21st Century Archmage - Chapter 46
Chapter 46: Something Necessary for Those Living in the Here and Now
“Tell me what you know about the military commander here.”
“Count Yaix? He’s a natural-born field commander. His sword skills have reached Master level and he’s even got the bravery not to back down in front of his enemies. Not a single person here has complaints regarding Count Yaix. Even now, it’s only because he is defending at a fort on the front lines that the people here can still one way or another live another day.”
Ryker pronounced his trust towards Count Yaix with a firm voice. “He’s famous within the empire, too. He is a noble who started as an ordinary knight and rose to counthood with his skills.”
[TN: Everyone said Count Yaix, but in my heart, his name is Count Yikes. That is all.]
“Why is someone like him here? A count isn’t someone that can be pushed around so easily even within the empire.”
“You can see it as Count Yaix having almost no political power even though he has outstanding military force. Due to the fact he doesn’t have noble origins, is from a regular knight family, and has a loyal, incorruptible temperament, he has long been ostracized by the other nobles.” Derval spoke as if he also knew.
“He’s different from what I expected. Because he left someone like Lukence alone, I thought he was an incompetent noble greedy for money…”
“It’s probably because of the Skyknights. It’s been about 5 years since Count Yaix was assigned here. But most of the Skyknights who came with him were killed in close combat due to pirates and those from the damned Temir tribes, and the only wyvern left is the one the count himself rides. That’s probably why he’s left Viscount Lukence, who has so many Skyknights, alone.”
‘Hooh, wouldn’t you know, his situational evaluation is pretty outstanding too.”
I thought he only showed his skills when it came to chasing girls, but Ryker even had the ability to properly evaluate the situation. He divided the hundreds of mercenaries by skill level within a single day, and even appointed centurions to command them. He was more talented than I could have ever thought.
“Where is he now?”
“He is most likely in the northern territory where the Temir, demon beasts, and monsters frequently show up. In that direction, it’s a completely clear flatland unprotected by mountains.”
“Will you go meet him at once, sir?” asked Derval after listening to Ryker’s explanation.
The three of us had gathered in my office for a night meeting. I was looking for the best thing I could achieve with the means I had in hand.
“No, not yet… That aside, is Denfors’ public security and defense entrusted to the soldiers under the military commander?”
“That is ambiguous. The castle wall and the important forts in the area are being defended by the military commander’s soldiers, but the city’s public security is being arbitrarily enforced by Viscount Lukence’s soldiers. I believe Viscount Lukence has some kind of agreement with the commander.”
“Then if we attack Viscount Lukence’s men and chase them out of the city, what do you think the commander will do?”
“I’m not sure….”
“Huhu. Don’t worry about that. The commander’s soldiers won’t help Viscount Lukence.” An inscrutable grim smile on his face, Ryker said his words with absolute certainty.
“Most of the soldiers defending Denfors are native residents. In Nerman, when you become a man, you either become a mercenary or voluntarily enlist. Otherwise, it’d be hard for them to feed their families.”
“Are Viscount Lukence’s men like that too?”
“Most likely, yes. Most of the mercenaries who came here are Nerman residents as well. Foreign mercenaries wouldn’t want to butt heads with Viscount Lukence.”
“So why come to me?”
“It’s an explosion of rage. They can endure their disappointment towards the empire that made them this way, but their hearts are already filled with resentment towards Viscount Lukence, who has squeezed everyone’s necks to suffocation. For them, you are their hope, Kyre-nim.”
‘Ara?’ There was a blaze lit in Ryker’s eyes. ‘He’s actually got a pretty fiery sense of justice.’
Inwardly, I admired the hot rage burning within Ryker’s eyes. I could tell that unlike his “I am a gigolo face”, there were pretty decent thoughts swimming around in his head.
“Argh! Lukence, that dirty and shameless bastard, is absolutely guilty of high treason that cannot be forgiven even with death!”
