Updated: Sep 16
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Where Hans starts to put his next evil plan into action and Tara defends herself against an intruder.
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Episode 163. About 10 months (40)
He didn’t have to wonder for long.
She was struggling to grab something from the bookshelf that covered one of the walls.
The tension that had accumulated in Kyle’s body instantly disappeared the moment he saw her.
“Why can’t I get it? This is so hard…” She said.
Her right arm stretched out and she was standing on her toes. Her fingers fumbled through the bookshelf from time to time, barely grazing the files.
Kyle strode towards his aide, and at the same time she thought…
First Prince's residence, the annex’s parlor.
Hans visited the First Prince’s residence under guise of checking the Ministry of Finance’s financial statements. After waiting an hour, he was still not able to meet the 1st Prince.
Hans remained unfazed, as if he had just arrived.
The embers of the small stove a servant had given him to warm up his hands had since long cooled off.
‘It’s such a shame.’
The First Prince, who once held the title of Deputy Minister of Finance, seemed unwilling to meet him.
Hans didn’t care, even though the appointment he’d made two days ago was ignored. The person he wanted to meet was not the First Prince.
About 30 minutes passed when the person he wanted to meet appeared. Prince Franz’s First Assistant, Jim Harriet.
“You waited a long time, what should I say? These days, the First Prince is not feeling well…”
Hans didn't believe it.
He didn’t believe it because he knew through his spy that the First Prince had been drinking all week ever since the Hunting Contest ended.
“Oh my god, I was nearly rude because I didn’t know about that, First Assistant.”
"Haha, don’t worry. Thank you for meeting me here for the Ministry of Finance."
Jim Harriet, the First Prince's closest confidant, was the son of the Empress's nanny.
Jim had been taking care of the First Prince since a young age, and his main task was to report to the Empress when the First Prince screwed up, rather than work as an Aide.
So, technically, he was a watchman, not an assistant.
Unfortunately, Jim wanted more than what his abilities would grant him.
So, to increase his standing and raise his reputation, he often disguised the proposals by Aides below him as his own, and somehow found flaws in talents with extraordinary brains and drove them away from the First Prince’s side.
He has stood next to the First Prince for 10 years. Now, all the First Prince’s aides were suited to Jim’s taste.
This was the reason why Hans wanted to meet Jim Harriet.
Hans begun praising Jim Harriet by occasionally waving his hand and recounting his achievements.
Those weren’t, in fact, his own, but the achievements of Aides who had worked in the First Imperial Palace.
He said, “I heard that the First Assistant introduced the Ministry of Finance’s accounting system unification. Moreover, you also saved on the spending for the construction of the Imperial Palace, using prisoners as laborers. Additionally…!”
"Haha. Stop it, you’re flattering me too much.”
Jim Harriet could not stop the smile that stretched over his face. Hans bowed deeply in acknowledgment.
“It’s an honour to meet such a legendary man in person. Although you’re away now, I have no doubts that you’ll be working with the Ministry of Finance again soon, First Assistant.”
"Ah, It’s an honour, senior.”
“Yes, I heard that you’re very sincere. I never thought I’d be recognized as such an important figure in the Ministry of Finance, haha. That feeling is new.”
“I was really looking forward to meeting the First Prince when I came here, but I’m really happy to meet you as well, sir.”
“Haha, stop it. It’s good that the new administrators have such a fresh attitude and overflowing enthusiasm. Yes. What documents are you looking for?”
The documents in question were already piled up on Hans’ desk.
“Instead of documents, my visit concerns the exact budget details for maintaining social order in the Northern city of Hoi Du in the budget execution results of last year. All of it, sir.”
"Why so suddenly?"
“There’s been no report from the Ministry of Public Security yet, but there are rumours that they will apply for a budget to maintain social order soon, so it’d be good to be prepared.”
“Haha… Oh dear, it’s true that His Highness is the social order and budget infrastructure’s general manager, but… Hmm…”
Jim muttered the words, describing what was bothering him, and trailed off.
It was the First Prince, who thought it was a virtue to entrust subordinates with practical tasks.
Obviously, the First Prince Franz Amure was the head of the budget execution, but the fact that he probably didn't know anything about it could put Jim at risk.
However, he was deeply troubled by the fact that he was in a position where he could not tell his juniors who were unfamiliar with these matters.
