Episode 123. The Knight of the Azure Sky (4)

As he was returning to Fort Kalstein, Seon-Hyeok suddenly felt a strange sensation and looked back.

Aria Eisen, exhausted after spamming spells for the first time in a while, tilted her head in confusion at his sudden behavior.

“What’s the matter?”

Instead of responding, he just stared off into the distance.

“It’s too fast?”

There were signs of two objects rapidly approaching from the distance. However, their speed was unusually fast.

They clearly were not Noctein cavalry, as they were much faster and more relentless than any war horse.

“They’re the Knights of the Azure Sky.”

After a brief moment, Seon-Hyeok was able to identify those tracking him.

It was clear the griffin riders had reached the front lines. He could not imagine any others capable of chasing down Redvern.

“They came earlier than expected.”

He knew the day to face off against the griffin riders would come soon, but he had not expected it to be today. He quickly checked on Aria Eisen’s condition.

“I can’t do anything. Maybe just some simple spells.”

She was too fatigued after her excessive use of magic.

Seon-Hyeok quickly identified that she was not in any state for combat, and Redvern also seemed to be low on stamina.

Well, today won’t be my only opportunity.

He quickly decided to flee, rather than dealing with the two Knights of the Azure Sky.

“Let’s hurry up a bit, Redvern.”

They had been moving at a relaxed pace out of consideration for the tired mage, but Redvern sped up at his command.

However, the pursuers did not fall behind.

“Careful!”

Seon-Hyeok gave a quick warning to the mage and pushed Redvern even harder.

Shriek!

Redvern cried out as it accelerated.

By this point, the griffin riders had closed the distance enough that they could be seen as small black dots in the distant sky. He glanced back as he pondered his options.

Although Redvern was fast, it was clear that the griffins were not to be underestimated. In addition, there were two knights pursuing him. There was the possibility that they would be overtaken before returning to the fort.

Even so, both Redvern and Aria Eisen were not in fighting shape. He did not think it likely that they would lose, but there also was no reason to prematurely fight without adequate preparations.

He mentally calculated the distance to Fort Kalstein before calling on Atiya.

“Atiya, help. Redvern’s exhausted.”

“Oh, poor thing. Let me give you a hand.”

Atiya patted Redvern’s head as the wyvern desperately flapped its wings. She soon disappeared into the wind, and Redvern suddenly gained a burst of speed.

***

“Wait, what? I thought we almost caught up, but they suddenly sped up.”

Gilbert Sylvain Lafayette frowned as the wyvern rider quickly disappeared from his view.

“It can’t be that wyverns are faster than griffins?”

“That’s not possible. There isn’t any beast in the world faster than this guy.”

Jean-Marie de Roland heard the other knight muttering to himself and quickly retorted, annoyed by the mere suggestion.

“Sir Lafayette, your Mionte is too slow. That’s why Devon can’t reach its top speed.”

After all, the griffins used by Sir Lafayette and Sir Roland were clearly different. Lafayette’s Mionte was large and ferocious, while Roland’s Devon was smaller and sleeker.

“I’ll go on ahead, so catch up when you can.”

Goaded by his competitive spirit, Roland slowly began to speed up.

“Don’t forget. Our goal today is just to say hello. No matter how much they rested yesterday, Mionte and Devon must be exhausted. There’s no need to overdo it…”

Before Lafayette could even finish, Roland was way off in the distance.

“So hot tempered.”

Knight Lafayette shook his head as he looked at his comrade become a small dot in the air.

“Well, he won’t do anything unnecessary.”

But contrary to his words, he did not look particularly worried.

He imagined there would not be a problem even if the hypercompetitive Roland attacked Adenburg’s wyvern rider.

After all, the Knights of the Azure Sky did not consider the wyvern rider to be on their level.

They were confident in their prowess in the air, and even among them, Roland was particularly skilled in aerial combat. Defeat was not an option.

Nonetheless, there was a reason that two different griffin riders had made their way to this far-off land.

***

Seon-Hyeok frowned. He thought he had left the griffin riders behind after receiving Atiya’s help, but one of them suddenly picked up his pace and was catching up.

“So that’s a griffin…”

They were now close enough to visually identify each other, and he found himself exclaiming in admiration when he saw the half-eagle, half-lion griffin.

The powerful and sleek griffin looked to be on the same level as his Redvern, and the rider was dressed in a fluttering red cape and colorful armor. They seemed to be straight out of legends.

“Hm.”

The knight’s armor had an eagle engraved on the left shoulder and a lion on the right. He raised the visor of his eagle’s head helmet and arrogantly looked down at the wyvern rider.

“What do you want.”

Seon-Hyeok frowned, offended by the challenging gaze.

Until this point, he had viewed his actions as a tactical retreat. However, it would now feel like he was running away in fear.

Nonetheless, he had no plans to turn Redvern around again. Fort Kalstein was just up ahead, and it would be idiotic to face off at this moment.

Despite being well aware of this, Seon-Hyeok was in a foul mood.

“Hm…”

He wanted to attack the griffin right away.

Without realizing it, Seon-Hyeok had become proud of being unmatched in the skies.

But perhaps he was not the only one to feel that way. The pursuer had previously kept his distance, but he quickly accelerated and caught up to Redvern.

By this point, it would not be strange if a battle with the griffin rider erupted at any moment. Aria Eisen cast a brief spell.

With a bang, sparks flew into the blue sky.

