Needless to say, Kim Seon-Hyeok was talking about the Demon King.
“The Demon King, Park Sang-Jin, will be the perfect opponent for you, Duke Roachim.”
Although he had never crossed swords with the Demon King, Kim Seon-Hyeok felt that the monstrous Sword Star would be as strong as the Demon King. He even thought that if it was this old knight who had reached his peak, then maybe he could knock the Demon King down.
But the Sword Star’s reaction after hearing this was strange. Kim Seon-Hyeok had thought the Sword Star would become anxious to set off towards the West immediately, but instead, he was unresponsive.
“I fought against the Demon King with all my might, but I lost. If I don’t satisfy you, then the Demon King will definitely be able to, Duke Roachiam.”
Wondering if the Reclusive Duke, who’s never been interested in the world, hadn’t heard the rumors about the Demon King, Kim Seon-Hyeok told him about the last battle and the Demon King’s strength.
However, the Sword Star continued to remain silent.
His eyes were still burning with combative spirit and he clearly wanted to fight and win against the Demon King, but his lips were tightly closed as if he was keeping something back.
Kim Seon-Hyeok couldn’t guess what the problem was.
“Unfortunately, I will never cross swords with the Demon King.”
After a while, the Sword Star finally opened his mouth. But unexpectedly, he rejected the suggestion.
“If you’re worried that he wouldn’t be good enough…”
“No, no, that’s not it.”
Before Kim Seon-Hyeok could even finish his sentence, the Sword Star shook his head
The Sword Star was someone who would recklessly charge forward as long as he could compare his swordsmanship against someone else; he had even run after the Grand Duke’s procession for that exact reason.
For someone like that to ignore the existence of the Demon King even after being told about him was confusing to Kim Seon-Hyeok.
However, the Sword Star didn’t tell him the reason.
“If, if you’re able to break my sword, then I’ll tell you, Grand Duke. But as of right now, I have nothing to tell you.”
The Sword Star merely pushed everything to after the duel.
Since that day, Kim Seon-Hyeok began realizing things that he hadn’t seen while fighting on the battlefield.
Could the Sword Star really be the only monstrously strong person in a continent full of superhumans?
That was impossible. It wouldn’t be strange if there were one or two more people like the Sword Star somewhere on the continent.
That was why he asked a question to the Sword Star: Who was the strongest person on the continent?
He believed that the old knight who had dedicated his life to his sword would be able to answer his question.
“I’ve wandered all my life to find the answer to that question as well. But so far, I haven’t found it yet.”
For some reason, the Sword Star’s expression was complicated as he answered.
The Sword Star’s answer was as difficult to understand as it would be to capture a cloud, but there was still one thing Kim Seon-Hyeok got from that short answer.
There were definitely monstrous people as good as the Sword Star somewhere on this continent. Otherwise, there was no way that the proud old knight who lived solely to test his swordsmanship would answer that way.
It was confusing.
The disaster that began in the western lands was now threatening the central regions. In response, the central kingdoms, including the Holy Kingdom, were sending in even the superhumans they had been hoarding, just to continue to struggle on the frontlines as they went back and forth between advancing and retreating.
So why weren’t the powerful people hiding themselves on the continent appearing? If they lent a hand, then they could create room for the central region to take a breather from their suffering from the demons and demonic creatures.
He had countless questions but right now, he had no answers.
In the middle of an unknown plain at the front of the western region, Kim Seon-Hyeok requested the Sword Star to promise him something.
“If I win the duel, you’ll tell me everything you know.”
“Only if the Grand Duke can defeat my swordsmanship.”
The Sword Star’s short answer was equal to an agreement. Now, Kim Seon-Hyeok had a specific reason to win the duel against the Sword Star.
About three weeks after they left the Imperial capital, they finally reached the Rheinperle territory.
The cavalrymen who left the cavalry and joined Rheinperle came out to greet them.
Hansen and Clark, as well as Jonasson and Jackson - they were comrades who had once gone through life and death with him together.
“Woow, you sure came back soon.  When you made us leave, you sure made it seem like you’d be returning quickly.”
