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Where Tara learns the meaning behind having three meetings...
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Episode 144. About 10 months (21)
'Because I'm to be engaged to Tara Elias... Hmmm. It's a long way before getting married anyway...'
He always knew that one day he would marry into a family worthy of the Stuarts, so naturally, this meeting was special.
After all, betrothals were part of the nobility’s duties.
Actually, Helen, the Grand Duchess, his grandmother, never spoke of a betrothal. She just said.
"Have three meetings."
Just that. Nothing more.
However, there was the ‘spirit of the words’ of course.
So, from Theo's point of view, this meeting was for the purpose of an arranged marriage.
But… He had no intention of marrying the woman who was sitting in front of him and smiled while showing her uvula.
No, not only this woman, but any woman. He was planning to postpone his engagement for a year.
He had just returned from studying abroad. There was so much to learn and so much to study.
He wanted to travel around the Empire for the next year. Observing and studying social issues and phenomena in the field throughout the Ocerian Empire.
As a member of the Stuart family, it was not that he was unaware of the responsibility he had to assume, but it would be enough to fulfill it next year.
Now was not the time.
But this young girl, some of her actions were quite unexpected.
"Haha, Lady Olive was so surprised… I wish you had been there to see it. She said that, thanks to me, it was the first time in her life that she rolled in the snow and we both laughed about it. Woah!”
The story continued along the same vein, until suddenly it stopped completely.
“And we went to the barracks together to get treatment. But all of a sudden, in the tent... Ah..."
"Ah… Huh? What did you call me? Fufu. There aren’t many people who call me Lady. Hahahaha.”
Her reaction was one or two beats too late.*
When he noticed it, his eyes gleamed and he smiled broadly. He could feel a strange laughter building up in his chest.
“It must be difficult, but please stop.”
“… If you add 'Lady', you will be respected for some reason… What?"
Still, her big eyes grew to the size of lanterns as she tilted her head. Theo refrained from bursting out laughing.
It would be seen as an insult to do that to a noble girl, so he endured it.
“You use your throat too much. You might be voiceless tomorrow. Don't do it on purpose."
"Why do you say that?"
“I know you gave him some gloves. I wanted to say thank you for being so kind to a poor cousin of the family.”
Her brow furrowed immediately.
“Thanks to you, My Lady, he does not tremble in the cold.”
“… You knew?”
"Yes. He confessed it to me, even before coming. Your efforts must have pricked the conscience of a faithful servant.”
'Somewhere in the greenhouse, water is flowing...'
So it was. There was a sound of water fountain that he had never heard before. The flower garden was sandwiched between stillness, silence, and subtle noises.
And the heavy atmosphere. You could cut it with a knife.
It was a strange thing.
Theo was bewildered by the sudden change. At the same time, a newfound curiosity rose.
Like when he discovered a new sociology book.
How much longer would she wait?
After taking a sip of water, she slowly opened her mouth.
“… Were you observing me purposefully?"
Her voice was one tone lower than before, neither fast nor slow.
'Oh. This is her real voice.'
“Are you mad?”
"I don’t know. It isn’t me who should be angry when you look at it. You found out that I was trying to deceive you… Still, thinking that you were aware of it makes me feel a bit uncomfortable, Viscount.”
From 'Scholar' to 'Viscount' in an instant. She drew a perfect line, setting definite boundaries in one word.
Perhaps due to the sudden change of atmosphere, this meeting was less boring than he thought.
No. Rather than boring, it became refreshing and enjoyable. A joy that he had never felt with any other young lady.
“Why do you feel embarrassed?”
“Because my intentions were discovered. In addition to that, all my efforts until now have become moot. Also, even though you knew of my intentions, you pretended not to. So, it’s embarrassing, but not totally useless.”
He stopped raising the teacup to his mouth.
“You knew my intentions, so I guess you played a part too.”
"Ah… You might think so. But don't you have to apologize to me?"
“Do you want an apology?”
"If you apologize, I'll accept it."
“I don't think there is any need to apologize. But nevertheless, emotionally, you were deceived and offended, so I apologize for that.”
“An apology that isn’t really one… That's fun. Why is there no need to apologize, My Lady?”
“Usually, in these artificial encounters, each party puts on his own pretence to create the best possible outcome.”
Theo's cup stopped in mid-air again.
"What? What do you mean?"
“In meetings like this, the parties exaggerate their strengths. They have to appeal as much as possible that there is no one better than them. In technical terms, we call it 'baiting'. Well, I did the opposite.”
"Oh. So, since it's kind of a rule, there's no need to apologize, right?"