As if he had been enduring his anger for a long time, Ryker clenched his fists with a resentful voice. I picked up on the words ‘high treason.’
“That bastard, who I wanna hit two thousand times and then some! He’s selling off MY divinely blessed ladies to other places, an act that deserves divine punishment! Human trafficking!! Those blossoming ladies I couldn’t even hold yet… I CANNOT forgive him! I will put my very soul on the line until the day that that bastard, Lukence, is chased out!”
Once Ryker finished, Derval and I could only gape slack-jawed.
The reason he hated Lukence so much was actually only because Lukence trafficked the women who were supposed to receive Ryker’s love.
‘Argh! I’m definitely selling him off later! It’s dangerous to leave him by my side!’
I made a decision.
One day, I would chase Lukence off.
And Ryker? I would either sell this guy off as a slave or send him on a raft to a land far, far away.
* * *
‘To think it’s this much…’
“Oi, over there! Stand in line, darn it!”
“All the hangars are full, so set up tents outside!”
After a long night of thinking about various things, I fell asleep for a while and woke up to a new morning. Because of the refugees rushing in, the covert began a bustling day even before sunrise.
“There are over a thousand mercenaries and refugees gathered. We are in immediate need of food for breakfast.”
Derval was just as overwhelmed as I was. Rumors must have spread, because people with barely any clothes on their backs or food in their bellies came rushing into the covert’s doors holding their families’ hands. The mercenaries moved around noisily organizing the refugees.
“Send someone to the Rubis Merchants and go get the necessary goods. Then distribute things for accommodation and food.”
How much had they suffered for most of them to be as thin as a stick? After struggling to live in the shadows of Denfors, to which they had grown accustomed to poverty, these people came to me. I couldn’t just heartlessly chase them out.
The main culprit for everything was Viscount Lukence. My heart grew cold with surging rage.
“Sir Knight! Please find our daughter for us!”
“Sob sob… oh merciful sir knight, please, please find my poor daughter…”
Among the refugees was a middle-aged couple who had been asking the mercenaries something before running towards me and kneeling, tears beginning to fall from their eyes.
“What is the matter?” I asked.
“Sh-she is our only daughter, just barely twelve years old… Argh. The soldiers of Viscount Lukence took her, saying we should pay the protection fee! Sir Knight! I will serve you for the rest of my life, so please just find my daughter. For her to be sold as a slave is… too unfair!”
A fully-grown man resisted his tears as he burst out in sobs.
“Please find my little sister as well!”
“Sir Knight! Please find my mom!”
As the middle-aged couple knelt, dozens of others came running as if waiting for this moment and began wailing at me to please find their little sibling or sister, and even their mother.
The vile Viscount Lukence was even conducting human trafficking, as if there was nothing better to do.
I clenched my fists, hard.
Nobles were originally greedy for money, yes, but the trash viscount was endangering life and the fundamental dignity of human beings. I could no longer forgive him.
Clang! Clang! Clang!
“S-Soldiers are coming!”
“They’re Viscount Lukence’s soldiers!”
Just then, the watchtower bell suddenly rang and the mercenaries clamored with alarm.
“There’s a wyvern!”
And that wasn’t all—a certain creature was approaching from far away. A single grey wyvern equipped with silver mithril gear flapped its wings as it rapidly approached.
“My liege…” Derval looked at me.
“Uwaaaah! They must be here to catch us!”
“Waaaaah! No! I don’t want to be sold to slavery! Waaaaaahh!”
The refugees screamed or wept as they wyvern neared. Their faces were filled with the fear of death, as if they had cast their eyes on a reaper from hell.
“What are you all doing! Earn your keep! Block the entrance so that not a single one of those bastards can come in!”
Even though Viscount Lukence’s soldiers, who were equipped with halfmail, swords, and spears, were about to march through the front door, the mercenaries were running around panicking without being able to put up a fight. The newly knighted Ryker screamed at them before drawing his sword and running towards the entrance. As Ryker took the lead, dozens of mercenaries followed him.
