Updated: Jul 1
The Empress and the Duke of Toulouse struggle to fix Franz's mess, while Tara receives a shocking Order from Kyle.
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Episode 247. About 9 Months (6)
Three hours before Tara received the order.
Franz's eyes flicked back and forth. The Duke of Toulouse quietly clicked his tongue as he watched the 1st Prince's haggard face.
The Empress sat down and breathed deeply, trying to calm her temper. Seeing this, the Duke of Toulouse decided to explain.
"I think my two nephews should know this. The Emperor knows our family is behind it. After the incident on the coast twelve years ago the Emperor ordered an investigation, but it was dismissed as a mere accident since barbarian raids are a common occurrence in that region. The Emperor's power was not as great at that time, so despite his suspicions he failed to investigate any further. Until now. Years later, a song about the incident being perpetrated by a group of mercenaries has spread throughout the Empire. The Emperor warned Her Majesty about this."
Franz clasped his hands together and swallowed heavily, "What...?"
"This crude mercenary song paints a picture of an incompetent Emperor who couldn't even protect his own son and a cruel Empress who cares nothing for the Empire and is consumed by envy and jealousy. He warned Her Majesty to halt the rumours at all costs. He told her the day this reached the ears of the Imperial Court would also be her last day as Empress… But we paid little attention to his warnings at the time."
"Because you didn't know Kyle would take over the Military and the Ministry of Security and work his way up to being a Crown Prince candidate," Joseph summarised coldly.
"That's right. We thought that only the two of you would be eligible to become Crown Prince anyway."
Franz and the Empress stared at him at the words, ‘the two of you’. The Duke cringed and then quickly changed the subject, "You said that Kyle was threatening you with something, Your Majesty?"
"He said that the person who created this mess would have to deal with it, or else..."
"Or else what, Mother?"
For a moment, the Duke of Toulouse stared at Joseph, ‘Did I mishear that?'
He could have sworn the Third Prince was laughing when he asked that question. But neither the Empress nor the First Prince seemed to have heard it, and their expressions remained unchanged.
"He said that now that he has evidence, he will make this scandal so large that even the youngest child in the Empire will know everything that happened that day... Ha! How dare he blackmail me and pretend to give me a choice? I should have killed him then..."
For a moment, nobody spoke. It was Vivian who broke the silence.
"Brother, I'm going to have to spend money on this. I'll need exactly twice as much money to cover this up as Franz spent on it. This is such a massive headache… Just give it to me quickly so I can get it over with!"
"How much did it cost, Prince Franz?" The Duke asked, sighing inwardly.
The First Prince made an impatient sound. "Jim Harriet manages my treasury, so I'll have to ask him for the details.”
"Well then, I'll find it out myself, Your Majesty."
As soon as the Duke of Toulouse left Harrington Manor, he went to find out the cost of the rumours. He gritted his teeth when he realized how much money Jim Harriet had taken out of the First Prince's coffers.
"Two thousand gold. This is insanity! That's enough to buy multiple provincial estates!"
However, he now had to spend twice that amount of money to quell the rumours. In addition, the amount of money in the First Prince's royal treasury was less than half of what it had been a year ago. It seemed that Jim had been using the Prince's treasury as his own personal wallet.
"My God, he let a fox guard the henhouse!"
And most of that money had, of course, come from House Toulouse. The Duke gritted his teeth and struggled to swallow his anger.
Then he remembered Joseph's quiet laugh.
The hairs on the back of his neck stood on end. The Duke banged his cane against the roof of his carriage.
"To the Palace."
He had a strong feeling his nephew, the Third Prince, was heavily involved in this.
One hour before Tara received the order. Morning.
Earlier that morning, Father had summoned the merchant group staff, vassals, and family members to a conference room in the business wing. It was very unusual.
He explained the details of Victoria's atrocities and made his position clear.
"House Philippe immediately recovered all of the rights and shares Victoria holds in both our families, and agreed to give us a preferential right to buy the shares she holds in our businesses back according to standard procedure. It was also agreed that I will file for a formal divorce from Victoria with her held as the responsible party, and all her shares in the Philippe family business will be transferred to us."
Commotion sparked in the room.
"By when do we have to provide the money to buy the shares back?" A member of the accounting staff asked.
Father answered immediately, "The preferential buying window expires in six months."
"That still leaves House Philippe with a significant stake in our business that could affect our finances. It sounds like money will be tight."
"That's right. Today will be the last day I get our family in trouble. I've been an incompetent Head of the Family. Even after the Dragonfruit incident, I've reacted poorly."
My father's eyes were intense with determination and his voice was full of dignity as he spoke to the audience. However, his face was unmistakably haggard from the many days he had spent agonizing over this.
"As the family patriarch, I will take great care to ensure that we do not encounter such a crisis again in the future. I hope that all of you gathered here today will lend your support to this poor patriarch who already lost his eldest son due to his blindness and also almost lost his precious daughter the same way."
"Yes, Your Excellency!"
As expected... We were the fifth ranked family in the Empire.
A murmur of agreement echoed through the room. My father cleared his throat, taking a moment to process his emotions.
"The priority purchase of House Philippe's shares and the transfer of Victoria's shares should be handled by Chloe. Any objections?"
The order was a firm statement of my father's determination. Even though her mother was from House Philippe, Chloe would not be harmed by this event or left out in the cold.
"Yes, Sir. I will prepare and execute it to the best of my ability," Chloe replied with a bow.
However, both Father and Chloe knew what the people gathered in this room were likely thinking.
They knew that the moment the Philippe Family no longer had a hold on House Elias, the higher-ups' opinions of Chloe would change. It was something she would have to deal with in the future. It was inevitable because the weight of House Philippe’s involvement was significant and the loss of their support would make a big difference.
