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Chapter 67


Where Beth loses a bet and needs to pay up.


This chapter is dedicated to Mara! Thank you for your very generous donation. Glad this story and our edits are one of your favorites!


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Episode 67: 63 kg (1)


September 20th


After working a 6 day week, I went out to the center of Durben with Beth for the first time in a long time. 


About a 20-minute walk from the office, we wandered around at a leisurely pace, enjoying the time off, before reaching the city center.


Before Bernard had been saying 'no' every time I wanted to go anywhere, and now....Imperial welfare had its perks.


Bernard had been nagging me a lot lately rather than following me, and told me to focus on my personal training.


Stubborn as ever, he’d agreed when I told him that two of the soldiers assigned to the residence would go with me.


Since I had passed the National Administrative Exam, I was given a personal escort because I had been assigned to a conflict zone.


Although not comparable to the Capital, the city of Durben had long since formed a commercial district, and many buildings were densely packed in an old-fashioned way, so there was quite a lot of foot traffic.


It was as lively as it was complicated.


As a disputed territory between three countries, Durben had a unique atmosphere with a mix of cultures from all three countries.


Soldiers roamed freely wearing subtly different clothing representing each country.


Despite the common language of the Empire, the distinctive words and accents of each country that could be heard everywhere really helped to make Durben's atmosphere distinct.


It was a very interesting and unique place to visit. As I walked along, I thought to myself that if my family and I survived, and escaped the horrors of death, I would definitely come back here again.


"Miss, it's just around the corner there."


"Matilda's butcher shop?"


"...Yes."


Beth was talking less and walking slower as we neared the butcher shop.


‘Aww. She's so cute.’


"So, what happened to Matilda, the butcher's wife? Did she run away to her parents?" I casually asked Beth.


She came to a screeching halt.


"......!"


"That's right, Beth. Why are you wasting your precious pennies on a bet?"


"I haven't lost yet!"


I looked back at her, standing a little behind, her cheeks puffed out in frustration.


"Then what's with the look on your face?"


"Geez, do you really have to take money from me like that?"


"Hehe. Didn't your wages double when you followed me here? Besides, you haven't lost yet, so why are you so worried about me taking your money?"


"Because it looks like you’re going to soon."


"See. I told you it would happen."


"Ah. But this time I'm not going to lose, because it was Matilda herself who told me that they had made up and were going to get along now."


"Oh… You cheated!" Beth gasped and clamped her hands over her mouth. But it was too late."How can you be so sure when you haven't even met her? You're not lying to me, you've actually met Matilda before, right?"


"Beth, you know I haven't been out a lot, and I can count on three fingers the number of times I've been to town since I was transferred, and it's always been with you. Have you ever seen me go to the butcher shop?"


"I didn't see you. Haha.... But how did you get it right? I'm going crazy!"Beth covered her mouth with both hands again."That last part was a mistake. By the way, I thought they made up this month...."


"Yes, they made up."


"Then, isn't it alright not to go?"


"I heard from the chef that she has a purple bruise around her eye. The black eye is pretty bad, and it's a change from before." 


"Still. You said she got flowers, and that she's been coming out to the butcher shop more often than she used to, and they seemed to be getting along very well...."


"It probably needs to look that way."


"Huh. Why?"


"Because she doesn't want to arouse suspicion."


"...What?"


"Brignes is a five-hour horse-drawn carriage ride from here. It's a popular vacation spot, so prices are high there."


"So? What does that have to do with your prediction?"


"That's why. She needs the money. Ever since their fight, Matilda has been accepting payments in common currency, not local. It's a form of income, and she needed to reconcile quickly if she wants to leave without arousing suspicion, unlike before."


"Oh...!"


Beth backed away a little, realizing her defeat.


"Where are you going? Hurry and pay up. 20 silvers."


Suddenly, Beth was smiling very brightly.


"Miss... You know I'm saving up to go to Miss Chloe's shop, just this once, please??"


I slowly closed my eyes and shook my head.


"Yes. But, no. Bets are sacred. Pay up."


After a moment's hesitation at my firm words, Beth smiled even more brightly, frighteningly so, as if to reflect her unwavering resolve. So bright that all of Durben could see it. A chill ran down my spine.


"Well, well. My Lady, you speak so well. Look how much better you look now that you've lost so much weight. Your beauty is blooming like a flower these days."


Beth seemed to have forgotten that we were in the middle of town.


She bounced around me, unabashedly flattering me with her words.


"Now, when you go back to the Capital, you're going to make people's jaws drop. The Countess, your sisters, they're all going to be amazed. Besides, you've been training so hard..."


Ah.... what that pitiful struggle in this mean-spirited materialistic world...


I silently clamped my palm over Beth's mouth. After the sputtering on my palm died down a bit, I slowly opened my mouth.


