Even among the many nobles, the meeting was limited to those above the position of earl. Those gathered, both young and old, were as determined as ever.
“There’s so much work to be done, and I’m here wasting my time because of a foreigner. We need to persuade His Majesty today – no matter what it takes.”
The nobles were hell bent on concluding their month-long efforts to persuade the stubborn king.
“Exactly. I may be lacking compared to the other nobles, but I have the courage to speak out if it is for the future of the kingdom – even if this means I am forever hated by His Majesty.”
“Hate? Our wise leader will surely recognize your loyalty.”
An onlooker hearing their conversation would think there were no greater loyalists to the king.
However, in reality, all they intended in voicing their opposition was to put a check on King Theodore’s power. They did not want the already powerful House Adenstein to join hands with the decorated war hero.
“But anyways, His Majesty did not actually declare anything in the previous meeting, so I’m certain he will try to do so today. I’m somewhat worried there is a factor we haven’t yet taken into consideration.”
“He’s a truly thoughtful person, and like you, I am worried that there is something we overlooked.”
King Theodore had stated that the unproductive and exhausting meetings would conclude during their next gathering. This statement ate at the nobles.
What could we have missed?
“But even so, what could have changed? No matter his brilliant accomplishments, he’s no more than a foreigner lacking roots in this world. It is preposterous for such a man to be joined with the one and only heir to the kingdom. It cannot be permitted.”
“You are correct. Princess Ophelia will be succeeding King Theodore to the royal throne, and she cannot be married off to such an unworthy person.”
It must be stopped. The Adenstein royal family had already expanded their strength beyond reason during this past generation, and they cannot be given this new weapon.
“It cannot be Drachen. It most certainly cannot.”
The other nobles unknowingly nodded at the remark, only to flinch in surprise. It was not like the nobles to express their inner feelings, and this mistake was indicative of the impending crisis.
If it had been any other foreigner with a high-tier class, they would not have opposed the match so vociferously. However, they needed to stop Drachen.
Drachen was not just any foreigner. He was the owner of the never-before-seen class of dragon rider, as well as the one and only wyvern rider on the continent.
Advantages provided by distance or terrain were meaningless in front of the dragon rider capable of roaming the skies. The moment the royal family officially aligned their interests with Drachen, even the most remote places within the kingdom would be securely in the hands of House Adenstein.
If that came to pass, King Theodore could literally order the extermination of a territory at breakfast and have it come to pass by nightfall.
Normally, they would have wondered if a single foreigner could even hold that much power, but there was already a precedent.
The nobles were fully aware of how Drachen had harassed the Nocteins during the preceding war.
It was because of this that the nobles were adamant on avoiding the same fate. They needed to resist, even if it meant opposing the king’s will.
“King Theodore Tiberius Ro Adenstein, the rightful ruler of Adenburg, the most noble and wisest of them all, is entering!”
Having been whispering among themselves for a while, the nobles jumped up at the royal attendant’s loud announcement. Soon after, the door opened, and King Theodore appeared, surrounded by his retinue of gold-armored knights.
“Pay your respects to His Majesty, King Theodore Tiberius Ro Adenstein, the rightful ruler of Adenburg!”
The king approached his throne and took his seat as the nobles knelt and offered their respects.
“Ah, you may rise.”
Having been granted permission to do so, the nobles raised their heads.
“It seems like you’re all well-rested, seeing how you look.”
The king was the one who actually looked well-rested and satisfied. It looked as though the irritation and fatigue accumulated from repeated opposition by the nobles had been wiped out.
“There isn’t much time, so let us begin the meeting right away.”
The nobles’ hearts sank as soon as they saw the king’s relaxed expression. Despite this, they tried to conceal their emotions and carefully contemplated what they would say.
“As you know, this meeting today is to discuss what rewards would be reasonable for Earl Drachen’s accomplishments. Before that, I would like to once again confirm his achievements on the battlefield.”
King Theodore gave an official a look, and the official began to clearly recite Drachen’s acts.
“Earl Seon-Hyeok Rheinperle Kim Drachen fought the Noctein forces 66 times and defeated them all 66 times, and in the process, he neutralized around 20 infantry companies. In addition, he fought against the Knights of the Blue Wolves, the Knights of the Red Wolves, and two separate groups of royal mages. He is responsible for the deaths of 14 knights and 42 mages. Moreover, he had an even greater influence on the flow of battle through his elusive maneuvers, tying down the Noctein forces…”
Who else could have made such brilliant contributions in a single war?
Despite having heard this several times before, the nobles could not help but admire what the foreigner had achieved.
“That is all. His achievements will forever be remembered in our kingdom’s records.”
