Episode 174. Royal Vault (1)

This was not a good place to converse with the dragon.

“Wait.”

After calming down the enraged dragon, Seon-Hyeok quickly gave Ophelia a look. Noticing his gaze, Ophelia stopped staring blankly at the nobles’ fruitless debate and turned her head.

“I recognize your loyalty and passion in debating on the future of this kingdom. However, I fear that you are all overzealous in your expressions and that these quarrels may undermine the righteousness of those supporting the kingdom.”

After seeing his expression, Ophelia abruptly declared an end to the meeting.

“Do you have something to say?”

She carefully examined him to see if he was exhausted from the ongoing meetings before suggesting he take a break.

“Go and get some fresh air.”

Seon-Hyeok did not refuse.

“Then I’ll be right back.”

Upon leaving the meeting room, he immediately searched for a deserted place to talk to the dragon. Fortunately for him, there were several hidden rooms prepared for the nobles to relax in from time to time, and he was able to find one to use.

“What’s the matter?”

[That cursed presence.]

The dragon had clearly gathered herself in the meantime, as her voice now sounded much calmer.

[The Fragment of Chaos has appeared in this world.]

The only time the dragon had been so enraged before was upon learning of the existence of the Dark Lord. Perhaps this new matter was related to him as well.

“But the Dark Lord’s been around for a while.”

But he could not understand. He wondered what reason the dragon had for raging about the Fragment of Chaos guiding the foreigner.

[I’m not speaking of that evil lord.]

The dragon spoke solemnly, as if to scold him for his nonchalance.

[I’m saying the Fragment of Chaos has physically manifested in this world.]

The dragon repeatedly emphasized the severity of the situation, but these words did not reach Seon-Hyeok. After all, he simply considered the Fragment of Chaos to be a mere guide for the Dark Lord.

[If the Dark Lord is a being capable of drawing power from the Fragment of Chaos, then the Fragment of Chaos is the embodiment of all that is evil.]

She sighed as Seon-Hyeok stood blankly while waiting for her to continue.

[So frustrating…]

Whether or not the dragon was frustrated, there was nothing Seon-Hyeok could do. He lacked the information to react – this Fragment of Chaos was entirely unfamiliar to him.

[Just as I am unable to appear before you because you are still unworthy, the Fragment of Chaos cannot materialize until the Dark Lord has attained his qualifications. The fact that such a being has appeared in this world means…]

“It means he is worthy.”

[If that was all, I would not have sought you out so urgently.]

The dragon had once been enraged by the appearance of this Dark Lord and wanted to take immediate action. At that time, she had decided to watch on because she respected Seon-Hyeok’s decision to trust the individual and not his class.

The fact that such a dragon went back on her decision and once again broached this topic indicated that circumstances had changed.

[The Fragment of Chaos has brought one of the dragon subspecies under its control.]

“What?”

Despite thinking there would be a reason, Seon-Hyeok was shocked by the dragon’s words.

“What the hell are you…”

[Even a covenant lasting a thousand years is powerless in front of the great chaos that rejects all. The creature has been corrupted and is now a servant of chaos.]

The dragon did not explain what this millennium-long pledge was. However, this was beside the point. What mattered to him now was that one of these dragons he was tasked with taming had fallen into enemy hands.

[It will be perilous for the others if you delay any longer. Their currently suppressed abilities are insufficient to resist the power of chaos, and the only way to prevent their fall from grace is to locate them first.]

Seon-Hyeok could no longer be at ease once he heard the dragon say that the Fragment of Chaos would continue to extend its reach to the remaining dragon subspecies on the continent.

“Where was this fallen creature?”

[North, and then west.]

Geheimnis had told him there was one such creature to the northwest, and it must have been that it happened to be in Nordic territory.

“Then I’ll have to go west.”

Since the dragon subspecies to the northwest had fallen, the only other one he knew the general whereabouts to was somewhere in the west.

[Be careful. Be very careful.]

The dragon repeatedly told him to be careful as he mumbled softly to himself.

[Now that the Fragment of Chaos has awakened, you are no match for the Dark Lord. If you meet this servant of chaos, you will be unable to avoid death.]

Upon returning to the meeting room, Seon-Hyeok immediately sought out Ophelia.

“It seems I will have to leave for a while.”

He was forced to go back on his words not long after promising the princess he would stay by her side. It would have been strange if he did not feel apologetic.

“Raise your head. You don’t have to make that face.”

However, Ophelia neither blamed him nor tried to hang on.

“Seeing you like this, it’s clear that something has occurred that requires your urgent attention.”

Seon-Hyeok wordlessly nodded.

“Then go.”

“Will you be alright?”

When he voiced his concern, Ophelia held her chin up high and answered arrogantly.

“I handled all of my duties as Adenburg’s next queen even before I met you, and I have never once neglected my responsibilities after meeting you. This will not change going forward, so do not treat me like a housewife.”

It was a cold-sounding response from someone he had married not long ago.

However, Seon-Hyeok did not feel any disappointment. If he had to leave anyways, he felt better knowing that she would be dignified and confident.

“Do not worry, and do what you must do.”

There was no wavering in her expression and voice, and thanks to this, he was able to let go of his remaining concerns.

