Episode 29. The Difference Between Friend and Owner (3)

It was Seon-Hyeok’s first time hearing the voice of a spirit. Nonetheless, he was happy to accept the offer without further thought. When he expressed his feelings, the spirit, which had until now resisted his control, accepted it without complaint.

‘My name is Atiya.’

- You have entered a contract with the low-tier wind spirit, Atiya.

Atiya threw herself towards the end of his spear even before the message fully disappeared.

“Huh?”

With a brief farewell, Atiya was pierced by the spear and disappeared. Her energy wound around the weapon and made up for his previous lack of strength.

“Ah…”

Seon-Hyeok was dumbfounded as he saw the little girl fly into his spear. However, the enemy was almost upon them, and their senior knight had almost finished casting his ability. Seon-Hyeok quickly tried to forget about Atiya’s appearance and added more strength to his weapon.

Whoosh.

Bang.

A tearing sound and an explosion were simultaneously heard, and the five-colored blade of light emerged. The blade and wind collided once again. It was the same situation as earlier, but the result was quite different.

The blade of light failed to dissipate the wind, and the residual energy swept through the enemy’s vanguard.

“Charge!”

Seon-Hyeok shouted as he watched the Sastein vanguard completely collapse.

“Prepare for impact!”

The heavy cavalry shouted in response, having complete faith in their leader.

Seon-Hyeok had broken the enemy vanguard, but the Sasteins were not completely defeated. He lunged forward with his spear as his horse leapt over the enemy mounts that had fallen on the battlefield. The Sastein cavalry, defenseless after their front collapsed, hurried to lift their spears in response.

However, resistance was futile in front of the 24th Regiment’s charge, which did not slow down despite already pushing through the remains of the Sastein vanguard.

“Ack!”

Their enemies fell from their horses, pierced by the spears imbued with the strength of their charge.

Damn it.

Seon-Hyeok hurriedly let go of his spear before his arm broke from the impact, but even that brief moment was able to deliver murderous intent.

However, was it because he was still on the battlefield? Or, perhaps, because his past experience had numbed him to the feeling? Seon-Hyeok simply drew his longsword, just as he had been trained.

“Hyah!”

A new enemy emerged from beyond the crumpled war horse and raised his sword, face distorted like that of a demon. His attack was incomparably shabby compared to that of the senior knight who Seon-Hyeok had exchanged skills with, but even so, it seemed more than enough to cut down heavy cavalry riders.

The foe’s sword stabbed forward, as if to pierce through his chest.

“Hup!”

Seon-Hyeok instinctively twisted his chest to avoid the attack and immediately looked to retaliate, but then stopped in his tracks. The Sastein rider who attacked him had already passed by, ready to attack his next opponent.

“Don’t slow down! Don’t focus on finishing off each and every enemy!”

The chaotic battle, founded on two cavalry units charging quickly at each other, did not allow for two combatants to stand and exchange blows. Seon-Hyeok instead lunged forward towards the next opponent that emerged.

Bang!

Their swords clashed in mid-air. Once again, there were no casualties. The combatants checked their opponent’s killing intent and moved to the next.

“Argh!”

Seon-Hyeok heard a scream from behind, but he wasn’t sure whether it belonged to friend or foe. He felt the urge to turn his head and confirm it wasn’t an ally, but gritted his teeth and continued on. For him, it was best to continue avoiding and blocking the attacks from the front while retaliating with his own strikes whenever possible.

Bu-dum. Bu-dum.

He could no longer hear anything above the chaos of the battlefield and his frantically beating heart.

He breathed heavily through the ringing of his ears, and the insides of his helmet grew hotter with each breath. The heat, chaos of battle, and ever-present killing intent was suffocating.

The other riders are right behind me, right? I’m not the only one left?

Terrible thoughts flashed through his head, and he kept wanting to look back to check.

Please. Please.

All he could see were the faces of the vicious enemy, and he desperately charged ahead, hoping he wasn’t alone.

When he finally reached his limit, he heard a shout from behind.

“We’ve broken through!”

At that moment, his narrow field of vision suddenly widened. He saw the open plains behind the few enemies left standing.

***

The Sastein cavalry was terrifying as expected. Their ability to penetrate through the carefully organized ranks of the heavy cavalry and the flashes seen every time they swung their swords confirmed why they were regarded as the strongest, even in close combat.

Nonetheless, the goddess of victory ruled in favor of the Adenburg Kingdom. The swordsmanship of the Sastein cavalry, deemed more powerful than that of apprentice knights, was nullified by Johnstein Pilgram and other knights, and their mage was limited by Ahn Yoo-Jung’s spirits.

As a result, the center of the Sastein cavalry was completely devastated, and their remaining forces were crushed by the waves of heavy cavalry that followed. That said, the cavalry of the Adenburg Kingdom did not escape unscathed.

Of the hundred heavy cavalry that began the battle, only forty remained.

The Mangsk cavalry likewise lost half of their forces, despite only providing light support throughout the battle. It was indicative of how brutal and bloody the battle had been.

Nevertheless, the 24th Regiment heavy cavalry once again emerged victorious. Only around thirty of the two hundred Sastein demons lived to retreat, so it had been a resounding success.

“We won again!”

Someone shouted, his voice cracking, and the others roared in response.

