𝐓𝐡𝐞 𝐄𝐧𝐝 𝐨𝐟 𝐂𝐡𝐢𝐥𝐝𝐡𝐨𝐨𝐝 (𝟏𝟎)
The mercenary was so taken aback that he couldn’t even react. Even if he had known, he wouldn’t have been able to respond. Johan’s punch was that fast and powerful.
There was a sound of a skull being crushed. The mercenary, frothing at the mouth with blood, fell off his horse sideways. After convulsing, he lay limp. It was a clear case of instant death.
“Save your thanks.”
Johan took Joseph on the horse with him. Even with injuries, it was much better than both riding.
‘𝘐𝘵’𝘴 𝘳𝘦𝘨𝘳𝘦𝘵𝘵𝘢𝘣𝘭𝘦 𝘵𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘐 𝘤𝘢𝘯’𝘵 𝘵𝘢𝘬𝘦 𝘵𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘨𝘶𝘺’𝘴 𝘣𝘦𝘭𝘰𝘯𝘨𝘪𝘯𝘨𝘴.’
Johan felt strange about himself. It was odd to have such leisurely thoughts in such a desperate and dangerous situation. Was his sense of danger broken?
‘𝘕𝘰. . . 𝘕𝘰, 𝘪𝘵’𝘴 𝘯𝘰𝘵 𝘵𝘩𝘢𝘵.’
Johan didn’t feel this as danger.
The confidence that even if all the wolves here attacked, he could survive, was keeping Johan calm.
From behind the galloping horses, there was a sound of something being torn apart.
“The wolves must be feasting.”
“. . .T-Thank you.”
Joseph spoke in a voice still muddled by confusion. He hadn’t expected Johan to go to such lengths.
“I’ve repaid my debt.”
“You kept me from becoming one of those fools.”
Johan said, pointing to the mercenaries. Joseph had to suppress the tickle in his throat. Laughing in such a situation would be insane.
Four dead, two injured.
Sir Karamaf’s face turned cold at the news that half of the personnel he brought along had either died or been injured. The mercenaries couldn’t even raise their heads.
“Injured and killed trying to catch a wolf?”
“Yes. . .”
“I paid silver to mercenaries, not to *ssholes.”
“I have nothing to say. Sorry, Karamaf-nim.”
The mercenaries, covered in blood and with various wounds, hadn’t even thought about washing up. They were very afraid of Karamaf.
“I won’t take away the silver. But remember, if things go wrong, even your necks might not be enough to take responsibility.”
“Yes! Thank you for your kindness!”
The mercenaries shouted loudly. Internally, they were frustrated, but they knew better than to be insolent in front of Karamaf, as many who did lost their heads. To survive long as a mercenary, one had to know whom to pick a fight with.
“Go and rest.”
𝐊𝐧𝐨𝐜𝐤 𝐤𝐧𝐨𝐜𝐤 𝐤𝐧𝐨𝐜𝐤━
“What is it?”
“I came to take care of the knights’ armor and weapons as ordered by the master. . .”
The servant mumbled timidly. The mercenaries were interested in this. After a fight, armor and weapons needed maintenance. Chainmail had to be rolled in a barrel with sand and vinegar to prevent rust, and longswords needed to be cleaned of blood and flesh and oiled.
It was a tedious task, and having someone else do it was preferable. Knights could order their servants or vassals, but they were mercenaries.
“Then take them. . .”
“Stupid fool. How would that guy know how to do it? Forget it. We’ll do it.”
The mercenary leader stopped the others. How could they trust the skills of a servant here? Their expensive gear could get damaged, and Karamaf would love to see them fight bare-handed.
“Go back and wait. Don’t wander outside the feudal lord’s domain. If you leave without permission again, I’ll cut off your ankles.”
“Yes! Thank you for your kindness!”
The mercenaries shouted once more and were able to leave.
“Shit. . . What a disgrace this is.”
“Damn crazy wolves.”
“Go put on some ointment and bandages, you idiots.”
