“Hah!” My vigorous shout reverberated out.
A ray of light cut through the air without mercy.
The ogre’s huge head was blasted into pieces.
The sudden horror made the monsters scream.
‘Oh man! My money!!!’
In the excitement of the moment, I had filled the Blessed Spear up with lots of mana. Only after the ogre’s sellable head exploded did I come to my senses.
‘Let me kill you nice and pretty with the fewest possible injuries~’
The ogres went mad seeing their comrade die.
The ogres threw the spears they seized from the orcs as well as the clubs they had in hand. Wyverns were invincible in the sky, but on land, ogres were big predators.
Bebeto dodged the miscellaneous things the ogres threw, Bebeto then narrowly flew past the orcs’ heads.
Squeal! Squeal squeal squeal squeal!
The orcs went crazy, squealing unintelligibly.
Fwip fwip fwip.
‘Oh dear, just look at ‘em. They’ve lost all fear, haven’t they?’
The orc archers started shooting their bows.
Bebeto roared in anger at the orcs’ impudence. Freely showing off his nasty(?) temperament, he let out an immense roar that shook the earth.
Descending once again, he grabbed two orcs with his claws of steel and crushed them.
Bebeto threw down the mangled orcs.
‘That’s right, a go-getter should do this much at least!’
Click. I unclasped my safety ring.
‘You’re all dead!’
These orcs had gotten up on the wrong side of the bed today. Today was the day they would cross the River Styx into the gates of hell.
Distance to Earth: just 10 meters. I simply kicked off of Bebeto. I was no uncle of Superman or friend of Spider-Man, but I had a skill that rivaled superheroes.
And that skill was—
Spiral Tornado, the strongest of the 5th Circle wind offensive spells!
Brrrrr! My mana core rang with a heavy vibration.
And then, a clear blue mana tornado burst out. Merging within moments with the mana in the atmosphere, the spell turned into a rotating maw of wind that rushed to earth.
It was a wind tornado formed from hundreds of blades.
After exploding onto the ground underneath me as I fell, the tornado spun out like a concentric wave of wind in all directions.
Gruesome death cries from the pig-headed orcs rang out as their bodies were nicely minced up within the tornado of wind and scattered like rain all over the place.
Monsters were different from humans. These cursed creatures, which only housed blood, slaughter, and hunger within their heads, sprayed out blue blood as they were torn to pieces.
‘A radius of 20 meters has been completely fucked.’
It was a 5th Circle spell, but it was boosted to almost 6th Circle level due to my powerful mana. There was complete annihilation within 20 meters, and even beyond that, dozens of orcs with their limbs severed by the remaining force were collapsed on the ground.
‘Eh? Look at those bastards!’
Stomp stomp stomp!
One stupidly gutsy ogre came charging in, the earth shaking as it ran.
Baring its enormous teeth like King Kong, the ogre came running at me with an orc in each hand.
After running until there were 10 meters between us, it hurled the two orcs in its hands.
I didn’t move, but the two orcs flew past me and were turned into paste.
I pushed off from the ground, with the hiss of steel echoing out as I drew my sword.
Using mana-charged steps, I cut through 10 meters within moments and appeared in front of the surprised ogre’s red eyes.
My sword, imbued with a blue aura, embedded itself into the ogre’s neck. The sword arced, whistling with its speed.
The orc was killed by piercing it with my sword and then swinging in an arc. Even though there were quite a few movements, only a few seconds elapsed. Blood spewed out of the ogre like a fountain; I must have hit an artery.
Thuump. Like a tree felled by a woodcutter, the ogre fell face-first onto the ground.
‘Woohoo! 500 Gold, gib!’
The fact that I earned money made me happier than killing an ogre. Just like there were people who only earned a few dollars per day, there were those who earned several million per day. I wanted to be one of the latter, not the former. And I had more than enough ability to make it happen.
‘Eh? Where are those guys going?’
After one got annihilated by my Blessed Spear and another was cleanly butchered by my sword, I saw the remaining three ogres turning to flee.
“HEY! Stop right there!! I haven’t fulfilled my quota for todaaaay!!!”
The 3-4 meter tall ogres fled, their “you-know-whats” flopping noisily as they began to run for real towards a forest far away. They were already about 100 meters away.
I grabbed one of the orcs’ old spears on the ground.
The spear cut through space faster than an arrow and lodged itself deeply into an ogre’s back.
On top of that, Bebeto was playing with the orcs like a cat hunting a mouse. Dozens of orcs had already fallen victim to Bebeto’s claws, lamenting their lack of wings.
