21st Century Archmage - Chapter 43
Chapter 43: Stormy Life
“Derval, what do you think I should have done…”
We had returned to the covert, with the family of three that would have certainly faced retribution because of my actions.
I quietly asked Derval that question while stroking Bebeto’s leg inside the hangar.
It hadn’t even been a few days, but I already could not simply stand by and watch the suffering of the Nerman Plains people. The monsters were on the verge of breaking in, but these people were in an extreme situation where they had nowhere to go.
“I like you, my liege.” My question was about what I should have done, but Derval suddenly said he liked me instead. “You always have a bright smile on your face, but you sincerely worry about people like me, the weak… That spirit will be the solution.”
Derval’s Zen riddle-advice made my chest feel even stuffier.
‘Just like how Pikachu won’t save you any electricity bills, this place won’t make any money… Damn.’
From the first time I heard the name ‘Nerman Plains,’ I had felt strangely drawn to it. But it was too burdensome a fish for me to swallow.
“Hohoho. Bebeto! Boo~!”
Behind me came the voice of the kiddo, who was teasing and playing with Bebeto, a wyvern, without any sense of fear.
“Mister!” The kiddo ran into the hangar. Seeing me, she flashed a radiant grin and ran up.
Lucia KO’d a fresh young lad not even twenty years old with ‘mister.’ She tackled herself onto my leg and held on with two little arms. “Gotcha! Hehehe, tag, you’re It!” she warbled.
Just moments ago, she had bravely charged at a knight upon seeing her bloody father, but somehow she was already beaming with a bright smile free of all the world’s worries. My chest prickled with heat.
“L-Lucia… Q-Quick, let go at once!”
Lucia’s mother appeared as well. Worried about the retribution of Viscount Lukence’s soldiers, I had brought Lucia’s family here. And as soon as they arrived, Lucia’s mother had taken charge of dinner. Looking at Lucia’s unguarded behavior, the aproned woman made a flustered expression.
“Hehe, Mister really dotes on Lucia. Right? Handsome mister~!”
Little blond Lucia had to tip her head way back to look up at me with her short body. The sight of her joyful, blooming smile warmed my heart.
“Of course, I’ve never seen a lady as pretty as Lucia.”
“Uwah! Are you proposing to Lucia right now? Hohoho. Then when Lucia becomes an adult later, Lucia will get married to you, Mister!”
Lucia’s eyes sparkled with happiness. I smiled helplessly as I lightly patted her head.
“I apologize. The child still has no sense of manners…” Lucia’s mom approached, bowing her head politely.
“Has the move been uncomfortable?” I asked.
I had given one of the nearby hangars in the area I could protect as a temporary residence for Lucia’s family.
“No, sir. We are very comfortable. I cannot remember the last time we could be so carefree… Thank you. Sir…”
Waving her hand, the woman teared up a bit as she relayed her thanks. I could discern the breadth of Viscount Lukence’s lawlessness.
“Mister, will you be protecting our family from now on?”
As her mom dragged her away by the hand, Lucia asked with a curious voice.
“Mister is a Skyknight. A Skyknight, who defeats those bad dragons and monsters! My grandpa who’s gone now said, that Skyknights are the guardian knights of the sky who protect our dreams!”
‘Guardian Knight of the sky who protects their dreams…’
Lucia’s words crashed into my heart with a resounding thump.
“Of course, my liege will definitely protect Lucia’s dream.”
“Right? Hoho. Mister, thank you. Lucia will grow up fast and get married to Mister.”
Lucia dipped into a deep bow.
Faced with Lucia’s extremely pure and honest intentions, I inadvertently ended up nodding as well.
[TN: Calm your tits, this is a brother/sibling relationship and will never ever progress.]
‘Dammit… It won’t even make money.’
My face hardened with a bitter smile.
I was looking forward to the rugged future ahead of me.
* * *
“It would require a troop at least 100,000 strong. In addition, at least one of the continent’s seven magic towers’ active support and a temple that can make a great deal of holy water, as well as an intimate relationship with one of the major merchant groups on the continent.”
“A troop 100,000 strong… magic tower, temple?”
“Yes. And that’s the very least it would take. The Nerman Plains are more dangerous than any other place on the continent. That’s why even the Bajran Empire is planning to let it go.”