“Even with the forces waiting outside, this small fiefdom is nothing. I don’t understand why they’re making such a fuss. Honestly, Karamaf alone could kill them all. In that armor, he could kill a hundred of these fiefdom men.”
“A hundred? They’d all run away.”
The mercenaries chuckled as they walked. This small fiefdom had no significant force. The ill-trained noble sons of the Aitz family and their servants were all they had.
After the mercenaries left, the servant cautiously moved. He had not immediately come out after leaving but had hidden in a dark corner of the corridor.
Johan praised the servant, who, trembling, still managed a weak smile. He seemed proud of himself, as a devoted person.
After the mercenaries returned in disarray from their wolf hunt, Johan said to the frightened servant:
━𝐇𝐨𝐰 𝐬𝐡𝐨𝐮𝐥𝐝 𝐰𝐞 𝐡𝐚𝐧𝐝𝐥𝐞 𝐭𝐡𝐢𝐬. . .
━𝐉𝐮𝐬𝐭 𝐬𝐚𝐲 𝐈 𝐟𝐨𝐫𝐜𝐞𝐝 𝐲𝐨𝐮. 𝐓𝐡𝐞𝐲 𝐰𝐨𝐧’𝐭 𝐡𝐨𝐥𝐝 𝐲𝐨𝐮 𝐫𝐞𝐬𝐩𝐨𝐧𝐬𝐢𝐛𝐥𝐞 𝐭𝐡𝐞𝐧.
Since Sir Karamaf’s men were injured, the servant who lent the armor was in trouble too. It wouldn’t have been surprising if the other sons or Mrs. Aitz punished the servant to save face.
Knowing this well, Johan told the servant that he could use his name. After all, worsening relations with the other members of the Aitz family wouldn’t make a difference.
━𝐉𝐨𝐡𝐚𝐧-𝐧𝐢𝐦. . .!
The servant was tearfully moved. The kindness from someone of such higher status felt piercingly sweet. He regretted hesitating when Johan asked to borrow the armor.
‘𝘑𝘰𝘩𝘢𝘯-𝘯𝘪𝘮 𝘪𝘴 𝘵𝘳𝘶𝘭𝘺 𝘧𝘪𝘵 𝘵𝘰 𝘣𝘦 𝘢 𝘬𝘯𝘪𝘨𝘩𝘵. . .’
The servant said resolutely:
━𝐉𝐨𝐡𝐚𝐧-𝐧𝐢𝐦. 𝐓𝐡𝐨𝐮𝐠𝐡 𝐢𝐭 𝐦𝐚𝐲 𝐧𝐨𝐭 𝐛𝐞 𝐧𝐞𝐜𝐞𝐬𝐬𝐚𝐫𝐲, 𝐢𝐟 𝐲𝐨𝐮 𝐞𝐯𝐞𝐫 𝐧𝐞𝐞𝐝 𝐦𝐲 𝐡𝐞𝐥𝐩, 𝐩𝐥𝐞𝐚𝐬𝐞 𝐭𝐞𝐥𝐥 𝐦𝐞. 𝐈 𝐰𝐢𝐥𝐥 𝐚𝐬𝐬𝐢𝐬𝐭 𝐲𝐨𝐮 𝐢𝐧 𝐚𝐧𝐲 𝐰𝐚𝐲.
━𝐑𝐞𝐚𝐥𝐥𝐲? 𝐆𝐨𝐨𝐝 𝐭𝐢𝐦𝐢𝐧𝐠. 𝐈 𝐡𝐚𝐝 𝐬𝐨𝐦𝐞𝐭𝐡𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐭𝐨 𝐚𝐬𝐤 𝐲𝐨𝐮.
Johan instructed the servant to pretend to run an errand and eavesdrop on the mercenaries’ conversation. Both Karamaf and the mercenaries had one thing in common: they disregarded and ignored servants and slaves.
‘𝘛𝘩𝘦𝘺 𝘸𝘰𝘯’𝘵 𝘴𝘶𝘴𝘱𝘦𝘤𝘵.’
