Riftan's POV - Under the Oak Tree - Chapter 21
Chapter 21 – Riftan’s POV
Translator – LF
Proofreader – Nymeria
After a moment of reverent silence from the crowd, a profound voice spoke.
“You may raise your head.”
Riftan slowly lifted his head at the command. Standing in front of him there was the Pope, unexpectedly tall and imposing. It was hard to guess his age with his white face, pale golden hair, and intimidating dark green eyes under thick eyebrows. He beckoned for the knights standing next to him and then two young holy knights approached, carrying a long sword.
“To you, who now stand here for astonishingly defeating your opponents. As promised, I will reward you with the Knight’s Sword.” The Pope solemnly declared, with a voice reflecting nothing but indifference. “It is said that this sword was in the possession of one of the first knights, Sir Miguel. The hilt of the sword is made with wyvern leather and the blade was crafted by a blacksmith from the Umli tribe, casting steel and adamant.”
Riftan slowly reached out and took the sword. When the unadorned leather scabbard slightly slipped off, a sharp, shimmering blade appeared before his eyes. It was almost unbelievable that a sword in such good condition was made in the ancient times. He looked down at it with awe and admiration, then a stern warning suddenly erupted from one of the knights.
“Sheath the sword right now!”
The paladin pointed the tip of a sword at him and gave him a cold look. Riftan meekly sheathed the sword back in the scabbard. Only then did the pope’s monotonous voice continue.
“This competition is a significant event that serves as a way to decide who shall be the owner of the Knight’s Sword. Your victory in this composition was accomplished through the will and guidance of God… Please do not tarnish it. Rather, respect the Knight’s sword, use it only for honorable causes.”
Riftan looked up at him, suspecting that the man was saying those words in a rather sarcastic manner. However, there was nothing in the Pope’s eyes but infinite stillness and composure. It was like facing an ancient tree in the shape of a human. Then, he clasped his jewel-studded staff with both hands and rose from his seat, exclaiming reverently.
“May God be with you.”
Thunderous cheers erupted from the audience. Riftan gazed down at the sword again, the Pope’s words echoing strangely in his head. He now understood the people who begrudgingly opposed, spitting through their gritted teeth that it was not a thing that should be coveted by just anyone. It was too precious and significant just to fall in the hands of a lowly mercenary peasant.
Riftan rose from his position uncomfortably, while the nobles spectating were looking at him with great curiosity, like they were witnessing a rare animal. Then, he climbed down the stairs, following the instructions of the paladin as he ignored curious glances from everyone. People gathered from his left and right, throwing petals as he passed by. Finally, he went through the dark aisle, drawing away from the loud cheers of the stadium.
That day, the competition’s winner was given an honorable invitation to the banquet of the nobles, but Riftan ignored it and didn’t bother to go. He had no intention of being turned into a spectacle, not to mention he didn’t have any clothes to match the occasion. It did cross his mind that the girl might come to the banquet, but he didn’t want to make a fool of himself any longer.
He returned to the inn and rested for a night, then left his room carrying his belongings the next day. Ruth, who was crouching at the top of the stairs, waiting, jumped up and ran to him.
“Heeey! Good Morning, Sir Calypse. Today’s weather is perfect for a journey!”
Riftan looked out the hallway’s window. The sky was cloudy and gray, and the roads were foggy. He snorted lightly and walked past Ruth as he went down the stairs. The wizard followed naturally after him, cheerfully chattering.
“Did you know that I almost swept all board bets yesterday? Ah! Don’t worry. As promised, I will give Sir Calypse a fair share. I’m not going to be shameful and turn back on my words.”
It seemed like nothing would spoil the wizard’s good mood that day and Riftan sighed as he left the inn. The chilly morning fog enveloped his body. He swept the bangs piercing his eyes and gazed through the hazy road, wondering where he should go. As he looked around with vague and clueless eyes, he suddenly felt a presence dashing fiercely towards him. Riftan quickly drew his sword, blocking a heavy blow just in time.
“As expected, you have great senses.”
Riftan’s eyes narrowed as he stood face to face with the knight he battled before his final match. Although the man seemed to appear genuinely accepting of his defeat before, the next day he came rushing out of nowhere. Riftan sneered and waved his sword at the knight suspiciously.
“Isn’t attacking your enemy from behind against a knight’s chivalry?”
“Is that so?” The knight blocked his attack, a smirk forming on his lips. “I’m just a newbie who has recently sworn the knight’s oath, so I keep forgetting.”
Riftan slightly backed away from him and gripped his sword tightly in his hands.
“You’re the only opponent that I favored during the tournament.”
As soon as the knight finished speaking his words, Riftan flew off the ground to attack. The knight barely blocked his sword that swished like the wind. The ground was carved, and his heavy body was forcibly pushed back a couple of steps. At once, the man’s free-spirited face contorted.
“How dare you… were you taking it easy on me?”
“…I just didn’t have intentions of killing you.”
He heard a crackling sound and Riftan immediately adjusted his stance. The style of swordsmanship that he learned from both studying and experience was based on piercing his opponents at their vital points, making them drop dead on the spot, so it was irritating for him to face situations where he had to brandish his sword against a person while consciously restraining himself from cutting his enemy breath.
Riftan deflected the large sword that flew at him at a terrifying speed and swung his sword towards the knight’s neck without any hesitation. At that moment, a chain flew in and wounded around his arm. The knight, who barely avoided having his head roll off his body, quickly backed away from him. Riftan quickly switched his sword to the other hand and looked at the direction where the chains came from. Against the mist stood a slender young man and the middle-aged man who talked to him back in the waiting room.
