(image to be updated)
Where Tara and Kyle both 'enjoy' the Banquet and Kyle makes a seemingly rash decision…
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Episode 152. About 10 months (29)
'Yesterday… I obviously know she left out of anger…'
Theodore's eyes did not leave Tara's face for a moment, as if they were having a pleasant conversation, and Tara clasped her hands halfway through and nodded in response to Theodore's words.
Kyle leaned still against the cold wall, staring at them, unblinking.
“… A draft will be established as soon as possible… Those who are marginalized by the entire Empire… Maybe better things… If it really takes root…”
The heated debate continued, whether they knew if Kyle was listening or not. Tara and Theodore were still talking, facing one another.
There was no boredom on their faces, including in their eyes.
An elderly nobleman passing by them bumped into Tara’s shoulder. As she was about to fall, Theodore quickly grabbed Tara's elbow and pulled her towards him.
Tara gasped in surprise, then smiled shyly and thanked him.
'So, this is your embarrassed and thankful smile…'
Tara, who was always guarded and wary around him, was smiling so easily at Theodore.
As she smiled, Kyle felt that she was mocking his consideration to respect her small wishes, which only added to his feelings of confusion.
He didn't even know why he kept watching.
“… I can’t.”
"Your Highness, is my opinion wrong?"
"No. Organize your opinions today and formally submit them in writing to the Ministry of Security."
“Yes, Your Highness.”
The aristocrats around greeted him with respect and courtesy, and, expressionless as usual, Kyle slowly moved away from the wall.
His gaze followed Tara and Theodore’s movements.
At the same time, in his head, several different instances were created and then repeatedly discarded.
As soon as he found the best solution, he acted immediately.
'You… You're always pushing me without even knowing. What are you not capable of?'
Having made his decision, he strode to the Emperor’s podium to put his plan into motion.
"Your Majesty. Have you discussed the terms of the Selection?"
The Emperor, who had been looking at the banquet hall with a bored gaze, glanced at Kyle, and then turned his gaze back to the banquet hall.
“They didn’t really like it, but they agreed. After all, it was obvious the Empress wouldn’t let this opportunity slip through her fingers. It's safe to say that it's okay for you to decide the pick-up date," he said.
"Then, please make an announcement today."
The Emperor suddenly turned his head at Kyle's sudden words.
Bewildered, the Emperor stared at Kyle, who was more serious than ever.
"I hope you’ll make the announcement for the Crown Princess Selection today.”
"Why? Didn't you refuse before?"
“I changed my mind.”
"For what reason? Why?"
'This is the second time he overturned a decision. My son, Kyle, doesn’t usually change his mind easily.'
His curiosity awakened and the Emperor’s eyes twinkled.
"I thought about it… Today's announcement is more advantageous for my plans.”
“Yes, Your Majesty.”
"Don't you think you're often overturning your decisions these days?"
"… If circumstances change, decisions can be modified. Today's announcement is in my favour."
The Emperor gazed at Kyle’s sullen eyes speculatively.
'Hmm. What are you scheming?’
Kyle frowned slightly as he witnessed the Emperor’s meaningful smile.
“You wish to know why?”
"If I ask, what will you do?"
The Emperor frowned slightly.
“… Please consider this conversation as having never happened.”
Kyle turned around without hesitation. The Emperor hurriedly called Kyle to prevent him from leaving.
"Hehe, so impatient. Yes. Announcing it today is more dramatic. Alright, let's do it."
"Thank you. Your Majesty."
After bowing politely and leaving the podium, Kyle soon moved to the table where dinner was held.
He was sitting at a designated table with the Imperial Family, except for the Emperor and Empress, who were chatting on various topics.
Meanwhile, the Elias Family was sitting at their table and the Stuarts were sitting with them, and Theodore happened to be sitting beside Tara.
Kyle, seated diagonally opposite to them, tapped his index on the table, waiting for the dinner to begin.
"It is an honor to be with the Second Prince, Your Highness."
Hearing a sudden voice from the left, he glanced towards it and saw young lady with a colorful peacock feather on her head, looking at him, smiling brightly.
"I am always grateful for the safety you provide to the Empire while you are on the battlefield, Your Highness," continued a voice coming from his right.
Naturally, when he turned his gaze to the right, he saw a young girl with a rich mane of blonde hair, blushing cheeks, and a worshipful expression.
What was with this animal kingdom? … A peacock on his left and a lion on his right?
'Are you crazy, Empress?'
It was then that he noticed the people sitting at his table. He frowned slightly.
