Episode 144. The Wheels Begin to Turn (1)

‘Rebellion in the Nordic Kingdom, 3rd in Line to the Throne Dies.’

‘30% of the Nordic Kingdom Occupied by Insurgents, the Daschrute Royal Family Has Dispatched its Knights.’

‘Nordic Royal Guard Massacred. Rebel Forces Continue to Spread.’

Terrible rumors spread from the northwest, but they were of little importance to the Adenburg Kingdom.

The Nordic Kingdom, the epicenter of the rumors, was fundamentally a barbaric kingdom, and civil wars there were frequent. The Adenburg Kingdom did not need to care about events happening on the far end of the continent.

In addition, the Adenburg Kingdom had been the sole victor of the most recent War of the Three Kingdoms. They had successfully annexed the entire eastern part of the Noctein Kingdom around the Istein Plains, and were even able to convert two of the Knights of the Azure Sky, the pride and symbol of Griffindor.

Thanks to the overwhelming victory, the capital of Adenstein was livelier than ever.

The people were already in a festive mood in anticipation of the upcoming royal engagement, and the nobility held parties every day, taking advantage of the kingdom’s recent victory over its old enemy.

However, there were some unable to enjoy this heated atmosphere. These were the high-ranking nobles required to attend the daily meetings at the capital.

“Wait, why are we the ones to ask for peace when they backstabbed us in the first place?!”

“It’s just the Noctein Kingdom that crossed our borders, so what’s the point of keeping tensions high with the Griffindors as well? Now is the time to look at the situation from a broader perspective without being caught up in our victory!”

Those with the rank of earl or higher were largely nobles of old. For them, these daily, confrontational meetings could not help but be burdensome. Despite complaining of fatigue, however, they refused to boycott the continued gatherings.

After all, showing off one’s influence and political power was the greatest virtue of the capital’s nobles.

If there had not been regularly scheduled breaks in between, some of the meeting’s attendees would have collapsed from exhaustion by now. Despite this, the old nobles refused to show weakness, and their eyes remained vigilant unlike their now hoarse voices.

For them, this small conference room was in itself a battlefield, and each agenda was a duel to be won.

As a result, even minor issues were rarely easily decided, and often times, already decided matters would be revisited and overturned.

Ugh. It’s disgusting. Disgusting.

Seon-Hyeok wondered if these unproductive and inefficient meetings would ever come to an end.

“Is the broad perspective you’re talking about the repatriation of the Knights of the Azure Sky? I can’t tell if you’re a noble from Adenburg or Griffindor!”

“Are you finished talking?”

The arguments were terribly tedious, but Seon-Hyeok gained much from the process.

Through these meetings, he was able to gain insight into the situation within the kingdom, after being ignorant all this time as a simple soldier.

This was the reason why King Theodore insisted on his attendance, despite his lack of political aptitude.

“We’re the victorious nation. Why would we ever return the defecting knights to a kingdom that jumped at the opportunity to stab us in the back?”

“I’m not saying we should be wary of the Griffindor Kingdom! It would be the wise decision in order to keep the Nocteins at bay…”

“I worry that someday, you’ll even start suggesting we hand over our own knights.”

“What? What was that, you bastard?”

“Huh? Bastard? Even being in the same place as you is unpleasant, considering your lack of dignity and pride. Know your place.”

The nobles now forgot about the purpose of the meeting as they began to personally attack each other. Seon-Hyeok looked towards the king, thinking that it was his job to moderate the situation at times like these.

As expected, King Theodore did not tolerate such verbal quarrels among the nobles.

“Cease.”

The nobles, despite being at each other’s throats, shut their mouths upon hearing their king’s single word.

“Your enthusiasm in coming up with better measures is truly admirable. However, it is frustrating that an end to this meeting remains out of sight.”

At first, the king seemed to be praising the zealous nobles, but his tone was clearly rebuking them.

Meaningless and aggressive arguments for factional gains will not be permitted.

This was the warning given to the nobles.

Regardless of their title, the nobles blanched at the king’s threatening aura and bowed their heads. They judged that in times like these, it was best to stand down.

“3 days.”

King Theodore stared at the aristocrats before commenting.

“Marquis Mittenmeier and Marquis Rosenheim. You have three days to gather everyone’s opinions and come up with an appropriate plan of action.”

Marquis Mittenmeier, the leader of the pro-nobility faction, and Marquis Rosenheim, the head of the loyalists, stood and bowed after being singled out.

“I will do as Your Majesty wishes.”

“I will do as you ask.”

The king’s expression softened only after hearing the two nobles’ responses.

“In that case, let us wrap up today’s meeting.”

With that, the long and tedious meeting finally reached an end.

“Ugh.”

Having sat down for hours listening to the nobles bickering among themselves, Seon-Hyeok stretched and let out a sigh, only to see King Theodore staring directly at him.

“Earl Drachen. A moment please.”

“You attended the meeting as well, so you should know about the civil war in the Nordic Kingdom to the northwest.”

The topic had not been covered extensively, but Seon-Hyeok did recall hearing something about troubles in that faraway kingdom.

