Episode 16. The Significance of the Vanguard (1)

Though they were all part of the 24th Regiment, the infantry rarely saw the cavalry in combat.

The cavalry was arrogant and considered to be valuable. Most of the time, the riders stayed back to defend the flanks of the main camp until later in the battle. By that point, the infantry would already be within the thick of the enemy, and they had no way of knowing whether the cavalry was rushing into battle or messing around.

Their only experience with cavalry was in facing enemy riders charging at them with terrifying momentum. As a result, foot soldiers were afraid of even being on the same battlefield with these mounted troops.

For them, it was rare to get a chance to see a cavalry charge without having to fear for their lives. Thus, infantrymen naturally visited the heavy cavalry training grounds every day to try and catch a glimpse.

“Wow. Seeing this makes me understand why the riders are so arrogant.”

“Could you imagine the suffering of the troops blocking their way?”

The assault training of the cavalry unit clearly demonstrated why they were known as the flowers of the battlefield. Their charging was simply that majestic and powerful.

“But why are they training so hard these days? Are they being dispatched soon?”

The infantrymen wondered why the heavy cavalry, who often gave excuses to avoid training, were making such a fuss all of a sudden.

“Charge!”

There was a huge crowd full of spectators, but not a single rider paid attention to them. No, to be exact, it was rather that none of them could afford to.

“Riders in front, split!”

The training was as intense as an actual battle, where even a veteran rider could break his neck or lose a limb at the slightest mistake.

Damn. It wasn’t supposed to be like this.

The training cavalrymen all shared a feeling of regret. They had simply sought to put the new recruit in his place, but his rapid growth had resulted in the intensification of their training. Now, it was almost too much for them to handle. They longed for someone to call for an end to their training, but were instead forced to smile brightly at the zealous rookie because of their pride.

That reality had snowballed into this. The worst part was that even now, the training was becoming increasingly intense. The riders in front picked up their pace to stay ahead of the new recruit, and those behind pushed their horses to avoid falling behind.

At the center of it all was the rookie, Kim Seon-Hyeok.

That damned bastard.

The riders could tell, even though their vision was blocked by their helmets. They knew better than anyone that the damned recruit would be smiling and shouting, “Again! Even harder!”, at that very moment.

“Maintain ranks while reducing speed!”

The riders inwardly sighed at Captain Clark’s command. They were so exhausted that their arms and legs were trembling out of control.

“Stop. Dismount and check everything! Take care of your own horses first.”

The cavalry cared about their horses more than anything else, and so, they checked on the state of their mounts even before their own bodies. In the midst of all the riders busy checking horseshoes and saddles was one who was standing tall.

Underneath his helmet, Clark frowned at the sight. Despite his newfound proficiency on horseback, the new recruit knew nothing about taking care of his horse. At the same time, he was the only one who looked like he was ready for more.

This was precisely what made Clark wonder. At first, the training had been a way to rein in the new recruit, with ideas of correcting his clumsy charging skills over time. However, at some point, the situation changed. It seemed like they, the veterans, were the ones limiting the growth of this newcomer.

It was driving him crazy.

They were the ones who had learned to be on horseback as soon as they could walk. Even if they weren’t talented enough to become knights as their families had hoped, they tirelessly worked to ensure their superiority on horseback. And yet, they had been overtaken by this novice who couldn’t even get on a horse until recently.

It would have been strange if they didn’t feel a sense of deprivation. However, Clark discarded these uncomfortable thoughts with a shake of his head.

Just like they were crazy about horses, that foreigner was crazy about his training. He couldn’t be disregarded because of his lack of experience, considering how great his passion and concentration were.

The other riders knew this well, and thus, they were forced to conceal their distorted expressions and stood panting underneath their helmets.

“What should I do about him?”

Clark wondered. He was officially only the captain of the 3rd platoon, but the captains of the first two groups were probationary knights with little actual experience in battle. Their role was not in leading the cavalry, but rather in helping Frederick intercept enemy knights that might appear on the battlefield. In reality, Clark essentially led the entire cavalry brigade.

Because of his position, he needed to make a decision regarding the foreigner. If they continued with the current training, the other riders’ feelings of deprivation would develop into hate, and it would undermine the entire brigade’s abilities. He needed to find a solution – not for the foreigner, but for his other subordinates.

As a result, Clark called on Kim Seon-Hyeok separately once training had ended for the day.

“What’s the matter?”

Kim Seon-Hyeok had a dissatisfied expression after being summoned, having been distracted from his individual training. Clark finally made his decision after seeing him.

“Go all out during training tomorrow.”

“Huh?”

Kim Seon-Hyeok, confused, tilted his head at the sudden words.

“Stop hiding your abilities and show your full power.”

Kim Seon-Hyeok’s face stiffened as he belatedly understood what Clark was saying, but then his expression changed to one of confidence.

“Can I really?”

Stunned, Clark just laughed.

“I can really do that?”

Seeing the captain’s reaction, the new recruit asked once again.

