Episode 86

Aftermath (2)
3 weeks ago
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When I entered Captain Dalton’s room, he sighed as soon as he saw me.

He said nothing but just looked at me, and I could see the desk covered with papers filled with not-so-well-written characters.

‘Those papers must all be related to Captain Hans Baekinde, right?’

Even though a mercenary group is a gathering of deviants who recklessly attack anyone for money and excessively indulge in alcohol and women, executing one of our own requires a review process and sufficient justification.

This case was more complicated because it needed to be clearly determined whether Captain Hans Baekinde, who had been requested for support during the war, failed to send reinforcements to me deliberately, mistakenly, or simply couldn’t.

“Martin, you’re here? Yeah, there’s a chair in the corner. Get it and sit down.”

Upon hearing this, I swallowed hard.

If it were going to be a short talk, he wouldn’t have asked me to get a chair; it must be a serious topic for a long discussion.

As I brought a chair and sat down, Dalton slammed the desk and gritted his teeth.

Was he angry at me?

It must have shown on my face.

Soon Dalton shook his head and said,

“No, I’m not angry at you. It’s just that thinking about that Hans guy, who deserves to be torn apart, is making me furious, damn it.”

He appeared distant and sighed as if his mind was troubled.

Someone insensitive might say something like ‘Is that so?’ and worsen Dalton’s mood.

But I wasn’t a fool who couldn’t read the room and end up getting scolded.

‘I should give Dalton some time now.’

After a moment of silence, Dalton sighed deeply again.

“Alright, before we get into the main discussion, there’s something I want to say. Can I?”

I nodded in response to his words.

“Ha, I’m being honest because it’s you. Hans wasn’t so exceptional in combat or command to deserve the captain’s position. He was just a contributor who had been with me from the start, so I pushed for him and put him in that position.”

“Is that so?”

“When he was appointed as captain, he vowed to work even harder than before. Despite some shortcomings in actual combat, he diligently compensated in other areas, performing well as a captain.”

I personally dislike Captain Hans Baekinde, but objectively speaking, since I joined this mercenary group, he never made a major mistake in his duties.

Even those who disliked him grudgingly acknowledged his work efficiency.

‘But that is completely separate from this case.’

Dalton ground his teeth with a hardened expression.

“So, I trusted him, but that damned guy stabbed me in the back.”

He suddenly stood up, clenched his fist so tightly that I feared the desk might cave in, and slammed it down.

“Honestly, as a former knight and a mercenary, sometimes I feel jealous seeing how fast you, Martin, are growing. Thus, I can understand Hans feeling jealous, talking behind your back, trying to hinder your promotion, and stuff like that.”

Being envied by Hans is disgusting, but it is natural for humans to feel jealousy and envy towards those who are better than themselves.

Regardless of my feelings, such ugly thoughts seem unavoidable.

Of course, understanding that feeling is different from trying to sabotage me and almost causing a disaster for the mercenary group. I plan to retaliate, whether by taking his head or by some other means.

‘Revenge should be returned a hundredfold – that’s the etiquette of a cultured person.’

“But, damn it. After gathering all the testimonies, it turned out that the bastard, a captain of our mercenary group, had the opportunity to send reinforcements to your platoon, Martin, but he didn’t. When I interrogated the lower ranks to find out why, they said that Hans was intensely jealous of you, always badmouthing you. When the request for support came, Hans didn’t say a word. So, when the others asked if they should send support to your platoon, he said, ‘Why should we help that show-off? No need to send support.’ From this, the conclusion I’ve reached is…”

Dalton took a deep breath and then said,

“This bastard, envious of your rapid rise, tried to deal with that emotion on the battlefield, risking the lives of 500 of our mercenaries and almost leading us to total annihilation.”

“…… I never imagined it would be that bad.”

Honestly, I hated Fior, that guy who made life difficult for me after I became a ten-man squad leader and before I became a platoon leader.

On a personal level or to an extent that wouldn’t affect the mercenary group, he’d harass me, but in battle, when asked for help, he would cooperate and assist to the best of his ability.

I never thought a person who rose to the rank of a captain would cause such a huge mess over petty jealousy.

‘I can’t believe it, it’s infuriating.’

“The crime is severe, so this guy deserves nothing less than ‘execution’ according to the laws of the mercenary group. We’ll gather everyone in a few days and behead him. What do you think?”

Of course, someone who tried to kill not only me but also other members of our mercenary group deserved the death penalty.

‘But just a simple beheading? Seems a bit mild…’

He tried to kill me, so it seemed right to execute him more dramatically.

“He attempted to endanger the entire mercenary group. Why not cut off his limbs one by one before beheading him? After all, in the mercenary group, stealing or attempting to steal something worth more than five gold coins leads to beheading. It seems only fair to differentiate.”

