“What are you…”
When he came face to face with his squire, Seon-Hyeok heard something that felt like a bolt of lightning.
“I will forego treatment.”
His excitement that a cure had been found lasted only a moment. He could not understand why Julian was stubbornly refusing treatment.
Given his guilt, Seon-Hyeok could not justify being angry as he tried to convince his young squire, but Julian simply repeated her words like a parrot.
“Julian, what the hell is the problem? You won’t ever grow if you pass on the treatment! You’ll be a child all your life!”
But as time passed, and as she remained adamant despite his best efforts, Seon-Hyeok found himself becoming more and more frustrated. Despite this, nothing changed.
“I would rather stay as I am now.”
Even now, Julian only confirmed her stance one more time.
“Why the hell do you want that?”
Is there something I’m missing?
Unable to comprehend her perspective, Seon-Hyeok asked her to explain.
“I don’t want treatment.”
Unfortunately, she did not comply.
Seon-Hyeok blurted out as he grabbed her shoulders. Although her body had been strengthened through rigorous training, it was still one of an immature child, and much thinner than that of an adult.
This body would endure for her lifetime.
That was what she meant by saying she would remain a child until she died.
It was not that she would not age, but rather that she could never become an adult. It was not a blessing, but a curse, and this disability would follow her throughout her life.
“Julian. Do you understand what it means to stay like this? You said you want to become a knight. You can’t ever become one with that body.”
Julian’s calm expression distorted, but she hid behind her mask until the very end.
In the end, Seon-Hyeok had to discover the reason behind Julian’s refusal from a third party.
“Even if she safely receives treatment, she will never be able to become a knight.”
Having been focused on Julian, Seon-Hyeok did not notice the princess appear. He quickly offered his greetings.
“What do you mean?”
He immediately raised his bowed head and rushed to interrogate the princess, and she clicked her tongue as she responded.
“Treating the young squire’s lasting aftereffects is no different from taking away the last of her abilities.”
Ophelia continued as she looked at Julian.
“The price to pay for treating these aftereffects is her future as a knight, or, in other words, the effort she put in her entire life to reach her dream.”
“If I get treated, then my resulting body will never be able to utilize sword energy again.”
Seon-Hyeok’s heart sank. His face was pale as he looked at his squire.
“In other words, I will lose the meager abilities I have achieved until this point, and I will never be able to walk the path to becoming a knight.”
He wished that he had misheard Julian just now. Unfortunately, reality was cruel and more heartless than he imagined.
“And in that case, I would rather choose not to grow up for the rest of my life.”
If he did not know better, Seon-Hyeok would have continued trying to persuade Julian. However, even this was now impossible.
He shut his mouth and closed his eyes.
“No matter what she decides, the royal family will not neglect its efforts to find a perfect cure. Please do not despair already.”
He reached for straws as he repeatedly asked the princess for the royal family’s cooperation.
Now that the original objective of getting Julian treated became meaningless, there was no reason to remain in the capital any longer. Seon-Hyeok prepared to leave without any further delay.
“I made a brief trip back to Rheinperle during my stay here, but I’ve been in the capital for two months now. I would like to go back home and recover from the fatigue of the previous war.”
He had remained in the capital for much longer than he originally anticipated. Though he was treated with comfortable accommodations and great hospitality, it did not mean that he found comfort in his time here.
Now, he was desperate to go back and rest.
“I will not forget the kindness you have shown us while we were here.”
Worried that he would be asked to stay longer, Seon-Hyeok quickly offered his farewells, and King Theodore smiled as he responded.
“I am looking forward to seeing how much you change by the next time we meet.”
The king promised to send his rewards directly to Rheinperle as he sent the foreigner off.
“Then I hope you stay healthy until we meet again.”
Seon-Hyeok rushed away and looked for the princess next.
“Take a seat.”
The princess casually accepted his greetings while offering him a seat.
“This tea has been sourced from the east. The aromas and flavors are exquisite, so you should try it.”
Seon-Hyeok did as he was told and lifted the cup to his mouth. However, he immediately set it down without taking a sip.
“I will be le…”
“It looks like spring is coming to an end, and summer is coming.”
The princess did not give him the time to say farewell. She kept interrupting him by changing the topic.
“The summer garden has a completely different atmosphere from the spring. The flowers, currently bowed shyly, will come into full bloom, and even the most modest of vegetation will come into its own. I assure you that you would like the garden here in the summer.”
Seon-Hyeok was forced to stop every time he tried to reveal his plans to leave the capital. However, seeing as it had already been decided, he could not postpone his plans any further.
“I think it is time for me to leave.”
He hurriedly finished the conversation before the princess could intervene.
Instead of responding, the little princess fiddled with her teacup without saying a word. It was as though she had not heard what he just said.
“I am thinking of returning to Rheinperle.”
He hesitated at Ophelia’s glum expression, but he steeled himself before saying goodbye once again.
“So you’re leaving after all.”
