Episode 64. The Fruits of Training

Julian stood at the entrance of the mansion all day and waited for her master. Her inability to complete a squire’s duties bothered her, and as a result, she desperately longed for her master’s safe return.

“You should eat.”

Marie approached and tugged at her sleeve, but Julian refused to move. She had been an undependable squire and wasn’t brazen enough to leave her post to fulfill her bodily needs. The more those around her tried to convince her, the more harshly she rebuffed them. She didn’t seek shade under the blazing sun, and she didn’t allow herself to loosen her posture.

“Stop acting like a child.”

It wasn’t the cavalrymen who broke Julian’s stubborn streak. It was Asha Trail, who approached and forced Julian to sit in the shade.

“Meaningless self-abuse is nothing more than a shallow attempt to avoid responsibility and comfort oneself. Be ashamed at having to leave your master’s weapon with another, and ensure that it doesn’t happen again. However, such growth doesn’t happen in a day, and what you should be doing right now is to keep your mind and body ready to greet your master upon his return.”

Julian couldn’t raise her head at that perfect logic. After struggling to get up, she relaxed and accepted the female knight’s helping hand.

She was still a child, and she wasn’t in great condition after skipping meals and water to wait half a day under the scorching sun. She felt a sudden dizziness and grabbed her head with her hands.

“Here.”

A canteen, cool from being in the shade, was offered to her. Julian stared dumbly at the flask for a moment before looking up at Asha Trail.

“Thank you.”

Julian sighed and took the water as she saw the knight looking indifferently down at her. She felt refreshed as she gulped down the water. It was as though her physical fatigue had been relieved in an instant.

“It’s not easy walking the path of a knight as a woman.”

Her voice was much softer than it had been while coldly scolding her a moment earlier. Julian couldn’t help but pay attention.

“It’s hard to hold a sword properly with small hands, and a woman’s narrower shoulders and chest isn’t ideal for armor. We have less strength and stamina. It’s extremely difficult to be a knight as a woman.”

To Julian, Asha Trail didn’t seem to be lacking physically compared to men, despite what she said. She didn’t have bulging muscles, but her body seemed strong and well-balanced. Unlike stiffer men, she seemed flexible and more resilient.

“I’m jealous of Sir Asha. Even if you say that, you’re already a renowned knight at the capital.”

Julian sighed as she compared her yet childlike hands and feet with Asha’s mature physique. She felt ashamed despite having no intention of feeling so.

“I also thought the same at one point. You’ll have your chance.”

“Will I be able to?”

Julian asked in amazement at the unexpected words of consolation.

“I did, so there’s no reason you can’t.”

The words were emotionless, but they were nonetheless what Julian had wanted to hear most in her life.

“You can overcome a lack of muscle with training, and the same goes with your body. The notion that it’s impossible as a woman is nothing more than the excuse of the weak and the arrogance of men.”

“Will I be like that in time?”

Before she knew it, Julian had gotten up and was looking straight at Asha. She had to look up at her, as Asha wasn’t much smaller than the average man, but her intentions were clear.

“Time will solve everything, so don’t waste your God-given blessings. You’ll soon forget about your current weakness.”

Asha Trail, while calmly speaking about her past and present to the young squire, suddenly looked down at her chest and frowned.

“Hm. But there’s nothing you can do about your breasts, even with time. It’s a burden a female knight has to carry throughout her life.”

Watching the knight show anguish over her great(?) burden, Julian found herself also looking down with a complicated expression. She didn’t know whether she should be happy or not.

However, Julian had chosen the life of a knight over that of a woman. She put on a satisfied expression at her blessed(?) figure.

“I’ll become a knight some day and find you.”

“I’ll be waiting.”

Asha Trail looked at Julian for a moment and left. Alone once again, Julian began waiting again for her master’s return.

She assumed the same straight posture as before, but her expression was completely different. Her previously impatient and remorseful face now seemed tranquil.

Dudududu.

How long had she been waiting for her master like that? Just as the sun was about to set, a horse came running from afar. The rider looked familiar. It was Jackson, her replacement for the day as Seon-Hyeok’s squire.

However, there was no sign of Goldrake and his owner, both of whom should be with Jackson.

Thud.

Julian felt a chill down her spine. She ran towards Jackson with a pale face.

“Urgent news!”

The nearby cavalrymen swarmed around Jackson as he shouted. Like Julian, they had been nervously waiting for Seon-Hyeok’s return, and now, they impatiently waited for Jackson to continue.

“The lord has defeated the Sword of Lightning!”

“Then?”

“He has won the trial by combat! Baron Laylark has conceded and completely retreated!”

At Jackson’s words, Clark and the other riders cheered.

“He beat an actual knight!”

“Hooray!”

Only Julian maintained her negative expression as the men celebrated.

“And the lord? Is he injured?”

“He’s safe. He’s tired, but uninjured!”