“It’s a signal for the Royal Mages. There should be a response soon…”

Before she could even finish her words, countless spells poured out from Fort Kalstein.

“It’s already here.”

As magic imbued with flames, ice, and lightning filled the sky, the Knight of the Azure Sky briefly circled around before disappearing into the distance.

“Earl Drachen!”

Noticing the sudden disturbance, Commander Mangsk hurriedly approached and asked how Seon-Hyeok was doing as he descended on Redvern.

“Are you alright?”

It was only after confirming that Seon-Hyeok, Aria Eisen, and Redvern were uninjured that the commander showed signs of relief.

“To think that the Knights of the Azure Sky would be here already. It could have been a disaster.”

“But what is this…”

Though the griffin rider had already left the scene, the magic spheres remained, filling up the air. Seon-Hyeok exclaimed in astonishment.

“Ah, how do you like it? It’s a magic called Star Field – it’s what we Royal Mages had prepared for the Knights of the Azure Sky.”

The old mage suddenly appeared, chuckling as he boasted about the spell.

“I assure you that nothing, not even a flock of griffins, will be able to get through that for a day, at the very least.”

“Is this…”

Although smaller in size and more varied in energy, it reminded him of the spell cast by the Noctein mages earlier. The mage nodded.

“You’re correct. It’s an improved magic based on what the Noctein mages tried against you. They layered their spells, but it wasn’t particularly special. Ours is more unique – it can track and intercept targets as well.”

It was as Seon-Hyeok guessed – the Adenburg mages had recreated enemy magic using just his testimony. He was impressed.

He already knew that the Royal Mages were essentially savants when it came to magic, but he never imagined that they would be able to mimic and improve magic after hearing about it once.

“To be honest, Star Field isn’t particularly special either. What really is notable is the energy required to maintain such a spell. Fortunately, however, there’s someone among us who’s unrivaled when it comes to that.”

With that, the old mage made a strange expression. When Seon-Hyeok looked at him in confusion, the mage continued in a playful voice that did not match his old age.

“Do you know Lee Eun-Seo? She’s a foreigner like you.”

There was no way he could forget the foreigner mage. She had visited the garrison when he was nothing more than a new cavalry rider, and her inability to control her magic at the time had been a black stain on her career.

She had also forced him to attend the welcoming ceremony against his wishes, and then, after finding nothing of note, had pretended he did not even exist.

“Yes, I do. So she’s here?”

Seon-Hyeok had no idea. After all, mages were always wrapped up in their robes and hard to identify.

“As I expected. She’s the greatest contributor to the magic here. If she wasn’t present, we couldn’t even dream of casting such inefficient spells.”

Unlike him, Eun-Seo had been treated with respect from the very beginning, even at the royal capital. The mage spoke about her proudly, perhaps because she had developed her abilities according to expectations.

“She might be the first foreigner in our kingdom to reach her 2nd class advancement. She advanced from a mage into a wizard.”

“Ah…”

Seon-Hyeok was taken aback. He was surprised that there were others who had successfully reached their class advancements.

“She’s still lacking in many ways, considering she hasn’t had many accomplishments in reaching her 2nd class, but time will take care of that. If there’s anyone with the potential to stand shoulder to shoulder with you in the distant future, it’s her.”

However, his surprise did not last. He did not know whether to laugh or not.

Seon-Hyeok wondered how the old mage in front of him would react if he learned that the Drake Knight had not just reached his 2nd class advancement, but his 3rd as well.

“And so…”

“An, yes…”

However, he had no reason to reveal his abilities. He simply responded half-heartedly.

Mages, old or young, are all tiresome to deal with.

In the case of the old mage, he was just talkative to a fault, but the issue was that he only spoke about what he wanted.

After a while, the mage disappeared after realizing that the foreigner was not as enthusiastic about what he was saying.

“So. What did you think about those Knights of the Azure Sky?”

As though he had been waiting, Commander Mangsk approached as soon as the talkative mage disappeared. He asked about the griffin riders.

“It looked like a pretty close chase.”

“Is that how it seemed?”

Seon-Hyeok casually responded. Internally, however, his thoughts were in turmoil.

Redvern had been put through violent missions all day, and the creature was carrying not one, but two riders.

Even if it had been overtaken under these circumstances, it would not be because Redvern was any worse than the griffins. Likewise, Seon-Hyeok did not feel as though he was lacking compared to their knights.

“The next time we meet…”

The next time we meet, I won’t let you arrogantly look down on me again.”

[Ah, you’ve finally grown into someone worth watching.]

At that moment, a welcome voice spoke for the first time in a long while. Seon-Hyeok barely managed to suppress an involuntary cheer.

The dragon had reached out to him each time he had reached a class advancement, and as such, Seon-Hyeok had expected it this time. Just as he thought, the dragon spoke to him.

However, the current situation was too awkward. He was currently reporting on the day’s events to Commander Mangsk, and there were too many eyes on him to communicate with the dragon.

“Well, I’ll head back and rest for now.”

The commander looked at him suspiciously at his sudden restlessness and change in attitude, but he did not hold onto the knight returning from the battlefield.

“Ah, I was being inconsiderate. I think I’ve heard everything I need to, so go rest.”

“Thank you for your consideration.”

After a quick farewell, Seon-Hyeok hurriedly excused himself.

“Are you still here?”

He was worried that the dragon would go silent during that brief pause. As a result, he nervously reached out as soon as he reached his empty accommodations.

[I have always been here, and I always will be.]

“Ah…”

Thankfully, the dragon was still there.

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