21st Century Archmage - Chapter 34
Chapter 34: Duel
As we re-entered the covert airspace, there was a swarm of over a hundred wyverns waiting for us. The covert signal tower beamed a bright blue light into the sky, and the next moment, wyverns came at us from all directions.
‘They’re probably itching to get us.’
They were all aristocratic Skyknights. I was sure they would be harboring resentment for having to wake up in the middle of the night.
“Please do not worry. I will take responsibility for everything.” Igis was no longer just a girl, but once again the noble Imperial Princess. Her dignified voice rang out behind me.
“Land!” shouted the Imperial Guard Skyknight who had flanked us.
‘That shithead Crown Prince is probably here too, right?’
Anyone else could have been subdued with the Princess’ authority, but not the temperamental Crown Prince. I led Bebeto to the central clearing on the covert runway, which was brightly lit up by all the activated magic lamps. Bebeto must have realized the gravity of the situation, because he meekly complied.
It was a real shame. Tonight might have been his last flight.
With great flaps of his wings, we approached the central clearing chock full of fully-armored knights and soldiers. I soothed the tense Bebeto as we slowly began to land.
‘We’re just like freakin’ circus monkeys.’
There were at least a thousand gazes on us. As Bebeto slowly landed, the wyverns flying in the area also landed in front of their hangars, leaving around 20 wyverns in the air in case we tried to escape.
Bebeto landed with a great thump.
“We have arrived, Your Imperial Highness.”
“Well done, sir Kyre.”
I had nerves of steel, but Igis’ courage was nothing to scoff at either. We shared a courteous farewell.
“Escort the Imperial Princess!”
Someone’s command rang out, and the Imperial Knights in charge of guarding the Imperial Princess came running.
Guooo! As the Imperial Knights charged towards us, Bebeto reacted with a high-strung cry.
“Calm down…” I stroked his neck and calmed Bebeto.
‘You jerks are scared shitless, aren’t you.’
The Imperial Knights were all frightened by the roaring of this wyvern, who was known as a cursed taboo. Only after I calmed Bebeto did they dare to carefully approach.
Unlocking the saddle belt, Igis slid gracefully down Bebeto’s wing. I also undid my saddle belt with a click and jumped off of Bebeto, landing with a thump.
“Seize the criminal who kidnapped the Princess! If he resists, decapitation is permitted!”
Even though it was more the other way around, the Imperial Knights were ready to take me down as the criminal. The Skyknights who had landed their wyverns also hurried to run over and take up positions around us.
However, I had a hidden card up my sleeve. Igis stood forward with a confident and dignified pose.
“Sir Kyre did not do anything wrong. Everything that happened today was arranged by me.”
Igis deterred the knights with a firm voice devoid of a single tremble. At her words, the people approaching with swords in their hands stopped. No matter what, they couldn’t just ignore the authority of the Imperial Princess.
But there was just one person who Igis was helpless towards.
His name was…
‘You shithead! Poltviran!’
It was this empire’s Crown Prince, the extraordinarily ominous Poltviran.
“Halt!” Igis didn’t submit to the Crown Prince and stood in front of me.
“Igis…” Guarded by Imperial Knights, Poltviran jutted his fierce, angular chin and approached Igis. “Do you know what you have done? Do you know that because of you, the Skyknights who should be protecting the Imperial Family in the capital have been summoned without rest to settle this ridiculous matter?!” Poltiviran raked Igis over with an aggressive glare.
“Esteemed elder brother, I am indeed regretful about that. But…”
‘You! You jerk!!’
“What excuse can justify taking a taboo hybrid wyvern and bringing chaos to the entire covert! Even if you are a princess of this empire, this is clearly an unforgivable sin!”
This horrible brute slapped his sister with no hesitation in front of countless nobles and soldiers. He sternly reprimanded Igis with an enraged voice.
‘He’s laughing.’ But despite his outward mien, I could see it. In those mad eyes of his, I could see that he was laughing with delight.
“Execute the cursed wyvern! And arrest that man!”
“As you command!”
The honed swords of the empire and imperial family, the Imperial Knights cloaked in red, unsheathed their swords in tandem at the Crown Prince’s command. Their blades shone with the blue light.
“E–Everyone stop! I said stop!”
