Updated: Mar 17
Kyle is approached by the Emperor's Consul and a mysterious guest arrives at the Elias family mansion.
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Episode 113. About 11 months (5)
Elias Mansion, office building.
Lloyd was pleased.
"Oh, yes! That's a good idea. Write up a list of what she might like. She seemed to like the mine I gave her last time. Maybe she'd like another one? Or would she prefer money? Back then I felt uncomfortable even giving her an extra 90 gold... If she has more money on hand, she'll be able to work more comfortably..."
Both of them were shocked, but tried not to show it.
When it came to Miss Aria, he sometimes acted like this, but just a year ago he wasn't the kind of person concerned with either Miss Tara or the Prince.*
"Yes. I'll prepare a list of suitable gifts."
"Yes, yes. Before that, don't forget to ask Andrei for more information. I'm going to find out what that snake Kyle did and I'm going to get him back somehow!"
Count Lloyd already seemed convinced that Prince Kyle was responsible for Tara’s poisoning.
“Yes, Your Excellency.”
Count Lloyd returned to the office, while Sir Oliver left to go to the Elias Pharmaceutical Research Centre, muttering repeatedly to himself, "Well, you live and you learn..."
As he approached the mansion to send a messenger to Andrei, Dylan almost collided with a running servant who was clutching an umbrella.
Fortunately, however, Dylan noticed him quickly enough to prevent a mishap.
“Ah… What are you doing rushing around on a day like this?"
"Ah. My apologies. A... A high-ranking person has just arrived at the mansion, so I was rushing to notify the Lord."
"A high-ranking person?"
"Ah! She told me to pass on a message."
Niels gulped, then straightened his back.
"… Go and tell him. An old friend is here to visit and he must come meet me now!" He recited.
"Oh, my. Did you just imitate them?"
"Yes. Miss Tara taught me a while back...”
"Oh… You must be Niels! By the way, the voice you just imitated sounds like a woman, but an elderly one... Was it an elderly noblewoman?"
"And she called herself an old friend?'
Niels nodded vigorously and further explained what he had witnessed.
"The Guard Captain of the Elias Knights personally escorted her in. And she wasn't just a little old, she was very old."
"Really? An elderly lady?"
"Yes. And I didn't see all the details, but there was a golden horse with wings on the back door of her carriage."**
"Oh, my God, a golden unicorn!... The Duchy of Stuart! The Grand Duchess?"
Shocked, Dylan let his umbrella tilt to the side, heedless of the rain, and Niels quickly grabbed the handle to set it upright.
"Um, she told me to hurry up and bring the Lord...?”
"Ah…! Yes. Go to the conference room in the business building and fetch the Count. Tell him the Duchess of Stuart is here now! Explain that she will be in the hall of the mansion!"
At Dylan's orders, Niels hurried away, while Dylan grabbed his umbrella and sprinted to the mansion.
As he entered the hall, he saw a woman standing in the centre of the hall, her posture upright. As he had explained to Niels, she was Duchess Helen Stuart, the Grand Duchess of House Stuart.
"I, Viscount Dylan Gabriel of House Elias, humbly greet the Duchess of Stuart."
After quickly adjusting his clothes, Dylan bowed deeply to pay his respects.
"Long time no see, Dylan. You've aged a lot since I last saw you."
"Oh... Yes. Would you like to be served some refreshments in the drawing room? Grand Duchess!"
“First, please guide me to the room I will be staying in. I will be staying overnight."
Surprised, Dylan gulped.
"Let's go to Naviene's room. Ah! Is the room still available?"
The room of the former Countess, Naviene Elias. She was Lloyd’s mother and had passed away 10 years ago.
Naviene Elias and Helen Stuart had been old friends.
Dylan had yet to fully grasp the situation, but she wanted to stay overnight. After 10 years... What the hell was going on here?
“Ah… Yes. It is still being maintained, but it has not been used for a long time…”
"That's alright. After all, there is no accomodation more suitable for a decrepit old bat like me."
Dylan glanced nervously towards the entrance hall as the old Duchess made to go climb the stairs.
