21st Century Archmage - Chapter 64
Chapter 64: Pies Falling Onto My Lap
‘Ara? Why are there so many people?’
After bringing everything to a conclusion, it didn’t suit my character to trail behind a clunking and clattering merchant caravan. As long as they didn’t have rocks for brains, the mercenary wyverns that fled wouldn’t come back, so I left five Skyknights behind and sent the rest back to Orakk Castle.
Then, taking in the fresh air on Bebeto’s back, I returned to the covert ahead of the Rubis Merchants and was met by the sight of a long line of people trundling into the expansive covert.
‘Are they distributing food or something?’
I had entrusted most of the matters to Derval in my absence. He had no equal when it came to OCD administrative ability, so I trusted him to take care of things.
“The Lord has returned!”
“Waaaaaaahhh! It’s the Lord!”
The people who recognized Bebeto and me waved as they cheered. I was probably the only lord on this continent who received such love from their citizens. Though of course, I wasn’t actually a lord formally appointed by the emperor.
Flap, flap, flap flap flap flap.
As Bebeto landed, I saw a large tent sitting right in the middle of the runway with a line of people standing in front of it. And the people were even assuming reverent poses and drawing crosses.
‘Did someone come?’
I had arrived, but Derval didn’t come running up like usual.
As soon as Bebeto landed, the soldiers in charge of wyverns came running with a salute.
“What is going on?”
“An honorable priest has come,” a soldier said energetically, happiness written all over his face.
‘Did someone come to volunteer?’
Aramis’ face immediately came to mind, but that couldn’t be. I hadn’t heard any word from the Rubis Merchants about her, and it was ridiculous for her to come such a long distance so fast. She would have only been able to make it had she gotten on a horse and crossed mountains and rivers as soon as she got my letter.
‘In any case, I’m thankful towards them. They came all this way to a place like this, after all.’
For these people who had lived hungry and exhausting lives, there was no better balm than the voice of the gods. If they were gods who could perceive and understand all of human suffering, they would possess even more strength to heal. It was human nature to desire even a shoddy blessing from priests of the gods, even if all they could do was to call the name of the gods. As long as humans were unable to achieve enlightenment, it would be like that forever.
I took off my flight helmet and held it with one hand. I may be a lord, but I, too, was merely a feeble(?) human desiring comfort from a priest of god.
‘Huhu, it would be even more amazing if she was a priestess.’
I still hadn’t forgotten Aramis’ holy beauty. The way priestesses were picked here definitely depended on their pure heartedness + beauty. While living on this continent, I hadn’t met a single priestess who wasn’t beautiful. It was obvious that the eyes of humans and gods were one and the same.
“May the hand of God forgive the lamb’s sins and bring healing upon thee. Cure.”
“It’s the Merciful Hand of Neran!”
Despite my approach, the people didn’t even notice me and were only staring at the tent, which flashed with the warm light of holy power.
“T-Thank you! Thank you so much! O’ blessed servant of Neran-nim!” gushed a middle-aged man tearfully, as if their pain was cured.
“I apologize… If only I had known of everyone’s pain earlier….”
‘This… This voice—!’
I heard a delicate female voice in my ear, and my soul began trembling as if stricken by lightning.
“Everyone, stand aside. The Lord has come.”
Finally noticing my presence, the people hurriedly made way.
I stepped forward towards the tent in a daze, feeling my heart thump in beat with my steps.
Just then, I saw a white leather shoe stepping out the tent.
And a white-robed woman’s body steadily emerged into the light of the warm sun.
Thump! Thump! Thump!
Realizing who it was before my brain did, my heart thumped wildly.
A woman stood before me, her face half-obscured by her robe. She pulled the robe back with a slender, white hand.
“Ah…” I gasped.
“This inadequate servant of Neran… Aramis, greets Kyre-nim.”
Laying her right hand against her chest, she bowed.
I tried sending a ridiculous letter due to the dire circumstances, but Aramis really came. Her soft, long blue hair gleaming with a silver luster was tied modestly to one side, and a holy halo seemed to surround her.
