Chapter 16: Garden of Swords (1)
“I mean, why didn’t you tell me about the side effects of the transformation before?”
One hour had passed since the creation of the informal group of three Runcandels.
Outside the inn, the Black King Mercenaries were busy preparing to depart. Meanwhile, the three members of the new group were sitting in a circle in Jin’s room, having a friendly conversation.
“Kid, try sleeping for a thousand years yourself. When you finally wake up, your mind doesn’t function properly, alright? Anyways, I totally forgot to tell you about it. Not only that, it’s been so long that it’s hard to maintain a transformation.”
“You crazy dragon. You almost ended up staying in the form of a cat for eternity!”
A special privilege given to dragons only: transformation.
While it’s a privilege, it’s by no means an ability that can be called a ‘blessing’. In fact, there are a few crucial and fatal restrictions to this ability.
Firstly, a dragon in a transformed state is extremely weak.
If one transforms into a cat, they only have the fighting prowess of a cat. The same would happen if one transforms into a lion, fish, bird, or any other animal.
Secondly, if the transformation exceeds a time limit, the dragon becomes incapable of returning to its original form on its own.
Once they reach that point, the dragon begins to lose its ego and consciousness as the mighty beast, and will end up gaining the mind of the animal they transformed into.
“That was close. Too close. I was freaking out. In the past, I once saw a dragon transform into a fish and enjoy a leisurely life, but they ended up getting caught by a fisherman. I laughed for around 200 years because of that~ But damn, I almost ended up having the same fate…”
“Hahaha! I can’t believe there are actually such stupid dragons out th—oops.”
After accidentally letting her inner thoughts escape, Gilly immediately fixed her expression and attitude.
“Apologies, Young Master, Lord Murakan.”
“Why are you apologizing, Strawberry Pie?”
“It was unmannerly of me to laugh out loud while on duty.”
“Geez, are you some sort of golem, Strawberry Pie? Every human should be allowed to laugh, no? Oi, kid! Did you not even allow your nanny to laugh thus far?”
“L-Lord Murakan, the young master isn’t at fault. He treats me very well all the time.”
“If he treats you badly from now on, don’t hesitate to tell me. I’ll teach him a lesson.”
‘They’re getting along pretty well…’
Jin lightly chuckled to himself. He hadn’t seen Gilly be so lively in a long time.
“By the way, Murakan, do the restrictions not apply when you’re transformed as a human?”
“Yeah. There aren’t any huge limitations when it comes to transforming into a human. In fact, it’s more comfortable being a human. When we’re in our original forms, we continuously consume mana. It takes a lot of energy to maintain such a large body.”
“Why are there no restrictions for human transformations?”
“The gods were being considerate to us dragons. When we’re born, we look the same as humans, you know? In our dragon forms, it’s difficult to propagate as a species and satisfy our various desires, so…”
“Yeah, that’s already too much information.”
For some reason, Murakan was cracking up on his own as if he had heard a hilarious joke. Surprisingly, the corners of Gilly’s mouth were trembling as she tried her hardest to hold back her laughter.
‘I’m so done with them.’
Although that thought came to Jin’s mind, he didn’t really mean it. Even though this team was formed on the spur of the moment, Jin didn’t dislike their strange interactions and atmosphere.
In fact, he quite enjoyed being with them. Having trustworthy comrades he could share his secrets with was convenient and pleasant.
“Anyways, we’ll be leaving soon. Transform into a cat again.”
Murakan grumbled as he became an adorable black cat again. He would have to continue doing this until Jin became strong enough.
For the next two days, the Black King Mercenaries properly escorted Jin and company to the Mitel Kingdom’s capital. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to compare the mercenaries to actual knights for their surprising dignity and the courtesy they showed to their clients.
However, they never understood why their client picked up a black cat halfway through their journey.
The Black King Mercenaries just came to the conclusion that the tiny yet merciless overlord called Jin also had a childish aspect to him.
“Thank you for your work, Vice-Captain Murka of the Black King Mercenaries’ 3rd Corps. The Runcandel Clan’s main house will properly reward you for escorting us—which wasn’t part of the original commission—on a later date.”
“This mission was also a good experience for us, Gilly. I can’t wait to see the future of the young Runcandel you serve.”
Gilly and Murka exchanged their farewells while Jin watched from a distance with a cat on his shoulder.
“By the way, Gilly McRolan.”
“What is it, Murka?”
“I may be overstepping my boundaries, but I’ve come to admire you after seeing you in battle. Therefore, as a warrior who makes a living by fighting, I must ask you. Why did the McRolan Clan do such a thing to y—”
Gilly’s expression immediately darkened. Murka swiftly shook his hand and coughed loudly.
“I apologize. I shouldn’t have. If only I could punch myself from 10 seconds ago.”
“It’s fine. Well then, I wish you the best.”
As soon as the Black King Mercenaries took their leave, Gilly sighed deeply. Once she fixed her appearance, she joined Jin and Murakan, and they went to the administrative office of the Mitel Kingdom’s transfer gate.
“Welcome to the Mitel Transfer Gate. Do you have any identification?”
Gilly presented a dagger with the Runcandel emblem, the ‘Black Sword’, engraved on it.
“Oh! So you belong to the Runcandel Clan. It’s an honour to meet you. Are you headed to the Huphester Alliance’s Karlon City?”
Karlon is the city where the Runcandel main house, ‘Garden of Swords’, is located. In addition, the Huphester Alliance was a group of nations under the rule of the Runcandels.
“Please come this way. I will lead you to the first-class seats.”
Since the Mitel Kingdom was part of the Huphester Alliance, it was basically part of the Runcandel Clan’s territory. The manager of the transfer gate guided Jin and his companions with a beaming smile, as if it was the greatest thing to happen in his life.
