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  • Writer's pictureRina

Chapter 71



Tara's investigation hits an unexpected obstacle.


This chapter is dedicated to Geekgirlamanda. Thank you so much for your support, every little bit counts!


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Episode 71. 60kg (1)


I had dropped 1 more kilogram, but my weight had been stagnant for about half a month and my morning workouts were shorter.


Beth had needed to alter my dresses, which were now too big for me, but the new fit looked good.


Today, I also wore a blue cape that Beth and I had bought at the market a few days earlier. The blue fur-lined cape had a beautiful silky texture and was surprisingly warm.


From that day onward, the cloak had become a favourite, and I always wore it draped over my shoulders when I went out.


I had asked Beth to take special care of it, hoping that her experience in the laundry room before becoming my dedicated maid would make it look even more vibrant.


Naturally, today I slung the lovely cloak over my shoulders and unconsciously brushed my palms over it, enjoying the feel of the fur.


I was feeling more and more relaxed.


I was in a very good mood today, to the point of feeling extremely generous.


It was noon, just after finishing my work for the morning. The day was cool, but windless, and the temperature wasn't so low as to be chilly. In addition to that, I'd just had an impressive five minute long match against Bernard in early morning training, and didn't even break a sweat.


At this rate, today's investigation was going to be a breeze.


"What time is it, Bernard?"


"Almost one o'clock."


For some reason, I felt confident that things were going to go well. Perhaps because the forest road was so picturesque.


I couldn't help but hum to myself.


“Mmm hmm… Too bad it's already 1 o’clock. How's it already 1 o'clock! I don’t want to send you off…”*


"What is that?"


Bernard, who had been following alongside the carriage on horseback, snapped his head around and asked in disbelief.


"What?"


"That strange song."


Strange. Even though I might be a bit off key I could sing....


"Ahhh... did you hear that? I thought I was singing in my head...."


"You sang it too loudly for a song you were singing in your head, right down to the weird hand gestures."


"Ahhh... It's kind of inseparable from the song, so I thought.... But this is... It's a dance I learned once...!"


As I tried to explain a part of my past life to Bernard, unaware of what was happening in the background, he interrupted me. 


"-- !"


Heyah!


The embassy coachman who was driving the carriage stopped his horse at Bernard's signal.


"What?"


"Incoming."


"Huh? Again? Make sure you're taking your medicine properly!"


Bernard's eyes widened at my words.


"No, not that. Someone is coming this way."


The sound of a horses' hooves grew louder and louder in the distance. As I listened, it seemed to be a solitary horse, and it was just about to round the corner only ten metres ahead of us.


"Don't get out of the carriage."


"Okay."


Bernard moved in front of us, guarding the carriage with his horse as he waited for the rider to approach.


Two minutes passed, then the mysterious rider, who had just turned the corner, snapped his reins as soon as he spotted us.


Surprisingly, it was Paul Simpson.


"...Haa, I was worried I was going to fall off."


I opened the carriage door and stepped out, surprised to see him.


"What happened? I was supposed to meet you at the base.”


Paul dismounted and caught his breath.


“Haa… Something went wrong in the 3rd District.”


"What do you mean, did the investigation get leaked?"


"That's not it. They haven't returned to base."


"What?"


I was so shocked that I couldn't speak for a while. A few seconds passed in silence. It felt like I was trying to recover from a brain injury. Eventually, I finally managed to get the words out.


"Since when?"


"They went out last night and haven't come back yet. The base is under a state of emergency now. I came out because I knew you were on your way here in vain."


One might ask how such a short absence qualified as a disappearance, but this was a conflict zone. In these circumstances, if an officer didn't show up on time, even for a day, the unit considered it a major risk.


In this case, two senior officers hadn't been heard from since last night until noon today. It was standard procedure to treat this a potentially criminal situation.


What was going on? The people I was supposed to be investigating were missing, and I was out of luck.


"The first thing they're going to do is conduct a massive search of the immediate area around the base and the city of Durben."


"Even if they find them, my involvement in this case is over."


“You won’t know unless they're found. And if that happens, can’t you just continue your investigation straight away?” Bernard asked, puzzled by my reaction. 


"No. No matter how quickly they're found it would take quite some time before I would be able to officially investigate this again. Disappearances in disputed territory are handled centrally, and as soon as someone is found they get sent straight to the Capital, where they're investigated. If they're cleared, they're sent back. That can take almost three months or more. It's easier to just pretend it never happened. Ugh."


"What should I do, Third Secretary?


"Hmm… We should report that there were insufficient grounds for an investigation. The people involved are missing… Until someone comes down from Central, one of the non-commissioned officers will be assigned as an investigator by the Military."


"Yes, Secretary, Sergeant Bruno has already been assigned to take charge."


Ugh. Sly Sergeant Bruno. Somehow, I'd believed things were going really well this morning... It truly was an amazingly lucky day.


I returned to the official embassy residence, regretting the extra performance points I had just lost.


When the first investigation report came from the base it would need to be completely rewritten before being sent to the higher-ups, so the report I'd written this morning had to be completely discarded.


And as the days passed, the incident gradually faded from my mind.


***


October 25th, Durban.


Beth walked into the training hall, holding water for Tara to drink.


She marvelled at the now-familiar sight of Tara in full training mode at the back of the compound.


"...My Lady really is amazing.... She's been training with the knights for almost nine months now.... And she's lost so much weight. Wow!"


Although she wasn't as skinny as most of the noblewomen in Oceria, Tara looked perfectly healthy.


Her complexion was good, and although it was regrettable that she'd lost some of the fat on her cheeks, her delicate facial features stood out more distinctly.