They had once gone all the way to the central region with Goldrake, but were now expressing their unhappiness. But that was only for a moment. They soon smiled happily as they shouted.
“Our Lord who left is finally back!”
He felt like a teenager who had run away from home and was embarrassed to look at the knights of the Imperial Guards. But at the same time, this wasn’t a bad feeling. After all, it had been more than a year since he returned home, but these men hadn’t changed at all.
However, he couldn’t just stand there watching them. He had to stop them. His old comrades seemed like they would hold a festival at any moment as they continued to shout.
“We’re in a period of mourning. Stop making a ruckus.”
The man stopped talking when he responded while slightly raising his black cape.
It seemed like the black cape, which indicated the fact he was mourning, had faded in color due to the snow and dust from racing through plains.
Either that, or their happiness in seeing their Lord after such a long time had overwhelmed their sensibility.
Rheinperle territory had developed remarkably.
With the full support of the Imperial Family, the lord’s mansion had expanded to the point that it wasn’t unreasonable to say it was a decent-sized castle, and the village surrounding it was completely different from before as it flourished.
“Sir Montaigne must’ve worked hard.”
Kim Seon-Hyeok thought that all this was the accomplishment of Antoine Montaigne, but when he said that, Clark and the other men’s faces turned dark.
Perhaps it was because of all the deaths recently, but Kim Seon-Hyeok instantly realized what their expression meant.
And it was as expected.
The old scholar who had been invited over by Julian to become the administrator of Rheinperle couldn’t overcome his age and was bedridden.
“You’ve returned so late, My Lord.”
The old scholar couldn’t win against time and his once bright eyes had become cloudy.
Because of a lord who hadn’t stayed in his lands, the old scholar who had had to handle all the affairs of the territory had gotten old.
“I’m sorry. I’ve only burdened you.”
When Kim Seon-Hyeok sincerely apologized, the old scholar laughed.
“I was able to use everything that I’ve learned and studied in my life as much as I wanted, so in a way, it was enjoyable, My Lord.”
The Imperial family had a firm grip over the existing culture and the new culture, but Rheinperle was free from all restrictions. And the old scholar had liked that freedom very much.
“Thank you for all your hard work. Thanks to you, the territory has changed beyond recognition, so tell me if there’s anything you want, Sir Montaigne.”
The old scholar merely asked that if he truly deserved the recognition, then to take care of his family in his stead.
That night, the old scholar’s condition worsened.
Although Kim Seon-Hyeok was worried about Ophelia, who was left behind in the Imperial palace, and wanted to hurry and finish his business, he couldn’t ignore the old scholar who had devoted the remainder of his life to him.
And so, he remained by the old scholar’s side for three days. On the fourth day, he saw off the old scholar in his final moments.
Kim Seon-Hyeok sighed after the old scholar died. It was bad for his emotional stability that the people around him kept leaving.
He turned to look at Clark and the men following behind him.
The men he’d met in their prime to run on the battlefields were no longer young.
While their sturdy and muscular body still remained, their eyes were no longer young and didn’t hold the same childishness it once did. Now that the years had taken their toll, their eyes only held wisdom from their experiences.
But that was understandable.
They had lived their entire lives on the harsh battlefields. It wasn’t strange that they were aging a bit faster than others.
“We’re still fine.”
Perhaps he had noticed the bitterness in Seon-Hyeok’s eyes, Clark jokingly showed off his biceps.
“But still, it’s a bit unfair. We’ve aged, but you don’t look much different from when we first met you, My Lord.”
Jonasson pressed down on the wrinkles on his forehead as he complained.
Just like he said, Kim Seon-Hyeok hadn’t changed much from the time he had first fallen into this world. If there was something that changed, then it would be the aura of dignity and stateliness along with the scars across his face.
But, he didn’t know whether it was because of some special ability given to a dragon’s companion or the unique trait of Asians where their appearance was hardly reflective of their age.
His heart felt heavy when he thought that he didn’t realize the time passed because his appearance remained the same.
“I agree. Did you eat something in the palace without sharing?”