‘100,000 troops? You think you can find that on the streets? And how the hell would I pay for that many soldiers?”
“Derval, from what I heard, doesn’t the entire population of the Nerman Plains only add up to several hundred thousands? That includes the elderly and young, so how would it be possible to foster an army of 100,000?”
Money was one thing, but the numbers just weren’t adding up.
“That is the problem. Any sane person wouldn’t willingly come to the Nerman Plains. Of course, it’s not as if there is no way to solve that.”
Derval stopped talking and stared blankly at me.
“This?” I said, making a circle with my hand.
Derval gave a light nod.
“It is possible to resolve the issue of the soldiers if skilled mercenaries on the continent are hired.”
Even on Bebeto’s back, this piece of land was so large that you would have to fly for quite a long time to see the end of it. On a map, it looked to be a huge land about 200 km from front to end. Such a big area could not be covered by mercenaries hired with money.
‘The mercenaries are one thing. Would any magic tower be crazy enough to come help? And a temple would have to be off their rocker to come to an unprofitable place like this.’
From what I heard, the Nerman Plains didn’t even have a single of those commonplace temple branches. Up until a few years ago, there had been a few, but after the hungry people kept rushing at them, they all quietly disappeared. In other words, they were unable to sell God’s name and do business in a place like this, which you could shake upside down and only get dust bunnies from.
“However… if it’s you, my liege, it should be possible. I believe. Just like how you were my salvation from the darkness, I believe that you can make these Nerman Plains into a land of peace!”
I was no savior, but Derval was looking at me with blind loyalty and trust.
‘I won’t seriously just become the lord of this place at this rate, right?’
The lord position of the Nerman Plains was something I had never expected or even dreamed of. It did draw me a tiny bit, but becoming the lord of this place, which would suck up my money and efforts like a black hole, would be like slathering yourself in honey and dancing the Charleston.
“You would have to take control of this covert first. You have to make this Weyn Covert, which the other Skyknights are not even using, into your territory, my liege.”
Derval gradually revealed some measures, as if he had already been expecting this.
“You just have to persuade Count Pavess, the nominal leader of the covert.”
“With… a bribe?”
“Yes. It should be more than possible with the items inside our hangar. The empire’s troops will actively retreat within a few months anyway, so it shouldn’t be a problem to give him some guidance a little earlier.”
Derval was telling me to offer my life’s savings, earned through my blood, sweat, and tears, as a bribe.
“And if everything goes as planned, the mercenaries should be gathering around tomorrow. No matter how scary Lukence is, there will definitely be people swayed by money. Something so abstract as ‘tomorrow’ isn’t very important to people like them, anyway.”
‘At times like this, he’s seriously cool-headed?’
Even though he was always sending absolute loyalty and respect my way, in regards to other situations, he evaluated everything with a leveled-head.
“Alright. Let’s take control of the covert then.”
“A splendid decision, my liege!”
Nothing in this world was so easy that you could resolve it with your thoughts alone, without even trying.
In any case, my life was going to be a long 100 years.
Even if I couldn’t succeed, I wanted to give it a shot.
* * *
“So, why have you come?”
Leader of Weyn Covert, Count Pavess, was enjoying a comfortable life guarded by a knight at the gates and a hundred or so sentries all over the place. His eyes had gone as wide as plates when he heard that I came to talk.
‘You miserly guy, you probably wouldn’t bleed a single drop even if you got pierced!’
Even Weyn Covert was probably getting quite a nice sum from the empire. Count Pavess was misappropriating all that money and feigning complete ignorance.
He didn’t seem that happy to see me.
“Haha, I came because I have a favor to ask.”
“A favor? A favor to ask from me… Even though I’m very sure that I told you I have nothing to give you?”
Count Pavess’ brows furrowed as soon as the word ‘favor’ came out.
‘Don’t worry! I won’t steal your gold, it’s too dirty for me!’
“I heard that the imperial troops will soon be summoned back to the empire soon.”
“Most likely… They will.”
“Please leave the covert to me.”
“Yes. It would be good if you could transfer it over to me today, immediately.”
