How to Live as a Wandering Knight – Chapter 49

𝐏𝐞𝐨𝐩𝐥𝐞 𝐨𝐟 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐀𝐛𝐧𝐞𝐫 𝐟𝐚𝐦𝐢𝐥𝐲 (𝟑)

𝐏𝐞𝐨𝐩𝐥𝐞 𝐨𝐟 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐀𝐛𝐧𝐞𝐫 𝐟𝐚𝐦𝐢𝐥𝐲 (𝟑)

“I refuse.”

The offer was dishonorable from the start, so no formalities were used in the refusal. Ulrike seemed to have anticipated this, as she promptly made another offer.

“What about double the amount?”

“I refuse that as well.”

“Four times then. You’ll refuse this too? How about ten times more?”

“. . . . . .”

Johan was surprised. He honestly hadn’t expected such a sum. Ten times the amount could tempt one into betrayal over and over again. It was incomprehensible why someone would offer such a price, especially for someone like Stephen.

‘𝘚𝘰 𝘵𝘩𝘪𝘴 𝘸𝘢𝘴 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘱𝘭𝘢𝘯 𝘧𝘳𝘰𝘮 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘣𝘦𝘨𝘪𝘯𝘯𝘪𝘯𝘨.’

Noticing Johan’s thoughts, Ulrike casually observed him. Her beauty reminded Johan of a venomous snake. He clenched and unclenched his fist, uncomfortable.

“What’s left then? Ah, yes. You can’t kill with your own hands, can you? After all, you’re a knight. I don’t expect that much. Just close your eyes. My men will handle the annoying wolf.”

Johan was irked by her confident demeanor. It seemed she believed her offer would be readily accepted.

Frankly, other knights might have accepted such an offer.

Knights are human after all.

Like a devout believer can covet gold and lie, a knight can be honest about their desires.

Honor is a knight’s armor, but in private, even that can be shed.

Knowing this, Ulrike had sought this private meeting.

“This is my family’s fiefdom. Dying here won’t dishonor you, but my family. So, have I said enough? What more should I consider? Invite you to a hunt? Need an excuse to leave?”

“Isn’t this too high a price for killing a brother without inheritance rights?”

“That’s something only a naive knight would say,” 

Ulrike scoffed.

“Do you know how much money my foolish bloodline has wasted so far? And how much more will be wasted? Countess Abner spends for the sake of bloodline, but I think differently. The eldest, who will inherit the family, is what matters. The money being wasted now is the family’s but also mine. It’s better to deal with it quickly before more is lost.”

“Surprisingly honest, it’s a bit unsettling.”

“You’re a wandering knight. Who would believe you if you went around talking?”

“If you’re so capable, why don’t you handle it yourself?”

“Are you pretending to be stupid, or are you really that dumb? Once it gets to the Count, you can’t kill like now. And you’d just cause more trouble.”

Ulrike, apparently tired of the conversation, pulled out a certificate. It was a promissory note with the seal of a trading company, redeemable for the promised amount immediately.

𝐓𝐡𝐮𝐦𝐩━

Ulrike threw the certificate in front of him.

‘𝘋𝘰𝘦𝘴𝘯’𝘵 𝘴𝘩𝘦 𝘸𝘰𝘳𝘳𝘺 𝘐 𝘮𝘪𝘨𝘩𝘵 𝘫𝘶𝘴𝘵 𝘵𝘢𝘬𝘦 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘮𝘰𝘯𝘦𝘺 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘳𝘶𝘯?’

She seemed unconcerned, confident she could handle it even if he fled. Anyone who could spend a thousand gold coins to kill a brother would surely spend more.

“Now, stop talking and make a decision. What will you do?”

Ulrike was sure Johan would accept. Johan calmly replied.

“I refuse.”

“. . .Are you serious?”

“Seriously. Since you spoke at length, I’ll return the courtesy and do the same. If the child is so precious to the Count, even if it’s not my responsibility, the grudge could still be directed at me. People’s feelings don’t resolve that neatly.”

“. . . . . .”

As Johan pointed out something Ulrike hadn’t considered, her expression subtly twisted. It was indeed a valid point. People sometimes displace their grudges onto those who are not involved at all. Especially if they happen to dislike the person.

“And even if you trust me, I find it hard to trust you. I don’t have a way to retaliate.”

“If you argue like that, wouldn’t it be impossible to conduct any business in the world?”

“That’s why I only do business with people stronger than me who are relatively trustworthy.”

Ulrike glared at Johan’s statement, but Johan didn’t care.

“So, is that everything you wanted to say?”

“No. There’s one last, major reason.”

“?”

“My honor. . .”

“Ah. Forget it. No one was watching or listening.”

“You should listen to the end. Apart from my honor, I made a promise to Stephen, and it doesn’t feel right to break it first. Stephen might be an annoying guy, but he hasn’t done anything wrong enough to break my promise and kill him yet.”

Having finished his piece, Johan stood up. Further conversation would only be harmful to both of them.