“If you resist, you will be beheaded! You lot are illegally harboring Viscount Lukence’s serfs and criminals! Quickly send out the serfs and criminals! If you don’t, you will all be killed!”
A mana-charged cry came from in front of the entrance.
“P-Please don’t throw us away!!”
“Sir Knight, please save us! If they take us away, all of our lives are forfeit!”
The cries of adults and children alike echoed shrilly around me. They didn’t do anything wrong, but just because they were weak, they had to live like dogs.
They were hanging their last hopes on me.
‘I won’t throw you away! Never!’
The Nerman Plains was no different from a lawless land. I wasn’t a prophet like Jesus Christ or Muhammad, but a certain thing called ‘my conscience’ was alive and well inside me and was blazing red-hot.
One man who was begging me on his knees was speared in the back with a flash of silver. At the powerful force within the Blessed Spear, the man’s body burst into pieces, as if hit by a bomb.
Splaaat! Blood and flesh spurted out all over the place.
My mind went blank seeing the murder that had happened in a single moment.
His family wailed as they looked at the exploded body.
I felt something snap inside my head.
My body shot forward towards Bebeto’s hangar.
‘I’LL KILL YOU… YOU PIECE OF SHIT—!’
That seed of evil had used overwhelming force against utterly powerless civilians. He was flying around in a circle around the covert after throwing the Blessed Spear, exuding a completely relaxed vibe, as if the murder that just happened had nothing to do with him.
* * *
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* * *
My voice was sharp with quivering rage, and understanding my feelings, Bebeto flapped his wings with great force.
He had a chance to attack before Bebeto lifted off, but he was flying around waiting for us.
He would regret that.
The moment Bebeto was in the air, the likes of luck would have nothing more to do with him.
‘I’ll obliterate you.’
“Block them! Catch them all!”
“Behead them all!”
I saw mercenaries under Ryker’s command shouting as if they had a lot of resentment built up and raising their shields towards the entrance to meet the soldiers’ charge. I had employed hundreds of mercenaries, but there were only a hundred at best fighting at the front, whereas Lukence’s men numbered at least three or four hundred.
However, I wasn’t worried about the entrance. There wouldn’t be anyone among the attackers on Ryker’s level.
‘Huhu, so you wanna play a round.’
The wyvern and Skyknight above were completely clueless about me. They were flying right in front of Bebeto, who had climbed in altitude in a few moments.
At that moment, I saw the light of a Blessed Spear.
An action that looked down on me.
I reached out and pulled out a spear.
Guooo! Bebeto roared as he flew straight towards our enemies.
KWAAAA! The enemy’s wyvern also charged straight towards us.
A match that couldn’t be avoided.
Was I afraid? Not even a little.
The only thing in my mind was a desire to see his Red. Hot. Blood.
* * *
‘Heheh, you foolish bastard.’
The fearless little rookie chose a frontal match.
According to the information, the opponent was a cadet who hadn’t been controlling a wyvern for very long. He was able to acquire a hybrid wyvern with some good luck, but not just anyone could become a Skyknight.
A match in the sky required more cool-headed ability than on the ground. Flight skills and guts, as well as familiarity with one’s wyvern. The mere act of comparing a rookie who had just gotten his own wyvern with I, someone who had been through a lot with my wyvern for 10 years, was laughable.
‘I’ll send you off in one shot!’
This ‘Kyre’ dared to fearlessly gather mercenaries and even take in people who were supposed to be dragged off as serfs. Without needing to report to Viscount Lukence, he simply came right away with the soldiers. An incident of this level should be settled by me. There was no need to gather the other Skyknights.
While glaring at the rookie, Palmir saw through the visor of his magic helmet that the distance between them was just 1 km. There was nowhere for that wyvern who only had size going for it to run. However, Palmir, a Skyknight of Viscount Lukence, closed the distance more and more, as if hunting a wild wyvern.
