Circumstances of a Fallen Lord - Chapter 19
“Yes, we should praise the praiseworthy. But, he’s just been too much up till now. If he couldn’t get the territory out of the situation that he himself caused, then he’d be a fool.”
“Hey, that’s too much…”
“Honestly, if it weren’t for our lord, would we have suffered this much? He reaped what he sowed. The village below is now….”
Ruger could no longer stand the conversation and stepped forward. “How dare you!” he shouted through the window. The servants quickly ran away at the sound of his voice.
“I’ve seen all their faces. I won’t let rudeness lie.”
“You don’t even know their names,” Luisen said.
“That’s true, but…”
“Just leave it. People will speak ill of the king when no prying eyes are about.”
“Still…” Ruger stilled at Luisen’s quiet murmurs and tactfully followed behind him. “Please don’t mind them. They’re only cursing you because sentiment about my duke is changing for the better. Everyone’s been complimenting the duke.”
“I said I don’t care,” Luisen grumbled.
“It’s true. Everyone has been saying that my lord has established the proper authority of a duke.”
Ruger kept trying to comfort Luisen despite Luisen’s insistence that he was fine. Annoyed, Luisen kept responding in rough, choppy remarks.
Luisen wasn’t paying lip service; he truly did not mind.
In the past, Luisen would have drank and sobbed at such criticism. At this moment, Ruger was struck by how much his master had changed–his blunt disposition was entirely unfamiliar, as if the man had experienced all kinds of hardships.
Amidst the anxious atmosphere, the date to march into battle was set. Luisen wracked his brain to think of any excuse to stay behind, but every attempt went down the drain.
And like that, time passed until it was the day before deployment. Deep into the night Luisen tossed and turned, unable to sleep, when out of nowhere an unexpected guest came to visit him.
Part 3: Unexpected Happenings
The visitor was a middle-aged man, a head taller than Luisen.
He was the knight commander of the duchy. However, he looked different than usual. He was always proud of his gray beard, normally kept trimmed neatly, but it was now left neglected. The sight pained Luisen.
“Knight commander? Ah, please, come in.”
‘What could be the problem?’ Luisen wondered, but invited the man in. It was late, so Ruger had returned to his own quarters. Luisen had been alone in his room. The two sat face to face at the table.
As the candlelight hit the man’s face, his wrinkles seemed to dig deeper into his skin. His face looked so old and tired; Luisen looked at him with an ambiguous mood. This was someone who had died a long time ago, and seeing him alive now seemed like a new experience.
The knight commander hesitated before speaking, “Your complexion looks so much better lately.”
“…Does it?” Luisen touched his face awkwardly–it was embarrassing to receive such a compliment. “So, what’s going on?”
“I heard that my lord is marching into the battlefield tomorrow.”
“Yes. So, you’ve heard the rumors.”
“We should be the ones to follow you into battle. I’m sorry.” The knight commander bowed his head deeply.
“Don’t say that. Carlton wouldn’t have allowed you all to come.”
Actually, if Luisen had demanded to bring his knight battalion, or if the knights insisted on accompanying their lord, Carlton would not have refused. But Luisen swallowed this truth and offered up niceties. Perhaps the knight commander also realized this truth; he looked uneasy and ashamed.
After an awkward silence, the knight commander took out a small pouch he had been holding to his bosom. Inside was a sleek bracelet made of platinum.
“There’s strong magic in this. If you swing your arm while wearing this bracelet, it will shield you from harm.”
Deep within his foggy memories, Luisen recalled that the knight commander had cherished this bracelet. After a great accomplishment, he was presented with this magic accessory by the duke’s ancestors. The knight commander polished and shined the bracelet every day; it became his most cherished keepsake and a symbol of his pride.
“Is it all right to give this to me?”
“I sincerely hope you won’t need to use it, but just in case. I’m so sorry that I have nothing else to give when my lord is leaving for battle.”
“Please, it’s alright…”
“It’s not being used here anyway,” the knight commander said despondently.
The fragile candle flame flickered with the strength of someone’s–Luisen didn’t know whose–sigh. Luisen moistened his dry lips as he observed the deep shadows that cut across the other man’s tired face. With effort, he uncovered his heart and spoke the words he wished to tell the knight commander long ago.
“I’m so sorry.”
The knights the commander had carefully trained were sent to support the second prince; their fate–whether they were alive or not–was still uncertain. Nevertheless, he stood to protect his duke and the territory without complaint during the battle against Carlton and his men. Of course, Luisen had made such sacrifice meaningless with his surrender. With the knowledge from his regression, Luisen knew that this was the best course, but the knight commander didn’t know the future.
The knight commander was silent for a brief moment before saying with a heavy voice, “We are knights that serve the lord. I don’t dare complain about how you decided to use us.”
“But to be honest…I can’t always maintain that poise. As a knight of the Anies Duchy, we take pride in protecting the territory. It’s coldhearted for the duke to not acknowledge that.”
