21st Century Archmage - Chapter 27

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“Huhu… Haha… Kuku…”

“Kyre, what’s wrong with you?”

After returning from the Spirit Tower, I sat on my bed and began laughing like a madman, causing Russell to look at me worriedly.

“It’s nothing. I’m fine. Huhu…”

Whether my eyes were closed or open, the only thing I could think of was Sylphiria’s face. ‘Should I just devote myself to the Spirit Realm from now on?’

She was beautiful. Any meaningless exaggerations would be an insult to her. Her eyes shone like jewels with a luster greater than her transparent, silver armor. In short, her enchanted beauty was like absolutely nothing I had ever seen before.

‘Those silver eyes… I will never forget them.’ I hadn’t even had my first kiss yet, but I doubted even a first kiss would have such an impact on me. Sylphiria was just that beautiful. ‘Argh, but how should I summon her!’

The problem was that my mana was still too weak to summon Sylphiria.

‘I have to be at least the 7th Circle to be able to summon her without strain. The 7th Circle…’ At that level, one would be treated as an arcanist of legendary proportions. I was already unsure when I would reach the 6th Circle, so how could I wait until the 7th Circle?

*Poke*

“W-what are you doing!”

Suddenly, Russell poked my cheek hard. “Hm, I see,” he said, tasting his finger. “Tastes completely rotten. Tsk tsk. It’s such a shame for a young man.”

Then he clicked his tongue and completely made me out to be a crazy man. I couldn’t just take that sitting down.

“Ah!”

I hugged Russell’s waist with a powerful tackle, causing him to make a strange cry of surprise.

‘The heck, why does it feel this good.’ Russell’s thin waist was unbelievable for a man. As if I was hugging a girl, my heart began to beat wildly as soon as we made contact. ‘This feeling is…’

The moment I tackled him, my head naturally reached Russell’s chest, allowing me to feel a very peculiar elasticity. A plushy feeling similar to being embraced by my mom made my whole body titillate. 

*Bam!*

“Geh!” A powerful blow from Russell hit my back.

“Pervert! Die!”

Russell’s fierce consecutive blows landed on my body.

“Agh! Ahh!” Cries of pain burst from my mouth without pause.

However, like a person who had fallen into water, my hands never let go of Russell’s waist.

It made me think of those corny movie titles from old classics. ‘I Could Die Happy Like This.’

 

★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★

 

‘Time goes by fast.’

5 months had already passed since starting Knight Academy. In that time, I had attended necessary general classes like spirit, magic, and sparring class, as well as self-study in the library. The study habits that were ingrained in my body from Daehan High were useful here as well. Before I knew it, the first semester of classes was almost at its end.

“W-what do you want to do with me?” squeaked Tedran like a cornered mouse.

I simply smiled at him instead of answering.

“Do, do you still wish to live in this empire after doing this to me? I’m the next Duke of Fasain!”

Those words of future peerage had been thrown at me countless times.

“I will forgive you. If you stop here, then I will let you off, you bas–, ahem.”

Fearing the pain ahead, Tedran drew it out with meaningless words. All of the goons who had bravely protected him had been picked out by me during sparring and would be beaten to the point of broken bones. Tedran had been destined to be the lucky one today. Instead of fighting back, he tried to ‘convince’ me.

I slowly raised my sword.

“I-I’m a friend of the Crown Prince!”

‘Friend of the Crown Prince?’ The Crown Prince was a slightly more impactful title than the heir of a dukedom. ‘That temperamental and violent reserve cadet, Crown Prince Poltviran?’

He was the son of Emperor Havitron, the ruler who was respected and loved by the people, the same ruler I had seen at the entrance ceremony. He was born to the Imperial Concubine rather than the Empress, but because he was the eldest son, Poltviran was granted the Crown Prince title. From what I had heard at the Knight Academy, he didn’t resemble his father the Emperor at all and had a violent and rude temperament. He was rumored to be a haughty crown prince who had gotten everything he wanted from a young age. I had never met him before, but I knew well enough that he was a piece of shit.

