21st Century Archmage - Chapter 36
Chapter 36: Russell’s Secret
‘Have they never seen a human before? Look ‘til your eyes fall out, why dontcha!’’
Rumors had already spread throughout the covert, as evidenced by how people would whisper amongst themselves or evade as soon as they caught sight of me. It wasn’t even as if I had an infectious disease, but a silent quarantine was inflicted on me. I inwardly cursed the people avoiding me as I briskly walked back to Bebeto’s hangar with the appointment letter in hand.
“Huhu, to fool around without a speck of fear. It seems you’ve gone crazy because you want to die!”
‘Huh, what are they doing?’
In front of Bebeto’s remote hangar, two of the soldiers in charge of distributing wyvern food like pigs and sheep were kicking someone.
Crawling on the ground with agony, most likely from getting hit in the stomach, was Derval.
“You think that fearless cadet knight will be able to help you? Huhuhu. How dare you give orders from someone who will soon be sent to hell by His Highness the Crown Prince! Tch!”
“Step on him! Just looking at him pisses me off!”
They sure were going at it.
Clenching my teeth, I soundlessly approached the completely unaware guys who were excitedly beating up Derval.
“Are you having fun?”
“W-who is it!”
These two had been so busy kicking Derval that they hadn’t noticed that their time for retribution was approaching. They jumped in surprise at my cold voice.
“…..” The two soldiers furrowed their brows at the sight of me.
“What’s wrong? Keep going.”
Despite suffering quite a grievance, Derval was clenching his teeth and enduring it.
“N-no, we were…” They began to stammer out an excuse.
“Derval, what’s going on?”
“I, I asked them to give me a pig for Bebeto to eat…” Derval said as he wiped the blood on his mouth with his sleeves. He glared at the two soldiers with blazing eyes.
“Is that so? But why are you getting hit, where’s the pig?”
I experienced for myself how it felt to grow cold with anger. My emotions dropped to icy frigidity. Within me simmered a rage that was like a cold block of ice on the North Pole.
“U-until now, the cursed wyvern has eaten leftover scraps. But this guy fearlessly asked to give us a pig, so…” babbled the soldier with a big mouth as an excuse.
“That’s why you beat him?”
Sensing something from my enraged query, the two lowered their heads.
“What about those pigs over there?”
“T-those are… the ones that are left over from today’s distribution.”
“Is that so? Then can I have one?”
“N-no, that is… you cannot.”
“Why not? Is it because I’m not a formal Skyknight? Or because Bebeto is a cursed wyvern?” I said with a smile of rage.
“In any case, you cannot have them. Those guys are for other wyverns in the evening–”
I pummeled a fist like steel into the belly of the guy who refused me.
“Guh… hah, hahh.” Having received a head-on blow, the soldier gasped, unable to catch his breath. His face turned white and he looked on the verge of passing out.
Then I pulled out the butchering sword attached to the carriage, and a moment later, a thud sounded. Cut by a light swing of the sword, the horse hitched to the carriage fell to the ground, blood flowing from its body.
“If you fail to bring the freshest meat from tomorrow onwards, then next time–” Blood dripped from the sword as I pointed it at the face of the pale soldier. “You’ll become the wyvern’s meal.”
“U-understood. We will b-bring the freshest meat. Gulp.”
With the bloody sword just inches before their eyes, the men nodded. I did feel sorry for the horse that died, but I had no choice but to give a bloody warning.
“Get up, take this fresh horse meat to Bebeto.”
“As you command!”
After getting satisfying revenge, Derval responded energetically and got up.
“Leave that pig behind.”
“A-as you command!” Like Derval, the soldiers responded with the military salute.
‘They’re really asking for it.’
With this incident, no one would dare to be rude to Derval or Bebeto in the future. No matter how fearless you were, nothing was more important than your life.
* * *
‘He sure is enjoying himself.’
Thanks to me, Bebeto got to eat horse meat. He didn’t leave a single bone behind and crunched down the horse.
‘Tastes great. It’s a bit of a shame that there’s no alcohol.’
