Episode 42. Rank Adjustment

“I think it’s been over a year. How have you been, instructor?”

The royal official dispatched to readjust his rank was someone Seon-Hyeok was familiar with. He was the instructor who had been in charge of foreigners’ training when they first arrived in this world and the one who forced them to toil day and night in the training grounds.

“Ahem.”

The official coughed awkwardly after being recognized.

“I’ve been doing well thanks to you. There was a lot I learned by fighting on the border.”

The official once again coughed in place of a response. Seon-Hyeok was in a pleasant mood despite not getting an answer to his greetings.

‘Congratulations on your awakening. What is your new class?’

‘D, dragon rider, sir!’

‘Dragon rider? What’s that?’

‘Just like it says, I believe it means someone who rides dragons?’

‘Dragons? You can ride dragons?’

Seon-Hyeok never forgot their exchange from then.

‘Ugh. I thought it might be another high-tier after all this time…”

Seon-Hyeok would have been less disappointed if the official didn’t have such an anticipating expression from the start. After asking questions excitedly, the official’s attitude suddenly became cold.

‘Isn’t this good?’

He refused to give up hope until the end, but the instructor clicked his tongue and laughed at him.

‘It probably would have been. That is, if there were dragons in this world. There are sometimes classes that sound great but lack substance. Unfortunately, that’s the case with you.’

The instructor had said it was a shame, but there was no sympathy in his voice. If anything, it seemed to contain an annoyance with the situation.

‘Dragon rider, dragon rider. In that case, I guess you should be classified as a rider. If only you were a knight – you could have been classified a mid-tier. Tsk.’

‘T, then?’

‘Low-tier!’

That was the moment his dreams of getting a high-tier class and escaping the training fortress were shattered. It had been his one hope while living in this hellish world.

“I’ve been hearing about your accomplishments from the capital.”

Time had passed, and he was once again face to face with the instructor who had treated him coldly back then. However, his position was completely different from before, and the instructor was cautious and polite, as if addressing his superior.

“Congratulations on your accomplishments, and for staying safe and sound.”

Then again, Seon-Hyeok was no longer a low-tier foreigner the instructor could dismiss out of hand. He was the greatest contributor in the recent war, and a talented soldier who had been promised a noble title.

“And just in case, I hope you didn’t misunderstand then. I was simply fulfilling the duties given me by the royal family. Trust me when I say that my treatment of you then wasn’t out of self-interest or for my personal satisfaction.”

The instructor seemed to be worried that their past interactions would cause trouble in the present.

It felt like saying hello to an ex-girlfriend who had dumped him, but as a successful person. It was childish, but Seon-Hyeok enjoyed the feeling.

Even so, he didn’t take it too far.

It was true that the instructor had enjoyed wielding his minimal power in judging him as low tier, but at the same time, he did not overstep the boundaries of his position. In addition, the instructor had never explicitly harassed the foreigners either. Knowing this, Seon-Hyeok decided to enjoy his small feeling of revenge and leave things at that.

“Well, I’m not lying when I say I’m doing well thanks to you. If you hadn’t judged me as low tier, I never would have joined the 24th Regiment, and I wouldn’t have met the great comrades I have now.”

“I’m grateful you think that way.”

The instructor, or rather, the royal rating official, repeatedly thanked him in a timid voice, and Seon-Hyeok straightened up as well.

“It’s nice to see you, royal rating official. I look forward to working with you.”

The royal official’s face grew lively when told that the foreigner wouldn’t dwell on the past any longer.

Seon-Hyeok was able to put his past behind him and think about his path forward. For now, this meant reassessing his abilities and getting a better insight into the strength of the dragon rider class.

“Oh. So this is the rumored drake!”

The rating official showed none of the discomfort or awkwardness he expressed when he first arrived. He looked at the drake and shouted in amazement.

“I went through a lot of trouble catching this guy.”

Seon-Hyeok likewise showed no lingering resentment towards the official, and it seemed as though all parties had really moved on.

“Yes, yes. It must be worth the trouble to get a beast like this. How amazing!”

An outsider observing the situation would think that the official, who was babbling in excitement, and Seon-Hyeok, laughing in response, were long-time friends.

And really, it was somewhat true. Having let bygones be bygones, the two had exchanged conversation and become much closer.

“He’s not fully trained, so I can’t use him in a real battle yet, but he’s still pretty amazing as is.”

As he stepped down from the improvised saddle, Seon-Hyeok mentioned how the drake wasn’t quite as fast as a sprinting horse, but much more intimidating.

“That’s true. Even a well-trained war horse would be terrified facing a beast like this. You’ve acquired quite the weapon.”

Seon-Hyeok had already finished demonstrating his Wind Piercing and other dragon rider abilities. The official reverted to his strict demeanor while assessing the foreigner’s abilities, and he was only able to reach a decision after a day of deliberation.

With that, Seon-Hyeok was re-classified as high-tier. This evaluation was based on his mounted combat abilities and charging skills using Wind Piercing.