SQUEAL SQUEAL! GUOOOO!
The orcs screamed unintelligibly amongst each other.
They suddenly turned tail and scattered into all directions.
‘Wut? Is it over?’
Though they were known as a vengeful race, these orcs, which possessed the nickname of ‘battle crazed monsters,’ were busy fleeing for their lives.
Chasing the fleeing orcs, Bebeto was completely absorbed in the joy of the hunt.
“The orcs are running away!”
“Chase them! Catch those orcs!!!!!!”
‘What? What did that guy just say?’
After a cheer rang out, I heard some ridiculous words.
People began to pour out as the door of the ramparts opened.
However, the orcs had already run far away.
Thus, the people quietly surrounded me instead. I suddenly felt like a monkey in a zoo.
‘Mercenaries? No, they seem to be villagers….’
The men all had spears, and some had shields and swords. They were armed enough for me to think they were mercenaries.
“Greetings to the honorable esteemed Skyknight.”
An old man appeared among the people who were showing embarrassment and fear instead of respect or gratitude toward the person who had saved them from a crisis. The old man bowed deeply.
“For saving our Santalo Village like this, I wish to represent the villagers as the chief in giving you our thanks.”
I couldn’t respond to the chief’s words. An elder ripe in his years was bowing his head to me, but my current rank was that of a noble. I couldn’t do anything and simply looked at the chief and the people.
“I wish to show our sincerest and utmost gratitude towards you for saving our village even though we have not paid the protection fee for several months.”
Whether I spoke or not, the chief of Santalo Village mentioned a ‘protection fee’ as he made an apologetic expression.
‘Protection fee? What the heck is that?’
“Um… It is a trivial amount, but this is the money we gathered after hunting monsters and animals for several months. It is far too insufficient to cover the protection fee, but… please accept it. Once things settle down here, we will pay everything, including the delayed protection fee.”
Looking furtively at me, the chief carefully drew a leather pouch from his pocket. It looked to be barely 100 Gold.
“I don’t need a protection fee. I simply…” I began to say. I wasn’t some kind of neighborhood hoodlum extorting snot-covered money from little kids.
“That won’t do. We cannot give you any more female children. We would… we would rather all die together at the monsters’ hands than to send any more of our girls to become slaves.”
Without even hearing the end of my sentence, the chief’s face went pale as he showed his desperate will to resist.
‘Female children? Slaves? What the fuck is going on?’
It wasn’t just the chief, but the men surrounding me—their faces were burning with rage and hostility.
However, the villagers went stiff with fear at the sight of Bebeto flying over with an orc in his mouth.
“Will you give me some bread?”
‘Looks like I need to find out what’s going on.’
I could tell there was a story behind the chief’s words in regards to the protection fee and female children.
“B-Bread?” sputtered the chief.
“Let us go inside.” The chief seemed to look for sincerity in my eyes before nodding. “Jerro, quickly go and tell everyone. To prepare food because a rare guest has come.”
“Understood, Chief!” At the chief’s order, a young man named Jerro ran into the ramparts like there was a fire lit under his butt.
‘But why is everyone like this? Like people who haven’t even had grass to eat?’
Upon closer inspection, the faces of every villager were gaunt.
“It is an honor for our humble village to receive you, esteemed Skyknight.”
The chief was giving me the highest regard, almost as if facing a king.
However, a few young men were busy stabbing me with their gazes, their animosity almost palpable.
“Bebeto! Go and take care of your meal on your own!”
I loudly relayed an order to Bebeto, who was flying above my head in case of danger.
Catching my drift, his lengthy wings spread wide and he swiveled in the air.
‘But will they even have any bread?’
Santalo Village had the same smell of poverty as Luna Village. Taking relaxed, leisurely steps, I entered the village.
* * *
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* * *
‘Oh! Looks tasty?’
The village buildings, numbering about a hundred, were roofed with various grasses that looked like sticks and reeds. When I entered the chief’s house in the middle, steaming white bread appeared shortly afterwards. It was even accompanied by flowing brown honey that gleamed in the light.
“It isn’t much, but please eat as much as you wish.”
The chief, who I found out was named Ivant, poured some kind of freshly squeezed milk into a wooden cup.
“Thanks for the meal.”
Though I was a noble, I couldn’t be rude to this white-haired old chief, so I gave light thanks as I slightly dipped the bread into the honey and tore off a bite.
The fluffy and soft bread along with the dipped honey—it tasted killer.
“It is a relief that it suits your palate, sir.”
The chief, who had been surreptitiously studying my expression, smiled brightly at my words. He was facing a noble. He was well aware that his life could be forfeit if he just looked at me wrong.
