21st Century Archmage - Chapter 23

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Damn, you really train until you bleed every day.’

This was my 10th day of dorm life. Every day, I went into the Imperial Library and researched Kallian’s history, geography, and culture.

And every day, when I returned, I would be able to see Russell on his bed, using the mana breathing technique.

‘It doesn’t matter if your upper danjeon is opened but you don’t have a proper mana breathing technique. It really is hard to accumulate mana that way.’

A regular person could train their whole lives to the brink of death and back without opening up their upper danjeon. Even if they did, training for further improvement was difficult. If you didn’t have a unique mana breathing technique like I did thanks to my awesome master, it would be impossible for you to go beyond a set limit.

‘To summon a spirit, you need the help of someone with an affinity to spirits, right? You also need a spirit summoning magic circle, spirit crystal, and a magic crystal.’

According to the information about spirits I’d researched in the library, a spirit summoning magic circle wasn’t too difficult. A person with about as much mana as a 3rd Circle mage could complete the summoning circle.

‘But still, who said magic circles were easy? Only those fantasy authors…’

I read somewhere that anyone with a few tricks and tips could draw a magic circle. However, the reality was quite different from what I had read in fantasy novels. Even an outstanding mana theory genius couldn’t complete a magic array if their Circle level was too low.

For example, if a 5th Circle mage wanted a magic array corresponding to the 5th Circle level, they would need 5th Circle mana before the array could be completed. In addition, if you wanted to enhance the magic array’s effect, you would need mana from a higher Circle mage.

‘If I want to summon a spirit, I’ll need Russell’s help, as well as a spirit crystal and magic crystal.’

Arranging a spirit summoning array was simple for me. But the problem was getting a summoner’s help. They also needed to be someone who had an affinity to spirits.

‘I have more than enough mana. I haven’t confirmed it yet, but as long as my spiritual affinity is good enough, I’ll also be able to summon a spirit.’

An emergency weapon was paramount. If I had not only my sword but also magic and a spirit, then I would be able to escape with my life no matter what happened.

“Phew!”

Having heard my arrival, Russell exhaled deeply and regulated his breathing. His smooth skin and red lips were beautiful enough to come from a woman.

“You’re back?”

After residing together in the same room for a few days, Russell had become much friendlier. He opened his large eyes and acted happy to see me.

“Let’s go out.”

“Hm? Where to?”

“Where do you think? You’ve got to help this hillbilly sightsee the capital.”

“Sightseeing?”

“Once our lessons start, we won’t be able to leave so freely. So before that, we should go out and drink a bit, and if there’s something we need to buy, we should go take care of it, right? I, Kyre, will treat you big today!”

“…..”

Instead of answering, Russell stared blankly at me with blinking eyes.

“Huhu. What, dun wanna? I’ll carry you.”

“N-no! I’ll get ready right away!”

For some reason, Russell really avoided physical touch. That’s why just walking closer made him get serious in a hurry.

‘Oi, are you some kind of germaphobe or something?’

Russell had an abnormal obsession about controlling the distance between us, even though we were both guys. He threw on his cloak and completed his preparation to go out in a flurry.

“Let’s go, my friend~!”

“O-okay. Let’s go!”

I found out after asking him that he was one year older than me.

‘But why is his butt so bouncy?’

I swear I wasn’t a pervert like Russell said, but his padded bum really drew the eyes. It wasn’t that big, but the swaying movements were out of the ordinary.

‘Today, I’ll have a proper beer. Kuku,’ I thought, recalling the clean taste of the beer from Elmar’s Resthouse.

It was currently the afternoon. If we bought a bunch of magic goods and then went and got ourselves a drink, we would be able to come back before curfew.

 

★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★

 

“Are those Skyknight cadets?”

“Wow, so cool.”

The streets were somewhat slippery due to the misting of snow from the morning, but it felt very refreshing to walk along on my horse. Moreover, my black cloak which signified my identity as a Skyknight cadet drew gazes from everyone as we walked.

‘So this is what influence feels like.’

Even the soldiers guarding the capital saluted us. We were only trainees, but as Skyknight cadets, we received courtesy given to knights. It really was a friendlier world if you had some status.

‘So this is the Magic Tower District.’

