Jim returned the next day during the morning and he couldn't even walk straight properly. Looking drunk and woozy while his face was still unwashed, lip marks could be seen all over his forehead, cheeks as well as throat, causing heads to turn and laughter to sound wherever he passed by. Not the least bit bothered by it, he rushed into Lorist's room excitedly without even bothering to knock and said loudly, "Milord, milord... I've heard the true reason..."
Patt looked at Jim and struggled to stifle his laughter. Lorist laughed as well and asked, "Did you just climb out from under a pile of women?"
Stunned, Jim said, "Milord, how did you know? Were you there yesterday as well?"
Lorist looked around only to notice that there wasn't a silver mirror in the room, so he took out his dagger and let Jim see his own reflection on the blade. "Look at your face..."
Jim hurriedly wiped his face with his hands and said, "Apologies, I was in too much of a hurry and forgot to wash my face..."
"Tell me, what did you hear?" Lorist asked.
"Milord, the reason the Kenmays Family no longer continued their attacks was because their soldiers refused to listen to the orders of the viscount and almost defected. Yesterday night when I was treating some of my mercenary acquaintances to some drinks, I happened to run into the people Viscount Kenmays sent to negotiate with the mercenary crews. According to them, the viscount wanted to hire the crews for a huge sum to attack our castle. However, the four cunning mercenary crew leaders, only said that they would consider it and didn't agree immediately.
"At that time, a huge group of Kenmays Family soldiers came to drink and upon their noticing of the men sent by the viscount to negotiate with the mercenaries, they started to curse out loud and proclaimed that the viscount should attack the castle himself and not send them to commit suicide. They also mentioned that had the viscount not made all the decisions himself, their 200 plus comrades wouldn't have died and the other 200 plus wouldn't be injured either. The soldiers spouted many other horrible stuff including how they originally thought that they would be able to enjoy life after joining the Kenmays Family's forces only to be sent to their deaths at the Northlands.
"After listening to what the soldiers said, the four mercenary crew leaders instantly refused the offer of the viscount and treated the soldiers to some alcohol. After that, the soldiers recounted that the viscount had wanted to attack the walls the day before yesterday and even wanted to kill some of the soldiers who had retreated, causing many of them to straight up choose to quit and prepare to go against the viscount himself if they had to rather than being sent to their deaths at the practically impregnable wall. In the end, the viscount had no choice but to have them set up camp and rest before he paid the soldiers some bonus salary to calm them down.
"I also heard that the 7 dominion lords were invited over by Viscount Kenmays to help out with conquering Firmrock Castle, but they are still having their negotiations. One of the soldiers who was standing guard outside the tent of the viscount said that the 7 nobles wanted the viscount to be the first to send his forces to attack the walls before their own forces tag along from behind. However, the viscount's own soldiers didn't want to follow that order, and that was what prompted him to attempt to hire the mercenary crews. Consequently the viscount's own soldiers warned the mercenaries so that they would not fall into that trap," said Jim as he finally finished his long report.
"Oh, if I knew that, we wouldn't have rushed back all this way and should've taken care of Wildnorth Town first..." said Patt in frustration.
Lorist said, "When I received the report, I also didn't know that it would come to this. At that time, the situation seemed pretty urgent. Half of the 3 defense unit squads had been wiped out in one go. How else would I gauge the situation?"
At that moment, loud sounds of a blaring horn could be heard coming from outside the walls.
"It seems that there is a challenger? Let's go and see..." Lorist led the rest out to the outer wall.
In front of the walls of the castle were three riders with one in the middle being a knight who wore a black bullhorn helmet and a black chain mail. On his chest was a silver insignia of a pegasus which was spreading its wings in flight. The knight was mounted on a chestnut green Northlander Horse and his hand held a riding lance.
To the left of the knight was an attendant with a large build who was equipped in greyish-white leather armor and held a swallow-tailed flag depicting the same pegasus insignia of the knight in one hand and a blow horn in the other. It seemed that the tune of challenge had been blown by that man.
To the right of the knight was a middle-aged man dressed in dark blue robes. He was currently loudly praising the knight and telling everyone present of his previous exploits and achievements.
"My master, Knight Lamboway, has obtained victory for three consecutive Weiss Cup tournaments and has been given the moniker of the Lion Cub Knight by Duke Pupadra himself. Master has also attended the Minasevic Battle and more than ten famous knights have fallen to defeat before the mighty hooves of my master's mount... Today, he has come to this impressive, gigantic castle wall to challenge the famous family of the Roaring Raging Bear, the Norton Family, to a duel... Knights of the Norton Family, do you dare to accept my master's challenge? My master Knight Lamboway will let you all know what a true chivalrous hero should look like and he will dedicate his victory and glory to the utmost fair Lady Stephanie, incarnation of all that is perfect and flawless..."
