Episode 17. The Significance of the Vanguard (2)

‘Are we really doing this?’

The newcomer seemed to be asking if they could keep up. Clark laughed with a dumbfounded expression after hearing his question.

‘He couldn’t possibly be hiding that much power.”

Clark had experience charging into battle with arrogant knights and being led by senior riders. Never once did he feel overwhelmed by their abilities. If nothing else, he was confident that they, the heavy cavalry, were the best on horseback.

He was wrong.

The foreigner currently charging in the vanguard was not focused on destructive power at the expense of speed like the knights, but at the same time, he didn’t only focus on speed like the light cavalry. He was fast but steady, exemplifying the ideals of the heavy cavalry.

If that had been it, however, Clark’s pride would not have been so completely shattered. The newcomer’s charge had more to it.

It was this unknown factor that widened the gap between the foreigner and the riders in the rear. How could he be so fast?

Clark thought Kim Seon-Hyeok had reached his top speed, but he effortlessly broke past his limits and continued to accelerate.

Was the Widowmaker that great of a horse?

Clark shook his head in response to his own question. No matter how fast a horse was, it couldn’t possibly run like that while fully equipped and carrying an armored rider. The foreigner’s charge was clearly abnormal.

“Hiyah!”

Clark gritted his teeth and spurred his horse on. At this rate, the second line would end up lagging far behind. He and the other riders didn’t want such a shameful spectacle to be associated with them, so they desperately charged forward.

However, they had reached their limit.

Damn.

Clark had to concede.

They couldn’t keep up with that monster of a newcomer. It was unreasonable to keep up this pace. One mistake could mean catastrophic injuries for the entire unit, and not just a failed charge.

Clark’s pride was hurt, but he needed to make a decision. Just as he was about to give the signal, something unexpected happened.

“Huh?”

The tremendous pressure from the front seemed to suddenly dissipate, and the gale winds disappeared as though it had all been a lie. With that, the foreigner further increased his speed.

Clark soon realized why.

The world behind the foreigner clutching his spear was completely distorted. He was even tearing apart the wind blowing from the front. At that moment, Kim Seon-Hyeok became the shield that blocked the wind and the massive spear that would pierce the enemy ranks.

“That’s ridiculous!”

The spear tore through the air as Clark blurted out those words.

***

“Whoa, whoa. Settle down. Good girl.”

With a satisfied expression, Kim Seon-Hyeok calmed down Stella, who was breathing roughly as if feeling the effects of the charge. He looked back to the area his spear had passed through.

The training dummies, hastily set in preparation for training, were completely destroyed, and the hard earth was marred by a hideous mark.

These were the traces left behind by the dragon rider’s special skill, Wind Piercing.

“You…”

Clark approached and commented as Kim Seon-Hyeok marveled over his handiwork.

“This…”

He couldn’t identify the emotions contained in the muffled voice coming from under Clark’s helmet. However, his shock was unmistakable.

“You did tell me to go all out.”

Kim Seon-Hyeok’s heart pounded at the realization that this was the first time he had demonstrated the true abilities of a dragon rider to others, and he was filled with pride.

***

The day’s training ended immediately. Clark led the cavalry to a village near the border.

The riders would normally be excited at the prospect of spending a night outside their garrison, but on that day, they were silent.

“Aigoo. We’re honored to have such valued guests…”

Frightened by the subdued atmosphere, the village chief came out to greet them, but nobody paid him any attention. They were still in shock over the foreigner’s display of strength.

“Wow, how long has it been since we had a drink?”

Only the new recruits were talking excitedly. However, the rest of the riders were not the type to worry about anything for a long time. As expected of a poor village, the food and alcohol provided by the chief wasn’t particularly great, but it was sufficient to lift the atmosphere.

“Hey you!”

Hansen slammed down on the table and rose after gulping down an entire bottle.

“Yes?”

“Who the hell are you? Are all the foreigners like that? Normally?”

Hansen was musclebrained and anything but eloquent even when sober. His question now was hardly intelligible.

However, the jumbled question was representative of the complicated emotions felt by the cavalry.

“You bastard. We’ve been riding horses ever since we were born. So who the hell are you!”

Hansen’s feelings of futility and deprivation were evident in his screams. His comments contained antipathy towards the foreigners, who were able to easily improve and become stronger.

“The vanguard is the most dangerous position, but it’s also the most glorious.”

Jonasson spoke up in Hansen’s place.

“It’s an important task – to lead the riders from the front and be the first to charge into the enemy ranks.”

It was the most valued position because it was the most dangerous, and it was the pride of the heavy cavalry. However, their pride had been shattered today by the unimaginable charge of the newcomer. Everything they considered to be important became meaningless in front of this display of strength.

Putting your life on the line? What a joke. Intense training, military discipline, etc. – it was all useless against that kind of power.

They all felt this way, and it wasn’t solely directed at this foreigner. To some extent, the common people all rejected these superhuman beings, whether they became knights or mages.