“If there’s something like that, you should share it with us.”
Perhaps they realized that the atmosphere turned odd, but the men started whining at him. Kim Seon-Hyeok tried his best to look happier.
“There’s nothing even if I want to eat it alone.”
The men laughed at his playful answer.
Antoine Montaigne had trained administrators so the absence of the old scholar wasn’t terribly noticeable. That was why Kim Seon-Hyeok was able to leave his territory with peace of mind.
“I’ll drop by on the way back.”
He asked his old comrades to wait for him. He wanted to repay these honest men before it was too late.
“Was there ever a time we didn’t wait for you, My Lord?”
They chuckled and giggled with each other as they responded to his request.
Kim Seon-Hyeok reluctantly picked up his dragging feet and headed towards Mangsk.
“Why are you looking at me like that?”
Kim Seon-Hyeok felt someone blatantly staring at him, so when he turned his head, he saw the Sword Star looking at him with a strange expression on his face.
While they had been staying in Rheinperle, the Sword Star hadn’t wanted to reveal his identity and hid his presence. Perhaps that was why no one realized the identity of the strongest and the best superhuman of the Empire even though he stood right in front of them.
Free from the people’s eyes, the Sword Star freely wandered around the territory alone and sometimes, followed Kim Seon-Hyeok and overheard his conversations.
And now, the Sword Star seemed to be in a dilemma.
He didn’t answer the question. However, this had happened so often that Kim Seon-Hyeok was used to it and no longer cared about the cranky man.
When it became evening, the Sword Star sought him out. It was the first time that he came to Seon-Hyeok’s barracks without receiving an invitation.
“Will you drink with me?”
The Sword Star hadn’t carried much luggage with him. So when he suddenly invited Seon-Hyeok to drink with him, Seon-Hyeok asked where the alcohol had come from, and the old man responded as if nothing was wrong.
“There was a lot in the warehouse, so I grabbed one.”
It was dumbfounding that the Sword Star was speaking so casually about stealing from the Grand Duke’s warehouse. However, Kim Seon-Hyeok wasn’t someone who would be petty over a bottle of alcohol, so he took a small sip when the Sword Star passed him the bottle.
For some reason, he couldn’t tell whether the alcohol was sweet or bitter.
“Are you worried about something?”
The Sword Star didn’t answer. He simply disappeared without a word after drinking until the bottle ran dry.
Perhaps it was because rumors circulated that the Indomitable Grand Duke had stopped by Rheinperle, but Mangsk’s cavalry came out to greet them.
Although Kim Seon-Hyeok was no longer a member of the Western Army, Mangsk’s cavalry greeted him with the same discipline they would a direct superior.
“We will guide you so that you feel no discomfort, sir!”
While their words were crude after staying on the frontlines for so long, their respect and admiration were palpable in their words.
Although their blind admiration seemed excessive, it wasn’t strange.
The Storm Knight Drachen - the legend of the Indomitable Grand Duke had started in the West. There were few skilled soldiers in the West who hadn’t fought with Drachen on the front line, and there were few who didn’t owe him their lives.
If it wasn’t for the deaths in the Imperial capital and Mangsk, the western soldiers would have thrown him a triumphal celebration and welcomed the return of the war hero.
However, because the black tassel and the black cape around the golden armor reminded them they were in a period of mourning, Kim Seon-Hyeok and his party were able to enter the territory of Count Mangsk relatively quietly.
“Ah, Sir Trail.”
Asha Trail welcomed him at the entrance. The lady knight had arrived at Mangsk and was attending Count Mangsk’s funeral on behalf of Rheinperle.
“It’s been a while. Have you been well?”
Asha Trail nodded at his question. She was still a reserved woman of little words. The fact she looked the same told him of her well-being better than a hundred words would have, so he smiled in happiness.
But that was only for a moment. Soon, he reined in his expression and found the master of the territory.
“Where’s Julian, no, where is Countess Mangsk?”
As soon as he finished talking, a group of Mangsk soldiers appeared in the distance, and in the middle of them was the new countess.
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