21st Century Archmage - Chapter 20
Chapter 20: Enrolling in Knight Academy
Bajran Empire’s capital city was no inferior than metropolises in the 21st century. After filling up my stomach in the inn with a good mood, I asked someone for directions and approached the Knight Academy building where the Skyknight Selections were being held.
‘Right, a city should be at least this level.’
This was a huge city, just without any skyscrapers. The stone buildings looked to be at most 5 floors tall. Statues that looked as if they could have been crafted by Auguste Rodin adorned building exteriors. If we were in the 21st century, such sculptures would have surely netted a huge sum of money.
‘The city is clean and the air is fresh… Kya~! I want it.’
The capital city of Bajran was awesome enough to make me want one just like it. Most of the people coming and going had bright expressions and the streets were clean, as if they were periodically cleaned. On top of that, there were squads of dozens of soldiers patrolling and keeping the peace.
‘This is probably the work of magic.’
Size wasn’t all that there was to a metropolis. From disposal of domestic waste to water and other necessary utilities, this city had all sorts of perfect functions. As soon as my thoughts turned to city management, several spell formulas came springing to mind.
‘What the hell did Master shove into my brain?’ Master’s freakish actions couldn’t be understood. All I knew was that all the things in my brain were Master’s creations. ‘There aren’t any preservatives, right?’
Master was fearless enough to use ‘Made in China’ products left and right in his magic circles. The knowledge engraved in my brain was indeed useful, but I couldn’t stop imagining myself falling over while vomiting blood during a spellcast.
‘Is it Imperial Palace territory from here onwards?’
The Skyknight Selection Exam was taking place in the huge inner palace within the outer castle walls. From what I heard, this large castle was once again partitioned into a proper Imperial Palace occupied by the Emperor.
‘It’s bigger than any of the castles I passed on the way here.’ Though it was classified as an inner palace, the stone building before my eyes could very well be called its own castle. ‘It’s well equipped.’
The information I had received that there were several thousand soldiers patrolling the Imperial City but many thousand more within the fortress itself. There were hundreds, no, thousands, of soldiers wearing spotless black breastplates and helmets that gleamed in the sun. These soldiers stood like mannequins on the castle wall, standing guard with utter seriousness. You could feel the Emperor’s authority just by looking at them. Their red mantles, which signified that they were Imperial Soldiers in charge of the capital, flapped in the wind.
‘Looks like those guys are the Imperial Guard Knights.’
I saw five knights wearing attire that sharply distinguished them from regular soldiers— crimson breastplates with sparkling golden pauldrons. The powerful aura coming from their bodies told me they were Knights of the Imperial Royal Guard.
As I came to the gate of the inner palace, the knight warily watching my approach called out. Then, two soldiers holding silver halberds blocked my path with well-practiced movements.
‘They look so cool!’
“Where are you going?” asked the Imperial Guard Knight, his eyes filled with suspicion towards me, a person who was approaching on foot without the escort of knights.
“Haha! Thank you for your hard work.”
I may not be a noble, but I wasn’t one to get discouraged by their wary treatment.
At my confident demeanor, the knight and soldiers pierced me with their gazes, their eyes asking how there could be such a shameless guy.
“May I ask where the Skyknight Academy Enrollment Selections are?” Even while saying that, I was thinking, ‘If I mess up, I could be turned into a pincushion without even being able to take the exam.’
Before I knew it, a hundred archers had drawn their bows atop the castle walls. As expected of the Imperial Palace where the Emperor resided, it seemed they didn’t allow any nonsense here.
While I was facing such guardedness, a carriage escorted by a dozen knights came running towards us. The horses whinnied as the carriage came to a stop in front of the gate.
“The esteemed Lady Hyneth from the Petrin Count family is here. She has come to take the Skyknight Academy Entrance Exam!” called out a knight at the front with a disciplined appearance.
“Understood. However, remember this: Calling His Imperial Majesty’s name within the inner castle is forbidden, and anyone who isn’t a titled noble must dismount from their carriage or horse. Though it is an inconvenience, please dismount from the carriage.”