“Let’s do that. And also…”

Dalton forced a smile and handed me an order.

“What is this?”

“Just read it, kid. Why all the questions?”

Reading the order Dalton gave, it said:

[Replacing Hans of the 3rd Battalion of the Whitebeard Mercenary Group, Martin Meyer is appointed as the captain of the 3rd Battalion.]

If this had been a regular army under a noble, the language would have been much more pompous, but as it was from a mercenary group, it was written succinctly.

“Hans is going to be killed, but those who need to be promoted should be promoted. The war isn’t over yet, so no bonus for now, but with a vacancy, I’ve promoted you. Any objections?”

Frankly, my abilities are sufficient.

I should be able to manage a battalion well enough.

“Who would refuse a promotion? And since Hans is getting what he deserves, I see no reason to complain.”

“That’s the spirit. But what about the execution? If you’re willing, it would be proper for you to execute Hans yourself.”

So far, I’ve killed plenty of enemies, but executing one of our own would be a first for me.

Hesitating for a moment, I reconsidered after seeing Dalton’s expression.

He wasn’t crying or tearing up, but his eyes were laden with heaviness…

Typically, Dalton, as the leader of the mercenary group, should carry out the execution…

‘It seems he finds it difficult to execute Hans because of their past, despite Hans’ actions deserving death.’

For me, executing him isn’t difficult or troublesome, but for Dalton, it seems to weigh on his conscience…

Actually, it feels much more appropriate for me to do it, as a way to settle my grudge against him.

Revenge is best served with one’s own hands—it’s cleaner and more satisfying.

“Alright, I’ll do it.”

Dalton’s expression brightened slightly at my words.

“Really?”

“He tried to screw me over, so it’s only fitting that I should be the one to execute him.”

Dalton patted my shoulder.

“Thanks. And after you’ve executed Hans, go see Baron Pappenheim. He wants to meet with you face to face to discuss something. He wants to hear your opinion on what our army should do next. Try to talk some sense into that idiot and make sure he doesn’t mess up. I really appreciate it.”

…Damn, I had stopped thinking for a moment.

And a few days later, in an open field outside Marseill Castle,

I stood there to execute Hans, the ‘former’ captain, in Captain Dalton’s stead.

Hans, who had beheaded countless people as a mercenary, was trembling even before he climbed onto the scaffold.

Gagged, he couldn’t say anything meaningful, but it seemed like he would beg for his life if he were free.

The recitation of the prisoner’s crimes had just finished.

The other mercenaries brought Hans to the execution stand and laid him down.

Then I tied his arms and legs to a cross-shaped frame, making it easier to sever his limbs.

“Remove the gag; let’s hear his last words.”

They removed the gag from Hans’ mouth.

“Damn it, save me! What I did isn’t worthy of death! Can’t we settle for banishment? Martin, please talk to the captain. Damn it, frankly, what good does my death do you? You’re becoming a captain because of me; you’ve reaped all the benefits. Just let me live.”

I felt like slapping him a few times, but hitting a condemned prisoner isn’t exactly noble…

“Shut up before I grind your face on the rock. You know well that because of you, our entire mercenary group nearly got wiped out. And you still hope to live?”

As I said this, the men below all jeered.

“Even if you hated Captain Martin, there are things you do and things you don’t do!”

“Should’ve challenged me to a duel or something. What the hell is this!”

“Our guys almost died because of you! Die like a man, just shut up and die!”

Amid their shouting, I whispered into Hans’ ear.

“Still, I’m thankful. Thanks to you, Lucia will soon be mine, and I’ll gladly take your captain position.”

Nothing irked the opponent more than thanking a man about to be executed.

“Execute!”

With that command, I lifted the executioner’s sword and severed one of his legs.

“Aaaah! Damn it!!”

A clumsy executioner might take several swings to sever limbs or a head, but not me.

‘If I can’t do it in one go here, it’ll bring my skill into question.’

Then, as I severed his other leg and both arms in succession…

Hans screamed to be killed quickly, and the guys below clapped and cheered.

“Look at Captain Martin’s skill! So impressive.”

“It’s not easy to cut off a leg with one stroke…”

“Damn it, kill him! Kill him!”

Given the severity of his crime and a culture that saw execution as a spectacle, the crowd was really fired up.

I raised my executioner’s sword high in response.

“This is the end!”

Then, I struck down upon Hans’ neck.

His head fell into a wooden bucket, and everyone shouted in unison, “Hooray!”

Inside, I felt nothing but relief; severing the head of the man who tried to screw me over was incredibly satisfying.

A few days later, Baron Pappenheim summoned me.

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