Episode 166. Ugly Duckling (1)

As a result of the torgos’ rampage, the fortress the foreigners called home disappeared from the face of this world. Given this, Seon-Hyeok and the others headed for the capital.

When they arrived, the capital’s cheering citizens were awaiting them alongside the Royal Knights and Royal Mages.

“Drachen once again saved the kingdom from crisis!”

The citizens first and foremost praised Drachen, the repeated savior of the Adenburg Kingdom, then cheered on the knights and mages.

However, Lee Soo-Hyuk and the other foreigners did not despair.

After all, when they were merely foreigners with low-tier classes, they could not have imagined even stepping foot inside the capital. They were sufficiently touched at being given the chance to walk shoulder to shoulder with the royal family’s superhuman beings.

It felt like they were returning home in glory.

Next time, I’ll make sure you call my name – our names.

Soo-Hyuk promised this to himself, and the other foreigners likewise vowed to become individuals worthy of being singled out by the cheering citizens.

“You are also the best!”

Their wishes came true sooner than expected.

The people of the capital had not been ignoring the foreigners. It was simply that they were intrigued by the presence of knights and mages, figures generally unseen outside of their posts.

“No matter what the foreigners of other kingdoms may be like, we consider you people of the Adenburg Kingdom!”

“You are our compatriots!”

“You fought well! Thank you!”

From time to time, they heard these encouraging words mixed in with the raucous cheers. Though these shouts were infrequent and feeble, for the foreigners, they felt far louder than any cheer.

“Eek!”

The sorrow they had felt from being dragged into this world without warning and subsequently having to struggle on the kingdom’s outskirts flooded them all at once. Soo-Hyuk tried desperately to hold back tears, and the others had similar expressions on their faces.

“Stand up tall.”

Seon-Hyeok, understanding their feelings better than anyone else, encouraged them with a look of satisfaction.

“You’re no longer the low-tier soldiers they used to look down on.”

They had yet to be knighted, but they had fully proven their abilities. They had no reason to lower themselves in front of others.

“Okay.”

Soo-Hyuk made a strange noise as he gulped. He soon composed himself, but his face was still red with emotion.

“Heroes of the kingdom!”

When they passed the central road cutting through the capital of Adenstein, they saw King Theodore surrounded by the Royal Knights.

“I pay tribute to your heroic struggles!”

Charismatic as always, the king personally praised the foreigners and the knights.

“When you first arrived in this land, I promised to be your strong supporter. You have proven your worth, and I will likewise keep my word.”

Though his voice was low, King Theodore’s powerful words spread across the area as if imbued by magic. The foreigners bowed even deeper as they witnessed the king’s dignity for the first time.

“I will grant 100 gold and an Order of Merit to those who displayed courage in the face of that terrible demonic creature!”

“Wow!”

Taken aback by the generous reward, the foreigners unknowingly cheered before quickly realizing their mistake and shutting their mouths with a grim look. However, King Theodore, ever generous to those with accomplishments in battle, encouraged them instead of reprimanding them.

“I permit you to let out your triumphant roars! So heroes! Cheer and shout to your hearts’ content! Let all the citizens of the capital know of your valor!”

As soon as permission was granted, the foreigners let out their suppressed cheers. The sorrow and sense of deprivation that accumulated during their time in this world washed away along with these victorious shouts.

***

“You always exceed expectations.”

Once the ceremony of triumph concluded, Seon-Hyeok met separately with King Theodore. The king seemed extremely pleased with the foreigners’ development, and there was no sign of him assigning blame for the torgos’ rampage.

“I will decide on a date in the coming future to knight them all. They have the qualifications…”

“They will be thrilled.”

King Theodore briefly smiled at Seon-Hyeok’s short answer before continuing.

“After careful consideration, I have determined that your report stating that their abilities complement each other makes sense. As such, I will grant your request in keeping them together, so you should not have to worry about that matter any longer.”

This was the problem he had agonized over since his time at the training fort, but King Theodore resolved it in an instant. The king’s attitude was refreshing as always.

“Do you have other concerns? Your expression still looks dark.”

Seon-Hyeok initially looked pleased, but soon after, his expression became subtly rigid. It did not evade King Theodore’s attention.

“By any chance, are you troubled that I called that illusory beast a demonic creature and blamed it on the rebellious Nordic foreigners?”

“No, that is not that case.”

He felt sorry for the Nordic foreigners, but he did not feel guilty about it. After all, the Dark Lord and his comrades had put him in a troublesome situation by spreading rumors about their visit to Rheinperle.

If he wanted to split hairs, they had exchanged inconveniences. He did not need to feel sorry for these events.

No, Seon-Hyeok’s expression was dark because the rebellion in the Nordic Kingdom was influencing this world more violently than he anticipated.

By now, the insurgency was not confined to the Nordic Kingdom, but rather brought turmoil to the entire western part of the continent.

For the most part, these uprisings ended in failure, and countless foreigners had been either executed or slain in battle. Despite this disastrous turn of events, the flames of rebellion continued to spread.

Even more troublesome was the fact that some western kingdoms preemptively designated the foreigners in their lands as potential insurgents and executed them to set an example.

This response did not take into consideration the reason behind the Nordic revolt. And naturally, these actions did not suppress the foreigners in the west, but instead instigated further uprisings.

