The Biography of Albrecht – Chapter 16
The travel routes during this era used either the main roads that passed through a territory or the side roads. Compared to the side roads, main roads were relatively safe. Though, passing through them required one to pay a toll fee.
However, there were also some cases where the territory’s Lord openly committed robbery against travelers, just like what happened yesterday.
After breakfast, the group discussed whether to use the main road or the side road.
“With Sir Knight’s strength, why would we even need to worry about using the main road? It’s not like the incident yesterday happens often.”
One of the mercenaries proactively shared his thoughts with the group. There were too many things they’d need to consider if they took the side road.
After mulling over it for a while, Benzel decided to speak to Albrecht.
Despite Martina helping Albrecht clean up yesterday, his snow-white surcoat was still completely stained with blood.
“Sir Knight, can I make the decision?”
They all have become overly wary of Albrecht after yesterday’s incident.
“I don’t mind.”
After they heard Albrecht’s words, the group immediately packed up their luggage and started their journey to Roybeck.
Diego walked up next to Albrecht’s side as he rode his warhorse, and handed him an arming sword and some coins—gold, silver, and copper coins.
“You should keep your loots.”
Albrecht smiled, only accepting the coins.
“I don’t know how to use it, though?”
“It’s no big deal. I’ll teach you later when we have time.”
Sometimes, Diego felt like Albrecht really came from another world. Just like now.
Skills such as swordsmanship, craftsmanship and architecture weren’t taught to others carelessly. They were usually passed down to families or kept as a secret through apprenticeship.
They lived in a society where it was reasonable to kill someone who stole your skills and techniques. It would be considered as self-defense.
“You’re really… Whatever.”
Albrecht only smiled.
Their group continued to walk along the road. They passed by a road between two small hills, and strolled down a low slope at a leisurely pace.
They didn’t have to worry about the Count of Halkenburg attacking them again. 20 soldiers had already been deployed yesterday. Dispatching more soldiers would leave their own estate unchecked, attracting bandits or—in the worst case scenario—attracting other Lords who could invade and destroy the Halkenburg Estate.
Once noon approached, the group had their lunch. During mealtime, Albrecht called Diego to teach him swordsmanship. He paid no heed to the others watching them, only focusing on fixing Diego’s posture and teaching him what he knew.
“It’s best not to get stuck in one position. These are only killing techniques anyway. If you only know how to maintain one position, you’d find it hard to pick the right movements that would fit your situation.”
Albrecht continued to lecture the resting Diego.
“But that doesn’t mean that you should neglect your posture. You usually don’t think about anything else once you get stuck in a life-and-death situation. The one I taught you is effective during those times. You’re more likely to develop muscle memory if you habitually practice. The posture that you need will naturally come out when you need it.”
Besides Diego, the men a distance away were listening to his words too while pretending not to.
Afterwards, they began to pack up their luggage and started to travel again.
They travelled for days without a hitch. They passed through a forest and saw houses from a distance. They ate and bathed at an inn managed by that estate. In their spare time, Albrecht continued to teach Diego about swordsmanship.
The group continued on their way to Roybeck.
One afternoon, the sun shone brightly on a bridge across a sparkling river.
Near the bridge was a small wooden building for accommodation. Two soldiers talking were seen near a tree, one sitting and the other standing. It was like a picturesque peaceful landscape.
The two soldiers saw a group of people approaching them, breaking the peaceful atmosphere.
“You have to pay for the toll fee. Three silver coins per head.”
Absurd. Toll fees were usually only two silver coins per person. If they needed three coins, that would mean they also had to pay for crossing the bridge.
One copper coin was worth one meal at an inn. One silver coin was worth ten times than that. Perhaps they were trying to take that extra coin aside from the fees that they give to their Lord.
Albrecht, who stood at the back of the group, came forward. When they saw him, the soldiers raised their helmets slightly as they gave him a salute. Then they looked back and forth between Benzel and Albrecht, surprise written across their faces.
“A-are you perhaps t-the Vertical Mangler?”
Albrecht asked in return, “‘Vertical Mangler’?”
The two soldiers scrutinized him more closely and found that his reddish-brown surcoat was actually soaked with blood. Then they saw an axe hanging from the saddle of his horse.
The soldiers were frightened and hastily told them, “You’re good to go. No need to pay the toll fee.”
Benzel loved saving money, but he was confused. Soldiers were never easy to talk to. They never took less than what they charged; otherwise, they wouldn’t take anything at all.
They were all puzzled. But then again, what happened was a good thing. All they needed to do now was to cross the bridge.
As they crossed the bridge, the soldiers glanced at Abrecht with fear.
Diego walked next to Albrecht.
“I think those soldiers who ran away probably spread a rumor about you.”
Even if that was the case, but to give him a title as a ‘Vertical Mangler’? That didn’t sit well with him.
A title was attached to one’s achievements and reputation, while an alias could be something that describes a person’s appearance or his notable deeds.
These two words have overlapping meanings and yet, they were completely different.
Titles were considered very honorable, except for some dishonorable titles. But because of this world’s poor keeping of histories, titles were only passed down as stories that left legends within regions or across the continents.
“‘Vertical Mangler’. Damn, it’s like calling me a dog.”
“Haha. Don’t be like that. It’s convenient to have a title. You won’t need another guarantor if you sign a contract and sometimes, some nobles pay more for those people who have their own titles. People do things just to get a title.”
