“It’s been a while.”
Kim Seon-Hyeok didn’t look happy when he saw the stern old knight curtly greeting him.
It was Marquis Heinrich Paulgram Reinhardt, a powerful nobleman who was a distant relative of the royal family and one of the few marquis of the kingdom.
“Truthfully, there are many people waiting for the day you, the Indomitable Duke, returned to the kingdom, sir.”
“......and Heinrich Paulgram Reinhardt, ranked 6 on the list, has publicly expressed this sentiment, sir.”
Marquis Reinhardt was one of the people Kim Seon-Hyeok really didn’t want to meet at this moment.
“...dispatched the royal guard, sir.”
When Baron Rugenburg finished the explanation a beat later, Marquis Reinhardt waved his hand as he spoke with an indifferent expression.
“You’re surprised by everything. What is so shocking about the royal guards coming out to greet the members of the royal family?”
Of course, it wasn’t strange for the royal guards to come this far to escort the spouse of the kingdom’s only heir. However, that didn’t mean the head of the royal guard should’ve left his post in the royal castle and come all the way here.
“The Iberian leader sure did send a lot of things.”
Marquis Reinhardt clicked his tongue as he watched the Iberian Alliance’s fleet lined up in the port.
“Baron Rugenburg. Check the cargo first, and then provide a place to rest for those who are tired. I have something I need to discuss with the Indomitable Duke in private.”
The marquis treated the lord of the estate as he would a servant, but the lord carried out all his orders.
“Of course, sir.”
Seeing him bowing his head and obeying the marquis’s commands, it was obvious Baron Regenburg had been harshly dealt with.
“Seems like the Indomitable Duke isn’t happy to see me, especially since you haven’t even greeted me yet.”
When Kim Seon-Hyeok heard the criticism, he realized he hadn’t greeted the marquis yet and hurried to address him.
“It’s been a while, sir. Have you been well?”
Kim Seon-Hyeok might have the title of duke along with his title as the spouse of the only heir, but his opponent was Marquis Reinhardt, the eldest of the royal family and the closest aide to King Theodore.
His opponent was too great for him to treat casually.
“I was upset watching Her Highness waiting for her spouse who left the house to return, and the kingdom labeled me as an old man and lined up young people behind me… but if you ignore all that, I’ve been pretty well.”
Kim Seon-Hyeok became mute in front of the marquis, who didn’t seem like he had been doing great at all.
“And how have you been doing, Indomitable Duke? I have seen the messages so I have a rough idea of what happened, but looking at your face, I think there are many things missing from it.”
Displeased, Marquis Reinhardt glared at him.
“Adolph Hochneck. Mitenmeier Vucocque.”
At the marquis’s low voice, the head of the expedition group, Adolph Hochneck, and the leader of the transfer team, Mitenmeier Vucocque, rushed out and stood in front of him.
“Sir Hochneck, your report did not contain the beautiful scar on the Indomitable Duke’s face.”
Kim Seon-Hyeok reflexively touched the wound that bisected through his face as he finally realized why the marquis looked so harsh. A bumpy three-stranded groove, it was a scar he had gotten during a fierce battle against a powerful Manticore.
“Can you not see that? Or did you deliberately omit the Indomitable Duke’s wounds in the report? If it’s the former, then there must be something wrong with your eyes to not see it, so I’ll kill honorably as knights. If it’s the latter, then since you’ve gone against the order of Her Highness, I’ll kill you with my own hands.”
The marquis didn’t seem like he was lying. Of course, there was no way that he would really kill them when Adenburg was a country where talent was valued, and the two of them were knights who had reached the level of senior knights at a young age, but the marquis was exuding a killing intent that was as lethal as a sharp knife.
“Now, answer me. Why weren't the Indomitable Duke’s injuries included in the report?”
“Forgive me, sir.”
The two knights knelt in front of the marquis.
“No, that’s not it. That’s not the answer I want.”
However, the marquis wasn’t pleased with their apology. The marquis glared at them as it seemed like he really would kill the two knights at any moment.
“Forgive me. I’ll accept any punishment you deem necessary, sir.”
The two of them didn’t make any excuses.
In the end, Kim Seon-Hyeok stepped up. He felt that if he didn’t, the two knights really would be severely punished if he left it alone.
“They didn’t do anything wrong, sir, they were merely doing me a favor. I didn’t want to worry Her Highness, but it seems that I didn’t think it through.”
At those words, the marquis’ eyes smoldered with anger. But, even though he looked as if he would immediately explode in anger, he didn’t actually get angry.
“Since the Indomitable Duke has come out like this, I will excuse their mistake. But should this happen again, even the senior knights and above will not be safe, so be careful.”
When the marquis forcibly calmed down, the royal guards softly gasped.
The old knight was someone who never released his anger until he burnt through all of it, so they were shocked he gave in.
“I have a lot to say, so let’s move to somewhere more appropriate, sir.”
When the guards saw the marquis pretending to be dragged away by Seon-Hyeok’s words, the royal guards once again began muttering amongst themselves.
“I’m telling you, I did it on purpose.”
Marquis Reinhardt responded firmly to Kim Seon-Hyeok's question of whether it really was necessary for Marquis Reinhardt to publicly reprimand the knights who had just completed a difficult mission and returned from the far central region.
“On purpose, sir?”