“I came here to ask for your opinion, because the First Prince has a reputation for handling the affairs of the Ministry of Finance very neatly, but I didn’t get the timing right and I made it difficult for myself, senior.”
Jim pretended to drink tea, carefully examining Hans's face.
“It was a long time ago, and, well, the Ministry of Public Security has not yet received a request for a budget execution… But why the hell would an administrator like you come all the way here for a rumour?”
“When malicious rumours that can shake the foundations of the Empire, the formation of forbidden underground gatherings, or group actions that break the social order arise, the Ministry of Public Security dispatches people to the area and provides the budget necessary to restore order.”
Hans sighed and looked around as if he was in trouble. In an instant, Jim's curiosity was sparked.
“There are no rats here. Yes, what kind of rumours are you talking about that relate to the budget execution?”
He thought it might not be a common rumour.
"Because the rumour I dared to speak of is terrible…"
“Haha, it’s okay. If it’s a serious rumour, shouldn’t His Highness the First Prince, know about it in advance?”
Hans glanced around him once more, as if he was reluctant, and then he leaned his upper body forward and whispered softly.
“It seems to be related to the incident involving the Second Prince when he was young, sir.”
Jim's eyes grew to the size of saucers.
“You mean His Highness Second Prince Kyle Amure?”
“What the hell?”
“Do you remember the rumours about an obscure cursed mercenary group 12 years ago, sung about in a song?”
“Yes. At that time, the local children were singing this song. At first, I left it alone, but when the song spread too far, the security department cracked down on it because it damaged the Imperial Family’s image.”
"Yes. But these days, the song is being sung again, and the last phrase is attached to the contents of the mercenary corps."
Hans recited the key verses in a low voice.
“Mercenaries have no conscience. They’ll do anything for money. Then, they found an illegitimate child in hiding and slaughtered everyone in his house.”
“… Was the illegitimate child mentioned the Second Prince? Heh heh, do you think this rumour is based on facts?"
Hans straightened himself again. And as if nothing happened, he casually started speaking, as if he was simply explaining the knowledge he had gained.
“Rumours tend to be exaggerated. It’s a song from 12 years ago, and although the content is brutal, it doesn’t affect the current court, so I’m not too worried. However, we’ve seen countless powerful people collapse because of rumours, so we need to put a stop to it early. Hahaha.”
“In fact, people use rumours to get back at each other in their own households. It’s okay if it’s a simple rumour, but as you said, if that rumour corrupts and spreads all over the Empire, the image of the Second Prince…!”
Jim didn’t say anything and leapt to his feet.
"Why… Is everything okay, senior?"
“Where did this rumour spread first?”
“It seems to have started in the Southwest first. A few days ago, a colleague of mine was out on a vacation in the Empire’s largest coast city, Doki-ri, and he told me he’d heard children singing it all over the place.”
“Southwest, okay. Yes, you can go. I’ll be sure to tell His Highness about it.”
Jim urgently ran out the drawing room. Hans looked at Jim’s disappearing figure and blew on his cold hands.
“Now, all we have to do is wait…?”
I was struggling in the Second Prince's bedroom.
No, it would be more appropriate to say that I was whining in front of his bookshelf.
Why the hell was it in the top row? Were you proud of being so tall, Prince Kyle?
I lifted my heels as high as I could for my hard-to-reach fingers.
I wanted to bring a chair from outside, but I felt like I could reach it if I stretched out my hand a little more, so I stood on the tips of my toes.
A little bit more. Yes, yes, I got it!
But at the same time, I felt a strong presence behind me.
Someone’s hard figure suddenly touches the back of my startled, stiff body.
I turned around reflexively and at the same time, I instinctively elbowed the intruder with all my strength.
It was hard armour. A sharp pain jolted through me. It hurt.
I looked up and frowned. Second Prince Kyle was staring down at me.
He made a pained sound with a face that did not seem hurt at all.
“Huh. Your Highness!”
“Why are you surprised? You’re the intruder.”
He was very tall. I leaned back against the bookshelf and, to look at him, I had to lean my head back as far as possible.
Likewise, he regarded me, standing close to me and holding my raised wrist. His hand was as big as one of my fists.
Despite the situation, my body strangely didn’t move. I swallowed.
‘Didn't you say you'd only be here by tomorrow morning?’
I was bewildered and startled because I had firmly believed that I wouldn’t meet him, so I looked up at him and slowly opened my mouth.