After leaving the academy, I went to the soldiers guarding the inner castle and asked them to help me get Ronaldo. While I was at it, I also asked for directions to the Magic Tower District. As expected of a great empire, the district boasted not only large magic towers, but also minor, smaller magic towers. Mages weren’t their only customers– there were also nobles and merchants who needed magic items or ingredients.

“Isn’t this the Magic Tower District?” Russell asked, having followed me quietly to the district displaying all sorts of magic tower emblems.

“There’s something I need to buy.”

‘Let’s buy him a present. Then he can’t say no to helping.’ There was no free lunch in this world. And even if there was, it would definitely come with some kind of wicked hidden strings attached.

“This place looks good.”

I stopped in front of the grandest, 4-story building on Magic Tower Street.

“Gauss Magic Tower… They have good quality items, but their prices are high.”

‘Hm? I didn’t know he knew so much about magic towers.’

Well, it was probably me who was just ignorant. There were seven huge magic towers that were on almost equal footing with the empire. Led by 7th Circle mages, which was said to be the limit of humankind, these magic towers gathered and cultivated hundreds of fledgling mages.

Though they might fall short to Skyknights in terms of military strength, mages with outstanding skills couldn’t be ignored. If they all decided to defect to an enemy country, the empire or kingdom would come face to face with enormous force.

‘Magic towers are involved in politics, right?’

This was something I had come to know: to control the locations of such potentially dangerous magic towers, each empire and kingdom signed contracts with magic towers. Mages involved in politics were limited to provisional magic tower disciple positions and could only receive the title of ‘mage.’

“Let’s go in.”

“Un,” murmured Russell softly.

I hitched Ronaldo to the storefront and we went inside.

“How may I help you?”

Even after seeing our Skyknight cadet uniforms, the mage kept his composure. The sleeve of his white robe was embroidered with two gold circles, which signified that he was a 2nd Circle mage.

‘Ah, are these all magic products?’

The interior of the building was in no way inferior to the Emperor Mall in Apgujeon, which was said to be the best in all of Korea. A magical chandelier hung from the center of the ceiling, and countless products that looked like magic items were laid out in this store, which was over 300 sq. meters large. From varying kinds of knight armor, to all sorts of swords and even accessories for women, this place had everything.

“What do you have for auxiliary gear that Skyknight cadets usually wear?”

The clerk was only a 2nd Circle mage, but he was affiliated with the magic tower, and he had surely assisted countless nobles before. I didn’t want to be humiliated later by pretending that I knew everything, so I just asked honestly.

“Am I correct in assuming that you have not yet been issued an airplate?”

‘Airplate?’ The mage mentioned an unfamiliar term.

“Haha! We have just enrolled, so we didn’t receive one yet.” The only thing I’d gotten was the cadet uniform.

“If so, then please allow me to recommend a shield item that can block a Blessed Spear. For female Skyknights, items that enhance physical strength are necessary, but male Skyknights are more often in close-combat fighting at the front rather than at the back, so they often seek shield items.”

‘Blessed Spear? Close-combat fighting?” I was indeed a Skyknight cadet in name, but the only thing I really knew about all this was that Skyknights rode wyverns with flair in the skies.

“What do you think? If there’s something that catches your fancy, you can have it.”

“F-for me?” said Russell with surprise. His eyes had been scanning the products here and there with curiosity.

“To commemorate our friendship, I want to buy you a present. True friends shouldn’t spare anything for each other, right?”

“But…”

‘Dude, take the bait! Huhu.’ This is probably how Master felt when he baited me with the words “it’s free.”

“What do you think about this one, sirs? This is considered quite good among the auxiliary arms. Even among magic towers, this is an exceptional magic item produced by our Gauss Magic Tower; it is enchanted with the 4th Circle spell, Wind Shield. Additionally, unlike items from other magic towers, as long as the shield is not shattered, it can be used at least 10 times.”

Knowing I was buying a present, the 2nd Circle mage brought out an expensive-looking bracelet that glowed with blue light.

‘A 4th Circle magic item? It probably took a pretty long time to make.’

An item that would be attached to something with a large surface area, like armor, didn’t require compression with a magic circle, so it was easy to make them. But to enchant a 4 cm wide object would require a compressed 4th Circle array, so producing them was no easy matter, at least according to the magic theory in my head.

