21st Century Archmage - Chapter 40
Chapter 40: Viscount Lukence
“Arghh…” A gasp of pain escaped from the knight, whose legs were both cut deeply despite his armor.
Bang! He simply sank to the ground.
He looked at me; eyes filled with horror, pain, and fear.
“Derval, let’s go.”
Derval limped along despite having his whole body covered in bruises.
‘So I should clean up starting from there.’
Leader Pavess’ words to survive on my own whirled in my ears, as well his words that while this was a part of the empire, the empire doesn’t care what goes on here.
A land of anarchy. That description seemed to suit this place very well.
My whole body was drenched with blood from the completely unexpected battle. One part of my chest felt all blocked up. The fight had been so vivid that I couldn’t think of it as a dream.
I was finally able to experience the cold reality of this continent, the reality of having to raise your sword and fight in order to survive.
‘If you touch me… I will return the favor. An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.’
I supported Derval and returned to the hangar.
The very first day at the Weyn Covert kicked off with a battle of life and death.
It occurred to me that this kind of thing would happen frequently from now on.
* * *
After returning to the hangar, a group of people appeared, grabbed the collapsed soldiers and knights, then fled.
As night fell, I gathered sticks and made a fire.
‘A glass of alcohol would be nice.’
Even if I wasn’t a murderer, the fact that I had sliced over ten people’s bodies with my sword alone was a shock.
“I’m so sorry, Kyre-nim. Once again, because of me…” Derval made an apologetic expression.
“Derval… You are my comrade.”
“Haha. But what to do? At this rate, we’ll starve tonight, won’t we?”
We had skipped lunch due to wanting to arrive at Weyn Covert as soon as possible, but now it looked like we would be missing dinner, too.
“I will go get something.”
“It’s fine. You want to hit the bucket for good?”
Despite being called a “covert,” this place was almost indistinguishable from the mercenary world.
‘Is the guy named Lukence the big shot here?’
One of the knights that fell to my sword had mentioned someone named “Lukence.” His followers had suffered, but up until now, there was no movement from him.
‘Have they come to end this?’ I thought, hearing calm footsteps coming our way.
Despite being a covert, Weyn Covert didn’t have any magic lamps to speak of. Three figures approached us from within the darkness.
One of the people approaching was the woman Janice, whom I had met in the daytime.
“You’re a fellow with big guts. To think you’re calmly sitting by a fire after punishing Viscount Lukence’s kids like that.” Speaking like a man, Janice’s slender body moved to stand in front of me.
“Haha. This friend, you’re quite something, to start such a huge mishap on your first day. I really didn’t expect you to make mincemeat of those knights and soldiers of Lukence, who is called the Invisible Lord of Denfors.”
“I knew there was something about you, but your skills are pretty good. From what the guys told me, you sent them flying with just one swing each.”
The Skyknights next to Janice added some words of their own.
“Did you bring that alcohol to share?”
“Of course! It’s a small sign of my sincerity towards the hero who made Lukence unable to sleep well tonight.”
“We’ve got snacks here, too.”
“You’re the first likable fellow to have arrived in a while, so we had to come and welcome you.”
Janice was holding a bottle of alcohol that was longer than a regular bottle. She spoke eloquently as she plopped down next to me. The male comrades next to her also hurried to sit down.
“This alpoju—also called the Sun’s Tears—goes hand in hand with oily roast kelo.”
Food was piled up on a large leaf.
‘Isn’t that eel?’
On the leaf was a roasted fish that looked just like saltwater eel, glistening with oil.
“Alrighty! Today’s hero, drink up.”
Janice pulled out the cork and passed over the bottle. My mood was in the shitter, so I took the bottle without hesitation.
This alcohol had a grandiose name of “Sun’s Tears.” The smell, at least, wasn’t that strong.
“Over here, we determine how much of a man you are from how much Sun’s Tears you can drink in one go.”
‘Heh, looking down on me.’
I was someone who had frequently snuck sips of the liquor in my father’s cabinet, but these knights looked down on me and said something that hurt my pride.
I raised the bottle. And then, I opened my mouth wide and poured in the alcohol.
The moment the alcohol hit, my mouth lost all sensation. I could only feel the drops of alcohol going down my throat.
