21st Century Archmage - Chapter 44
Chapter 44: Ryker
‘There’s old and then there’s this…’
I returned to the convert under the scrutinizing gazes. Just looking at the huge covert outer wall taking up one part of Denfors made me frown. It occupied a space bigger than most universities, but there were so many places in need of repair.
‘Even though I don’t even have any money.’
In the end, all my problems could be fixed with money.
After Count Pavess left, the soldiers loitering around also disappeared from the big covert. As I went inside, I saw quite a few people.
‘They’ve come. Huhuhu.’ You couldn’t call yourself a lump of simple desire, aka mercenary, if you didn’t drool at such attractive bait. ‘One, two, oho! There’s already a hundred of ‘em?’
Unable to face the hangar where Bebeto was at, the gang murmured amongst themselves in a group.
‘Ara? That guy is…’
While I was looking at the mercenaries with satisfaction, one person caught my eye.
‘Isn’t that the guildmaster?’
The slick-faced guildmaster who had answered me so apathetically at the Mercenary Guild was here too, standing at the head of the crowd.
“Ah! H-He’s here!”
As one of the mercenaries spotted me and yelled out, everyone turned in tandem to look at me.
‘My goodness, my cute little prey.’
They probably thought of me as a pushover, but I saw them as prey.
However I didn’t reveal any of my feelings on my face. Pretending to not see them, I slowly led the horse towards Bebeto’s hangar.
I simply passed the mercenaries.
“Stop right there, if you will.”
Then I heard the guildmaster’s quiet voice.
‘He’s no ordinary fellow.’
Not only did he have quite the mana, but there was a certain weight in his voice. The authority was palpable.
“Did you mean me?”
‘Argh, I can’t get used to this no matter how much I do it.’
If I had stayed in Korea, I would have been nothing more than a talkative, cheeky kid. The ink hadn’t yet dried on my ID card; it wasn’t easy for someone as young as me to act like a distinguished knight. Not long ago, I had been fighting my way through a time of growth while pitifully begging my mother for just ten dollars and buttering her up.
[TN: Koreans get their official identity card when they reach 17 years of age.]
But now, I had become a noble who led the people with a long blade at his hip. At the same time, the weight on my shoulders was so heavy it could make you puke, which applied to even I.
“What do you want to do?”
“Do what?” I said, feigning ignorance at the guildmaster’s query.
“It seems you don’t mind playing with your life and now you’ve even gotten dementia. Haha.”
‘Ara, would you take a look at him?’
The guildmaster was mocking me in front of all these mercenaries.
“Did you insult me just now?” I asked, my voice flat.
“How could that be~ How could a mere mercenary insult an esteemed Skyknight with a baronet title? It was just that I wanted to know if you remembered what you promised.”
The guildmaster, whose eyes were as blue as his hair, smiled with a hint of derision that contradicted his words.
I descended softly from the horse.
And gently unsheathed my sword.
As I did so, the mercenaries tensed. As the mood suddenly turned grim, they looked at each other in confusion.
“Let us start with 1,000 Gold per month.”
“After I check.”
“Haha. I will not decline.”
From the moment I saw him at the Mercenary Guild, I could feel the guildmaster was no ordinary man of skill. It seemed I needed to stomp him down nicely once.
‘Why is someone with the status of guildmaster trying to work under me?’
There was no doubt that the guildmaster, whose name I didn’t even know, had personally brought the mercenaries here.
There was no need to say much.
What the guildmaster drew was not a longsword or even a rapier, but two swords of medium length.
“For every 10 strikes of yours, my pay will go up by 1,000 Gold as a hazard fee.”
The moment he pulled his blades, his aura clearly changed.
Though he didn’t even look 30, from the guildmaster’s swords came an Aura Blade that neared Master level.
It was a surprise.
“Here I come!”
As soon as he finished talking, a sword cut through space in no time.
There was no time to think.
Before I knew it, two swords were baring their vicious teeth towards my heart and lower body.
* * *
Because of the swarm of mercenaries that showed up, Derval was as tense as a bowstring.
For some reason, they gathered on the runway in the middle of the covert without approaching the hangars.
Derval, who was tense alongside the dispatched soldiers because of those mercenaries, breathed a sigh of relief at the sight of Kyre. There was one knight and 20 soldiers here, but a hundred mercenaries was a force to fear. And they were Nerman mercenaries at that, who were rumored to be far more skillful than mercs from other places. They were rumored to not hesitate to resort to burglary. Derval couldn’t let down his guard.