“Do you like it?”

“Huh? I like it, but… won’t it be too expensive?”

The mage handed over the faintly glowing magic bracelet for my inspection. Ten fingernail-sized green stones acting as magic crystals were adorning the bracelet, increasing its beauty.

“How much does this cost?”

“An excellent choice. Most Skyknight cadets use magic items of at least this level. And our Gauss Magic Tower offers a special 10% discount to trainees of the Bajran Empire.”

‘Considering how he’s twisting his words in circles, it must be expensive.’ His eyes were glittering with greed as he stared at Russell and me like some fat prey.

*Ring ring~*

“Haha! Lady Luciella, this is the branch of Gauss Magic Tower.”

“I really must thank you for escorting me like this every day. In the future, I will be sure to let everyone in the social circle know about your sincerity, Lord Alfonso.”

‘These morons…’

A pair of mean cockroaches came in and spoiled my good mood. I really just wanted to drag these two Skyknight cadet uniform-wearing people to a back alley and give them a hundred punches and then a few more. These young guys simply dripping with greasy mannerisms entered the store.

“Welcome. Thank you for coming to Gauss Magic Tower,” greeted a different mage on standby with a bright smile.

“Ah! You!”

“Hmph!”

They clearly never expected to see me here, so as they saw me, their faces twisted in extreme displeasure. That malignant woman, Luciella, even snorted and shot snakes and daggers at me with her eyes.

“Haha! Long time no see. 

Instead of responding, Alfonso ground his teeth audibly. The sight of his distorted face washed away my feeling of displeasure.

“You were called Luciella, yes? You’re braver than you look, huh? How can you go around without makeup with a face like yours? Tsk tsk, they say the brave are scary, I guess people who came out half-formed from the womb are really two-faced.”

“W-what did you say?!”

These two miscellaneous side characters were already on my “no good” list. My verbal assault was only beginning.

“Russell, you say hi, too. These are your schoolmates who will 100% make your appetite disappear if you see them during a meal. If you run into them at the cafeteria, avoid them, because otherwise, you’ll lose your appetite for the entire day.”

“You bastard!”

“What, wanna fight?” I didn’t fear them anymore. A Skyknight cadet was guaranteed pseudo-knight treatment by Imperial law. The moment he drew his sword would decide the day of his death.  “Jerk, your personality is bullshit even though you have no skills to speak of. Heh.”

Alfonso and Luciella’s expressions couldn’t be distorted any more than they already were.

Then, Luciella saw the magic bracelet in my hands and loudly exclaimed, “Ah! That bracelet is–!”

“Wait, isn’t that the product we arranged for yesterday!”

“I apologize. By policy, our Gauss Magic Tower does not keep products on hold. Since that is due to the unique properties of magic items, we ask for your understanding.” The young trainee mage was firm even in the face of nobles.

‘Oho, so you came to see this thing?’

Apparently, these two also came over to buy a magic item before classes started.

Then the young, wicked mage clerk who wanted to eat a chicken whole without even plucking it addressed me cheerfully. “Dear customer, after taking a 10% discount from the 8,000 Gold original price, the total comes to 7,200 Gold.”

“Cough!”

‘Something like this is 7,200 Gold?!’ I knew a magic item would be expensive, but I didn’t expect such a ridiculous price. ‘The cost of the materials is probably 100 Gold at most.’

No matter how I looked at it, the item didn’t look especially expensive. I even thought I could make something way better if I put my mind to it.

“Puhahaha! You poor commoner.”

“Hohoho! Seems someone mistakenly thought he was a rich noble after becoming a Skyknight cadet.”

The nasty pair broke into laughter at my noise of surprise. 

“I told you, it’s expensive.” Even Russell said something with an ashamed expression.

‘All of you need to let up.’

I couldn’t just let myself be beat by this pair that were venting their frustration by joyfully laughing at my expense.

I, Kang Hyuk, had lived up to this point without getting humiliated by money matters. And in the future, I would continue to live that way. 

“Haha! It’s cheaper than I thought. Alright. I will settle the purchase right away.”

“…..”

At my nonchalant words, the cockroaches’ laughter froze right on their faces. 

