21st Century Archmage - Chapter 29
Chapter 29: Meeting Him
“Wyverns have a sensitive temperament, and the Skyknights who own wyverns are barons at the very least. Bear in mind that they will request a battle to the death to anyone who injures their wyvern, so watch your actions!”
The practical training quarters were as top quality as the dorms in the capital. Once we reached them, Viscount Atuan laid down some cautionary words.
“Then is it alright if we go look around without bothering the wyverns?”
“Of course. As long as you keep in mind that causing a scene will earn you a silent arrow to the throat, there shouldn’t be any issues.”
As expected of the simple Viscount Atuan, even his response was masterful in its bluntness.
“Dismissed! From tomorrow on, you will be personally trained by enlisted Skyknights!”
“As you command!” cried out the practical training cadets. Everyone’s faces were flushed, as if their excitement hadn’t died down yet.
‘So in order to get a wyvern from a noble family, you have to get training here, huh?’
There were around 300 wyverns operating in the empire’s capital. Roughly 150 were stationed here, and the rest were affiliated with individual lords. But whether you got one from a lord or from the empire, you could only acquire a wyvern if you graduated from Skyknight Academy first. No matter what kind of noble you were, it was empire law that you could not formally own a wyvern before becoming a Skyknight. This was probably the greatest measure the empire could take to prevent their valuable wyverns from going to unskilled individuals.
“Russell, aren’t you surprised?”
‘What a special guy.’ A person who wanted to become a Skyknight for revenge showed no reaction to seeing over a hundred wyverns.
“Wanna go out?”
“No thanks. I’ll see plenty tomorrow. I want to rest.”
‘Seriously, why is a guy like this?’
Even though I felt the distance between us had shrunk a lot, at times like this, Russell really felt like a guy from a faraway land. Saying he was tired, he went off into his assigned quarters.
“Hyneth, do you wanna go look outside?”
“No. A place without gardens or flowers is…” Hyneth, a girl with only flowers and gardens in her head, shook her head with a powerless voice.
‘Uwaah! This is why a person has to choose their friends well!’
Thanks to Hyneth, I was branded a loser and didn’t have any other friends. The others were already going out in groups of three or four, but I was forced to wail about my deep loneliness.
‘Alright, since when have I had friends… Hah.’
I wasn’t one to get down by something like this. If you don’t have teeth, then use your gums, and if you don’t have gums, then use your dentures— that was the kind of mentality I, Kang Hyuk, possessed.
* * *
Seeing the scale of the covert from the wall vs. seeing it in the flesh was a world of difference. Running through the hangars for the wyverns’ exclusive use was a long, 4-lane-wide road.
Squeaal! Squeaaal! Baaaa! Baaaaaa!
‘They’re eating all of that?’’
It wasn’t just one or two. Over a hundred pigs, sheep, and cows were transported into the covert on dozens of carriages.
“How’s the quality of the sheep today?”
“They are top grade sheep raised on the Silve Plains.”
“Really? Then give me one of those today.”
As the carriages loaded with foodstuffs passed by, people who were knight-rank came out of the wyvern barracks and ordered sheep, pigs, and cows.
‘Exactly how much do they eat every day?’
Wyverns were like moving mountains. I thought they would have to eat at least one pig per day to maintain their bulk.
The selected sheep was unloaded from the carriage, then dragged by the soldiers attending the wyvern and taken into the huge hangars.
Crunch. ‘Do they eat it whole?’ The bloody sounds of the sheep’s bones getting crunched could be heard even from outside the barracks. ‘They’ve got it good. It’s no different from a pampered pooch living in a wealthy household.’
As long as there weren’t any wars, this place was wyvern heaven. After finishing its meal, the wyvern with blood still on its jaws came outside. The next moment, there were people rushing to wipe the blood on its face with towels. The scene made you wonder who the master was.
‘If you take off in one go, it would be damn cool.’
I had only seen wyverns a few times, but the more I saw them, the deeper my awe grew. Each wyvern boasted a sleek hide according to the characteristics of each race. These were beasts that could block most spells and most physical attacks, like arrows. They possessed the strength to crush a knight’s armor with their steel-like claws.
I could understand why people said that a wyvern’s appearance could rewrite the history of a war.
* * *
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While walking along, I arrived at a place that was obviously different from the rest of the covert. The wyvern quarters here were made with black stones, and the yard in front of each barrack was a little larger. I could immediately tell that the wyverns here received better treatment.
Then I saw it– a Black Wyvern gleaming like the night sky. This race, the treasure of the Bajran Empire, was enjoying the warm sunshine with its huge wings outstretched.
“Hashice, don’t you get bored of it? Do you really have to put me through this every time you eat?”
