“Peter came to the training grounds every day battered and bruised.
And Bernard–Ah, Bernard is my knight.
He often watched me train with Bernard and copied me.
Maybe it's because he’s malnourished, or because he’s naturally built that way, but he’s nothing but skin and bones.”
“To be honest, he followed the training, but didn't make much progress.
It was natural that he didn't get any faster because he wasn't learning it properly.
I didn't care much seeing the kid training there alone.
I thought he would give up after a few days.
It was the same thing every day, every day he came in looking beat up.
I think he was being picked on by the other kids in his neighbourhood.”
Dylan and my father focused on my story without even paying any attention to their tea.
Their eyes were full of interest.
“At first, I asked a few questions out of curiosity, but he didn't say anything at all.
We kept a reasonable distance and never got any closer.
About 7 days passed.
The kid didn't come to practice.
I heard from the stable attendant that he had been seriously injured.”
“I was just getting there.
I had been busy with my training.
And two days later I went back to the gym and saw that Bernard was training the kid, who now had a splint on his leg.”
“Peter said he wanted to become a knight.
So he asked Bernard to mentor him.
He told Bernard that he would do anything he wanted him to do and that he would become the number one Sword Master in the country.”
“Did you just say that he accepted him as a student?”
“It was surprising to me as well.
When I asked Bernard to train me, he used all kinds of excuses and hated the idea.
Yet he accepted Peter.
I was angry, so I asked him why he accepted him so easily, and he said…”
“What did Bernard say?”
“He said he was an interesting kid.
He was bored while teaching me, but thought teaching Peter was an interesting pastime.
He never thought he'd really become a Sword Master.
So, of course, he didn't believe in Peter’s promise that if he became a Sword Master, he would do anything Bernard wanted.”
That means Sir Pitt also believes that.”
Despite Sir Dylan's reply, my father appeared to be lost in thought.
That's probably the only reason.”
Two of my three questions have been answered.
Now, let me ask you one last question.”
“Two more questions, Sir.
We haven't heard back from the lawyer yet.”
“I've already heard back.”
Sir Dylan looked at my father in surprise, but then he turned his gaze to me.
I explained with an embarrassed smile,”I’m sure Andrei asked his lawyer to get the blank check notarized?”
Dylan, who was usually calm, was now uncharacteristically flustered.
“He doesn't trust my blank check.
Just as Bernard doesn't believe in Peter's promises.
I’m just a funny little kid to Sir Andrei Pitt, just like eight-year-old Peter is to Bernard.
He doesn't actually think I'll succeed.
Instead, he's just testing me.”
I continued while my father took in my words.
It was a test.
As to whether a blank check from someone who was considered to be of little value to the family would be approved.
If it wasn’t approved, how would I handle it? Also, if I was rebuked by the Family because of the blank check, how would I resolve the issue? If that happened, would I give up my ambition to become his disciple? That's what kind of test this was.”
“So… Have you notarized it?” I asked nervously.
Only then did my father grin and show me the papers.
He had done it!
The documents were stamped with the Elias Family seal.
My father laughed.”The child who went to Lackton Street alone.
The child who confidently recruited Andrei Pitt as a teacher and handed over a blank check, was scared that it wouldn't be notarized?”
“Ah–a little bit.”
Although I had been confident, it wouldn't benefit me to appear arrogant.
I deliberately avoided his gaze and pretended to examine the documents.
“The blank check can only be used after 3 years.
In addition, you must become a Court Administrator.
There was no reason for me to refuse.
Did you ever doubt I would sign it?”
Now how should I answer that? Confidently? Or with uncertainty? Which would be better? The latter.
I also had to show fearful deference in front of the family.
Otherwise I would have looked like an arrogant 18-year-old child who foolishly relied on her clever tongue.*
“I wasn’t sure you would notarize it, because I haven’t won you over yet, Father.”
That is a good attitude to have.”
My father burst into laughter.
Then he called to the servant who was standing at the door.
“Macarons? Or would you prefer cookies?”
I was truly surprised.
The atmosphere had suddenly changed to that of a casual tea break.
This was the first hint of favour I'd ever received from my father.
“Hah! Yes, I see.
Go get it!”
The way my father looked at me as he sat back and was definitely different from before.
If until now his gaze had been full of surprise, and a mixture of curiosity, doubt, and uncertainty, how could I best describe what his current expression looked like?
That was it.
His gaze contained more goodwill than I had ever seen from him before.
Something hot rose up my chest.
Ah… This body was reacting.
My body and heart thrummed with a sense of injustice I had never felt before.
‘Calm down, Tara Elias.
There's still a long way to go.’
I'm suddenly curious.
Why did you announce you were taking the test?”
Wasn't this question a bit late?
That was a question he should’ve asked me when I argued my case for fairness that day.
Perhaps he had just assumed I was a fickle 18-year-old taking on the challenge for personal amusement, or maybe he had suddenly started to recognize me.
Was this a good sign?
