Episode 121. The Knight of the Azure Sky (2)

Seon-Hyeok did not respond to the king’s question. Commander Mangsk spoke up instead.

“Your Majesty, there’s no way the timid ruler of Griffindor would send his prized griffin riders into war. Not only that, they wouldn’t do so for the Noctein Kingdom after losing in their war.”

[Yesterday’s enemy becomes today’s ally, and today’s ally once again becomes tomorrow’s enemy. Diplomacy is the willingness to hold hands with foes responsible for the deaths of your own parents when it becomes necessary.]

Commander Mangsk was an exceptional soldier, but he was not a skilled diplomat. Even in battle, Adenburg’s Shield preferred tactics that abided by the fundamentals of war rather than attempts to goad the enemy through trickery. It was inevitable that he would be a neophyte at the interactions and intrigue between kingdoms.

[We will find out in time what price Griffindor was promised, but what matters now is not the details of their secret agreement. What is important is the fact that the Knights of the Azure Sky will soon arrive on the front lines.]

The king was aware of the commander’s shortcomings, and as such, he refrained from reprimanding the soldier.

[Commander Mangsk.]

“Yes, Your Majesty.”

[Are you and your soldiers prepared to meet the griffin riders in battle?]

“I will do my best to stop them.”

[Dependable as always. I will put my faith in Adenburg’s Shield.]

After that final exchange, Commander Mangsk held his tongue. The king once again addressed Seon-Hyeok.

[It is as you heard. Sir Mangsk has promised to do his best to stop the knights roaming the skies. Whether or not you are here, he is willing to carry out his duties at all costs, as he has always done.]

He turned to Commander Mangsk once again. The old soldier had visibly aged since the last war, but he nodded his head, gaze unwavering.

[You may leave the front lines whenever you wish. However, if you change your mind and decide to remain, I will happily reward you for your efforts. That is the contract I have entered with you.]

As expected, King Theodore did not try to forcibly keep him in the war. It was truly up to him.

“I…”

***

A rumor quietly spread among the major figures within Fort Kalstein. It suggested that Drachen would leave the front lines and return to his lands.

“Oh? I heard he was seriously injured by the commander of the Red Wolves. Those rumors must have been true.”

“Even if he can take advantage of the skies, it would’ve been impossible to escape unscathed once caught in a trap carefully laid out by enemy knights and mages.”

Those concerned about his situation hoped his injuries were not severe,

“Wow, he does as he pleases. He got lucky and found a wyvern, but he’s an arrogant nobody until the very end.”

“To think that he’s slinking off alone before the war is even over. Compared to his reputation, his sense of duty is…”

And those envious of his accomplishments denigrated him.

“He fought in over 40 battles in this war alone. Are there any of us who can say the same?”

“If he didn’t defeat the Blue Wolves and inflict significant casualties on the Red Wolves, we’d have suffered heavy losses as well. Don’t speak ill of our heroes just because you’re jealous.”

Of course, gossip concerning Seon-Hyeok failed to gain traction. Some knights were blinded by jealousy and suggested that the battles he fought in did not count because he was attacking from the safety of the skies, but their arguments were put down by the others. After all, even the battles Seon-Hyeok fought with his drake on land exceeded what the vast majority of them had participated in.

“Hmph. His only accomplishment is escorting Aria Eisen around. She should get all the credit.”

However, those blinded by envy did not listen to reason. They ceaselessly belittled Seon-Hyeok, and they did not hesitate in their attempts to undermine his reputation.

It was not like this from the beginning.

When they first arrived on the front lines, the knights looked forward to the day they would attain their long-deserved fame. Once here, however, all they could hear was the name Drachen. His fame and accomplishments could not be overcome no matter how much they tried, and for the passionate young knights, Seon-Hyeok was just an obstacle in their way.

“If only I had a wyvern…”

“He’s just a foreigner…”

Their jealousy and envy deepened day by day, and eventually, these whispers reached Seon-Hyeok’s ears.