Even as I held the bottle, tears came dripping out of my eyes.
I wasn’t even a dragon, but it felt like flames were spewing out of my mouth. The spot where the alcohol had gone down was burning as if I had swallowed lava.
“Oh, oh my god, my stomach. Kuhahahahaha!”
Completely insensitive to my pain, which felt like I’d swallowed magma, the Skyknights clutched their bellies and roared with laughter.
I tore the bottle from my mouth and desperately looked for water.
“Eat this. Roast kelo will soothe the heat.” Janice passed over a piece of the fish.
I immediately shoved it into my mouth and chewed.
Surprisingly, as soon as the roast kelo went into my mouth, the flaming heat completely vanished.
‘These fuckers. They planned to mess with me from the beginning.’
I was also at fault for falling for their words, but these two set me up even though they knew how intense this alcohol was.
‘Horsehead, and Humpty Dumpty! I’ll remember you two.’
Sometimes my heart was generous, but at times like this, it was incredibly petty. I stored the two guys’ faces deep into my memory as people I had to get back at.
‘Oi oi oi? I drank from that just now…’
Having taken the bottle from me, Janice’s throat moved as she glugged down the incredibly potent alpoju.
My saliva was still on that bottle! Janice put it to her mouth without a care and vigorously drank up.
Pulling back, Janice’s brows furrowed a bit. She enjoyed the potency without even eating any roast kelo.
“So what will you do now?” asked Janice, looking straight into my eyes.
“What do you mean?”
“Huhu… You’ve messed with Viscount Lukence, so it’ll be awfully hard to sleep from now on.”
“Doesn’t matter… Because I’ll trample down everyone who comes.”
“On your own?” queried Janice, her eyes wide at my brazen response.
“I’ve always liked playing alone.”
“Is that so? Huhu. I’ll be watching to see just how long you can live with that confidence. And… if it’s difficult, just tell me. If you become my underling, I’ll protect you.”
‘Was that her goal?’
I didn’t know how things were here. Some kind of heavy feeling passed through my thoughts.
“That aside, let me ask a question. How come this viscount named Lukence is persecuting a baronet Skyknight like me in Bajran Empire territory without any fear?”
“Baronet? Kuku, you’re making me laugh. You think someone without any strength can discuss titles here? You don’t even know this? That here, on the Nerman Plains, a monster hunter is acknowledged more than a powerless noble title?” Horsehead turned me into a laughing stock in mere moments.
“Titles are important here. Because you can formally gather soldiers under your command. But if a noble without money or power continues going around like they’re the top dog, they’ll disappear without a trace. It’s not uncommon for them to turn into monster food or fish food the next day,” added Humpty Dumpty next to Horsehead.
‘It’s a lawless land.’
A knife fight had ensued in broad daylight in the covert.
There was nothing more for me to say.
Here, only those with power could live with pride.
“Lukence is a noble of the viscount rank who has twelve Skyknights under him. And he’s a very greedy thief who wants to swallow these Nerman Plains whole… An utterly dirty bastard who has sold his soul to the demons… He will definitely kill you.”
Sipping the alcohol, Janice uttered some cold words. I could feel deep rage and anger within her words. It was intense enough to make the hair on my back stand up.
‘Huhu… What a fun place. Very fun…’
I didn’t know the details yet, but the Nerman Plains was getting more and more interesting.
I raised my head and looked into the sky. The big, bright moon was surrounded by countless stars.
Tonight as well, that sky was stupidly bright. Completely untouched by the dirty greed and pain in the ass worries of humans, the sky alone shone with beauty.
As I looked up at it, I felt a cold joy….
* * *
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* * *
The sword formed in my mind became a shadow and sharply cut the air.
I was practicing the shadow sword art demonstrated by Count Petrin. Perhaps because of the limitations of my mana, I couldn’t form five shadows like I wanted, but three. The three shadow swords danced in accordance with my will.
‘Any more than this is impossible!’
This was the technique that had even defeated the Crown Prince’s Guard Knight, but I wasn’t satisfied. My skills were only so-so, but my enemies were unlimited.
I cast a 4th Circle wind spell that had a short activation delay. The power of the compressed wind dealt a hefty blow to my imaginary enemy.