“Allow me to sincerely offer my thanks for coming all the way here despite it being so far away.”
Everyone was watching, so I bowed with absolutely perfect manners as I expressed my respect towards Aramis.
“Everything is the will of the gods…”
As she spoke, Aramis’ radiant face reddened slightly.
Thump thump thump.
My mouth did not open.
But the noisy beating of my heart expressed my feelings.
* * *
‘How can she do that much with her strength alone?’
She was a priestess of god made of unfaltering steel. Even though the sun was about to go down, Aramis continued tirelessly granting blessings and grace to those who came.
“What incredible holy power. For her to be able to handle that many people all on her own….”
Derval was surprised as well. He was knowledgeable, but even he hadn’t heard any rumors about a priestess who could expend holy power for so many people.
“Yes, my liege?”
“Let’s build a city.”
“By city, you mean…”
Derval expressed his uncertainty at my sudden words.
“We shall build a new city on this huge land no inferior to the empire. A megapolis bigger than any imperial or kingdom capital in the continent at the very least!”
“Ah…!” Derval made a sound of surprise at my unexpected words.
“Why, not confident?”
Turning from the window, I fixed my gaze on Derval.
“No, sir! If it is something done by you, my liege, it will definitely happen!” shouted Derval, whose heart carried reckless loyalty towards me at all times.
“And within 3 years at that.”
“E-Excuse me? 3 years?!”
Derval stood there dumbly. The construction of an imperial capital usually took dozens of years, so how could he not be shocked by me saying that we would build an even bigger city within 3 years?
“Inside the city, we will build an inner castle the size of Denfors. And next to that, there’ll be a covert big enough for at least three hundred wyverns, and on the other side, a temple with a size rivaling the covert. What do you think, wouldn’t that be nice?”
Derval’s mouth hung open speechlessly. As if he was imagining what I said, he didn’t say a thing for a while.
“M-My liege… That’s not a city…” he stuttered, fumbling for words.
‘That’s right, a man should dream big.’
In my head, the blueprint of my paradise was being sketched out piece by piece. Up until now, things were progressing very smoothly. And in the future as well, I would make my dreams come true.
“Send the people back for today. And prepare a fancy dinner.”
“Understood, my liege.”
Even for someone generously blessed by the favor of a god, their stamina would have a limit. It was now time for Aramis to rest.
‘She’ll exhaust herself and collapse if she keeps going like that. We have to find a different way.’
The people of Nerman were starved for God’s love. Once rumors spread that a priestess of Neran was here, they would definitely rush over here like a tsunami from all over.
“Shall I wash up?”
I cleansed myself daily using magic, but today, I wanted to bathe with warm water. I couldn’t go like this to dinner with a precious guest who came such a long way.
An inscrutable smile spread on my lips as I thought of all the time I would spend with Aramis tonight.
Just thinking about it was happiness.
* * *
“It is delicious.”
It was a very concise statement, but no other words were necessary.
“Thank you very much, o’ servant of the gods.”
Lucia’s mom smiled brightly at Aramis’ compliment, which was accompanied by an honest smile.
“You’re making me sad. It tastes so much better than what I usually eat,” I joked.
“Haha, it is a joke. It tastes the same as usual. Even though I haven’t seen a few of these dishes…”
At my words, Lucia’s mom bowed low with embarrassment. The people on this continent simply held the servants of the gods in such high regard in their hearts. And the servants of the gods, blind to such feelings of the ordinary people, were obsessed by money and honor. If they didn’t die and go to hell, then who would?
“Was your journey here not difficult?”
By the time the dinner was almost over, my wildly beating heart finally settled down. During this meal with Aramis, I was wearing clothes similar to a suit, something I didn’t normally wear, and the food seemed even more delicious.
“It was not difficult at all. The moment I received your letter, I nearly prayed to the gods to grant me wings.”
Of course it must have been difficult.
She must have traversed various roads in the continent that were still extremely dangerous with the rough mercenaries of the merchant group; seeing Aramis’ bright smile, I felt a pang of sadness.
