Episode 24. The Women of War (1)

“You don’t have to glare at Frederick like that. I’ve stood on the battlefield countless times with the 24th Regiment. I have no doubt that it’s our most reliable cavalry unit, but I also know better than anyone that it wouldn’t win in a frontal assault against the Sasteins.”

It seemed as though their victory had been too decisive and raised suspicions with the commander.

“If you’re worried about the royal family’s attention, then I can reassure you. I also don’t want a valuable person like you being taken away from the front lines and becoming involved in the intrigues at the capital. Please don’t worry about the news of this getting out.”

Seon-Hyeok breathed a sigh of relief and reset his expression. Another person had discovered his secret, but nothing had changed. It just meant that one more person would be sharing the glory of his feats. In addition, since he was simply looking out for himself, there was nothing for him to lose, no matter how many people shared the rewards.

“Please keep your promise.”

Of course, that was only true under the assumption that the promise would be kept as long as he needed it to. The commander looked straight at Frederick and commented.

“He’s quite bold. This is the first time a common rider has asked something of me like this.”

“He’s a foreigner and has been stuck at the barracks this whole time, so he’s not familiar with our customs. I’ll reprimand him later.”

“No, no. I wasn’t trying to blame you. A soldier on the front lines should have that much spirit at least. The capital always takes the useful ones, so until now, I hadn’t been pleased with the guys stationed at the border.”

Seon-Hyeok’s mind worked quickly as he watched the two men openly evaluate him in his face.

As it turned out, the commander was unhappy that the capital was currently monopolizing the talented individuals available. It seemed as though Seon-Hyeok stood to benefit even more than what he had agreed to with Frederick.

“I heard you made a deal with the company commander. I’d like to make you an additional offer.”

After going back and forth with the company commander about the state of the young soldiers, the commander belatedly turned to Seon-Hyeok with a suggestion.

“Eliminate the rest of the Sastein bastards. Can you do that?”

It needed to be done whether or not it was possible. Seon-Hyeok now understood how notorious the Sastein cavalry were, but he was unsure whether a single victory would absolve him of his debts.

“Commander, what is it that you want?”

However, he didn’t want to accept the commander’s offer right away, and thus, he asked about his intentions.

“Victory. Erasing the name of ‘Sastein’ from this world. That’s what I want.”

Seon-Hyeok’s eyes opened wide at the uncalculating, straightforward response, and the commander laughed.

“It shouldn’t be strange for a soldier to want victory. I don’t need any more personal glory or honors. I’ve protected this post for over 10 years and accomplished everything I could ever want. You should have all the glory.”

“I only want practical things.”

He had already made a deal with the company commander. The glory of victory would go to Frederick, but in return, any spoils of war and the resulting profits would belong to him. In the process, he would be able to repay his debts to the kingdom and acquire ample funds for his future.

However, the commander was telling him to have all the glory, which he did not even want. With an expressionless face, he shook his head.

“I already heard from Frederick, but it’s not right for a real soldier to intercept the glory of his subordinates. I can’t let something like that happen, now that I’m aware of it.”

Unlike his first impression, the commander was an honest and straightforward man.

“Ugh.”

Looking at the company commander turning his head with a grumble, the commander continued.

“In any case, all Frederick needs for promotion is a little more reputation and wartime honors. That’s something I can handle myself. I don’t want such a dear friend to steal his subordinate’s glory and become a senior knight in such an underhanded fashion.”

It was a flawless argument, and contained within it was a sharp reprimanding of Frederick.

“My intent is to report your achievements as they are. You destroyed the rear Sastein forces and slaughtered dozens? That’s a rare feat. It’s enough for a knighthood.”

“But then the royal family…”

Seon-Hyeok needed to avoid the royal family’s attention. Loyalty was an unfamiliar feeling to him, considering he had grown up in the modern world, and he did not want to be bound to service and dedication to an unknown kingdom he did not even call home.

“Don’t worry. By the time this war is over, you’ll be able to clear all of your debts to the royal family. Actually, considering it’s the Sasteins you’re facing, it’ll be more than enough. If you want, you could even start anew in your career as an officer without any debts. In any case, your situation will be completely different from what it is now.”

Seon-Hyeok sighed once again. He belatedly realized the commander’s intentions.

Just because the commander had no self-interests, it did not mean that he lacked aspirations in general. He coveted the foreigner with the mentality of not wanting to lose an able soldier who could secure the kingdom’s borders.

“Of course, this is all dependent on you exterminating the Sasteins as I suggested. However, I believe that you are capable of doing so. It’s because you have that ability that the company commander made that ridiculous offer to you.”

Seon-Hyeok knew that if he listened mindlessly, he would get caught up in the commander’s machinations before he knew it. Realizing this, he decided to focus simply on what he wanted.

“So what do I have to gain from this?”

The commander left his seat first. He commented that his subordinates wouldn’t be able to relax properly because of his presence. Seon-Hyeok felt that the commander fit the ideals of a superior officer, and that if he had been born and raised in this world, he really could have followed him.

