21st Century Archmage - Chapter 28
Chapter 28: Kirphone Covert
‘Dude, don’t you ever get bored?’
At the Petrins’ place, I drank until I blacked out for the first time in my life. After downing cup after cup, the sun seemed on the verge of coming up, and it was then that I lost consciousness. Then I slept the day away like a log, and after waking up, I suffered from a terrible hangover.
But the other knights, including the Count, were able to spend a lively day full of sparring even after drinking so much. It was a special privilege afforded to people who could control mana: apparently, you could use mana to protect your stomach and forcibly erase your intoxication. However, I didn’t even know that, and was forced to realize the frightening power of alcohol with my entire body.
‘Does he like that guy, Shuriel, so much?’
After almost dying and coming back to the world of the living, I returned to the dorm. The other kids of noble families were mostly staying at villas in the capital or with their friends. Only Russell, who had nowhere else to go, was standing at the window of the dorm room, summoning Shuriel and playing with it.
‘This guy, he’s crying!’
Russell didn’t even register that I had come in and kept playing with Shuriel. Tears fell from his eyes to the ground.
His usually neutral voice had disappeared and had turned thin and high-pitched, like a girl.
‘Brat, so you’re a pup who wants to see his parents.’
To be honest, I felt the same. Because I couldn’t return to the Earth or do anything about it, I was living to my utmost here, but I yearned to see my parents and friends.
“I, I will avenge you. Even if I must sell my soul to the devil…”
But Russell’s yearning suddenly turned to vengeance with gritted teeth. I knew there was probably a situation he couldn’t tell me, but I didn’t know it was this much of a bitter grudge. He wouldn’t look a bit out of place as the main character in a story.
“Who is it!” Russell cried, finally sensing my presence and whipping his head around.
“Haha! It’s me, friend,” I said, making an expression like nothing was wrong in order to avoid awkwardness.
“K-Kyre…” said Russell, his voice a little muffled as he quickly wiped his tears with his sleeve.
“The sun is too bright, huh?” I acted like I didn’t see his tears and said something irrelevant.
“Y-yeah.” Understanding my intent, Russell nodded.
“Russell…” I pushed my face towards his feminine features.
“W-what are you doing?”
Whenever I called him, Russell looked very guarded. I spoke with a furtive voice and reached for his shoulder.
As I did so, Russell’s clear, gentle silver eyes trembled.
‘Why is he always so tense when I come close?’ I never took my jokes too far, but this brat always put his guard up when I got near him.
I gripped his thin and soft girly shoulders.
“Do you really… not have a little sister?” I said quietly.
Bam! Russell’s fist landed in my stomach.
“Pervert!” Like always, he was ready with his favorite word for me.
‘Brat, don’t be sad. If you cry, I’m sad too.’
Following the pervert accusation, Russell’s expression loosened up. Now I could relax. After sharing a room with him for several months, we had grown much closer. I didn’t know how much longer this would last, but until my fate with him was over, I wanted to support him like this.
I don’t know when, but at some point, I started wanting to protect a certain guy.
That guy’s name was my roommate, Russell.
* * *
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* * *
‘Shall we try summoning a spirit?’
Tomorrow, we would be heading out for Skyknight Practical Training. I wanted to try summoning the spirits as an emergency measure before we set off. For that purpose, I headed to the forest around the Summoner’s Tower.
‘If Count Capuin knew, he’d go nuts.’
Count Capuin had sent me to the Spirit Realm through the Spirit Summoning magic circle. While I was still in a state of complete shock from seeing Sylphiria’s face, I was brought back to the Middle Realm, where Count Capuin asked me about the spirits. At that time, I told him I couldn’t make any contracts, only that I was thankful that he had allowed me to see a bunch of spirits.
‘A card hidden up my sleeve will surely save my life.’
I was still someone who hadn’t reached the stage of absolute power. I was a 5th Circle mage, swordsman, and summoner, but I was well aware that it wasn’t enough.
‘It’s probably fine to summon an intermediate spirit instead of a lower one, right?’
This was my first attempt, but I could currently summon every element of lower and intermediate spirit, as well as the high wind spirit under Sylphiria’s level, Djinn. I didn’t personally make a contract with a high spirit, but because I had made a contract with an archspirit, I could summon high spirits of the same element with the force of my will.