“Huhu, that’s right. You may just be a commoner who grew up not knowing left from right, but you won’t be able to raise your head in front of the Empire’s next Imperial Majesty,” Tedran gloated with a victorious smile, seeing that my movements had paused from thinking about the Crown Prince. “Let’s see how long you can last with just those grand and mighty sword skills of yours. In the Knight Academy, all cadets are supposed to be equal, but… the moment you leave this bubble, you will be forced to see what kind of existence a noble is.”

He had apparently stored up a lot of resentment, because Tedran’s snout was spitting out pure venom now.

“Did you come to your senses now? Huhu, that’s right. That’s how it should be if you want to live in this empire. Huhuhu.”

Seeing that I had no response to his words, Tedran puffed up triumphantly.

“Are you done?” I said coldly.

“…..”

The cold steel in my voice made Tedran flinch and stiffen. “I warned you back then, didn’t I? That if you continued to mess around, I would bury you in the training ground.”

“Y-you bastard…”

Even after seeing his goons have their arms or legs broken at every sparring session, Tedran was still unable to sober up. I decided it was impossible for a human like him with pompousness ingrained deep within the bone.

“There’s a saying like this where I lived before. You should beat up a disobedient dog once every three days. Huhu.”

I even smiled evilly as I released intense bloodthirst. Just like how I had taught the other small-fries how to lower their heads and tails at the sight of me, I needed to give Tedran the fist of love as well.

As I walked towards him with a smile, Tedran inched backwards.

‘If a guy like this is supposed to become one of the pillars of the empire, I guess even this empire will soon meet its end.’

The young generation was clearly rotten from the inside out due to the Crown Prince’s influence. Even an idiot could predict the empire’s future.

“Die!”

It was just a spar, but Tedran called for my death and swung his wooden sword at me. I easily parried it away.

‘He’s someone who entered with his identity rather than his skills!’

To enter the empire’s Skyknight Academy, you had to be at least a 4th Circle mage, Intermediate Summoner, or a Blade Knight. However, Count-to-be Alfonso and the other kids from the noble families were clearly lacking the skills.

Special admittance was granted to those who could receive a wyvern from their families and show basic skills.

That was the case here. Not just Tedran, but Alfonso and Luciella were admitted to the Skyknight Academy thanks to this special identity admittance.

I blocked Tedran’s double-handed overhead swing with a single hand on my sword. Then, putting strength into my grip, I leapt with a grunt and moved from the parry into a blow aiming for his torso.

“KYAAAAKKKK!”

The sword didn’t even make contact yet, but Tedran screamed loudly anyway.

In order to avoid crushing his ribs, I turned my sword and hit his right leg.

“Gah!” A cry of agony burst from Tedran’s lips.

It was surely a terrifying physical pain that he, a ducal heir, had never suffered. It was obvious from the way he embarrassingly peed himself.

“Next time… I will really bury you,” I said quietly. I stared into his eyes that were filled with fear and pain and emphasized my words, all the while putting a dignified bloodthirst into my mana.

“KYAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAK!”

“HOHOHOHOHOHO!” 

“I, I WANNA GO HOME! UWAHHHHHHHH!”

Everyone’s eyes were turned to my spar with Tedran. Now, their eyes shifted to another spar.

“Hohoho! You should have said that earlier. Hohohohohohohohoho!”

Hyneth managed to make a perfectly fine Skyknight cadet want to drop out. The cadet’s desperate submission made her smile with satisfaction.

My thoughts turned inward. ‘Now it’s time for boot camp!’

After the first semester, practical Skyknight training would follow after a short one-week break. We would finally be heading to the wyvern base outside the Imperial Capital. 

‘I want to fly! In that beautiful blue sky!’

