded me of the ‘Sitzkrieg’, or the ‘Phony War’ of Earth’s 1940 between the Allies and Nazi Germany in Western Europe. During those times, the belligerent armies were afraid to start actual fighting and were content with waiting and intimidating their enemy. Well, I could tell that my side was preparing for the battles ahead, but what about the Empire?Bookmark here

Could it be that they are still preparing to invade? If so, wouldn’t this be the right time to attack them?Bookmark here

“…”Bookmark here

“That ‘Sitzkrieg’ thing was sure strange Master.” Ruro finally commented.Bookmark here

“Isn’t it the same here? I mean, if I’m the emperor, the reluctance of the other human kings would be my license to invade while everyone was still unprepared and disunited.”Bookmark here

“I don’t exactly know how the Imperial monarch thinks, but you make a good argument.” Ruro replied, “However, don’t you think he was still reinforcing his armies in Amaranth before unleashing them into the whole north of Chersea?”Bookmark here

“If that’s so, then we’re in grave danger since the other kings would prefer to face his armies alone, rather than fighting them in a united front.”Bookmark here

“You could say that again, Master.” Her Fluffy Holiness laughed, “Humans are like that; you’re united, but disunited. It’s similar to my race, the Beastmen, but only cooperating to a certain degree.”Bookmark here

“Hoh?”Bookmark here

“Yep. Unlike you humans, we of the Beastmen race would rather live and fight to ourselves. It’s how we are confident with our skills and strengths, see? That’s why you seldom see a Beastman around; we prefer to live alone.”Bookmark here

“Interesting…well, you’re the only Beastman I encountered so far, Your Fluffy Holiness.” I chuckled, “And, truth be told, I’m kind of glad you trusted me.”Bookmark here

“Oh, so does this mean that you’re accepting me as your slave?”Bookmark here

“Are you crazy? You’re a holy person. Think of your own race when they learn that you’re a slave to a powerless, human commoner.”Bookmark here

“I think that’s interesting.”Bookmark here

“I think not.”Bookmark here

“Haha! Well, anyway, I won’t argue with you, Master!” Ruro was quick to give up, “I know myself that I can’t win against you with words. But I can always force you.”Bookmark here

“You surely jest, Your Fluffy Holiness!”Bookmark here

“Oh? Are you challenging me?” Ruro then uttered a spell and transformed into her human form. Then she pulled a gun barrel from her chest, “Hey, look Master! Don’t you remember this?”Bookmark here

“Ah! It’s my gun that I left at the Braunhauer manor in Amaranth!” I cried out, “How did you get that?”Bookmark here

“Well, when I learned about what happened in Amaranth, I rushed there to help you. But you guys already left, and in a hurry too, since you left your gun and dagger there!”Bookmark here

“Thanks, Your Fluffy Holiness! Now can I get my weapons now?”Bookmark here

Hoh? I thought we’re trying out if I can force you or not?”Bookmark here

Ha? You serious with that one?”Bookmark here

“Yep. And I won’t hand it to you, not unless you yanked it free from my bosom…” Ruro squeezed her chest in a poorly made attempt to seduce me.Bookmark here

Heh! As if I would get aroused from that. Maddie’s the only girl who can make my heart race, see?Bookmark here

“W-We’ll see about that!” Ruro then went over to my chair and flaunted her cleavage on my face. I tried to look away, but then, there’s something strange about the Beastman Saint. It’s as if she smelled fragrant and her body exuded that weird, seductive charm.Bookmark here

It’s hard to imagine now that she’s a pug. A holy pug.Bookmark here

“M-Master…I’d f-forgive you now for thinking of me as that ugly dog.” Ruro whispered seductively in my ear, “However, in exchange, I’d like you to hold me…”Bookmark here

Your Fluffy Holiness, I think this is getting out of hand.Bookmark here

“I told you before, right? I’m S.E.R.I.O.U.S.”Bookmark here

Oh? W-Well…that’s…too bad. Honestly, I could feel my heart beat wildly as Ruro of the Wolf continued trying to attract me. The Beastman Saint removed her clothes so that her smooth, brown skin was exposed to my eyes. As if not to let me rest, she drew her erotic face nearer to mine while she bit her lips in the sexiest manner. She looked so different now, and her body exuded that erotic charm that no man in the world could resist…Bookmark here

