21st Century Archmage - Chapter 37
Chapter 37: A Fine Day for Farewell
‘She’s doing well!’
The third and last flight test was well underway. Unlike the others, Russell alone was confidently sitting in the back seat and flying in the sky.
‘But isn’t that dude in front of her a guy?’
Thanks to yesterday’s special training, Russell had overcome her fear. She was now flying on a wyvern whose master was a male Skyknight. Jealousy suddenly crept up inside me.
‘I should ask Countess Irene for help. Danger, danger.’
Russell had given me my very first true kiss, not just a peck on the cheek. From now on, she was a woman I had to protect.
“Kyre-nim, how did you do it? It’s almost impossible to cure fear of heights…” Derval asked in astonishment as he watched Russell with me in front of Bebeto’s hangar.
“Huhu. When there’s a will, there’s a way.”
“As expected! You’re impressive, Kyre-nim. To cure fear of heights in a single night!”
Derval was shooting looks of admiration towards me today as well.
“Derval, I’m going to the capital for a bit.”
“Understood. Please do not worry about Bebeto and have a good trip.”
Rumors of yesterday’s bloody event must have spread, because the crewmates and soldiers looked down as soon as they saw me. Because of that, there was no one left in the covert who would mess with Bebeto.
‘Eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth! Just let me catch you! I’ll send you all to death!’
I couldn’t just sit around getting hit like an idiot. Using a ‘prevention is better than the cure’ attitude, I had to prepare the maximum defense.
* * *
“The one who displeased His Highness the Crown Prince is called Kyre?”
“Yes, Your Excellency. They say the cadet has become the hybrid wyvern’s Skyknight.”
“Hooh, is that so? A mere cadet has become the master of a difficult-to-handle hybrid wyvern?”
Two men were speaking within one of the huge mansions within the Bajran Empire’s capital; this one belonged to the Fasain Duke household, which was called one of the Four Pillars of the Empire. Duke Ormere Fasain, a man in his late 40s, had his interest piqued by the report in his hand.
It was a report covering an event involving the Crown Prince at Kirphone Covert. The report informed him of an unexpected situation.
“The one named Kyre is the same person who broke Young Master Tedran’s leg.”
“I know. Huhu. I wanted to relay my thanks to the person who gave Tedran a taste of the real world, so this is good…”
Duke Ormere made a meaningful smile. As a supporter of the Queen, he was the lead representative on the Crown Prince’s side.
“What would you like to do, my Lord? Should we send them?” asked Ormere’s henchman, Viscount Parquess.
“No. There’s no reason to go so far as to send them to the covert. There are dozens of ways to deal with him even without using them.”
Duke Ormere, a man around 180 cm tall (5’9”) with a stocky build, possessed sword skills at the level of a Master. His lips were smiling, but his eyes were glinting with a cold light.
“The regular noble meeting is tomorrow, right?”
“Yes, Your Excellency.”
Every week, there was a meeting of the nobles led by the Emperor. It was an important occasion where the empire’s military, politics, and economy were discussed.
“Then it’s fine. We can… send him to that place. Huhuhu.”
Duke Ormere smiled as if a satisfying thought had occurred to him. His blue eyes were full of wickedness. Today, they glimmered even brighter than usual.
* * *
‘So nice and fresh~!’
Springtime in Bajran’s capital city was completely different from wintertime. Flowers were blooming. Trees planted along the streets and all kinds of flowers were blooming beautifully in flower beds, and the fragrance of womenfolk apparently drawn out by the warm weather drifted along on the spring wind.
‘Sure is nice to be a noble~!’
When I passed through the city gate, the soldiers gave military honors after seeing my letter of appointment. Also, the black cloak on my back that represented Skyknight cadets was more than enough to draw the gazes of people coming and going.
‘I wonder if Jamir is doing well?’ I thought as I walked the now-familiar streets of the capital towards the Rubis Merchant Group building.
“AH! Aren’t you the special guest of the Executive Manager?”
