• Sam

Chapter 117

Updated: Nov 8


The confrontation between Tara and the Grand Duchess' continues.


This chapter is dedicated to HALFaith, thank you so much for your support!


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Episode 117. About 11 months (9)


The reason why Helen had come to speak with the Count in person was simple.


It was because she missed her old friend, Naviene, and because she was curious about her student, whom she had not seen for 10 years.


On top of that, the Philippe family, with whom they maintained a strong relationship, had arranged a betrothal with Naviene's granddaughter. She had no reason to refuse.


She wanted to make sure that Naviene's granddaughter really wasn't like the rumours claimed. If she had changed as House Philippe said, Helen was planning to push forward with the arranged marriage.


In all honesty, she thought it would be nice to have a grandchild who resembled her lively and playful friend. But at the same time, she didn't expect much.


None of Naviene's granddaughters she had seen when they were children looked like her.


Despite the rumours that were circulating, she had been told that her appearance and mental state had changed, and intended to set up an arranged marriage, as long as she was actually in good health.


However, she’d had no expectations for the young lady named Tara Elias.


Fortunately, as House Philippe had said, her appearance couldn't be further from the rumours. She didn't resemble Naviene, but to Helen’s discerning gaze, she looked quite good.


She was of appropriate height and had quite a cute appearance. Helen had gotten worried while she was eating because she’d looked a little dazed, but since she had passed the administrative exams, her brain couldn't be too bad.


She believed it would be fine if she took the time to thoroughly teach her about the family affairs.


Of course, the administrative exams weren't fair, but it meant she had a mind that could memorize answers she was taught.


Having mused about Naviene after a long time, she was thinking of exchanging the arranged marriage certificates right after dinner and having a chat with her student.


She was going to have a drink to celebrate forming connections with an old friend's family as in-laws.


However, something completely unexpected happened.


The child fearlessly provoked the Grand Duchess and her curiosity was piqued.


'Ha. How dare she say my grandson is not good enough for her.'


Helen wanted to check. But what she said when she came in was even more bizarre.


Helen didn't believe she was going to become the next Head of the House within a year or that she was going to be the Second Prince's closest Aide. Yet, Tara told her to postpone the arranged marriage for a year.


It was ridiculous and absurd, but on the other hand, it was pleasant. She couldn't remember having such a lively conversation in the last 10 years.


After Naviene had died, she hadn’t had lively conversations with anyone.


'What a slippery girl. As expected of Naviene's granddaughter. I'm glad I met you.'


The corners of Helen's mouth lifted.


Split between anticipation and curiosity, she asked how she would become His Highness' closest Aide within a year. However, she answered unhesitatingly, as if she had predicted that the situation would turn out like this.


"That's why I prepared something."


'Ha!'


Seeing Tara smile brightly while loudly calling her maid, the blood in her slowly throbbing veins seemed to be sprinting with excitement.


And at the same time, Helen couldn't contain the laughter rising from the bottom of her chest.


"Ahahahahahah."


***


Meanwhile, Lloyd, Dylan, and the rest of the family, camping by the parlor's door under the pretext of chatting, were very startled by the sound of the Grand Duchess' laughter.


However, they were relieved that the rude words Tara had said in the dining room at least hadn't offended her.


If it had, there would be no reason for her to laugh like that.


Two more people were bewildered. The infiltrators who had disguised themselves and were ordered to keep an eye on the Elias family's every move, especially on the fifth child, Tara Elias.


'It's as interesting as I expected. Oh, my. This place is so exciting.'


One of them had been staring at the door with shining eyes and winked at his comrade, with whom he shared a tacit agreement.


'I'm not the only one having fun, right? I've never seen an aristocrat like her, have you?'


'Tsk, tsk, did you realize that just now? This is a secret, but I'm off duty today. Hehehe.'


'Ah. Such passion. You can't see it from the outside, but, from the bottom of my heart, you have my full endorsement, mate!'


That was how the two of them strengthened their friendship, going undercover amongst the other employees and keeping their ears open.


***


Beth, who had probably been hiding behind a pillar in the hall, immediately opened the door and entered at my call.


"Beth, your dedicated maid, has brought all you asked for, Miss."


"...?"


Beth came in with a cart, somehow behaving strangely.


She was holding her breath and her voice sounded excessively nasal, but her eyes were also sparkling unusually, which was very weird.


What was up with that?


What kind of shoes was she wearing that her steps echoed on the parlor's floor? At the same time, I could hear the sound of a small cart's wheels rolling. Beth approached me, bent down like the most well-mannered maid in the world would, and opened the box.


Then, very slowly, she picked up the books in the box one by one and stacked them on the table. They were positioned perfectly.


"Thank you, Beth."


"It is my invaluable job, Miss. Then, have a nice conversation."


She was behaving like a court maid, but she was rather clumsy and uncomfortable to look at. Whether she was aware or not, I had no choice but to stare at Beth's back as she slowly turned around and walked away again.


She must've seen something weird somewhere. I'd have to ask later.


"I heard that a maid takes after her master. She's odd, but amusing."


"Haha... She doesn't normally act like that, but I think she ate something wrong today. Hahaha."


