Only thanks to the fact that we left the hunting camp as soon as the supplies and men arrived from Sandomir, by the end of the second day of our Travel, despite being slowed down by the set of carriages carrying said supplies, we finally reached the proximity of the Tarnow.
While unable to reach the city or even the castle on the same day, we still managed to pass the boundary of the big Tarn Oakstone village. Even though it was governed by a completely different family, after just a few words with the local milia, I managed to organise a comfortable sleeping place for everyone.
With only around fifteen kilometres (9.5mile) separating us from my lands, we could strain ourselves to travel through the night, but with how there was a chance that Peter would learn about our whereabouts and attempted something sketchy during the hours lacking the sunlight, I preferred to take the matter easy.
The supplies on the carriages were simply too important for me to risk breaking even a single axel of the carriage and leaving them aside on the road, for the commoners to rob it in a manner of few minutes!
"You guys can take the entire stable for yourself. Don't forget to cater to your horses!"
Already on my foot, I was ordering everyone around, to make sure there won't be any troubles with the locals. Just for the sake of placating the veterans for locating them in a damned stable, two big barrels of beer were already rolling towards their temporary shelter, with four more to come soon.
"Don't you need to take a rest too?"
Hugging me from behind, Elia approached me for the first time since we left the hunting camp. Maybe it was caused by her shyness to show her feelings openly or maybe she just didn't want to get the attention of my new soldiers on our relationship with how it was the root cause for their appearance in this part of the country.
After almost two entire days of our skinship limited to just hugging while hidden in our tent during the night stay on the road, the feeling on her warmth enveloping my back managed to spark some additional energy in my body, chasing the dizziness steeming from my exhaustion away.
"Not yet. I need to make sure everything is done properly. When we were travelling with just the three of us, we could act as we wanted, but now I'm responsible for everyone here."
Reaching for her hands that locked itself on my chest, I grabbed her cupped palms and raised it to my mouth, placing a light kiss on top of her fingers.
"We will have some time to ourselves later in the chamber. Just bear with it for a while."
Untangling the mess of her fingers with my own, I managed to free myself from her embrace and escape to the tavern that the officers could stay at. Spending the night at the town, even if as small as the Tarn Oakstone was, granted us the privilege to completely ignore the security matters, with the local guards taking this burden on themselves. In case we would have to fight with Peter's forces tomorrow, at least my forces could be well-rested.
"Sir Mike… May I ask you for a moment of your time?"
As I was about to enter the tavern, completely unfamiliar voice alerted me, making me turn away on my feet with my hand instantly landing on the handle of my sabre. At such close distance, using a pistol for self-defence was both too slow and unreliable, especially with how I didn't check its gunpowder in any close past.
"Oh, it's you. What do you want?"
Only after seeing the embarrassed face of Bart, who was just standing at the edge of the shadow thrown by the side of the building while rubbing his hands against each other, I relaxed enough to take my hand off my weapon, without dropping my mental guard though.
"I came to apologise. I thought that if I were annoying enough, you would send me back to the Sandomir, where I could continue to practice. My poor results at the tournament… Only showed that under the expensive set of armour and weapons… I don't really have any real chance to uphold the honour of my house."
At this point, I suddenly understood why this guy waited for the very last moment when I already was inside the warm and not-so-infested bed, hugging Elia while enjoying the awful drink that the locals could produce in my mind. While I had no idea what made him decide to open himself like that to me, that was the chance that I couldn't miss!
"Listen boy, it's not only about countless practice. It's not even about being a good soldier. The truth is, this entire idea for the nobility to be the sole real armed force in the country is stupid in my opinion, but let's not elaborate on that. What I think you are lacking, is not the diligence, but patience."
Stepping into the shadow, I rested my back against the wall of the Tavern, standing in the psychology neutral position. Just a slight trick I learned in my days as a white-collar worker.
"From what I saw at that tournament, you didn't score so tragically because you couldn't control the lance, but because you would try to strike every single ring you could, missing most of them at the end. While I have way more experience with this game than you, when I knew that I was in no position to get another ring, I simply gave up on it, and used the time to adjust myself for the next one."
Taking a few breaths, I waited for the tension to build to a certain degree, before explaining the idea I was going about.
"It works the same in real life. If you focus yourself on what you can achieve, you will be able to get far better results, than when trying to simply do everything. No one is the best in all aspects. The governor is a great politician, but he might not be the best warrior there is in the commonwealth. I might be capable of fighting up to par, but if I were to be forced into making deals with neighbours… Well, you will understand how that would end, most likely, tomorrow."