(Yes, I photoshopped that)
In which Kyle and Tara say goodbye and Walter comes to know about the nature of their relationship.
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Episode 224. About 10 months (101)
"As Your Highness is aware, it must be covered by a bigger rumour."
He pulled away, grabbed my hand and opened the door.
"As expected, my Aide. But Tara, sometimes it's useless even if you know what to do."
"But you can still try."
"Really? If another rumour is needed to cover this up, its impact on the Empire should be greater than the song that is circulating now. So, what kinds of rumours would fall into this category?"
He asked for my opinion as he walked out the door.
I opened my mouth as the answer came to my mind, and then shut it again. The types of rumours listed in my head were appalling to say the least.
Kyle, having noticed my thoughts, listed them instead.
"An accident or natural disaster accompanied by great sacrifice. Or rumours about the outbreak of a war, the rebellion of the Military or the Imperial citizenry, or the death of an extremely powerful person. Only a rumour of that level could effectively cover the previous rumour."
I was overwhelmed by the weight of his words and couldn't say anything in response.
"That's how much influence this song has."
I nodded slowly.
"What are you going to do?" I asked.
"First off, I have to identify the source of the rumour before I make a move. I can guess the intention of the conspirator, but finding a more accurate motive is the only way I can control the situation."
Following him while he strode along, I picked up my speed and walked next to him.
"Are you going to the South?"
"That's where the epicenter is. It would be ideal to find out who planned this there. It would be even better if I could get evidence..."
Fortunately, there were no visitors or other servants in the Castle's corridors. The moment Count Philip heard the song, everyone had been banned from entering the Castle, and wandering around the Castle at night was strictly forbidden.
"I think the chances of finding it are low."
He glanced at my feet and slowed down as we reached the stairs. Thanks to that, I was able to descend the stairs without running.
"Yes, the odds are low. But I have to try. It's okay if I can't find it. I can find other clues and use them."
When we came down into the hall, Walter was waiting in the square outside the door, guiding Kyle's horse.
As soon as he saw us, he immediately got down to one knee, showing his respect.
He raised his head, looked at us, directed his gaze towards the horse, and then turned his head towards us again.
It seemed like he had noticed that we were holding hands.
Heedless of whether Walter had seen or not, Kyle held my hand tightly and walked to where his horse was standing.
"How can I assist, Your Highness?"
"Only one thing."
"Stay safe, please. That's all."
Ugh, I might melt.
Then, he briefly kissed my mouth again and mounted the horse with a big swing of his leg.
Walter's eyes were wider than ever before, and he blushed deeply. Then, he turned his head and patted the horse's behind.
I thought it would be embarrassing to look at Walter, but I didn't feel any of those strange feelings. It all just felt so natural.
I hurried to Kyle's side after he got on the horse and grabbed the reins.
"Your Highness, of course I'll be safe. I have my axe, and Walter, Bernard and Your Highness are here. What else should I do, as your Aide?"
I knew he had to leave soon, so I spoke quickly. He grinned and patted my head.
"My Aide must be tired from doing too much work. Ask Walter and analyze what we've learned about the three administrators."
"The three administrators. Alright, Your Highness."
“And one more thing, Countess Victoria visited [Donnie's Gambling House, a solver whose hands are faster than the eyes] a few days ago, and they're notorious for being depraved, even by Lackton Street's standards.”
My eyes widened with surprise.
"Do you have any guesses?"
"... Yes, Your Highness."
I didn't say more, so Kyle didn't ask. I'm sure he had some idea. We didn't even have time to check each other's guesses. As if he was thinking the same, Kyle quickly instructed.
“Walter, as soon as you go to the Capital tomorrow, convene a social order maintenance team at the Metropolitan Police Headquarters and dispatch them to various places in the South and Central Police Stations. Gather all the information you can on this matter. In particular, ask them to focus on the use of young children."
The horse kept raising its front hooves, wanting to leave.
"Yes, Your Highness."
Kyle pulled on the reins and tried to go, but he hurriedly stopped, turned his horse around and halted in front of me again.
He had a very serious and urgent expression.
"Yes, Your Highness."
He bent down as close to me as he could.
"I'm going to miss you," he said.
Kyle raced off after saying those words.
What was up with his expert flirting?
Fortunately, my words were buried by the horse's neighing.
"What's your secret?" Walter asked me, looking at Kyle's rapidly receding back.
"I don't know. There are many, but maybe it's my appearance?"
My response rendered Walter speechless for a while, and he looked at me with his mouth wide open. I turned around and left.
Walter hurriedly caught up with me, as if he just couldn't let it go.
"I thought you were just seeing our Master off. By the way, aren't you worried about His Highness? That he's going alone?"*
I paused at the stairs and looked at Walter.
