Chapter 34. Knight’s Competition (2)
The mercenary knight Alexei returned to his camp, greeted by a smile from the Baron.
“Well done, Sir Alexei.”
“I was unable to finish off Lapal, due to the Earl’s interference.”
“Of course, that is a pity. However, you showed that you were well worth your price.”
Alexei stared seriously at the Baron.
“I have won the fourth match in the knight’s competition, as promised. My promised reward, lord?”
“As you wish.”
The Baron motioned with a wave of his hand, and a soldier approached with a chest. Alexei opened it to reveal the chest full of gold coins.
“As promised, ten thousand Denarins.”
“It seems that you really wanted to win.”
“It’s fine. Even more than mining rights, it is important that I take Earl Nigel down a notch.”
The Baron laughed heartily.
Alexei merely shook his head as he watched the Baron.
The debris from the previous match was cleared, and the fifth match began. As was expected, Baron Tarpan sent out his knight captain, Heinlihi.
A handsome knight in his middle ages with a majestic moustache walked out to the clearing. He had a very confident look on his face.
‘Now that Lapal has been fatally wounded, who will be my opponent?’
The Earl’s camp was blanketed by a depressed silence. A couple of soldiers were shining the armor that Kurotan would wear for this match, but most of the people in the camp were already predicting Kurotan’s defeat.
The Earl called Luke.
“Did you call, my lord?”
“I did not know that the situation would end up like this.”
“I was surprised as well, my lord.”
“I am sorry that Kurotan has to fight Heinlihi, the Baron’s knight captain.”
“It is quite all right. He’s quite happy that he will be able to battle such a strong opponent.”
“That’s a relief.”
The Earl lowered his voice.
“Heinlihi rose to the level of an aura expert five years ago. Is there any chance that Kurotan will be able to defeat him?”
Luke glanced at Heinlihi, who had firmly planted his feet in the center of the clearing.
“Is it all right to kill him in a knight’s competition?”
“O-Of course. No, it would be better if you did kill him.”
The Earl, slightly excited, slapped his knee.
“If you do kill Heinlihi I will give you twice the reward that was promised.”
The Earl had promised three thousand Denarins for Kurotan’s participation in the knight’s competition. If Kurotan was to kill Heinlihi, Luke would be gaining twice that much.
‘Six thousand Denarins is a lot money. He should be able to kill him.’
Lapal had been fatally wounded, but survived. If Baron Tarpan’s knight captain Heinlihi were to die, the forces between the Earldom and Barony would begin to tilt in the Earl’s favor.
“As you command, my lord.”
Luke bowed and turned towards Kurotan.
Kurotan bowed slightly, aware of the soldiers surrounding them.
“We receive twice the reward if you kill the opponent. Kill him without fail.”
As soon as he heard Luke’s words, Kurotan’s eyes began to turn red with bloodlust.
“A pleasing command. Heu Heu Heu.”
Kurotan began walking towards the clearing, cracking his neck. Luke muttered silently as he gazed at Kurotan’s back.
‘I hope you can clearly display your skill as a Great Warrior of the orcs, one who has slain countless aura experts.’
Kurotan was introduced as soon as he entered the clearing.
“The knight from Earl Nigel’s camp to be fighting in the fifth match will be the freelance knight, Kurotan!”
Heinlihi squinted his eyes as he heard Kurotan’s introduction.
“Kurotan… A weird name. It seems that the Earl has hired some wandering vagabond?”
Kurotan walked up to Heinlihi, silent.
Heinlihi clucked his tongue as he saw the two axes in Kurotan’s hand.
“It seems that I have to fight a fool who can only use axes meant for beginning mercenaries.”
The referee signaled the beginning of the fight while Heinlihi muttered to himself.
“Knights Heinlihi and Kurotan, I hope you do your utmost to fight for the honor of your fiefdoms.”
Heinlihi eased into a stance in a relaxed manner. The next moment, however, his eyes widened in surprise.
Kurotan had kicked at the ground and blurred towards him as soon as the referee had finished speaking.
The small crater appeared where his foot kicked off, and Kurotan shot at him like an arrow. Heinlihi, finally realizing that his opponent was also an aura expert, attempted to twist out of the way as he brought his shield to bear.
Kurotan slammed his body into the shield without a second thought.
Heinlihi staggered out of the way as he ground his teeth.
“You stupid bastard!”
His opponent was completely ignoring defense, running at him like a berserker. Heinlihi shivered at the bloodshot eyes visible through the opponent’s visor.
