Episode 46. Sponsor War (4)

“What did you just say?” Seon-Hyeok asked again, wondering if he had heard wrong. However, no matter how many times he did, the answer did not change.

“The royal princess asked that you be with her at the victory banquet today.”

“But why me of all people…”

When he asked why someone in such a high position would choose him to accompany her, the servant bearing the message answered with a displeased look.

“Shouldn’t you be grateful for her consideration rather than questioning the motives of the wise princess?”

It was what a person from this world would do in his situation. However, Seon-Hyeok was simply in the capital to reap his rewards, and he had no interest in the actual event that would be taking place. The princess’ request was nothing more than a burden to him.

“Ugh. I understand.”

In the end, he concluded their conversation, understanding that there was nothing to be gained by complaining to a servant loyal to the royal family.

“Ugh. Why is that kid…”

Was it because she was happy with his responses the previous day? Or perhaps she wanted to keep him close to prevent any interaction between him and the nobles? Either way, it felt like a distasteful arrangement for him. Thanks to the princess, it would be impossible to avoid the people’s attention, and his plan to return to the border after quietly receiving his rewards had been completely derailed.

“That kid sure is a nuisance.”

No matter how lovely and cute the princess may be, he wasn’t happy with her actions. Even so, he was willing to do what he was asked.

It’s not too difficult to comply until I get what I need.

In addition, the princess’ presence could prove positive in its own way, if it managed to keep the nobles at bay. He tried to convince himself that it was a mutually beneficial arrangement.

Those thoughts did not last.

“How much longer?”

It turned out that escorting the royal princess wasn’t as simple as he imagined. He felt dizzy trying to learn all the mannerisms and practices expected of him from the moment he entered until he left.

“These have been simplified as much as possible out of consideration for your status as a foreigner.”

It was difficult enough internalizing the lessons given to him by those in charge of royal etiquette. Having the knight nagging him at the same time made it unbearable.

“The royal family will lose face if you can’t abide by these practices. I promise you…something interesting will happen if you embarrass the royal princess.”

These words felt more menacing to him than any explicit threat. Seon-Hyeok shut his mouth in front of the superhuman knight who had pressured him the day before.

Ugh. He should be protecting the kid, so why is he here…

Regardless of how he felt, his movements in mimicking the etiquette instructor became much sharper than before. He had felt intimidated by the knight even before he knew of his identity. Upon discovering his title, he felt even more pressured.

Reinhardt Heinrich Paulgram, head of the Royal Guard and marquis of the Kingdom of Adenburg.

“This guy. He’s so stiff.”

Seon-Hyeok didn’t even expect encouragement. He just wanted to be left alone, but Reinhardt continued to bother him. Seon-Hyeok wanted to curse at him, but could only scratch his head and laugh because he was far inferior in both position and ability.

“I think this is all you need to know. We’ll have to wait and see how well you can apply these lessons, but make sure to ask for help if you need it.”

Seon-Hyeok’s expression darkened after his grasp of the lessons he had spent hours learning was deemed barely adequate. He suppressed his indignation before inquiring who he should ask for advice, and the instructor simply glanced at Marquis Reinhardt.

“This is reality, kid.”

The marquis seemed to have no intention of giving him advice. Seeing the knight’s spiteful appearance, Seon-Hyeok complained, “Then why are you here?”

“What do you mean, why? The kid I helped raise is attending a celebration with you, so I need to see for myself what kind of person you are.”

Seon-Hyeok thought it was ridiculous that the knight was talking about the royal princess like any old commoner’s daughter.

This man, he’s a bit like the riders.

His senses, trained by serving as a sergeant in the other world, told him that the knight wasn’t too different from the 24th Regiment heavy cavalry. Seon-Hyeok observed his expression and asked.

“So, what do you think?”

“What does it matter whether you’re a bum or someone worthy? If I catch you doing anything, I’ll just break your legs on the spot. I’m sure you’ll behave if you want to live.”

There was, however, a clear difference between the marquis and the riders. The former had a talent for casually threatening others.

“I see. I will do well.”

Despite feeling intimidated, Seon-Hyeok managed to answer, knowing that the marquis wasn’t as stuck up as the average noble.

“Yes. Do your best. I hope you do well.”

The gruffness remained, but his eyes were sincere.

“Don’t fall for the nobles’ machinations. Don’t covet their wealth or their women. And don’t get snared by the pleasures they offer.”

The knight’s attitude suddenly changed.

“The wealth and honor they offer are no different than the last supper offered to a condemned criminal facing imminent execution.”

The marquis now felt like a sharp blade that would cut him the moment he stepped out of line.

“Keep in mind what I tell you. The royal family cares for talented people, but they do not show mercy to ingrates.”

Seon-Hyeok nodded.

“The only reason I’m even warning you is because the old man from Mangsk asked me to. You should thank him the next time you meet.”

The atmosphere changed once again. Seon-Hyeok found the knight impossible to decipher.

“Well, I’ve done my job here, so I’ll be on my way. See you again, kid.”

With that, the marquis left. Once left alone, Seon-Hyeok wiped off the sweat from behind his neck. He was drenched, and It was evident he had been under immense stress.

“I’m screwed if I ever get overconfident just because I have a drake…”

He didn’t know how high the marquis ranked among the powerful beings of this world, but even the brief glimpse he got was panic-inducing.

‘It is the magnanimity of the strong to have pity on the poor, but that is not a right you currently possess.’

