𝐓𝐡𝐞 𝐄𝐧𝐝 𝐨𝐟 𝐂𝐡𝐢𝐥𝐝𝐡𝐨𝐨𝐝 (𝟏𝟏)
Whether to work as a mercenary or go to the city to find work, I wasn’t sure yet, but it didn’t matter. Starting with nothing, yet for some reason, my heart was racing.
Johan realized that he had been waiting for such a moment for a very long time. He had spent more than a decade living like a dead mouse, waiting for the day to leave this cramped fiefdom. Though he was not leaving amidst a warm farewell but sneaking away in the dead of night, it didn’t matter.
‘𝘔𝘰𝘳𝘦 𝘪𝘮𝘱𝘰𝘳𝘵𝘢𝘯𝘵𝘭𝘺, 𝘐 𝘸𝘰𝘯𝘥𝘦𝘳 𝘸𝘩𝘦𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘳 𝘵𝘰 𝘴𝘵𝘦𝘢𝘭 𝘢 𝘩𝘰𝘳𝘴𝘦 𝘰𝘳 𝘯𝘰𝘵.’
The Aitz fiefdom was poor. Taking a set of expensive armor was one thing, but taking a horse as well would really be crossing a line.
Moreover, the stable was attached to an outbuilding next to the feudal lord’s house where the servants slept, and any mistake could wake them with the sound of a horse.
Despite the risk, the temptation of a horse was strong.
Having one or not made a tremendous difference. It wasn’t just about being fast and convenient. A horse was also a symbol of status.
Appearance, skin, accent, demeanor, attitude, clothing. . . all these things indicated what kind of person one was. A serf, no matter how smart or determined, found it hard to imitate a noble, and vice versa.
If Johan rode a horse, half of his troubles would diminish. People would think he was a knight.
After much thought, Johan made his decision.
‘𝘓𝘦𝘵’𝘴 𝘴𝘵𝘦𝘢𝘭 𝘪𝘵!’
Even if it was excessive, he couldn’t give it up.
As Johan decided and was about to leave the storage room, he hesitated. He heard something.
Could someone in the feudal lord’s house have woken up? That would be very troublesome. . .
The faint sound came from outside, not inside the feudal lord’s house. Hearing the hoarse voice bursting into rough laughter, Johan realized who it was.
Sir Aitz of Gessen had returned.
‘𝘋𝘢𝘮𝘯 𝘪𝘵. 𝘑𝘶𝘴𝘵 𝘮𝘺 𝘭𝘶𝘤𝘬. . .’
Johan cursed inwardly and pushed himself into a corner. Now that it had come to this, he had no choice but to wait, unseen.
“Wake up the servants and have them bring something to eat. I’m hungry.”
Gessen had grown fat enough to cover his muscles but was still a menacing knight. His heavy build, hidden by armor, exuded strength.
The slave following and serving Gessen bowed his head and ran to the annex. True to his life spent on battlefields, Gessen had a foul temper. Not running immediately meant a slap on the face, and in a stroke of bad luck, one might get hit with a spiked club.
“You’ve worked hard. Sir Gessen.”
“It seems Count Gisored will soon send someone with good news.”
A few subordinates quickly flattered Gessen, who smiled pleasantly. Even though he knew it was flattery, it didn’t upset him.
“Count Gisored knows people well. In these times of frequent battles, it’s not easy to find a knight like me.”
“You are absolutely right!”
Gessen preferred selling his force to influential nobles over managing his small and insignificant fiefdom. Participating in territorial wars was far more profitable than farming wheat or raising pigs.
This trip wasn’t bad. Count Gisored was soon planning a war with a nearby noble, and his interest in Gessen’s force was evident.
Whether it was the Holy Empire or the Western Erlans Kingdom, feudal lords clashing swords for a bit more land was common. In fact, it was rare not to. This was why knights like Gessen or mercenaries thrived.
“Have you returned?”
“Oh. My wife!”
Gessen laughed heartily, embracing and lifting Mrs. Aitz. Despite his strong sweat and dust smell, Mrs. Aitz didn’t blink an eye.
“Having a wife who comes to greet me like this makes me a happy man.”
In truth, Gessen’s group had woken her with their noise, but that was unimportant. Mrs. Aitz replied in a soft voice.
“Of course. But there’s a guest waiting.”
“A guest? Who?”
“Don’t be surprised. It’s Sir Karamaf.”
“Sir Karamaf? Why is he here?”
Gessen asked in a lukewarm voice. He had no dealings with Karamaf.
“I’ll explain the reason shortly.”
The sound of Gessen’s group seemed to wake Karamaf too, as Karamaf emerged from the main entrance on the first floor. Although he must have been sleeping until just now, Karamaf was fully armed. Wrapped in a plate armor made by dwarves, only his cold face, with the faceguard up, was visible.
Gessen instinctively reached for the weapon at his waist. Having shattered the skulls of numerous enemies, Gessen could feel it. Karamaf was certainly not here for a visit.
“What brings you to my fiefdom?”
