Where Kyle proposes a drinking game to Tara...
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Episode 132. About 10 months (9)
… Yes. If you promised, you'd be lying.
After a few seconds of silence, I took a deep breath and cleared my mind.
“If… If our Family becomes an obstacle on your journey, Your Highness, will you please review all the premises and take care of the matter yourself?"
“Do you know what you’re saying is very strange now?”
“What does it mean?”
"I've said it a few times, but I'm worried because I have a strong feeling that Your Highness and my family are slowly being sucked into the next battle for the throne. That's why I want to create a minimum safety device. That's it. Please just dismiss it as my being overly cautious."
“It sounds like you’re going to choose as soon as I make that promise.”
“… Agreed. If there's a problem with House Elias, I'll take care of it myself."
He kept scrutinizing me.
Those sharp eyes seemed to read my mind, so I immediately lowered my head as soon as I heard the affirmation and pointed at the documents he had brought out.
"Hmm. I would like to supplement this.”
I glanced at him. One of his eyebrows was raised.
“Why are you looking at me that way?”
“Huh. You chose quickly.”
“I don’t have much time, and Your Highness has already laid out the table for me to choose this way. You said that you would no longer reach out your hand, and that I wouldn’t be your assistant, so I had no alternative but to choose. However, this choice is entirely my own. He hasn’t chosen yet.”
“You’re going to convince him.”
I shut my mouth tightly and just stared. But I guess I still had a long way to go. It seemed that my emotions were fully reflected in my eyes.
“Why do you look at me like that?”
“How do you see it?”
"Somehow. It's been a long time since I've seen that kind of gaze directed at me. Are you saying you want to hit me?"
“… Close, but not quite. If you say you won't punish me even if I tell you the truth, I'll tell the meaning of my look."
"Don't do it."
He was quick on the uptake.
“Stop looking at me.”
I slowly lowered my gaze and looked at the documents, hiding the blazing fire.
Someday... Yes. Someday, I would get the upper hand. At least once!
“Even if your father comes forward, he won’t be held in check as much as you think.”
“Hasn’t he been previously invited by the Empress Dowager? Since then, a small rumor has been circulating among the Toulouse side aristocrats. Haven’t you heard?”
"Ah… 'Operation Act'.”
“Well, I thought it was your doing, but it was a bit heavy handed... You must have been rushed."
“There was no other way.”
“There will be more questions than rejections. This is also one of the small reasons I chose the Elias Family.”
"Oh yes. You must be so happy to have found a Family that suits your taste.”
“Contempt towards a superior is treated with severe punishment.”
Shit. Next time, I’d definitely possess an Emperor!
“That… is that right? Hahaha. I hope that my opinion on the draft will be of great help to the system that Your Highness created. Now, if you look here, paragraphs 3 and 12…”
The most important thing to do was a quick change of pace in these instances. I immediately took out the papers and started explaining in my softest voice.
For about 30 minutes, I solved the supplementary points I had in mind. Second Prince Kyle, just like an old colleague, worked with me on the Talent Training System draft.
If my idea was valid, I added or corrected the draft immediately, and if my idea was flawed, he caught it and corrected it.
It was a strange thing. I never imagined that I would be discussing pending issues in this way with him in such a place and time. And it felt totally natural.
By the time the draft supplementation work was finished, it was past 1 am on the clock.
“… So, after the Hunting Contest is over, can I work for Your Highness in your Palace?”
He picked up a bottle that hadn't been touched for a while and poured himself a glass. The golden amber colored alcohol looked sweet for some reason.
“I’ll send you an order letter. You can sign it and transfer to my service the next day.”
"Yes. Then I'll have a drink too."
“It’s alcohol. One drink, please. I'm exhausted from making such an important decision so quickly. I think a drink will relieve some of my stress."
"It's not like sherry."
"Isn't that cognac?"
"Have you ever tried some?"
"No. Still, I think it will be fine.”
I used to drink beer bombs and other types of alcohol, including whiskey. The Second Prince looked at my age and was suspicious of my ability to hold strong liquor.*
Ah. That might be true for Tara's body. Even so, I was pretty sure my past experiences should allow me to handle a glass of Cognac.
"Well, if you don't want to give me one, I'll just leave. I’ll ask Beth instead when I go back to my room. It’s late anyway.”
I stood up, ready to leave. But this guy, whatever he was thinking, took out a new glass, filled it up,and pushed it in front of me.
Then he slightly raised one eyebrow and looked at me.
'Drink if you can handle it,' was what he was challenging me with.
I look at the cup placed in front of me and the Second Prince, feeling a bit awkward.
“One question per drink. How about it?”
All of a sudden?
I tried to hide my surprise and sat back down slowly.
