Updated: Aug 16
(Image to be updated)
Where one wonders what Victoria is up to these days... And Tara gets ready for the Banquet hosted at Reese Castle.
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Episode 211. About 10 months (88)
The Elias Mansion.
The mansion was busy preparing for Tara's birthday party which was to be held in three days.
The servants were cleaning everything in sight and the best florists from the flower markets were going around each hall devising estimates for the birthday flower arrangements.
A newly customized table had been brought into the large banquet hall, and an exquisitely crafted chandelier was being raised to the high ceiling by the hands of several workers.
Countess Victoria Elias, who was observing all of the preparations and giving out individual instructions, was smiling brighter than ever.
‘It's strange. Very strange.'
Such confused thoughts ran through the minds of the passing maids. It was hard to believe that the Countess was doing all of this for the fifth child, Tara Elias.
Tara's mother, Isabelle Elias, felt the same way. However, she didn't know what she could possibly say, so she simply observed the proceedings.
"... She looks fine."
"Huh? Is something wrong?"
Isabelle asked the question from right beside Beth, who had been talking to herself a little too loudly. Beth startled and covered her mouth with both hands.
"If it's really not a big deal, then why are your eyes so wide all of a sudden? One would think you were talking about the Countess..."
'As expected, my damn mouth is causing me trouble. The Miss is always so worried about me running my mouth, so she told me to be careful about what I say. Ugh. Idiot!'
Isabelle stared at Beth unblinkingly. Her gaze was so serious and determined that Beth had no choice but to open her mouth.
"Well, there are strange rumours circulating among the maids of the Capital these days."
"Rumours? What kind of rumours?"
Beth glanced around quickly, then cautiously stepped closer to Isabelle.
The pause struck Isabelle as even more suspicious, so she urged Beth to continue with a very serious look on her face. Beth whispered the answer in a very low voice.
“Well, actually, I only heard about this two days ago…”
Isabelle's expression turned increasingly more grave as she quietly listened to Beth's whispered explanation.
"That's why everyone thinks the Madam is crazy..."
"Oh! I'm sorry, Mistress Isabelle."
Realizing she had made yet another mistake, Beth covered her mouth again and bowed her head in error.
"From now on, if anyone else asks you about this, say you do not know. Go and get the Head Housekeeper immediately. And do so without the Countess learning of it!"
The always mild and gentle Isabelle spoke the command decisively, with a severe expression on her face. Beth swallowed unconsciously.
She had assumed Miss Tara's disposition was exactly like the Count's, but that clearly didn’t seem to be the case.
"Yes. I'll keep that in mind, Mistress."
An hour later, the Elias Family's maids were summoned to the empty laundry room work area at the back of the mansion.
After the maids had gathered, the Head Housekeeper apprised herself of the rumours. Then, drawing on her 30-years of experience, she identified the four maids responsible for propagating the rumour and brought them before Isabelle.
Isabelle locked the door and looked down at the maids with stern eyes.
All of the maids, including Margaret, the maid in charge of the Countess Victoria, were all on their knees and bowing in front of Isabelle.
“You are well aware that the image of the Elias Family has a big influence on our high-profile business clientele. Regardless of the Countess, gossip is the most dangerous threat to our Family. What's more, this rumour concerns the Countess, one of the main public representatives of the Elias Family. I am appalled that this rumour has been circulating around my house. I simply can't believe it. I am even more embarrassed because this happened after I took over House Elias' internal affairs. How could you all engage in this gossip so carelessly? Tsk tsk."
Margaret approached, still on her knees, and explained herself with tears in her eyes.
"Mistress. I really did not know the rumours would spread like this. I will never speak of this again. So please, just this once..."
"Yes, Mistress. I'm sorry. I have committed a truly unforgivable sin. Please, just this one time..."
The rest of the maids also bowed their heads with contrite expressions on their faces.
"Everyone, stop. You will all just have to be glad word of this has not yet reached the Countess's ears. Here!"
Isabel threw four heavy pouches before the maids.
"This is my small recompense for your devotion to the Elias Family, as well as the remaining wages for this year."
While the maids looked up in surprise at the unexpected situation, Isabelle looked down at them with sad eyes.
"I do not wish to make my own job harder. Especially so close to Tara's birthday. So please, I ask that if you join another family you will have nothing but good things to say about House Elias. Head Housekeeper, please give one to each of them."
The Head Housekeeper, who had been standing silently by Isabelle's side, handed each of the four maids a fine looking envelope containing a letter of recommendation.
"You all did wrong, however, you all also worked hard. I have written that fact down, so it won't be difficult for you to find employment with another family. So please, stop crying, go find work elsewhere, and stop creating these false rumours.”
The maids, having listened to Isabelle in a silent daze, hugged the letters of recommendation and pouches of money to their chests and wept.
Beth was moved by Isabelle's handling of the situation. And she wasn't the only one who was impressed. The news of the incident spread among the rest of the maids, and subsequently caused a stir in the attitudes of many of the Elias Family's servants.
The next day, Isabelle stood by the window overlooking the back door of the mansion.
After a while, four maids could be seen quietly leaving the entrance with their luggage.
Then Isabelle, her mind at peace, turned around and thought to herself with a serious expression on her face.