The commander hadn’t had the chance to even confront Carlton. The battle he fought became meaningless–the deaths of the militia were all in vain with the surrender. And, Luisen had acted on his own without the blessings of his advisors.
All of that informed the knight commander of Luisen’s inability to trust his advisors, thus both his pride and his feelings were wounded.
“I know my lord does not like his homeland, and my lord is also uncomfortable with his retinue. But still…couldn’t you have tried to convince us just a bit more? Trusted us with your desires?”
“…..My heart was in a hurry.” Luisen had no other choice in that situation. The window of opportunity was slim, and that was the best decision possible at that moment. However, the nuances of his surrender would be lost on those that were ignorant of the future.
The awkward silence hung heavily on their shoulders.
Flowery words may have appeased the commander, but Luisen didn’t want to be insincere. Luisen’s apology, therefore, held more weight. The knight commander abruptly stood up; the conversation ended cleanly, as if he had only arrived to deliver the bracelet.
“I’ve brought up something useless. I should get going.” The knight commander quickly left the room. Luisen maintained his polite demeanor until the door closed, at which point he sighed in relief.
The commander still had residual resentment against Luisen. Nevertheless, he couldn’t let Luisen go to such a dangerous place without protection, so he offered his most prized possession.
“What a painfully honest noble.”
A man with such a personality must be affected more by this incident. It was also difficult for Luisen to see his long-time servant suffer through such mental hardships.
If only he had appreciated the hard work of the good people around him. If only he suited the title of the duke better.
It was meaningless to dwell upon ‘what ifs’ and alternate scenarios, but Luisen couldn’t shake away the vague feeling of bitterness.
The quiet, sleepless night passed slowly.
Without fail, time passed and morning arrived. Ruger woke early to solemnly dress and prepare Luisen for his journey.
Luisen wore chainmail over his usual dress shirt and a tough, waterproof leather coat over that. He didn’t forget to wear the bracelet given by the knight commander on his right wrist. Though unused and a bit rough, all of the armor had been created for Luisen so the fit matched well.
Although Luisen didn’t look like a knight, his delicate looks and sleek appearance made him look like a prince. He stepped out into the vacant lot where Carlton and his men were already gathered.
They all burst into laughter, as if some grand joke had been made. The atmosphere was light, as if they were departing on a hunting journey.
“Isn’t it good that you didn’t wear plate armor?” Ruger whispered.
Luisen nodded. At first, he tried to pack plate armor that covered his entire body and a lance as well. Wouldn’t it be safer to be fully armed in combat?
On further consideration, however, Luisen had no formal training as a knight, and he wouldn’t have been able to move around agilely in plate armor. It would have been far more difficult to ride a horse with stilted movements–so he gave up on full cover with tears in his eyes.
Carlton’s men, though cavalrymen, looked quite different from what he had expected. Few wore armor from head to toe; few wore chainmail. Most of them were clad in tough leather armor with a few iron plates covering the important areas.
Plate armor was incredibly expensive and cost a lot of money to maintain. It was complicated–impossible to take on or off alone. Considering these details, perhaps it was obvious that mercenaries, closer to common folk than noble soldiers, wouldn’t be armed with full equipment.
“You look too prepared right now compared to the other soldiers, but with plate armor, my lord would have become a laughingstock.” Ruger nodded.
Why did Carlton’s men have no sense of crisis even as they were about to go to war?
‘They seem like they’re just going on a training trip.’
Luisen’s mind began to conjure strange suspicions. ‘Maybe he’s attacking the Vinard territory as a training exercise, such that his men don’t let their skills rust.’
Carlton’s joyful attitude only furthered his doubts. Wasn’t it weird to leave the infantry behind and only bring the cavalry, a small group?
Carlton approached Luisen as soon as their eyes met. “Duke, we’ll be leaving now.”
“I just hope I won’t be a hindrance.”
“All you have to do is follow behind us.”
Then Carlton skillfully mounted his horse. He was so natural, pulling the reins and steering the horse’s direction. It seemed as if he and the horse shared one body. He embodied a strength that could not arise from training–and certainly Luisen, who had barely learned for less than a decade, could not follow his grace. Riding on a horse, Carlton was certainly worthy of admiration.
‘I’ve also tried to learn to ride horses in my childhood, so why….Is this the result of talent?’ Luisen was depressed.
“Duke, you should mount your horse,” Ruger said.
“Ah, Uh….Please hold onto it well.”
With Ruger’s help, Luisen managed to clamor onto the horse. The sudden elevation made him dizzy, and spots appeared in his vision. He gripped the horse’s reins as if they were a lifeline. He hoped desperately that the horse hadn’t noticed his anxiety.
‘Um….Ugh….’ Luisen groaned.
“Ride fast, with all your might! No one here forgot to ride their horse during their break, right?” Carlton shouted.
‘Here. Me.’ Luisen wanted to raise his hand, but he also had no desire to suffer through the inevitable disdainful gazes.
TL: I’m in exams period T_T Hopefully everything will go well. Luckily, I had a bunch of chapters stockpiled.