Victoria's banishment was quickly accepted by the family and the management of internal affairs was entirely assigned to my mother. Meanwhile, Logan joined Chloe on the buyout team.
House Elias's legal team began preparing for the divorce proceedings between the Count and Countess, while the business PR strategy team began creating a plan for the company image they wanted to present to the Empire.
Surprisingly, Aria also joined the PR team. She insisted she wanted to join them as an intern.
My father saw an opportunity and also wanted to put me on the PR team with Aria, but I refused, saying that I would withdraw my leave of absence from the Palace and return to work immediately.
Me, a bad worker? Dereliction of duty? I was Korean! I worked harder than anyone in this country.
I worked hard. Was I not a resourceful person who worked as efficiently as possible? Did I not produce better results than everyone else?
Honestly, even if I worked harder than I did in Korea... I just didn't know what to say.
I only took a month off from work. Come on! This was crazy!
My Father was right beside me when I opened the order, and we read it together.*
What was he talking about? ‘Neglect’? Seriously? Did Kyle really write this?
I once read that a person’s brain doesn't function properly when they get severely shocked, and that was exactly what I was feeling at the moment. My thoughts were an incoherent jumble of words.
My leave of absence was hasty? What the hell?
My father, the messenger, and I all looked at one another in disbelief.
The messenger was the first to come to his senses. "I'm sure I've conveyed the message to the right person, so I'll take my leave!"
He bowed in farewell and left the hall with light steps.
"What? He's not even letting you appeal this decision?" My father exclaimed in frustration.
My father's face, which had appeared haggard only an hour ago, was now turning shades of red and blue.
What the hell was the Second Prince thinking? Was this some kind of trick played on me and my Father?**
"I knew it. He's a snake! He uses people when it benefits him and throws them away when he doesn't need them. He kicked you out for taking a month's leave of absence less than two months after he hired you as a Second Aide! I knew this would happen. That's the kind of person he is. Does he think he no longer needs to care about us just because we’re officially allied with him now? Who does he think he is! There’s no need to catch... Something about a fish..."
Dylan, who had been listening in the background for some time, chimed in, "'There's no need to bait a fish that has already been caught', Your Excellency."
"Yes, yes, a fish that's been caught, that! He's being so inflexible because our family name now means nothing to him!"
When I didn't respond, which was my usual strategy when my father started ranting like this, he grabbed me by my shoulders.
"It's good you left. If you continued to work for him no doubt you would be subjected to nothing but dirty work and foul deeds. I think it's time to ask for a transfer to the inner court...!"
"Father, I have to go to the Palace. How could I so easily lose a position that I've earned? To have it taken away from me over something as simple as this… This wasn't part of the plan. I can't..."
I crumpled up the order, changed my clothes, and headed for the Palace.
I arrived at the 2nd Imperial Palace, but the knight at the entrance stopped me once he saw my badge.
I frowned gravely and stood there waiting for permission to enter.
"His Highness the 2nd Prince advised me about you in advance. He told me that if the 2nd Aide did anything reckless, I should report you immediately."
"And if you report me?"
"He said you'll lose points for a future promotion. Go home."
I had no choice. I gritted my teeth and turned back.
This felt so strange.
There had to be a reason! I wanted to at least look him in the eye and ask for an explanation, but instead, I’d been cut off before I even made it through the entrance.
"What the hell? What are you doing, you asshole?"
My stomach boiled with anger.
"You know damn well why I took a leave of absence, and now you're blaming it on me...!"
I stopped dead in my tracks on the way back from the Second Prince's Palace.
This behaviour was so unlike anything I'd ever seen from him.
Yes. There must be a reason.
He just wasn't the kind of person who would do something like this without an explanation.
My mind racing, I quickly replayed the events of today from the moment of the messenger's arrival.
And then I remembered the order.
I immediately took the crumpled paper out of my pocket and looked at it more closely.
"Crap! Why didn't I see this before!?"
Editor’s Notes –
* This message from Kyle is very intentional. See if you can spot it and write your theories about any hidden messages you find in the comments! The answer will be included in the next chapter if someone guesses it, or just a clue, depending on how quickly you all figure it out! The Korean novel readers got to have fun figuring this out on their own and I wanted to let you all do the same. Enjoy!
I’m including a plain text version of it at the end here as well in case you have an issue with properly seeing the image.
** This second sentence was pretty nonsensical, so this is my best guess interpretation of the meaning.
Image Text (click arrow to left of text to expand)
[Employment Transfer Order – 2nd Aide Tara Elias Reason for Transfer: Dereliction of Duty Department: Aide's Office, Second Prince's Palace → Permanent Aide's Office, Department of Military Affairs Position: 2nd Aide to the Second Prince → 2nd Aide assigned to the Permanent Aides Office Effective Date: March 1st. Military matters require Imperial staff to be available in the event of emergency and a Prince and his advisors must always endeavor to place their duties above any personal matters. The 2nd Aide failed to fulfil the entirety of her duties to the 2nd Prince and his Palace, and in so doing, neglected to meet the 1st requirement for Imperial advisors. Due to this violation she shall be transferred to a different office. This transfer is due to your hasty leave of absence regardless of your personal circumstances. There are other candidates able to occupy the position, and any future instances of neglect or unprofessionalism will not be tolerated. I will not entertain any reckless actions, and the aide will not be granted permission to return to the 2nd Palace. Similarly, I will not be accepting any objections to the contents of this Order, as this decision was made officially in my capacity as the head of the Security and Military departments.
His Highness the 2nd Prince, Kyle Amure]
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