Updated: Feb 4
(Image to be updated)
In which Tara runs into a person she'd rather not see after running away from Kyle.
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Episode 175. About 10 months (52)
She smiled happily, wondering if she liked being recognized by Kyle.
“Hehe. Yes. Thank you.”
She bowed my head.
Kyle said to her, “Walk and listen,” and started walking.
Naturally, she followed and walked next to him.
“Do you know what the Central Castle and fortresses mean to the Empire?”
She had told him enough, but Kyle wondered how much she knew about Central Castle.
It didn't matter to him that the people around him looked curiously at them as they walked slowly and chatted.
Work-related conversations always sharpened his nerves, but conversations with her made him comfortable.
This didn’t mean that he was neglecting his work, but the burden on his mind was certainly lighter than before.
‘It’s the same as in the hunting ground parlour.’
The strange experience of that day was now becoming familiar.
She spoke and then tapped the surface of the wrapped report with her index finger.
“The Central Castle and its fortresses house the most Imperial Military supplies. In addition, they serve as intermediate defence areas in the event of an enemy invasion and it’s the place where the largest number of civilian refugees can be accommodated. Also, it’s the tallest castle built by the Military. It’s a key point that can transmit war signals to the farthest places.”
“And it’s been a long time.”
"Yes. So, about three years ago, the Military posted a central building project to the National Assembly, and the budget review was continuously delayed. It was passed this Winter and this time it was put on hold.”
"Who’s in charge?"
“67-year-old Baron Charles Berg, retired due to chronic illness, took over at the request of the Military. The fact that the Baron's hometown is Preston, a small town in the Central Province, also played a part, but I think it’s because they acknowledged his lengthy experience as a designer at the Palace. However, his disease…”
"What about his disease?”
“I heard that he collapsed due to progressive dyskinesia, but it’s amazing that he got up again after two months.”
"Why is that?"
“I think we need to find out more.”
"Why, is it related to the Central Axis project?" Kyle asked, staring at her as she tilted her head.
“Not at the moment.”
“Yes, the more information, the better… And?"
“It’s been four months since the foundation work began, and we expect it to be completed sometime next winter, but Your Highness wants it to progress faster.”
“… Why do you think I want it to progress faster?"
“After using the essential Military budget, you’re organizing the non-essential budget. You’ve already secured the available budget for March out of the entire Military budget, and you’re working on the paperwork to submit it to the Military budget meeting.”
“How did you know we’re going to use it in the Central Province?”
“I saw the additional Ministry of Central Affair’s recruitment announcement and the memo titled, ‘Expected Deadline and Budget Increase in case of a Schedule Change’ sent by the construction manager while I was organizing the aide’s office last time. Hehehe.”
He had to admit that she was good at her job.
“The accommodation will be Du Roi.”
“Yes! I will send them an official notice in advance.”
Kyle laughed again. He had no idea that he’d wear so many hats in such a short time.
Caught up in pleasant emotions, he stopped walking without realizing it.
He raised his hand to pat Tara on the shoulder as he would any of his subordinates.
"Oh, I'll go and send an official note then!"
She quickly moved to the side and sprinted away.
Kyle was frozen. Amazed and dumbfounded, he stared at her as she left, his hand hanging in the air.
“… This much?”
Foreign feelings engulfed his body.
Anger, irritation, self-loathing, and a strangely boiling desire to win.
Kyle rolled his hand in the air and slowly walked again, gazing fiercely at the place where Tara had run away to.
And, as it always did before a battle, his heart rate gradually slowed down.
His heart sank calmer than ever, as if he’d been splashed all over with cold water. Cynicism spontaneously burst out.
“It's okay. I didn't think it was going to be easy anyway... Yes, it's no fun if it's easy.”
Was it about avoiding something too unpleasant? It was kind of awkward, however... I supposed it had just been a compliment, but I'd reacted too sensitively.
I kept thinking about his confession, and I got so engrossed in those thoughts… The Prince might have already dismissed it as something that never happened…
It could be… Maybe I was overreacting.
Who told him to confess like that?
Ever since that day, I could count on my fingers how many nights I'd slept well!
I kept looking at him whenever we met... Haha... It was driving me crazy.
Well, it was a shocking confession, so my mental state might not be fully intact... Yes, yes.
It was impossible to think normally in this situation. But how long would it be like this?
Damn… I didn’t know!
All kinds of thoughts were jumbled up in my head. I blamed myself, comforted myself, and ended up justifying it to myself.
This situation kept repeating.
So, I simply went to the Ministry of Finance to get the documents for the Military budget.
And when I saw a man approaching me a few steps ahead, I had no choice but to stop.
It was Button!
It was him. Button- Hans Button, and another person were walking towards the exit with their hands behind their backs, talking to one another.
