Tara is greeted with an unpleasant surprise.
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Episode 114. About 11 months (6)
The same afternoon.
A week had passed since the day my father had been released from the Palace, and it was too quiet.
Countess Victoria had visited Father and threatened to withdraw all of Philippe's funds from the family businesses, but in reality, not a single business had lost Philippe's patronage.
There had been no pressure or interference, even though the Countess was now laying sick in bed. And, as promised, Jason was now on a boat sailing across the ocean.
“It’s surprisingly quiet… Like the calm before the storm...”
In the Full-time Secretarial Division's section on the first basement floor of the warehouse, files were jumbled together and packed in large boxes.
It was my job today to sort them, and this kind of thing was a piece of cake for me. I separated out this year's Military files, put them all in one box, labelled them, and organized them by date and task.
After cleaning up the warehouse, I sat down against the desk to rest for a while and drink some water.
As the end of my workday approached, I began to organize a list of things in my head that I wanted to accomplish once I got home.
At some point, the Philippe Family's unusual actions had started raising flags.
“… They must be trying to maintain their influence somehow, but if that's the case, then Philippe wouldn't just sit by and let this happen...”
After seating myself fully on the desk, I wrapped my arms around myself and fell deep into thought.
“Then, are they preparing some method of intimidation?"
But I soon eliminated the possibility that they would try to intimidate us.
It was the Elias Family who had turned the crisis into an opportunity, and now we had the authority to use the official seal of the Imperial Palace.
Not only had our position been solidified, but more and more families were popping up wanting to invest in the Elias Family businesses.
Therefore, the threat of withdrawing their investments would no longer work.
"... If not a threat... Will they try to appease us?"
I nodded slowly.
From now on, there was a strong probability they would try to restore the cracked relationship between our two families.
After dealing with one big crisis after another it felt like I had finally managed to fumble my way a few steps ahead.
"So what form of appeasement would work in the current situation? What would I do if I was the head of the Philippe family?"
But my speculation couldn't progress any further. There was nothing to infer because I didn't know enough about the Philippe Family.
“I'm sure the Philippe Family will come up with something soon. Before that, I'll have to go to the archives and research them. I could also ask my Master...”
I drank the remaining water in a single gulp, stood up and glanced around the warehouse.
Information from every department was collected here. Most of them pertained to short-term work assignments.
That was unsurprising. Since the most common role of a full-time secretary involved stepping in as a substitute, long-term assignments were so rare that they could be counted on only one hand.
- Urgent dispatch to the winter ice sculpture event.
- Same day dispatch due to the 3rd Vice Minister's Aide being on sick leave.
- An urgent dispatch required to attend the diplomatic reception of a delegation from the Kingdom of Baron.
- Urgent request from Inner Palace Headquarters to deploy an additional auxiliary team to assist the Inner Palace's outdoor event.
Most of the assignments were like that.
“Hmm… Interesting... Could it be that I was deliberately assigned here so that I could quickly grasp the various affairs of the Palace?”
But I soon shook my head. The Second Prince wasn't the type to be so meticulous about the placement of his subordinates.
“From now on, I'll have to offer to do the warehouse cleanup by myself. Hehe....”
No matter how I considered it, it was actually a pretty good opportunity to be assigned to the Full-time Secretarial Division.
In order to serve as an effective Aide, I would have to be informed of the characteristics, tastes, and schedules of each superior in advance and develop a familiarity with them. Therefore, it would be possible to quickly and easily find information about the management of each department.
Also, by looking at the contents of the files, I could guess which of the superiors frequently changed their assistants, and who the more picky and less demanding ones were.
I had just shaken the dust off my hands and was smoothing out my wrinkled clothes when I saw a pair of shoes poking through the doorway.
I instinctively glanced over and saw Miss Olive Benson. She, too, was a 3rd Aide from the Full-time Secretarial Division, and was currently dispatched to the Inner Palace.
“… I'm also here to organize...”
"Ah, yes. Of course, I'm done here, then..."
I tilted my head and approached the door. In response, Olive stepped back. She bowed her head and looked away.
Was that just her normal personality?
I habitually glanced at the clock on the wall and saw that it was 5 PM, which meant it was time to get off work.
I was thinking about asking if she was working overtime, but I wondered if that would be too nosy.
"Well then, good luck, 3rd Aide Benson."
"Yes… Good work."
With that formal goodbye, I opened the door and left.
Why was I left with such an unpleasant aftertaste? It felt like discovering too late that there was a piece of toilet paper stuck on you after doing your business...
I kept thinking about how her gaze had been fixed on my back until I left the Palace, and I felt discomfited the entire carriage ride home.
"I'll have to ask when I see her tomorrow..."
"What?" Asked Beth, unsure what I was talking about.
I shrugged and changed the subject.
"Did Philippe visit?"
"No. There were quite a few guests, but none from the Philippe family."
There were dozens of people who visited the Elias family estate every day. Including vassals and customers who were entangled in all kinds of interests.
In addition, a wide variety of guests came to visit specific members of the family. So the Elias mansion was always crowded.
