Kant shook the reins in his hand for a bit as he steered the horse he was riding forward.
To the east of the Nahrin Desert, the morning sun was steadily rising. It hung high at the top of the endless dunes, exuding its might to dispel the chill of night. Scorching heatwaves washed over the barren desert.
Except for the Jackalans, who had no concept of civilization, no other races were willing to step foot into that barren place.
That, of course, excluded Kant and his team.
Twenty knights, who wore mail armor under their robes, were riding warhorses. There were also 30 peasants, who served as servants. Right behind Kant were six horses pulling carriages with goods.
Kant sighed a heavy breath and frowned as he looked forward at the winding dunes. He flipped the hood on his linen robe over. His blonde hair draped over his shoulders. His young, supple face was plastered with dust.
His amber eyes contracted, making them look harsh as he rode.
They were in the Nahrin Desert, a world filled with sand and dust. It was a wasteland that had yet to be developed.
Before the place was conquered by the Dukedom of Leo 10 years ago, the desert had no signs of civilization. As for the Jackalan Tribes, they were primitive beings that ate their prey raw along with the blood and fur.
There was no doubt that the Jackalans remained the same even until now.
As the youngest son of the duke, Kant naturally understood that the desert was not considered part of the Dukedom of Leo.
Even though the dukedom had conquered the entire southern area of the Nahrin Desert 10 years ago, in truth, the upper echelons had only claimed to have taken the place with empty talk.
Most scholars within the dukedom did not acknowledge that the conquest had even happened.
On the map, the border of the dukedom remained at the Senwaya Range right next to the Nahrin Desert. The endless desert north of there remained unoccupied by civilization.
Those areas had been taken over by the Jackalan Tribes, so the place remained incapable of being used for herding or farming, which practically made it useless.
Even criminals and escaped slaves from the dukedom, who were at their wit's end, would not go to such a place.
"This is pathetic."
Kant shook his head and humbly smirked as he thought, I actually ended up in a sh*thole like this.
If it had not been for the fact that he had run out of options, he would not have stepped into the barren desert in the first place. Furthermore, it was still summer. The sun in June was like a bakery oven. Even the morning sun was capable of heating the entire desert to 122 degrees Fahrenheit.
Kant looked up at the sky. The sun above the dunes continued to rise.
During this season in the barren desert, noon temperatures could reach 158 degrees Fahrenheit, which was a temperature no one could withstand.
It is so hot!
He gulped a mouthful of sticky saliva and adjusted the breathable linen hood. His frown turned even more serious as he moved.
He hastened the horse before turning around to the team behind him and shouting, "Move it, people! Hurry up. If you don't want to end up being toasted under the sun at noon, we need to set up camp to rest before noon!"
Lethargic responses were heard. The peasants pushed the carriages, making them go faster.
They were all traveling on foot. With three carriages full of supplies, the team's speed was abhorrent.
The wheels of the carriages, which were crafted using hardwood and nails, were better suited to roads on the flatlands of the Dukedom of Leo. The wheels dredged through the soft sands, causing even the stout horses to neigh in exhaustion. Every step they took was difficult because the wheels kept getting stuck in the sand, requiring the peasants to push the wheels to be able to move even slightly faster.
Kant understood their predicament. He sighed seeing the team behind him move.
This is awful. Kant frowned.
Rowan, the captain of the knights riding behind him, rode up to Kant's side.
That middle-aged man, who was usually steadfast, looked rather anxious as he said, "Pardon my rudeness, but we'd really like to know how long it will take before we reach the Oasis Lookout."
Kant looked calm and kept his eyes on the winding, endless dunes ahead. He gritted his teeth before saying, "I have no idea."
"Well..." Rowan looked even more anxious after hearing the answer.
That was apparently not what he had hoped to hear.
The corner of Kant's mouth rose slightly. However, there was hardly any emotion seen on his calm face as he plainly said, "According to the calculations, we've been traveling for six days. If the map and route are correct, we'll reach our destination soon enough."
"We'll reach soon enough?" Rowan gulped, feeling his throat hurt from being so parched.
They had been marching through the desert for six days. Everyone had reached their physical and psychological limits. They had had enough.
That was especially so regarding the storage of fresh water. That day, it had hit the red line.
Fifty-one people and 27 horses needed their thirst quenched.
That was one of the reasons why Rowan was so anxious. He and the 20 knights he commanded, who all served as escorts, were allowed to leave as soon as they reached their destination. They did not need to stay with Kant and the 30 peasants.
The sooner they reached the Oasis Lookout, the sooner they would leave the dreaded desert behind and return home.
On the contrary, Kant hardly minded any of it. Even when they reached the Oasis Lookout, the destination at the end of the route was not something to be happy about.
It was where he would likely stay for the rest of his days, surrounded by an endless swath of sand.
He recalled the title he gained at his coming-of-age ceremony and sarcastically smirked. A fief was granted alongside the title. Boy, this is hilarious.
However, his eyes were only filled with coldness.
He was a baron of the dukedom, which was why he had a territory of his own.
It was conferred by his father, Cameron, the duke of the Dukedom of Leo, personally. He gave the Nahrin Desert, which had been conquered 10 years ago, to Kant for him to reign over as its master.
That included their destination, the Oasis Lookout, which was the only oasis the could be found in the southern parts of the desert.
Kant was a baron in name but lord of the Nahrin Desert.
However, no one knew that the place was simply a prison where Duke Cameron exiled his least favorite and youngest son.