Continuing, I said, “I can’t walk around carelessly with so much gold, so please go to the Rubis Merchant Group Branch to collect the money. They will withdraw the money if you say it is from Kyre, the person closely dealing with their executive manager.” As I spoke, I pulled out the token Jamir had given me, which granted me 100,000 Gold in credit.

“R-Rubis Merchant Group’s executive manager!” burst out Alfonso inadvertently.

As a noble, he should know better than anyone about the continent’s greatest merchant groups.

“Understood. I will return right away.” The mage clutched the token he received and slightly bowed. He was probably thinking that this was an unforeseen boon.

“You… you fricking bastard.”

“Hm? You’re going already?”

Their faces flushed bright red, the two ground their teeth and turned to leave. They didn’t even respond to my friendly words and opened the door, causing it to ring with the same bright tone as it had when they entered. The two horrible nobles left, all the while radiating an aura of black rage.

‘This guy is next… Does he see me as an easy target?’

The mage clerk took my token and scampered off to a different mage. I inspected the bracelet in my hands. At least a hundred thin magic lines were running through it.

As I looked closer, unbelievably enough, the weak points of the magic bracelet appeared in my head.

‘If I put a little mana right here, it’ll cause an overload for a moment.’

An elaborate mana item was basically a mana circuit diagram. If you supplied the mana circuitry with a certain amount of mana, there would be an overload and it would temporarily lose its function.

I carefully drew my mana and inserted mana into an important part of the circuitry.

‘I did it! Huhu.’

A poor mage, no, even a decent mage wouldn’t be able to find the critical weakness of a mana circuit right away.

“Wait!” I called out, stopping the mage who was about to leave the store with my token.

“What is the matter?” After seeing the executive manager’s token, the mage’s mannerisms towards me had become much smoother. At my cry, he ran back at full speed.

“No matter what, shouldn’t you check the product before settling the purchase? If there was to be a problem at a critical moment, the magic tower won’t take responsibility, right?”

“Haha! Please do not worry about such a thing. Our Gauss Magic Tower has never, not even once, sold a defective item.”

“Hohh, but you never know what could happen. Moreover, the life of a Skyknight who defends the empire with their life on the line is more important than an assumption. Check the product before finalizing the purchase.” 

I imitated a world-wise adult and put a prudish expression on my face.

“If you truly feel that way… then we will check the product. Only, if the bracelet is activated, the mana in the magic crystals will be consumed and the number of times the product can be used may be reduced,” said the trainee mage, trying to scare me a little.

“I will take that into consideration,” I responded firmly.

‘You guys are screwed today.’

“Then, I will activate the magic.” With a slightly bothered expression, the mage took the bracelet from me. He put it on his wrist and transferred a little mana, then cast the spell with a cheerful voice.

“Wind Shield~!”

“…..”

But after my tampering, there was no way the spell would deploy. With a surprised cry, the trainee mage’s face drained of color.

“How could this be!”

In order to maximize the effect, I played along with a surprised expression.

“Wind Shield!” The mage tried casting the spell again.

“…..”

However, only silence greeted the mage. 

“Goodness gracious, what is going on! How could Gauss Magic Tower sell such a faulty product! And it’s even an expensive article that costs thousands of gold!” I cried out, making my voice loud enough that everyone around could hear.

“W-what is happening here??” Hearing my mana-charged voice, a 4th Circle mage with four golden circles embroidered on his sleeve soon came running over.

‘Should I take the acting up a notch? Huhu.’

Suppressing the evil laughter inside my heart, I maintained an icy expression on my face. The magic tower wanted to fleece me, but today, they had met their match.

“To sell such a faulty product in the empire capital itself, where His Imperial Majesty himself rules, and not only that, but to try to sell it to a Skyknight who protects the very frontlines of the Empire! Such an organization must be taking the Bajran Empire lightly!”

I pulled the Emperor into it and launched my full-force attack.

“T-that’s not it–”

“If you have something to say, then say it! If someone believed in this item and tried to use it in battle but was ruined because it didn’t activate, then would you take responsibility? If I hadn’t checked it here, what do you think would have happened!!”

I loudly interrupted the trainee mage who was dripping cold sweat and trying to make an excuse.

“I believe there was a temporary mistake. Please calm down,” said the 4th Circle mage. He looked to be in his forties. Looking like a person who had lived and seen quite a lot, he tried to smooth my ruffled feathers.