“I don’t care what question it is. If either of us says: 'I can't drink any more', the game will end there.”
“Is it okay to ask any questions? Even if I touch upon personal issues?"
"I don't care about what question it is. I'll answer anything, whether it's a shameful or a very personal question."
I alternated between the glass and the Prince in front of me again.
He still had still his usual polite but aloof expression. Just with one eyebrow raised.
Nothing had changed…
No, if there was one thing that had changed, it was the atmosphere. There was something different about the atmosphere that flowed throughout the Prince's body. It looked peaceful, but I sensed danger behind it...!
Yes. A definite danger vibe slowly exuded from his whole being.
Maybe that was why. I asked for a drink first, but now I hesitated.
"Hmm. It's a little late...!”
"You don't seem confident. If it isn't now, you'll never get a chance to ask such private questions again."
Oh my God, this was dangerous... Still, it was a very attractive proposition!
A small warning rang in my head, but my curiosity crushed it and took over.
What Second Prince Kyle said was right. When would I have such an opportunity to ask private questions again? Besides, he said I could even ask about his dirty laundry... I decided to grab this chance.
"Very well. You must answer any question honestly."
Kyle himself couldn't figure out why he had made such an offer. However, as soon as she got up from her seat, his mind spun quickly, and words came out of his mouth out of their own volition.
Kyle had to clench his fists under the table, pretending to be as calm as possible so she wouldn't get scared and run away.
'Answering any question honestly... My Aide has too much faith in other people’s consciences.'
Kyle licked his lips, ready to retort, then changed his mind and shut his mouth.
'… Whether I tell the truth or a lie, there's no way you could know.'
If he said that, she would immediately reject his offer.
Instead, Kyle nodded slowly.
"I'll drink first."
Kyle drank it in one gulp. The burning heat that ran down his throat made him feel more alive in this instant than at any other moment before it.
It was already his third drink tonight. But he didn’t feel drunk at all. It was the same cognac that he'd drunk countless times on the battlefield.
Kyle could drink two bottles of Cognac before getting drunk. That was when his speech started to slur, so he was confident that he was stronger than any other knight, and he was.
"Ask a question."
He felt a little nervous about what kind of question he would be asked, but he also looked forward to it.
Sparkling eyes full of curiosity. Her face reddened by the ambient heat, the loose buttons and hair tied up in a comfortable way with her two small white hands clasped together.
Something flashed through his mind. And he suddenly realized.
‘Why is this early morning conversation so enjoyable?’
He constantly walked on thin ice. The weight of his choices on his shoulders always kept him tense.
All his interactions with his staff were carefully considered and required a sharpened state of mind. Every aspect scrutinized and contemplated, and then decided and supplemented.
He also constantly compared and measured to make all conditions perfect and lived every moment intensely and seriously.
Kyle had gone through many trials and errors and knew the consequences of lightly taken decisions. That was why every choice, every moment, was akin to war.
But today, he was comfortable. No, to be more precise, he was having fun.
It was interesting to hear about the process of how she came to find him, and when she thought through the questions he asked, reflecting on and explained them, he was proud of how plausible her answers were.
Also, when she explained with those twinkling eyes the supplements she wanted to add to his draft...
'Oh my god. It was fun.'
He had never experienced this kind of pleasure since that day on the beach that summer.
It was fresh, unfamiliar, and awkward, but he really liked it. Kyle felt so sorry when she got up to leave.
He was afraid that he would never feel this joy again if it were not for this very moment. Anxious, he made a ridiculous suggestion that he normally never would have.
And then it came to him. Why he'd brought her here today. Why he wanted to create this space so much.
Why he impulsively gave her the position as his closest aide, which was not in his original plans.
“What was your bet with Duchess Stuart?” He asked as if it were inconsequential, circling, and urging her to answer the question he really wanted to ask in the end.
"Hmm. How the hell do you know that?"
"There's no way I don't know what Andrei knows."
"Ha. When I get back home, I really need to crack down on the mansion. I really need my privacy back."
“Aren’t you going to answer me?”
“Haa... I know. As for what the bet was, I picked five books from the library…"
Her story was also interesting.
It was also quirky, unpredictable, absurd and fresh.
“Andrei would faint if he knew that his disciple has not actually read his book.”
“When I get back, I'll read it slowly. I don't have much time. Of course, I don't like his arrogant style either, but I'll definitely check it out... Someday. This time I'll drink."
She swallowed it in one gulp, and she immediately regretted it.
* The beer bomb she is referring to is called “somaek” and is the most popular cocktail in Korea. It’s a mix of Soju and blond beer. Soju is a traditional rice alcohol, but nowadays is often made with either tapioca, wheat, potatoes, sweet potatoes, or barley.