My eyes filled with sincerity, I looked into Aramis’ clear brown eyes, which were sparkling in the light of the magic lamps.
As a response, Aramis simply gave me a smile as soft as silk.
A smile as bright as Aramis’ own sprung to my lips as well.
“But Aramis-nim, how did you and my liege meet?” asked Derval cautiously. He had eaten skillfully with one hand at the same table.
“It is thanks to the grace of the gods.”
Her response was short and concise. The Goddess of Mercy, Neran, really knew how to pick people.
“If not for Kyre-nim, I would still be lost. Without knowing the meaning of the humble love described by Neran-nim…”
As she spoke, Aramis fixed me with a profound gaze.
Cold sweat beaded down my back.
“I, too, would have been unable to meet my liege if not for the Overseer of Fate, Romero. My liege, who saved me from a miserable life…”
Both people stared at me with hot gazes.
‘These people, making me embarrassed…’
I could feel my face burning.
I thought that I was pretty impervious to what other people thought of me, but it seemed I was still pretty weak to such passionate praise.
“I will have one of the covert hangars remodeled into a temple.”
“There is no need to do so…”
“No, it is an empty building anyway. It is inadequate, but if you would be so gracious as to wait a short while, I shall build a great temple for Neran-nim. With my ardent sincerity towards the gods, and not just for Aramis-nim, I mean.”
The superfluous words slipped out of me with nary a hitch. How could I possibly have ardent sincerity towards a god I didn’t even know very well?
“Thank you. If the world was filled with people like you, Kyre-nim, it would be a heaven on earth where eternal rest and peace flow like river water as described by the gods.”
Rising from her seat, Aramis gave me a courteous show of her thanks.
‘It’s a win-win, you know? Uhahahahaha.’
There were more than a few things I would gain if a temple was built. The people of Nerman would be able to live with stability, and if a great temple was constructed, it would draw in priests with thoughts similar to Aramis.
‘And the created holy water will… Huhuhu.’
The holy water business offered even tastier profits than a goose laying golden eggs.
Even a god wouldn’t want to nest here for free. Whether you were a god or a human, harmonious cooperation could only be maintained for a long time if there was adequate give and take.
Of course, to a certain extent, those were just my meaningless rambling thoughts …
* * *
Flap flap flap flap flap.
Bebeto’s long wings were stretched out, riding the wind and drawing a lengthy shadow that seemed to cover the whole ground below us.
A low cry sounded in my ear.
I suppressed the fiery exclamation inside my heart. It was already a relief that I didn’t get a nosebleed.
Because right now, I was giving Aramis the night flight I had promised her before.
Our meal ended late at night. The moon was regaling us with its light as if blessing us, and I called the restless Aramis for a night flight.
And then, our night flight began. The weather had turned the corner into early summer. I left my airplate behind, wearing leather clothes for flight.
Excited by the beauty on his back, Bebeto let out an energetic roar as he went for his specialty, a plummeting rollercoaster flight.
At that moment, Aramis’ arms around my waist tightened hard.
I felt that plushy-certain-something on my back. My mind was in a disarray, and it wasn’t because of the flight.
I screamed in my heart.
This electrifying feeling! Was this how it would feel to cooly say, “Get on,” and race along the streets on your motorcycle with a pretty girl wearing a short skirt behind you?
This magnificence, which only a delinquent could experience…
‘Bebeto, one more round!’
You had to go all out while you had the chance. I pulled the reins to convey my ardent intent to Bebeto.
Fully aware that my happiness was insurance for his carefree future, the quick-witted Bebeto went from the dive into three aerial corkscrews.
And as if anticipating it, Aramis’ arms squeezed me even tighter.
What a truly satisfying flight!
* * *
“Ah… How beautiful.”
After a few rounds of turbulent flight, we flew above the calm waves. Thanks to Bebeto flapping quietly like a whisper of the wind, the flight was now smooth and easy. Taking in the sight of the moonlit sea, Aramis said it was beautiful.
‘You are more beautiful~’ I thought to myself.