“Baron Rugenburg has loose lips so rumors will be spreading soon. They’ll be saying that even the rigid Marquis Reinhardt will bend and give in to the Indomitable Duke.”
The marquis spoke as if it had nothing to do with him.
“And the people who hear these rumors will see that your authority is different from before. That is what I want.”
Seon-Hyeok could not understand why the marquis would purposefully do something that would undermine his authority.
“Your reputation is truly great. It’s to the extent that there is no one on this continent that does not know the Indomitable Duke. You have become no different from a guardian deity of our kingdom to the knights and the people. But those are only words.”
Marquis Reinhardt looked him straight in the eye.
“The battlefield is not where you should be in the future. But you’re not very reliable off the battlefield. It would be great if you could show a quarter of who you are on the battlefield, but what can you do. That is your nature.”
It was a harsh criticism, but Kim Seon-Hyeok couldn’t disagree.
“For the soldiers and knights, someone like you who doesn’t use his authority would probably be a great superior. But for the sly nobles, you’d be nothing more than someone for them to use.”
And in fact, Archbishop Benedict thought Kim Seon-Hyeok would be easy and tried playing tricks on him in the Holy Kingdom. In the end, Archbishop Benedict had paid a price, but the truth was, people who were politically savvy thought he was an easy mark.
“The kingdom is growing stronger than ever before. In such a situation, it isn’t good for the spouse of Her Highness, the soon-to-be Queen, to be seen as weak. Of course, I don’t doubt that you have the ability to solve this problem on your own. However, their subtle attempts and challenges are no different than rust eating into the royal family’s authority.”
“Then, Marquis, you already know I would step forward and…”
Kim Seon-Hyeok exclaimed. He finally realized what the marquis was intending.
“It’s a childish trick, but its effect will be absolutely outstanding. Those who hear about it from the loose-lipped Baron Rugenburg will know that the status of the Indomitable Duke is not the same as before. They will no longer be able to call you the Layabout Duke and they won’t dare to even think about using you or walk all over you.”
Seon-Hyeok was surprised to hear that was what the marquis had been aiming for and couldn’t help but admire him once again.
“But Marquis, your authority…”
“In this kingdom, there’s no one who’ll think I’m easy just because I gave in once. And if there is, they’ll pay dearly for it. So don’t worry about me. Besides, how much longer do you think I’ll live? I’m saying that it doesn’t cost me much to share my name with a young fellow like you.”
Seon-Hyeok hurriedly responded to the marquis’ calm words.
“What nonsense, sir, you’re clearly so healthy. Any decent knight would struggle to defeat you, they can’t come anywhere near you, sir.”
It wasn’t pleasant to see the vigorous and incorruptible old knight kneeling before time, and Kim Seon-Hyeok truly did not want to see him die. That was why he sincerely emphasized the marquis’ health.
“I think so too.”
The marquis’ attitude suddenly changed.
“I’m still in my prime, but the people who don’t know anything keep trying to have me stand behind the youngsters. What wicked bastards they are.”
Kim Seon-Hyeok suddenly had an ominous feeling as he watched the marquis talking as if he had been waiting for this moment.
“So I plan to let the whole world know that I’m not a decrepit old man just yet.”
“Didn’t you just say it’s not a waste to share some of your fame with me…”
Seon-Hyeok slowly rose from his seat as he felt the ominous feeling intensifying. He was planning on running out if necessary.
But it seems like the marquis knew exactly what he was thinking. The marquis moved first.
“I might be willing to share my name as a noble, but I don’t plan on handing over my name as a warrior so cheaply.”
Kim Seon-Hyeok tried to pull his arm away, but what kind of old man was this? The marquis was unshakeable.
“Her Highness won’t like it, sir. No matter what anyone might say, haven’t I just returned from a harsh and terrible battlefield?”
The marquis laughed at his weak excuse.
“His Highness the Regent has allowed this. No, rather, it seems like Her Highness wants me to break the leg of her spouse who has itchy feet and keeps wandering outside.”
“That can’t be true, sir.”
There was no way that Ophelia, who worried so much that her husband who was far away from home would get hurt, would allow this duel to happen. But when he disagreed, the marquis laughed out loud.
“You should have contacted her more often, then.”
Seems like Ophelia was still angry.
“I, Heinrich Paulgram Reinhardt, ask the Indomitable Duke, Seon-Hyeok Rheinperle Kim Drachen for a duel!”
While Kim Seon-Hyeok had been thinking about Ophelia, Marquis Reinhardt suddenly challenged him to a duel. No matter informally they may treat each other in private, as a knight, he just couldn’t laugh off the challenge.
“Must you really do this?”
“Think about it positively. If you beat me, then you won’t have to fight with the people who are lower than in rank that’s been waiting for you to return.”
While that made sense, Kim Seon-Hyeok hadn't thought he’d be challenged to a duel the very day he returned to his country. He sighed.
“Or perhaps you need time to rest?”
Seon-Hyeok shook his head at the marquis’ consideration, which really didn’t feel like consideration.
“I don’t think that would be necessary.”
“I thought so.”
Kim Seon-Hyeok sighed once again when he looked at the marquis’ eyes already sparkling with determination.
4. The original phrased use was 발끝에도 미치지 못할 겁니다. A direct translation would be: “They’ll be no match for even your toes” which is a figurative way of saying (in this case) that the knights aren’t nearly as good as Marquis Reinhardt.