My sword followed on the heels of Wind Boom and cut through space.
Swish. The enemy in my imagination broke into pieces.
I had been training for two hours inside of the worn-down hangar right next to the hangar where Bebeto and Derval were resting. Taking a break, I drew in a long breath.
‘I’ve memorized and done imaginary duels every day without rest, but my skills haven’t grown.’
Because of the Skyknight training and the gazes of others, there weren’t many chances to physically take my sword and train. But I had closed my eyes and carried out countless imaginary battles. It was also due to the fruits of this training that I was able to save my life as well as Bebeto’s when I had competed against the Crown Prince with our honor on the line.
However, I could not break the wall of enlightenment with imaginary battles alone.
‘Will my sword skills only rise if I break the circle wall?’
Breaking the circle wall and ascending to the next level had also come with a boost in my aura quantity and my understanding of the sword. Surprisingly, magic and sword skills didn’t increase separately, but together.
As we drank the alcohol Janice had brought, we shared stories until the fire ran out. There, I came to learn about Lukence, who was called the Invisible Ruler of the Nerman Plains.
Many years ago, the Nerman Plains were just like other territories of the empire; actually, it was even more important. Not only did the territory share a border with the belligerent Laviter Empire, with just one mountain range in between, but it was also the empire’s only access to the sea. Therefore, it received the Imperial Family’s full backing.
However, after years of continuous attacks from monsters and pirates, the southward migration of the Temir tribes, and skirmishes with the Laviter Empire, the territory’s will to defend disappeared.
A decisive factor was that the rugged Rual Mountains made it difficult to transport reinforcements and supplies. As time went on like that and thousands of dispatched soldiers perished every year, the Imperial Family and the nobles lost their will to protect the territory. Even though the Nerman Plains was a large territory almost the size of a duchy, the nobles assigned to it would run away after just one or two months of suffering, so now, it didn’t have a single hereditary lord left.
‘He was a normal Skyknight serving the Imperial Family before.’
Around 15 years ago, Viscount Lukence, a Skyknight within the imperial military, volunteered to come here. Taking advantage of the Imperial Family and nobles’ indifference, he rallied Skyknights and built his influence in these Nerman Plains. In particular, Lukence’s power exceeded the level of the Commander-in-Chief, a count, when the empire stopped giving general support for Skyknights 10 years ago and the number of the imperial troops had dwindled to several tens of thousands.
It was impossible even for tens of thousands of military troops to block the monsters coming in from all directions, the pirates who even had wyverns, and the southward migration of the Temir tribes. For that, the strength of Skyknights with wyverns was necessary. Before long, Lukence had the Commander-in-Chief dancing in his palm.
As a result, every time a Skyknight sortied for a request for assistance from the military troops, they would receive a certain amount of money and do the work like a mercenary.
‘So this is what they meant by surviving on your own.’
The way you were supposed to survive in the Nerman Plains was as simple as I guessed. The one and only gift from the empire to me was my noble peerage. What I had to do was to use that peerage to nurture soldiers, protect myself with my own power, and increase my influence.
From what I heard, the empire would soon give up on the Nerman Plains.
The taxes couldn’t even cover the wages of the remaining soldiers and the enemies appeared without end. The Emperor and high-ranking nobles had apparently decided that it would be better to use the Rual Mountains instead of the Nerman Plains as a shield to maintain the current empire’s territory.
‘There are lots of various rare monsters and magic ingredients, so many magic towers and merchant groups are here. At the same time, it’s a lawless land where one’s life can’t be guaranteed… You could film a western here, seriously.’
This place reminded me of a western called ‘A Fistful of Dollars,’ a film where a man fought gangs with a single pistol. It was no longer just a film, but my current reality.
‘But what beef does Janice have with Lukence, to want to kill him that badly? If I were her, I would just cooperate nicely and live a comfortable life.’
Janice held an intense grudge against Viscount Lukence. Fortunately for me, she had promised to temporarily lend me a handful of her soldiers from tomorrow onwards. She wasn’t quite as strong as Viscount Lukence, but she definitely possessed quite a lot of her own power.
‘Starting from tomorrow, I should gather information. And find out about work we can do…’
I was someone who was chased out of the empire. The duty of a knight could kiss my ass—that could wait until after I secured my survival.
