Episode 97. The Mage, the Knight, and the Summoner (1)

Both the sparkly-eyed princess and the person in question, Asha Trail, froze. Seon-Hyeok tilted his head in confusion, seeing this unexpected response. Belatedly, he realized that his words could have been misconstrued, and he quickly added.

“Sir Trail is the most skillful knight I know, and she truly acts like one. I’m certain other knights are capable as well, but I can’t be sure if we’ll be compatible.”

“So, you’re saying you’re compatible with Sir Trail.”

The princess’ voice wasn’t much different from usual. However, until just a moment ago, she had been unusually excited, and as a result, the change felt palpable.

Silence fell upon the area, and the friendly atmosphere grew strangely heavy. Seon-Hyeok gulped as he looked at the princess’ face.

Was she upset because I asked for a knight she cherished? Or maybe she thinks I crossed a line by asking for a senior knight when I only just became an earl?

There was no way to know. The only thing that was certain was that the princess did not seem happy.

“First, I want to hear Sir Trail’s thoughts.”

The princess passed the baton to Asha Trail. Seon-Hyeok carefully watched the princess before turning his attention to the knight.

As she was a Royal Knight and thus valued the lives of the royal family as much as her own, it was unlikely that Asha Trail would do anything that would cause the princess to lose face. However, Seon-Hyeok could not help but feel nervous. He used his one wish with her in mind, but if she refused, he would have simply blown his opportunity.

“I will follow your command.”

It was as he expected. Thankfully, Asha Trail showed no resistance, saying she would follow whatever decision the princess made.

“I meant you should stay with me if you don’t want to leave.”

The princess’ words were strange. She was aware of the dignity of the royal family and thus the power of her words, but for some reason, she did not respond.

“If the princess wants…”

When Asha Trail began to repeat herself, the princess fell deep into thought. Seon-Hyeok began to regret his actions, wondering if he should belatedly ask for someone else. He hasn’t realized just how much she treasured her knight, seeing her agonizing over her decision despite having made a promise.

Nonetheless, he still wanted her. She was a shining figure with Gradus 46, and a knight known for her ability and serious personality. These evaluations of her were not an exaggeration.

By now, the princess’ inner conflict was clearly visible on her face. She looked at him in dissatisfaction before turning back to Asha Trail, and her expression changed countless times over the brief period.

In the end, however, she reached a decision.

“The royal family’s words are as valuable as gold. Who would trust and follow us if we so easily went back on our promises? Your request shall be fulfilled.”

Seon-Hyeok received what he wanted, but he could not be happy. The princess’ expression still remained sour.

“Sir Trail, you will be relieved of your duties as Royal Guard after today. Take care of your matters so that you will be able to follow Earl Drachen when he departs.”

Even though he had been the one to ask for Asha Trail, he was caught by surprise. He had not expected the princess to take such immediate action.

“Consult with Marquis Reinhardt to replace Sir Trail’s position with someone capable. However, ensure that the Royal Guards do not let me feel her absence.”

The princess’ matter-of-fact approach tugged at his feelings. It felt like the actions of a child in pain as she threw away all of her cherished belongings while claiming she did not need them.

Ugh. Did she care about Sir Trail that much?

“I will try to make sure that Sir Trail can come visit the capital often.”

Seon-Hyeok belatedly told stories in an attempt to lighten her mood, but the sulky princess did not seem affected by his efforts. She turned her head slightly and did not even look in his direction, and Seon-Hyeok felt that if he left her like this, the good relationship he had built with her all this time would be in vain.

In the end, he brought out his secret weapon.

“It’s a beautiful day. It’s very refreshing to ride on Goldrake on a day like this.”

The princess gave a suspicious look, but her ears could not help but perk up at the mention of her precious Goldrake. Successfully grabbing her attention, Seon-Hyeok continued on.

“It would be great if the princess could experience that as well.”

The look in her eyes changed. Her dull, sunken eyes suddenly began to shine brilliantly like stars.

“If the princess wants…”

Unable to overcome the temptation, the princess took the bait before he could even finish.

“Oh! I want to!”

Seon-Hyeok inwardly sighed in relief as he watched the princess jumping up and down in joy.

“I invited you to join the Royal Guard, and you’re taking one of us away instead?”

It seemed as though Marquis Reinhardt had already been briefed on the events, as he appeared in front of Seon-Hyeok to complain. Seon-Hyeok laughed awkwardly and averted his gaze, knowing there was nothing he could say.

“Even among the Royal Guards, there are few who dare look directly at the royal princess. That’s why she cares so much about Sir Trail.”

Seon-Hyeok knew, even before the marquis said so. He had just witnessed the princess fiercely debate between keeping her word and holding onto her knight – it was proof of how much she valued Asha Trail.

“You’ve caused me a lot of trouble because of this. I need to find someone with the ability to replace Sir Trail and the boldness to talk to the princess.”

“I didn’t think the Royal Guard was so tentative around their superiors.”

Contrary to the marquis’ complaints, it did not seem as though the Royal Guards were lacking in talent. When he heard this, the marquis clicked his tongue and responded.

“Tsk. It’s not like the blood of Adenstein is going anywhere. If you act so comfortably around the princess because she’s young, you’ll soon come to realize why so many nobles have bent the knee.”

The marquis berated him for a while, saying that a superior was a superior, regardless of age. He looked at the foreigner in disapproval.