On her left cheek was a clear handprint, and her lip was busted and bleeding. Igis blocked the Imperial Knights with a cry full of sadness.
“Igis! Do you dare to defy my order?! Me, the Crown Prince of this empire?!!”
“This is unjust! I have said that everything was my arrangement, but you persist with this abuse of authority! You wish to kill one of the valuable treasures of the empire and arrest a cadet who did nothing wrong! It is clearly stated in Imperial Law that all matters involving the execution of a wyvern are strictly under the purveyance of His Imperial Majesty, the Emperor!”
“A-abuse of authority? You… you DARE!”
At Igis’ cold roar, the Crown Prince’s eyes rolled back. If he started foaming at the mouth, it would be the perfect picture of a rabid dog.
“Yes! It is an abuse of authority. If I am at fault, then that is something my esteemed father and mother will decide, not the Crown Prince.”
Poltviran looked into the sky and let out an uproarious laugh.
Then, he suddenly unsheathed the dress sword at his hip.
“For a mere princess to besmirch the honor of me, the next emperor of this empire… I won’t forgive you!”
This crazy Crown Prince was more than capable of causing an incident. No, he would cause one and then some.
I took Igis’ arm with a fluid movement and moved her behind me.
“Huhu. Now a mere cadet dares to block my way?” Poltviran’s madness-filled eyes spewed bloodthirst at me.
“Please resist, Your Highness the Crown Prince.”
It was Marquis Mermos, the leader of the covert and the Vice-Captain of the Skyknights of the Imperial Guard.
“Marquis Mermos, do not get in my way!” The lunatic directed his rage towards Marquis Mermos as well.
“This incident could end as a minor matter, or it could become an issue that invokes His Imperial Majesty the Emperor’s wrath. Your Highness, please allay your anger.”
The Crown Prince trembled at the mention of the emperor. It seemed this lunatic feared the emperor. “A-alright,” he conceded reluctantly. “However, I will not forgive this bastard!”
‘You think I’m an easy target, huh?’ A wyvern and princess could only be held accountable with the emperor’s command, but that didn’t apply to me, a normal cadet knight. ‘Should I just beat him up?’
These stupid fools only knew that I was a knight, but didn’t know that I was a multi-classer who could also use magic and spirits. Besides, the Crown Prince was up close and personal right now. I could send him to high heaven with my fists alone.
“Sir Kyre moved at my request,” Igis protested.
“Shut up! Someone who moved at your request could control a wyvern? It’s even a hybrid that is said to be difficult even for a fully trained Skyknight!”
‘It’s not like I wanted to! And I didn’t control him, he just moved on his own!’
It was really unfair, but I couldn’t say anything. There weren’t many people here who would believe me.
“Your Highness, under law, even a cadet receives pseudo-knight treatment. To arrest him without any opportunity to prove his innocence…”
“Marquis Mermos, I’m warning you. If you step on my authority any further… I won’t forgive you, either.”
Poltviran even showed his outrageousness to a marquis, who was no ordinary noble but of one of the leading aristocrats of the empire. A dead silence descended on the clearing in a single moment.
“The words of His Highness hold a dangerous sentiment!”
But justice did not die easily.
My Sailor Moon who always appeared in my moment of need, Irene, came forward.
“I beseech you to withdraw your statement, which ignores the national law that maintains this empire. As a member of this empire’s nobility, it is a statement that is difficult to accept.”
Instead of responding, Poltviran ground his teeth.
“How dare you involve yourself in this matter, Countess Irene!” Other nobles came forward in the Crown Prince’s stead. Most Skyknights had noble peerages.
“Why can’t she! This is a matter that involves the esteemed honor of all nobility!” said Rothello in defense of Irene.
‘Good! Very good!’ It wasn’t just because of me; these nobles were already fundamentally divided into factions. There were many who took the Crown Prince’s side, and several who were standing behind Irene, and quite a few who were taking a neutral stance. ‘How very harmonious. Tsk tsk.’
The moment Poltviran became emperor, this small problem today would spread everywhere in the empire.
“Alright. I will give him a chance to prove himself. But, it will be done according to the convention for restoring a knight’s honor. Kukuku.”
‘The convention for restoring a knight’s honor?’
