21st Century Archmage - Chapter 8
Chapter 8 – How to Live in an Unfamiliar Place
Proofreader: Masadeer (Japtem)
‘Where am I…’ I heard my groaning as my consciousness flickered back, piece by piece. ‘Is this heaven or hell? Ahhh, I don’t wanna open my eyes.’
Judging from all of my past actions, it was 0.1% more likely that this was hell than heaven, so I didn’t want to check. The only filial piety I had practiced since being born was sending my parents on the ten thousand dollar cruise vacation. Besides that, there was that time when I ran away from kindergarten, the fight in elementary school, the porn incident in middle school, and in high school, the time I went and disappeared during the school field trip and became a missing person. There was really nothing I could say.
And that wasn’t all, either. With the wicked thoughts I’d had towards countless women, and the “eat fuck” I’d shouted at my master in the very last moment, I would need 100 floggings and an endless 365 day course in hell.
‘Why’s this so soft? And the fragrant smell of grass is—?’
While I was sighing disconsolately because it seemed that female demons would rush at me when I opened my eyes, various feelings from my senses swarmed in my head. It was a bit difficult to think that this was hell, where sulfurous flame burned all year long and dashed away any worry of getting cold.
‘Maybe it’s heaven?’
Even now, I could feel the hot knife on the skin of my stomach. I suddenly thought that this might not be hell, but heaven.
“He’s still not awake, huh?”
“Shh, he’s an injured person.”
“As if! Hmph! He even drank a potion, the lifeblood of the villagers!”
“Deron, stop that. Dad told us, remember? That we have to be sympathetic to people more pitiful than us, in order to be embraced by the Neran, the Goddess of Mercy, when we die.”
“Don’t wanna! Rather than being happy after death, Deron wants to eat and play right now!”
‘Wh-what is this sound?’
While my senses were coming back to me, I clearly heard words from an unfamiliar language. They were words I’d never heard before on the Earth, but as if I had an automatic translator in my head, it was interpreted perfectly.
“Deron, did Dad and I teach you to be like that? It’s not just you, everyone is suffering! But how can… you…”
A girl with a clear and pure voice couldn’t bear to continue and fell silent.
“B-big sis Cecile, I’m sorry. I just… wahh.” When the girl named Cecile fell silent, the boy that had seemed bad mannered cried as he apologized.
‘The rascal, he’s a bit rude but looks like he was educated well. Eh, wait. Were they talking about me, just now?’
I had been listening in confusion, but someone who had consumed something the villagers treasured, a potion, was being called more pitiful than themselves.
My eyes flashed open.
And then I screamed.
I wasn’t the only one who screamed. The cries of the two people who were surprised by my shout rang out in an unfamiliar hut.
‘Where the hell is this! Uwaaaah! Why am I lying in a place like this!’
It was neatly organized, but just one glance told me I was inside a house that reeked of poverty. I could see the entirety of a bare, wooden hut that wasn’t even 350 sq. feet. There was a kitchen, if it could be called that, with a stove, a few big cauldrons, and a wooden table, and all kinds of animal leather hung on every wall.
On top of that, there was a girl who looked to be my age, and kid about ten years old. Looking at each other as we cried out, our eyes were wide with shock.
“Uwaaah! He, he woke up! The pervert panties bro woke up!”
Ker-chunk! Without giving me a chance to say anything, the kid slammed open the door and left, screaming about ‘pervert panties.’
Even during that, I collected my wits and waved my hand towards the blonde girl, who happened to be quite cute.
But what I got in response was an expression of horror, as if she’d seen a ghost or something. Ker-chunk! While she was open-mouthed in shock, the wooden door banged open.
“M-my goodness, he really did wake up.”
“Looks like the potion was indeed effective.”
Several western women and men suddenly swarmed into the small room. Wearing rough clothes like I might’ve seen in a medieval ages movie, they looked and me and whispered amongst themselves.
I didn’t exactly know what was going on, but my life was definitely connected to this situation. I stood up and greeted them.
The blanket slipped down.
“AH, OMO! OMO!”
But amidst the screams of the women, I sank back down. Surprisingly enough, under the blanket, the only thing covering me was a single pair of underwear I’d never seen before, made out of a strange fabric.
‘Where the hell am I?! Mother! Father!!!!’
I drew the blanket to my chin and earnestly called my parents.
Like that saying that you could only be a faithful son if you did your military duty, I had somehow become a faithful son in this unfamiliar place.
