In which Tara confronts the Baron.
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Episode 193. About 10 months (70)
When he turned his head towards the scream, to his surprise, the inspection leader who was walking right next to him, was already diving into the well by stepping onto the surrounding wooden boards.
He literally leapt up, stepped lightly onto the wooden boards that covered the well and jumped into the well without hesitation.
At the same time, the knight named Walter, who had accompanied the inspector as an escort, followed his leader and ran to the well.
Boyle only saw them about two seconds ago. It happened so quickly he was stunned and disoriented.
'What? Do inspectors have special training these days?'
Chris sorted the letters that needed to be delivered to his master one by one and sealed each document in an envelope.
"This is from the Military. This is from the Ministry of Security. This is from the Imperial Palace. This is Elias. This is, wait. Elias? No, the 2nd Aide Lady Tara left with the Lord, so why is there a letter? Except for the Lady, there were no requests to collect information on the family?"
Chris tilted his head at the letter that had appeared while the subject of surveillance was not present.
"Captain, we have to leave now, so we can get there before sundown."
A messenger was waiting to leave for Central Castle.
Since the location of his master during the business trip had been clearly scheduled, he had to deliver the letter to him according to the manual.
Chris, who was about to take out the Elias family letter, stopped at a sudden thought.
Yes. At the hunting grounds, Walter had been punished for not communicating properly. It was the master who decided whether information was necessary or unnecessary.
Chris put the Elias family letter in the envelope and sealed it.
"They will be staying at the Central Castle until tomorrow, so deliver this right away."
I organized my thoughts and looked at Paul.
"Sir Paul, would you please step outside for a moment?"
"I have something to say to the Baron. I think you can report this situation to the leader as it is. I'll take responsibility."
Paul looked worried, then nodded and went outside.
The Baron, who was staring at me, slightly tilted his upper body towards me.
“Are you done organizing your thoughts?”
"Yes. My confused thoughts have been sorted out. First of all, I'd like to know why the funds were adjusted and why the adjustments were made arbitrarily without reporting them according to the procedure."
The Baron looked at me and answered, gently rubbing his chin.
"Before that, I want to ask why you inquired about that twice."
I kind of expected it, but…
"That means you've already explained all the strange parts of the documents to the inspection team, that is, to the leader."
"To be more precise, I've reported everything to the Second Prince."
"Ah! I see."
The Second Prince revealed his identity. This meant that it was irrelevant whether the Baron knew Prince Kyle's identity.
"That was two months before you came here."
Prince Kyle already knew those documents were strange and asked the Baron for an explanation, so he knew why the Baron arbitrarily adjusted the funds. That was also two months before I made plans for a business trip.
Nevertheless, the fact that the Baron was still in charge of the Central Axis project meant that he condoned the Baron's actions. In other words, he accepted the unauthorized financial adjustments without any sanctions.
Therefore, it can be inferred that the Baron's arbitrary adjustment of the funds didn’t harm the Central Axis project.
I wanted to be like the Second Prince, but I wondered once again when he had started his work and how far ahead he was planning everything.
"His Highness didn't take any issue with it."
"It's only natural, there were no problems."
The Baron looked at me from an angle and twitched a little.
"You've messed up the administrative process. Reallocating funds by informally adjusting documents meant that you could embezzle funds if you had bad intentions. The fact that you didn't take this into account means that you might have already been punished for it. Did you get punished?"
The Baron's eyes gleamed as he stared at me.
"I was given a heavy fine."
"I didn't see a record of the fine."
The Baron grinned with delight at my question.
"There's still time left to pay the fine, so I haven't paid it yet."
Why are you laughing? No way!
I furrowed my eyebrows at the sudden thought.
"When are you going to pay the fine?"
"The fine will expire after 20 years. Hahaha."
The Baron grinned pleasantly.
This was the Second Prince's arrangement.
Why? By any chance…
"Did the arbitrary adjustments help?"
The Baron shrugged, neither confirming nor denying. However, it seemed likely from the raised corners of his lips.
I leaned on my chin and pondered Kyle's intentions. But the Baron did not wait for me.
"Come on. I'd like you to leave because I have to prepare for a dinner meeting."
"Are you meeting His Highness?"
