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“Sister, Lady Letticia is currently working. Please wait in the meantime.”
“Understood. Is it fine for you not to listen to what Yuri has to say?”
“Yuri wishes to speak to Lady Letticia alone.”
“I see. Thanks for leading the way for me.”
We walked back the way we came.
“Sister, what just happened…”
“If you’re intending to ask for my forgiveness for what Yuri said, there’s no need. I already understand.”
“That’s why I want to say this. Beforehand, what you said about the position of leader of our territory: if you intended that as an apology then I’ll have to refuse.”
“These are two separate topics. I just think you’re the best fit for the role. Honestly Father has been considering this already and even working on documentation to submit for approval.”
I didn’t expect them to have gone this far with it already.
“Honestly, I was even glad to hear your engagement cancelled. As someone who works for our country, I think it’s a huge loss if someone of your talent left our nation.”
“You’re speaking too highly of me.”
“Not at all. Why are you so vehemently rejecting this? You’re the eldest and have plenty of achievements of your own. Is it just because you’re a woman? I don’t see how that stops you from being a great leader.”
He had caught me.
As a woman, I felt like I had to retreat behind the curtain.
The thought filled my mind.
But when someone asked me the question as directly as that, I had nothing to say.
Why did I think I had to reject my position because I was a woman?
The more I thought about it, the less I could rationalize it.
Just the justification of “this is what should happen” was enough to stop me from ever considering the reason.
“If remaining a leader is too much pressure on you, I don’t intend to force you. You’re free to leave if you really want to…”
“Hm, aren’t you contradicting yourself here?”
“After all, you’re shouldering a great burden. If I add more pressure on you…as a brother and as your family, I can’t do that.”
“Is that so?”
I inhaled deeply and asked myself.
What kind of future did I want to choose?
Right now there were two paths before me.
Becoming the leader, and not becoming. There were countless branch routes on the latter road.
“I’ll ask you one last time. You say it doesn’t matter which side I pick?”
“Yes. I mean what I say.”
“Is that so? Well then, Bern. I’ll accept the role of territory leader.”
Bern laughed out loud.
“Really? That’s great.”
And that was when we arrived at our destination.
Bern, Tanya, and I walked into the empty room.
“Please wait here. I still have matters to attend. Some workers in the palace might come over with some materials. Tanya, feel free to wait here too.”
After Bern left, I sank into the couch.
“Is this the best course of action, milady?”
Tanya asked me with concern.
“What are you referring to?”
“The position of leader.”
“Yes. I don’t regret it. I think being able to continue down this path alongside everyone else might be something great for me.”
“Is that so?”
Tanya smiled, relieved.
“Heh heh. Please be sure to stay by my side in the future too.”
“I might say the same to you. I belong to milady until my body decays.”
“Ah…if you really were to decay, I’d be quite troubled.”
We laughed at this statement.
And then there was a knock at the door. One of the palace workers was here.
She made us tea with a practiced hand and left again.
Honestly I liked Tanya’s tea more…but this was a matter of personal preference.
In the moment, I enjoyed my hot tea in silence.
Today too much had happened.
As if trying to digest everything I sipped on my tea without saying anything.
“Excuse me. Sorry for the wait, Lady Iris.”
“Lady Letticia! Not at all. I’m grateful for the opportunity to rest.”
“I’m glad you’re taking a good break.”
Lady Letticia sat before me.
“Thanks to you, Yuri told us everything. That way we’ll be able to move in on those nobles we didn’t have enough evidence to convict beforehand. Thank you for everything.”
“You’re far too kind. I’m just happy to be of use.”
“Being of use…You always help us achieve the best goal. Even in the negotiations with the Acacia Kingdom. We really are endlessly grateful.”
“Lady Iris. Are you willing to become the leader of your territory?”
“Yes. Did you hear about this from Bern?”
“Yes and no. I’ve heard a little from him when we were discussing other topics. Seems like he’s asked today as well.”
“Then what do you plan to do?”
“I plan to inherit the position.”
Lady Letticia’s eyes narrowed with excitement.
“Is that so? To be honest, I’m going to tell you something that must stay in this room…I’m about to ascend to the throne.”
It made sense. In the situation that Prince Edward and Dean had passed away, she was the only remaining successor with royal blood.
“Unlike my grandmother, I’m not serving as a transition point. I’ll have actual political power.”
“Wow! That’s really…!”
I let my honest surprise show.
Although I’d already realized she had the capability to do this, it seemed like it was finally coming to pass.
Her grandmother…Queen Ellia had ruled from the top of the nation, although she’d done so by ruling alongside other people with royal blood.
That kind of rule clearly served as transition for the next generation.
But if she was saying her rule would be different, this means she would be the first true queen of this country.
Taking this step didn’t just mean countering traditional notions, but also breaking them down and rebuilding them. It was a path above paths.
“I’ve made up my mind. As a matter of fact, I’m already walking this road. Lady Iris, hope we can look after each other in the future.”
“Those should be my words.”
“Well then, Lady Iris, I wanted to give you a present for your response to the Acacia Kingdom affair. Your district will be designated as a special district with a certain degree of self-governing privileges.”
“What does that mean?”
“I think you know this already. When my brother was still here, this country was moving toward centralized power.”
“In short, we wish to treat you and your territory as exceptions. Please continue showing us your skills.”
After I processed her words thoroughly, I realized how much gravity stood behind the words she spoke so lightly. I couldn’t help but inhale sharply.
“Is this the best course of action?”
Lady Letticia chuckled lightly.
“You ask the same question too, huh. No matter good or bad, I think it’s the best option for the country. I’ve reported this to other nobles, and no one has complained. But that shouldn’t be surprising. To protect themselves, they ganged up on your territory alongside Queen Ellia. When that brother of mine was attempting to collect baseless taxes from you, they not only ignored it but followed in his example. And during this crisis they didn’t make any attempt to assist you either.”
I didn’t agree or anything, just nodded vaguely.
But was this really the conclusion she’s confirmed with other nobles?
She moved quickly.
If she was so intent on pushing good will upon me I didn’t have much else to say about it other than accept her well-intentioned gift.
“Thank you, Lady Letticia. I’ll work my hardest for the territory from now on. If I can work hard enough to become an asset to our nation, I’ll be honored.”
“I’m happy to hear that.”
So in a harmonious atmosphere, our conversation ended.