Episode 27. The Difference Between Friend and Owner (1)

“But let me ask you one more question. Do you have any actual experience?”

“Hmph. Do you think the royal family would have sent us to the front lines if we weren’t experienced? We’ve had plenty of…”

Yoo-Jung closed her mouth with an expression wondering why she was answering so obediently. However, Seon-Hyeok was already driving the conversation.

“So what do you mean by experience?”

“I’ve taken care of bandits and monsters.”

Once again, Yoo-Jung was taken aback as she realized she was answering so readily. She seemed bewildered and unable to accept her own behavior.

The situation might have been better if that Johnstein person had taken charge. However, she had already claimed to be the group’s leader, and Seon-Hyeok was her natural enemy.

The spirit of the wind, which formed the basis of her abilities, was simply something to be dominated for Kim Seon-Hyeok. Neither she nor her wind spirit could feel free from his influence.

“I’m telling you once again. Sticking with us will be good for you as well, Seon-Hyeok.”

Perhaps this had been her original goal, rather than determining their hierarchy. Yoo-Jung pressed on, but she looked ridiculous, and her face showed that she was already at a loss for words.

“So join us. I promise you our full support, in addition to the royal family’s backing.”

What was first an attempt at coercion became a suggestion and finally something close to begging. The foreigner knights seemed puzzled as they watched their interactions.

“Well, we can talk again if we survive the mission.”

Seon-Hyeok watched with satisfaction as the previously confident faces crumpled.

“I have the feeling we’ll be seeing each other again even after this mission, viscount.”

Yoo-Jung shuddered at his remark.

“There’s no reason for you to be so impatient for an answer.”

“Eek!”

Only after hearing his words did Yoo-Jung realize that she had been hanging onto him shamelessly. She belatedly tried to adjust her attitude, but could only shrink back as she saw him turn around and walk away.

She did not have the courage to grab him and once again try to assert her dominance.

And given that she couldn’t understand what had just happened herself, the others were likewise confused.

“Did you have any other ideas?”

Hearing Johnstein’s question, she belatedly gathered her expression.

“The commander is supporting him at the moment, so let’s back down for now. If we needlessly provoke him, the old man might step in.”

Her excuse was wholly unpersuasive, but Johnstein and the other foreigners did not dig deeper. She was at an incomparably higher position than them, both in this world and the other world, so there was no reason to antagonize her.

“In that case, we have other business to take care of.”

“Go ahead.”

The foreigners hurriedly left as if wanting to avoid her, and Yoo-Jung, left all alone, recalled Seon-Hyeok’s name.

“Kim Seon Hyeok…”

She felt the need to pay Lee Eun Seo, the royal mage, a visit in the future. The stuck-up mage who carefully managed her performance had only failed once, and it had been at the 24th Regiment garrison.

Perhaps it really had been a coincidence. Yoo-Jung repeatedly said the name of the suspicious man.

***

“I had high expectations because I was told you developed your skills with the full support of the royal family, but were you really only involved in factional conflicts?”

Seon-Hyeok thought it was ridiculous. The foreigners on the front lines struggled to survive on the battlefield, and thus, he felt it was pathetic that those in the capital could leisurely engage in such quarrels.

However, it was too early to jump to conclusions. It wouldn’t be long before they showed their abilities, and he could outwardly express his disappointment then.

And anyways, there was something much more important. He had been given a clue regarding the origin of the attributes’ power.

“Are they spirits…?”

He could definitely sense it. Though it did not reveal itself, Seon-Hyeok had immediately noticed a simultaneously familiar yet strange presence hovering around Ahn Yoo-Jung. He also instinctively realized that the spirit seemed terrified of him.

The spirit hid in fright soon after being noticed, and Yoo-Jung likewise fell apart after initially looking down on him. She had meekly responded to his questions after losing control of the conversation, and she could no longer regain her original arrogance.

“Wait. If I get other attributes down the line, won’t they all be beneath me?”

Seon-Hyeok grinned at the thought.

***

The day of the operation finally arrived. The 24th Regiment heavy cavalry and one of the fortress’ light cavalry companies left Fort Mangsk.

“I wish you good luck.”

The commander personally came out to see the riders off and wish them victory.

“I won’t let you down.”

The commander smiled at Company Commander Frederick’s confident response and immediately looked for Seon-Hyeok.

“Please keep your promise that you wouldn’t lose. If you do, I will give you even more than I originally promised.”

“Looks like I’ll need to win and meet you again to see what that reward is.”

“So be sure to succeed. We can talk more after.”

Company Commander Frederick and the foreigners were shocked at the sight of the commander offering his firm hand for a handshake. His actions were treating the foreigner as much more than an average soldier.

“And now.”

Ignoring the reactions around him, the commander said his farewells before stepping back and raising his hand. At the slight gesture, the soldiers lining the walls of the fortress stamped their feet in unison and beat their chests.

“For the 24th Regiment’s victory!”

Hearing the sincere voices of those who they had never exchanged words with, the riders answered in response.

“May Fort Mangsk remain impregnable as always!”

With those short farewells, the riders left the fortress.

***

The foreigners hadn’t lied about having advanced horsemanship. Of those, however, the most shocking was Ahn Yoo-Jung. She used her spirit summoning ability to compensate for her comparatively lacking horsemanship, and the control she exhibited over her abilities was exquisite.

“Hmph!”

She laughed derisively as soon as their eyes met. However, Seon-Hyeok was not looking at her. Rather, he was looking at the spirit hovering around her.

He had barely felt the spirit the previous day, but now that he knew of its existence, it was just barely visible.

The spirit had the form of a little girl with two pairs of wings like those of a butterfly, and she hid as soon as their eyes met.