[T/N: Korean men are required to serve in the military for two years. ]
* * *
“So you’re saying… this is Luna Village, a town in the territory of Viscount Fiore of Dapis Kingdom…?” I asked once again with a voice that I didn’t realize was trembling.
“Hmm, looks like the severe injury scattered your wits, young lad. I’ll say it once more. I don’t know where you’re from, but Hans here found you collapsed on the beach and brought you here. This is Luna Village, in the viscounty of Fiore, of the Kingdom of Dapis, in the South of the continent. And I’m the village chief, Aves. Sigh!”
As if teaching a newly admitted elementary school student, Village Chief Aves slowly explained, word by word. The village chief who’d lost his front teeth took a deep breath, as if tired from explaining several times.
‘O-oh my god! Why am I here! Uwaaah!’ I held back from screaming, but I couldn’t collect my wits in this absurd situation.
‘WHY, WHAT, WHERE…’
Countless questions raged in my heart. I could remember everything up to getting stabbed by the Triad gangster, who claimed to have been Master’s disciple. But I couldn’t remember anything after that, and the words I was told, kingdom or viscounty or whatnot, were unfamiliar terms to me.
‘M-master, you—!! ARGHH!!”
There was only one person who could be the recipient of my countless questions. The culprit responsible for making me an Alice of a strange country… could only be Aidal, a two hundred year old Mage.
‘Fuck, then does that mean this bracelet was the key for dimensional travel?’
In this cold reality, once grains of rice were cooked into food, no amount of begging would return the food into grains of rice again. I could surmise that the silver bracelet on my left arm, which had followed me even into this puzzling situation, was an agent of Master’s designs.
I finally figured out what ‘a link that connects time to time and space to space’ meant.
“Since it seems this lad hasn’t yet recovered his wits, please take good care of him. It’s already crazy because of the taxes, but… sigh!”
“I, I apologize, Chief. Because of me…”
The one called Hans was a hairy, robust man in his late forties. He scratched his head as he bowed deeply to the chief.
“No, no. Since when has our Luna Village become so cold-hearted and ungenerous… It’s a shame that a potion was used up, but… it can’t be helped. This is all within God’s plan.”
Talking about God’s plan as if he were a saint, Village Chief Aves nodded.
“Let’s go then.”
Saying that, Hans grabbed my shoulders and set me upright. According to the chief’s words, this late-forties mister named Hans was the savior of my life.
“It’s time for dinner, so we’ve gotta go eat food.”
“F-food…” Groowwl. With the mention of food, my stomach growled loudly as it informed me that it was alive.
‘If you were going to send me, then you should have sent me well! Why the seashore! And I could have drowned! Arghhhh!’
I knew that Master was a person who always lived without restraint, but I really hadn’t known that he was such an irresponsible person.
‘I’ll definitely return! My paradise! My homeland, South Korea! Gaaah!’
The cries I couldn’t shout aloud!Dragged along by Hans’ thick arm, I was towed out of the village chief’s house. And then, I clenched my teeth and made a vow.
I would definitely leave this ridiculous world and return to the Earth!And I would definitely repay him for this day.
* * *
‘T-this is food?’
The coarse wooden bowl that was put in front of me held a few potatoes floating around in a clear soup. And a single piece of black bread that smelled like barley landed on the table with a heavy thump. I couldn’t tell whether it was bread or a lump of rock.
“Wow! Why’re there so many potatoes today?”
‘W-what’s with this ridiculous, wretched smell of poverty?’
Once I realized that the cheer bursting out of the kid named Deron’s lips wasn’t a lie, I was dazedly submerged in shock. Just before I’d woken up, I had been eating luxury seafood dishes and a feast made by first-class chefs, but what suddenly appeared before me now was the smell of destitution.
“Eat up. Though it’s not much…”
With a face so hairy it could put a bandit to shame, Hans made an apologetic expression.
“N-no, that’s not true. Haha! These potatoes look sturdier than the ones I’ve always eaten at home, they’re quite appetizing.”
They were the saviors I was grateful towards for saving my life, the life that had been endangered by Master’s irresponsibility. If I were to complain about the food, that would make me more dog than human.
‘Let’s give it a try.’ Because my stomach was clamoring, I pretended to be crazy and put a big spoonful of potato into my mouth.
“Ohh! It’s good!” I cried out in surprise.
‘How can it taste like this!’ It only looked like a clear soup with a few potatoes floating around in it. But surprisingly, a peculiarly good taste filled my mouth.