At my order, the soldiers even did a clean job of slaughtering the pig before leaving. As they left, their heads almost reached the ground in a 90 degree bow. Then they left, struggling to drag the carriage filled with livestock in place of the horse.
Afterwards, a small ‘noble promotion’ party kicked off in the hangar. We had a pig roast barbeque party with sticks that were lying around.
“Kyre-nim, is there anything else His Excellency the Marquis said?”
As pig fat dripped and crackled on the fire, Derval carefully asked me a question.
“He assigned me a personal flight instructor, saying it was his final act of consideration.”
“Mm… I see.” Derval nodded. “It seems we will have until the end of spring at the most,” he said, as if he knew something. “Normally, once you become a Skyknight, it takes at least 6 months of time to acquire various offensive techniques and flight formations. But I believe that you will only have until the end of spring.”
“I’ll probably get transferred somewhere else, right?”
“That is most likely the case. All of the high nobles wouldn’t be happy if a cursed wyvern were to be formally deployed in Kirphon Covert, which can be called the honor of the Empire itself. That’s because they themselves will train or be stationed here. Moreover, you have stepped on the wrong side of His Highness the Crown Prince’s foot.”
‘You shitheads, just wait. I’ll squash your arrogant pride!”
Bebeto wasn’t even some kind of demon beast, but these guys treated him no better than a beggar. I was determined to stamp their arrogant pride flat into the ground.
“The problem is, they probably won’t send us off quietly. They will most likely send us to the front line or the border. And we will have to pass dozens of territories at the very least just to get there… That’s the real problem,” Derval mused worriedly.
‘He’s really worth having.’ This guy was too smart to just clean up wyvern poop and wait on others.
“Just believe in me. I’ll take care of things.”
“Yes, I understand.”
‘Wha-what’s with this baseless confidence?’
I just said something off-handedly, but Derval nodded while shooting a fervent look of respect and belief towards me. I started to have the feeling that he was looking at me like I was a god.
“Wow! What’s this smell?”
‘This voice is—?’
As the fragrant smell of roast pig spread through the hangar and I was distracted by all the complicated matters, I heard a familiar voice.
The side door of the hangar opened with a creak.
“Puhahaha! Baronet Kyre, you were even holding a self-congratulation party here?”
Two people opened the door and came inside. ‘Rothello… and Countess Irene.’
Surprisingly, the two Skyknights had seeked out Bebeto’s hangar. And they were even holding what looked like bottles of alcohol in both hands.
“Congratulations, Baronet Kyre.” Knowing I had become a baronet, Countess Irene gave me an incredibly stiff word of congratulations.
“Impressive! Impressive! I knew you were really something when I saw you for the first time, but to make off with a wyvern within a few months of being a cadet… And it’s even a hybrid wyvern everyone shuns.”
“Ah! C-calm down, I wasn’t trying to insult you.” As Rothello pointed at Bebeto, the wyvern growled. The Skyknight shook his hand and calmed Bebeto down.
“Here, take it.”
Suddenly, Irene pushed the bottle in her hand towards me.Seeing the bottle, Derval made a look of understanding. “Please take it, then pour it onto both of Bebeto’s wings,” he said.
“Why?” I blurted. I couldn’t wrap my head around why I should pour precious alcohol on Bebeto’s wings.
“It is an initiation related to the God of the Skies, the Overseer of Wind and Freedom, Bormio.”
‘Aha! So there’s a tradition for good luck here as well.’
A while back, my dad had also held a good luck ritual after buying a new car. It seemed that the Kallian Continent had similar customs to Earth.
“Hurry up and do it. The pig is all roasted and ready,” said Rothello as he rubbed his hands and licked his lips in anticipation.
Pop! With the help of mana, I pulled out the cork. The intoxicating smell of grape wine filled my nose.
“Please carry out the devotion with a sincere heart to God,” advised Rothello.
