Episode 32. Conferment of Honors (2)

Seon-Hyeok had already heard from the commander that he would be receiving a medal and given some authority for his accomplishments. As a result, he had remained calm while speaking with Frederick.

This attitude did not last long, however, as the royal family had unexpectedly decided to confer him a much higher title.

“You have been given the title of viscount.”

Unlike knights, whose titles were impressive in name but had no practical benefits, his new title of viscount truly cemented his position as a member of the nobility.

Viscounts often lacked their own territory and functioned as supportive figures next to higher-ranking nobles, but in some cases, they could exert influence greater than that of an average lord.

Once assigned, his title could not be taken away, and his name would be known alongside the other nobles within the Adenburg Kingdom.

“Your exact position hasn’t been determined yet, but it’s likely that you’ll be given responsibilities at the capital like the other higher-tier foreigners.”

At this point, it could be said that Seon-Hyeok’s original plans of cutting ties with the royal family had gone completely astray.

“Do my own desires have no influence in this?”

When asked this with a frowning face, Frederick replied that though an individual’s wishes were not taken into consideration in general, the situation could be different given his unique status as a foreigner.

After this, Frederick continued on, saying that his class was temporarily assigned as mid-tier, but that a ranking official would soon visit to properly assess his abilities. However, Seon-Hyeok was no longer paying attention.

“Don’t forget that you’re a member of the heavy cavalry until you’re formally given your new title, and pay special attention to your actions until then.”

Frederick realized there was no use in saying more, and sent Seon-Hyeok away with these final words.

“That snake-like old man!”

As he left the barracks, Seon-Hyeok swore and kicked at the ground. Because the commander had properly reported on his accomplishments, it seemed that he would be unnecessarily receiving a noble title and become inextricably linked to the kingdom.

He could not help but feel resentment.

Perhaps the commander had been expecting this reaction? He soon visited the camp, accompanied by a single cavalry rider.

“Don’t be so resentful. It’s much easier to live with a nobleman’s title than without one.”

These were the first words the commander offered, seeing Seon-Hyeok’s angered expression.

“How can I feel good about this? I’ve been shackled to the kingdom against my will.”

The commander remained calm despite the brazen response.

“Why are you so angry?”

“It’s obviously the fact that the more favors I get from the royal family, the more debt…”

“You have the wrong idea.”

The commander cut him off as he responded.

“The support you’ve received from the royal family so far is undeniably debt to be repaid. It’s difficult for a foreigner to get by alone in this world. In that situation, the royal family helps develop their abilities and finds them a position they can settle down in.”

“That’s why I don’t want to be further indebted…”

“But.”

Seeing his unhappy expression, the commander smiled as though trying to soothe an upset child.

“Haven’t you already settled your debts?”

The commander’s voice was firm.

“The rewards and titles that will be given to you are simply reasonable compensation for your accomplishments.”

His knowing eyes gazed straight at Seon-Hyeok.

“Maybe you’ll understand it better this way.”

The commander continued, staring at him with his clear, smiling eyes.

“You’ve paid off all your debts. It’s now time for the royal family to pay their own.”

The commander left soon after. He said he had simply wanted to meet the soldiers and tour their camps since the military situation had settled down for the time being. Ahn Yoo-Jung and her companions left at the same time.

“I’ll see you at the fort.”

Yoo-Jung said her goodbyes with an expression somewhere between relief and disappointment, and Seon-Hyeok thanked her for her kindness.

Once everyone had left, he fell deep in thought.

Since when had he only thought about running away and escaping his situation? When he first left the training facilities, he had been determined to make the most of this situation and live well in this new world.

After some thought, he realized why his feelings had changed. He was terrified by war and pressured by the desire to survive. In addition, as he had not finished his service in the other world, part of him was influenced by the aspiration to be discharged and no longer be tied to his military obligations.

‘I hope you stay in the military, but I won’t keep you here against your will. And even if you do remain, I won’t force you to remain loyal to the royal family. All I want is for you to do your best in your current position. In the end, it’s people like that who collectively make the kingdom stronger.’

Seon-Hyeok frowned as he recalled what the commander said before he left.

“That damn old man. He seems honest, but he’s got quite the way with words.”

Then again, Seon-Hyeok did have to admit. After being dropped off into this world, he had consistently been a bit too impatient.

‘You kept your promise with me. Now it’s my turn.’

The old commander wasn’t just good at talking. He was good at managing people as well.

‘I, Wittenfeld Royen Mangsk, commander-in-chief of the western army of the Adenburg Kingdom, permanently grant the foreigner, Kim Seon-Hyeok, part of my territory. This transfer of territory is guaranteed by the Mangsk and royal families, and none may dispute this in the future.’