“I-is it good?” The blonde girl named Cecile asked me if it was good with expectant eyes.
“Haha, it’s tastes just like the food my mother makes. It’s truly tasty!”
‘It’s likely she’s got the potential to become a first-class chef.’ I checked the inside of the bowl again, but truly, all I could see in the soup were the potatoes and a few slivers of vegetable.
“Hehe, so even the pervert bro has fallen in love with my big sis’ cooking? Big sis Cecile is a chef acknowledged by everyone here in Luna Village.”
The kiddo was eager to spout praises about his big sis.
‘But why does he keep saying pervert, pervert?’
“Hans, why does Deron keep calling me a pervert? Did I make some kind of mistake before I woke up or something?”
“Ah, that… that’s… well.” Hans stammered rather than answering my question straight out.
‘Why did Cecile’s face get so red?’
With Hans unable to answer, I looked towards Cecile in order to ask her and saw her flushing bright red while looking straight down.
“Woow! You’re really shameless, bro! How can you ask so straightforwardly?”
Now, the only person who would answer me honestly was Deron.
“You don’t remember? Those panties you were wearing?”
He was talking about underwear, but the translator operating in my head interpreted that as panties.
‘The clothes I was wearing… geh! Surely not the flower print shorts?’
“Heh! How could a man wear such vulgar flower print panties even though he’s not a girl? When Daddy carried you in, you almost weren’t able to enter the village because of those bloodsoaked flower print panties! We were sure a perverted pirate was shipwrecked and got carried onto shore here!”
‘Bl-bloodsoaked flower print panties…’
My head rang dizzily. The short pants that were called shorts by everyone in the 21st century were mistakened as panties here. Actually, Cecile was wearing a long skirt even though the weather was quite hot.
‘I’m really… a pervert. Sigh!’
A kid’s eyes were accurate. If Deron had judged me as a pervert, then the villagers might have mistaken me for a pervert, too.
‘But does that mean Cecile saw everything?’
There was a high chance that she had. Hans had carried me into this house. And the people who went around in this house were Hans, Cecile, and the kid, Deron. Moreover, the only clothing I was wearing now was underwear made of a rough material and a large piece of clothing that Hans had definitely worn before.
When my thoughts reached that point, a scream burst out within me.
“Ahem, the, the soup will get cold. Let’s hurry and eat.”
The atmosphere at the table had suddenly gotten awkward. Hans dipped his bread in the soup as he changed the subject to eating.
‘But isn’t this too much? This is next to the sea, so why can’t I see even a single anchovy?’
There was a saying that people next to the sea would grow fat even in times of famine, but that a fish like that ever-so-common anchovy was nowhere to be seen on the table. As I chewed the hard barley bread, it made me think that Hans might be a penny pincher at the level of Scrooge.
‘But do I have to sleep here tonight?’
Cecile was still silently eating with her head bowed. The sight of her perfectly tanned skin kept haunting my eyes.
* * *
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‘Damn, I’m sore.’ I had only lived on plush mattresses made by Neis, a company that advertised that beds were a science. But last night, I had slept atop a single blanket on the floor by the bed where Cecile and Deron slept. And, after moaning all night long, I woke up in the morning and let out an invigorating shout as the bones all over my body popped back into position.
‘Why is everyone going out so early?’
The dim light visible through the open wooden window told me it was only daybreak, but before I woke up, Cecile and Hans carefully left the room. I knew they had tried to not wake me up, but my sensitive ears couldn’t help but hear them.
“Ma, mommy~ mommy!” Just then, Deron, the lucky brat who’d slept in Cecile’s embrace throughout the long night, began to call for his mom and woke me up entirely.
“Uwaaaah! Mommmmy!” cried the little kid sorrowfully.
His mournful cries for his mommy suddenly reminded me of a memory from when I was young. When I was a child, from when my memories were still hazy, there was a time when I woke up to find that my mom wasn’t by my side. Feeling as if the world was collapsing, I too had cried like this brat. And after crawling through the entire house, I was able to find my mom. Unable to bear the strain of child-watching any longer, my mom had been cowardly snoozing in my dad’s embrace.
“Deron, wake up. It’s your hyung, Kyre.”
[TN: Hyung means older brother.]
After finishing dinner last night, Hans finally asked for my name. But when I told him it was Kang Hyuk, Hans nodded and pronounced it as Kyre.
And my name became not Kang Hyuk, but Kyre.