“Kuku. I heard you’re getting picked on by Viscount Lukence; so you’re planning on using this place as a fort or something?”
‘He knew? Rotten bastard. You should have warned me at least!’
Count Pavess was making an ugly smile. It was a face I would want to dunk right into a toilet if we met in the bathroom.
“I have prepared a small gift outside. If it were me, I would rather retreat now than return to the empire with empty hands after a few months.”
This pig of a count’s eyes began to sparkle with curiosity at the mention of a gift.
“Hooh!” Following my finger to the scene outside the window, he let out an exclamation.
“Does it please you?”
“…It does, but with that alone…”
‘This shithead, I’ve been saying yes and yes and you still won’t budge!’
The count’s eyes were dripping with greed like a fatty piece of bacon.
“If you don’t want to, then that’s that. I saw a lot of empty forts outside the city, too.”
He misjudged me. As I spoke, I whirled towards the door.
“Haha. Why is such a young man so impatient! Alright! I’ll vacate the covert today for you!”
‘Hng! Vacate? What a funny squid.’
Sitting pretty outside was a wyvern mithril alloy magic armor that could easily fetch at least 1.5 million back in the empire. I was giving it up in this unavoidable, regretful situation, but I was gonna calculate interest in my heart.
“Then I will leave for now.”
“I’m thankful. I’ll never ever forget your sincerity for as long as I live. Hahaha.”
‘Sincerity? Right back at you. I will never ever forget you either, you bastard!’
This beaming pig-like Count Pavess…
I stored his greasy mug deep inside my memory, as someone to strip buck naked if we were to ever meet again.
* * *
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* * *
“There are around 500 of Viscount Lukence’s knights and soldiers stationed in Denfors. They are staying at the viscount’s mansion in the city, with a Skyknight named Palmir at their center.”
“500? It’s not as much as I thought?”
“The city’s public order is formally being maintained by the military commander’s soldiers, but I heard they are receiving orders from Viscount Lukence. From what I ascertained, there are only a few thousand imperial mainland troops under the commander’s banner; the majority are conscripted Nerman natives.”
Using the information Derval had gathered from various sources, we began analyzing Viscount Lukence’s military strength.
“Then when the military troops retreat, they’ll probably just become Viscount Lukence’s men, huh?”
“But there’s something I’m curious about. Why does Viscount Lukence want a place that even the empire gave up on? Even with twelve Skyknights, it would be a tall order to take on all the monsters with just that much military power.”
“I would also like to know that. I could not get a complete answer regarding that aspect from Baroness Janice’s knight and soldiers. Only…”
“I believe it could be linked to the pirates.”
Derval had gleaned information from the knight and soldiers dispatched by Baroness Janice. It seemed his exceptional brain had picked up on something.
“If what I heard from the carpenters who repaired the hangar is to be believed, then apparently, after Viscount Lukence gained great power, the plundering of the pirates decreased significantly. That’s how the residents here inevitably became reliant on Viscount Lukence even though they’re getting sucked dry of money.”
“Mm… What you mean is, in this remote land that even the empire is throwing away, there’s no one other than Viscount Lukence to protect them.”
“I believe that may be the case. I believe they think that once the empire formally pulls out, there’s no one but Viscount Lukence who can protect this place.”
‘Something smells fishy…’
I suddenly caught the whiff of a conspiracy.
The reality was that they had no one other than the loan shark boss Viscount Lukence to believe in. Whether they died or lived, the residents of the Nerman Plains—who had nowhere else to go—could only do as he said.
In that kind of situation, Viscount Lukence had to face the enemies jumping in from all over. Unless he had a few screws loose, there was no way he could handle this place on his own.
‘There must be something behind him. That something is…’
“How many pirates are there?”
“The soldiers here said they’re also not sure. It’s not just because it’s impossible to investigate each and every one of the 10,000 Kesmire islands, but also because of all the people they have kidnapped in the past. They have captured over a hundred thousand residents of this territory alone, and also plundered every nation around these waters, kidnapping a sum that reaches numbers in the hundreds of thousands.”
“Hundreds of thousands? That many?”
Somalian pirates existed even in the modern 21st century, but those guys were small fries in comparison to the Kesmire pirates. If they were extreme enough to kidnap hundreds of thousands of people, then they were gutsy beyond compare.