The guards who were standing in strict guard in front of the building as usual bowed their heads low as soon as they saw me. As expected for people serving in the merchant group, their sharp-sightedness was impressive.
“Ahem, it’s been a while.”
“Please come inside.” After being rude to me that one time, these guards had experienced a stern lesson. They personally opened the door for me and welcomed me in.
‘This is why a person needs to have money and power.’
There weren’t many people who would acknowledge you if you just lived a quiet and kind life. But in front of outstanding power and money, the likes of goodness and virtue didn’t even come into consideration. Because everyone made judgements based on their own standards, for interpersonal relationships, outside appearances held an important role.
Realizing this cold truth of the world, I walked inside with leisurely steps.
* * *
“Haha. It’s been a while, Branch Manager,” I responded.
Having met me once, the Branch Manager in his mid-forties acted familiar with me. “I heard the news, the news that you have earned a wyvern recently and risen to the position of baronet.”
‘Woah! The news has traveled so far already?’
The Rubis Merchant Group’s information gathering capabilities were surprising to the point of being fearsome.
“It’s nothing to be alarmed about. After you turned Kirphone Covert on its head, sir, the merchants providing goods to the covert informed us.”
‘Damn, am I that famous now?’ I was sure it was notoriety that I didn’t really want spreading around.
“Is Executive Manager Jamir doing well?” I spoke plainly because nobles didn’t use honorifics with commoners.
“Thanks to your concern, sir, he is doing very well.”
From how warmly the Branch Manager greeted me, I could fathom a guess. If Jamir had fallen from his position, the Branch Manager wouldn’t have treated me this cordially.
“I’ve come today because I have a request.”
“A request? Haha, please go ahead. No matter what it is, we shall take care of it for you to our utmost.”
“Please take the items written here to a location decided by me.”
“What items—cough!” After taking the slip of paper I passed over, the Branch Manager was alarmed. “A-aren’t these restricted items, sir?”
“Shh! Why do you think I’m asking you guys to take care of it?”
“Even so… if we are found out…”
“I know. It’s not as if the Rubis Merchant Group doesn’t have dealings with black merchant groups, right?”
Black merchant groups, also known as merchants of the darkness. They were merchants dealing mainly in black market items that couldn’t be sold in the open, like poisons, drugs, or illegal arms. If the knowledgeable Derval’s words were to be believed, every merchant group had connections to black merchants. He said that they would occasionally deal with black merchants when procuring items that couldn’t be acquired through normal means.
“These are all items that Skyknights need anyway, aren’t they? The Rubis Merchants won’t take any damage at all, so don’t worry.”
“It doesn’t seem to be a matter I can personally decide, sir. Even if you are on good terms with the Executive Manager, we could be detected by the Imperial Inspectors at the slightest slip.”
‘Welp, this isn’t good…’
These were items I absolutely needed to survive. From what Derval said, I would be able to get one or two of them at best.
“Alright. Then tell me how I can get in contact with a black merchant group. I’ll take care of it on my own.”
“That, too, is… I apologize. Company policy states that military restricted items are hands off…” The Branch Manager bowed his head.
“It is fine. Then just withdraw all my money and loan me just 50,000 Gold.”
“I will take care of that for you at once,” said the Branch Manager, looking relieved by my meek acquiescence.
‘Well, it’s not bad to try meeting some black merchants anyway.’
Black merchant groups were spread around the continent like cancerous weeds. I heard they were in fierce competition with one another behind the scenes. Today, I decided to go meet an organization of darkness operating in the capital city of the Bajran Empire.
* * *
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* * *
‘Jeez, it’s just as the movies showed.’
True to people doing business within the darkness, the black merchant groups occupied the back alleys. These guys operated hand in hand with those moving primarily at night, like the thief guild, bounty guild, and information guild. They were situated in a back alley housing commoners in a part of the capital that could be called underdeveloped.
‘The ‘Brotherhood?’ Puhaha! Brotherhood my ass, it’s a pair of hired swords at best.’