Soft cotton candy clouds floated by in the warm spring sky. I wanted to ride the balmy wind.

Smiling, I drew in a lungful of breath.

 

★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★

 

‘Oh man…’

After the first semester ended, our one-week break began. While I was busy sating my curiosity about the continent’s history and culture in the library, Hyneth appeared with the same refreshing manga protagonist smile that I had seen the first day we met. Then, heedless of my excuses, she dragged me onto a carriage.

Our destination was the villa of Count Kaldain Petrin, the battle maniac who was feared by all as a rabid dog. Whether you believed the rumor that he ripped his own mother’s nipples with his infant teeth or not, his notoriety had given birth to such rumors that even I had heard of.

‘Hyneth… what should I do with you.’

Although the Petrins were a count family of a great empire, because of that prestige(/s), they were unlikely to be offered any potential suitors. The Petrins were said to never let go once they bit. Who would offer their own son or daughter to such a vicious and terrifying family? There was no one in the world who wanted their beloved grandson or granddaughter to become a mad dog or battle maniac.

“Hyneth.”

“Yes, elder brother.”

Thanks to Spring having arrived, Hyneth was more excited than ever. As soon as classes ended, instead of training or studying, she would spend every waking moment touring the gardens within the imperial castle. Even now, she was holding a red flower.

“At your age, shouldn’t there be offers for your hand flying at you from every direction?”

On this continent, any noble scion could be married off at 15 years. It wasn’t unheard of for noble daughters to be betrothed at an even younger age.

“There are none,” said Hyneth, totally unconcerned.

“You don’t intend to marry?”

“I must. I am the only person who can carry on the family, after all.”

“With whom?”

“With a man, of course.”

I felt stupid for asking. No one in the empire had the balls, so how could she possibly get married?

“Elder brother, you didn’t know?”

“What?”

“Our family has never been on the receiving end of a marriage offer.”

“Then?”

“Obviously, a marriage has been concluded only when we Petrins decide the opposite party.”

‘Holy! What the heck! Isn’t this just a vicious household!’

“A-and if they refuse?”

“Refuse? Haha, who would refuse. The moment they refuse, that family would become our enemies until the day they come to ruin.”

“…..”

There was no point in asking further. I felt I had grasped the true reason why everyone in the Bajran Empire went white whenever they saw a member of the Petrin family. The world’s biggest pigheaded crazies. That was the best way to describe the Petrins. 

“Lady Hyneth is here! Open the gates!”

‘W-we’re already here?’

This was a place that could make me, a person who feared no one under the sky, tremble. The knight escorting the carriage notified the villa of our arrival at the tiger’s den. Then, creaking loudly, the mansion gates opened. The carriage continued onwards without a care.

‘So this is a noble family’s mansion!’

Large mansions were situated in the inner city, close to the Imperial Palace. All nobles with a peerage were able to afford a house in the capital. Maybe they wouldn’t have one if they were nobles with land and didn’t come often to the capital, but if they had an interest in politics and their families were ambitious, then it was the noble fashion to do your utmost to buy a villa or two in the capital.

The villa of a count’s family was now standing before my eyes. It was truly large. Even a  nouveau-riche in Korea wouldn’t be able to afford a villa of this size within Seoul. Surrounded by a sturdy, 3-meter-wide wall that looked like a castle’s ramparts was the Petrin Family’s mansion. The 3-story antique building featured around a hundred windows and was set behind a beautiful green garden that the Petrins had clearly poured a ton of money into. Water spouted from a marvelous fountain set at the center.

“Hoho, it may be smaller than the palace, but it’s not bad, isn’t it?”

‘Not bad? This is already amazing.’

This was one of the many benefits that you would get once you became a noble. Seeing the dozens of soldiers and knights on guard, I could tell they wouldn’t even need a home security system. No matter how nice an automatic security system was, it couldn’t beat a duty of knights with two eyes and the ability to use mana.