Well, except for…ME!Bookmark here

“!!!”Bookmark here

Ruro was suddenly brought back to her senses when I took a firm hold of her shoulders and made her sit on the floor. Then, the gun on her chest fell as well, and I grabbed it. Finally, I removed my overcoat and wrapped it around her.Bookmark here

“Sorry, Your Fluffy Holiness.” I apologized, breathing heavily, “As much as I wanted to admit that you’re attractive to me, I would like to remain faithful to Maddie. Please don’t joke like that anymore.”Bookmark here

Ruro remained silent and seemingly in a daze. However, now that I got my gun, I patted her head and rushed out to cool my head off. I couldn’t blame myself for getting aroused, after all.Bookmark here

“…”Bookmark here

Her Fluffy Holiness was left inside my room. Unbeknownst to me during that time, her desire to ‘connect’ with me grew even stronger within her…Bookmark here

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Anyway, so much for that episode. As I was saying before, we’re now at war with the Empire, and yet nothing extraordinary was happening. Maybe because it was the preparations being done by our respective sides that were delaying the explosive phase of this conflict?Bookmark here

That I won’t know…Bookmark here

Regardless, our plan was put into action. On January 10th Lily and I secretly went to the city of Stadtsberg, which was located to the north of Amaranth. In my place, I left the vice-captain, Dame Atkins, in-charged of Maddie’s security.Bookmark here

Well, it’s not because of hidden enemies we’re worried for her. It’s more of, we’re afraid that she would come with us, even though Lily had expressly forbidden it. That will not allow us to conceal our presence in Stadtsberg.Bookmark here

The other nobles also arrived by the 10th and 11th, so the Prince of Stadtsberg welcomed us in his personal palace, which serves as our headquarters and assembly point. While the rest of the members of the coalition were given preferential treatment, Lily and I were disguised as newly hired servants of the Prince.Bookmark here

I guess it’s because we’re the heart of the team, that’s why they really want us to hide until it is too late for the Empire to react against us…Bookmark here

On the 12th of January, agents were sent out to the borders of Amaranth to spread misinformation and prayed it would work.Bookmark here

The first batch of soldiers from Nerfes came to the city by January 14. As per our plan, with limited cooperation from the city of Stadtsberg’s prominent citizens (they weren’t aware of our goals here), we took care of the provisions for the assembling army, with a bit more reserved for the incoming people.Bookmark here

On January 16th, another group arrived, followed by the first soldiers from the kingdoms of Colveente and Amarth. The men from Amarth also brought in valuable information (since they were disguised as merchants), like the rumors we began sending to the Amaranthine borders were causing movement of Imperial legionnaires to the north, east, and west…Bookmark here

A clear sign our plan is working.Bookmark here

By January 20th, our numbers swelled to almost 8,000. And since it’s hard to keep the huge concentration of men in one place from the scrutiny of the local population, the Prince of Stadtsberg temporarily dispersed the soldiers into nearby places—towns and villages, with strict orders not to say anything about their real aim.Bookmark here

The others were ‘employed’ as farmers for the Prince of Stadtsberg.Bookmark here

We projected that one week was enough in our battle plan to get the preparations done. However, on the 22nd, we realized a major mistake in our timetable…Bookmark here

We failed to expect the possibility of the slowing of movements of men from their point of embarkation to our place of assembly. Intelligence reports showed the Imperials had set-up patrols and checkpoints along the routes towards the northern borders. It was a bad precedent, for maybe the enemy was suspecting unusual traffic movement, and thus verifying it by counting the caravans plying the roads to the north.Bookmark here

And so, for precaution, I asked Lily (through our agents) to order some men from Amarth to divert towards the east and then head north once they exited Amaranth. The same goes with the other soldiers marching from their countries towards Stadtsberg, just to avoid detection and suspicions…Bookmark here

Because of that, the numbers promised to us by the other supporting coalition members didn’t materialize, or were way below their committed count.Bookmark here