‘Calm down my ass, of course I need to shout more. Kuku.’ Calming down like a moron wouldn’t benefit me at all.

“Do you think I would just lie down and bear this! Can a person’s life be measured with ones or twos? You are joking around with the one and only life a person has– would YOU calm down now? And this sham of a magic item even costs 8,000 Gold!”

My veins popped as I did my best Karen imitation.

“Tell the manager to come out! You dare to play with the life of a Skyknight of the Empire!”

Since I was already yelling, I went all out and exaggerated the issue.

“Pl-please allay your anger. We will replace it with a different product right away.”

‘You think I’m stupid?’

“Are you joking with me? With my honor as a future Skyknight, I refuse to forgive such a vicious magic branch! I will inform the Academy at once about this situation! No, I will tell every noble and person passing this store about your lack of ethics!”

“Ack!”

How could I, a person who lived in an age where the customer was king, possibly take a loss? Moreover, my rank right now was not that of a commoner, but an intermediate level close to nobles. At my various accusations, the faces of the mages inside the branch store turned an ugly shade of yellow.

“P-please come further inside. There is something urgent we must tell you.” The 4th Circle mage apparently thought of something and tried to bring me to the back.

‘If I take the bait here, I could be driven into a corner by some scammer who’s trying to cut the price.’

I couldn’t let these guys who were trying to pull the wool over my head off easily.

“Are you trying to block my mouth right now, or trying to haggle with someone’s life?”

“N-no, that’s not it. I merely wanted to control this situation with a short, very short conversation together.”

“I won’t stand for it~! I, Kyre, am a Skyknight cadet who lives and dies by his honor!”

I emphasized my last words slightly and showed them my strong side again.

“Of course. A Skyknight is a knight among knights who knows true honor.” The 4th Circle mage was tripping over himself to flatter me, though it really didn’t suit his appearance.

“If you agree on that point, then… ahem, I will go to the back and attempt to resolve this situation with you.” After threatening them with plenty of accusations, I confidently offered to go to the back.

“Thank you. Please come this way.”

“Kyre…”

“Russell, I’m sorry but wait here a bit.”

“O-okay. I got it.”

Even Russell was cowed by all my combative accusations.

Then, I followed the 4th Circle mage to the back of the store. In my hand was the proof of my argument, the bracelet I had received from the trainee mage.

 

“I am Harrison, the head of Gauss Magic Tower’s Bajran Empire Branch.” After entering a quiet secret room sort of place, the person at my side gave a formal introduction.

“I am Kyre, Skyknight cadet.” I emphasized my name because I was on edge.

“First, please allow me to apologize for causing you this unexpected displeasure today. Until now, there has never been such a shameful matter, but… I truly apologize,” said Harrison while respectfully bowing his head. Despite being a 4th Circle mage who had surely been highly respected for many years, he was stiffly bowing to me.

“…..”

However, I didn’t say a single thing in response, indirectly telling him that I was still very angry.

“We are only human, and are not immune to making mistakes; this is especially true for a huge organisation like our Gauss Magic Tower. Please forgive us with that in mind. I will give you compensation as an apology.”

‘Alright, it looks like you know a bit of life.’

I had no ill-will towards him in particular, but it didn’t matter. He was still covering for others who were trying to fleece people like me.

“You should know I’m not doing this to receive compensation or anything like that.”

“Of course. You are a Skyknight trainee who values honor above all; how could we make amends for the offense you have suffered with a paltry trifle? We are simply truly sorry for this situation and wish to show our sincerity with some compensation.”

Harrison could have probably succeeded as a merchant instead of a mage.

“If it’s just a matter of showing your sincerity… then I’m willing to listen to what you have to offer.”

I couldn’t lose my tension for even a single moment. My opponent was an elite, respected mage who had been nurtured as a salesman by the Gauss Magic Tower.

“The 4th Circle Wind Shield magic item in your hands is an item whose production has been indefinitely halted.”

‘What? This is the last stock?’

“Instead of this bracelet, I wish to offer you one of the best, recent masterpieces from our magic tower, a double shield product, at production price.”

‘Production price? Not free?’

“Actually… We wouldn’t normally go this far for a situation of this degree, but because your honor has been severely offended, sir Kyre, I am yielding the most I can. If this is not enough to repair your honor, you will have no choice but to trouble the Imperial family themselves.”