"Hmm... This obsession with money...."


".....Mmmfff...."


She blinked, looking at me.


"Flattering, I suppose, when you're living on the salary of an upper-class family. But a promise is a promise, and you deserve what you get. Don't you agree?"


"Huh...."


I quickly removed my hand from Beth's mouth at her unexpectedly cute expression.


"Ouch. Don't do that!"


"I need to save money."


"You can pay me in something other than money, you know."


Beth's eyes glinted.


"Like what?"


"Hmm. When we go to the butcher later, while...."


I explained in great detail the price she would have to pay. Beth's eyes lit up as she listened intently to my now-familiar whispers.


She even seemed to be enjoying it.


When I was done, Beth smirked.


"I would have done it for nothing, Miss, it's so easy!"


Beth had become a full-time player. 


***


When we both entered, Matilda, who knew Beth, greeted us warmly. She seemed in quite a good mood.


Sure enough, Matilda was accepting payment in common currency from a customer at the counter.


Her husband, who was cutting the meat behind her, didn't seem to hear her asking for common currency in a quiet voice at the register.


Once the customer left, Beth took a step forward. I hung back, pretending to look around the butcher's shop.


"Why did you come in today? Your delivery is due soon. Did you want to add on to your order?" 


"Yes, there's something missing. The chef has created a new meat dish this time, and he asked to make a lot of it so we could share it with the Embassy Officials. By the way, I haven't seen your son lately. Is he on deliveries?"


"Oh.... It's been very busy because of the military units; he's been doing deliveries until late."


Matilda gestured behind her, and when her husband saw us, he gave us a friendly smile and said hello.


You really couldn't judge a book by its cover.


Matilda and her husband were quite well known in downtown Durben. They continuously fought while hard at work at their business.


It was said that Matilda also had a temper and that the whole town would be in a frenzy when they fought, but that was a long time ago.


In more recent times, the rumors had changed to be darker in tone. Hints of violence and sounds of objects breaking in the household.


Beth ordered the extra meat she needed.


"There's so much, we'll have to deliver it in 2 batches."


"I see. But what are we going to do? We don't have the space to store all this meat because one of the larders is being repaired."


"Oh, my God. So, tomorrow at dawn, you'll...!”


Pausing, I cut Matilda off.


“I will give the money directly to the person who comes with the delivery. In common currency."


"Ah...! That.... That would be perfect. My son could stop by before going to work. I'll send him."


As we left the butcher shop, Beth giggled and demonstrated her cleverness.


"There you go, Miss. There must be a reason you sent me to tell her that the larder was under repair in exchange for the value of the bet, and why we need to get the meat at dawn tomorrow, right?"


"....."


Taking that as a sign of approval, Beth continued.


"We could have just asked to have the meat sent in at dawn. Why did I have to say that the larder was being repaired when it’s perfectly fine?... You made sure they made the decision to deliver it at dawn. But why?" 


"What?" I asked, holding off on an answer, hoping she would come up with something different.


"I don't know why we didn't just ask them directly and had to make them find a solution."


"Just think about it a little longer. Maybe you'll come up with an answer."


"Ah..... Hmm.... Uh...."


Beth stopped dead in her tracks.


"Miss, I got it."


"What is it?" I asked curiously, eyeing Beth expectantly.


"Well, they don't usually deliver at dawn here in Durben. Even the restaurants get deliveries in the evenings. Because you felt guilty asking them to come at dawn to deliver, you had no choice but to lie. After all, freshly butchered meat tastes so much better than meat that’s been sitting in the larder, right?"


"…That's great…”


"Wow, did I get it right, Miss?"


I didn't want to rain on Beth's parade, since she was jumping excitedly, but passersby kept staring, so I answered right back.


"No, Beth. You're wrong."


"Huh? But why did you say it was great?"


"Well, I said that without thinking because your line of reasoning was one I didn't think of, and I liked the idea."


"Aww... Then what the hell is the reason, Miss? I'm curious."


"I'll tell you all about it tomorrow at dawn, if my guess is right."


"Huh? Can't you just tell me now?"


"Oh, no, I can't. The old saying goes that a watched pot never boils."


Beth pouted, but she knew it was important when I was being stubborn, so she followed me with a smile. "Waiting a day or two isn't a big deal," she laughed.



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2 Comments


Thamalasca
Thamalasca
Dec 29, 2023

I really like the interaction between Beth and Tara in this chapter. You can feel the respect and real friendship they are building despite their class difference and how Beth is evolving as a character.

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June
June
Mar 09
Replying to

Me too! It's also very lovely to see that Beth have been looking up to Tara in terms of logical thinking and she seems to have fun in doing so.

(Couldn't phrase that one neatly, bzz!)

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