“Thanks to you, I’ve been given a troublesome task. It’s already difficult enough trying to find Sir Trail’s replacement, but you even offered to let the princess ride that monster of yours. Do you have any idea how busy we’ll be because of what you’ve done?”

Seon-Hyeok did not understand why the marquis would be here complaining to his face if he was so busy, but he did not dare voice his dissatisfaction.

“Anyways, the princess will be riding the drake in three days. I will let you know when preparations are complete, so make sure that she doesn’t get a single scratch on her body.”

“Oh. There’s no way.”

Marquis Reinhardt glared in response to Seon-Hyeok’s insincere answer before quickly sighing and relaxing his expression.

He wanted to take issue with the foreigner’s attitude, but he also needed to follow the laws of the land. As such, the marquis chose to remain on cordial terms.

“In that case, I’ll see you then.”

“Take care.”

In the end, at least, Seon-Hyeok showed his respects to his superior and headed back to his accommodations after a quick glance towards the inner castle.

***

“Were you aware of this, Sir Trail?”

“No, I had no idea.”

Fortunately, the royal princess seemed relatively calm, as though she was placated by the opportunity to ride on the monster she treasured. Of course, Asha Trail would not have answered any differently regardless of the princess’ attitude.

After all, I had no idea Earl Drachen would select me. There’s no reason for me to lie.

“I wonder what decision you’d have made if the choice was left to you. Tell me honestly, would you have accepted Earl Drachen’s offer and left the capital, or would you have remained here?”

However, for Asha, the princess’ question this time was difficult to answer.

“I’ve never considered it, and as such, I don’t think I can give you a clear response.”

“As expected of Sir Trail. Any other person would have said they would remain by my side until the very end.”

“I think there’s nothing more careless than giving a definitive answer to a situation I’ve never experienced.”

“I see. Perhaps I was being foolish. However, I’m still curious about your thoughts. I would like to know what decision you would have made – think about this and let me know before you leave the capital.”

The persistently inquisitive attitude of the princess was like that of a child robbed of her favorite toys. The only problem for Asha was that she could not tell whether the toy was her or Earl Drachen.

“May… I ask why?”

She was not the type to keep such questions to herself.

“I wouldn’t have asked so persistently were it anyone else. However, I know you wouldn’t tell me a lie.”

The princess looked straight at her as she spoke. Her clear eyes were too deep to be those of a child’s and Asha could not see what lay behind them.

“Sir Trail, are you a Royal Knight because you are affiliated with the Royal Knights? Are you my knight because you remain by my side?”

The majesty within her calm voice reminded her of King Theodore. Asha Trail unknowingly found herself straightening her posture and kneeling before the princess.

“And how about once you leave the royal capital? Are you still a Royal Knight, and my knight?”

Asha Trail answered the princess’ question.

“I…”

***

“Right now, the earth summoners have all been dispatched to help sow the royal lands, and the only ones left here in the capital are those with water spirits. If you’re interested in meeting the water summoners, I’ll send them a message and arrange a date.”

Apparently, Julian had already identified the whereabouts of the different summoners during the brief time he spent with the princess. When asked of his preferences, he responded that there was no reason to refuse, and he naturally ordered her to schedule the time as soon as possible.

“And as for the mages on the list.”

“Yes. Have you looked into them?”

Now that his knight had been decided, all that was left was the mage. He looked on with anticipation as he waited for his squire to continue.

“It hasn’t been easy. Rumors and evaluations of the knights are relatively detailed, but royal mages rarely engage in activities outside their official duties, and thus, that information is difficult to obtain. It might be possible to get opinions on them from another mage, but it’ll be difficult for me to ask around and find what you seek.”

Even while claiming the task would be difficult, Julian managed to suggest an alternative.

“There are those with connections to the Royal Mages among the people who have requested an audience with you. I think it would be possible to gather information from them.”

Julian never failed to meet his expectations. Impressed, Seon-Hyeok asked who she was referring to.

“I’m talking about the foreigners among the Royal Mages.”

“Ah…”

Seon-Hyeok stared blankly, wondering why he had not thought of this simple solution himself. Perhaps it would have been difficult to ask Lee Eun-Seo, the senior mage, for a favor given they were barely acquaintances, but he could get all the information he wanted from Ahn Yoo-Jung.

He immediately sent a messenger to schedule a meeting with Yoo-Jung.

“What you suggested before... do we still have an understanding?”

Yoo-Jung managed to understand him, despite the fact that he went straight to the point. She smiled.

“Of course. That is, so long as the price is appropriate.”

“Well, then I’d like some information.”

Without hesitating, Seon-Hyeok handed over the list he had prepared.

“I’d like to know what you think about their abilities and reputation.”

‘Royal Mage, Senior Mage, Jake Proudmoore, Gradus 73.’

‘Royal Mage, Senior Mage, Aria Eisen, Gradus 98.’

‘Royal Mage, Senior Mage, Kesil Arcane, Gradus 100.’

For a list, it was strangely short. Yoo-Jung quickly looked through the names and asked why he even asked. For his part, Seon-Hyeok honestly explained the situation with the royal family, and how he was promised a mage of his own.

“So the royal family is wholeheartedly backing you. I almost regret having spent time struggling here in the capital. Perhaps I should have also been at the border.”

She exclaimed in surprise upon hearing his explanation.

“Would it be possible?”

Worried she might fall under the influence of his attribute control if he delayed any longer, Seon-Hyeok asked bluntly.

After thinking for a moment, she pulled out a pen from somewhere and began to move her hand over the list.

There was only one name remaining when she was done.

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