Episode 26. The Women of War (3)

“Lord Pilgram, member of the Royal Knights.”

“It’s a great honor to meet the commander, who people call the kingdom’s shield, and his talented subordinates. My name is Johnstein Pilgram, and I am one of the Royal Knights.”

With a relaxed gesture, the foreigner introduced himself as Johnstein Pilgram. Seon-Hyeok found this to be both strange and interesting, and he stared at the man.

Much like the other foreigners, Johnstein was neither particularly large nor small. He had a handsome face and gave off a likeable first impression. Seon-Hyeok could not help but admire the man, who exuded an aura of grace dressed in his fancy coat, which was incomparable to the standard cavalry uniform.

“Lord Pilgram is a talented individual and has been formally ordained as a knight. The royal family has gone so far as to give him a new name.”

The commander said that the originally planned large-scale marches had been cancelled. However, the threat of the Sasteins remained, so the foreigners who had been dispatched to the front lines were redirected here.

“In addition, the soldiers are largely distrustful of foreigners given their repeated failures and are suffering from poor morale at the moment. The royal family hopes to dispel this notion and show that not all foreigners are like the ones fighting on the front lines.”

Johnstein added this explanation after listening silently to the commander. His words were bold and combative.

In fact, Johnstein was giving Seon-Hyeok a challenging look. It was unclear to Seon-Hyeok whether he was being treated the same as the other foreigners who faltered on the battlefield, or if the knight felt a sense of rivalry against the man responsible for annihilating the Sasteins.

However, it didn’t matter to him. He could not be ignored given his accomplishments, and he didn’t care whether Johnstein treated him as a rival since they were on different paths.

How cute.

And so, Seon-Hyeok casually returned Johnstein’s gaze. His expression was so calm that the knight was taken aback.

“There are other troops here in addition to Lord Pilgram. Our plan is to only use the best for this operation. We’ll draw in those picky Sasteins by providing our forces as bait. Of course, that bait will be hard for them to digest, but that’s their problem.”

The commander ignored the strange atmosphere and continued with the meeting.

What’s this old man planning…?

Seon-Hyeok let out a sigh, knowing that even a model soldier like the commander was not always honest.

***

The meeting progressed quickly once the number of reinforcements was decided, and the plan to trap the Sastein cavalry was devised.

The ability and insight of the commander responsible for part of the border and his subordinates were excellent as expected. In any case, Seon-Hyeok felt it would be difficult for the Sasteins to enter their borders.

“That’s all I can do to help.”

The rest was up to those responsible for fighting the Sasteins.

“What do you think? Are you satisfied with this, Frederick?”

“Yes, it’s more than enough support. I want to thank you for your consideration.”

“Really? Then what about you? Your company commander is saying it is more than enough support, so have our odds of victory improved a little?”

The commander absentmindedly accepted Frederick’s response and proceeded to also ask Seon-Hyeok.

“My answer is the same as before. I will make sure we do not lose.”

It was a vague response, but the commander was pleased with what he heard and once again laughed.

“Yes. It is enough. What could be more important for the soldiers guarding the border?”

The commander rose up and grabbed him by the shoulder to offer words of encouragement.

“Please do not lose. Our soldiers will be encouraged by the mere presence of allied cavalry that can stand up to the Sasteins.”

***

Once the plan to defeat the Sastein cavalry was finalized, the 24th Regiment heavy cavalry hurried back quickly. They were concerned that any delays would result in the Sastein cavalry coming out of hiding and ravaging the nearby areas.

“Don’t ruin it. It took a long time to make.”

Emma came to see the riders as they were getting ready. She had made handkerchiefs for the men in the 3rd Platoon, and surprisingly, there was even one for Seon-Hyeok.

“What? You don’t want it?”

Emma frowned and commented as she saw Seon-Hyeok holding the handkerchief with a puzzled expression.

“No, that’s not it. Thank you.”

Noticing her scent, Kim Seon-Hyeok subconsciously clutched the handkerchief and shook his head. He then noticed the embroidered words.

“The immortal cavalry?”

The words didn’t suit the cold and haughty Emma, but they reflected just how much she wished for their safety. However, Seon-Hyeok could not help but laugh at the childish name.

Dissatisfied, Emma frowned and reached out her hand to take back the handkerchief.

“Well, since you gave it to me, I’ll use it well.”

Seon-Hyeok quickly avoided her hand. Emma seemed like she was about to say something, but instead turned to the other riders.

“Don’t get blood on it. It won’t come off. Ever.”

“Okay. I’ll try. At the very least, it won’t be my blood. Maybe the blood of the enemies who cower at the sight of me.”

“You’re being stupid.”

As expected, the woman and men failed to express their emotions warmly. However, their words were sincere today, just as they had been yesterday.

“Don’t you dare die! If you do, I’ll chase you all the way to hell!”

“Oh, but I’ll be going to heaven once I die! Don’t waste your time on a fool’s errand and just keep watch over the store!”

Hansen thought he was being clever. The other riders punched him, saying he was giving them bad luck.

“She’s still following us?”

“Let her be. She’ll be lonely for a bit, but she’s strong. She’ll get through it.”

Seon-Hyeok remarked after noticing Emma following them from far behind, but the other riders responded with sad expressions on their faces. Even then, their footsteps were slow, as though they were holding back the desire to look back.

Ugh. I shouldn’t tell them she’s crying.

Seon-Hyeok sighed, seeing the tear marks on her clear cheeks from afar.