“Is this your final question?”
It's something that just came to mind now.
Let me ask you one final question after I hear this answer first.
Now, why did you suddenly say you were going to take the test? Is there a special reason you're doing this?”
I'd been thinking about how to answer this ever since I had first decided to take the exam.
I had been pondering it over and over again.
It would clear up the situation, but the answer I was about to give could not be spoken lightly.
My answer was a weighty one.
I knew that it would immediately result in a strong objection and that I would likely suffer a scolding for my impertinence.
“What kept me going in that darkness for seven years was my brother, Brandon.”
My father's expression turned glacial in an instant.
The eldest son who died because of me.
My father's pride and joy.
The heir, and the presumed successor to the headship of the Elias family.
By bringing up his name I had violated a major taboo of the Elias Family.
“Sir, please calm down,” Dylan said.
While I just waited for my father to calm down.
For him, Brandon's name triggered a powerful trauma.
As the person responsible for his death, it was that much easier for me to set off that particular landmine.
But this was absolutely necessary.
I was the reason Brandon's name could not be mentioned in this Family.
It could prove to be a fatal weakness against me in the future.
And I had also suffered trauma because of what happened to Brandon.
But of course, that trauma was engraved in Tara's body, not Yeonwoo's.
A cognitive therapist who had been invited to the [Celebrity Invitation Seat] TV-show in the past had said there were a total of 7 ways to overcome trauma, two of which could be applied here.
One method was to try to avoid your traumatic memories.
And the other one was the reverse.
I couldn't remember all the details, but I did remember this second one for sure.
It was the idea that the more you tried to hide your traumatic memories, the deeper they embedded themselves in your psyche and tormented you mentally.
You needed to eventually reflect on how that trauma occurred.
Brandon had always been a bright light to me.
He always satisfied my curiosity, and was my companion even in the midst of his busy schedule.
I've replayed it in my head endlessly.
Why did I beg him to buy me that manuscript? I shouldn't have done it.
If I really wanted it, I never should've bothered him.
But there was only one answer to that incessant question that bothered me for seven years.
No matter how much I agonize over it, I can't change the past.
And then I realized…”
My father's eyes were still cold.
But behind that coldness, loneliness, and anguish, there was sadness and longing.
It would be an unfamiliar experience for him, reminiscing about Brandon so openly like this.
“I can't just keep missing my brother who will never come back alive.
Instead, why don't I make his dream come true instead? Wouldn't he have liked that?”
“Dream? What dream are you talking about?”
“… Honestly, I’m not sure if this was actually his dream.
But he always spoke about it with so much enthusiasm when we talked or read the newspapers together.
'If I become a consul of the Empire…', 'If I become the Emperor's scribe…', 'If I could help His Majesty and promote the policies of the Empire like previous heads of state…' He would always say things like that.”
“Well, I also imagined doing that while listening to him speak.
If I did it…
I wonder if I could accomplish that…
So, I want to do it.
I want to become a great foundation for the Ocerian Empire, all in the name of the Elias Family.
What my brother Brandon wanted to accomplish so dearly, I want to do it for him–No, I want to do it for myself.”
A heavy silence descended.
Dylan, my father, and I all looked into the distance without saying a word.
Father needed time.
Time to fully recall his memories of Brandon.
I needed time to think for myself, having put Brandon's dream on my own lips.
Then there was a knock and a servant came in.
Chocolate cookies and macarons were piled up on a tray.
And there was also hot chocolate for me.
The servant put down the tray very carefully, likely sensing the crushingly heavy atmosphere, and quickly left the office.
Finally, the words I had waited for came out of my father's mouth, drenched with emotion.
“You must be hungry.
Let's eat and I'll let you answer the final question.”
Oh, it worked.
“Thank you for the food, Your Excellency…”
After I finished speaking, he spoke.
You should also call me 'Father'.”
I had done it.
There was a crack in the unyielding wall.
Regardless of how it might look to others.
I was craving sweets.
I quickly scarfed down three chocolate cookies and four macarons, while also sipping my hot chocolate.
I didn't care about the massive amount of calories I was consuming, I deserved a reward today.
What we discussed in the meeting room earlier.
What do you make of it?”
Oh, this was the final question.
It was a little short notice…
I put down the macaron I had picked up and took a moment to pretend to be lost in thought.
I had to be careful.
Instead of hinting that I knew how the future would play out in advance, I had to show reasonable insight into the situation.
What to do…
“Is that too difficult a question?”
“It's probably too difficult to ask the lady to answer a question like this so soon.”
Dylan supported me with a friendly smile.
That could be.
We'll call it a day.”
It's too hasty.”
Editor’s Notes –
Weight conversion for my fellow North Americans 89 kg = 189.6lb
* This sentence used the Korean idiom – 세치 혀가 사람 잡는다 – “A Three-Inch long tongue kills a person.” An expression used to advise someone to watch one's tongue even if it is as short as three inches because talking carelessly may bring disaster.
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