On January 24th, the day before the planned commencement of hostilities, Lily convened a ‘council of war’. Since the prolonged presence of armed men—albeit disguised as peasants—wouldn’t keep our enemy in the dark for long, we asked half of the Nerfes contingent and the men from Colveente to march to the kingdom of Colveente, in the Duchess of Henristone’s land. Not only would it diminish our problems with concealment, but their move would also position our forces to strike south with minimal preparations.Bookmark here

Also, the offensive Lily originally set for January 25th had to be postponed while waiting for the rest of the men to arrive…Bookmark here

“…”Bookmark here

…which is bad because the longer we delayed, the greater the chance our movements would be detected.Bookmark here

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And so, the 27th of January came with nothing happening.Bookmark here

The trickle of men from the other coalition member-countries continued. When I woke up earlier, 20 men from Baltes (the Duke of Greene’s country) arrived. Mid-way into noon, another 150 soldiers disguised in a merchant caravan reached us from Colveente.Bookmark here

“Greetings!” an officer from their group saluted me, “By any chance, my good man, do you know the man they call ‘Sir Kuro’?”Bookmark here

“That’d be me.”Bookmark here

“Oh?” the officer took an eyeful of me, who was wearing my usual casual overcoat and denim jeans. Perhaps it took him a while to process that the unassuming man in front of him was the captain of the Paladin Guard Corps. Finally, he exclaimed, “OH!”Bookmark here

“So, you realized?”Bookmark here

“My apologies, Sir Kuro!” the officer bowed repeatedly before me.Bookmark here

“No! No! It’s fine, really.” I chuckled, half-amused, “Please be at ease; I’m also a commoner like you.”Bookmark here

The officer straightened himself and took two unmarked pieces of paper from inside his breast pocket, “Sir, there are letters for you, one from Colveente, and one from the Holy Palatial Gardens as well.”Bookmark here

Hmm…two intelligence notes, huh? But why is it addressed to me, and not to our spy-master?Bookmark here

I opened the letter from the Holy Palatial Gardens first, “Dear Kuro…”Bookmark here

“!!!” the officer was bewildered when he heard that.Bookmark here

“Oh, sorry, it’s a personal letter.” I quickly turned and skimmed through Maddie’s letter.Bookmark here

‘Dear Kuro…It’s been a while since you and Lily left, and without you, I feel so lonely. So very, very lonely. But I had to contend with the reality that you’re all doing this for me, for Lily, and for our futures together.’Bookmark here

Heh, Maddie still hadn’t given up on the ‘harem ending’, huh?Bookmark here

‘You’re a brave man, Kuro, and I really admire you for that. In fact, I am so admiring you I always think about you…when I wake up, when I eat, when I bathe, when I change my clothes, when I feel hot, when I put fingers on my—’Bookmark here

Holy sh—Bookmark here

“…”Bookmark here

Hold on. I guess I should stop there…for now. The letter was getting weirder and creepier, and this wasn’t a yandere-erotic story, so I had to move on with the second one.Bookmark here

’Sir Kuro. My apologies, but apparently, the King of Calabria caught wind of our preparations and is getting suspicious. As our confederation’s high-king, he is keeping a close watch on my territories. I’m afraid the men with me can’t do anything but to ‘sit still’ for now. Please continue your activities; information has reached me that the Empire is still in the dark about what’s happening. Once again, I apologize for ruining your plans. Duchess of Henristone.Bookmark here

P.S.: My household really needs talented knights to serve me. Apply now and get a 1% increase in your salary—’Bookmark here

Anyway, I handed over the Duchess of Henristone’s letter to Lily, who read it as I explained to her what happened.Bookmark here

“!!!”Bookmark here

Lily’s terrible blushing told me I gave her the wrong letter, so I quickly took it away and handed her the real one.Bookmark here

“Sorry for the mess up.”Bookmark here

“That holy girl…” she clenched her fists as she trembled.Bookmark here

“Yeah…sorry for that…”Bookmark here

“No…” Lily was gnashing her teeth and sulking, “She’s getting ahead of me! Let me tell you that, while thinking of you, I also mast—”Bookmark here

“So, about the Duchess’ letter …”Bookmark here

“Oh, right…I-I guess we should, erm, proceed with that.”Bookmark here

Well, I guess I’d ignore this display of stupidity for now…Bookmark here

Why am I surrounded by idiots?Bookmark here

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With the sudden turn of events, Lily was forced to hold an emergency meeting.Bookmark here

