21st Century Archmage - Chapter 61
Chapter 61: Don’t Like It? You Try Being the Lord Then
‘Ohh! Mana is boiling up everywhere!’
Hot smoke was drifting up, as if there were furnaces everywhere in the dwarf city. And surprisingly enough, all of the smoke was getting sucked up towards the ceiling as if there was a good ventilation system installation.
Among all the furnaces, there was one huge chimney occupying the highest position. I could feel mana pitching and rolling in there.
‘Why don’t you guys all just relax.’
All the dwarves, who were bearded like Master Roshi, were bristling with tension as they guarded me.
‘So lady dwarves don’t have any beards, huh.’
I was met with a chilly reception, but I was looking around the dwarven city without a hint of fear.
‘Besides the veggies they’re growing, they’re not doing nearly enough farming. So that’s why they need wheat…’
The Dwarven Village was as big as most cities. It would definitely be impossible to feed a city this big through hunting alone. Of course, if orc meat could be eaten like pork belly, then it would be a different story.
Clang clang! Clang clang! Clang clang!
‘Sure sounds nice.’
The clanging of the hammer matched my leisurely steps.
“Prepare yourself!” barked the dwarven warrior walking at the front. He stopped in front of the two-story building standing in the deepest part of the city, then called politely towards the closed door, “Patriarch, a human has come looking for you from the outside.”
The voice of Cassiars, which I had heard once before, came from inside.
The door opened, revealing Cassiars with his white beard and short legs.
“It is nice to meet you, esteemed Patriarch. The Lord of Nerman, Kyre, pays his respects.”
I folded into a crisp 90°, as if greeting a neighborhood grandpa.
“Haha, that is the case. I have recently come to govern Nerman. That is why I came to pay my respects—”
“Chase him out!”
‘Just look at this old gentleman.’
Patriarch Cassiars ordered the dwarves to chase me out like there was nothing more to hear.
As if waiting for that order, the dwarven warriors immediately raised their axes, which looked scary enough to end a cow in one swipe, and surrounded me threateningly.
“I heard a rumor that the magic furnace that could be called the lifeblood of the dwarves is broken…”
I mentioned the magic furnace with a leisurely expression.
“What would you do about that?” asked the Patriarch in surprise.
“I am a mage.”
With a grin, I drew on my mana. The mana locked in my mana circle whirred to life, oppressing the surroundings with its intensity.
The dwarven warriors that could use mana were startled by the fierce mana vibration.
“Mm…” hummed the Patriarch. He looked at me with eyes that revealed the length of his years. “Fix the magic furnace. If you do so, then we will recognize you as a friend. However, if you cannot fix it…”
The Patriarch did not continue, fixing me with cold eyes instead.
No words were necessary. It was left unsaid that he would bury me deep in the earth or tie me up and throw me to the orcs.
‘Alright then, let’s give it a try. Magic furnace, how hard can it be?’
This was the boldness of a person whose master was considered the best human mage around.
“Please lead me to it,” I said with an easy air and a relaxed expression.
If you just sat around being afraid, you wouldn’t be able to earn a thing.
I was someone with courage.
And the heavens would definitely reward me.
Or well… If they didn’t, then this was it for me, lol.
* * *
I followed the Patriarch, the dwarven warriors, and the hundred or so dwarves who must have heard the news and come to see.
Before long, we arrived at the magic furnace. It was situated at the place where I had seen the huge chimney when I entered the cavern.
The magic furnace shone not with bright red fire, but only pale light.
A magic circle of around 5 meters in diameter was deployed around the furnace made of ochre-red steel.
‘Hm? This skill, haven’t I seen it somewhere before?’
Magic circles had set formulas, but there were also modified formulas that relied on one’s ability. In the case of magic furnaces in particular, the performance of the furnace could be worlds apart depending on the skill of the mage.
And this furnace’s magic circle… was very familiar to my eyes. It reminded me of handiwork I had seen a few times on Earth.
“Can you fix it?”
Seeing me examining the magic circle closely, Patriarch Cassiars asked me with a careful tone that differed from the frigidity he had shown at first.
