Updated: Mar 17
(Image to be updated)
Where Kyle's investigation takes a new turn while Tara's 19th birthday starts in earnest
This Chapter is dedicated to Stephanie Hancock! Thank you for your kind donation.
Episode 230. About 10 months (107)
Meanwhile, in the southern port city of Monteo, South Central Security Council.
"Ugh. Your Highness!"
Nick raised his head. His serious expression looked absurd under his hair clumped in wet patches, his cheeks clown red from the sharp wind and his thick black fur coat looking as if he'd rolled in filth with it.
To finish this tableau, the mud caking the soles of his shoes left thick dirty shoe prints on the conference room floor.
Mack wrinkled his face at the sight and held back with all his might, blocking his nose from the stench Nick was exuding.
However, the Second Prince looked at Nick's sorry state without any change in his expression.
"Mack, prepare to leave."
"Yes. I'll ask the lyricist, prepare everything in advance and await instructions from the Capital. Please travel safely, Your Highness."
Immediately after he bowed and let himself out, Kyle sat across from Nick at the table.
"If it's that urgent, report to me first! Is Cox dead?"
"Oh, I got sidetracked again. That's right, Your Highness. He's dead."
"Does the fact that you came all the way here mean that there are suspicious circumstances surrounding his death?"
If Nick rushed here in person, it was because he must have thought it was serious and he couldn't tell anyone else.
"Yes, Your Highness, there are."
"Then explain them in detail. Don't put in your personal thoughts. Be objective."
"Yes, Your Highness.... I had two beers at the bar..."
Nick's recounting of the events ended a good while later. It took more time than expected since it was hard for him to be objective and not add editorials which he had to cut off mid-sentence.
Kyle listened to Nick's muddled words without ever interrupting.
"This is all I have seen and heard myself, Your Highness."
Kyle stood up and gathered the reports spread on his desk, sorting out what to take and what to leave.
"I'm going to the Capital. You take a rest then move on."
Nick jumped up in surprise.
“No, Your Highness. Didn't you hear how hard I worked to get here? Then you should tell me about this. What? Do you have any idea how desperate I was all the way here? No matter how hard I think about it, I don't know why they killed him!"
As he spoke, he took a couple of steps closer, and Kyle stretched out his hand to stop Nick.
"Whoa... I'll let you know, so stop talking. Stop talking."
"Hehe. Yes, Your Highness."
"Don't laugh, don't answer, don't breathe, just listen!"
Whether Nick was disappointed or not, Kyle explained as he headed for the coat hanger.
"There are three possibilities. First, the murderer had a grudge against Cox himself. That's why he tried to make his death as long and as painful as possible. Second, he tried to send a message through the dying man, leaving a clue to the murder. Third, he made a mistake and has poor assassination skills."
"However, Cox showed no sign of resistance, and the culprit could have simply used poison on everyone to avoid detection. But using sleeping powder shows that he isn't a novice, so the third hypothesis can be excluded."
"Then which of the two is it?"
"We'll have to find out if anyone has a grudge."
"Then shall I instruct someone to look for it?"
"Yes, just in case. Look for it when you go to the Capital, but it isn't a priority. What is important here is the second hypothesis. That he tried to deliver a message through his victim. In other words, his purpose was to inform us of the crime. He kept the guards alive even though it would have been easy enough to kill them. He knew they would go to the murder scene, but why?"
"Because he wanted the guards to go to the scene?"
"So, it seems. Now, why did the killer give a hint about the murder?"
"If he left evidence, he'll get caught. Why did he do that? Is he making fun of us because he's confident he won't?"
"Maybe he's simply trying to muddle the investigation. But what if that isn't the case?"
"Or is he trying to help us catch him? No, who would want to commit a crime and get caught?"
"He might want to stop committing crimes."
"Well, it could be, but then why do it in the first place?"
"What if he can't control himself to stop committing crimes?"
"We’ll investigate with both hypotheses in mind. We should be wary since it is confusing, and if he did give us a hint to his crime it’s a crack we can take advantage of."
"Black crown and black eyepatch... First, go to the capital."
"Yes, Your Highness!"
As Nick gave his heartfelt reply and moved one step closer, Kyle immediately opened the door.
"Stop! Go wash up and get some sleep!"
Nick looked at Kyle with a hurt expression, as if he were on the verge of crying.
"Your Highness, are you avoiding me because I'm dirty? Lord, no matter how sleepy I was, I rode as fast as I could to tell you the news. Even if I fell off my horse twice, I held it in and...."
"It's a good thing you came in person."
Soft praise. Nick mellowed down instantly at the remark, grinned and took a step closer, but at the same time Kyle took a step towards the door.
"That doesn't erase the dirt and smell. Wash yourself clean, get some rest, then follow me to the Capital. Okay?"
"Yes, Your Highness. When my whole body is once again pure and white like a baby’s then...!"
The door was shut savagely and Kyle rode straight to the Capital, meanwhile, seeing Mack’s clear abhorrence, Nick decided to wash and rest.
By six o'clock that evening, the Elias Grand Banquet Hall was abuzz.
“A friend who attended the Winter Forest Hunting Tournament said she has changed a lot.”
"That's right. She lost a lot of weight. I heard that she was promoted to Second Assistant in the Imperial Palace."
"Certainly, the Elias Family joined hands with the Second Prince, and they put their esteemed daughter by his side. Their power has changed."
