"…Is the Cho family one of the 9 big n.o.bles?"
Yuri asked as she brought out the oven braised pork ribs. Dolby shrugged his shoulders.
"Yeah. It's the highest-ranking person we've been in this village."
The Cho's little master being in town made commotions. It wasn't a good commotion. Yuri shook her body as if nervous.
"Is something going to happen? It's never good to get mixed up in n.o.ble's complications…"
"Don't be too worried. We, the guards are here to make sure nothing happens."
Dolby said spiritedly. Baan was lost in thought watching the two of them.
They were the most prestigious bloodlines in the world. There were stories it was ten instead of nine in the past, but that's not the important thing, rather the important thing was the fact that a n.o.ble was in the village.
And looking like he needed help no matter who saw him.
"I'm worried because of the guards. You can't get injured. Think of our child. You understand right?"
Yuri stroked her stomach and said. It wasn't full yet, but it wouldn't take much more time for the stomach to be full.
Dolby smiled and nodded.
"Of course. Don't worry one bit. Nothing is going to happen."
And it was before the meal was over. Someone knocked on the door. It was a messenger.
"The captain calls. Dolby, Baan. You both."
Dolby's face clouded up in tension, and Baan's in antic.i.p.ation.
Time has come.
"To sum it up, its simple. We need to escort Cho WooRyong here back to the cho family.
"…If you say we, you too captain…?"
"It's not an easy mission."
Aidan said with a nervous expression.
"We need the best. Even if we leave the village vulnerable."
It was a party of ssix. Cho WooRyong and his Knight, Aidan, Dolby, Baan, and the vice captain Goad.
Dolby seemed fl.u.s.tered.
"I… I'm included in the best?"
"Why. Because you lost to Baan?"
Aidan laughed bitterly.
"That guy is a monster. People can't say you're weak because you lost to a monster. Even Goad there rarely beats Baan."
"Hey Captain. Why do you have to put it that way? I'm going easy on him because it's practice. If it was a real fight …"
"A loss is a loss. I'm have your best interest at heart but keep it short. There's nothing to be gained by talking too much."
Goad scratched his head embarra.s.sedly. Baan opened his mouth with fists clenched. It was a voice exuding fervor.
"Do we know who they are?"
"… Yeah. Moon JangSa was just here and checked their emblems. It's real."
"If so… it's going to be dangerous."
Dangerous. As Baan said that, his heart was beating as though he met the love of his life. Aidan looked at Baan, and quietly said.
"Baan. I won't tell you not to be fired up. But don't get too worked up. It's not a good thing to befriend for a swordsman."
"…Ok, I understand."
"This temporary a.s.signment… can I refuse if its possible?"
Aidan groaned at the question. He thought it might come to that. It wasn't as if he didn't know Yuri was pregnant.
"It's not mandatory. We do need people to guard the village. But we will need to have volunteers."
"Hey, Dolby. You're really pa.s.sing on this? Think about it. It could be the first opportunity in your lifetime. It can't be common for an opportunity to gain a favor from a Cho family member?"
Goad stroked his beard and grinned. But Dolby had the expression of someone who couldn't rid himself of the hesitation. And it was then.
"So, I should probably tell you what the rewards will be for helping me. That'll probably help your decisions, right?"
Upon hearing the voice everyone turned their heads. n.o.body knew when he came, but a black haired man covered in injuries was smiling at them. He looked about the same age as Baan.
It wasn't possible to know how deep the injuries were, but the bandages around his body were smothered in blood. The man, WooRyong looked at Aidan with a calm att.i.tude.
"Hey Captain man. Can I promote a little? What the rewards are, what the risks are."
"… Please proceed."
"First the bad. Risk if obvious, it means you could die. The ones after me are the terrible rebels. I don't know how many. It could be five, it could be tens. It'll probably depend on how much of a priority it is for them to capture me, yeah?"
At those words Dobly groaned. Rebels. He knew from the stories how ruthless and persistent they were. It would be hard to see one in the village as it is located in the outskirts of the midlands, but to get tangled up like this…
"Now with the good. Uh, hmm… ok. Hey, the kid who's hesitant. Do you have a dream? Or something that you want…?"
