Episode 28. The Difference Between Friend and Owner (2)

When she was first dropped off in this cursed world, Ahn Yoo-Jung had been so distressed that she wanted to die. She despaired of the military training, the first experience with painful training in her life, but her suffering and despair did not last.

‘Congratulations. Summoners are high-tier. You’ll probably be my superior the next time we meet.’

She soon awakened as a high-tier class and was immediately granted titles and full support from the royal family.

‘Oho. A summoner? And a summoner with a wind spirit at that!’

‘This is a great blessing for the royal family and the kingdom!’

Given that she had a high affinity with a rare spirit, people treated her well. The foreigners who had been transported to this world with her tried to get closer to her, as she had a higher tier class and a more prestigious position.

In turn, Yoo-Jung selected the capable ones and kept them close. Many longed to stand alongside her, and over time, the small group grew into a faction.

She managed to establish herself without crossing the line and provoking the royal family, who were always sensitive to any potential dilution of their power. It was all thanks to her innate political aptitude and ability to manage others.

The life she built was so comfortable that she was no longer envious of her previous life, but since arriving at Fort Mangsk, nothing had gone according to plan.

It was all because of the man standing in front of her.

Even their first meeting had gone astray, as she lost control over the conversation before she knew it. As such, she instead avoided getting close to him. Though she did not want to admit it, they were incompatible. Nonetheless, she had her responsibilities, and thus, she embarked on the mission with him.

During the journey, her spirit suffered unlike ever before. This was also because of that uncomfortable man. The spirit was terrified by his mere presence and ran wild after a certain point.

As a result, Ahn Yoo-Jung had caused a number of delays in the troops’ movements as she tried to calm down her spirit.

But even that had been acceptable.

Since they were not pursuing the Sasteins and rather trying to lure them in with the goal of defeating them in combat, her mistakes were not terribly severe. She was confident she could make up for her minor shortcomings. However, she continued to be subdued as she also felt an immense pressure from his mere existence.

“Why is my spirit afraid of you?”

No, that wasn’t it. It wasn’t just her spirit that was afraid of him. She was also afraid of Kim Seon-Hyeok. Even though she understood her feelings were a result of the connection she had with her spirit, she could not separate herself from them.

Even then, if that had been the extent of her feelings, Yoo-Jung could have ignored him and pretended he didn’t exist. After all, they were in different positions and unlikely to meet after the completion of the mission. However, her feelings ran deeper.

She wanted to follow him, submit to him, and obey his commands.

For her, who had always been in a position of command, this temptation was appalling.

“Anyways, the point of this mission is not to hunt down the enemy. It’s to make them find us. The delay today won’t negatively impact the mission, so you just need to do well starting tomorrow. Please have a good night’s rest.”

Rather than arguing with him for deflecting, she felt the urge to bow her head and thank him for the clichéd words of comfort.

However, the pride she had built up throughout her life protected her, and she was able to avoid the shame of once again clinging to this strange man.

“Then have a good rest, and I’ll see you tomorrow. Tomorrow… won’t be as difficult as today.”

Hearing the man speak with an apologetic voice, Ahn Yoo-Jung barely managed to nod her head.

“Whew.”

It was only after he left that she could breathe. The immense pressure that battered her mind died down, but her fear remained.

The current situation, where she, one of the highest-tier foreigners, was suppressed by a low-tier class, was incomprehensible. Questions about the man’s hidden abilities lay deep roots within her mind.

***

“What did the two of you talk about? Is there anything to discuss with that burdensome person?”

The other riders’ comments were cold when he returned after meeting Yoo-Jung.

“Well, there wasn’t much to talk about. I felt a bit sorry, personally.”

“There’s nothing to be sorry about. I heard they asked the commander for command of the mission. I’m glad he refused.”

“You wouldn’t have followed even if he hadn’t.”

There was no way the stubborn riders would have readily listened to an outsider’s commands. When Seon-Hyeok pointed this out, Jonasson stepped in with an aggressive comment.

“We’d love to listen, but ambitious novice commanders tend to die easily. Isn’t that just how war is? And also, people aren’t always stabbed from the front.”

Seon-Hyeok was momentarily speechless, hearing Jonasson suggest his willingness to stage a coup if necessary. He once again realized how these rough riders had survived, and what kind of world they were now living in.

“But doesn’t that woman like you?”

“That’s impossible.”

“No, take a look. She’s still looking towards you.”

Seon-Hyeok shook his head at the riders as they followed up their serious comment with a lame joke.

“It’s really not possible. Stop saying nonsense, and go rest.”

From their brief conversation, he was able to gather that the control and domination exerted by the dragon riders affected her spirit, and, by extension, her as well. Her interest was not out of desire, but rather a sense of alertness and apprehension. Their relationship had no room for love.

