Updated: 4 days ago
Tara braces for her punishment, and gets a possible reprieve?
This chapter is dedicated to Lycaon! Thank you so much for your generous support and comments!
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Episode 21. 90 kg (8)
“Do it here. I don’t want my family to witness it. Please.”
“...Well, I don't like causing a commotion either. Nick, take the boy out, get the whip and do it!"
"What? Me?" The knight asked, looking quite taken aback.
At his question, the Prince turned his gaze on him.
"My God, Your Highness. A noblewoman... Well, I have executed many military leaders before...."
"Do you have an objection?"
"But I... How could I.. to a woman..."
"Nick, go to the practice grounds and stand by! And get someone who will do it!"
"Ah. Your Highness! I've made a mistake."
The knight named Nick immediately knelt and bowed his head.
"Insubordination is death. I won't say it twice. Leave and stand by!"
The knight stood immediately and left the office.
"Chris, you do it."
"Yes, Your Highness!" The knight, who held Niels's other side, answered.
Then they dragged Niels out of the office.
For a moment, the office lay silent, his grey eyes drilling into me.
Insubordination is death.
As time passed, the fear I had forced down slowly began to creep back in.
This wasn't Korea. It was a world where life and death hinged on a single word. A world where people with absolute power existed.
I had tried to fool such a person without fear… I gulped.
Don't be scared. Stay alert. I needed to take responsibility for it.
“I'm giving you one last chance. If you don't take it, I'll let it go. Of course, though, that boy will be punished."
The Prince examined my expression, still sitting behind the desk.
"Well...I could be more generous. If the lady apologizes, says she will never again carelessly brandish her tongue and quietly restrains herself, then the boy's punishment and the offence of sedition may be slightly waived. Now, what do you say?"
An enticing offer.
For a moment, I was tempted to ask him how much of a reduction he would give me.
Damn it! I shouldn't even be considering it. Was my homework truly that important? I wouldn't go against my conscience.
This was going to hurt a lot, wasn't it? How was I going to ever make it through this? Argh... No. Why was I letting my courage crumble at the slightest push from him?*
The arrogant look on his face said he was expecting me to give up and I wanted to crush it.
“There is no turning back, Your Highness.”
"Hmm. So you say."
The sound of the office door opening seemed louder than thunder. The knight named Chris walked in, and in his hand was a thick black whip.
A real whip, the kind I'd only ever seen in movies before. A tangled coil of hardened leather...
It was hideous.
Fearing that all the courage I had worked so hard to summon would disappear in an instant, I immediately stood up from the sofa and knelt down on my knees in the relatively spacious spot in front of the desk, facing the Prince.
"Yes, Your Highness!"
Ba-dump, Ba-dump, Ba-dump!
It felt like my heart was going to explode. And then-
The chilling sound of the whip cut through the air.
Haa, haa, haa… I breathed deeply and closed my eyes tightly. Before tumbling straight into darkness.
It was dark everywhere. The boundary between heaven and earth was vague and shadowy. I watched my feet sink with every step I took. It felt like I was wading through a swamp.
Even when I looked down the ground was a black void. I couldn't see anything.
[Where am I...]
Strangely, I wasn't afraid at all, even in the pitch blackness.
[Am I dreaming?]
A ray of light shone in the distance.
The light started as a small dot and grew larger and larger until it took the shape of a human being.
I approached the light as if possessed, and then looked back at it to see the distance had shortened by 100m.
[Huh, is that?... Is that me?]
It was. The face illuminated by the light was mine. Me, Ji Yeonwoo.
When I chased after her, surprised, she turned and whispered something I couldn't hear.
[Run! You idiot!]
I followed Ji Yeonwoo's – my – gaze behind me and saw black figures running towards me, yelling. Each of them held thick whips in their hands.
I ran. I sprinted with all my might. However, I found myself struggling to move fast enough because I was suffocating, my feet sinking beneath me.
[Tara, come quick!]
Ah... I was Tara. Damn it!
I'd forgotten. Who I was now.
They were getting closer.
Whoosh... Crack! Whoosh... Crack!
The sound of their whips deafened me.
[N- No! Pl- Please, help!]
Whoosh! A nearby shadow figure's whip brushed against my ear.
This was a dream! So why did it feel so real? Aah!
I dragged my feet with all my might, but then I stumbled and the deep swamp began swallowing me whole.
It was dark again.
It felt like someone was pulling me straight down. An irresistible quagmire that I couldn't escape no matter how hard I struggled. My chest felt caged in, my throat choked, my mouth sealed shut... I was drowning.
When I turned around the dark figures were gone and a man stood there.
His dark grey eyes stared at me indifferently. The Second Prince, Kyle Amure, simply watched as I sunk endlessly into the swamp.
My head slipped beneath the surface.
"The...water... I can't breathe..."
"What? What? Miss! Open your eyes!"
"Come on, Miss. Please, open your eyes."
"Ah... Help me..."
"How can someone who fainted sleep so sweetly with drool on her face? Miss, you really have to get up now. You need to get ready and come down because the banquet will be starting soon! Oh, dear! Oh no!" Beth's voice tore at my ears, waking me up.
"Uh! Oh my god... Breathe... Haa... Need to... Breathe..."
"Haa, I can't breathe! Haa...haa."
"...You're breathing fine."
Beth stared down at me, wide-eyed.
The dream had been so vivid that I felt like I was still in the swamp.
"Huh…Um... This is my room?"
"You're embarrassed, aren't you? Stop. I know everything.”
"Haa... What are you talking about? Beth?"
I felt hazy and chaotic, as if I hadn't yet escaped from the dream.
"It was only two hours ago. Don't you remember? At all?"