‘Wow. He’s coming on strong!’

If pulled too taut, a fishing line would snap. A warning that said I should stop here rang in my head.

“Sigh, then let’s settle it with this. I just got excited for a moment. As you say, Mage Harrison, such things can happen in life.”

“I am thankful that you think that way.”

“But what is the production cost of a double shield item?”

“… Please give us just 500 Gold.”

‘500 Gold! Wow, these guys are daylight robbers.’

“Only, this truth must never come to light. If this price were to be publicly known…” Harrison made a grave expression and trailed off.

“Haha! Of course. I, Kyre, am a Skyknight who lives and dies by his honor.”

‘Honor, my ass!’ Well, honor had its uses. If it could help me out like today, I could live my whole life with honor.

“I will believe in you, sir Kyre.”

“I am thankful that this matter has been settled. Can I also have this broken magic bracelet?”

“Hm? But why…?”

“Please don’t worry. I would never keep this as evidence and cause trouble for you next time. I simply want to protect its artistic value even if it’s not a magic item.”

“Well… if that is the case, then it is a matter of no importance.”

‘Damn, they have no problem giving this thing for free but the retail price is 8,000 Gold? You robbers!’ I poured curses at them in my heart.

“Then, I will go out now.”

“Thank you very much for yielding to us today.”

“Haha! What do you mean, yielding. All’s well that ends well.”

“R-right. All’s well that ends well. Ahem.” Harrison scowled a bit at my words.

‘Uhahahahaha! I earned big today!’

A double shield item, for 500 Gold. Even if I made it myself, it would definitely cost at least that much. Not only that, but I got one free on the side!

 

★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★

 

“Shall we go get a drink now?”

“Kyre, thank you.”

“Ach, I didn’t do much. We’re friends, right?”

The 500 Gold Harrison and I had agreed on was settled with the Rubis Merchant Group token, and the double shield magic item that cost 10,000 Gold at retail price was given to Russell. Russell was now looking at the golden bracelet on his wrist with a deeply moved expression.

“But with 10,000 Gold…”

‘Brat, you’re so touched by a bit of money.’

If it helped me look better in his eyes, what was a few thousand Gold?

‘The weather is great!’

I looked up at the bright autumn sky. It was perfect weather for a drink.

‘After getting a spirit stone and magic crystal, let’s finish everything off with a drink and give summoning a shot~! Huhu.’

I could tell Russell outright, but I didn’t want to crush his sensitive self-esteem. He was already overcome with emotion by a successful intermediate spirit summoning. I wanted to hide my true abilities from him. No, not just him, but the whole world, at least for now.

‘But hey, how should I get to the 6th Circle?’

I may have gained 5th Circle magic, but this place was dangerous like no other. There were over ten 7th Circle mages, and quite a few Blade Masters as well.

“Welcome in!” While stewing in my thoughts, we arrived at Elmar’s Resthouse.

“Let’s go in.”

“Un.” Innocent Russell only ever responded with a grunt.

‘Kek! Why does my heart throb whenever I catch sight of this guy’s butt?!’

My heart raced at the sight of Russell’s outstretched legs as he dismounted from the horse. This was no good. I should only have eyes for the opposite sex! I didn’t swing that way!

‘But does he really not have a sister?’

His clear skin and graceful features really looked feminine. I kept regretting that Russell didn’t have any sisters.

 

★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★

 

“Drink up, this house’s beer is killer.”

“…..”

Russell stared with a troubled look at the large wooden beer mug in his hands.

“Chug!”

“C-chug?”

Hearing an unfamiliar term like “chug,” Russell’s eyes widened, making him look really cute. I would have wanted to pinch him if he weren’t a man.

“If you’re a man, you should chug down your first glass in one go, as a homage to the God of Merrymaking, Elfos.”

I had learned about Kallian’s gods in the library. The god who governed the 5th month, Elfos, was the deity of alcohol and arts.

However, Russell was deeply troubled by the glass in front of him.

“Are you really a man?” I said something that could slightly hurt his pride.

At my words, Russell made an expression like he was some criminal ordered to drink a glass of poison, and brought the beer to his mouth.

“That’s right, chug it aaaall down~!”

