21st Century Archmage - Chapter 57
Chapter 57: There’s No Such Thing as Free
“What of the migration of the monsters?”
“They have not yet begun moving south.”
“Be certain to not let your guard down.”
“I will bear that in mind, sir.”
It was now late at night. Though I was tired because of the continuous patrols, I called for a meeting.
“Sir Ryker, is the organization of soldiers complete?”
“Of course, haha. Who am I? Two infantry battalions have been made with the most decent soldiers, including 500 mounted units, and two battalions have been made for the reserve troops. At the same time, I took volunteers from the mercenaries and turned them into a detached force.”
“You did well. From tomorrow onwards, we will formally come to possess 20,000 soldiers, including the defense force stationed at Denfors, so just be aware of that.”
“Huhu. 20,000 soldiers… A force of that size makes it greater than that of a duke.”
Ryker, who was somehow quite knowledgeable, made a cunning smile. Well, a woman might see that smile as charming, but I could only see it as almost perverted.
“My liege, how do you wish to proceed regarding the mage? He is, at least in name, part of a magic tower that controls the continent…”
Once the conversation was at its end, Derval asked with a worried expression how we should deal with the rude mage.
“Lock him up. If I don’t stamp down his high and mighty nose this time, he’ll continue to make things annoying in the future.”
Derval didn’t ask twice.
‘You dare covet the wealth I acquired with my blood, sweat, and tears? You’re dead meat!’
If I were an archmage like my teacher, Bumdalf, I would want to fly over with Warp and let loose Hellfire. Whoever fearlessly tried to persecute me would only receive a Gundam Shining Finger.
“Ryker, do you know if there is an Information Guild in Nerman as well?”
“Information Guild? Of course. Those guys are vicious bastards who have even planted guild members among the Temir.”
“Really? Then you must know where the Information Guildmaster must be?”
“Naturally. We are friends who drink alcohol together as we enjoy life.”
‘Enjoy life, my ass.’
It was obvious that their friendship was a rotten one where they spent a fiery night together in that place which stimulated my imagination and only made me have empty dreams.
“Go lock him up.”
“It seems you haven’t read over the contract well; if you defy a command, your month’s wages are revoked.”
“*Salute* I will go lock him up right away!”
As soon as money came up, Ryker turned serious and let out a salute. He then scrambled out the door with utmost haste.
“Everyone, go rest. There will be much to do tomorrow as well.”
“As you command!”
Even if there were 48 hours in a day rather than just 24, it wouldn’t be enough right now. I felt gratitude towards these knights, who believed in a mere kid like me as their liege and toughed it out.
‘In a time like this, it would be perfect to lounge in a pension with a sea view and eat grilled pork belly…’
I had tagged along on my parents’ vacations a few times and reminisced now on the magnificent views of the east and west coasts and the breaks spent in beautiful pensions.
‘I have to make a summer house for sure! In the most cool and beautiful place in the world!’
Yet another humble dream was planted in my heart.
Nothing big, just a 7-star hotel and one small lake-sized swimming pool and a palatial villa on, oh, just 300k sq. meters of land.
Here, your imaginations could come to life.
That was possible on the Kallian Continent, a land of opportunity.
* * *
A historical military ceremony was unfolding before my eyes. Gichangs (spears with flags attached to the poles) gleamed dazzlingly under the sun, standing proudly in a wide field outside Orakk Castle. 5,000 imperial mainland soldiers departing for a long journey and 10,000 Nerman soldiers bidding them farewell assumed ‘At Attention’ positions.
“Salute to the Commander!”
The soldiers shouted their salute as they raised their right arms in the air and laid their left hands on their chests with disciplined movements.
It was the frickin’ bomb. Just like how I felt when I saw the Knight Academy entrance ceremony in the past, I felt a surge of emotion in my chest.
‘That’s so fucking cool!’
The armor, swords, and spears were old, but well polished. The soldiers radiated a frosty air as they saluted their commander all these years, Yaix, with the hearts of men.
“You have all worked hard. Those of you who are leaving and those of you who are staying, you will all be eternal comrades in my heart. Thank you… my soldiers.”
Great speeches were short, as a rule. At the word ‘comrade,’ the expressions of the soldiers twisted in pain. How could they ever forget the leader who had always charged at the monsters or enemies by their sides?
