Chapter 9: Chivalry (2)
As Leon watched the imposing Dullahan in front of him, he believed his speculation had been correct.
“Indeed, a knight of honor.”
Leon summoned his sword into the air. It was an old but sturdy iron sword, emanating a resilient energy.
He had no armor. The armor crafted by the blacksmith god Heto, which had endured countless wars, had long since shattered.
With one hand gripping the greatsword, Leon looked at the Dullahan, who had his head tucked into his waist, and offered a considerate remark.
“You can lower your guard. Your swordsmanship is meant for dual-wielding. True combat cannot be achieved with just one hand swinging.”
At that moment, Hari approached cautiously.
“What’s the matter?”
“That… the Dullahan won’t die if you don’t behead him.”
“So… how do you plan to defeat the Dullahan without cutting off his head?”
“It doesn’t matter. Victory in combat signifies the honor of the knights.”
No, I mean, if he won’t die, then… Leon casually dismissed Hari’s words, entrusting his head to the skeleton and observing the Dullahan wielding his sword with both hands.
“The first knight of the Goddess of Light and Justice, Ariana. The Grand Duke of Dragonia and the Lionheart King. I, the honorable knight, permit you to challenge me.”
As soon as the anachronistic introduction and pompous declaration ended, it happened.
The Dullahan, who had closed the distance in the blink of an eye despite wearing clanking armor, swiftly swung his greatsword.
Thud! A dizzying sound resonated, but Leon didn’t receive a single wound from the greatsword. The clash of blades had brought them into a fierce struggle.
“Heh, so your strength is commendable?”
Hari inwardly denied Chief Kim’s words as he clenched his fists.
Leon’s sword was a plain longsword, while the Dullahan wielded a greatsword that could easily be twice its size. Despite the advantage of leveraging his weight from above, Leon showed no signs of flinching.
“What kind of power is this…?”
In terms of sheer force, Leon overwhelmed the Dullahan. Surprisingly, it was Leon who had the composure in that situation.
As the Dullahan attempted to strike down with his sword, gripping the hilt, Leon swiftly sidestepped and countered with a sword wrestling move, aiming for the Dullahan’s chest and heart.
No one was oblivious to the significance of his declaration. After taking two steps back, the Dullahan spun his body.
With a powerful swing, the greatsword, carrying the weight and creating a gust of wind, was aimed to shatter Leon’s defense.
Initially, it seemed as though Leon would parry the attack with his sword. However, he held his ground and forcefully pressed the greatsword with his longsword, driving it deep into the ground.
In the next moment, a kick struck the Dullahan’s chest. It was more of a push with the foot than a swift kick. Yet, somehow, the Dullahan’s posture crumbled, and his hip joint gave way.
Immediately, their swords locked, and Leon spoke.
The hunters who witnessed the entire scene couldn’t understand what had just happened.
Leon’s kick appeared to be nothing more than a light shove. Nevertheless, the Dullahan’s posture crumbled.
To anyone observing, it would seem as though the Dullahan had yielded to Leon.
“What on earth just happened?”
Among them, only Hari understood what had transpired.
From a young age, she had been a promising prodigy in swordsmanship, dedicating years to mastering the art of the sword.
Whether it was boxing or swordplay, there was one key emphasis in any martial art: the mastery of weight distribution and footwork.
Even with a light jab or a swift wrist strike, everything originated from the lower body’s weight distribution and the precision of footwork.
What Leon had done was an act of disrupting that weight distribution.
“At first glance, it seems like he concentrated his power in his right leg for the kick, but the real force came from the left leg that touched the ground. He generated a subtle vibration within a radius of 2.5 meters by channeling mana into the ground.”
A technique that shook the ground with just the stride of a foot. It was a double-edged sword-like skill that dispersed the opponent’s stance while even disrupting one’s own posture.
Leon executed it effortlessly, shattering the Dullahan’s footwork.
The kick from the disrupted weight distribution was merely a gesture toward someone standing at the edge of a cliff.
In that brief moment, he smoothly executed the intricacies of that subtle technique.
“Regain your stance.”
The Dullahan staggered and stood up again. The same pattern repeated.
* * * *
The knight commander, Dullahan, pursued honor and glory as a knight.
However, he had become the commander leading the army due to a curse from a tactical sorcerer.
Now, freed from the sorcerer’s bondage, all he could do was repel intruders who infiltrated unknown places.
Repeating the monotonous task, he commanded the army once again, aiming to repel the intruders this time.
Although the intruders this time included some moderately strong individuals, there were none that stood out as exceptional.
Except for one man.
He proclaimed himself as Leon Dragonia Lionheart.
He confidently demanded a knight’s duel with himself.
It had been a long time since someone treated him as a knight and requested a duel.
However, it was highly likely that it would be a ploy to navigate through the current predicament. If he had received a proposal to surrender, anyone would have judged it as such.
But Dullahan would have been furious at such foolish talk, tarnishing the honor of a knight.
Look at him.
Look at that knight.
The characteristics of a veteran surpassing countless battlefields, an upright posture, and eyes that seek honor and reputation.
He is the epitome of the honor that knights pursue.
The king of knights that all knights should revere and challenge.
How could anyone associate such manipulation with him?
“It’s the third time. Will you continue?”
The third death. If anyone had witnessed it, they would have said that the armor would have protected him anyway, and it was just forced.
But Dullahan knew. If this man had truly intended to kill him, he could have done so at any time.
This knight, who is like an idol to all knights, imparted a lesson to him and elevated his honor.
