50 – 50. Hunt (1)
Despite the tumultuous times marked by consecutive incidents, Emperor Barbarosa proceeded with a hunting expedition.
Is there a malady worse than death for those who cannot hunt?
With Ludmila’s rifle slung over his shoulder, he gazed at the emperor.
Currently, Barbarosa was engaging in discourse with the influential nobles who held sway over politics and finance. All of them, with statures as imposing as the emperor, had once made a name for themselves as soldiers in their youth.
“You address me with such respect, Your Majesty! It is truly humbling.”
“Haha! The nobles of the empire should shiver at the atrocities of the socialites!”
The hunting ground was located not far from the imperial city, on the northern slopes of the mountains.
Valleys and ravines unfolded to the left and right.
And within the deep forest, numerous wild animals roamed freely.
Today’s prey, no doubt.
Perhaps something modest enough to avoid drawing too much attention.
He didn’t want to be a source of amusement for the emperor and the nobles by pretending to have mediocre skills. Yet, he also didn’t aspire to showcase unparalleled prowess and become the center of attention.
“Are you the sage of the Hohenberg family?”
“I’ve heard that you’ve achieved remarkable feats in the imperial city. Truly a chosen figure by the Holy Sword!”
Nobles who had been advancing ahead turned their heads and approached, exchanging pleasantries with smiles.
Whether they sought to build friendship on this occasion or simply wanted to display friendliness, it was surprising. Central nobles with a long history, much like the Valtaria Imperial family, were expected to have haughty and rough personalities. Or perhaps, they were showing an affable demeanor due to their close relationships with the imperial princesses.
“After firing the shots, pass me the musket.”
“We’ll handle the reloading.”
Three attendants followed in the background.
Ludmila had provided support as a specially assigned operative.
Naturally, other influential nobles also had a considerable number of personnel. The attendants, clad in leather armor, not only accompanied the nobles but also managed the rifles.
“Leaving them untamed for a few months seems to have attracted quite a number of beasts! Everyone, follow me!”
The emperor, with a striking pointed beard, commanded with a resounding voice, releasing any pent-up frustration caused by the influence of the socialites. His actions were unhesitant, as if he were attempting to release the built-up tension.
The sound of hooves echoed loudly through the mountains.
Startled, the wild animals began to flee.
The emperor, with the expertise of a seasoned hunter, aimed the gun and pulled the trigger. In response, a deer that had been desperately running away collapsed upon being hit by the bullet.
“Follow the emperor!”
“We shall demonstrate our skills too!”
Following that, the hunters who had been observing the scene joined in.
Simultaneously, the predators surrounding the mountain ridge unleashed a fierce and tumultuous uproar.
“I should play along to some extent. As Ludmila said, it’s a golden opportunity to earn points with the emperor.”
Aiming the gun, they targeted a deer hiding in the grassy field.
Precision guided the shot.
With a short gunshot, a brown deer spilled blood and flew through the air.
Without a moment’s hesitation, they signaled to their companion, who promptly collected the lifeless deer. The leather wouldn’t have suffered much damage since the shot accurately pierced its forehead. They decided to later gift the deer’s scarf to Ludmila.
“Look, a wild boar is fleeing!”
“Quite sizable… Capture it and present it to Her Majesty for approval!”
While consecutively hunting wild animals, a massive beast appeared.
It was a wild boar with sharp tusks, fully recognizing the humans as complete adversaries. The boar immediately released a hot snort, as if it would charge fiercely at any moment.
“Everyone, step back! I will catch the boar!”
A noble, adorned in a magnificent tunic, aimed a musket and shouted. It seemed like they wanted to be acknowledged for bravery by the emperor who was surely watching from the front.
Expertise was evident in their posture.
Undoubtedly, they must have experience hunting various wild beasts.
Hence, without hesitation, they pulled the trigger.
The bullet struck the boar’s head.
However, the wound was not deep.
The boar’s skull was as solid as a rock, preventing the bullet from penetrating completely. While flesh tore and blood flowed, it was not a fatal injury.
The temperament flared.
The fierce beast roared angrily.
No matter how skilled the hunters were, the reckless charge of the wild boar was intimidating. As the enraged roar continued, even the trained warhorses stealthily retreated.
A peculiar phenomenon was observed.
The wound on the boar’s head began to heal.
It’s an impossible situation.
The regenerative power of a mere wild boar is as swift as a demon.
Perhaps it’s not just an ordinary wild boar. Maybe it has been imbued with special magic to target the emperor and the high nobility…
“The wild boar is charging!”
“Protect the emperor! Kill the regenerator on the spot!”
Barbarossa seemed to sense an awkward corner.
He momentarily paused the hunt.
The knights assigned to guard formed a formation, surveying the surroundings.
Having ascended to the throne, the emperor, who had conducted a series of harsh purges, faced numerous threats as heavy as his infamous reputation. Therefore, he was extremely sensitive to any plots against him.
