Though I had just announced that I would be ‘serving’ the Duke, in reality, I was just trying to buy time for Cornelius to arrive with the cavalry. It must have looked rather ridiculous for a chef to be pointing a hammer defiantly against a Duke, but that did its purpose of bringing a moment of surprise on his face.
“Guards. Crush him.”
With that simple line, four fully-armored soldiers advanced towards me, with their swords drawn. They were the closest and stood in between Eryn and me.
“No mercy, huh? I guess I should return the favor.”
I quickly drew the gun that was in my belt’s holster and activated my ‘Eyes of Providence’ skill. As the weak points started appearing across the soldiers’ metal armor, I showered them with rounds of pellets to increase my chances.
Feeling no threat from the toy in my hand, their advance didn’t even slow down as they let the beads smack against them.
“What mockery is this?” The first soldier who approached me yelled out.
Before the soldier’s sword could strike me down, I sidestepped and swung the hammer in my left hand at his chestplate. Knowing all about the Demon Cleaver’s supposed difficulty against armor, he confidently rotated his wrist to start a second swing.
However, his second swing never happened. The feeling of his chestplate shattering stopped him in his tracks. The sight of iron shards flying into the air gave him such a sense of disbelief that he didn’t even notice the hand that pressed itself against his stomach. A sudden wave of pain and discomfort enveloped him as he fell to the ground and regurgitated its contents.
This sudden takedown of the first soldier halted the other three.
I took that opportunity to smash the plating around the collar of the second and knock him unconscious. The third soldier only had a crack on the armor covering his right arm, so I smashed there and pressed him under the elbow. A jolt of pain caused him to drop his sword, allowing me to rip off his helmet and press him on the temple. The man crumpled to the ground.
Seeing what I had done to his fellow men, the fourth soldier tightened his guard. He had noticed the cracks on his thigh armor, in which he now covered diligently.
Given that I had far less fighting experience than well-trained soldiers, there were few options that I could take. The man took several careful swings to keep me at a distance. Some other soldiers tried to rush to his aid, but Eryn kept them at bay with her magic.
I activated my skill once again and carefully watched the sword dance around the air. Timing it with one of his carefully-executed swings, my hammer contacted the sword. As soon as the sound of metal rang through the air, the sturdy sword in the soldier’s possession snapped in half. The feeling of the sword being destroyed caught the man off-guard for just a moment, but that was enough for me to bring the hammer down onto his thigh. With another shatter of metal and a quick tap, the man could no longer lift his leg. He had temporarily lost all feeling there. Trying to take a step with the other foot, he tripped and stumbled to the ground.
Neither the Duke nor his supporters could believe their eyes. The reports had only told of my ability to directly attack an enemy’s weak points. By covering them with armor, that quirk of mine was thought to be prevented. As a result, the man that they had deemed as ‘insignificantly weak under the proper preparation’ had now overturned their expectations. The high-class, expensive armor and weapons that the Duke had supplied to them had been demolished effortlessly.
Fear crept across their faces as they lost the security they felt when the Duke promised them the best gear and men to take over the kingdom. The nobles saw for themselves several veteran soldiers taken down by a mere chef. Although I had special abilities, that nonetheless left a heavy blow to their expectations of holding the advantage in resources on their side. If a man such as him stood against the Duke, then all of their hard-sought funds would be wasted on gear that was as good as glass.
Just from that, the Duke’s supporters started to back away, no longer confident of their winning hand. As the Duke looked around at the others starting to fold, he couldn’t help but feel aggravated by this turn of events. Convinced that the chef could do nothing to stop him, he had planned to toy with him by dangling his domesticated master in his face.
If he had seen any hint of this unforeseen ability, he would have instead quickly disposed of him. What a blunder he made!
After I had taken care of the four soldiers, I reached down and grabbed the bundle I left on the ground before walking up to Eryn. The other soldiers that she hadn’t taken out yet still had their guard up, but I could see that they couldn’t make a move against her strong magic attacks.
I unwrapped the bundle in my hands, revealing a sheathed sword that glimmered as soon as the sunlight shone upon it, and held it up to my master. Eryn gingerly took Radiant Light into her hands, recalling the nostalgic feel of the sheath.
The next moment, she ripped off her veil and tossed it into the air, letting the wind cast it away. With a mighty tug, Eryn drew the sword and pointed it towards the Duke. The glare of the sun cast on the drawn sword momentarily blinded all of us.
“Duke Charlemagne, I, Senior Knight Faulkner, place you under arrest for the murder of my uncle, Roland Faulkner, and the attempted conspiracy of overthrowing the royal family!” Her voice boomed across the garden.
However, the Duke remained calm and composed.
“There is no evidence of my wrongdoing. None of the people here are willing to be a puppet in your attempt to sabotage me, so it is only your word to go by. Isn’t that right, Lord Chancellor?”
