𝐓𝐡𝐞 𝐄𝐧𝐝 𝐨𝐟 𝐂𝐡𝐢𝐥𝐝𝐡𝐨𝐨𝐝 (𝟖)
“As a knight, it is my duty to protect the people of the feudal lord.”
“Uh. . . Yes. . .”
Joseph was beyond flustered and utterly astounded. Of course, he had heard the noble knights utter such words, but he had never seen anyone take them seriously.
They were just empty words used to adorn themselves, a facade to make knights seem nobler than commoners.
“It’s a joke. I never thought that way. It’s not even my fief to begin with.”
“. . .??”
“I’m just repaying what I learned from you. It’s only right to return the favor.”
Joseph had to conceal his overwhelming emotion that surged in that moment. Although he had always viewed knights and nobles with skepticism, he couldn’t help but acknowledge the truth now.
The young knight before him was a true knight indeed.
“Thank you. . .”
“Don’t mention it for something like this.”
Although he spoke confidently, Johan remained silent. In fact, he didn’t even have armor. It would have been truly embarrassing had he been without weapons as well, but fortunately, he still had his longsword.
“May I borrow a horse and gear?”
The manor was modest, but it was still a feudatory. The Aitz family didn’t manage the feudatory alone. Sir Gessen’s slaves and wealthy serfs, selected to serve, assisted in its management.
If it were a larger manor, there might have been a professional administrator to manage the feudatory or soldiers to handle such gear, but that was too much to expect. All these duties were undertaken by the servants.
As a result, the servant in charge of the weapons at the feudal lord’s residence couldn’t be too assertive with Johan. No matter how ambiguously noble Johan might be, nobility is still nobility. There’s a difference in status.
Reporting to Philip, the eldest son, or Mrs. Aitz? That would be madness. Johan might be humiliated for now. . .
But if Johan attacked him at night and broke his neck, he would forever remain a corpse, while Johan would merely receive a brief reprimand and confinement.
And looking at Johan’s physique, it seemed unnecessary to attack him at night. The servants at the feudal lord’s residence, better fed than the serfs, were well-built, but paled in comparison to Johan.
“I promise, I won’t damage or misuse anything. I’ve arranged to go hunting with the knights visiting the feudatory; I can’t go unarmed.”
“Well. . . that’s true, but. . .”
The servant sighed and nodded. There was no point in upsetting Johan by refusing needlessly.
“Please be careful with it. Please. . .”
“I understand. I understand.”
Johan’s voice was so earnest that he had no choice but to nod in agreement. Sir Gessen, while indifferent to many things, cared about the weapons in the feudal lord’s residence. The poor feudatory had invested almost all its money in these arms.
And the gear was expendable. Without ongoing maintenance and care, it easily deteriorated.
If the gear was damaged upon return, Sir Gessen’s fury would be unleashed on the servant.
“Don’t worry, I’m not like Fern or John.”
At Johan’s words, the servant’s face relaxed slightly. Unlike his other brothers who frequently bothered the servants with requests, Johan was relatively kind to them.
“Yes, Johan-nim is quite different from the two.”
With the servant’s help, Johan donned his armor. First, he put on a thick shirt made of hemp, covered it with a hood, and then draped chainmail over it. The helmet was open-faced, not covering the entire face.
‘𝘕𝘰 𝘯𝘦𝘦𝘥 𝘧𝘰𝘳 𝘢 𝘨𝘢𝘮𝘣𝘦𝘴𝘰𝘯.’
There wasn’t much difference between a well-made hemp shirt and a gambeson, a type of padded armor. The gambeson was just thicker and more cushioned.
Before coming here, he hadn’t realized that for a knight, the most important thing wasn’t swordsmanship or chivalry, but armor. The quality of one’s armor not only indicated status but also protected one’s life.
When he was young, he wanted to own a full-body plate armor, but Johan soon realized the reality.
Here, plate armors were much more precious than on Earth. They were masterpieces exclusively made by dwarven artisans using steel and rare metals. Only knights with fame in the kingdom could afford them. It was a world where a joke about a single armor being worth an entire castle made sense.
Typically, knights wore a gambeson, a thick cloth or leather armor, and then put on chainmail over it, finishing with a surcoat as an outer garment.
Even this was an excellent armament, far superior to that of ordinary soldiers. Wealthy knights either layered chainmail, added hard metal plates over it, or wore scale armor instead. Scale armor, made by attaching individual metal scales, was more expensive but much sturdier than chainmail.
If a knight killed a monster, making high-quality leather armor from its hide was a good choice. The hide of a monster was much tougher, stronger, and more durable than regular leather. If it had any special properties, the price could skyrocket.
Of course, none of this applied to Johan. He had neither the money nor special hides. He was more than satisfied with the armory available at the feudal lord’s residence.
“It suits you well.”
The servant’s words were sincere. Johan, already striking in appearance, looked every bit the part of a knight when armored.
“But why is there no crest on the surcoat?”
The surcoat, a garment knights wore over their armor, not only protected against sun and heat but also served a fashionable purpose. Knights would display their family crests on it to show off their lineage.
But Johan’s surcoat bore no family crest, just a dull color. The servant spoke with an embarrassed face.
“The dyer asked for such a high price, so we’ve put it off for now.”