“Your Highness, I believe that the more we wait, the more the Imperials gain their strength and prepare for an invasion of north Chersean kingdoms.” the Count of Brooke raised the point, “I, therefore, propose that we begin our raids now, while we wait for the rest of the army to assemble.”Bookmark here

“That would be impossible, Brooke!” the Prince of Stadtsberg told him, “With our few numbers, it’ll be hard to keep the pressure on the Imperials. The most that we could do would only amount to irritating those guys and possibly provoke them into taking the offensive to us.”Bookmark here

Grr…this system of checkpoints and patrols is really annoying!” the Count of Tillie exclaimed, “Who even invented such a thing?”Bookmark here

“And that Calabrian King too! If I only could strangle him for colluding with the Imperials…” the Earl of Yaris couldn’t suppress his anger.Bookmark here

“It’s the way of war, wee lads!” the Prince answered, “Of course, unlike in training, your enemy wouldn’t sit still waiting for you to strike him! He’ll do something so that he outwits you, especially that damned Emperor! He’s a sly fox, and wouldn’t mind bowing before others if he could reach his goal through that.Bookmark here

“Well, we know the emperor is like that. We have to solve our problems with the missing men.” Lily steered the talk back on its course, “What do you suggest we do for this issue?”Bookmark here

“Your Highness Princess Lilyhaven…” it was the Count of Brooke, “What do you say about we ask for a bit more reinforcement from your kingdom? Aren’t you a friend of Nerfes’ current king?”Bookmark here

“As much as I’d like to do that, Your Excellency, the king of Nerfes cannot send more soldiers than he already did. My family is blocking the move in the council, not unless we are sure of victory in this endeavor.”Bookmark here

“Damn it…”Bookmark here

As they were deliberating their options, my mind was racing to find the solutions. I agree with the Count of Brooke’s conclusion that we need to go on the offensive as soon as possible, but with us still building our numerical strength, I doubt if we could really put our plans into effect.Bookmark here

Think Kuro, think…Bookmark here

If we’re having problems with the numbers of men, then…we can hire them, right?Bookmark here

“Your Excellency!” I called the Duke of Greene’s attention.Bookmark here

“Sir Kuro?”Bookmark here

“How much gold do we still have?”Bookmark here

“For now, we still have around…26,000 gold left in our purse.” the Duke of Greene explained, “But I doubt it would last for long since the upkeep of our men is taking the lion’s share of our budget.”Bookmark here

“What do you say if we hire men instead?”Bookmark here

“You mean, mercenaries?”Bookmark here

“Sir Kuro…” it was Lily, “I think we shouldn’t waste our limited resources on doubtful soldiers.”Bookmark here

“Well, it’s not like they’ll really fight for us.” I proposed, “What I mean for them is to be our ‘force-multipliers’.”Bookmark here

“…”Bookmark here

Everyone gathered around me to hear my explanations about the word I used. Lily had this ‘Here he goes again…’ expression on her face.Bookmark here

I enjoy seeing her like that…Bookmark here

Anyway, I continued to elaborate, “Here’s what I mean; the mercenaries will not actually do the real fighting for us. They are like ‘reserves’ in case the conflict turns in for the worse, but in the best case, they’ll just stay so that the Imperials would think we got the numbers to fight them toe-to-toe.”Bookmark here

Oh…so that’s what you mean by force-multipliers.”Bookmark here

“Exactly, Your Excellency the Count of Tillie!”Bookmark here

“But, mercenaries are expensive.” the Duke of Greene pointed out, like a real economist, “Don’t you think that while waiting, their maintenance would be an additional burden to our stretched budget?”Bookmark here

“Well, for that, I propose we begin the raids as soon as we reached the minimal number of required men. Not only we could begin implementing the second phase of our strategy, but we could also replenish our lost supplies and money by plunder.”Bookmark here

“Plunder?” Lily’s face was suddenly drained of blood. We both knew that Maddie disapproved of plunder…but then, it’s the plunder of the ‘innocents’ whom she didn’t like.Bookmark here

