Updated: Jul 4
The Banquet concludes and Tara formulates her response to the Prince.
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Episode 23. 90kg (10)
‘...You really want to take the administrative exams with that body? You have some brains, but you lack courage and forethought, and still have a long way to go.’ He seemed to be saying.
I didn't need to look in a mirror to know that my face was flushed.
Ugh... It was so embarrassing. Why did I have to faint like that? It was fine though. The memory of it was embedded so deeply I wasn't at risk of forgetting it.
I narrowed my eyes and looked straight into his piercing gaze. Seconds ticked by.
Ha! Was he laughing at me?
Surely enough, he smirked and looked away.
Fine, let him mock me. Tomorrow I would become even stronger than I was today, and I would grow even more in the future.
As I looked around the banquet hall wondering when this dinner would end, I noticed something strange.
‘Why does she keep going back and forth like that?’
Sure enough, Aria, dressed in a pretty pink gown, was acting very conspicuously. She walked to the head of the table, said something to Father, then lingered.
‘Huh? Why is she doing that? Why is she tapping her feet and squirming like that? She's even crossing her arms. What on earth has possessed her.. Ah…’
Wait a minute. It was obvious at first glance that she was head over heels in love with him!
Was she really about to flirt openly? With the Prince?
She was clearly trying to act coquettish. It was obvious… too obvious.
Chloe and Jason were frowning at Aria.
The Countess and my mother were so intimidated they didn't even look up from their plates or seem to notice Aria.
Father also seemed to have missed it because he was so absorbed in the Prince. But then the Prince suddenly stood up as if he had noticed.
He said something to Father then left the grand banquet hall, his knights storming out after him. Father escorted the Prince to the door for a moment, then returned to the head of the podium and opened his mouth.
“Finish your meal and come to the office Tara!”
Oh... This was it.
When my name was called, everyone's gazes turned towards me, but I could hardly afford to pay attention to their staring.
"She's getting a lot of private audiences these days..."
“What did she do?”
Speculation and gossip ran rampant in the hall as I made my exit.
"The Prince talked about you."
I swallowed heavily.
"What did he say?”
"’It's not over yet.’"
"Do you know what he was talking about?"
Before I entered the office, I had been determined to confess what happened today. I thought it would be better if he heard it from me directly rather than from another person's mouth.
If my father had already heard about my sedition, I would have had no choice but to admit it. I had been convinced the Prince would tell him.
However, the Prince's message changed my mind.
Phew... It was a start, I'd bought myself time.
But it wasn't over yet. Was he saying that my punishment wasn't over? Or that he would give me another chance to avoid punishment? I thought it was more likely to be the former, but I wanted to believe it could be the latter. I had to check.
"Did he, by chance, say he wanted me to visit him at the private annex?"
"...No. He's departing early tomorrow morning. Whatever it’s about, it's yours to deal with! I don't like it regardless. He also said something about how he was looking forward to the Civil Administration Exam. What happened?"
Ha…Should I consider myself lucky? I hadn’t been able to solve Andrei's homework, but the sedition charge had been put on hold and Niels was safe.
"Yes, well. I'm sure you're curious, but can I explain it to you later?"
"Hmm. Fine. But he also said something ominous at the end."
"He said, ‘Prepare properly this time. Even if you have to stay up all night.’"
Ha! So that's what he meant? That was good, really good.
Father waited, as if expecting something from me, but when I remained silent, my father changed the topic.
"...What did that sly bastard do to you? I heard you fainted?"
"Do you really think I don't know about everything that goes on in my house? You attended a private audience with the Prince and left unconscious. Did that guy threaten you?"
"No, it was my fault. I was impatient. It's not that I took him lightly, but I was overconfident. It’s as if he enjoys such things...”
"Hmm. That's what he is, a ruthless killer. And a rude jerk as well! He's so up on his high horse that every word out of his mouth is disrespectful! That ungrateful bastard!"*
“Ah… Haha. It's okay, Father, it's okay."