Perhaps it was because we had recently solved the issue of the Emperor's assassination attempt, but the number of visitors we were receiving these days felt much greater than before.
I nodded to indicate I understood.
"By the way…”
Beth wasn't done explaining.
"A very high-ranking person arrived. I've never met her before, but they say she's the wife of Grand Duke Stuart."
"The Grand Duchess...?"
Duke Stuart. When Prince Kyle sent a request for military support, he had turned it down.
'Then why is she...? Hmm... Well, she must be one of my Father's guests...'
With that carefree thought, I arrived at the mansion without considering it more deeply, completely unprepared for the bomb that was about to fall on my head.
"An arranged marriage?"
Crack! Boom! The sound of firecrackers burst in my head... No, it was more like the chaotic roar of a bomb detonating in my ears. What nonsense was this? It felt like I was trying to escape the sound of an approaching millstone that threatened to grind me into dust.
My mother, who had come to my room, nodded wordlessly.
But she couldn't hide the smile that leaked through her expression, while Beth and the other maids put their hands together and gazed at me with envy.
Strangely, as soon as I'd arrived, I was told to eat and bathe, and was coerced into wearing a very pink dress that had come from some unknown source.
And all of this was for an arranged political marriage.
"Mother, did I hear you wrong? Are you sure this is not about Chloe?"
"No, the Duchess inquired about you in particular, Tara. She wants to meet you. So get ready. We have less than 40 minutes! Kyaaaah!"
The maids also screeched in unison at my Mother's excited squeal. They were completely out of their minds.
Oh... No way was I going to be swept away like this. First of all, Father...
Resolved, I stomped towards the door, but was quickly caught by my mother and the gaggle of maids, who stared at me with hearts in their eyes.
"No way! You have to put on makeup!"
"Oh… But I would rather discuss this with my mother and father first."
But my protests merely echoed back to me, unanswered. Within minutes, my makeup was done and my hairstyle had been arranged.
I looked in the mirror, I had been made to look so naive and innocent.
Fortunately, I had 15 minutes remaining.
I frowned gravely at my mother through the mirror.
I ground each word out syllable by syllable. "Mother. that. is. enough! I. need. to. see. Father. now!"
"Uh… huh. Of course, Baby..."
When I turned around to give her a deadpan stare, my mother squealed and said, "You must be so nervous!"
How could she look at my serious expression and think that I was nervous...? Did her eyes have automatic filters on them?
Elias Family office.
“… It is a good deal for us. It's true that the Duchess has you in particular in mind, even though you haven't officially debuted in the social world. I'm also perplexed."
His eyes were full of hopeful anticipation.
Seeing that heavy weight of expectation in my fathers eyes, I felt a sudden rush of panic and helplessness.
This was happening way too easily. As if arranging this marriage was as simple as deciding to plant a tree in the garden....
Was this really what this world was like?
"Why on earth would such a prestigious family bother with such a humble..."
"Well, we have House Philippe to thank for arranging this. I suppose this is their way of making up for the recent situation."
Ding! Ding! An alarm bell went off in my head.
Damn it! This was their way of getting back in our good graces! And I was the target!
This trick was unexpected. But it was a pretty decent strategy.
I was about to muster the confidence to speak. However, as if expecting it, my Father stopped me before I could say anything.
“I know. They have some kind of motive for making this proposal to our family, however, I intend to accept it nonetheless."
Internally, I was screaming, but I summoned a pretense of calm and imbued my voice with grave seriousness.
"... Father, I’m going to become a 1st ranked administrator, and I fully intend to win the Pantheon Plains and half of your shares."
I was trying to emphasize that I still wanted to compete for the position of the next head of the family.
"Hmm… I have no intention of depriving you of your opportunity, but there is no better marriage prospect in the Empire. Working as an administrator is much more perilous than expected. Weren't you recently on the verge of dying?"
“Ah…! But that was genuinely accidental…”
My father once again raised his hand to interrupt me.
“This is what I suggest to you, I have no intention of blocking your ambitions with marriage. However, it is true that the job of an administrator is a difficult one. If you wish, I will arrange a position in the business for you immediately after you accept this marriage. Even after marriage, there are many opportunities for you to take part in the company.”
My heart was pounding uncontrollably at my Father's words. He had already expressed his willingness to accept the political marriage. But I pulled myself together as best I could.
"What about my position as an Imperial administrator?"
"I wish you would quit your job. I will keep my promise, you can request the Military to change your position. If that's the case, I'll talk to the Stuart Family about allowing you to work for the next three years."
Another explosion roared in my head.
At the same time, in the Second Prince's Palace.
Meanwhile, an urgent message was delivered to the Second Imperial Palace. The urgent letter was placed on the Prince's table alongside another one.
After emerging from a bath, the Prince picked up the first hastily written message.
"There's truly no rest to be had today. I can't believe I'm getting an urgent message at this hour...”
The Second Prince opened the letter with a slight grin, but his expression instantly went cold.
Nick, who had begun to develop a keen eye for his Master's moods, noticed the atmosphere change, and quickly straightened his posture.
‘... What? What kind of news is it? Damn it. Does this mean we're going to be heading out in the middle of the night again?'
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