21st Century Archmage - Chapter 49
Chapter 49: Condition
After hastily making my decision, we flew one hour north. In the North, besides mountains that were like small hills, everything was flat plainsland. Thanks to the sky lacking a single wisp of cloud, I could see quite far ahead, and I was able to find the group of soldiers pretty fast. The problem was that the soldiers I found were scrambling to flee in all directions and that I had a bad feeling that one of the people I was had to meet was right under a huge flock of wyverns.
‘Wut? H-How many is that exactly?’
Because the messenger said it was an attack of Temir tribal folk, I had slightly let down my guard. But the massive horde of wyverns in front of me smashed that feeling to pieces.
‘One, two—! Uwaah! It’s got to be at least thirty!’
Drawing huge circles in the air like vultures circling corpses, the wyverns went around and around in the air. A rough count yielded over thirty.
‘But those guys, they don’t even have armor?’
It wasn’t just that the wyverns lacked protective magic gear, but the Skyknights were also not wearing airplates. They were only holding leather armor that glowed blue and Blessed Spears. The wyverns they were riding had what looked like magic circles drawn on them, but were actually just strange figures and letters.
‘Dammit. I’m not even Godzilla, Savior of Mankind here…’ Even for me, the thirty wyverns dizzying my eyes was a burdensome number. ‘Do I save them, or not?’
I was still about 4 km away from the enemies. They must have not yet seen me, because the wyverns didn’t change directions.
But I agonized a moment. If I turned tail here, that was that, but if I was discovered by them, I would have to fight a round with my life on the line.
However, my agonizing didn’t last long. Reincarnation of fighting cock gangster, the go-getter Bebeto, threw all caution to the wind and loudly announced his existence to the thirty enemies.
‘Alright, thank you oh so much! Sigh!’
At Bebeto’s roar, the thirty wyverns were visibly startled. They swerved to fly towards us. Now, a fight was unavoidable.
I picked up Blessed Spears with both hands.
‘W-Wait a sec! I don’t have enuff!!!!!’
I only brought around 20 Blessed Spears with me, because I wouldn’t need more than that, right? Right? But the enemy numbered over thirty. No matter how you added and subtracted, the numbers didn’t add up.
‘Oh, right! I have that guy!’
Just then, I suddenly remembered a certain existence. As long as I ordered it, it would even dare to bite a dragon on the nose.
“Shuriel, come on!”
That’s right, it was a special existence called a spirit! Responding to my powerful summoning, a silver eagle of wind appeared in the world.
“Shuriel! Go bite to your heart’s content!”
Flash! As soon as my order fell, the wind spirit Shuriel shot off at the speed of light.
‘Geh!’ I groaned inwardly as my mana was sucked out in proportion to that speed.
‘Wait a sec… those guys are all wyverns, aren’t they?!’
The moment I was about to pour mana into the Blessed Spears, a thought occurred to me—the wyverns swarming in the sky weren’t enemies, but lumps of money.
‘Uhuhu… What kind of pie from the sky is this?’
A wyvern was priced at over 1 million a pop. Unfortunately, they didn’t have enspelled gear, but I would be very grateful for the wyverns alone. I put down the Blessed Spears in my hands. If they hit wyverns without any enspelled gear, the wyverns could die.
‘You’re all mine.’
I had to catch them all in one go without giving them a chance to escape.
Guoooooooo! It wasn’t clear whether Bebeto had complete faith in me or was just cracked in the head and had no fear anymore. He roared excitedly as he charged at full speed.
And before I knew it, the enemy Skyknights were just 2 km away. They must have been looking down at my charge, because only the first five at the front were putting mana in their Blessed Spears.
As I watched them, I drew my mana up to the utmost.
* * *
It was a 1 on 30 battle, but Count Yaix and his knights felt like drowning men who would clutch at straws.
