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Where Tara plays the political game with the big guns and encounters someone she'd rather not...
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Episode 150. About 10 months (27)
“I heard a daughter from the Elias family had applied for the Military, so I wondered, but he said that it was you. Hahaha. Yes, yes. The Elias family made a big mistake, but the Crown is nonetheless grateful to these children that sacrificed themselves to work as servants for the Palace. Wouldn’t you say so?"
'Why? You didn't say anything to any of the other officials! So why are you talking to me?'
"Haha. That’s right. It’s true."
"I agree, Your Majesty."
"Yes, Your Majesty."
The nobles part of Royalist faction started to stir.
"The Elias family is very faithful. They created a heart medicine that was difficult to make, and they even dedicated it to the Emperor."
'Now this? Again why? ...!'
I quickly recognized the Emperor's expression. The answer I was looking for was in his eyes.
'He's right in front of me, but not looking at me. He’s focused on the Duke of Toulouse standing next to me.'
This question was not actually aimed at me. When an Elias came out to greet him, the Emperor just used this opportunity as a political maneuver.
The Emperor seemed to want to remind the nobles again of the situation in which the Elias Family had filled the treasury and remind them of the mansion the Toulouse family had to give as compensation for leaking Military secrets.
Basically, he was rubbing it in. Pouring salt on an open wound…
Hmm. There was more to this… I should check first.
“I’m deeply honoured, Your Majesty, that you remember a magistrate.”
At the same time, I bowed deeply and took a step back. If he didn't stop me, I’d consider my hypothesis a misjudgement.
But perhaps it wasn't. As soon as I took a step back, the Emperor quickly stopped my attempt to leave.
"You! What's wrong with you?"
I straightened up again and answered politely.
"Nothing, Your Majesty.”
"Haha. Yes, I thought it would be difficult because you're a woman, but it seems that's not the case..."
"Yes. Then I shall take my leave."
I bowed politely again and took another step back. But the Emperor called me again. He really wanted to take advantage of this opportunity.
"What is your name?”
"I’m the fifth child of the Elias Family, Tara, Your Majesty.”
"I see. Yes. Hmm."
The Emperor's gaze was still on the Duke of Toulouse while he pondered.
"Ah! Then, the Second Prince is your superior, isn’t he?!”
My eyes went straight to the Second Prince, who slightly raised his left eyebrow, looking at me.
And his eyes were saying, clear as day, 'Don't you know what the Emperor wants?'
'You know? What? Why?'
'Isn't it better if you fight back at this point? This is a chance to show off to the Emperor.'
'Huh? Is that what your twisted brain wants to say?'
'Stop staring at me.'
His face was clearly saying that.
‘Sheesh!’ I averted my gaze as fast as possible.
Our contact lasted only a few seconds, but strangely, his eyes were eloquent for once.
I turned my head to look at the Emperor and answered.
“Yes, Your Majesty.”
"Isn’t it difficult to work for the Second Prince?”
There was a glimpse of impatience in the Emperor's eyes.
I could read something along the lines of, 'Would you mind placating me by answering my questions by more than monosyllabic words?' in that anxious gaze. Of course, I wasn't 100% sure but…
I closed my eyes tightly for a second and opened them.
Yes, I should placate him. After all, this was a rare occasion for the small guy to rub shoulders with the big guns.
It was also a good question.
After one beat, I spoke.
"Yes. The Commander-in-Chief has work ethics that make it difficult for his subordinates, Your Majesty.”
The Emperor leaned forward in response to my belated spunkiness. He opened his eyes wide and intently looked at my face.
“Oh, really? How so?"
"He wants all his subordinates to do their job perfectly, without a single mistake. As you know, humans aren't perfect in everything. He is very demanding, and the work is quite intense. But you just have to be patient and work hard."
As if agreeing with what I said, the people in the front row burst out laughing.
"Ah… So? If you do something wrong, you will be severely punished, won't you?"
The Emperor looked at the Second Prince while asking, but Prince Kyle stayed expressionless, as if he had no interest whatsoever in the conversation.
“Well, yes, but that isn’t the reason. It is because of the grace bestowed upon me by His Majesty that I endure and work even when it is difficult.”
"Haha. Oh, why all of a sudden? Yeah, why is is that?"
The Emperor's eyes gleamed in anticipation.
The words 'You know what I'm going to say' lingered on the tip of my tongue, but I refrained.
Instead, I spoke at a speed that was neither too fast nor too slow.
“The Elias Family is doing their best to market the heart medicine that was offered to His Majesty. Also, as an administrator belonging to the Military, I will do my best to protect the security of the Empire, even if only a little. I think of it as a way to repay the kindness that the Elias Family has given me, which is why I work hard even when it is difficult.”
At first glance, it seemed like a clichéd promise from a servant to the monarch, but if you listened to each sentence separately, you could find meaning.