“I guess the plunder of our enemies would be reasonable,” I reassured her, and she reluctantly relented. Well, during the medieval ages in Europe, plundering was considered a fair act of the victors to the vanquished. In fact, the nobility’s armies back then were largely composed of levies and mercenaries, which depend on the amount of plunder they could get from the conquered territories to pay the men.Bookmark here

That’s why the infamous 1527 Sack of Rome happened. The Holy Roman Emperor back then, Charles V, could not pay his mercenaries, and so they attacked and looted Rome.Bookmark here

While Maddie’s policy of preventing the plunder of civilians was a good thing, in times like this it could spell-out the difference between keeping your men, or making them betray you and turn to the enemy. I guess permitting these people to loot and plunder their dead and wounded opponents would be reasonable compensation for them.Bookmark here

I explained to them the benefits of making such a move. The other nobles liked the idea, especially the Prince of Stadtsberg, who was always vocal in his approval of me. Lily was still apprehensive, but in the end, I guess she knew we had little choice and finally gave her permission to hire mercenaries.Bookmark here

However…Bookmark here

“I’ll permit it as long as Sir Kuro would be the one who would search for them.” she declared, “As you know, he can judge the characters of a person well.”Bookmark here

“!!!” I was left speechless by that statement. Honestly, I’m not that good of a judge for a person, much more a mercenary. However, as much as I wanted to disagree and hand back the responsibility, I had to say ‘yes’ in the end.Bookmark here

For one, I’m the only commoner in their circle, and working with mercenaries was what someone of the same status as me could do best. And second, I guess this was my punishment for proposing such harsh measures, in contrast to Maddie’s ‘pacifist’ policies.Bookmark here

Great revenge, Lily!Bookmark here

“…”Bookmark here

Anyway, not that it’s a bad thing. The important thing was, we could finally get things moving.Bookmark here

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The city of Stadtsberg was a city-state without defensive walls. Its main town proper was stretched as far as my eyes could see, and the only marker of its border was a dried-up moat.Bookmark here

The Prince of Stadtsberg told us it was filled with water in times of war. Since we endeavor to hide our activities from the Imperials, it wasn’t done just yet. I think it would only happen once we began hostilities.Bookmark here

The surrounding countryside of Stadtsberg could only be described in one word: breathtaking. Mountains surround the area, as it was part of the alliance of city-states known as the League of the Valley Cities. It was in the center of north Chersea, flanked by the kingdom of Nerfes to the north-east, Amaranth to the south, and the Desolate North to its direct north. The lush, green valley that the city was a part of contrasted Amaranth in that, while Amaranth was a wide, grassy plain, the land of the Valley Cities was like the green pastures of the Swiss Alps.Bookmark here

I guess the only thing that was lacking was the herd of cows, and someone doing a yodel somewhere along those white mountain peaks.Bookmark here

I wonder, did someone scale them already? Anyway, as the responsibility of looking for a good mercenary group fell on me, I went out to the streets of Stadtsberg to gather information on where I should look for my target.Bookmark here

“…”Bookmark here

Since the Saint’s Peace, the number of mercenary groups in Chersea dwindled, as those who could not find another work were dead from hunger, or their band left the realm of humans to look for someone who would hire them elsewhere.Bookmark here

That was, according to that mercenary leader I worked with once. If I remember correctly, his name was Griffyth (with the ‘y’ to ‘avoid legal issues’), and coincidentally, he looked like that famous NTR man from the manga I read before.Bookmark here

Yep, just like that man who passed by me.Bookmark here

“…”Bookmark here

Wait, I think that’s him!Bookmark here

I turned around to follow that guy who looked like Griffyth. As the streets of Stadtsberg were made of cobblestone, I took great care not to trip while running after him. I was trying to call his attention, but then a pair of passing carriages temporarily blocked my way.Bookmark here

And then he was gone.Bookmark here

Disappointed, I tried to look around for the man’s whereabouts, or some trace of where he went. I was in a busy intersection with people walking around, so it’s pretty hard to go after him. But then…Bookmark here

“!!!”Bookmark here

“I wouldn’t do something weird if I were you. And please keep quiet.”Bookmark here