Johan’s prediction was correct. The servant overheard everything, and the information was more serious than expected. Johan’s face hardened.
‘𝘛𝘩𝘪𝘴 𝘭𝘰𝘰𝘬𝘴 𝘳𝘦𝘢𝘭𝘭𝘺 𝘥𝘢𝘯𝘨𝘦𝘳𝘰𝘶𝘴.’
There are two things he just learned.
There are support troops waiting nearby.
And the guys who came with Sir Karamaf are ready to wield their swords at any moment.
‘𝘐 𝘥𝘰𝘯’𝘵 𝘶𝘯𝘥𝘦𝘳𝘴𝘵𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘸𝘩𝘺 𝘴𝘶𝘤𝘩 𝘢 𝘬𝘯𝘪𝘨𝘩𝘵 𝘪𝘴 𝘩𝘦𝘳𝘦 𝘤𝘢𝘶𝘴𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘵𝘳𝘰𝘶𝘣𝘭𝘦, 𝘣𝘶𝘵 𝘯𝘰𝘸 𝘵𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘐’𝘷𝘦 𝘧𝘰𝘶𝘯𝘥 𝘰𝘶𝘵, 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘈𝘪𝘵𝘻 𝘧𝘢𝘮𝘪𝘭𝘺 𝘮𝘶𝘴𝘵 𝘢𝘭𝘴𝘰 𝘱𝘳𝘦𝘱𝘢𝘳𝘦.’
“Dealing with mercenaries using serfs might not be much, but it’s better than doing nothing. . .”
Either launching a surprise attack, digging traps, or even preparing for a defensive battle with the help of the feudal lord would be better than doing nothing.
Although it pales in comparison to a fortress with walls, the feudal lord’s mansion is a sturdy and large building. By arming the servants in the annex and holding out, the mercenaries, lacking siege equipment, will face difficulty.
“I must keep them in check so they can’t do anything foolish until Gessen Aitz arrives.”
Gessen Aitz, though a country feudal lord, was a seasoned and experienced knight. Once he returns, neither the mercenaries nor Sir Karamaf will be able to act easily.
Johan licked his lips and headed towards Mrs. Aitz. He didn’t want to confront her, but he had no choice.
“What nonsense are you talking about?”
‘𝘋𝘢𝘮𝘯 𝘪𝘵. 𝘈𝘴 𝘦𝘹𝘱𝘦𝘤𝘵𝘦𝘥.’
Mrs. Aitz scolded Johan in a sharp voice. The gentle and sweet voice she used when dealing with Sir Karamaf or Gessen Aitz was nowhere to be found. Although Mrs. Aitz was not even ten years older than Johan, she was several times more dreadful and a more dominant figure. This was evident from how she manipulated the Aitz fiefdom at such a young age.
“Sir Karamaf is plotting a conspiracy? Ha! And you overheard this and found out. Are you slandering Sir Karamaf right now?”
“Why would I slander Sir Karamaf?”
“Well. You followed Sir Karamaf’s men on a hunt and returned only with embarrassment. Seems like you have more than enough reason to slander.”
People tend to see only what they want to see.
For Mrs. Aitz, who wanted to build connections with Sir Karamaf, the idea that Sir Karamaf could hatch such a conspiracy was unthinkable.
Moreover, it was even more preposterous that Johan, who she normally wouldn’t even consider, had overheard and brought this news.
“Shouldn’t we prepare just in case?”
“Prepare? Yes, we should prepare. Tomorrow, when the day breaks, I will confront you with Sir Karamaf. If you are truly of a knight’s lineage, apologize to Sir Karamaf for your rudeness and ask for his forgiveness.”
Johan inwardly scoffed, seeing through the intent to sell him out to Karamaf and curry favor.
‘𝘛𝘩𝘪𝘴 𝘪𝘴 𝘨𝘦𝘵𝘵𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘮𝘰𝘳𝘦 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘮𝘰𝘳𝘦 𝘢𝘣𝘴𝘶𝘳𝘥.’