‘This bastard reminds me of an orc.’
Heinlihi discovered a gap in Kurotan’s defense and slashed out his sword. The blade, strengthened by aura, sliced easily through armor and sliced into his flesh.
The lower half of the armor fell as blood spurted out of Kurotan’s side.
The attack had worked, but it was Heinlihi who had to retreat. Kurotan had not even blinked and continued to weave his axes into a whirlwind of fierce slashes.
“Wh-What a golem like bastard.”
Humans would flinch unconsciously, if they were wounded. However, Kurotan was like an undead that felt no pain.
The heavy sound of metal clashing on metal rang out from the shield. Heinlihi frowned at the strain it took to hold up the shield.
“This bastard is an aura expert for sure.”
Kurotan was pouring all of his aura into his attacks. Even if they had increased the amount of Kurotan’s aura through the tribal ritual, he had yet to reach his prowess from his time as a Great Warrior of the orcs.
Heinlihi absolutely surpassed Kurotan in terms of amount of aura and the perfection of his sword technique.
Kurotan, however, knew how to read the flow of battle thanks to his orc nature, a race dedicated to warfare.
‘I can’t let this match drag on for too long.’
This was the reason Kurotan was pouring all of his aura into an all-out attack. Heinlihi was being pushed back without a chance to retaliate.
Even with his senses and agility enhanced by aura, he was getting pushed back.
Kwang. Kwajijik. Chwang!
Heinlihi had mentally lost the battle after Kurotan had continued to attack after being wounded.
‘I can’t let this go on. I must change the flow of this battle.’
Heinlihi launched a counterattack after blocking Kurotan’s axe with his shield. However, he was a bit careless in switching from a defensive position to an offensive one.
Kurotan instinctively sensed the gap between Heinlihi’s defenses. He had built up even his instincts from his countless battles with aura experts.
Kurotan roared an animal’s roar and smashed his shoulder into Heinlihi.
Heinlihi hurriedly tried to regain his balance and stance, but Kurotan charged once again and completely knocked him off his balance.
Heinlihi’s face paled as he rolled on the ground. Heinlihi rolled backwards twice before bouncing up to a standing position, but Kurotan had already closed in with his axe raised high.
Heinlihi’s helmet caved in at the center as Kurotan’s axe smashed through it. Heinlihi’s body twitched and then fell to the ground.
The helmet fell to the ground, split in two, along with bits of gore and a fountain of blood. Heinlihi continued to twitch on the ground.
The clearing had fallen deathly silent. The match had been decided in the blink of an eye, and no one had recovered from the shock enough to utter anything.
A little while later, a cheer rose up from the Earl’s camp.
“Waah! We’ve won!”
“Hols Mountain is ours!”
Kurotan swayed on his feet as he tried to retrieve his axe, almost falling. His armor was stained red from his own blood.
“Look after sir Kurotan! Daphne Priestess, if you would hurry.”
Soldiers ran towards Kurotan in order to support him at the Earl’s orders. They took of his armor, and the priestess began to pour holy power into his wound.
The Earl was in disbelief. He had been prepared for a complete defeat, but had won so unexpectedly. Right then, someone approached the Earl.
“It has been done, as you commanded, my lord.”
The Earl finally realized he had won when he laid eyes on the smiling Luke. Overcome by emotion, the Earl grasped Luke’s hand in thanks.
“Thank you! You’ve done well, Sir Luke.”
“Please, Kurotan deserves your kind words, not I.”
“Of course, Sir Luke. Of course.”
“Please, finish your negotiations while Kurotan is being healed.”
Kurotan’s condition was rather severe. He had exhausted his aura and had lost a lot of blood. Fortunately, the priestess had gotten to him in time and he was able to maintain consciousness.
“Well done, Kurotan.”
Kurotan smiled, his face covered in blood and sweat. He seemed happy that he had defeated such a strong opponent while not being in top condition.
“You must be exhausted. Go to sleep, Kurotan, we will be traveling by carriage back to the fiefdom. I will have a feast prepared for you when you wake up. You will be able to recover from the blood loss.”
Still smiling, Kurotan’s eyes closed as he drifted off to sleep.
Baron Tarpan was still reeling from shock at the death of his knight captain. He had paid an enormous amount of gold to hire Alexei to win the fourth match, but the fifth match had reduced all his plans into ashes.
He had not been able to finish off Lapal, the Earl’s knight captain either. His own knight captain Heinlihi, had died in the hands of a previously unknown aura expert. It was a grievous loss for the Tarpan Barony.