It was a female voice. And her intimidating tone was supported by something sharp that was poking at my back.Bookmark here

“Yes, it’s a dagger, and I wouldn’t hesitate to kill you in this busy street if you didn’t cooperate with me.” the speaker threatened, “For now, come with me, peacefully.”Bookmark here

Well, I guess for now, I had to do what she is saying, huh?Bookmark here

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The woman who was threatening me brought me to a tavern, partially hidden from the main intersection by a narrow alley full of the city’s…well, I guess it’s Stadtsberg’s underbelly.Bookmark here

“Go inside,” she ordered me.Bookmark here

It was a rather rundown tavern. I could see that its doors were old, and there were stains of paint remaining on its walls. The inside was rather noisy, for it was around the time close to the Chersean ‘long sleep’ (only a few places in this realm had already converted to the new time-reckoning system of Maddie just yet…), and so the men whom I saw were settling in for the ‘day’ with dinner, ale, and rowdy songs.Bookmark here

“…”Bookmark here

However, that became an awkward silence when they saw me enter.Bookmark here

I had no choice but to stare back at them. I had no weapon with me, and if ever I had one, I doubt I could even use it when fighting these overwhelming numbers…and the woman behind me as well.Bookmark here

“!!!”Bookmark here

But I didn’t have to worry about that.Bookmark here

“It’s the Fist of the North Lands!”Bookmark here

“Isn’t that Kuro?”Bookmark here

Well, I expected a really rough welcome from these people, and received it, though not the way I expected. They were rough to receive me, but it was rather a ‘happy’ rough treatment. The men slapped my back, my shoulder, and lightly punched my chest as they greeted me.Bookmark here

“Hey, careful! Kuro’s got a weak body.”Bookmark here

“Still didn’t change that much, huh?”Bookmark here

Yeah, I knew these guys. One was Gats, Griffyth’s second-in-command, and the other was the magician, Tarasca. Heh, I kind of missed these fellows…Bookmark here

Others remained in their seats, watching those who knew me to come and greet me. But the air of tension vanished altogether with the girl who pointed her dagger to me earlier.Bookmark here

“Oh! So, it’s you, Kuro!” a familiar voice echoed from the entire tavern, “I told you you’ll be mine!”Bookmark here

“Stop with those words, Griff!” I laughed, “I’m already possessed by another person.”Bookmark here

From the second floor of the tavern, the man in question emerged. He had this confident smile on his face as he went down the stairs to talk to me.Bookmark here

“Hey, how’s business?” I asked him. If I recall, when we won the Tri-Skill Tourney, his ‘Band of the Oak’ became a hot item for those who were looking to hire mercenary groups. I hope they really did well back then…Bookmark here

“Well, it’s booming, actually.” Griffyth answered, “That’s why we’re here, right now.”Bookmark here

“Oh…” That didn’t sound right. What did he mean by that? Did Griffyth know that something is happening?Bookmark here

Hmm…you sound like you knew something, Kuro.” Griffyth laughed, “We’ll get to it later. But before that, I’d like you to meet my enlarged crew.”Bookmark here

Whoa…these men, are all under your command?”Bookmark here

“Yep. All 500 of them.” he smirked as he gave me a mug of ale, “The others were still outside, see. This is the new ‘Band of the Cloak’.”Bookmark here

“Shut up Griffyth!” Gats countered him, “We’re not changing our name, ‘Band of the Oak’.”Bookmark here

“Yes.” Tarasca was quick to back Gats, “Cloak is lame, see?”Bookmark here

“You guys always keep on holding at that old name!” Griffyth muttered, “We should change it already, you know.”Bookmark here

“Fuck off.” Tarasca and Gats dismissed his suggestion.Bookmark here

Heh. Anyway, Kuro…this is my enlarged crew. And that woman who was following you while you followed me, she’s our flower here. Meet Kashca.”Bookmark here

What? Kashca? isn’t that C*sca from the manga? is this world playing jokes on me again? Good heavens! I bet someday we’d be facing litigation with these names…Bookmark here

I turned around and saw the girl who threatened me earlier once again, standing by the doorway, and wearing a cloak. She had an indifferent expression on her face, as she neither looked up nor down on me. Kashca just stared straight, playing with the dagger in her hand.Bookmark here