‘Borneo? Or wait, Lord Bormio! I beseech you for your help in ensuring that birds with poor vision do not crash into us while flying, and in snow or rain, I will simply believe in only you, Lord Bormio, the only thing I wish for is safe driving for 365 days of the year, and if I ask for a bit more, then I kindly request that you send your blessings in order for me to find a beautiful maiden for a wife so I can become a man! If all goes well later, I’ll treat you big time!”
As I poured the wine onto Bebeto’s wings, I prayed with my utmost sincerity, if you could call it that.
Guooooooo. As the wine flowed onto his wings, Bebeto was startled.
‘You put your size to shame, dude.’ Uncontrollable laughter bubbled up at me upon seeing Bebeto’s cowardice, which didn’t suit his huge size at all.
“Alright, then let’s celebrate Sir Kyre’s promotion to nobility and becoming a Skyknight for real now, shall we! Countess, please sit.”
Rothello was all excited. Like a free-spirited wind summoner, he set the mood up.
‘Heh, what a weirdo.’
I had felt utterly drawn to Sir Rothello from the very first moment we met. He gave off a feeling of cynicism, but when he smiled, he looked like a good-natured older brother from the neighborhood.
“Congratulations, Sir Kyre. For joining the world of the wind.” A slight smile danced on Countess Irene’s lips.
‘You’re the best, noona!’
The blue eyes of a beauty with transparent, silver hair that looked like it could be in a hair commercial met mine. She held a bottle of wine towards me.
“Please take care of me in the future.”
“Alright! Let’s do our best together! We’ll conquer the skies between the three of us!”
I bowed my head towards the two people who had come to warmly congratulate me.
“Drink! Tonight, we eat ‘til we drop!”
Rothello had already shoved a bottle of wine into his lips and was grasping a well-roasted, smoky piece of meat.
The wine went down with a sweet aroma. It was a shame it wasn’t a refreshing beer or soju that hit the spot, but I couldn’t be picky. I was just happy that I was with a goddess who was holding onto her hair with one hand and taking adorable sips of her wine.
‘Kuku. The blessings of the heavens are upon me! Uhahahaha!’
And as always, my skill of self-flattering kicked in.
This was how life was meant to be lived!
* * *
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* * *
‘Ara, what is this guy doing?’
I had become a quasi-noble, but I hadn’t received my own room like the other Skyknights. So after the little party, I returned to my room and found Russell packing a leather bag with trembling hands.
“Russell, where are you going?”
“Leaving? Where to?”
Russell started spitting out limp and defeated words.
“Tomorrow is the last test… but I have no confidence. The confidence to fly in the sky…” replied Russell powerlessly. Limp defeat hung on him like an aurora.
“You stupid fool.”
Russell stopped packing and clenched his fists, trembling. “Wa-watch what you say,” he gritted.
“Got it. Idiot, loghead, big buffoon.”
“You!” Russell came running at me with his girly fists balled up.
Russell’s fist bumped strongly on my chest. It hurt a bit, but I could endure it.
“I guess even an idiot has the courage to hit someone.”
“Stop! What do you think you know! Whether I give up or not, it’s my life! Don’t butt in! Don’t mess with me!!!!!!!”
Russell screamed as he pummeled me with his fists.
At some point, he started crying like a girl again.
I grabbed Russell’s slender hand.
“Didn’t you say you would sell your soul to the devil? But you can’t even overcome something like this and you think the devil will be crazy enough to buy your soul? Would YOU be so desperate as to need the soul of a weak human?!” I shouted loud enough to shake Russell’s soul.
“Sob… Then what should I do?! I’m scared! I’m scared of the sky!”
“Then how will you get your revenge! Were you going to wait until they died of old age? Is that the gruesome revenge you meant?”
“…..” Russell bit his lips.
“Follow me.” I pulled Russell’s slender wrist along.
I slapped the resisting Russell on the cheek. “Don’t wail like a little girl! If you’re a man, you should struggle and struggle until you die!”
‘Seriously, this is fate as well.’
If it was anyone else, I would have just said ‘Alright, do as you want,’ but for some reason, I couldn’t help but care about Russell. It seemed I’d grown fond of him after living together in the same room for a few months.