‘Survive. Survive and reach me, even if it means rolling around in the mud. Only then will your compassion have meaning and not simply be a product of your arrogance and ignorance.’

Seon-Hyeok composed himself as he recalled the dragon’s words.

The victory banquet had already begun, but Seon-Hyeok was required to kill time in the waiting room outside the hall.

“Baron Gary Old Citroen and the Baronness Citroen of the eastern Citroen territory are now entering!”

“Baron Harlocke Rouem Parisen and his second daughter, Iris, from the central Parisen territory are now entering!”

“Baron William Leake Carlyle from the eastern Carlyle territory and…”

A while passed since the loud introductions first began.

There was a saying that nobles never entered an event before those of lower rank. Since the announcer had barely finished introducing the barons and just started with the earls, there was still a long way to go until the princess.

Seon-Hyeok just sat there in boredom, but then he heard a welcome sound.

“The kingdom’s shield who preserved our peace and crushed the ambitions of the wicked Noctein Kingdom, the commander-in-chief of the Western Army, Earl Wittenfeld Royen Mangsk. Accompanying him, the members of the 24th Regiment Drake Cavalry, the slayers of the Sastein devils!”

Seon-Hyeok jumped up and clenched his fist as he heard the loud applause.

Ah, how great would it have been if I could enter the banquet with them?

At that moment, he imagined his comrades standing proudly before the nobles, and he felt a twinge of disappointment.

***

“Huh. What is going on?”

Earl Wittenfeld Royen Mangsk, the commander-in-chief of the Western Army, entered with the cavalry responsible for annihilating the Sastein demons, but the foreigner they were waiting for was not with them. The nobles felt drained, unable to find their target.

“That rumor-ridden stranger is nowhere to be seen. How strange.”

The nobles were impatient as a result of their curiosity, and they waited for the dragon rider who they first saw entering the capital on the back of a monstrous drake.

However, the foreigner did not appear even after the dukes had entered. The nobles worried that the royal family had already stolen him away in advance.

“Ophelia Laurel Ro Adenstein of the Adenstein royal family, eldest and legitimate daughter of King Theodore Tiberius Ro Adenstein, is now entering!”

At the appearance of the royal princess, the nobles closed their mouths and lowered their heads. However, the introduction continued.

“The greatest contributor in the 627th Adenburg-Noctein War, slayer of the Sastein devils, valiant warrior who triumphed over the Noctein senior knight. Accompanying the royal princess is the Drake Knight, Kim Seon-Hyeok!”

At these words, the nobles insolently and involuntarily raised their heads. They saw the black-haired man in a blue uniform escorting the royal princess as she entered.

“Oh no…”

The royal family hadn’t stolen away the Drake Knight. Rather, they were showing him off to the nobility. The gaze of the royal princess fell on the nobles. They hurriedly lowered their heads, but they couldn’t help but notice the bright smile that was forming at the corners of the princess’ mouth.

‘Don’t covet what belongs to the royal family.’ This is what the princess seemed to say.

The nobles had to lick their wounds at the quick action taken by the royal family. All of their plans were immediately made useless, since he was with the royal princess.

The daughters they had prepared could not dare target the royal princess’ partner, and they could not lure the foreigner away under the watchful gaze of the royal family.

However, this made them covet the foreigner even more. The fact that the royal family went as far as pairing him up with the princess to thwart their plans was undeniable proof of his immense value. And so, they watched the foreigner even as they kept up pretenses in front of the princess.

“The royal princess is known for her inner qualities rather than her physical stamina, so I can’t imagine her spending too much time at this banquet.”

“After all, she’s still young…”

It wasn’t normal for the young princess to stay long in such settings, and they would have their opportunity once she left.

The nobles’ distorted expressions regained their usual serenity, and their eyes flashed cunningly.

“The royal princess won’t stay much longer. She’s such a busy person…”

“Yes, leave it to me, father.”

One of the nobles spoke to his dressed-up daughter.

“When the opportunity comes…”

Another touched at something against their chest as they prepared for their chance.

***

His expectation that the nobles would keep their distance while he was with the royal princess was correct. Seon-Hyeok breathed a sigh of relief as he saw the nobles and the beautifully-dressed women keeping their distance.

If it were possible to court a person with a look, he would have been targeted several times already. Even the eyes of the noblemen and women were terrifying.

“You’re doing well. I think something very interesting will happen if we keep this up a little longer.”

Seon-Hyeok’s footsteps slowed as he looked around. This resulted in him falling out of step with the royal princess, but he was quickly brought to attention when Marquis Reinhardt growled at him. As he belatedly caught up, the royal princess, who had been looking back and waiting for him, began to walk forward once again.

Once the royal princess confidently stepped past the nobles to reach her prepared seat, the nobles immediately gathered around her.

“You are as beautiful as a flower, and I almost failed to recognize you.”

“The Adenstein bloodline grows greater over time, and it is overwhelming even being in your presence.”

“I am blinded by your beauty and grace…”

The aristocrats uttered all sorts of embarrassing praises, and the princess accepted their words with a benevolent and solemn expression unbefitting her age.

Seon-Hyeok felt like a fish out of water. Though his achievements were great, he had not yet received his noble title. The nobles rushed to greet the royal princess, but they never once spoke directly to him.

Save me…

Finding his comrades in the audience, Seon-Hyeok gave them a pitiful look, but his tactless colleagues only stared back with envious expressions.

While he was distracted, the official, who had remained silent since the princess’ entrance, shouted in a loud voice.

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