Episode 137. Treasure of Adenstein (3)

“Ah…”

Her round forehead and large, dark brown eyes were the same, but her slim cheeks and chin were more delicate and beautiful. Under her hair meticulously braided by the royal family’s maids was a fine, white neckline.

This is that same child? When did that little girl pretending to be an adult grow up so much?

The princess had looked smaller and younger than his squire before, but she was completely different now.

“What are you staring at?”

Hearing her calm voice, Seon-Hyeok belatedly realized he had been staring at the royal princess, taken aback by her surprising change in appearance.

“I apologize.”

She smiled gently upon hearing his apology.

“Did I change that much?”

“Almost unrecognizably…”

He was not exaggerating – the princess’s change truly was drastic. She could have been mistaken for a different person entirely.

“I just grew a little taller and lost some baby fat.”

She claimed the changes were insignificant, but her voice could not hide her pride.

Despite these developments, the princess’ mannerisms remained the same, and Seon-Hyeok could not help but laugh.

However, his excitement at seeing her consistent demeanor did not last, as he soon recalled his previous conversation with King Theodore and grew uncomfortable. It was strange being face to face with the person he was asked to marry.

“I heard about all your deeds from my place here in the palace. It is a great pleasure to see the evil Nocteins and the godless pawns of Griffindor suffer.”

On the other hand, the princess was calm. She acted as though she knew nothing, despite the fact that it was clear her father had spoken to him about the marriage arrangement.

“Tempest Knight, Specter of War, Drachen the Red Devil… each of the nicknames you have been given represent the terror you instill in your opponents. It is clear how much of an impact you have had on the battlefield.”

In the past, he would have cringed at her flowery language, but he preferred it now. Conversations about war were much better than the alternative.

“It is truly admirable. Who else could possibly match your accomplishments?”

Unfortunately, the princess did not want to end their conversation just talking about Seon-Hyeok’s achievements.

“So, I heard you had an audience with His Majesty.”

She brought up the awkward topic herself.

“Ah.”

Seon-Hyeok had been chatting along without a break, but he immediately shut his mouth.

“His Majesty hopes that you, the new hero of our kingdom, will be with me.”

How the hell am I supposed to respond?

Seon-Hyeok never imagined being in this situation. Naturally, he had nothing to say in return.

“We, the Adenstein royal family, cherish our relationship with you, and we hope that your brilliant accomplishments will not go to waste. I do not want the royal family and you to become wary of one another, and I wish we can come to embrace each other’s existence entirely.”

However, the princess was different from him. Not only did she humbly accept her situation, but she also actively offered the reasons why the marriage should take place.

“Mainly, I hope that by aligning our interests together, we can deter any nefarious nobles from seeking to usurp the royal family and cause a disturbance within the kingdom. Privately, my father hopes that his only daughter will have a worthy husband.”

The princess seemed enthusiastic as she spoke, but oddly enough, her demeanor was now colder.

Despite her young age, the princess had the level-headedness to sacrifice her future for the benefit of her family and the kingdom.

At this moment, Seon-Hyeok once again realized the stark difference between commoners and the more privileged royal and noble classes.

“You need to understand what position you are in, and that the royal family is working on your behalf.”

The princess spoke the truth.

He was a foreigner, and naturally, he did not enjoy the loyalty of the kingdom’s native populace. As such, the royal family had approached their interactions with him in a transactional manner, rather than trying to bind him in a relationship and forcing him to submit.

But now, there needed to be a new path forward. His name, Drachen, now carried such weight that the previous arrangement was no longer tenable.

Since the superhuman beings of the kingdom were all tied to the royal family, Seon-Hyeok was the only one capable of setting his own, individualistic course of action. At the same time, he was powerful enough to instantly alter the complicated balance of power within the kingdom.

From that perspective, the marriage proposal from the royal family was a reasonable solution. It was a sign that the Adenburg Kingdom did not treat him as a tool to be used and discarded.

Essentially, the royal family had sincerely offered him the path to become the one and only heir to the throne, so long as he aligned himself with them.

“The Adenstein royal family is willing to be your support and shield.”

The princess insisted that the marriage was a necessary step for coexistence and was not a means of restraining him.

Seon-Hyeok would have protested if the royal family tried to play to his greed or flatter him, but the members of House Adenstein were clever.

They only suggested that they act together.

“What will happen to me if I accept this marriage proposal?”

After some contemplation, he decided to be straightforward.

“I cannot know what you are so worried about, but I can promise you this. You do not have to remain in the royal capital just because we are married. If you wish, you can be free to take care of your territory as you are doing now. It will be enough that you understand you are married and come by once in a while.”

“Would it really be okay to do so?”

Seon-Hyeok was taken aback. He imagined that he would naturally be tied down at the capital if he accepted.