‘What a shame. If Weyn Covert’s facilities were expanded, it could house thousands of its own soldiers.’
Before landing, I had seen that Weyn Covert was actually quite large. It had a separate area for regular residences, and though the outer walls weren’t as good as the castle walls, they were still rather stable.
After drinking until late into the night, I had shaken off my sleepiness and applied myself to training.
Gathering my scattered thoughts, I opened the door of the empty hangar and went out. The moment I did so, I saw a single ray of dawnbreak. Starting from the east, the sun slowly began to greet the world, displaying its intense power after cowering all night long. A shimmering light began to silently edge its way into the black sky illuminated by pale starlight.
And then, the sun appeared with radiant dignity, like a triumphant general appearing with an escort of soldiers several thousand strong.
My breath caught in my throat as I gazed upon the glorious sunlight.
My first morning on the Nerman Plains.
As I watched the rising sun, I released my bated breath and took in a lungful of air, filling my chest with fresh oxygen and hopeful dreams…
* * *
‘What a mess…’
Not long after the sun rose, the 20 or so soldiers Janice had promised came to the hangar.
They were equipped with halfmail, spears, swords, and shields. There was even a commanding knight.
Actually, there wasn’t anything for them to guard, but the problem was Derval. It would be problematic for him to go hunting with Bebeto and me, and there were several parts of the hangar that needed repairing, too. So I left that to Derval and went on an early flight with Bebeto. I wanted to at least scout the area around Denfors and take care of Bebeto’s meal.
‘The villages near the beach have been almost burned to the ground….’
Flying past the old but fairly large port that was part of Denfors, we moved south along the shore. Near the city, there were still quite a few houses, and I could even see a few people. However, after flying Bebeto for less than 30 minutes, my brows furrowed. After a certain point, all I could see were ruined villages, castles, and forts. I didn’t see swarms of monsters, but there were only a few villages left along the shore.
‘To think that there’s not even 200,000 people on such a huge piece of land….’
At one point, because of a forced immigration policy, there had been over 1 million residents here. But because they were either killed by continued enemy harassment or they fled, there were maybe 200,000 people at best.
‘A pack of orcs.’
Not just animals, but monsters were also an important source of food for wyverns. I saw a group of orcs wielding crude blades and spears crossing the plains. The hungry Bebeto must have lost his wits upon seeing them, because he showed his happiness with a roar.
While I was looking at Bebeto, who clearly wanted to shove a few orcs down his gullet, something caught my eye.
‘I-Isn’t that a village?’
It was a village, quite a distance apart from the last populated village I had seen. The village, which was protected by rather thick ramparts, was made up of around a hundred houses.
But the problem was…
‘Those guys are in a damn hurry to swallow each and every one of those people whole!’
Hundreds of what appeared to be the villagers were holding weapons and glued to the ramparts, ramparts that various kinds of monsters, including orcs, were charging in from all directions to break. Well over 1,000 monsters were attacking the village as a swarm.
“Bebeto! Let’s go!”
Monsters that looked like big ogres were smashing the ramparts with their fists. The villagers were doing their best to shoot arrows and jab their spears, but from what I could see, it wasn’t enough. What they needed now was overwhelming strength that could repulse the monsters. It was one thing if I hadn’t seen them, but I couldn’t just fly past.
‘Ogres! You’re dead!’
Fighting was one thing, but yesterday, Janice had shown me the monster auction.
I immediately began calculating the five ogres attacking the ramparts into gold coins.
‘Your lives end to~day! Repeat after me, I’m dead meat!’
Understanding my intent, Bebeto plunged like a hawk chasing a rabbit. The sound of his cry and the roaring wind rang in my helmet.
Thousands of gazes turned to look at me and Bebeto as we suddenly appeared. The defending humans and the attacking monsters all stopped what they were doing.
‘Uhahahahaha! Kyre-nim, King of the Skies, is coming! Make waaay!’
This was a feeling only the powerful could enjoy.
The Blessed Spear I had grabbed with my right hand—before I even realized it—began to glow with a blue light.
This was the moment the new ruler of the Nerman Plains, Baronet Kyre de Adaron, made his dazzling entrance.