Chapter 165: Hope of the Future (2)

The wedding proceeded without trouble and Irene officially became the queen of the Lester Kingdom. In order to forget everything, Sean Palan madly devoted himself to training in the Count’s estate. He made rapid progress as he pushed himself to the limit in order to escape the agony and anguish. When he reached the highest level of Expert, he was called by the royal family. Due to rumors of his skills, the Royal Knights made him an offer. By nature, it was considered shameful for a knight to change allegiance from one family to another, but the royal family was an exception, it was an honor. Instead, it was considered an honor for a Family to have produced a knight that became a member of the Royal Knights. 

Count Shuayla sent Sean Palan to the royal family and so, Sean Palan became a member of the Royal Knights. In consideration of his origin, he was given the mission of guarding Queen Irene’s palace. Ironically, he had trained harshly to get rid of his anguish, but he had eventually returned to the side of the woman he loved. Queen Irene showed no reaction to Sean Palan when he began to guard her palace. Unless there was official business, she did not talk to him, and even if they met by chance, she didn’t even look at him. 

From Sean Palan’s point of view, he was rather grateful for her cold attitude towards him. He felt more comfortable with her cold attitude than he did when she cried that night; the colder the better. And when he saw her smiling, happy with her young son, he even felt relieved that he hadn’t made the wrong decision at that time.

As time passed, Queen Irene gave birth to a second child, Princess Leila, and Sean Palan became accustomed to his duties as a member of the Royal Knights. Just when he began to feel that each of them was getting used to each other’s position and role, a strange order was given to him. He was ordered to stop guarding the royal palace and patrol outside the palace. That order came just as Queen Irene was leaving the country with her young children. It was strange that he was ordered to leave the guard, therefore weakening the guard, rather than strengthening the guards at this time as it usually would have been done. 

But Sean Palan didn’t have enough power to defy his orders at this time. He had no choice but to obey his orders, but in the corner of his heart, he was still reluctant. Eventually, he pretended to obey his orders and made an excuse before heading to the place Queen Irene was heading. Truthfully, he didn’t have much of a reason; he was nervous and wanted to see that she was safe. That was it. But…

What Sean Palan saw was the young prince who died with a sword in his hand, as if he had been trying to protect his family from assassins and Queen Irene who was curled up around her daughter, protecting Princess Leila. Sean Palan revealed his presence when he saw that shocking scene. The assassins seemed alarmed the moment they realized he was there, but they quickly moved. It was an ironclad rule of assassins to unconditionally eliminate witnesses. However, they were out of luck.

“You dare…”

Sean Palan seemed to explode with anger. He pulled out his sword and swung it at the assassins running towards him. With a single stroke, five assassins died without a single sound. Like an enraged lion, he had attacked the assassins. At that time, Sean Palan was on the verge of becoming a Master. Perhaps they might have had a chance if they were ambushing him, but the assassins couldn’t handle fighting him head-on. Once he had dealt with the assassins, he hastily examined Queen Irene’s condition. 

“Your Majesty, are you alright? Your Majesty!”

“Cough… Sean… is that you?”

Queen Irene was on the verge of dying. She had used her body to protect her daughter from the assassins.

“Irene… please, goddamn it, please…”

Sean Palan saw the amount of blood she had lost and the number of wounds bleeding on her body and realized that it was too late.  Humans become helpless when they realize the reality that they want to deny is right in front of their eyes. They could only beg and pray while earnestly hoping while knowing it wouldn’t come true.

“Mom… Mom…”

Still a young child, Princess Leila was crying next to Queen Irene whose body was getting colder.

“Sean… I have… a favor… cough…”

“Don’t talk. Please… Don’t say anything right now…”

Queen Irene continued to talk with much difficulty.

“My daughter… please…”

“Please… stop talking, let’s first…”

“I beg you… please…”

With that last sentence, Queen Irene slowly closed her eyes.

Like a windup doll on its last turn, Queen Irene gradually lost all traces of life.

“Ah… AHHHH…”

Sean Palan covered his head and screamed in anguish. If he had known… If he had only known that such a cruel future was waiting for her, he would never have pushed her away. She had become the king’s woman, the noblest position a woman could have, but if he had known such a miserable death awaited her, he would have stopped her at all costs. He despaired as he felt the warmth slowly disappearing from her body.

At that moment, another group of assassins appeared. Due to an interloper, they hadn’t been able to confirm whether the assassination had been carried out, and so another group who had been waiting had come. Realizing that the knight in front of them had ruined their plan, they immediately attacked him. However, that was an act of folly. It was no different from throwing a piece of bloody meat in front of a beast who had gone mad with anger.

“You bastards did this?”

Sean Palan stood up with his sword. His gaze held a murderous rage.

