Updated: 5 days ago
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Where the Emperor makes an unexpected announcement and Tara is monumentally angry....
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Episode 153. About 10 months (30)
I had a talent for acting…
“Making sense of things. That's what an administrator's job is all about. Every day, I spend a time reading various papers before and after work. I want to go back to Durben on my next mission to gather more intel.”
“Do you have any questions for me?” He pouted.
I bit my lip, then forced a smile.
“Haha, of course! I have a lot of questions."
"Haha. Please, don't push it."
“You seem dissatisfied with the proceedings, Viscount.”
"Yes. But it's also the first time this has happened, so it's fun. Since hedgehogs aren’t omnivorous, they are picky eaters.”
“This is a strange analogy. Is the Viscount comparing me to his food now?
“You’ve compared me to a hedgehog, but let’s forget that. Hahaha. Still wasn’t it a pretty good analogy?"
"Not really. Hahaha."
Theodore burst out laughing.
‘What was so funny?’
His laughter attracted many side glances. Soon, the room was buzzing with the hushed voices of gossip mongers.
I glared at Theodore as my opinion slightly changed.
Not only was he a young brat, but he was also stupid. I needed to get away from him as soon as possible.
"Hey, stop smiling. If you keep smiling like that, you’ll attract unwanted attention… Which my father and the Grand Duchess are looking forward to."
"Ah! You’re right. This is supposed to be a coincidence, not an official second meeting. Changing subject, one of the members of the Imperial Family doesn’t have it easy," mused Theo as he indicated with his chin the table that boasted the Second Prince.
The Prince’s profile caught my eye… Still impassive, despite focusing on the beautiful aria that was being sung in the hall…
'Well, most of the time I can't read his expressions anyway.'
His noble and dignified presence felt even more impactful than usual among the gaggle of young girls surrounding him.
Ah… It was true. He was also an Imperial Prince…
A stray lock of hair made his high forehead stand out. His cold and lofty gaze, inscrutable eyes, and a sharp jawline depicted him as unapproachable. Arms crossed on his broad chest he looked more at ease than anyone else despite his proud posture.
To complete this tableau, a perfectly tailored black tailcoat with a simple double jacket emphasized his strong figure.
No wonder the girls seated at the Second Prince’s table kept glancing at him, paying little attention to the opera singer.
'That guy said he liked me only two days ago... But why is he so indifferent?'
I quickly shook my head clear, realizing that I was starting to think about the Second Prince again.
'Stop! I can’t start paying attention to him. I’ve already decided to stop thinking about him and to decline his confession. So, there’s no reason for me to worry about it!'
“The seating arrangement seems deliberate, and all the girls come from families connected to the Empress’s faction.”
"Yes. All six young girls have recently debuted in society and come from prominent families.”
Clearly, socialite information was an area I had paid little attention to. But I decided that I didn't need to know that part of high society to carry out my plans.
The more I thought about it, the stranger it seemed. The Second Prince Kyle I knew would never tolerate such a seating arrangement.
He was a spur-of-the-moment character, who would pay no heed as to whom hosted this banquet, including the Emperor.
Why didn’t anyone else find Prince Kyle’s behaviour unusual?
'Why are you still here…?'
My curiosity was to be quickly satisfied.
As soon as the opera singer left, the sound of the staff hitting the floor resonated in the banquet hall.
"Esteemed guests, please listen! His Majesty, Light of the Ocerian Empire, will be making an announcement!”
After the Chief Announcer’s loud declaration, the Emperor slowly rose from his seat and looked around the hall.
'Is it about the talent training system?’ '
'No. It isn’t finished yet.'
'Maybe about the assassination attempt?'
'I don’t know. The investigation is still on-going.’
'Then what other topics… So suddenly?'
A wave of speculative whispers rose and fell through the hall.
As the commotion subsided, the Emperor gave a long and tedious greeting counter-balanced by a very short announcement.
“As you all well know, the foundation of the Empire lies in the strong Amure Family lineage. To ensure the future of the Amure Line, the Empress, the Mother of the Empire, and I, seek to welcome Second Prince Kyle Amure's wife, under the Empress’s guidance.”
"Oh my gosh!" I exclaimed unable to withhold my surprise.
Noise filled the hall at the announcement of the 2nd Prince’s Princess Selection. He immediately became the centre of attention.
Third Prince Joseph’s gaze was also focused on his half-brother. His bright and kind demeanour fooled everyone, hiding his boiling anger rising within.
Hans was also perplexed. He was most curious as to why the 2nd Prince suddenly accepted a governmental decree under the full power of the Empress so easily.
'Clearly, there is something beneficial to the Second Prince besides the talent training system. And it must be an equally powerful motive.'
Kyle was waiting for the Emperor to finish his announcement, unperturbed, as if the scene before him was normal.
The Emperor, observing the commotion through the hall, proclaimed the remaining sentences with a smile.
“After this announcement has been officially proclaimed throughout the Empire later today, a suitable schedule will be set for the Selection procedure and the details will be delivered to the families that meet the criteria set by the Inner Palace.”