I swallowed and moved again.
Andrei's assigned investigator had yet to find any information about Hans Button.
All I'd heard was that they were gathering information about where he lived.
I walked slowly, turning my eyes towards him.
He was a couple of steps ahead of me.
His gaze, which had moved away from me, quickly returned, and soon rested on me.
And then he stopped walking as well.
“Oh, it’s Lady Tara Elias!”
He spoke with a smirk and his voice was rather high-pitched, like metal scratching on iron.
"Yes, it’s been a while, Aide.”
He politely dismissed the person he was with and signalled him to leave first.
Then the man naturally left. It was only us now.
I looked at Hans Button, trying to stay calm.
A beaming smile. At first glance, it looked like a very kind smile, but since I had already learned about him from Kim, his cold eyes made me feel a slightly chilly.
I had seen those eyes during the exam, but I couldn't get used to them…
“I heard you were promoted from the regular aide’s office to the Second Prince’s office, and to the rank of Second Aide as well. You’re one of the fastest promoted amongst your peers.”
I wanted to take a step back, but I put up with it.
"Yes, I was lucky. Now then."
I vaguely greeted him and tried to leave, but he stepped forward slightly faster, as if blocking me, so I moved back.
“Oh, you're busy. Congratulations, My Lady. I'm very curious about how you got recognition so quickly from a motivation standpoint. If you have time, I'd like to hear your opinion. Hahaha.”
“… I don’t know. I just worked hard. I must go now."
This time, I made sure to say goodbye and walked past him. He gently pulled himself back, with a smile still on his face.
As I quickly marched away, I heard his high-pitched voice behind my back.
“There may be a day when you’ll need my help to take care of House Elias, or the strict Second Prince. I hope we can talk with a smile next time, My Lady. Hahaha!”
Elias? Did my family’s name really just come out of that guy's mouth so naturally?
When Hans said my family’s name, I was overcome by a very strange feeling.
I slowly turned around and saw him smiling brightly.
That smile, that face, and that back-handed posture was extremely repulsive.
I didn’t want him to see that I left this place as if I was running away after hearing those words and that mocking laughter.
"Third Aide, Hans Button."
He looked at me with a somewhat puzzled expression since I had called him again. But he still had a smile on his face.
"Yes, My Lady?"
“In the Palace, I’m the Second Aide. And I don’t want anyone’s help in my work for my family. So, I refuse your help. Goodbye.”
After saying those words, I slowly turned around and ascended the stairs calmly, unlike before.
Even without looking, I could clearly feel that Hans Button was staring at my back.
Damn. I'd have to get promoted quickly and see if the Second Prince also had any first-class information related to him!
The 2nd Imperial Palace's aide's office.
When Walter, who had just come to deliver the documents, came into the aide’s office, I wanted to report something.
“Captain. The Order of the Phoenix has sent the personal information of the three knights who will accompany you on the business trip. There will be a total of five people, including the manager. I sent an official letter saying that you will be planning to stay for two nights at Du Roi, an inn in Central Province. I’ll send it to you soon, so it'll probably arrive early on Monday.”
I also explained other matters concerning the preparation of the transfer horses at each stop and the travel expenses approved by the Ministry of Finance for Monday. And when I delivered the simple meal menu from the inn, Walter whistled.
"Oh my God! Everything Nick said about you doing a really, really good job is true."
It was embarrassing but I thought I should take the compliment with gratitude.
"Hehe. Yep. I think I'm doing pretty well. Are you accompanying the Prince on his personal schedule?"
"That should be the case."
I tilted my head and asked.
"Does His Highness often move without escorts?"
“Ah! Unlike the other Princes, His Highness only has escorts to official events at the Imperial Palace. If he had escorts while working for the Military or the Ministry of Security, they could interfere with his mobility and aren’t easy to plan for.”
As he was about to leave the office, Walter suddenly turned around.
“By the way, are you working so hard because you want to become an 1st Aide sooner? I heard you’ll be recognized by your family if you become an 1st Aide.”
I stopped trying to tidy my desk and answered with a twinkle in my eyes.
"Yes, I can’t wait to be one!”
In response to my answer, Walter stroked his chin for a moment.
“Is there any way to get promoted faster?”
There was no answer to this question.
"Well, I’m just starting out as the 2nd Aide, so I’ll have to wait a long time, right?"
I shrugged and started cleaning my desk so I could go home.
"Well, how about joining us on this business trip?"
I raised my head. Walter looked at the business trip schedule I had arranged and said it as if it was nothing.
“Isn’t the promotion score on business trips quite high?”
“Yes, but… It’s been less than a week since I became the 2nd Aide, and he said he wouldn’t take me because of his personal schedule… It’s not something I can help.”