That’s why Dullahan, as a knight, could not help but be grateful.
Does this knight, this King of Lions, elevate him, who has fallen to the position of a commander, to honor?
He possessed powerful abilities as a commander knight.
A commander’s armor that can offset up to 80% of all physical forces.
A dark magic array that Dullahan’s mind can utilize.
Gathering skeleton soldiers and leading them as bone generals.
The powerful abilities he acquired as a commander knight. However, he didn’t want to use any of them.
He simply wanted to clash swords as a knight, upright and without any sorcery.
Again and again, he wanted to face this man and clash swords.
Now, like the days he had forgotten and lived, he wanted to engage in honorable battles with renowned knights.
“Ten times. Your swordsmanship is becoming more refined. Have you been searching through your memories from your past life?
Oh, honorable knight.
Dullahan realized the intentions of this knight.
Not just as a pitiful offspring of a commander sorcerer but also as a knight, he had returned the era of glory to him.
“Will you continue, knight?”
Dullahan commanded the skeletons to bring his own head. Then, he knelt down and offered his head.
It was a perfect surrender, entrusting his fate to others.
“Well done. It brings me great joy to see you regain your honor.”
Leon placed his hands on Dullahan’s head, who had offered his head with both hands. And with a solemn voice, he spoke.
“I will pray for you. May your chosen deity grant rest to your soul, or may the goddess guide you even to the edge of the garden if there is none.”
How long had he lived in a world consumed by slaughter?
How long had he spent in dishonorable fights?
“May I meet this splendid knight at the Banquet of the Gods.”
Dullahan was deeply moved by this knight who treated him as a fallen commander and prayed for him, blessing him.
“Let there be light.”
A light emanated from Leon’s hand. He had a sense that the warm light was guiding him. In his final moment, Dullahan demolished all the skeletons and bowed to Leon.
-Glory be to Leon Dragonia Lionheart!
His silent reverence echoed throughout the dungeon.
* * * *
The dungeon boss, Commander Knight Dullahan, fell.
Normally, that would be the end. Even if the boss was defeated, there would still be some minions left, requiring a calm time to clean up.
“You… kept your promise.”
“I-Is it really… over with a duel?”
In his final moment, Dullahan demolished his army of commanders by his own will.
With genuine gratitude, he accepted his fate, bowing and paying his respects to Leon.
“T-That light just now… What was it? It said ‘Let there be light’ or something.”
“…Wasn’t it divine power?”
Among awakened individuals, divine power didn’t exist. Even survivors claimed the existence of gods, they couldn’t provide evidence to support their claims.
However, if the power that Leon used to purify Dullahan in an instant wasn’t the divine power typically seen as the nemesis of undead or demons in novels or comics, then it couldn’t be explained.
“Well… If you had such a technique, why didn’t you use it earlier?”
Harin couldn’t express the words directly, but the thought crossed everyone’s minds.
“By doing so, wouldn’t that honorable knight meet his end as a commander?”
To revive Dullahan’s memories as a knight? To accept his own death?
“A knight is fundamentally a being who follows honor and reputation. Honor comes from actions, and actions stem from will. If one is a noble knight, then they would have naturally become like that.”
Harin didn’t fully understand Leon’s words. She had many things she wanted to say.
The consequences of failure.
Unreasonable actions and illogical arguments that didn’t calculate the risks.
But it seemed unnecessary to voice them out loud.
This man, even knowing all of that, would act as if it were natural.
It was not rationality, but sensibility.
Not logic, but intuition.
Not reason, but the flower that bloomed within irrationality.
Everyone knew that, which is why they couldn’t follow suit, making it a beautiful flower.
“Well, shall we go collect the spoils now?”
“If there was a battle, shouldn’t we rightfully collect the spoils? Step forward. You should take care of what is valuable.”
On that day, as they closed the dungeon, the guild hunters obtained unexpected spoils.
[The Necromancer’s Gemstone]
As well as other hastily gathered treasures from the boss’s demise.
“Wow! Look at this gem! It’s radiating tremendous magic power! If I sell this, it would be quite──”
“It’s just trash from a filthy necromancer. Such items only bring chaos.”
Other loot items, including magical gemstones, were obtained during the loot acquisition process. Although there was some commotion, the clearing of the Honam Plains Gate was successful.
Not only did they purify the contaminated land corrupted by demonic energy, but they also witnessed the miraculous blessing of the bountiful harvest. They flawlessly dealt with the crimson-grade gate as well.
While the Phoenix Guild and Lee Yong-wan watched with clenched fists, they reluctantly returned. For now, it was time to celebrate this achievement with everyone.
However, an unexpected issue arose in an unforeseen aspect.
“Your Majesty… W-we need to collect taxes for this… um, achievement?”
“Ugh! How can the government demand taxes from the King of another kingdom? This is the rightful spoils of our sovereign! Levying taxes on that would violate the law!”
“Well, no, you don’t have to pay in cash. Maybe you could use some of the loot, like the magical gemstones, as a substitute for the taxes…”
“The King does not count coins. How can the lower beings discuss such matters with the King?”
“No, Your Majesty! What should we do then?!”
“There is no need for you to report to the King. It is desirable to respect each other’s honor.”
“But, Your Majesty, are you really not going to pay any taxes?”
“Enough with this coin talk. It is beneath me.”
As the Hunter Association staff witnessed Leon stubbornly asserting his position, they couldn’t help but think to themselves,
‘This guy… isn’t he even worse than the Phoenix Guild?’