“B-but for a regular cadet knight to…”
“Shut up! Then who will use their life to compensate for my honor as this empire’s Crown Prince?!”
At Poltviran’s vicious words, even Irene closed her mouth.
‘Is it… a duel?’
I vividly remembered the spars related to knights’ honor that would show up in medieval movies.
“Your name is Kyre, yes? Huhu. Let’s see if you can prove your innocence with those amazing skills of yours.”
‘You bastard, one day I will beat you to a pulp when you’re off your high horse!’ This was no crown prince, but a mean thug, the height of debauchery. ‘Wait a sec, a duel alone is no fun. This guy is prideful as fuck, so should I try baiting him a bit?’
This was something I had learned from Master Bumdalf. My thoughts whirled, quickly formulating a plan.
“Your Highness, if I am proven guilty, I will humbly accept the punishment. But…”
I emphasized guilt and punishment while lowering my head.
“But?” said Crown Prince with a dangerously low voice on the verge of blowing up. It seemed he was about to take the bait.
“I will make no excuses. However, the spirit of a knight is more valuable than a knight’s honor, which is said to be his life. If I cause an affront to Your Imperial Highness, there will be no path left for me to live.”
“Affront? Puhaha! For a commoner, you sure have heard a lot about knights. So what will you do about it?” Poltviran laughed and enjoyed himself.
‘This guy is a real turn-off.’ No matter what, he was Bajran’s Crown Prince. If he became the emperor, everyone and everything in this empire would tremble.
“If I am defeated, I will voluntarily kill myself. However, if I happen to be victorious and am able to restore my honor, I request that you grant me a reward that matches the punishment!”
I went out swinging.
“Kill yourself? Alright, if you go ahead and die on your own, I would be thankful. In any case, you were irritating to the eyes. Very much so, actually.”
Poltviran carelessly uttered incredibly crude words in front of other nobles, as well as knights and soldiers. He didn’t know: if he continued like this, the only people left by his side would be rotten and treacherous retainers.
“It may be too much to ask in return for the life of this low-born knight, but please promise me in your name as the Imperial Highness the Crown Prince!”
“Alright! No matter what condition it is, I promise. There’s no way you’ll win anyway! Hahaha!”
‘Woohoo! I’ve got you now!’
I hooked a real big fish this time.
“If I am victorious, please grant this hybrid wyvern to me!”
“The hybrid wyvern?!”
Everyone was shocked by my condition. Cries of surprise rang out all around the clearing.
“This mongrel? Kukuku. It’s not a difficult matter. Marquis Mermos, can you give me this hybrid wyvern as a condition for this duel, upon which my honor is hinged?”
“How could a mixed-race wyvern compare to the honor of the Great Bajran’s Crown Prince himself? I am only concerned about your honor, Your Imperial Highness.” Unlike before, Marquis Mermos was acting very meek. He knew there was nothing more he could do.
“But…” Igis tried to speak up.
I glanced at Igis and covertly shook my head. This had nothing to do with the princess anymore, and was now a duel between knights where one’s honor was at stake. Even the Emperor could not stop it.
‘Irene, don’t look at me like that. I won’t die.’
Irene was standing behind Igis and staring intently at me. I didn’t see a single cadet in the clearing; it seemed they were locked up in the dorms.
“Sir Haliday! Will you wield your sword for the sake of your Crown Prince’s honor?”
“I will be the sword for the Crown Prince’s honor with my life!”
Poltviran sure was impatient. He called out one knight from the Imperial Guard surrounding him.
‘Hmph! You coward.’
Restoring one’s honor only had meaning if you did it yourself. He wasn’t even a lady but used a proxy to say this and that about honor.
‘He’s probably one of the strongest knights among the Imperial Guard.’
This was a knight of the Imperial Guard protecting a crown prince who would become the next emperor. If he was strong enough to be called upon now, he was surely a Master at least.
‘I can’t even use magic or spirits. What a shame.’ I hadn’t yet revealed my true skills. If I revealed them here, I might be mistaken as a spy.
“Countess Irene, may I borrow your sword?”
Irene only nodded and gravely passed over her long sword.
“With everyone here as my witness, I humbly submit myself to this duel of honor.”
