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  • Writer's pictureRina

Chapter 26

Updated: Jul 4, 2023


Tara notices something is wrong with Bernard, while the Count gathers the family for a new test.


This chapter is dedicated to Vitoriacordeiro, thank you for kind donation!


Disclaimer:

DO NOT publish our edits anywhere else. Especially on social media. Otherwise we may have to stop doing this. Thank you.


Episode 26. 86 kg (2)


"I told you not to eat those little cookies! If you're hungry, eat some boiled eggs instead. If you keep this up, I can't help you. No, if you want me to teach you, you have to start improving. What's the point of extending your training by an hour? You don't do weight training because you say it's hard, all you do is complain! Peter has already finished his basic drills! When are you going to finally understand the axe? How long do we need to be here?"


Today, he was being particularly mean. His expression was also terribly sour. What was going on?


"Haaa... Stop it. I know. I've been trying to do better lately, okay! I'm trying to focus. What next?"


"As you move forward with your right foot, bend your knee, but support it with your thighs and swing the axe forward quickly. Come on, watch. Like this!"


Wow. He was so strong.


His movements were impactful, but his axe stroke was very restrained and clean.


I, on the other hand, inexplicably stumbled when I tried to swing my axe forward.


Crap! It felt like my thighs were going to explode.


Minutes dragged by as I struggled with the axe.


“Hahaha. Hey! Bernard! The Vice-Captain is looking for you!"


When I turned my head, sweating profusely, two unfamiliar knights stood nearby waiting.


When they saw me, they laughed and turned around to leave.


Argh! They were laughing at me! And the way they looked at me! I was a noble daughter of House Elias, but they didn’t even acknowledge me!


"...Hehehe! It's weird seeing those two together. Don't tell me he chose to make an oath to her?"


"Kekekeke! No way! Even if he did, he's a useless knight anyway. His contract is up for renewal and it's obvious he'll be fired..."


Their voices faded, but I could hear them laughing as they walked away.


"Who are those guys, Bernard? They're really getting on my nerves. They're just trying to get under your skin, right?"


"Let's stop for today. Please practice your drills whenever you have time." Bernard said quietly.


He took my axe, but his face was unusually hard.


What was it? Something was wrong.


***


The Elias Family Head's Office.


That man was a pain in his ass.


Lloyd didn't know why that Prince kept getting in his way these days. Obviously, he must've been his enemy in a past life. That bastard.


“... Count Spencer and Count Battenbir will remain neutral, and Baron Kezak will support the Second Prince. The Duke of Stuart hasn't responded yet, but he's likely to decline.”


"As expected of the Black Society."


"Hahaha. We just give you the information that you pay for. You don't look very pleased…”


Andrei clicked his tongue at the Count's noticeably darkening expression.


"Well, I knew I'd have to make a decision one day, but I didn't expect him to push me into this so quickly. Maybe... Could it be His Majesty's health?"


“Possibly? He is slowly withdrawing from government affairs, but there's nothing wrong with his health.”


"Do you really have people in the Palace?"


"Well... We're everywhere. Hahaha."


How many informants did he have? And how was he running the operation without getting caught... Lloyd pondered this for a moment.


He had convened all eight of his top ranking vassals and family elders for two weeks and held meetings throughout, but nothing had come of it. The opinions just cycled endlessly with no consensus.


Now he wanted to finally decide this issue as quickly as possible.


Perhaps Andrei, being the person he was, could give him some answers.


So.


"Hmm... I...”


"Your Excellency!" Dylan said in a rush. He quietly shook his head at Lloyd.


Seeing this, Andrei grinned and rose from his seat.


"Calm down, Count Elias.... I don't plan on selling this information elsewhere. So go ahead and discuss it with your family. I have another assignment for them, but give your children a chance. You've already sent a reply to the Prince stating you needed more time, so I think it will be fine if you delay for a little longer."


“Hmm… It’s not that I haven't considered that.”


Lloyd's expression was grave as he leaned on the sofa and rubbed his temples.


"Are you disappointed? After the first assignment?"


“…I think I had high expectations.”


"Huh... Oh dear. There's still a long way to go. It will be difficult to solve the current crisis if you're already disappointed at this stage of testing. Were you unhappy with the limited abilities on display?"


"Ha. Are you mocking me? Perhaps I was being a little too sentimental. Even though no one could live up to my firstborn, I wanted to see something that reminded me of my eldest child again. While you seem to be doing this for fun, Master Andrei... I think her sudden change gave me too many expectations."


"Certainly. Bloodlines are very difficult to predict. It seems to me that all of your children do things according to their own desires. You need to be patient and observe them for longer. Do you really think I'm spending time at House Elias just for my own amusement?”


“....!”


"Okay then, we'll do this for the third task. I won't listen to their findings. Instead, you, Count Elias, will make the judgement and tell me the results. And then you'll have your answers about the family lineage."


Lloyd stood up, and stared blankly as Andrei left the office with a cool smile on his face.


"Dylan. Am I being too hasty?"


"...Master Andrei's words have some truth to them. Shall I summon everyone?"


"Yes. Ask them to gather in the conference room!”


Once he got to the conference room, Tara Elias, his fifth child, immediately dispelled his disappointment over the first assignment.


***


"...What do they all have in common?"


"All of them are families who have officially declared neutrality." Jason answered correctly.


But Chloe was the one who explained further.


“Count Spencer hasn't entered frontline politics because he is a distant relation of the Imperial Family. Despite being an esteemed family, the current Duke of Stuart surrendered the lands he was granted by the Imperial Family after his predecessor died and chose to withdraw from politics. Like our family, House Battenbir has significant financial influence and is the third wealthiest family in the Empire."


