Episode 91. Counterattack (2)

“Having heard the news, five foreigners went to try and dissuade Earl Drachen, but they were punished for insubordination as well.”

Kim Woo-Young had so desperately tried to contact Marquis Reinhardt and Commander Mangsk, but was rebuffed under the pretext of them being in a confidential meeting. In reality, they had locked themselves in the conference room and were being briefed on the commotion caused by Seon-Hyeok.

“So you mean they were beaten up, right?”

Hearing the marquis’ question, the messenger hesitated before answering in the affirmative.

“Ugh. I thought he might’ve become somewhat useful after previous events, but he still has a long way to go. Those foreigners deserve to be torn to shreds for their crimes, but he’s too soft.”

Puzzled, Commander Mangsk looked at the marquis. He wondered why the marquis was saying this now after telling Seon-Hyeok to lead the foreigners.

“Of course, insubordination in a time of war is a crime immediately punishable by death, but isn’t it a bit much to summarily dispose of foreigners under royal protection?”

The commander’s words were informal and friendly, suggesting that the two men were already on close terms. The marquis’ attitude in responding was likewise gentle, as though addressing an old friend.

“That’s precisely the problem. The foreigners are too aware of that fact. They weren’t always like this, but they became useless after a while.”

Because the royal family directly managed and supported the foreigners, the commanders on the front lines were unable to handle them properly. Even if the foreigners committed crimes or made mistakes, their commanding officers needed to request disciplinary action through the royal family, and as such, they often looked past any transgressions.

“Even if there’s some loss of life, if Seon-Hyeok killed one or two of them as an example, the rest might’ve come to their senses. However, I don’t think that’ll come to pass. Whether it’s because they’re from the same world or because he’s just soft, it’s a shame he stopped at a beating.”

The Mangsk commander shook his head as he watched the marquis click his tongue while expressing his disapproval of Seon-Hyeok’s decision.

“But why do you care about him so much? Why is the marquis, who should be busy worrying about the safety of the royal family, concerned about the actions of a noble from the frontier?”

The commander’s line of questioning was oddly sharp.

“Oh? Look at this old man being on edge. Looks like you’re afraid I’ll bring Earl Drachen back to the capital?”

“That’s not something for you to say. You’ve already taken five talented figures from the western territories.”

It was evident that the commander was concerned about the marquis recruiting Seon-Hyeok to the Royal Knights.

“I don’t have plans to do that yet. Don’t worry about such useless things.”

“Yet? That means you might do so someday.”

The commander voiced his displeasure at the ambiguous response.

“Again, you have nothing to worry about. And seeing his actions right now, I don’t think I’ll want to take him in the future either. A Royal Knight needs to be willing to cut down his own father if necessary – I don’t have any intention of recruiting someone so soft.”

Hearing the marquis’ words, the commander was at a loss whether to be happy or displeased at Seon-Hyeok failing to meet the knight’s high standards.

“Then I will believe you. I was unnerved because you take valuable people from the west back with you every time you visit.”

The marquis slowly got up from his seat, knowing that staying meant listening to the commander’s complaints.

“The earl’s rampage should be coming to an end by now, so let’s get moving.”

It was clear the marquis was just trying to avoid an uncomfortable conversation, but the commander got up to follow. The old commander was just as curious to find out how Seon-Hyeok had exacted punishment on the foreigners.

“Oh? I guess I spoke too soon.”

Marquis Reinhardt let out a sound somewhere between admiration and lamentation as he saw the ten foreigners laid out like laundry in one corner of the training grounds.

When he first heard the reports, he believed Seon-Hyeok was trying to discipline the foreigners in moderation to bring them under his wing. For that reason, he had mocked Seon-Hyeok’s complacency – thinking that the foreigner was making matters worse by improperly handling the disobedient and arrogant group.

However, Earl Drachen’s actions were neither soft nor clumsy enough to cause potential trouble in the future.

“I thought he’d beat them up to a certain point, but he turned them into complete rags. Considering the extent of their injuries, some of them might be crippled for life even if they actually survive.”

As the marquis commented, the foreigners charged with insubordination were in critical condition. To set an example for the rest, they were left half-dead and untouched by priests under the strict orders of the earl.