“It’s not exact information, but I heard of the pirates’ notoriety even in the Administrative Academy. They’re not just pirates, but almost on the level of a maritime kingdom.”
“A maritime kingdom?”
“Yes. They’re on the level of being able to deploy a wyvern offensive around ten units strong.”
“A wyvern offensive?” I repeated the uncommon name that I’d never heard before.
“That’s what they call a large ship that can transport between six to ten wyverns per unit.”
‘A-Aircraft carrier? Geh!’
They really did deserve to be called a maritime kingdom. If mere thieves could even deploy aircraft carriers, there was nothing more to say.
“They’re unbeatable on the sea. That is why they have managed to deeply interrupt the trade between the Haldrian Empire and the eastern continent.”
‘Hooh, to even interrupt trade between continents!’
I didn’t know who it was, but the boss of the pirates definitely had an exceptional head on their shoulders.
‘But such strong guys’ attacks have decreased?’
“Doesn’t it smell fishy to you?”
“It does. And very strongly at that.”
I met eyes with Derval, who understood my thoughts.
“Are you confident?”
“I simply believe in you, my liege!”
Long words weren’t necessary between those who understood each other.
‘Viscount Lukence… He would be a fairly big fish to tackle.’
Viscount Lukence and I had an ill-fated relationship from the beginning. If I wanted to survive here, I would either have to reach a compromise with him or defeat him.
However, I could never go in with my head bowed. If I was someone who would bow my head to a mere viscount, my life so far wouldn’t have been this difficult.
“They say Count Pavess and his soldiers are leaving!”
While Derval and I were talking, Baroness Janice’s knight came running into the hangar to loudly report, panic obvious on his face.
“Huh? You know…? If Count Pavess leaves, we cannot guard the covert with our strength alone.”
“Well, they’re basically just decorations at this point anyway. Isn’t it better this way?”
The knight was rendered speechless by my confident words. He was probably thinking it was ridiculous to try to guard this large, large covert by himself and twenty soldiers.
“Leadership of the covert has been formally passed on to Baronet Kyre from today onwards.”
The knight’s eyes widened at Derval’s unexpected words.
“Relay that to Baroness Janice,” I said. “If you’re afraid, it’s okay to leave.”
These few soldiers couldn’t be much help. It was a bit of a shame, but if they wanted to go back to Janice, I didn’t intend to stop them.
He must have settled his thoughts, because the knight gave a short nod. It seemed Janice had raised him quite well.
“Derval, I’m going out for a moment.”
“There’s something else I need to buy.”
While Count Pavess was still here in name, Lukence couldn’t just bring in his soldiers on a large scale and cause a commotion. The covert was, after all, indisputably an important building of the empire. However, once the count left, there would be nothing else for the enemies to fear.
I had to prepare in my own way before that happened.
Guuu? Hearing that I was going out, the dozing Bebeto opened his eyes and relayed his concern.
“Guard the house well!”
But I had absolutely no desire to strut through the city on Bebeto’s back.
‘Come to think of it, how come I don’t even see a single one?’
The conditions I offered were extraordinary. That was definitely bait that a mercenary with only girls and money in mind would find hard to refuse.
The result of our visit to the Mercenary Guild would definitely be revealed about now.
“Welcome to the Ildorian Magic Tower branch.”
‘Ildorian Magic Tower branch, huh…’
For a magic tower branch, it was far sloppier than the grand and mighty ones I’d seen in the capital. Still, I went into the one that looked the best out of the magic towers on the street.
‘4th Circle mage?’
The mage’s sleeve was embroidered with four golden lines. There was a 4th Circle mage in his mid-fifties and two assistant mages inside the branch.
‘What lousy goods.’
The Ildorian Magic Tower branch stood out in stark comparison to the Gauss Magic Tower I’d seen in the capital. Rather than focusing on sales, it seemed their main purpose was to purchase monster corpses and goods required by the magic tower, because there weren’t many decent magic products inside the building.
“Are you perhaps Baronet Kyre, the newly assigned Skyknight?”
As a 4th Circle mage of a major magic tower, he should be around the same level as a countryside noble, but he carefully questioned my identity.
