Episode 30. The Difference Between Friend and Owner (4)

“… so the commander said he’d come see us in person as soon as everything is sorted out…”

“Does he need to? Everything is still a mess, so he doesn’t need to bother…”

Seon-Hyeok could not mentally process the conversation between Frederick and the infantry company commander happening right next to him. His attention was solely on the translucent woman flying in the air.

He couldn’t focus because she refused to remain still.

“Hm…”

Seon-Hyeok let out a sound between a moan and a groan. For him, who found even the sight of women wrapped in towels occasionally exiting women-only areas stimulating, this was just too much.

Even worse was the fact that Atiya’s face felt familiar. Belatedly realizing this, Seon-Hyeok turned his head in surprise.

“Eek…”

Ahn Yoo-Jung, who had been staring in his direction, was gritting her teeth, and her face was scarlet-tinged. She and Atiya looked eerily alike.

While the infantry company took care of the battlefield, Seon-Hyeok left the group for a moment to speak with Yoo-Jung separately. He couldn’t help but notice the looks his comrades gave him, but at the same time, he couldn’t continue to avoid her given what he had done.

“First of all, can you send her away?”

Yoo-Jung spoke up first, looking at Atiya, who was flying around everywhere. Seon-Hyeok was taken aback at her surprisingly quiet tone of voice, since he thought she would be furious with him. He shook his head.

“I did summon her, but I don’t know how to send her back…”

“You just have to send her away.”

Because he was flustered by Atiya’s appearance and generally inexperienced, Seon-Hyeok had not thought of this simple method.

When he sent her away, Atiya nodded with a wistful look that tugged at his heart.

‘You need to summon me again. Please.’

“Okay. I promise.”

Ahn Yoo-Jung clicked her tongue as he subconsciously agreed to Atiya’s request. She had a ridiculous expression on her face as he jumped up in surprise and awkwardly looked towards her.

“Do you have anything to say?”

“I’m sorry. It wasn’t intentional.”

Seon-Hyeok readily apologized upon hearing her question. It would have been upsetting enough to have a summon taken away. Having that very spirit, who looked like her, fly around everywhere must have felt like he was taunting her.

“It’s fine. It’s only a low-tier spirit, and I can always enter a contract with another.”

Surprisingly, she immediately accepted his apology. That said, the fact that she looked annoyed with herself at her generosity seemed to indicate that his control over the attributes continued to have an effect on her.

“More importantly, what the hell are you? You took my spirit, and you were able to… Well anyways. You can tell me that much, at least.”

Her face was red as her voice trailed off, likely because she felt awkward bringing up Atiya’s appearance.

“Um…”

Seon-Hyeok wondered for a moment as he looked at her. It was only a matter of time before his abilities would be revealed. Despite having a low-tier class, he had gained the upper hand in a battle with a senior knight and succeeded in breaking through the infamous Sastein cavalry.

Given his accomplishments, it was far too late to escape the notice of the royal family.

“It seems though my class, dragon rider, is a bit special.”

And so, he didn’t bother to hide it. That said, there was no need to tell her everything, including those things that had not been revealed yet.

“Seems like the instructor who determined your rank at the time will face consequences for that.”

“I can’t concern myself over that.”

Seon-Hyeok understood the instructor was only following guidelines, but he didn’t have good feelings towards the one who coldly grouped him with the other low-tier classes. And so, he didn’t show much of a reaction to her statement.

“In any case, what will you do now? You formed a contract with a spirit, even if she’s just a low-tier one, and you came out on top in a fight against a senior knight. On top of that, you seem to be recognized here for your outstanding abilities as a rider.”

Ahn Yoo-Jung said it wouldn’t be strange for the royal family to call him to the capital based on his revealed abilities and accomplishments, and suggested he join her group.

“We never know when they’ll get tired of using us and abandon us. Wouldn’t it be better to join forces with others?”

Noticing she was more actively trying to recruit him than before, Seon-Hyeok unconsciously nodded.

It wasn’t a bad decision. Johnstein’s and Yoo-Jung’s arrogance was backed by their talent, and their accomplishments during this battle meant their position at the capital would be even more secure. If he had to ally with others, it would be advantageous for him to join someone who wasn’t free from his dominance over the attributes.

In addition, unlike what he had previously thought, Yoo-Jung did not settle for affluence and clearly distinguished herself from the royal family. She seemed to be a reliable leader.

“No matter how much we struggle, we’re nothing compared to the real monsters out there. Please reconsider.”

“That’s true, but…”

Seon-Hyeok realized something from this battle. He was able to gain the upper hand because he was lucky and borrowed the power of a spirit. If it had been anywhere else that he encountered such a knight, it would have been an inevitable defeat.

It was terrifying for him to hear that there were countless monsters on that level in this world.

“That’s true. If I joined your group, it’d be a lot easier for me going forward.”

“Then join us…”

Seon-Hyeok had omitted her title, but she nonetheless smiled broadly in anticipation.

“But that’s only relevant if I’m at the capital.”

“Huh?”

“I have no intention of stepping foot there, and I don’t want the support of the royal family.”

Ahn Yoo-Jung was beyond shocked. She had not imagined this response.

“I don’t want to increase my debt to the royal family, and I don’t want to swear allegiance to powerful people I don’t even know. My plan is to get discharged if my accomplishments to date are enough to cover my existing debts.”

“What kind of nonsense is that? Why would you want that, given what you’ve accomplished…?”

“It’s precisely because I’ve made these contributions. This battle taught me how difficult it is to have such significant accomplishments.”

