The princess had grown up over the preceding months.
Her childlike face still had some traces of baby fat, but her body had grown and begun to resemble a woman’s. Seeing her dressed up and sitting in a garden full of flowers, Seon-Hyeok wondered if he was looking at a painting.
However, despite her flower-like appearance, the princess’ face was expressionless, and her quiet voice was strangely cold.
This, in turn, made Seon-Hyeok even more uncomfortable.
“… and so, we sent out magical communications to the envoys coming from throughout the kingdom requesting they bring all of their low-tier foreigners.”
Their engagement was the perfect excuse to bring together all of the foreigners scattered throughout the Adenburg Kingdom. Without such a major event bringing people from all places to the capital, it would have been difficult to avoid the nobles’ scrutiny.
“Any later, and it would have been difficult to contact the lords of the east and north.”
All he heard was good news, but Seon-Hyeok could not smile as he listened to the princess’ explanation.
“Over 70 percent of the foreigners in the kingdom have already been gathered in the capital, and the rest should arrive within the week.”
Her attitude was the same as always, but her tone seemed on-edge.
Ugh. She’s still in a bad mood…
Seon-Hyeok knew better than anyone the reason behind this subtle change. It was clear she was still disappointed about their previous communications.
“Since everything is going smoothly, you can focus on the engagement ceremony without worrying. It will only be possible to meet the gathered foreigners after the engagement.”
Otherwise, she would not have sent him away after strictly covering business matters.
“Then I will see you next time.”
Seon-Hyeok stared at the princess as she fiddled with her teacup, head bowed. With nothing he could do, he finally stood up to leave.
Seon-Hyeok immediately stopped in his tracks, hearing her subdued voice.
“Are truly an idiot.”
He never imagined such words coming from the princess’ mouth, and taken aback, he immediately turned around. However, Ophelia remained in place, head still bowed, and Seon-Hyeok was eventually forced to leave in frustration.
When he was far enough and out of sight, Seon-Hyeok stopped to let out a deep sigh.
After all, it was not that he was oblivious. He did not need any special event or gifts to soothe his sulking fiancée. All he needed were warm, considerate words.
However, this did not prove to be easy.
He was nearly 16 years older than the princess, and this difference in age was too much to overcome.
He still clearly recalled the image of the young girl he first met during his victory ceremony after defeating the Sasteins. No matter how much she had grown since then, that memory did not disappear.
From Seon-Hyeok’s perspective, it would be shameless to have feelings for the princess now that she had grown up a little, and as such, he found it impossible to treat her like a woman.
“Ugh. It would’ve been so much easier if I met her a little later.”
She was half his age, and not yet an adult. It was horrifying even thinking of what he would need to say to her.
As he walked in the inner palace to gather his thoughts, he heard a terrible voice out of nowhere.
Even without turning around, Seon-Hyeok immediately recognized the owner of the voice.
“It’s been a while, Marquis Reinhardt.”
It was clearly that of Marquis Reinhardt, the irritable knight who cherished the royal princess. He was the last person Seon-Hyeok wanted to meet at this moment.
‘You will not get away with it if I ever hear that the princess grieved because of you…’
He had been repeatedly warned by the marquis. When Seon-Hyeok turned around, he saw the marquis’ face contorted in rage.
“Ugh. I’m going to go crazy.”
The Royal Guard protected the palace, and Marquis Reinhardt was the head of this group. Seon-Hyeok did not think he could avoid him indefinitely, but he had dearly hoped this inevitable meeting would not happen now.
His thoughts were already complicated, and he knew this would only get worse after the marquis’ nagging.
But what could he do now? The water had already been spilled, and the furious marquis was right in front of him.
Before he could even say anything, Seon-Hyeok seized the initiative.
“Oh, I wanted to consult with you about something.”
“Your worries are of no concern to me right now…”
“It has to do with the princess.”
Marquis Reinhardt ground his teeth in frustration. He had missed his timing to vent because the foreigner candidly spoke out about the princess first.
However, as he would happily jump out of bed to do anything for the princess, the marquis quickly suppressed his emotions and listened to what Seon-Hyeok had to say.
“There is a concept of minors where I am from.”
At first, Seon-Hyeok had intended to consult with the marquis to avoid his anger, but he soon spoke honestly about his dilemma.
“It is frowned upon for an adult to date a minor. In many cases, it is even criminal.”
He explained in depth why he had no choice but to act awkwardly around the princess.
“I already know. I know that since we are to be engaged, I need to change my attitude. However, this is by no means easy for me.”
Even if he had become adjusted to life in this new world, his perspectives and values had not. As such, he pretended to be oblivious, despite knowing what Ophelia had wanted from him.
“Sigh. To tell you the truth…”
After hearing the foreigner’s story, Marquis Reinhardt sighed as he slowly replied.
