The Biography of Albrecht – Chapter 33
Ludwig said with a smile, “Well, normally I’d turn a blind eye.”
Ludwig had misunderstood. He probably thought that Albrecht wanted to ransack this village by himself.
“It’s not what you think. Just let those kids go.”
Ludwig’s expression showed his confusion.
“And ignore this pot of gold? No. We have work to do here.”
Albrecht heaved a sigh. He realized he had been sighing a lot today. He felt compelled to protect those poor little children. Besides, he couldn’t just let it go since they were related to Eric somehow.
“I think it’s useless to tell you why I’m doing this. Since your family likes duels, then let’s just settle this by a duel.”
Ludwig smiled and shook his head.
“Though my dead old man liked dueling, not everyone in my family is crazy about it. Especially me.”
Albrecht answered with a stony expression, “I’ve already made up my mind. If you’re going to mess with those kids, then feel free to fight me or to use your soldiers.”
Ludwig stared at Albrecht. The smile on his face disappeared the moment he heard what Albrecht said.
He put his two fingers in his mouth and whistled, then he raised his hands towards the sky and made a circle gesture.
The soldiers looked at Ludwig’s signal and tried to surround Albrecht with their weapons.
Albrecht recklessly approached one side with his Thunder Axe. He swung his axe, cutting off the head of one soldier before the other soldiers could even finish surrounding him.
His experiences, especially the fight in Roybeck, had made his skills much better since he left Kaltern.
He had felt nervous when he faced Ernst and the 20 other soldiers before; now, however, he only thought of how he should end his opponents.
More than a dozen scenarios popped up in his head. He pondered how he should kill the soldiers without spilling much blood on himself.
The soldiers thrust their weapons towards Albrecht while hiding behind their shields, panicking and at a loss for what to do. They couldn’t even react even after Albrecht’s Thunder Axe fell again.
As Albrecht quickly and skillfully killed the soldiers, the astonished Ludwig planned to whistle again to make them retreat.
But just as he inhaled, the last soldier fell down with an axe stuck in his chest. His hollow whistle echoed through the air of the ruined village of Penbacht.
Dazed, Ludwig smiled helplessly.
“Ha, haha, hahaha, what the hell. It was downplayed. The rumors. About the Vertical Mangler.”
Albrecht drew his axe from the chest of the fallen soldier and swung it into the air a couple of times to shake off the blood. Then he walked towards Ludwig, rolling his shoulders as if he was stretching.
“Well, I’m a little better now than I was then.”
Ludwig stared at Albrecht as he breathed deeply and exhaled. He drew his sword and held up his shield. His stance was the same as Michael’s.
I rarely fight myself but oh well.
Other people wouldn’t be able to tell if there was any difference if they compared the posture of the two. However, Albrecht could see it clearly. Ludwig’s was still unpolished.
Albrecht swung his axe again, striking the ground. He pulled out Michael’s sword and adopted the same stance as him.
Ludwig’s eyes widened as he looked at Albrecht who was in the same stance as him.
How dare you!
He had always kept his composure, but now he felt ardor rise inside him.
Unconcerned about Ludwig’s ardor, Albrecht approached him and thrust his sword forward, mimicking Michael’s technique.
Ludwig was surprised to see how fast and accurate his attack was. He immediately tilted his head to the side and raised his shield to block. He couldn’t even seize an opportunity to counterattack because he was too busy defending himself.
With his eyes trembling, Ludwig asked, “Who the hell are you?”
“Well, just someone trying to imitate your old man.”
Ludwig became aggrieved and furious. ‘Shield Scaling’, a technique unique to the Vanhenheim family, was a tough technique to master. If executed a little lower, it would be blocked by the shield. If executed far above the shield, it wouldn’t be able to reach the opponent or the stance would collapse.
Speed and accuracy. Both were critical while the sword moved, scaling from the bottom to the top of the shield.
This technique had been kept in his family for years. Everyone in the family trained all their life to perfect it. Even him.
He suddenly remembered his past. A dog-eat-dog family. All the men in their family solved their problems via duel. With the exception of the head of their family, their hierarchy was determined by duels and had to be strictly followed.
From eating to getting toys, they had to defeat each other—under the pretext of having a duel—to defend themselves. Michael was their teacher, and he was crazy about duels. He always talked about it like a habit.
“If you lose in a duel, that means you’re weak. You have no one else to blame but yourself.”
The way the Vanhenheim family trained someone to become stronger was to make others feel inferior.
Ludwig longed to be the strongest, yet hated it at the same time. He reduced his time of eating and sleeping just so he could surpass the strongest one.
Those who were weak were ignored.
Ludwig was so sick and tired of it. He was less talented than his brothers. He worked hard like mad so as not to be ignored—no—so that he could survive.
Yet in just one try, Albrecht already surpassed him. He almost broke down at the injustice.
The difference of their skills was immeasurable. Soon, Albrecht was able to trip Ludwig’s leg, making the latter fall backwards.