"And?"


"When we look at their physical assets, they own vast tracts of land throughout the Empire, and their family's business centers around land sales. The Emperor has offered the current Count of Battenbir a position in the Palace several times, but he has refused every time. Finally, Baron Kezak and his family are a recent emerging power in the financial industry and have also stayed neutral."


"Very good. The Second Prince sent a message bearing his seal to those families as well as our own. Here."


[I request that you provide me knights to serve under my direct command. – Kyle Amure.]


Just a one line demand including Prince Kyle's personal signature and nothing else.


Next to the signature was a maroon seal, a shade darker than blood, imprinted in the shape of a phoenix.


"The Phoenix Seal. This is!"


"It's not from the Military or Security departments. It's the Second Prince's personal seal."


The air in the room suddenly felt oppressively heavy under the weight of the red phoenix seal, and the room lay silent for a long moment.


"Count Spencer and Count Battenbir will remain neutral, and Baron Kezak will join the Second Prince. The Duke of Stuart has not responded yet, but it seems likely that he will refuse. You all understand what the Prince's seal means, right? So, what should House Elias do?"


The Prince had used his personal seal when asking neutral aristocratic families to send him knights to serve under his direct command. It was as if he was saying, 'You need to make a decision. Choose me to be the next Emperor and throw your support behind me.'


Hmmm. Wasn't the Second Prince capable of succeeding alone without the help of the nobles? Why was he forcing our families to pick a side now?


I lost myself in thought.


"That guy dares to even ask! I think we should refuse."


"Why?"


One corner of Jason's lip curled in contempt, and he cleared his throat.


"Don't you think that despite our family's neutrality, we should obviously support the First Prince? Like all the other prestigious aristocratic families of the Empire have done? That's the principled thing to do, and doesn't go against legitimacy."


Legitimacy. It was true that legitimacy was important, however...


Logan Elias, who had gone unnoticed until now, calmly explained.“...If the Empire was truly bound by the rules of legitimacy, the First Prince Franz Amure would have already been crowned as the next Emperor. However, His Majesty continues to leave the Crown Prince position vacant. These are not the actions of a man determined to follow the rules of legitimacy. For now, no one is really discussing it, but don't you think the Second Prince is a strong candidate? This could be an opportunity.”


"An opportunity?"


"Even though we have expressed neutrality, each noble family is already considering who the Crown Prince will be. If our family is in a position to influence that decision, it could be beneficial for our family to join hands with the Second Prince if he ever reaches out to us."


"So you mean we should listen to his request?"


"Yes, that's right."


"Many nobles are still pushing for the First Prince. However, if we comply with the demands of the Second Prince, we will be going in a different direction than several prestigious aristocrats. That means we could become their enemies. Are you saying we should accept that risk?"


"Every choice comes with a risk. If we have to make a choice someday, it is less risky to ally ourselves with the Prince now when he's giving us this opportunity."


"Hmm……"


"That's absolute drivel." Chloe interjected."The Second Prince is a black-hearted man. We never know when or how he'll stab us in the back. Isn't it obvious why a man who usually despises nobles suddenly reached out to us like this?"


"What do you mean?"


"...It's a distraction. It's an attempt to break the bonds between the neutral nobles and the nobles who are already supporting the First Prince."


“Then what do you propose?” Father sighed deeply, as if he was only getting more irritated.


"We should do what Spencer and Battenbir did, we must also say that our family will remain neutral going forward. That way we can avoid any issues."


"Hmm... It seems everyone thinks the same."


Yes, it had already been two weeks since the family leadership had provided similar opinions to him. Lloyd rubbed his temples as if exhausted, then asked without much expectation.


"Tara? Aria? What do you think should be done?"


"...I don't know. We should probably think more on this issue." Aria responded quietly, glancing at the family members gathered around her.


Yes, well... At least she wasn't pretending to know the answer. And she didn't say anything nonsensical about becoming a princess.


“What about you, Tara?”


Well, obviously I should know what to do since I read [The Chronicles of Oceria]. However, this was something I didn't have any memory of reading about whatsoever.


Why... What the hell was he up to?


Then, I suddenly remembered something that happened when I worked as a composition writer in the past. Yet again, I couldn't ignore my hard earned experience...


[As expected, K Motors is quite remarkable.]


This conversation had happened right after an entertainment program I had written for a Lunar New Year's special had been picked up as a pilot. I had just received the confirmation.*


[Why do you say that, Producer Park?]


[They offered a sponsorship, K Motors I mean.]


[Huh. That's very entrepreneurial of them. You think it might be some kind of trick?]


'A trick...? That's right! That's it!'


After quickly organizing my thoughts, I looked directly at my father.


My father was worried that it wasn't the right time to make a choice. Both Logan's and Chloe's opinions made sense.


However, my father was already indicating that he didn't want to take risks.


He wanted my brothers and sisters to enter the Palace and become talented people who would lead the Empire in the future, but didn't want to interfere in the struggle for the throne.


It was his instinct as the family head to reduce the risk towards the Elias family as much as possible.


And there was only one solution that would satisfy that instinct.


Yes. A trick!


Editor’s Notes -

Some of the MTL in this chapter tested the bounds of my sanity T.T. If you're confused about what is happening with the K Motors flashback Tara had in this chapter that's okay. It all gets explained in the next chapter.


86 kg = approx. 189.6lb


* The Korean Lunar New Year, also called Seollal (설날) is one of Korea's most important traditional holidays, it takes place on a slightly different date in January/February each year since it's based off of the Korean lunisolar calendar. Regional variants are also celebrated in China and throughout East Asia (excluding Japan).



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