“I wasn’t going to let you off if I saw you.”
It was not an exaggeration. If Seon-Hyeok had not openly disclosed his troubles when they first met, the marquis looked so angry as though he would pull out his sword then and there.
“Every day, I saw the princess sigh time and time again. She deserves nothing but the best, and every time I heard her sigh, I envisioned myself swinging my sword in anger.”
It was not hard to guess who was being slashed with the marquis’ blade.
“But I decided to put up with it this time.”
“That’s a relief.”
Seon-Hyeok earnestly replied.
He never hesitated to charge alone against the Noctein knights, but he had no desire to face Marquis Reinhardt’s wrath.
I was completely insane back then. As they say, the ignorant are brave.
Only recently did Seon-Hyeok realize how reckless he had been when he antagonized the marquis in the past. This old knight and holder of Gradus 4 was truly a monster among monsters.
Maybe if I go through another class advancement.
But for now, he had no confidence in dealing with the marquis.
Of course, just because the marquis swung his sword in his mind, it did not mean he would actually do so in reality. Despite being cranky, the marquis was not that clueless.
“I have no idea what kind of world you lived in before, or what preconceptions the people there have. However…”
The marquis did not rage at him, but his voice was terrifyingly cold.
“I do know that your equivocal attitude will not be of any help in the future – even if you are just an ignorant warrior.”
Seon-Hyeok could not refute the marquis’ words. He recognized how non-committal he had been.
He looked to be well-adjusted to this world, but upon closer inspection, he had only accepted a subset of this world’s laws.
His body was used to the basic concepts of fighting, killing, socializing, trusting, and relying on the people of this world, but he neither accepted, nor considered accepting, the rest of the customs here.
“You’re in Adenstein, not the other world.”
It was as Marquis Reinhardt said. So long as he had given up on returning to the other world, he needed to abandon the awkwardness of picking and choosing the rules to follow in Adenburg.
“Is Drachen an illusion? You will have to decide whether Earl Drachen is merely a temporary mask for the foreigner, Kim Seon-Hyeok.”
Seon-Hyeok let out a long sigh.
He did not think for long.
“Do you know where she is?”
I should have done this from the start.
Despite willingly accepting the engagement, he remained aloof from the princess for all this time. The crime he committed against the princess was significant.
“She is where you left her.”
Marquis Reinhardt still looked angry with the foreigner, but he candidly answered his question.
Just as Seon-Hyeok was about to leave, the marquis called out one last time.
“Please take good care of her.”
The marquis’ voice sounded almost like that of a father who had lost his daughter, but it was full of sincerity.
Seon-Hyeok smiled as he looked at the marquis
The princess looked exactly the same as when he left her earlier. She was still fiddling with the now-cool teacup, and she looked down in sadness.
Seon-Hyeok put his finger to his lips, stopping the servants from alerting Ophelia of his presence. The quick-witted servants looked between them for a moment before silently stepping away.
The princess remained deep in thought, unaware of the servants’ disappearance.
“What are you so deeply thinking about?”
The princess looked up in surprise upon hearing his voice. However, when she found him, she hurriedly hid her face like a frightened rabbit.
“I thought you left.”
She fidgeted with her teacup even more. The parts where her small, thin fingers touched looked polished and shiny.
Seon-Hyeok looked at her silently before speaking.
“I realized I forgot something.”
The princess tried to suppress any response, but her ears looked like they perked up. Seon-Hyeok smiled as he continued.
“I recall you saying that the summer garden is particularly beautiful, and that you said you would show me around when I returned. Did you forget?”
“… I did not.”
She responded in a quiet voice after a moment of silence.
“Would the princess be so kind as to give me a chance to appreciate the garden’s beauty? All I know how to do is fight, so I am ignorant of all these plants and flowers.”
“It would be difficult for even those interested in botany to know the names of all the species here.”
When Seon-Hyeok openly spoke of his ignorance, she subtly offered words of support.
“I see. I would be interested in learning a bit now, so would you like to help me?”
The princess did not respond. She wordlessly got up from her seat.
“That’s known as the tri-colored cdenante…”
Her small and thin fingers pointed at a flower. She soon recited the flower’s name, followed by a poem praising its beauty.
In all honesty, the flowers and descriptions did not matter much.
Yeah. Sooner or later…
He had a change of heart, but it was not as though he thought of the princess as a grown woman. Despite this, one of the self-erected walls in his mind had clearly fallen.
He had made his decision, and he was determined to change in many ways in the future.
Seon-Hyeok slowly took a step and stood next to the princess. Side by side, all he could see was the top of her small head, but someday, she would grow up.
When that day comes, they would be able to walk side by side and look at each other.Previous Chapter Next Chapter