‘I think even Hollywood actors would have a hard time getting a mansion like this, right?’

Unknown flowers had bloomed in various places in the garden with the advent of Spring. After descending from the carriage, Hyneth and I walked through the garden and enjoyed the relaxing leisure afforded to nobles.

“Hah!”

*Clang clang!*

“Ack!”

“Stand up. It’s no fun if you collapse with just this.”

“Fa-family Head, please stop for now. Any more than this…”

‘Family Head?’ The only person who would be called the family head here was Count Petrin himself.

“Hoho! Looks like father and the knights are doing betted sparring again.”

“Betted sparring?”

“Yes. The loser has to do punishments like wash the dishes after dinner or clean up horse poo.”

‘Washing the dishes after dinner! Horse poo!’

I knew it wasn’t a normal family, but this was more than I expected. Knights and lords held positions of such serious authority that a normal commoner couldn’t even dare to look at them straight in the eye. I couldn’t believe that such lofty people would lower themselves to do tasks that would normally be taken care of by servants.

“But isn’t it unfair to pit the knights against someone who is called the Battle Maniac?”

“Haha, what’s unfair about it. Dad sometimes cleans the horse poo too.”

“…..”

I couldn’t believe Hyneth’s words at all. How could a count of the empire clean horse poop?

“It was the same for me when I was learning the sword. When I lost spars, I experienced all sorts of punishments, like drawing water, cleaning the castle walls, and doing the laundry.”

However, Hyneth’s nonchalant confession of her past forced me to believe that even a count would clean the stables. After spending time with her, I knew Hyneth wasn’t someone to enjoy lying.

Strolling through the garden, we walked towards a side of the mansion where the drill hall was located. There, I saw quite the spectacle.

‘Ten on one!’

In the hall, the head of the Petrins and his knights were fighting for victory with real swords in their hands. To my shock, what should just be a spar was actually a real battle where armor was torn and blood was spilled.

I couldn’t help but gulp.

Then, I met eyes with the man who was arrogantly standing with his bloodied sword. He wasn’t very tall, but he had a stubborn, angular chin, big, bright eyes, dark eyebrows, and a hard mouth. His whole body exuded arrogance, no, madness.

‘Count Kaldain!’

The man looking at me after knocking down ten knights was undoubtedly Hyneth’s father, the Mad Dog of the Bajran Empire, Count Kaldain de Petrin.

“Dad!!”

“Hyneth~!”

Hyneth went running to him. In an instant, his face puffed up like leavened bread and his eyes creased into crescents so quickly that I could hardly believe it. Stretching out his arms wide, he brought his already grown-up daughter, Hyneth, into his embrace.

“Daddy! I wanted to see you!”

“Haha, kiddo, this father of yours also wanted to see you so so badly that he couldn’t sleep at night.”

‘Eurgh…’

Even a cuckoo wouldn’t dote this much on its child. Kaldain flung his count’s dignity far away and carried out a scene of marvelous familial love right in front of all the knights. The love overflowing from them was going off in all directions.

‘Everyone is strong.’

The spar had been so outrageous that there were huge divots in the training ground of the Petrin mansion. The knights with small wounds all over their bodies got up one by one. Each one of them emitted a robust energy.

That energy wasn’t mana, but a terrifying strength that even Hyneth could emit, to some extent. It was a patented article of the ghostbusting Marine Corps, a little something called ‘guts.’

 

★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★

 

“Are you the one named Kyre?” After their show of affection ended, Count Kaldain looked towards me.

“It is an honor to meet you. I am Kyre, a Skyknight Cadet.”

This was the father of someone who I considered my little sis. I couldn’t be careless in my actions.

“Nice meeting you. Then, shall we do a proper greeting now?”

‘Proper?’

Nodding, Count Kaldain said something I couldn’t quite understand.

“Dad, be gentle. Don’t hurt elder brother.”

“You brat, you should be worrying about your dad, but instead, you worry about your elder brother?”