"I heard Lord Logan Elias will soon be appointed as Second Administrative Officer of the Military. After experiencing a crisis, it seems that they definitely felt the need for a connection to the Palace."
The Capital's spirited youth gathered in a circle and chatted.
"Oh my! There's Lord Logan. He's definitely more eye-catching than Lord Jason Elias."
"But isn't this banquet a little different from other banquets?"
"How can I put it. It's more like a socialite's seasonal banquet than a 19-year-old girl's birthday party, isn't it? Why? It's the kind of elaborate gala that usually only takes place between noblewomen at the end of the social season."
"Come to think of it, most of the invited guests are Ladies. I think there are less than 10 young Lords and young Ladies around her age, how is that possible?"
"Is it because she doesn't have any friends?"
The Ladies of the Capital gathered and chatted excitedly, waiting for the banquet to begin. Certainly, the atmosphere was strange for the birthday party of a young Lady who was about to make her debut in society.
There were many well-known Ladies who had made a name for themselves in the Capital's social circle present, and there were Lords who had ties to Elias, but they were outmatched by the Ladies.
"The atmosphere is definitely unique... Oh my! Aren't those members of the 'Excellent Crown Club'?" A young lady asked, her eyes rounded in surprise, looking at the guest who had just entered.
The other young ladies’ eyes also widened at the sight.
Among the clubs in the Capital, the 'Excellent Crown Club' was the most traditional, with the largest numbers of members from long-standing Families tied to the Imperial Family.
It was an all-female club, and they were often respected figures and supreme decision makers in their families.
In many cases, they were of very high standing and received more than a few accolades.
As such, its influence in Society was enormous.
However, three members of the 'Excellent Crown Club' had come to participate in the birthday banquet of a 19-year-old, the fifth daughter of a Counts' family who hadn't even made her debut yet.
The Grand Banquet Hall stirred for a moment while Lloyd and Victoria rushed up to greet them and lead them directly to their seats. Among them, the first member of the 'Excellent Crown Club', sitting at the head table was Helen, Duke Stuart's wife.
Bang! Bang! Bang!
A staff hit the marble floor, drawing the attendees’ attention.
"Let me introduce today's main character, Tara Elias, the fifth daughter of House Elias. Ladies and Gentlemen, please be quiet for a moment!" boomed butler Dixons' voice, filling the hall.
The distinguished guests who were waiting for the banquet to start, turned towards the back door of the Grand Banquet Hall, and two servants opened them very slowly for dramatic effect.
I thought I would be okay, but when the doors opened, my heart pounded as if it would jump out of my chest.
Ugh. I had done many hard things before. Even if it was embarrassing, I would endure it. Let's go!
With each step, I repeated the word that Koreans love ‘Fighting!’.*
Numerous eyes were focused on me, but thanks to the splendid chandeliers’ lights, those stares were weakened, so it was bearable.
As I walked down the red carpet through the Grand Hall, I could hear exclamations everywhere.
"Oh my God, she's changed so much!"
"Hmmm. Not bad looking!"
"Still, I feel she could lose more weight, don't you?"
"I agree. I think she needs to lose more weight to look more feminine."
My goodness, could someone do the world a favour and kill those bastards?
Ignoring the stares and whispered words, I headed to the upper table at the end of the hall while quickly scanning my surroundings.
Ugh. Old Duchess Helen. She came early.
Wait. What? Andrei. He wasn’t here yet?
Everyone took their seats and boring speeches masquerading as congratulations began.
Aristocrats from families I'd never heard of rose and began to congratulate me in turn, followed by Old Duchess Helen and two ladies of similar age next to her.
After that, I thought it would end with my fathers' birthday compliments, but Victoria, the party’s hostess, did it instead.
"As the Elias Family's hostess, I would like to thank our distinguished guests who came to congratulate our precious fifth daughter on her birthday.... I hope you will celebrate and enjoy the birthday of Tara; our noble, wise, benevolent, innocent, and chaste fifth daughter to the fullest. We hope you will delight in the festivities, and we officially announce the start of the banquet."
After the Countess's long winded speech, the orchestra finally played the birthday song.
Standing like a borrowed sack of barley, I laughed awkwardly and blew out all of the 19 candles at once.**
Around that time, a man quietly walked into the banquet hall.
Ugh. Was that a skirt or pants?
Andrei wore gold pants, like the kind Aladdin would wear, and his top was made of black silk fabric and a gold vest.
Why was the head of intelligence so flashy? Well, as long as he has the ledger.
Yes. It didn't matter what he wore today or how he was dressed. As long as he has that ledger.
He smiled at me and I quickly mouthed to him: 'Did you get the book?'
‘.... I don't know?'
‘Hmmm... that was strange. Why didn't he know? Hmmm.... Was my intuition wrong?'
Andrei gave me a strange glance, then lost himself in thought.
No. What the hell was he saying?
Did he get it or not?
* The 'Fighting!' pronounced 'hwa-i-ting' or 'pa-i-ting' since the korean language does not carry the"F" sound, is similar to the Japanese 'Fighto!' that you read in manga. It's to support, encourage or cheer on someone or a team. Of course, this comes from the English word.
More here: "Fighting!"
** 'Standing like a borrowed sack of barley' is an korean idiom similar to being a wallflower. I really liked the original sentence and its imagery so I left it.
More here: Wallflower
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