It wasn’t that Albrecht didn’t understand Diego’s words; he just didn’t like it.
‘Night Slayer’, ‘Northern Tiger’—there were a lot of names they could call him and yet they gave him the title ‘Vertical Mangler’.
Every gate they passed by let them off without paying the toll fee. Benzel liked it very much.
He seemed to have saved a fortune.
Benzel had hired a titled knight with herculean strength for two gold coins and yet he was able to save the money for paying toll fees. There wasn’t a deal as sweet as this.
Benzel, who was in a good mood, kissed Albrecht’s ass from time to time.
By ‘kissing’, it meant offering alcohol and free use of prostitutes.
Albrecht only drank alcohol though. He liked the riesling wine made from grapes. It tasted better than the mead he drank from the houses he raided before when he had acted like a thug back in Kaltern. This was because Benzel ran a specialized brewery that produced wine.
Albrecht realized that he somehow lost his monster-like strength when he was drunk. Probably because he was still young.
While the harlots poured him a drink, Benzel tried hard to flatter him.
Diego looked anxiously at Albrecht from the sidelines.
By the evening, everyone had already set up to settle down for the night. They even prepared a drinking party. Benzel eagerly flattered Albrecht first before quietly bringing up what he really wanted to say.
“Sir Knight, there’s some guy I know back in Roybeck. Would you like to meet him?”
“His name’s Rutger. He’s one of the leading figures in the city. Sir Knight would hit it off well with him.”
Albrecht’s head was already quite muddled, but he was in a good mood. As soon as the wine was poured, he quickly gulped it down. The harlot next to him quickly filled up his cup.
What was he saying again? The calm, intelligent Albrecht also lost his mind when he was drunk.
Because of Benzel’s line of work, he often worked with rogues and so he knew how to deal with them. He had the knack of sweet-talking them.
Diego, who had been watching disapprovingly from the side, decided to intervene.
“Tell him that when he’s sober.”
Benzel answered with a snort, “What’s wrong with you? Do you think I could harm him?”
“Getting involved with people like you could also hurt him.”
“What? Who would dare to hurt our Sir Knight? Didn’t see you the capabilities he showed us the other night?”
Now he was calling him ‘our‘ Sir Knight. Diego couldn’t even answer.
Albrecht’s eyes slowly closed as he became unconscious. His face landed on the harlot’s chest next to him. The woman eagerly held him in her arms and gently caressed Albrecht’s hair.
Martina pushed the woman away and tried to help Albrecht sit upright. The woman also pushed Martina’s shoulder and scolded her fiercely.
“What’s wrong with you, you crazy b*tch?”
Martina pushed her again. Albrecht, unable to keep his body steady, immediately fell to the ground and slept right there. Martina desperately protected him.
“Your actions are way too obvious, you whore.”
The two sides began to quarrel. They grabbed each other’s hair. Elena and Anna joined the fight as did the other prostitutes.
Benzel gestured to his men to stop the fight so as to not hurt his ‘merchandise’. The male employees and the two mercenaries stepped up to stop the fight. Diego also did the same for the three girls.
A line suddenly formed between the two groups.
They were the ones who fought silently against each other during their travels. Diego’s side, which was outnumbered, was balanced out by Albrecht alone. However, the conflict happened while Albrecht was under the influence of alcohol and Benzel’s sweet talking. He was stuck in the neutral zone.
Benzel looked down at Diego and spoke to him, making sure that Albrecht was deeply asleep.
“Pardon me, but why can’t I act like you do?”
Diego was clueless about what Benzel was talking about. He answered, as if offended by his words.
“‘Act like me’? What do you mean?”
Benzel answered, his jaw tipping towards the treasure chest. “You think I don’t know what’s in there?”
Diego was taken aback. Benzel smiled shrewdly as he gave Diego a condescending look.
“Bastard. You told me back at the inn not to take advantage of this naive knight. You yourself do it, so why can’t I?”
Diego clenched his teeth and growled, “Don’t speak nonsense. It’s nothing like that. You may not see it, but Albrecht and I are friends.”
Benzel snorted as if what he said was outrageous.
“Don’t worry about those gemstones, I won’t steal them. But aren’t you fully aware of the fact that you’ll be faced with problems once you go to a city while selling those stones without some help? What guarantee do you have that you won’t get stabbed by some hooligans you meet along the way? What, are you going to ask your friend to protect you when that happens? You’ll come crawling back to us in the end. Don’t flatter yourself.”
Diego felt angry and aggrieved but he had no retort for the other man’s words.
Back when he was still in the merchant group, he was praised for being witty and articulate. This was the first time that he was left speechless.
As Benzel has insinuated, Albrecht really was the real treasure. As long as Albrecht was there beside him, he’d have the upper hand in any kind of business. This couldn’t even compare to any kind of gemstone.
They say that beauty was worth paying for, but so was a strong man. But Albrecht didn’t seem greedy about money. He was strong, and not materialistic. He was much more valuable than a treasure.
But the relationship between Albrecht and Diego was somewhat special. Diego intervened in everything and always got the upper hand. He was like an eyesore. He needed to be suppressed. Benzel thought that he needed an opportunity to teach him a lesson.
Albrecht slept through the night without a care in the world.
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