༺ Subjugation Force (1) ༻
Contrary to expectations, Count Chester was someone who could assess situations quite quickly.
However, someone like him often revealed critical weakness in seemingly trivial matters.
For example, he trusted in his own judgment far too much that he would willingly walk into an obviously dangerous situation.
According to his judgment, he deemed it highly unlikely for the two most prestigious nobles from the Empire to simultaneously escort Baron Campbell.
As such, this initial response could be considered as a serious misjudgment.
Mobilizing a substantial armed force to face Baron Campbell might not have been a completely wrong move.
If there were actually lunatics who were impersonating such important people, the entire situation would be cleanly handled by driving them away or beheading them for such an egregious crime. And in the extremely unlikely case that they were actually Margrave Kendride and Duke Tristan, having an armed force itself was not a huge deal.
It could be passed off as an unavoidable response due to territorial circumstance.
The problem was…
These two individuals decided to mercilessly crush him based solely on the audacity of bringing armed forces in front of them.
“…Um, isn’t this enough now?”
“No, it’s not.”
Amidst the groans of the wounded soldiers around them, Kraut dismissed Dowd’s opinion with a smirk.
While officially, it was Baron Armin Campbell who had visited the territory, it was actually this young man, his son, who wished to confront the Count in the first place.
Perhaps the Count should have quickly sensed that the situation was off after recognizing such a fact.
“A guy who bullies others needs to realize his own weakness by getting mercilessly trampled. That’s the only way he won’t do such actions again.”
“You’re just trying to eloquently articulate your desire to vent your anger, Barbarian.”
“…Even when I put it nicely, this fucker still talks shit. Yeah?”
Though Kraut’s forehead was pulsating as he uttered these words, Gideon who made such a statement merely shrugged his shoulders without paying much attention.
“However, I agree with the essence of what he said.”
Gideon walked steadily towards the prostrating Count Chester.
Even the Emperor would find it difficult to treat a Count like this, however, the terrifying aura that these 2 major nobles emitted somehow transcended such bounds.
“If you wish to torment someone, you should’ve prepared two graves. I couldn’t help but sigh when I saw you walk out here without any countermeasures. If you had attempted to buy some time by sending a proxy, then at the very least, I would’ve thought you had some semblance of self-awareness.”
Cold sweat dripped down from Count Chester, as he avoided Gideon’s gaze.
Until this morning, he probably couldn’t have imagined receiving such treatment in the reception room of his own castle. But what could he do? This was now his reality.
‘Why are these bastards suddenly….!’
Count Chester’s eyes were darting around as he glanced at the two individuals standing next to either side of him.
Even when the Head Chamberlain had provided such information, he thought it to be a lie, but now there was no room for a semblance of doubt.
These two individuals emitted an inexplicable aura that proved that they were the ‘real’ deal.
The Empire was a much simpler county than one would think. It prioritized efficiency over everything.
Its simplistic system was to never fail to reward a merit and never let a crime go unpunished. And according to such a system, the two major nobles were the most valuable assets to the Empire, thus they had the corresponding authority that came with it.
As a result, these two individuals were the most ‘powerful people’ in the entire Empire.
If that wasn’t enough, this monstrous duo overturned the entire County in less than 20 minutes.
He had heard that the Goldic Viscounty was annihilated by these two, but in comparison, the County was several times larger and was also far superior in terms of both the competence and number of soldiers.
Even so, the Goldic Viscounty lasted a few hours. In comparison, his own territory couldn’t withstand a single hour before crumbling completely.
“T-There were reasons for such actions! I apologize!”
Count Chester spoke in a voice strained from the extensive physical labor that he experienced.
Of course, if his wounded escort knights nearby were to see this, they would think it wasn’t that severe of any injury.
There wasn’t a single person around who hadn’t had their limbs broken or hadn’t thrown up blood. It was all the result of the havoc created by the two monsters before them.
“Reasons? What reasons could there be?”
The young man in front of him retorted with an apathetic expression, almost causing the blood vessels in Count Chester’s eye to burst.
‘How dare this lowly successor of a baron display such irreverent behavior in front of–!’
