Updated: Nov 8
Tara prepares for her birthday.
This chapter is dedicated to Mikan, thank you for your support!
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Episode 226. About 10 months (103)
[Haha. How should I say this? It’s just a tool for a small wish of mine to see the Master get flustered by someone. I’m looking forward to it, so please train him well! Wahahaha.]
I had frowned when I looked at Walter, who had coolly turned around and waved goodbye.
Huh. He wanted me to train Kyle? The Empire's Second Prince? Hmm. There was nothing I couldn't do... What was I thinking about!
Besides, when I looked at the whip… The painful memory of the annex came back, but the grip of the handle, adorned with the red ribbon, was so nice that I decided to give it a try.
Not to mention, I could never be certain, maybe it'd be of great use someday.
10 A.M. on the day of my birthday.
I changed into light clothes that were comfortable to move in. Before my birthday party started, there was a place I had decided to visit.
I left the room to go there with a package that I had prepared beforehand.
As soon as I left the hallway, a variety of noises coming from all over the mansion buzzed and pierced my ears.
I stood half-covered behind the stairwell on the first floor, where servants came and went, and looked down at the hall.
Like the ladies who were wearing fancy dresses, the noblemen, dressed luxuriously, were entering on their own, one after another.
Was this normal for a noblewoman's 19th birthday? The party would start at 6 p.m., so why were they already arriving?
No. I, the birthday girl, had only sent one invitation, but how many invitations did the Countess send?
The Countess, lavishly decorated with giant feathers the same colour as her orange dress, stood in the hall and greeted the guests who came in one after another.
The back of the Countess' head was clearly visible due to the feathers' wild shaking while she smiled and tilted her head back.
At that moment, at Bernard's urging, I finally came to my senses and escaped through the back door. I quickly moved to the greenhouse at the back of the training grounds.
"Here you are, My Lady."
My body was about to melt in the burning heat of the greenhouse, when the greenhouse's manager handed me a bouquet of flowers.
It was a bouquet of white roses.
After staring at the beautiful sight for a while, Bernard urged me again.
I nodded briefly and then went straight to the back route.
"I'll go alone from here."
"Take your time and talk. I'll be here to protect you."
Looking behind me, Bernard's back seemed stronger than ever. I followed the narrow dirt road and went in deeper. I had never been here before, but I had imprinted where this place was on the map in my head many times.
One step closer, another step closer. I finally reached my destination. I stood in front of it and quietly looked down at the tombstone, engraved with his name.
[Brandon Elias, a good and beautiful young man, rests here.]
I set the package I had been carrying aside and placed the bouquet of roses in front of it. For a moment, I prayed.
Even when I opened my eyes, I didn't know what to say, so I stood still for a long time.
I couldn't say a word. I sat cross-legged in front of his tombstone, and after a while, I opened my mouth.
"I'm sorry. I came too late, didn't I? Hmm... I was at a loss just until I got here. I don't know why I'm here. I'm not exactly Tara... Come to think of it, there's no reason why I shouldn’t be here."
With one hand, I brought the package that I had put aside in front of me.
"I'm not the Tara from before, but I can't say I'm not Tara either. I have all of Tara's memories and I also feel her emotions. Well, what I mean is that her father, the head of House Elias, is my father, her mother is my mother, and her brother Brandon is my brother."
I retrieved a small bottle of Northern Cutlin whiskey and a glass from the package I had prepared beforehand.
"I'm rambling on about this because I’ve decided to properly grieve from now on. You went into a dangerous area to get me my birthday present, and lost your life. I felt really guilty. I didn't want to believe it... That's why I haven’t been able to come. I'm sorry."
I poured the whiskey into a glass. "I'll visit often from now on."
I slowly sprinkled the alcohol around his tombstone.
"Uh. I brought this because it was your favourite drink. When I asked Bernard, he said he would take something the person liked during their lifetime with him. And even in the place where I lived as Ji Yeonwoo, they sprinkled alcohol for the deceased."
After having sprinkled it all, I organized the package and bowed my head to say goodbye.
"... Next time, I'll bring a book you liked and read it to you, brother. It's nice having others read to you. Well... I'll come back."
I stared at his tombstone for a moment and then turned around.
Bernard reached out as if he wanted to accept the package from me when I walked by.
"It's not heavy."
"I know, but please give it to me. Are you alright?"
For Bernard's comfort, I passed the package to him and smiled.
"Yes. I'm glad I came before the party. Now, let's go get ready for my birthday and the Countess, shall we?"
Bernard had already heard about the Countess' visit to the gambling house three days ago, and said that the visit may have something to do with me and possibly my birthday.
"What are you going to do, My Lady?"
"First of all, we have to compile all the information we can collect and make a decision. So, defending yourself against the unexpected is good..."
"Fighting back is better."
We looked at each other's faces and nodded like it was some sort of life-or-death mission. It was a pretty cringe-worthy scene up close, but we, the involved parties, were more solemn than ever.