A small shop was situated in a gloomy side alley shrouded in darkness even during the day. Engraved on a worn-out wooden sign was a name that really didn’t suit the store.
I scoffed at the sign and went inside, opening the door with a creak.
‘Geh! Heavy smokers!’
The store was filled to the brim with an acrid smell similar to cigarette smoke. Lit by a few strands of light from a small window, you could call the interior a mole den and it would be right on the money.
‘Just look at ‘em.’ Several gazes turned to me, a person wearing a cloak representing Skyknight cadets. I was sure they must have their guards way up. I nonchalantly approached the table, pulled out a worn-out chair, and sat down. ‘Hm, there are a few people who barely know how to use mana.’
These were people dominating the underground. If they didn’t have any skills, they wouldn’t be able to seize control of this huge empire’s underground.
“You’re new ‘round these parts. ‘Aight, what can I getcha?”
A plain-looking, bald, pot-bellied mister in his early 50s approached me and took my order.
“A refreshing dark beer. And give me the best in the house, the stuff you usually reserve.”
“Got it.” The man showed no fear despite seeing my Skyknight cadet cloak. He turned.
“And give me a filemone from the Opern Empire. A very well roasted one at that.”
This was the secret password of the black merchants that I had gotten from the Branch Manager.
“Please wait a moment. That one’ll take a while to prepare.” The man didn’t turn around and responded as if unconcerned.
‘They’re completely tense.’ As soon as my words fell, the shop’s atmosphere had become terrifyingly taut. ‘How embarrassing for guys who supposedly earn so much money…’
Sitting in this old store where spiderwebs were hanging here and there, I waited for the destiny that was to come.
“Here is the beer you ordered and our house’s specialty smoked sausage, sir.”
‘Hooh, looks legit?’
The beer was in a large wooden glass and a thick lump of sausage was loaded up on a wooden plate. I tried giving the beer a sip.
The slightly bitter taste of the dark beer produced by burning barley made my throat burn. I followed it up with a bite of the sausage.
‘Oohh! Right, this is exactly the taste!’
This was an organic, natural-made sausage on a completely different level from sausages made in the 21st century with all sorts of preservatives and by-products that weren’t good for you. The sausage, filled with the unique fragrance of pork, transported me to a world of flavor that was satisfying to chew and melted slowly on the tongue. It was the best beer and sausage I’d ever tasted.
‘You guys, you could make a living just by selling beer,’ I silently directed my thoughts to the gazes that were observing me as I ate.
“Take your pick of the filemone yourself, and don’t complain later about having picked a rotten one.”
The man standing next to me bluntly told me to pick a filemone.
‘He’s telling me to follow, right?’
“Let’s do that, then.”
I obediently stood. The taste of the refreshing beer could wait— it was now time to take care of business.
We opened a door on one side of the store and walked in.
As expected for a black merchant group, there was a spell cast in this room.
The man walked into what looked like a brick wall with sure steps.
And I stepped forward and followed right behind him.
* * *
‘What a welcome,’ I thought as a swish rang out in front of my face.
“Don’t move. Any nonsense and we’ll cut you down immediately.”
Three swords had appeared all of a sudden in front of my face.
‘They even cast silence magic on top of the illusion spell.’
As soon as we walked into the concealed space, a completely different space came into view: we were now in a clean room with a sofa and a table. Within were three men who were giving me an enthusiastic welcome. They were skilled people on the level of knights trained considerably in mana.
“Your attitude towards a customer is pretty lacking.”
“I will decide whether you are a customer or not.”
‘Who the heck?’ It seemed this person had been sitting there from the very beginning. ‘The Black Cat, Nero?’
[TN: From an Italian children’s song ‘Volevo un gatto nero,’ which was translated and brought to Korean radio.]
Her whole body was black. The woman wore a skin-tight black leather outfit.
‘Isn’t she what people call a seductress?’