Although she wasn't slim, the shape of her waist was now easily identifiable. Her movements were also lighter and faster.


"Lady. I have water here."


During the intermission, Beth quickly handed Tara and Bernard some water.


"Ha, I'm thirsty... Thanks, Beth."


Beth's nose scrunched up and her eyes filled with tears. She pressed her index finger to her eyelids at the knowledge that her boss was always grateful for her work.


Seeing Beth's reaction, Bernard shook his head and took a step back.


"…What? What's wrong, Beth?"


"Miss. You're amazing, really. I saw you training today, and I'm just, I don't know, I'm just so proud of you, so proud. Do you realize how much thinner you are now than you used to be?"


“Hehe, what else can I say? As of today, I'm done!”


"What?"


Beth exclaimed, tears welling up in her eyes.


"I'm 60kg, so I'm going to stop losing weight now. It's been a challenge."


“But, if you take off a little more, your dresses will fit better and you'll look slimmer. Why, Miss?”


"Oh, no. That would make me more likely to faint and wither away, and I don't want to be as skinny as the noblewomen here. Well, it's the standard, but I can breathe and move more easily the way I am now."


"But, My Lady. Your upper body is fine, of course, but your legs, and your thighs are...!"


"Enough! I've made up my mind, it's not even noticeable in a dress anyway, and I need strong thighs for training. Haven't you ever heard that strong thighs are a man’s best feature? Oh, I suppose you wouldn't have ever heard that last part."


"...What if you gain weight again?"


"Well, I'll keep training, so I'll keep it off. And now I won't waste time worrying about whether I lose or gain a kilogram or so, haaa."


My deep, deep sigh caused Beth's face to colour with disappointment and concern.


"Why, Miss? Aren't you happy?"


"I'm glad, but I don't have time to be happy..."


"What?"


Leaving behind Beth's wide-eyed expression, I re-entered the training yard to resume practice.


A lot had changed in six months.


Most notably, I now weighed 60 kilograms at 5'4" tall.**


Right after possessing this body I'd weighed 102 kilograms. I had lost a whopping 42 kilograms overall. I had shed 17 of those kilograms in the six months since coming to Durban, all while building up muscle.


I'd been hovering around this weight for about a month now.


So I'd decided not to diet anymore. I didn't want to lose any more weight. This was the best for me, and it was enough.


I had gained a lot of muscle and now moved with an ease that was unimaginable to me six months ago. And I didn't look half bad, by my standards at least.


The reason I had dieted in the first place wasn't for anyone else's benefit, but for my own wellbeing.


I did it so that I wouldn't die of high blood pressure, diabetes, angina, heart attack or other complications before my family was thrown into ruin.


I also needed to maintain a certain physique and muscle mass if I wanted to continue using an axe in the future.


Because of that, some might wonder whether I should stop training at this point. But there were two reasons why I had no choice but to keep doing it.


First of all, I needed to hold onto Bernard, who was destined to become a general in the future.


Did I really deserve his pledge of loyalty if I couldn't even use an axe properly after he formally trained me? 


Another reason was my job as a secretary. It helped me stay physically strong.


There was a lot of work to do, and I was very stressed preparing for everything that was going to happen in the future.


I had fainted twice before taking the civil service examinations.


I had also gotten a taste of axe combat before coming to Durben when I had re-encountered those thugs from the alley.


However, despite meeting my dreamt of weight goals, I wasn't satisfied in the least.


For the past six months, I'd been doing my best in my role as a third ranked Secretary. But my performance score hadn't increased past 250 points.


Crucially, there had been no response to my transfer requests. Would Prince Kyle, who had sent me here in the first place, really call me back to the Capital for a job well done after only six months...?


Maybe it was because of the 50,000 different thoughts bouncing around in my head, but burnout had begun to set in. I felt like I was trapped in a tunnel with no end in sight.


Today was one of the first sunny days without snow in a long time, but it was freezing cold, as to be expected in such a cold climate.


I'd wanted to take just one day off of training, but Bernard wasn't having it.


After the water break, there wasn't much of today's training session left to complete.


“… Now, aim for the neck like this and jump lightly. Watch!"


Bernard was unusually agile today.


In one motion, he jumped toward an adult-sized practice dummy made of straw.


Then he brought his axe down between the right neck and shoulder of the dummy, exactly where he'd been aiming.


A clear, and cheerful 'Thunk!' rang through the small training yard, followed by a burst of applause.


"Wowee!"


Turning to find the source of the exclamation, I saw Juan, one of the embassy officials, and Wilson, the embassy chef, both heavily bundled up in scarves and gloves.


Bernard stared at them for a moment with a frown, then signalled to me.


"Now, it's your turn, Lady!"


“Ah… Okay."


With a grunt, I hefted my axe and stood at the starting line Bernard had drawn.


"Are you listening to me?"


Even without looking, I could feel Bernard's anger intensify.

___


Editor’s Notes –


*This appears to be a reference to the KPop song 벌써 12시(Gotta Go) by K Pop Star Chung Ha (청하). Eng Subtitled version here. There's a dance that accompanies this song which was probably what Tara is mimicking. You can see it here. Honestly this song is ridiculously catchy and has been stuck in my head for weeks so definitely give it a listen!


** For my fellow North Americans - 60kg = 132.7lb, 162cm = ~5ft 4 inches tall


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2 Comments


ProMama
ProMama
Feb 20

Ha ha, I have that song in my Spotify favs already. 😅


On a different note, I love how the focus in terms of health/exercise/weight loss for Tara is on how she FEELS, not how she LOOKS.

Like

Laralee
Laralee
Feb 19

Thank you, thank you for another chapter. It's much appreciated.

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