“To the soldiers staying in Nerman, you will now serve a new leader. As all of you have probably seen and heard, this man standing next to me, Sir Kyre, is a braver knight than any I know. By all means, follow Sir Kyre and realize the dreams in your hearts!”
Full of mana, Count Yaix’s words resonated loudly along the castle walls. Every soldier’s line of sight naturally moved to me.
Currently, I was standing tall and proud with the crimson Bajran Empire Skyknight cloak, a gleaming silver airplate, and a black scarf fluttering slightly in the wind around my neck. I felt so cool that even Yon-sama wouldn’t be my opponent.
[TN: Yon-sama refers to Bae Yong-joon, the main lead in the drama Winter Sonata, which was extremely well received overseas.]
“Say a word to your soldiers, Lord Kyre.”
I was inwardly surprised by Yaix suddenly calling me a lord. In order to become a lord, one had to have a baron title at the least, as well as the permission of the Emperor. Despite that, Count Yaix was giving me a warm smile as he called me a lord.
“Thank you, Commander.” I gave Yaix a short nod and turned to the soldiers, whose gazes were all concentrated on me. “I will keep it short. There is only one thing I will say to you all! Follow me! The result of that will be… shown by the gods!”
Heavy with mana, my baritone voice rang out and delivered a truly short few words. However, my whole spirit was imbued in them.
How could I, a mere human, judge myself? If there was anyone to judge my actions, it would only be God.
‘Did they get too emotional?’
Even though they were words given by the person who would be their new leader, the soldiers were just staring blankly at me in utter silence.
Clap clap clap clap clap.
Just then, I heard Count Yaix’s energetic clapping from next to me.
With his clapping as a starting point, the powerful yells of the Nerman soldiers came bursting out on the field.
They were probably happy. The soldiers could now lay their uncertain futures on me. If I were them, I would also want to scream my head off.
‘Just listen to me well. I will give you the best treatment on the continent!’
I didn’t live my life with lies. I always lived while taking responsibility for my words.
And I would return the faith of thousands, tens of thousands, no, hundreds of thousands of residents.
How? They would get the benefit of being great subjects allowed to live in my paradise!
* * *
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* * *
Count Yaix left.
Leaving Orakk Castle behind him, he led 5,000 soldiers on his wyvern and departed on the road towards the Bajran Empire.
Of course, I did not send him empty-handed. He had left behind all of the military items, money, and even the wyvern armors and airplates that could not be acquired. I sent him on his way with some of the items I got from the pirates—five Grade 4 magic crystals and one Grade 3 magic crystal, as well as 10 demon beast hides that he would use as bribes for the nobles.
However, that was nothing compared to what he gave me. I would repay him in full later, with interest.
After Yaix’s departure, what was left were Orakk Castle’s 10,000 soldiers and the 10,000 soliders in various Nerman forts, including Denfors, as well as 40 knights who were dazedly watching their liege depart.
I thought at least ten of them would go with Yaix, but not a single one left. The Nerman soldiers who participated in the farewell ceremony and the soldiers on the castle wall were all looking at me and the knights.
A rather long silence stretched out.
However, not a single person opened their mouths.
“What fine weather.”
Spring had passed and the season was steadily changing to summer. Perhaps as a result of the huge mountains stretching out on both sides blocking the wind, the gently blowing breeze warmed under the sun’s rays and gave me a good feeling.
As I stood with my hands behind my back and looked up into the sky, many gazes converged on me. It was now time to settle things.
“What kind of dream will you give us?” asked the middle-aged knight named Shailt de Herzian as he stared at me with a burning gaze.
“I will give you the right to die.”
The knights watched my mouth intently with their red eyes.
“For Skyknights, the right to die in the sky, for the knights on horseback, the right to die bravely with the enemies in battle. For my sake, and for the lives of all of the Nerman’s residents!”
‘Kya, it’s just too cool.’
It didn’t suit the solemn mood, but whatever. These words, which sounded cool even to my ears, were cool, alright?
A short moment of silence ensued. Then…
“I, Shailt de Herzian, wish to give my heartfelt thanks to the Overseer of Fate, Romero, for granting me the opportunity to meet my liege. Until the day my life comes to an end, I will become my liege’s honor!”