Her black eyebrows and the corners of her eyes were slightly slanted, and her red lips were as small as a cherry. Along with her provocative looks, her whole body emanated a strange aura. It was enough to make any man gulp.
On top of that, surprisingly enough, she had pure black hair like my own.
“I am Baronet Kyre, Skyknight.”
“I know, Baronet Kyre.”
‘Eh? Rumors have spread even here?’
“There are already rumors all over the empire that you boast a tremendous friendship with His Highness the Crown Prince and quite a few noble heirs. Hoho, everyone has been curious as to how long you can last.”
‘What? She isn’t talking about my life, is she? Oi, you jerks! I’m going to live until old age turns me into a walking diaper!”
“Let’s cut the useless chatter and get right to business. I’ll handle my life with my own hands. Worry about yourselves.”
“For what matter have you come here? It doesn’t seem like you came to acquire magic armor for your hybrid wyvern….”
‘These guys slithering in the dark really do have fast intel.’
“It seems you’re in the loop, so I will be frank. Get me Blessed Spears, no matter what kind.”
“Blessed Spears? Oh my, how naughty. That’s an imperially restricted item, but… It’s no~ good~ for a nobleman like yourself to do illegal things~” As the enchantress trailed off, her red eyes sparkled.
I ignored her words and continued saying what I had to say. “2,000 Gold per spear.”
“3,000,” she countered smoothly.
‘What should be 1,000 Gold a pop is now 3,000? Very good, you thieves.’
“2,700. Any more bargaining and you can go back empty-handed,” said the black cat firmly.
“Alright. 2,700. 20 spears. I will buy them for 54,000 Gold.”
I didn’t want to get into a verbal fistfight with these guys over a few pennies. They already knew the urgency of my situation. Of course they would want to rip the most money off me as they could.
“Hoho. Just like the rumors of you duelling in front of the Crown Prince implied, you’re quite fiery. Then, let us say the trade is completed.”
‘You happy? Huhu. Alright, let’s see how long you can be happy.’
She may be a beautiful chick, but there was no need to be courteous if she thought of me as a sucker. I engraved the fox’s face deep within my memory.
I threw out an object.
“This is a gold token registered with the Rubis Merchants. Initial payment of 30,000 Gold; you’ll get the rest when the contract is completed.”
“Thank you, Baronet Kyre. We will efficiently and quickly deliver the desired items.”
After getting the money, the woman wetted her lips with her red tongue and smiled with satisfaction.
“What is your name?”
“Hoho, I have no such thing as a name. Please call me Black Fox.”
“Black Fox… I’ll remember you.”
“Thank you, sir. Ah! And as a token of thanks for completing our first deal together, I will let you know a piece of news that recently came in.”
“It is information that there are several assasination guilds aiming for your life, Kyre-nim. By all means, please take care of yourself.”
‘Assasination guild… Huhu, tell ‘em to come. I’ll crush them all!’ This was something I anticipated anyway.
“Then, I’ll trust you and be on my way.”
Black merchants would sell their souls for money. I didn’t want to linger around these people who dipped their paws into evil acts, including human trafficking.
“How can you trust us and entrust such a huge amount of money to us?” smiled the woman as she crossed her slender legs.
“No matter how big the money, it’s not worth your life. Huhu…”
I let out a burst of mana. The goons who had been letting their guards down exclaimed in fright at the sharp energy that filled the room.
“If you mess with me… I will follow you to the ends of hell and strip the hide off your back.”
A cold smile floated on my face as I stared at Black Fox. However, the woman didn’t cower and simply flashed a friendly smile back.
I turned and walked towards the wall enchanted with illusion magic.
‘I dare you to give me defective items! I will follow you to the ends of hell and give you the goosing of your lifetime!’
[TN: A very powerful jutsu where you put your fingers together and stick them into a place where the sun doesn’t shine. -shudder-]
How could I, a person who had never killed before, possibly strip someone’s hide off? That was just a line I stole from a movie.
* * *
“W-what is this?”
“Isn’t it obvious? A gift.”