‘Phew… He's here.'
The Count's shoulders were wet, as if he had rushed here in a panic.
"Ha… Nice to see you, Grand Duchess! To what do I owe the pleasure of this unexpected and auspicious visit...”
Even though it was winter, Count Lloyd was sweating profusely, and his face was ashen as he approached.
In the past, Duchess Helen had been Lloyd's childhood etiquette teacher. She was imprinted into Lloyd's memory as a very strict teacher, and he had been more afraid of his mother's close friend than of his mother herself.
"Since when do noblemen rush around like this!"
Sure enough, she was scolding him even though this was the first time they'd seen one another in the past 10 years.
Lloyd immediately straightened his back and pulled his chin up.
"Well... I was just so excited to see you. Haha... First of all, I'll order some tea to be served...!"
"It has been strenous travelling here without a break. Let's have tea in three hours."
"What...? Yes, of course, Duchess!"
Intent on quickly explaining the situation to the Count, Dylan silently mouthed the words, 'She said she wants the deceased Countess's room.' The Count blinked uncomprehendingly.
Then Dylan asked in a whisper, "What shall we do, sir?"
His face next to Dylan's, Lloyd whispered back, “Why does she never listen to anyone? If that's what she wants, we might as well do it. Please prepare it for her.”
The Grand Duchess, who was heading up the stairs, looked back for a moment.
"How vulgar. What manner of nobleman whispers so openly? Do you require further etiquette training, Lloyd Elias, you sluggard?" She scolded.
Everyone in the hall shuddered.
The Count’s smile was strained, his face scarlet.
“Of course not, Grand Duchess. I look forward to speaking with you in three hours. Please, think of this mansion as yours, make yourself at home."
“That's what I thought.Then, let's go."
The Grand Duchess climbed the stairs without hesitation, as if this really was her own home, and three maids from House Stuart trailed after her, carrying the luggage.
Dylan followed, then the Butler proceeded after him, and then a maid brought up the rear.
As he watched the row of figures, Lloyd unconsciously dragged his hand from his forehead down to his chin.
"... How has nothing changed? Two days will kill me, I’m doomed. Not to mention, why so suddenly... What is going on?"
The 2nd Prince's Palace, the Practice Courts. That same afternoon.
The rain had completely stopped.
"Your Highness! A letter has arrived."
Kyle was training in the gym in his spare time, after finishing his morning work.
Kyle lifted his sword, recapturing his Aurore.***
Next to Walter, Viscount Allen Godfrey, the first secretary of the Consul General's Office, bowed slightly to show respect.
“I'm surprised you're free. Why have you come to see me personally?"
"I was ordered to come here by His Majesty himself, he was concerned you might refuse otherwise."
Kyle stepped out of the practice area and faced Allen. In his hand, Allen held two envelopes bearing the Emperor's seal.
Kyle's mouth hardened as he took one of the carefully presented letters.
"... Does he think I have nothing else to do?"
"He was convinced you would say that. However, His Majesty said he would not be making any concessions this time. He said that if you heard what he had to say, you would change your mind."
"... What if I decide not to listen?"
"He told me to ask you if you would be content with a big loss."
"A... big loss? Haha. Well then, if missing it will be such a big loss, then I look forward to it. Tell me. I'll listen and think about it."
"... He asked which one he should give back, the Ministry of State or the Ministry of Finance. And..."
“And he wants me to make a recommendation for the position?”
"... Yes, Your Highness."
Kyle pulled on his cloak and stepped back into the palace. Naturally, Allen followed suit.
"I see... The old man has some kind of scheme. The Hunting Contest, that must have been your idea."
Allen neither confirmed nor denied it.
"It will calm the anxious nobles. In addition, getting a noble house to volunteer one of their forests in lieu of the Imperial hunting grounds, and holding the Hunting Contest there. That's interesting."
"What do you think?"
"… Does my opinion matter?"
"I know it's rude to ask, however, I would appreciate your thoughts."
Kyle paused for a moment at those words, and lowered his gaze to face Allen, who stood to the side. Kyle examined his cloaked eyes and serious expression for a moment, and then continued walking.