First, you can recall the previous leak of military secrets through the words 'security of the Empire' and second, the attempted assassination on the Emperor through the words 'heart medicine offered to His Majesty.'
"Yes. That's right. If you are capable, you should do your best for the welfare and development of the Empire! I'm very happy today to meet people with different opinions and backgrounds, I hope them to be as honest and faithful as the Elias Family. I will definitely remember you…"
"It is an honour, Your Majesty.”
Satisfied, the Emperor smiled and dismissed me. I bowed politely and turned around.
As I turned, I glanced at the Second Prince who seemed to slightly smile, but when I looked again, only distant politeness remained.
The Emperor looked at the Duke of Toulouse's distorted face with a satisfied smile.
'On days like these, I really can taste the power of being an Emperor… By the way…
She readily gave the right answers... Considering she's an administrator who just entered the Palace, she acted quite sensibly even at this level.'
All the people I did not want to meet were gathered in this Banquet Hall.
The Second wife, Victoria. Theodore Stuart, the second son, and Grand Duchess Helen Stuart. And, of course, the Second Prince. Their existence alone bothered me.
So, right after the greeting to the Emperor was over, I headed straight to the door to return to my room.
I was already exhausted and didn't want to see anyone anymore. This was it for today.
I accelerated progressively towards the door and just as I grabbed the handle…
I was so frustrated that my knees buckled at the sound of his voice.
Ouch. If only I was one minute earlier.
It was Father.
“… Haha. Father. You called?"
I smiled as I turned around, but my smile froze.
Duchess Helen in an alluring dress and Theodore Stuart, the second son in a perfect-fit navy suit and bow tie, stood next to him.
Theodore bowed politely to me.
I, too, greeted each of them with a respectful attitude as a noblewoman.
The Grand Duchess told me with a kind smile, "This is the first time I've seen the Emperor asking personal questions to a magistrate.”
It was only natural that the Grand Duchess inquired about it.
The Emperor's conversation with me would not have been heard except by those in the front row.
"I'm very happy to see you again in a place like this, Duchess. He just asked if the work was hard."
"Haha. Didn't the Emperor trouble you?"
As expected, I was amazed at the Duchess’s intuition. I almost agreed before I remembered the serpent she was.
"No. Why would he?"
“Dinner is starting soon, so let’s sit down together. It’s a pity that we never got to eat together during the Hunting Contest.”
"Ah… Yes, Father."
My plan to go back to my dorm, change my uniform, and comfortably eat a sandwich was shattered.
“The livery suits you very well, Tara.”
"Right. She is my daughter, Your Grace. Hahaha."
"Ah… Thank you, Your Grace."
I redirected my gaze and looked at the mirror embedded in the wall. The red frock coat sported gold buttons on the chest and gold thread epaulettes, which looked quite dashing.
I checked that my collar button was well fastened, and my hair properly tied.
The gaze I met in the mirror when I took my hand off my head was Theodore’s.
“Your uniform, it looks good on you.”
I turned around and looked at him. He gave me a big smile.
"The Viscount also looks very nice."
I was out of breath. My fingers were itching to release one of the locked collar buttons.
Talking like a squeaky robot, my father spoke with an awkward smile while avoiding my eyes.
"Haha. Oh my gosh. Old people like us shouldn’t stay too long, don’t you think, Your Grace?”
It was so obvious that it made me laugh.
“It’s true. If you stay with old people for too long, you look older. In times like these, you must let the old people go. We’ll join the group of elderly over there. We’ll probably look a little younger though. Haha.”
"Hahaha. Let's go, Your Grace! We'll see you in 30 minutes at our table. Theodore escort Tara, will you?”
“Yes, Count. Please take good care, Grandmother."
'No really. Could they be any more obvious than this? Why do I have to deal with everything at once?'*
Seeing the backs of my father and the Grand Duchess Helen disappearing, casually leaving us alone, I pretended to be angry and folded my arms.
And I had to look up so much that the effect I was hoping for was diminished somewhat.
'Oh my, how did this guy grow up to be so tall? What did he eat?'
He looked almost as tall as the Second Prince.
In the meantime, this feeling…
As I was originally going to do it, I hardened my expression and said,"I thought I was clear on this! I must have made it too difficult for you to understand in the Winter Garden."
He shrugged but didn't say anything.
"No. That's right. Okay. It's okay because we’ve agreed to meeting three times. But to disguise an extra encounter as a coincidence... Or is this meeting the second one?”
“Haaa…” He sighed.
‘What? Why is he upset?’
* There were 2 Korean idioms here back-to-back. One meaning that one person does everything when there should be 2, it was related to traditional Korean music instruments and the other that the rhythm of the music was fine tuned. Of course, these being utterly sarcastic, this is my interpretation.