After Shailt, the other knights fell to one knee as well.
“I, Barmens de Zilvain, will forever walk by my liege’s side as I give prayers to the Goddess of Victory and become my liege’s sword until the day this sword of mine breaks!”
“I, Atislaine de Aesfort…”
The knights’ passionate vows continued.
My whole body shivered.
These knights were giving off an entirely different vibe compared to when Baroness Janice and her Skyknights gave me their vows of loyalty.
It was hot.
These were vows of loyalty from knights whose words came from the passionate hearts of those who had lost everything.
And so, the ceremony came to an end after 40 knights called out their names and the names of gods.
“Thank you… Now you are all my swords and shields.”
‘Shit, I’m about to cry.’
This feeling of not having leveled up but getting high-level equipment…
I hardened my resolve to do my best to live well with these people.
“Temir wyverns have appeared!”
Clang! Clang! Clang!
Wyverns blanketing the sky roared thunderously as soldiers cried out in alarm.
‘Right on time.’
Unlike the soldiers, I was the picture of calm.
Among the roars was Bebeto’s familiar voice. After dropping me off, he had waited in preparation in a place far from sight with the other wyverns and was coming here right on time.
“Ah! Th-that is—!”
“A golden-striped wyvern!”
“It’s the lord’s wyvern!”
The soldiers recognized Bebeto, who had saved their lives, as my wyvern.
I blew a shrill, mana-charged whistle.
Hearing my whistle, Bebeto circled once in the sky before landing on the ground with flaps of his enormous wings.
The grey wyverns I took from Viscount Lukence and the Temir wyverns followed suit, positioning themselves behind him.
As ten wyverns landed all at once, a huge cloud of dust was kicked up.
However, not a single person moved.
And shortly afterwards, the dust settled, revealing a magnificent scene.
The sight of the enormous wyverns with saddles on their backs overwhelmed everyone watching.
“Skyknights, go to the wyvern you like.”
Shocked cries came from the Skyknights.
“This is a gift I owe you. My knights, our dreams begin from this moment forth!”
Skyknights who had lost their wyverns were once again granted the ability to fly.
Skyknights would never forget the taste of the blue sky, even into death.
The Skyknights gave muffled sobs. And turned their red eyes towards me.
The last of their doubts disappeared, replaced by a vow of bitter tears.
They were now truly my knights.
* * *
Bebeto’s wings cut through the skies of the northern plains.
‘So this is how it feels to fly in a formation.’
Ten wyverns were following behind me. Having received strict education from Bebeto, the wyverns took the Skyknights as their new masters without complaint. And so, a formation made of eleven wyverns was created.
‘It’s seriously like a flock of geese.’
Wyvern or geese, they weren’t all that different in flight. The leader took the front and the other wyverns winged out in a V-formation behind.
The feeling of flying under the gently drifting clouds was more addicting than eating wagyu steaks grilled to perfection.
‘This place is covered with mountains.’
Unlike the South, which was almost entirely made up of plains, the northern region was shingled with mountains about a thousand meters high in altitude and mountains a little smaller than that.
‘It’s about a 1 hour and 30 minute flight from Orakk Castle…’
Our current location was pretty far away even from the furthest-out village in the North, Haiton Fort.
‘In the end, I guess I’ll have to make a large-scale defensive fort at Haiton.’
We came out here partly because I wanted to give the Skyknights their first taste of the sky in a while, but also because I wanted to scout the terrain.
Nerman has pretty much become my land now. Like all landowners believe, the bigger your land was the better, and I never wanted to forgive anyone who invaded my land.
‘So over these hills are the Temir, huh.’
One massive peak marked the informal line between Nerman and the Temir. The mountain, still topped by snow from the winter, looked to be almost 3,000 meters high.
‘The problem is that it’ll take people as well as money to build a large fort… And I don’t have much time.’
The news that I had become Nerman’s owner would reach the Temir as well. I had somehow negotiated matters with the pirates, but my enemies were all around, including the monsters, the Laviter Empire, and even the Havis Kingdom, which I had not yet conducted formal diplomacy with. In order to preserve my life among all those enemies, building up my forces and strong fortifications as soon as possible was the best method.
‘With ten Skyknights, the Temir won’t be able to attack easily.’
