Episode 40. Initiation (1)

“So anyways, thank you for coming all the way here. You can go and rest.”

After examining him with a sharp gaze, the man quickly gestured for him to leave with an indifferent expression. Jackson felt deflated at the insincere attitude towards him, but he kept his composure and saluted.

“Thank you for your consideration!”

At his salute, Company Commander Frederick once again waved his hand.

“Follow me.”

An infantryman waiting outside the company commander’s barracks took the lead. His attitude wasn’t pleasant, but Jackson didn’t mind. He may never interact with this soldier again, but he was excited about his newly assigned position.

‘Head to the border.’

He had felt a wave of emotions when he first received the transfer order. However, his anticipation grew after hearing that his new post would be with the 24th Regiment, and he was barely able to sleep.

The 24th Regiment heavy cavalry was the most elite cavalry unit in the kingdom and had exterminated the notorious Sastein cavalry in just two battles. That was where he was destined to be in the future.

“We’re here.”

Jackson reached his destination while lost in his own imagination.

“Thank…”

In his excitement he spoke up to thank the infantryman, but the soldier responsible for leading him here was already on his way. Jackson scratched his cheek out of embarrassment and straightened his clothes. With that, he opened the door to the barracks, looking forward to meeting the heroes of the kingdom.

“And who the hell is this?”

“Oh god. Did they send some apprentice knight? Look at his clothes.”

Sharp criticism flew from all sides before he could even salute.

“He even has all his buttons on. Is he from the capital?”

Jackson had expected the elite cavalry to have a strict and formal attitude like the knights.

But what were these guys? 

The cavalry riders in front of him were scarred and looked more like thugs than heroic warriors. The elite cavalry he imagined was nowhere to be seen.

Hm. Were the units on the frontier different after all?

He tried to think positively, but it proved difficult.

“Hey, you son of a bitch. That’s my spot!”

“How’s it yours? How’s it yours?”

The shouting and swearing riders seemed like a gang more than anything else.

“Ugh…”

Jackson watched the mess unfold in front of him and had forgotten all about introducing himself when someone grabbed his shoulder. When he turned, a man he had never seen before was looking at him.

“Are you the last one?”

“Huh? Yes!”

The man’s voice was plain yet commanding, and Jackson found himself giving a spirited response.

“That idiot. He looks like a girl.”

Only then, after enduring the giggles and ridicule, did he realize that the clothes worn by the men in the barracks were mismatched and seemingly random. Only the man in front of him wore the blue uniform specific to the frontier cavalry.

“Shut up, grab your bags, and get ready to come out. You have thirty seconds.”

The noisy atmosphere in the barracks quickly subsided as the man spoke in a quiet voice. The men were overwhelmed by the subtle ferocity in his tone.

However, the thug-like men were as crude as they looked, and they grew even more rebellious after realizing they had shown weakness.

“I heard those blue-coat bastards were proud. They’re really condescending.”

The blue uniforms worn by the border cavalry were an honor and indicated their status as the most elite cavalry in the kingdom. The riders further inside the kingdom envied the veteran cavalry, and some despised them as incompetent riders who simply gained fame for fighting a few battles. The person who stepped up just now seemed to be one of the latter.

“So I heard you’re good at killing people? You don’t look the part.”

The man growled as though he would cause a scene then and there, but the man in the blue uniform remained calm. Rather, it was Jackson who became restless as he watched the situation unfold. He found himself in the middle of the conflict, and he looked like he was about to cry.

“Ignoring me, are you? If I say something, you should answer…”

“… twenty-eight, twenty-nine.”

The indifferent voice interrupted him. Jackson recalled that the uniformed man had given everyone a time limit to get packed and ready to go.

“Thirty. It’s time. Everyone out of the barracks.”

“Are you running away? As I expected, all that about Sasteins was bullshit, and you’re all just cowards… ugh!”

While approaching the uniformed rider, the belligerent man suddenly grabbed his nose and screamed.

“Don’t test my fighting spirit. Rider’s don’t fight with their mouths.”

“Riders don’t fight with their mouths…”

The uniformed man was the splitting image of the cavalry he had imagined, and Jackson found himself repeating his words.

“You son of a…”

“And I’ll give you a chance even if you don’t cry and whine like that, so shut up. You bastards.”

The man got up holding his bloodied nose, but his opponent had already left the barracks.

“Are you running? Running away? You saw that, right? That bastard ran away.”

He tried to reassert his dominance, but his bloodied nose told a different story.

Jackson shook his head at the sight and tried to leave the barracks.

“Hey! Don’t leave. We’re comrades from now on. Do you think it’ll be easier for you if you turn your back on us?”

“Are you ignoring me too? You bastard, what’s your name? I’ll make sure to remember!”

Jackson ignored the voices behind him. The rider in the blue uniform was more terrifying than all of the men in the barracks combined.

But when he left the barracks, there was not one, but tens of riders all in their uniforms.

“Name!”

It was a short question, unlike the aggressive questions asked by the men in the barracks, but it felt powerful. Jackson found himself straightening up before he knew it.

“Jackson Hamilton! I’m from the Paslin territory to the east!”

“Good. Jackson from Paslin, go over there. You’re exempted from the initiation.”

Jackson stepped aside as he was told and glanced back at the barracks. None of the men inside had followed him, and it seemed they were intent on rebelling as a group.

“Yeah. It’s better like this. Obedient recruits are no fun.”

Jackson thought that the blue uniformed man would be angry, but he instead was smiling in satisfaction. However, he felt discouraged, as the man’s words just now seemed to be aimed at him.

“They won’t come out even if we wait, right?”

“Not a chance. They probably all received special treatment as leaders and seniors from their own units.”