‘I should probably summon Shuriel, yeah?’
I was more drawn to wind spirits than the others. Moreover, wind spirits were the most important spirits for a Skyknight who would act in the sky. Making my decision, I closed my eyes and brought the image of my contracted Shuriel to mind.
Shuriel, an eagle of wind.
In response to my words, I felt a powerful energy gathering in the air, and wind began to blow around me.
Then, I broke out in a cheer upon seeing Shuriel, who was flapping its transparent wings and floating in the air.
‘If I could distract an enemy with a spirit, land a critical hit with magic, and then finish the job with my sword, who could defeat me then?’
An imaginary battle was drawn in my head. In a one-on-one fight, I would probably be undefeatable. No matter how much of a Master or 7th Circle mage you were, it would be possible to block a spirit’s rapid attacks, magic’s immense offensive power, and the clean strikes of a swordsman on top of that all on your own.
“Fly, Shuriel. All the way over there!”
With a low cry that only I could hear, Shuriel flew like a rocket into the direction I had pointed at.
Shuriel’s movement speed was so fast that it couldn’t be traced with the human eye.
‘It does take quite a lot of mana.’ My mana core was much greater than other people’s, but as Shuriel flitted off, I felt mana getting sucked out. In particular, because Shuriel had flown off so far I could barely see it, my mana was drained with sudden speed. ‘Seems to consume more mana depending on the distance.’
If summoners weren’t limited by their mana, they would probably be the strongest attackers. However, compared to knights or mages, summoners had the most fragile mana. They would definitely be limited in distance and time during a battle in the sky.
‘I should thank Master.’
Those same limitations weren’t as restrictive for me. Thanks to Master Bumdalf’s mana breathing technique, I could display a far greater strength than other summoners.
‘Should I try using spirit magic as well?’
Summoning a spirit had another advantage. Even if you weren’t a mage, you could use magic. However, a wind spirit could only use wind magic, water spirits could use water magic, etc.
‘The summoner’s affinity has to be high in order to use magic freely, right?’
I had learned quite a lot about spirits in class. The information was pretty useful.
Just then, I suddenly heard the flapping of wings. “A wyvern!” In the sky was a wyvern flying over from the imperial palace. “Why is it so small?”
It was a Black Wyvern, whose body gleamed with black luster. But it was around half the size of the huge wyverns I had seen before.
Rooaaaaaar! The wyvern that had suddenly appeared from the imperial palace was about to crash into the Forest of Spirits, where I was.
‘Oi! That brat!’
Then I saw him: the little prince who’d gotten a spanking from me. Wearing a flustered expression, Razcion was gripping the reins atop the struggling wyvern.
‘This kid!’ It was obviously a dangerous situation.
“Shuriel! Help the wyvern!”
The only thing that occurred to me in this pressing situation was to use my summoned spirit. At my cry, Shuriel, who had flown far away, flew straight to the wyvern like a ray of light.
The moment Shuriel supported the crashing wyvern that had lost its balance, mana drained from me rapidly. Taking physical form to support the wyvern exceeded its limit, increasing the drain on my mana.
Flap, flap, flap!
‘Argh, you little brat. You’re getting a spanking now!’
Shuriel righted the wyvern’s balance with wind power and dragged the wyvern to the clearing in the forest where I was standing.
Clearly frightened, Razcion burst out into tears.
And the wyvern, which was still huge despite me calling it small, landed on the ground with a weighty thump.
As soon as the wyvern hit ground, Shuriel returned to the Spirit Realm on its own. It had definitely consumed a lot of its strength.
I ran forward. He may be a prince of Bajran, but he was still a kid. Worrying about whether he was hurt or not came first.
Thanks to Shuriel doing its best, the Black Wyvern was able to land safely, and I could finally let out a relieved breath.
‘It’s still a baby?’ The Black Wyvern looked as young as Razcion himself. Blinking its black eyes, the creature warily stared at me as I ran forward.
“Kiddo, are you ok?” I called out to Razcion, who was crying while sitting on the saddle atop the wyvern.
Raising his head to my voice, Razcion wailed so loudly that it shook the forest. “Hyung? Brotheerr!!”
* * *
“So you’re saying, when members of the imperial family become ten, they unconditionally receive a Black Wyvern, and this guy named Datero is yours?”