Then again, desert or not, I have my way of getting by.
The sarcasm seen in Kant's eyes became even more pronounced.
As someone who was transported to his current world from Earth, Kant had his trump card, which served as a cheat in that world.
So be it.
Kant narrowed his eyes and looked ahead. A dialog box from the system appeared on his retina.
[Main Quest: Build a village]
[Reward: 1,000 Denars]
[Introduction: You can only become a lord by having a village. That is the first step to constructing your foundation. Please be careful.]
That was the main quest given by the system. He needed to see to its completion since it was tied to leveling up in the system.
It was actually simple to complete the main quest.
As long as Kant was able to get to the Oasis Lookout and have the 20 knights of the dukedom return home, he could rely on the powers bestowed by the system to build his village, bringing the buildings that only existed within the system to reality.
The village was but the beginning. As things progressed, the place could be upgraded to a huge city or a sturdy castle.
In the past, Kant was concerned that he would have no place to establish his village.
At present, after traveling through the natural border separating the Nahrin Desert and Dukedom of Leo, the Senwaya Range, Kant found that he no longer had to live under constant scrutiny as he had once been, always afraid of having his cover as a Transported and his cheat blown.
He did not need to think about where to materialize the village from the system quest.
The Dukedom of Leo was a conventional nation of the middle ages. The flatlands of the entire nation had all been taken.
Be it the hills, forests, marshes, or jungles, all of them had been taken by the nobles as their fiefs and estates.
The Dukedom of Leo had been established for nearly 300 years. Whether it was the greater nobles or the lesser nobles titled by the greater nobles, all of them had taken whatever land there was to take. The ranks of counts, viscounts, and barons had been firmly established throughout the years.
A new village that popped out of nowhere was tantamount to a failed investment.
It was easy to establish a village, but it was another thing altogether deciding who would eventually rule the place. Furthermore, none of the nobles would have allowed such a lucrative piece of land to slip through their fingers, even if the father of the one who built the place was the duke.
"The vassal of my vassal is not my vassal."
That was a renowned phrase from the western parts of Earth, which could have been applied to this situation.
As such, Kant was very careful with his main quest. If he were to lose his village, he would lose everything. He dared to gamble, but he dared not be careless.
That remained his attitude, even at present as he was making his way to the Oasis Lookout in the Nahrin Desert.
Kant knew that only the things he truly had command over would be his.
Thus, Kant had agreed to take the Nahrin Desert as his fief.
Things are going to better once we reach the Oasis Lookout.
Kant clenched his fists slightly. His breathing became more labored. However, he was actually very spirited.
He turned around to look behind him.
The 30 peasants, who wore cheap linen clothing, were exhausted and drenched in sweat from pushing the carriages. They looked to be of little difference from common peasants—subjects who were following their lord to his new fief.
In truth, that was not the case.
The 30 peasants were a reward given to Kant when he finished a side quest after coming to that world.
They were Kingdom of Swadia peasants given to him by the system.
Despite looking rather malnourished and appearing frail, all of them were around 5 feet 9 inches tall and stronger than their looks suggested. They excelled at working the fields and were laborers that any workshop would have fought over to hire.
Then again, being from the system, they were more than just average peasants.
If Kant provided the necessary training, including corresponding weapons and equipment, they could also become fine soldiers.
It was just like the leveling tree of the game, "Mount and Blade."
They could be upgraded to become reliable main infantry forces—Swadian Sergeants who were like walking fortresses.
They could be upgraded to become excellent ranged attack units—Swadian Sharpshooters armed with crossbows.
They could be upgraded to become Swadian Knights armed in two layers of armor as they rode horses. That was the unit known to be the supreme troop class on land.
"These people will serve as my foundation from here on out."
Kant quietly muttered to himself. His eyes glimmered with hope once again.
He sat upright as he rode, gazing at the faraway dune. He encouraged both the peasants and knights behind him. "Keep it up, people! We can take a break at that dune at the horizon before us!"
"Hurray!" The peasants cheered in a high-spirited manner.
The knights of the dukedom responded lethargically. If it had not been for Captain Rowan telling them that they were about to reach their destination, none of them would have probably been in the mood to even talk.
At the same time, those knights were looking at the Swadian Peasants like they were idiots.
They were unable to fathom why those lowly, poor peasants had come to the barren desert. Furthermore, they all looked very high-spirited as if they had high hopes for the future.
The knights thought the peasants were hilarious.
Scorching heat… Freezing cold… All manners of negative words and terms could have been used to describe the Nahrin Desert. The word "hope" had no place there.
They are indeed some ridiculous fools!
Rowan eyed the peasants with cold eyes.
None of them understood that the Swadian Peasants existed only because Kant existed.
Rowan looked at Kant and felt contempt in his heart. You're about to end up dead here, yet you actually brought that many with you! Does Your Lordship really think that you're a lord of the Nahrin Desert, the master of the Oasis Lookout?
He struggled to hold back his laughter at the thought.
None of it had anything to do with him. As soon as they reached their destination, Rowan and his men would immediately leave. They would not have even a moment of hesitation to stay behind.
In truth, those were not Rowan's thoughts alone. All of the dukedom nobles shared such thoughts. None of them thought there were any prospects to be had in the oasis, which had an area less than 3,229 square miles.
Furthermore, in the barren desert, the scorching heat of the day and the freezing cold of the night were not the only threats to humans.
The threat included those who had once been driven away and slaughtered but had never truly left the Nahrin Desert:
The Jackalan Tribes.