No one could have expected the last banquet of the Winter Forest Hunting Contest would be chosen to announce the 2nd Prince’s Princess Selection. Especially considering that an assassination attempt had taken place only a few days prior.
Silence prevailed, as the distinguished guests in the hall all seemed to have been struck by lightning.
Then, as if on cue, every family table erupted in an uproar, shaking the banquet hall walls.
I'd been trying to figure out what the hell was going on, but I couldn't wrap my head around it.
“Oh my God, the Second Prince’s wife and daughter-in-law to the Imperial Family.”
"Incredible. Clearly, this Hunting Contest was organized for the Second Prince’s benefit.”
“Where does that leave the 1st Prince in the Crown Prince Selection? After the Second Prince’s Talent Training system has been accepted now, we have this…”
“The Second Prince’s Crown Princess Selection?! Dear lord…!” Voiced the vassals to the Toulouse Family.
"It's like giving him wings."
"I don't know if he's wearing wings or trying to take the reins. Still, the family that becomes related to the Second Prince will immediately rise through the ranks...."
“But if the Second Prince doesn’t ascend the throne, that family will be wiped out together with him.”
"Uh-huh… This is a tricky situation. That's why we have this seating arrangement today.”
“The Empress is trying to take the reins. If we are to cooperate with her, then one of our daughters might be chosen, but what to do in this case?”
Those comments came from families with similar stances as the Toulouse’s.
“Oh my, will there be a decree coming to our family as well? On one hand, I wish it would, but on the other hand, he’s the Second Prince…”
"I'm glad I was born as the eldest daughter. Hohoho."
“Which titles will be chosen? Other than the fixed condition of the eldest daughter, the titles can be chosen at random. During the 1st Prince’s Princess’s Selection, only one title was approved of.”
“Is it going to happen again? Please not this time… Please. Not only Dukedoms, but down to Lordships…”
These were the voices of the young girls who’d accompanied the heads of their houses.
The voices around me slowly devolved into a hum. I looked at the Second Prince.
He remained unflappable, drinking wine.
As he got up, all the girls did the same, greeting him elegantly their hands close to their chests as they were gazing at him, hoping to catch his attention.
But he just turned around and walked away without even looking at them.
“… It's a great Hunting Contest."
Today I realized why so many people couldn't look through a millstone.*
“Who is going to be the Crown Princess? It’s an interesting Hunting Contest. It will probably be talked about for years to come.”
‘He’s called the decree?’
“How are you, My Lady?”
‘He promulgated the decree?’
"… Are you? My Lady?"
It was then that I realized that Theodore Stuart was still talking to me.
‘Why is this guy so talkative?’
I forced myself to concentrate.
"Ah. Sorry. What did you say? It’s so loud in here that I didn’t hear you.”
“I was saying that it will be remembered as a pretty interesting Hunting Contest.”
"Ah… Yes… So very exciting.”
I slowly turned my gaze away and stared blankly at the seat he had left. Gradually, my head cleared. Immediately, anger began to build up, little by little, from the bottom of my chest.
‘Are you toying with me?’
‘You officially announce that you’re getting married 2 days after confessing to me?!’
‘In addition to that, the eldest daughter of each family will be sent a letter… This means Chloe as well! Didn’t you know?!’
‘Did you confess to me despite knowing this would happen?!’
‘No, really! How can you agree to this decree right after confessing to me? Shouldn’t you have refused it?!’
‘But… What can I say… That's it.’
‘You want a decree? I’ll give you a decree! Ugh! I’ll do it on a grand scale!’
‘Ha! Do you really wanna confess that you like me now?’
'Ha… This is real…'
I spent 2 sleepless nights because of that confession! I was so worried….
The more I thought about it, the angrier I became. My gauge was going to explode.
“My Lady? Your hand… A little…"
When I followed Theodore's wide-eyed gaze, I noticed that I had unwittingly grabbed the fork in my right hand and bent the top.
"Ah… I'm hungry… I should stop."
I put down the fork with difficulty and got up from my seat. I didn't want to be here anymore.
After a brief bow, Theodore hurriedly got up and followed me.
“I will accompany you to the door.”
I glanced at my father and the old Duchess and groaned inwardly once more. I nodded as a sign of permission.
"If the scope is expanded to Counts, a letter will also be delivered to the Elias family. The eldest daughter is Chloe Elias, isn't she?"
"Yes. Like it or not."
The words came out more bluntly than I had expected.
“Chloe, that’s right. The eldest daughter… I really need to go…!”
“You are very lucky, My Lady.”
* This was really MTL. The original MTL was: “Today I realized why so many people are looking for the teeth of a millstone” … Yeah, clear as mud. I looked through the various Korean idioms but couldn’t find anything, then I looked at English idioms and found “looking through a millstone” as well as “carry a millstone around one’s neck”. They have vastly different meanings… The first speaks to how perceptive people can be, the second to be forced to deal with some particularly difficult burden. So, which to choose? Considering that Tara was surprised earlier in the chapter that nobody found Kyle’s demeanour strange, I chose the first meaning related to the powers of perception. I think she is ironically also referring to herself here as well as everybody present. Basically, she didn’t see this coming. Nobody did.