However, he was a foreigner who was transported here from the other world, and for him, it was difficult to deal with a model soldier.

“But I got all the concessions I could…”

By negotiating with the commander, someone several steps higher in the military hierarchy than the company commander, Seon-Hyeok had been able to gain much more than before. Honor wasn’t something he particularly wanted, but there was no reason to refuse it from the way things were going.

After all, the end result wouldn’t change whether he repaid his debts as a low-level rider or a prestigious knight.

“Seems like you were talking with the commander for a while? What were you two talking about?”

The riders rushed to him with questions once he returned to his seat. Seeing their red faces, it seemed as though they had already had too much to drink.

These guys aren’t normal either.

In the other world, it would have been strange for subordinates to freely drink at a party organized by their commander, regardless of what they were told.

“He was just saying how I could be knighted for my accomplishments in battle. I’d become a higher rank than the captain, so what should I do?”

The riders laughed at the ridiculous joke.

“There’s no way that could happen. You really don’t understand what this world’s like.”

When Seon-Hyeok asked why they seemed so certain, Jonasson responded.

“Do you think an ordinary person can buy and maintain those expensive war horses using their own resources?”

“T, then…”

“Anyone who becomes a knight had those funds in the first place, you idiot.”

The riders laughed at his expression. They were essentially saying that they were all members of the nobility, simply ones without the right to inherit their families’ titles.

“That’s ridiculous!”

Seon-Hyeok shouted out, having had his fantasies of nobles and their elegance be shattered in an instant. The riders whacked him in the head and back.

“What’s so strange about us being from noble families?”

Hansen, still missing his front teeth, asked, and Kim Seon-Hyeok unknowingly protested.

“Hansen, you’re the most ridiculous!”

The celebration soon ended. The riders had a lot to drink, but they remembered that they were in a fortress on the front lines and stopped before becoming intoxicated.

Among them, Seon-Hyeok was unable to drink a single glass because of the watchful gazes of the other riders, who were wary after the previous incident. To his dismay, he remained completely clear.

“Ugh. Not even a single sip.”

However, Seon-Hyeok couldn’t say anything because of his prior sins.

“Those guys are already asleep.”

He shook his head at the sight of the men snoring away and closed his eyes.

However, he could not sleep. He had fallen asleep without any problems on the first night because he had been exhausted, but he was not as fortunate today.

“Ugh…”

He could recall the scene of the battlefield as soon as he closed his eyes, and he let out a groan. The grudges of the dead clung to him like evil spirits, and he suffered.

I’m sorry, but it’s just the way of this world.

Seon-Hyeok tried to apologize out of guilt, but there was no way his words would reach the scattered dead. He tried to calm his mind and resist the incoming nightmares.

He was determined to survive at all costs, so it was a burden he would need to bear. He gritted his teeth and endured the night.

As soon as the day dawned, the riders were busy taking care of their horses. Seon-Hyeok, who had spent the night awake, followed them to the fortress’ stables.

The horses had been lifeless for a while, possibly as a side effect of being unnaturally energized through the power of the attributes, but they seemed to have finally recovered. It seemed as though humans and horses alike were now overcoming their exhaustion from their forced march.

“Snow White, did you sleep well?”

“Crazy bastard. The widowmaker won’t know that’s her name.”

The riders laughed at him as he stroked the white horse. As they said, Stella did not seem to like the name ‘Snow White’. She pretended not to hear him when called by that ridiculous name, and Seon-Hyeok had no choice but to call her Stella once again.

“But the Mangsk guys are on top of things, as expected. They took good care of the horses and their horseshoes.”

The riders left the stable after confirming that their horses were in good condition.

“Where are you going?”

“Just trust your hyung and follow me.”

Hansen’s voice seemed oddly excited.

“If you stay quiet, I’ll take you somewhere nice.”

Seon-Hyeok faltered, recalling the terrifying image of the senior rider when he first arrived at the 24th Regiment. His fears were not unfounded.

“What are you doing in broad daylight?”

“Hey kid! What do you mean, broad daylight? It’s always broad daylight when a soldier’s awake!”

Unlike the desolate 24th Regiment garrison, the fortress was full of bars and other places, including some suspicious ones.

“I heard you accomplished something big this time?”

It was a blunt voice that didn’t sound particularly cute, but why was his heart racing?

“Oh? It’s been a while. You look prettier, Emma.”

“Hansen, you got uglier. When did you lose your teeth?”

Emma, whose long brown hair was tied up, sharply retorted and turned her head. Seon-Hyeok avoided the gaze that suddenly fell on him.

“I haven’t seen you around before?”

It felt like he’d been away from women for too long. He had completely different feelings now than when he met Lee Eun-Seo, who had been draped in mage robes.

“He’s the youngest. Take good care of him. I heard he was somewhere without women even before coming here. Maybe you could… ack!”

Hansen’s joke crossed the line, and he was met with swift retribution. He became quiet after being smacked in the head with a heavy wooden tray, and the woman named Emma walked up to Seon-Hyeok.

“Black hair… are you a foreigner?”

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