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  • Writer's pictureRina

Chapter 60


Tara has a tense teatime conversation with the Second Prince.


This chapter is dedicated to RB, thank you so much for your donation!


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Episode 60. 77kg (4)


"So, your statement that 'the inner court is not suited to your constitution' is absolutely contrary to your behaviour."


Averting my gaze, I calmly replied.


"People’s words and actions often don’t match. Sometimes, depending on our mood, we make choices we would not have made otherwise."


"But going to Durben is too reckless. I gave you an opportunity to quit. Your family and exam scores are good enough to get you into any department except for the Ministry of Security. And yet, you want me to believe you applied to the Ministry of Security and accepted a military commission, simply on a whim? Now. Why are you doing this? Why do you want to work under me?"


"...It's a... very personal reason. I don't think I need to tell you why."


"Just because I've helped you twice and this is a casual conversation doesn't mean I will tolerate everything. It seems like you're trying to hide something."


The mood had changed in an instant. The relaxed and receptive one of just a few minutes ago was long gone. And in its place was a chilling coldness.


His eyes were hard and his tone was cold and businesslike.


But even that wasn't a sufficient description. It was more accurate to say that the Second Prince was emanating a hostile aura.


"...How so?"


"Only spies and enemies conceal the truth like that. Now, I'm going to ask you one more time, why are you insisting on working for me, Tara of House Elias?"


I took an involuntary step backwards.


I'd never seen this side of him before. He’d never done anything like this. Not when I saw him on Lackton street, not when I entered the annex looking for my brooch in his office, not when he helped push the carriage in the rain, not during the interview, and not when I saw him in the Palace.


Instinctively, I felt that he had instantly judged me as an enemy and was now trying to corner me. He was like a beast who, having sensed danger, growled, bared his teeth, and was currently stalking his prey.


Then, as if sensing something was amiss, Bernard came and stood behind me.


"What’s the matter, My Lady?"


"Step back, Knight."


"Tara Elias is my Master, Your Highness, and no knight stands down when his Lord is in danger." Bernard bowed his head deeply in deference, but didn’t step aside at Kyle's command.


Bernard's tenacity was truly something else.


“A knight who can't properly assess a situation will be the first to die. If that's what you want, I'll do it. Walter!”


"Yes, Your Highness!"


The knight, Walter, immediately drew his sword. And, perhaps because it was a signal of some kind, a group of guards I hadn't even noticed before this suddenly appeared around us. Roughly ten or more knights materialized in a flash, surrounding me and Bernard.


The eyes of the nearby civilian spectators widened in surprise as they murmured to one another. Gradually, the crowd began to notice the knights' ornate uniforms, their shining  capes emblazoned with a splendid golden symbol. It screamed they belonged to a prestigious noble family. One by one, the citizens realized that the person standing in the centre was the Second Prince.


Kyle stared at me alone, as if he didn't care that he had captured their attention.


I could immediately feel Bernard stiffen and his aura filled with nervous energy.


After a moment's hesitation, Bernard made up his mind and stood at an angle, holding his axe handle tightly with both hands, the blade facing down, as if he had decided to throw himself back into battle.


I felt touched seeing Bernard be so recklessly loyal, but a Lord couldn’t let her knight die in vain.


"Bernard, stand down." 


"...It's dangerous."


He was only a year into his knighthood. Bernard was being both faithful and terribly foolish.


"His Highness is only threatening. You're only using this method because you want to know my intentions, right, Your Highness?"


I swallowed hard, hoping Kyle would agree with my statement.


I tried to hide my anxiety, because the Second Prince always managed to do and say things that defied my expectations. Despite my words, I kept thinking, 'He's really going to order them to attack Bernard...' 


"It's both interesting and commendable that you aren't losing your composure in this situation, but know this. I don't deal in threats, and when I order my knights to do things, I always intend to act. So stand down, knight. Your behaviour is endangering your Lord."


"That's enough, Bernard, put away your axe. You should not fight a battle you can't win. And as your Master, please listen to me for once! Okay?"


After a moment of silence, Bernard replied.


"...Yes, my Lady. Forgive my rudeness, Your Highness."


He sheathed his axe, bowed respectfully, and stepped back.


However, Bernard remained alert and tense, eyeing me and the Second Prince.


"Walter, escort the Count and Countess back to their home, and tell them I will send them word tomorrow."


"Yes, Your Highness!"


"Third Secretary, follow me."


***


[Tea and Co., the Imperial Palace's Favorite Teahouse]


The Pantheon Plains... I should've known from the start.


The steaming green tea was bitter. Just like my current mood.


After a single sip, I pushed the teacup away and gave him the answer he wanted.


"There are two reasons why I applied to the Ministry of Security and accepted my military assignment."


"Two reasons. Alright, let's hear them."


But I had to get something in return. Of course, there was no guarantee he would listen, but it was worth a try.


"But, before I begin, I'm truly a merchant's daughter, Your Highness."


"...Hmm, are you trying to imply something?"


"Perhaps?"


"You want something in exchange for your answers?"


"Yes, that's correct. I will not lie to you, and all of my answers will be truthful."


"I don't care if you lie to me."


"Pardon?"


"If you tell me a lie and I believe it, my judgement is faulty and I don't deserve to hear the truth. In a situation like this, where I don't know what's true and what isn't, I can't trust your claim that you'll be truthful. Only my own judgement is trustworthy."