“Un, hyung. He’s handsome, right? He’s only two, but understands words well too.”
‘So it’s true that wyverns have to be over four years old to be full-grown.’
I was a Skyknight cadet, but I still didn’t know much about wyverns. I heard that we would start getting close to wyverns from the practical training starting tomorrow. As inexperienced as I was, seeing the baby Black Wyvern in front of me with its black luster aroused greed in me.
“But who gave you permission? He doesn’t look ready to fly yet.”
He was big, but Datero still had a lot of growing to do. It was too dangerous for a prince who could become the next emperor to fly on him.
“That, that is… Noona was gone, so… I ordered the attendants.”
The kiddo lowered his head and confessed his sins.
Bam! I lightly smacked his head.
“How sad do you think your father and mother would be if you got into an accident like that? At over ten years old, you should know the value of life! Razcion, do you still see yourself as a kid?”
I would have gotten mad even if it was a kid who had nothing to do with me, but because he was a kid I knew, I got even madder.
“I’m sorry, hyung. I won’t do it again. But… Datero can fly well, you know! He even flew with me not too long ago…”
Though he was a prince, Razcion had already recognized me as his hyung. Disheartened by my words, he gave an excuse with a trembling voice.
‘Not too long ago? Now that I think of it, isn’t it suspicious?’
Datero was still a baby, but he was still more than big enough to fly with an adult on his back.
At that moment, I saw something sparkle in Datero’s right wingpit.
‘Who did something like this!’
A black piece of metal was lodged in the wyvern’s black hide. The sharp edges had pierced the armpit under the wing, pushed so deeply inside that it was able to damage the uniquely sturdy Black Wyvern hide, which was said to be able to deflect swords. Whenever Datero flapped his wings, the object pierced deeper inside and caused intense pain. Unable to fly properly due to the pain, the wyvern had crashed.
‘Conspiracy!’ I could only think of one thing. ‘The Crown Prince is born from the Queen, but this kid was born from the belly of the Empress, the legal wife. It’s definitely possible.’
Any person with a working brain could smell the conspiracy afoot. It could be caused by a power struggle within the imperial palace, something I had seen often in movies or books. No, it was definitely caused by something like that. Otherwise, who would play with a young child’s life like this?
Razcion looked at me with round eyes. It was obvious that this kid with baby fat still on his cheeks didn’t know a thing.
“In the future, don’t do these kinds of dangerous flights. And… be careful.”
I couldn’t tell the kid to watch out for his life and increase his escort. To this kid, the world was still full of wonders. I didn’t want to rob this kid of his pure world.
‘Sigh, fate is also an illness.’
I wanted to help, but there was a limit to what I could do. And to say it rationally, even if the kid died, it was his fate as a kid who was born a prince.
“Got it, elder brother. Hehe.”
I patted the kid’s head as he smiled brightly. If the Imperial Knights were to see, I would be branded on the spot with treason against the imperial family, but I wasn’t scared. Right now, Razcion was just a cute kid I knew.
“Your Highness! Your Imperial Highness!”
Just then, cries calling for the prince came from the distance.
‘It’s the Imperial Knights.’
As long as they had eyes, they would also be able to see what kind of plot Razcion had suffered. I heard the footsteps of the Imperial Knights as they came closer to the forest.
“I’ll see you later, kiddo.”
“Are you going? Ehh, I wanted to play longer with you,” complained Razcion with his eyes full of sadness.
“Then grow up quickly. Next time, when I become a Skyknight, let’s fly together in the sky.”
“This elder brother of yours doesn’t lie.”
“Alright! Make sure to keep that promise, okay, elder brother Kyre?”
“Got it. Then, watch your health.”
Because I could feel that the knights had drawn close, I used Mana Step to hide within the forest. It didn’t matter if I was found, but there was no need to complicate things.
‘But where did the Imperial Princess go, leaving such a young brother behind?’
Princess Igis had clearly cared deeply for her younger brother. She wasn’t stupid enough to let Razcion fly off like that.
‘It’s already late afternoon.’
After just one night, the much-anticipated Skyknight Practical Training would begin.
Washed by the rays of the afternoon sun filtered by the trees, I walked through the forest. From now on, such a peaceful time wouldn’t come for a while.
