Tara meets her father and finds out that a certain someone is planning something.
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Episode 127. About 10 months (4)
My father's legs were shaking nervously.
"I thought I was just going to a Hunting Contest, but if I knew this would happen, I would've brought Dylan."
My father was sitting in a chair, deep in thought. He said he had called me because he had no else to talk to.
Wow... I finally became a replacement for Sir Dylan! Great job, girl!
I wanted to clutch my chest and enthusiastically express my feelings, but I held it in because it wasn't the right place.
"Hmm. Viscount Allen, from the Consul’s Office is the Emperor's closest confidant, which means this is His Majesty's order, right?"
"... He didn't say whether it was from His Majesty. He just told me to take the initiative and set an example at the second banquet and left. Hmph. He should've specified what I'm supposed to do."
"What does he expect me to do when he shows up out of the blue and then leaves?"
"Hmm. Was that really all he said? There was no further explanation?"
"Yes. He just dumped that on me and left, claiming he was busy. What's he so busy with? I have a lot of work to do as well, but I have to hunt while freezing to death in the middle of winter, hunt! They're taking my patent, my time, my everything! If I was a Duke, I would've hit him! I'm only putting up with it because I'm a Count. Who on earth enjoys hunting in winter anyway?"
I was so startled for a moment that I checked to see if the door was properly closed.
"Ahaha, Father. Water. Drink some water."
I hurriedly poured him some water. My father drank it all at once, whether he understood my intentions or not.
"Either way, his words are far too vague."
My father, having moistened his throat and put down the glass of water, agreed with me.
"Exactly. Therefore I'm planning to request a private audience with His Majesty, but before that, I wanted to hear your opinion. What do you think of this situation?"
The expectant look in his eyes weighed on me. I frowned and pondered it.
"Hmm. Give me a moment to think."
I supported my chin with my hand and racked my brains, lost in thought. What did it mean to set an example during the second banquet? Hmm. I should try figuring it out piece by piece first.
The second banquet of the Hunting Contest was intended for families to show off what they had caught during the hunt and strengthen ties.
In addition, it was announced that all the representatives of noble families who came to the Tandra Mansion were required to attend the second banquet.
The first and last banquet could be skipped, but attending the second banquet was imperative.
Then, at this banquet that was to be attended by all representatives of noble families, the notion of 'setting an example for others' meant that one should set an example for the nobles.
But what kind of an example?
Since the person who requested this was the Emperor, it had to be advantageous to him.
That said, it may or may not be disadvantageous to the nobility, but on the surface, things that were favourable to the Emperor were usually unfavourable to them.
Ugh. I had a bad feeling about this.
My father began impatiently wriggling in his seat after I hadn't said anything for a long time.
"I should have a private audience, right? It's going to be difficult to get one when the banquet begins, so I think it would be better to go now and apply in advance..."
"No, Father. I don't think you should get a private audience."
"The Consul came in person, and he left no further instruction on what to do exactly. This means..."
"They're asking you to comply with whatever the Emperor demands. In other words, to shut... No, whatever the issue at hand is, they want you to welcome the Emperor's strategy with open arms, so that the other nobles will see it and follow suit. The reason they approached you in advance, Father, is probably because they don't have a family to take the initiative and set an example. So it's going to be something the nobility won't like."
My father slapped his knee.
"Indeed. That's right. He must've asked our family because the nobility won't like it."
Father leaned back against his chair with a dejected expression on his face.
"Oh. It's come to this. Staying neutral is out of the question. From the moment I handed over the patent to his Majesty when resolving the attempted assassination case, I thought something like this was going to happen."
"It was an inevitable decision. That was the best method, and it brightened the future of Elias Pharmaceuticals, but we can still be neutral. Our family has not yet officially sided with any of the Princes."
"But we have to make a different type of decision. If His Majesty's order is politically motivated, then our family would be siding with him if we accept his request to set an example, no matter what anyone claims."
For a long time, the nobles had been divided between the royalist faction and the aristocratic faction, led by House Toulouse, and the Count had slowly come to lean towards the aristocratic faction.
Because of that, the Emperor was weak in power and had to keep a constant eye on the aristocratic faction.
As a result, the nobles were reluctant to side with the Emperor. To side with him naturally meant to be at odds with the aristocratic faction.
"Maybe not necessarily. Didn't we already give the Emperor a patent? It went to his private fund no less, and we didn't receive any backlash."