The moment they were within 500 meters, Palmir threw his fully charged Blessed Spear. The light of mana trailing behind it, the silver Blessed Spear shot off.
‘You’re dead! Rookie! Kuku.’
Even if the rookie attempted a dodge maneuver, at this distance, there was no way to avoid. The spear was already charging towards the enormous golden-striped wyvern’s heart.
Even as Palmir was imagining the sight of his spear punching through the wyvern’s heart, he let out a cry at the blue rays of light that suddenly flashed in front of the rookie’s wyvern.
He heard the impact too late.
Surprisingly, his spear crashed into something and rebounded down to the ground.
And a certain term, ‘magic swordsman,’ popped into Palmir’s head.
Along with that term came a wave of fear that traveled up his spine.
Then, he saw it. Because they had flown right at each other, the distance was only 100 meters. He saw the silver Blessed Spear in the rookie’s hand leveled at him.
He should be taking out another spear, but the white wave of fear made Palmir’s hand tremble like a leaf in the wind.
He glimpsed the spear cutting through space as it flew towards him.
The distance was short, not even 100 meters.
As he watched the spear flying towards him, an awful cry rang out in his mind.
Crunch! The heavy spear punched through his airplate.
It couldn’t go straight through because of the mithril armor, but the Blessed Spear had lodged itself deep into Palmir’s heart and was poking out his back.
There was no pain.
His consciousness drained into a field of white.
That was the last fragment of memory Palmir had in this world.
* * *
“Bebeto! Skewer him!”
The grey wyvern was unaware that a spear had ended his master’s life. As the distance between us closed, he cried out as he swerved and descended towards the ground on his own.
I gave Bebeto the order to skewer that wyvern.
Excited by the thrill of battle, Bebeto roared loudly enough to shake the heavens before plunging down towards the grey wyvern’s back.
As soon as Bebeto started chasing him, the wyvern fled like a fire was lit under his ass.
However, Bebeto hounded him with nearly double the speed and pierced the joint between the wings and the body with his sharp claws.
The grey wyvern let out a horrifying scream at the sudden pain.
Flap flap flaaaaap. Strong ol’ Bebeto dragged the struggling wyvern up into the sky with incredible strength.
“H-How can that be!”
The battle below stopped before it could even get fierce. Everyone saw the Skyknight leading them get killed and his wyvern get subdued.
Viscount Lukence’s soldiers screamed as they fled in all directions.
“Kyre-nim is victorious!”
The mercenaries and residents raised both fists high in the air as they cheered my victory.
“Bebeto! Let’s go down!”
They provoked me first. Standing here idly waiting for another attack was something only an idiot would do.
Excited by his own strength, Bebeto dragged the thrashing wyvern and landed on earth.
A wyvern easily weighing several tons was hurled onto the ground.
“At your command!”
Their faces flushed with excitement towards me, who easily captured a wyvern and landed on the ground, Derval and Ryker ran over.
“Gather the mercenaries! We are taking control of Denfors right now!”
The two were flustered by the sudden, extreme command.
“Derval, go inform the troops defending the city that a personal dispute between nobles has arisen. And Ryker, rally the mercenaries and follow me!”
“As you command!”
“I shall do my best to honor your command!” At my decisive command, Ryker whistled and rejoiced. “Hey! Everyone! It’s the boss’ orders! He wants to go strip Viscount Lukence’s mansion clean! Everyone, follow me!”
Without needing to hear any other orders, Ryker quickly moved to lead the mercenaries.
‘Lukence, I’ll catch you right off guard!’
There was no way Viscount Lukence could have imagined that I would create such a huge fuss when it hadn’t even been long since my assignment here.
I was determined to occupy Denfors, the city that could be called the heart of the Nerman Plains.
The battle was only beginning. With greater risk came greater excitement and more gain to win.
“Bebeto, let’s go!”