Bernard decided to come to my room after I finished getting dressed, and we split up at the back door of the mansion.
11 a.m. on the day of my birthday.
When I returned to my room, my mother and Beth had been waiting for me, having constantly watched the door.
"Baby! How could you behave so leisurely on your birthday? You're late, you're late!"
From that point onwards, my mother, Beth, and the four maids who had entered together, surrounded me.
I sighed heavily and let them do what they wanted, like a mannequin without a will. Just for the sake of my mental health.
First, the maids sent me into a steaming bath, and after I got out, the four of them clustered around me.
After drying my hair, I put on silk underwear. Next, while I sat on a chair, cushions were placed under my hands and feet, and my nails were trimmed.
Beth discussed which hairstyle I should wear with my mother behind the scenes, and decided I should get dressed before that.
I immediately wore the birthday dress Givenchy had meticulously designed for me.
The ivory chiffon gown that exposed both my shoulders was so tight, to the point that it was difficult to breathe.
The dress really emphasized my chest and waist.
At first glance, it seemed simple, with just one thick band of the same colour around the waist, but it was enriched by the several layers of chiffon added to the wide A-line skirt. Thanks to that, my waist looked slimmer, and every time I took a step, a swishing sound reverberated in my ears.
"A dress from a real, famous designer is always exceptional. How do I describe the way it makes the A-line skirt stand out? I've never seen a design like this before..." Beth mumbled as she looked at me in the mirror.
"Right, Miss. I never thought the day where you would wear a dress like this would come. From the time I was first assigned to be your dedicated maid..."
"Beth, how do I say this? It seems like you're getting better at backhanded compliments, aren't you?"
When I glanced at Beth, who was dramatically covering her mouth, through the full-length mirror, she smiled bashfully and politely handed me some jewelry with both hands.
"Miss, please wear this too. I would never dare do that. Hehe. I'm just impressed!"
"Yes, yes. I admit it too. A lot has changed."
I smiled in the mirror and put on the garnet brooch my mother had given me as a gift, and the pair of garnet earrings Beth had hurriedly commissioned a copy of. My mother sat in the back and looked at me with delight.
I didn't wear a necklace on purpose, which was a suggestion from Givenchy.
"It's probably because it's January and garnets are in high-demand, but I was so annoyed by how hard it was to find a jeweler to work on them. Oh, I thought I was seeing things, but there was a necklace with your name. It was a garnet and diamond necklace. I only got a glimpse of it, but it looked really luxurious, pretty and expensive."
As soon as I had dryly replied to Beth, I heard Bernard knocking, asking if he could come in.
When I responded, Bernard entered my room with a heavy box, tied together by a pink ribbon.
"I'm just going to give you this and wait outside. As requested, what's inside isn't pink."
Until now, I thought Walter's gift would be the most unique, but Bernard's gift was no less original.
Bernard had warned me before untying the ribbon and opening the box.
As he had said, there was no pink, other than the ribbon around the box.
Instead, a rectangular whetstone, with my name nicely engraved in the upper right corner, sat heavily in the box.
Wow. It was a whetstone.
I struggled to give an answer.
"It was made with a lot of care by a well-known craftsman in the industry."
"Ah... How cool... Did you ask him to engrave my name in the corner, Bernard?"
"No, that's a blacksmith tradition. They always engrave the name of the person it's for. The place is famous, so I made a reservation a long time ago."
"Ah... Uh, thank you for caring so much, Bernard. Um, as expected of my one and only dedicated knight. Hahaha."
I grinned awkwardly and scratched the back of my neck. I never expected to receive a sharpening stone as a birthday present, so I didn't know how to react.
Well, I never thought I'd get an axe and a whip as gifts either.
"I'll try using it tomorrow, so watch me and sharpen it yourself from then on. You have to be able to manage your weapons on your own. I'll be waiting outside now. Oh. Happy birthday to you, My Lady."
Beth quietly spoke to me as Bernard, placing one of his hands on his chest and bowing politely, left.
"Miss, what does Bernard mean... Oh! You're very practical. Right?"
"Yes... It's a gift to be grateful for, he thought about what I needed in advance and even made a reservation. The axe Bernard gave me is a bit embarrassing, but it was really useful. This whetstone will probably also be quite useful to me. Come to think of it, it's a really nice gift."
I had an epiphany as I talked. So, before I closed the box, I swept the surface of the whetstone and smiled once more.
Beth cleared her throat. "Miss, you know that this is uncommon for noblewomen, right?"
As I sat down by the vanity, Beth automatically combed my hair.
"Since when am I similar to other aristocrats? So, what was going on with the necklace you mentioned earlier?"
Beth clapped while brushing my hair.
"Ah! That's right. The necklace. Well, I'm not sure. The necklace was paid for, but it wasn't picked up yet."
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