Following the wild boar, predators including wolves emerged.
A bizarre scene unfolded as if a battalion of beasts were forming an assault formation.
Is it the power of magic?
It was certain that they were being controlled by something.
They must have cast magic on the predators in advance to assassinate the emperor. The forces surrounding the hunting ground, protecting the emperor’s safety, would not thoroughly inspect every corner of the forest, including the regenerators.
* * *
The predators began to emit a daunting energy.
They were no longer mere animals.
They were now monsters with only slaughter in mind.
The knights guarding the emperor drew their swords simultaneously. Sensing the severity of the situation, they even deployed azure manablades in full preparation.
The predators charged like tanks trying to break through the formation.
The knights engaged in combat, and bloodshed unfolded.
“They’re monsters infused with magic! Don’t let your guard down!”
The knights, standing like a bulwark on the front line, wavered under the fierce onslaught.
A force as if colliding with a heavy tank struck them.
The beasts, with only slaughter and madness in their existence, were no joking matter.
The knights pushed back by the onslaught realized it with their entire bodies. A fierce battle unfolded as beasts spewing dark magic clashed with knights wielding swords.
The musket fired.
And another loaded musket was handed over.
Aimed at the boar acting as the leader.
It wasn’t easy to accurately aim at the wildly leaping beast, but it was certainly possible. The gunshot echoed, shattering the left eye of the boar.
The massive beast fell, blood flowing profusely.
But that alone was not enough.
The vital spot needed to be aimed for to end its life.
Swallowing dry saliva, the spectator who had been observing the scene hastily handed over a new gun.
“Don’t stop reloading. We might run short of bullets.”
It had to be sincere like this.
He had initially thought of hunting a few small animals or something.
But it had to be sincere.
The precarious situation was tied to the safety of many people.
Every time he received a loaded musket from the spectator, he aimed for the monsters. The roar of the transformed beasts echoed every time the gunshots resounded.
Wolves that had swiftly breached the knights’ defenses leaped onto the ground. Sharp fangs filled the wolf’s mouth as bullets struck it.
Each time the trigger was pulled, the knights’ expressions changed in an instant. Knights who had momentarily struggled against the monsters now ignited with a sense of triumph as they carried the snipers on their backs.
“The beasts are scattering!”
“Now’s the time! Let’s cut off their lifelines!”
Mana blades pierced the vital spots of the beasts without hesitation.
Perhaps due to reinforced magic.
Even when the vital spots were accurately pierced, the beasts resisted.
Then, the knights continued to stab the beasts until they became nothing but shredded chunks of flesh. Only when their throats were completely severed did the silence finally descend.
“The lamb we hunted is safely inside, right?”
“…Yes?” “I mean the lamb, the lamb. Do you know about the lamb?”
“Y-yes, it’s perfectly safe.”
In response to the abrupt question, Jongsu, who was handling the overheated musket, looked up.
It might seem like a sudden question.
But the deer he had just caught is a precious gift to Rudmila.
When things calmed down a bit, he checked the deer stored in the bundle. After confirming that the soft fur was well-preserved, he nodded.
“Are you okay, Your Highness?”
Then, he descended from his horse and approached Barbarosa.
As he got closer, he witnessed the determined efforts of the nobles who were desperately restraining the emperor, eager to join the fight.
“Ahem! Thanks to the nobles’ excessive concern, the baggage is intact. By the way, the marksmanship that flawlessly took down the beasts was truly remarkable. I wonder who taught you?”
“I just learned it briefly over the shoulder.”
You managed to see that.
It must have been a chaotic battlefield with predators and knights entangled.
Smiling wryly in response to the emperor’s deep interest and curiosity, he gave a moderate answer.
I wish he would just let it go.
– he thought, but judging by the piercing gaze, it seemed that the interest would not be easily withdrawn.
“Your Highness, a mysterious artifact was found in the bellies of the beasts.”
“It looks suspicious at first glance.”
The knight commander leading the escort extended a lumpy sphere found in the belly of a beast. Clearly, it was a magical tool that had caused the rampage of creatures in the hunting grounds.
Anticipating the entry of the emperor and nobles into the hunting grounds, they had prepared the beasts in advance.
The malice that had unfolded throughout the empire had finally reached the point of threatening the emperor himself. The nobles who noticed this immediately raised their voices, urging to find the mastermind.
“It would be a waste to suppress such perfect skill. Join us in the hunt from now on. With a marksman participating, we can easily capture even large prey.”
While conferring briefly with the nobles, Barbarosa suddenly turned his head and said.
What does that mean?
Will he use me every time he enjoys his hobby in the future?
The emperor, who enjoyed hunting fanatically, began to appreciate the flawless marksmanship. The reactions that had always displeased him so far were nowhere to be seen. It even seemed like he was encountering a companion to share his hobby with.
To a third party, it would seem that I’m enjoying leisure activities with my son-in-law.