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Where Tara tells her father the truth and Kyle starts looking into the assassination attempt.
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Episode 147. About 10 months (24)
After taking a deep breath, my father smiled shyly.
“What did I expect? It's just because he's a groom who is well-known among noble girls. So, there was a good possibility. Hahaha."
"Is that so? I'm on a different path than the other young girls. As soon as I get back, I’m aiming for the top. I must learn how to do it, and now I am also the Second Prince’s second assistant, so I can't even think of an arranged marriage for the time being, Father."
"Yes. Hmmm. Yes, yes. You must be tired. Take a good rest. You will be attending tomorrow’s banquet where you will be greeting the Emperor for the first time, so prepare well.”
“Yes, Father. I will."
After my father left, I turned to Bernard and Beth who were still standing while intently staring at me.
"My Lady, are you sure? He's so handsome, sweet, kind, and has a beautiful smile, just like in the picture...!"
"Enough! Beth. In my eyes, he's just a brattish young nerd.”
"Really? What do you mean by that?”
“He is a narrow-minded bonehead! Well, I knew that most of these imperial nobles had such views, but he said it to my face. I really thought I was going crazy. Whoops..."
I sighed heavily and gulped down some cold water. After I told Beth, I felt a little better.
Bernard crossed his arms and nodded in agreement
"As expected, nobles who only read books are prejudiced and up-tight. What the hell did you talk about?"
I didn't go into detail, but I briefly explained the conversation we had to the two of them. Then Bernard and Beth looked at each other and bewilderedly asked me.
“Hmm… Isn’t that normal for a nobleman?”
“Aren’t you being cocky? It sounds accurate to me."
"Ah… Yes. I know."
It was like this. As I kept dealing with people who looked at me for who and what I was without looking at my status, appearance, or age, it seemed like I had always considered them as the Empire’s standard. Andrei accepted me as a disciple, a noblewoman and a future countess.
My father allowed me to take the civil service exam and we discussed difficult subjects without him questioning my skills.
And the Second Prince Kyle saw me as a colleague, hired me, even discussed pending issues, etc...
I was too used to them. They were all open-minded people. The moments I had with the three of them so far quickly flashed through my mind casting them anew in a positive light.
I guessed it was because I was thinking of Second Prince Kyle along with the other two, his words unwillingly echoed in my mind again.
[… Then start thinking about me as a man from now on.]
Was that all?
[Ever since I decided to become Emperor, I always got what I wanted. Whether it being something... Or someone.]
And, in addition to his warning.
[So, let me know when you're ready, I'm generous enough to wait for a while.]
I frantically shook my head to erase those memories. Why did he confess to me now? Was he trying to complicate further my already complicated situation?
I grabbed my head and silently screamed. Bernard, who witnessed my action, shook his head and went to the door.
“Get some rest. There will be a handful of people in the Empire, like me, who will appreciate you My Lady. Have faith."
As Bernard politely bid farewell and left, Beth said, 'What is with that confidence?' Talking to herself, she began to put away the playing cards.
As I sat on the sofa in a daze, she glanced at me and said:
"My Lady, if Lord Theodore, who is number one in the Empire, isn’t suitable, there is only one person left…"
As I turned my blank stare towards her, she stated, “The number one man I want to sing high praises for, and the number one man I wish to bury alive.”
“Who is that…?” I tried to ask, but I had a sense of whom Beth was talking about before she even answered. But before I could stop her, Beth replied:
Dadoom! Thunder rolled in my ears. Really, why was everyone so hung up on relationships! This wasn't a romance novel! I jumped up and screamed.
“Rhaaaaaa! Take that back!”
“Ok! I will! I will!” She frowned and continued. “My Lady, though I’ll help you with anything you ask, I’m still a little sceptical about this.”
"A little… Wait? Uh? What?"
"It's dirty. Still, if you ask me to do it, I'll do it."
"... Dirty? Really."
"Hehehe. Rest, My Lady." She nodded, took the money she had won from the card game, and stowed it away.
"I'll change my personal maid..." But I didn’t finish. Beth and Bernard were precious to me, like family.
I couldn't treat Beth, such a dedicated maid, like that. I sighed heavily and sat down on the bed.
“Uh-huh, let’s come up with a plan.”
It was after 5 o'clock. The snow had stopped falling and the wind had died down.
Kyle was looking through the list of nobles attending the final banquet tomorrow.