The sudden appearance of the intermediate spirit revived a flush of hope in them, but they were then plunged into despair upon seeing the Skyknight lower his Blessed Spears. It was obvious at a glance that he had given up on life. Their one scrap of hope disappeared into the wind.
Fwip fwip fwip fwip fwip.
As they watched in despair, Blessed Spears were fired off from the Temir tribal Skyknights’ hands.
Even as the Blessed Spears shot off, the intermediate spirit Shuriel bit down with all its strength on the wing of the wyvern at the very front.
You could imagine just how hard the spirit must have chomped down for the wyvern to scream while circling in an uncontrollable descent to land. It seemed the wyvern had suffered such a huge injury that it could no longer use its right wing.
Yaix’s knights couldn’t even laugh at Shuriel’s actions. A loud explosion suddenly burst out in the air.
“W-Wind Tornado!! How can they use 5th Circle magic during flight?!” exclaimed Yaix’s personal mage, Halmyne, in surprise.
Normally, even if a spell was memorized, it could only be cast if one’s position and concentration were stabilized. But surprisingly enough, the Skyknight above was riding a wyvern and precisely casting magic even in such a critical situation. He was either someone with a ton of courage, or just plain reckless.
The unknown Skyknight shot down the Blessed Spears with magic as he laughed loudly enough to shake the skies.
Ziiiiiiinnng! Along with his laughter, the radiance of mana burst from the Skyknight’s body.
Highly compressed shots of mana cut through the sky.
“Consecutive Wind Cutter cast! Ohhhh….”
From Halmyne’s mouth came a long sound of admiration. It wasn’t just the consecutive casting. Even for a 5th Circle mage, anyone who could cast twice in that position or situation would be called an incredible master. But surprisingly, the unidentified Skyknight didn’t just cast once or twice, but seven times.
The wyvern bitten by the spirit lost its balance and screamed as it crash landed on earth. It didn’t have any enspelled gear, so it had taken a critical injury on the important wing joint where it was bitten.
The Temir Skyknights who had been charging in so confidently screamed in a foreign language. Their numbers had given them the advantage, but in terms of defense, the Temir coalition’s wyverns were desperately disadvantaged. Pushed back by the white blasts of 4th Circle spells, they lost their nerves.
The wyverns had looked down on their opponent and flown over in a dense cluster. Each Wind Cutter ripped up a wing and sent one wyvern crashing to earth. Wyvern leather had the special property of mostly resisting 4th Circle magic, but in front of the blades of a spell filled with almost 5th Circle mana, their hides were like pig skin.
The wyverns flapped their torn wings as they rapidly descended from a height of at least 50 meters and kissed the earth.
As one group of wyverns entangled with magic and crashed down, the other wyverns swerved left and right at rapid speeds as they turned. Having lost their will to fight, the Temir Skyknights turned tail and they fled. Their confidence as they triumphantly teased the soldiers vanished, leaving only the pathetic appearances of cowards.
“I-It’s a hybrid wyvern!”
While Count Yaix’s mages and knights were reeling in shock at the unbelievable victory, they saw it—the wyvern that saved them from death was a taboo hybrid wyvern despised in the empire.
Flap, flap flap flap.
Once the Temir wyverns had fled far away, the hybrid wyvern slowly landed in front of Count Yaix. The wyvern’s mighty black body that represented the Bajran Empire and the golden stripes gleaming in the sun made everyone stare in awe.
Thump. A Skyknight wrapped in a crimson cloak undid his safety ring and jumped to the ground. Then he walked towards Count Yaix.
The Skyknight opened his magic helmet with a click, revealing…
Underneath the helmet was a strange and still-young face. Seeing a black-haired man with handsome features—a face entirely different from what they imagined—everyone let out low murmurs.
“Greetings to Count Yaix. I am from Weyn Covert, Baronet Kyre de Adaron.”