At least that was what Count Chester was thinking before he collapsed and rolled on the ground once again.
It was probably because someone had lightly kicked his side.
“…Gugh, Uhuh, Ughh…!”
Of course, from the perspective of the one who got beaten, it wasn’t a light one at all.
Flashes of light flickered before his eyes. Saliva started to flow in abundance from his mouth due to the overwhelming pain.
Considering the dark red blood that flowed from his mouth, it was clear that a broken rib had pierced his lungs.
Seeing this, Dowd sighed while calling out to Gideon, who had delivered such a blow. However, Duke Tristan paid no attention and only replied in an indifferent tone.
“I didn’t like his expression, so I had no choice.”
“There are no master-disciple relationships where the disciple can stay silent while his master is insulted.”
‘Didn’t Eleanor also do something similar? As expected, like father, like daughter.’
As Dowd was thinking this while wiping his face in exasperation, Count Chester, who was vomiting blood, and Kraut both wore confused expressions after witnessing such a scene.
Master and disciple? These two?
Wait no, in the first place, why was a mere successor of a baron addressing a duke so casually?
“Dweeb, when did you start taking disciples? Weren’t you so focused on training that you would rather die than take a pupil?”
Gideon’s face contorted.
“Why do people keep misunderstanding? The disciple is—”
“—Can you hurry up and explain your reasons?”
Dowd quickly cut off Gideon’s words before some unnecessary rumor could be spread, as he addressed Count Chester.
“Although you were a bit of a bitch, you never acted like a thug before. Isn’t there some kind of a reason behind this?”
Although his demeanor was much more irreverent than before, Gideon’s previous kick turned him into a well-mannered person.
That was why, instead of arguing, he decided to stammer out an explanation.
“I-In the c-central, p-part, of the t-territory, t-there is a m-monster living in the m-mountains”
Truly, there was no other way to describe the existence in question.
No one had seen its figure, but occasionally, a ‘grey wave’ emanating from the central mountains was said to engulf the surrounding space.
And they said, what happened to the affected area was…
“I-It seems that t-time comes to a halt.”
Everything slowed down and eventually froze.
The influence grew wider over time, and the effect became more potent.
From Count Chester’s perspective, even the locals of his territory near that area were desperately trying to save the land, even if it meant using oppressive means.
After giving such an explanation, Count Chester’s body flew into the air once again.
This time, it was probably because Kraut had whipped out a slap.
As everyone surrounded the unconscious Count Chester, who had foams leaked out from his lips, their gazes fixed onto Kraut.
In response to the doubtful looks that questioned the appropriateness of his actions, Kraut met each gaze individually and responded.
“I beat him up because I got annoyed when he tried to justify his actions of tormenting others. Any complaints?”
No one had any complaints.
As he saw everyone averting their eyes away from Kraut, except for Gideon, Dowd sighed without saying a word.
He proceeded to sort out the current situation.
Given the information he had just heard, this was an event he was already well aware of.
Moreover, a Grey Devil’s Fragment.
A ‘Fragment Absorption’ event that always came as an unexpected wildcard for every Devil’s Vessel.
Among them, the one related to Eleanor was evidently about to start in this very place.
The formation of the ‘expedition team’ was faster than expected.
We had conveyed nicely to Count Chester that we would resolve such issues for him, so he should refrain from bullying the surrounding territories.
[…So, since you’re resolving it for him, you’re saying you nicely told him to give up his household heirloom, am I correct?]
When I responded to Caliban, who was within Linker, only a disapproving silence returned.
If he was in his spirit form, he was probably giving me an incredulous look.
“I’ll need it for later.”
If I combined the Intermediate-Grade artifact that was the quest reward with the ‘heirloom’ that I’d ripoff of Count Chester, it would yield quite a favorable outcome.
‘…I need to increase my stats as well.’
Except for my ‘Power’ stat that had recently increased from F-Grade, my stats were still unchanged.
However, combining the two rewards could help obtain something quite useful from him.
Chapter 3 Boss [Apostle of the Reversed Sea]… How should I put it…?