“Hee-hee, if it were you, would you worry about yourself?”

“I know, I know. Since this is someone our Hyneth sees as an elder brother, I will take care.”

The two of them completely left me out of the loop.

‘He’s truly exceptional.’

This was the family of an empire’s count. In short, a family of high rank even among those high and mighty nobles. However, he didn’t blame Hyneth for treating a commoner like me like an elder brother. The count family of Petrins was really unique. 

“Is that fellow your sword?”

“Huh? Yes.”

At my hip wasn’t the steel sword given to trainees, but the sword that I had stolen from a knight of the Fiore Viscount.

“It looks like a sword used by those southern knights. Seeing that the blade is thick and the balance is good, it looks like a sword exclusively used by the knights of Dapis Kingdom.”

‘Amazing!’

As if wanting to confirm that he was from a family that was crazy about swords, Count Kaldain traced my sword, which was completely bare of decoration or markings, all the way to the Dapis Kingdom.

“Draw it.”

“Excuse me?” I said, not understanding the count’s strange words.

“Hyneth, did you not tell him about our family’s way of greeting guests?”

“What’s the point in telling him? You were going to have a round with him anyway.”

‘A round?’

A completely unprepared round with the Mad Dog, Count Kaldain??

“10 Gold that the young lad gets crushed in three moves!”

“Nonsense. He’s still a Skyknight cadet in name, so he should survive at least five! 10 Gold on five moves for me!”

“Alright! Everyone, place your stakes!”

‘What the heck are they doing!’

The Petrin knights I remembered from meeting them in front of the inner castle were men who had exuded a knight’s courteous chivalry. Those same knights were now acting no different from mercenaries.

“Why, not happy that I am yielding the first move?”

“N-no, that’s not it…”

‘Jeez! I’m gonna go crazy.’ When we first got here, I had gloated to myself in anticipation of the much-heard-of noble etiquette and formal dinner, all while thinking that I would finally get some proper treatment now. ‘Well, I guess that’s just my lot in life, noble treatment my ass…’

In any case, this spar with the Count was unavoidable.

The sound of metal rang out as I decisively drew my sword.

‘Let’s do it, Mr. Mad Dog.’

As soon as I raised my sword, all my random thoughts disappeared. I was also a Blade Knight in name. I wouldn’t be so stupid as to refuse an opportunity like this.

“Hooh, vigor is flowing from your blade! I will face you seriously!”

After saying that, a scary amount of blue mana began to ripple from the bastard sword in the Count’s hand.

‘I won’t hold back!’ I drew swelling mana from my mana core and poured plenty of it into my sword.

“Here I go!”

As per Petrin tradition, Count Kaldain was waiting for my first move. I swung an immensely powerful blow towards his head.

‘Good! This is the right feeling!’ I thought, putting all my accumulated stress into that one blow.

 

★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★

 

*Clang!*

‘Hup!’

The electrifying force ran from the blade to my palm. 

‘Mana, physical strength, speed; they’re all amazing!’

In the Knight Academy, none of my peers were my match. However, the Count’s sword took my sword with ease and struck back like a venomous snake.

There was no time for me to be careless. It was a match under the guise of a spar, but the Count moved as if he had met his sworn enemy.

The sword that was attacking my head suddenly made a huge change in trajectory and slipped through the wind towards my waist.

‘It’s fluid as well as strong!’

From the outside, the Count’s sword didn’t seem all that strong. But whenever we clashed with the ringing of steel, my palms would burn from the force of the blow.

“Haha! This friend, you’re quite good!”

After blocking around ten blows, Count Kaldain retreated around 5 meters and guffawed with delight.

“Elder brother! You’re so cool!”

“Uwah! This fellow is actually pretty good?”

“It didn’t even seem like the boss went easy on him, but he’s already blocked ten times…”

“Sigh, seems like I can’t even call myself a formal knight anymore.”