“Aren’t you upset? The Central Knights are allowed to take it easy here and only fight battles they can comfortably win! How dare they speak ill of you…”

“Wait. Aren’t you also a member of the Central Knights?”

He looked at the enraged Kim Woo-Young in bewilderment.

“I might be one of the Central Knights, but I’m also a foreigner and a comrade who fought by your side, my lord. It’d be strange if I sat back while my comrade was being insulted.”

After being taught a lesson for his insubordination, Woo-Young had become his ardent supporter. Though Seon-Hyeok himself did not seem to care much for the rumors, Woo-Young raged at the slander.

“So did you say something to those knights?”

“I can’t fight with my comrades, and I don’t have that kind of authority yet…”

In short, Woo-Young was all bark and no bite.

“So you’re telling me to reprimand them? Knock it off. It’s more embarrassing to fight with allies over something as meaningless as one’s reputation.”

Woo-Young looked on awkwardly as Seon-Hyeok clicked his tongue.

“But anyways, why are the rumors spreading so quickly?”

“It’s because the commander has given an order. Our wartime strategies are to be revisited under the premise of your absence.”

In any case, it was fortunate that the rumor had only spread to the knights and mages.

“But will you really leave?”

“Not immediately.”

“So you are.”

“Of course I will. I’m not a warmonger. Haven’t I done more than enough?”

Now that was irrefutable. Even if the current war dragged on for another decade, there would not be another individual capable of matching his accomplishments. Seon-Hyeok’s contributions in this war were simply overwhelming.

“So when will you leave?”

“I’m going to take care of some business before I leave.”

Woo-Young pressed him about these matters.

“I think I’ll be leveling up soon. I’ll leave once I do.”

Woo-Young gave a strange expression upon hearing this answer. When Seon-Hyeok frowned and asked why, the knight scratched his cheek as he replied.

“You really are a foreigner like the rest of us. I thought you didn’t concern yourself with things like levels.”

“Well, I have to level up to survive.”

Of course, it was possible to die while trying to raise one’s level, but that would not be the case this time.

This mission was solely targeting Noctein facilities. Whether or not they were enemies, Seon-Hyeok did not intend to get even more blood on his hands for the sake of leveling up.

“Well, I wish you good luck. If I ever get the opportunity, I’ll make sure to stop by your territory.”

Woo-Young expressed his regret that they could not fight side by side again on the battlefield.

“Like I said before, I don’t know if the royal family will let you.”

Seon-Hyeok dryly bade farewell and sent Woo-Young away. They said their goodbyes as though they would not ever see each other again, but it turned out that their reunion would come much sooner.

“By now, we have all heard that Griffindor’s griffin riders are on their way here, so we will learn how to deal with airborne enemies from Earl Drachen.”

All of the knights had complicated expressions upon hearing Commander Mangsk’s words.

Some showed their excitement, while others calmly watched the situation unfold.

“I knew he wouldn’t stand back and let people insult him like that. I thought he was being too calm.”

Woo-Young shuddered as he saw the look in Seon-Hyeok’s eyes.

The knights’ expressions at the onset of training were all different, but soon, they all made the same face.

“Heok!”

“What the hell…”

Dumbfounded, the knights could not shut their mouths as they watched the wyvern drop like a meteor from the sky. The beast’s speed and momentum was incomparable to a mere cavalry charge.

It was not a matter of gathering their sword energy and trying to deflect the attack. By the time they sensed the red dot approaching from the distance, the wyvern’s terrifying maw was right in front of their noses.

“Again.”

Seon-Hyeok stared at them expressionlessly before ascending into the heavens once again on Redvern’s back.

“If any of you bring disgrace upon the Central Knights again, I’ll have you sent to the rear.”

The senior knight watching the training growled threateningly.

We won’t be beaten so easily again.

Vowing not to be humiliated again, the knights stared intently at the sky.

However, the result remained the same. Seon-Hyeok did not give them room to breathe, and it was as though the first run had been nothing more than a warm-up. This time, he even used Wind Piercing to further pressure the defending knights.

Boom!

