Tara springs her trap on Jason, while Kyle makes his move.
This chapter is dedicated to Britpop, thank you so much for your support!
DO NOT publish our edits anywhere else. Especially on social media. Otherwise we may have to stop doing this. Thank you.
Episode 51. 80kg (16)
Upon reflection, Jason wasn't entirely wrong.
"I apologize for not telling you in advance."
"It's alright. I'm not sure what your intentions are, but perhaps joining the Ministry of Security may be beneficial to House Elias."
Jason's eyes narrowed, as if he hadn't thought that far ahead, but then he realized this was his chance and seized on the opportunity.
"Ha... But she isn't in the Ministry of Security, but the Military, Father! She's going to Durben Tripoint. She should revoke her administration assignment immediately! Think about it. Durben Tripoint is a disputed territory, and sending her there is an affront to our House!"
Father was speechless. His expression was noticeably troubled, as if Jason's feigned concerns about the family reputation and my transfer to Durben had some merit.
I calmly voiced my opinion, breaking the silence.
"It was a difficult exam and I passed it. No one thought I'd make it this far, and it's far from easy to obtain a position in the Palace. I will only be working there as a scribe. I think that's just as well, because if I start at the bottom working in the provinces rather than in the Capital, and in a military stronghold at that, I believe I can accomplish Brandon's dream and mine as well in the process. Trust me, Father, I'll do well."
Jason was shocked by hearing Brandon's name coming out of my mouth.
Tsk tsk tsk. I finally managed to surprise him.
Something had changed in Father's expression. There was an emotion in his eyes that I couldn't quite identify, but it was too complicated to indicate a simple refusal.
"I see. You must have had a reason for coming by at this hour, right? Judging by the fact that you're here without permission, it's probably something to do with Jason, and your decision to drag your knight along with you… What's going on, Tara?"
I glanced at Jason for a moment, who had stiffened angrily.
Clearly a guilty conscience needed no accuser, and Jason watched the situation with a heavily furrowed brow.
I slowly placed my papers on the desk.
"This is regarding the extension of my knight Bernard's contract, Father."
My father's face twisted at the unexpected answer.
Jason sighed heavily in relief.
Bernard seemed taken aback by the unexpected words. So I quickly winked at him.
‘Quiet about earlier' I mouthed.
Bernard nodded slightly, as if he understood.
"Bernard's dismissal is only the beginning, Father."
Bernard stared into Tara's plump, determined face. Her gaze was unflinching, her eyes intelligent.
She was only a young noblewoman of eighteen, with her red hair tied back to rest around the crown of her head, but in Bernard's eyes, she didn't look like just a normal young woman. There were no half measures or half-formed thoughts with her. She was always thinking, analyzing, and concentrating.
He had never met a noble like her in his entire life. She was wise beyond her years, and she knew how to use her power for the good of other people.
Such was the woman he was planning to serve.
[There's something called Heinrich's Law, which states that a series of minor incidents always precedes a major one. I'm going to explain things in a specific order because it's more understandable.]*
She had said.
Maybe now, Bernard thought, he would be willing to give someone his once-in-a-lifetime Oath of Fealty.
Morning at the [Traveler's Rest] tavern in downtown Gallon d'Or.
"He put up a good fight, that one, the boy with the ashen eyes. He must've been only fifteen or sixteen years old.... He managed to send ten mercenaries to an early grave in a heartbeat. His whole family was already on the other side, and he was lucky enough to be the only one left standing when the security forces showed up.... I don't know what happened to him, but he had the eyes of a killer..."
The man grew very solemn, either reminiscing or deeply immersed in his story. But after a moment he downed the rest of his drink in one gulp.
"The captain you worked for back then... the Sword Runner guy. Is he still recruiting mercenaries?"
"... Well, I don't know. They don't usually use the same people for dirty work like that. So you'll have to keep that in mind, haha, don't keep askin' bout such nasty topics. There are some pretty girls here who are good listeners instead..."
"Still, you must remember his first name at least," someone casually interjected.
"Oh, I don't know... Uh, who are you?"
The question had been neither too loud nor too soft, and the stranger’s tone hadn't been uneven, but the way the stranger looked at him was unusual.
The atmosphere was odd. The mercenary instinctively pulled his body backward. But then, one of the other people sitting at the table, who had been listening to the story with interest just moments before, suddenly grabbed his forearm from behind. The mercenary couldn't do anything but squirm.
"Wh-What is this? W-What is this? Hey, hey, Richard...?"
The mercenary didn't understand what was happening and kept glancing at Richard who he had been talking to just moments before.
But Richard jumped to his feet, stood up, and stood motionless in front of the stranger while he asked his questions. And so did the people sitting with him.
The situation had taken an unexpected turn.
"What's your name?"
Again, a flat, emotionless question. Sharp grey eyes seemed to pierce the mercenary, causing a strange shudder to run through him.
"Who... Wh-who are you?"
It happened in an instant. The mercenary didn't even see the man's fist coming, but his jaw snapped to the side sharply, drawing an obvious line of blood along his chin.
"I'll ask you again. His name."
It wasn't the man gripping him from behind that made the mercenary shiver.
A shudder ran through his flesh at the mere sight of the man in front of him and the strange aura that radiated off of him, even though all stranger was doing was sitting across from him. The strange man hadn’t even raised his voice, but the mercenary felt like his jaw was paralyzed.
The mercenary instinctively realized that he was now at the crossroads of life and death.
"The Sword Runner, the mastermind of the coastal raid twelve years ago."
"Why do you...?” The mercenary almost asked, and then he suddenly understood.
The stranger's eyes, dripping with cold, were the same eyes he'd seen twelve years ago, burning with blood-curdling rage.