“What’s the matter?”
In the midst of the conversation, Philip Aitz, the eldest son of the Aitz family, entered the hall. Philip frowned upon seeing Johan and Mrs. Aitz talking. It was an unusual pairing to see.
“Brother. About that. . .”
Johan placed his last hope in Philip. Although Mrs. Aitz was in charge of the feudatory, Philip also had significant authority within it.
Being the oldest son and having spent a long time in the fiefdom, he had many followers.
However, Philip dismissed it as nonsense.
“Absurd. Why would Sir Karamaf do such a thing? You must have heard some rumor from wanderers and clowns and brought it here. If you spread such baseless rumors again, I won’t forgive you.”
Unlike Mrs. Aitz, Philip did not wish to become close to Sir Karamaf, but he did not believe Johan’s words either.
‘𝘗𝘢𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘵𝘪𝘤. 𝘛𝘳𝘺𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘵𝘰 𝘧𝘳𝘢𝘮𝘦 𝘴𝘰𝘮𝘦𝘰𝘯𝘦.’
Sir Karamaf, not a rogue or rogue leader, had no reason to engage in such antics in a feudatory like this. It didn’t make sense.
Rather, it seemed more likely that Johan, humiliated in the recent hunt, was jealous of Sir Karamaf and framing him. Believing such words and preparing for a trap or fight was not feasible. It could be perceived as an insult or threat by Sir Karamaf if discovered.
And at that moment, Johan made up his mind.
Just to escape tonight.
He had intended to somehow pick up something valuable in the chaos, but staying longer seemed to risk a worse fate.
‘𝘐 𝘴𝘩𝘰𝘶𝘭𝘥 𝘦𝘴𝘤𝘢𝘱𝘦 𝘸𝘪𝘵𝘩 𝘫𝘶𝘴𝘵 𝘦𝘯𝘰𝘶𝘨𝘩 𝘯𝘰𝘵 𝘵𝘰 𝘣𝘦 𝘤𝘩𝘢𝘴𝘦𝘥.’
Stealing too much might indeed provoke a real pursuit, so he planned to take just enough. Of course, there’s no moderation in theft. . .
Anyway, facing Sir Karamaf one-on-one for explanations tomorrow was out of the question.
“Go back and reflect on your actions. From injuring Sir Karamaf’s man in the unauthorized hunt to framing him, you have responsibilities to bear.”
“. . .Yes.”
Johan feigned repentance. Internally, he was already calculating what to steal.
It was different to put on armor with the help of a servant in broad daylight and to sneakily put it on at night, muffling the sound.
Johan equipped himself using all his senses. He wore a fine, sturdy hemp shirt, covered it with a well-maintained chainmail, donned a surcoat, and finally, took a coat made of Finnish wool. The weather was gradually getting colder. He would need a thick outer garment to wrap around himself.
Thanks to what Johan learned from Joseph, he was able to quickly prepare what he needed to leave without hesitation.
‘𝘓𝘦𝘵’𝘴 𝘨𝘪𝘷𝘦 𝘶𝘱 𝘰𝘯 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘴𝘪𝘭𝘷𝘦𝘳 𝘤𝘰𝘪𝘯𝘴.’
Unlike the storeroom where the armor was kept, the silver coins would be in the bedroom safe. It was risky to go in and potentially wake someone up, and taking the expensive armor was risky enough, let alone adding silver coins, which could truly prompt a pursuit.
Of course, the items he was taking now were enough to infuriate, but considering the family’s honor, there was a possibility they would overlook this extent.
‘𝘐 𝘯𝘦𝘦𝘥 𝘵𝘰 𝘴𝘵𝘢𝘳𝘵 𝘵𝘩𝘪𝘯𝘬𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘢𝘣𝘰𝘶𝘵 𝘩𝘰𝘸 𝘵𝘰 𝘦𝘢𝘳𝘯 𝘮𝘰𝘯𝘦𝘺.’