King Theodore looked proudly at the nobles. It was not clear whether he was reacting to the expressions on the nobles’ faces, or whether he was simply happy with Drachen’s impressive accomplishments, but it was undeniable that the king was pleased.
“I intend to give him a proper reward for his achievements. I will be opening the royal storehouses to give him gold bars equaling the number of knights and mages slain in battle, and twice that number in horses, cows, and pigs. In addition, the royal family will purchase as much silver and iron from the Rheinperle mines at market value as they wish to sell for the coming five years.”
The king continued on for a while. Considering how much Seon-Hyeok had done, the rewards were inevitably just as extensive.
“Materially, this is what I have planned. Are there any objections?”
“There are none!”
The determined nobles readily accepted the king’s suggestion. They cared little about gold and livestock.
“However, this alone is insufficient for the great achievements he has made. I intend to have the princess marry him, thereby welcoming him as a member of the royal family.”
This was the beginning. The moment King Theodore uttered these words, the looks in the nobles’ eyes changed.
“Your Majesty. It is true that Earl Drachen’s achievements are unprecedented, but they were simply the acts of a soldier demonstrating his skills!”
“I believe gold and livestock are sufficient as rewards!”
The king gazed at the nobles when he heard their strong opposition.
It felt as though they were exposed, seeing the piercing eyes unique to the Adenstein royal family, but the nobles did not back down.
“If you do not deem it sufficient, we, the nobles, will use our own resources to send laborers and goods to the hero of our kingdom! We will ensure that Earl Drachen does not feel slighted.”
If it meant avoiding a marriage between the one and only heir to Adenburg, Ophelia, and Drachen, the nobles were more than willing to part with their own wealth.
“Please do not let the dignity of the royal family, built over generations, fade away!”
The nobles did their best to claim that Earl Drachen was unworthy of marrying the princess. Nonetheless, King Theodore remained adamant.
“He has proved his worth by accomplishing the maximum possible as a knight, and as promised, I intend to give him the greatest honor a knight can receive.”
“He may have made great contributions, but it was his duty as a knight of the kingdom. Trying to determine a value for his contributions is tantamount to insulting his noble and sacred service.”
The differences in their positions could not be bridged. The nobles were determined to oppose whatever the king suggested.
“You can’t. You can’t. You nobles repeat the same words over and over again like parrots.”
Even pleasant words could be grating if repeated enough. However, what the nobles were saying now were anything but pleasant – they had been opposing the king’s will for days on end.
In a somewhat angered tone, the nobles answered as though they had waited for this moment.
“There is no doubting his talents, but please do not forget that he is a foreigner of unknown origin.”
“What does it matter that he is a foreigner?”
“Foreigners are different from us by birth, and there is nothing that can be done about their stupid and crude behavior.”
“If you reward such lowly people because they have talent, then the foundation of this kingdom will collapse, and we will descend into lawlessness.”
Perhaps thinking this was their last opportunity, the nobles did not hesitate to make inflammatory remarks.
“So, you are suggesting Earl Drachen is no more than a lowly peasant.”
“I’ve never thought so, but the fact that he’s a foreigner does not change…”
Thinking their strategy worked, the noble excitedly blabbered on. It was because King Theodore seemed to be smiling now after being disgruntled this entire time.
However, the other noble, after taking the lead in criticizing Earl Drachen’s origin, felt his heart sink upon seeing the subtle smile.
He knew well when the king smiled in such a manner, as he had witnessed it many times before. In each of those instances, an influential noble had lost his standing within the kingdom.
Belatedly realizing that something was amiss, the noble looked towards his colleagues.
The noble noticed that the others vehemently denigrating Earl Drachen had shut their mouths at some point. Only then did he realize that in his excitement, he had crossed a line that must never be crossed. He had become the cow selected to be slaughtered among the herd of cattle.
“Your Majesty, that is not what I meant…”
The noble tried to remedy the situation, but the king did not give him the opportunity.
“So, there is nothing that can be done…”
King Theodore spoke before the noble could offer an excuse.
“In the end, you are suggesting that Earl Drachen, as a lowly foreigner, does not have the right to stand alongside the royal family.”
“Your Majesty, that is not…”
The king did not listen to the nervous noble’s words.
“So, that’s what he says.”
King Theodore was not looking at the nobles, but rather behind him.
“What do you think about that, Earl Drachen?”
“Earl Drachen? What are you saying all of a sudden…”
At the unexpected development, the nobles asked questioningly as one of the gold armored knights behind the king stepped forward.
The face of the Royal Guard beneath the lifted visor was somehow familiar.
“E, Earl Drachen?”Previous Chapter Next Chapter