“This is Aidal-nim’s work…”
“!! Y-you, how can you tell!?”
As soon as Aidal, Master Bumdalf’s real name, came out, the Patriarch reeled in shock.
“I have learned under that person’s disciple before.”
I couldn’t go out and reveal that I was actually Master’s disciple. To put it simply, there was no knowing what Master Aidal, the Golden-Eyed Reaper, had done here. Honestly, if he was mortal enemies with the dwarves, any hope for cooperation with these prickly-tempered dwarves would go flying off to Mars.
“OHH! How can this be! After Aidal-nim disappeared, we searched for him so much, but to think we could meet the disciple of his disciple here! Your name was Kyre? I thank you for appearing in our time of true difficulty!”
‘Ara? His relationship with the dwarves was good?’
It was a completely unexpected variable. Instead of cursing the Golden-Eyed Reaper Aidal with words like ‘bastard,’ ‘rotten jerk,’ or ‘f*cking servant of the devil,’ the Patriarch referred to him with honorifics. Since he was a dwarf, a race that had no interest in lying, I knew he meant it.
“Haha, it is truly fortunate that we met. Even now, I can see that due to other mages messing up several places over the years, the mana has been slowly building up. If things went wrong, it could have resulted in a massive explosion within a month,” I said.
“I-It was that severe??”
“My goodness… To think it was that dangerous.”
After the Patriarch expressed his shock, the other dwarves waiting for his reaction muttered with fearful expressions. If a massive explosion occurred here, underground, as long as you weren’t a goldfish whose head was just for decoration, you would know that this place would become your grave.
‘They’re pretty cowardly despite all their big muscles.’
Of course, only I knew that it was all an exaggeration.
‘Huhu, massive explosion my ass, there’s a safety circuit, so it would never explode.’
I hadn’t made it myself, but my understanding of the magic circuitry grew by leaps and bounds just by looking at it. It was true that the flow of mana had turned strange because of other mages messing with it, but the situation wasn’t so perilous that it would endanger people’s lives.
“But who touched the magic circle so carelessly? From the looks of it, it seems they tried to increase the performance, but… Tsk tsk. I don’t know who it was, but it’s like they were trying to get themselves killed by pouring oil on their body and throwing themselves towards a Fireball.”
I had to make sure to drive the point home—I emphasized the fact that if any other mage aside from me could die if they touched the magic circle.
Unable to speak, Patriarch Cassiars’ face flushed. It was definitely someone he was well-acquainted with.
“In order to increase the performance, a Grade 2 magic crystal will be necessary. From what I can see, the magic crystal slotted in isn’t even genuine, and it will take several days for me to fix the damage to the magic circle, but is that alright with you?”
“So you can fix it?! OHH! As expected of the disciple of Aidal-nim’s disciple, how reliable! Those other human mages just frowned!”
“My throat is so dry for some reason… Maybe because we are underground, but I am parched. A refreshing glass of beer would be perfect at a time like this…”
“What are you lot doing! Hurry and prepare some beer! No, gather all the dwarves! Today, a rare friend has come, so we will hold a festival!”
The mention of a festival came out of nowhere.
“WOOHOO! The Patriarch has ordered a festival!”
“Everyone, gather in the plaza! FESTIVAAAAL!!!”
‘Kek, do they like festivals that much?’
This was no ordinary level of excitement. It was like the principal announcing on speakerphone on a drowsy midsummer day during class that school was cancelled the next day. The dwarves were going that wild. The word ‘festival’ rang out all over the expansive cavern, and soon, dwarves came rushing out from the woodwork like a flood.
And then, it began.
The festival of the Dwarven Village, an event I could have never predicted.
* * *
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* * *
Have you heard of it, something called a drunken flight?
‘It’s spinning, spinning~ Round and round and round~’
The terrifying festival that ensued in the great underground city of the dwarves…
It might technically be called a festival, but in reality, it was a horrifying drinking arena to test who could drink beer the fastest and die.
Even the beer snack was simple.
A single piece of well-seasoned jerky… and a huge mug.
