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Tara's team is meeting up to prepare for her birthday!
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Episode 227. About 10 months (104)
"Looks like there was still time left."
To be honest, I wasn't really interested in the garnet necklace Beth was going on about.
"No. Hasn't the deadline already passed?"
Since I came back from my business trip, Beth had been telling me a bunch of stories of what had been going on. After three days of this regime, I had become a mere reaction bot.
My mother was dozing off on the sofa with the ledger spread out on her lap. I heard that she often went to bed late due to her meticulous management of the ledgers.
"Yes. The jeweler told me that a middle-aged man had given him extra money to have it cleaned and ready in a hurry. By the way, Miss...?"
Beth, who had lightly braided my hair to the back to complement my make-up and outfit, suddenly spoke to me in a shy voice.
"I made this after getting permission from my Mentor Givenchy. It's made out of silk, but it's still shabby, so you don't have to wear it if you don't like it."
While explaining in detail, what came out was transparent chiffon wings attached to an ivory silk ribbon.
The fairy-like wings with the slightly curled and drooping ribbon tail were a lovely match to the dress.
I alternately gazed at the ribbon and Beth's face. The tip of my nose was tingling.
"Beth, this is so touching! You didn't have to prepare something like this... Bernard and Beth, thank you so much. I knew you were dexterous, but this is so sophisticated and pretty."
There wasn't a stitch to be seen. The size and angle of both wings matched perfectly.
"Well thank God, Miss. I was afraid you wouldn't like it. I don't know if I said this, but I'm so happy and thankful that you are My Lady."
As my heart melted, I wiped the corners of my eyes with a handkerchief.
"I feel the same way, Beth. I'm grateful and thankful that you are by my side. Whoa... Please put the ribbon on now before I start crying. I don't want to redo my make-up."
As I straightened my posture and looked in the mirror, I witnessed Beth dabbing the corners of her eyes with a handkerchief as well, then she tied the ribbon in my hair with a very serious and solemn expression.
It was a great blessing to have people around me who genuinely cared for others. My life was in jeopardy because I possessed Tara Elias's body, but I never could have imagined a year ago that I would gain such precious friends.
So, I will save this damned family to protect them and myself.
But first, let's check how I look.
After the final touches were done, I gazed at myself in the mirror and admired the result.
But there was no one to show this to. How was it going in the South? When was he coming… Ah! Stop this! Concentrate! Focus!
I managed to regain my train of thoughts and, turning my gaze towards my mother, I quietly said to Beth:
"Beth, show my mother to her room. Since Victor said he'd be coming back today, can you go to the management office in the main building and ask him to come and see me? Ask Bernard to come as well."
Beth carefully woke my mother up and they went out.
I had looked for Victor as soon as I came back three days ago, but he had been sent to another area by the Management department. He was very busy working as both a Black Society informant and for Elias’s Management department.
It was a pity, but wasn't that the lot of those who worked as undercover agents? This Empire was overflowing with hardworking people, myself included of course.
While waiting for Victor and Bernard, I recalled the rumors I had heard from my mother.
"The bottom line is that the Countess thinks Jason will return... How? Father has authority over this matter, so does that mean she's confident she can persuade him?"
After a while, Victor and Bernard, with dark circles under their eyes, entered my room, followed by Beth.
Now that I was done getting ready, Victor and Bernard opened their mouths, gaping at me.
Victor immediately expressed his admiration, and Bernard praised me in his own way.
"It's not like a uniform, but it still looks good on you."
Oh... So, he was the uniform type.
"Haha. Thanks for the compliment, Bernard. So, let's hear about Victor's investigation."
Beth sat at the far end of the sofa and sewed, while Victor and Bernard came to sit at the table I was seated at in the center of the room.
Victor first gave the information he'd gathered about my siblings while I was away.
"Really? I see. The number of people attending the meeting is increasing every week?"
"Can we research the contents of the meetings, such as what are the topics and so on? In detail."
"I'll see to it."
"What about Hans Button?"
"First, our team members disguised themselves as reporters and went to his hometown. He currently is a Third Secretary at the Treasury and Baron Button's second son. A few months before last years' Administrative Exam, a fire broke out in Button's Manor. Hans Button was the sole survivor."
"Oh, it was a fire," I mumbled unconsciously.
"Nothing. Go ahead."
Author Kim hadn't written the cause of the Button's family collapse.
Did Button set the fire?
I didn't know, but I had my doubts. However, one thing to be wary of was not to conclude that he was the culprit just because he was the only survivor.
"He was taking a walk when the fire broke out. He was taken away by the Department of Public Security but was released a few days later. After that, the title of Baron, the burnt manor and all the money in the bank went to Hans. He paid the inheritance tax in full."
"What of his reputation?"
