Episode 90. Counterattack (1)

A summons was issued to the cavalry commanders of the Central Army. However, they had consistently ignored their commands up to this point, and there was no way they would start heeding Seon-Hyeok’s orders now. The only ones who reluctantly answered the call were low-level officers of the cavalry units.

Those present looked embarrassed. It was true they were on the side of their cavalry companies, but they were wary of repeatedly being in these situations as they awaited a potential promotion.

“Is this it?”

Earl Drachen expressed neither anger nor disappointment. He simply spoke matter-of-factly. However, the atmosphere was unusual, and the people present found themselves shrinking back before they knew it.

“Our company commander had an urgent matter…”

“Our company commander as well…”

They instinctively felt that something terrifying might happen if they did not step forward and provide an excuse, and as such, they rushed forward to defend their commanders.

“Of course. I’m sure there’s nothing that could have been done. I’m sure it must have been so urgent that they repeatedly ignored the summons from their commanding officer.”

It was a simple response, but the low-level officers were slowly becoming convinced. They knew that this was the last opportunity being given by Earl Drachen.

“But it’d be nice if they showed up.” 

Seon-Hyeok completed his sentence before passing on a few more instructions to his men.

“Tell them to immediately stop what they’re doing and respond to my summons. I will not tolerate any further excuses.”

The soldiers saluted and scattered.

“Sit. Sit down and relax. I’m sure this will take a while.”

No matter how often the earl suggested this, none of the officers followed his instructions. Before they knew it, they were showing the same military discipline as those who had just been dispatched. They stood straight up and unmoving, nervously looking towards their regimental commander.

Time passed, and the earl’s subordinates returned one by one.

“Forward!”

The company commanders and their aides slowly appeared, unable to continue with their prideful insubordination. They likewise must have realized this final summons was an ultimatum.

“Good. I’ve been told you were busy, but thank you for stopping what you were doing to come over.”

They would have rather preferred it if Seon-Hyeok had complained and reprimanded them for what they had done. Hearing his sarcastic thanks, they could not do anything but stand there with their mouths shut.

“So. Fifteen didn’t show their faces until the end.”

When they looked towards the earl once again, he showed not a sign of irritation or displeasure. However, the company commanders could not help but straighten up at his voice.

The earl’s calm tone sounded like that of a butcher counting the number of pigs to be slaughtered.

“Now that I’ve seen your faces, let’s call it a day. Dismissed.”

Before they could grasp his intentions, they were allowed to leave. It would not have been strange to show displeasure at being summoned to immediately be told to return, but none of them dared to open their mouths.

“It seems like they’re much busier than I am, so I have no choice but to go see them myself.”

While the commanders hesitated, the earl took his retinue and headed off.

***

“Is it really okay for us not to go?”

At the man’s words, the faces of the foreigners gathered around him turned grim.

“I heard even all the company commanders gave in. Don’t you think something bad will happen if we’re the only ones holding out?”

“He’s right. They told us that no further excuses would be tolerated – the atmosphere’s pretty unsettling.”

The foreigners exchanged uneasy glances, recalling the attitude of the messenger they had just turned back.

“I heard you could be put to death for insubordination during a time of war…”

The atmosphere cooled immediately.

“That’s the case for ordinary soldiers. Are we ordinary soldiers? Earl or not, he doesn’t dare do anything to us. And also, don’t you remember who we answer to?”

One of the foreigners reassured the rest, saying that they all served the royal family.

“I heard even the nobles in the capital can’t treat us poorly, so what’s there to be afraid of from that country fool from the west?”

It was as though the man became more and more self-assured as he spoke, and he soon did not hesitate to speak ill of his new regimental commander. The foreigners did not like that Earl Drachen, after starting as a low-tier class, was now their superior and could condescend to them just because he made a few insignificant contributions in war.

When it came down to it, wasn’t his claim to fame that he just slaughtered some ordinary riders? They were confident they could achieve more than that in battle, and thought that they would soon be granted titles as well.

“And if anything happens, Woo-Young hyung will protect us. He’s a high-tier class and a viscount, so he has some authority even in the capital. We just have to do as he says.”

The other foreigners looked relieved at the mention of Kim Woo-Young, the leader of their faction and the well-established, high-tier foreigner.

“So don’t worry about it, and let’s focus on figuring out how we can get recognized for our own achievements. We all have to be recognized and promoted so we won’t be pushed around by the likes of Ahn Yoo-Jung and Lee Eun-Seo.”

“Ugh, that damned Ahn Yoo-Jung. Woo-Young hyung seemed pretty displeased that she was able to make so much progress with that one insignificant contribution of hers. He’s even more frustrated now after hearing about this unremarkable dragon rider bastard.”

It was pathetic to see them only focused on coming out on top of their factional strife before a war of life and death. However, they seemed to have no concerns about the upcoming war, and spoke about how they would become better established at the capital and crush those with competing interests.

“Anyways, none of you better sneak out and betray us for that Drake Knight. You know that we’ll all suffer if Woo-Young hyung becomes upset, right?”

“Yeah, we know better than anyone what he’s like. Don’t worry about that. None of us will step out of line, even if it’s out of fear of him…”

Bang!

At that moment, the door suddenly flew open, and a group of men stormed into the room. Bewildered, the foreigners stopped talking and hurriedly drew their weapons.

“Who is it!”

“Tsk. Tsk. I was wondering what was keeping you so busy that you couldn’t answer my summons. Enjoying your tea time?”

The man entering the room looked at the five men who drew their weapons as they shouted. He thought they looked pathetic.

“I came to see you personally since you refused to show up.”

Hearing the man's words, the foreigners finally realized who the person before them was and looked on in bewilderment.