I pointed my sword at the man named Haliday, but my eyes were facing the Crown Prince. ‘You unlucky bastard!’ I thought.
“I permit it,” uttered the Crown Prince with a false pretense of solemnity.
‘Bebeto, look well. Look carefully at your master’s struggle for your freedom!’
Bebeto was watching over everything with his golden eyes. To prevent his escape, dozens of Blessed Spears were pointed at him from all directions.
The sturdily-built Haliday unsheathed his sword with the hiss of steel. Blue aura flowed from his blade.
I pointed Irene’s long sword at his heart.
‘You’re going down!’
“Ha!” As soon as I took position, Haliday didn’t even give me the first move and came rushing forward.
I snorted inwardly and drew my mana. Blue mana flowed from my sword. Every cell in my body quivered with readiness.
And then, I swung to meet my enemy’s lateral blow.
* * *
Join our Discord for updates: https://discord.gg/sb2jqkv
* * *
She was a princess of the Bajran Empire, but Igis had never experienced such humiliation and agitation all at once.
She knew her elder brother was furious, but she didn’t think he would go as far as to strike her. Since her birth, she had never been hit by anyone before, much less in front of countless nobles, knights, and soldiers.
She wanted to cry. If the emperor was here, she would have wanted to wail and cry. But the position of a princess was a noble one where you could not even cry as you wished.
So Igis clenched her teeth and swallowed her rage. And she silently watched Poltviran’s ugly actions. Her half-brother directed his anger, which could not be vented on Igis, towards the cadet knight, Kyre.
‘How could it be Sir Haliday, who will soon become a Master…’
Igis had heard of Haliday as well. He was a guard knight who had the utmost faith in the Crown Prince. As a knight of the Imperial Guard who had nearly reached the Master stage in his mid-thirties, he was the subject of rumors within the imperial family. The moment Poltviran ascended to the throne, Haliday would surely be granted leadership of the knights.
With such a knight as his foe, Kyre was caught in a duel where his life was at stake. However, he didn’t show any fear. Even in front of the Crown Prince and all the knights, he was impossibly confident. He was standing in front of Igis with his sword drawn.
‘Oh Goddess of Victory, Ormion! I beg of you to grant victory to that knight!’
Igis gathered her hands and prayed to the Goddess of Victory.
Even before her prayer was complete, the two people collided, their sharp swords billowing with blue light aiming for each others’ lives.
* * *
As the steel met steel, the sharp ring of metal burst out in the clearing.
Mana fragments splattered like sparks in all directions, and the aura of the two people duelling made everyone watching hurriedly retreat.
The swords traced clear shadows under the light of the magic lamps.
Most people here were Skyknights with a certain degree of skill, but the outrageous duel before them made their palms sweat.
It was fast.
Leaving the hiss of a sword cutting through air, one sword would approach the other’s neck, and the defender would reflect that attack and immediately move into an attack aiming for the opponent’s waist. The two duelers exchanged a flurry of attacks. Several Skyknights and knights began to tremble, thinking about what would have happened if they had come forward to duel.
And at the same time, they were surprised. Everyone at the covert knew of the Crown Prince’s right hand, Baron Haliday. Born as the son of a knight, Haliday was a devotee of the sword who earned his position as a baron with his skills alone. He may not be a Skyknight, but everyone knew his skills were not inferior in any way and that the Crown Prince had full confidence in him.
A mere cadet knight was on the other side of that Haliday’s sword. Everyone’s gazes turned towards this young rookie who had spoken of honor in front of the Crown Prince, the black-haired cadet named Kyre.
* * *
There was a reason why Haliday was the Crown Prince’s proxy. He left no openings. He matched me in force, speed, and even mana. His transition into offensive maneuvers was rapid, and his sword struck at me like a viper aiming for my openings.
‘If I mess up, I could lose.’
I focused and returned each and every blow. His blade was shrouded in blue light. If I got hit, I would be sent directly to the River Thames.
“You’re quite good.”
After throwing ten or so attacks at me, Haliday leisurely retreated and uttered some words of praise.
[TN: Said in English.]
After I replied in brief English, Haliday showed a moment of doubt. But then his face flushed red; he must have thought I was insulting him.
‘He wants to finish it.’