He was looking warily at such mercenaries when his trustworthy liege appeared.
Because of the dense throng of mercenaries, Derval couldn’t see his liege anymore. However, from the sound of weapons being drawn, he could tell that his liege was currently in danger.
“Let us go!”
“Mm… To think that Mercenary Guildmaster Ryker came…”
At Derval’s words, Knight Chase made a groan.
“Is he a dangerous person?” asked Derval immediately, feeling that something was off.
“I don’t know for certain, but a few months ago, he forcefully rose to the mercenary guildmaster position. I heard rumors that he exceeded Grade 1 and is being called a Special Grade mercenary.”
The Special Grade label was attached only to Blade Masters or 6th Circle mages, as well as High Summoners. They were strong people who could receive a peerage from a kingdom with their skills alone.
“Let us go!”
Startled by the thought that this Ryker might be someone sent to assassinate his liege, Derval left the hesitating Chase and hurriedly ran over.
As Derval recklessly ran towards the mercenaries, Knight Chase rallied the soldiers.
His master, Baroness Janice, had given him an order.
To do his very best to protect the rookie Skyknight.
* * *
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* * *
I was facing dual swords for the first time and could not concentrate. One was going for my head while another was aiming for my waist, as lithe as a fox’s tail.
‘They’re full of strength!’
I thought the strength in each blow would be halved because they were dual swords, but the guildmaster’s swords didn’t feel like that at all. Even as he sliced with his right hand, his left hand was thrusting.
His swords were fast, precise, and full of power. It was hard to counter.
While I was frantically struggling to adjust, the armor on my chest was sliced. The mithril alloy airplate was cut like butter.
A steel sword’s sharpness plus Aura Blade.
I could die.
I clenched my teeth.
I could use magic, but I didn’t want to do so.
Use teeth to fight with teeth, and swords to fight with swords.
I wanted to defeat the man in front of me with a sword.
Rushhh. Understanding my intent, my mana pitched and rolled.
A blue Aura Blade so bright it blinded the eyes burst from my sword.
“Woah! It’s a Master-level Aura Blade!”
As the Aura Blade ensconced my sword in blue, surprised cries burst from the onlooking mercenaries.
Unlike the mercenaries, the guildmaster was not fazed. He made a peculiar smile.
His sword also sizzled as it took on the hue of deep blue water.
The guildmaster was retreating back a little as he focused his blade.
‘A Master’s special technique!’
I could feel it.
That the guildmaster was about to release his finisher.
‘Jeez! Why do I have to put my life on the line all the time?! I don’t even have life insurance!’
I didn’t like this world’s rule that strength was king even if it got dangerous. Here on the Kallian Continent, if someone offended you, you’d have to draw your sword. If you didn’t like someone, you’d have to draw your sword. Or perhaps you wanted to test someone’s skills. You’d. Have. To. Draw. Your. Sword
I really missed Korea, where the good ol’ police were standing watch.
‘I have to make my own move!’
The strongest sword art I could use wasn’t my own skill, but the special technique of Hyneth’s family.
I wanted today to be the last time I used it. I had my pride as a man—I couldn’t keep using someone else’s technique to preserve my life.
“Hup!” I heard a grunt from my opponent.
Two swords cut towards me.
Sch-schwing! Two tangible energy blades whistled towards me without even leaving a shadow.
Just as I expected, it was a technique only a Master could deploy. Swords made of mana took on tangible form and pierced through the air.
“Ohh! It’s Blade Sword!”
The name ‘Blade Sword’ came from the mercenaries.
My instructor had taught me that a shout is a concentration of one’s mind. I put my clear mind into the shout.
My body rushed forward with light steps.
The Hyneth family’s shadow sword art, which somehow became my specialty, flew out.
The shadow swords unerringly blocked the guildmaster’s incoming Blade Swords.
Now, I could perfectly make three shadow swords. They destroyed the guildmaster’s two Blade Swords, leaving one shadow sword to rush towards the guildmaster.
The guildmaster’s two swords had been swinging like two well-oiled cogs, showing no gaps. But now, one of them wavered, clearly exposing a gap.
I would be a fool to miss that chance!