The commander, Wittenfeld Royen Mangsk, surprisingly awarded him some of his own land. In addition, he said that as a result, Seon-Hyeok now had the right to refuse the royal call and concentrate on managing his own territory.

‘If you want, I can arrange for you to remain with your current comrades as well.’

Seon-Hyeok couldn’t help but seriously consider his options, given all the perks offered to him.

‘Of course, all of this is only possible once you are conferred your title.’

The commander promised not to ask for anything in return for the land, and Seon-Hyeok couldn’t help but be swayed. He had begun his new life in the Adenburg Kingdom, and the opportunities offered him were too tempting to continue insisting on being discharged and cutting ties with the kingdom.

***

The 24th Regiment infantry, which had been dispatched to the front lines to provide support, returned as Seon-Hyeok considered his future.

There did not seem to be any significant losses, indicating that no major battle had occurred, but the faces of the infantrymen were still full of fatigue. Among those who returned safely were Park Soo-Hong and Kang Jeong-Tae.

“Welcome back.”

No matter their previous relationship, Seon-Hyeok was happy to see them return alive and well. When he hugged the two dusty and dirtied men, they responded in a weary voice.

“I heard you had some major accomplishments in battle. Congratulations.”

“Congratulations.”

Their dull gazes and exhausted voices showed no signs of the jealousy they held before.

“You’ve worked hard. It’s good that you’re back.”

Seon-Hyeok consoled them, able to sympathize with their harrowing experience.

***

A few days after the infantry returned, Seon-Hyeok and the heavy cavalry once again left for Fort Mangsk. This time, the atmosphere was completely different from their previous march to the fortress. They rode hard without worrying about any external threats, and they reached their destination in just two days.

“Hm. That didn’t take long.”

In fact, the distance travelled wasn’t particularly great. His previous experience with the journey now felt so strange.

“Fort Mangsk welcomes the return of the heroes.”

A crowd several times larger than from their previous visit welcomed them. This was the courtesy given to the victors who destroyed the Sastein cavalry, the force that had plagued the Adenburg Kingdom for so long. The commander stood in front of the cheering soldiers and welcomed them, and his words were so flowery that all who listened felt embarrassed.

The enthusiastic welcoming ceremony soon concluded, and Seon-Hyeok was escorted to his quarters.

A day passed, and he and the cavalry were called in by the commander.

“I didn’t summon you to say anything distasteful, so please eat and listen comfortably.”

At the commander’s easygoing words, the riders began to devour the meat and soup offered to them.

“There will be an official notice soon, but you’ll all be rewarded greatly for your achievements in battle. I’m sure there will be significant money and promotions involved. In the case of the company commander, he’ll probably be promoted to senior knight without much issue.”

The men, who had been focused on eating, quieted down to pay attention to the commander as he spoke about their rewards.

“However, all of that is a natural price for the royal family to pay to their loyal and brave soldiers. As such, I’m planning to give you all one additional reward using my authority as commander.”

The cavalry had hopeful looks on their faces as they listened to the commander.

“You’ve spent so much time in battle. Don’t you think about your hometowns at all?”

“Ahhh! Long live the commander!”

A cheer hastily erupted even before the commander finished his words. He smiled softly and continued.

“It’ll be for a month, so please go see your families during that time. Things will get busy again once you get back. The royal envoy should be here by then, and anyone who returns late should be prepared to lose his special promotions and rewards.”

“Hooray! You’re the best, commander!”

“Long live the commander!”

As the riders shouted in excitement, Seon-Hyeok stood there with an awkward expression, unable to join in on the celebrations.

He couldn’t return to his hometown, no matter how much he wanted to.

As he poked at his plate with a gloomy expression, the riders all rushed at him.

“Come with me!”

“What are you talking about? You should come with me. I already told everyone I’d bring you along the next time I visit!”

“Tsk tsk. Why would you bring a guest to the remote countryside? It’s better for him to come to a busy place like my hometown.”

The longing for his hometown and his feeling of exclusion soon dissipated. Seon-Hyeok smiled, seeing his fellow cavalry invite him along.

“All of you, fuck off. I’m taking him.”

“Come on, Hansen. You don’t want to take him, just to have your sister see him! You know what could happen!”

There were some dangerous suggestions mixed in, but Seon-Hyeok was able to shake off his gloomy feelings thanks to his comrades.

He didn’t answer immediately, since a decision did not have to be made then and there, and the riders all tried to introduce and talk up their hometowns as if they were travel agents.

In a way, this in itself was also a difficult situation. He didn’t know much about any of their hometowns, so he would have to make a decision based on his personal relationships with the riders. But at the same time, he also didn’t want to disappoint anyone.

However, his ultimate destination had already been decided. That night, the dragon spoke to him.

[Head north.]

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