“Then I’ll be leaving now.”

Ulrike looked as if she had seen a rare monster.

If what was just said isn’t about honor, then what is?

🔸🔸🔸🔸🔸🔸

“Hmm. It seems Ulrike-gong really did try to kill you. I was half in doubt about it.”

“. . .How did you confirm that?”

“She came to me and offered several times the gold to let him kill you.”

“. . . . . .”

Stephen clutched his head and buried it in the blanket. He hadn’t expected such a brazen proposal.

“Don’t worry. Once we meet the Count, she won’t dare do anything rash.”

“I don’t think she’s the type to give up easily.”

“Wait. . . you’re not saying you’ve been bribed? What about the promise? What happened to the promise?!”

“She really knows how to handle people. She has a way of talking that even those not bribed would want to be. Don’t worry. I didn’t take her offer.”

“Really?”

Stephen looked at Johan with a wary gaze.

He knew Ulrike’s skill in manipulating people, having experienced it several times. Didn’t she always have the people in the castle under her control?

“I tend not to make suspicious deals with those I can’t handle. Ulrike-gong is a bit. . . devilish.”

“. . .Hahaha!”

Stephen burst into laughter, shaking off his fear. It was the first time he heard someone speak of Ulrike like that.

“Right. She does have a devilish aspect!”

‘𝘋𝘪𝘥𝘯’𝘵 𝘩𝘦 𝘫𝘶𝘴𝘵 𝘴𝘢𝘺 𝘴𝘩𝘦’𝘴 𝘦𝘢𝘴𝘺 𝘵𝘰 𝘩𝘢𝘯𝘥𝘭𝘦? 𝘋𝘪𝘥𝘯’𝘵 𝘩𝘦 𝘳𝘦𝘢𝘭𝘪𝘻𝘦 𝘵𝘩𝘢𝘵?’

Stephen finally stopped laughing and said,

“Right. You’ve thought this through well. It’s better not to make such suspicious deals. If we return safely, I can pay you in gold instead of a ransom. I promise.”

“You?”

Johan asked incredulously, and Stephen was angered by his blatant disregard.

“Do you think I have less money than a knight dastard like you?!”

Even if disregarded for his force, he couldn’t be ignored for his wealth. Especially not by a knight like that.

“Ah. Don’t take it the wrong way. But you’re not the firstborn and don’t have an inheritance, so where will this gold come from?”

The power of nobility came from their fiefs. Even the impoverished Aitz family could afford expensive arms and servants.

Ulrike could throw around gold because she had already inherited some territories. Heirs of noble families often received some territories early on.

But Stephen?

“. . . . . .”

Stung by the comment, Stephen fell silent. After a moment, he spoke up.

“There’s a way to get it.”

“You’re not thinking of extorting it from the Count, are you?”

“What nonsense. . .?!”

“Well, we’ll see. I’ll look forward to it.”

Johan was skeptical. Could Stephen really come up with that much gold?

🔸🔸🔸🔸🔸🔸

Johan and his knights entered the castle without disarming, a privilege of their victory.

As they entered, disapproving glares came from all sides. No noble family’s vassals had escaped losses in the war. The gazes were naturally harsh.

━𝐒𝐡𝐨𝐮𝐥𝐝 𝐡𝐚𝐯𝐞 𝐚𝐜𝐜𝐞𝐩𝐭𝐞𝐝 𝐭𝐡𝐚𝐭 𝐝𝐚𝐦𝐧𝐞𝐝 𝐩𝐞𝐚𝐜𝐞 𝐩𝐫𝐨𝐩𝐨𝐬𝐚𝐥, 𝐬𝐡𝐨𝐮𝐥𝐝𝐧’𝐭 𝐰𝐞?

━𝐀𝐧𝐝 𝐰𝐡𝐚𝐭? 𝐃𝐨 𝐲𝐨𝐮 𝐤𝐧𝐨𝐰 𝐡𝐨𝐰 𝐦𝐮𝐜𝐡 𝐰𝐞 𝐨𝐰𝐞 𝐭𝐡𝐚𝐭 𝐨𝐫𝐜 𝐮𝐬𝐮𝐫𝐞𝐫?

━𝐁𝐞𝐬𝐢𝐝𝐞𝐬, 𝐢𝐭’𝐬 𝐚𝐥𝐦𝐨𝐬𝐭 𝐰𝐢𝐧𝐭𝐞𝐫. 𝐃𝐨 𝐲𝐨𝐮 𝐭𝐡𝐢𝐧𝐤 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐝𝐞𝐬𝐞𝐫𝐭𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐦𝐞𝐫𝐜𝐞𝐧𝐚𝐫𝐢𝐞𝐬 𝐰𝐢𝐥𝐥 𝐣𝐮𝐬𝐭 𝐬𝐢𝐭 𝐬𝐭𝐢𝐥𝐥 𝐭𝐡𝐞𝐧?

