Episode 99. The Mage, the Knight, and the Summoner (3)

“Aren’t you being too considerate?”

Even until this point, the summoner looked confident, unaware of the great misfortune that would befall him shortly.

“Is 50 gold really enough? You’ll be taking some heavy losses.”

“It’s not like you’ll wear out the spirits by looking at them. Please don’t worry about it.”

“I just hope you don’t regret this.”

Seon-Hyeok repeatedly told the summoner not to regret his decision. The summoner, in turn, snorted in derision.

However, his confidence did not last.

“Huh?”

The summoner let out a bewildered noise just as a spirit spoke directly in Seon-Hyeok’s head.

‘Do you want to form a contract with me?’

“What’s your name?”

This spirit had a calm, soothing voice, different from Atiya’s vivacious one. Seon-Hyeok smiled and asked for her name.

‘It’s Ikram, master.’

-          You have entered a contract with the mid-tier water spirit, Ikram.

It was only after entering the agreement that Seon-Hyeok realized that Ikram was not a low-tier water spirit, but a mid-tier one. He had unexpectedly acquired a well-trained spirit.

“No!”

The summoner belatedly screamed in confusion, noticing what had happened, but it was too late. His own contract with Ikram had been broken, and the spirit had a new master now.

“Ikram! Ikram!”

It was evident he had helped the spirit advance through great personal effort. He repeatedly shouted Ikram’s name like a madman, but the water spirit, after accepting her new master, disappeared without a response. By the time the spirit reappeared, she would have assumed a new appearance in accordance with her master’s preferences.

‘I’m not as strong as her, but can you take me as well?’

“What’s your name?”

‘My name is Izdihar. Please call on me anytime.’

The summoner’s misfortune did not end there. One of the low-tier spirits had been observing Seon-Hyeok after he formed a contract with the mid-tier water spirit, and reached out with her own proposal. Seon-Hyeok once again accepted, and he gained control over yet another spirit.

“Eek!”

The summoner belatedly tried to recall the spirits he had summoned. However, a high-tier spirit remained, floating in the air.

“Go back! Go back!”

The high-tier spirit glanced at his master screaming like a madman before turning to Seon-Hyeok with his transparent eyes.

“Are you interested as well?”

The spirit did not respond. The spirit just stared at him with his piercing eyes.

“E, Earl Drachen! Sir! Please. Please not him.”

The summoner, bewildered by the theft of his spirits, belatedly begged him in desperation. He seemed to have finally grasped the reality of the situation.

“Please not him. I’ve devoted my entire life to raising him to high-tier. So please… please…”

Seon-Hyeok sighed as he looked at the crying summoner. He could not help but covet the high-tier spirit. However, he knew it was too harsh to take away the summoner’s prized spirit, one he had been devoted to developing.

“You’re concerned about him too, aren’t you?”

Nod.

The high-tier spirit showed his feelings for the first time.

Seon-Hyeok’s desire grew as he looked at the spirit. However, he had already received much more than he had bargained for with his 50 gold, and it was too much to want this high-tier spirit as well.

“You’re loyal.”

His inner conflict lasted only a moment. He soon made up his mind and spoke to the spirit.

“Go back. I have no intention of entering a contract with you.”

Hearing his words, the spirit nodded with a relaxed face before disappearing into the air.

“T, thank you. Thank you. I’ll never forget your kindness. Thank you, my lord.”

The summoner flopped onto the ground and began to repeatedly thank Seon-Hyeok. It seemed he had completely forgotten about how he had lost two of his spirits moments earlier.

“Julian.”

Julian stepped forward at his word. She took out a pouch containing the 50 gold coins and handed it to the summoner.

“No, I won’t take it.”

The summoner said he was just thankful Seon-Hyeok had spared the high-tier spirit, and tried to refuse the payment. However, Julian insisted, claiming she could not allow her master to singlehandedly take away another person’s possessions.

“Please come find me if you think the price I paid today was too little. I’ll be in the capital for the time being.”

Seon-Hyeok repeatedly told the summoner as such before getting up to leave.

“Hm.”

Having said farewell to the summoner, Seon-Hyeok stood in a quiet place to think. He was anxious to find out how the spirits’ appearances would have changed, but also worried they might resemble someone he knew once again.

“Ikram. Izdihar.”

Even so, he could not keep his new spirits locked away forever, so he summoned them to find out. He was determined not to be surprised, no matter what their new appearances might be.

“Ah damn…”

This was far beyond his expectations. The newly contracted water spirits resembled someone they should not.

Short arms and legs, with a young, but elegant face.

Ikram and Izdihar looked just like Princess Ophelia.

“Go back. Now.”

Seon-Hyeok hurriedly sent back the spirits, and they pouted and showed their dissatisfaction. However, if he had kept the spirits visible, he might have been charged with insulting the royal family.

“Hurry up.”

‘Summon us again. For longer next time!’

‘I’ll see you again!’

The spirits chattered, not understanding their master’s feelings, before disappearing into thin air.

“Ugh. This is driving me crazy.”

He could not believe that the spirits he had worked so hard to attain resembled the royal princess. Their new appearance was not what he intended, but it was ripe for misunderstanding, and he was getting a headache trying to figure out how to address the situation.

“I can’t let anyone see them.”

Ultimately, he decided he would not summon his new spirits during his stay at the capital, no matter what the situation may be.

Coincidentally, it was the day after Seon-Hyeok formed the contract with his two new water spirits that the princess was set to ride Goldrake. Naturally, he could not help but feel awkward and especially aware of the situation.

Perhaps as a result, he did not even notice the time passing, and when he finally came to his senses, numerous Royal Knights and Royal Mages were already looking up at them secured to the specially-made saddle.

