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The last banquet of the Hunting Contest begins. Tara is presented to the Emperor along other administrators...
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Episode 149. About 10 months (26)
“When war breaks out or natural disasters such as famine or floods occur in the middle of the Selection, there are cases where it is regarded as a punishment from heaven and cancelled. In addition, when there's a major disqualification in the finally chosen candidate for Crown Princess, it may be cancelled.”
“Is it a common occurrence for this event, Your Highness?”
“Look through the history books. It's rare, but it's not uncommon."
According to Kyle's remarks and the Imperial Annals, the bride-to-be was disqualified 25 years ago due to a chronic disease. There was a history.
Other than that, he didn't see the failure or withdrawal of the decree.
“Yes, Your Highness. If so, did you accept this decree because of the Talent Training system?"
"Yes. This system is beneficial to me. So, don't talk about the Selection. Especially to Nick."
“Yes, Your Highness!”
It was not yet time to see the Empress Dowager.
Especially when the Empress held real power.
For Kyle, accepting the decree was only a means to an end.
He had no intention to accept a Crown Princess in the first place and who would be chosen by the Empress through this Selection decree.
He was just trying to use the marriage prohibition. And, as a bonus, got the agreement to the Talent Training system.
He did give various reasons, but accepting this troublesome decree had been a rather unusual choice in Kyle's history so far.
Sunday, January 13, 1816. On the day of the Hunting Contest's final banquet.
By lunch time, all administrative duties on the hunting grounds were completed. I fell asleep right after I ate because of relief and fatigue, and then suddenly woke up.
Taking a deep breath, I sat still on the bed, blinking.
In Beth's hand was a neatly washed uniform.
I sat on the bed without even thinking about getting up, staring blankly in front of me.
"Miss. Did you have another scary dream?" Beth anxiously asked.
“What kind of dream do you have today?”
I rubbed my shoulders with both arms and trembled. Worried about my appearance, Beth came closer to the bedside.
“Two monsters just came after me. Ugh!"
"One guy just ran after me in anger. Another guy reached out his arms from behind and tried to strangle me. As if he was going to choke me to death. Ugh."
Beth's eyes filled with concern.
“Oh my gosh… You must have been so scared.”
“It wasn’t really scary, but somehow, haha… I'm just very tired."
"Cheer up. Miss. After attending today's banquet, you can go back to the Capital and rest. For three days!"
At Beth's words, I lifted my head.
Administrators participating in the Hunting Contest were given three days off as reward leave immediately upon returning to the capital.
"Yes. Just one more day! Only today."
Raising my hands, I made a firm resolve to shake off my fear. Beth's gaze stopped on my tightly bandaged left hand.
"My Lady's hand. Are you okay ?"
"Your left hand got injured. At the hunting grounds."
And then she frowned.
"Are you ill?"
“No, it just happened suddenly.”
'Hmm… She's acting like this again,' Beth mused.
"My Lady, you can say whatever came to your mind.”
"Ah... No. Hahaha. I don't even feel sick anymore. I'll need some more bandages."
“By the way, My Lady. Are you okay?"
"Yes. My hands are fine."
"No. Not your hand. You seem to have changed a bit since you returned from the hunting grounds."
Tara opened her eyes wide, looked at Beth and swallowed.
"What… What's different?"
‘My Lady stutters again after such a long time.’ Beth tilted her head and rolled her eyes.
"Hmm. It looks like you're a bit fuzzy on something. You’re a bit slow with your answers and actions, you talk a lot to yourself saying that you don't understand, and you don't sleep well."
Beth’s eyes were filled with curiosity.
When did she become so sharp? Had she learned so quickly?
I just smiled. For a moment, I pondered whether to tell Beth about what happened with Kyle.
But I soon erased the though from my head.
I didn't expect Beth to gossip, but it was clear that she was going to make a fuss.
Still, it was fun to imagine quirky Beth Larry’s, who was obsessed with romance novels, reaction to it.
Was it because I was still unable to process the Second Prince’s sudden confession?
"Ah… Isn’t it because I’m overworked these days? My body is sending me signals to rest. Once I go back and rest for three days, my head will be fine, and I’ll be back to normal.”
I was neatly dressed in the uniform that Beth had given me, waiting outside for my turn in front of the Tandra Mansion’s banquet hall.
As a member of the Elias family, I was a little nervous, not because of the banquet, but because I was going to meet the Emperor as a Palace administrative official.
Strictly speaking, that was not the cause of my tension. I had spent another sleepless night, worrying about seeing the Second Prince again.
'Ha… Why do you keep thinking about it, go to sleep!'
Hours of tossing and turning in the dark with open eyes. Frustrated, I finally found the answer to this problem only when the light of dawn shone through the window.