When the mercenary's eyes finally widened in recognition, Kyle turned to Walter.
"Take him to the Gallon d'Or garrison. Turn his head inside out and find out everything you can from him. Torture is permitted."
Count Lloyd Elias' office.
"The Elias knights' boots aren't in good condition. I asked and was told it's been at least three years since they were replaced. And the other day, Bernard's contract wasn't renewed. At first, I thought it was because of his assault on Deputy Chief Jennings."
Just as Tara was about to answer, Jason rudely interrupted the conversation.
"Well, he did beat up Deputy Chief Jennings, which is insubordination, so I ordered that he not be rehired."
He held his tongue a bit more while he complained this time, grasping at straws, but his voice was urgent and his face was pale.
"Is that true?" Father asked, turning to Bernard, who stood a step behind me.
A simple, unapologetic answer. That was Bernard for you.
Ugh... He was still acting like such a bear.
I was forced to step forward to provide further explanation.
"Bernard figured it out, it's been happening for a long time too. Of course, the other knights know as well. They just haven't come forward."
"What do you mean they know?"
"There are a total of thirty-three knights in House Elias's order whose contracts have been terminated. In the Capital alone."
"In the Capital alone?"
"This is a breakdown of our knights' contract renewals this year from all over the Empire."
I pulled a sheet from the briefcase Andrei had given me and placed it on the desk.
At my cue Bernard pulled a document from the briefcase he'd brought with him and set it down carefully next to the one I'd put down.
"This is a list of the Elias family’s knights in the Capital, and the armaments issued to them."
"And this is...."
As if handing over a baton, I pulled out more documents Andrei had given me.
"These are the wages paid to the knights for the last three years, and this is Bernard's handwritten account of his actual wages. Bernard?"
I called out to him again and he pulled a carefully folded sheet of paper from inside of his robe.
"These are the handwritten wages of four of my coworkers from the past year."
My father examined the papers in silence, then looked at the pages on his desk and asked.
"Do you have any more?"
"...This is the status of the armoury from three years ago until now."
Again, I pulled out one of the papers Andrei had provided and placed it on the desk for viewing.
"And finally, a list of the assets owned by Deputy Chief Harold, Deputy Chief Bruno, and Deputy Chief Jennings for the last three years, specifically here..."
"Wh-What are you trying...."
Jason cut me off. He was so embarrassed that he even mimicked my stutter, which flustered him more.
I was almost there.
I briskly ignored Jason's comment.
From now on I would be the person offering false sympathy.**
I sided slightly with Jason, acting as if I was trying to be generous.
"Luckily, no money has been embezzled under my brother's name. So at least the Elias name won't be on the list if it runs afoul of Imperial law."
Jason's head snapped up at my words, and I could’ve sworn I saw fireballs shooting from his eyes.
Unaffected, I continued.
"Instead, if you look at the borrowed-name account here and here, it's the same. Father, do you recognize this name?"
Father clenched his teeth and spat out each syllable. He shuddered, struggled to contain his anger.
That was the name of a relative from Jason's maternal family. 'Aaron Phillipe' was a child born to Countess Victoria's brother. But he died 15 years ago, at age of 5.
"You...Be quiet, Jason Elias."
Sure enough, my Father was the Head of House Elias. A quick tug on the cord beside his desk summoned Dixon, the old butler.
"Get Viscount Dylan, go to the business wing and get the budget officer, and then Jenkinson, Harold, and Garrick. Summon all of the vassals, the lawyer... and bring me the division commanders of the Elias Knights."
The butler, momentarily dazed by the sudden onslaught of instructions, quickly drew a notebook from his waistcoat pocket, wrote down each of the orders, bowed, and left.
The office was silent.
Jason was the first to speak.
"Ah, Father, first of all, I want to tell you that...."
"Address me as 'my Lord', Jason Elias."
"Yes... Yes, My Lord. As you know, the knights' wages have always been paid the same way here as in other houses....."
"Jason Elias, there is no need for you to be impatient. You will have ample time to explain yourself soon enough. I suggest you think long and hard before you say anything else, and be very clear when you do. Do you understand?"
His tone was light, and on the surface it sounded friendly, but there was something frightening in the way he spoke. To my ears, it was terrifying.
"Now, explain yourself... You only get one chance. Speak carefully because the family name is on the line. If you don't come up with a convincing answer, I won't let you escape punishment, you upstart punk."
"Yes... Yes...I-I'll go, My Lord. I will return shortly...."
I could practically hear the gears spinning in his head all the way from where I stood..
Jason’s legs shook and he chewed on a fingernail, I almost felt sorry for him.
But that feeling was short-lived.
Jason glared at me, as if he’d thought about killing me every second of every day, and that destroyed any compassion I had left. Now, it was gone without a trace.
Editor’s Notes -
* Heinrich's Law is real thing theorized by a guy called Herbert William Heinrich, an American safety engineer who worked for an insurance company in the 1930s. He statistically theorized that a single major incident or disaster caused by an individual can be preceded by dozens of more minor incidents. This is the basis of a lot of workplace safety regulations in the modern day. The idea is basically if you can prevent the small stuff you can prevent the big disasters from happening. Tara basically took this concept and applied it to her explanation, starting with the small stuff and leading up to the big stuff
** In chapter 49 Tara references the Korean saying 때리는 시어머니보다 말리는 시누이가 더 밉다 "it isn’t the mother-in-law who beats you, but the sister-in-law who tries to stop her that is more hateful". It basically means that false sympathy is far worse than overt hatred. Here Tara is referring back to it saying she will be 'the hateful sister in law' in this scenario who offers false sympathy and condescension to Jason, because that will sting FAR worse than being overtly hateful towards him.
Enjoyed the chapter? Buy us a ko-fi!