“Your Highness. It’s Chris and Walter.”
Chris entered with a solemn expression holding four familiar arrows in his right hand which he placed on the desk. Stylised insignias were clearly engraved on the shafts.
"Where did these come from?"
“From Earl Eckwood’s and Marquis Crimson’s residences.”
Count Eckwood and Marquis Crimson both formerly had confrontations with the First Prince, and the Toulouse Family.
It was too obvious.
"It's meant to waste our time."
“What should I do, Your Highness?”
"Yes. If that's their intention, then we should go look somewhere else. What did those two families say?"
“That it was absurd. Also, these were clumsily hidden behind a suitcase or in a closet.”
"Did they see the insignias?"
“Not that I noticed. What should I do, now?"
“Both of the families have grudges and circumstances. Besides, an identical arrow was shot so we need to investigate first. I must report this to His Majesty, and I will assign guards to the chambers where Count Eckwood and the Marquis Crimson’s families reside. Entrance is to be barred until the investigation is complete."
“Yes, Your Highness. Would you like to interrogate them yourself?"
"Yes. In about two hours. I know that Count Eckwood will want to be the first to proceed."
"Yes, Your Highness. Then I will go first."
“Walter, what about the trend report?” Immediately after Chris left, Walter took the report out of his pocket
Kyle read the report on the Third Prince's movements and activities during the Hunting Contest written by the undercover group. Everything was recorded in order, where he went and who he met, which was roughly 100 people. "He socialized a lot. Walter, go through it and organize it."
“What criteria should I set, Your Highness?”
"We are looking for those who have recently joined the Third Prince's side."
"Shall we pick out duplicates as well?"
“Isn’t the probability that the person you meet often is an entourage?”
“I never personally met with Baron Kezak during the hunting contest. Therefore, Baron Kezak isn't part of my entourage?"
“Ah… Yes. I was short sighted.”
"No. It makes sense, but right now, I don't want such detailed classifications. First, classify it according to rank and Family.”
“Yes, Your Highness.”
Walter had the knight waiting outside retrieve a file containing an exhaustive list of the contestants. Walter took a seat as the knight brought in the file. After a tedious hour, Walter put down the quill he had been holding.
“… The writing is a mess, Your Highness."
Kyle, got up from his desk and came to sit down across from Walter’s table and picked up the list he had arranged.
“Better than Nick.”
Kyle analysed the list of those who met the Third Prince based on several criteria, 'Are they already close with the 3rd Prince? How high is their family’s position within the Empire? What are their Imperial forces? How high is their position in their House? What kind of talent do they have? Are they ambitious? What do they want from the 3rd Prince? What do they gain when they are next to the 3rd Prince? Are they willing to take risks, enough to choose the 3rd Prince over the 1st Prince?'
About 30 minutes passed. Interestingly, most of the people the 3rd Prince met were those who fit the his inclinations. The person was an alumnus of the academy like the 3rd Prince, or a vassal of the Toulouse family, or a nobleman from a prestigious family…
And they were all next-generation heads of households. Moreover, their names were steadily rising and falling in Walter's trends, and they had been with Joseph for quite some time.
There were only three people who stood out to Kyle, other than those who fit the Third Prince’s inclinations. They were different from the others.
Baron Gary's third son, Tom. Button's second son, Hans. The Hound’s second son, Bradley. All three were representative spare heirs of their families and were working in the Palace in a small position after the June selection last year.
“Yes, Your Highness.”
“Tom Gary, Hans Button, Bradley Hound. Investigate them thoroughly. From financial and transaction records, marital status, family history and position in the family, investigate and report every detail.”
“It shall be done, Your Highness.”
Walter, who was about to say goodbye, turned around. He had almost forgotten…
"Ah. His Majesty has asked to meet tonight."
Kyle took his eyes off the paper and looked somewhere beyond, falling into deep thoughts for a moment.
"I see." Kyle looked back at the papers after Walter left. However, he couldn’t concentrate, the writing scattering before his eyes.
Rubbing his stiff neck, he leaned back in his chair and pondered.
… It was a decree...
He had promised himself that he would never get married until he achieved his purpose. He had no intention of accepting the puppet that the Empress would choose as his companion.
Of course, the Empress would never let it go the way he wanted. Nevertheless, there was only one reason why he accepted the Empress's proposal. And Kyle was quite surprised at himself for not refusing the troublesome procedure.