How to Live as a Wandering Knight – Chapter 9

𝐓𝐡𝐞 𝐄𝐧𝐝 𝐨𝐟 𝐂𝐡𝐢𝐥𝐝𝐡𝐨𝐨𝐝 (𝟗)

𝐓𝐡𝐞 𝐄𝐧𝐝 𝐨𝐟 𝐂𝐡𝐢𝐥𝐝𝐡𝐨𝐨𝐝 (𝟗)

“How much further do we have to go? It seems like it’ll take all day.”

“We need to go deeper to find a place where it might appear.”

Joseph spoke calmly. Fortunately, it was Johan who was behind him. If it had been just mercenaries, they would have prostrated themselves.

“How do you know that?”

“Monsters tend to occupy a wide territory. Since there was no damage to the village where it appeared, it’s clear that it has settled deep inside the forest, probably taking over the territory of the wolves inside.”

Monsters behaved differently from ordinary animals, not hesitating to attack and consume their kind. If black wolves hadn’t come down to the village, the only place left was deeper inside.

“This is incredibly boring. Are there any deer?”

“It would be nice if there were deer.”

Deer were the preferred prey of nobles. Mercenaries didn’t often have the opportunity to hunt in noble territories, so it wasn’t easy for them to catch any.

“Hey, gamekeeper. Are you really doing this properly? Well, maybe try using some bait.”

Sometimes, gamekeepers in noble hunting grounds would also scatter bait. When they spread the bait, the animals in the hunting grounds would come to eat, and it became a habit for them.

By instilling this habit, it was easier to locate the animals when the nobles came to hunt later without having to do much else.

However, that was a luxury, and the Aitz family didn’t do such things. From Sir Gessen onwards, they hardly hunted and preferred to wander outside. Why bother with such things? Joseph’s hunting was more about tracking and patiently waiting.

“Monsters won’t need to do that. They’ll attack at the mere sight.”

“Tsk.”

The mercenary, clearly dissatisfied with Joseph’s response, tapped his sword hilt. Without Johan, he might have struck a blow.

Being with Sir Karamaf didn’t mean expecting chivalry from mercenaries. They were often rough and barbaric. The saying ‘𝘢𝘯 𝘪𝘥𝘭𝘦 𝘮𝘦𝘳𝘤𝘦𝘯𝘢𝘳𝘺 𝘪𝘴 𝘢𝘴 𝘨𝘰𝘰𝘥 𝘢𝘴 𝘢 𝘳𝘰𝘨𝘶𝘦’ wasn’t for nothing.

Without Sir Karamaf, it wasn’t strange for them to lose their temper.

“Joseph. Is that true?”

“About the monster? Probably. . .”

Monsters were several times more fierce and savage than ordinary beasts. Even predators like wolves would flee or keep their distance from armed knights, but monsters wouldn’t.

𝐀𝐰𝐨𝐨𝐨𝐨𝐨━

“!”

“Wolves! Is it the one?”

At the distant howling, the complaining mercenaries snapped to attention. The horses shivered and neighed.

“Stay still, you fool!”

One of the mercenaries scolded his horse and pulled out a cavalry crossbow from the saddle. It was small and less powerful, designed for shooting from horseback, but sufficient for hunting wolves.

“Gamekeeper! Is it the one?”

“No. . . It doesn’t seem like it!”

“Why not?”

“The howling isn’t from just one!”

“What? It’s just the cry of a beast! Are your ears rotten? Can we really trust this guy?!”

“What does a hick from a backwater hunting ground know, anyway. . .”

The mercenaries immediately burst into curses. Joseph cursed them inwardly.

‘𝘛𝘩𝘰𝘴𝘦 𝘸𝘩𝘰 𝘥𝘰𝘯’𝘵 𝘬𝘯𝘰𝘸 𝘢 𝘥𝘢𝘮𝘯 𝘵𝘩𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘢𝘣𝘰𝘶𝘵 𝘩𝘶𝘯𝘵𝘪𝘯𝘨. . .’

It seemed that the mercenaries had never tried hunting. It was clear that these guys had never roamed the forests or mountains chasing after wild animals, unlike killing people on the battlefield. Their lack of experience was evident in everything they did.

With such guys, there was no way this could turn into a proper hunt, even with all the rumors about monsters and the allure of leather.

‘𝘎𝘦𝘵 𝘦𝘢𝘵𝘦𝘯 𝘣𝘺 𝘸𝘰𝘭𝘷𝘦𝘴!’

And then, the gods answered Joseph’s prayer.

From all directions, the sound of wolves howling began to fill the air.

‘??!'”

“What’s going on, Joseph? You’re not usually like this?”

Johan asked Joseph in a panic. The wolves of this forest were cunning predators, not blood-crazed beasts. They knew armed people were dangerous.

Instead of retreating or avoiding human territory, they began to howl aggressively and approach.

“Monster!”

“!”

“It must be the monster. It has taken control of the wolf pack!”

Sometimes monsters would not fight but dominate animals. Joseph had heard such stories from an old hunter before.

Wolves, being pack animals, were likely susceptible to the monster’s control.

“Ah, finally showing up!”

One of the mercenaries exclaimed excitedly, eager to fight after a boring wait. Joseph, alarmed, shouted.

“Don’t shoot!”

“What? Don’t talk nonsense, hunter. You’re not the only one who knows how to hunt. I’ve chased wolves while working as a mercenary.”

The mercenary said irritably. Though he hadn’t hunted in forests and mountains like a hunter, he had experience in fending off wolves that attacked merchants on the road.

“This isn’t a normal situation. . .”

𝐖𝐡𝐨𝐨𝐬𝐡!

