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Chapter 23

A Knight who Eternally Regresses

WE TRIED TRANSLATIONS

Translator: Ryuu

Editor: Abstract

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A KNIGHT WHO ETERNALLY REGRESSES


Chapter 23: Traces of the Niu 



"Listen for sounds that are different from usual," Jaxon said.


The recon team's departure was in the blue dawn before sunrise. As Enkrid gathered his gear, Jaxon, who had been on the last watch, spoke up.


"All of a sudden?"


Enkrid asked, unsure of what he meant.


"You asked me how to avoid getting hit by a sword on the battlefield."


Enkrid retraced his memories. The medical tent, the assassin's attack, the elf company commander, Crang, the fire. He had just returned from all that chaos to find his troublemaking squad fighting. No wonder his mind was scattered. He remembered asking that question just before dancing with death and the assassin.


"I understand how to listen well, but I can't stay focused on listening all the time in the middle of a battlefield. How do you dodge without looking back?"


Training one's hearing was fine, but it required intense concentration. Could he really focus on listening like that in the midst of a battlefield?


'It's difficult.'


Having tried it, he knew. It might become second nature with practice, allowing for near-miraculous movements against multiple opponents.


But just listening wasn't enough. Jaxon had been diligent. He hadn't ignored Enkrid's passing question and answered earnestly. And Enkrid was even more diligent. He never missed an opportunity to learn.


"You mean to sense the oddness?"


"It's good if you can awaken a different sense, but that's not easy. So in a grassy field, listen carefully to the rustling of the grass and find the sound that doesn't match."


Their recon area was a grassy field. The grass ranged from knee-high to waist-high. It seemed Jaxon knew this and gave appropriate advice. As he listened to the detailed answer, Enkrid asked curiously.


"Why are you explaining so thoroughly?"


Jaxon looked straight into Enkrid's eyes, as if to say, "You already know why." 


When Enkrid tilted his head in confusion, Jaxon finally explained.


"Because you're relentless."


"...What?"


Where had this conversation gone off track? Why was he suddenly being called relentless? Jaxon knew the squad leader's tenacity and passion for the sword. That's why he said it. But Enkrid had no idea. He was about to ask more but then closed his mouth.


Did the reason matter?


The troublemaking squad members were unpredictable. So reasons didn't matter. Here was someone to learn from, someone teaching, and teaching valuable content at that. Being pulled into the recon team, he could reflect on this and train while on the mission. Thus, he ignored unnecessary questions.


"How do I distinguish different sounds?"


Enkrid quickly erased any signs of confusion and got back to the point. Jaxon's gaze was peculiar. It was as if he were looking at a three-headed dragon.


"Why?"


"Nothing."


Jaxon continued explaining. What were odd sounds? How should one use their hearing? It was excellent. Enkrid enjoyed learning immensely and set off in high spirits.


"So that's how it is."


Jaxon continued to watch him with that peculiar look, but Enkrid didn't notice and turned away.


"I'll be back."


He walked towards the outskirts of the camp for his recon mission. Watching him leave, Jaxon thought.


'This doesn't make sense.'


He had recently seen the squad leader react to sounds from a considerable distance. His hearing range was quite wide. No one else might notice, but Jaxon couldn't be fooled.


It was just strange. Applying all the training methods he knew, how had the squad leader achieved this level?


'He has excellent hearing but is a novice at distinguishing sounds.'


It was as if he had intensely trained just to hear for a short period. But could that be achieved with mere training?


If he had dozens of spare lives, maybe he could train like that.


'It's strange.'


The squad leader was truly strange. Regardless, Jaxon had shared what he knew. And the squad leader would soon absorb it. Training one's hearing was hard. Distinguishing and categorizing sounds was just an additional skill. Returning to the tent after his watch, Jaxon saw Rem lying sideways, smirking at him.


"Your eyes are annoying," Jaxon greeted him.


Rem smiled softly and replied.


"Have you fallen for the squad leader's charm too? Watching him makes you want to teach him, right?"


"It's a fair trade. I owe him a debt, and I'll get equal value later."


Equivalent exchange Jaxon. That was his nickname within the unit.


But even as he spoke, Jaxon knew. Teaching the squad leader wasn't about getting something in return. It was an impulsive decision. Perhaps his recent impressive performance on the battlefield had left an impression.


Jaxon didn't think too deeply about it. Sometimes, acting on a whim wasn't bad. So this matter ended here.


"Fuck off, bastard. Acting shy like a girl."


Rem laughed and lay down, pulling the blanket up to his chin and soon breathing evenly. Sometimes Jaxon wondered. What gave that crazy savage the confidence to act like that?


"Go lie down. If you attack while I'm asleep, I'll split your head open."


Rem, pretending to sleep, said. Jaxon ignored him and found his spot. Arguing with him would only lead to more words.


"Damn bastard, never answers."


As expected, Rem grumbled after speaking.






The recon team's departure before dawn started off rocky.


"If we meet those Azpen bastards, we'll crack their skulls. Got it?"


That was the recon squad leader's command. Enkrid almost asked what he thought recon was, but the squad leader spoke faster.


"Troublemaker squad leader, you're just a soldier now. If you disobey orders, speak up now. We'll settle it with our skills. Unlike some, I didn't become a squad leader by kissing ass."


His tone was harsh. Enkrid wasn't angry. He didn't even feel particularly annoyed. He'd heard such insults countless times. Casual insults from those who didn't know him meant nothing. And he thought it better to quietly patrol and reflect on what he'd learned.


