Updated: Feb 18
Where Tara and Kyle both ask difficult questions. Will they answer honestly? The game is afoot!
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Episode 133. About 10 months (10)
She was astonished, and her eyes widened comically. She hadn't expected the alcohol to be so strong.
Kyle almost burst out laughing but held it in with difficulty.
"What? Is it too strong?"
"Oh, my God. This is, huh. Why is it so strong? Hoo."
“If you’re having a hard time... Do you want to stop after this glass?"
"Nonsense. Hoo... This is a good thing. I'm not willing to miss out on a golden opportunity. Hm. Here's my question."
"How did your mother die? What happened?" She asked quickly.
'So, this is how Tara Elias thinks.'
This drinking game had been an entirely impulsive suggestion on his part.
The question she asked wasn’t difficult to answer, but it left him quite puzzled.
She was the first person to strike at this darkest and most intimate part of him with such great precision.
“Isn’t this kind of question that usually gets asked after a long time has passed because it’s a hard topic to bring up even among close friends?”
"Well, I thought it was a rude question, but this is a unique opportunity. Hmm... If you refuse, you just have to drink. It's a pity, but it's not a question I asked with high expectations."
“You don’t have the qualities of a negotiator. You give up too quickly.”
“Obviously, we established beforehand that we can play dirty. It doesn't matter if it's a personal or intimate question. Doesn't that follow the rules I made? Should we consider the opponent’s feelings?"
"Geez. Where are you going with this? … Ah. I already can't stop talking after one drink. That's right. I'm not a good negotiator. Are you going to answer my question?"
"That was two questions"
"Oh. Now you've doubled the price."
As soon as she finished talking, she poured two new glasses one after another and downed them. She’d learned her lesson from the first cup.
Kyle smirked and immediately opened his mouth.
"It was summer, 12 years ago. I didn't know I was an Imperial Prince yet. My father was absent from the moment of my birth. My mother was a beautiful woman. She was brave, and unfortunately, she was also just. It was my mother who taught me the sword until I was 15 years old. The night it happened, no one was expecting mercenaries to attack, so within just a few hours the whole village had been exterminated. My mother wanted me to laugh. She didn't want my last memory of her to be full of grief."
Kyle explained his mother's death with great serenity and poise, as if he were explaining the breakfast menu.
"... I survived that day, and my cousin, who had left temporarily for her summer semester of school, also survived. We were alone in the world. Just the two of us. That's how I have surviving relatives on my mother's side. I held my dying mother in my arms until the security forces arrived. I watched her face the whole time, as the warmth and blood drained from her. And I engraved that into my memory. My mother told me before she died that I was the son of Emperor Louis Amure. It's funny. I lost my mother because of that fact, and thanks to that same fact, I can now dream of revenge..."
"And that's how my mother died. I learned what happened afterwards. The peaceful village where I grew up turned into a vicious place occupied by ruffians. The raid was covered up and no one else survived, so it was difficult to get the full story of the incident. After that, as reported in the newspaper, I stopped a procession during the Emperor's tour around the Empire five years ago, and the Emperor... I revealed myself in front of my father. Funnily enough, I looked almost exactly like my father did when he was young. That's how I ended up at the palace, and why I'm now here with you."
I couldn't say anything.
His lightly smiling face looked so sad. It was hard to watch him talk so calmly about it. But I couldn't look away.
The story weighed so heavily on me, that any words of comfort I could give felt insufficient.
"... That day is the reason why I'm here, and the reason why I have a future."
"When did you cry?"
He looked surprised. He'd looked impassive this whole time, but his expression wavered at my question.
From his frown and slightly enlarged eyes, I could guess his feelings were complicated.
"When did you cry properly after your mother died like that? I know you kept smiling. You did it for your mother, but I wonder when you cried for yourself, Your Highness."
"... Is that a question?"
"Oh! Wait a minute."
I poured another glass of alcohol and gulped it down again. I was rather grateful that the strong drink scratched my throat as it went down.
His mouth opened while I took a sip of water to erase the burning taste of liquor.
"Well, I don't know. I think I cried, but I don't remember. Is that too boring an answer to merit a drink?"
"… Well. It is a little boring, but if you allow it, I will dedicate that last drink as consolation for your suffering 12 years ago. Hmm… Am I being too condescending?"
"It's a bit grandiose. But it's not that bad. I'll have a drink this time."
As if nothing had happened, he poured himself a glass of cognac and drank it in one gulp. He must be a good drinker because his face wasn't even flushed.
"Who do you want to marry?"
I immediately spit out the water I had just taken a sip of.
That was a question I never thought I would hear coming out of his mouth.
"Are you okay?"