From behind me, I heard Hyneth’s encouragement and the disbelieving words of the knights.

“Try receiving this sword as well.”

After seeing me block his sword without faltering even a little bit, the Count overflowed with a vigor that said he wanted to end this.

‘Is this the Vision Sword Art of the Petrin Family?’

Noble warrior families with long histories possessed sword arts unique to them. Among those families, the Petrin family of counts was one of the best.

Around the Count’s sword shimmered a haze of an intangible energy. His sword was now filled with his domineering energy, as well as blue mana.

I couldn’t be careless, so I firmly readied myself with mana and awaited the Count’s sword.

“Hah!” he grunted, his sword closing the distance within the blink of an eye.

‘Woah!’

There was definitely only one sword coming towards me, but in my eyes, there were five or six.

“Snake Phantom!” someone burst out in surprise. 

‘Illusionary sword!’ But they all looked too real to be called illusions. While I was thinking, the Count’s sword clashed into mine.

I parried the first sword rushing towards me, then the second one that was aiming for my heart.

The clashing of steel rang out.

‘Th-they’re all real!’

They weren’t illusionary swords. The Count’s profound sword art was able to make something that was more than just an illusion.

Clang! My sword moved on instinct and rebounded from the third sword. In that moment, I saw surprise in the Count’s eyes.

‘Argh!’

Clang! With all my strength, I blocked the fourth sword coming towards my stomach.

Four close calls had passed by in an instant. Unable to resist the strength of the Count’s blow, my sword flew out of my hand.

And then, the Count’s sharp sword lay quietly at my throat.

‘I, I lost…’

This was my first defeat after coming to the Kallian Continent. I had done my best without letting down my guard, but I still lost. Of course, if I had used magic or spirits, the result would have been different, but a person only had one life. A loss was a loss.

Then, the Count addressed me with a quiet voice. “Young man, who are you?”

“My name is Kyre.”

“Hm…” Without even thinking about removing the sword hovering at my throat, the Count made a thoughtful sound. “To block four illusionary swords from me, a Master… Even after fighting you, I can’t believe it. How is that possible at your age…”

The usually jovial face of Count Kaldain was now completely serious. He gave off the feeling of a well-worn sword.

‘M-master!’

I was surprised again. The first person to defeat me was a Master. As someone who had only matched swords with Blade Knights at most, the fact that I was almost able to go head to head with a Master felt like a dream.

“Good! If it’s someone with skills like yours, then I can feel assured entrusting our Hyneth to you!”

‘Wut? Entrust? Entrust what?’

Kaldain suddenly threw me a hot potato. 

“Woooow! You’re amazing, kid!”

“To block our Family Head’s blows like that!”

“What are you all doing! A new friend has come; it’s our family’s tradition to give them a magnificent welcome! Call the butler! Tell him that tonight, we’re drinking ‘til we fall so he should prepare plenty of food and drink!”

“As you command~!”

Even before I could come to my senses, the knights cheered loudly at Count Kaldain’s hearty announcement.

‘Is this really a count family of an empire?’

I looked around with blank eyes. The Petrin household seemed more like a mercenary group or a rabble of bandits.

“Sigh!”

I couldn’t help but let out a low sigh.

 

★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★

 

“Pour! Drink~!”

“Kuhahaha! My dear beer, I was waiting for you.”

“To the Empire’s peace and the Petrin Family, cheers!”

“Cheers!”

‘So you’re saying, the very first ancestor of the Petrins, who are called vassals of the Empire, was actually a mercenary?’

I was finally able to understand the reason why the master of the Petrin family of counts and his knights were so beyond common sense. The first family head, who had played an important role in the Empire’s founding, had been the leader of a mercenary group that was famous for its strength in the continent. That mercenary’s blood was flowing strong in the Petrins today. Much time had passed since then, but they didn’t lose the vigor of their ancestor and maintained the same spirit.