“She can’t say anything.” Griffyth added, “I guess she’s mute.”Bookmark here

“Riigggghhhttt…” You didn’t do that…ahem, ‘NTR’ thing to her like in the manga, weren’t you, Griff?Bookmark here

“But yes, she could dice and mince anyone with her dagger, see?”Bookmark here

“Thank you! However, I don’t think I’d like a demonstration.” I told him. And then, I continued with a question, “By the way, Griff, why are you telling these things to me?”Bookmark here

“Well, aren’t you looking to hire a mercenary band, Kuro?” he asked.Bookmark here

I guess that caused my heart to stop beating for a moment.Bookmark here

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Ahahahaha!!!” Griffyth laughed as he repeatedly slapped my back. By then, we were already sitting down at a table, with food and drinks being served, courtesy of Griffyth himself, “I asked that because I think you wouldn’t follow me if you had no intention of hiring us! I never thought that you would actually piss yourself from nervousness!”Bookmark here

“Almost. I said I was almost pissed.” I stubbornly countered him, “You say the weirdest things, you know, you damned mercenary!”Bookmark here

“Well, we’re damned alright.” Griffyth admitted, “But then, let’s get to specifics. So, you really knew something, Kuro, am I right?”Bookmark here

I guess I should let him in our secret then, “How d’you know?”Bookmark here

“News finally reached us that the Imperials invaded Amaranth, so we hurried back from Cherflammen to here so we could be hired.”Bookmark here

“Oh…”Bookmark here

“You were expecting something else?”Bookmark here

“Nope.” I took a sip of the ale that was served. I was careful not to get drunk, even though I knew I could take several punishments for alcohol. It’s better that some secrets of mine were safe, even from someone like Griffyth. In fact, I guess he really ordered the beer to loosen my tongue.Bookmark here

“So, what do you offer, Kuro?” he asked.Bookmark here

“Gold, and the chance to fight under the banner of Our Holiness.”Bookmark here

Oohh…I’m intrigued by that ‘fight under the banner of Our Holiness’. Did you mean that Her Holiness, the Great Saint Madelaine Ann Rubinforth had finally allowed war once again?”Bookmark here

“Nope.” I countered, “On the contrary, she wanted to end it.”Bookmark here

Ahh…as usual. But, Her Holiness is waging war to end wars?” Griffyth couldn’t hide his amusement, “Isn’t that ironic?”Bookmark here

“Well, we have to face the reality. You can’t keep the peace without beating those who wouldn’t follow you, to submission.”Bookmark here

“I like that idea. So, who are the enemies?”Bookmark here

“Those Imperials that caused you to come back from Cherflammen.”Bookmark here

Right, the good stuff. I always wanted to test my men’s mettle against the bastards. When do we do it?”Bookmark here

“Well, about that, we got a new system of time-reckoning. And we’re following that. I’ll explain those to you later. But, it would be soon; the moment our group would get more men would be your cue.”Bookmark here

“If you’re looking for additional men, I could always contact Winters, Stephan, and Kevin, you know, those guys who fought with us in the tourney before?”Bookmark here

“How many men would they add?”Bookmark here

“Winters’ Band of Brothers and Sisters got 1,000 people, I think?”Bookmark here

“So, they added the ‘Sisters’ now?”Bookmark here

“Yeah, apparently they’re now accepting female mercenaries too.”Bookmark here

“How about Stephan and Kevin?”Bookmark here

“Well, Stephan was now the sole captain of the Golden Territory Warriors’ 1,500 men.” Griffyth explained, “And Kevin split with him to find another mercenary group, the Oaklyn Bets.”Bookmark here

“You know what, I’m getting the feeling that we’ll soon be facing legal charges with those names.”Bookmark here

“You bet I do as well.”Bookmark here

“Anyway, so how many men were in the Oaklyn Bets of Kevin?”Bookmark here

“I think it’s around 340 men? It’s still pretty small, but with time, I guess it would expand as well. Kevin’s pretty famous within the mercenary circles as one of the four captains who won the tourney with a commoner commander, see?”Bookmark here

“We don’t have that much time to wait for it to grow.” I told him, “Can you contact them as soon as possible?”Bookmark here