Flutter.

Seon-Hyeok could not help but laugh at the sight of the little girl hiding behind her owner and trembling.

“Are you crazy?”

He was reprimanded by Clark as a result, but he did not stop observing the spirit.

“Oh. So it’s like that.”

Seon-Hyeok kept an eye on the spirit even as he rode on his horse, and it wasn’t simply out of curiosity. Considering he had previously treated the power of the wind attribute as just a force to be gathered and used, he had much to learn from how Ahn Yoo-Jung manipulated the spirit in various ways.

“Ugh. It’s hard.”

However, he was unable to replicate her abilities just by seeing them.

In the first place, they used their abilities in different ways. Compared to a summoner, who asked spirits for their strength and support, a dragon rider’s use of attributes was far more extreme and violent.

If he wanted to use his ability in such delicate ways, he needed to learn how to completely control the power of the attributes.

Nonetheless, following Yoo-Jung and experimenting with the extent of his abilities proved hugely beneficial for him. His Wind Body skill, which had shown inefficient growth despite his reckless use of it, immediately improved.

- Your attribute control has increased by 1.

Seon-Hyeok smiled in satisfaction at the familiar message.

As he productively spent his time and increased his attribute control a number of times, Seon-Hyeok suddenly became curious about the nature of his stats.

Did the power of attribute control really denote power?

His curiosity became active questioning, and this soon turned into action.

He tried using his power of the attributes on the spirit hovering around Yoo-Jung. He wondered whether the little spirit would obey his commands.

At first, it did not go as he wanted. Until now, he had ignorantly brute forced his control over the attributes, and despite wanting to control his power, he overwhelmed the spirit.

“Ack!”

As a result, Ahn Yoo-Jung screamed and stopped her horse. It seemed as though spirits and their summoners had even stronger ties than he expected.

“Ugh.”

Seon-Hyeok belatedly realized his mistake and dispersed his strength, but the other riders stopped their horses and went on alert, thinking that the shout was indicative of a surprise attack.

“Tsk. I’m not surprised.”

“I thought they were keeping up too well.”

Realizing there was no cause for concern, the riders lowered their voices and whispered among themselves.

Overhearing their comments, Yoo-Jung, face red with embarrassment, cried out in indignation.

“That’s not it!”

“If there’s no problem, we’ll keep moving.”

Company Commander Frederick cut her off and ordered the troops to resume. His attitude was completely different from the time Lee Eun-Seo visited their garrison in the past, so it seemed as though he had reached a secret agreement with the commander. Otherwise, there would be no reason for his pandering attitude towards influential figures from the capital to change overnight.

“Ugh!”

Yoo-Jung couldn’t stand the company commander’s cool gaze and glared in anger at Seon-Hyeok. She must have instinctively realized that he had tried something. However, that was all she could do, given the eyes on her.

“Sigh. Be good. Why are you giving me such a hard time today?”

Unable to vent, she instead focused on soothing her spirit. However, her struggles were only beginning, as Seon-Hyeok’s efforts would not end there.

“If you act like this again tomorrow, we’ll have no choice but to move separately.”

Forced to make camp far from where he had initially planned, Company Commander Frederick rebuked Ahn Yoo-Jung out of frustration. Tired and without the energy to answer, she simply nodded.

“Tsk.”

Frederick frowned at her arrogant attitude, but in the end, he did not want unnecessary friction with those who could affect his career down the line. In place of the company commander, who stepped away after speaking his mind, the other riders glared at her.

Seon-Hyeok feigned ignorance as he watched the situation unfold.

He had bothered her spirit throughout the entire march, and naturally, his efforts were conveyed directly to the summoner. As a result, Yoo-Jung had been unable to focus on riding her horse and repeatedly held the entire unit back.

Having suffered through the march under the reproachful gazes of the riders, Yoo-Jung was exhausted in both mind and body.

“Ah…”

Her bangs, drenched in sweat, had lost their tidy appearance, and her dusty hair and clothing were a complete mess. No matter how negatively he felt towards her, Seon-Hyeok could not be pleased seeing her drop to the ground and gasp for breath.

However, it had been necessary. Even if his improvements hadn’t come at her expense, it was necessary to put her and her group down a bit, as he didn’t know when they’d meet again.

‘Please take responsibility for them. They’re foreigners like you, so you should be familiar with their tendencies.’

The commander had given him this command, fearing that the newcomers, who had never experienced the difficulties of war, would be out of control. Seon-Hyeok was the only one the commander could trust, as Frederick, driven by career ambitions, would be unable to fully fulfill this role.

In that sense, Yoo-Jung’s repeated shortcomings became a nice excuse. Even though the pace of the march was not as important given that their mission involved wiping out the enemy forces rather than intercepting them, mistakes were still mistakes, and a leader’s mistake could jeopardize the morale of the entire group. Her errors had thus reduced the potential for conflict within their ranks.

Ugh. I still feel a little sorry.

“Here. Drink this.”

And so, he approached her and offered her cold water as his apology.

Gulp. Gulp.

The water in the canteen, which had been exposed to the wind as they rode, was cold enough to jolt her tired mind. Barely regaining her senses, Ahn Yoo-Jung asked him in a bewildered voice.

“Who the hell are you?”

“What do you mean?”

Seon-Hyeok again feigned ignorance. Some of his abilities would inevitably be revealed once they were in battle, but he had no reason to do so prematurely.

“That was you earlier.”

“I don’t know what you mean…”

“You thought I wouldn’t know? Why would my spirit…”

Seon-Hyeok frowned at the woman, who seemed to have noticed something from her spirit. But then…

“Be afraid of you?”

As she spoke, her eyes shook wildly with both desire and shame.

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