‘This voice is?’
From the wyvern’s back came a man’s familiar voice. As he busily scratched the Black Wyvern’s itchy spots with a large steel rake, the man appeared from the wyvern’s left wing.
‘So I get to meet Rothello here.’
Rothello, the Skyknight of the Imperial Guard I had met at Elmar’s Resthouse and had boasted he would buy me a drink if I got admitted, was sweating intensely as he scratched his wyvern. The appearance of an empire’s top elite was nowhere to be found, replaced by a pitiful scullery maid.
Heedless of Rothello’s complaining, the Black Wyvern named Hashice simply growled with pleasure.
“Oi! Because of you, I can’t find romance! Do I have to do this kind of thing every day at my age!” Pausing with the rake, Rothello shouted with pent-up anger.
Flap flap flap! As if saying he didn’t want to hear it, Hashice flapped his ponderous wings.
“Uwaaah! Save me!”
The light wingstrokes of the wyvern from wings almost 10 meters long made Rothello, who had been on top, scream as he flew into the sky. Even so, Rothello had the strong willpower to not let go of his steel rake. With a composure that didn’t match his screaming, Rothello spun a few times in the air and lightly landed on his feet.
“Graaah! Today, you’re dead so I can live!”
As if seriously enraged, Rothello discarded his face as a Skyknight and ran towards his wyvern.
While running, he met eyes with me, who was watching his pathetic antics.
“It’s been a while, Sir Rothello.”
“K, Kyre? Hahaha! You got into Skyknight Academy? You didn’t let down my expectations!” said Rothello, still remembering my name. A bright smile bloomed on his cynical face.
“But sir, do you have to do this every day if you become a Skyknight?”
It didn’t matter if the profession was the most honorable in the world. I got the foreboding that you would even have to clean up wyvern mega poop, so I had to ask.
“Ha, haha! This is… a sign of affection. Because if you can’t feel a bond with your wyvern during flight, that translates directly into danger.”
Rothello scratched his head, smiling awkwardly. However, he didn’t look embarrassed. Even as he spoke, he was looking at his Black Wyvern, Hashice, with a loving gaze.
“Are you a summoner, sir?”
“Hm? How did you know?”
‘Is this what a spirit smells like?’ Until just recently, I hadn’t been able to tell, but after making a contract with multiple spirits, I could instinctively pick out a spirit’s scent. I could feel the traces of a wind spirit from Rothello.
“It would be difficult to become the master of a Black Wyvern as a knight, right?”
“That’s true. Haha! That’s one of the advantages of being a summoner.”
Rothello’s smile could have come off as arrogant, but it didn’t, because I knew his character.
“May I ride once?”
Looking at the Black Wyvern’s onyx wings, I couldn’t help but think of flying, my most anticipated dream.
“Not yet; all wyverns, including Black Wyverns, must receive permission to fly from control.”
‘Permission to fly? Well, I guess that’s to be expected.’
If you took a wyvern and defected, the empire would take an enormous loss, so they probably kept a thorough watch on everyone.
“But don’t worry. It looks like you’ve come for your 1st year practical training; you’ll be able to fly very soon. To the point of bitter regret at that. Huhuhu.”
Rothello’s words hinted at some kind of evil plot, like he knew a secret I didn’t.
“You didn’t forget your promise, right?”
“Promise? Of course not! A big glass to celebrate your admittance! Look forward to it, Kyre!”
Rothello was leagues apart from those nobles who only had shit for brains. He was a man I wanted to open my heart to and develop a good relationship with.
“I’ll believe in your promise.”
“Are you looking around the covert?”
“Haha! I was like that too. The first time I saw this place, my heart was racing so much I thought I would faint.”
So Rothello felt it too. It was a strange feeling that only another Skyknight could understand.
“It seems your work is not finished, so I will take my leave.”
“Alright, sorry about that. I would have wanted to take you around, but this guy…”
Rothello looked helplessly at Hashice, who was waiting with its right wing stretched towards him.
‘A fully-grown wyvern should have the intelligence of a child.’
Not all monsters were stupid. Even orcs were capable of making crude arrows or spears and lived in social groups. Among monsters, wyverns were top of the class. If they really were stupid, they wouldn’t be called wyverns, but chicken heads.
“Oh right, everywhere else is fine, but don’t go to the building next to the lake over there.”
“Just don’t. You will learn the reason later, but on a day like this, just don’t go. You don’t want the bad luck to infect you from your first day here.”
‘Bad luck? What the heck is he talking about?’
Rothello said something I couldn’t understand, but he refused to say more.
“Then, I will see you next time, sir.”
“Ah, alright. Enjoy your tour, Kyre.”