At my command, Bebeto let out a long cry as he flapped his lengthy wings.
“Let’s take them all down!”
“We’ll chase all those fuckers out of the city!!!!!”
Perhaps bolstered by the victory I showed them, the mercenaries whooped loudly.
“UHAHAHA! Today’s dinner will be a victory party! Everyone, charge!”
Thump thump thump thump thump.
The mercenaries charged like wild horses behind Ryker’s lead, as if all reason had flown out the window.
‘Lukence, let’s fight it out at once!’
My blade was already drawn.
The only thing left was to win the final battle.
* * *
“Yes. According to the report just now, the rookie baronet named Kyre forcefully occupied the city of Denfors.”
“What nonsense is that! How can he swallow Denfors?! There were Viscount Lukence’s soldiers and Palmir, so how??”
Janice, who had just returned from a patrol around her area of protection, was informed of an utterly ridiculous situation.
“Palmir was killed in aerial combat. Of the viscount’s 500 soldiers, the dead or seriously wounded number around 50, around 400 surrendered, and around 100 fled.”
The knight in charge of information gave a calm report.
“Holy, this is just ridiculous…”
“Kuku. I knew he wasn’t a normal rookie, but to take control of Denfors in just a few days… I’m gonna go nuts.”
Berketh and Atisann, who were always by Janice’s side because there weren’t that many Skyknights, were making dumbfounded expressions.
“This crazy… Viscount Lukence won’t stay still.”
There weren’t many of Viscount Lukence’s soldiers and knights stationed at Denfors. It was an easy feat to seize the city even with the men under Janice’s banner.
However, the problem was Viscount Lukence’s fierce attack that would surely follow.
The current Lukence had such a powerful military force that even the elite Bajran troops stationed in Nerman could not block them.
“This could be a good thing. We were going to get caught by Viscount Lukence if things went on like this anyway. It might not be a bad thing for us to use this opportunity to go at it with Lukence.”
“My liege, just like Berketh said, this is something that would have happened after a few months anyway. I also think this is a good opportunity to declare war with Viscount Lukence.”
While Janice was busy racking her brains, the Skyknights under her command advocated for an assertive offensive.
“The problem isn’t Lukence… It’s the guys behind him. Those guys, who can crush a place like this within a single breath….”
Fear trembled slightly in Janice’s eyes as she agonized.
Viscount Lukence was daunting too, but there was a helper behind him. She had recently confirmed that those guys, who even the Laviter Empire were helpless towards, had clasped hands with Lukence.
‘Kyre, this is your last chance. Come to me… That’s the only way you can survive.’
Kyre’s face appeared in her thoughts. A man with strange thoughts and black hair that was uncommon on the continent. A man of mystery who explosively achieved something Janice was to this day unable to put in motion.
She had no doubt.
That Kyre, pressured by all the military force at Lukence’s disposal—including Skyknights—would come looking for her help.
“From this moment onwards, we’re moving into a state of emergency. Have the knights and soldiers ready to move out at a moment’s notice!”
“As you command!”
Viscount Lukence’s base, Gadain Castle, was three or four hours on horseback from Denfors.
Janice decided to fight it out with Lukence as soon as Kyre came to her for help. In any case, if things went on like this, she would either die or have to flee.
She instinctively knew that it was time to draw the sword she had honed until now.
* * *
“372 surrendered, 57 died, around 80 escaped. Damage to the mercenaries: 1 dead, 7 injured. And we were able to rescue around 150 of those captured.”
The short battle with Viscount Lukence’s soldiers had occurred in moments. While we were at it, we seized control of Denfors with a flurry of commotion.
And now, Derval was reporting the results of the battle.
I organized the situation in my head with my eyes tightly closed.
‘Things happened faster than I had planned.’
Around now, Viscount Lukence had probably heard about the battle at Denfors.
I wasn’t even the one who started the fight, but things had developed into a game of King of the Hill where one of us had to die.