Holding the helmet in the crook of his left arm, Baronet Kyre raised his right hand in the manner of knights. The knights’ faces filled with doubt upon finding out that the young man had a title that didn’t match his enormous skill. For a person of this much skill, you wouldn’t be able to acquire such a talented man even if you gave him a viscount, no, a count title.
“Well met. I am Count Yaix de Levuanin.”
Unlike the knights and mages, Count Yaix nodded as he accepted Kyre’s greeting in stride.
Kyre and Yaix’s gazes clashed in the air, generating figurative sparks.
Then, a small smile formed on Kyre’s lips.
Stomp stomp stomp!
One of the Temir wyverns, whose wings were ripped up but was otherwise uninjured, roared angrily as it ran over.
“Bebeto, step on it,” commanded Kyre with a quiet voice.
Guooooooooo! Flying into the air at once, the wyvern named Bebeto roared in happiness.
The bulky hybrid wyvern flew into the air with ease and proceeded to trample the other, looking entirely insane.
The nervous swallowing of the onlookers was audible.
This black-haired handsome man who was smiling silently…
Everyone quietly pledged to never make him an enemy in the future.
* * *
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* * *
“Allow me to extend my formal thanks.”
“It is nothing. That was my obvious duty as a knight of His Imperial Majesty.”
“I’m thankful that you put it that way.”
‘He’s really a knightly noble,’ I thought. A person’s eyes didn’t lie.
After repulsing the Temir people’s wyverns, we all departed immediately to save a village called Haiton. Once the wyverns that were harassing them disappeared, Count Yaix’s soldiers gathered and pushed back the monster horde in an instant.
And now, I was speaking one on one with Count Yaix. Haiton was closer to a fort than a village. We were sitting in an office for the top officers, our eyes meeting.
“But it’s truly surprising. I didn’t hear that there was a genius mage like you in the empire. And to be a mage who can summon a spirit at that…”
As if curious, Yaix asked my identity in a roundabout way.
He must have clearly seen my skill in magic. No matter how much of a genius you were, the 5th Circle wasn’t a stage that could be reached by someone of my age. Moreover, there was likely no one on the continent who could summon spirits on top of that.
“That is a misunderstanding. I am a mage, but not a summoner.”
“You’re not a summoner? But then how was the intermediate spirit summoned?”
“That was because of this,” I said, extending my arm and showing the silver bracelet my master had put on.
“Hooh, it seems like a very valuable magic item.”
“It is indeed. It is a spirit artifact given to me by my esteemed teacher. As long as one is wearing this, one can summon an intermediate wind spirit.”
“So that’s how it is…”
Yaix was a knight who could use mana. Even a knight like him could tell that Master’s dimensional travel bracelet was extraordinary. This bracelet was an extremely high level item that even a mage wouldn’t be able to comprehend.
“But how in the world did you end up all the way here? Weyn Covert is a place that doesn’t suit a man of your talent.”
“It must be the intent of God. And the punishment of the people towards someone who owns a hybrid wyvern, as well.”
“Mm… I see.”
Count Yaix nodded at the mention of my hybrid wyvern. He too was a noble of the empire, so he could probably grasp the gist of why I was here.
“But sir, may I ask why the Temir have so many wyverns?”
Now it was my turn to satisfy my curiosity.
“I also find that point strange. Even if wyvern eggs are acquired, in order to purify them, a considerable amount of time and attention are necessary. They have completely broken that common sense, to the point that it makes me doubt whether they are banging wyverns out like swords. In particular, the group attacks of the bastards are getting worse this year.”
‘That’s not good news.’
Strong enemies were already all over the place, but I was getting some foreboding new information. If they started wearing magic gear as well, then there would be no way to counter them.
‘Bebeto, you brat, I told you to do it lightly.’
Because Haiton was a village for military use, it also had five hangars. Five captured wyverns were stuffed into them. Their wings were ripped, so they needed a long period of recovery.