But Count Lloyd Elias didn’t stop his tirade. He was taking this opportunity to curse openly, although he wasn't the kind of person who normally did such things.
Then again, perhaps it was understandable the Count was getting so fired up, since the Prince was responsible for one of his daughters fainting.
"When he first entered the palace, even when all the other nobles talked behind his back I was the only one who didn't! I, Count Lloyd Elias, said we should just watch and shouldn't judge people by their status! But if I knew he'd be so rude, I wouldn't have been so generous...."
The Count had begun quickly pacing in front of his desk, drunk on the torrent of words spilling from his lips.
Then, suddenly, he stopped talking, likely after noticing my wide eyed expression.
Pfft. Who knew Father could be kind of adorable?
My tension was trickling away, and I had to forcibly squash the smile that threatened to leak onto my face.
"Hmmmm. Yes, well... I'm very curious, but I'll wait to hear about what happened until tomorrow. You may go now."
"Yes, of course."
As I bowed my head slightly and turned around to reach for the door, my father's voice stopped me.
"You must be like your opponent if you wish to defeat them."
"Yes... Yes, Father." I said the words without looking back, and left the office.
Ah... Why were my emotions acting up like this...
The tip of my nose tingled, and I felt close to tears as I went upstairs to my room.
But I couldn't sleep because of the Prince's corrosive words.
It was 11 o'clock and I kept thinking about whether I should act on what I had been contemplating.
[...After looking one step ahead, those who act rashly based on the little knowledge they have. And then don't take responsibility for their actions. I really despise those who arrogantly do things without taking all variables into consideration. Just like the young Lady did today.]
The Prince's harsh words kept flying around in my head and getting stuck.
Maybe that's why I had been lost in thought for much longer than usual. After a lengthy struggle, I made a decision and pulled on the rope next to my bed to summon Beth.
"Haaaa... Are you hungry, Miss?"
"Uh. Ah... No, that's not it. Call Niels, quick!"
"I'm going to get your 6 gold back! One way or another."
"What? But is there a chance you might faint again? Really. It's okay. Judging by the looks of it, I don't think I'll ever get that money back. It's heartbreaking, but I think of it as being thrown away in a gamble. So forget about it, Miss."
“I can’t get it with conventional methods. Instead, I'm going to take the money from the person who confiscated it. Of course, though, that will take quite a while."
“What on earth are you talking about? I'm fine, Miss. I'll just have to keep working to earn it back."
Now that she had brushed off the possibility, she sounded like an old monk who had finally reached nirvana.**
"Yes. Well, perhaps it's best to have no expectations. Could you please call Niels now? It's important! I am your Lady you know!"
"Ah... That's right. Hehe, I forget sometimes. I'll hurry up and bring him. But forget about the six gold."
Only then did Beth hurry over and drape a gown over my pajamas.
I definitely had to find her money somehow if she was talking like that!
Niels entered the room with red, bloodshot eyes, and greeted me with a deep bow.
"Niels, are you disappointed in me?"
"I was... At first."
+1 point for honesty.
“After thinking about it, I understand why the Lady assumed I would confess right away. And…”
"You were whipped and fainted because of me. So, I..."
Oh... Why did he have to bring up the fact that I fainted again? Why did it have to keep coming up when I wanted nothing more than to forget it ever happened?
Beth, who had been seated in a chair next to the bed folding an already neat handkerchief for a second time, jerked her head up in surprise and suddenly interjected.
"Whipped! A noblewoman? By the Prince? Where? How many times were you whipped?"
Oh… I'd forgotten Beth was here.
"Ha ha. Beth, I'm fine. Nothing happened. I fainted instead."
"Oh my god?! That's why you fainted. Why didn't you tell me? Seriously! That anyone would do such a thing! I can't believe he'd strike a lady. How could he do that? To a noblewoman! No matter how tough the Miss might be..."
"This is an outrage! It's true you can never know someone's true colours just by looking at them. He dared lay a hand on a noblewoman..."
Oh, this wasn't good. Was she really saying this out loud?
"Beth, stop please."