Wars were prepared in winter to start in spring, not the other way around. Fighting in winter, especially with delayed supplies, was suicidal.

Moreover, with their commander captured, the knights and mercenary captains had a good excuse.

Retreating the next day was the obvious choice.

━𝐖𝐞 𝐬𝐡𝐨𝐮𝐥𝐝 𝐧𝐞𝐯𝐞𝐫 𝐞𝐧𝐭𝐫𝐮𝐬𝐭 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐚𝐫𝐦𝐲 𝐭𝐨 𝐒𝐢𝐫 𝐒𝐭𝐞𝐩𝐡𝐞𝐧 𝐚𝐠𝐚𝐢𝐧. 𝐈𝐭 𝐬𝐞𝐞𝐦𝐬 𝐭𝐡𝐞 Count 𝐰𝐚𝐬 𝐩𝐥𝐚𝐧𝐧𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐭𝐨 𝐠𝐫𝐚𝐧𝐭 𝐡𝐢𝐦 𝐦𝐢𝐥𝐢𝐭𝐚𝐫𝐲 𝐜𝐨𝐦𝐦𝐚𝐧𝐝, 𝐛𝐮𝐭 𝐡𝐞 𝐢𝐬 𝐚 𝐦𝐚𝐧 𝐰𝐡𝐨 𝐬𝐡𝐨𝐮𝐥𝐝 𝐡𝐚𝐯𝐞 𝐛𝐞𝐞𝐧 𝐬𝐞𝐧𝐭 𝐭𝐨 𝐚 𝐦𝐨𝐧𝐚𝐬𝐭𝐞𝐫𝐲 𝐢𝐧𝐬𝐭𝐞𝐚𝐝.

━𝐘𝐨𝐮’𝐫𝐞 𝐫𝐢𝐠𝐡𝐭.

Stephen’s face turned red. There was no way he couldn’t have heard the insult.

“The Countess is coming in!”

A servant entered, announcing this, and after those present paid their respects, the Countess entered the hall. Wrapped in expensive silk, the Countess bore the look of an aged leopard, exuding a presence that only a noble of his rank could.

“Why are you armed in my castle?”

“What? Didn’t you allow it, my lord?”

“I never gave such permission. Disarm yourselves.”

The Countess raised her hand, and the guards by her side stepped forward as if to pressurize.

The number of guards, more than usual and well-armed, clearly indicated an intentional display.

‘𝘐’𝘷𝘦 𝘣𝘦𝘦𝘯 𝘰𝘶𝘵𝘸𝘪𝘵𝘵𝘦𝘥.’

The messenger of Count Jarpen clicked his tongue. The Countess had agreed too readily, perhaps for this very reason.

A simple way for the Countess to regain dignity and authority in front of her vassals.

The knights present couldn’t overturn the negotiations with just this. The Countess was playing a dangerous game, staying just within the boundaries of nullifying the negotiations.

The knights, aware of this, prepared to reluctantly disarm, their faces showing signs of frustration.

But Johan was different. Unlike the knights of the Jarpen family, Johan didn’t need to care about such things.

“If you want my weapon. . .”

“. . .?”

“You’ll have to take it from my dead body. Back off.”

The approaching guard stopped, looking at the Countess in confusion, not expecting such a response.

“Is Sir the Marcel’s troll slayer?”

“Yes, my lord.”

“I thought he was a freelance knight, but he’s from the Jarpen family?”

“I’m here only as a guest, not a member of the Jarpen family.”

“Then why did you interfere in the fight?”

“I had no choice but to defend my honor.”

“Does that mean you hold no particular grudge against the House of Countess Abner?”

“Indeed, my lord.”

“Then, in respect of that honor, I grant you a privilege.”

When she backed down, Johan was surprised. He had heard that she was more emotional, but her demeanor was as cool as steel.

This conversation was almost like an offer of reconciliation.

‘𝘐 𝘣𝘦𝘢𝘳 𝘯𝘰 𝘨𝘳𝘶𝘥𝘨𝘦, 𝘴𝘰 𝘺𝘰𝘶 𝘴𝘩𝘰𝘶𝘭𝘥 𝘯𝘰𝘵 𝘦𝘪𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘳.’

It was a rational attitude, but people, especially those of high status, are not always rational.

Johan realized how cold-blooded the nobility trained as feudal lords could be. Compared to them, Johan and the other knights were hot-blooded.

“My lord Countess! Even if you permit it, I still feel my honor has been tarnished. Please allow my son to fight the troll slayer and restore our honor.”

And so it went.

The sudden appearance of the old knight made Johan realize his reputation had spread. Challenging Johan to a one-on-one duel meant he was considered worthy of such an honor. Otherwise, such a challenge wouldn’t have been made.

No one praises defeating a mere rogue in a duel. Now, Johan had become a target for knights seeking honor.

‘𝘈𝘣𝘴𝘰𝘭𝘶𝘵𝘦𝘭𝘺 𝘯𝘰𝘵!’

“?”

Stephen whispered desperately from behind.


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