Unlike when he addressed me, this time, Imperial Knight spoke with courtesy.
‘Argh, nobles be damned.’ I once again experienced the sadness of not having a peerage.
“Sir Ossis, please open the door.”
From within the carriage came a voice as fine as jade.
“As you command!” The knight named Ossis dismounted from his horse and carefully opened the white, four-horse carriage door.
‘Ohoo!’ I was happy. After all, the sudden voice was as sweet as a nightingale’s chirp and clearly belonged to a woman.
Then, a woman’s silhouette slowly became visible.
‘Ah! Gods above!’
God was playing tricks on me to keep making me a lustful man. Maybe because this land wasn’t polluted, or because the people here were pure, but most of the ladies here were ve~ry fine. It wasn’t enough to put celebrities on Earth to shame, but they certainly were eye-candy level. And among these ladies, there were a few that truly stood out.
‘She’s so cute!’
The girl was so cute and petite that I would have believed it if she was a character from a shoujo manga. Wearing a pink dress, her long, golden hair was tied into twin tails. She was about 160 cm tall (5.2 feet). She looked to be one or two years younger than me. Within her large eyes were written the words ‘I’m so very innocent’ and her skin was milky white. She totally looked like a shoujo manga heroine.
“Welcome, Lady Hyneth.” The Imperial Knight gave a quick nod to the girl who emerged.
“It is my honor to meet the Imperial Knights guarding the Empire and Imperial City,” said the girl named Hyneth, curtseying lightly while holding the hem of her dress.
“Please come inside. The soldiers will escort you to the Knight Academy.”
The inner castle was huge. After all, the heart of the Empire, the Imperial Palace, as well as many other facilities, were located within.
‘Oi, what about me?’ These jerks only allowed Hyneth inside and treated me like a piece of wood.
“But this person here, where is he going?” Hyneth asked, looking at me while going inside the door courteously opened by the Imperial Knight.
“Please do not mind him. Only when the Knight Academy Selections are ongoing do crazy commoners appear.”
The Imperial Knight’s words were as impolite and disdainful as ones directed to a low-level character in the game. But what could I do? Even I couldn’t cause a row in front of the Empire’s Inner Castle. The moment I tried anything funny, these top-level Imperial Knights and thousands of soldiers would definitely swarm me.
“Aha, so that’s the case. He looked alright, but… It’s a shame.”
Wasn’t there a saying that a gangster who was hitting you was still more likeable than an onlooker? With a regretful look, Hyneth looked me over from head to bottom, nodded, and turned to disappear within the inner castle.
‘Th-this BS.’ Right now, I could only keep my curses contained. I took a deep breath to steady myself in preparation to speak to the Imperial Knights again. ‘That’s right, it wouldn’t be any fun if any dog or cow could become a Skyknight! Grandpa told me that only by overcoming great hardship could one become a great person!’
I found my composure and consoled myself. It was said that a person could endure insults for years if it was for revenge.
I harbored a strong commitment to rising past these affronts and getting the gold medal, no, the Skyknight title and a territory of my own.
* * *
‘Che, these guys are funny.’
When I quietly showed these Imperial Knights who refused to budge my Grade 1 Mercenary badge, they revealed shocked expressions. Even an Imperial Knight had to recognize this badge, which I had received at the Mercenary Guild. It meant that I was at Aura Knight level.
‘You guys, geniuses descend from the sky above! Haha.’
The Imperial Knights stared at me with frowns on their faces for a long time, clearly conflicted by my young age. I could feel their despair upon seeing a genius like myself.
‘But jeez, it’s huge in here!’
As soon as I entered the inner castle, a huge space opened up to my eyes. There were countless things to see within the capital itself, but what I saw now was on a different level. A long road that could easily fit four carriages snaked out throughout the grounds, dotted with gardens.
And the buildings—they were huge and numerous! I saw many buildings with their own unique charms in this area, which was larger than any college campus I had seen.
‘That must be the Imperial Palace…’
Behind the buildings stood a real-life Imperial Palace. Maybe it was made with marble; the fairly large palace walls shone with a milky glow in the sun. Behind the walls, I spotted countless spires. I could tell there was an entirely different world over there.