The difficulty of the battle itself wasn’t high, but in terms of wickedness, he stood out even among all the bosses.
Clearing it was one thing, but there was a high likelihood that my ‘survival chance’ would dwindle.
Even during the progression of the chapter itself, the boss was one that would be highly likely to continuously attempt to kill me by using any means necessary.
[What an unbalanced combination…]
While I pondered such thoughts, Caliban sighed when he saw the lineup of individuals who were going to subjugate the monster because of my commands.
The members included the lady of Margrave Kendride’s household, the lady from the Tristan Duchy, and me.
Putting Eleanor and Iliya aside, thanks to me ‘tasking’ Gideon and Kraut, both of them seemed to be obediently following as well.
[Can you really manage all this?]
Caliban’s concern was well-founded considering the horrifying combination of the expedition members.
It would be a miracle if no fights break out along the way.
“By the way, the Homunculus sisters will be added to the lineup as well.”
“I also know it’ll be tough, okay?”
The Saintess had already sent word through a carrier pigeon that she was entering my territory. However, I had quickly suggested that she should join us in the mountains that Count Chester had talked about.
Once such members all gathered, trouble was bound to occur.
However, from my perspective, this was an important event that required everyone to be present, even if I had to face the consequences for gathering such people.
This was evident from the subsequent conversation.
[By the way, I know you gathered such powerful individuals, but are you still planning to go after that thing?]
[I think you already have a rough idea, but the opponent is a Vessel saturated with a Fragment. Even if you bring many formidable people with you, a decision to subjugate it should not be made so easily.]
That was a fair concern.
“It’s not a humanoid Vessel.”
“From the current state of the phenomenon I heard, it seems that the Fragment was hidden somewhere and a random demonic creature unluckily fused with it. Since the opponent is only at that level, there’s a high chance of successfully subjugating it with these members.”
[…You seem to know a lot about the Vessels?]
“I at least know that it’s not a case of a humanoid Vessel going berserk, which is a fortunate thing.”
A bitter smile formed on my face.
“…My condolences about the Guardians, Caliban.”
The Holy Knight inside the amulet fell silent.
As the person responsible for suppressing a crisis caused by a humanoid Vessel going berserk, Caliban clearly knew what I was talking about.
This man was so strong that he could be considered equal to monsters like Gideon and Kraut. However, even with similarly skilled comrades, Caliban had barely managed to contain the situation by sacrificing his life along with his colleagues.
“So, to ensure such accidents don’t happen again, I have to subjugate it now.”
In that aspect, the Fragment Absorption event of the Vessel was an event that had to go in a ‘favorable’ direction, even if I had to directly intervene.
After all, even with the same Absorption event, depending on how the ‘conditions’ were met, the state of the Vessel could be a difference of heaven and earth.
Following this event, Eleanor’s personality would change, whether it was in a good way or a bad way.
And it was my task to control it in a direction as far away from ‘berserk’ as possible.
While in such contemplation, I gazed towards Eleanor and Gideon, who were preparing to board the carriage with their equipment.
They were ignoring each other.
Wait, no. It wasn’t at such a measly level; It was a thorough level of indifference that made me question whether they could even see each other.
‘…I guess it can’t be helped.’
Those two had been accumulating misunderstandings about their relationship for almost a decade.
Honestly, this was a rather natural reaction.
After this event was over, perhaps they would show a slightly different si—
While I was thinking such hopeful thoughts, Caliban suddenly spoke up as if something had occurred to him.
[Didn’t you say your goal was to stop that lady from going berserk?]
Caliban briefly turned silent.
It seemed like he was lost in thought.
[Who’ll join the gathering? Just tell me the women.]
“…The Hero Candidate, Lady Tristan, Saintess sisters…? That should be all, I think. Why?”
After a moment of silence, Caliban chuckled.
It was a laugh that gave me a strange and ominous feeling.
“…Why are you laughing like that?”
[No, it just seems like it’ll be fun.]
[Isn’t this the first time they will all gather and see each other?]
“…Well yes, but why?”
[You’re fucked, Kid.]
What did you mean by that?
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