Tara is put on the spot when Victoria's plan puts her public reputation on the line. The battle of wills continues...
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Chapter 239. About 10 months (116)
It was like a ghost had just appeared in front of her. This could not be real. How could she be here, right before her eyes? She didn't want to believe it.
She knew Donnie's men were in the mansion. Her maid had given them the key to Tara’s room, and they had dosed her food with sleeping pills.
She had received a report stating Tara had eaten all the food. Scylla had said that the only person seen leaving Tara's room after she fell asleep had been a maid.
That was it. The terrace door and the exit leading to the first floor were both open. As she had expected it to be. There had been smoke, but no fire.
[If you do it correctly, the smoke will spread slowly, and disappear after 30 minutes, so you can do whatever you want once everyone is gathered.]
‘But how? How did that bitch manage it?’
The entire family, except for Victoria, were swarming Tara to ask what happened. Isabelle hugged Tara gently and burst into tears.
As she watched the scene, thoughts flashed through Victoria's mind, and she trembled.
‘Yes. Perhaps she was kidnapped but escaped! She trains with that brutish weapon of hers, so she must have used it to get away! I saw the men in the mansion today with my own eyes. So they must have kidnapped her… But that bitch somehow managed to escape and make it back here in time! Yes, that has to be it!'
Then another thought occurred to her.
‘Wait... What about the sleeping pills...? Maybe she only consumed a little, or didn't sleep long enough. Maybe being exposed to the cold air woke her up?'
As she considered those possibilities, Victoria’s eyes glistened with a momentary spark of madness. Then she slowly approached Tara, step by step.
‘Yes. I just need to make it sound like she ran away to elope with a man. Even if she denies it, if it was known that a noble girl was kidnapped in the middle of the night... Yes! If I can prove that, then that bitch's reputation would definitely be ruined. God still hasn't forsaken me! So push on Johanna!'
"Dixon, tell the guests they should go rest for tomorrow’s events. They needn't worry about my daughter since nothing has happened to her.”
Lloyd spoke to Dixon loudly so all the guests still in the hallway who were keeping an eye on the situation could hear him.
Dixon opened his mouth to answer loudly and continue the charade, but was silenced by the louder voice of Countess Victoria.
"Did you change your mind and come back so quickly, Tara?"
"What?" The rest of the family, still gathered around Tara, turned towards Victoria.
The guests in the hall crept closer to the wide-open door, eager to watch things unfold.
"Yes, you must have changed your mind halfway through. You must have been so scared. But to think! That you would throw away the Elias name so…”
"Victoria!" Lloyd yelled in warning.
Victoria had no intention of stopping, she had already made up her mind. She continued to speak clearly, her voice even louder than before.
"You must have been afraid to live alone with a man, a commoner nonetheless, who has no title, and no nobility. I'm so relieved you changed your mind and came back."
Tara looked perplexed.
‘If she was kidnapped she won't know about the letter, so she can still be embarrassed by it. It will provide evidence that bitch won’t be able to weasel out of. Just wait.'
"What do you mean?"
"My goodness, Tara. How could you worry us like this and pretend you don't understand? Even if today is your birthday, I have no choice but to expose your reckless schemes to protect the honour of our family."
At Victoria's words, Isabelle squeezed Tara's hand tightly.
Aria appeared puzzled as if she didn't know who to believe, while Logan watched the entire situation with his arms crossed.
Lloyd walked right up to Victoria, grabbed her forearm tightly, and spoke low, through clenched teeth so that only she could hear..
"What kind of act are you trying to pull?"
"Of course I know what I'm doing! I am laying down the discipline on behalf of the Elias family.” Victoria announced with deliberate clarity.
The crowd outside responded, a buzz running through them. Many of them questioned the word 'discipline'.
"Victoria, stop it. This is not the time."
Again, Lloyd chose to whisper and Victoria chose to shout. Chloe, who had been watching this, moved to close the bedroom door.
"Chloe, stay still! The family's prestige must be upheld! This clever child dared to deceive our guests on her birthday and tried to run away in the middle of the night. She must pay the price for her deception. So leave that door alone!"
"Oh my gosh! Did she just say Lady Tara tried to run away in the middle of the night?"
"That's right! She said she was a runaway."
The crowd was startled, but despite their shock and agitation, they stayed quiet, fearing they wouldn't be able to hear the conversation in the room otherwise.
Chloe glanced back, tightly gripping the doorknob.
But her words to Victoria were clear. "Mother, this stops here!"
"No! I have an obligation to protect this family's honour! I am the mistress of this family and the Countess of Elias. So don't you dare stand against me, Chloe! Scylla, hold it!"
Scylla, who had been standing in the corner, nodded politely at Chloe then went to the door and grabbed the handle.
"Nevertheless, this simply isn't right! I won’t tolerate you questioning her like this when we still don't know what happened!" Aria argued, her voice shaking.
Isabelle's hand trembled slightly, but she tightened her grip on Tara, "Stop it, Countess Victoria!"
Then, Logan spoke. "Tara is responsible for this situation! So, shouldn't she explain what’s going on? It’s the quickest way to settle this pointless argument right now."