After getting beaten a few times by Bebeto while resisting, they were dragged all the way here on foot. Of course, the two males snapped out of their shock and defied Bebeto, but they were excitedly crushed and became meek. On the other hand, the female wyverns surrendered in advance due to Bebeto’s thick muscles and obediently followed us to Haiton.
And now, the mental re-education was taking place. I could tell from the screams that Bebeto was decisively educating the male wyverns that defied him.
“Haha. Your wyvern is on a different level from the wyverns I know. He may be a hybrid wyvern, but I’m surprised that he’s that feral.”
“A man should have at least that much drive.”
“Drive? Puhaha! It seems he’s taken after you,” Yaix said, bursting out in good-natured laughter.
I didn’t deny those words. In my eyes, a man should have the charm of the rough wilderness. Smooth at times and rough at times, wasn’t that the charm of a man?
“That aside… What to do about this. You did your best to save me and my soldiers, but there’s nothing I can do for you…”
‘Ara? Is he saying he can’t give me the dough?’
Count Yaix was uttering words that veered off course from the common sense I attached to this place. His hard, chiseled face flushed a little.
“Haha. How could materialistic matters be of any import when it comes to something done for His Imperial Majesty the Emperor and the empire? The hides of the wyverns that died are more than enough payment.”
Seven wyverns had crashed down. Among them, two must have landed head-first, because they had died with broken necks. It couldn’t compare to their price when alive, but just their hide and bones could sell for at least 100,000 Gold.
“How very admirable. For a man like you to come here… How about it, any desire to follow me back to the mainland? It would be fine if you became a Skyknight in the service of my territory, if you choose to not serve the imperial family. I would also guarantee a title of at least a viscount.”
As I masked my pretense with a fake laugh, Yaix nodded and tried to scout me.
“I am thankful for your intent. However, this is a post granted to me by His Imperial Majesty the Emperor. I will work towards Nerman’s peace with my life on the line in accordance with his order.”
“Sigh… I know your feelings well. But it seems there’s no need for that anymore. You must have heard the rumors, but the empire has already decided to give up on Nerman. I will tell you since it’s something you will come to know anyway—the withdrawal order has already come down; orders for the imperial troops have been issued to return to the empire within two months.”
Hearing the decision that was faster than I expected bewildered me for a moment.
“Then what will happen to the citizens left here? Also, where are the native conscripted soldiers supposed to go….?”
I pretty much knew that answer, but I wanted to make sure.
“Nerman is not under the emperor’s direct jurisdiction anyway and it is not a territory with a lord. It was only a provisional province. The moment the empire gives up on this place, the citizens and the conscripted natives will be left behind. The empire cannot currently accept them…”
“Don’t worry too much. I will most likely transfer all authority to Viscount Lukence. If that happens, he should be able to independently maintain a certain level of security.”
‘Hooh, that can’t happen.’
This was where things got important. I had to turn the tides to my favor.
“In regards to that, there’s something I wish to say.”
Putting on a severe expression, I solemnly relayed that I had something of importance to say.
“It seems like an important matter. Shall we drink a glass?”
“I will gladly accept.”
As if to confirm that he was a man of many years, he read my expression.
“It’s not precious alcohol, but it is alcohol that I enjoy. It is potent, but it is alcohol fit for men who hold no grudges.”
To begin with, our conversation was just between the two of us, without any aides. Yaix picked up a blue bottle that was in the office.
Yaix poured blue-colored alcohol into glasses made of tin.
“For the great Emperor and the peace of the empire!” toasted Count Yaix.
I raised my glass high, then emptied it into my mouth.
The two of us groaned at the same time.
The words ‘my mouth is on fire’ were made for this moment. As the alcohol went down my gullet, my insides burned. A hot and numb energy like I swallowed lava electrified my senses.
“Haah…” I breathed out.
‘It really is manly.’
As the strong alcohol went down, the faint smell of wine snaked out of my mouth.