“Gessen Aitz. I arrest you for conspiring with heretics to poison His Holiness, the Emperor, and incite a rebellion.”
“. . .What nonsense!”
Gessen exclaimed as if screaming. It was a charge he had never heard before. However, Karamaf’s facial expression did not change.
“When did I ever plot such a thing!”
“Save your excuses for God, not me.”
“I demand a trial. I am a noble of the Holy Empire and the head of the Aitz family. You can’t decide based on your trivial words!”
“I accept your request. You shall go to His Majesty’s court and face trial.”
Upon hearing Karamaf’s words, Gessen’s face was momentarily filled with despair. Karamaf was like an extension of the Emperor. He would not have taken such action without certainty. If this was a trap, going to court for trial might not offer an escape.
Gessen thought hard, recalling the powerful nobles he knew. Now was the time to seek their help, even if it meant offering the pillars of his fiefdom.
However, reality exceeded Gessen’s expectations.
The moment he saw Karamaf’s cold eyes, Gessen realized. Karamaf would not take him to court.
Gessen drew his weapon from his waist, intending to strike at Karamaf. But Karamaf’s attack was several times faster. Gessen, a knight, was not skilled in swift swordplay but in the martial arts of a strength-focused family.
In battlefields teeming with weaker foes, he could dominate like an invincible warrior, but Karamaf was several times stronger than Gessen.
Gessen’s throat was cut before he could even draw his weapon.
The torchlight flickered on the sword as it sprayed blood in an unreal spectacle, leaving Gessen’s men behind him unable to grasp the situation.
The scream of Mrs. Aitz brought them back to reality. Her scream tore through the quiet night’s silence, echoing everywhere.
Karamaf, his face covered with a visor, commanded.
“Send the signal.”
As he spoke, Karamaf’s waiting mercenary ran from behind the door and began blowing the horn. The sound, following the scream, eerily heralded doom.
“This b*stard dares!!”
One of Gessen’s men, in a fit of rage, charged. He stabbed at Karamaf with a spear from horseback. Karamaf deftly avoided it and slashed at the man’s leg. The sword, a famed blade enhanced by Karamaf’s skill, tore through the armor.
The man fell from his horse with a ‘thud’. Despite the pain in his leg, he quickly rolled to regain his stance, showing the prowess of an experienced warrior.
But it did not save his life. As Karamaf approached, the man lunged with his spear. Karamaf didn’t even dodge. The spearhead was futilely stopped by his armor.
The man’s face sank into despair upon encountering the legendary armor.
“Damn dwarven craft!”
The dwarves’ plate armor was impervious to ordinary attacks. One could only hope to knock the opponent down and prod at joints or gaps with something sharp.
But how could one attempt such against Karamaf?
A thrust aimed at the face. Karamaf closed the distance in one fluid motion, deflecting the spear with one hand and slashing the man’s throat with his longsword in the other. The fatally struck man clutched his neck and fell.
“Surrender! We surrender!”
“Please spare us!”
Realizing they couldn’t match Karamaf, the remaining men bravely surrendered. But Karamaf, unflinching, continued his assault.
“Sleep. . .”
One by one, like a butcher slaughtering sheep, Karamaf massacred Gessen’s men. The mercenaries behind him watched with a mix of awe and terror.
“The Aitz family resisted arrest and attacked me. I proceed to subdue.”
Sir Gessen was killed before he could be arrested, but the mercenaries, who knew the reason they were here from the start, didn’t blink an eye. Yein, who came as a seed of Karamaf, calmly drew his weapon. He didn’t understand the situation well, but as a squire, he just followed what the knight said.
“Surround them. Don’t spare anyone related to the family.”
The still half-asleep men of the Aitz family would be confused about what was happening inside the feudal lord’s manor. The mercenaries brought by Karamaf drew their weapons and surrounded the vicinity of the feudal lord’s manor to prevent any possible escapees.
Karamaf had one reason for coming here: to erase the Aitz family and send a warning to the disloyal nobles.
And the fault of the Aitz family was one: they were seen as an easy target.
They were weak enough to be trampled, and after being trampled, there were no other noble families to use this as a reason to object, and despite this, the head of the family kept mingling with all sorts of nobles.
They were the perfect scapegoats.
“W-What is this. . . God is watching! Sir Karamaf! What are you doing?!”
A bloodied Mrs. Aitz screamed and questioned. Instead of answering, Karamaf signaled a mercenary. The mercenary raised a crossbow and shot her. Mrs. Aitz gasped and fell.
“Make sure she’s dead.”
The mercenary licked his lips and cut off Mrs. Aitz’s breath. Normally, he might have had other desires due to her semi attractive face, but now that he was already in disfavor with Karamaf, doing such a thing would have really cost him his head.
“The servants are running out.”
“I’ll handle it. Make sure to properly watch the men of the Aitz family. I won’t forgive you if you let even one escape.”
Karamaf turned and walked towards the annex where the servants stayed. It was better to block that side, as the sturdy servants would likely run away better than the Aitz family men, who were only strong in appearance.