“What you’re doing is too much, I said we were going to have a talk with him. Why are you wielding your blade against him?”
“I just wanted to have a little fun. I wasn’t satisfied with yesterday’s match.”
The knight who suddenly attacked him groaned as he touched his neck that was nearly cut off. He seemed to be part of the company approaching. Riftan weighed the situation with his keen eyes, violently pulling the chain that restrained his arm.
The man with the slender physique lost his balance, stumbling at the sudden force. Riftan didn’t miss the moment and rushed in to swing his sword at the opportunity. However, the middle-aged man stepped in to block his attack and he gritted his teeth. The man was also skillful and strong.
This is starting to annoy me. He clicked his tongue, looking for the chance to strike again but the man hurriedly spoke.
“Hey! We’re not here to look for a fight. Stop it and calm down.”
“That’s funny. Does a person who doesn’t want a fight, suddenly attack me?”
A deeply embarrassed expression washed over the man’s face. He took a step behind and spoke in a more respectful tone.
“I apologize for the rudeness of my subordinate. He’s a crazy maniac for fights, and he can’t help it when he encounters someone stronger than him.”
Riftan glanced at his gentle face and squinted, turning to the one standing next to him. The young man who threw the chain at him and the knight who attacked him appeared to have no intentions of striking again. Still, there was no way he was going to let his guard down. Riftan kept a distance from them and spoke in a cold, chilling manner.
“What do you want from me?”
“I want you to join our knighthood. I’m here to invite you.”
Riftan smirked, scoffing in disbelief. “That’s the worst manner of invitation I’ve ever received.”
“Well, I guess this guy already had a bad nerve before we even started talking to him.”
The middle-aged man gave a stern warning look at the knight behind him and continued to speak with a sigh. “First, let me introduce myself. My name is Evan Triden, a knight sworn to the allegiance of Whedon’s royal family, a member of the Remdragon Knights. That fight-hungry guy over there is Hebaron Nirta, and the one next to me is Gabel Laxion. Both are members of the Remdragon Knights.”
“…Remdragon?” It was the first time that he heard the name. When Riftan arched an eyebrow, the man smiled softly, confessing meekly. “The Remdragon Knights are not that famous. Mainly, we are active in our duties in the southern region of Whedon. Although our allegiance is sworn to the family, we are more of a knighthood with broader freedom. We were doing a lot of independent activities, so we never really had the opportunity to make a name for ourselves.”
“Or because you guys aren’t really a big deal.”
Riftan muttered cynically. The knight named Gabel raised his head angrily, but Sir Triden kept his composure, grinning without signs of any displeasure.
“I feel sorry that you think of us like that. It looks like you don’t have a very keen eye for people.”
Riftan bit his lips shut. Certainly, Hebaron and the knight in command, who blocked his attack, were very skillful and powerful, they were incomparable to the knights he encountered while he wandered around as a mercenary. He kept his vigilance and spat out his words hard.
“I’m sorry, but I’m not interested in kissing the nobles’ asses. Go find someone else.”
“We do not serve noblemen. Rather we only serve one person, and that’s His Majesty, the King.”
“I don’t think that’s any different.”
“The difference is like heaven and earth. The Remdragon Knights only obey commands from King Ruben the Third. He’s the only one in Whedon who has the authority to give us orders. No other noble will order us.”
Riftan snorted. “Even if what you’re saying is true, will the king of Whedon favor a lowly mercenary who carries the blood of pagans?”
“You don’t have to worry about that. The Majesty seems to fancy you. He’s the one who ordered for us to recruit you into the knighthood.”
Riftan’s eyes widened at the unexpected words. He had been invited by several other lords to join their armies, but it was the first time that he had caught the eyes of a royal. When he started to show a hint of suspicion that they might have an ulterior motive, Sir Triden continued to speak in a calm tone.
“Also, about thirty percent of the Remdragon Knights used to be mercenaries. Hebaron Nirta was also a mercenary in the past. Of course, there are knights who are from noble families, including me, but this doesn’t imply any privilege or status within the knighthood. The ranks are based solely on skills. That’s the Remdragon Knight’s absolute rule.”
“That sounds nice.” Riftan commented frigidly. “You’re saying that it’s possible for nobles to favor commoners and all they have to do is prove their skills? If you thought I would be smitten by that sort of bullsh*t, you’re talking to the wrong person.”
“What reason is there for me to lie to you?”
The man tilted his head, genuinely puzzled and Riftan’s smirk faded away from his face. As the man said, it was true that he was a nobleman who had no reason to deceive commoners. Living in a world where even liars were ruled by lies, it might have become an impossible thing for him to accept anyone’s word as it is.
Riftan’s face slightly reddened, embarrassed that he acted as if he was someone proud and important. The man came up to him, picking up the discussion he had stained with profane words and filling it instead with friendly tone and gestures.
“I heard that you have quit from being a mercenary, do you plan on going somewhere?”
Perhaps the knight had noticed that Riftan’s rough attitude had dwindled and grinned pointing to his armor’s inscription.
“Isn’t it better to entrust yourself somewhere new rather than wander around by yourself? Basically, joining a knighthood is not very different from joining a mercenary corps.”
“The earnings are different.”
Despite his cheeky reply, the man maintained his smile.
“A top-notch monster hunter like you might receive a better pay as a mercenary. But being a knight ensues honor, it gives you the opportunity to build your land and castle when you make a name for yourself.”
Note – Nymeria: Guys I KNEW IT, I was 100% sure the dude Riftan fought was Hebaron! There’s feeling between us after all… Sir Nirta for the win!! <3