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Chapter 68


Where Tara has a very early encounter with an unsuspecting delivery man.


This Chapter is dedicated to Indomitable Jewels ! Thank you for your support and your numerous comments on our posts!


Disclaimer

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Episode 68: 63kg (2)


Dawn the next day.


At the mess kitchen's back door, Paul Simpson, the butcher's son, paced back and forth after setting aside his heavy load of meat, waiting for the door to open.


A chilly breeze seeped through his uniform, and he hunched his shoulders.


As if on cue, the back door cracked opened, and an unexpected figure burst though.


"Ah, hello, Secretary...?"


"Hahaha.... You arrived earlier than I expected. By the way, do you know me?"


"Yes, you're quite famous."


"Me? But I've pretty much stayed in the Embassy."


"You sometimes train with the troops."


"Ah..."


It was impossible to be a soldier in Durben and not know of the newly appointed Third Secretary of the Ocerian Army, Tara Elias.


And not just because she was the first female secretary to be appointed here, though that alone would have been enough to make her famous, but the woman in front of him had a long list of reasons for her fame.


The first was that Secretary Elias was the daughter of Count Elias, a well-known member of the elite. The second thing was how vastly different she was compared to the rumors. She wasn't fat, sullen, or stuttering. On the contrary, she was bright and cheerful, and despite being an aristocrat, she got along well with everyone, regardless of their status.


The third and final reason was her diligence. Employees belonging to any other empire, principality or country were slow to do things.


It wasn't uncommon to receive a complaint and get no notification. You were often told to keep waiting, even months after the fact.


However, as soon as Third Secretary Tara Elias was appointed, she streamlined procedures and simplified the outdated forms while creating standards for accurate judgement, which practically increased the efficiency of processing.


The handling of complaints had accelerated tenfold, and the treatment of the soldiers had markedly changed as a result. She was no longer looked down upon as an aristocrat or as a secretary.


Five months after her arrival in Durben, the Ocerian diplomatic mission was praised by members of the Imperial Army for its processing speed compared to the Principality of Ga'an and the Kingdom of Barron.


So, it was only natural that Paul, a soldier of the Imperial Army, would recognize the Third Secretary.


Paul stared at her in disbelief. To his knowledge, nobles didn't wake up this early.


'She’s a bit different than the rest of the aristocracy.'


Paul tilted his head to the side in hopes of seeing the chef behind her.


"Is the cook not here yet? Shall I leave the meat inside?"


"I'll help. The chef hasn't started working yet."


"No, I wouldn’t dare... I'll carry the meat."


Paul threw up his arms in disbelief. His mother had told him the chef would be here, but strangely enough it was the noble Lady, Tara Elias, who was here to receive it.


However, for some reason, he didn't question it and simply picked up the meat.


"Okay, then. But why did you do it, Paul?"


"Yes… What?"


Stunned, Paul stopped dead in his tracks and stared blankly at the young noble secretary standing in front of him.


His eyes were still drowsy from sleep, but hers were ablaze and locked onto him.


"What...?"


The look in her eyes seemed to say that she knew everything, and it sent a strange shiver down his spine.


He couldn't help it. Cold sweat trickled down his back.


"There's a twenty-gold reward for reporting someone, why did you give that up...?"


"T-Third… Secretary..."


"Hmph... Did you get too close to the person you intended to report? Or did you decide you didn't need the reward anymore, gave up and left me to suffer?"


Paul suddenly realized that this early morning delivery was a trap, and glanced around.


It was still dark, the sun hadn't risen, and for a moment he considered making a run for it, but it was too late, he'd be easily caught. Moreover, the butcher shop would suffer consequences as a result.


"...How did you figure it out..."


"Well, I got lucky. The day the butcher's delivery arrived and the day the report was filed at the consulate coincided. So, I went to the chef and compared the handwriting on the order with the one on the report and ding, ding, ding!"


"That... There are many people who have similar handwriting."


"No, there are many people with similar handwriting, but these two are exactly the same. Besides, Paul, you recently applied for a transfer request. Did you know that I'm also in charge of those? You are the first person to apply for a transfer since I took over. I found it weird that your name kept popping up in my official duties, so I organized this encounter."


"Huh, I thought I was supposed to be anonymous."


"Hmm, well that only works when the reporting follows procedure. If you disrupt it, you don't get that guarantee. It's classified as obstruction of justice, and if you get caught you can be fined or imprisoned, weren't you aware?"


Flinching, Paul took an involuntary step back. His heart raced. He thought they would never find out.


When his fellow soldiers had reported misconduct before, it had gone unaddressed and ignored.


So Paul hadn't expected much after filing his report, having overlooked the fact that Tara Elias was the Secretary in charge.