Here, there was no age limit. I had come to truly enjoy the taste of beer.

*Glug glug!*

“Aahh!”

The refreshing, cold beer went down in an easy stream down my throat. It wasn’t pasteurized beer, but a natural draft beer with living cultures. The aroma of the beer transported me momentarily to the wheat fields.

“One more, please!”

‘Brat, now you’re exaggerating.’

After downing one glass, Russell’s face was already flushing. He raised his glass and valiantly called for another.

‘The academy’s formal lessons will start soon.’

I couldn’t wait for classes to begin; I was really curious about how an elite education from this world would be. It would surely be very different from high school back at home.

*Bam!*

“Oi!” While I was thinking about this and that, a loud thump sounded beside me and the table shook. “R-Russell!”

I stared blankly at Russell, who had somehow managed to collapse onto the table face-flat while still clutching his empty mug. It was only one can of beer at most, but he was already completely drunk and had lost consciousness.

“You’re really…”

I wanted to drink a few and have an honest conversation with Russell tonight, but my roommate was already down for the count.

“Zzzz… zz..”

Russell snored as he fell into a deep slumber.

 

★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★

 

‘Why is he so light?’

Even accounting for his young age, Russell was way lighter than he looked. I couldn’t take the knocked out Russell back to the academy, so I arranged for the top suite I had used before. Then I drank another two beers and carried Russell up to the room.

‘What a bright and proper shade of red.’

Russell’s fine skin was as red as a ripe apple. I could feel his sweet alcoholic breath every time he breathed.

‘This feels just like the night of a honeymoon.’

It was a newlywed’s dream to carry your beloved bride to the bed. If Russell wasn’t a man, the mood right now would fit the bill.

‘He sure is sleeping well.’

Who knew what kind of dream he was having, but Russell’s smooth lips were quirked in a happy smile. His eyelashes, which were as long as a woman’s, increased his beauty.

I smoothly laid Russell on the bed. “Sweet dreams, friend.” I smoothed out his short, but glossy hair a bit, then fell into thought.

‘Be it destructive power or intensity, 5th Circle spells are on a whole different level from 4th Circle spells. Offensive wind spells of the highest rank, like Spiral Tornado, can easily raze down dozens of meters.’

The more I learned about magic, the more awe I felt. After laying Russell on the bed, I sat in lotus position on the ground and fell into meditation.

Magic study couldn’t be neglected even for a single day. Information regarding magic was sewn into my brain, but I could only utilize it properly if I trained every day without fail.

Accompanied by the sound of Russell’s easy, regular breaths, I went through the 5th Circle spells one by one in my head. Then, I began my image training: I imagined real battles and cast magic and wielded my sword at an imaginary enemy.

At the moment, my skills were only barely enough to preserve my own life. I had to work hard in order to protect the peaceful future ahead of me.

 

★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★

 

“Ah!”

Russell was abruptly woken up by the heavy feeling on her belly and made a weird sound.

‘Th-this is…’

She woke up in a completely unfamiliar room. And the last thing she remembered…

‘N-no way…!’

Startled into complete wakefulness, Russell sat up and checked her body.

“Phew!”

After confirming that her cadet uniform was just as it was before, Russell let out a long sigh of relief.

“Hnng…”

Just then, Kyre mumbled in his sleep and his strong arms suddenly grabbed the currently defenseless Russell’s waist. Russell hastily covered her mouth and muffled her cry of surprise.

“Mom…” Clearly deeply asleep, Kyre called for his mom while unconsciously moving his hand towards Russell’s chest.

Flushing bright red, Russell grabbed Kyre’s hand, halting its advance. Then, her body began to tremble like a leaf. For the first time in her life, she was feeling the warmth of man’s body. They were both completely clothed, but laying on the same bed and sticking so close to one another was a first.

‘Kyre…’

She called out the name of her roommate in her mind. He was a manly guy with unique black hair and a carefree smile. He was neither a noble receiving systematic training nor a native of Bajran, but a youth who had gained entry to the Skyknight academy with his skills alone. They had shared the same room for the past ten days, but she was unable to figure out his true ability.

Without realizing it herself, Russell’s left hand moved to stroke Kyre’s hair. This man had given her a taste of warmth for the first time in a long time. For the revival of her exterminated family, she had toiled the last few years without rest. Her frozen-solid heart seemed to be melting day by day.