“. . .Really?”
Johan suppressed a laugh. It was indeed fitting for the Aitz family. The servant cringed, fearing reprimand.
“Thank you. I’ll be able to go well now.”
Although not accustomed to being fully armed, Johan quickly adapted. His movement remained unchanged even though the armor felt a bit heavy.
“Are you alright?”
“I’m fine. It’s not even that uncomfortable.”
Johan made a clanking sound as he slightly tugged at the chin part of his armor. The other cavalrymen’s armor was similar to Johan’s, though theirs appeared better maintained and newer.
“I didn’t know Sir Aitz had such a brave son among his children?”
One of the cavalrymen said with a sly smile. Although respectful in language, the comment was a mockery of the Aitz family.
Of course, Johan was not at all bothered. Whether they mocked the Aitz family or urinated on the coat of arms, Johan remained unaffected.
Johan decided to act like a young knight from a lesser-known noble family.
“Ha ha. Our family is quite small, so it’s not well-known. I’m glad to be out here with you all. My father never gave me a chance. My dream is to earn distinction on the battlefield.”
“Did you have such a dream?”
“Isn’t it natural, being born into a knightly family? That’s why I admire you all, serving under a great knight like Sir Karamaf and achieving military exploits.”
The cavalrymen’s faces lit up with satisfied smiles upon hearing Johan’s words. Few disliked receiving compliments, especially from a noble’s son.
Commoners or serfs groveled before them, but their status was no different from commoners. They were not born into knightly families nor had they undergone a Knight Initiation Ceremony, being merely mercenaries.
Serving under an influential figure like Sir Karamaf, they would have been indistinguishable from mercenaries or bandits otherwise. So, Johan’s praise was genuinely pleasing to them.
“Ha ha! You’re right. There are no men as great as us. Sir Karamaf trusts us a lot.”
“Really? I might have heard about you from the wandering minstrels who visited our feudatory. Where are you from?”
“Have you heard of the wolves of Arkten? We’re from there. Sir Karamaf personally hired us.”
The feudal lords here didn’t keep many soldiers. Battles involved only a few hundred or thousand men. Johan was used to tales of tens or hundreds of thousands fighting, but the reality was quite different.
Maintaining a large number of soldiers, a financial drain, was madness. No one could afford it.
Nevertheless, skirmishes among the feudal lords, poor or small, were constant. Johan’s continent was dominated by feudal lords, each ruling their feudatory like kings, fighting over trivial matters.
And for these battles, mercenaries were always needed. They were the ones who fought in place of others.
It has always been cheaper to hire soldiers as needed rather than maintaining a standing army. As a result, both large and small mercenary groups roamed the continent, hovering around battlefields and seeking silver coins. The more the continent was fractured and filled with conflict, the more the mercenaries profited.
Wolves of Arkten were a fairly large mercenary group from the Erlans Kingdom. Even Johan had heard of them.
“Seeing their armor and horses, I thought they wouldn’t be easy to deal with, and indeed. . .”
The skill of a mercenary could be judged by the gear they wore. Those with expensive and high-quality gear were usually experienced and skilled. Especially if they were also mounted.
‘𝘞𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘦𝘹𝘢𝘤𝘵𝘭𝘺 𝘪𝘴 𝘒𝘢𝘳𝘢𝘮𝘢𝘧 𝘩𝘦𝘳𝘦 𝘧𝘰𝘳?’
He didn’t come alone but brought armed mercenaries with him. Although he said he came to meet Sir Gessen, his intentions didn’t seem benevolent.
‘𝘊𝘰𝘶𝘭𝘥 𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘳𝘦 𝘣𝘦 𝘢 𝘨𝘳𝘶𝘥𝘨𝘦?’
It was unclear how a country knight like Sir Gessen could have incurred the wrath of Karamaf, but a grudge was a plausible reason.
‘𝘈𝘴𝘴𝘶𝘮𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘪𝘵’𝘴 𝘢 𝘨𝘳𝘶𝘥𝘨𝘦, 𝘸𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘥𝘰𝘦𝘴 𝘩𝘦 𝘸𝘢𝘯𝘵? 𝘈 𝘥𝘶𝘦𝘭 𝘰𝘳 𝘵𝘰 𝘩𝘶𝘮𝘪𝘭𝘪𝘢𝘵𝘦?’
It seemed excessive to bring mercenaries for such a matter. Sir Karamaf could have handled it alone. Even if Sir Gessen had a few men in his fief, they would flee at the sight of Sir Karamaf drawing his sword.
“Wolves of Arkten! Was it necessary to bring them to such a tranquil place?”
“. . .Haha. Even for Sir Karamaf, it’s not feasible to travel alone, is it?”
Johan clearly saw one of the mercenaries momentarily fluster with confusion.
“What about the servants?”
Servants accompanying a noble were a force in themselves. Arming people made them soldiers. Even some basic training could make them better than a mediocre mercenary.
“How can servants chase away rogues? This is something we should handle. Besides, it would be disrespectful to have Sir Karamaf personally wield a sword against mere rogues. That’s why we accompanied him.”
As they spoke, the group gradually moved deeper into the forest. The path narrowed between densely packed trees. Joseph the hunter led the party at the forefront.