Interestingly enough, the mug possessed a cold attribute, like it was dredged from ice, and the dwarves came out dragging containers of beer that looked to be at least a hundred liters.
Thump thump thump!
Then, it began.
With a strange drumming noise in the background, I had to down a nearly 1 liter mug in one go.
Everything was an unconditional one-shot.
Even though beer ran down their white beards, the dwarves didn’t stop. And even when they reached their limit while drinking and collapsed, those terrifying drunkards never let go of their mugs.
As if they had become enemies with alcohol in their previous lives, the dwarves emptied the beer with wild indiscretion.
This beer culture was the only thing they had learned from humans.
And then, I found out…
…That the patriarch of the Dwarven Village was not chosen by age, but by drinking ability.
In order to live, I desperately escaped the village. With a warning blaring in my mind that if I drank any more, I could die, I used the spell Fly to barrel through the stretch of booby traps before opening the stone door and returning to the outside world.
Even amidst all of that, I made a promise. A promise with the Patriarch and all of the dwarves that I would come back in a few days to repair the magic circle, and that they would trade exclusively with me.
I shot into the sky before dizzily landing back onto the ground, and then using Fly again, all with a contented smile on my face.
I had earned an enormous harvest at the Dwarven Village, a harvest that could not be calculated with money.
Using the stars in the sky as a map, I flew towards Orakk Castle, where Bebeto was waiting.
‘This is where it begins. The beautiful dream of the human Kang Hyuk!’
Even as I used Fly magic without Bebeto and leisurely continued my drunken flight through the moonless sky late at night, I made an oath.
To fly, fly without rest until the day my dream became a reality.
* * *
“Hurry and get out of the way! We are the Corvain Merchants that can go through every territory and castle in the empire!”
“In the end, not a single person may enter! If you do not listen, then—!”
In front of Denfors’ castle gate, around 10 knights were blocking the entrance, with hundreds of archers atop the walls with their arrows on the ready. In addition, there were easily 1,000 soldiers with dangerous gleams in their eyes on the other side of the gate in battle-ready positions.
The Corvain Merchants stood in front of the gate, their path into the city barred. In the skies above Denfors, four wyverns with Skyknights holding Blessed Spears were blocking the approach of the mercenary wyverns.
“I am a Vice-master of the Gauss Magic Tower. Move aside!”
After Deputy Theske was unable to clear the path, the 6th Circle mage Harkline went forward as he revealed his position.
Harkline was confidently striding towards the open castle gate when a knight’s sword blocked him.
Harkline’s stick-thin frame trembled like a willow in the wind. Ever since he became a mage, Harkline had never once been treated this way.
“Do you wish to die!”
A mere knight asked Harkline, someone who could talk at the same table with empire nobles, if he wanted to die.
“Argh…” Harkline’s body trembled in rage that was on the verge of exploding.
However, the situation wasn’t very good. He could deal with the knight in front of him, but even a 6th Circle mage feared a rain composed of hundreds of arrows. He would perish if he did anything.
“Please let us meet the Lord. I mean Kyre-nim!”
The situation was so urgent that the words “lord” and “Kyre-nim” automatically sprung from Theske’s mouth. In order to acquire new goods in Denfors, the caravan had gone on a forced march. They even tossed the wet wheat on the way here and came as fast as they could, but they were unable to go into the city and made to sit outside the gates.
“Please wait a short moment! The Lord has been informed, so we will hear back soon!”
The knights blocking the gate with their swords drawn were also people who could use mana, so they knew that there were mostly knight-level mercenaries and a high circle mage in front of them.
However, in the end, they were not fearful and they did not retreat.
Because this was a command sent down from their almighty Lord.
Their Lord had sent down a strict command to not let anyone from the merchant group into the city.
The skills of the native Nerman knights had grown by great strides these days. Thanks to training on the magic circles made by the Lord, their mana quantity had greatly increased. And in proportion to that increase, their loyalty to the Lord also grew to the max.
“Everyone, make way! The Lord is here!”
Just then, the person the Corvain Merchants had fervently awaited for, Kyre, had made his entrance.