“Congratulations. I know it’s weird for me to say this, but your class finally got its proper evaluation. I’m glad.”

The official expressed his regret that there wasn’t a rank above high-tier. If he could, he said he would have judged him even higher based on his maneuvering of the drake.

“Well, high-tier is more than enough. As long as I can take care of this voracious drake, my ill-tempered horse, and myself, there’s nothing else I need.”

Seon-Hyeok matter-of-factly expressed his inner thoughts, and the official laughed as he responded.

“There are certainly gaps between the different high-tiers. I think you would be at the very top in real battles.”

The official continued with his thoughts on the high-tiers. Ahn Yoo-Jung, the wind spirit-using summoner, showed the fastest growth; Lee Eun-Seo, the mage, had the greatest overall ability; and Jang Gil-Seok, a magic swordsman, was the greatest in combat. However, he suggested that none were superior to a dragon rider when it came to larger scale battles.

“Is that so?”

Seon-Hyeok laughed. He hadn’t even shown the official Atiya, and he neglected to tell him about the dragon he would eventually meet. He wondered what kind of expression the official would make if he knew what the foreigner was hiding.

He was tempted to reveal his secrets, but he laughed and held his tongue.

“Well, you’ll be far superior to me the next time we meet. Considering you’re getting a noble title and territory of your own, you’ll be a real lord then.”

Having finished his duties, the official said he would stop by and reassess the other foreigners to make sure there weren’t any other evaluation errors.

“I know I was just following guidelines when I evaluated your class back then, but still, I’d like to apologize. You might have developed even faster if you were given more support by the royal family.”

When Seon-Hyeok went to see the official off, he offered one additional piece of advice as a way of expressing his gratitude and as a means of an apology.

“Watch out for sponsors. The royal family wants foreigners to be fully under their rule, and would prefer for them not to get too close to the other nobles. The Mangsk commander’s an exception, since he’s unquestionably loyal to the royal family, but the other nobles in the capital are different.”

“I’ll keep that in mind.”

“Many nobles will try to become friendly with you as soon as you step foot in the capital. They’re craftier and cleverer than you think, so don’t show them any weakness. You’ll see a different side of the royal family if you fall for their antics.”

The royal rating official repeatedly urged him to keep his advice in mind.

“And the next time we meet, call me Gibson.”

With that, Gibson expressed his regret one last time and left the garrison.

“Courtship of the nobles…”

Seon-Hyeok looked in the direction Gibson had left as he pondered the advice he was given, then turned around.

Although he was now recognized as high-tier, Seon-Hyeok’s life did not really change. Well, one thing was different. After being the new recruit for so long, he was finally treated as a veteran rider once the reinforcement riders joined their unit.

Perhaps because of the first impression he gave – but more importantly because of his behavior while drunk – the new riders were more awkward around him than anyone else. Whenever he passed by, they stopped what they were doing, stood up, and bowed.

“Are you going hunting, hyung-nim?”

“Huh? Yeah.”

The riders who were training under Jonasson and Hansen stopped their training exercises to bow.

“Stay safe, hyung-nim!”

Seon-Hyeok felt embarrassed, as their actions resembled how gangsters in the other world treated their boss. He felt uncomfortable being addressed as hyung-nim.

“Hey, hey. Stop that. You’re training right now. And why are you calling me hyung-nim? Are you a gangster?”

“Hyung-nim, you told us to serve you then…”

He didn’t recall that. He hurriedly waved his hand and told them to forget what he had said back then.

“Then what should we call you?”

“Sunbae, maybe? Figure it out.”

“Okay. Have a safe trip, sunbae!”

Seon-Hyeok turned his head when he heard someone clicking his tongue. He saw the two instructors, Jonasson and Hansen, standing around with fierce expressions.

“I’ll be off then!”

“Okay. I’ll see you later.”

Thankfully, their anger wasn’t directed at him, but rather the newcomers.

“Hey you, did you call him hyung-nim? Do you think we’re thugs? And why aren’t you training?”

“So you’re scared of him but not us? What are we, chopped liver?”

“No sir!”

The forceful answer soon turned into pained shouts, and Seon-Hyeok quickly escaped the training area.

***

This routine repeated itself, and after a while, the Mangsk troops finally arrived at the 24th Regiment’s garrison.

“Then we’ll get going!”

Frederick and the heavy cavalry were already ready and followed them as they left for the capital. There was a brief disturbance when soldiers from other units saw the drake, but the situation was resolved without issue.

The only problem was that with the exception of the war horses belonging to the original heavy cavalry riders of the 24th Regiment, the other horses were all terrified by the drake. In the end, the solution was to have Seon-Hyeok and his drake follow far behind the troops.

His comrades alternated coming by to talk to him, but the arrangement meant that the already tedious trip became even more so. Fortunately, he knew of a way to deal with his boredom.

“Atiya.”

Seon-Hyeok used this time to train his dragon rider abilities.

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