Aramis was admiring the sea with her head resting on my shoulder. I couldn’t see her face, but I could imagine everything.
“No matter when… Just call me. If it is for Aramis-nim, I can fly over even a tempestuous sea.”
“Thank you… Kyre-nim….”
Aramis’ delicate whisper rode up my spine, rousing a flush of happiness.
“They say the strings of fate are endless and transcend all of heaven and earth. And I do not wish to let go of that string of fate…”
‘… If it’s with you, Aramis-nim.’
I suppressed the confession that almost jumped to my lips in the spur of the moment.
But as if she heard those unsaid words, Aramis’ soft arms hugged my waist.
Flap, flap, flap flap flap.
Bebeto flew quietly over the sea.
The dreamy time flowed on in that manner.
Like a momentary break in the stormy waves of life, it felt as if even I was receiving a slight wink from Mr. Happiness.
* * *
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* * *
“Please give me 5 million Gold as imperial Gold. I will entrust the remaining 5 million as a reserve that can be drawn at any time with the Rubis Merchants.”
“For trusting us like that, please allow me to once again express my thanks as a Rubis Executive.”
Jamir bowed at my extraordinary proposal.
“My soldiers and Skyknights shall escort you to the border of Nerman. That is the limit of what I can do for you.”
“Haha, that is more than enough. Who in the world would mess with the Lion of Nerman? If there is anything you require, please, simply inform Branch Manager Lenkis. Even if we have to mobilize everything in our merchant group’s power, we will do our best to assist you.”
‘This is where it begins.’
Led by Jamir, the Rubis Merchants returned to Denfors. As soon as they did so, they said they were leaving. They probably wanted to sell the goods before rumors spread through the continent and other parties began to move.
“I hope you are able to achieve the best outcome possible.”
“Please allow me to thank you once again. I will repay this grace many times over.”
‘Of course! If you dine and dash, I’ll slice you open.’
“Sir Ryker, escort them safely to the outside of the territory.”
“Hehe, just believe in me. I will escort them with no mistakes.”
These days, Ryker and Janice were constantly on the move in order to secure the territory’s safe routes. Surprisingly, the two must have hit it off, because they got along quite well.
“Then, I shall be on my way.”
“Wait, take this with you.”
“It is holy water. A top-grade one hot and freshly made, at that.”
“!! T-Top grade holy water?!”
Inside the glass bottle was holy water faintly shining with blue light.
‘Try it and do some advertising for us. Huhu.’
When I gave clean, plain water to Aramis, who was praying early in the morning, top-grade potions were made after a short prayer. As long as I had Aramis by my side, I would never starve to death.
“To give me something so precious…”
After consecutive surges of emotion, Jamir looked deeply moved.
“Jamir-nim and the Rubis Merchant’s help are necessary for this territory to survive.”
“I understand. I will gladly accept Your Lordship’s noble meaning.”
A few words that didn’t cost anything earned me Jamir’s heart. The look in his eyes towards me was clearly different from a few minutes ago.
Earning a merchant’s heart… That was something harder to do than earning the hearts of everyone in the K-pop group “Girls’ Generation”.
The ten or so carriages were loaded top to bottom not with provisions, which took up a lot of space, but exclusively dwarven goods.
Escorted by a thousand soldiers, the Rubis Merchants set off, full of energy.
‘Shall we have some fun now~?’
“Derval, everyone is gathered, yes?”
“Yes, my liege. I have gathered them on the covert runway.”
‘The news must’ve spread by now.’
The captured merchants, mercenaries, and mages had been dragged into the covert in full view of the citizens. I had a strong inkling that all the magic towers, information guild, and merchants were aware of what had happened by now and were running around like headless chickens.
* * *
“The appropriate punishment for committing treason on Nerman and sullying the honor of the Bajran Empire, the Imperial Family, and myself would be decapitation, but because this sacred land cannot be dirtied with your blood, I hereby order you all to be forcefully expelled! At the same time, I hereby order that all the items and funds will be confiscated as a payment for the damages incurred!”
Having been dragged along the last few days as prisoners, there was both relief and dejection on the criminals’ faces.