***

“Oh, it’s great to finally be out again!”

The other riders matched Hansen’s excited tone.

“Hey captain, how did you deal with the strict company commander?”

“It’s not like a soldier needs an excuse for additional training. I just told him that you guys might cause trouble if we don’t let you blow off steam a bit.”

It was an excuse that was only possible because they were the rough and proud riders.

“Keep it in check. We’re not out here to mess around – we’re going to go all-out today.”

“Even so, we can go visit a nearby town once training is over. Our return isn’t until tomorrow, right?”

“Depends on how you do. If you don’t try hard, we’ll head back to our post immediately.”

At those words, the riders beat their chests and pretended to show their military pride in an overly exaggerated manner.

Kim Seon-Hyeok was the only one who didn’t share in the joyful atmosphere. Clark’s sudden words from yesterday kept resonating in his head.

‘I can’t possibly understand what you’re worried about because I’m not a foreigner like you. But know this: people like you who have such complicated thoughts tend to meet an untimely end on the battlefield.’

Clark’s words had sounded like a curse.

‘I don’t care about the future you’re worrying about or the promotion that the company commander is so desperate to receive. All that’s important for us is to fight and survive.’

However, Clark’s words were too calm and matter-of-fact.

‘So don’t think too hard about it. Ask if you need anything. If you’re trying to hide your abilities, that’s not a problem. The other riders and I can keep it a secret from the company commander.'

To be honest, Kim Seon-Hyeok hadn’t intended to go so far in hiding his powers. He simply felt burdened by the prospective interest from the royal family and the inevitable increase in his debt. That was the only reason he had been holding back, and his actions had not looked good to the hot-hearted captain.

The captain gave him a choice, saying that he could not stand side by side with a man with hidden motives.

“Prepare to charge. Wedge formation.”

Clark gave the command once the riders reached an appropriate place to train.

The cavalry skillfully organized their ranks and clutched their spears and shields. However, something was different this time.

“Kim Seon-Hyeok will take the lead.”

Clark had entrusted the vanguard to Kim Seon-Hyeok.

“Captain!”

“Hey, you’re kidding, right?”

“How can the newcomer take the lead!”

Kim Seon-Hyeok let out a sigh as he saw the other riders panic in protest. Clark had told him to go all out, but it seemed like this was his true intention. Then again, if he was positioned in front, he would be able to show off his full power without worrying about his comrades.

He shook his head and guided his horse to the front.

“Hey, are you crazy? Who do you think you are, trying to be the vanguard!”

“Go to the rear! This is no place for novices like you!”

The riders, despite treating him better recently, swore and roughly grabbed his shoulder. However, Kim Seon-Hyeok ignored it all and stubbornly stood in front.

“Kim Seon-Hyeok in front. Hansen and Jonasson, to his side and back. The rest of you, in the rear like usual.”

“Captain! Don’t you know that the whole formation gets messed up if the vanguard can’t do his job? I know it’s just practice, but we could die here!”

“My decision is final. Any additional comments will be treated as insubordination.”

The cavalry shut their mouths at Clark’s warning. However, their rage and dissatisfaction remained, and these feelings were palpable to Kim Seon-Hyeok.

Ugh. This is so uncomfortable.

Kim Seon-Hyeok had a bitter smile after feeling the fierce glares aimed at his back. Their anger was understandable.

The vanguard was a right given only to the bravest and most talented of riders, and it was unacceptable that a newcomer was being handed this position.

‘If you continue what you’re doing, you’ll be in an awkward position until the very end. You’ll never be fully accepted by the cavalry, but you also won’t be able to stay a complete outsider either. Rather, show off your powers and make it so they can’t ever complain.’

Kim Seon-Hyeok’s shoulders felt heavy upon recalling Clark’s words.

“So much pressure.”

It was no joke. The thought that the riders would be charging at his back was a tremendous burden. He could feel their intent to trample him if he faltered, even though this wasn’t a real battle.

However, Kim Seon-Hyeok ignored all this and slowly began to increase his pace. He looked at the scene unfolding in front of him as he listened to the sounds of countless horses behind his back. This was completely different from the frustrating, limited view he had from the rear, and he could not help but smile as he felt the breeze from the front.

“Hiyah!”

Kim Seon-Hyeok dug his heels into his horse and lowered his stance. Stella exhaled roughly while kicking at the ground violently, and Kim Seon-Hyeok’s vision became blurry.

He couldn’t give up such a good position. The hesitation he felt until the end completely disappeared at that moment, and he began to completely focus on the wind blowing towards him.

“You asked for it.”

The wind from the front became Kim Seon-Hyeok’s energy, and the power of attributes circled the tip of his spear.

“I’ll show you.”

When Stella reached her top speed, Kim Seon-Hyeok whispered.

“Wind Piercing.”

A dazzling light emanated from the tip of his spear and became one with the whirlwind. The violent energy engulfed him and Stella.

They became a massive spear. This was the moment he finally displayed the incredible charging ability exclusive to a dragon rider.

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