‘What am I doing right now.’

Startled, Russell’s hand stopped. He had gifted her an expensive present and treated her with warm friendship, but Kyre’s identity was unknown. Russell stamped down her wavering feelings and carefully rose from the bed.

‘Dad, mom…’

The faces of her parents, who had been caught up in a ridiculous conspiracy and beheaded, came to her mind, and the tears she had held in until now came pouring out. 

She was born as an esteemed daughter of a noble family, but now, she had to live as a rough man.

She wanted revenge. She wanted to put a knife in the hearts of those who made her and her family like this.

Until then, Russell had to live as a man. And her name, Luminia de Aschesla, had to be cast away…

 

★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★

 

‘It’s seriously weird!’

I definitely felt my mom’s touch in my sleep. Because I had sometimes hugged my mom with my only child privilege, I vividly recalled the feeling of my mom’s warm embrace. I had only slept next to Russell last night, but felt like I slept in my mom’s embrace.

“Russell, did I do something in my sleep?”

“What?” said Russell calmly while riding his horse.

“Like touching you, or–”

“Pervert.”

Even before I could finish, a cold “pervert” came flying my way.

‘This brat is quick to call people perverts.’

As if one of his ancestors had suffered bad experiences, Russell was always ready to call someone a pervert.

“Ugyaa~!”

I stretched wide atop Ronaldo. The cold but refreshing air rushed into my lungs and sent fresh energy into my body.

‘Life sure is hard.’ In this world, the only thing I could believe was my own strength.

*Clop clop! Clop clop! Clop clop clop!*

‘What’s with those guys?’ When we were almost at the inner castle, a group of mounted people came galloping along the wide road. ‘Skyknight cadets?’

Clearly, they had undergone some training so intense that their horses and bodies were covered from head to toe in dust. Wearing Skyknight cadet uniforms, the group’s black cloaks fluttered in the wind.

‘Where did they go to get so beaten up? What’s with that appearance?’

Scrawled on their grimacing faces were the words ‘I almost lost my life’; all of them were bearing such expressions of pain and suffering. There were just under 30 people.

‘But they still look cool…’

Despite being covered in dirt, the high discipline of these male and female Skyknight cadets trailed by fluttering black cloaks made everyone they passed utter exclamations of admiration.

“They seem to be seniors who have completed Autumn Training.”

“Autumn Training?”

“As far as I know, after one year of education, Skyknight trainees undergo hellish training for a few months in the Fall. During that training, at least half of the cadets drop out and are placed in the regular Knight Academy or go the magic tower or summoner route.”

‘Eh?’ This was news to me. ‘That’s why they look like a rat’s ass.’

Who knew how hardcore they were rolling around, but the Skyknight cadets were cloaked in a cloud of spite, bitterness, and other negative feelings.

“They must be happy. Now they just have to overcome mana sharing with a wyvern, and they can become real Skyknights.”

‘Mana sharing? What’s that?’

“Hey, Russell.”

“What?”

“What exactly does it ‘mana sharing with a wyvern’ mean?” I asked with a pure intent to learn.

“…..”

“Kyre….”

Russell quietly met my eyes and quietly called my name.

“Huh?”

“From which hole did you crawl out of?”

“…..”

Russell suddenly went on a verbal assault.

“Does it make sense that a Skyknight cadet doesn’t even know what mana sharing with a wyvern is? You should call a stupid Orc big brother.”

‘O-Orc!’

Master had said I would become Orc poop, and Russell was now making an Orc my family member. I couldn’t take that sitting down.

“Russell!” I called out loudly.

Russell was still looking at me as if I was a pathetic dog. I stared right into his eyes and spoke forcefully.

“In. The. Future…” I started, accenting each word. Russell got scared looking at me and shrank away.

“Please take care of me~!”

I wasn’t one to insist I knew something I didn’t. I also didn’t forget the words of the sages: There’s always something to learn from conceited people.

‘Haahh, if only I had Goggle.’

I thought wistfully back to Goggle, the sea of knowledge in the 21st century. It would definitely give me all the information I needed. If you typed in ‘How to become a Skyknight,’ countless tips and tricks would come up.

At this moment, I seriously longed for a search engine.

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