“Deputy Theske of the Corvain Merchants, do you consent to my decision?”
“…That responsibility is yours, isn’t it,” said Theske, putting barbs in his words.
“Vice-master of Gauss Magic Tower, do you have any complaints about my judgement?”
Instead of responding, the disproportionate mage with mana bracelets on his wrists ground his teeth audibly.
I would have liked to punch him square in his big noggin, but that would degrade the dignity of this ‘sacred’ judgement ground.
“Do you consent, Leader Cedrian of the Herz Mercenaries?”
“I consent.” His waist was deeply pierced, but thanks to my Heal magic, Cedrian had only lost a bucket of blood. He nodded with a firm expression. Then he suddenly stepped forward, looking at me with a passionate gaze. “My lord, I have a request.”
“Please take in the mercenaries and I under your wing.”
‘Eh? What kind of pie is this?’
My mind worked quickly to process Cedrian’s sudden proposal. Even in the empire, there were no more than ten Master-level experts leading knight-level mercenaries who were formally employed by the nation.
I wanted the Herz Mercenaries from the beginning, but that was mostly just my greed talking. But to my surprise, Cedrian spoke as if he had already spoken with the mercenaries and it was a done deal.
“Our mercenary group no longer has a place to go. Thanks to Your Lordship, our myth of invincibility has been shattered. So please take responsibility for us.”
‘Well whaddya know.’
I didn’t know much about the mercenary world, but that seemed possible. Just like how knights treated their honor like their life, for mercenaries, the success of their commissions was their virtue.
‘His eyes are full of life.’
However, I was sure it wasn’t just that.
Because in Cedrian’s eyes blazed a hot fervor coming from a calm, but deep place within him.
“Alright. Only, you will start as regular soldiers. Will you still come?”
Taking them as they were was something only an idiot would do. It was necessary to check how much they could bend their pride. If these were the real deal like I thought, then I would be gaining yet another set of wings.
“Please do as you wish. I, Cedrian, greet my liege!”
“As you wish!”
Cedrian kneeled in subservience. And 500 mercenaries kneeled in succession after him with vigorous shouts.
‘My god, is this a dream, or reality?’
A knight-level mercenary who could use Aura Blade would be treated well no matter where they went on the continent. Not long ago, there were maybe a few dozen such experts at best among the Nerman mercenaries. But now, 500 mercenaries came under me in one go.
‘They’re no ordinary mercenaries!’
And I could feel it.
The vigor coming from Cedrian’s mercenary group was different from regular mercenaries. They almost felt like well-trained knights from a territory.
“Rise. You are all now my soldiers.”
“Thank you, my liege!”
I would have to ask about their exact reasoning later, but for now, I was happy.
I snagged additional profits by turning out the Corvain Merchants’ pockets and acquired three additional wyverns that were now sitting nice and pretty in the covert’s hangars. On top of that, I got 500 skilled mercenaries.
There were probably very few people as lucky as me in this world. This must be what it feels like to win the first and second prize in a lottery.
“Deport the merchants and mages outside the territory!”
There was no need to see Theske and two mages anymore. I simply declared ‘Game Over.’
“Sir Derval, provide accommodations for everyone. Cedrian, let us speak for a moment.”
“I humbly receive your command, my liege.”
“How dare he… Just what does he think our magic tower is….”
A certain mage wrote a report, his hands trembling from the unbelievable truth that came down like a bolt from the blue.
The Nerman Branch Manager of the Gauss Magic Tower, Oltois, trembled with rage.
The bastard named Kyre went on reckless rampages, almost as if he had three or four lives. This time, in an astonishing turn of events, he declared war on the Corvain Merchants and the Gauss Magic Tower.
“To think he’s a 6th Circle magic swordsman…. Argh.”
He was sending an urgent message to the Gauss Magic Tower. As Oltois wrote the unbelievable report about such a young person who was a 6th Circle magic swordsman and even suspected to be a summoner, his body trembled once again.
It was jealousy, pure jealousy as a mage.
He started studying magic at ten and only reached the 5th Circle when he was fifty years old.
