Sungchul prepared a few things for his visit to the headquarters of the Merchant’s Coalition, Aege Harbor.
The biggest transformation was his appearance.
Sungchul, who enjoyed wearing just one set of clothes from the bottom of his soul, let go of his worn out pants, shirt, and coat in favor of loose buttonless attire with wide barrel-like pants often worn by merchants. He wore boots that came up to his shins and pressed down a lumpy and broad hat on his head.
As though it was still not enough, Sungchul put his hands on his face.
After disturbing sounds of bones scraping against each other filled the room for a brief moment, Sungchul’s face was that of a completely different man.
“W…What? How did you do that?”
The one who was the most surprised was Bertelgia. But Sungchul’s unchanged voice reassured her.
“It’s me, Bertelgia. Don’t be surprised.”
“How did you do that? What you just did there.”
“A simple trick I’ve picked up as a hobby in the past.”
“Trick? Where did you learn it?”
Sungchul recalled a friend from his past and gave a shallow sigh before replying to Bertelgia.
“Among my past comrade was the greatest of all assassins.”
“The Greatest? White Shadow?”
“It’s troubling to give the title of the greastest assassin to a mere sniveling backstabber. No. That friend, Shamal Rajput, was an assassin in every meaning of that word.”
Sungchul felt no respect for the assassins. But there was just one exception to that rule.
Third Champion of the Continent, Shamal Rajput.
He who founded the Assassin’s guild had made a name for himself during the rebellion by performing several legendary assassinations in the midst of battle. These assassinations were often instrumental to tipping the scale towards victory for the rebel army.
Not only that, as one of the Summoned of the same generation at the Summoning Palace, he was also a man that had greatly influenced Sungchul in many ways over the years.
“This disguise skill was something I had been taught by him.”
“Hmm. So it sounds like you must have had a lot of friends in the past, huh?”
“More or less.”
“But why haven’t you been using such an amazing skill until now if you knew how to do it?”
Sungchul made an expression as if the answer to Bertelgia’s question was obvious.
No other reason, for Sungchul, was more reasonable than this. Of course, he had tried using it before. At the Summoning Palace, he had used this disguise skill when revealing his identity to a senior officer in the order of Blood Iron Knights whose name now long since forgotten.
It was then that he realized. That it was disgustingly uncomfortable to use.
But at the moment, he had no choice but to accept a certain level of discomfort. Sungchul was under the contract with Horneko at the moment after all.
Of course, strictly speaking, going to the Aege Harbor does not violate the content of the contract. His side of the deal was to stay within the viscinity of Nimpas. Aege Harbor that was but 2 hours away could be reasonably argued to be included within those boundaries.
Horneko was not a careless man.
Without a doubt, adding such a vague entry into the contract was intentional on his part to further his own interests. What if he was in danger in Aege Harbor? This ambiguity was likely an insurance for whatever might happen next.
However, despite this defense, Sungchul did not wish to cause trouble. The result was his changed facial features.
“Now we’re all good go get goi… hmm…? Excuse me who are you?”
Derha let herself into Sungchul’s room and was startled by him, as evidenced by her eyes flying wide open.
His disguise was perfect.
Sungchul was satisfied with his transformation so he followed Derha and Bertelgia to the carriage.
Inside the carriage was a mound of Letters of God that were rejected by Sungchul, and a man looking quite out of place sitting around some spices without an apparent purpose.
The merchant covered his face with turbans and wore ordinary clothing. Sungchul asked Derha and she answered that he was her assistant.
‘I guess even a woman like that is able to get herself an assistant.’
Sungchul strangely felt that the merchant seemed familiar but didn’t dwell on the issue.
“Now that I think of it, how do you think that chick is doing right now?”
Bertelgia popped out of the pocket to ask him.
“If you mean Marakia, you don’t need to worry.”
“It’s hard not to be worried about him.”
“He is not such a hapless bird.”
It was true that Marakia occasionally did some unintelligent things before Sungchul. But it was because of Sungchul that his behaviors appeared to be that way. If it were not for an absolutely overwhelming being like Sungchul, Marakia’s strange behavior would have been seen as nothing more than a king’s rightful, regal poise.
Although it was undeniable that there were things Marakia knew very little about, over all he possessed an excellent mind. Leaving him alone shouldn’t lead to any big problem.