“Also, we were able to seize around 150,000 Gold in cash and hundreds of arms, including armor.”
‘150,000? Tastier than I thought.’
If his mansion in Denfors was like that, I couldn’t even imagine how much money must be at Viscount Lukence’s personal castle.
“What do you want to do now? Viscount Lukence won’t stay still…”
Even as he reported, the color of Derval’s face wasn’t so good. Anyone with a head on their shoulders should know how dangerous the current situation was.
“What else! We gotta rip them all apart!”
As if encouraged by our recent victory, Ryker exuded utter confidence.
“Derval, tell me what your thoughts are. What do you think I should do right now?”
I asked Derval, who was intelligent, unlike the stupidly confident Ryker.
“There are three methods available to you right now, my liege.”
“Hm? There’s three methods that aren’t just crushing them?”
“One, with Denfors as a base, control public sentiment and use volunteers as well as the mercenaries to start a full-fledged war. Two, join hands with Baroness Janice to battle Viscount Lukence’s forces. Three, simply seek asylum.”
Even Deral wouldn’t be able to come up with something amazing in this situation.
“Out of those methods, the one with the greatest chance of success is probably joining hands with Baroness Janice?” Ryker nodded his head at Derval’s words as he picked out the best method.
Baroness Janice’s face of iron came to mind.
‘She won’t offer to help first.’
The one who reached out first would end up under the other. I had the pride of a young man; unless it was the woman I loved, I didn’t want to bend the knee to a lady.
“The problem is that this has to be resolved quickly. When the order to formally withdraw the troops comes from the empire soon, it’s a given that Nerman will fall into Viscount Lukence’s hands. On top of that, the 20,000+ conscripted men left behind will all go to Viscount Lukence. If that happens… there will be no solution.”
No other words were necessary.
“But my liege…” The listening Ryker quietly called me his liege.
“Do you have something to say?”
“It’s just…” Ryker scratched his head as he spoke. “What are you trying to do here? What in the world do you want to do here on these cursed plains, which will soon be taken over by monsters or pirates, or those Laviter Empire bastards? Unless your head isn’t full of rocks, you wouldn’t want to become the lord.”
Ryker doubted my current actions and asked honestly.
Derval looked at me as if he was curious, too. He had stirred the beehive that was Viscount Lukence like I ordered in the spur of the moment, but he also didn’t know what my ultimate goal was.
“W-What do you mean by ‘just cause’…”
“Sir Ryker, would you stop to think before you defend against an orc that comes charging at you on the street, wanting to kill you? If you got hit by a poison arrow and your life or death was in flux, would you first make sure you knew who the witnesses were before getting treatment?”
“I’m the same way. I was simply assigned here, and someone named Lukence is a very dangerous guy for my continued life here, and I’m simply doing my very best in order to survive. There’s no other reason. I make sure my life is preserved before looking around me. The real reason is that I’m no high priest living with some noble mentality of sacrifice, but an ordinary human just trying to survive.”
Silence enveloped the room for a moment.
“Derval, where is the captured wyvern?”
“We have temporarily tied it up in Bebeto’s hangar. The injury to its wings is considerable, so it shouldn’t be able to escape.”
Pierced at the tendons by Bebeto’s steel claws, the wyvern was severely injured. I couldn’t just leave it.
“Hire some fleet-footed mercenaries or informers to observe Viscount Lukence’s movements.”
“As you command!”
At my words, unlike Ryker, who was still lost in thought, Derval shouted acquiescence with vigor. Because Derval was someone who believed in me and followed me no matter what I did, he didn’t ask much. And I liked that part about him.
We were creatures living day by day without knowing what was to come.
What kind of huge aspirations or hopes could we possibly have?
We simply held onto one dream that made us happy just thinking about it and rushed forward day by day towards it.
That alone was enough.
Everything else besides that dream was a luxury.
They were merely decorations unnecessary for those living in the here and now.