Episode 23. Cavalry Catching Cavalry Catching Cavalry (3)

It was a silent whisper and a formless message. However, Kim Seon-Hyeok could strangely understand the warning.

“From the east?”

What he could barely figure out was that there were enemies not too far away, and that they were approaching quickly at that moment. Everything else was hazy.

“Enemies are approaching!”

Kim Seon-Hyeok did not hesitate. At his shout, the bustling cavalrymen looked between him and Company Commander Frederick.

“How far?”

“I don’t know! But they aren’t far!”

Hearing him respond with a stiff expression, the hot-tempered company commander leapt on his horse.

“Stop searching the bodies! Everyone on their horses!”

Before the full command could even be given, most of the men had dropped their spoils of war and begun mounting their horses. They immediately lined up and awaited further instructions.

“What will we do?”

At Clark’s question, Frederick raised his hands as if to say there was nothing to think about.

“We ride at once to Fort Mangsk! If the worst comes to pass, abandon the carts and bring only the horses!”

Frederick had determined that it was too dangerous to fight the Sastein cavalry twice in quick succession. The other riders seemed to agree, and nobody objected.

“Group 9 in the lead! Move quickly in non-combat formation!”

Soon, the heavy cavalry of the 24th Regiment began to hastily depart the battlefield.

“Hm…”

Kim Seon-Hyeok looked around the bloody battlefield several times before following the riders with a heavy sigh.

***

Fortunately, the ride to Fort Mangsk went smoothly. That said, that did not mean there were no potential threats along the way.

“Southeast! Southeast! It seems like they’re trying to overtake us and block the path!

“Riders in the lead, change direction! To the northeast!”

Kim Seon-Hyeok detected all of these impending dangers in advance, and each time, the riders were able to adjust their route and further distance themselves from the enemy. As a result, the ride to the fortress was winding and much longer than expected, but nobody complained.

“I can’t sense them anymore! It seems like they gave up the chase.”

The enemy had increased their speed towards the end in a last effort to approach, but then they suddenly disappeared. Kim Seon-Hyeok belatedly noticed this and informed the riders that they were no longer being pursued.

“The path from here is often patrolled by the long-range scouts of Fort Mangsk. It seems like the enemy thought it would be too ambitious to chase this far.”

The riders had ridden for two straight days after the battle. When their horses got tired, they jumped onto the horses taken as spoils of war, and they refused to stop even when the carts full of enemy drops broke down. It was a grueling time for both humans and horses, but they were finally able to accomplish their goal and get out of range of their pursuers without losing a single rider.

“Rider in front, lower your pace. Everyone, check your equipment and horses while continuing to move.”

Once Frederick gave his command, all the riders let out a sigh of relief and relaxed. They had thought they were about to die.

However, as befitting of veteran riders, they did not forget to check the conditions of both themselves and their horses.

“Wow. Is this for real? We actually did it?”

The riders had surprised expressions on their faces, amazed that they had safely completed this crazy march.

“Will anyone believe us at the fortress? If we say we annihilated the Sastein cavalry and then rode without sleeping for two days, they’ll say we’re full of shit, right?”

“If anyone dares to say that to my face, I’ll smash their mouths.”

“Hansen, it’s not your mouth but something else that needs smashing… never mind. Sorry.”

The riders belatedly regained their composure and joked around. Kim Seon-Hyeok was the only one who remained drooped on his horse, trying to regain his breath.

“Well, it’s amazing you weren’t left behind.”

"Yeah, that’s right. This was your first time in battle, but you had tremendous accomplishments and were even here for this ridiculous march.”

Kim Seon-Hyeok frowned at the uninspiring encouragement from his colleagues.

Why do you think I’m this tired…

Kim Seon-Hyeok was too exhausted to speak, and he wordlessly waved his hand.

The riders were proud of successfully completing their insane march, but he could not agree. After all, it was his efforts that made it all possible.

Wind Body.

Kim Seon-Hyeok had maintained the Wind Body ability for the entirety of the two days. He constantly gave energy to the ever-exhausted horses and the weary riders. On top of that, he used Wind Spirit from time to time to locate the enemy and inform the group of their whereabouts. His efforts meant that not a single rider was lost during their forced march to the fortress.

He found the riders clamoring in excitement without even knowing of his efforts to be distasteful, and he finally retracted the power of Wind Body.

“Ugh! My body…”

“Huh? Why are the horses like this?”

The riders cried out, feeling their bodies becoming heavier and their horses losing their energy. Kim Seon-Hyeok laughed at the sight and considered re-engaging the ability before giving up.

Ah. I don’t want to lift a finger anymore.

Now that they were no longer being pressured, Kim Seon-Hyeok became keenly aware of his exhaustion and did not want to use any more abilities.

“Hm?”

After a while, he noticed a small unit approaching and saw familiar colors among the incoming riders.

“It’s the Mangsk scouts!”

***

“Forward! I heard the news. The commander was worried because your arrival was later than expected. We are so glad that you are all safe.”

The scout seemed relieved to find the 24th Regiment in good shape, perhaps especially because they had already heard about the retreating 27th.

“It seems like we worried the commander. However, we had our reasons.”

“We know. We’re fortunate you didn’t suffer like the 27th…”

The scout had an understanding expression as he listened to Frederick, but he suddenly shut his mouth.

It was because the company commander had suddenly pointed to the cart full of war spoils in the midst of their conversation.

“There was a battle on our way here. Those are the trophies of war.”

“There are other enemies within our borders?! We need to hurry and notify the commander…”

The noisy scout once again shut his mouth. He had noticed the red-plumed helmets in the cart.

“That. It can’t be…?”

