Episode 140. From a Child to a Girl (1)

“I am a foreigner.”

The princess’ eyes opened wide at the somewhat unexpected start to his response. Her appearance now was reminiscent of when Seon-Hyeok first met her.

“My opinions and values are naturally different from those with their roots here.”

Regardless of whether her age was considered sufficient in this world, he could not feel the same way. Even if he could somehow convince himself otherwise, he would not be able to truly accept it.

For him, the princess was no more than a mature child even now, after she had grown up so much in the preceding months. It was off-putting to even consider whether he liked or disliked such a child.

Hearing his explanation, the princess asked with a subdued expression.

“So you’re saying you don’t like me.”

“That’s not it.”

At first, he had considered her tedious to deal with. However, since then, the princess had helped him both materially and emotionally, and she had never once made an unreasonable demand of him. In that sense, he leaned on the side of liking her.

Nonetheless, this represented his positive opinion of the princess as a human being. It was not suggestive of his attraction to her as a woman.

“Then that’s fine. It seems you can overanalyze matters and be a bit long-winded.”

Seon-Hyeok was not sure whether he had poorly conveyed his thoughts, or whether the princess, like a child, had selectively listened to only what she wanted to hear.

“Even in a marriage born of political necessity, there is nothing worse than partners hating one another.”

It was difficult to listen to the princess say such words. Despite having become accustomed to her mature manner of speaking, Seon-Hyeok felt embarrassed. On the other hand, the princess seemed perfectly calm.

“But since we do not hate one another, at least we can avoid that terrible fate.”

There was a hint of laughter in the princess’ words. It was clear this was her attempt at a joke, but Seon-Hyeok could not bring himself to laugh.

“Look. Am I still the same as when you first met me?”

The lightly smiling princess asked, and Seon-Hyeok shook his head.

“Just as a baby becomes a girl, a girl will become a woman in time. That holds true for me as well – it is simple nature.”

The royal princess spoke the truth. A child becomes a teenager, and then an adult. She was saying that his worries were insignificant.

“But…”

Tap.

Before he could finish his words, something cold touched his lips. Seon-Hyeok belatedly realized it was the young girl’s finger, and he was momentarily taken aback.

“What you should speak of now is not denial and concern.”

Regardless of how he reacted, the princess said what she wanted. Seon-Hyeok blushed as he belatedly noticed his unseemly behavior.

Wow, way to act towards a child.

He wanted to curse his immature attitude.

“Our relationship may not be that of sweet lovers, but the fact remains that we are engaged. Shouldn’t you show your fiancée some trustworthiness as a future husband?”

She was not wrong. If he did not plan on backing out of the marriage now, there was no benefit of letting out all of his inner dilemmas.

Convinced by her words, Seon-Hyeok swallowed everything else he wanted to say.

Now that he thought about it, he was being comforted by this young girl. He reprimanded himself as he belatedly came to this realization.

“Hm.”

However, he could not actually bring himself to speak. The ethics and morals from the other world still weighed down on him.

“So, tell me. What sweet words will you tell your young fiancée?”

The princess was still waiting to hear his answer.

***

“What? That’s what the princess said?”

The chuckling Marquis Reinhardt was yet another person waiting for his response.

“Should I consider this straightforward or stupid? I’m inclined to think the latter.”

Incredibly overwhelmed, Seon-Hyeok vented about the situation to the marquis, but the knight made fun of him instead.

“So straightforwardly answering a fiancée’s questions is like giving her an excuse to nitpick at things for the rest of your life. I can already envision how your life will turn out.”

Seon-Hyeok frowned at the marquis’ somehow excited demeanor.

“Then what should I have said?”

“What you should have said? You should’ve come up with something. Whether that is ‘I’ll make you happy,’ or ‘there’s nobody else’. Aren’t there so many things you could have said?”

“But the princess and I don’t yet have that kind of relationship.”

When Seon-Hyeok angrily responded to the mockery, the marquis laughed once again.

“I understand how you feel, but sometimes, you just have to say things you don’t know to have peace and quiet in a family.”

“Ugh. Did you come here to mock me?”

“That wasn’t my intention, but it somehow turned out that way.”

Slightly startled at the foreigner’s serious face, the marquis continued.

“So, what did you say after the princess told you that?”

***

After some hesitation, Seon-Hyeok gathered his thoughts and responded.

“At the very least, I will make sure you don’t shed tears because of me.”

Even when he thought about what he had just said, Seon-Hyeok felt immature and embarrassed. However, he could not come up with anything else.

“Ah…”

But the royal princess’ expression was strange. She neither laughed at his childish promise, nor did she complain that it was insufficient. She sat there blankly for a while, as if she had been blindsided.

“That’s amusing. Merely saying that I won’t shed tears… who would say something like that?”

Now that Seon-Hyeok thought about it, he wondered whether there was any situation in which the princess cried. It did not fit her image as the confident heir to the throne and as someone who even viewed her own marriage in a political light.

“Of course, you don’t look like someone weak enough to…”

He hurriedly tried to explain, thinking he might have hurt her pride with an inappropriate comment, but she opened her mouth first.

“But strangely, your clumsy words feel more pleasant than a thousand sweet comments.”

As soon as she spoke, the princess smiled radiantly. It was completely different from the calm, reserved smiles she had shown so far, which seemed regal but strange given her youth.

The bright smile, like flowers in full bloom, had the refreshing appearance of someone her actual age.