At the same time, the knights and soldiers cried out a military salute, their gazes directed at Kyre burning with loyalty so strong that they would easily give up their lives for his sake.
* * *
‘You jerks, you must be burning on the inside.’
I had received a report ahead of time that the Corvain Merchants were coming. When the caravan was two days away, I sent the Rubis Merchants, led personally by Jamir, in a roundabout way to the Dwarven Village.
‘The soldiers must have gathered all the wheat by now.’
After I arrived at Orakk Castle with my drunken Fly spells, I organized soldiers to sortie. I knew for sure that the Corvan Merchants would throw away their wet wheat and race to Denfors, so I confirmed the route and sent the soldiers.
Nerman didn’t have enough to eat. We couldn’t just let top quality wheat become orc food.
‘There are 1,000 soldiers guarding the Rubis Merchants, and if the wyverns from Orakk Castle help, then they should be able to arrive there safely.’
Thanks to Corvain’s headlong charge, quite a few monsters had lost their lives in front of the Corvain Merchants, which had various benefits for us.
“Y-Your Lordship! Lord Kyre!”
Theske, who had waited desperately for my arrival, yelled out at me shrilly.
“Oh, if it isn’t Deputy Theske?”
Even though I was the one who told the knights to restrain Theske and Co, I feigned surprise.
‘You guys have met your maker today.’
These wicked merchants treated me like some kind of beggar by trying to garner resources stemming from my territory with just a few pennies. I would help them realize today that there was always a bigger fish.
“What are you all doing? Allow Deputy Theske to come inside.”
“As you command!”
The knights blocking Theske retracted their swords to allow him in.
Just then, the knights restrained the dry stick of a mage who was about to take the opportunity to enter with Theske.
‘They’re doing well. It really was worth teaching them.’
Even knowing that he was a mage, the native Nerman knights didn’t flinch at all. The mage named Harkline turned purple with rage as he glared at me.
‘How dare you try to flaunt your privileges here! Bam!’
It was absurd. On my territory, if I didn’t like them, even the emperor had to do as I pleased.
“It seems you have something extensive to say, so let us go to my office. Prepare the horses!”
Theske, who followed me while sneaking glances at Harkline, limply got onto the prepared horse without knowing that he was caught in a spiderweb.
* * *
“It is truly impressive. To be able to control Nerman so perfectly like this in such a short amount of time… I have been to countless territories, but I have never seen a place where this kind of result was achieved in a short period!”
With tea in front of him in the covert headquarters, Theske started buttering me up with flattery. Derval had cleaned up and repaired the city nicely, and the soldiers had been reorganized, so the system was flowing smoothly. Theske had come to Nerman a few times before, so it seemed he was being honest with his admiration.
“Alright, what matter is so important that the Deputy of the Great Corvain Merchants himself comes to my door?” I asked with an apathetic expression.
Only the strong, not the weak, could enjoy this feeling of ease.
“I have come to request a small amount of help from you, Lord Kyre.”
“Help? How could I possibly assist a major merchant group… Let us hear what you have to say.”
Stroking my chin, I played dumb.
“I heard from our branch here that all of the provisions are being acquired by the territory and that there has been a ban on acquisition by outside parties. I would be thankful if you would release that ban a little.”
‘You crazy? That food was so expensive.’
I hadn’t formally become the lord, but the empire had discarded this land and Count Yaix, the former commander, had entrusted me with full authority, so I wielded a lord’s rights however I pleased.
As one of those rights, I restricted the outside acquisition of imported provisions. The provisions ordered through the Rubis Merchants and various other merchant groups continued flowing in, so Nerman didn’t have to fear starvation for the time being, but I maintained the restriction on outside acquisition.
On his or her territory, a lord was as powerful as the emperor.
If an imperial mandate came down, then the lord would have to follow it, but Nerman and I were already discarded, so we were free from Bajran Empire law.
Theske knew that and implored me to release the outside acquisition ban. He must have realized the atmosphere here from the authoritarian attitudes of my knights and soldiers.