But that green youth was already a 6th Circle mage. And the ridiculous truth that he had utterly dominated two of Gauss’ Vice-masters and three wyverns made Oltois even feel fear.
At one point, Oltois had been considered outstanding in the magic tower. But Kyre had achieved a circle incomparable to Oltois.
He absolutely wanted to kill him.
And he steadily imbued the report with that fury and bloodthirst.
Oltois slipped the report into a container tied to the foot of a lumikar, a bird that could fly over 1,000 km in a single day.
Flap flap flap flap.
At Oltois’ order, the lumikar flew through the open window and quickly disappeared. After two days, Gauss would know of the tragedy that occurred here.
The bastard who touched the pride of the Gauss Magic Tower, which didn’t even fear Kallian’s empires.
Oltois bit his lips as he thought of the accursed bastard.
“May your heart be… ripped to shreds…”
The mage’s hot rage.
And the parade of lumikars flying through the skies of Denfors at the same time.
That was the moment that would usher in the future tempests that would rage in Nerman.
* * *
“What do you want?”
With tea in front of us, I looked Cedrian straight in the eye.
The man in his early forties with golden-brown and exceptionally bright brown eyes had slightly angular, but ordinary features. At my blunt question, he stared intently into my eyes.
“The moment my sword was broken by you, my liege, my life changed. My desire for revenge disappeared, and in its place formed a dream I had forgotten.” His words continued like a confession. “I have been to many places in the world. Chased out of my home at a young age, I became a mercenary and wandered the whole world. I overcame countless deadly crises and gathered enough strength to kill the person who coveted what was mine. And the moment that revenge was almost at its completion, my sword was broken by you. In reality, it truly was a futile endeavor. It was only after I was pierced by your sword that I realized that even if I wrested that place back, it’d already be devoid of anyone who knows me, the years that have passed would not return.”
‘So he was a noble.’
I was able to tell that Cedrian had been a noble from the meaning hidden in his words. It made no sense for a regular commoner to say his home was snatched away and that he gathered strength while roaming around for so many years.
“I would like to become a knight. And… a coo… a cool knight at that.”
A cool knight.
They were truly cool words.
There were countless knights in this world, but not many truly cool ones.
The conditions for coolness were different for everyone, but looking at Cedrian, who was giving off the faint feeling of a much younger man, it seemed the kind of knight he dreamed of was a really cool knight.
“My liege, please help me achieve my wish. Believe in me and become a great mountain that can provide a home for me and my men, who have lived like clouds drifting along the wind! No, that is possible if it is you, my liege. Last night, my deceased father appeared in my dream. He told me to stop my wandering now and find my dream.”
Words that didn’t suit the leader of rough mercenaries came out one after another.
A cool knight’s dream.
I felt the faint aura of a pure soul from this mercenary mister in his early forties.
“With your level of skills, you could easily select an incredible master, but you went and selected me, a lord in Nerman. Even though the only thing I have is hope…”
‘Argh, I’m gonna go crazy.’
Even as I spoke, I disliked my buttery, corny-as-f*ck words more and more. Were these the kinds of words that should be coming out of a high schooler’s mouth right now?!
“My liege… please share that hope. Please help me achieve my dream before I breathe my last!”
But this mister was flying into the fire like a moth seduced by the words of a high schooler…
“…You won’t regret it?”
“Of course not!”
“Then, let us work well together in the future, Sir Cedrian, Leader of the Knights.”
“Ah…” Hearing the way I called him, Cedrian sucked in a breath.
“If you want to be called a cool knight, you have to at least be the Leader of the Knights. Sir Cedrian, Leader of Nerman’s First Knight Order. Haha. Isn’t it cool?”
Being the leader of a mercenary group famous on the continent was good too, but the leader of a knight order had a different weight to it.
‘If we’re gonna do this, we should go all out. Believe in me and I’ll push you forward right and proper!’
I needed at least one knight order, anyway, and a powerful one that could push back most monsters in a single breath.
And like the blessing of the gods, Cedrian, From this moment on…