Updated: Mar 17
Tara reveals the plan she has to deal with her new problem, and the showdown between her and the Grand Duchess begins.
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Episode 116. About 11 months (8)
I came up with two methods.
The first was to make Duchess Stuart believe that I would not be a good daughter-in-law at all, with the method I suggested my father use when meeting Empress Vivian, 'Operation Act'.
However, my father had already used this method.
Once he realized that I was using 'Operation Act', my father would obviously be furious, and from that point onwards, nobody in the family would listen to what I had to say.
Didn't he warn me in his office, having foreseen my intentions? I was not to do anything stupid, like put up an improvisational act or something.
Just as expected, I followed the Grand Duchess into the parlor, but the gaze I felt behind my back was very piercing. It was clear with what kind of gaze he was looking at me right now.
If I ruined this proposed arranged marriage by doing something absurd, he wouldn't let it go.
Therefore, I had to somehow convince the Duchess to change her mind.
So, my second method was 'to provoke'!
The method of provocation had too many variables depending on the opponent's personality, so results were rarely consistent.
I had greatly messed up once when I provoked the Second Prince in his quarters without properly knowing how to. It taught me a lesson.
Nevertheless, there was no other option than this strategy. Of course, I didn't choose it blindly.
My mother had given me some very valuable information half an hour ago.
[Mother, please tell me all you know about House Stuart and the Grand Duchess.]
[Hmm... They're a noble family who set an example for others. It's said that they're working on academic development projects in order to foster talented people in the Empire. The Duke is one of five in the Empire, and I know it has been a while since he stepped down from the political front. The Grand Duchess is involved in a variety of charities, and she regularly sponsors an orphanage in particular. She's truly an admirable person. But I can't believe she was the Count's etiquette teacher. What a surprise.]
I tilted my head.
[Why is that surprising? Well, it's unusual for a Duchess to become a Count's etiquette teacher indeed.]
[No. It's because it's been a while since the Grand Duchess retired, although the Stuart Academy acknowledges her to the point where she's even written a Liberal Arts textbook for their curriculum.]
[I later heard that the Count said that his etiquette teacher's class was very eccentric. She created new games all the time, she deliberately set up traps where she asked him to find the basics of etiquette that appeared in old books, and then hid the old books. He also said that the class was quite troublesome because she made the discussions about etiquette like riddles.]
[The Grand Duchess?]
[Yes. Well, at the time, she hadn't mentioned that she was the Grand Duchess, so I thought she was an etiquette teacher sent from an ordinary academy. I was surprised to find out only today that the eccentric etiquette teacher was the Duchess of Stuart.]
The unconventional Grand Duchess seemed like someone who liked coming up with new games and poking through riddles and traps.
My mother's words had led me to the idea of using 'provocation'.
If the Grand Duchess, who was leaving tomorrow morning, exchanged an arranged marriage certificate with my father, it would feel like being dragged to the slaughterhouse, while being helpless to do anything about it.
No, even if the certificate was exchanged, the engagement could still be broken. Once again, it was obvious that I had to spend time and effort in order to get the reward.
I had already wasted a lot of time in Durben, so I needed to search for and find which of my siblings would cause our family to be destroyed.
This mission felt neverending.
While I was screaming internally and purposefully walking at a slow pace, Beth, who had been waiting, approached me.
"Miss, I found the book you mentioned."
Beth whispered quietly, as if she was a ventriloquist.
"Phew. Good job, Beth. See you later...”
I glanced at the Grand Duchess Duchess walking ahead and quickly whispered in Beth's ear.
“Wait in front of the door, and when I call, bring it. Okay?”
"You're going to call for me out loud, instead of sending a signal? Isn't that less secretive?"
I frowned slightly.
"Beth, we're not playing detective."
"Yes, I see. I'll take this more seriously than ever. You must have a reason."
I was just telling her to come in when I called. Wasn't she giving my actions too much meaning? Well, with the way I had been behaving...
Beth gave me a meaningful look and nodded briefly before quickly moving away again, as if she was a spy...
'I think you're too immersed in this, Beth.'
Pushing useless thoughts away, I straightened my shoulders and strode into the parlor. The Grand Duchess stared at me, sitting upright.
Just you wait, House Philippe.
The Philippes planned to cast me as the main character of this charade, and Father and Grand Duchess Helen were the producers, but as the main character, I refused to be controlled.
They made the game, but from now on, I would take the lead!
Therefore, my title would be 'main character and director.'
Inside the parlor.
I sat in front of a steaming cup of pomegranate tea.
To start off, I decided to apologize sincerely.
"I wanted to create a setting where you could properly judge me."
I rose from my seat, bowed deeply, and showed my respect.
"What I said at dinner was rude."
“Are you, by admitting that you were rude, saying that you deliberately made that up in order to create this opportunity?”
"I didn't make that part up. It was my honest opinion."
The Grand Duchess, who was looking at me with a stern expression, drank from her pomegranate tea and motioned at me to sit down.
"You believe my grandson won't be good enough for you because you're going to be the next head of House Elias?"
The Grand Duchess' eyebrows moved slightly.
"Really? How so?"
"My father made an arrangement. I will become a 1st Aide within the next year."