The end of the duel was nigh. The knight poured a bunch of mana into his sword, as if preparing for a finishing blow. I began to wonder if I should use magic or spirits.
‘Ah! That’s right!’
At that moment, a certain scene flashed in my mind.
‘Let’s give it a try!’
The idea in my head was the Master arts used by the Mad Dog, Count Kaldain. I had repeated that art in my head countless times after experiencing it. I hadn’t had much time to practice magic or sword skills since then, but I used magic to practice countless imaginary battles in my head every night before bed.
Thanks to those efforts, I was confident that I could freely wield my sword as well as 5th Circle magic. Lately, I had completed the theoretical understanding of Count Kaldain’s move.
The illusionary sword art, Snake Phantom.
‘What have I got to lose!’
I had nothing to fear. Thankfully, there were no high-level mages around. If it came down to it, I could use magic and spirits to escape.
I urgently drew my mana and poured it into my sword.
‘I have to make a physical mana sword!’
Not just an illusion, but a mana sword with actual physical form. I couldn’t conjure five or six like the Count, but I was confident I could manage two or three of them.
Theoretically, it wasn’t as hard as I thought.
Haliday came running over.
‘Ah! This guy also—!’
My opponent’s sword rushed towards me, leaving a fan-shaped wave in its wake. It was sloppy, but it emitted the traces of an illusionary sword made by a Master.
‘Break it apart!’
I sent my will to my mana-charged sword, pouring in all my rage towards those who wanted to suppress and destroy me.
The sword trembled as I filled it inch by inch with mana, expending every bit of my will and might.
The spectating knights burst out with surprised cries.
It took all my strength to produce just three mana shadows. One of them was even incomplete.
The mana shadows were illusionary, but as the first one collided with Halliday’s sword, the powerful impact traveled up my arm. The second shadow sword crashed in and shattered at Haliday’s defense. “Agh!” After blocking the unexpected attack with great difficulty, Haliday let out a cry of surprise.
After blocking the second shadow, Haliday noticed the half-made shadow sword late and hastened to defend. The moment he raised his sword to block it, it was like a hole was opened in an impregnable fort.
Three different sounds rang out at the same time. As Haliday narrowly reflected the third shadow sword with a clang, my sword snaked into the opening and buried itself into his right abdomen with a wet sound, and Haliday screamed.
Everything happened simultaneously— it was hard to tell which came first.
With a clatter, Haliday’s sword fell to the stone ground.
“C-call the priest!”
“How… how can this be.”
“T-the cadet knight won.”
The knights were in utter disbelief.
I nonchalantly picked up his sword. This was a duel with our lives on the line. Taking the opponent’s sword was the victor’s right.
The mages among the Skyknights ran over and cast Heal. The injury was caused by mana, so unlike normal sword injuries, if treatment was not provided right away, the person could die.
At the defeat of the knight he had believed in, Poltviran screamed with rage. His injured honor was more important than consideration for his injured knight.
“I was able to win because of Sir Haliday’s mercy.”
Holding my sword, I extended a knight’s courtesy towards Haliday, whose eyes were twisted in pain.
“I, I lost. Keugh.”
Heal had stopped the bleeding, but Haliday was surely still in a lot of pain. However, he managed to retain his pride as a knight and admitted his defeat without collapsing.
The Crown Prince glared coldly at Haliday, then snorted and turned away.
‘Where do you think you’re going!’ I wasn’t one to send him away just like this.
“I sincerely thank Your Highness the Crown Prince, who has granted me this wyvern. I will do my utmost to assist the empire and His Imperial Majesty, the Emperor!” It didn’t cost money to lie! I bowed my head and sincerely(?) gave my thanks to the Crown Prince, who had turned and was leaving.
‘Uwah! W-what kind of jackpot is this!’
Princess Igis, who had been watching the duel with bated breath, ran over and suddenly hugged me.
As she did so, male knights who had been utterly surprised began to shoot lasers from their eyes at me. And the female knights were the opposite; their eyes were full of emotion.
The popularity of this guy is… Uhahahahaha!’
Somehow, I ended up in the flowery embrace of a beautiful lady. My expression was one of surprise, but inside, I was laughing with joy.
At least, until I met eyes with one woman, who was looking at me strangely…