Albrecht kicked his sword away. Ludwig couldn’t even move his arm which bore his shield as it was being stepped on.
Albrecht looked down at him, holding his sword close to Ludwig’s neck.
“You’re disappointing, Ludwig.”
Ludwig finally shed tears.
Those were his last words. Ludwig died coughing up blood with a sword stuck in his throat.
Albrecht wiped the blood on the sword on Ludwig’s surcoat before stowing it back in its scabbard. He searched the other man’s body, taking his purse and sword. Now he had three swords hanging on his waist.
I wonder if I should have sold Michael’s sword back at the garrison.
Merchants who followed the army sold loot at a high price yet bought them at a low price.
It was a good sword, so he didn’t want to sell it to them. Now he had no choice but to carry all three.
He looked around and saw the dead bodies of the soldiers. Then he looked at the mountain of supplies that they had stolen.
He turned to look at the children to check on them. Surprisingly, they were no longer frightened. Instead, they all looked at Albrecht with awe.
Oh, this isn’t good.
Randolph, in particular, looked very serious.
“How long would it take to get to your village?”
Unlike earlier, Randolph answered quickly.
“It will take half a day.”
“Then we’ll have to call all the villagers over if we want to bring those… Hmm, let’s see. I think we can bring them all over in a day…”
Albrecht quickly tried to think of a way. It was still early. If he and the children ran swiftly, they would be able to move all the supplies by today. It wouldn’t be good to leave them outside for a long time.
“You said your name was Randolph, right? Go to your village and ask the villagers for help. Run as fast as you can. You can’t take longer than half a day. Can you do that?”
Randolph nodded several times while saying that he could do it.
Albrecht ordered the other boys to take Ludwig and his soldiers’ armor and put them on the carriage. Then, together with Albrecht, they gathered the bodies and hid them in a corner.
Passersby would see the bodies easily if they left them lying out on the ground. They needed to hide the bodies so they would be found as late as possible.
All of the supplies inside the carriage were arranged properly and tied up tightly to avoid any problems when crossing over the high mountains.
It was almost midday when they finished all their preparations. The older boys sat down to rest, while the little ones ran around, imitating Albrecht’s previous fight.
Later, they took out some bacon, bread, and cheese from the carriage. The children seemed to enjoy their meal, probably because it has been a while since they last had a full meal.
After a few hours, they saw Randolph coming from the mountains with adults in tow.
Randolph said that it would take almost half a day to pass through the steep mountain, but that only applied to a single person taking a shortcut.
The carriages carrying the livestock couldn’t pass through so they needed to take a little detour through a valley to go to their village.
Albrecht’s strength wasn’t enough to push the carriages. If not handled properly, the ankles of the horses would break. Eventually, they decided to camp in the valley.
They were able to set up their camp and start a bonfire without a hitch. However, Albrecht encountered a new problem. Randolph stuck to him like glue. Whenever he moved, the boy would tell him ‘I’ll do it!’ even though he really wasn’t going to do anything. The little kids mimicked Randolph and said ‘I’ll do it!’ as well.
Because their leader was following him around, the little kids did the same. The older boys looked at Albrecht with envy, but they also thought that he was cooler than the heroes in myths because of his previous acts where he slaughtered the enemies and took their supplies.
Albrecht turned his gaze to Randolph, who was looking at him.
“Do you want me to teach you swordsmanship?”
Randolph’s eyes opened wide. He nodded eagerly.
“I’ll teach you once we get to your village. Stay away from me for now.”
Randolph quickly ran away from him.
Albrecht turned his eyes to the adults and saw their anxious gazes. They hadn’t had the chance to talk to him yet since he was busy the whole day with moving the supplies, but they were thinking hard whether it was the right thing to bring Albrecht back to their village.
However, they knew that this huge amount of stolen supplies could help them get through the winter. The livestock would also be valuable to their village in the future if they could take care of it. It was too tempting.
Albrecht didn’t care what they thought of him. He just wanted to get to their village and do his business. He leaned against a rock with his hooded cloak on and fell asleep.
The group set off again the next morning. As they traveled, Albrecht felt like the valley wasn’t as simple as it seemed.
They traveled all morning, repeatedly took some turns, and climbed a few low slopes. One would surely lose their way if they weren’t familiar with the valley.
They had their lunch at noon and got back on the road. At sunset, they saw a lake in the distance when they reached the end of the valley.
Once they were past the valley, a picturesque landscape unfolded before them. Hills surrounded the lake. The village was on a narrow flat area under a hill. The scenery looked like a painting. Even the shabby houses looked good against the beautiful scenery.
Under the reddish-golden glow of the sunset, the tranquil landscape of the lake, the mountains, and the village seemed romantic yet out of place in this wretched world.
All the villagers came out to greet the group when they saw them approaching along the narrow road at the bottom of the hill.
When they saw Albrecht, they all took off their coifs and caps with frightened expressions, put their hands to their chests, and bowed down. However, when they saw the huge amount of supplies behind the group, their faces slightly lit up.
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