In my outstretched hand was a heart-shaped pendant. It was something I had specially gone to a jewelry shop to buy.
After getting her gender found out, Russell had become rather submissive. Her face reddened as she took the pendant.
“What thanks, I should be the one saying that.”
‘Huhuhu.’ With the gender reveal, it was confirmed that my body, which had always gotten excited by Russell, was not perverted after all. ‘Maybe she’ll give me a peck tonight, too?’
We were even sharing a room. Since our relationship was one where we had already gone as far as kissing, the healthy(?) imaginations of a young man were simmering within me.
“I passed today. Thank you so much, Kyre.”
“Hm? You passed your flight test?”
“Yeah. It’s all thanks to you.”
The inside of the room suddenly got awkward.
Russell, who was looking down at her pendant, and I, who was looking at the ceiling, addressed each other simultaneously.
“Go ahead,” she said.
“No, you go ahead first.”
“I wanted to ask, is it okay for you to be learning magic at the same time? A magic swordsman is a dangerous choice.”
“Magic? It’s okay for me. My teacher is a pretty amazing guy.”
“Yeah. I’ve got one. He’s a person named Bumdalf who called quite the shots in our neighborhood.”
“W-well, it’s not shots, but more like talking the big talk.”
“The big talk? What?”
These words would have been understood on Earth, but Russell was completely confused.
“He’s an archmage who researches the limits of magic.”
“Ah! An archmage! But was there one named Bumdalf? There’s no one like that among the famous people in the continent…”
‘He was an eccentric gangster who could even make a crying child hiccup to a stop. Bumdalf is the Golden-Eyed Reaper, Aidal!’
I absolutely could not reveal that person’s true name.
“He is a person who is researching knowledge in concealment for the sake of the world, for freedom and truth.”
“Such an amazing person. If he’s an archmage, he should want to let his name be heard all around the world, but to think he can resist that temptation!”
‘Resist my ass! My god, this is so frustrating!’
Unable to reveal that the Bumdalf who was my teacher was actually the eccentric gangster Aidal, my heart squirmed with discomfort. How could I say that far from resisting, he had tyrannized the whole world and was chased off in the end to a different dimension?! Moreover, I could never reveal that he was an evil-hearted soul who had tricked the naive me and punted me into this dimension in his stead.
“T-that’s right… he’s a real… amazing person,” I gritted out. “Right, Russell. Sit down.”
“Oh, why?” At my words, Russell stammered and tensed up.
‘Huhu, she’s such a cutie.’
If she grew out her hair and put on a dress, Russell would be a beauty without equal. Even now, her current tidy appearance with short hair was still filled with an androgynistic charm.
“You don’t trust me?”
“No, I do…”
‘Ara? You shouldn’t trust anyone besides your daddy!’
Even I knew you should only trust yourself, but the naive Russell trusted me entirely and carefully sat down on her bed.
‘Hm… why is my heart trembling like this?’ Just looking at the quiet breathing of her small frame from behind her back made my body heat up.
I reached out and put my hands on her shoulders, feeling her flinch.
“Stay still. And feel it within your body…”
‘Why does it sound so suggestive?’
Even I felt embarrassed to say such shameful words. I grasped Russell’s shoulders.
‘I need to expand the upper danjeon.’
Russell had good spiritual affinity, but not enough mana. I wanted to give her a small present.
“Try using your mana breathing technique. Don’t make any sounds. Just follow what I do.”
Having just come out of a shower, Russell’s skin was incomparably damp with moisture. I steadied myself and drew on my mana.
Then I slowly began to push mana in through her shoulders according to the magic knowledge stored in my head.
‘I will help you, Russell. So you can have your revenge.’
Russell’s mana fused with mine and circulated around her body. Then, under my careful guidance, the mana core in the upper danjeon enlarged. As I helped her, my actions were filled with my warm feelings towards Russell, towards this girl in front of me.
* * *
“There is a report that a messenger arrived early in the morning from the Imperial Family.”