“That’s right. Those belonged to the Sasteins.”

Frederick briefly turned around to look at Kim Seon-Hyeok. However, upon seeing no special reaction, he turned back towards the scout to boast.

“The 24th Regiment heavy cavalry was ambushed by a company of Sastein cavalry, but we defeated them without suffering heavy losses. There are no survivors among the Sastein bastards.”

“Ah…”

Looking at the scout with his mouth open in shock at the unexpected news of victory, Frederick kept his composure and continued in a solemn voice.

“I ask you! Are we deserving of a victory ceremony at Mangsk, having shown incredible bravery and determination on the battlefield in our victory over the powerful enemy?”

“You are.”

“Then what are you doing? Ride at once to notify the fortress of our victory, and prepare to welcome our soldiers!”

In response to Frederick’s scolding, the scout, with a surprised expression, selected a few from his group and quickly sent them to Fort Mangsk.

The notoriety of the Sasteins was incredibly high. Their cavalry had terrorized countless border villages and devastated dozens of cavalry units, and thus, these demons were hated by the entirety of the Adenburg Kingdom. Although it had been against just a single company, the achievement of the 24th Regiment in annihilating these demons was a rare victory in recent years.

“The greatest cavalry! All hail the 24th Regiment heavy cavalry!”

“All hail Knight Frederick Sildorf!”

The Mangsk elite troops came out to the fortress’ entrance to welcome the victors. For Kim Seon-Hyeok, it was the first time in his life receiving such a welcoming ceremony. Of course, most of the cheers were directed towards the company commander who had led the troops to victory, but many were looking at the riders in admiration.

Clark saw Kim Seon-Hyeok looking at the cheering people in a daze. He approached the latter and said, “Most of the soldiers here are from the nearby border villages. Every single one of them has lost loved ones to the Sastein bastards.”

It was only then that Kim Seon-Hyeok understood the exaggerated cheers greeting them like they were war heroes.

“Do you understand? We’re the heroes who avenged their lost families.”

At that moment, neither his extreme physical fatigue nor his depleted energy from activating the power of the attributes was important. He subconsciously straightened up and lifted his spear into the air.

“Give them a wave. The company commander put you in front out of respect for your heroics in battle.”

When Kim Seon-Hyeok raised his hand, the soldiers cheered, just as true to Clark’s words.

“You’re the best! You’re real men!”

“I’ll treat you to a proper meal if you’re ever in my hometown, so come anytime! 24th Regiment!”

“So good looking! I love you! I’d be open to treating you right now!”

There seemed to be some dangerous responses mixed among the reactions, but Kim Seon-Hyeok chalked it up to his feelings.

Once they arrived at the fortress and began to unpack their belongings, news began to trickle in from the front lines, regardless of their willingness to hear of it.

It seemed as though the soldiers from Fort Mangsk had been stranded because the enemy’s forces had advanced to the border. The Sastein cavalry ravaging the countryside as if it was their own homes also posed a huge problem.

The decisive victory of Kim Seon-Hyeok and the 24th Regiment over the Sastein riders that crossed the border meant that the situation was now changing rapidly.

“I’m sure those bastards never imagined losing part of their cavalry just like that.”

Having lost an entire company, the Sastein cavalry were no longer able to freely terrorize the countryside and instead rejoined their main forces, unable to further provoke their enemy.

“Our cavalry was hit as well, but losses were minimal, and we didn’t lose entire companies in battle. In the end, there was some give and take, but the result was hugely advantageous for us.”

Kim Seon-Hyeok was not accustomed to people treating human lives like a game of numbers, but he wordlessly nodded at Clark’s explanation. Even if he didn’t like it, it was the way of this world, and he would need to adapt.

“Let’s go. The generous commander has prepared a feast for the riders.”

“Ugh. I just wanted to rest.”

Clark forced him to attend, saying that the riders would have been called in yesterday had it not been for their ridiculous march.

The hall of the fortress was already saturated with the smell of alcohol and meat. Kim Seon-Hyeok had said he was tired and had no appetite, but his mouth watered at the smell.

“Oh! It’s the heroes who defeated the Sastein devils!”

“Let’s hear the stories!”

The soldiers of the fortress swarmed them as soon as they entered the hall, and it was their commander who saved them.

“The commander is here!”

“Attention!”

When the soldiers stood up and saluted, the commander smiled with a pleased expression.

“Make yourself at home. This is a place for celebration.”

Although his hair was slightly graying, the commander of the fortress exuded power. People had to step back when they saw his muscular physique and lively eyes.

“Now, there’s nothing worse than speaking for a long time when there’s food out. I’ll keep it simple.”

The commander looked quite plain compared to the previous time when he visited the 24th Regiment with Lee Eun-Seo.

“I am proud and thrilled by your victory. Eat and drink to your heart’s content – we will overlook whatever happens tonight.”

“Wow! Long live the commander!”

The riders cheered and went wild as soon as the commander completed his short toast.

“Seon-Hyeok.”

Kim Seon-Hyeok was excitedly tearing through the food with the other riders, but he raised his head upon hearing his name.

“The commander would like a word.”

“Why would he want a normal rider like me…”

Hadn’t he already agreed that Frederick would take all the glory for the battle? Turning at the unexpected call, Kim Seon-Hyeok noticed Frederick waving at him with an unidentifiable expression.

“So you’re the one.”

The commander laughed and acted cordially when Kim Seon-Hyeok approached and saluted. However, when the foreigner tilted his head in confusion, the commander said something unexpected.

“So. I heard you were the hero of the battle?”

Kim Seon-Hyeok froze and fiercely glared in Frederick’s direction, but the latter motioned for him not to worry.

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