“This is great. The commander of an army should be strong enough to exact this level of discipline. Insubordination needs to be stamped out so that you don’t end up with a knife in your back later.”

The marquis burst into laughter when he saw the ten foreigners teetering between life and death after being coddled by the royal family.

“But it’s still a bit heavy-handed. If he had killed one or two of them as an example, things might not have escalated to this point, and the losses could have been reduced. He’s still clumsy and has much to learn.”

“Do you think Earl Drachen wasn’t aware of that?”

Commander Mangsk answered with a knowing expression when he heard the marquis’ words.

“Commander, are you suggesting that the earl knew this and intentionally reduced his manpower?”

The marquis came out fiercely, as though he was ready to question Seon-Hyeok’s irresponsible behavior if the commander’s suggestion proved to be true. On the other hand, however, the commander continued to be relaxed.

“Seems like you’ve been stuck at the capital for too long, marquis. Or maybe it’s because you’re from the Central Army yourself?”

“What do you mean?”

“It remains to be seen whether our forces will be weakened by these foreigners’ absence.”

The commander wanted to suggest that bringing inexperienced and unprepared foreigners into battle would only serve to limit the Adenburg combat ability.

“Shouldn’t they be given a chance like Earl Drachen himself? They could be trained into usable knights if he had just made an example of one or two and used the rest, but how could he have been so short-sighted…”

“Marquis Reinhardt.”

Commander Mangsk cut off the marquis’ words.

“You’re overlooking something. How many soldiers need to be sacrificed for their development? Moreover, this war isn’t going to be fought within our borders, but in enemy territory. If they act out there like they did here, the losses we suffer will be beyond comprehension.”

The commander gave a displeased look as he gazed at the foreigners laying motionless, unable to even groan.

“He won’t lose. Earl Drachen is as capable as his reputation suggests. He’ll manage even with these foreigners.”

“Isn’t that enough, then? These foreigners are worthy of developing, even at the cost of others’ lives.”

In contrast to their previous cordial interactions, the commander and the marquis now went directly at each other.

“It seems like you still have much to learn about Earl Drachen, marquis. Do you remember how and where he started?”

The marquis did not respond.

“He started not as a captain or a knight, but as an ordinary cavalry rider. He fought and rolled in the mud with the other riders. For him, soldiers are companions and comrades, not lambs to be sacrificed when the need arises. Do you really think he’d use the soldiers entrusted to him for the development of these foreigners?”

The commander was resolute. He was convinced that no one cared more about the common soldier than Earl Drachen, as he started at the bottom himself. Seon-Hyeok would naturally focus more on the survival of his subordinates than on having these foreigners grow and make wartime contributions for their personal advancement.

“Don’t forget. The battleground is not a playground for superhuman beings.”

***

“Just like you, I’m also a noble. There might be a difference in our rank as nobility, but you still can’t treat me recklessly. After all, I’m not a member of the Western Army, but rather answer directly to the royal family.”

Seon-Hyeok had laughed at Kim Woo-Young’s choice of excuses. He could not believe how moronic this foreigner was. It was truly incredible.

Lee Eun-Seo, the mage, might have been arrogant, but she did not act carelessly. Ahn Yoo-Jung, the summoner, had the self-restraint to consider the political situation before acting.

But Kim Woo-Young? 

He was unable to judge the gravity of the situation during a time of war, and he did not even try to negotiate with his opponent, indicating a lack of political aptitude. All he had was pride and arrogance stemming from his high-tier class.

He was lucky to be handed such a class and had become the central figure of his faction, but his character was incredibly shallow and insignificant.

“Is that your excuse?”

“Don’t forget that the royal princess is in the fortress.”

Kim Woo-Young showed his ugly side until the very end – he was truly the worst type of person. Every time he opened his mouth, he mentioned the royal family and tried to use them as a shield, and Seon-Hyeok grew increasingly angry as he listened.

“Then again, since so many people were summoned to this world, it’s not that strange that there would be a fool like you among them.”

Now that he thought about it, it was surprising that all of the foreigners he had interacted with up to this point were competent and serious in their mindset. Since all types of people were caught up in the mass summoning, it was natural for there to be incompetent and stubborn ones among them.

“Sword.”

