Episode 47. Sponsor War (5)

“King Theodore Tiberius Ro Adenstein, the rightful ruler of Adenburg, the noblest and wisest of them all, is now entering.”

All closed their mouths and knelt down in unison.

“Pay respect to His Majesty, the rightful ruler of the kingdom!”

The attitude of the nobles as they kneeled down and showed their respect to the king was quite different from when the princess had entered the room. Whereas they had preserved their dignity and remained stiff despite being outwardly polite towards the princess, the nobles now lowered their bodies so much that their noses touched their knees.

Seon-Hyeok found himself following them and bowing to his fullest extent.

Step. Step.

The footsteps were neither fast nor slow. The king never hurried, even when he had hundreds of nobles kneeling down in front of him. Soon, the sound of footsteps stopped, and the king’s voice could be heard.

“Raise your head.”

The voice wasn’t particularly forceful, and the king did not raise or project his voice. His voice was so soft, as if trying to speak to someone directly next to him, that Seon-Hyeok wondered if those at the end of the hall would hear his command.

Nevertheless, it seemed as though not a single noble failed to understand the king. Then again, the banquet hall was otherwise quiet enough to hear the sound of a single pin drop.

Seon-Hyeok raised his head with the other nobles and immediately froze. The king had been staring in his direction, and their gazes met.

Ah…

The king’s gaze was eerily clear. Seon-Hyeok got goosebumps, as though he was being examined inside and out.

“Come here, Ophelia, my beloved daughter.”

The encounter lasted only an instant, and the king soon turned away. Despite safely escaping his gaze, Seon-Hyeok felt exhausted by the brief experience.

“It’s been a while since I’ve seen you all at a banquet like this.”

“Your Majesty is always so busy with his work, and I dared not disturb you.”

It looked as though even the nobles were uncomfortable around the king. Even those in relatively higher positions did not pass over the king’s greetings and remained extremely courteous.

At that moment, Seon-Hyeok suddenly realized that everything in the banquet hall had stopped.

It was truly fascinating. The nobles were frozen in place as though they had been cursed, and they only moved when addressed by the king. It looked like they might even forget to breathe if the king didn’t permit it.

“Looking at you all in good health, I can tell that the future of the kingdom is bright.”

His voice was so low and quiet that it was hard to hear unless he paid close attention. The aristocrats likewise strained their ears to listen.

This was the king of Adenburg.

Seon-Hyeok was amazed. He had previously wondered if the king lacked authority, since he had heard there was some friction between the royal family and the nobility. However, the person in front of him now was a natural ruler.

“This is a banquet to celebrate a meaningful victory, so drink and enjoy.”

As time passed, the atmosphere of the banquet hall, which had frozen with the appearance of the king, began to slowly return to normal. The nobles gathered in groups to share stories, and the servants busily roamed the hall without making a noise.

However, Seon-Hyeok could tell.

“How amusing! I admire your wit…”

“Miss Rodeline, please accept my feelings…”

He could sense that whether they were speaking to other nobles and making exaggerated gestures or discreetly talking to beautiful women, everyone’s attention was on the king.

Seon-Hyeok leisurely watched the rare spectacle unfold – it was like watching a cheap play.

However, the king did not intend to just keep him as an audience member at the banquet.

“Theodore, the legitimate ruler of the kingdom…”

“Ah. Refrain from those cumbersome displays of etiquette. I am fully aware that you foreigners are different from us.”

Seon-Hyeok knelt before the king after being guided there by a knight in golden armor. His greetings were cut short.

“You’re the Drake Knight, the one who made significant contributions in the war.”

Now that he thought about it, the princess was more graceful with her words. The king’s voice, on the other hand, felt powerful and imposing, and it put immense pressure on him.

“I am undeserving of the titles bestowed…”

Seon-Hyeok broke out in a sweat as he answered. It was clear he had just been complimented, but he couldn’t shake the feeling that he was simultaneously being reprimanded for having the title of a knight despite never being knighted.

No, was this too much?

He knew that he might simply be imagining things, but answering as such helped him relax. Ever since he arrived at the capital, he hadn’t felt at ease because he was constantly conscious of the royal family and nobility. He resented having to care so much, as he just wanted to accept his rewards and leave, never to see them again.

Even the childish and embarrassing title of Drake Knight wasn’t something he asked for. In fact, none of his actions since arriving at the capital were made with the intention of getting what he wanted.

Seon-Hyeok raised his head, but he remained kneeling like a model subject.

“You’re an interesting person.”

The king laughed, as if he just witnessed Seon-Hyeok’s internal change.

If it had been the Seon-Hyeok from even a moment ago, he would have shrunk back at the remark. But now, he was collected enough to endure the king’s piercing gaze.

“You promised me something when I first arrived in this world. The royal family declared then that they would support those who proved their worth.”

The king did not rebuke Seon-Hyeok for his attitude. In fact, he seemed rather pleased as he smiled.

“You have more than proved your worth. You’re fully worthy of being so confident.”

