Dinner with the family...
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Episode 54. 80 kg (19)
"Hmm, Mother. Listen carefully. I'm Tara Elias. It's been only four months since I locked myself in my room for a long time, so maybe that's not enough for you to trust me yet. But please know this one thing, I won’t be doing nothing anymore. I've been frozen in time for seven long years, and I'm going to start my life now. I want to be an administrator, and I want to work for the Imperial family. It would be nice to get the position of head of the family, but it doesn't matter if I don't. So, mother, please support me."
I didn't want to go to a conflict zone either.
If that bastard wasn't going to destroy the family, or if I at least could find out who was plotting against us, I could do enough to stop them without entering the Palace.
But damn it, not only was the Elias family thing not covered very well in the novel, it didn’t even mention who the conspirator was.
The only thing it said was that it was one of Elias' children.
I could keep blaming Author Kim for this, but there was nothing I could do about it.
I had to enter the Palace myself and find out who was behind the treason. I needed to find out who the co-conspirators were, and what families besides Elias were involved...
To do that, I needed to get to the Palace as soon as possible.
Of course, thanks to that bastard Prince Kyle, I was even further away from the Palace now that I had passed the exams, but that didn't mean I couldn't be honest about all of this. I'd have to convince my mother just like I did with my father.
At one point tears had welled up in her eyes and fell down.
No, why were there tears...? Since when had she been crying?
Then, she lunged towards my chest and leaned her head against me, hugging me tightly around my neck.
"Hic. I thought you were weak and fragile, but my Tara has grown up. I didn't even know my baby had those kinds of dreams... Hic."
Who? Me? Uh... Were 'frail' and 'delicate' the right words to describe me right now?
That was right. Mothers tended to tell their daughters they were skinny, even after seeing them all bloated from drinking beer the night before.
I was pretty sure that there was something seriously wrong with a mother’s eyesight.
I sighed softly and awkwardly patted my slender mother on the back.
"... Why are you guys crying?"
Beth, who had come in earlier and was standing at the door, as well as Priscilla, my mother's dedicated maid, were wiping tears from the corners of their eyes.
“It’s so touching, My Lady.”
"You two are so sweet."
Yes. This was exactly how a typical aristocratic family's daughter and her mother should be. Or not? Was it strange to be so affectionate?
"Ah! Right. His Excellency wants you to come down for breakfast." The words startled my mother, and she straightened.
"Priscilla, haven't you told the main mansion in advance? We're going to eat in our room again today because our stomachs are upset."
Priscilla waved her hands in exasperation.
"I did, My Lady, but the Count insisted that the whole family should be present for this meal."
"Ah... His Excellency..."
My father hadn't showed up for the family dinners until yesterday evening.
I had been eating in my room the entire time, and my mother had eaten in the annex, so we hadn’t had a single meal together as a family since the day Jason's misdeeds were revealed, no, since the interviews ended.
"Mother, let's go. We have to go today. We can't avoid it forever."
In the meantime, Jason had sent his maid Michelle to me several times trying to get me to come to his room.
A guard my father had assigned stood in front of Jason's room, which he was not allowed to leave with the exception of attending meals.
He couldn't leave by himself, but family members could come and go.
What kind of fool would go to his door at such an obvious call?
"It's okay. We’ll run into each other at least once anyway. We can't avoid it forever. And I have a favor to ask of my father!"
Wow. Look at that glare.
Throughout the meal, I felt a stinging sensation in my face as lasers shot out of Jason and the Countess' eyes.
A darkness settled over the otherwise quiet meal. Jason glared at me every opportunity he got, but he didn't forget to steal glances at our father.
It was the same for the Countess.
Logan and Chloe were concentrating on their food, and Aria played with her fork a few times due to a lack of appetite before putting it down.
"... Everyone worked hard. Don't be too hard on yourself, Aria."
"Yes, I'm fine. There's going to be another opportunity to become Crown Princess anyway. Then, I'll become the head of the Palace. Father, don't you agree? Hahaha."
Ah, as expected... She had such a positive personality. She was always winning in her mind...
The family stared at Aria as she nonchalantly threw her hair back and laughed. Everyone thought, 'she's being like this again,' but...
"Hahaha. Yes. That would be nice."
After all, in father's eyes, the youngest daughter was also the most precious daughter.
When the meal was cleared away and a light dessert was served, my father got down to business.
"As you know, my hope was that House Elias would be recognised as a noble family who would help the Palace keep the Empire on the right path, not as a mere business family. I thought it would be nice to regain our former prestige. But that was only a wish."