After talking briefly amongst themselves, the 24th Regiment cavalry seemed to reach a decision and gestured.

“Huh? What are you doing…”

“Hey you, new recruit. Just stay there and watch.”

Two horses ran from the end of each side of the barracks. Behind the horses, Jackson could see a rope linking them to the structure. The loose rope soon pulled taut, and soon it dragged down the barracks’ main pillar with a thud.

“Ack!”

“W, what!”

In an instant, screaming and shouting broke out from inside the barracks.

“What do you mean, what. It’s your initiation, bastards.”

And with that, the uniformed riders climbed onto the collapsed barracks and began to hit those inside.

“Ack!”

“Ugh! My nose!”

Screams and groans continued for a long while. When they finally subsided, the riders removed the cloth covering of the barracks. The men inside had broken noses, bloody lips, and black and blue bruises all over their bodies. They had tried to hold out inside to intimidate the 24th Regiment cavalry, and this was the pitiful result.

“You, you cowardly… ugh.”

A particularly well-built man tried to lift himself up and curse at the riders, but before he could even finish, a uniformed rider punched him.

“Welcome to the 24th Regiment heavy cavalry.”

The man smiled brightly as he gave a welcoming remark that did not match the situation.

“I’m Captain Clark. I look forward to working with you, you bastards.”

“Ugh!”

The man was trampled by Clark and screamed once again.

Just as the company commander and Clark had expected, the reinforcements sent from all over the kingdom weren’t particularly desirable. Their individual skills might be respectable, but they all had unwanted attitudes and a spirit of rebelliousness.

Even after being beaten, they still seemed to want to rebel.

“What? Do you think it’s unfair? Do you think you were ambushed by people you could easily beat one on one?”

The reinforcements did not answer, but it was obvious what they thought. Clark decided to give them another chance.

“Choose. If there’s anyone here you think you can take on, choose. If you win, you can be in charge.”

The look in the reinforcements’ eyes changed at that comment. They hadn’t recovered from their beating just now, but they were convinced they could win in a fight even in their current state.

“That guy over there.”

“Wow, really. It’s Hansen again?”

The first reinforcement rider pointed to Hansen. The 24th Regiment riders snickered as Hansen stepped forward and grumbled.

“What makes you think I’m an easy target?”

In reality, it was his grumbling attitude and missing front teeth that made him look comparatively weak, but Hansen remained oblivious.

“Stop! Stop!”

The fight ended in a flash. The reinforcement rider had passed out, caught in Hansen’s patented grab. Even so, the man had shown his pride, being unwilling to tap out and accept defeat.

“I heard you’re the captain. If I win, will you hand over your position?”

The man who stepped up this time was different. Even among the large cavalry riders, he was a head taller than the rest.

“If you win.”

Clark accepted the challenge without hesitation.

“Ugh!”

The reinforcement rider rushed in, was hit in his Adam’s apple, and immediately crumpled.

“I’m fighting you.”

“That guy over there.”

The reinforcements continued to challenge the heavy cavalry despite the veterans’ overwhelming strength. And naturally, they continued to lose.

“This is unfair! We’re not at peak condition right now! If only we were on horseback…”

“Oh, really? Then bring your horses.”

Clark gave another chance to the reinforcements, who refused to admit defeat until the end.

There were no similarities between the reinforcement riders gathered on the training grounds. They had all gathered from different places, and thus, there was nothing they all had in common.

On the other hand, the 24th Regiment heavy cavalry, which lined up against them, seemed like a single entity.

The reinforcements were greater in number and looked more violent, but in this situation, the 24th Regiment seemed incomparably stronger. Jackson wasn’t sure whether this was because of the standardized equipment or something else altogether, but the difference between the sides became even more pronounced on horseback.

As expected of a cavalry unit hardened by real battles.

Jackson found himself admiring the sharpness of the veteran riders. Their composure was something that could not be imitated through training alone.

“Then let’s begin. We can fight as a group, or one-on-one.”

Clark showed immense confidence, disregarding their numerical inferiority altogether, but even the nasty-tempered reinforcement riders seemed intimidated by a full-scale battle. They rolled their eyes and began to choose their opponents.

“That rider who played the greatest role in defeating the Sasteins. Who is he?”

The rider who had just lost to Clark looked for his new opponent, saying that he could not lose on horseback.

“I think you’re looking for our most recent recruit?”

“Newest recruit or not, I want to face him. I’m the best on horseback.”

The expressions on the 24th Regiment heavy cavalry were subtle as they listened to the giant man’s words. He frowned, feeling as though they were holding back their laughter and making fun of him.

“You’re confident. Very good. That’s what we want from our riders. But tell me, are you really the best on horseback?”

“See for yourself.”

“No, no. I just thought it’d be fun if you said you were. I wonder what would happen if the best rider and that guy faced off.”

With that ambiguous comment, the 24th Regiment riders looked off into the distance.

“He should be here by now…”

“Ah, there he is.”

Seeing the black dot in the distance, Clark laughed and asked the giant once again.

“You won’t regret it?”

“A man should follow through with his words. I have no intention of changing my mind.”

“Good, good. Then you can face him as soon as he gets here.”

The tiny dot in the distance quickly grew as it approached. The reinforcement soldiers found themselves with their mouths wide open in shock.

Their knees shook as they met the monster’s gaze, and they feared that the beast, with its mouth covered in blood, would reappear in their nightmares.

“Has it already begun?”

Kim Seon-Hyeok, the black-haired man on the drake, asked.

“That’s your opponent.”

Clark burst out in laughter as the giant paled.

Growl.

At that moment, the drake let out a growl, and the gathered war horses ran about in terror.

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