‘This all belongs to the Emperor, right? Impressive.’
America’s White House, Korea’s Blue House, and China’s highly touted Forbidden City couldn’t even compare to the scale of the Bajran Empire’s Imperial Palace. I could clearly determine what kind of position the Emperor occupied.
“This is where the Skyknight Academy Exam is held.”
Maybe thanks to my Grade 1 Mercenary badge, the soldiers didn’t speak down to me. After walking about 20 minutes, we stopped in front of a building that looked to be four floors tall.
“Is, is this it?”
‘Why is it so small?’ I wondered. The wyverns Skyknights rode were huge, after all! Not only that, but there were Imperial Skyknights riding Black Wyverns within the capital. But the building in front of my eyes was only four floors high, and it looked like an elementary school building next to all the other ones.
“Is there a problem?” With a disciplined tone, the red caped Imperial Soldier asked me if something was wrong.
“No, there’s no problem, but aren’t there wyverns at the Skyknight Academy? Doesn’t that require… more space?”
“Huh? Wyvern?” The Imperial Soldiers looked at me as if seeing an alien from outer space.
“Haha…” One of them seemed to realize something and began to chuckle.
‘No? Is that not the case?’
Just because a hillbilly came to Seoul, they wouldn’t automatically become a Seoulite. This is exactly what was happening to me now. Without the Internet or search sites, I couldn’t just look everything up, so I just blinked my eyes and waited for the soldiers’ next words.
“Wyverns are not allowed into the Imperial Palace.”
“Huh? What do you mean…?”
“Besides the few wyverns that are raised by members of the Imperial Family, there is a separate base for wyverns outside the Imperial Castle, due to security reasons.”
‘Damn, now I look like a total idiot.’
The reality was that I, a person who wanted to become a Skyknight, knew nothing about them. Even the soldiers were looking at me as if I were pathetic.
“Then what is this place for…”
“It is the Skyknight Academy. The building in the shape of a spire over there is the Empire’s Imperial Magic Academy, and that place with the spacious drill hall is the Empire’s Imperial Knight Academy, and the forest behind those is the Summoner Academy.”
At the soldier’s friendly(?) explanation, my face stiffened with embarrassment. I looked like someone who knew absolutely nothing. I thought I had gathered enough info, but the path I must walk ventured all the way into the sky.
“Once you go inside, there should be an officer in charge. If you are accepted into the Skyknight Academy, you will receive various kinds of training for 2 years, and afterwards, you must be allocated a wyvern as well as a peerage in order to become a Skyknight,” explained the Imperial Soldier with a congenial air.
“Thank you. If we meet again, I will remember this favor.” I was really grateful.
“Haha, please do so. I will pray to the Goddess of Blessings, Semire, for your success in becoming a Skyknight.”
The Imperial Soldier cheered me on, which made me feel a bit better.
‘2 years, you say…’ It really wasn’t a short time. But since I was already so invested, I decided to simply enjoy my time here. Rather than wasting time by thinking about this and that like an idiot, I would gain more experiences by trying out new things.
‘Let’s just pass the test for now.’
The Skyknight Instruction Hall before me housed a drill hall as large as a school football field and a neatly manicured lawn. I headed for the door with powerful steps.
* * *
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* * *
The view from outside was worlds different from the view inside. Originally, I had been disappointed by the Skyknight Instruction Hall’s size. After opening a door engraved with a wyvern carving, the sight of the expansive hall blew me away.
‘A wyvern imbued with preservation magic!’
Surprisingly, within this four-floor hall, a Black Wyvern was proudly showing off its dignity with its wings stretched out towards the skies.
Even though it was long dead, this huge wyvern still exuded the prowess it had possessed in life. I even wondered if it was maybe made of metal, with its gleaming black hide and enormous black wings, pitch black snout and enormous black feet. The one area that sparkled was the sharp teeth that looked like they could rip apart anything. Even its eyes were pitch black—the sight of this Black Wyvern made my breath hitch.
‘Is this why Black Wyverns are called the best of the best?’