Wiping my sweat away, I made excuses, but the Grand Duchess gestured to the five stacked books with her chin as if I had to explain that instead of talking nonsense.


"You're going to prove your ability with this?"


"Yes."


The book at the top was the military guide that the 2nd Prince had taken as a trophy from Skandoa and given to me.


[Hamut's Handbook - Author, Hamut Gorr.]


These books also came in turn.


[What Are the Rites for Nobility? - Author, Kongzu.]


[The Flow of International Politico-Economy and the Structure of Epistemology - Author, Pluto.]


[To be a Monarch - Author, Andrei Pitt.]


[Women's Progress in Society and the Perspectives of the Family and Nation - Multiple authors.]


"How will you do it?"


"If you ask me a question, I'll answer..."


"What will you be answering?"


"That's going to be the fun part, won't it, Grand Duchess?"


The corners of the Grand Duchess' lips twitched. She seemed to be holding back.


"Hmm... Well then, how does it work?"


"There are three rounds in total. The Grand Duchess picks a book and asks a question, which I will answer. If my answer is satisfactory, I win; if not, the Grand Duchess wins."


"And?"


"The loser will grant the winner's wish when it's decided who won and lost in each round. However, a wish cannot overturn a previous wish, and multiple wishes cannot be combined into one wish. Lastly, the next winner shouldn't make the same wish as the other person. What do you think, Grand Duchess?"


I swallowed.


"Why are there five books? Wouldn't you need only three books if there are a total of three rounds?"


"I've read all but two of these books. I thought it would be too advantageous for me if I had read all of them. Games are supposed to be fair and thrilling. Hahaha."


I laughed loudly, but cold sweat was running down my back.


No matter how much the Grand Duchess liked to play, she wouldn't do it if she believed it was unfair, so I had no choice but to bring in the ancestor of games: luck.


"Oh, really? You sound like a swindler, but the rules are fair. Alright. I came in to see what little ability you have anyway, getting three wishes is just icing on the cake."


She thought I was going to lose all three rounds.


"Once you pick up a book, you can't... Yes. You can't put it back down. Then you've agreed to play."


Phew, I almost messed up.


I sighed in relief at having marginally overcome this big hurdle. Seeing that, the Grand Duchess grinned.


"It seems like you're less prepared than I thought. But this is a game you came up with. Shouldn't I choose at least one of the games we play?"


Ugh... I could tell she had the intuition of an expert. As expected, winning against old people was hard.


Cold sweat broke out on my forehead.


"Haha. What kind of game should I include, Grand Duchess?"


"That doesn't matter. If your game is for testing your intelligence, my game will only be for testing your luck. After living this long, I've realized that you cannot ignore the luck an individual is born with. Now, what do you think?"


"W–Well, of course, I accept."


I stuttered again because I was nervous.


"Then, what kind of game are you thinking of playing?"


"It's no fun if I already tell you. Hehe."


An evil smile flashed across the Grand Duchess' face. For a moment, a cold chill ran down my spine, but I dismissed it as a mere cold poisoning after-effect, and smiled at her.


"Indeed. It's no fun."


"Alright then, shall we start with the game you chose?"


The Duchess' blue eyes twinkled. They were by no means of an old woman. She had the eyes of a teenager full of curiosity. I watched her hand, so nervous that I forgot to breathe.


I hoped she picked the book I was thinking of. Please let the passage in The Paradox of Choice I once read be correct.


The Grand Duchess' finger went from the books at the top to the bottom.


In a psychology book I read while I was researching data, it was said that when faced with a choice, 'people choose what doesn't harm them rather than what's beneficial to them' (Source: The Paradox of Choice).


That was statistically proven basic human psychology.


If these psychology statistics were correct, the Duchess would do the same in this situation.


A book that the Grand Duchess would certainly not lose because of. If she chose that one, she'd take the lead on the first question and avoid a loss.


A book she could ask the most difficult questions about because she knew the contents better than anyone else.


It was the book the Duchess herself had taught.


Thankfully, 'Tara' had read the book as a punishment.


When she was young, her older brother, Brandon, had made Tara read this book if she wasn't doing well, and she had read it over and over again until her brother returned from a long business trip.


She hadn't enjoyed it, but it was the most high-level book Tara had read at the time. She had re-read it multiple times because she didn't want to fail to meet her brother's expectations, and wanted to be praised.


With an apologetic smile, the Grand Duchess finally chose a book.


It was a compulsory textbook for the female aristocrats in the Faculty of Liberal Arts.


[Women's Progress in Society and the Perspectives of the Family and Nation - Multiple authors.]


Eh?


Where was her finger going! Huh. The psychology. Basically, she wasn't choosing the book with the least risk?


[To be a Monarch - Author, Andrei Pitt.]


Ugh. If you knew about me, you'd of course know that I was Andrei Pitt's disciple, so I put that book there because I thought she wouldn't pick it.


But she did.


Andrei had packed it in my luggage when I went to Durben, but I hadn't read it.


Shit. For some reason, I didn't want to read it, but I should have...


Wedding bells started to ring in my mind.


With the way things were going... No. No.


I shouldn't think like that! This was a game I made. I would win no matter what!


I shook my head and focused on the Grand Duchess' question.


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