I dragged Russell and left the dorm room.
“Whatcha looking at! Oi!”
I glared at the cadets poking their heads out of their rooms, wondering what all the noise was about. Knowing my vicious temper, the cadets closed their doors in alarm.
‘Shit, I’m getting real pissed off today!’’
I didn’t know when I would leave. Before that, there was something I could do for Russell.
I wanted to help him be able to drink in the clear, cold air of the sky to his heart’s content.
* * *
“As you command!”
I had dragged Russell all the way to Bebeto’s hangar. His captured wrist was bruising black and blue.
Guoo. Waking up from his sleep, Bebeto blinked his golden eyes and looked at Russell and me.
“Bebeto, let’s go for a flight.”
Grrruuu. This guy understood human words; reading the severe atmosphere, he gave a slight nod.
“I’ll install it.”
It was too much for the one-armed Derval to put on the saddle.
‘I guess he’s lodging here.’ A worn-out sleeping bag was laying on one side of the hangar. It seemed Derval was sleeping with Bebeto.
I took the saddle from him, then skillfully loaded it on Bebeto. As I put on the saddle, Derval struggled to open the hangar door with one hand, the huge door creaking as it moved. I was pleased with this intelligent and sharp-sighted guy’s actions.
“W-why…?” asked Russell. He had been staring fearfully at Bebeto, who was bigger than other wyverns.
“Can’t you see?”
I grabbed Russell by the collar and jumped onto Bebeto’s back.
“Lock yourself in if you don’t want to become a broken egg after falling from the sky,” I said, putting him behind me. I buckled myself to the safety ring.
Because we’d held a congratulations party, it was deep into the night. Bebeto didn’t think it troublesome and let out a powerful cry as he moved his wings. The ground thudded as he excitedly ran towards the open door.
“Please have a good flight!” Derval bowed as he saw us off.
“Eurgh…” Russell made a sound of fear.
On this moonless night, I yelled into the sky sparkling with countless flickering stars as Bebeto noisily flapped his wings. Then, the great wyvern kicked off of the ground.
As soon as we hit the air, I felt a strange flinching sensation behind me. A moment later, Russell seized my back and grabbed on.
“Bebeto! Fly as high as you can go!”
Guoooooo! On this late night, no one else was flying. Wind crashed into Bebeto’s wings.
Then, within moments, Bebeto began to climb into the cloudless sky, the wind whistling all around us.
* * *
I felt like I was going to get addicted to nighttime flying. Because I had left my helmet behind, I could feel the full brunt of the cold, clear air. This was a place absolutely clear and free of the world’s filth. The stars that had whispered amongst themselves for countless centuries came into my embrace.
Russell was clutching me almost hard enough to crush the airplate. I felt the full force of the trembling of his body from fear.
“Bebeto, fly slowly.”
Guooooo. At my command, Bebeto responded with a good-tempered cry.
We evened out at an altitude where clouds were grazing past our heads.
“LOOK! Open your eyes and LOOK!”
“N-no!” Russell shook his head in refusal.
I unclasped my safety ring with a click.
“W-what are you doing!”
Then I turned and undid Russell’s safety clasp. Only then did Russell open his eyes wide and cry out with surprise.
“Can’t you see? If you fall, then…” I traced a line at my neck, all while wearing a vicious smile.
“L-let me down! Let me down to the ground!”
“Go ahead and do it if you can.”
“YOU! You bad person!”
‘Eh? What’s with his voice?’ Russell’s neutral voice suddenly changed to a thin, high tone that only a woman could produce. ‘Wow!’
He had short hair, but it was swept by the wind, revealing Russell’s white face and ears. Gentle gray eyes that were big for a guy. Thick red lips that were being bitten down on. A straight nose and long, long eyelashes that were trembling. He was so charming that I almost forgot the current situation. On top of that, tears were flowing from his eyes without end.
‘Why does my chest hurt whenever I see those tears?’
If some other guy was crying, I would just badmouth them for being a crybaby despite being a man, but Russell’s tears made my heart sting.