“I will trust you.”

Even the princess’ usually calm voice seemed excited, making Seon-Hyeok even more embarrassed.

***

“What? You said you wouldn’t make her cry?”

Now, Marquis Reinhardt blatantly guffawed, holding his stomach in derision. He laughed so hard that he did not notice himself kicking over a small table.

“What a magnificent answer!”

Seon-Hyeok felt his face burn as he thought back on his comment. Even though he had been encouraged and essentially forced to say something, in the end, it was no different from a confession to a young girl.

“Ugh. Please stop laughing.”

Face red with humiliation, he tried to dissuade the marquis, but Marquis Reinhardt continued to laugh for a while. The old knight could not have seemed more spiteful even if he tried.

“Well, as long as she liked it. Then that’s that.”

His voice still seemed full of laughter, but the marquis’ eyes contained more complex emotions.

“She’s destined to be the queen of Adenburg. No matter who her partner may be, the relationship could never be normal. She’s well aware of that, and thus she was never able to act like a girl her age. I always felt sorry about that.”

The marquis stared at the teacups rolling around on the table before continuing.

“They said a child’s growth is sudden, much like spring buds fully blooming into flowers, and that does seem to be the case. The princess has somehow become a woman in such a short time, and it seems I was the only one unaware of that fact.”

Truth be told, the princess was not yet grown up, but Seon-Hyeok did not interrupt the marquis.

“And you. In many ways, you’re not good enough for the princess.”

When Seon-Hyeok frowned at the sudden criticism, the marquis continued on, as if telling him to listen to what he had to say first.

“You’re not from a splendid family, and you lack the refinement of the nobles. All you’re capable of doing is tearing down your enemies like a wild dog on the battlefield.”

What followed was even harsher criticism. Incensed, Seon-Hyeok tried to say something, but was cut off.

“I’m not trying to disparage you. In fact, I’m relieved that you’re more warrior than politician. I’m glad that you’re someone who looks at the heir to a kingdom like any other child.”

There was a rare sense of warmth in the marquis’ eyes as he looked at him.

“If it’s you, then perhaps you can give the princess something she had already given up on.”

Suddenly, a hand as large as a pot lid grabbed Seon-Hyeok’s hand tightly.

“If you’re a man, then make sure you keep your promises. Ensure that the princess never sheds tears of grief. This is both a request from the head of the Royal Guard serving the royal princess, and from her distant relative.”

“Ah…”

As he was ignorant of details regarding the royal family, this was Seon-Hyeok’s first time hearing that Marquis Reinhardt was distantly related to them. This realization made the usually burdensome marquis twice as hard to deal with.

“If I hear that the princess cried because of you…”

The marquis did not finish his sentence. However, his silence spoke volumes.

***

Despite his presence in the capital being revealed to the nobles, Seon-Hyeok remained in the royal palace for a while longer. That said, he was not forcibly confined to the inner palace.

Rather, he stayed to avoid potential problems with the nobles just waiting for him to show himself.

“And you were so opposed to the match…”

Seon-Hyeok found it uncomfortable that the nobles, once so disparaging about the foreigner’s origins, so quickly changed their attitudes and now tried to curry favor with the princess’ fiancé.

“That’s politics and the nobility.”

Though Marquis Reinhardt was apolitical himself, he spoke as though he was all too familiar with the situation.

“It seems like I just don’t fit in well with the nobles.”

“I’m a marquis and a noble. And yet you’re able to treat me quite casually.”

“Well, you don’t seem like a noble…”

It was a cheeky comment, but the marquis did not seem offended.

“Friends, friends.”

Rather, he played along.

Considering Seon-Hyeok could not leave the palace, there were few people he could speak to. As such, he ended up spending a significant amount of time with the marquis, and the two were now on good terms. At this point, they were close enough to casually joke with one another.

“It’s a compliment. A compliment.”

The marquis was naturally cranky, but he was not obtuse. Aside from his occasional stubbornness, he was not a bad person to talk to.

“You’re here.”

The other person he could speak to within the palace was Ophelia.

As though he felt that the two should get to know each other more before their engagement, King Theodore encouraged and found various pretexts for them to spend time with one another.

“I’m sorry I’m late.”

Ever since the engagement was decided, the princess’ attitude had changed drastically. The invariably mature princess now began to express her feelings.

“I would’ve waited for you until you came.”

Expressing her excitement at seeing him in this manner, or by…

“Ah, to think that it’s already this late.”

Showing her disappointment at having to say farewell for the day.

Of course, this did not mean that the princess was now acting like they were suddenly lovers. Instead, the princess acted like a lonely girl happy to finally find a companion. Through these interactions, Seon-Hyeok became more and more comfortable dealing with the heir to Adenburg.

However, he did find it awkward to see her sometimes in makeup unexpected of someone her age as she looked forward to their meetings.

“It suits you.”

“You look nice.”

In those instances, he felt as though he had no choice but to offer a compliment. And every time, the princess smiled brightly, like she had received the highest of praises.

Stop smiling so much. I’ll get comfortable being around you.

When he looked at the smiling princess, he did not feel as awkward as he had in their earlier meetings. Of course, it still was not that he liked the princess as a woman, but it was clear that their relationship was much closer now than before.

“Huh?”

Around the time Seon-Hyeok was getting used to chatting with the royal princess and joking around with Marquis Reinhardt, he came face to face with someone unexpected.

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