Updated: Aug 21
Tara and Kyle further discuss and Fred and negotiate how to go about their visit to Reese Castle and their newly-found 'relationship'.
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Episode 205. About 10 months (82)
"Many aristocrats and Palace administrators don't care about improving the standard of living for the people. Rather, they try to increase their wealth or reputation in the Empire, or better said, in the Imperial Palace. Everyone says they think of the people, but they're more focused on maintaining their status."
"Yes, that's their mindset. It won't change easily. Even with education, there are limits. However, Fred Berg has a differing underlying mindset. I believe the Palace administration should be done for the sake of the Empire's people. A shift in attitude is never easy."
"What is the second point?"
"Secondly, he has the excellent motivation and implementation abilities to realize this ideal and achieve his goals. His budget execution never deviates from within the set amount, and he always makes the most out of it and prioritizes his intended goals. That efficiency means he's good with administration."
"There are very few people with great administrative skills like Fred or I."
When I nodded in agreement, he raised an eyebrow.
"Clearly you’ve chosen the wrong teacher," he said.
I looked at him with confusion, and he spoke the next words as if generously conceding.
"Ah, well, I'll take it easy on you because you're doing well for your age."
"It's not just that I'm doing well, I'm very quick and efficient, Your Highness."
"Is that so? Well, to a certain extent."
"No, not just to a certain extent...!"
I trailed off. Kyle's hand was hovering in the air.
Come to think of it, it looked like he had paused mid-air while trying to pet my hair.
I stared up at the shaky hand that was floating near my head.
"Perhaps my hand stopped because I was so terribly shocked. May I?"
What? Ah... I suddenly remembered him trying to pat my head before the business trip.
Naturally, heat rose to my face.
I had completely given up trying to cool my face every time I blushed.
Without answering, I nodded slowly and he patted my head a couple of times.
"Yes, you're doing very well."
What? Was I enjoying this? It felt like I was being cared for, which tickled my heart.
"Hmm. By the way, how are you going to get the vice-minister seat? Since you’ll take over anyway, isn't it more advantageous to secure the position of Minister of Finance between the two?"
Kyle, looking regretfully at my hands, pushed his chair backwards and stood up while organizing the scattered documents on the table.
"There's a passage in Hamut's Handbook that says, 'The fertile land everyone wants belongs to the one who desires it only when their power and the time match...'?"
"It belongs to the one who desires it only when their power and the time match...? Chichi...!"*
I said it before I could stop myself.
Fortunately, he didn't say 'bong' and just closed his mouth.**
Oh, chichi my foot! Now it's gotten weird!
"Ah, I made a slip of the tongue. Hahaha. Well, I understand. What it means. You're saying that if you hide your claws as much as you can and wait for the perfect moment, you win."
I quickly changed the subject. Still frowning, he nodded.
"Sometimes you say weird things."
"By the way, how can Fred, who's rather unknown, become vice-minister?"
"The Emperor still makes the final decision."
For a moment, I blankly stared at Kyle and thought of his words when he interrogated me.
"Oh! Like I did back then?"
"Yes. You have to sacrifice a little. Of course, you'll gain a lot in return."
Yes, I gave the Emperor the patent for the heart medicine and half of Jason's properties, bringing in the right for Elias Pharmaceuticals to use the Imperial insignia.
As a result, House Elias avoided punishment and received many investment offers because our credibility and recognition increased.
So, he was saying he was going to strike a deal.
It was as if a lightbulb turned on in my head.
I was so curious about what kind of deal he was going to strike that I was about to ask, holding all the documents I had organized to my chest.
"That’s enough. That's enough work. It's time to move on to my personal schedule. We’re running late."
"Will you come with me?" He asked neutrally, but his eyes were fixated on my face.
Having become used to his gaze, I nodded unwaveringly.
"Yes, I will."
He raised one eyebrow in surprise, but the corners of his mouth lifted as if he had suddenly relaxed.
"But I have a condition."
"As expected, it's you. Tell me. Anything."
Instead of leaving, I sat back down at the table and folded my arms, smiling cheerfully like a genie with unlimited possibilities at my fingertips.
Would he accept my condition? Trying wouldn't hurt.
"You're hiding your identity anyway, so I hope we can be equals."
Of course, I knew he’d frown, but his expression didn't change that much.
"Yes. I'll acknowledge our age difference, but not Your Highness' status. Regardless of my position, I just want to spend it with you like a normal couple... No, I want to spend it with you on equal grounds. Then I'll accompany you."
He stroked his chin and stared at me without saying a word. As if he was looking at a strange animal.