“Sob sob. I, I said I’m scared. This sky where my father passed away… I’m scared of it!!!!”
‘Th-this voice is…’ His voice was more shocking than his confession of fear. ‘A, a girl?’
His lips white with utter fear, held onto me, weeping, as I turned and looked at him.
Shock crashed into me like a giant wave, making my head ring. The thought that the person I had shared a room with this whole time might be a woman of the other sex made my mind go blank.
‘So that’s why. That’s why Russell…’
Russell had particularly disliked skinship. She had never shown me her naked body.
“Let me down… I have no right. To, to become a Skyknight…”
Not knowing her true identity had been revealed, Russell trembled in my embrace as she asked me to let me down with her womanly voice.
In that moment, my lips curved into an evil smile.
‘You wanted to completely deceive me? Huhuhu.’
“Russell,” I said quietly to the boy, no, girl.
“….” Instead of responding, she just gripped my waist harder and shook like a leaf.
“We’re going to fly now. With our own strength.”
I hugged the girl in my arms with all my might.
“What are you doing!” she cried, opening her eyes wide with surprise.
Holding onto her tightly, I rose from the saddle. “See? You can open your eyes.”
It seemed she couldn’t feel the fear of flying like usual. Taking advantage of the moment, I flung myself into the air like Empress Chung sacrificing herself, dragging Russell along with me.TN: Empress Chung is about a girl in a 2005 animated film who sacrificed herself to restore her blind father’s vision.
“AAAHHH!” Russell screamed herself hoarse.
The sharp sound of wind buffeted us as we fell from the sky towards the dark ground.
“Open your eyes! And look closely!” I pushed my face into Russell’s– she was squeezing her eyes shut while holding onto me for dear life. “Try selling your soul to me! I’ll help you with your revenge!!”
‘Uwaaaahh! Hurry up and answer!’
We were freefalling without a parachute, accelerating with the momentum and approaching the ground with ever greater speed. But I couldn’t just back off like this. Fear had to be overcome with fear. I wanted to present her with the ultimate fear, fear so great that riding a wyvern couldn’t even compare.
“Those words, are they true?”
Russell asked me whether I was being serious with a calm look in her eyes. I couldn’t hear her well because of the sound of the wind around us, but Russell had shed her fear and definitely just asked me that.
“Mmf!” The next moment, a set of cold and smooth lips blocked my lips.
‘Uwah! T-this isn’t it-—!’
Her lips were on a different level from a mere kiss. ‘Ah…’ Shock crashed into me, making my mind go completely blank. From her lips, I could feel Russell’s hot emotion.
But then, I realized something. Right now, we weren’t on some sunny field or a cozy bed, but falling in the middle of the air.
‘RUSSELL! WE’LL DIE LIKE THIS!’
I had magic memorized and at the ready, but I could only cast it by speaking the incantation. But currently, Russell had believed me for whatever reason and was giving me a deep kiss in midair. She had already stolen my pure heart, but now she was going to take away my life as well!!
I quickly pulled away, then shouted, “L-LEVITATION!”
The mana I had prepared for the incantation converted itself into the light of magic. However, we continued to fall– we were two people, not one, so the strength of a single cast could not deal with our incredible speed.
“LEVITATION!” Despite my surprise, I completed a double cast.
As soon as I turned my head, I was greeted by the sight of a huge, dusky forest. After casting two rounds of Levitation, our speed finally leveled off.
As mana flowed vigorously into the spells, our speed of descent fell by a good deal. “Ma–magic?” stammered Russell. Just like how I hadn’t figured out that she was a girl, it seemed Russell hadn’t even imagined that I was a mage.
Our feet touched down on a grassy clearing free of trees.
“Ahh…” As soon her feet touched land, Russell let out a low moan, as if waking from a dream.
GUOOOOOO~! Having flown down to look for us, Bebeto confirmed that we were still alive and flew in a circle around our heads.
The night wind blew gently around us with a woosh, lovingly teasing up Russell’s short hair.
The sight of her damp lips made my heart heat up.