Episode 142. Treatment of Foreigners (1)

“I am sure all of you nobles here understand what the Knights of the Azure Sky represent in the Griffindor Kingdom. As the guardians of the capital, we had never left our post in the preceding 100 years.”

Lafayette began his story by embellishing the prestige of the Knights of the Azure Sky, the knight unit he was once affiliated with.

“The griffin riders, the treasures of the kingdom, have become even more important under the rule of King Victor Bertrand de Griffian. It was truly absurd that such riders were sent into a foreign war at the behest of the Noctein Kingdom, a kingdom we had been fighting a fierce war with up until that point.”

However, that ridiculous course of events had actually transpired. That was undeniable, even if the unexpected end result was the capture and defection of the griffin riders after an embarrassing defeat.

“When King Victor Bertrand de Griffian first received the request from the Nocteins, he immediately refused. The other influential nobles likewise supported his decision, saying that there was nothing to be gained.”

That was obvious. The griffin riders did not even participate in their own war – one in which they surrendered. It would have been strange if they were dispatched so easily.

“However, the Nocteins made the request once again, and they extended a very tempting offer.”

The nobles narrowed their eyes as they waited for the once-enemy knight to open his mouth.

“Hm.”

The vain Lafayette seemed to enjoy the attention given him by the nobles. His eyes betrayed an undeniable sense of satisfaction as they looked around during the brief pause.

“So tell us what the Nocteins offered.”

However, King Theodore did not give the proud knight any time to sit back and bask in the attention.

Realizing his new liege was not one to like drawn-out conversations, Lafayette flinched and immediately continued.

“First, the Nocteins promised to hand over twenty foreigners in exchange for being loaned the Knights of the Azure Sky.”

The knight briefly glanced over at Seon-Hyeok. He seemed worried that the foreigner would be offended by the idea of trading foreigners like slaves.

And indeed, Seon-Hyeok was angered by the comment.

“Whew.”

However, the feelings did not last. Seon-Hyeok took a deep breath to calm his emotions.

After all, it was not anything new. He knew better than anyone how these kingdoms treated foreigners yet to prove their worth.

He himself was required to show his value by being worked like a dog on the battlefield. Until he reached his current position, it would not have been out of place for him to randomly die in battle.

Considering that was the treatment given in Adenburg, known for its favorable treatment of foreigners, he could not imagine what it would be like elsewhere.

In fact, Seon-Hyeok had never even heard of any Noctein foreigners truly demonstrating their abilities. Given that, he imagined that they were treated even more harshly.

“The math doesn't add up. Twenty foreigners is a usable force, but the Knights of the Azure Sky are much more valuable. Moreover, the usually suspicious King of Griffindor would have never accepted that paltry offer.”

“Of course, that wasn’t the only condition that led to our presence here.”

Hearing the words of an older noble, Lafayette responded in a condescending voice.

“The Nocteins promised to lend a portion of the western plains adjacent to the Griffindor border for the following 100 years in the event of our victory.”

“Crazy. That’s completely insane.”

The nobles muttered among themselves. They laughed and ridiculed the Noctein Kingdom’s foolishness in being willing to part with their own territory to simply borrow the griffin riders.

But shockingly, the Noctein promises did not end there.

“As promises can be broken at any time, the Nocteins even sent one of their princesses as a hostage to guarantee their words.”

At this point, it was fair to say that the Noctein king had been completely insane. It was an excessive price to pay to take care of a single wyvern rider.

“Those aren’t unreasonable conditions.”

However, one of the older nobles seemed to have a different perspective. He was one of the great lords of the north, Marquis Bernhardt von Mittenmeier, and he praised the Noctein king’s persistence.

“Twenty foreigners are nothing, since they can pick and choose which ones to get rid of. Likewise, if that princess, originally sent as a hostage, is successfully married off into the Griffindor royalty or nobility, then it would be an opportunity for the Nocteins to improve the relationship between the two kingdoms.”

The nobles shut their mouths at the marquis’ words.

