Chapter 13


Tara catches on that something is amiss with Countess Victoria's guest.


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Episode 13. 89kg (3)


At my answer, the two of them looked at each other again, as if they had planned it.


"Really? Which part?" He asked me.


"Whether the prohibition will be lifted or not is a critical question. So, of course, good intelligence is important. But even if the information about the prohibition being lifted is certain. If it was me...."


"If it was you?"


"I think we should proceed with the liquor business only after an official announcement from the Imperial Palace."


“Why?”


“The prohibition decree is important to His Majesty. Can you be 100% certain that His Majesty's intention is to lift prohibition? I think the probability is likely less than 50%. So I think we should start later, after the official announcement. Of course, only after we obtain an exclusive licence from the Imperial Palace permitting us to produce liquor.”


***


"…That was an unexpected surprise, Sir."


"Yes....Indeed."


Lloyd said nothing else. The moment he voiced his expectations it felt like all his hope would disappear like a mirage.


"Dylan, where is Harrison? Has he taken action yet?"


"I'll find out."


"Yes. Find him right away and tell him to stop and to avoid doing anything rash, because I intend to withdraw all of my previous instructions!"


"What? But we still need to gather information....."


"Didn't you hear? We shouldn't do it! The moment we open that door we upset the beehive! Let House Anton, the Ministry of Justice, and especially House Phillipe know that this is reckless! The minute we start gathering information about the prohibition, we risk running afoul of His Majesty's nerves! It won't be too late to move after the ban is officially lifted. No, it may even be a good idea to quit the liquor business altogether."


"Yes, sir. I'll deliver that immediately."


Lloyd sat on the sofa for a long time after Dylan left.


[....Jason, if this information turns out to be false, what are you going to do about the damage that will befall the Elias family?]


[What?]


[We'd need to secretly operate an illegal distillery, make contracts with importers, and secure a distribution network in advance. That takes manpower, time and money. Don't you think the risk of investing is too great to believe the words of just one family?]


[Huh, but the source is so reliable...]


[And?]


[And...]


He remembered what his second son, Jason, had said at the meeting not long ago. He only knew how to judge the basics of any situation put in front of him.


And then he thought of his fifth child, Tara, who hadn't just looked at the liquor industry itself, but had also extended her considerations to the Emperor's intentions.


The difference was vast.


"Did you know... Brandon? Is that why you cared so much for her?" Lloyd mumbled absently and walked over to his desk.


And as he looked through the documents Andrei Pitt had sent him, he suddenly remembered that there was an order he had forgotten to pass down.


"Butler! Butler!"


"Yes sir!"


"Go back to Ta..."


But he abruptly stopped mid-sentence. Suddenly, he was curious.


How would Tara do if she participated in the class without hearing the conditions Andrei Pitt had delivered in advance?


His previously absent curiosity sparked back to life.


"Your Excellency?"


"No. Nevermind."


Dixon, the butler, left to go send off the guests, and Lloyd looked back towards the documents Andrei Pitt had sent.


Then he suddenly looked up and was startled to see his expression reflected in the window.


The face he saw in the window wore an unfamiliar smile.


***


After finishing the long conversation, I went straight to my room. I had a headache and a stomachache, likely because I had been so nervous.


"Gehrig Anton.... Who is he? Countess Victoria seems to have already invested in the Sorbonne wines..."


This couldn't be a good sign.


"Did Mother invest as well? No... She said she wouldn't."


But I couldn't be sure. If Victoria Elias had pressured her, she could have done it. I had to get confirmation from my Mother.


"Beth, go to Sir Oliver's clinic on the estate and get me some medicine."


First of all, I needed to solve this problem.


"What kind of medicine?"


"Ask for a bunch of digestive medicine."


"Oh! If it's that, there's some in your room. You've taken it quite often."


"Ah..."


That's right. Digestive medicine was my trademark.


After taking the medicine Beth had found for me, I was leaning on my bed to rest for a minute. But for some reason Beth hadn't left yet and kept cleaning, or fiddling with the curtains, or the dresses in my closet.


What was up with her?


"What's wrong, Beth? Is there something you are trying to figure out?"


"Well there's..."


The space between her eyebrows crumpled and her lips hesitated.


"Um. Beth, why are you frowning so much?"


"Hey, Miss, is it true?"


"What?"


"That the prohibition will be lifted. I heard that was mentioned in the conference room. Is that true?"


I startled and forcefully pushed myself off of the bed.


"Beth, how do you know that? Oh... Are you also interested in the situation?"


"Oh my! Then the prohibition will be lifted? Woo hoo!"


It had been about a week since Beth had become my dedicated maid.


So far, she had acted like a responsible and hardworking girl.


I was quite surprised because it was the first time I had seen her so excited that she was jumping for joy.


"Wow... Beth, what's going on? Why are you so happy? Can't I not join in the fun with you?"


“Actually, Lady, this is a secret."


There was no such thing as a secret in the world. Hadn't Beth already spilled the beans?


Beth lowered her voice and turned her head to glance around.


Realistically, Beth and I were the only two people in the room, but I found it cute. I leaned my upper body closer to Beth.


"A secret?"


“Yes. I got a piece of information that was very difficult to get.”


"What is it?"


"Miss, do you have any money?"


Wow. Look at her.


"Don't worry."


"Okay. How much?"


"Well, how much do I need?"


I decided to follow along for now. Beth's brown eyes were shining brightly.


"Hmm. I invested as much as three months' salary."


"6 Gold?"


"Yes, it's a 20-fold return, 20-fold!"


"No way... In Sorbonne wine?"