"So if I tell you the truth and you decide it's a lie, it's a lie. That's too one-sided. It would be very unfair if Your Highness judged me to be lying even if I was telling the truth."


"Well, then it's best to think of this as me giving you an opportunity, correct?”


"Pardon?"


"If I thought you were my enemy, I would torture you to discover your intentions. I'm in a position to do so, and I have every right to know."


"You're saying you won't torture me, and instead you'll judge me based on my words alone?"


"Yes. Even if you lie to me here, I have no way to verify it. Again, there is no tangible evidence to confirm your intentions. All I can rely on is my own judgement. But what you're saying makes sense. So, tell me what you believe to be true, so that I can judge it without causing any undue injustice."


What kind of world must he live in that he felt such a thorough and exhausting investigation was necessary?


Was this going to be similar to the observations criminal profilers used to try to catch suspects who were lying?


Well, he seemed to be able to filter out most of my lies. Or, maybe I was just a terrible liar.


“You want me to explain in detail.”


"Yes, but do you still want something in return? If I have reason to suspect your intentions are malicious, I can still treat you like a foreign spy and torture an answer out of you."


The way he kept mentioning 'torture' so casually made my skin crawl...


"Your Highness's accusation is based on a faulty premise." 


"Are you saying you aren't my enemy?"


"Have you decided I'm your enemy yet?"


"No."


"Having observed me, you would already know. But it's also obvious to anyone that I'm not your enemy. I am, in fact, a good citizen of the Empire, and have never harboured any malicious intentions. Your assumption is wrong, so there's no possible cause to have me tortured simply because I won't tell you this one thing."


"Since I haven't heard an explanation yet, I find that highly suspicious. I can't be certain your motives are impure, but, I also can't prove the opposite. However, as you say, you're not my enemy, yet. So I'll listen, and if I judge that your motives are genuine, I'll owe you a reasonable favour."


"Alright, very well. In that case, I'll explain myself."


I couldn't be helped. It was more advantageous for me to tell the truth now, rather than continue to arouse suspicion.


But that didn't mean I was going to tell him the whole truth.


If I told him I was a transmigrator, he wouldn't believe me, and if I told him I knew what was going to happen in the future, I would be accused of witchcraft and burned at the stake.


So, I decided to tell the truth, minus the transmigration and future knowledge parts.


In retrospect, this could be used to my advantage.


***


Tara's eyes shone as if she was preparing to launch into an interesting explanation, and Kyle couldn't help but find her attitude refreshing.


‘You'd never know she was intimidated...'


"First, tell me the real reason you applied to the Security Department, and then I'll listen to what you want in return."


"Aren't you afraid I'll ask for too much?"


"You've already gotten more than enough. You can't ask for something without giving anything in return, don't you agree?"


"You could always just leave. You're spending a lot of time trying to figure out the intentions of a lowly third-ranked secretary."


"I could always just take you to the Ministry jail and torture you. You're trying too hard to get under my skin. Your suspicious behaviour alone is reason enough to treat you as a traitor."


Ugh. He was the kind of guy who wouldn't bleed even if you stabbed him. What kind of character did Writer Kim create?


"I'd rather not. You're correct on every count, as I said, I am a merchant's daughter after all. Rest assured, I'll make the most of that reasonable demand."


"... Now tell me."


I took a sip of water to dampen my parched throat, then turned to face Kyle squarely.


“One of the two reasons is because there is someone who is a threat to my family.”


"...Indeed?"


"Yes. The person who poses the greatest threat to my family is you, Your Highness.”


***


"What were you trying to do by taking your axe out there? Were you planning on killing everyone?"


Beth pouted as she sat on the front steps of [Tea and Co, the Imperial Palace's Favourite Teahouse].


"A knight who has taken an oath of fealty should not pause to weigh the pros and cons when his Lord is in danger.” Bernard retorted bluntly, standing a metre or so to Beth’s side.


Walter, Nick, and the Phoenix Knights who stood nearby pricked up their ears.


"Hmph. I thought I was going to die of fright. Drawing your axe in front of an Imperial Prince, hmm... That's a risky move, surely your fellow knights agree!"  Beth suddenly asked Prince's knights standing next to her.


Nick, eager to get in on the conversation, chimed in.


"Well, it's true, but it's a knight's duty to protect his Liege at all costs. The Third Secretary is fortunate to have such a fine knight in her employ. And when he was fighting those ruffians earlier, if it hadn't been for the Third Secretary and you, he would have been able to deal with them quickly enough. It took a while for him to fight them, and he got hurt in a few places, Miss."


Nick, who had been chattering away excitedly, looked at Beth, and his eyes widened at the look on her face.


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4 Comments


ProMama
ProMama
Dec 10, 2023

Okay, the dedication to sustaining the “favorite of the (insert imperial/emperor whatever here)” gag is amazing. 😅

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Thamalasca
Thamalasca
Dec 10, 2023

Bernard is great is this chapter! Holding up to his knightly vows and ready to fight, even die for his Master! And The banter between Kyle and Tara is..... fghjklmlkjhgf! Gotta love Munirang for creating such great dialogue!

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ProMama
ProMama
Dec 10, 2023
Replying to

Bernard steals a very eye catching show this chapter ~

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Rina
Rina
Dec 10, 2023

*sips tea nervously*


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