Something brews in the Elias household. Meanwhile, Tara, Kyle and Fred strategize for the future.
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Episode 203. About 10 months (80)
A laundry maid, who also came to help with the work, added.
"I was shocked when I pulled back the curtain! She had such a gleeful expression on her face. She just lay there completely still, laughing. I got goosebumps!"
Victoria's dedicated maid, Margaret, bumped her forearm against the laundry maid's shoulder, and whispered secretively.
“If you think that sounds crazy….”
"What do you mean? Crazy?"
The gossiping maids froze and stared at Margaret with round eyes. Clearly not minding the attention, Margaret glanced around, taking stock of who would listen.
"Haven't you seen the signs since Jason left? On the day his ship left for Gaion, she drank all night, then cried and laughed until dawn."
Margaret whispered the words and shuddered, having experienced 3 years of Victoria's constant verbal abuse.
To that, the skinny brown-haired laundry maid added.
"That's right, yes. There were a lot of maids who said they heard a ghost the next day as well. Oh! Come to think of it… The other day she told me to take out Jason's summer jacket and have it mended because he's going to wear it soon!"
"Oh my God. I'm getting creeped out!"
"Gosh. She's worried about dressing him this summer when he won't come back for three years?"
The laundry maid nodded towards the startled maids, and twirled her fingers at the side of her temple, indicating she thought Victoria was cuckoo.
As if agreeing that the behaviour was odd, the maids exchanged meaningful glances and nodded along.
That was how it started. After that day, rumours that Countess Victoria of House Elias was going crazy spread slowly among the maids and aristocracy, even making its way to the Imperial Palace.
Few people believed all of the rumours, but they were salacious enough to spread quickly.
Central Province's favourite inn - Du Roi - The drawing room.
Fred took three steps back. As if to get an unobstructed view of Kyle and avoid being blocked by the table.
Fred knelt straight down on one knee and placed his right hand on his chest.
A position signifying complete obedience.
“I, Fred Berg, am your humble servant. Even though my skills are lacking, I am deeply moved by the fact that His Highness personally recognized me and waited for this lowly vassal for a whole year. Please forgive your humble subject’s rudeness, Your Highness!"
His rustic manner of speech disappeared in an instant. Fred was speaking firmly and confidently, his voice full of earnest devotion, like a knight pledging his loyalty.
Oh... So he had been trying to recruit him since last year.
“You wished to evaluate my suitability as a potential monarch. I am well aware of this.”
Kyle's voice was pitched low with certainty.
Fred answered. His expression was tense, and he moved to wipe away some sweat running down his temple.
“My apologies, Your Highness.”
“Do not apologize so hastily. It was a life-or-death decision, so your caution was warranted. Also, due to your caution, I anticipated your response all the more."
Fred looked up at Kyle with a determined gaze and continued.
"As your servant, I, Fred Berg, will happily join you and become a part of His Highness's history. I swear with all my heart and soul that everything I do from today to the day I die will be in Your Highness's service!"
Wow. What an intense look in his eyes.
The Second Prince rose from his seat. I also stood up and took a step back.
"Yes, Your Highness!"
"There is only one thing you should keep in mind. Just like how you have carefully contemplated your choice this past year, you must also think about what can be done about the future of the Empire. That will be sufficient."
“Yes, Your Highness. I shall keep that in mind!"
As Kyle held out his right hand, Fred stood up. He took Kyle's hand in both of his with a more serious expression on his face than ever before.
"You will be used in the near future. I will send a message at that time."
"Yes, Your Highness."
As Kyle sat back down, Fred and I followed suit.
With a more relaxed expression on his face, as if he had unloaded all his burdens, Fred asked.
"But, Your Highness, I have a question."
“What do you mean by the 'near future'? Are you implying that history will be made sooner rather than later?”
"Should you not come to the palace and learn the job in advance? A knife that is not used rusts."
"Yes, Your Highness, it will be beneficial to learn the job in advance. Which department and position do you have in mind, Your Highness?"
After taking a sip of his juice, Kyle put down the glass and replied plainly.
"Deputy Finance Minister."
Fred's eyes widened. I had to force myself to swallow the apricot juice that almost spilled back out of my mouth.
Kyle smirked when he caught a glimpse of me.
No way! How can he just throw such unexpected answers out there and be so casual about it!
That was the position the First Prince had been expelled from. No. More precisely, the position would not be properly vacant until the First Prince was found guilty. The First Prince could take it over again, but the probability of that happening was small.
However, anyone could tell you that it would not be easy for someone else to take over the position. There was no way the aristocratic faction supporting the 1st Prince would simply concede to this.
"Your Highness, the position of Deputy Minister of the Treasury was held by the First Prince until recently. Is this even a possibility?"