“Older bro? Uwah! Hyung! Find my mommy! Mommy! Hnng!” When I took him into my arms, kid sorrowfully cried for his mom.
‘But his mom isn’t here.’
“Deron, where is your mom? I can find her only if I know where she is.”
“R-really? Hyung, you’ll find my mommy?” Besides being a tad rude, he was a cute, blonde kid.
“Of course! Even though I look like this, your hyung is a very strong person!”
“Wooow! Then, are you a knight?”
“N-no, I’m not a knight, but…”
“Then if you’re not a knight, a mage?”
With curious eyes that seemed to be asking when I would go find his mom, Deron asked if I was a mage.
“T-that’s right. Your hyung is a mage. Just believe in your bro. I’ll find your mom with magic.”
‘Rascal, you’re pretty sharp.’ Having accurately figured out that I was a mage, I looked at Deron proudly. I imagined he would soon look at me, a mage, with a look of respect.
“Heh, as if. Did you think I’m a kid that would fall for a lie like that? It’s fine, so let me go now, you smell like sweat.”
But what came into my ear was a parade of words that I hadn’t expected at all.
“Eh?” I was dumbfounded by the sudden transformation in Deron’s attitude.
“Ah, how refreshing. Hehe. What should I play with today?”
Deron left my arms and went straight for the door. The sight of a young, innocent lamb searching for his mommy just a moment ago was nowhere to be seen. The lamb had transformed into an impossibly wicked neighborhood menace.
“Kyre hyung!” Stopping as he was about to leave, the little menace Deron called me.
Having turned my head instinctively towards his call, my eyes caught sight of the kid’s smile. Wiping the tears that had dripped down his face with the back of his hand, Deron put on a happy front and ran outside.
* * *
“Haaah, this is nice!”
Coming out into the brisk air that felt like a September morning in Korea, I filled my lungs.
‘This is totally picture perfect.’
It had been nearly evening last night and everything had been disorienting, so I hadn’t caught sight of the village panorama. But now that it was morning, the scene before my eyes was exactly like the peaceful, pastoral landscape that I’d seen in paintings. Cotton clouds floated about in the sky and paddled towards the sea. The blue ocean waves I saw beyond the village felt to me as if they could ease and revitalize the air in even an ill man’s lungs. The fairly large mountaintops positioned behind the village made me flush with great vigor.
‘Back to the mountain, front to the sea! It’s the perfect location.’
A hundred or so houses made of logs had been jammed into the village. Hans’ house was a little higher up than the others, so I could see the panorama of the village all in one look.
‘It’s exactly like a small fortress.’
With the sea and mountains, as well as fairly large fields, the village was surrounded in the natural protectors of wood, dirt, and rock. The village was approximately three meters above sea level, able to block most attacks.
‘Huh? But those people there, what are they doing?’
Like the proverb that the early bird gets the worm, the villagers were working hard on the fields that were just starting to brighten with light.
‘Why are the delicate women doing fieldwork instead of the strong men? Do they not have horses? People are plowing the fields.’
Having come from a 21st century civilization with cutting-edge machines, I saw a farming method I couldn’t understand. Though quite a few people lived in the village, I couldn’t see any livestock like cows or horses. There were only people to do the rough fieldwork, which a cow or horse should be doing, and the men were mostly guarding the area with bows on their backs and spears in their hands.
‘Right, I should earn my keep. I actually feel sorry.’
I wanted to repay the simple villagers who had treated me by using something called a potion. After all, to me, my life was as valuable as the sky itself.
‘Thankfully, there’s nothing wrong besides a small scar.’
Breathing deeply, I checked to make sure there was nothing wrong in my mana field. Besides my circle being relatively drained of mana, it was all good.
‘Like Master said, the amount of mana here is way more than on Earth.’
Even if you rose to the 4th Circle, not all 4th Circle Mages were the same. The size of the circle you possessed, the amount of stored mana, and your concentration power and willpower, as well as your harmonic force with the mana in nature and differences in mana channeling techniques— all these factors played a part in determining a Mage’s skill.
‘Better safe than sorry! There’s no knowing when I’ll run into another guy like that Chinese rogue!’
Thinking of the bitter lesson I had painfully learned with my body, I grit my teeth.
‘But why are they leaving the perfectly good sea and plowing the fields instead? It looks like a fishing village, but there isn’t even a single boat.’
The nearby sea had a gentle slope to it and appeared abundant with not only fish, but all kinds of by-products, like clams. But there wasn’t even a single person hanging around the seashore.