“Ho-How could have Sir Heinlihi…”
A low voice spoke from his side.
“It’s that bastard.”
The Baron turned to see his heir, Stefan.
“Kurotan was one of the bastards that interfered with our plans regarding Lady Angela in the Jabel Earldom.”
“How could we have been so unlucky…”
Baron Tarpan shook his head as if unable to accept the situation.
The negotiations for Hols Mountain were finished quickly. Earl Luter, representing a Great Noble, was able to bestow Earl Nigel with the rights to Hols Mountain.
The journey back to the fiefdom was cheerful.
They had lost one knight during the second match of the competition, and Lapal had suffered a rather serious injury, but the Tarpan Barony had suffered more losses.
Luke and Kurotan were currently being treated as honored guests of the Nigel Earldom. Angela stared at Luke with shaking eyes.
“It was the best of luck that we were able to meet you two.”
“You are too kind… I hope we can continue these good relations into the future.”
The Earl laughed heartily.
“Of course, Sir Luke. Our doors will always open to you.”
Both Lapal and Kurotan were in a spacious carriage, as they had both been injured.
Luke rode in a small carriage along with the Earl and his daughter, Angela.
“Sir Kurotan would truly make a valuable recruit. He is skilled enough to absolutely subdue Heinlihi and finish him off so quickly.”
The Earl said, half-jokingly.
“Unfortunately, my lord, Kurotan can be said to be a con.”
“He may be able to fight, but he is like a blank paper when it comes to etiquette or ability to command soldiers strategically.”
“What a pity. Where did you find him, Sir Luke? It doesn’t seem as if he is a knight that your House has given to you.”
“I was serving in the military representing my House when I met him coincidentally.”
The Earl let out gasps of amazement as he heard the story behind Luke and Kurotan.
“Truly amazing. I am surprised that you were hiding such a gift, Sir Luke.”
To the Earl, Luke truly was a rarely seen talent. Perfect etiquette, experience as a veteran commander, and the talent to find and train other talents. The Earl smiled.
“Are you by chance looking for marriage in the Sith Empire? If you wish, I am sure I can find some suitable Ladies for you.”
The Earl slowly glanced at Angela, who blushed and avoided eye contact. Luke’s answer, however, was enough to take the blush away.
“Haha, I appreciate the good will, my lord. However, I already have a fiancée.”
“Haha, how truly unfortunate.”
The Earl laughed, but disappointment was clear in his face.
Luke received six thousand Denarins once they had returned to the fiefdom. The Earl even introduced him to an opportunity to make money.
“I have heard that Baron Kuma has been trying to exterminate the bandits in his fiefdom. Two knights at the aura expert level would surely be welcomed with open arms. I will write you a letter of recommendation if you so wish.”
“I do not know how to reply to your kindness, my lord.”
“I hope you can help out our Earldom should we encounter any problems in the future.”
“Of course, my lord. And…”
Luke smiled slowly.
“I promise to not accept any jobs from fiefdoms opposed with Nigel Earldom.”
“I truly have judged you correctly. Let us maintain good relations into the future.”
Luke and Kurotan rode away from the Earldom, accompanied by the cheers of the people. It was a completely different picture from when they had arrived.
“It seems that I’ve earned a pretty good connection. Our relations with Nigel Earldom will continue to improve in the future.”
“Yes. The Earl is an exemplary noble who knows true honor. He shall be a big help to our future endeavors.”
“Huh. That’s good.”
Luke glanced at Kurotan.
“How has your recovery gone?”
“I’ve eaten and rested well, I am all right.”
“There will be more enemies like Heinlihi, and even stronger. Prepare yourself.”
Kurotan looked at Luke.
“To us, there is no greater joy than fighting a strong opponent. The more enemies the better.”
“Truly an orc like way to think.”
Kurotan suddenly turned serious as he asked.
“You’ve purchased a lot of healing potions, right?”
Luke’s face paled immediately.
“We-Well I did purchase them.”
“You are ready for the ritual?”
Luke’s hands began shaking, despite holding tightly onto the reins.
“Of course, b-but…”
“I will trust that you will uphold your honor and not go back on your words. If you have received, you must give, isn’t that right?”
Kurotan smiled in a evil manner as he turned his horse into a dark area of the road. Luke followed, but his expression was that of someone who was being dragged off to hell.
‘I must have been crazy. Why did I have to even mess with such a simple fool?’
Luke shivered as he tried to imagine being beaten within an inch of death. He heaved a deep sigh as he followed Kurotan into the forest.