"He truly is cruel. They say he excelled at killing people on the battlefield, it must be true, it's all true!"
"Beth! You're getting awfully worked up aren't you?
"Miss, it will never happen again... Right?"
"Stop it. I didn't even get hit once!"
“Still, Lady. This is absolutely ridiculous. You're a young lady, a noblewoman!”
"It was worth it. The longer we talk about it the more embarrassed I feel about it, so please stop. Besides, I need to talk to Niels!"
She pouted her delicate lips, went back to her chair and resumed fiddling with her handkerchief. I felt bad that I had made her so worried.
"Thank you, Beth, for being upset on my behalf."
"Yes, well, as long as you know! Talk to Niels."
She didn't hold grudges. That's why I liked her.
Niels stopped staring at Beth like she was some strange creature and focused on me again.
"I - I've decided that I will do whatever you ask of me, if you permit me to do so. Are you willing to let me?"
The tip of his nose was red, his lips were clenched tight and his gaze was direct. At the same time, I felt the swell of tears forming in my eyes again.
Ah... Both Niels and Father had decided to surprise me today.
"Well, that's why I called you. I could have asked Beth to do this, but I think it would be better if you went."
"I'll do it gladly, Lady."
"You'll have to go see the Prince again. Will that be all right?"
"...Yes, I'll be fine."
I gave Niels the details of what I wanted him to say.
"Will you be able to memorize everything I told you?"
"I don’t know."
He doesn't jump to conclusions. +1 more point.
"I'll give you time to practice. Would you like to try it?"
"Yes, I’ll try."
"It doesn't have to be exact, but just try to look unintimidated. Okay? Just pretend you're me when you're delivering the message, okay?"
I waited patiently. As expected, he was a smart kid and memorized it well. It was quite a long message, so Niels had to repeat it over and over again.
Beth eventually gave up following along with him because she got tired of it.
He's intelligent. +1. Another point in his favour.
About an hour later, Niels had finally memorized the message without a single error.
I pressed a gold coin into Niels's hand.
"H - Hey I haven't even..."
"No, don't you dare refuse! You're my person now. And I believe you'll do a good job. You've improved significantly since you first stepped into this room. You've grown so much. So I must treat you accordingly. If I ask you to do a job for me, I'll give you unconditional advance payment. Got it?"
That was the truth. Giving him his payment in advance implied complete confidence in the outcome.
That's how strongly I believed Niels would succeed at this. Both now and in the future.
Had I gained more than I'd lost today?
“Yes, Miss. I will deliver what you've asked first thing in the morning.”
"Yes! Thank you, Niels!"
After Niels left, Beth asked.
Editor’s Notes -
* This is a good time as any to briefly explain formal and informal speech etiquette in Korean culture (there are technically 7 levels of formality in speech but I’m simplifying things here). Korean society is very hierarchical and emphasizes deference to elders and people of higher rank. Even small differences in age can make someone your junior or senior and younger people are expected to treat their seniors very politely and deferentially. You are generally expected to address all strangers and seniors with polite forms of speech unless you are given explicit permission to speak informally. In Korea, informal speech is only used between good friends and family. This nuance is lost in the MTL but Kyle always addresses the Count with informal or less respectful speech. Despite the fact that Kyle is higher ranked this is considered extremely rude because the Count is older than Kyle and it’s just generally bad manners. This is why Count Elias hates Kyle’s guts, LOL.
** In a Buddhist context 'Nirvana' is “a transcendent state in which there is neither suffering, desire, nor sense of self, and the subject is released from the effects of karma and the cycle of death and rebirth,” and is the intended goal of Buddhist monks and practitioners. It’s often used to refer to a state of total happiness. Like many other East Asian countries Korea has its own long history of Buddhism and Buddhist cultural influences with around 15% of modern Koreans identifying as Buddhist. I think most of this is common knowledge but I can’t resist adding at least some notes, hehe. Apparently Beth is now at spiritual peace with the idea that she's never going to get her money back, LOL. - https://www.britannica.com/topic/nirvana-religion
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