‘Well, maybe I should go lend a hand.’
When I was young, there was a time when I went to my grandpa’s house and helped him with fieldwork a few times. Reviving that memory, I walked towards the fields where people were gathered to work.
* * *
Because I was an energetic fellow no matter when or where I was, I threw a greeting to the hard-working villagers with a loud voice.
“Kyre, so you woke up!”
“Omo, it’s that black-haired young man.”
“Do you think he’s still wearing that underwear?”
Plowing instead of talking, Hans responded to my greeting, and the village women whispered and laughed upon seeing me.
‘Sigh, if that’s underwear, then I wonder what they would say if they saw a thong.’ I was truly curious about what they would say if they were to see the underwear popular in the 21st century.
“I see everyone is busy.”
“Indeed. The tax collection day is drawing near, but we’ve had a terrible harvest.”
“Alright! Stop playing and move it, folks! Luena’s Moon will be in the sky in a few days, so we have to finish setting up the harvest before then!”
At someone’s reply to my remark, Chief Aves urged everyone to hurry. He was standing on the field and overseeing the work.
‘Luena’s Moon? What does the moon have anything to do with the harvest?’ Besides the language and magic knowledge, nothing came to mind. ‘Anyways, looks like Hans is having a hard time. The other men aren’t even thinking of helping.’
The strict guard I noticed yesterday night caught my attention. I remembered seeing 10 or so armed village men with torches in their hands as we were heading to the chief’s house in the setting sun. There were dozens of men. Most of the strong and useful men didn’t even think of helping the struggling women and were staring holes into the nearby forest. All the while, they maintained a taut tension, as if they were in war.
‘Are there monsters or something?’
I’d never seen such things like monsters. I was curious about the mysterious monsters that appeared in fantasy novels or movies.
“Kyre, don’t just stand there and help us, will you.”
“Huh? Yessir, Chief!”
Because the others were busily harvesting potatoes, the chief was rebuking me as I blankly stood around.
“Hans, I’ll give it a try.” His face and body covered in sweat, I called Hans’ name and had him stop.
“Mm, you will? That’ll be too much for you right now though…”
“I may look like this, but I’m quite strong. Please just leave it to me.”
“Then I’ll leave it to you for a bit.”
“That’s right, Dad. Please rest a little.” Cecile, who had been holding onto the plow that Hans was pulling, made a face of regret.
‘The attentive ones are quite kind after all.’ Cecile was sixteen, a year younger than me. As was the specialty of Western women, she was already not far from being a grown-up woman.
“Try holding it like this.” Hans, who looked like a brigand but was as kind as they came, made an apologetic expression as he fixed the plow to my shoulders.
‘Guh! S-so heavy!’
With the feeling of the fairly heavy plow, which I had wrongly underestimated, I felt admiration anew towards Hans.
‘There’s no helpin’ it.’
If I just dragged the plow like this, rumors of my low stamina would fly and people here might even say that I wasn’t a man. The villagers didn’t have a very good first impression of me anyways because of the pervert panties incident.
As I took Hans’ plow, the villagers stopped their work and stared at me with interested eyes.
‘The spell for weight reduction was… this, right?’ I recalled the 3rd Circle weight reducing Lighten spell, quietly modified it, and chanted the incantation.
“Hm? Did you say something?”
“No, sir. Haha! It’s just that I was surprised because it was lighter than I thought!”
“It’s light? Ohh, you’re stronger than you look, huh?”
‘Than I look…’ A height of 6’1″ and a weight of 165 lbs was a fairly bulky physique, but it appeared that Hans saw me as no more than a weakling who couldn’t even kill a chicken. ‘Shall I try putting some mana in my legs, too?’
It kinda bothered me that the first magic I cast after coming to this world was for farming, but I couldn’t just ignore the people who had saved my life. And because the potion I had consumed seemed to be very precious to these people, I’d have to repay them many times over in order to not feel guilty about it.
Looking at me with a worried expression, Cecile answered me cautiously.
“Hold on tight! Hiya!”
Thanks to the fairly powerful Lighten magic, the human-powered plow was about as heavy as a pair of sneakers. Vigorously shouting ‘hiya,’ as if I’d become a horse or something, I ran.
‘Ahaha, so this is why Rudolph wants to run forever.’
Having becoming a horse for the first time in my life, I roughly upturned the field. And, while doing so, I felt the instinct to run. The feeling of the soft ground beneath my feet refreshed me.