“You bastards! Make sure you come back alive! You promised you’d see me get married before you die!”

“Then I’ll never be able to die in peace! Who would take a girl like you?”

In the end, the riders were only able to leave after hearing Emma’s tearful shout.

***

Only a few of the support troops sent by the royal family were included in this operation. However, each and every one of them was worthy of notice.

“Nice to meet you. You’re Kim Seon-Hyeok, right? My name is Ahn Yoo-Jung, and I’m in charge of the mission.”

Surprisingly, Johnstein was not the leader. The woman who introduced herself was beautiful and exuded elegance.

“I’m a summoner.”

Seon-Hyeok, after being momentarily distracted by her fine appearance, believed her earlier statement once she revealed her class. All the knights were recognized as middle-tier upon their awakening. Summoners, like mages, were among the few who were above them.

Treatment towards foreigners was wholly dependent on their tier, so it was normal that she had been given command of the group.

“Nice to meet you. My name is Kim Seon-Hyeok. I am…”

“I know. Dragon rider, right?”

There was a hint of playfulness in the voice that cut him off. Seon-Hyeok would have been angered by the subtle comment in the past, but he now knew that his class had higher potential than any other. And so, he provoked her back with a smile.

“It’ll be rough travelling with the riders. Do you think you’re up for it?”

His words were targeted at all four of the foreigners gathered here. The knights in this world prioritized swordsmandship over horse riding, so it was natural for their horsemanship to be comparatively lacking.

This time, it was the others that laughed as they retorted.

“Do you think the royal family sent us here without even considering that? All of us here have advanced horsemanship.”

“Ah, even Yoo-Jung?”

It was understandable for knights to have high tier horsemanship, but less so for a summoner like her. Yoo-Jung soon explained.

“Horseback riding used to be one of my hobbies before coming here.”

Seon-Hyeok thought she seemed elegant, and indeed, she had enjoyed a privileged life. As he nodded and listened, she belatedly revealed the main point of the meeting.

“You haven’t forgotten that all the foreigners are under royal command, have you? In other words, you’re under my command as well.”

What was this nonsense? 

Seon-Hyeok’s eyes widened.

“So in the future, please address me as viscount and not by name. As they say, ‘When in Rome, do as the Romans do.’”

He had wondered why he was called out the day before their mission, and in the end, it was to determine their hierarchy. Yoo-Jung seemed accustomed to getting what she wanted, considering her privileged upbringing.

“You might not be happy about it, but it’s the law here.”

“I understand. I will call you by your title from now on, viscount.”

“…”

Seon-Hyeok did as she asked. After all, she had a higher rank and the higher rated class. She was even part of the nobility, so he had no reason or need to refuse.

Equality and democracy – those were concepts from the other world. It would be foolish for him to insist on values that weren’t even properly kept where they were from.

Considering he had been serving in the military, where obedience to one’s superiors was demanded, it wasn’t strange or humbling for him to do so. However, Ahn Yoo-Jung seemed to think differently.

She looked at him with a frustrated expression, as though the conversation was not going as planned. Nonetheless, there was nothing she could complain about. He had accepted her ‘request’ too readily.

“Please follow my instructions in the future. It would be more efficient for us to work together, instead of with the barbaric locals.”

“That will be difficult.”

Seon-Hyeok had no issues staying on friendly terms with Yoo-Jung, but he had no intention of being dragged around. Thus, he cut her off at a certain point.

“The commander clearly designated me as a member of the 24th Regiment heavy cavalry, and my position is at the vanguard of the riders. If that doesn’t work with you, you can ask the commander separately. I will be happy to accept any direct orders from him.”

Even if they were foreigners under royal command, this was a time of war. It would not be easy to reverse the commander’s orders. In addition, that insidious man was not easy to manipulate by any means, and he wouldn’t be quick to listen to the foreigners stationed comfortably at the capital.

“It would be possible if you wanted it.”

“But I don’t.”

Seon-Hyeok saw the foreigners staring at him as he drew a line in the sand. In addition to Johnstein Pilgram, there were three other knights who had yet to be introduced. All had displeased expressions and complained, saying that foreigners like them, who were all placed in the same difficult situation, needed to stick together.

Same situation?

Seon-Hyeok had no intention of associating with the entitled foreigners who had become accustomed to the comforts and special treatment offered by the kingdom. He felt uncomfortable around them. In contrast, he thought that Lee Eun-Seo had been rather cute in judging people solely by their ability.

“Since you had a major accomplishment in battle, you’ll soon be called to the capital as well. Don’t you think we’re the only people you can trust?”

Yoo-Jung tried to maintain a friendly tone, but it was only out of habit and an attempt to preserve her sense of nobility. There was no sign of respect in her voice, and she was not the type of person he would get along with.

“I’m good at following orders, but I’m not the type of person to go out of my way to get something.”

Seon-Hyeok spoke first, before she could voice her disapproval at his stubbornness.

“Do you use the wind attribute by any chance?”

Yoo-Jung nodded in response to his sudden question.

“How did you know? I haven’t been revealing my abilities. In any case, I was told that my affinity with the wind attribute is particularly high.”

Seon-Hyeok grinned after hearing her question.

“Did you just say affinity?”

His smile grew.

“Just answer the question.”

“Well, I just had a feeling.”

Her use of the wind attribute was dependent on affinity, while he controlled it through domination. Seon-Hyeok didn’t even need to ask which was better.

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