“The only undeniable loss is the territory offered on loan for 100 years. But even then, it is not as though the Nocteins would be able to make full use of it anyways, considering they’re bandits who only know how to use territory to feed their horses.”

Marquis Mittenmeier suggested that even those border territories, despite being strategic in nature, would have been neglected under Noctein rule. In that sense, even that was not a crippling price to pay.

“But even so, don’t you think those are humiliating terms?”

“It’s better to give up what you don’t need to slay Earl Drachen and regain the territories on the Adenburg border. What’s humiliation when there is so much to be gained?”

The nobles finally nodded, convinced by the explanation. Whatever those western territories may be, they agreed it would not be as valuable as the lands on the Adenburg-Noctein border.

“In the end, they offered conditions that benefited the Griffindors at very little cost to themselves. In addition, they offered the Griffindor monarch an opportunity to cover up their defeat in the war, and thus, he found it difficult to refuse. Am I mistaken, Sir Lafayette?”

Lafayette was taken aback when he was suddenly addressed, but he did not deny the marquis’ words.

“You are absolutely correct. His Majesty considered those conditions worthy of accepting, and did not imagine that the Knights of the Azure Sky would lose. More than anything, he probably hoped he could capture the wyvern alive.”

“But events did not proceed as planned.”

The Noctein Kingdom, after desperately scheming to regain their lost territory, were defeated and unsuccessful. The Griffindor Kingdom, rather than receiving the spoils of victory, lost two of its treasured griffin riders.

Both kingdoms suffered heavy losses in a supposedly win-win situation.

“And all of that is thanks to Earl Drachen here.”

As the marquis continued, the nobles all looked towards Seon-Hyeok with a newfound respect.

It was natural for them to admire him. After all, there had never been a single individual wielding such influence over a kingdom’s affairs.

Seon-Hyeok frowned at the sudden attention he received.

“Hm.”

When he glanced at King Theodore, the king, rather than bailing out his future son-in-law from his discomfort, instead smiled with a satisfied expression.

It might have been that the king asked for him to be present in order to parade the foreigner in front of these nobles.

“Marquis Mittenmeier is correct.”

After enjoying the situation, the king cut off the nobles’ admiration.

“But if that was the extent of the situation, I would not have called all of you busy nobles here today.”

Marquis Mittenmeier bowed and asked his liege for his opinion.

“I trust that the wise king will tell this old, lacking noble what he failed to notice.”

“It is true that they lost much in the war, but not everything.”

King Theodore claimed that despite the loss of territory and valuable knights, there were nonetheless some benefits they enjoyed.

“The princess sent as a hostage is still enough to serve as a bridge between the two kingdoms.”

Only then did the nobles realize why King Theodore called for today’s meeting.

“They will hope that our kingdom falls from glory, and they will take any action necessary to make that a reality.”

Since only the Adenburg Kingdom benefited from the wars involving the three kingdoms, there was no way that the others would not try to retaliate.

“Be vigilant for how they might act, and ensure that they never threaten the Adenburg Kingdom.”

At some point, Seon-Hyeok found himself left out of the meeting.

Considering his rapid rise to fame was solely due to his wartime accomplishments, there was no way he would also be adept at reading and evaluating the political situation between kingdoms. He stared blankly as the nobles debated and threw out countless figures.

As he looked around, so bored that he was about to yawn, Seon-Hyeok noticed Lafayette, no longer given any attention after finishing his role in explaining the situation between the Griffindor and Noctein Kingdoms.

Lafayette was nodding and pretending to agree with what the nobles said, but it was clear he was unable to follow the nuances of the meeting and simply pretending to act the part.

Ugh. Well, at least I’m not the only one.

Seon-Hyeok tried to rationalize the situation, thinking that such meetings were not meant for soldiers or knights, but rather for nobles and royalty.

“Then let us end the meeting here today. Take extra caution to ensure that what was discussed today does not leak to any outside parties.”