'I'll need to bring this up when Tara returns. There's something strange about these rumours…’
I had just finished changing into a dinner gown in Diane's dressing room, and I had also applied some light makeup.
Angela offered to lend me one of her own dresses, but I politely declined.
Knowing how Angela felt about Kyle, it felt wrong to simply ignore that and accept one of her dresses.
So I decided to borrow a dress from Diane instead.
Black netted lace was embroidered on the front and back of the dress. The dark green velvet dress tapered at the waist and flared out in an elegant A-line skirt.
The neckline was square and exposed my collarbones, and also dipped to reveal portions of my breastbone, giving it a slightly risque feel.
Huh. I was kind of sexy.
"This is the biggest size I have. Is it alright? It's one of the dresses I wore while I was single, before I came to the South, so it's a bit boldly cut, unlike the fashions here."
As Ji Yeon-woo I often wore workout leggings and crop tops while exercising, so this level of exposure was not even comparable. In the middle of summer, I used to wear a sleeveless shirt and extremely low-cut shorts.
This was nothing…
I looked back at my reflection in the mirror and answered with a smile of satisfaction.
"Really? You're concerned it's too excessive? I think something like this will be fine. The chest isn't too restrictive, the waist is just right, well, maybe it's a tiny bit tight, hehe. That aside, I love the colour combination. I'm not up to date on trends, but I do know something about colour combinations."
As I looked back at Diane and grinned, she tilted her head and smiled right back.
"It doesn't matter to me as long as it's alright with you. Hmm, your neckline still feels a bit empty, wait a minute."
I tried to refuse the offer, but Diane immediately brought one of her jewellery boxes and showed me various necklaces, her eyes shining.
There were a lot of pretty and colourful necklaces, but I refused because I didn't want to take another person's jewellery.
"What do you think about this? The gem in the centre goes so well with your eyes! It especially complements your hair color."*
I thought it would be fine to go without a necklace, but when I put it on it matched so perfectly with my hair, eyes and the dress. I had to accept it right away.
"Oh, thank you. I will take good care of it and make sure I return it."
"Well, it suits you so very beautifully."
Diane patted my shoulder and smiled. Somehow, it felt as if we were chatting like close friends.
"The Countess is also very lovely and cute, ah, is it rude of me to say that you're cute?"
"Haha. No, not at all. I like hearing that a lot. You say it in such a sincere way."
"Huh? It's just a fact. I was merely telling the truth. Perhaps the baby will take after their mother, hehehe. By that I mean, I think they will be very adorable indeed."
"Hah. How should I say this? Aide Tara, you are a very refreshing person to be around. We haven't spoken much but I enjoy talking with you."
"Hahaha. I often hear that I don't act like the typical Imperial noble. Could I please have my hair done now?"
As I sat down in front of the dressing table, a maid came up to me and started gathering my hair.
After watching for a moment, Diane continued.
“Since the southern part of the Empire is a little more conservative, I prefer dresses that cover the neck, so when you attend the banquet you may stand out a bit. However, there are plenty of women attending from other regions, so you likely won't stand out too much."
I answered Diane with a nod.
"Besides, I'm not going to be seated on the central platform. I'm just planning on sitting in the corner of the hall, eating, and then heading straight back to my room, so it won't matter much."
In the evening, the banquet hall at Reese Castle was packed with people.
As I followed the maid down the stairs, I could see a crowd of people gathered in the central hall of the castle.
Perhaps the attendees were all elaborately dressed because tonight's banquet was happening on the peak day of the festival.
Despite the fact I was wearing a dress with a revealing neckline without a shawl, I didn't feel the cold. Likely thanks to Kyle's Aurore.
There were several aristocrats from the Capital who had expressed their intention to attend the banquet, but Diane had refused all of them for the sake of Kyle's visit.
Most of the dinner attendees were representatives of the farmers and agricultural workers, who were the main focus of the 'Festival of the Earth', and their wives. And the remaining minority were some of the local noble families who had strong ties to Reese Castle, a few top business representatives who dealt with Reese, a few important intermediary business people and their wives, and a few knight commanders who had signed long-term mercenary contracts with the Count.
At the last banquet I went to during the Winter Hunting Competition, where only nobles were in attendance, I couldn't fully enjoy it. Besides, I hadn't been able to experience the party atmosphere properly because I was in uniform.
However, this was my first time attending a dinner in such a crowded setting and with both aristocrats and commoners present, so I wasn’t sure what to expect.
Editor’s Notes -
I love Isabelle transforming into a more authoritative person! She has always been so much tougher than a lot of people gave her credit for, and when you think about it, YeonWoo/Tara is actually a lot like her. Friendly and personable on the outside with a core of iron will. Neither of them are cruel when in positions of power, but they can sure as hell make you listen to them when necessary.
* This necklace is described as being red in colour, however there is some confusion over exactly what type of gem it has. Based on how Tara and Diane describe the necklace as matching Tara’s red hair I initially assumed it was a ruby, but the word used here 사파이어가 for the gem is sapphire (usually referring to a blue/green gemstone) rather than 루비 the Korean word for ruby. Rubies and sapphires are also both made of the same type of crystal called corundum 강옥석 and are just differently coloured varieties of what is essentially the same type of gem.
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