“You should get some rest too. We’ll need to be on edge as well starting tomorrow.”

With a few final comments, the riders returned to their spots.

Seeing Yoo-Jung fall asleep with fatigue after watching him, he gave her some of his power over the wind attribute.

She normally would have been able to take care of her own body, but she was unable to use her spirit now due to excessive stress. In this situation, Seon-Hyeok’s actions were, once again, a form of apology.

It’s not much, but…

Watching Ahn Yoo-Jung fall deeper into sleep after tossing and turning for a while, Kim Seon-Hyeok likewise went to sleep.

The group, roughly the size of two cavalry companies, moved neither particularly slowly nor quickly. They could have reached their garrison sooner if they wanted to, but that was not their intention.

Instead, they were blatantly baiting the Sasteins, and their plan was obvious for all to see. Ironically, however, their enemies had no choice but to fall for their plan despite being fully aware of it. The only way to get the victory and revenge they desired was to defeat the heavy cavalry belonging to the 24th Regiment.

On the fourth day of their march, Seon-Hyeok could begin to feel their enemies’ ambition from a distance.

“We’re getting a bite.”

Even as he continued to make contact with Yoo-Jung’s spirit, taking advantage of the previous day’s lessons and experience, Seon-Hyeok remained vigilant in monitoring their enemies throughout the day.

“It doesn’t seem like they’ll initiate a battle right away, but I get the feeling they’re observing us from a reasonable distance.”

At his words, the mood of the troops immediately changed. The previously loose military discipline immediately tightened up, and the stretched out lines reorganized in preparation to charge at a moment’s notice.

“Be prepared, but don’t be too on-edge. If you remain too alert, you’ll get tired before the battle even begins.”

The riders relaxed slightly at the company commander’s command.

“Hm…”

The soaring military discipline soon subsided, but Ahn Yoo-Jung and her group paled after feeling the fierce energy. As Seon-Hyeok expected, their experience was lacking compared to that of the battle-hardened cavalry.

“Tsk. Will they be able to pull their weight at this rate?”

“We’ll just have to send them in and see. Once the battle begins, I’m sure they’ll come to their senses out of their desire to survive. Then again, it wouldn’t matter too much even if they collapsed out of fear.”

The riders did not trust this secret weapon given to them by the commander, and there was no way they would entrust them with the vanguard. Johnstein Pilgram voiced his disapproval, but the company commander ignored his complaints while informing him of the pride and solidarity of the riders.

“We’ll open up a path first. Lord Pilgram and the others can sweep them up afterwards.”

Considering that Yoo-Jung, the one person who could have feasibly objected, was silent under Seon-Hyeok’s oppressive aura, the others likewise had no choice but to follow their orders.

The enemies continued to approach as they once again determined their roles in the upcoming battle. Soon, the enemy scouts began to emerge at a distance visible to the naked eye.

“They’re being obvious with their intent to attack.”

“That’s to be expected. Those bastards invaded enemy territory just because their pride was hurt from a previous loss. There’s no way they would try to restore their honor through a sneak attack. It’s stupidity, but it makes sense nonetheless.”

The riders slowly prepared themselves for battle as they saw the enemy scouts approach from afar. They instinctively realized their enemy would soon launch their offensive.

These intuitions proved correct, and the main Sastein forces soon became visible.

“So what. Is it going to be a frontal assault?”

The Sastein cavalry, which confidently appeared on the other side, were lined up as though they would charge at any moment.

“Those crazy bastards. They’re bloodthirsty. They’re telling us we’ll all die here.”

A frontal collision between riders was terrifying because of the sheer mass of the humans and horses involved. It would be dangerous even if the enemy riders were all inexperienced.

“They’re looking to see this to the end, no matter how severe their losses.”

All cavalry units were reluctant to directly confront other riders, but their enemies did not show an ounce of fear. They were simply that confident.

However, the Sasteins weren’t the only ones unopposed to a cavalry clash at this moment.

“Seon-Hyeok. I’ll leave this to you once again.”

On their side was Kim Seon-Hyeok, the overpowered cheat code from the previous cavalry battle. His Wind Piercing ability was a large area-of-effect skill that distorted space itself, and their enemies would be left fending off a powerful attack with their vanguard already devastated.

“I’ll take charge of the initial attack. Even if I’m not in front, I can handle enemy arrows at the very least.”

Ahn Yoo-Jung, who had stiffened upon noticing the fierce fighting spirit of the riders which was unlike her previous experiences dealing with bandits, stepped up to offer her support.

“Thank you. Don’t overdo it though. Clashes among cavalry are much more violent than you can imagine. If possible, stay behind the lines and move with the support of Lord Pilgram and the other knights.”