From the start, the royal family had proposed a relationship where foreigners would contribute to the well-being of the kingdom and receive support befitting their devotion and service. In other words, they had always presented themselves as a reasonable entity. Seon-Hyeok had simply forgotten about this attitude of the royal family because of how blindly loyal others around him were.

Now that he remembered this fact, he boldly looked at the king.

“Speak. I will grant you what you desire.”

The king certainly wasn’t an easy person to deal with, but he was reasonable. In fact, he seemed to be someone who actively rewarded others for their service.

“I am saying I will help you if there is anything else you need.”

The nobility loudly complained when they heard the king’s willing proposal.

“Your Majesty! Offer him money or valuables instead! A blank check is too much to offer a foreigner unaware of the inner workings of the kingdom! If he asks for too much…”

“He has already been promised a title and significant rewards. I admire Your Majesty’s benevolence, but I fear any additional rewards may prove inequitable!”

It was amusing to see the nobles panic at the sight of the king offering to grant Seon-Hyeok his wish.

“Tell me, foreigner. Will you ask for something unreasonable?”

“No, I will not.”

“Then answer me, Earl Mangsk. Is it inequitable that I give this man an additional reward?”

“No, it is not. Nobody would dare claim that he did more than Kim Seon-Hyeok in the war.”

The king laughed, pleased with both responses.

“Are you satisfied? The man to be rewarded has no intention of making unreasonable demands, and the commander-in-chief of the Western Army has assured me that special compensation is justified. Do you have any additional concerns?”

The nobles dared not challenge the king’s words. They bowed their heads and retreated.

“Now, speak. What is it that you want?”

After a quick glance towards the nobles who tried to dissuade the king, Seon-Hyeok answered without hesitation.

***

The nobles were dumbfounded.

The foreigner kneeling in front of the king showed flawless etiquette, but his attitude toward the king seemed subtly stiff. He even calmly returned the king’s unique, piercing gaze.

“T, that insolent…”

They had never seen a man act so boldly in front of King Theodore, whose benevolent outward appearance concealed his inner strength.

No, they would have remained calm if he had simply acted boldly. Instead, the foreigner had stared at them after they tried to subvert the king’s favor, as if saying that he would remember their faces and respond in kind in the future. Even the higher ranking nobles were stunned.

They weren’t certain whether this prideful attitude was a result of ignorance or self-confidence, but it was clear that it was to the king’s liking.

“Now, speak. What is it that you want?”

The foreigner did not even pretend to refuse out of humility, and instead answered without hesitation.

“What I want is…”

The nobles could not hear the conversation between the foreigner and the king, as they had lowered their voices. They tried to approach stealthily to listen, but the brief exchange had already finished. The king spoke up.

“Really, will that be enough? If you held back in your request out of doubt over my authority, I will give you a chance to answer once more. I am fully capable of fulfilling your demands.”

“How could I dare…”

The foreigner belatedly expressed his humility. The king stared at him for a moment and guffawed.

“Hahaha. You truly are interesting.”

What had the foreigner asked for that the king would respond in this manner? 

The nobles fidgeted with curiosity.

“Understood. I will fulfill your wish. However...”

The nobles inwardly cheered. There was no way the sly king would so easily grant the foreigner a favor. Their ears perked up at the word ‘however’.

“I would lose face if I stopped there. As such, you must also accept my gift without complaint.”

The king spoke as though dealing out a punishment, but in reality, he was saying he would give the foreigner even greater rewards.

“I, Theodore Tiberius Ro Adenstein, gladly open the royal storerooms for this ungreedy man. The storerooms will be opened immediately following the banquet…”

The nobles stared blankly as the king spoke.

***

The king did not remain at the banquet for long. He claimed that the nobles would be unable to enjoy the celebration in his presence, so he took his daughter and disappeared. Seon-Hyeok, as the one originally tasked with escorting the royal princess out of the banquet hall, was thankfully excused from this cumbersome duty.

“You crazy bastard.”

Seon-Hyeok belatedly sighed as he was overcome with fatigue, and his cavalry comrades rushed towards him.

“How bold can you be that you can speak that way in front of the king…”

“My heart was pounding so much that I thought I would die watching!”

Hansen and Jonasson grabbed and shook him, their complexions deathly pale.

“His Majesty cares about talented individuals. He’s also very benevolent. Even if you had made a mistake, he would have stopped at rescinding your awards and title.”

“I thought so as well.”

He would not have known this before physically facing the king. However, upon meeting him, Seon-Hyeok realized that the king would not demand loyalty and devotion.

All of his efforts to keep the royal family at an arm’s distance to avoid further indebtedness had been meaningless.

“But what did you even ask for that His Majesty was so pleased?”

“Were you flattering him or something?”

When asked by his inquisitive comrades, Seon-Hyeok began to answer, saying it was not a big deal.

“It wasn’t anything special, I…”

He didn’t finish his sentence. He noticed that the nobles had been trying to eavesdrop on his conversation.

Oh, right. These guys were around as well.

The final boss was gone, but the banquet was not yet over. For the nobles, this was just the beginning.

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