“This is the taste. This is the alcohol my senior knight recommended me when I was struggling with murder in my first battle. The name of the alcohol is Lukasisnia. In the ancient language, it means ‘friend of oblivion.’”
Yaix gazed at the glass as if looking at a friend.
‘I feel like I’ll get addicted to it too.’
This fiery, hot alcohol, lukasisnia, was one with the feelings of a warrior charging towards his enemies. The name of the alcohol was already engraved deep in my soul.
“Now, tell me. What is it that you wish to say to me?”
Turning his gaze from the glass, Yaix looked at me with his calm brown eyes.
“Please give them to me.”
Yaix looked at me questioningly at my sudden request.
“Instead of transferring them to Viscount Lukence, please give all of your soldiers to me.”
“The soldiers? To you?” asked the count in surprise.
“You must know as well, sir. How the viscount named Lukence has been treating the residents here. If you give all the soldiers to someone like him, you will be no different from the empire nobles that are throwing Nerman away as if tossing away an old shoe. A wicked noble who forces others to live a life more disgraceful than death in the name of the best choice.”
I instinctively knew that there was no need for something like feeble rhetoric with the man in front of me. I had to win him over heart to heart with all my sincerity.
My words apparently made him tense; Yaix’s glass trembled as he clenched it.
“Those words just now… can you take responsibility?”
The count looked at me straight in the eye, his voice quiet but full of dignity.
I nodded. “If you give me the chance, sir, I will guard Nerman in a way that does not disgrace the name of the empire.”
I answered with a passionate heart.
“Are you confident? Confident that you can protect this place where there are monsters everywhere and only enemies to be found with your own power?”
“All people die. But not all people die in the same way. Those who live their lives with passion before they go will die noble deaths to suit them, whereas those who live dirty and disgracefully will only have mouldy, dark deaths that suit them. I intend to live passionately and fiercely before I go. A life that I won’t regret even in death, that kind of stormy life.”
Saying that someone who lived day after day without hesitation would have the same kind of death as someone who lived with greed and disgrace was wrong.
A moment of silence ensued. Casting his gaze away from me, Yaix stared at his glass.
“Alright. I will do as you wish.”
I cheered on the inside at Yaix’s definite answer, which I couldn’t have predicted. He was a commander without any decent wyverns, but at his one word, thousands of trained men could come under my banner.
“Only, I have a condition.”
However, such a big matter wouldn’t be resolved so easily.
“Show me that you have the qualifications to handle this place instead of Viscount Lukence.”
The count suddenly brought up qualifications.
“What kind of qualifications are you talking about…?”
“I will give you exactly one month of time. In that time, knock down Lukence. If you do so, I will give you not only the soldiers that you want, but also all of the military goods necessary.”
The proposal was indeed extraordinary, but it was natural that he would attach a condition. Just because my skills were outstanding didn’t mean I could easily prove that I could defend Nerman with my strength alone. Moreover, Lukence was a person who had built up his strength for ten years here on the Nerman Plains. If it were me, I would also choose to transfer my soldiers to Lukence, whose skills were already proven, rather than a rookie like me. There were a lot of nobles worse than Lukence anyway.
“I understand. As you wish, I will try to prove my ability.”
“Haha. That’s right. If you’re a knight, it’s only right to prove your sense of responsibility and ability before you assert your rights. Kyre, do your best. I will be watching.”
Yaix burst out with a generous laugh at my affirmative response.
“Alright! Then let us have another glass. To commemorate meeting a friend like you, I should do no less than empty this entire bottle.”
The count filled up my glass without reserve, treating me like an old friend.
“Thank you very much. I dedicate this glass to the God of Fate, Romero, who allowed me to meet the Count.”
Before I knew it, my glass was full of potent wine. I knocked back the whole glass.
The glass of spirits disappeared as it burned the inside of my mouth to numbness.
The alcohol felt like the words I had uttered.
That hot, fiery, and intense taste…
It was an alcohol that was truly similar to the kind of life I dreamed of.