“This is great! To think that you fought your enemies looking down at them from so high up. You must be as intimidating as the commander of a kingdom!”

Every time Goldrake took a careful step forward, the princess let out an exclamation with a flushed face. The dignity and refined appearance she had so carefully displayed up to this point were nowhere to be seen, replaced by the innocent excitement of a child.

“R, really?”

“You don’t have to be so nervous about me falling off. Can’t you see that Sir Trail is holding onto me?”

Not trusting him and the princess alone on the ferocious monster, Marquis Reinhardt had temporarily reinstated the re-assigned Asha Trail to the Royal Knights to assist with this responsibility.

As a result, despite the fact that Goldrake’s saddle was meant for a single rider, Seon-Hyeok found himself squished behind Asha Trail and the princess.

Of course, Asha Trail was dressed in full armor, and all Seon-Hyeok could feel was the coolness of the iron, but he nonetheless felt embarrassed.

“If you fall off, the princess will be in danger as well.”

Seon-Hyeok’s position on the drake became awkward as he tried to wriggle away, and Asha Trail did not just sit back and watch. She grabbed his hands and pulled them closer.

“Hup.”

Seon-Hyeok was taken aback and gasped. His center of gravity was pulled forward, and he found himself hugging the knight from behind. He noticed a sweet scent, though he was not sure whether it came from the princess or Asha Trail.

“I heard Goldie’s charge is spectacular. When else would I get the chance to experience this?”

Seon-Hyeok broke out in a cold sweat at the princess’ words and glanced over at Marquis Reinhardt.

“It’s too dangerous. I think you should be satisfied with this, and come down now.”

Had he ever been so relieved by the marquis’ words? 

As soon as Marquis Reinhardt spoke, Seon-Hyeok ordered Goldrake to drop onto the ground.

“Ah, it’s disappointing. I wonder when I’ll have the chance to ride Goldie again.”

The knights standing by brought forward mobile stairs and placed them next to Goldrake.

“However, I can see that others suffer when I try to fulfill my greedy wishes.”

Princess Ophelia expressed her regret before being led off Goldrake’s narrow saddle by Asha Trail. The other knights quickly gathered around her to prevent any potential accidents, and Seon-Hyeok let out a long-held sigh of relief.

“Thank you. Thanks to you, I was able to have an unforgettable experience. I will pay you back for today’s events.”

The princess, still flushed, complimented him repeatedly before following the knights down the steps.

“The princess is heading back to the castle! Get in formation and stay on guard!”

Once she climbed into her carriage, the Royal Guards tightly assumed their formation, before beginning to move towards the castle in an orderly fashion. Seon-Hyeok stared blankly for a moment before leaving Goldrake in the hands of the Central Army garrison and heading back himself.

***

Nearly two weeks had passed since Seon-Hyeok arrived at the royal capital. By this point, the Noctein and Adenburg officials had neared the end of their post-war negotiations.

“It’s a matter of sincerity. You claim that your kingdom suffered from the war, but you instigated this conflict. Isn’t it right that you compensate us for all the damage we suffered?”

Though the negotiations looked heated, it was the Adenburg Kingdom that held all authority in determining the settlement.

“If you won’t comply with the terms mentioned earlier, we will still release the prisoners, but I can’t guarantee the return of Fort Kalstein.”

Unlike the laid-back Adenburg officials, Marquis Ashtein and the other Noctein negotiators gave a look of hopelessness. All they could do was try desperately until the very end to lower the massive war reparations demanded by the Adenburg Kingdom.

However, once they gained the upper hand, the Adenburg negotiators never let go of their opportunity.

“It’s tiring.”

“You haven’t fully recovered yet, so would you like to take a break? I’m concerned your injuries will worsen at this rate. And also, to be honest, I was going to say it was difficult to understand your pronunciation just now. Let’s take a quick break and start over.”

In reality, the only injury Marquis Ashtein had suffered was in biting his tongue during the journey to the capital, but the Nocteins could not respond to the blatant taunts. Marquis Ashtein himself shut his mouth in shame, rather than refuting the claims.

They were so dominated in the weapon-less battlefield of the negotiating table, and there was little they could achieve.

“There’s no need to rest. Let’s just finish here. Our kingdom can’t avoid taking losses in this settlement, so I will accept all the terms you state.”

In the end, even the cunning marquis was forced to give in and wave the white flag.

“That’s the best news I heard today. Your decision has saved the Noctein Kingdom from even greater sacrifices.”

It was a long and tedious negotiation, but the victor had been clear from the beginning. The Adenburg officials praised the marquis’ decision without expressing their excitement.

“In return, I would like to hear whether the Adenburg Kingdom will accept our terms as well. Depending on your answer, I may or may not change my tune.”

“By your terms…”

“I mean the restrictions to be placed on the Drake Knight.”

The Adenburg negotiators did not respond to Marquis Ashtein’s threatening words.

“Ah, I will answer that for you.”

“We welcome the wise King Theodore Tiberius Ro Adenstein, the one true ruler of Adenburg!”

The Adenburg officials all jumped to their feet at the sudden appearance of their king. Marquis Ashtein likewise dropped lightly to his knee, showing his courtesy to the ruler of a sovereign kingdom.

“What you ask is that Earl Drachen, the Drake Knight, be held out of future conflicts on our border.”

“Yes, it is.”

The Adenburg negotiators glared at the marquis upon hearing his blunt response, but the Noctein lord did not budge. After all, he had shown his respects to the Adenburg king.

“The conditions you offer…”

King Theodore arrogantly looked down at the marquis.

“They will not be accepted.”

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