Updated: Mar 17
Tara does some scheming and Kyle encounters someone he didn't expect.
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Episode 124. About 10 months (1)
Two days later.
I accepted the letter from Grand Duchess Helen Stuart.
The messenger, who looked quite old, was waiting for me because he needed to receive my reply.
Even though I had come downstairs, it was early on a Sunday morning, so I was still half-asleep.
"Hah... My precious morning sleep."
I yawned until my mouth was stretched out all the way, and opened the letter.
[Let's meet on the first banquet day of the Hunting Contest in a week. What time suits you? I like 6 o'clock. By the way, let's make an appointment to spend eight hours together after the Hunting Contest.]
Her true character was coming out...
The letter went straight to the point, without a hello or goodbye.
When I looked outside the entrance, I saw it was snowing heavily. Stuart's messenger, who had travelled on horseback through the snow, still had a red nose.
I went to a table on the other side of the hall, picked up a quill, and immediately penned down my reply.
This meeting had to be delayed as much as possible. The first day was going to be insanely hectic. I would be at a disadvantage.
No matter how much I investigated him, I needed time to watch and observe him for myself.
[I don't know how my work will be organized, so I prefer the last day of the Hunting Competition. That's the day of the Finale Banquet, and I think I can take some time off since I won't be attending. As the Grand Duchess suggested, 6 o'clock works for me.]
"I'm done. Here you go."
The messenger, who was warming his hands above the fireplace in the hall, seemed to be disappointed that he received the reply so quickly.
"I'll get going now."
When the messenger turned around, I yawned again and headed towards my room.
Then, I quickly turned around and looked at the hall due to a passing thought.
He was still there. He looked old, which meant that he had probably been employed for a long time.
At the sound of my voice, the messenger, who was about to leave the hall, turned towards me.
"Niels, can you go to the storage room and get some thick, fur gloves?"
When Niels, who had just entered alone, looked at me in surprise, I spoke soundlessly, articulating the words with my mouth.
'The woollen ones, that are really nice.'
"Yes, My Lady."
Having understood right away, Niels quickly went to the fur and leather goods' storage room behind the hall. Within a few minutes, Niels returned with a pair of thick and super warm gloves.
Oh... As expected of Niels.
I thanked Niels and approached the waiting messenger.
"Take these with you. Thank you for coming so early in the morning."
He looked moved.
Good. Yes. It was working.
He waved his hand, asking how he could receive such a thing, but his eyes didn't leave the gloves for a moment. It was understandable.
At first glance, they seemed to say, 'We are very warm, woollen and fluffy gloves.'
"Mhm. I may become a member of that family soon. You worked so hard to get here, so you can have this much."
"No, it still looks expensive..."
"It’s true they are quite valuable."
"Then, even more so...!"
"Hmm. If you feel a little burdened, why don't you tell me something helpful? You'll feel better because you've paid for it that way."
I clasped my hands, brought them to my chin and blinked up at him at a 45-degree angle.
"I want to know what the person who may become my husband one day dislikes. We're going to meet soon, and I don't want to do anything he wouldn't like."
I never would've thought that a fox lived inside of me.
This should be enough to reach my goal.
When I twisted my body a little and looked behind the messenger, Niels was staring at me with a serious expression that I had never seen before.
Heedless of that, I continued to make myself look small and made a lot of nasal sounds. I had to look like a young girl who admired the Stuarts' second son to the messenger.
The messenger seemed slightly troubled. Then, he opened his mouth as if he had made up his mind.
"Uh... Even so, I don't want to be disrespectful to the Lord..."
"Ah. I see. It's okay. I fully understand that feeling. I asked too much of you because I wanted to look good. But make sure to wear the gloves, okay?"
Pretending to have given up immediately, I smiled as thinly and sadly as possible, with a touch of loneliness.
To be honest, since I wasn't looking in the mirror, I didn't know what my thin, sad and slightly lonely expression looked like on my face. I just trusted that I was doing well.
Niels frowned, since he had never seen it before.
"Oh. Yes. Goodbye."
With that, the messenger turned around.
One, two, three, four, five, six, seven.
He turned around at the count of seven.
"Uh. The Master is a very kind person, who doesn't show his displeasure. Still, if I had to pick something..."
The messenger seemed a little reluctant to speak. I quickly replied, in fear that he wouldn't say more.
"Yes, I heard he's a kind person. That's why I don't want to do anything he wouldn't like even more."
"Lord Theodore dislikes loud noises and crowded places. He finds it difficult to keep the company of women who talk a lot. I'm not sure about anything else. Will this be of any help?"
"Ah! Of course. It's been very, very helpful. Noisy, talkative and crowded places. Yes, got it!"
The messenger disappeared leisurely on his horse, feeling content. With a very proud heart, I went to the library to research the data step by step with the gift Andrei had sent me.
Niels, having been left behind, quietly rubbed his eyes.
January 7, 1816, the first day of the Hunting Contest.
Noon on the eve of the Hunting Contest.
