We catch up with Andrei while Theo expresses his opinion on Tara.
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Episode 123. About 11 months (15)
An invitation bearing the Emperor's seal was sent to each noble family.
The nobles who received the invitation couldn't help but be surprised to see the location marked on it.
[With the assistance of the nobility who have supported it, this Empire has been firmly established for many a year, and I, the Emperor...[...] This event has been specially prepared to honour the strong solidarity between the Nobility and the Imperial Family, therefore I hope you will choose to attend the festivities.
Hunting Forest Location:
Courtesy of the Duke of Toulouse. - Tandra 1st Forest and Tandra Mansion located in the central Tandra Mountains.
Monday 7 January 1816 to Sunday 13 January 1816.
New Year's Banquet, Finale Banquet, and a unified gathering for the Hunting Contest.]
The Emperor of Oceria, Louis Amure]
The total population of the Ocerian Empire was about 65 million, and excluding the Imperial family, there were 915 people who held noble titles. Including barons, a total of 2,022 people were currently included on the list of nobility.*
Only the top-ranked individuals could participate in any of the events organized by the Palace, specifically, only around 600 people qualified for the Hunting Contest.
However, even if their names were included on the list of nobility, those among them who were too young, too old, located too far away, ill, or occupied with family events were not invited. Excluding them, the number of attendees was reduced to about 400.
Due to the suddenness of the occasion, only 180 of those nobles expressed their intentions to attend the Hunting Contest.
Most of the attending nobility were composed of those who lived in the Capital and all occupied the same region of the Empire, this meant that the Hunting Contest was attended only by those necessary.
Somewhere outside the Capital.
A black wagon was travelling across a broad plain at night.
A horse running at full speed rode up next to the carriage, and the carriage stopped for a moment after the horse reached it. Then, the carriage began to move again.
The horse that had followed the carriage turned back in the direction it had come from and galloped away.
It was the third day since he had left the Capital.
Andrei in the midst of his long business trip, lay in his luxurious carriage which was equipped with a built-in bed, and was skimming through a report Leonard had sent him.
And yet, because of the constant tickling in his ears, he kept incessantly shoving his little finger into his ear.
"Ah. I’m too popular. They keep complimenting me!"
He groaned and slumped down again.
“What happened to Tara, your disciple?”
“Hahahaha, it sounds like she had a one-on-one meeting with the Grand Duchess. That’s right, my disciple is not the kind of person who gives up easily. Bahahaha. Funnily enough, she lost the bet 2-1."
"She avoided an arranged marriage, instead she has to meet with the second son of the Stuart Family three times and spend eight hours with the Duchess every month. What kind of game did they play? If it weren't for Orlando, I would ask Tara immediately. Hmm... I wonder, I wonder.”
“Still, the Stuart Family is one that every young girl in the Empire would aspire to join, and the second son of the family has always been one of the top eligible bachelors in the social world, right? Your disciple is also a young girl of almost 19 years old. She might choose to...!”
"Tsk tsk. That's still a long way off."
"Our chubby... No, Duke Stuart is a little too weak to deal with my bright disciple. Don't you agree?"
"Why do you think that?"
"Because I chose her!"
"I'm a bit sympathetic to that old lady, but that boy isn't really the right kind of man."
"He’s not the chief's type, but the young noblewomen of the Empire are all lining up outside the Capital to try to snag the second son of that house, and that might be enough to win over the Count."
"My student is better than that... Hmm."
“Better than that?”
"Well, we'll have to wait and see. Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha!”
‘Ah, it’s still unknown. But, I must know, I can't stand it.'
Andrei laid back on the bed as if he wouldn’t be offering any further explanation.
After a few moments of silence.
“So, this should take about two weeks?” Andrei asked.
He continued to pick at his ears while his personal aide, Curtison, sat opposite him reading some papers.
"Yes. It willl take another day to arrive at port and board the ship, and it it will then take about 15 days to return to the Capital."
"Hmm. I'm excited because it's been so long since I've been out. I've heard that Seodo Island is a paradise, Hahaha! Let's go fishing after dealing with Orlando!"
Curtison glanced at the chief and swallowed. The Black Society head was wearing an unfamiliar two-piece set of tailored leopard print pajamas. Curtison turned his attention away, reassured that they were at least better than the rattlesnake-pattern pajamas he'd worn previously.
'Anyways, he has really good intuition...'
The backdoor deal for the wolfsbane, which Lloyd spoke so highly of, was actually thanks to Andrei's curiosity.
Immediately after the incident broke out.
[Please find out where wolfsbane has been imported into the Empire. That will be the cause of the incident.]
Tara's knight, Bernard, had come and requested that. And soon, the drug had stimulated Andrei's curiosity.
Indeed. Andrei's curiosity had been the reason he had bribed several people so he could purchase the wolfsbane at the Palace that was slated for disposal.
In fact, the Black Society had been able to access many things that most intelligence organizations could not imagine due to Andrei's curiosity.
'Is it really just his curiosity?'
Perhaps it was for a number of complex reasons, including curiosity. Since he was serving as the assistant to the head of the Black Society, Curtison wanted to believe that there was a plausible reason for it.
The Duchy of Stuart, Study.