There were eight people sitting at the round table, including him. Except for Kyle and the 68-year-old Duke Anton, all were young girls who were about to turn 20.
The Empress deliberately placed him at the table where all the few eldest daughters that had made their debut or were about to and accompanied their families to the Winter Forest Hunting Content were seated.
Since this was a political event, only the head and the eldest son of each family attended. So, these young ladies came from families without male heirs. And he was certain they were all from families allied with the Empress.
Seeing there was no reply to the conversation attempts by the two young ladies, the others just kept busy ogling Kyle.
Kyle raised a glass of water to his lips, a closed expression on his face, discouraging them from talking.
He waited for the dinner to begin, his gaze fixed on the empty center of the banquet hall.
After about 5 minutes, the long-awaited last supper of the Winter Hunting Contest began.
The food piled up on the tables did not dwindle much. Even though it was hearty and precious food, most nobles ate like birds, and there were many dishes that they did not touch at all.
Leftover food from such a party was the responsibility of the noble family who prepared the banquet and was given to charity.
A good custom to show the nobility's generosity.
No, it was more genuine charity if you didn't give your leftovers, and just gave the food to the poor from the start. They’d probably feel better about it as well…
Lady Victoria Elias was seated with her mother, Lady Philippe.
They hadn’t seen each other in a while, but instead of talking together, they spent their time shooting daggers at me from their table when they thought I wasn’t looking.
Even now, Philippe's old lady kept glaring at me, only to turn her head away when our eyes met.
'She's very consistent…'
She also hurriedly covered her face with a fan, to hide her threatening expression and look innocuous.
At our table sat my father, the Duchess, Logan, some distant male and female cousins from the Elias family, Theodore Stuart, and me.
I emptied my little stew bowl and waited for this boring supper to end.
I vowed to eat a whole chicken when I got back to my room and looked at the aria singer, who was singing beautifully in the middle of the banquet hall.
The soprano’s technique was dazzling, and her arpeggio’s crossed the realm up to a falsetto.
She seemed to be a famous aria singer.
I glanced at the people at each table in turn, while concentrating on the performance. Everyone seemed to be familiar with this kind of banquet, and they looked natural and elegant.
Everyone was at ease…
I turned my gaze back to the singer. The aria was reaching its climax.
Suddenly, an uneasy feeling came over me. I scanned the room, looking for the source of my unease.
Standing in a corner where the bright chandelier lights did not reach, a man with half of his face hidden in the shadows was watching.
He had light brown hair and a rather thin physique, but still had a neat and upright posture.
‘… That bastard, it's Button!’
Hans Button, a person who had a great influence on the future of the Empire.
A most cunning and cruel sociopath that Kim, author of the Ocerian Chronicles and my friend, had created with relish and far too much enthusiasm…
He was the one I had promised myself to get as far away from as possible, and fortunately, I didn't get involved with him because I went to Durben.
'If Kim gave him, a cunning and cruel sociopath, a role that would have a big impact on the future of the Empire, it was probably bad news. It might even become a terrifying future… Hmm… Could the major events that have occurred so far have something to do with him?'
As soon as I thought about it, I got goosebumps all over my body.
Why was I only making that connection now? I should have been more vigilant! Why didn't I even think again about that person until today?
As the thought ran through my mind, a strangely strong conviction began to settle in my head.
Was it because my nerves were set on fire by these revelations? My hands began to tremble.
I hurriedly hid them under the table, clasping them tightly.
'Let's calm down… It's not too late yet. Let's find out now. Yes. I need to find out. Every detail.'
After trying hard to calm my heart, I turned my gaze away and focused on the aria singer.
Theodore leaned towards me.
"Isn't the job of an administrator difficult?" He asked.
“I asked if working as an administrator is difficult.”
I gave a short and curt answer without additional explanation, meaning I didn’t wish to speak. But this guy refused to give in and asked another question.
"Was Durben worth it?"
“Do you enjoy listening to the aria?”
“What kind of food do you like the most?”
Rolling his eyes, Theodore shook his head and gave me a stinging gaze.
“You aren’t listening to me. If you cut me off with short answers like this, Grandma and the Count may try their dirty tricks.”
He was right. My father and the Grand Duchess were watching me and Theodore all the time and were paying no attention to the opera singer at all.
'Ugh,' I swallowed a painful moan, and I turned my eyes to Theodore with difficulty.
I was very preoccupied with more important issues, but what he said wasn't wrong, so I decided to change my attitude.
Whether he knew if I cared or not, Theodore kept smiling, as if he really was enjoying himself.