“It is a difficult request. As you probably know, Deputy Theske, the acquired provisions were purchased from my own pocket. Moreover, Nerman cannot currently farm, and when the rainy season comes soon, the movement of the merchant groups will be hindered, so we need a great amount of provisions. So for you to ask me to release the ban is…”
I made a troubled expression while stating reasons that even Theske would be aware of.
“Just around 200 carriages is enough. Even if they are not top quality, upper quality will suffice. Since you say you used your personal funds, we will give you the appropriate compensation. Your Lordship, I am asking you with all my sincerity, so please listen to this humble one’s request.”
His confidence and pride from our first meeting was nowhere to be seen. Instead, Theske was even saying something like ‘this humble one’ now.
Unless they were going to duke it out, a merchant would definitely choose to bow their heads like this.
“I also want to help, but it costs more than a few pennies… The market price here in Nerman is more expensive than in other places, you know…”
This electrifying feeling of reeling in a hooked fish as it struggled… Call me vicious, but this guy was the fearless one who provoked me first.
“We will compensate you with 1 Gold for each sack of wheat,” gritted Theske like he was yielding some great generosity.
It was a considerable amount. Including the costs of guarding it, the fee I paid the merchant group to acquire our wheat was around 1 Silver per sack. But Theske was calling out a price 10 times as high. He must be desperate enough to give up on the gluttonous calculation of a merchant that sought profit in every corner.
“That is… There’s also the hazard pay, and storage fee to store it every day, and we had to buy cats for the mice… And the payroll of the soldiers guarding the warehouse has also been pushed back…”
I looked out the window while spouting nonsense.
In the silence, I could hear Theske taking deep, ragged breaths.
He was probably grinding his teeth into powder at this point. He would be well aware that I was babbling nonsense right now.
But what could he do?
The one in the regrettable situation wasn’t me, but Theske and the Corvain Merchants.
To put it bluntly, if they didn’t like it, then they could try being the lord.
“We… We will compensate you with 3 Gold each.”
With a trembling voice, Theske presented 3 Gold per sack.
In the blink of an eye, a profit of 30 times appeared.
If I kept doing business like this, I felt like I would become the richest person on the continent in no time.
“3 Gold? Hooh, well, I’m not completely pleased, but in consideration for the Deputy and the Corvain Merchants, I will allow it. And I have one condition.”
The guy must be thinking of me as a daylight robber right now. His face stiffened slightly again.
“While you are at it, pass over the golden token endorsed by Corvain right away. And yesterday, a new traveling tax and territory usage tax were established. After doing the calculations, while the Corvain Merchants were on their trade route here, the traveling tax for all the people going through the territory, the price of the orcs and monsters caught and eaten by the wyverns, the repair fees for the farmland your carriages damaged, and the price of the grass and water consumed by your horses, the total adds up to 15,520 Gold. You will have to pay that along with the compensation for the wheat, I’m afraid.”
“Wh-what kind of…”
He probably wanted to say “nonsense” after that, but Theske endured and clamped down his lips.
“Why, don’t want to pay the tax?” I egged him on.
“N-no… We will settle the payment right away!”
Biting his lips, Theske stamped down his fury.
‘You guys made me evil.’
I still remembered his scornful and threatening appearance when we first met. This is why you needed power. It was so that you didn’t end up in a wretched and disgusting plight.
“Haha, as expected of a major merchant group. For you to pay the taxes for Nerman’s sake without reserve, I will give you a special 10% discount next time.”
I fanned a burning house as I thoroughly harassed him to the point that he would sputter awake from a deep sleep at the mere mention of my name.
“Then, I am busy, so I will leave now,” said Theske, trying to leave in a hurry in case he lost more money to my clutches.
“What, going so soon? You should go after a meal, at least!”
Of course, I couldn’t forget the warm manners(?) of a Korean person.
“N-No thank you. Please invite me next time. Then, good bye.”
Bending his waist low, Theske fled the office and disappeared like the wind.
“Huhu… I still haven’t stripped you down to the hairs of your ass. Just you wait.”
This was only the beginning.
In any case, both Theske and I knew very well that there wouldn’t be any reason for us to meet a second time in the future.