The first time, he thought nobody would show up. The second time, he made it to the meeting place but turned back for fear of escalating the situation.


On the third and final report, he wasn't desperate for the reward anymore.


“……”


"Why did you report the same issue three times and never once showed up at the rendezvous point? Is it because of everything I mentioned earlier?"


Paul realized that any future denial was moot at this point.


"One is wrong, and one is right."


"The former or the latter?"


"The latter. At first I needed the money, and the people I reported were clearly guilty of misconduct. It was against military law, but they're my superiors, so none of the men dared to speak up."


"Hmm... So, you couldn't report it to the Capital since it would be censored. When did you find out about it?"


"About a year ago. One night, I was on watch and thought something was suspicious. Two Deputy Commanders left the base the same day of the week every month. They'd come back around dawn and were always dead drunk."


"That’s a serious lack of discipline... Why didn't you report this before?"


"There was no Secretary here last year. And, like you said, it would be censored in the Capital, and it’s really difficult to report something like this..."


The report Paul had made was about the misconduct of two high-ranking officials. There were several provisions for reporting irregularities, and Paul had reported violations for negligence of duty and maintenance of decency. 


They might seem like minor offenses, but the Military never took those lightly.


The farther away from the Capital you were, the more likely a senior officer's behavior would cause a serious rift in the unit, which was why the reporting system existed, but it was a rare occurrence.


Many soldiers were reluctant to report their comrades for something so insignificant. It made them feel like snitches. 


Bernard's fellow knights had been similarly reluctant to report their superior's misconduct.


Nevertheless, the reward was so generous that, once in a blue moon, whistleblowers like Paul did appear.*

Like beans sprouting in a drought Korean idiom for once in a blue moon https://wordrow.kr/basicn/en/search/LIKE%20BEANS%20SPROUTING%20IN%20A%20DROUGHT/


"Okay, so who are they?"


"......."


"I'll make sure they never know who reported it. Well. Who are they?"


"··· I changed my mind."


"Are you saying you want to get charged with obstruction of justice?"


"Can't we just pretend I was mistaken...?"


Paul's voice was subdued.


"I know you don't want to be a snitch because you don't need the money, but this isn't ratting anyone out, it's a legitimate report. Ultimately, this is for the benefit of the Military."


Paul seemed unwilling to speak.


"Oh well, hmm... whatever. I can’t let this go, even if you are  squeamish about it..."


"....."


"I guess I'll just have to make do then. Today's payment will be directly delivered to Mr. Simpson tomorrow."


"What?"


He looked more surprised than when he realized Tara knew he was the informant.


"Now that you have all the money you need to escape, you don't require payment in common currency, do you? I'll have it brought in local currency later."


"Ah... how..."


Paul's head started pounding and he felt dizzy for a moment.


He had submitted his transfer, and four months later, he got his notification. The money had been coming in better than he expected. His father hadn't noticed, and if his mother was leaving soon he planned to follow her.


His parents fought until he got sick of watching it. He wished for one of them to break the cycle he'd known since childhood.


Thankfully, his mother had made the call right before he was about to be swept into a murderous rage he didn't even know he was capable of.


That was when he started to save up money and thought he could use the reporting system to get more.


Twenty gold was a lot of money. It would help his mother who was about to start living independently.


However, as a soldier, he'd have to contend with the stigma of reporting a peer for the rest of his life.


He had tried reporting and had given up three times. Luckily, the money he'd saved was enough now to forgo the 20-gold reward.


But Third Secretary Tara Elias understood his predicament all too well.


She shrugged casually.


"It's in my nature to investigate, I can't help it. I'm just naturally perceptive. Anyway, I need to know who they are so I can get as much credit as possible. Now, do you wish to talk about it here, or in the butcher shop later?" 


***


I checked the list Paul Simpson had written and I entered my room.


"So, Miss, please explain to me why you had to make it look as if it was unintentional?"


Beth, who had been on the lookout for my return, trotted over.


"You're asking the wrong question. We didn't have to make it look like it wasn't intentional. We just needed to find a time when their son would be comfortable coming over. A time when he could talk without anyone noticing, and that happened to be early in the morning."


"Then why not just ask her directly to send her son to deliver at dawn?"


"Uh, no. That would raise suspicion and he'd just run away."


"Why would he run away when you are just asking him to make a delivery?" Beth asked, not having realized that Paul was the informant.


"Oh... I can't tell you that either.”


"It's a secret Third Secretary thing."


"Oh... yes, Miss!" She immediately agreed.


Such teamwork. Even if I was unlucky enough to end up here , I was very lucky... I guess life was fair after all.


Editor's Note -


* The original text was 'Like beans sprouting in a drought' which is a Korean idiom equivalent to the English 'once in a blue moon'. Idiom


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