When the middle-aged man finished up, the leather armor equipped attendant once again blew the tune of challenge with his horn.
"Milord, look..." said Patt as he pointed towards the distance.
Lorist raised his head to take a look and saw that many people had emerged from the camps of the 7 noble families and the Kenmays Family. However, they did not seem to be marching into battle; instead, they were coming out to witness the duel. Some servants even quickly set up a number of bright-colored cloth shades and proceeded to bring the lavishly-dressed noble ladies to their seats.
"Mi-milord... What are they doing?" asked Jim, confused.
"Attacking. They are making a knight's challenge to our family," Lorist said.
The middle-aged man dressed in robes was once again repeating the things he had said before loudly.
Many mercenaries and women also exited the Warzone Merchants campsite to watch the commotion. When the people who gathered around increased in number, the middle-aged attendant once again repeated the things he had said with a higher volume.
"Why is that man repeating what he said? Wasn't he clear enough the first time?" Jim asked.
"The horn has to be blown followed by the introduction and the whole process must repeat thrice. If we don't accept the challenge, that knight can proudly proclaim to others that his reputation had made the Norton Family knights cower in fear and rather shiver behind our walls than face his overwhelming courage," Lorist said.
"Then let me see if he dares to be so arrogant after I put a bolt into him..." said Jim as he was just about to head to the ballista nearby.
"Are you crazy? Do you want to make us the laughing stock of everyone out there? If you really fire that bolt, all the reputation the Norton Family has built up for the past 200 plus years will have been for naught. We will be ridiculed as cowards and forever be targets of the humiliation of others," said Patt as he held Jim tight.
"Jim, this is a battle between nobles and this has been the traditional way it has been conducted since long ago. Every knight will be taught this first and foremost during the earliest days of their training. To a knight, this method of battle is sacred and glorious. If you interrupt this battle, then you would have become public enemy number one of all the knights in Grindia," explained Lorist.
"Ovidis, do you want to accept the challenge?" Lorist asked as he turned towards the silent bearded man.
"Ah, milord... But I'm just a commoner..." Ovidis replied as he lowered his head.
"Apologies, I should've given this to you long ago. I just kept forgetting," Lorist said as he held out a badge depicting an insignia of a raging bear which Patt had just tossed over.
Technically speaking, Ovidis could still be considered to be Lorist's prisoner and 'property' and he didn't have any personal freedom. The captives also included the former bandits who were currently serving within the guard squad.
"Ever since you started following me, you have won my trust with your efforts and sincerity. You have also performed rather well, recently in particular. Ovidis, are you willing to become my knight and fight under the banner of the Raging Bear?" asked Lorist solemnly.
With tears of gratitude filling his eyes, Ovidis kneeled on one knee in front of Lorist and held his chest with his right arm. "I, Zelan Ovidis, am willing to pledge my loyalty to my lord. Let the God of War witness me oath in the name of my life. I will forever walk under the banner of the Norton Family and fight at the beckoning of the Roaring Raging Bear until the moment I breathe my last breath..."
Lorist took out his sword and tapped it twice on Ovidis's shoulder. "Rise, my knight."
He then pinned the badge of the raging bear to an indentation on Ovidis's breastplate. Patt hugged Ovidis dearly and said, "I welcome your participation, brother."
After the knighting ceremony, Ovidis rushed down from the walls after saluting Lorist. Lorist shouted, "Let Shadekampf accompany you! He knows about the necessary proceedings!"
By the time the horn blew for the third time, the drawbridge of Firmrock Castle was lowered and the gates were opened. Ovidis brought Shadekampf and another guard who held the battle standard of the Norton Family out from the castle. At that moment, the crowd broke into a thunderous cheer and anticipated the upcoming battle greatly.
Old Man Balk, Butler Boris and Sueprvisor Hansk all went up the walls and jointly looked at Shadekampf as he negotiated the terms with the man dressed in robes. The two of them then explained the terms to Lamboway and Ovidis respectively and an agreement was formed quickly. Shadekampf and the guard who held the battle standard retreated backwards as the two attendants of Knight Lamboway did the same.
"Milord, what were they doing just now?" Even though Jim didn't make a noise when the knighting ceremony was carried out, his envy and admiration showed on his face nonetheless. Ever since Lorist agreed to let him follow him to Firmrock Castle a few days ago, he understood that as long as he performed well and gain enough achievements, he would be knighted in the same fashion as Ovidis had.