At some point, Rothello had crawled back onto his wyvern’s right wing and was hard at work scratching it. Contrary to his prickly words, his face was overflowing with joy, and the look in his eyes was as if he was watching a woman he loved.
* * *
“Hey, you guys, you sure have it rich.”
For me, someone coming from a place where humans reigned at the very top, Kirphone Covert was a unique place. Here, wyverns were afforded every luxury. After finishing their meals, ten or so wyverns went out to the lake and were playing in the water. It was like some rich kids eating out at a specialty restaurant in Gangnam and then going to a hotel pool to play.
[TN: Gangnam is a really expensive, upscale district in Korea.]
‘I wonder what kind of place is this?’
Telling someone to not press the red button was a surefire way to ignite their curiosity. I decisively ignored Rothello’s warning and approached the building on the lakeside.
‘It looks like a wyvern quarter, but there are no people here?’
Other wyverns had at least ten attendants at their beck and call, but this wyvern quarter was completely silent. It was located quite far from the other wyvern quarters.
‘There’s definitely a wyvern inside.’
My senses became more sensitive as my mana grew. I could feel a wyvern’s huge presence inside the building.
Blood and fishy smells flowed into the yard, which was overgrown with weeds. A horrifying energy loomed in the air.
‘Did it bite someone?’
Various thoughts floated through my mind, but my curiosity unwittingly deepened.
‘Should I go inside?’
Unlike the other wyverns, who received noble treatment, the wyvern here was treated almost like a piece of waste. There had to be special circumstances at play.
‘That’s right, what’s there to fear? The instructors didn’t even say to avoid this place.’
I was a little worried about Rothello’s warning, but I couldn’t overcome my vigorous curiosity. Steeling myself, I walked towards the closed-off wyvern quarter.
‘There’s a side door there.’
The wyvern quarters were built with hinged doors on both ends, like airports in modern times. I saw a small side door for humans on one side.
Gulp. Despite my bravado, my body seemed to have tensed up, and I gulped with nervousness.
‘Eurgh, what’s with this coldness?’ As I walked step by step, I felt a cold energy. Before I knew it, I was already standing in front of the side door.
I slowly grabbed the handle and opened the door.
The smell of blood, so intense it made me gag, rushed out from the opening of the door. I hesitated for a moment.
However, because I believed in my skills, I carefully moved inside.
The moment I stepped in, a burning gaze from two huge crimson pupils shot down on me.
Sunlight shone in from the door I had opened, illuminating a Black Wyvern bigger than any I had seen so far.
More surprisingly, the Black Wyvern’s body was marked with several golden stripes.
‘So, so beautiful!’
As if painted with gold, the golden markings shone even in the dim light.
The wyvern directed strong bloodthirst towards me, the person who had stepped into its territory. It stared at me with blood-red eyes that burned like the sun; the black eyes characteristic of Black Wyverns was nowhere to be found.
‘It is a sad beast.’
Someone else might feel a heart-crushing fear from seeing this Black Wyvern, but my heart was saying this: the guy sending bloodthirst my way was a pitiful creature who had gone half-mad with loneliness.
Graaahh! The wyvern let out a low roar.
‘It even has shackles on its ankles!’
Unlike the other wyverns, who enjoyed their freedom, this one had heavy steel shackles on its ankles, and those shackles were connected to stakes that were driven deep into the ground. Thick blocks of steel were wrapped around the stakes.
‘To get treated like this… what exactly is his identity?’ It had roared towards me as if warning an enemy, but I wasn’t afraid. ‘They even just throw random scraps at it and don’t even clean up afterwards.’
I didn’t know how long he had been here, but the whole building was penetrated with a rotten, fishy smell.
‘You poor thing.’
Pity began to well up in my heart. No, I felt some other kind of intense emotion towards this wyvern with the golden stripes.
“Do you want to go out?” I could not help but say.
As if he understood my words, the wyvern’s pupils trembled.
‘He longs for freedom.’
Within his trembling eyes screamed an instinct that wished to fly high in the sky. However, he had clearly accumulated a lot of distrust towards humans, and the trembling in his eyes was soon replaced by a loud roar as he brandished his sharp teeth towards me.
‘You…’ Filled with sympathy, I took a step forward. My approach made the wyvern move, its shackles clanging together.
“Please, please do not get any closer.”
‘Ah!’ Just then, I heard a woman’s calm voice behind me. ‘This voice is—?’
I clearly remembered the owner of this voice. I turned my head.
“Mm…” A small sound escaped my lips as my expectations were met.
We had only met once, but I remembered her down to her expression. She was a woman whose expression of regret towards the wyvern matched mine.
That woman’s name was…