"Yes. However, the original goal is not to be found out, so I apologize for that.”
“Ahahaha. Well, I know exactly what you mean.”
"Yeah. I don't want to have anything to do with the Viscount. So…!”
“Neither do I. Not yet."
“It's merely a vexation.”
"Oh, I see!"
She clapped her hands, her face brightening like a child in a candy store.
This was the brightest and most sincere smile she’d shown since the start of the meeting.
'She’s the type that shows emotions right away.'
“I have to do my duty.”
"Ah. Please, you should have told me sooner. I was afraid I was alone in this, hehe..."
Her young face looked quite mature when she spoke honestly and smiled in a pleasant way.
This must also be her true form.
“By the way, do you have a lover?”
"Well, do you?"
“A lover? I have no such thing.”
“Then maybe you don’t like men?”
Her brow wrinkled again.
“If you don’t want to answer, you don’t have to.”
“The question is a bit odd. Nevertheless, in today's meeting, such questions are acceptable, so I will answer them. Listen carefully. I. LIKE. MEN."**
At the very serious and determined answer, Theo wanted to smile, but this, too, was tolerable.
"I see. But it's strange.”
“What exactly is the purpose of this question? What are you talking about?”
“It’s just a simple question… I thought I would be rejecting it, but I didn’t think that Lady Elias would reject me. Do you not like me?”
“What?" Tara asked wide eyed.
Theo was genuinely curious about this issue. It had stemmed from the moment he was made aware of her lack of interest in him as a prospect.
More serious than ever, Theo stated, "There are few in the Empire who are better than me. At this point, there are none other than the 2nd and 3rd Princes from the Amure Family."
There was no young lady in the Empire who would refuse to talk to the Stuart family. Every family was eager to establish a relationship with them.
Wasn't he Theodore Stuart, who had already inherited his title?
He was already managing a huge estate with the title of Viscount.
With such a unique background and good looks, he was the best groom in the Ocerian Empire, both in name and reality.
Having always received envious and longing glances, he considered it natural.
Because of that, Theodore couldn’t fathom how much this question perplexed Tara.
She couldn’t believe what she just heard, she slowly opened her mouth.
“Why are you looking at me like that?”
“What kind of expression am I making?”
“Like I’m some kind of weird specimen.”
“Ah… Hahaha. They say the eyes are the window to the soul... This Empire is full perceptive people...”
Her voice suddenly decreased and behind the laughter, only murmurs could be heard.
"What did you say? I didn't hear it very well.”
“I didn’t say anything. I'll just ask you one thing."
“Please, go ahead.”
She asked again with a bright smile.
“Should I like you and wish to meet you because you are from a good family and one of the best grooms of the Empire?”
“Well, don’t all noblewomen dream of such a marriage? That’s why they care so much about debuting in society.”
“Ahhh…” She sighed. “I don’t think I'm such noble lady, then.”
"Is that so? That's amazing! An aristocratic lady who does not dream of marriage.”
Lost in thought, Theodore suddenly lifted his head when he heard rustling noises.
Lady Tara was holding her cloak.
“Well, let’s not get personal. After all, since we both want the same thing, shall we break up here? We don't even have to meet again...”
“It would be good… What?"
Half out of her seat, Tara stopped and stared blankly at the young man.
“Viscount… You said that you were forced to come to this meeting.”
“I also told you that we have to do our duty.”
The drawing room in the 1st Prince's residence.
The Duke of Toulouse was about to knock on the door of the First Prince's quarters but paused and focused on the loud noises coming from inside.
"Nice… Wow! I mean! As soon as I saw the arrow flying, in a flash, I stopped it right in front of me with my sword! And the 2nd Prince arrived almost too late... I nearly got pierced by an arrow! Me! I'm going to be the Crown Prince soon! No! I’m the next Emperor who will lead this Empire! I mean, I had to stop it!”
The Duke suddenly felt the back of his neck stiffen and got goosebumps all over his body.
"Oh my gosh! There is nothing the Crown Prince cannot do!"
* The following section was MTL hell. Some sentences didn’t make any sense in the context of the dialogue before. This is the best result I came up with, but I’m extrapolating and interpreting quite a bit up until the moment Tara stops acting like an airhead.
** Ok, just my 2 cents. I don’t think Tara/Yeon Woo has anything against homosexuality. She does mention it casually to Kyle during the confession that if she doesn’t see him as a man, it isn’t a gender related issue. She just finds the question indelicate considering they’re meeting for the first time. Imagine having a first date with somebody that asks your sexual orientation after 15 minutes… Rude…