A group of people gathered at the border of the Rheinperle and Laylark territories, near the iron mine responsible for the dispute.
“He’s being discourteous. How could he be so late?”
Baron Laylark had an impressive silhouette and a handsome, gray beard. Einst Jeneger replied.
“The duel’s set for noon, so we still have some time left. Please don’t be impatient.”
“Ugh. I know it’s noon, but shouldn’t we exchange greetings as neighbors before the duel at the very least? It’s reprehensible for him to casually stroll in at the last minute and only take care of his business.”
Einst Jeneger scoffed at Baron Laylark’s words. He didn’t have the right to complain, considering he was the one rushing in to stake his claim over the newly discovered iron mine. However, Einst needed to maintain his neutrality today, and so he held his tongue.
“Make sure you put him in his place – so that he doesn’t cause us trouble in the future.”
At the baron’s words, his second son, Raiden Laylark, wordlessly lifted his sword. His confident eyes showed he thought victory was already in his grasp.
This could have been considered arrogant, but none of the people gathered here doubted Raiden Laylark’s victory. Aside from the one duel against Asha Trail, he had been undefeated at the capital. He was even nicknamed the Sword of Lightning by the royal princess, and there was no way he would lose to a foreigner.
Among them, Einst Jeneger was the only one rooting for Viscount Drachen’s victory.
“Baron, you should not forget this. Both the Sword of Lightning and the Drake Knight are valued by, and will someday lead, this kingdom. I hope you do not overdo it today, and that you will not do anything that His Majesty would disapprove of.”
However, even as he looked out for Seon-Hyeok, Einst Jeneger could not help but expect Raiden Laylark to win. As such, he advised the baron to hold back. These types of requests were often made during duels, so the baron did not find it unfair.
“You heard Sir Jeneger, right?”
“Yes, I will make sure you are not accused of being disloyal to His Majesty.”
Einst Jeneger sighed at Baron Laylark’s spiteful attitude and stopped talking.
“The time… hm?”
As noon approached, a black spot appeared in the distance.
“Looks like Viscount Drachen has arrived.”
Raiden Laylark was the first to notice the shadow of the horse approaching from afar. His comment alerted the others to the horseback rider on the far side of the plains.
“But why is he alone?”
“And what the hell is that?”
Aside from the fact that there were no squires or attendants in sight, it was even stranger that the man charging at them while holding a long pole wasn’t carrying a banner.
“A cavalry spear?”
It didn’t take long for them to realize that the pole wasn’t a flag, but rather a weapon.
“Sigh. Did he mistake this duel for a joust?”
Baron Laylark clicked his tongue as he saw the cavalry spear, which was useful only for knocking aside the pikes wielded by pikemen in battle. The armor and gear looked more fitting of a common cavalry rider than a knight, and Raiden Laylark also smirked.
“He doesn’t even have his basics down.”
The mocking did not last long.
“I am Jackson Hamilton, squire for Viscount Drachen! I came first, since there was an incident on our way!”
It was because the person they assumed to be Viscount Drachen identified himself as a mere squire.
“And the viscount?”
Only Einst Jeneger wasn’t taken aback by the development, as he had already met Jackson during his stay in Rheinperle.
“He will arrive before noon.”
“What’s so important that he is prioritizing it over the sacred trial by combat?”
Baron Laylark raged at Jackson’s words.
“He will be here in time.”
Jackson was considered gentle among the Drake Cavalry, but he now coldly responded to the baron’s words. As someone who greatly respected and followed Seon-Hyeok, the baron was a shameless lord coveting his neighbor’s property and blinded by the financial prospects of the mine. There was no way he could have spoken cordially.
“How dare a mere squire stay on his horse and so boldly answer me! As befitting an evil foreigner’s squire! Get down on your knees right now and tell me which house you’re from!”
Baron Laylark was quite hot-tempered, which was unbecoming of his age. He quickly gritted his teeth at Jackson’s stiff attitude. However, Jackson didn’t even pretend to hear him and simply looked towards the plains, waiting for Seon-Hyeok to arrive.
“He is a member of the Drake Cavalry and a part of the kingdom’s Western Army. He might be acting as squire, but he’s still a cavalry rider. No one but His Majesty or the royal princess can force him to bend the knee.”
Einst Jeneger stepped up to calm the baron down. He was amazed and struggled to hold back his laughter upon seeing the gentle Jackson’s new attitude. Nonetheless, it was obvious to any onlooker that Jackson was intentionally ignoring the baron. Raiden Laylark eventually spoke up.
“I am Raiden Laylark, senior knight of the 11th group of the capital’s knights. Dismount and show the lord your respect.”
“Forward! I heard you’re off duty.”
Jackson was formidable. This was a completely different side of him from his usual gentleness, and he refused Raiden Laylark’s commands using the excuse that he was currently on leave.
It would’ve been possible to find an excuse to make the rider kneel, but neither the baron nor Raiden did so. Given that the mere rider was capable of being so obstinate with them, they suspected that he himself was a member of a high-ranking noble family.
“Ah, he’s arriving.”
A black spot appeared in the distance with impeccable timing.
“Don’t give him time to rest, Raiden. He brought this upon himself, so he can’t resent you even if you show him no mercy.”
Raiden Laylark, about to answer in the affirmative, found his jaw dropping in shock. The baron did the same.
They knew that their opponent was named the Drake Knight, so it wasn’t surprising that he would come riding a drake. However, this drake was much different from what the baron or Raiden expected.
“How is it so big?”