“You’re not going to lower your swords? Should I add ‘attempt on your commander’s life’ to your existing offense of insubordination?”

“Y, you…”

“Kim Seon-Hyeok…?”

Seon-Hyeok’s eyebrows quickly rose. These foreigners were so slow to grasp the situation, even addressing their superior in an informal, rude manner.

“You? Kim Seon-Hyeok?”

The foreigners looked taken aback, belatedly realizing their mistake, but none stepped forward to offer an apology.

“Even if you’re an earl, you can’t just enter other people’s rooms like this…" 

One even dared to protest.

“Ah. These bastards really are out of their minds.”

Instead of becoming angry, Seon-Hyeok smiled. However, his smile was neither gentle nor soft, and it looked several times more threatening than his anger.

Gulp.

Overwhelmed by the pressure the Drake Knight exerted, the foreigners gulped. Seon-Hyeok watched them and smiled until the end as he approached.

“Captain Clark. What is the standard response to wartime insubordination?”

Seon-Hyeok was now right in front of them, and he asked without even turning back.

“It depends on the commander’s decision. However, in cases like this, where their actions have a significant effect on troop discipline and break down organizational authority, it’s not unreasonable to dispose of them without going through standard procedures.”

“So you’re telling me I can punish them harshly.”

Only then did the foreigners realize this had been Seon-Hyeok’s objective from the beginning. They gathered together and protested.

“We answer to the royal family! If you have any complaints, deliver them to the royal family through official channels… ugh!”

The man stepping forward ended up on the ground before he could finish his words. The other foreigners, eyes wide at the situation’s sudden escalation, belatedly shouted.

“What the hell are you…”

Once again, Seon-Hyeok did not wait for him to finish. His fist flew, and the protesting foreigner fell to the floor. The fallen man was a mess, with blood streaming down his broken nose.

“What am I doing? I’m handing down punishment.”

There was no more conversation. All that could be heard were shouts and screams.

“Ugh…”

Faced with this kind of violence for the first time in their lives, the foreigners could not even think about responding with their own skills and abilities. They just received their beating without lifting a finger.

‘If that Kim Seon-Hyeok bastard isn’t able to keep his cool and goes on a rampage, just let yourselves be beaten up. It’ll make for a good excuse later.’

Of those being beaten up by Seon-Hyeok, there were a few who managed to rationally think through the situation. However, instead of fiercely resisting, they chose to recall Kim Woo-Young’s instructions and suffer at the foreigner’s hands. They judged that permitting this beating would let them dispose of this tyrant later.

“Ugh!”

If they responded in anger, it really would be treason. At first, they received the beating in their confusion. But afterwards, they endured, looking forward to exacting revenge down the line.

They thought that today’s disgrace and pain would lead to sweet, sweet vengeance.

But something was amiss. By now, the Drake Knight should have restrained himself out of fear for what might happen afterwards, but the punishment showed no signs of ending.

“W, wait… ugh!”

Sensing that something was unusual, one of the foreigners reached forward to try and dissuade Seon-Hyeok. He was kicked in the mouth, and his teeth shattered.

“You aren’t afraid of the royal fam… ack!”

“You think you’ll be saf…”

The protesters fell down one after another. An even harsher beating followed.

“Ugh. S, stop…”

“P, please…”

At first, they endured the beating out of fear. Then, they endured out of revenge. Now, they could not rebel out of pain and terror.

“Please stop…”

The foreigners belatedly realized that their foe had no intention of ending their punishment and paled in horror.

However, Seon-Hyeok still refused to stop. After all, he had no intention of just beating them into submission.

He did plan for that at first, thinking he would drag them out by force, but everything changed upon hearing their conversation from outside the door.

These foreigners were trash who believed that war was a playground for soldiers and only concerned themselves about rising in status. Going to war with these bastards would be like jumping into a fire while strapped to a ticking time-bomb.

And so, he decided.

“If they’re on the verge of death, they wouldn’t be able to take part in this operation even if they wanted to.”

Seon-Hyeok planned to clean up the trash before heading into the battlefield unburdened.

***

News of Seon-Hyeok’s actions quickly spread throughout the fortress. Five foreigners from the Central Army went to defend their comrades and were caught up in the same predicament. Hearing this, the remaining foreigners went into a panic.

“The princess is still here at the fortress. Hurry up and inform her of the situation.”

Kim Woo-Young, the leader of the foreigner faction at the fortress, frowned and sent one of his subordinates to the princess.

“He’s more reckless than I thought. I didn’t expect this much.”

Despite saying this, Kim Woo-Young was not nervous. He thought that his enemy would soon pay the price for daring to lay a finger on foreigners directly answering to the royal family.

“I’ve been told the royal princess has been sleeping since this morning. She might be feeling unwell because of the cold. Hyung. I did leave a message with the knights guarding her, but they said they didn’t know when she’d wake up…”

The messenger he sent returned without even seeing the princess.

“How about Marquis Reinhardt?”

“He’s been in a classified meeting with Commander Mangsk since last evening…”

How could things go so wrong? They were sick and in secret meetings at this time? 

Woo-Young was at a loss.

“Don’t you think they planned this? Something feels wrong…”

“That’s not possible. Don’t you know how meticulously the royal family treats us foreigners?”

“But he’s a foreigner as well…”

The situation would not be resolved immediately, but he had secured enough witnesses to prove that his opponent was at fault. Kim Woo-Young let out a sinister laugh.

However, his complacency did not last. The crazy bastard came to find him personally.

“I came to hand down punishment for insubordination.”

The crazy son of a bitch strode towards him, raising his bloody fists.

“If you have an excuse, hurry up and say it. You won’t get another chance.”

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