Seon-Hyeok almost cheered when King Theodore finally concluded the long and tedious meeting. The time spent had truly been unbearable.

“Whether or not you like it, you will have to attend these meetings as a future member of the royal family. As such, it would be preferable if you get used to them sooner rather than later.”

He unknowingly sighed when his liege commented with a smile.

Seon-Hyeok understood what the king hoped, considering his current and future status. However, he did not think he would ever grow accustomed to these boring, political meetings.

“Ah, I kept you here for too long. I can already imagine Ophelia grumbling, so you are excused.”

He would rather spend time with his young fiancée than attend such meetings. Seon-Hyeok quickly said his farewells and rushed out of the conference room.

***

“Ah.”

Upon returning to his accommodations, Seon-Hyeok could not find Julian and asked a servant about her whereabouts.

“If that squire you’re looking for is a blonde girl, I believe she was summoned by the princess and went to the royal garden.”

“The princess?”

Confused about the situation, Seon-Hyeok mindlessly headed straight for the garden where the princess usually spent her time.

“You’re here.”

“I greet Princess Ophelia Laurel Ro Adenstein.”

As he greeted the princess out of habit, Seon-Hyeok noticed Julian sitting next to her and mouthed a question.

Why are you here?

It was not Julian, but rather the princess, who answered.

“I know that you have asked for help from the Royal Mages for this girl from House Mangsk.”

Taken aback, Seon-Hyeok glanced at Julian. He had kept this hidden, thinking that the squire might be shocked, but the princess had unexpectedly revealed she knew the secret.

“You don’t have to make that expression. She knew the negative aftereffects on her body right away.”

“Do you think I’m a fool? That I wouldn’t know what happened to my own body?”

The young squire had always been reliable, despite knowing about the tragic aftereffects lingering on her body.

“Are you okay?”

“What does it matter if I’m not okay? It’s already happened.”

If possible, Seon-Hyeok had wanted to find a solution before informing Julian about the situation, but she was perceptive and realized this in advance. He gave a look full of guilt, knowing that it was his pride that led to her suffering.

“Ugh, don’t make that expression. The princess arranged so that I can be treated by the mage most knowledgeable in detoxification within the kingdom. You don’t have to look guilty already.”

At Julian’s words, Seon-Hyeok immediately offered his sincere thanks to the princess.

“Officially, I am helping treat the lady of House Mangsk, a family that has been devoted to the royal family for generations. Privately, I am also treating the squire of someone who will be family. How could I possibly be aloof in this matter? You have no need to thank me.”

Did I get used to the princess’ manner of speaking?

He realized that much had changed, as he found himself laughing at the princess’ words.

“I’m disappointed. If you had told me from the start, I would have stepped up to help much earlier. Aren’t we going to be family soon?”

Nonetheless, Seon-Hyeok got goosebumps at the word ‘family’.

It felt uncomfortable, and he did not know how to respond. In the end, he just awkwardly smiled.

“Hm…”

Only after they addressed the matter could Seon-Hyeok take a look at Julian and the princess.

The young squire had not grown even the slightest bit, while the even younger princess now looked like a young woman. He was truly able to grasp the extent of the aftereffects of the sea dragon’s poison as he compared the two.

“Now, make sure you head to the Royal Mages’ residence right away. I sent word in advance, so there will be someone to examine you as soon as you arrive.”

Julian rose from her seat at the princess’ words, which were authoritative like her father’s.

“Thank you for your kindness, and I hope we meet again.”

“I also enjoyed conversing with the young lady from House Mangsk, the Shield of Adenburg. I likewise hope we can spend time like this in the future.”

“If the princess wishes.”

Julian showed her respects before disappearing after a servant.

“You care a lot about your squire.”

Ophelia’s words seemed nuanced, and Seon-Hyeok found himself staring at the girl.

“Concubines are forbidden.”

“What do you mean...”

When Seon-Hyeok asked in bewilderment, the royal princess spoke with a solemn expression.

“Such is the law of the royal family.”

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