It felt like a fundamentally different level from the wyvern I had fought with in Fiore Territory, like comparing a cat to a tiger.
‘If I could ride something like this and fly in the sky…’
My heart began to thump wildly. In this moment, my vague dream was manifested in the flesh. I imagined myself riding a Black Wyvern unbridled in the skies.
“Hmph! So we meet again. You annoying commoner….”
Just as I was about to kiss a drop-dead gorgeous beauty in my daydreams, a sworn enemy of mine poured cold water all over my beautiful dreams.
‘Alfonso… Argh, you shitty bastard.’ I really couldn’t help but curse.
“Hoho, from your expression, you must have been imagining yourself flying atop a Black Wyvern. You’re truly a person who does not acknowledge your place,” came a nasty bitch’s voice from behind me.
‘Luciella….’ These people sure were desperate to seek their death. I narrowed my eyes and turned my head. ‘You look good together, you pair of cockroaches.”
This perfect couple’s expressions conveyed that I wasn’t welcome in their clique.
“We have already passed the Skyknight Exam. Now you’re left… If you are unable to pass, then it will be difficult for you to leave this Imperial Castle with your life intact,” Alfonso said, grinding his teeth. If looks could kill, I would be well on my way to the gates of hell.
“Oh really? Looks like the exam was easy, since even nobodies were able to pass.”
The modern term, ‘nobodies,’ appeared after getting automatically translated into the Kallian Continent language in my head. There was no way they knew this slang, which meant someone so insignificant that they couldn’t be seen nor heard.
“Ah, there’s a term like that,” I said nonchalantly, rubbing my ear and looking inside the hall.
‘Looks like that’s the exam room.’
Though this was supposed to be the Skyknight Academy, there weren’t that many people milling around. Besides a few attendants walking around briskly, I couldn’t see any other Knight Academy students. As I looked around, I noticed a room. A paper marked ‘Exam Room’ was hung in front of the room near the back of the hall.
“Then, see you later.”
The longer I stayed with these guys, the more my mental health would deteriorate. I headed towards the examination room with big strides.
“You damn bastard… Argh,” said Alfonso, his voice ringing through the hall.
‘You just wait for me. I will teach you from the ground up that life isn’t easy.’
We would have a lot of time together in the future. There would be countless chances to annoy them.
I opened the door and walked in. My goal was to pass this exam, which was held at the Skyknight Academy of the most prestigious empire on the continent.
My tension slowly rose.
* * *
‘Hm? What’s this?’ I saw something that gave me pause within the exam room. ‘A defense magic circle?’
It was a considerably large space that could fit five or six classrooms. A defense magic circle that could protect against magic or physical harm was inscribed in the center.
Behind that was an antique desk, where three people sat. There was an old mage who looked like he had a prickly personality, a courteous-looking Imperial Knight, and a white-haired Skyknight with the same attire as Irene.
Of course, it wasn’t just them. There were also three young mages and five Imperial Knights, as well as two Skyknights standing behind them.
A person overseeing the proceedings from his desk in front of the door asked me a question, drawing my attention. “Are you an applicant?”
“What is your full name?”
“Excuse me?” While writing down my short “full” name, the official stopped and stared at me.
“I am a commoner.”
At my words, he didn’t even respond and just nodded. It seemed like in this neighborhood, if you weren’t a noble, it was really hard to be treated with courtesy.
Unlike the person who was taking care of the forms, someone else reacted to my identity as a commoner. It was the white-haired man dressed as a Skyknight.
‘Everyone is stronger than me.’ I couldn’t tell at first, but the pressure of the aura in this large room was telling me that. ‘A mage of at least the 6th Circle, and a Blade Knight of a similar level…’
Upon meeting such strong people, gooseflesh naturally rose all over my body.
‘I need to separate my mana circles.’
This was something I had practiced during my two month-long journey. Originally, the upper, middle, and lower danjeon were combined to form my mana circles, creating a truly unique circle. In preparation for a day like today, I had practiced separating them.
In this world, it was dangerous to live with all your cards exposed.