"Very humble of you. Haven't you already come up with a way to get a noble house to volunteer their lands?
Allen followed the Second Prince about a half-step behind.
"... I'm flattered."
"It couldn't be more perfect, this way he’ll get to fill his pockets and do so for a justifiable reason. However, the Emperor isn't as pleased as you thought he'd be, correct?"
“... How did you know…?”
He was right. His proposal was excellent. Nevertheless, His Majesty had not acted as enthusiastically this time as he had previously.
[... Hmm... That's alright. Yes, that's a fine idea. Yes, a good idea...]
Allen wondered if the Emperor's lukewarm reaction was because he was so tired and busy these days. He wanted to believe it, however, the Emperor's response to his suggestion had left him doubtful and confused.
Somehow, the Second Prince had immediately honed in on his confusion.
The Second Prince paused for a moment and looked at him. Allen also stopped and glanced up to see that the Second Prince was smiling slightly.
"Look at what the Elias family has managed to achieve, even though they’re only the 5th ranked merchant group."
Only then did Allen realize it. The reason for the Emperor's unenthusiastic response, which had embarassed him so greatly.
Having just understood the Emperor's attitude, Allen bowed deeply to the Second Prince.
"Thank you for opening my eyes, Your Highness."
"Indeed. How are you going to soothe the Emperor's fickle mood?"
"… I'll think hard to find an alternative, Your Highness."
“Well… Unfortunately, such opportunities don’t come very often.”
After uttering those meaningful words, the 2nd Prince promptly moved on to another topic.
"In return, I get to recommend someone for the position. He wants to entrust me with the Hunting Contest which is hosted by the opposition, so tell him my armed forces will be taking full command for the pre-determined four days."
"Yes, Your Highness. An official letter has been sent to each noble family, so the hunting grounds will be decided soon. I'll notify the Order of the Phoenix immediately."
"Understood. I'll organize a survey team in advance. There will be three banquets, correct?"
"Yes. His Majesty wishes to dedicate four days of the week to hunting. One banquet on the eve of the event, a mid-term banquet half-way through, and an unifying banquet on the last day.”
At the sudden silence, Allen lifted his head and tried to decipher the Second Prince's expression.
He thought his eyes may have gotten sharper. Yet Allen simply waited, the Prince frequently wore expressions like this and there was no way of knowing what he was thinking anyway.
"... You. Is your next destination the 3rd Prince's Palace?"
“How did you...?"
“You have another envelope, and I've already been entrusted with the Hunting Contest, so the banquet must be handled by a member of the Imperial family in order to suit the taste of the nobles. At this time, when the 1st Prince is not available, the 3rd Prince is the most suitable person. Furthermore…”
The Second Prince lifted one corner of his mouth as if amused. But his eyes remained the same.
Allen felt an unexplicable murderous aura, and had to resist taking a step back.
"I see he's gained confidence. He's creating an opportunity to evaluate our qualifications..."
"Go and tell His Majesty that the 2nd Prince wishes to be left alone!"
With those words, the Second Prince turned and unhesitatingly strode away. Allen pondered Kyle's last words.
"Creating an opportunity to evaluate qualifications..."
Goosebumps rose all over his body.
'An opportunity... from which to select the official Crown Prince?'
* Hefty grain of salt for this interpretation
** Sam correctly pointed out that technically unicorns have horns while Pegasi have wings. I think Munirang may have made a mistake here and gotten Unicorns and Pegasi mixed up, or maybe she was talking about an alicorn or winged unicorn? But then again, these two mythological creatures have been mixed up and conflated a lot in modern storytelling.
*** For those unfamiliar with Auror/Aurore, it's essentially a form of mana manipulation/magic available to certain martial artists and sword masters. This is a common fantasy element that appears in a lot of Korean manhwa and Asian martial arts media. This element is introduced vaguely in chapter 17 of the novel but has not yet been adapted into the manhwa (for those of you who are originally manhwa readers and are probably very confused by this element popping up). Kyle's Aurore is going to become an increasingly relevant plot element.
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