A swing with my whole body in it cut diagonally towards the guildmaster’s shoulder.
Metal met metal with a clatter.
He wasn’t even a real enemy, but my sword mercilessly aimed for my opponent’s neck. The guildmaster barely managed to block the blow by crossing his swords like a scissor. His face turned bright red from the overwhelming force of my mana.
‘Surrender, will you?’
His whole body trembled as he put all his strength into blocking the sword inches from his face. His face changed from red to white.
Then, just as he was about to say that he lost, I suddenly had the feeling that it would be a shame to end things like this. I had to engrave myself firmly in the minds of the mercenaries watching with bated breath.
Inwardly, I broke out in evil laughter.
I still had plenty of mana left, so I simply raised my right leg and quietly but swiftly kicked the guildmaster’s most important place.
I felt my foot hit something weighty.
The guildmaster’s gruesome scream rang out in the covert.
And, as if he hadn’t participated in a sword duel just now, the guildmaster threw down his swords and rolled around on the ground in fetal position.
The mercenaries groaned as if they could feel the guildmaster’s brutal pain.
“Does any other brave mercenary want to check my skills?”
The relaxed smile of a victor on my face, I looked at the surrounding mercenaries. But they either hurried to dodge my eyes or duck their heads.
If I said I would give them a lot of money, all they had to do was to come and line up, but these fearless souls openly resisted me. As they sweated and stared at the guildmaster who was still rolling around while holding that place, it seemed as if they had finally found their lost sense of fear.
“My liege!” Derval called out, having run up at some point.
“Derval, go take care of that guy a little.”
‘I wonder if they cracked?’
The guildmaster’s you-know-what had felt pretty hefty. I was secretly worrying as I watched the poor chap who was on an all-inclusive round trip to Hell.
‘Dammit… It was exactly ten strikes right before the kick.’
The cause of my worries wasn’t the guildmaster’s bleak future as a man, but my 1,000 Gold.
* * *
“They’re worth using, somehow or another.”
“It’s insufficient with 100 people, but if they do double shifts, it should be possible to cover the important areas of the covert.”
The guildmaster, named Ryker, after taking a while to regain his senses after my last hit, acknowledged his defeat, and signed a year-long contract to work under me. After the guildmaster signed his contract, the mercenaries who followed him also hurried to stamp their thumbprints on their contracts.
‘Alright, now I finally feel like a noble.’
Up ‘til last night, I had stayed in the hangar with Bebeto, but after Count Pavess left, I moved my nest to the office of the covert HQ.
‘Rotten bastard. He took all the important stuff with him.’
Count Pavess had taken all the useful things in the HQ with him. Still, even this empty office was a hundred times better than a hangar.
“Move Bebeto to the closest hangar, and bring Lucia’s family here.”
“Already taken care of, sir.”
‘The more I see him, the better he gets.’
As far as sharp-sightedness went, Derval sure was sharp.
This was probably why every CEO or chairman had their own secretary—it was so they didn’t have to pay attention to the trivial things anymore.
“Just know that this is all thanks to me. The rumor that a Special Grade guildmaster has moved will spread far and wide, so starting tomorrow, they’ll come by the handful.”
Ryker—whose eggs weren’t cracked (fortunately)—stood in a crooked position as he boasted his contribution.
‘Should I just break them for real? With a face like that, you could easily use him as a eunuch.’
Ryker’s mental education was still lacking. From today onwards, he was no longer a guildmaster, but a man under my employ for a whole year.
“Do your best for me. If things go well, I’ll buy you a big meal.”
“Trust me. I may look like this, but I’m someone who grew up with honesty in a family that knows no lies. Cough.”
Even I felt embarrassed saying that and couldn’t help but cough a little at the end.
But it wasn’t wrong.
My family’s motto was ‘honesty.’ The problem was all the conditions that came under that umbrella.
“Understood. I will try putting my faith in you.”
Unlike his words, Ryker was looking at me with zero trust in his eyes. He definitely needed a bit more “convincing.”
“But why did you want to work for me? For someone of your skill, Viscount Lukence or Baroness Janice would have surely treated you well.”
There was no need to be suspicious of someone behind their back.
If there’s something you want to know, just ask! That was my method.
“Huhu. It looked like it would be fun.”
I was slightly startled by Ryker’s words.