I waited for him without averting my eyes. It didn't take long.
"Is that all?"
"One more thing."
"It absolutely has to be a secret. Our, um, I don't want other people to know about this new relationship. If we get caught, I'll just go back to the Capital."
"You heard me. Why shouldn't it be public?"
Suddenly, his face hardened and his voice chilled.
‘You already know why. What's wrong?’
"You know very well why."
"I want to hear it from your mouth. Why?"
I frowned slightly.
"Well, of course, the Crown Princess selection will be held soon. When word gets out that you have a 'relationship' with me, an aide, hmm, it won't be good for your future. It's also not good for me to be involved with rumours surrounding Your Highness while the Selection is still happening. There's no benefit if it's known."
"Okay, I'll do that."
Kyle, whose voice had finally softened, briefly nodded.
"Your Highness, aren't you tired of keeping secrets?"
"Oh, I don't like it. But there's nothing we can do about it."
True. But, if he knew, why did he make me say it out loud?
"Your Highness, why did you ask me to tell you when you already knew?"
I pouted with an unsatisfied expression at the vague answer.
"I thought there might've been another reason," he said stiffly.
"I don't want to tell you."
I just stared at him with narrowed eyes.
"If that's the case, Your Highness, I won't answer your questions from now on."
He opened his mouth right away. "It doesn't matter."
"I want to hear the reason that 'doesn't matter'. Why? What made you want to hear me say it?"
"... I just thought you still felt burdened with me."
I forgot he could overwhelm me like this.
It meant he only cared about my feelings!
I turned around to hide my flushed cheeks and coughed.
"Well, is that all?"
"Then what name should I call you by?"
"Oh, I haven't thought about that..."
"Call me by my first name."
Startled, I turned to him.
I wanted to spend time on equal footing, but I felt replacing his title with his first name was a bit much.
So far, the only people in the Empire who could call him 'Kyle' were the Imperial Family. Even amongst them, only the Emperor and Empress could do so.
On the other hand, after thinking again about calling him by his name, it suddenly seemed exciting and fun.
"Are you serious?"
"Yes, we have to call each other by our first names if we’re going to be equal."
"Great. We've agreed on the conditions!"
Dang dang dang.
I was afraid he would withdraw his words, so I immediately tapped on the table as if I was hitting it with a judge’s gavel.
When I extended my right arm, he also reached out and took my hand. I shook his hand vigorously.
"No regrets. There's no turning back. Hehe."
"What's with that excited and happy face?"
"Ah. I've been caught, but I can't help it. Then I’m going to get ready!"
"I'll see you in half an hour."
"Yes, Your Highness. I'll be in the carriage! Hehehe."
"... Is it really that nice being allowed to call me by my name?"
Bingo! Of course!
If not now, when else would I be able to speak my mind and say everything I wanted to say to him?!
He looked quite serious when he turned around and walked to the door.
Either way, I hurriedly opened the door and rushed up to my dorm, thinking of calling him 'Kyle' to my heart's content.
I couldn't stop laughing.
I couldn't believe I could call the Second Prince by his name and have an equal relationship with him!
Additionally, being allowed to call him by his first name without honorifics or surnames meant we were closer.
Because of that, it felt like we were slowly stepping into each other's territory.
My heart seemed to soften a little.
But our first date? Contrary to my expectations, it didn't go quite as smoothly.
It was just past noon.
The messenger from the Palace took Kyle's letter and left straight for Reese Castle. It would probably arrive two hours earlier than our carriage.
The three knights, Mark, Paul and Edman, who had been with us in the Central Province, returned to their units, promising to meet again.
Fred decided to put the plan wemade together into practice exactly 15 days later.
If the plan was carried out steadily, Fred Berg would be the first step towards the formation of Prince Kyle's cabinet.
Fred politely saw us off.
The door of the carriage we were going to ride in had a picture of a snake on a pile of golden coins on it.
It looked like some kind of family crest.
I was so excited at the thought of calling the Second Prince by his name and got into the carriage without paying much attention to the crest.
However, when I saw the inside, my excitement fizzled out like bubbling soda, and I collapsed into the chair without realizing it.
* 찌찌 (chichi) is reference to a Korean kid’s game. When two people say the same thing at the same time, one of them would quickly say 찌찌뽕 (chichibong) and pinch the other. Some variants of this game include touching the other person’s nipples/chest because 찌찌 (chichi) also means ‘nipples’. It's the same concept as saying, "jinx!" in English after saying the same thing at the same time.
** 뽕 (bong) is part of the game and what you would say after 찌찌 (chichi)
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