After clashing with me, the Temir tribes didn’t appear again even once. They would probably get an even bigger shock once their wyverns appeared in front of them as enemies.
‘Is it possible to make a fort up to my standards with the current construction techniques here?’
Whenever I had time, I would examine Nerman’s terrain from the air. Compared to the view from the ground, one could see the lay of the land more precisely from above.
My mind was busy drawing out Nerman’s important forts.
I would have to discuss it further with the knights, but my heart was impatient.
The monster life was much more bountiful here than in other places. Upon seeing the wyverns, one familiar-looking ogre swarm waggled their large rumps as they fled.
Bebeto, who was always primed to earn money, let out a vigorous roar as he began to plummet towards the ogres.
‘Huhu. If these ten wyverns just get one per day…’
Each ogre would go for 500 Gold a pop. If each wyvern caught one during their patrols, it would be 5,000 Gold. All sorts of money could be extracted using these Skyknights alone.
The other Skyknights, who were following me in a descent to the ground, had no idea.
They wouldn’t be able to understand the meaning of the satisfied smile on my lips.
* * *
“I shall temporarily entrust the northern army to Sir Shailt.”
“Your wish is my command!”
I gave temporary leadership of the army to Shailt, the person among the Skyknights who was seen as the most skilled and recognized as a leader. Unlike Janice and Ryker, the knights gathered here in the meeting room were much better informed about the northern front lines. I could feel their eager loyalty.
“I heard that the imperial troops that left for the empire with Count Yaix were strong. Will there be no problems even if those soldiers are gone?”
“You need not worry, sir! It is true that the imperial soldiers are strong, but the native Nerman soldiers have also received systematic training and have honed their swords in previous battles! As long as you leave it to them, they can definitely defend the territory from the monsters and enemies alike.”
We were in a meeting hall where a joint meeting with dozens of knights in Orakk Castle could be conducted. One young knight taking up a spot in the meeting room told me to not worry with a confident voice.
“Your name is Sir Fairmont, correct?”
“Yes, my liege!”
Seeing as I remembered his name even though he had said it only once during his vow of loyalty, the knight in his mid-twenties looked at me with a flushed face and ardent eyes. He was sitting at the very end, so it seemed it hadn’t been long since he was appointed as a knight.
As long as you were a formal land-owning noble with at least a baron title, you could appoint your own territory knights. They fell short of formal knights who graduated from imperial or kingdom knight academies, but in the territory, they ranked right underneath nobles.
“I believe in you. No, in all the knights here.”
I couldn’t scold and nitpick from the very first day like a narrow-minded person. It was my style to encourage people thoroughly when it was time to do so.
“That aside, is there anything else I should know?”
At my query, the knights’ faces reddened.
‘Alright, alright, I understand.’
Food stocks were low everywhere in Nerman. Moreover, thanks to the empire cutting off all aid, there were probably more than just a few things they were running low on.
“Tell the soldiers that they will have 2 Gold per month as wages, and that they will be distributed plenty of military items, including provisions.”
“Ah! T-Two Gold??”
The knights were shocked by the amount I stated. They weren’t even elite soldiers dispatched from the empire, but native Nerman soldiers—at best, they would receive 5 Silvers a month, which was barely enough to fill their bellies. However, I raised their wages by a whopping four times. Of course the knights would be surprised.
“Also, the Skyknights will receive 2,000 Gold a month, the regular knights will receive between 200 to 1,000 Gold depending on their rank, the lieutenants 500 Gold, the centurions 100 Gold, and the captains 10 Gold each.”
If you spend, spend all the way, and when you trample, trample until they die. Actually, the wage I offered was small potatoes compared to what the Skyknights belonging to the Imperial Family earned, but to the people here right now, it was an enormous sum.
“Ah! Also, if you have family members in the Bajran Empire who wish to settle here, I will pay all the fees and provide houses. If you want farmland, I will give you an adequate amount.”
“Thank you! I will repay this favor with my loyalty!”
The knights were really going through a whirlwind of emotions today. They bowed to me once again.
‘Huhu, don’t worry. I will definitely profit as much as I invest.’
Of course, this wasn’t free.
They would have to catch a monster of at least ogre grade every day while on patrols.
I was someone who could clearly draw the line between personal matters and business.
In this world, there was no such thing as free!