‘This guy is also…’
Mischief danced in his bright, blue eyes. This was probably why I felt a sense of similarity with him when we first met.
‘Young life, young life, the young life of youth! A YOLO’er!’
[TN: Lyrics from an old Korean song. If you remember, it’s the same song from chapter 7.]
Rather than living all complicated, a YOLO’er sought the most fun thing around them.
He was, in other words, someone with the same mentality as me.
“Ah, of course, the money seemed tasty too. That indiscernible brilliance coming from your body… In my eyes, you looked like the second coming of the God of Wealth, Lumianx-nim.”
His way of laying his inner thoughts bare right in front of you was just like me, too.
‘With that face…’ A certain 21st century Korean drama suddenly came to mind. ‘F5 Song Woo-bi!’
Song Woo-bi, one of the main characters in the drama that had been sensationally popular before I came to this world, Men over Flowers. He was a cool character with high stats, a good face, and a playful way of living life.
‘Then I must be… Kang Jun-pyo? Kuku!’
[TN: Reference to Gun Jun-pyo, the male lead of K-drama Boys over Flowers. Filthy rich.]
At one point, I, Kang Hyuk, had been a young prince with an unlimited card.
Now I was a big-shot lord with a baronet title and a wyvern. There was no rule saying I couldn’t become a Kang Jun-pyo in this world!
Dreams belonged only to the dreamer. I would definitely make my dream come true!
“Good. I’m thankful that you evaluated me like that. That aside, what are your thoughts on the Nerman Plains?”
He was the guildmaster for a while, at least in name. I looked forward to his rational evaluation of this place.
“Here? Haha. It’s an utter mess. I’ve never seen this much of a mess in my whole entire life. Even the ever-chaotic eastern continent isn’t this bad. This place, where ambition has turned the ‘strongest noble’ mad, bloodthirsty enemies with hearts as black as tar are all around, the empire that owns the land is like a womanizer who claimed someone but is looking elsewhere, and the people are starved and ragged, kyaa, this must be the place most beloved by the God of Evil, Kerma.’
The ugly contents of his speech didn’t suit his bright smile at all. Ryker laughed as he spoke without a care.
“So why did you come here?”
“Me? Dunno… I fell asleep drunk and ended up in this place’s harbor… Those damn bastards! Even though I definitely paid them enough to send me all the way to the Opern Empire! Gargh! Just let me catch you. I’ll cut a big hole in your bellies!”
The passionate youth, Ryker, suddenly went from speaking normally to burning with bloodthirst.
‘Sigh, I shouldn’t have asked.’
He only looked fine, but he clearly had a few screws loose. If he was put into a mental hospital, it would probably take him at least half a year before he was discharged.
“That aside, Kyre-nim, my mood is meh today, so would you like to go score a drink with me?’
“Huhu. I know a good place that the others don’t know about. They’ve got half-elves and cold beauties from the Ice Empire. How ‘bout it?”
Ryker was speaking to me, his employer, with a lascivious look in his eye and a lewd voice.
“Hehe. If that’s too much, then maybe a little advanced pay… Today’s the day I have to pay my tab…”
‘Sigh….’ At those words, a sudden thought occurred to me. ‘Dammit! The reason he came to me wasn’t because of the tab, was it?!’
He was an extraordinarily talented person with a perfectly fine face and skills worth bragging about. But the only thing inside his head was carnal desire.
“NO WAY! Derval, advance pay will absolutely NOT be given without my permission! And tell everyone that anyone who violates the contract and runs away will be fed to Bebeto!”
“As you command!”
If things went wrong, my big plans could crumble even before they began. I thought I should focus and keep my head on straight.
‘That’s right, in a place where everything is a mess, how can there be anyone you can trust?’
“Ah shoot… They even said some dark-skinned ladies from the Araktch Empire are coming today…”
Even as he was going out the door at his dismissal, Ryker eagerly expressed his regret.
Curses towards Ryker suddenly burst out of me.
Why did he say that?! A very pure curiosity about what kind of place Ryker mentioned might be, started burning… down there.
‘Half elves… Ice beauties… Argh.’
I was a healthy young man who had yearned for ‘enlightenment’ for a long time. The countless porn I’d watched without my parents knowing ran through my mind.
‘You idiot! It’s only manners to ask at least twice!’
And suddenly, I felt rage burn towards Ryker.
He was a truly rude guy with no manners.