“Well, of course, I do…” Griffyth then raised the point, “…if you can give the right price.”Bookmark here

“So, would you want to serve Her Holiness for 80 gold coins?”Bookmark here

Hmm…for once, I and my men would have the chance to get holy while earning a living.” Griffyth pondered on his options for a bit, but then… “Alright, Kuro, you got yourself a deal. But I’d like to give it at 100 gold. Is that okay with you?”Bookmark here

“How about we get it at 90, plus you have the 80% rights to the loot?”Bookmark here

Griffyth smiled big, and reached out for my hand, “Then it’s sealed. Welcome back to the ‘Band of the Oak’, old pal!”Bookmark here

And with that, I got our coalition another 3,340 men. A little far from what we need, but a definite boost for our cause. All of them were veteran soldiers with the ability to use a wide range of weaponry as well…Bookmark here

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***Kersea, the capital of the Empire of Chersea***Bookmark here

A bespectacled man entered the private chambers of the emperor of Chersea, Jean Durres III, of the House of Henrici. With him was a bunch of papers containing the reports on the progress of the Imperial Expeditionary Forces in Amaranth.Bookmark here

“…”Bookmark here

The Emperor was sitting on his reclining chair when the man came to him, complete with a glass and bottle of wine. He was reading the previous reports, and when the news-bearer appeared, the emperor gestured for him to put the new ones on the little table beside him. Once the man put the papers in there, however, he remained inside the room.Bookmark here

“Your Imperial Majesty, I guess you would like to hear this. Our spy reports that came in just now show that the massive gathering of men in the city of Stadtsberg was gradually dispersed into the farms and villages owned by the Prince of Stadtsberg.”Bookmark here

The emperor stopped in reading the old intelligence papers and faced the man, “And what about the men who departed for the kingdom of Colveente, Sir Milne?”Bookmark here

“I guess we’re mistaken as well, Your Imperial Majesty.” Sir Milne replied, “According to our spies, those men were workers for the Duchess of Henristone’s planned palace, after her debut and official separation from her former house.”Bookmark here

“Hmm…” The emperor then took his glass of wine and took a sip, “In these times, I wish I still had the service of Umberto. His knowledge about the culture of these northern barbarians could be put to better use in espionage, rather than in generalship. Makes me wonder why the Saint of the Flame insisted that he command the expedition.”Bookmark here

“We’ll never know how they think, Your Imperial Majesty.”Bookmark here

“Yes…and these people, though given god-powers, were driving this world into further destruction by their petty quarrels.”Bookmark here

“Sire?”Bookmark here

Oh, don’t mind me, Milne. I must be getting drunk.”Bookmark here

“So, Your Imperial Highness, what would be our course of action?”Bookmark here

“Honestly, I’m having doubts about your spies, Milne, but then, what do you recommend? It’s been long since we landed in Amaranth, and apart from the angry demand letter of Her Holiness the Saint Madelaine Rubinforth, nothing has happened.”Bookmark here

“Indeed, Your Imperial Majesty, the silence of the northern kingdoms is quite perplexing.” Sir Milne admitted, “I really expected that the north Chersean kings wouldn’t take our presence there lightly. The Prince of Stadtsberg and the parents of the Duchess of Henristone are friends. Maybe the spies are correct in their assessment of the situation, but then, we can never let our guards down.”Bookmark here

“In that case, double your espionage efforts, especially on those two.” the emperor ordered, “And, don’t forget about the Human Saint.”Bookmark here

“You mean, we’re spying on her, Sire? It would be difficult without the Saint of the Flame’s help. She could read minds, remember?”Bookmark here

“No, I mean, those people around the Saint, like the Iron Princess.”Bookmark here

“Oh, right…my apologies, Sire! It will be done right away.”Bookmark here

“Also, prepare ten more legions. Make haste and don’t delay.”Bookmark here

“So, we’re reinforcing the Amaranthine garrison now, Your Imperial Majesty?”Bookmark here

“No, we’re not.” the emperor smirked, “I’m planning to surprise some old ‘friends’, so I’m coming back to north Chersea myself. And to do that, I’ll be needing some ‘escorts’.”Bookmark here

Bookmarked
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