“That’s right, but how did you…”
“Haha. How could I not know the name of Kyre-nim, whose name made the rounds in Denfors as soon as he arrived?” The mage guffawed.
“Well, it’s not a good thing, but thank you for knowing my name.”
Even though I was a baronet, a 4th Circle mage was someone who should receive quasi-noble treatment. I used honorifics as I facilitated an amiable atmosphere.
“But what brings you here… Could you perhaps be wanting to sell the wyvern magic armor…?”
Among the people who gathered when Janice sold her goods weren’t just merchants, but also mages. That’s probably why this mage knew about me.
“No. I’m here because I want to buy a magic crystal and dust.”
“A magic crystal and dust?”
“Yes, I would like to acquire a Grade 6 magic crystal and around 10 kgs of low-grade magic crystal dust.”
“Ah! 10 kg?!”
Magic crystal dust, a component used in magic circles. Even if it was low-grade and not upper-grade, 10 kgs was still a huge amount.
“Where do you want to use so much dust? With that much, it would be possible to complete several magic circles….” The mage went from surprised to suspicious.
“I am currently recruiting mercenary mages, and when they come, I intend to set up a few Alarm spells for defensive purposes.”
“Ah, so that’s why. But for 10 kgs, it will cost 10,000 Gold. Will that be alright?”
‘10,000 Gold? Wooow! You daylight robbers!’
The mage attached a price of one thousand Gold per kg on this low-grade dust, which wasn’t even the top-grade stuff used in a Warp circle or complicated arrays. Even for the premium price put on magic ingredients, unlike magic crystals, the dust could be filtered from mana springs and was easy to acquire. The magic towers were taking advantage of their monopoly on the springs.
I was frustrated on the inside, but it couldn’t be helped.
‘Alright then, let’s just see how long you guys can continue to look down on me!’
“That is cheaper than I thought. I will settle it at once, so please prepare it for me.”
“Our Ildorian Magic Tower is originally well known for our honest dealings. In particular, the current master of the tower, Archmage Avaion, is someone who lives by the creed of ‘Treat lies like Black Mages.’”
The mage smoothly rambled on about honesty without a hitch. He was as fake as a politician in from the 21st century.
‘Tsk tsk. This is why you’re still only at the 4th Circle at your age!’
As a fairly old mage, this Ildorian branch manager must be feeling the limits of his growth. Considering the thick rolls of fat I could glimpse under his robe, it looked like he would flop right back down onto his butt if he tried casting Fly.
“Ah! So that’s the case. As expected for a master of a great magic tower!”
Lies didn’t cost any money. I agreed enthusiastically with the branch master’s words.
“Here it is. If you come visit us again next time, we will do our very best to assist you.”
While I was talking with the branch manager, the assistant mages came up to me holding bags.
Just like how jewels were sold based on size, magic crystals had to be a certain size and grade to be treated with any significance.
“For the payment, if you go to the Rubis Merchants and say my name, they will give you the money.”
“If you can’t believe me, go over now and receive the money. I will wait here.”
“N-no, it’s not a big deal…”
After looking troubled for a moment at my lack of cash, the branch manager feigned generosity. He was probably thinking that surely no mere Skyknight would mess with a major magic tower.
“Then, please work hard. I will come back sometime.”
“Take care of yourself, sir.”
The trade was finished, so we respectfully said our farewells. Unfortunately, I would have to occasionally come here in the future. There was no need to frown and spoil the relationship.
‘With this, I think I can pretty much finish it.’
On my to-do list wasn’t merely Alarm circles, but a Greater Defense magic circle. As soon as I thought of defense magic circles, hundreds of formulas came popping into my head like magic.
‘If you don’t have teeth, chew with your gums!’
I might not have soldiers to defend the covert, but I could rest assured to a certain degree if I had a few magic traps. What I had that others didn’t, was magic ability. With all this knowledge in hand, there wasn’t much I needed to fear in this world.
‘Just look at ‘em….’
As soon as I left the building, I felt a few gazes on me. They were scrutinizing me closely.
‘Spying like little rats.’
It hadn’t been long since my arrival in the Nerman Plains, but even here, there were enemies everywhere.
My life was nothing but stormy.