"Yes. I'm sure you're aware of what I'm worried about. We are a neutral family. One of the few noble families in the Empire who are, so keep your head down and do your job. Do you understand?"
Everyone gulped at the father's unusual tone.
I swallowed hard.
"You can quit. You don't have to take the job. Logan's already been assigned to the Ministry of Security, so I don't think it's necessary for you to join the armed forces. You've shown a lot of promise just by passing the interview."
It took the form of a suggestion, but it was a euphemistic order.
I took a deep breath and looked at him with serious eyes.
"... I don't like the position either, but the Imperial Palace is the only place where I can do what I want to do. I wouldn't have applied in the first place if I intended on giving up because of this, Father."
"By all means, go and suffer, but leave it at that. Don't disgrace the family, child. What will you do in the Palace with that kind of body... Seriously."
At the Countess' sarcastic words I wanted to say, 'In one month both mother and son have done a fine job of disgracing us yourself, and yes, I don’t intend to help you with it.' The words were on the tip of my tongue, but I had common sense and benevolence to bite back my reply.
Instead, my father's unfriendly eyes turned towards the Countess. As if to deflect things, she made her final attempt.
"Isn't that right, Chloe?"
Chloe's eyes were cold as she calmly put down the fork she had been picking up at the Countess' question and stared at me for a moment.
"The choice is Tara's. And if she chooses to accept the post, we should respect that. As you know, there was a lot at stake during the Administrative Exams. Of course only time will tell who wins in the end, but..."
It seemed like she was secretly in my corner... Wasn't she?
I couldn't read anything in Chloe's expression.
"Hmm... Yes. It's your choice. I hope you make the best of it with no regrets. You'll have to leave soon, so if you have anything to prepare, Isabelle, you can help."
"Ah. Yes... Your Excellency."
My mother seemed moved by my father's words, and the tip of her nose briefly turned red.
Then her eyes got wet again.
"Oh! Come on."
The Countess was flushed red with anger, but she was in no position to argue with my father's orders.
She had been keeping a low profile since the Sorbonne Wine incident, and now, after what Jason had done, she had no business making a scene.
Normally she would've said something and moved on, but as if she was conscious of my father's gaze from earlier, she was afraid that sparks might fly, so she kept her mouth shut.
This time, I was inwardly grateful for my father's behaviour.
My mother and I used to live in this family like we weren't here.
Only a few months ago it was rare for us to eat together, but now we naturally shared meals and discussed household chores.
I realised that for her, as for me, it probably meant a lot.
It was the first time my father had ever entrusted her with something in an official way.
At the end of the meal, I asked my father for help with the necessary work before I went to Durben.
“… Do you think you could spare me a moment, Father?"
"Sure. Come to my office after breakfast."
My request was followed by my father's cheerful affirmation.
A few unpleasant glances flew my way, but I tried to ignore them and continued eating.
When the meal was finished and my father rose from his seat, a nervous Jason jumped up and called him.
"I... Father... I'm..."
"Shut up, Jason! I'll see you in a week, after the conclusion of the general meeting. Oh, and Logan."
"Now that you've graduated, I want you to take your time learning how to manage the Knights of Elias that Jason was in charge of. Take care of yourself so that you can combine it with your duties as an administrator for the Ministry of Security."
Startled, Jason jumped to his feet, in contrast to Logan, who answered calmly.
However, our father's stern glare made him slump back into his seat, his shoulders sagging.
He just glared at me so our father couldn’t see him.
Ugh... How immature could someone be at his age? Now that I thought about it, Logan... He attended a Military school, so maybe he was better than Jason...
With that, the family meal was over and we went back to our rooms one by one.
As I headed for the door to go to the office, I was unexpectedly stopped by Chloe.
"... I knew you were going to be humiliated during the interview."
Blunt as ever.
"Oh... I see."
"But I didn't stop him because I thought you were somewhat to blame. I believed that what we'd worked so hard to earn, you'd gotten in one fell swoop. Well, I still feel that way, but when I think about it, I can't deny that you worked hard for it."
"You just dutifully took the exam, that's all. It was wrong of me not to stop Jason when I knew he was going to make a laughing stock of you."
"As far as being wrong goes..."
"The bottom line is that Jason was the one who brought the Elias family into disrepute, and you passed the exam with flying colours. From now on, I'll consider you a true member of the Elias family. Have safe trip to Durben Tripoint."
What was up with her, why was she being so cool?
I had a huge weakness for women who admitted their mistakes in a straightforward and honest manner... This was awkward...
"Oh... I–I see, sister."
"Anne. Give it to her."
"Yes, My Lady."
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