"I'm not sure. It's not something I think about normally…"
"Ok, yeah. That makes sense. So how about this? A ranch big enough you can't see the ends, and an enormous mansion. And too many servants for you to count."
"I'll give you riches you can't imagine. Whatever your wishes are, I'll help you achieve them. Not just because you helped the son of the nine n.o.bles. All of you are on a chessboard larger than you think. If you help me, it's not just the head of the Chos… who knows ven the King would congratulate you with rewards."
"H, His Highness?"
"Ah, it's just an a.s.sumption. It's not certain. Anyway, what you have to do is simple. Escape the pursuit, and escort me to the Cho family's domain. So, let's make a quick decision. I don't have much time. Will you do it? Or not?"
Dolby couldn't open his mouth easily. And just then. Baan quietly asked.
"You said just now. You'll make my dreams reality no matter what it is."
"I want to become the world's best swordsman. Can you help?"
Baan was prepared not to be startled even if the man laughed. It was a common reaction. Even when his swordsmans.h.i.+p made leaps and bounds, the other guards would make fun of him for being childish.
But WooRyong's reaction was completely unexpected.
He looked at Baan and looked at Baan's callused hands. And for the first time, the smile came off his face.
"You want something more than riches. But… ok. A dream needs to be something big for it to be interesting. You're sure of yourself?"
"Good. Let's make introductions since we're in this together through life and death. You've probably already heard, I'm Cho WooRyong. The third son of the Cho family."
WooRyong held out his hand. Baan said as he took the hand.
Dolby decided to go along. Yuri was nervous for him until the end, but it was too much an opportunity of a lifetime to give up.
They raced their horses at dawn. It was a peaceful road considering there were the terrible rebels after them.
Even WooRyong who arrived like a corpse in the carriage was sitting upright on his horse as though nothing had happened.
"So, You've only held the sword for about one year?"
WooRyong was quite fond of Baan. It was probably because Baan was talking about the world's best on the first meeting.
"Yeah. About so."
"Pretty good. It's not insane to aim for world's best if you became the best swordsman in the guards in just a year."
Goad seemed to have a lot to ask to WooRyong's words, but kept quiet. WooRyong grinned and said.
"Did you know Knights can cut through steel?"
"…I've heard the rumors. I thought they were just rumors… but is it true?"
"Rumors? Haha, it's because you haven't seen the real monsters. It's just a cheap trick for the really strong ones. For a world's best swordsman. Hmm… shouldn't you aim to cut mountains?
Even Goad who was nearby was astonished. He thought this n.o.ble was making fun of them for being country hicks. It was too stupefying to believe in.
But Baan wasn't. He was used to believing in absurd things. Even now, isn't it stupid to say he'll become the world's best swordsman.
Just like WooRyong was fond of Baan, Baan liked this boy-like WooRyong.
As the sunset, they started a fire and prepared to camp. Dolby was uneasy because he wasn't sure when the rebels would show up, but WooRyong was calm.
"Their horses are just like ours. They can't possibly take horses as rebels. In the end they will chase during the day, and rest during the night. It's better if you all rest. Right? Captain."
"…It makes sense."
"We'll depart at dawn. Get a good rest until then."
The first night watch was Baan and Dolby. Dolby sighed upon seeing Baan stroke Lucas' shortsword.
"Are you not nervous."
"…I am. Why wouldn't I be."
It was just that he didn't dislike the nervousness. It may be because he has never known battle, but a part of him longed for a real battle.
"After this mission, I'm going to quit the guards. If I can actually have the ranch WooRyong promised… I want to lay down during the day and drink during the night with Yuri."
"… You never told me about your dreams before now have you?"
"It carried no meaning. When would an ordinary guard ever have an opportunity to live like that?"
"Yeah I guess so. So when I want to take a break I can visit you guys?"
"*Chuckle*, I can probably set aside a room just for you."
"That sounds fantastic. Alright. Let me have a rich friend for once."
The two chuckled. The meaningless chatter continued until Goad's turn to take watch.
'First time falling asleep while holding a sword.'
The night was still dark. Turning away from the fire, Baan hugged Lucas' shortsword. He fell asleep while he felt his heartbeat slowly hum through the sword.
And it was that night.
Baan dreamt a dream.
A dream featuring Lucas.
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