"As expected of the young Miss! I managed to invest just in time."


"How did you hear about this? From who?"


"Well, you know, Cindy who's in charge of the hall on the second floor. She's my best friend. Her older brother manages the male guest rooms."


"And?"


"He's popular and has good connections. About a week ago, when the Miss went to the reception room on the second floor to get me assigned as your dedicated maid, he was in charge of that man, the guest of the Countess. And this is the really secret part."


Her voice became more and more hushed until she was whispering close enough that I thought her lips might brush against my ear.


"Normally, commoners like us could never participate, but he opened an account so that we could make a special investment, saying that he was giving out the information as a reward because Cindy's brother did such a good job. He said that as soon as the prohibition is lifted, the investment will earn us a 20-fold return."


“Huh…”


"I was amazed! I thought you would also be surprised. To be honest, I've been worried. You know what I'm like. But Cindy kept on visiting and trying to convince me. A few days ago I gave her my six gold and I've been restless ever since."


That was why she'd had such dark circles under her eyes every morning...


"Haa... I'm relieved now. So hurry up and invest, Miss. If you want to invest, she will definitely get you an account. Oh! You probably don't need it because you already have a lot of money. Hehe."


Ha... What was I going to do with this pure and innocent soul...


“Beth.”


"Yes..." Her answer was dreamy.


She looked like she was already fantasizing about fame and fortune.*


"Beth. When did you give him the money?"


"Two days ago."


"Go and find him before it's too late."


"Wha... What?"


"Go get your three months' salary back. Come on! Look for Cindy first! That account... would it have been at the Imperial Palace Central Bank... No, it wouldn't have been. Would they have an account?"


"Wha- What's wrong, Miss?" Beth asked in a frightened voice, having belatedly noticed my serious tone.


"Haa... Beth. Everything you told me sounds very suspicious. Attracting small investors like you is an easy way of getting away with a scam. Huh, now that I think about it, this guy must be a serious con-man..."


"M - My Lady..."


"Hurry up, go and find Cindy!"


She looked like she was almost on the verge of tears and seemed frozen in place.


"Quickly!"


After Beth rushed out, I headed straight for the annex. I needed to get confirmation from my mother.


‘Please... Don't tell me you decided to invest...'


However, now that I knew, there was no way I could let them prey on all these people.


Argh! Why did everything have to be so hard?


***


The next day at 9 a.m.


I'd eaten too much. I was so stressed out that I just couldn't sleep. I’d done it despite the fact Bernard would criticise me for it.


Yesterday after taking digestive medicine and waking up from a nap, my stomach had settled. So I'd eaten steak, tomatoes, garlic, fried rice, and fries for dinner. I had even managed to down some beer.**


Hah. I'd heard it said that a meal was 0 calories if you enjoyed it, but if that was truly the case why had I gained back 1 kg?


I needed to relax. First things first, I needed to go visit the Countess and find out how to recover the investments.


The audacity. 200 gold?


I was speechless when my mother told me that she had invested in a small house in the countryside.


[Why did you do that? I asked you to wait.]


[Compared to the Countess, I only contributed 1/10th of her investment. All of the other wives did it as well, so I wasn't the only one. But I'm the least wealthy. Should I have invested more?]


Oh... Clearly Beth hadn't been the only one.


Still, I needed to eat breakfast. Andrei Pitt's first scheduled visit was today.


Because I wanted to head to the dining room, I proceeded down the stairs of the main building. The atmosphere was very unusual.


Usually, numerous vassals came in and out of the mansion, but they didn't typically cluster in groups in the hallways and whisper furtively like they did today.


Furthermore, there was a constant stream of vassals rushing in and out of Father’s reception room right next to the main hall.


In the main hall itself, fully armed senior knights, who weren’t usually posted there, had surrounded the space.


The commotion aside, there was something distinctly heavy about the atmosphere.


What was going on?


"Beth? What's going on today?"


Beth, who had been following me despondently, replied in a dull voice.


"I don't know. Strangely enough, all the high-ranking noblemen have gathered and have been whispering since this morning. Something must have happened."


"...Alright? Don't worry too much, Beth. I'm going to speak to Countess Victoria. Today you just have to try to find that guy, Gehrig Anton. Well, you could also go around and ask about the Anton family..."


"Yes, I understand... But Miss. If both the Countess and Lady Isabelle invested as well doesn't that mean it might turn out okay?"


"Ha... How many times have I... Yes, alright. Let's just investigate first. There's no harm in investigating, right? What could be going on..."


‘What does it have to do with me?'


Thinking nothing of it, I went down another step and then stopped.


'What does it have to do with me?' What a comforting platitude. How could I be so complacent just because I had received a hint of my Father's approval yesterday?


I shook my head and clenched my fists hard enough that my joints popped.


“Ah! Miss, what's the matter?"


Editor’s Note -


* The direct translation of this sentence was "She looked like she was dreaming of poo after buying a lot of lottery tickets." 딱 로또 잔뜩 사 놓고 똥 꿈꾼 표 정이었다. I nearly spit out my tea when I first read it. Apparently there's a belief in Korea that if you dream of poo after buying a lottery ticket, you are more likely to win. - https://medium.com/illumination/lets-talk-about-poo-2a25fbb1e49a


** I'll admit I was skeptical that French fries existed in the 18th/19th century but apparently they absolutely did. According to Wikipedia, "Fries [were] first mentioned in 1775 in a Parisian book, and the first recipe for modern French fries [was] in the French cookbook La cuisinière républicaine in 1795. They became an emblematic Parisian dish in the 19th century." Of course they were different than modern day fries but they existed. Today I learned something!


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