Through just two battles, Seon-Hyeok realized clearly how terrible war was. He felt that he didn’t have the constitution to survive in this harsh environment.

Whenever he tried to sleep, the faces of the Sastein cavalry he slaughtered tormented him, and his fallen comrades appeared and cried out. Seon-Hyeok had desperately struggled to maintain his sanity, but he didn’t know what would happen if he continued down this path.

Perhaps I would become mentally disabled or insensitive to murder.

He didn’t want to suffer either of those fates, and thus, he firmly expressed his desire to be discharged.

“Please reconsider. If you’re reassigned to the capital, you won’t have to fight in battles like this anymore. What the royal family wants are stepping stones to exert their authority.”

When he remained stubborn no matter how many times she tried to convince him, Yoo-Jung had to be satisfied with his response that he would reconsider if he was not discharged.

“But why do you care so much about a guy like me?”

If it was because of his dominance, she would have felt uncomfortable being around him. Not only that, regardless of how much she insisted it wasn’t a big deal, Seon-Hyeok had taken a spirit from her. He couldn’t understand why she was being so persistent. When he asked, she deflected with a complicated expression.

“It’ll be easier for us to maintain our authority if we have more capable people around us.”

“In other words, you’re scouting me for my abilities.”

Yoo-Jung had another mysterious expression on her face as Seon-Hyeok summed up her words and nodded in understanding.

***

The cavalry resumed their march once they had somewhat recovered from the fatigue of battle. The Mangsk riders returned to their fort, followed by the infantry and carts containing the spoils of war.

Since they were moving at a slow pace to keep in step with the infantry, Yoo-Jung began to explain a number of things about spirits to Seon-Hyeok.

“A spirit’s appearance depends on the summoner’s feelings.”

“That can’t be. I didn’t mean anything by it!”

Seon-Hyeok indignantly defended himself when he was told it was up to the summoner to decide on the appearance of his spirit.

“Well, knowing that I was the spirit’s original summoner could have subconsciously affected you.”

“That must be it. That’s…”

“Even so, I can’t help but feel uncomfortable.”

He had no excuse. He would have felt the same if their positions were switched.

In the end, it was fortunate she didn’t have additional misunderstandings.

“The most beautiful woman I’ve seen recently…”

“Don’t be ridiculous.”

Yoo-Jung immediately shut him down.

“Unfortunately, once an appearance is set after a contract has been made, it can’t be changed again. If possible, please refrain from summoning that spirit in front of me.”

Yoo-Jung was completely different from what he initially expected. Whether it was because his control lingered or because she now recognized him for his abilities, Seon-Hyeok was able to learn much about spirits from her.

In the process, he became keenly aware of the difference between control and affinity. For her, spirits were friends she needed to slowly build relationships with. She asked them to lend her strength when she wanted to use her abilities.

As such, she was surprised, but not disappointed, when Atiya unilaterally terminated their contract. Wind spirits, in particular, were capricious, staying and leaving as they pleased.

“Only two of the five spirits told me their names. The child who formed a contract with you was particularly troublesome, so I only called on her when absolutely necessary.”

He thought Atiya was too mature to be called a child, but didn’t bother interrupting her.

“I will need to form a contract with a mid-tier spirit soon, but it’s pretty daunting.”

For Yoo-Jung, spirits were often uncooperative and burdensome, as they asked for a lot and could be moody.

Seon-Hyeok wasn’t sure whether she was exaggerating, but he stared at her in amazement as she explained in detail about her abilities. She belatedly shut her mouth after realizing she had said too much.

Yoo-Jung’s fine control over her spirits was phenomenal.

Seon-Hyeok had an overpowered dominance ability, but he wasn’t confident he could match her skills in that regard. For instance, she had used a spirit during their conversation to block sound and prevent information from leaking out. Thanks to this, nobody could overhear their conversation, even though they were talking in the midst of the moving army.

At the same time, this also led to some unusual rumors. Others wondered whether they were in a relationship, since they were often close and talking with each other.

“Well, so what. You should live your life. Isn’t this a good thing? She’s attractive and skilled. On top of that, you’re both foreigners, so you can understand each other.”

When Seon-Hyeok claimed that the rumors were false, the riders ignored him and chatted on.

“Ugh.”

He groaned and looked over at Ahn Yoo-Jung on the other side, who seemed to have a puzzled expression upon hearing the unexpected gossip. Of course, as the leader of her group, it wouldn’t be good for her to get caught up in such undesirable rumors.

Seon-Hyeok was under the assumption that she had no additional feelings towards him. However, to the contrary, her emotions were complicated.

At first, she had managed to endure out of pride, but even that proved difficult now. Yoo-Jung was perplexed by the repeated, unprovoked desire to follow him.

She had unconsciously chatted on about her abilities and tried to win his favor by teaching him the basics of spirits. Her actions had nothing to do with her own will.

“This really isn’t normal.”

They weren’t feelings of love. She wasn’t that soft-hearted in the first place, and she was capable of managing her feelings. Nonetheless, she was becoming increasingly unable to refuse the words of this mysterious man.

This couldn’t continue. She couldn’t let herself be dragged around any longer.

Upon realizing this, she became terrified of losing the status and authority she had built up using her own merits, and she desperately resisted.

But even this proved useless. So long as her abilities were based on the power of the wind attribute, she could not escape the dominance of the dragon rider. If she continued to be exposed to Seon-Hyeok’s power over time, eventually, she would completely succumb to him without even realizing it.

This was the power of dominance – the power held by a master of an attribute.

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