The route taken by Seon-Hyeok and the Noctein officials followed royal instructions to the letter. The objective was to hide any vulnerable areas and exude strength. However, Marquis Ashtein and the accompanying negotiators had no opportunity to leisurely look at the surrounding lands.
They held onto their reins desperately as their lower bodies lost all sensation, and they were dragged haplessly behind the galloping monster.
Instead of asking to slow down, the officials tried to endure the pain out of pure spite. However, once even this became difficult, they slowed down and began to scheme. They trusted that the Drake Knight could not possibly abandon them.
Of course, this was true. Seon-Hyeok had no intention of leaving behind Marquis Ashtein and the negotiators. However, this did not mean he planned to be considerate. He glanced back at the lagging riders before urging Goldrake behind them.
When Goldrake rumbled, the decelerating horses panicked and galloped once again for their lives.
The officials screamed as their horses ran without concern for their riders. For them, the situation now was much worse than before.
Following this incident, the Noctein negotiators no longer tried to play tricks on Seon-Hyeok, and they were forced to endure once again out of pride and spite. But even this only lasted up to a point.
“Excuse me. E, Earl Drachen.”
Marquis Ashtein called for Earl Drachen in a dying voice. The Drake Knight was an enemy that could not be overcome with sheer spite, malice, or scheming. If they wanted to reach the capital alive, there was only one option available to him.
“P, please slow down…”
They had to swallow their pride and beg.
Seon-Hyeok did not answer.
He kept up his pace as though he had heard nothing.
Seeing this, Marquis Ashtein mistakenly thought that the Drake Knight could not hear him. He spoke up again, this time in a much louder voice.
“Earl Drach… ugh!”
Out of breath and unaccustomed to riding at full speed, the marquis accidentally bit his tongue and screamed. Blood flowed down his mouth, and the nobleman staggered, as if about to fall from his horse.
Seon-Hyeok immediately grasped the situation when he glanced back, and he clicked his tongue.
“Slow down. Full stop.”
No matter how much he hated the Nocteins, he could not escort them to the royal family, only for their leader to be unable to speak after biting off his tongue. He ordered two of the riders to bring in priests from nearby territories.
“You should have been more careful. If you had something to say, you could have done so while we took a break.”
“Have we ever had a break? We’ve never stopped before sunset.”
One of the negotiators angrily spoke out at Seon-Hyeok’s comment.
“What kind of kingdom treats another’s representatives so harshly!”
“This isn’t even a time of war. You’re only doing this to make us suffer.”
Once the first complained, the rest followed. The marquis likewise expressed his displeasure with his eyes, all while groaning in pain.
“You should’ve said so sooner. I don’t understand why you’re complaining now.”
Seon-Hyeok brazenly responded, acting as though he was unaware because the Noctein party remained quiet. He was almost suggesting that the negotiators were being immature in their actions.
“And I’m not the one in a hurry. I didn’t know you had that much time to get back to your kingdom.”
It was the Noctein Kingdom that needed to regain ownership of their fort and stabilize the border situation. For the Adenburg Kingdom, it did not matter whether the negotiations took place tomorrow or the following year.
When this was pointed out to them, the negotiators were left speechless.
Though he received the priest’s healing, Marquis Ashtein noticed that his tongue was not completely cured. The healer insisted that his lack of faith was the cause of the incomplete recovery, but his cold attitude suggested that it was intentional.
After all, it would be nearly impossible to find a person within the Adenburg Kingdom without any feelings of animosity towards the Nocteins, even if he was a priest.
In the end, Marquis Ashtein was forced to continue while half-inarticulate, and the negotiators’ mood was noticeably subdued.
“Isn’t this too slow?”
“Your representative was injured because we moved too quickly, so shouldn’t we be more careful from now on?”
One of the subordinates complained in place of the marquis, but these complaints fell on deaf ears. Seon-Hyeok adjusted the group’s pace as he pleased, and the negotiators were completely exhausted by the time they arrived at the capital.
“Forward! Welcome to the capital, Earl Drachen. We’ll take over the escort duties from here.”
“Then keep up the good work.”
After handing over the Noctein officials to the cavalry from the capital, Seon-Hyeok looked over at the marquis.
The marquis looked pitiful like a prisoner, shoulders drooped as he was dragged off by the guards. It would be difficult for him to achieve his goals in the upcoming negotiations, as his spirit had been so thoroughly broken. In the end, Seon-Hyeok was once again able to contribute to the livelihood of the western territories, as the border would become more stable the more the Nocteins lost in the settlement.
At his words, the hundred heavy cavalry began to follow behind the capital’s guards.
This time, there was neither a grand welcome nor a ceremony. Seon-Hyeok entered the capital quietly, guided by the capital’s guards. Of course, Goldrake would grab people’s attention through its mere presence, and thus the drake was left with the Central Army stationed outside the city.
“I will consider it an honor for the rest of my life to have been with the Drake Knight.”
“I hope I will get to see you again someday!”
Aside from the members of the Drake Cavalry, most of the forces accompanying them were from the Central Army. As such, they were left at the army garrison.
“If we meet again, I hope you don’t have to make me summon you twice.”
The company commanders smiled with embarrassment. There were no signs of the previous power struggle and pride between the Western and Central Armies.
“Then I’ll look forward to seeing you again someday.”
When Seon-Hyeok stepped back with this final comment, the heavy cavalry all stood at attention.
“Salute Earl Drachen!”
“May the Drake Knight’s future be full of glory!”
Hearing the spirited farewells of the riders, Seon-Hyeok saluted in kind.
“I wish you all good luck.”
With that, Seon-Hyeok quickly turned around. It seemed he had grown fond of the cavalry during their time together in battle.
“I will come to see you soon.”