“Unfortunately, we won’t be able to pursue them. Our riders and horses are all at their limit, and additional fighting is impossible.”

The Mangsk light cavalry had fared relatively better in preserving their strength because they had avoided the center of the fierce battle, but they likewise did not seek further conflict. They had lost half their forces even as a supporting unit, and thus, they could not dare to chase after the terrifying enemy.

“Damn it. That senior knight. We should have finished him off.”

Seon-Hyeok naturally thought the knight had fallen in battle, but he had managed to survive and retreat. After their initial clash, the knight had backed off from the center of the battle and harassed the 24th Regiment from the flanks. In fact, the 24th Regiment’s losses would have been even more severe had Frederick not stepped up in response.

With that said, Frederick was not yet a senior knight himself, and all he could do was limit the enemy knight. By the time the battle had concluded, Frederick was exhausted and had to simply watch his foe escape.

“That couldn’t have been any unnamed knight. Considering his swordsmanship, he’s probably famous in the Noctein Kingdom. We don’t need to overdo it – even holding him off was a tremendous accomplishment.”

The company commander of the Mangsk light cavalry consoled Frederick by pointing towards the battleground full of Sastein war horses and equipment.

“In addition, it won’t be easy for those bastards to leave the border alive. The commander will be waiting for them with a separate army.”

A horseman was sent to the fort as the battle began, and another messenger now that the battle was over. The commander of Fort Mangsk had already been planning a trap for the Sasteins, so he would confirm their numbers and put a clear end to their forces. After all, he was skilled enough to do so.

“You’ve all done well. If it wasn’t for your support, we might have lost this battle.”

Letting go of his regrets, Frederick praised Ahn Yoo-Jung, Johnstein, and the other knights. As the company commander said, the allied forces could have lost so much more were it not for the foreigners limiting the offensive firepower of the Sastein knights.

“Battles in war are more violent than I imagined.”

Johnstein Pilgram and the other knights seemed exhausted following the bloody cavalry battle, and their senseless attitudes from the previous day were nowhere to be seen. However, the fact that they all survived the chaos was proof of their extraordinary abilities.

“You’ve done well too, viscount. It’s thanks to you blocking the mage’s magic that we didn’t suffer heavier losses.”

Yoo-Jung, completely exhausted from excessive use of her abilities, nodded her head lazily and turned away. Her expression was complicated as she looked off into the distance.

Her gaze was on the riders far away.

“Hey you! You did well! I can’t believe you kept your position until the end! Great job!”

“I was standing by to take charge if necessary, but you never even looked back.”

“I think you took care of at least nine of them?”

Riders who were covered in blood, both theirs and their enemies’, were surrounding a single man and making a huge commotion. In the middle of the group stood Kim Seon-Hyeok.

“How was a dragon rider ever classified as low-tier…”

What Seon-Hyeok had accomplished was impossible for a low-tier class, but that wasn’t all.

“How did you…”

She was more sensitive to the scent of spirits and summoners than anyone else. Right now, she could sense the scent of the spirit that was lightly emanating from him. More surprising was the fact that this spirit had been one of hers – and that this spirit had unilaterally terminated their contract in the midst of battle.

***

The first thing Seon-Hyeok felt following the battle, in which hundreds of lives had been lost, was neither guilt nor sorrow for the dead.

Instead, it was a terrible exhaustion, as though his overworked mind and body had exceeded their limits and were on the verge of collapse. However, he was only able to feel this way because he was alive, and thus, his eyes filled with tears of relief.

“Nobody else could have done what you did in that position.”

Seon-Hyeok did not take off his helmet when his wounded comrades came to cheer him up. He felt his joy and relief could be considered an insult to the fallen riders, and so, he kept his visor down and remained speechless.

“You did well. You did well. You did really well.”

However, Clark, Jonasson, and the other riders continued to reassure him, with expressions saying that they understood.

With their support, he was able to somewhat pull himself together after a while. Ignoring the objections of his comrades, he went to recover the bodies of the fallen riders himself. Seon-Hyeok put together their separated bodies and reunited them with their former weapons.

I survived because you watched my back.

Kneeling before the bodies, Seon-Hyeok repeated his thanks over and over again. And with that, he was able to mourn the loss of his comrades.

***

All of the survivors were only slightly injured. This was because those who suffered serious injuries had all died soon after the battle.

As a result, there were fortunately no additional casualties during the night.

“Congratulations on your decisive victory!”

The infantry company, which came to help clear the battlefield and collect the trophies of war, paid tribute to the courage of the cavalry. At the same time, they also brought additional news.

“The Mangsk 5th Regiment pursued and exterminated the remnants of the Sastein cavalry, and was successful in capturing their senior knight and mage.”

It seemed as though the remaining enemies had been caught by the Mangsk elite forces within a single day. With this, the name, Sastein, was completely erased from this world. The infantry continued their praise of the 24th Regiment.

As these backup troops cleared up the battlefield and offered their congratulations, Seon-Hyeok stared blankly into the air.

‘Thank you for calling on me again, master.’

The spirit Atiya, who he thought had been fully used up during the battle, flew around in the air. Her appearance was completely different from that of the previous day.

The little girl he saw yesterday was nowhere to be seen, and in her place was an adult woman drifting about in the sky.

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