The weather was clear and the wind wasn't so bad for hunting.
Kyle conducted mock hunting contests with his knights, repaired various unmanaged roads in the forest, and removed obstacles so that the Emperor could travel without hitch.
In addition, the Heavenly Hall had predicted heavy snow during the hunt, so Kyle restored the temporary cabins set up throughout the forest.
The cabins were filled with firewood and blankets so that the nobles who participated in the hunt could warm themselves up.
Kyle, who had arrived a week ago, had already completed his third expedition and returned to Tandra Mansion.
Tandra Mansion, which stood at the entrance of the Tandra Forest, was comparable to the Imperial Palace in size, to the point that it could be called a palace.
Large gardens, lakes and fountains were located in front and behind the mansion, and smaller mansions were located at both ends of the corridor-style building connected to the central mansion.
There were a total of 200 rooms in the central mansion, with about 100 visitors.
And all of this was attributed to the Imperial Palace, or, more precisely, to the Emperor's private vault.
Kyle had a private conversation with the Emperor before he went on expedition.
[... Now that you're doing this, I would like to ask you one more favour.]
[You're so shameless! The other Princes are only buttering me up, trying to look good, except you. Tsk tsk. I'm the one holding the keys.]
[I'm aware you won't let go of those keys, Your Majesty.]
[Wicked rascal! Alright, what's your request?]
[Please make your decision within a year.]
[Since you've brought the selection of the Crown Prince to the surface, please make sure to set a date so that it's not postponed again.]
[Do you not know what the meaning behind this Hunting Contest is?]
The meaning of this Hunting Contest could be expressed in one word, 'qualification'.
The nobles customarily expected the next Crown Prince to be the First Prince. He was the eldest legitimate son.
But now the First Prince was awaiting his trial after he put the Empire in danger. It was a great blow to his authority and dignity. At such a time, the nobility naturally began to think of alternatives, and the Hunting Contest was organized to include not only the Third Prince, but also the Second Prince as alternatives.
There had never been a time and opportunity as good as this, nor would there ever be.
The Emperor was going to say this to the nobles, 'Keep not only the First and Third Prince, but also the Second Prince in mind as candidates for the position of Crown Prince!'
[You're trying to qualify me.]
[Indeed... We weren’t even able to discuss your qualifications before. Only now can you bring your qualifications to the table, and it doesn't mean you'll be named Crown Prince. We must take this step by step.]
[You're going to be at a disadvantage.]
[When have I ever been at an advantage?]
[Tsk. Disrespectful punk. What if I don't want to listen?]
[Then I'll give the plan to fill the Imperial Vault to the next Emperor.]
[What... You– Hmph!]
[Alright. If it's a sure way, I'll announce it within a year as you requested.]
[We'll prepare it for the second banquet of the Hunting Contest. During that, the nobles...]
Kyle quickly explained the plan for about 10 minutes. And after a brief silence, he left the room with the confirmation that the selection of the Crown Prince would be announced within one year.
Tandra Mansion's hall was crowded with courtiers from the Palace, Tandra Mansion's servants, and nobles with their own servants who had all arrived one after another.
The people in the hall belatedly noticed Kyle entering alone and bowed. The noise quietened for a moment, and then, as Kyle ascended the stairs, the hall returned to its former bustle.
Walter followed behind Kyle.
"Have you decided the frequency and rotation for the knights’ schedule?"
"Yes. As you ordered, they have a work schedule of three shifts, two hours each, for a total of six hours."
"Alright. And the marks?"
"We put marks on the trees along the hunting forest's borders. I've also set up a guard and told them to keep an eye out for lost nobles."
"Well done. What about Nick?"
"Yes. It's been a bit difficult, but everything is going well with no incidents so far. He's doing a good job."
"Huh. I see."
"If he talked a little less, he'd be a good colleague...!"
Kyle suddenly halted on the landing, and Walter stopped talking as well. Kyle watched the stairs on the other side, ignoring Walter who was staring at him.
Three people were walking up the stairs with their backs turned.
"... But you won't be attending today's banquet, so you'll be able to rest a little. What do you think of the head of your team?"
"Hmm. He's kind and does his job well, but the conversation somehow always strays to something peculiar..."
"Huh? What do you mean, My Lady?"
"Nothing, I probably haven't properly figured it out yet because I've only been assisting him since this morning. It'll get better with a little more time."
"Yes. Don't try to do everything at once. I'll prepare a bath for you so you can wash up as soon as you're done with work. So put off today's training, okay?"
"We can train if you're up to it, My Lady!"
"No. You need to rest! Haven't you seen the dark shadows under your eyes? Sooner or later, you'll be on your last leg."
"I'll think about it, Bernard. I've been missing a lot of training lately..."
"That's right. Moderate exercise helps to decrease fatigue..."
All Kyle could see were their backs. Nevertheless, he could tell who they were.
The last time he had seen the maid and knight was in Durben. And with them was, unexpectedly, Tara Elias.
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