“We will depart in two hours and arrive in the blink of an eye. I hope you have a comfortable journey.”
The Mitel Special Transfer Gate had a waiting room which was as luxurious as a rich noble’s living room. There was no other client using the first-class waiting room.
Jin leaped onto a soft sofa and took out his notebook as his body sank in it. He had gained the habit of using any free time to study from his days as a magician in his past life.
“Sigh, Young Master.”
“If I were to be fully honest, I’m quite worried. We could somehow find a way to explain your contract with a god and Lord Murakan’s true identity if the clan were to find out, but…”
“My magic is the problem, right?”
“Yes. That is the one thing the Runcandels will never tolerate and approve of.”
“Don’t worry. I’ll make sure to keep it a secr—”
Suddenly, the door to the first-class waiting room was swung open.
It was a young boy who appeared to be from a noble family. He had light brown skin, and seemed taller than Jin by 20 centimeters. He was accompanied by two escorts.
As soon as they stepped inside the room, the atmosphere changed. Tension grew in the air as Gilly and the noble boy’s escorts glared at each other.
This situation was inevitable, as Runcandels and Zipfels had come face to face in person.
‘Members of the Zipfel Clan? Who exactly are these assholes?’
Jin calmly observed the Zipfel boy’s face and pondered. His face seemed somewhat familiar, but Jin couldn’t quite remember who that was. He hadn’t seen many Zipfels from close up in his past life.
“No wonder I didn’t want to come to Huphester. My instincts were warning me that I’d come across these cocksuckers.”
The Zipfel boy, who was still by the entrance and distant from Jin’s position, muttered audibly. His escorts were now also quietly observing Jin once they were done scrutinizing Gilly.
It was just a childish provocation.
The veins on Gilly’s neck began popping out, but since Jin remained silent and was observing the situation, she didn’t step forward.
Murakan was walking in circles between the opposing groups, meowing as if he found the situation entertaining.
“Oh, at least the cat they’re raising is cute. Those cowards don’t deserve to raise such a cute pet. Come over here, kitty~”
The tiny Murakan leaped into the Zipfel boy’s arms. He let the boy stroke him for a moment, until…
The cat brandished its claws and scratched the boy’s nose before quickly escaping his grasp.
Seeing this spectacle, Jin couldn’t help but burst out in laughter.
“8th Young Master!”
As the escorts attempted to draw their swords on their waists, the boy raised his hands to stop them.
“I’m fine, I’m fine. It’s just a light scratch. No need to overreact because of a cat. I guess I deserved it for provoking them.”
(T/N: Good, I like this kid. No one should hurt pets, especially cats. Cats are the bestest~~!)
As he wiped the blood on the bridge of his nose, the boy continued speaking.
“…And above all, drawing your swords before Runcandels is a foolish act.”
The boy shrugged and directed his gaze to Jin.
‘I was mistaken. He’s not a coward, he’s calmly watching us. No, maybe he just doesn’t care about us?’
The boy had intentionally provoked Jin as soon as he entered the waiting room in order to check Jin’s reaction.
He wanted to know whether the youngest child of the Runcandels—who had just left the Storm Castle—was promising and showed potential or not. The boy promptly made his mind about the Runcandel before him.
“Well, aren’t you an interesting one, Jin Runcandel?”
The boy approached Jin and extended his hand.
“I’m Beradin Zipfel. I only provoked you to test you, but allow me to apologize properly.”
As soon as he heard the name, Jin finally remembered why the boy before him looked so familiar.
In his past life, Beradin became a 9-star magician by the age of 30, and was near-unanimously chosen to become the next Zipfel patriarch. As he was a famous and influential figure, Jin had often seen his face in the newspaper along with news of his achievements.
Having equally great skills and personality, he was highly popular and idolized by young magicians around the world.
Jin—who had just become a 5-star magician—also looked up to Beradin and considered him a goal he could never catch up to.
“Is that so? I was also quietly observing you to see what kind of a person you are, so it’s a relief to see you’re not a complete moron.”
“Oho, why did you make such a judgement?”
“Even if it was just a joke, had you allowed your subordinates to draw their swords, you would’ve had to travel around Huphester without any attendants. You would’ve also lost a couple fingers.”
“Haha, what an entertaining joke.”
“Do I sound like I’m joking?”
As Beradin received Jin’s cold gaze upfront, he flinched and pursed his lips.
“…Well, fine. You’re a confident one. But let me give you some advice as someone who’s in similar circumstances as you. Next time you meet a rude Zipfel who does something offensive, don’t recklessly cut off their fingers. It would stir trouble in both our clans, don’t you think?”
Beradin was warning Jin not to carelessly start a war between the two clans.
It was actual serious advice coming from a member of the enemy clan.
“Now that’s what a real joke sounds like, Beradin Zipfel.”
“Hm? Why do you say so? If the Zipfels and Runcandels fought to the death for every trivial issue we faced, the world wouldn’t be able to withstand the bloody battles. I’m telling you to keep in mind the potential disasters and chaos the innocent civilians would face because of us.”
“My father, Cyron Runcandel, and your father, Kelliark Zipfel.”
Jin smirked before continuing his words.
“Do you really think they would mobilize their entire clans due to a trivial quarrel between kids?”
Beradin’s eyes opened wide, as if he had nothing to say to Jin’s words.
“Even if I were to cut off your fingers today, the Runcandels and Zipfels wouldn’t go to war. We’d just have to pay a few thousand gold bars or something.”
Beradin stared dumbfounded and blinked several times before nodding his head.
“That was surprisingly enlightening and informative. I shall definitely repay this debt to you in the future.”
“Forget about the future. Repay it now.”
“Just wait silently until the transfer gate activates. Don’t disturb my quiet time.”