And, he had even grown slightly since he emerged from the egg.
Putting all of that aside, the carriage departed with Derha’s loud shout. Not even an hour had passed before they arrived at the border.
Once the carriage was done with a simple inspection, it crossed over the boarder and entered into a territory under the dominion of the Allied Merchant’s Coalition.
“Hmm. Even this place takes part in agriculture. I thought that a city of merchants wouldn’t want to undertake such line of work.”
Bertelgia commented while looking out at the large open field beyond the carriage window. Though the land was still brown and unseeded, Bertelgia could see a number of farmers working hard on the field.
“It’s probably farms to grow vegetables. Although grains and the like can be imported from afar, it is difficult to bring in fresh vegetables from a large distance.”
The man sitting in the back finally opened his mouth. But his voice was all too familiar.
Bertelgia was shocked and looked back to ask him.
“King of Nimas…?”
The man grinned and took off his turban to reveal his face. And just like Bertelgia had guessed, the man’s identity was that of the King of Nimpas, King Deheter.
Sungchul was unsurprised. It was one of the possibilities that crossed his mind immediately upon seeing the man. It was only that Sungchul was not willing to bother himself with him, as well as feeling uncomfortable in his current appearance.
“I am sorry to have surprised you. But I always wanted to do this! To go with my revered Enemy of the… I mean Imperial Commander in Chief on an advanture!”
Sungchul calmly looked back at Deheter who seemed ecstatic and had both of his fists raised in excitement. He asked,
“How did you come here? Do you know each other?”
Derha pushed aside the cloth that separated the driver’s seat from the rest of the carriage to answer that question herself.
“His majesty, the King of Nimpas, is my brother in law.”
He had thought that her hazy blue eyes looked familiar, it seems as though she was one of Horneko’s own.
Sungchul put his hand upon his face after hearing her and returned his face back to normal. Horneko’s daughter was the guide, what good was his disguise.
He looked around the carriage and asked.
“Does the Viceroy know of this?”
“No, probably not. Even if he was aware, he shouldn’t be able to do anything about it at the moment. He’s very preoccupied at the moment with work.”
Sungchul nodded and moved his gaze over to the king instead.
“Is it fine for a king of a Kingdom to leave his throne vacant?”
Deheter made a bitter smile and answered while scratching his head.
“There…shouldn’t be any problem. The country is so small even to be called a minor nation, so there’s not much to do anyway. And the Queen is in the palace anyhow.”
Sungchul glanced at the front of the carriage once the queen was mentioned before taking out a scroll from the Soul Storage.
It was the scroll of silence. Once the sound nullification magic was deployed, Sungchul asked the King.
“How did you come to marry the queen of yours?”
Deheter’s face darkened noticeably once Sungchul asked about the queen and looked towards the front of the carriage with fearful look.
“I’ve engaged a sound nullification barrior. So our conversation should not be audible from the front.”
“I…Is that so?”
“I noticed that there was a major problem with the queen’s behavior at last night’s feast. Be as it may that I am often an unwelcome guest, even I was put off by her rudeness.”
“I am deeply sorry about what happened. But please don’t misunderstand. I love the queen, and the queen likewise like me back.”
Bertelgia immediately hopped out of Sungchul’s pocket when she heard this.
“She didn’t seem to like you at all, the queen. No, I guess it’s closer to despise?”
An unexpected entrance followed by a heavy truth. Deheter lost his composure and failed to keep his facial expression under control and revealed his complicated inner feelings.
Sungchul thought that Bertelgia was at the wrong here, but he didn’t call her out on it. When else would they have an opportunity to hear this if not here and now? Sungchul went ahead and agreed with Bertelgia.
“I also think so.”
Sungchul closely observed Deheter. On his face was worry and concern that could not be adequately described in just a few words. It was a clear indication just how much he was suffering mentally.
After a long bout of silence passed, Deheter stared off into space as he began his story with a sad tone of voice.
“To be honest, the queen does not like me. I am too inadequate for her. She was once engaged to a prince of the large and powerful Ancient Kingdom, but ended up marrying a prince of a neighboring small country like me instead.”
Sungchul thought to himself.
‘Marakia’s information was accurate.’
Deheter continued to speak.