Wild drakes were only slightly larger than horses. They were tricky to deal with on account of their hard scales and tough jaws, but drakes were still monsters that someone on the level of senior knights could handle without much trouble. It was written as such in the capital knights’ guide on dealing with monsters.
At this moment, however, Raiden Laylark wanted nothing more than to visit the instructor responsible for training him on monster combat and grab him by the collar. How could a senior knight easily deal with this monster, which dwarfed the average horse carriage?
The ferocious eyes scanned the area and stopped. They were trained on Baron Laylark. The baron, befitting a commander who led many fights on the battlefield, showed the courage to stare back at the terrifying monster. The drake roared viciously, as though displeased by this response.
The drake’s jaw, hidden by the special armor covering his entire face, was finally revealed for the first time. His fangs, sharper and larger than the average dagger, were covered with blood.
He was shocked by the beast’s roar and once again by the sight of his hideous lower jaw. If they had met in the middle of the night, he would have lost control of his bladder and run away in terror. He grew even more disoriented by the screams of the tied-up horses behind them.
“Ah. I apologize. My drake’s just seen blood, so I think he’s still a bit excited.”
At that moment, Viscount Drachen dismounted and spoke graciously.
Viscount Drachen’s presence was relatively small compared to that of his drake, which put immense pressure unthinkable for a normal monster. As a result, nobody noticed him until he stepped up and spoke.
The baron, after showing weakness for a moment, belatedly gathered his expression and shouted in anger.
“How dare you put other matters above a sacred trial by combat? Are you looking down on…”
“Please be understanding of the situation. I don’t know what he’ll do when he’s hungry…”
His words were a bit informal for a nobleman, but the baron could not find fault with him. The drake growled as he rested its head against Viscount Drachen’s back, and he seemed to be saying he was still hungry.
“In any case, it’s nice to meet you. I’m the Lord of Rheinperle, Seon-Hyeok Rheinperle Kim Drachen.”
“I’m Enos Haltein of House Laylark.”
The baron had already allowed his opponent to lead the conversation. He had vowed to humiliate the foreigner as soon as he arrived, but unknowingly found himself greeting him instead.
“It’s late, so I’d like to get started right away.”
Raiden Laylark stepped up, seeing his father lose face in front of the foreigner. Einst Jeneger gave a displeased look at this sudden comment and asked Seon-Hyeok for his thoughts.
“Will that be okay? If you want, I can exercise my authority as the impartial observer to give you a moment to catch your breath.”
“It doesn’t matter.”
Einst Jeneger looked at him for a moment with a worried look, but Seon-Hyeok simply nodded to say he was okay. The observer immediately went to start the trial duel.
“Baron Enos Haltein of House Laylark has disputed ownership over the iron ore found in the Rheinperle territory, claiming that the mine is in Laylark territory, not Rheinperle territory. Is that correct?”
“Viscount Kim Drachen, Lord of Rheinperle, has responded that the claims are baseless and that he is the rightful ruler of the iron mine and surrounding territory. Is that correct?”
“Yes, it is exactly as you said.”
The observer voiced both parties’ positions to confirm, and the two lords nodded in turn in accordance with standard operating procedure.
“Neither doubts his own justice, but there can only be one truth. All who have gathered here believe that God will deliberate, and that only the just will prevail. Do both sides agree?”
“Yes. I agree.”
After checking, Einst Jeneger took a brief pause and declared.
“Baron Laylark and Viscount Drachen both have faith in God’s impartiality, and this trial by combat has thereby been established. This duel has been approved by the Adenstein royal family, the legitimate ruler of the land, and notarized by Wittenfeld Royen Mangsk, the great lord of Mangsk. None may dispute the result of this duel.”
Raiden Laylark took a step forward following the witness’ proclamation.
“Raiden Laylark. I am the second son of House Laylark and senior knight of the 11th group of the capital’s knights.”
“Knight Laylark. I acknowledge that you are standing to deliver your family’s justice.”
While Raiden warmed up and prepared for battle, Einst Jeneger turned to Seon-Hyeok.
“And who will prove Drachen’s justice?”
“Seon-Hyeok Rheinperle Kim Drachen. Viscount, company commander of the Drake Cavalry of the Western Royal Army, and Lord of Rheinperle.”
“I commend you on choosing to prove your own justice. I acknowledge your right to fight.”
Einst Jeneger glanced at both sides.
“The trial by combat will commence. The duel will conclude if one side is unable to continue the battle or admits defeat. The victor shall be magnanimous to the defeated, and the defeated will not challenge the justice of the victor.”
The initial proceedings of the duel finally came to an end. All that remained was for both sides to fight and prove their righteousness.
“Take up your weapons. I hope the results of this duel will not linger as a grudge between the two houses.”
As soon as Einst Jeneger finished speaking, Raiden raised his eyes and pulled a sword from its sheath.
At Seon-Hyeok’s call, Jackson dismounted from his horse and handed over the cavalry lance he had been carrying.
“W, wait. You’re going to use that as your weapon…”
The pressure Seon-Hyeok gave now was different from when a rider held the lance. Raiden panicked as he saw the specially designed weapon.
“Is there a problem?”
Seon-Hyeok pointed it at Raiden and smirked.
Raiden paled. He was twenty steps away, but the tip of the lance already threatened to pierce his neck.
“Then let’s begin.”
Seon-Hyeok ignored Raiden’s words and lowered his visor. Raiden reluctantly followed, lowering his own visor and raising his sword and shield.
“Then the trial by combat will commence! Good luck to both combatants!”Previous Chapter Next Chapter