“We trained our entire lives for that one honor. But watching you, it made all of our efforts until now seem meaningless…”

“Ah, shut up.”

At that moment, the newcomer jumped up from his seat and shouted.

“You piece of shit. Do you think I’m here because I want to be? You told me to show off my strength, so why are you complaining now?”

The riders’ eyes grew wide upon seeing the foreigner be emotional for the first time.

“So what? You’ve been training on horseback since you were born? You think I was just handed these abilities? I haven’t had a single day without bloodstains or blisters since I’ve been here. I trained like my life depended on it even while you all slept!”

The others could sense the foreigner’s feelings of victimization as he cursed at them with a red face.

“That’s nothing…”

“Oh, shut up and listen. Have you ever thought about my situation? Why was I dragged here and made to do this shit? Did any of you even wonder what my life was like before this?”

The riders shut their mouths when they heard the foreigner bring up the other world.

“Effort? Effort? Okay. You think I haven’t tried? But all the things I worked for in the other world are useless here. Do you know how it feels to lose everything and start from the beginning?”

Nobody could respond.

None of them had ever considered that the foreigners in this world used to be common people in their own world. They simply treated them as individuals who lucked into their skills and classes, and thus were able to live comfortably.

“Fuck off. You can have it all if you’re so jealous. Just leave me alone.”

“Hm…”

The foreigner’s voice died down.

“That bastard’s drunk.”

Jonasson muttered at the sight of the newcomer, who collapsed onto the table and remained motionless.

“Ah, why did I say that to someone who’s drunk.”

Even as he uttered those words, Jonasson’s expression remained complicated. His eyes, previously filled with animosity, had softened, and his earlier feelings of futility and deprivation were gone.

“Fuck!”

The foreigner, who had seemingly collapsed, suddenly jumped up again.

“Come at me. I was a fucking sergeant in the Korean army!”

“Ugh!”

Jonasson was hit by the newcomer’s fist before he had time to react.

“Let’s all die here today!”

The foreigner’s eyes were completely crazed.

***

“Ugh…”

Kim Seon-Hyeok groaned in pain. Used to the higher quality alcohol from the other world, he had a huge hangover from the crude, stronger drinks here.

“Ugh!”

However, he couldn’t afford to roll around in pain. His face paled as he remembered the events of the previous day. He recalled the harsh words he said while drunk, but everything after that was blank. Kim Seon-Hyeok couldn’t help but be nervous.

“You, you son of a bitch….”

At that moment, Jonasson opened the door and came in. His face was a complete mess, with splotches of black and blue.

“Y, your face…”

“Don’t ever drink again.”

“I’m sorry.”

After being quickly briefed on the previous day’s events, Kim Seon-Hyeok immediately went to the hall where Clark and the other riders had gathered and bowed his head. He couldn’t look at their faces, which were all tinged red, blue, and yellow like autumn leaves.

“What are you doing? You drank so much yesterday – you need to take care of that hangover.”

Surprisingly, the gazes of the riders weren’t particularly fierce. Clark smirked as Kim Seon-Hyeok confusedly approached and sat down at the table.

“Seems like you have a pretty nice jab?”

“I’m sorry.”

Kim Seon-Hyeok apologized again, not able to look at Clark’s swollen face, but the captain simply waved his hand.

“Hey, shit happens when guys drink together.”

It seemed as though they didn’t have lingering emotions from the previous night’s events. Kim Seon-Hyeok belatedly realized this and sighed in relief, and Hansen wrapped an arm around his shoulder.

“Hey. Let us know if you’re having a hard time.”

Hansen was missing his front teeth.

***

“Thank you for your hospitality.”

The village chief was particularly awkward around Kim Seon-Hyeok. After all, he was the one who acted like a rabid dog in the previous night’s brawl.

“Oh, and this is for breaking some things while I was drunk…”

“Aigoo! There’s no need! It’s understandable. Things can happen when men drink. You really don’t need to…”

Dozens of giant riders had attempted to restrain Kim Seon-Hyeok the night before, and they were all beaten into a pulp. Having witnessed this, the chief couldn’t carelessly respond to the polite-faced foreigner speaking to him now.

‘Make sure nobody hears about the events from yesterday.’

In addition, the chief had already received plenty of compensation from the leader of the group. The man had asked him to keep quiet about the previous day’s brawl – or rather, the one-sided beating – and the chief had given his word.

“Don’t worry about it. We’re just fortunate that such valiant men are guarding our borders.”

Kim Seon-Hyeok tilted his head at the chief’s words.

Oh, I guess people in this world are tolerant of what people do while drunk?

Having reached his own conclusion, he said his farewells to the chief and returned to the cavalry’s quarters.

“You’ll take the vanguard in the future, Seon-Hyeok.”

Kim Seon-Hyeok’s eyes widened at Clark’s declaration.

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