"I mean, why would you be curious about that? Oh! Well… That isn't an official question. You don't have to answer. But it was just so unexpected. Hahaha."
"The Stuarts have already broached the possibility of marriage, and I’m going to be very busy in the future. Won't you have to be near me as my assistant? If you get married now, your work would be disrupted, so I was wondering if you'd look for a decent partner once all your work is done. That's why I'm asking."
Even though it was reasonable, I felt that his explanation was odd.
Hmm. Was I mistaken that the explanation seemed too elaborate?
"No, you don't have to. I am capable of finding my own marriage prospects."
"You're still young. You don't know. A lot of young men with aristocratic titles wear all kinds of masks. You don't know real men. I’m experienced, and my judgement is good, so don't hesitate to consult me."
Huh? What was he talking about? He was so young. I was 33 years old in my Korean life. I dated lots... Oh, I never did find the right person in my old life did I?
I frowned and pondered it. The Prince's words were odd, yet quite reasonable.
If someone could impress this guy, their personality and skills would have to be pretty good.
Nevertheless, the thought of answering him seriously made me feel embarrassed, so the words didn’t come easily.
"I should answer, right?"
"If you don't want to answer, you can have another drink.”
"No, it's not that easy. Why would I? Haha. Hmm… Then, the kind of man I want is..."
I pondered for a moment and rolled my eyes in agony. He watched me quietly, but his gaze was sharp.
No. Was he trying challenge me? Why were his eyes so sharp?
I erased the idle thoughts from my mind and began to answer his question.
"First of all, I’d like a kind man. It's good to have a lot of money, but I don't like people who constantly desire more money. I can make money myself anyway, hmm. And he must be able to live in the countryside and be in good health, both physically and mentally so we can live long. He must be attractive to me at the very least, hehe. Oh! And I hope his thighs are a bit thick. Men’s thighs... Well, that’s just a preference. As I've told you, my standards are strict. Ah. He doesn't need a title. I don't want someone who works in the palace, and it's better if he doesn’t have any connections with the palace."
I ticked off my fingers one by one as I spoke. Then I suddenly lifted my head and looked at his face. It was completely distorted.
It was as if he trying to ask me for something.
"… Hmm. Is that all?"
Not wanting to miss the opportunity, I ticked off more points on my fingers.
"Oh! Yes. Lastly, I hope he can cook well. Honestly, I'm terrible at it, so I think one of us needs to be good at it for our lives to be decent. Even if he’s bad at it, we can hire a cook. To sum up, he must be kind, good at cooking, have no title, able to live in the countryside, and be healthy so that he can live long. Well, the thighs are a bonus. Phew."
"Why are you looking at me like that?"
"How am I looking at you?"
"You’re looking at me like I’m some kind of strange animal."
"Well, I suppose you are one."
After that, more cups of alcohol went back and forth. We would eventually have to declare the game over. But I didn’t want to concede.
My mind felt clear as a bell. However, eventually, the Second Prince shook his head at me.
At some point, my tongue had become paralyzed, but I was confident that I could withstand more because my mind was still intact.
I was probably almost there.
This was a piece of cake! I could drink more!
By the way, I had another question...
Finally, he stood up from his seat.
I felt truly dead...
And that was the last thing I remembered.
Tara fell asleep on the sofa, exhaling with soft, regular breaths. The clock announced it was now 3:00 AM.
Kyle worried that it was too late to call a maid to come help her, and that if he did call a maid, it could cause a scandal.
But his worries were short-lived.
From today on, he decided he wouldn't hesitate.
[… He has to be able to live in the countryside and be healthy so that we can live long. Well, the thighs are a bonus.]
Kyle smirked as he remembered what Tara had said earlier.
"A big dream..."
Kyle broke into a sudden smile, then stood up quickly.
There was no hesitation left in him, he was convinced.
When he strode up to the sofa and looked down at her, he could see everything about her at a glance.
Her white, thin neck peeking out of her loosely buttoned uniform. Her red cheeks flushed with alcohol, and the steady rising and falling of her chest accompanied by the soft sound of her breaths.
Her eyes were closed, and a few strands of dishevelled hair tangled around her neck and ears, setting her face in a persistent frown.
Kyle reached out slowly and carefully tucked the stray hair that always bothered him back behind her ears.
To his surprise, his hand trembled slightly at the gesture.
It was amazing.
"Phew… Damn it."
He ruffled his hair roughly. It was harder to take his eyes off her now... Of that, he was certain.
How long had he been looking at her this way?
When he suddenly saw Tara toss and turn as if her posture was uncomfortable, he immediately hooked his arms around her waist and her knees and picked her up.
'She's lighter than I remember... I think I'll have to meet with her dedicated knight .'