The leader of the assassins spoke to his subordinates.

“We cannot leave the princess alive. He’s just one knight, surround and get rid of him.”

There were over thirty assassins, even if the assassins were vulnerable when fighting head-on, they believed they could handle one knight. But there was something they didn’t know. The terrible anger and frustration hadn’t had a place to go, but now, they broke free.

“I will not let a single one of you leave here alive.”

“Kill him!”

The assassins rushed forward at that moment and Palan’s sword sparked light. A sharp Aura Blade. It was a symbolic representation that a Master had appeared. 

***  

Duke Palan dealt with the assassins and calmed himself down. He saw the young Princess Leila who was trying to hide her tears.

“Princess… are you alright?”

Queen Irene’s last request before dying was for him to protect this young princess. Even as she shed tears, the little Princess Leila gritted her teeth and grimly spoke to him.

“Sir Palan.”

“Yes, please speak.”

“When she was alive, my mother has always told me that if something ever happened, to lean on you. She’s always told me that Sir Palan was someone I could trust.”

“……”

Did Queen Irene say that? On one hand, he was happy that she had trusted him, but on the other hand, he was also angry. What did it mean that she regularly told her young daughter what to do in case of an emergency? It meant that the life she regularly spent with the royal family was perilous and dangerous. He had been by her side and he never knew it. How could there be an incompetent Knight like him? Sean Palan was full of shame when Princess Leila spoke to him.

“Answer me. Sir Palan, can you protect me? Can you become my sword?"

Even though she was still a young girl, he could see Irene when she was a child in Princess Leila. However, there was a big difference — her cold eyes didn’t have the childhood innocence and naiveness that a child should have. She was still a young girl, but her eyes were full of dignity. Sean Palan knelt on one knee and replied to her.

“From now on, I dedicate my sword, my life, and all that I am to you, Princess.”

‘This will be my penance for not protecting her.’

While he was thinking this, Princess Leila spoke. 

“Good. Then this is my first order to you. Disguise me so I look dead and get me out of the palace.”

“Yes, Your Highness.”

“And don’t disclose what happened to anyone else. Even if you revealed the killer right now, you can’t do anything about it.”

“Princess. If we…”

“I am leaving the palace. But I am not escaping. I am leaving so I can get my revenge… I am leaving so I can get the strength to do so. I hope you can help me with that.”

She was still young, but she knew the reality; she couldn’t reveal the culprit right now. Even if she revealed them, she didn’t have the power to punish them. It was hard for her to even survive right now. She decided that she had to hide and gather power. That was why she had given Sean Palan that kind of order.

“I understand, Princess.”

Sean Palan saw hope in the firmness of young Princess Leila’s character. 

‘I will definitely protect her. That is my only penance.’

And so, that was how the knight known as Sean Palan began serving Princess Leila as his liege. His loyalty was unwavering, but the focus of that loyalty was not Queen Leila. Queen Irene’s last will had become the firm link between Princess Leila and Duke Palan. Several things happened after that, but Duke Palan never regretted serving Queen Leila. 

Even when she revived her country when she became the monarch…

Even when she met Milton Forrest and started a happy family…

Everything deeply moved Duke Palan. The only thing that could relieve even a bit of his guilt towards the woman he couldn’t protect was Queen Leila’s happiness and success.

‘There is no forgiveness for anyone blocking that.’

Duke Palan returned from the memories of his part to reality and narrowed his eyes.

“How far has the mob come?”

“They’re within eyesight, sir.”

“I see.”

Duke Palan went directly to the front and looked at the mob. Singing the war songs of the Republican army, they had filled the wide road as they marched towards Duke Palan and his men. There were countless numbers of them, but their weapons were substandard. In other words, they were an opponent who could be unilaterally defeated.

‘There’s no other choice.’

Once he had checked on the enemy, Duke Palan informed his lieutenant.

“Order the entire army to prepare for battle.”

“Yes, Sir!”

“Be sure to tell the soldiers that the enemies are rebel forces trying to overthrow our country. There is no need for sympathy. I, Sean Palan, will take responsibility for any dishonor or notoriety.”

“Yes, Sir!”

As of this moment, Duke Palan was abandoning his pride as a knight and would become a great villain who slaughtered civilians and his own citizens. However, he was determined. As long as it was for Queen Leila, his honor meant nothing.

“All forces…”

Just as Duke Palan was going to give the order to charge…

“Stop! Both sides, stop!”

A horseman rode into the middle of the mob and Duke Palan’s forces. It was a knight riding an oddly large black horse. He bellowed towards the mob.

“I am the Grand Duke Milton Forrest. 

“Protestors will immediately give up their arms!”

Milton barely arrived on time.

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