"It was the only way out of a crisis that would've branded our family as traitors, that is, a crisis in which we were cornered. The nobles must've pitied us and understood that their families could also be put through what we suffered. Therefore there was no backlash. But it's different now."
"It doesn't necessarily have to be a political request, right?"
"You already know, Father. Chances are..."
My father sighed heavily and covered his face with his hand.
"Small. He wouldn't have given the order in advance if it weren't for political reasons."
"Yes. No matter how you look at it, this order seems to mean that we should actively support the Emperor's political opinions. We'll naturally be scrutinized by the House of Lords. And the time to support the next Crown Prince will come soon. Even then, His Majesty's will is also...!"
I stopped talking for a second. My father clapped his hands, as if he had realized something.
"Isn't this a good opportunity? After all, the Emperor is the supreme decision maker, and no matter how influential House Toulouse is, the Emperor has the sole authority to choose the next Crown Prince. Even though they can pressure him, they can't overrule his authority when it comes to that, right?"
"That's true, but as you know, Father, His Majesty's power must be steady in order to keep the chosen Crown Prince in place. However, despite the position he holds, the Emperor has always been overwhelmed by the power of House Toulouse and the nobles. I think that's why he hasn't named the next Crown Prince yet."
My father agreed with me.
"Ha, yes. That's right."
Even if the Emperor picked the next Crown Prince, the Empire would be plunged into chaos if the nobility, especially House Toulouse, failed to take the position.
Of course, our family would not be able to escape the political turmoil. But what if the Emperor's power grew?
When I raised my head, my father immediately noticed the look on my face.
"What? Have you come up with something?"
"I'm not sure yet, Father. But after hearing what you said, it is a bit strange."
"Until now, His Majesty had never been one to openly confront the nobles and make the first move."
My father seemed to ponder.
"Well, as far as I'm concerned, he's never done that before. Because it was the Emperor himself who was almost harmed during that assassination attempt and the Military secrets leak was simultaneously brought to light, he was able to suppress the Toulouse family since they were involved. This is probably the first time during His Majesty's reign that the Duke of Toulouse has been officially removed from the Palace and his post."
"But he told you to set an example."
"What about it?"
"His Majesty has been very passive so far. He’s the type who waits for the right opportunity and eats when the food is ready. But this time it's different than before. This time he's setting the table instead of being served a meal. In other words, he's being very active."
"That sounds accurate."
"This is not the Emperor."
I slowly rose to my feet.
"Someone who doesn't care whether they're at odds with the nobility. As far as I know, there's only one person in the Empire who would make such a bold move."
My father's eyes widened in realization.
"Now that I know who the perpetrator is, I want to meet him and ask why. Why is he forcing our family to make a choice in this way? Why is he using our family so much?"
Like an eloquent public speaker, I spoke with determination, and a serious look appeared on my father's face at the same time.
"Argh, wherever he is, I'll find him. I'm going to find and confront this damn...!"
Oh. I had grabbed my father's arm in surprise.
"Father. Whoa. First of all, I'll meet with him first. Nothing good will come from getting so angry at a high-ranking individual. I'll go ahead and find out what his intentions are. Leave it to me, okay?"
Whoo. After taking a deep breath, my father squeezed his eyes shut, opened them, and patted my hand, which was on his arm.
"Yes, yes. It's right for you to go since you figured it out. I got worked up. I'll leave it to you. If his demand compromises our family, I will visit His Majesty on the honour of our family and tell him to crack down on his son!"
My father seemed determined, but the both of us understood very well.
Even if he demanded too much of our family, we were not in a position to argue with the Emperor.
After we had stared at each other for a moment, I nodded.
"I'll take my leave then, Father."
I went straight to his accommodation and left a note, saying that I wanted to have a private meeting right at any time after work hours.
The Phoenix Knight standing in front of the door only said, "I’ll deliver it, but it's unknown whether it will be processed today since he's so busy."
If I had to transmigrate anyway, I would've rather possessed the Emperor. Ugh!
I nodded with a calm expression on my face, but on the inside I was screaming.
The afternoon schedule was tight. In addition, the Emperor would change the order of people he was going to meet from time to time, and he drove his entourage crazy by constantly moving around Tandra Mansion for sightseeing.
Towards the end of the afternoon shift, the knight I had met in front of the Second Prince's residence came to me in person.
"He'll meet you at the end of the banquet. I was told you can wait in the temporary office."
He had answered faster than expected. I wanted him to meet me quickly, but since his reply came with such ease and speed, my senses told me that something was up.
And then I realized.
Damn. Had he predicted that I would come?
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