Derval passed along the big news as soon as I arrived at the hangar.
“Normally, messengers come on horses, but today, a Skyknight came by specially.”
“Might it have something to do with me?”
“Most likely… I believe it is an order regarding you and Bebeto, sir Kyre.”
“Bebeto, who is evaluated as a cursed wyvern, is treated the same way as a demon beast in the covert. Moreover, this is the residence of Black Wyverns symbolizing the Imperial Family. Skyknights are sure to show their opposition, so they will want to deal with the matter quickly.”
Derval said words similar to what Marquis Mermos had said.
“I barely got any flying lessons though…”
“Everywhere else is fine… but we must pray for that place to not be chosen.”
“Yes. It is the covert among all the places in the empire where one must not go. Weyn Covert of the Nerman Plains… Any place will do besides that one.”
Even as he spoke, Derval’s expression was gripped with fear.
“That place is so awful?”
“Do you really not know?”
“Yeah. No idea.”
“Sigh…” Instead of responding, Derval just shook his head and sighed.
The hangar door had been opened wide to let the fresh air in. From beyond the door, I saw three people walking towards us– Marquis Mermos was approaching with two of his knights in tow.
“It seems what is to come, has come,” said Derval with a tense voice. “Welcome in,” he called out with a stiff face in greeting towards the three people coming in.
“Hm, truly a desirable fellow,” exclaimed Mermos upon seeing Bebeto instead of responding to the greeting.
‘If you desire him, just buy him then.’
In all truth, this guy’s wings were at least a meter longer than other wyverns, and his body was a full leg bigger too. He blinked his huge golden eyes as he watched Marquis Mermos.
‘Is that the document?’ I thought, looking at the thick white paper in the Marquis’ hand.
A moment of silence followed the men’s entrance.
“A transfer order for you has arrived,” said the Marquis calmly. “Baronet Kyre de Adaron, His Imperial Majesty the Emperor has passed down a transfer order for you. Listen carefully and receive His Grace.”
“All hail!” I copied the salute I had seen other people doing all this time and brought my right arm to my heart.
“On the 328th imperial year, on the 21st day of the month of Nermis, Baronet Kyre de Adaron is ordered to be assigned to Weyn Covert of the Nerman Plains. This command is to be followed before the day of the 21st ends!”
‘Ah! Weyn Covert?’
The result that Derval had desperately wanted to avoid was happening.
But what could I do? For now, I could only receive the order. The only place that would accept a cursed wyvern like Bebeto was Bajran.
“Collect your luggage before the sun sets and depart. You will be traveling within the safe area of the empire, so you need no guard. Ask your crewmate for the other matters.”
The Marquis turned around, leaving just a few stony-hearted words. There was probably nothing he could do, either, because this was an order coming from the top dog of Bajran, the Emperor.
‘To the front lines? Do they think my head is a tin can?! Oi!’
It was said that even a cow getting dragged to the slaughterhouse understood its fate, but the Marquis was ordering me, a far more intelligent being than a cow, to please go die on my own.
“I shall heed the order!” Despite my inner thoughts, my response was full of strength. I didn’t have any lingering attachments to this unlucky place anyway.
‘Russell, Irene, Igis…. Hyneth.’
Only, it was a damn shame I had to part with all these women that I was just getting close to.
“Derval, pack your things.”
“It is already done. I don’t have anything really to take with me…”
‘Damn, why do I feel like a dude getting kicked out of his own home by his wife?’
Thanks to the events at this covert, my last name was now Adaron, of the baronet rank. I had also acquired a wyvern, but I still had an indescribable, crummy feeling.
‘One day, I will return! After I become a hero, I’ll receive military honors from you all!’
The beginning was shoddy, but my life was bound to shine like fireworks by the end. I ground my teeth thinking about the people who were kicking me out like this.
‘The weather is dreadfully good.’
Fleecy clouds were drifting above and the mountainside was shimmering with spring haze. It was a perfect day for farewell.