I sent a little mana into the upper and middle danjeon and gathered the rest in my lower danjeon, which would distinguish me as a knight.
‘Magic is my last resort.’
I had used magic in the inn, but considering Alfonso didn’t bring it up, it seemed his two dogs didn’t tell him I was a mage. No, for someone so prideful, he probably just didn’t believe it.
“Yes. I am Kyre from Luna Village in Dapis Kingdom’s Fiore Viscounty,” I said, preemptively answering the next question.
“I am the Vice-Captain of the Imperial Guard Skyknights, Marquis Mermos.”
‘A marquis?! Woah, that’s impressive!’
He was a marquis of not just a kingdom, but an empire. Because I was able to discern what kind of lives nobles had from my travels, I knew what an incredible position a marquis held. Be it barons or viscounts, as long as they were on their territory, they were no different from kings. A lord was the supreme commander who held the absolute power of life and death over their residents and determined everything between taxes, laws, and military force. Moreover, a marquis was one of the top dogs, only under the emperor and dukes. It was an incredible position that received the title of ‘Your Excellency.’
‘Then those people should be of a similar stature.’
The people sitting stoically next to the Marquis were surely also at least marquis-level.
‘So I get to see three marquises, an existence most people never see even once in their lives?’
If not for this opportunity, how would a commoner ever have the opportunity to see such high ranking nobles? In this world, it was law to prostrate yourself right away when a person of such high bearing was passing by.
“It is an honor to meet you, Marquis Mermos.”
If things went well, this person could even be my boss later. In the style of this world’s aristocrats, I bowed with my left arm at my back and my right arm folded in front of my chest.
“Hng, for a commoner to imitate nobles, how very fearless.”
‘Oi, were you a noble as soon as you popped out of the womb? You old shriveled fish, you look like a skull wrapped in leather!’ I poured unspoken insults towards the grumbling mage.
“In such an exam room, where equality is sought after, how could I act with the mannerisms of a commoner? Though it may cause discomfort, please forgive this affront with a generous spirit.”
This 21st century commoner who feared no-one wouldn’t lose spirit just like that.
“Haha! Aren’t you a fun fellow. To be so bold towards the Marquis Kermon, the overseer of the Imperial Magic Tower.”
‘W–what!! The Imperial Magic Tower?!’ Even with my limited knowledge, I definitely knew about this existence. ‘They say that the empire’s Imperial Magic Tower only permits 7th Circle mages to join… Then, that skullhead is a 7th Circle mage!’
I felt like I had just stepped in horse poop. There was nothing good about getting noticed and targeted by this prickly old mage, but I’d already stepped on his foot in this exam room. My life wouldn’t be easy going forward…
I was perhaps one of the only people who had ever spoken so boldly to a marquis, a position which even I considered amazing. You had to be either crazy or eager to die to do so, or be like me and just not give a shit about anyone else.
“Hmf! You’re just a commoner…” The mage snorted out of his nose like an ill-tempered girl.
‘You prickly bald eagle. I’ll remember you.’
I decided to remember this skullhead who looked like a bald eagle with only a few pathetic strands of hair. I had the ominous foreboding that he would be the cause of many bad memories for me in the future.
“I will be in your care, your Excellency Kermon.” Despite my feelings, I bowed to the skull baldy as well.
“Alright then, what is your speciality? Since you were able to participate in this exam even as a commoner, know this: if you came to sully this exam room with paltry skills, then you will have to take responsibility,” said Marquis Mermos with elegant words befitting his stature.
‘They said a 4th Circle mage and Blade Knight are the minimum levels, right?’
There was one point that puzzled me. Skyknights were revered as the continent’s best knights as soon as they were selected. However, not all Aura Blade users and mages chose to walk that path.
‘The requirements are just Blade Knight and the 4th Circle, so why doesn’t everyone at that level choose to become Skyknights?’
I wanted to ask, but it wasn’t possible right now. It was also guaranteed to invite insults of stupidity from that skullhead mage.
“Fo, fo sho?”
‘Oops!’ What should have come out of my mouth while nodding was ‘Of course,’ but the casual speech I’d become used to in school came spilling out instead.