However, he frowned when Woo-Young made eye contact and spoke with a determined voice.
“Do as you wish. It’s not like the royal family will allow it.”
“I had some achievements in battle, so can’t I be discharged now?”
Woo-Young’s attitude was serious, but Seon-Hyeok quickly waved him off.
“These guys. At this rate, they’re going to start begging to join the Drake Cavalry.”
Once they left the Central Army garrison, Clark spoke up.
After all, there was already talk amongst the royal family to recreate the Drake Cavalry and have the unit become operational once again. However, as most of the original riders had fallen in battle, this new Drake Cavalry would be completely different from that of the past.
Following extensive discussions with Clark and the other veterans, Seon-Hyeok asked the Adenburg leaders to reconsider. Of course, the command tried to convince him otherwise – it was in their best interest to have the name of the unit responsible for defeating the Sasteins and achieving victory against an enemy five times its size live on.
But in the end, he and the veterans refused. The wishes of their superiors remained just that – wishes. In essence, the Drake Cavalry was disbanded.
Having lost their military affiliation, Clark and the remaining survivors all asked to be discharged, and they became a part of the Rheinperle territory. It was difficult to maintain a large number of cavalry off of the newly developed mine, but Seon-Hyeok accepted them all, even those who had been crippled in battle.
He felt it was the proper courtesy to show his comrades.
Julian’s voice brought him back to his senses. Seon-Hyeok could see the young squire and the surviving veterans all looking at him.
“The guards are waiting.”
“Right. Let’s go.”
He tapped the shoulders of the men beside him before walking away towards the waiting guards.
It was his second time visiting the royal capital, but for Seon-Hyeok, it felt like it was his first. After all, he had been a mere cavalry rider in the past, and his status now was so drastically different that he was an entirely new person.
The royal family sent countless servants and maids to assist him, and they offered numerous benefits to Julian and the cavalry following him as his entourage.
“Wow. If this is the treatment we get, it wouldn’t be bad living in the capital.”
The wooden bed was so luxurious that Seon-Hyeok felt badly laying down on it, and every piece of furniture in their accommodations looked elegant and expensive.
Overwhelmed by the opulence, Seon-Hyeok stood around the room, unable to sit or lie down. Julian sighed, looking at her master like he was crazy.
“You have to get used to it.”
Having grown up in such an environment, Julian seemed to find nothing wrong with this incredible luxury. She casually looked through the cupboard, took out a drink, and poured him a glass.
“Ah. Much better.”
He shivered at the coolness of the drink, and a maid approached.
“I have a message from the royal princess.”
“Ah. From the princess?”
“The royal princess says she hopes that once you’ve recovered from the fatigue of your travels, you will go to see her and have some refreshments.”
Seon-Hyeok immediately jumped up from his seat. After all, he had something to receive from the princess.
“This isn’t the western front. You’re going to go see her in that attire? You should at least wash off the dirt and put on some neat clothes.”
Just as she said, Seon-Hyeok was dusty and dirty from his long travels. When he smiled with embarrassment, Julian sighed and spoke to the maid.
“If it’s not a problem with the princess, tell her that he can go to see her anytime tomorrow.”
At her words, the maid said she understood before disappearing. Before long, another servant approached.
“Viscount Ahn Yoo-Jung has asked for a meeting with Earl Drachen.”
“He has a prior engagement with the princess. A meeting won’t be possible until afterwards.”
Seon-Hyeok found it strange that these individuals were sending him messengers first instead of appearing whenever they wished, but Julian took this change for granted. She skillfully postponed all obligations under the pretext of a meeting with the royal princess.
“Even the royal family can’t carelessly treat nobles at or above the status of an earl. In fact, it should have been the case ever since you became the lord of a territory, but you were too indifferent to such customs.”
Julian began her nagging as soon as she finished handling these urgent matters. He pretended not to notice.
However, she was right. Many sought to meet the renowned Drake Knight, but not a single individual visited him uninvited.
“Oh. I’m starting to like the capital.”
The reason he had bad memories of his previous visit was because of the stress from dealing with the nobles and other foreigners. If they had all been polite and reserved as they were now, it was possible he would have chosen to remain in the capital instead of heading back west.
It was true that he got caught up in the current and fought in additional wars, but his original goal had always been to live a long and easy life.
At dawn the following day, the princess’ maid came to see him. Seon-Hyeok requested an appointment for noon, and once prepared, he headed for the royal family’s residence inside the castle.
“There aren’t many who are allowed to visit this place.”
When the guide smiled and made this comment, Seon-Hyeok looked around. Just as she said, there were very few people coming and going about the innermost part of the palace. Even those were the exquisitely dressed maids and servants going about their duties.
A table and a few chairs were prepared in the garden of the inner castle. The princess sat at the most colorful chair of them all, waiting for his arrival.
She remained as cute as always, her legs not yet long enough to touch the ground, but her words were full of dignity.
“First of all, congratulations on your great accomplishments.”
When he stood to thank her for her congratulations, Seon-Hyeok saw Asha Trail greeting him with a look from a distance.
He responded in kind, before being guided to the chair opposite from the princess.
“So. Have you thought about your wish?”
The princess suddenly asked him about his wish, face flushed as though it was an urgent matter. Her expression of anticipation looked like that of a child sitting in front of a mountain of gifts, and Seon-Hyeok struggled to suppress a laugh as he responded.
“Yes. I have something in mind.”
The princess’ lips twitched at his response. She seemed to be holding back a desire to laugh as well.
“So. Tell me.”
To an onlooker, it would not have been clear from the princess’ voice whether she was the one giving or receiving a favor.
Seon-Hyeok managed to keep a straight expression as he voiced his wish.Previous Chapter Next Chapter