"He was a top student at the Stuart High Academy and graduated after completing a four year course in only a year and a half. The dean praised him not as a genius, but as a hard worker. He especially liked politics and had no issues except for a few arguments with his professor. After graduating, he lived almost exclusively in the mansion and when he went out, he always had a book in hand."
"Did he get ignored for being a bastard, discriminated against, or abused by his brothers or family?"
"Baron Button had a very good reputation. Word is that his brother and family always took care of Hans. The relationship between them was good. The villagers didn't even know that Hans is a bastard son."
"I see. And here?"
"He has a pretty consistent schedule. Outside of his house and the Palace, the only places he goes to are gambling clubs frequented by aristocratic men. Only once did I see him go in and out of the forest on the outskirts of the Capital. He was humming while walking slowly, as if he was taking a stroll. Later I discovered that there were several plots of land and huts he owned that he purchased recently."
"How much money did he spend to buy the land?"
"I'll find out."
"Okay. Fine. From now on, out of the 14 members under me, please dispatch half to survey him."
Victor and Bernard were startled by my words but didn't question my orders after looking at my determined expression. I felt that they had understood how important this was.
I wasn't the only one keeping an eye on Button.
Kyle was as well.
Walter had handed me a note with the names of three people on it when he had gifted me the whip.
I gulped when I read the name written in the middle.
'Tom Gary, Hans Button, Bradley Hound.'
[The Palace will send you information on their moves separately. Analyse it after you've taken a break.]
I already knew that Button was a sociopath and that he would have a huge impact in the future.
That was why I specifically investigated him. However, Kyle had narrowed down the scope of various possibilities, and then put Button on the list of people that had to be investigated.
Kyle started investigating him around the same time I did. He knew about it, but chose not to reveal it.
He was such a trickster. And now my boyfriend. What was I saying?
Embarrassed by the thoughts that had invaded my mind, I closed my eyes tightly, opened them and inwardly got myself together.
Focus! Have Button investigated, but without pinpointing him as the culprit of the series of incidents.
I could fall into the trap of composition (the mistake of viewing a part of the problem as the whole problem).
I shouldn't be preoccupied solely with the fact that Button was dangerous without even being able to remember exactly what he was up to.
It would be careless to judge that everything that happened and everything that will happen in the future was Hans Button's doing.
Then I could miss an incident caused by someone other than Button.
So, I should look at the overall situation while digging deeper into the Button case to find concrete evidence.
Bernard's call made me realise that I'd been lost in thought for some time.
"Oh, I suddenly thought of something. Now, can you tell me more about Donnie's Gambling House?"
"Around 40 percent of the revenue comes from gambling houses operations."
"Are the other 60 percent illegal?"
"Yes. They have their fingers in many pies. Basic stuff like trafficking stolen goods, catching adulterers or people that ran away with money. They also threaten, find, or buy people on behalf of their commissioner."
"Buy people? As in human trafficking?"
"Do they kill as well?"
"No. They aren't killers. Murder can’t be commissioned there. However, occasionally, I heard that people died later because of commissioned work."
"Hmm. I need more information..."
In other words, they were criminals for hire. As I raised my chin and pondered, Victor asked curiously.
"Disciple, the Countess only visited the gambling house once. So why do you think it has something to do with you? Maybe she went there for another reason?"
"Yes. It's possible. But contacting such criminals means you're asking them to take care of something in your stead, right?"
"Then I'll ask you who's been here since April of last year. Who revealed the embezzlement of Elias's Knights?"
"That was you, disciple."
"Who had Jason sent to Gaion, narrowly resolving the Dragon Fruit Incident after the Countess and Jason nearly got us all killed with their unsanctioned deal using the Family seal on the documents?"
"Who instructed that Jason's property be cashed in, and half be given to the Emperor's private vault?"
"Who took back the internal affairs ledger that the Countess managed?"
"If you were the Countess, would you wish to grandly celebrate my birthday?"
"Now then, if you were in the Countess's place, who would you ask the Gambling House to take care of?"
"If you were a criminal subcontractor, would you go after your target on days with few people around, or days full of people, like today?"
"Of course, when there are many people, like today."
"Do you understand?"
Victor nodded emphatically and answered in the same way.
"Yes. I totally understand."
But why was Victor's answer so disgustingly obedient?
By the way, based on the results alone, I looked like the one who persistently bullied the Countess! But if she was planning things again despite all that happened, it was my fault for not properly keeping her in check.
Damn it, if the Countess's malice was really directed at me... I would have to make sure this time.
I had no choice but to survive.
No. Why did she keep coming after me? I was a real pacifist!
'Whoa,' I sighed.
"Of course, I could be misunderstanding everything. But if you have information and doubts, shouldn't you be prepared?" I said firmly.
Bernard folded his arms and nodded.
Then, I suddenly clapped my hands as I came up with a plan.
It's been a very long while since I edited a chapter! God..... I'm rusty! LOL
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