Victoria smiled at Logan for the first time in a long while, while she waited for Tara's response.
The family had already seen the letter. So she knew all too well that Tara's return wouldn't solve everything.
"Everybody stop! Let's take a break for the evening and discuss this at dawn...!"
"Dad, I think it's better we clear this up now," fortunately, Tara took a step forward and stopped Lloyd.
‘Yes. We’ll see how much longer you hold your head high!’
"Tara, there are too many guests here right now."
"I know, Father. But my reputation has already been questioned, and the guests will just spend the whole night in a state of curiosity otherwise. If that happens, the Elias family could be plagued by unwanted rumours, so it is best to explain it accurately now to avoid any further misunderstandings."
"Yes, I certainly hope so. So, how do you explain this letter that discusses a planned elopement? And the fact that you disappeared tonight without being aware that a fire started? Did you set the fire on purpose?"
"Countess Victoria!" Isabelle yelled furiously. But the Countess paid her no mind.
"You're not going to claim you were in the study or the greenhouse, are you? None of the servants could find you anywhere in the mansion. I sent servants out to look for you, but you were nowhere to be found."
"Ah... Oh my. You looked for me?"
Victoria was so delighted by Tara's seemingly desperate answer that she almost laughed.
"And Scylla, my maid, came and told me that the key to your bedroom door was missing. I keep at least one set of extra keys in the maintenance room, but why wasn’t the key there? Did you perhaps give it to someone else?"
The crowd gasped in unison at Victoria’s words. The guests gathered outside the door began to stare at Tara with growing suspicion. They wanted more than ever to enter the room itself so they could listen in more closely.
Victoria tried her best to fix a pitying yet stern expression on her face.
‘She's going to tell everyone it was actually a kidnapping instead of an elopement. Because she can't prove otherwise.'
To the very end... She truly didn't know when to give up. Well, I didn't expect anything less of Victoria Elias.
To be honest, I hadn't anticipated she would plant a note that would lead everyone to believe I had eloped in the middle of the night.
In fact, if I hadn't prepared for tonight, the note would have led my family to believe I had left voluntarily rather than gone missing. They would have searched for me at inns and boarding houses rather than looking for places I could have been kidnapped to.
That she would do something like this....
A burning rage welled in my chest. From the start, I had intended to expose all of Victoria's evil plans here and now, in front of all the witnesses she had intentionally gathered for her own purposes.
But just before I made up my mind to speak, I noticed Chloe standing motionlessly next to the wide open bedroom door.
She didn't say a word. Chloe just stared at Victoria, frozen, biting her lips. Her lips were pale and ragged, and it looked like she was on the verge of drawing blood.
Damn it. Victoria was Chloe's mother.... Argh...
Chloe needed to become the next Family Head, but the stigma of this could become a stumbling block for her when she ascended to her position as the next head of the household.
If Victoria's misdeeds were revealed to the entire Empire without any remedial measures, I would feel relieved, but the Elias family would be put in a very difficult position among the upper ranks of the nobility because of the Countess's actions. Due to the awkward position this would put the family in, and her relation to Victoria, the person who would suffer the most from this predicament would likely be Chloe.
Chloe did not deserve to be implicated in this because of her mother.
Therefore, I had no choice but to change my plans on short notice.
I took the note from Aria and read it quickly. It was crazy. The handwriting was almost identical to mine. Well… If you put aside how childish the contents were. But if I hadn't shown up, the forgery wouldn't have been obvious.
I raised my head and forced myself to smile like a naïve 19-year-old young girl daydreaming of love and a bright future.
Please work.... If it didn't, it would be Victoria's own fault for forging this damn note.
"Oh, my... I didn't know this had been left on my dressing table."
"What?" Victoria said.
"Did you really write it?" Lloyd asked.
"Oh, my God. You wrote such a ridiculous letter?" Aria exclaimed.
Chloe frowned and stared at me, while Logan smirked.
"Yes, I wrote it, not now, but when I got back from Durban. I had a break then because I was on vacation. Beth gave me a romance novel back then that had a similar plot, in it the female lead wrote a letter like this and ran away to meet the cool male protagonist."
I deliberately gazed ahead dreamily, clutching my hands together under my chin, like a romantic girl with a head full of delusions. Of course, I exaggerated the movement so that the people watching could see it.
"Oh, my God... Sister, you?"
"Is that true, Tara?"
"That’s ridiculous... You're lying!"
I stared at Victoria and responded immediately, unwilling to waste any more time.
"Why would I lie? It's true that I wrote it. I put it in the dresser drawer afterwards because it was so childish, but I must have taken it out during the day when I was getting my cosmetics.”
"What the hell is going on?" Someone asked.
"She wrote a letter about running away in the middle of the night, but it turns out she copied it after reading a romance novel." Andrei answered.
“Ah, but no matter what. That's oddly specific,” someone else said.
“Ha ha. Young ladies have their heads in the clouds even at that age. When I was young, I imagined things like that countless times.” Andrei answered again.
“Then where could she have been this whole time? They looked for her everywhere, but couldn't find her, right?” another asked.
Andrei was about to answer, but another person ended up answering for him.
"She was with us."
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