It was a reach, but according to my calculations, everything would be decided within a year anyway, so it was only a matter of winning one year of time.
"You're on the bottom now, a 3rd Aide, and you're going to become an Aide standing next to the Imperial Family within one year? You're bluffing."
"There's nothing I can do if you look at it that way. Whether it's a bluff or reality remains to be seen."
Oh my god!
Startled, I pressed myself into the back of the chair.
"A political marriage is what a noblewoman must partake in for the sake of her family. How much more will you insult the arranged marriage offered by our family, one of the five Dukedoms in the Empire?"
I gulped. She looked like a wildcat on the verge of attacking with her flashing blue eyes and trembling fists.
Oh, she had an attitude...
"Hold on, Grand Duchess. I only wanted to tell you the truth. It's up to the Stuarts to choose me and ask for an arranged marriage, but I created this setting even though I knew it was rude because I thought it was only right to tell you in advance about the damage the Stuarts will suffer by choosing me."
“What kind of nonsense is that?”
"The damage the Stuarts will suffer because of me is the reason why I told you that the second son can't marry me."
“Because of me, the Stuart family will be embroiled in the next battle for the throne.”
"Oh, my. Tsk, tsk, tsk, tsk... Are you still not sound of mind?"
"My mind is clearer than ever. Grand Duchess, I'll become the closest Aide to the 2nd Prince. Somehow."
"Ha...! What a pipe dream. When you get married, you’ll become a member of the Stuart family. Then, you have to quit both your work in the Palace and in the Elias businesses."
"Chapter 3, Section 22 of the Law of Nobility. Paragraph 1. All noble children have the right to an inheritance within the rules established by the family. Whether it's material or immaterial, monetary or not, all children of noble families are granted this right from birth, and no one can arbitrarily infringe upon this right."
“I will bring it to the aristocratic court.”
"What a disgrace!"
"My right to run for the next head of the house has already been notarized. I am also a child of a noble family. The inviolable right granted to noble children of the Empire can be found in Chapter 3, Section 22, Paragraph 1 of the Law of Nobility. You can't take away this noble right with an arranged marriage. Even my father never told me to quit."
Naturally, I wanted her to indirectly reveal the position of her king in this game of chess.
The Grand Duchess leapt to her feet. She rounded the corner of her chair, slightly turned around, and looked at me.
"You will continue to work as an administrator even after your arranged marriage. Therefore, you'll become the Second Prince's closest Aide and the next head of your house. Is that right?"
"Yes, that's great. Let's say you keep doing administrative work. The thing is, one thing you know, and the other you don't."
"What is it that I don't know?"
"Will a young noblewoman who has just begun working, truly be able to become the closest Aide to the Second Prince, who may or may not be the next Emperor? Within a year?"
"I'll prove it."
“Please wait one year! If I become his close Aide, I won't have to do the arranged marriage. And if I don't, it's not too late to have an arranged marriage by then.”
If I manage to stop our downfall within a year, I won't have to worry about anything else. Even a fool could get rid of the arranged marriage.
I quietly took a sip of pomegranate tea and waited. The Grand Duchess seemed to be experiencing a variety of emotions, such as disbelief, shock, and absurdity.
At the same time, she was staring at me, as if contemplating what she should do with this situation.
No. If she decided to say, 'I can’t handle this brat,' then we could go our separate ways!
As I was thinking about it, I suddenly remembered my father's words.
[If you behave rudely on purpose, I'll be very angry with you.]
Was this also a purposefully rude thing to do? Well, I couldn't do anything about it now.
"... I didn't think any of the children in this family would resemble Naviene. Pfft. You're similar to your grandmother, unpredictable and airheaded!"
But fortunately, the words that left the Grand Duchess' mouth after a long silence relieved and surprised me at the same time.
My late grandmother?
Suddenly, a memory from 10 years ago came to mind, and to my embarrassment, it brought tears to my eyes.
What was this sad feeling!
This was because Tara’s childhood memories, mixed with Ji Yeonwoo’s consciousness, had suddenly emerged.
- Tara resting her chin on the bed her ill grandmother was laying on.
- Grandmother telling Tara the story of a scary mythical monster.
- Grandmother bursting into laughter when she cried. Grandmother starting to cough heavily. Her being unable to hold down anything she ate.
- Grandmother laughing mockingly at the princess who fell in love with the monster.
That was the last memory.
"She laughed mockingly at the princess, saying that she was stupid for believing she could change the monster, and that men were just monsters pretending to be humans when they got married. That's the last memory I have of my grandmother."
"Ah, that's like Naviene."
"My grandmother was an interesting person. She was very silly and funny in my memory. Do you feel the same way about her, Grand Duchess?"
The Grand Duchess' eyes were moist and reminiscent.
I was hoping that she would have some compassion.
"... She was a delightful and entertaining friend. Thanks to her, I also gained a new interest. Okay. Good, that's it. You said you would become His Highness' closest Aide within a year. Then how do I know if you'll succeed in that?"
As expected, she wasn't going to give me a break!
I wasn't disappointed, though.
"That's why I prepared something."
I immediately called out to Beth, "Beth!"
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