As they spoke, the Sastein cavalry began to move. The light tapping of horseshoes against the ground soon became a tremendous roar as their enemies charged.

“All riders, raise your spears!”

At Frederick’s command, the entire cavalry lifted their massive spears in unison and tucked them under their arms.

“Charge!”

The heavy cavalry was ready to go in an instant and began to spur their horses forward. The light cavalry clutched their bows and quickly moved from the flanks.

The battle would be so fierce it was incomparable to their previous encounter. It was to be a hideous affair, with both sides only looking to crush their foes without any regard for battlefield tactics.

Ping!

Once in range, the Sastein bastards and the Mangsk light cavalry exchanged volleys of arrows. Though the Mangsk cavalry displayed their bravery, it was clear from the initial exchanges that they were inferior to the Sasteins.

“My free and valiant friends! Appear now and bring death to my enemies!”

It was Ahn Yoo-Jung. She summoned not one, but five spirits to create a wall of wind above the light cavalry and give strength to the less threatening allied arrows.

The skewed balance of power regained its equilibrium. However, this single act of support was not enough to turn the battle in their favor. Hundreds of arrows rained down on the battlefield, but they failed to inflict damage to their targets.

“There’s an enemy mage!”

Just as the allied forces borrowed the power of spirits to nullify the arrow fire, the enemies used their magic. A translucent barrier seemed to appear above the Sastein riders’ heads and deflected all of the Mangsk arrows.

“Conserve the spirits’ strength and try to stop the enemy mage!”

“Understood!”

Just like them, their enemies had thoroughly prepared for battle, but this was as expected by those in command. The Sasteins, having suffered their first defeat, would have analyzed the factors behind their loss and realized that superhuman forces were involved. It was possible they had even gone back through the carnage on the battlefield.

And so, the heavy cavalry remained calm and glared at their enemies through the slits on their helmets as they charged forward.

“Then I wish you good luck!”

After several volleys, the Mangsk light cavalry fell back. The battlefield was too chaotic for the lightly armed and armored light cavalry to win on their own.

“Whoo. Whoo.”

Seon-Hyeok exhaled as he watched the light cavalry split off and fall back from the chaos. He once again recalled the nightmare of the previous battle, but he overcame the tremendous pressure and gave strength to the allied cavalry.

Bang!

In the meantime, artillery fire was being changed by the two sides. Fireballs descended towards the heads of the allied riders, only to be pushed aside by the summoned spirits. The spirits summoned powerful gales, resulting in the sound of things breaking among the enemy ranks.

Ahn Yoo-Jung was doing much better than expected. All that was left now was for the allied cavalry to defeat the enemy riders.

Seon-Hyeok muttered under his stifling helmet.

“Wind Piercing.”

At that moment, a fierce beast roared and charged towards the enemy ranks. However, there was a rider that stood out on the vanguard of the Sastein riders. He was the lone rider holding a sword in the sea of spears.

“Hyah!”

With a brief shout, a five-colored light appeared from the Sastein riders’ side and opposed the blade of wind created by Seon-Hyeok’s ability.

“Damn it! There’s a senior knight among the Sasteins! Fall back, Seon-Hyeok!”’

Despite their tremendous prowess in battle, riders were classified as low-tier. It was because of superhuman beings like the one that just appeared as their enemy.

Frederick, someone on the cusp of being promoted to the rank of senior knight, tried to take the lead, but he wasn’t able to overtake the full-speed charge of the riders in front.

Even if the company commander could, it would be after the allied vanguard was devastated by the enemy front.

Damn it. Damn it. Damn it.

The Sasteins must have planned for this. Clark, who was right behind Seon-Hyeok, shouted his name once again.

“Seon-Hyeoooook!”

In that moment, both the blade and the wind disappeared. At this rate, Seon-Hyeok would have to directly face off against the monster that was the senior knight. In the worst case scenario, both vanguards would be simultaneously devastated, resulting in a dogfight.

“We’ll all die if I back off now!”

Just before impact, countless thoughts popped up in his head, and Seon-Hyeok felt he was close to death.

Damn it.

However, backing down now meant reducing the offensive power of his allies, and if that happened, the riders would all be defeated, whether they were leading the charge or were in the rear. And so, rather than backing down, Seon-Hyeok once again gathered his strength.

He planned to crush the enemy vanguard by using Wind Piercing once again, even if it proved unsuccessful. Perhaps his opponent was thinking along the same lines, as the knight who blocked his first attack seemed to be gathering light around the tip of his sword.

“Wind Piercing!”

He rushed to cast his ability before his opponent could respond. However, at that moment, a spirit that had been flying in the air suddenly interrupted him.

“Use me.”

It was a mysterious voice, much like that of the dragon.

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