Episode 78. Challenger (2)

There was a brief moment of stunned silence before the knights made displeased expressions and complained about Seon-Hyeok’s abusive remarks.

“What did you just…”

“I said to shut up and catch your breath. Unless you want me to beat the crap out of you in that state.”

“We’ve never even met. Aren’t you being too…”

“You. Tell me your name, title, and rank.”

Seon-Hyeok pointed at the knight who just spoke up. The challenger stuttered with a disheartened look.

“C, Connelly Chicks. I’m from the Joaquin territory up north, don’t have a noble title, and became a knight two years ago.”

“Then how about you, next to him?”

“I’m the second son of Baron Caylee from the east, and I became a knight four years ago.”

Overwhelmed by the aggression, the knights revealed their affiliation and ranks like new military recruits answering their superiors.

“Julian. What is the treatment given to average knights in the military?

“For the Western Army, knights are generally assigned as captain of special forces or as company commander of an infantry unit. In reality, they’re treated about the same as junior officers.”

“So do they have a higher position than me, a noble?”

“Of course not. You’re a noble personally given a title by His Majesty, and a lord to 10,000 people after becoming a feudal lord thanks to Lord Mangsk. In general, a lord is treated at the same level as senior knights, regardless of his or her qualifications as a knight.”

“I see. So I wasn’t wrong. They were giving me the impression that I was beneath them.”

The knights’ faces paled at the casual conversation between the lord and his squire, as they belatedly realized that their actions had been unforgivably disrespectful. However, at the same time, they would not have gone this far from the beginning if they were the type to acknowledge their wrongdoings and back down.

“We only wanted to ask for a duel. You’re trying to put us down with your higher rank?”

“He’s right! No knight ever refuses a duel under the pretext of rank!”

The knights put the cart before the horse as they complained. Seon-Hyeok looked at them coldly as he responded.

“I never said I refused?”

Perhaps they didn’t expect this answer? 

The knights looked at him dumbfounded as Seon-Hyeok donned his armor with the help of Julian.

“I told you from the start. Catch your breath and get ready to fight.”

He didn’t worry about being armored as meticulously as when he had fought the Sword of Lightning, but he nonetheless took care to cover his vital areas and any important joints. Finally, he was handed the dragon rider’s lance. The knights shuddered for a moment when they saw the massive weapon.

“You all had some time to rest, right? Now, then, let’s get started. Who’s first?”

The atmosphere changed at this single comment. Until just a moment ago, the knights had exchanged glances, wondering how to get out of this crisis. But now, they schemed, trying to make the most of this situation.

“Or do you want to all come at once?”

Seon-Hyeok was disgusted by their unsightly appearance and provoked them once again.

“That’s too much!”

Ainol Reynold spoke up and jumped forward. Seon-Hyeok saw him and asked.

“Are you the first, then?”

“I’ll introduce myself once again. I am the second son of House Reynold from the east, and I challenge the Drake Knight to a duel!”

The other knights sighed with regret as they saw Ainol Reynold work up the courage to challenge the lord.

“Then let’s get started. The other knights here will be witnesses to the duel.”

“Hap!”

As soon as Seon-Hyeok finished speaking, Ainol Reynold grabbed his bastard sword with both hands and charged. It was a spirited charge, as expected of a knight, but Seon-Hyeok just looked and clicked his tongue. He had no intention of letting this average knight close the gap and even try to attack.

“Tsk.”

This attack pattern was the same as the one that left the Sword of Lightning rolling on the ground. Whatever else Knight Laylark might have said about their duel, it looked as though he omitted the details of how he suffered at the drake knight’s hands.

Thud!

With the sound of iron armor being crushed in, Ainol Reynold was thrown far away. The poor knight writhed in pain on the ground for a moment before he was unable to even groan.

“Now. Next.”

***

There were a number of rumors among the knights about the Drake Knight – that he was an opportunist lucky to find victory, that he was a coward who fled his territory for months to avoid the real knights seeking Gradus, that he was a false knight only anointed thanks to his strange skills.

Those coveting Gradus but not daring to challenge the royal knights came all the way to this remote western territory to find this false knight. Connelly Chicks was one of these men.

The first person to challenge him will get Gradus.

Connelly Chicks came all the way from the far north because of those rumors. Bearing witness to the Drake Knight’s actions in avoiding a meeting for days on end, he believed that the rumors about the lord being a coward were true. He persevered, and he was finally able to gain an audience with this ‘false knight’. Until that point, he was thrilled, thinking that his dreams of quickly getting Gradus would be realized. He was mistaken.

“Shut up.”

Hearing a voice as cold as the northern winds, Connelly Chicks realized that something was wrong. The foreigner arrogantly looking down at them like they were ants – he looked nothing like what the rumors suggested.

He’s a coward? He’s a false knight?

The Drake Knight was violent and fierce. He didn’t hesitate to verbally harass them from the moment they met, and he was aggressive in putting down anyone daring to speak back.

“You all had some time to rest, right? Now, then, let’s get started. Who’s first?”

Even so, Connelly Chicks didn’t forget his purpose for coming to this territory, and the other knights were the same. Ainol of House Reynold quickly applied for his duel first. The other knights all lamented, thinking they had missed their opportunity while hesitantly looking around. However, this disappointment didn’t last. Ainol Reynold, the challenger, was thrown aside by the massive lance and knocked out before he could take a few breaths.