“You have an incredible beast with wings. Even if we are geographically far away, distance will not be an issue as you can always come to the royal capital on short notice.”

At this point, he had to seriously consider the offer, considering how favorable these terms were. If all the royal family wanted was a symbolic joining of Earl Drachen and the Adenstein royal family, there was no reason for him to refuse.

The only issue on his mind was the princess’ age. However, this was not the world he grew up in, and here, she was considered no different from an adult.

“Of course, I would be very happy if you did not forget and visited me often.”

He stared blankly at the unexpected words. He momentarily could not process what he had just heard.

“What did you just…”

“Oh, would you look at the time? I should get going. I hope you have a peaceful night.”

Instead of answering, the princess said her farewell with a dry expression and turned away. However, as she went to leave, Seon-Hyeok noticed that the princess’ ears were red.

So taken aback that he did not even see the princess off, Seon-Hyeok stood there and sighed.

Ah. What a mess.

The princess left, but her scent continued to permeate through the room.

Despite the luxurious accommodations and the most comfortable bed imaginable, Seon-Hyeok was unable to fall asleep. Even when he finally managed to do so after tossing and turning in bed, he soon woke up to a horrifying surprise.

“I’m crazy. I’ve really gone crazy.”

His voice, still half asleep, was full of shock and shame.

“To think that that child would appear in my dreams.”

Shockingly, his dream was about Princess Ophelia.

“Seon-Hyeok. You’ve really hit rock bottom.”

He felt as though he had just committed an unforgivable crime.

This was all thanks to the marriage proposal. Otherwise, there was no reason for her to appear in his dreams.

Well, she did grow up.

She had already been someone with bright prospects for the future, and she had grown up over the past year. If he had been her age, he really might have fallen for her.

“Stop! Snap out of it! She’s a damn middle schooler!”

Seon-Hyeok swore like a madman.

It was indicative of his current state of confusion. Realistically, he understood that accepting the royal proposal was to his benefit, but having been born and raised in the other world, he was stuck between a rock and a hard place.

“I’m going crazy.”

It was a night full of troubles, and he was unable to fall back asleep.

***

“So. Did you think about it last night?”

King Theodore abruptly interjected towards the end of the royal breakfast.

There was no way Seon-Hyeok could have possibly reached an answer to such a complicated problem in a single day. Seeing the king brazenly ask despite being aware of this, Seon-Hyeok replied, face pale as though he had just gotten an upset stomach.

“Your Majesty, isn’t the princess too young…”

“Ah. I am aware of the culture you foreigners come from. I believe you only start to think about marriage after the age of 20? However, such is not the case in this world.”

The king immediately cut him off.

“With that said, I do not intend to unconditionally force the customs of this world upon you.”

Despite speaking sternly as though there were no room for reconsideration, King Theodore was quick to change his tone. His talent for convincing others was considerable.

“But if the princess’ age still bothers you, how about having an engagement ceremony before the wedding?”

“An engagement?”

Seon-Hyeok nodded without realizing it. He momentarily thought that an engagement might be acceptable, and he was immediately taken aback. Within a single day, he had found himself leaning towards accepting the king’s proposal.

“An engagement would be less burdensome for you. Let’s have that agreement in place and find an appropriate time in the future for the marriage.”

“Do I have a choice in this matter?”

“As always, I have no intention of forcing you to do anything.”

One of the most terrifying aspects of King Theodore was his ability to make it inevitable to follow his suggestions without ever forcing the matter.

“With that said, it will be difficult for you to survive among the nobles without the backing of House Adenstein. Whether you wish for it or not, the nobles will begin trying to attract you into their own factions, and in the end, you will be eaten away by the old and greedy nobles and be left with nothing.”

Though the king did not put it into words, it was clear that Seon-Hyeok’s relationship with the royal family would become truly uncomfortable were he to decline this offer.

After all, there was no father who would favorably treat a man rejecting his daughter, let alone the ruler of a kingdom.

In the end, he had no choice but to accept.

“What do I need to do?”

Having finally made up his mind, Seon-Hyeok asked what his role would be at the day’s meeting.

“All you need to do is attend the meeting as a proud noble of the kingdom.”

“Is that all?”

There was no perceivable way that this was the case. Seon-Hyeok waited for the king to elaborate, guessing that there was something else he wanted.

“I intend to grant you a great deal of rewards in today’s meeting. It is likely that many nobles will come forward to express their opposition to the unprecedented rewards and try to undermine my will.”

As expected, there was something else.

“In the process, it is possible that they will levy unforgivable insults on you.”

“If you are telling me to turn the other cheek, I am accustomed to that.”

The king shook his head.

“No, I am not telling you to remain patient.”

“Then…”

King Theodore replied with a sly smile.

“If that comes to pass, you may do whatever you please.”

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