"Two hours?...Oh! My back. Is my back okay? That damn Prince wanted to-. Huh? Oh, my God..!”
Beth's words forestalled what I was about to say,“...You fainted.”
"I...What? I did what?
"Fainted. What made you faint? Did something happen? Didn't you say you were going to find my 6 gold?"
"I was really surprised..."
Come to think of it, my back didn't hurt at all. I jumped out of bed and tried to touch it, but only managed to reach the middle, unable to move my arm up any further.
Yup. I couldn't reach it...
But I could tell even without touching it. I hadn't been whipped. My back was in pristine condition, no stiff shoulders either, probably because I had woken up from a sound sleep.
"Huh. It's the first time I've ever fainted."
“No. The lady has fainted quite often.”
"When did I… Ah…!”
That was right. As Yeonwoo I had never fainted. However, looking through Tara's memory, it turned out she had fainted on several occasions.
She had fainted after hearing the news about Brandon's death. Again at Brandon's funeral, and again seven years later, just before falling from a tree.
Perhaps she fainted at moments of unbearable stress.
"What happened? Why were you so surprised that you fainted...?”
"That's... Niels! What happened to Niels? Did he get arrested?"
"Oh, my God! Arrested? What are you saying? Niels is in his room. He's been upset this whole time… When I asked why, he said nothing was wrong. What's going on?"
"Well, I don't know.... Oh, my God!
"What? What's wrong?"
"Beth, who took me to my room?"
"Oh, that's... that's.... Miss, I think you'll want to bury yourself in a hole out of embarrassment when you hear it."
"No way. Is it what I think it is?"
“What are you thinking it is, Miss?”
"Did two Imperial knights carry me? Did everyone in the mansion see it?"
"You're half right, Miss."
"Yes. I saw it, but only other servants did and none of your family members. They came up through the back door of the mansion where the servants are. And it wasn't two knights, but four, Miss. The knights each took one arm or leg… Oh, I really didn't want to tell you this, but... Really ah... Sorry."
In my head, I let out an agonized scream.
I had fainted without even being whipped, and as if that hadn't been enough, I was picked up and carried away by four knights from the Imperial Palace. It was truly awful.
How ridiculous must he think I am? How much luck did I need for him to never remember it?
"What? How bad was it?"
"It wasn't that weird."
“...To tell the truth?”
"No. No. Don't say it! I can’t listen.”
Oh God... I wanted to die.
The image of four knights grabbing my limbs and laboriously dragging me into my room kept replaying in my head.
"Miss, we don't have the time for this. Fortunately, no one knows that the lady fainted. The banquet is about to begin. They instructed you to come down quickly because you need to greet His Highness."
"...I don't want to go."
"Huh? What do you mean? You're not going to the banquet?"
“Beth, go borrow an axe from Bernard!”
“Why an axe?”
"Bring me an axe so I can cut my neck off with it. I'd rather die."
"Oh, dear... My Lady, don't even joke about such a terrible thing. God would be angry."
"Haa... I mean it. I really want to die. How long until the banquet starts?"
“Less than 30 minutes left. Let's start by washing your face. You have a lot of drool on it."
Drool... Well I certainly slept soundly. And I felt quite refreshed...
I would really rather die than have to go to the banquet, but I had to.
His arrogant face would be mocking, but I couldn't avoid him just because I was afraid of being disgraced.
I wanted an excuse to avoid him... Aaargh! I was so embarrassed!
The sky, which had been cloudy all afternoon, was now pouring rain. Occasional thunderclaps and streaks of lightning roared through the air.
"Your Highness, the account was made in the Principality of Ga'an. It will take some time because it's being laundered under a borrowed-name account."
"Did you finish interrogating the soldiers who were assigned as security guards on the prison shift?"
"Yes. There were no signs of outside intrusion. The shifts were also strictly timed.”
"What news from the coroner’s office?"
“Reports have come in that tetrodotoxin has been detected on his gums and the inside of his teeth.”
"Blowfish poison... Hmm... Well trained. All right, let's get out of here then."
The knight hesitated for a moment as if he had something to say.
"Well, he's still at the practice courts."
"I know. Bring him in after the banquet."
"Yes, Your Highness!"
For his crime of mutiny, Nick had been waiting out at the practice courts for two hours holding a sword in the basic stance from the first chapter of Imperial Palace Sword Style.
[Hahaha... Your Highness. This is hardly even a punishment. Hahaha.]
Nick's face had been soaked with either tears or rain, but he’d smiled broadly.
After the report was finished, Kyle went through the documents provided by the Ministry of Public Security, which he had already reviewed several times in advance of the banquet, and thought of the inexperienced 18-year-old lady with 1 gold and an axe.
Editor’s Notes -
* A metaphor used here sent me down a really interesting rabbit hole. 쿠크다스 멘탈 - ‘Couque d’Asse mentality’ means to be weak willed. Couque d’Asse is a Korean brand of biscuit that is renowned as being very fragile and crumbly. This brand of cookie is famous in South Korea but not well known internationally. The name of the cookie is Belgian (Couque = cake/cookie, ‘Asse’ is a city in Belgium). It’s inspired by a 15th century Belgian biscuit called Couque de Dinant which is, ironically, very hard and not crumbly in the least. I chose to exclude the direct brand reference because it really wouldn’t make much sense outside of Korea, but couldn’t resist including it in the notes!
Also a general thing I noticed about this dream sequence - In the manhwa adaptation Yeonwoo/Tara sees a copy of Tara in the dream, while here she sees a copy of her original Korean body, which raises all kinds of speculation about how she transmigrated. This chapter is absolutely full of exciting theory material!
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