"Captain, I'm the close 2nd Aide of His Highness. I am fully aware of the procedures for this situation. He was wearing full armour and carrying a sword. This means he's on official duty. As such, the nearby units will be dispatched immediately, and a dedicated security force will probably shadow him within a matter of minutes. That's why you didn't follow him."
"As expected, I have to acknowledge your work skills."
I rushed up the stairs saying that I'd see him tomorrow morning, afraid he'd ask me another question. But Walter followed me like a guard who didn't know how to give up.
"Hey. So, what happened? Shouldn't you be honest with me? How long have you been together? No, are you even together?" He asked with a flushed face, as if feeling embarrassed.
What he said made sense. Displaying such things and not explaining it could lead to speculation. Besides, Walter had a big mouth, so he wouldn't be reliable. And he was bad at hiding his reactions.
"We are, Captain. It was supposed to be a secret, but since you saw it, I'll explain. Instead, can I ask that you keep it to yourself? The Crown Princess Selection decree has been issued, so I don't think it'll be good if his relationship with me becomes known."
"Well, of course it should be kept secret. But 2nd Aide, how on earth did this relationship happen? Goodness, I didn't notice anything at all. Did you also fall in love with him? Since he's the number one bachelor in the Empire, after all?"
Originally, our relationship was supposed to be a secret, so I wanted to be careful and often meet him in secret. I intended to say that it had happened naturally after I spent time with him, but instead I immediately answered Walter's last question with a different response.
"Me? You're saying I fell in love with him?"
"I wasn't interested in him at all, but I decided to be a little open-minded. He told me he couldn't live without me and kept begging me and, well, I accepted it."
"You want me to believe that?"
"What is so unbelievable? If you think about it, his character is fine, and although it's a bit awkward because he's an Imperial Prince, he's wealthy, and his thighs are okay... No, that's not it. I was the one who accepted him."
I crossed my arms as I spoke, and Walter's jaw dropped to the ground while he stared at me blankly.
At some point, he blinked.
"You. Are you teasing me?" He asked.
"Eh? Why would I tease you? Ask His Highness later. I'm sure he'll say I'm right."
"So you're saying that His Highness the Second Prince, who is always number one in the year-end rankings of the Empire and who has never shown interest in any woman before, once came to you and begged you to be with him?"
"Oh, he's never been interested in another woman?"
"That's as far as I'm aware. And are you sure he was begging you?"
"Well, the details differ, but it's pretty similar. He did it multiple times too. For your information, he also said he would try to be my ideal type!"
I raised my head in exhilaration and turned around with a smirk.
Walter was tongue-tied after asking his questions and seeing me boast about it like crazy. In fact, I wanted to brag about it more and say, 'Indeed, this is the kind of man I’m dating.'
Walter no longer followed me. Glancing back, I saw that he was still standing on the stairs where I had left him, shaking his head.
Well, it was pretty hard to believe. As the person involved, I hadn’t believed it for a while either.
Ah. This was what it was like when you met a great guy. Hehehe.
It had been three days since I returned to the Elias Mansion. Sunday, January the 29th was my birthday, but I couldn't fully enjoy today.
I didn't really want to enjoy it.
There was still no news from Kyle, who had gone down to the South. Fortunately, the song the children had been singing hadn't made it to the Capital.
I was waiting for Count Elias in his office for the first time in a long while.
My father was very busy with the release date of the heart medicine. Even now, while he approached the table where I sat, he was unable to take his eyes off the documents in his hand.
"What brings you here?"
"... Uh... What?"
My father looked at me blankly, with an expression like, 'Why is she in the office this morning?'
It seemed that he had forgotten that I was supposed to come.
"Sir Dylan told me to come right after breakfast."
My father put the documents aside and sat across from me while staring at my face for a long time, as if he was thinking of something to say.
"Ah! Right. Yes, let's sit down."
My father looked me in the face.
"Oh. Your make-up looks a little thicker today."
Since coming from Reese Castle, I had tried to get rid of the bruises on my face and neck with cold packs, egg massages and warm compresses.
The bruises had fortunately faded a lot, but there were still some traces left, which I could cover up well enough with make-up.
"It's my birthday. I thickened the base make-up a bit. Hahaha. Ah! Did you call me here for my birthday party?"
"Ah. No. It's not about your birthday nor what you can do for me, it's just about the brand name of the heart medicine, the patent of which was given to the Emperor, that has been decided. Are you aware of it?"
"Yes. I got the newsletter on the top floor of the office building. And Aria visited and bragged a lot about it, so I took a look at the brand name and the phrase."
When I spoke with a smile, my father nodded and slightly leaned his upper body towards me.
"Yes. Are you okay with it? The brand name?" He asked.
* The first sentence was rather confusing in the MTL ("I thought I was just seeing your master."/"I just thought I was looking at your teacher.") so take my interpretation with a grain of salt.
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