Now, the princess could no longer ignore his words and let out a deep sigh.
“I stayed much longer than I originally anticipated. Despite being an incompetent lord who left management of his territory to his subordinates, I think it’s time I head back.”
“It was my mistake.”
The princess said something completely unexpected as Seon-Hyeok tried to explain his situation.
“I should have waited to tell you about the cure. My rush to tell you about it led to your decision to leave the capital.”
Seon-Hyeok could not help but laugh at the princess’ regret-filled voice. Her political insight and maturity were much greater than his own, but at times like these, she pouted like a child her age.
“I will come visit again when I have time.”
“Will you do so?”
“As long as you don’t refuse…”
Seeing the princess beginning to regain her smile, Seon-Hyeok cracked a joke. Ophelia firmly answered.
“I will have to tell the palace’s gatekeepers and guards in advance. They will know to open the doors and prepare to greet a guest whenever they see a red shadow in the sky.”
To be honest, if he was visiting on Redvern, it did not matter whether or not the castle gates were open. Even so, he did not bother to point this out. After all, it was not as though the princess was unaware of this fact.
“Then until we meet again…”
“There is no need for a formal farewell. We will see each other again anyways.”
With that, the princess rose from her seat.
“I hope that you come back sooner rather than later.”
She disappeared without waiting for a response.
“Hm. Do I need to bring her a gift when I return?”
After staring at the teacup left behind by the princess for a while, Seon-Hyeok also soon left his seat.
Seon-Hyeok had spent close to two months at the capital. Though much of this time was spent with the royal family, he had also become acquainted with a number of other nobles.
“Then I will look forward to seeing you again.”
Marquis Rosenheim, head of the loyalist faction, offered his farewells, suggesting that spending time away from the capital was one way of dealing with the complicated political situation there.
“I hope the earl does not think that all nobles believe in those baseless rumors.”
“Please do not forget that you have the royal family’s trust. We will also willingly be your shield.”
The nobles loyal to the royal family claimed that rumors were just rumors, encouraging him and promising their unwavering support as they promised to meet again.
“Ugh. Even this is work.”
After spending an entire day saying goodbye to the nobles in the capital, Seon-Hyeok suddenly remembered the foreigners just before he left.
“Well, they’re capable people, so they’ll do well on their own.”
He was not sure about the others, but someone talented like Ahn Yoo-Jung would be able to navigate the political situation even if it was disadvantageous to the foreigners.
However, he was still somewhat worried about their well-being, and thus asked Marquis Reinhardt to take good care of the foreigners in the capital.
“Don’t worry about such useless things. Whether or not you ask, the royal family will take good care of them.”
Marquis Reinhardt snorted as he rebuffed his request, but Seon-Hyeok knew that the knight had a big heart and would keep an eye out on them.
“Let’s go, Redvern.”
Redvern vigorously flapped its wings and rose above the castle, carrying with it not only Seon-Hyeok, but also Asha Trail and Julian, both pale at the thought of the upcoming journey.
With one final shriek, Redvern disappeared into the skies.
Upon arriving at Rheinperle, Seon-Hyeok lifted his young squire and helped her off of Redvern. Julian expressed her disapproval seeing him treat her like a child, but she did not refuse his act of consideration and made the atmosphere more awkward.
She seemed to think that he wanted to express his apology in this manner and could not bear it otherwise.
Asha Trail slid off of the saddle, looking a complete mess after the ride on Redvern.
“I will go rest and see you tomorrow.”
Unwilling to show weakness, Asha Trail quickly left the scene, and Julian soon followed.
“You did well, Redvern.”
Despite gaining much weight during its stay in the capital, Redvern regained its original sleek figure during the few trips back and forth between Adenstein and Rheinperle. Of course, Seon-Hyeok could still see some signs of added bulk, but at the very least, his wyvern had shed its porcine appearance from not too long ago.
“You should go and rest too.”
After removing the saddle on Redvern’s back, he let his wyvern go before heading into his residence.”
“Oh! I’m finally home!”
It was modest compared to the magnificent accommodations in the royal palace, but no bedroom in this world was more comfortable for him. Excited, he immediately threw himself onto his bed.
“Ah. It’s a struggle being away.”
He leisurely yawned, burying his face into the bedding. It was fluffy and welcoming, having been meticulously maintained even during his time away.
He had taken extra care during the return flight out of consideration for Julian, and the accumulated fatigue hit him at once when he finally lay down.
Just as he was about to fall asleep, Seon-Hyeok turned at the sudden, strange noise that penetrated his ears. Without opening his eyes, he murmured.
As soon as he spoke, the wind spirit revealed herself.
It was a seemingly random command, but Atiya understood and summoned a gust of wind.
In an instant, a sharp gale rushed through the bedroom. A space that previously looked empty was torn apart, revealing a strange man.
“S, stop! Wait a minute!”
At the urgent cry, Seon-Hyeok jumped up and rubbed his eyes.
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