"Just bear with it. He seems to have a bit of an ego."


A gruff, older soldier beside him said.


"Don't worry."


"Good."


The soldier beside him smiled subtly, avoiding the squad leader's gaze. He had a pleasant impression.


"Let's move out!"


The team of ten, both recon and patrol, set off. Recon didn't always involve infiltrating enemy territory. This plain, known as the Green Pearl of the continent, was a vast grassland. To the east were gentle hills and a few modest mountains. But overall, it was a wide-open area with no obstructions. To the west flowed the Pen-Hanil River, the lifeline of Naurillia, which the enemy Azpen Duchy also shared. Due to the terrain, ambushes in this plain were nearly impossible.


So what did the recon team do?


They scouted enemy positions and patrolled the area. Checking for any movements during the day or night. Watching for signs of enemy cavalry or any unusual activities. They also checked key locations. 


Of course, recon was dangerous. They could encounter the enemy at any time. Skirmishes between recon teams often escalated into full battles. But such incidents weren't frequent. They shouldn't be.


"Let's show the greatness of Naurillia's infantry."


Enkrid thought the young squad leader was a fool, drunk on his own skill.


Was he some noble's bastard? Or did he have connections in the command? He looked about nineteen or twenty. It was a rapid promotion for a regular Naurillia army squad leader. But compared to true prodigies, he was nothing special. The recon squad leader seemed to forget their role entirely. Some soldiers agreed with him.


"Of course. With your skill, a few enemies are nothing."


"Show us the strength that took down five mercenaries!"


'This squad leader will be in for a surprise.'


It was obvious how this situation had come about. Recon soldiers had been injured, leaving them short-handed. That's why Enkrid and these idiots were here.


Even so, these guys were below average. But there would be no problems. The recon route was predetermined.


'Patrol in a circle around the camp.'


The detailed route was up to the squad leader. Enkrid organized the information in his mind, hoping the recon squad leader wouldn't mess up.


"These are nu footprints."


The squad leader pointed to tracks. Nu were animals that roamed the plains in herds. They traveled in groups of twenty to fifty.


"If we follow these, we'll feast today. Let's have a barbecue."


...Chase twenty nu? The tracks weren't even nu. They were gazelle.


"Well."


The pleasant-looking soldier behind him murmured. He seemed just as dumbfounded, glancing at the squad leader's back with a smirk. On the first day, the recon team wandered aimlessly, searching for nonexistent nu. No animal would present itself to a noisy group.


"Damn it."


The squad leader grumbled. If they had caught nu, would he have really started a fire? It would have been a sight. A recon team trying to be stealthy lighting a campfire.


'Might as well shout, "We're idiots!"'


It was probably fortunate they caught nothing. Before sunset, they found a spot with a hill and four large trees and prepared to camp.


"Where are you from, troublemaker squad leader?"


The soldier with the good first impression, who had been disdainful of the squad leader, asked.


"Border Guard."


"A professional soldier?"


Enkrid nodded. Border Guard was a fortress city on the frontier. It had farms and merchants but was fundamentally a military city. Full of training facilities and professional soldiers.


"I'm from a mountain village, good at hunting, but I was shocked when he called those tracks nu. They were gazelle."


Enkrid was just as shocked. They found common ground. The soldier's name was Enri. He had a gentle demeanor but clearly disliked the squad leader.


"Tomorrow, I'll show you something interesting. The plains may seem pathless, but animals have their trails."


After chatting for a bit, Enri quickly fell asleep. On his third watch, Enkrid recalled Jaxon's lessons. He didn't hold a sword but mimed the movements, reflecting on what he'd learned. The duel with Ragna and Rem before the recon mission had been helpful.


"Strike from any stance."


That was Rem's advice. He was training for that as well. Rem had shown him the technique. He had to train his lower body. Recon involved a lot of walking. Without horses, there was no choice.


'Walking is good.'


It was good for building leg strength. Despite only eating jerky, Enkrid didn't feel hungry. He was too focused on his training and techniques. His mind was occupied with what to do now and what to train in the future, his sword skills, Jaxon's hearing lessons, and Enri's hunting tips.


He purely enjoyed learning and improving. Of course, he also enjoyed applying what he learned.


'When I return, I'll spar again.'


Throughout his watch, Enkrid practiced distinguishing sounds. He woke the next watch and fell asleep. 


On the second day, after sunrise, the recon team set out again. In the morning, Enri taught him to recognize animal trails. He listened to the sounds of the grass brushing against his legs.


'So much to learn.'


Enkrid genuinely felt this way. Enri's hunting knowledge was fascinating. He hadn't had the chance to learn such things before.


"This way."


The recon squad leader led them into a field of tall weeds.


'Not bad.'


Despite his earlier bravado, the route was reasonable. It was one of the assigned checkpoints. But the squad leader soon shattered Enkrid's expectations.


"We'll cut through the weeds and track the enemy scouts. How about it?"


Was he insane? Enkrid almost blurted it out but held back. What could they see or track in the tall weeds? How would this lead to finding enemy scouts? Instead of just checking for anomalies or ambushes.


"Don't interfere. Not all squad leaders are the same."


A subordinate spoke, trying to calm him.


Heh.


Enkrid wasn't angry. He just wondered if he should let this slide. The decision was quick. He decided to let it slide. If things went wrong and he died, he'd reconsider the next day.


If not.


'We'll just waste time and return.'


It wouldn't be a loss for him either way.



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