"They were discussing on how the challenge would be carried out whether it be on horseback or on foot as well as the kind of weapons they would be allowed to use. Since they are the ones who requested the challenge, we can request for battles that are in our advantage. For example, if Josk were the one accepting the challenge, he can request for an archery competition. That's why the challenger must ensure that they understand their own capabilities well in case their opponent requests a mode of competition that they are not familiar with and lose as a result.
"For some truly great knights, the types of challenge wouldn't matter as they are confident enough in their own abilities. However, the guy Ovidis is going to face off against is obviously overestimating himself. If Ovidis requests for an unmounted battle, he will definitely be struck dumb," Lorist said.
Going against everyone's expectations, Ovidis didn't pick to battle on foot. Instead, he had chosen to duel on horseback; perhaps it was due to his excitement of having just been made a knight of the Norton Family. The two contestants both retreated backwards until they were 30 meters apart. After Knight Lamboway lowered his helmet visor and Ovidis readied his riding lance, the both of them raised their left hands to indicate that they have completed their preparations and were waiting for Shadekampf to drop his handkerchief on the ground to signal the start of the battle, after which the both of them would begin charging towards each other at full speed.
However, a small slip up happened as the moment Shadekampf tossed his handkerchief out, it had been blown up by a fleeting gust just as it was about to land. Everyone watched the handkerchief as it twirled and danced in the air...
Lorist struggled so hard to stifle his laughter that his stomach was hurting. Jim didn't care about his surroundings at all and banged his head against the wall as he laughed out loud. Patt and the rest were also laughing, but they weren't acting as crazily as Jim was. What was originally a sacred and glorious battle had turned into a joke because of a handkerchief.
After a while, the audience once again focused their attention on the handkerchief as it gently landed onto the ground...
"Kill!" roared Ovidis as he clasped both his legs and prompted the horse to charge forward. He would not allow his enemy to win against him on the first day he was knighted.
Lamboway's lance glowed bright silver as he rode; he was a Two Star Silver ranked knight just like Ovidis.
When the two blade glows clashed against each other, a thunderous ear-piercing sound rang out before the two mounts circled around continuously while the knights ferociously struck out at one another.
That jousting match was a little different from the ones Lorist remembered seeing in his previous life where the two knights rushed towards each other wielding lances made from applewood with the intent on ending the match in one strike. In a world with Battle Force, a jousting match between two knights was more similar to the one-on-one battles between generals Lorist had read about in the 'Romance of the Three Kingdoms' which were far more exciting as well as heated and usually garnered more cheers from the surrounding audience.
In terms of technique, Knight Lamboway was far more practiced than Ovidis and his years of arduous training showed during the battle. However, Ovidis had more real world fighting experience on the battlefield and he attacked in a more savage way. Sometimes, he would even be willing to take Lamboway's strikes just so he could land a square hit onto him. That self-harming way of fighting quickly put Lamboway at a disadvantage as he had to withdraw his hands and feet as he parried Ovidis's strikes. Lamboway was eventually forced into a defensive position.
Ovidis shouted loudly all of a sudden and suddenly raised his lance up and swung it down like a stick towards the helmet of Knight Lamboway multiple times in quick succession. Unable to parry the flurry of strikes, Knight Lamboway fell from his horse. When he raised his head, Ovidis's blade glow had already been held by his throat.
Knight Lamboway shrugged and waved his hands helplessly as he sat on the ground before Ovidis withdrew his weapon. Subsequently, Lamboway's attendant placed the flag on the back of his horse as he blew a depressing tune with his horn to indicate the loss of his liege and their eventual departure from the battlefield.
Shadekampf quickly talked in a low voice to the loud-mouthed attendant before he saluted and left. Knight Lamboway on the other hand had stood up from the ground and saluted towards the mounted Ovidis, who in turn knocked his fist onto his left breastplate. That was a knight's salute that indicated the acknowledgement and admiration of the courage displayed by one's opponent.
"Milord, is that it? Why didn't Ovidis kill his opponent?" Jim asked.
"Normally, battles between nobles like that have no casualties unless any accidents happen. In most cases, the winning side would stay their hand and not carelessly harm their opponent who was also a knight like them. In exchange, however, the losing side would have to offer up a ransom that was equal to his worth and status. The ransom given will be the akin to the self-valuation of the status of the knight himself. If the losing knight cannot afford to pay the ransom, he has to offer up his armor, weapons and mount. The ransom was agreed upon when Shadekampf talked to that attendant just now. If there are no issues, the knight's attendant will come again later to pay it," explained Lorist.
Jim shook his head and said, "Milord, why does it seem to me that battles between nobles seem like the pretend war games played by children?"
Lorist responded with an unexpectedly philosophical answer. "That's because life itself is also pretty similar to a game..."