At Seon-Hyeok’s command, Clark unhesitatingly unsheathed the sword he wore around his waist.

“Hear my words. Viscount Kim Woo-Young ordered his comrades to disobey their superior’s orders, and insubordination in a time of war is punishable by death. At the same time, he insists on using the royal family as a shield until the very end, and shows no signs of repenting for his sins.”

Seon-Hyeok’s words were as though he was passing judgment.

“And so, as his superior, I will punish him severely for his crimes. I will ensure that he never wavers in his discipline and that there will no longer be any threats to our forces’ camaraderie.”

Until this point, Woo-Young remained confident in the royal family’s protection. However, this faith did not last much longer.

Seon-Hyeok approached quickly and unhesitatingly swung his sword.

Slash.

With an ear-curdling scream, Woo-Young’s arm was torn completely from his shoulder. Blood spurted as the arm flopped onto the ground.

“Huh?”

The foreigner looked blankly at his bleeding stump of a shoulder. What just happened did not seem to register in his brain.

“It wouldn’t be unreasonable to execute you here and now, considering the gravity of your crimes, but I will give you a chance. You will be at the vanguard of the army with me from now on. You will be forbidden from retreating until I do, and you will be required to remain by my side until the very end.”

Despite what Seon-Hyeok said, Woo-Young still did not seem to come to his senses. He looked back and forth between his shoulder and the arm that lay motionless on the floor.

“Ah, ahhhh!”

It was only then that he screamed once again.

***

In the end, rumors spread that fourteen foreigners were left half-dead, and that one was completely crippled. The soldiers thought that Earl Drachen’s response was more than warranted, and that if anything, he had been too soft in punishing crimes worthy of death.

However, even those who spoke out about the leniency of the Drake Knight shut their mouths at the sight of the foreigners left as an example on the training grounds. They realized that the description of ‘half-dead’ was no exaggeration, and that the punishment fit the crime.

The most difficult ones to deal with had been the commanders of the Central Army. They had reluctantly followed orders under the pretext of tensions and pride between the Western and Central Armies. However, they no longer made excuses when given commands, and they rushed to respond to any summons. They all seemed worried that they would be belatedly disciplined like their superiors.

The discordant atmosphere within the fortress stabilized, and preparations for war were nearly finalized. This was when the royal princess finally stepped forward.

She instructed the priests accompanying her to heal the wounded foreigners, and this time, Seon-Hyeok did not stop them. He had already established the hierarchy within their ranks.

“Ugh…”

Woo-Young was among those treated by the priests. Thanks to the excellent healing abilities of the pious healer, even his severed arm was able to be reattached. One of Seon-Hyeok’s subordinates brought forth Woo-Young’s detached arm, as if knowing in advance that the royal princess would have it restored.

Though the reattached arm would regain its full function, its movements remained somewhat unnatural. Putting strength into the arm caused terrible pain, causing the foreigner to wince.

“Kim Woo-Young.”

“Yes? Yes!”

Whenever Woo-Young was face to face with Seon-Hyeok, he remained motionless, like a frog in front of a snake. Woo-Young’s only claim to fame was his fortune in becoming a high-tier class, and he lacked any special intrinsic qualities. As such, he submitted to Seon-Hyeok instead of resenting him and plotting his revenge.

“As soon as your arm regains some strength, take part in the cavalry training.”

Compared to the other foreigners, who had been beaten all over and were unable to even move properly for the time being, Kim Woo-Young was fortunate. It was just his one arm that caused discomfort – the rest of his body was perfectly fine.

As Woo-Young and the rest of the invading force focused on their final training, the royal princess called on Seon-Hyeok.

“Are you satisfied?”

She did not need to explain. Seon-Hyeok wordlessly lowered his head.

“Then that’s enough for me. I was the one who gave you authority over their lives, so I will take responsibility if any issues arise over what happened.”

The princess did not look dissatisfied, even though fourteen of the fifteen foreigners were excused from the upcoming operation, making her original request rather pointless.

“I wish you good luck in the future. I look forward to the day you come back safe and sound so that we can talk once again.”

On that snow-less day, the princess left after offering a brief farewell. The day after, the troops at Mangsk departed as well.

The war had begun.

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