Though he held back his strength and aimed slightly away from his target, the power of the attack raining down from the sky was anything but weak.

With a tremendous noise, the solid ground exploded, and the knights almost forgot that this was nothing more than a training exercise.

“I don’t know how the Knights of the Azure Sky fight because I’ve never seen them before, but so long as they’re fighting from the backs of their griffins, you’ll have to keep these kinds of attacks in mind.”

With that brief comment, Seon-Hyeok flew up once again.

“Were the Noctein knights always facing this kind of incredible attack?”

The previously zealous knights came to a realization. Their successive victories on the battlefield were not because of their own skills. They were because their opponents could not concentrate on the battle at hand.

Considering there was a monster like this roaming above them, it would have been strange if the Nocteins were able to exhibit their full strength.

This was the moment that the existing preconceptions of Seon-Hyeok as nothing more than a foreigner with overrated accomplishments were completely blown away.

“He’s coming! Don’t lose focus!”

The five knights forming a group drew their swords and scattered in different directions upon hearing the red star falling with a tremendous roar. They waited for the right moment before unleashing their counterattack.

Boom!

A massive shockwave spread out once again, and the area surrounding the knights was decimated. However, this time, their response was respectable.

“This time, I’ll attack for real.”

But it was too early for them to be relieved. With a single, emotionless comment, Seon-Hyeok flew up yet again. The knights paled as they watched him ascend.

“See? He really is angry.”

Woo-Young shuddered once again as he quietly watched Seon-Hyeok’s expressionless face. It was clear he harbored resentment for the knights’ previous actions.

The training continued.

Shriek!

Like that, the red meteor repeatedly descended on the knights, and their faces gradually darkened.

It was practically impossible for the knights to fully adapt to Redvern’s charge. No matter how much they mimicked real combat, Seon-Hyeok could not actually harm his allies, and the knights were likewise limited in the number of times they could use their greatest weapon, sword energy.

However, though the training took place with these restrictions, the knights were incapable of looking down on Seon-Hyeok any longer after facing Redvern’s attack dozens of times.

“I now understand what His Majesty meant. I don’t know how strong those Knights of the Azure Sky are, but I’m certain they won’t be as powerful as you. If they had seven knights like you, Griffindor Kingdom would have long ago been the conquerors of this continent.”

Commander Mangsk also exclaimed in admiration as he finally witnessed the red devil’s attack after only hearing about it for so long. Though his words seemed exaggerated, Seon-Hyeok did not feel bad when he heard them. Nonetheless, rather than show excitement at the praise, he explained the advantage the griffin riders had over him.

“But there isn’t just one Knight of the Azure Sky.”

The commander nodded.

Seon-Hyeok faced the Adenburg mages as he trained with the knights.

“Standing in place and raining down attacks is our specialty. But more importantly, I think we should focus on our defenses. Can you help us?”

The old, gray-haired mage said not to worry about the mages’ counterattack, but instead suggested that the priority would be keeping themselves protected. It was clear the fact that the Noctein mages had died in vain without having the chance to retaliate was on his mind.

“Endure! Maintain the magic at all costs!”

“How the hell are we supposed to hold on?”

Each mage cast his defensive spells, and Seon-Hyeok beat at the barriers until they shattered.

“If one layer isn’t sufficient, then overlap our defenses!”

The mages’ training method was ignorant and excessive, but it also proved to be effective. After discovering that they were individually incapable of stopping his attacks, they were able to cast multiple layers of magic for a more robust defense.

“Dragon riders are truly terrifying.”

The mages shook their heads after seeing the might of Seon-Hyeok’s lance as it tore through their defenses like it was wet paper.

“I think this should be enough. Our mages can work together from here to strengthen our magic, so your attacks won’t be necessary. Thank you for your consideration.”

They even enlisted Aria Eisen’s help for preparations, in case the griffin riders were capable of bombing them from the skies.

-          You have leveled up.

Around the time the mages finished acclimating themselves to the wyvern’s attacks, Seon-Hyeok received an unexpected message.

-          You have met the requirements for your 3rd class advancement.

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