"Ask that yourself, Ms. Administrator. No, you work in the Second Prince's Palace. So, what's your exact job title?"
The Baron put his hands on the table and tried to get up.
Yes, although I'm still young, I'm still Prince Kyle's 2nd Aide! The Prince's aide may not be taken seriously, but I shouldn't easily step down from a challenge.
The Second Prince asked me to find out about his intentions in coming to the Central Provinces.
That meant that the Second Prince would never tell me what was going on. I have to consider it on my own and come up with a conclusion. To do that, I have to stay here and dig up information.
When I didn't answer the Baron's question, deep in thought, he tapped on the desk.
“So, what’s your job title as an administrator?”
"My questions aren't done yet."
"There will be no further questions asked. Even if you did, it would've been a question about the voluntary adjustment of the funds anyway. Right? And you didn't answer my question, but you want me to answer yours?"
The Baron scooted his chair backwards and got up completely, looking down at me. Then he pointed at the door with his chin and added his last words.
"And I'm not the type of person to say it twice."
I couldn't help it if it ended like this. So, I had no choice but to answer the questions I had before entering this house.
"Really? Then what about this question? Is this also a question that you've answered twice?"
The Baron, who was about to turn around, slowly set his eyes on me again at my question.
"What does that mean?"
"Where is Baron Charles Berg?"
The Baron's, no, the fake Baron's eyes grew to the largest size I'd seen today.
"Is he dead? Or... Did you kill him?"
The room was suddenly enveloped in deep silence.
"Hey, what nonsense is that?"
The man roared and backed away. Then he was blocked by his chair and couldn't back up any farther.
"You're aware of it the most. You're not Baron Charles Berg. Does His Highness know that?"
The man gulped and rolled his eyes without confirming or denying it.
"His Highness knows it too."
"Why, how am I not the Baron?"
"How did the Second Prince know that you weren't the Baron?"
He just sat still and looked up to me, pretending once again.
"I don't even know what you're talking about."
Look at how flustered he was. Was he that bad at acting?
"Six months ago, he accepted the Military's request to join the Central Axis project as an architect. After immediately obtaining Military approval, he became the general designer and manager of the Central Axis project. Since you keep denying it, I want to compare profiles. Are you 67 years old?"
"I couldn't tell from afar, but if you look closely, you don't look like you're in your 60s. Besides, I can see that you're wearing make-up to make yourself look wrinkled. I know someone who puts on make-up, but they're better at it. Maybe it worked for a while. However, the signs of trying to look older are unavoidable. You're not 67 years old, are you?"
"If you don't have an answer, I'll take that as a yes."
"You know my profile like the back of your hand, but... Isn't it too big of a stretch to say that I'm not Baron Charles Berg just because I don't look 67 years old?"
"Is that all? I know this is your hometown, but your accent is foreign. Of course, this may be because you've lived in the capital for a long time. But there's one fact that can't be ignored."
"What is it?"
"His Highness the Second Prince knows about it, right?"
The man sighed deeply as if he'd given up and sat down again.
"Tell me first what fact can't be ignored."
The man's voice was weaker than before. Additionally, his voice, which had been husky just a moment ago, had become softer and more mellow.
"Because of the chronic illness."
"What's wrong with that...?"
The man gulped down his remaining water.
"As far as I know, the Baron's chronic illness is incurable."
The man unbuttoned one of the buttons on his shirt, feeling warm.
"It probably progressed slowly for a long time. Exhaustion, lethargy, discomfort in the limbs, lack of emotional control. Your range of facial expressions would've disappeared and the way you walk or your posture would've changed. Did that happen?"
The man was silent.
"It probably happened with the original Baron. Additionally, his speech would've gradually deteriorated, and he would've recognized the severity of the disease in the end because he wouldn't be able to feel his arms shaking and his legs moving. The symptoms would've gotten worse, eventually leading to various motor dysfunctions."
"What if I was cured?"
"According to my research, this disease is difficult to cure. You can only slow down the disease. However, if he collapsed, it means the disease had progressed past the intermediate stage. If so..."
I paused for a moment and took a sip. The man couldn't contain his curiosity and urged me.
I put down my glass of water and spoke clearly.
"Then the person in front of me wouldn’t be sitting here."