“Now. Next.”

Connelly Chicks gritted his teeth as he watched the Drake Knight calmly standing there, not even out of breath. He wanted to scream at the Sword of Lightning and the other knights who had criticized the Drake Knight’s abilities and claimed he was an opportunist.

“Where did all of your fighting spirit go? Didn’t you all think you’d win easily?”

His pride was hurt by the blatant taunting, but Connelly Chicks couldn’t step forward. He now thought it would be advantageous to challenge the Drake Knight after the other knights had fought and forced him to use some of his strength. However, the others seemingly had the same thought, and they all stood there dumbly, looking at one another.

“Julian. Are they the only ones allowed to challenge people to a duel?”

“No, not necessarily.”

The Drake Knight smirked at his squire’s vague answer. The knights quickly lowered their gazes, filled with a sense of ominous foreboding.

“Hm. That person’s name…”

“He’s Knight Caylee, the second son of Baron Caylee in the east.”

Seon-Hyeok was now asking his squire for the knight’s name before challenging him, since it hadn’t even been worth remembering. This was a truly unprecedented situation.

“Okay. Second son of House Caylee, I challenge you to a duel.”

In addition to being bewildered, the knight looked pained, like he had just been sentenced to death.

“I, I won’t fall as easily as Knight Reynold.”

However, there was no way a knight would refuse a duel because he felt overwhelmed. Knight Caylee worked up his courage and gathered his sword energy.

“I will do my best.”

Realizing that the first duel had ended before the challenger could even summon his sword energy, the other knights felt some hope. They belatedly realized that the Drake Knight didn’t have the knight class and was unable to use that vaunted ability himself.

“Oh? Then I’ll fight you seriously as well.”

As soon as he finished speaking, the Drake Knight tucked the massive lance under his arm and twisted his waist.

“Wind Piercing.”

With the soft whisper, the lord’s twisted waist straightened, and his body suddenly shot forward.

“Ah.”

Had the lance come first? Or was it the torrential gusts of wind? Nobody knew. The only thing that was for certain was that Knight Caylee was now bloodied and collapsed on the ground where the lance and wind had passed.

“Next. Nobody? Then I’ll pick again.”

The Drake Knight seemed more energized than ever, rather than being exhausted from the repeated duels. The blood drained from the watching knights’ faces as they heard the lord’s voice.

***

The duels ended before they knew it. The knights were a complete mess as they were carried away.

“But in the end, you did go easy on them.”

Julian showed no signs of excitement, as she already knew Seon-Hyeok would win.

“Well done. They were disrespectful, but if you had gone too far, their families might’ve held a grudge against you.”

“No. That’s not why I went easy on them.”

Seon-Hyeok shook his head at Julian’s words.

“If they’re too injured, they’ll be forced to sit around in our territory while they recover. I don’t want that. Since they’re only reasonably hurt, they’ll be embarrassed and leave on their own volition.”

He didn’t want these distasteful knights to stay in Rheinperle for longer than necessary. As such, he had only harmed them to the point where they would endure the lasting pain and go about their business. Given the current situation, the most physically fit of the knights would likely leave before the following evening.

“If they spread the news accurately about how badly they were beaten, such troublesome situations will probably happen less often. However, in reality, I’m sure they’ll either keep their mouths shut or try to twist it to their advantage.”

When he first heard of Gradus, Seon-Hyeok thought that it was an interesting idea. However, he no longer felt that way. He was already worried about how many knights would approach in the future, thinking he was an easy opponent.

“We sent these knights away like that, but the Sword of Lightning will visit soon as well. I’m sure he’ll be eager for revenge. I’ve heard that he even took a leave of absence to practice his swordsmanship, so you won’t be able to beat him as easily as you beat these average knights.”

Hearing Julian’s words, Seon-Hyeok grinned and messed up her hair. For him, Gradus didn’t matter. After all, his opponent wasn’t the kingdom’s knights in the first place.

“Do you think I’ll lose?”

“I hope you don’t.”

Julian was usually blunt, but at times like these, she could show her true feelings without showing any signs of embarrassment. Seon-Hyeok smiled and patted her head.

“Then I won’t lose.”

Julian raised her head as she heard her lord’s calm voice.

“I’m confident I can win now.”

Her face showed some signs of relief at his reassuring attitude.

As expected, the knights fled the Rheinperle territory as soon as they were physically able. Seon-Hyeok was finally able to spend the day in peace after they left. However, the world didn’t seem to want the foreigner to live an easy life.

“Halt!”

He looked out the window, hearing the violent shouts of the soldiers guarding his mansion. There was a rider kicking up dust and approaching from a distance.

“Halt! Reveal your affiliation and your business here!”

The territory’s soldiers looked the part as they shouted forcefully and tried to stop the rider.

“Out of the way! This message is from the commander!”

However, the rider didn’t slow down despite the soldiers’ orders, and he only slowed down once he passed through the gates.

“Urgent news! Urgent news! I ask the lord to come out and hear the commander’s message!”

Seon-Hyeok, feeling something was amiss, was already heading outside before the rider had finished speaking.

“The commander has ordered you to lead the Drake Cavalry and join the 24th Regiment as soon as possible!”

“What the hell is going on? Why are you in such…”

The messenger answered his question with a stone-like expression.

“The Noctein cavalry has crossed our borders!”

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