One man stepped out from among the crowd, followed by his familiar, Saki the Destroyer. Dressed in a fancy hat and overcoat, Chancellor Willingham carried a short staff in his hand in which he used as a tool to channel magic.
The Chancellor was said to be the greatest magician in the kingdom, though few had seen the depths of his power. He rarely exercised it unless it was needed during one of his investigations. His word was the law, and with the Chancellor on the Duke’s side, everyone would see Eryn and I as the criminals making a false claim against an innocent man.
The Chancellor motioned for Saki to draw her weapon, which she hesitantly did. As the two of them walked up to Eryn and me, the other soldiers backed away to a safe distance. I could see Saki biting her lip and her eyes looking to the side. It appeared that she wasn’t thrilled about having to fight her former companions, despite the short time we had traveled together.
“Might I join in as well?” Another voice sounded as he made his way through the crowd.
Roderick, Captain of the Royal Guards, had also been present. He casually walked up to the Chancellor and Saki before drawing his sword to face against us.
“Don’t think that your little parlor tricks will work on a truly, experienced fighter.” He waved his sword straight at me.
We had not expected such strong combatants on the Duke’s side. I looked over at Eryn, whose sword arm had faltered a bit. With no more time to stall, the two fighters stepped towards us. Saki moved over to Eryn’s side, drawing her out, while Roderick beckoned me to be his opponent.
The rematch between Eryn and Saki was one thing. It was hard to say who would win, but I was much less confident in my own matchup. In the little amount of time I had to brace myself, I could only focus and see that Roderick’s level was much greater than mine. 20, no… 25 levels above mine! I hadn’t even broken level 50 yet, but the captain was well in the 70s. They should have sent him to fight the dragon instead!
“Are you not going to strike? Then I shall make a move.”
Roderick dashed forward with a speed far superior than mine. If I hadn’t been used to Ludmila’s movements, then I would’ve been done for! My legs instinctively launched me away from the sword strike that hit the ground where I once stood.
As soon as I could move away, I activated my skill to scan for weak spots to target. Seeing where to aim, I let loose several rounds at Roderick. Unlike the soldiers before, the experienced captain dodged and deflected the pellets with his sword. No matter how much I shot at him, he calmly moved away from the pellet’s trajectories. With such graceful movements, there was no way I could expect to hit the small weak points that I targeted.
After emptying the current cartridge, Roderick saw his opportunity to strike me down. As I grabbed a new cartridge from my Item Box and ejected the empty one out, I had just enough time to react to his strike. Though I jumped away, the tip of his sword drew blood on my left forearm. Luckily, the cut wasn’t that deep, likely because of my defensive gear. It had taken the bulk of his attack power, lessening the injury that would’ve occurred otherwise if I hadn’t been wearing a chef outfit made of high-class material. Seriously, I was probably the only chef in this world to possess such an expensive servant outfit.
I shot at Roderick once again, but my efforts proved to be futile. This time, Roderick stopped dodging the pellets, and instead, shifted his body slightly to change the intended impact location. I could see that there was no hoping for any lucky strikes.
“I see. The hearsays were true. You can’t do any damage if it doesn’t hit the right spot, can you? It’s easy enough for someone like me to see where you aim and correct for that,” Roderick exclaimed with confidence.
Crap. If he could do that much, then it really was the worst matchup for me. All I could do was continue to buy time. Glancing over at Eryn and Saki, it looked like they were more or less on equal footing in their fight. Though, it was really weird to see someone fight at a high level in a wedding dress. I doubt it had much Def value, so it seemed like Eryn would have had an advantage if she had her normal gear.
“Do you really have the time to be looking away?” Roderick’s voice was close.
In the brief time I glanced away, he had dashed up to me. I felt a solid gauntlet slam into my cheek, causing me to topple to the ground. Looking up at Roderick, I could see that his blow had not been serious. He never once felt any danger, so he had held back.
“Give it up. You can’t win against me. You can’t win against the Duke and the Chancellor. This is way beyond your pay grade. It’s unfortunate that it’s come to this. The royal chefs can’t seem to recreate the same level of spice that you once showed me.”
I looked up at the captain, a man who was chained by authority. Though he had no personal qualm with me, obligation required him to side with those in power. His eyes pleaded with me to stand down.
“I see, but a chef never backs down once he’s committed to serve.” I continued to look at him, unwilling to give in to his plea to surrender.
With no more words to exchange between us, Roderick brought his fist down to end the duel.
“A butler’s duty is to serve. A chef merely has to prepare the dish.”
A hand caught Roderick’s gauntlet in mid-swing. As the two of us looked over to the source of that interruption, we saw a butler wearing a mask over his face, who had casually stopped the captain’s attack.
“What? Who are you?” Roderick said in surprise that his hand was so easily stopped.
“Me? You may refer to me as…’Butler Mask’.”