I questioned cautiously.
"Yes, Your Highness."
"There's a saying."
"What kind of...?
“If something is impossible, make it possible.”
My glance transformed into a glare.
What? Was he a member of the Korean Special Defence Forces?*
Well, he was the Commander-in-chief of the Military after all, so perhaps the saying was fitting.
My rebelliousness leaked away, as I nodded my head slowly in agreement.
In the meantime, Fred took a sip of water, as if attempting to cool his own astonishment. He spoke.
"Your Highness, my status is very humble. And, as you are aware, I am currently deceiving everyone by acting on my cousin's behalf. The position of Deputy Finance Minister will attract so much attention that my origins will inevitably come to light."
"Then we must ensure you have legitimacy in advance. Second Aide, what do you advise we do?"
I stared at him and attempted to curse him with the power of my gaze.
Could he not give me a little notice in advance so I could prepare? I wasn't some kind of jukebox that played music on demand whenever he tossed a few coins my way. Ugh!
“I see that look in your eyes. But we're working right now. So stop trying to intimidate me with that glare."
I sighed inwardly and immediately lowered my gaze.
"Haha. What do you mean by ‘that look’? Your Highness, my eyes are simply full of the desire to give the perfect answer to your question. So don't mistake me...!"
"Alright. Just answer me! Do you need some time?"
“I'll give you five minutes.”
Ugh. This wasn't some sort of death game. Why was the deadline so short?
Nevertheless, him granting me the time limit of 5 minutes meant that I should be able to formulate an answer within that time.
I buried my head in my notebook and covered it with my arm so that he couldn’t see it from the side. Then I began thinking, taking notes as I mulled it over.
[Contents of the notebook:]
[1. Fred Berg is impersonating Charles Berg.
2. The original title belonged to Baron Charles Berg.
3. Both are single and have no descendants to succeed the title.
4. It will be resolved when the death of Baron Charles Berg is declared and Viscount Fred Berg takes over the title.
5. But people are not aware that Baron Charles Berg is already dead.
6. First, Fred Berg’s version of Charles must 'die' in a way that ensures the public knows about it.
7. Only then can Fred Berg take over the title.
8. None of these circumstances can arouse suspicion.
9. To do so, we need to execute the operation at the ideal time.]
As soon as I finished with my notes, I explained my plan right away.
"The solution I came up with has a total of six stages."
"Let's hear it."
I pointed at each of my fingers one by one as I explained.
"First of all, you have to create a rumour that a distant cousin named Fred Berg will be visiting. Second. The day before 'Fred Berg' is scheduled to arrive, Baron Charles Berg, collapses with a heart attack. Phew."
After pausing to take a breath, I continued my explanation.
"Third. A member of the Imperial Guard who has just arrived in Central declares him dead. Four. A large funeral is held. Five. The original late Baron Charles Berg, who has already passed away, is laid to rest in the coffin. I assume the body is currently located in an unmarked grave. It will be up to you to dig it up. Six. Fred Berg arrives and is given the title of Baron. What do you think?"
"It's complicated. The risk of getting caught is too great. Think of a simpler way."
Ah.... I really wanted to punch him.
However, I resisted the urge, and then fell back into thought. I pondered the issue deeply. And after a while, I hurriedly put down the brush pen I had been using.
"Okay, this is a simpler way."
If he rejected this solution as well, then I would refuse to think about it any more.
I explained the revised plan in a firm tone.
After listening to the whole explanation, Kyle pointed out each of the errors in my proposed steps and briefly corrected them.
"Ah, that's definitely more plausible, Your Highness."
I accepted the changes with pleasure, and Fred Berg immediately confirmed his agreement.
"I agree as well, Your Highness."
He nodded slightly, then glanced curiously at Kyle and me.
"Why are you looking at me like that?"
Fred laughed at my inquiry and answered the question I had been curious about since the first day I arrived here. That is, why I had been sent to assist with Fred's decision.
“The people next to His Highness are truly unique. After watching the Second Aide and His Highness discuss this issue so openly and draw conclusions together, I am very much looking forward to the various government affairs that we will work on together in the future. I also now understand why His Highness sent the Second Aide to me. I must have been staring without realizing it."
Hearing Fred's words, I snapped my fingers.
"Oh! I see. If so, can you tell me specifically how my presence influenced your decision?"
Editor’s Notes -
The amount of subtle banter going on between Tara and Kyle in this chapter is so much fun!
* Here Tara is referencing the motto of the Korean Army’s Special Warfare Command division (also known as the R.O.K. Special Forces or the “Black Berets”), which is 안 되면 되게 하라 'Make Impossible Possible'.Thanks to Thamalasca for catching this for me!
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