Golden hair lightly covered his forehead, softening his somewhat sharp impression.
Theodore, whose virtue had slightly increased while studying abroad, had transcended his boyish beauty and grown into a handsome young gentleman who attracted peoples' attention.
At Helen's voice, Theodore looked away from his open book and smiled brightly.
"If you mean the fifth child of the Elias Family, I've heard of her."
That smile, which made many noble women in the Capital stop in their tracks, was truly stunning.
"Are you trying to seduce this old lady?"
"Haha. Grandmother wouldn't even like my type."
Still smiling, Theodore walked over to Helen's side and patted her on the shoulder.
"Hmm. That's right, I like traditional men, strong men. With thick forearms and thick thighs. Ah! But you're so pretty. Well, I was once like you... Ah, I should stop talking. What do you think, my boy?”
"You're very consistent, Grandma. As for the young lady... Hmm. As for the young lady, do you want my opinion on her as a marriage partner, or as a political target for the family. What do you want me to focus on?"
"You wicked child, stop playing with words. I want to know what your impression is after hearing the rumours."
His hand, which had been gently patting her shoulder, paused for a moment. As if he was contemplating the rumours.
"Hmm. She has a pretty unique history. She didn't have a smooth childhood, and it must have been difficult because of her body condition. So I assumed she might be a gloomy person. Is that right?"
"She didn't act somberly with me. She's quite bright... Well, that is my assessment. You should see and judge for yourself. And?"
"Yes. And based on her recent actions, she seems to have an intriguing personality. She returned from being assigned to Durben after a short time and received that 'Taltine Apology' not long before that. She doesn't seem like the type to accept things easily.”
"Ha. Yes. She's not a pushover."
“You like her.”
Theodore slowly sat in the seat next to her, as if in shock, and stared at Helen's face.
"Yes. I want to see more of her. She reminds me of Naviene, but she is also different from Naviene."
“I'm curious to hear that she caught the eye of my discerning grandmother.”
Theodore smiled, his eyes crinkling.
He had a high nose, smooth jawline, soft eyes, white skin and sea-blue eyes. He was the second son of a Duke, and the Viscount of Morgana.
He was one of the best known bachelors who constantly made the rounds in the social world, both in name and reality.
Helen examined her grandson carefully.
“I hear you go to clubs often these days.”
"The friends I haven't seen in a long time call me every night... Haha. If I deal with them for another few days, they'll stop calling me."
"I heard that a variety of nobles, including young ladies, show up at such gatherings as well."
“I do it because it was difficult to say no, because they're relatives or younger brothers of my close friends. If you don't like it, I'll stop, Grandma."
"No, you were abroad for a long time and have just returned, so you should enjoy it. Do you still think about Elaine?"
A startled expression. His blue eyes darkened for an instant, and then quickly returned to their original state.
And then Theodore smiled brightly again.
"… I'd be a fool to still remember my childhood love, Grandma. So, you made a bet? You were betting on me? Hahaha. And you were doing this without consulting me?"
Theodore quickly changed the subject.
"I'm going to die soon. Can your grandmother not do that much for you?"
“You've been guilting me with that for the last 10 years.”
“Fufu. You're supposed to feign ignorance, you brat. Stop blowing smoke at me and listen."
Helen told her epic tale of her encounter with Tara in the parlour. She tweaked the details in order to recount the story more interestingly.
Right now he seemed okay, he was acting fine, but her grandson had lost interest in women after losing Elaine four years ago.
It was not that she didn't know Theodore had left everything behind to go study abroad because he had been struggling.
However, he simply could not live holding onto the spirit of a dead person forever.
'Hooo, then I won't stop.'
The curiosity he was showing now was probably caused by Tara's unique disposition.
Helen was hopeful about Tara. She hoped that Tara could reignite the fire in her grandson.
“When would you like to meet her?”
When Helen finished her story and asked his opinion about their first meeting, after pondering it, Theodore replied with a grin.
"Listening to your story, I can't wait to meet her."
"Right. That's why I obtained Tara's schedule in advance. She'll be attending the Hunting Contest in an administrative position. Of course, there is little chance she will be attending the banquet as a member of the Elias family. Only family heads, their wives and one immediate descendant of the family are eligible to attend the banquet. He'll attend with his eldest son. Even if she doesn't attend the banquet, she'll be staying on the hunting grounds, so she will be available."
"That will be fine, but wouldn't too much attention harm the young lady?"
"Fufu. This is a good sign. Unexpectedly, she has already asked the same question. You are so similar in your considerations. Ohohohoho!"
"It's true. Alright then. Let's suggest the first banquet day of the Hunting Contest. I'll send her a letter."
Theodore went to the desk and sat down with a relaxed expression on his face, as if he was done with the conversation.
His smile faded away in an instant, and his soft gaze fixed on the book once again.
Helen glanced at her grandchild for a moment, then grabbed her quill and wrote her letter.
‘Tara might be able to do it. Yes, she might be able to make my grandchild truly smile.’
*I was curious why Barons were singled out here. Although this varied over the course of history, Barons were generally the lowest rank of European nobility, right above knights or vassals, and might not have owned their own lands or territories (though this heavily depended on region or time period).
Rankings of Nobility generally go:
Minor nobility (knights etc.)
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