Only after hearing this did Julian smile brightly. Perhaps because she was finally able to let go of her tension, Julian felt the effects of skipping her meals and almost dropped onto the ground.

“Ah. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you so much.”

She was helped up by Asha Trail, and she repeated her words of gratitude to nobody in particular.

Thud. Thud. Thud.

Familiar footsteps could be heard from the distance, and Goldrake appeared.

“Long live Viscount Drachen!”

“Long live the lord!”

The crowd gathered at the entrance of the mansion greeted their lord upon his victorious return.

***

“Are you planning to leave right away?”

“I’ve completed the royal princess’s mission, so I have no reason to stay.”

Though Asha Trail’s response sounded cold, Seon-Hyeok did not lose his smile. Contrary to her words, Asha seemed to feel some regret as she looked back at the mansion.

“Wouldn’t you mind staying a bit longer?”

“The benevolent princess won’t be able to relax until she hears about your struggles and triumphs.”

Seon-Hyeok wanted to have her stay, but could not do so after her response. Instead, he straightened his posture before bowing and offering his thanks.

“Thank you. If it wasn’t for Sir Trail’s guidance, I would most certainly have lost the duel. Raiden Laylark was definitely a stronger knight than me.”

The second son of House Laylark, humiliated after being knocked off his feet following the first attack, fought defensively to avoid being disgraced once again. This reserved approach limited the renowned knight, and for Seon-Hyeok, this provided the opportunity to fight without worrying about maintaining the distance between them.

This was all according to Asha Trail’s instructions. She was surprisingly knowledgeable about Raiden Laylark’s tendencies, and she had trained him for every possible permutation of their fight.

Thanks to this, Seon-Hyeok was able to bring a stronger knight to his knees. It would have been strange if he weren’t thankful.

“Knight Laylark won’t forget this. He’ll always try to avenge his disgrace.”

“I won’t lose when that happens.”

When he responded to Asha Trail’s warning, she gave a rare smile, as though she was pleased with the answer.

“Then I’ll be going.”

With the short farewell, Asha Trail left the Rheinperle territory. Her departure was just as sudden as her arrival.

***

News of the duel’s outcome quickly spread.

It was truly amazing that a foreigner who wasn’t even a knight defeated the Judge of House Laylark. It created a stir in the kingdom, where sword energy and magic had been regarded as the two standards of strength.

The printing and papermaking technologies had just finished being developed at the capital, and the populace was able to hear this amazing news through a new medium called the newspaper. What started as rumors became concrete, verified news for the nobles.

‘The Drake Knight Emerges Victorious Against the Sword of Lightning.’

‘Why Did the Two Knights Fight in a Trial by Combat?’

‘The Rheinperle Iron Mine is the Origin of the Conflict.’

‘Senior Knight Asha Trail Praises Viscount Drachen as a ‘Tireless Worker’.’

‘Who is the Strongest Foreigner?’

Articles with all kinds of provocative titles poured out, much like the newspapers of the other world. The nobles, already fanatically obsessed with gossip, bought the newspapers like crazy.

‘Dragon Rider and Viscount, Seon-Hyeok Rheinperle Kim Drachen, is a Common Rider Unable to Use Sword Energy?’

Among them, the most talked-about article stated that a rider unable to manifest sword energy had defeated a knight with mastery over his swordsmanship.

Apprentice knights, stuck in their position after being frustrated by the cruel and capricious reality that was sword energy, once again unsheathed their swords from their scabbards. Knights already learned in the way of the sword redoubled their training at the thought of being shamed like Raiden Laylark.

As a result, there was a sudden increase in training in the kingdom, and the Adenstein royal family watched on with great satisfaction.

“Knights have always been strict with themselves, but it’s been a long time since they trained with a clear objective like they are now.”

The royal family offered significant incentives to boost the morale of the knights as they were busy training, and enthusiasm for training at the capital further increased.

While those at the capital were excited about the development of the newspaper and the emergence of the Drake Knight, Seon-Hyeok received news that Raiden Laylark had taken a long leave of absence to stay at his family’s territory in an attempt to avenge himself.

“Ugh. Can’t I just go and say I lost?”

Seon-Hyeok complained, but contrary to his words, he trained with his lance every day. Even if it weren’t for the rumors, Seon-Hyeok expected Raiden Laylark to train and challenge him once again. There was no way a prideful knight would accept such a defeat.

He had won the trial by combat, but it didn’t mean he was stronger than House Laylark’s second son. It was a surprise victory achieved through luck and his opponent’s carelessness, so he couldn’t expect the same result next time.

He struggled desperately to make the achievements gained through Asha Trail’s guidance his own. Through his effort, his high-tier spearmanship finally reached the highest-tier.

-          You have leveled up.

And through his hard work, he finally reached level 10. Though it was a single level, the difference between level 9 and 10 was like night and day.

-          You have met the requirements for your 2nd class advancement.

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