“Elder brother, please have a drink,” said Hyneth, a full recipient of that blood. 

Hyneth was the one who made me fully realize that a girl’s face wasn’t all there was to them. After filling up a large silver cup with beer, Hyneth handed it to me with a pure smile.

“Yes, let us drink!”

So what about this and that? As long as I was sitting here with these joyful people who had opened their hearts to me, this place was heaven.

Glasses clashed cheerfully.

Gulp, gulp. I poured the refreshing beer down my throat.

‘Aaaahh, it’s killer!’

The beer was so cold it even had small pieces of ice in it. The beer taken straight from a magic storehouse tasted drop-dead delicious.

“Ah~!”

On top of that, Hyneth handed me a fork of smoked sausage, offering me her heart-warming service. It was like I was in one of those hostess bars that adults enjoyed.

“Kyre, what do you think?” asked Count Kaldain out of the blue, right after chugging down some beer.

“What do you mean, sir?” I looked at the time bomb of a count, who was clutching his beer.

“What do you think I mean. Instead of being a Skyknight without affiliation in the empire, come to our family. We already intended on getting another wyvern, so I will give it to you.”

‘A wyvern!’

A single wyvern cost hundreds of thousands of Gold. After meeting me for the first time today, Count Kaldain said he would distribute such a costly expense to me.

“Wowee~! Congrats, kid!”

“Argh, how unfair. I got mine after working to the bone for ten years.”

At the Count’s words, the knights, most of whom were Skyknights, burst into cheers and congratulated me.

“I am thankful for your intent, but I respectfully decline.”

“Decline?”

“Yes.”

I didn’t even need to think. Instead of living as a Skyknight bound to the Count, I would rather buy one on my own with money. I had no interest in anything that would fetter my free spirit.

“Maybe you don’t know, but for a commoner these days, getting a wyvern from the Empire and becoming a Skyknight is more difficult than picking a star from the sky. No matter how good your skills are.”

“Still, I refuse.”

“Is it because of me or the family?”

At my adamant refusal, the Count frowned slightly.

“Not at all, sir.”

“Then?”

“I do not like having anyone above me as my boss. Even if that person is the Emperor.”

“…..”

As my words fell, a deadly silence descended on the dining table. Coldness began to coalescence in the knights’ eyes. I had, after all, mentioned the Emperor himself. However, I could not lie to myself– I didn’t like what I didn’t like.

“Do you know that your words could be taken as treason?” asked Count Kaldain with a hard voice.

“I am aware. However, I simply said what was in my heart.”

I wasn’t scared. Even though the count in front of me was a Blade Master, even if I had to become mortal enemies with this empire, I wanted to live saying what I wanted.

“…..”

Silence continued to reign. Count Kaldain looked at me with a troubled gaze.

“Haha, HAHAHAHAHAHA!!” Then, he suddenly burst out into raucous laughter. “Alright! Good! That’s right, a man should have such vigor! However, keep in mind that if you had said such a thing to a Bajran noble other than me, that would be the day you meet your coffin.”

‘You are also manly,’ I thought with a little relief.

“I like you, sir.”

“I like you too, kid.”

There was no need for many words in a conversation between two men, just like now. 

I raised my glass high. “To the Petrins~!”

“To us!” cried out the knights in response to my cheer.

“Drink, my knights! Tonight, the Lord of Fate, Romero, and the Goddess of Abundance and Festivities, Sapphire, are with us! Make a toast for the passion burning bright in your hearts, the vigor running deep in your cups, and the knight’s lofty ideals in your minds! Everyone, cheers!”

“Cheers!”

Their actions were like mercenaries, but underneath, the Count household of Petrins were knights at heart. Their lively, dynamic energy was infectious.

‘Feels great!’

A thought occurred to me just then. I decided that tonight, I would drink until I dropped here in the house of the Petrins, where true men were gathered. I knew I wanted to value this relationship with them.

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