Yes. The 2nd Prince liked me, but he couldn't make me like him!
He couldn't make me see him as a man just by telling me to.
I was not able to be sarcastic right now.
How could the brothers and sisters of our family get along while working hard next to the Prince?
I should investigate.
So, if we met tomorrow, I would know for sure.
I didn't have time for leisure dating games like that right now. I shouldn't worry anymore. It was done.
After the issue was resolved, I fell asleep with a smile on my lips.
Just before I fell asleep, a thought flashed through my mind.
Hey. This guy's popularity was...
However, when I thought that I had to see the Second Prince a little later, the tension suddenly increased, and I felt like a rubber band pulled taut.
Finally, the door to the huge banquet hall opened and the noisy interior came into view.
Numerous nobles were lined up, side by side, in splendid outfits. The aristocrats, who were making a lot of noise, only glanced at the greeting Palace bureaucrats, but did not pay much attention to them.
Stepping between them one step at a time, looking at the front of the banquet hall, the Emperor was sitting on his throne in a drowsy posture, receiving greetings from officials.
Right next to the throne, the Third Prince Joseph was reciting the general profile of the officials greeting the Emperor.
Apparently, the Third Prince wanted to emphasize who oversaw the Hunting Contest's banquet very naturally until the end.
The Emperor nodded his head at the words the Third Prince whispered in his ear and responded or gestured to the officials.
The Imperial family was standing next to him. Among them, the Second Prince, dressed in a neat tailcoat with a black double jacket, raised his eyes and looked at me.
What? It was the same as usual.
‘Why do you look like you always do? Should your eyes be like that?’
I thought the way he looked at me would've changed drastically.
Why didn’t it? Wasn’t it the undying truth that if a man confessed to a woman, he should look at her lovingly?
Come to think of it, our last encounter was in the hunting grounds barracks.
Wasn't it also strange that two days have passed and he hadn't come visit the woman he confessed to?
Walking towards the Emperor, and after examining the Second Prince’s actions that defied common sense, I concluded.
The Second Prince was different from the others.
So, I shouldn't be generalizing him by comparing him to others.
It was fortunate that my sudden change of view didn’t feel burdensome.
When it was my turn to greet to the Emperor, I suddenly realized that I was still thinking about the Second Prince even in the current situation.
I closed my eyes tightly and opened them and took a step forward looking straight ahead.
‘Oh My God! … Stop it, stop it! Okay, I admit that that confession was a huge shock. Now stop it!’
I needed to focus. Wasn't it the first time in my life that I was greeting the Emperor alone? I was an administrator, but I was also an Elias. So, concentrate!
“I am Tara Elias, who dedicated herself to this Hunting Contest as an assistant to Sir Nick Bright, Captain of the Order of the Phoenix, currently dispatched to the guards as the Military’s third secretary…"
Following the Palace Butler’s explanation, I politely greeted him with a pre-determined comment.
"… It was an infinite honour to be able to devote myself to this Winter Forest Hunting Contest for His Majesty, the Emperor of Oceria."
This was a close as I was going to get.
Even though I was Captain Nick's assistant, unauthorized personnel were not allowed within a 10m radius of the Emperor, so I always saw him from afar.
The Emperor of the Ocerian Empire.
Seeing the Emperor up close, his expression was more arrogant than anyone else’s, proving that he was a person at the peak of power, and his posture seemed the most comfortable and relaxed here.
The gaze looking down from above was sharp, if drowsy, and his crown was splendid, and his robe was truly dazzling.
He looked very similar to the 2nd prince, but his expression was richer.
He must have been pretty popular when he was younger...
The Third Prince, Joseph, glanced at me and whispered a word into the Emperor’s ear.
“She is one of the Elias Children and has recently been assigned to the Capital after working in Durben."
The Emperor forcibly concealed his tiredness and waved his hand at my answer.
And he said the words that he'd already been repeating for the last 30 minutes.
“I will never forget your hard work."
As soon as the Emperor's finished talking, he signalled at Joseph to step back.
“… Hmmm, are you sleeping alright?” The Emperor asked me, with his head resting on his arm.
"Yes? Did you call, Your Majesty?"
'No. Why? … Why would you suddenly call me?'
I bowed as much as I could and analysed the situation.
'What did I do wrong? Or maybe! ... Did the Second Prince say anything?'
No, that was a ludicrous thought.
I knew very well that the 2nd Prince was not the type of person who would openly talk about his feelings.
The Emperor asked when he could clearly feel that many people's eyes were on me without looking up.
'What do you want?'
I swallowed my saliva and carefully raised my head to face the Emperor.
He glanced at me and opened his mouth as he looked around the hall.
What was with this situation?