The war originating in the Nordic Kingdom continued to spread.

Seon-Hyeok worried that the entire continent would become swept up in this conflict.

Perhaps if the foreigners had sought asylum in the east, some of them could have continued on with their lives. Seon-Hyeok could not help but feel that these foreigners’ deaths had been empty.

This is what Seon-Hyeok found so regrettable.

But there was no need to explain all of these innermost thoughts.

“I think I’m just tired. After all, we’ve been fighting for 10 days.”

Seon-Hyeok offered a reasonable excuse.

“But more importantly, I am curious. Who is this illusion beast tamer responsible for causing such a major incident?”

Fortunately, King Theodore did not pry further, but rather changed the subject.

“I was curious from the start – how great must this person be to cause 100 self-centered mages to enter the fray?”

The king showed considerable interest in the illusion beast tamer’s abilities – the abilities that summoned the formidable illusory beast known as the torgos.

“Actually, I had something else to tell you about the summoner.”

“Speak.”

Seon-Hyeok hesitated for a moment when King Theodore urged him to continue.

“About that beast known as the torgos.”

“Torgos… right. That was what you called it.”

However, Seon-Hyeok’s hesitation did not last, and he openly laid out the truth.

“It is still alive.”

The king remained unsurprised.

“So, did the illusion beast tamer succeed in taming the torgos?”

Seon-Hyeok was rather relieved. King Theodore seemed to have anticipated this situation.

“It just so happened that way.”

“So your concern is that this foreigner will be put in an unenviable position because I claimed the creature had demonic origins.”

Seon-Hyeok did not deny the king’s words.

“I will decide after I judge this foreigner. I must see for myself whether this person is worth embracing.”

The king immediately summoned Choi Min-Young.

“I… I g, greet the king.”

Min-Young stuttered when she was suddenly summoned while taking her rest.

Perhaps it was because she was face to face with the ruler of Adenburg, or perhaps it was because she knew of her sins. In any case, she was unable to remain composed.

“Hm.”

King Theodore stared intently at Min-Young for a while. His transparent gaze seemed to look deep within her.

“It’s done. You may go back now.”

“Huh? Yes.”

Tense with anxiety, Min-Young was flustered when the king dismissed her without asking a single question.

“You can go back.”

Seon-Hyeok gave her a look when, in her confusion, she remained in place despite receiving the order.

“T, then please be well until the next time we meet.”

Min-Young gave a strange, clumsy farewell as she left her seat.

“Wasn’t there something you wanted to ask her?”

“I wanted to see her for myself, and I did. That is enough.”

It was an incomprehensible attitude. Unfortunately for Seon-Hyeok, King Theodore was not the type of person to explain his actions.

“She will be given the title of viscount.”

Being granted the title of viscount was tantamount to an admission that Min-Young would be recognized by the royal family as a high-tier class.

Seon-Hyeok did not consider this measure to be particularly noteworthy.

It was true that the torgos had only been tamed in its drastically weakened state, but Min-Young clearly had significant potential. If she encountered the right illusory beasts, she could gain the strength to deal with a sizable army on her own.

“Illusion beast tamer… what an interesting being.”

King Theodore seemed to think along the same lines, and he did not seem to care about the torgos’ previous rampage.

“It would’ve been an interesting sight had that torgos creature been summoned in the middle of an enemy kingdom.”

Seon-Hyeok was impressed. In that brief time, the king had already considered how to best make use of Min-Young.

The Adenstein royal family truly excelled at evaluating unexpected situations. He found it fortunate that they did not meet as enemies in this world.

“But this incident shows that her abilities are still incomplete.”

It was as the king suggested. In the right situation, the illusion beast tamer’s summoning ability would be powerful enough to handily dispose of an enemy regiment on its own. However, it came with significant limitations and required luck.

“What is more worrying is her weak mental state.”

For someone who had not exchanged a single word with Min-Young and sent her away after looking at her face for a moment, King Theodore seemed to be quite familiar with the foreigner.

“And so, I plan to entrust you with guiding and controlling her.”

“Huh?”

Seon-Hyeok had not expected the king to assign such a powerful individual to him.

He was not sure whether it was a sign of trust from the royal family, or if there was a separate reason entirely.

“But I will make this one request of you.”

King Theodore ignored his reaction as he continued.

“Do not take her feelings of resentment lightly.”

Once again, the king’s words were unexpected.

“The sorrow and sense of deprivation she suffered are several times deeper and more enduring than you think. You will have to understand her feelings and guide her well.”

Despite his words, however, the king did not seem particularly concerned.

“But her blind trust in you overshadows my concerns.”

“I’m not sure what you’re talking about…”

“You were the first to acknowledge her existence. Her feelings towards you are like those of a newly hatched duckling following its mother.”

Only then did Seon-Hyeok realize what King Theodore was saying. He would need to take good care of her, as her wounds were deep, and they had not yet healed enough for her to trust anyone else in the kingdom.

“I will do my best.”

The king gave a satisfied look before adding another comment.

“I trust you know the customs of the royal family.”

Seon-Hyeok was once again at a loss for words, unsure of what the king was saying this time.

“Do not even dream of having any affairs.”

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