* * *
‘There’s a Skyknight base in a place like this?’
After two hours of horseback from the capital, we arrived at a mountain around 300 meters above sea level. The mountain had a gentle slope and took up a fairly large area.
‘The Skyknight Imperial Guard protecting the capital from a short distance and other Skyknights are here, huh?’
Wearing our uniforms, the cadets gathered early in the morning and departed on prepared horses. After passing through the capital, we galloped straight here.
“Students, this is Kirphone Covert, where you will stay for two months. 53 Black Wyverns, the pride of our empire, as well as around 100 regular wyverns are on standby here in order to protect the capital.”
Several instructors had followed us here, including Viscount Atuan, Count Capuin, and Viscount Bane, who were all Skyknights themselves.
‘It’s a perfect fortress!’
It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to call Kirphone Covert the heart that protected the entire empire. At the entrance stood a thick stone wall, and I could see dozens of places that looked like trenches all over the mountain.
‘Each wyvern requires a team of around ten soldiers, so just counting it up, it’s at least 1,500 people. And then there’s another few thousand garrisoned here. Wow! It’s amazing!’
Even a single glance could tell you that Kirphone was perfectly equipped for defense. It made my heart pound the moment we got close.
In order to enter the covert, you had to go through the stone wall first. Hundreds of soldiers were standing watch on the wall with arrows, spears, and swords.
‘They’re even using magic defense arrays.’
I felt traces of mana from the wall, coming from magic defense arrays that were used in special fortifications.
“The 1st year Skyknight cadets are here for practical training. We are the instructors.”
“Please pass over your identification.”
They should know the faces of the instructors, but the knight in charge asked for identification with an appearance that meant business. He was standing in front of the wall with several dozen soldiers. It showed how much importance Bajran placed on this place.
“It has been confirmed. Please come in.”
After checking the documents passed over by the highest ranked instructor, Count Capuin, the knight gave us permission to enter. As we walked towards the wall with our horses, the knight made a fist and shook it in the air. Only then did the thick fortress gate open with the loud grinding of stone.
“Hiya!” The instructors hurried their horses inside.
The other cadets, whose hearts were probably racing as much as mine, rushed to follow them.
Last night, I had a hard time sleeping because of my excitement. I was at the tail end of the line and followed everyone through the gate.
The cadets who had entered through the gate stopped their horses to exclaim with admiration as they blankly stared at the scene before them.
‘Why are they like this, so lame~!’
Snorting at the cadets who had stopped at the front of the line, I threaded my horse through the throng and looked ahead.
In the end, I also couldn’t help but cry out.
‘Th-those are all wyverns!!’
A huge valley awaited us beyond the gate. In the valley were an incredible number of wyverns.
Countless wyverns were lying down, flapping their wings, getting cared for by people, or preparing to fly. With large buildings that looked like their houses behind them, the wyverns were enjoying their luxurious daily lives like millionaires at their country homes.
“A Gold Wyvern!”
“There’s even a wyvern unique to Laviter here!”
“Impressive! It’s really impressive!”
I wasn’t the only one getting emotional. Everyone here were cadets who dreamed of becoming Skyknights. The little voice inside their heads that whispered that one of those wyverns on the valley could become theirs made everyone very excited.
‘How much money is this! One wyvern, two wyverns, uwaahh! There’s too many to count!’
Each one cost at least 200 thousand Gold a pop, and there were 150 of them. In terms of money, I was looking at an astronomical sum.
‘Huhuhu. I only need one. As long as it’s black, I just need one!’
As soon as you owned a wyvern, you would be promoted to noble status. Now, I was half a step closer to my paradise. The next level, becoming a noble, was waiting for me.
“Move along, everyone!”
The instructors hastened the cadets, who were all standing with their jaws open. We took the horses to one side of the valley, where many large 3-story buildings stood. They were probably the dormitories where the cadets would be staying for two months.
“They must be here. Those guys.”
As we hustled the horses onwards, two people came to mind. Countess Irene, the Apostle of the Azure Skies, and that one guy named Rothello.
‘Countess Irene, I’m here. To keep my promise with you.’
She had told me to become a Skyknight cadet and prove my innocence. Her goddess-like appearance was etched in my mind, in particular, her innocent beauty that exuded a magical charm…