“When do you plan to leave?”

“If I could get ready, I’d leave tomorrow.”

One of the dragons had already succumbed to the Dark Lord. He would need to hurry in order to avoid having the others suffer this same fate.

“Can you tell me where you are headed?”

“West. I’ll be heading west.”

Ophelia seemed to think for a moment before raising three fingers.

“Then leave in 3 days.”

If he could, Seon-Hyeok wanted to leave immediately on Redvern. However, he could not object after seeing Ophelia’s determined expression.

“I understand.”

If she was going to suddenly object to his departure, she would have prevented him from leaving, and not ask for 3 days.

I’m sure she has a reason.

Seon-Hyeok trusted her, and she did not disappoint.

“Take the griffin riders.”

When he looked on blankly at the unexpected act of consideration, Ophelia clicked her tongue and replied.

“You still are unaware of your own position.”

She stated that no spouse to an heir to the throne should ever wander the continent alone. She insisted that he take the griffin riders just in case.

“Though it could cause a diplomatic issue to have individuals with the abilities of senior knights come and go across foreign kingdoms, I hope to avoid this by designating you as a special envoy. Officially, you will be an envoy sent to examine the situation in the war-torn central and western kingdoms, and the others will treat you accordingly.”

Seon-Hyeok truly marveled at Ophelia’s far-sighted wisdom.

“However, this is simply an outward justification. I am still uneasy because these are turbulent times.”

She stated that even with the griffin riders and the official designation as an envoy, she was still uncomfortable with the situation. Thus, she continued on.

“And so, after much consideration, I have decided to open the secret royal vault to you.”

A secret vault for the royal family?

Even the name itself made it difficult to imagine what kinds of treasures would be waiting inside. In any other situation, he would have found the circumstances quite intriguing.

However, at this moment, Seon-Hyeok had to wonder why the princess would be opening the secret treasury at a time like this.

“This secret royal vault has existed from time immemorial. Records of its contents have been lost, making it impossible to know what exactly has been stored inside. With that said, the lack of a record does not mean the items held within are any less valuable…”

Ophelia silently stared at him before finishing her sentence.

“And perhaps there will be a weapon you can use inside.”

Seon-Hyeok was brought to attention by the word ‘weapon’. Long ago, he heard from Clark that there were weapons imbued with magic. At that time, Seon-Hyeok had quickly lost interest in the topic, as he had been a simple cavalry rider, and such weapons would be incredibly rare, expensive, and unattainable. He had since forgotten about their existence.

Why, then, did Ophelia’s words suddenly make me remember these magical weapons?

He had no way of knowing, but right now, he had a hunch.

This was no mere storage room, but the royal family’s secret vault. It would not be strange for it to contain magic weapons.

“At dawn tomorrow, find Marquis Reinhardt and inform him that I have permitted the opening of this royal treasury. He will guide you there.”

Once morning arrived, Seon-Hyeok left his accommodations. With him was the small fairy dragon.

“Why are you following me?”

[I’m coming with you. I think it’ll be fun.]

“Do as you please.”

Despite being a chatterbox, Geheimnis was knowledgeable and worth keeping around. It was possible she would prove useful in the treasury.

“Please open the royal vault.”

Upon finding the marquis, he immediately requested access to the treasury.

“Are you aware of this by any chance?”

Perhaps not expecting that Seon-Hyeok would ever mention this secret vault, Marquis Reinhardt responded with a complex look full of emotions.

“Only one person can enter this room per era.”

He sighed when Seon-Hyeok asked for an explanation for this unexpected comment.

“The wise forebearers of the Adenstein royal family feared that reliance on these rare treasures would lead to laziness in training oneself, and it was their will that entrance to this vault would be limited to one person each era.”

Well, it’s not that out of the line for the former kings of Adenburg. After all, they were so hard on themselves that they traded away their own lifespans.

“The regent had planned to enter the royal vault after her coming-of-age ceremony, but it seems she decided to give that opportunity to you instead.”

“It can’t be…”

“Yes. It is as you imagine.”

Marquis Reinhardt sighed once again.

“She will never be able to enter that room.”

Seon-Hyeok never imagined there would be such restrictions, and his thoughts grew complicated at Ophelia’s sacrifice.

“Then I’d rather not go…”

“Just because she has a delicate appearance doesn’t mean that she’s soft. Having made her decision, she would never go back on her word. Even if you turn back now, I assure you that she would insist on never entering the vault in the future.”

It was as the marquis said. The Adenstein royal family that Seon-Hyeok knew obsessively stood by their own words. Ophelia, as someone from that family, would be no different.

Ugh. She didn’t have to go this far…

If he had been aware of such restrictions from the beginning, he would have refused Ophelia’s proposal on the spot. However, it was too late for that now.

“Come.”

He had no choice but to follow Marquis Reinhardt.

“It’s here.”

From the outside, the secret treasury of the royal family did not seem very special. It looked like just one of many doors within the palace.

“It is your choice on how long to stay within the vault, but once you leave, you cannot re-enter. Also, you must keep in mind that you are limited to bringing out just one item from inside.”

After pondering the marquis’ words for a while, Seon-Hyeok nodded in acknowledgment and opened the door to the vault.

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