“Excuse me, it is a habit of speech trending these days in the southern part of the continent, meaning ‘Of course.’”
“I see. Fo sho…”
Unlike other marquises, Mermos felt like someone with a frank demeanor. I watched him roll a slang word in his mouth with something like fascination.
‘But why is a marquis only the Vice-Captain?’
For regular people, a person like an empire’s marquis was as hard to meet as the Emperor himself. The master of the Imperial Magic Tower, Kermon, was also a marquis, and the person sitting next to him was definitely also a marquis.
‘I’ll probably find out later.’ My curiosity was surging, but the exam came first.
“Which method will the exam use?” I asked.
“Method? The exam is simple. Put mana into this mana stone and measure your amount of mana, and if you meet the required amount, you pass the first part. Then the last part is that you must receive the recognition of Marquis Kermon or Marquis Astain, Leader of the Imperial Guard, and that concludes the test.”
‘It’s easier than I thought.’ The exam was much easier than I had heard. I nodded in understanding. ‘Mana stone, huh… A stone that measures one’s quantity of mana, hm?’
The relevant magic information came to mind. If mana was inserted, it would shine according to the quantity.
‘Let’s not overdo it and just try to pass.’
Was there anyone who would expose all their cards to strangers? I slowly walked forward and approached the large mana stone placed in front of a dais.
At that moment, the sound of energetic knocking rang throughout the room.
Then, all eyes were drawn to the slowly opening door, which creaked as it opened.
‘Eh? That girl is—?’
It was the thin girl who looked like a shoujo manga protagonist, Hyneth. She had gone into the inner castle sooner than I had, but she was only now entering the exam room.
Hyneth walked in with a bright and shy smile, looking like a living doll. In her hand were a few unknown flowers clearly from the garden. Her dress was also dirtied with a few blades of grass.
‘She’s even got one behind her ear!’
She even had a flower behind her ear. She wasn’t even the heroine from Glass no Kamen, but there was a small flower blooming behind her right ear. I began to tremble with laughter.
“I am Hyneth of the Petrin Count family. I have come here today to take the Skyknight exam. I humbly request your guidance.”
As soon as Hyneth entered, the displeasure in the skullhead mage’s eyes changed and he instantly looked as if he had stepped on poo. The other marquises, as well as each and every one of the knights and mages behind them, revealed expressions of fear.
‘What’s with their expressions!’
It was as if they were eating soup from a restaurant and discovered a bug floating around in the broth, or as if they were about to kiss a beautiful woman after much legwork and then spotted a piece of food stuck in her teeth, completely shattering the imagery, or if they had pooped a big one and reached out for toilet paper only to find an empty roll. Everyone’s faces were contorted by various, complicated emotions.
“A–are you THAT Hyneth?” asked Skyknight Vice-Captain Marquis Mermos, his previously relaxed expression nowhere to be found.
“I don’t know what you could possibly mean, sir, but there is only one Hyneth belonging to the Petrins. I am the only child.”
I was amazed by her demure demeanor. This girl exuding shyness reminded me of a young miss carefully cultivated in the Yi Dynasty. But for some reason, even though this doll-like manga character girl was exceptionally pleasing to my eyes, the stiff expressions of the others in the room weren’t loosening up anytime soon.
“Haaah!” Mermos let out a deep sigh. “Passed…” he said with a low voice, giving Hyneth a free pass.
An immediate acceptance happened right in front of me. I was able to confirm with my perfectly healthy eyes that Hyneth gained admittance without even taking the test. However, I couldn’t raise an objection. After all, the decision was made by a marquis who could determine my very life or death. And… I could feel that he was dealing with the situation in the only way possible.
“Thank you very much. Then, this humble one shall withdraw.” Holding the front of her dress with one hand, Hyneth gave a graceful curtsey. She looked as if such an immediate acceptance was only natural.
‘Wow, what is her identity?’
Hyneth was still a completely unknown character to me.
There was only one thing I could tell from peoples’ expressions. They were somehow clearly warning me to never get close to this girl, Hyneth.