“Chief Ivant, what is this protection fee you mentioned?”
“T-The protection fee?”
“Indeed. Why do you pay a protection fee to Skyknights? From what I heard, residents here do not have a lord, so they don’t even pay taxes.”
“Um… Sir Knight, is this perhaps your first time here?” asked the chief carefully.
“Indeed. I began my new post here yesterday.”
“Phew, so that’s how it was. Then I will answer your question, sir. In the past, there wasn’t just our village here, but quite a few other villages in the area. But because the monsters could not be subjugated, the number of monsters steadily increased, and as they increased, the number of villagers decreased. However, those of us with nowhere to go but here put our lives on the line and guarded our land and hunting grounds. In fact, we were able to maintain our lives because we could receive about 1 Gold from the orc hides alone. But… sometimes strong monsters like ogres or trolls would appear, and…”
I ate the soft bread while listening to the chief’s extremely long explanation. It was supposed to be about the protection fee, but somehow the subject turned into a rambling complaint about their lives and how these Nerman Plains had been truly wonderful to live in, in days long past. Before I knew it, the bread was all gone, but the garrulous chief’s words went on and on. His explanation made me think he simply wished that a new lord would come and chase off all the monsters, allowing them to live like farmers and hunters like before.
‘They say living simply is the hardest thing to do…’
It was the same in 21st century Korea. The dearest wish of penniless and powerless residents was to avoid debt while having a house where they could raise their kids and have a decent job.
And also, they wished to live in a place defined by laws and rules, a place where they could breathe easy.
Kallian Continent or Earth, there wasn’t much difference. The only thing was that this continent was more of a mess.
* * *
“Um… Sir Knight, it is insignificant, but please take this at least….”
After listening to the chief talk for almost two hours, I left the village and called Bebeto down to a clearing in front of the village, his belly full and bulging with orc meat. It was then that the chief pushed a pouch towards me with trembling hands.
“Haha. It is alright. Eating the delicious bread was enough.”
The villagers had looked at me with hostility at first, but after seeing me going back after just eating some bread, their faces had become much looser.
‘You rotten shitheads! Under the pretext of a ‘protection fee,’ you rip them off every month for a few flights around?’
Because of the constantly increasing monster numbers, the poor villagers could not even farm or fish. That bastard, Viscount Lukence, ripped off a protection fee from these people, who were barely eking out a living by hunting orcs. Only by paying the protection fee would Skyknights patrol once or twice per day and hunt the bigger monsters, like ogres.
‘Jeez, you can already earn a ton just by catching ogres or trolls, but you’re stealing pennies from the poor as if there’s nothing more to take?’
The Santalo villagers were wearing rags and their bodies lacked all fat. Fuck a protection fee, they looked like they should be getting relief money instead.
“But what should be done with the ogre and orc hides?”
As soon as the chief said that, every villager’s eyes began to gleam. These days, even the orcs were appearing in swarms, so they couldn’t even hunt and earn any money. Apparently, merchants came to buy hides from them once every month.
“My wyvern is full, so I don’t think I can take them with me. Do as you please with them.”
“A-Are you sure?!”
“Thank you!! Thank you!!”
“It’s nothing much…” Chief Ivant was shocked and the emotional words poured out of the watching villagers’ mouths. “I will come patrol whenever I have time, so be aware of that. Then, goodbye…”
I lightly dipped my head and jumped onto Bebeto.
“Sir Knight! Before you go, please at least tell us your name!”
“Ohh! May the grace of Semire, Goddess of Blessings, be upon you!”
The villagers rejoiced over a few monsters. They either drew crosses or bowed deeply as they expressed their endless gratitude.
‘Feels quite good…’
It was nothing for me, but for these simple folks, it was a battle to the death with monsters. A single bread that warmed my heart was more than enough payment for today.
“Bebeto! Let’s go!”
His belly filled to the brim with orcs, Bebeto let out a roar. Then, with powerful beats of his wings, he jumped off the ground.
With just a few wingbeats, he ascended into the air.
I turned the reins. Because Chief Ivant had told me there wouldn’t be any more villages even if we went further in, I wanted to return to Weyn Covert.
As we flew high into the air, a warm wind rushing in from the sea hit my armor and made my crimson cloak flap.
The endless horizon before me, I faced the vast ocean and let out a powerful shout.
The future ahead of me was unpredictable, but right now, my mood was extremely good.
Gulping the wind of the sky, I screamed my head off.
Child of the Wind, Kyre…
…Is flying with all his might in the sky right now!