Without waiting for a response, the mercenary fired his crossbow. The bolt, sounding like a brief whistle, embedded itself in a tree with a ‘𝘵𝘩𝘶𝘯𝘬’.

“Can’t even hit a pup? Where’s your skill?”

“Shut up. They’re just messing with us.”

“Johan-nim, please make them listen!”

Joseph pleaded with Johan, but Johan shook his head.

“W-Why not?”

“Would they listen to me? Let’s just worry about our own lives. Whether they live or die.”

“. . .!!”

“How dangerous is this situation?”

“If the monster is controlling the wolves, there’s only one target. It’s going to attack us!”

Wolves appeared and disappeared among the dense trees. The rustling of bushes sounded chilling. Joseph muttered in a despairing voice.

“We’re being surrounded. . .!”

“This won’t do. Joseph, get on the horse.”

“Yes?”

“We might have to break through in an emergency.”

Joseph felt a moment of relief at Johan’s calm demeanor, then was startled by his own reaction.

‘𝘛𝘰 𝘧𝘦𝘦𝘭 𝘳𝘦𝘭𝘪𝘦𝘧 𝘪𝘯 𝘴𝘶𝘤𝘩 𝘢 𝘴𝘪𝘵𝘶𝘢𝘵𝘪𝘰𝘯. 𝘈𝘮 𝘐 𝘤𝘳𝘢𝘻𝘺?’

The wolves, having completed their encirclement, began to reveal themselves more and approached. They moved so visibly that even the mercenaries could clearly see them. The mercenaries fired bolts at them with curses.

“Why are these bastards hiding? Come out!”

“Why are they prancing around like that?”

The mercenaries were frustrated. Usually, wolves attacking on the road lacked patience. They would immediately pounce on carts or carriages, and the mercenaries would just pick them off one by one.

But these wolves were cunning and smart. They moved around, causing the mercenaries to waste their arrows.

Moreover, crossbows were hard to reload. It was slow on the ground and even more so on horseback. The tools for aiding in reloading were expensive, and few mercenaries carried them.

“Thud!”

As the last bolt sound ended, the wolves began to howl fiercely. It was a signal for the start of the fight.

“There, the bastard!”

A mercenary, mocking a wolf charging straight at him, twisted his body. He raised his axe-wielding hand, ready to skillfully strike the oncoming wolf.

“Watch out on the side!”

The wolf that rushed in had its windpipe cut, but it wasn’t the only one attacking. Another wolf sprang from the left bushes, targeting the mercenary’s exposed leg.

The mercenary’s life was saved by a comrade who quickly thrust his sword into the wolf’s neck.

“Argh!”

However, even in its dying throes, the wolf savagely bit the mercenary’s leg. The chainmail was either worn or unlucky, as the wolf’s teeth tore through the leg, splattering blood and tearing flesh.

“These damn wolves are crazy!”

“Gather! Form up!”

The experienced mercenaries didn’t lose their momentum easily, but there wasn’t much they could do. This was an unfamiliar fight for them.

The wolves moved differently than humans. Elastic and irregular in movement. While dealing with one in front, suddenly others would attack from behind or above.

Moreover, the wolves didn’t care how many of their pack fell. They aimed to bring down a mercenary or target the horse’s legs to bite. Even if armed, being thrown off a horse meant a high chance of being fatally bitten by the wolves.

More than a dozen wolves had fallen, but mercenaries also started to drop one by one.

“Damn it!”

A mercenary, acting as a squad leader, fiercely yelled and struck a wolf’s head with his round shield. Then he shouted.

“Shit! Let’s get out of here! We can’t even break even!”

“Hey, help me up!”

A fallen mercenary desperately shouted. But his comrades kicked their horses and fled without looking back. The horses neighed and began to run.

“Let’s escape too.”

Johan, who had been standing by idly, also spurred his horse. The wolves seemed to only target the mercenaries, allowing Johan and Joseph to retreat comfortably.

The howling of wolves echoed behind the retreating mercenaries. Unlike before, they shivered with a chilling fear. They never expected such humiliation from merely facing a pack of wolves.

🔸🔸🔸🔸🔸🔸

“They’re catching up!”

“Damn this forest path. The road is terrible!”

The path was narrow and littered with obstacles, making it slow to traverse even on horseback. Unlike earlier when the mercenaries were in formation, now they were riding in a single file.

A situation highly vulnerable to attacks.

The mercenaries knew this but had no choice. Stopping here would be foolish. And then. . .

‘𝘈𝘴 𝘭𝘰𝘯𝘨 𝘢𝘴 𝘪𝘵’𝘴 𝘯𝘰𝘵 𝘮𝘦!’

It didn’t matter to him if someone else got caught.

“Slow, isn’t it?”

“J-Johan-nim.”

“Don’t talk with such a pitiful voice. It’s creepy to hear a grown man talk like that.”

Joseph felt relieved at Johan’s joke. Johan was currently at the very back of the group. Their speed was reduced due to two people riding together.

They were extremely anxious about an ambush, but the wolves hadn’t attacked yet. The continuous howling indicated they were still being followed.

“Johan-nim!”

“?”

The mercenary lagging farthest behind was almost upon Johan. The horse was bleeding and running hard. The mercenary’s face was a mix of anxiety and fear, aware of being left behind.

“Leave that man behind!”

“What?”

“Leave him! I’ll explain later, damn it!”

The mercenary grabbed Joseph’s collar in a sudden attack, causing Joseph to choke. Despite this, the mercenary, with panic in his eyes, tried to push Joseph away.

“J-Johan-nim. . .”

“Ah, I see. To feed the wolves?”

“Yes! You’re quick!”

“Why bother when there’s a better target here.”

With those words, Johan’s fist crushed the head of the mercenary.


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