“Even though we’re both princes, the life of the prince of Ancient Kingdom was completely different from mine. While that man grew up eating Soul Inheritance and tutored by the Swordmasters throughout his childhood, I had lived in a humble place that’s far too small to be called a palace, watching my father be yelled at by the members of the Merchant’s Coalition.”
One of Sungchul’s eyebrows got raised but he did not comment.
“Well, as time passed, the difference became immense. On one hand, he had become one of the heroes of the next generation on par with the Thirteen Champions of the Continent. And me, well I am just a scarecrow king with a crown that could be taken away at any moment.”
“I guess you’re aware that you’re just a puppet.”
Bertelgia threw another heavy blow out of the blue. Sungchul, however, was involved deeply in politics at some point and a different part of his story grabbed his interest.
“Lose your crown? To whom?”
Deheter glanced at the front of the carriage and replied in a small voice.
“My father in law, Viceroy Horneko, there is a rumor that he wishes to wear a crown.”
“Yes. It is said that he had never desired the crown before. But the recent events that completely changed the status quo have put his position into jeopardy and thus now thinks differently. He wants to get an unmistakable symbol of authority, one that is resistant to outside pressures. In other words, a crown of his own.”
Even though he had spoken with a stammer and hesitation, Sungchul discovered that Deheter was unexpectedly aware of his situation and possessed some level of thought on what to do.
‘This man, he’s not as dumb as he looks.’
Deheter sighed and continued to speak.
“But what can I do? There is nothing that I could do even if I know the truth. It was always like that since the beginning. Maybe it was because of that, that I had become such a die hard fan of the Imperial Commander in Chief.”
Life returned to Deheter’s previously despirited eyes.
He looked at Sungchul with look full of vigor and continued energetically.
“Unlike a loser like me, the Imperial Commander in Chief faced the world alone. Casting away honor, friendship, or status. Leaving everything behind.”
“And you’ve proven to the world, didn’t you? That you were right. Relying on nothing but your own strength.”
It was a bit embarassing to listen to this, but Sungchul now came to understand why such a young king he’s never even met before was so fervent of a fan of his.
Sungchul detected weak vibrations.
Derha was knocking on the window to the carriage. There was no sound, but Sungchul noticed the vibrations and released the sound nullification barrior before pushing away the curtains himself.
“What is it?”
“Why are you so late to answer? I said we’re almost there.”
It appeared as though their small talk has come to an end. Sungchul let Deheter know through facial expressions that their conversation was over.
Deheter nodded with an expression deeply soaked in sadness as he nodded lifelessly and answered quietly.
“But still I love the queen. I fell in love at first sight. This much is the truth.”
Bertelgia came to Sungchul and whispered to him.
“He’s so pitiful…”
He thought for a moment before nodding and taking out a sword from the Soul Storage.
It was a shining military sword from the Human Empire. He used it to cut meat and the like, but it was originally a high-grade officer’s sword given only to those above Imperial general’s rank or higher.
Sungchul offered it to his fan, Deheter.
“It’s not much, but it’s a present from me.”
“Wh…what is this?”
Deheter’s eyes grew wide.
“It was the sword that was awarded to me when I was appointed as the Imperial Commander in Chief, given by the Emperor himself. You have told me a story, so it is only right that I should compensate you approperiately.”
“Oooh… this precious item… This…I cannot believe you would gift me such an ultra super super rare item like this…”
Tears formed on the edges of awestruck Deheter’s eyes and his two hands were shaking like the branches of a poplar tree. It seemed as though he was genuinely grateful.
There was a bit of regret giving away such an item, but the joy that he witnessed gave Sungchul a great sense of satisfaction.
“From the bottom of my heart, thank you so much!”
The king who was given the sword lowered his head to give Sungchul an excessive bow.
Though from a minor nation, a king was a king.
Sungchul straightened Deheter’s back and spoke to him with a slightly bewildered tone of voice.
“It is bad for a king to do this.”
Bertelgia was noticeably bothered as she glared at Sungchul and Deheter.
“Thank you so much!”
Deheter expressed his gratitude loudly once more.
While that was going on, the carriage had already passed the entrance to the Aege Harbor and entered into the greatest trade port in the world.
Sungchul opened the windows wide.
The scent of the ocean breeze carried the sounds of seagulls into the carriage.
We are back! Sorry about the hiatus, you can expect more chapters releasing way sooner.