“I also heard that civil wars are frequent in the Nordic Kingdom.”

“You aren’t wrong. However, the current uprising is much different from those that preceded it.”

Seon-Hyeok could not understand why King Theodore went so far as to meet him separately, only to talk about a kingdom on the far end of the continent.

As if sensing those questions, King Theodore immediately brought up the point of this conversation.

“A foreigner is behind this current uprising.”

Seon-Hyeok’s eyes grew wide at this unexpected comment.

“For generations, the kingdoms on the western and northern parts of the continent have been known to poorly treat their foreigners. I am certain the Nordic foreigner responsible for this civil war did so after growing tired of the severe abuse.”

Seon-Hyeok’s expression grew dark, realizing that having grown accustomed to living in Adenburg, he had never once thought about the lives of foreigners in other kingdoms until this point.

“The nobles will soon learn about this, and to them, it will not matter one bit how badly the Nordic foreigners have been treated. They will only focus on the potential threat of the foreigners, and use the Nordic rebels as an excuse to discredit your accomplishments and try to prevent your marriage with Ophelia.”

Seon-Hyeok had put his life on the line fighting against his enemies. He had swept through enemy camp after enemy camp, forced to take part in the business of murder. He knew better than anyone how infuriating it was to have hard work and sacrifice, both his and his comrades’, be denied by others.

“Do not let it affect you. Your brilliant accomplishments and victories on the battlefield will not be marred, no matter what the nobles claim, and the royal family will never withdraw its support for your cause.”

Only then did Seon-Hyeok realize why the king took him aside to notify him of the events in the Nordic Kingdom. It was clear he was worried that the foreigner would be swayed by the inevitable political maneuvering of the nobles and become cynical towards the kingdom as a whole.

“The royal family will never betray your trust.”

“I will believe in you.”

***

King Theodore’s warning soon became reality.

As soon as the nobles received word that the mastermind behind the Nordic Kingdom rebellion was a foreigner, they began their political maneuvering. They expressed their concerns about foreigners and their dangerous perspectives, having been born and raised in a different world without nobles and kings.

As a result, the numerous foreigners living in the royal capital endured prejudice whenever they encountered the aristocracy.

However, even the nobles could not hastily target Seon-Hyeok.

“Didn’t he risk his own life to protect the refugees at that garrison? We even heard rumors that he died from his injuries that day, so it’s obvious how much of a struggle that battle was.”

“Earl Drachen is different from the other foreigners. After all, he immediately returned to the battlefield even before fully recovering from his fatal injuries.”

Despite the nobles’ disregard for the common people, they could not easily overcome the kingdom-wide admiration for the name Drachen.

After all, who could dare denigrate his remarkable accomplishments?

Seon-Hyeok’s actions spoke for themselves. He had proven himself far too much for people to be suspicious solely because of his unknown origins.

In addition, he was in a different position from the other foreigners, who at best held the title of viscount.

Kim Seon-Hyeok was a proud earl of the kingdom, a war hero, and an influential figure receiving the wholehearted support of both the Adenstein royal family and House Mangsk.

Any rash action against him could backfire spectacularly for the nobles.

“There are rumors that Earl Drachen has been eager to train soldiers recently…”

Nonetheless, the nobles did not give up. Thinking they had the slightest chance to stop the union between Earl Drachen and the royal family, they tried desperately to make that a reality.

“Rumors say that he took Baron Laylark’s mine by force…”

“There’s a story going around about how he couldn’t keep his emotions in check and crippled 14 of the kingdom’s knights.”

They incessantly spread rumors about Seon-Hyeok, taking care to just stay within the realm of plausible deniability.

And as time went by, the number of people sympathizing with their opinions grew little by little. Of course, it was still an insignificant portion of the overall population, but the nobles were nonetheless successful in generating anti-foreigner sentiment.

The situation further worsened over time.

Instead of quickly dying down as expected, the Nordic civil war spread like wildfire.

Now, rumors began to spread that even foreigners from neighboring kingdoms began to express signs of sympathy for the rebels’ cause, and these kingdoms began to crack down on their own foreigners.

The foreigners in Adenstein found their own positions weakening, and they soon began to keep to themselves, reluctant to meet others.

But for some reason, the real target of the nobles’ scheming, Seon-Hyeok, was nowhere to be seen.

It was inevitable.

After all, Seon-Hyeok was long gone by the time the rumors spread and nobles began to harass the foreigners to verify their ideological purity.

***

While the nobles in the capital desperately worked to lessen the standing of the kingdom’s foreigners, Seon-Hyeok reached Rheinperle.

He had endured the tedious meetings in order to have Julian’s condition examined and to find a potential treatment.

In that critical situation, Seon-Hyeok had returned home because he had an equally important reason.

“Bluegon!”

He wanted to see with his own eyes the transformation Bluegon had undergone over the preceding two months.

Bubble.

At his voice, the blue surface of the Rheinperle River began to bubble up. Soon after, the river split, revealing a monster with cerulean scales.

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