03. Who’s the monster?
‘I suppose it’s because she wasn’t even like my mother.’
Stella had just left for the Duke’s mansion when the Empress secretly visited Karen with a desperate heart.
The empress expressed to the emperor her desire to find Stella’s foster parents, but he did not cooperate at all.
The Emperor had been extremely secretive since he realized that Stella was the owner of a tremendous fortune.
He looked as if he didn’t want to go against Stella’s moods in any way.
He would really like to take the money and invest it in the bottom of the open treasury.
The emperor repeatedly reminded the empress that she must not make any kind of background checks on Stella.
He even acted thoroughly concerned that she might possibly waste the imperial personnel on this.
“It’s the Emperor’s order.”
The knights bowed their heads as if they were sorry.
“He told us not to let you leave the imperial palace.”
They stopped the Empress from going outside.
The Empress was from another country and she could only rely on her husband, but as usual, he only adhered to his opinion and raised his voice.
‘I’m sick of it.’
Money? Money was not important to her.
Her lost daughter was back.
The only thing she realized when she first understood the situation was that it was too late.
She stared stunned at the puzzle of relationships that had been cut into thousands of pieces, trying to piece everything together.
If only she could fill in the gaps in time by bringing Stella’s foster parents into the royal family and asking them what had happened.
If she could give them a title and feed them a full belly, the child would be satisfied. That was all.
It was a good opportunity, since Stella was out of the room.
So the Empress appealed to Karen.
“Please don’t mention the lie that you brought the girl from the street again.”
“…Karen. This mother really doesn’t mean to harm them in the slightest. I just want to express my gratitude to those who have raised Stella. And I would like to know how Stella spent her time all those years? What are her favorite things to do? If there are any traces left of what passed, I’d like to follow some of those traces…..”
Karen looked like she wanted to say something, but what she said was different.
“I don’t really know anything. Mother, if I knew anything..”
Karen was afraid to lie to the Empress. But what scared her even more was losing Stella’s only weakness in her grip.
That was if her parents took good care of Stella’s parents. If they keep them under complete protection……
But If they leave her like this, she will leave here quietly and silently in six months.
She’ll go to the family she loves so much, or she’ll go somewhere else, or she’ll disappear without a trace, right where she came from.
Stella wouldn’t marry the duke, and leave quietly. This was very good news for Karen.
But what good would it do to go against the girl?
If she had no home to go back to, she would never leave.
With nothing left to lose, she would expose Karen’s true nature to the whole world.
The contract Karen wrote with Ethel will meet the cold air of society.
It was Karen who looked at Stella and said she won’t live as pitifully as she does and cultivated a sense of unseen privilege.
Even if she died, Karen didn’t want Ethel to be in the place of Stella, whom she had ridiculed.
“Don’t be a ‘useless thing’.”
It was then.
“Karen, why aren’t you saying anything?”
The Empress said quietly.
“You’re a good girl…”
A good girl. Karen looked like she was going to cry as she heard the words. She was a sweet child to them. And she wanted to be their good child forever.
“…… I really don’t know anything about it. Mother.”
So Karen didn’t say anything to the Empress.
“Go get Joseph.”
The Empress quietly called for Joseph.
“I have a letter to send to Evanders.”
“I’m curious as to why you thought I was the one who let it slip and not Princess Karen.”
Jason’s face, who gracefully poured tea into my teacup, was terribly calm.
His accent was a model of aristocracy, as if blue blood ran through his bones, and his choice of words was always expensive.
The language was neat, but it was arrogant for a man to stick to ‘I’ instead of ‘me’ when referring to himself, even when facing the princess.
“This time it’s a different tea. Last time you were here, you barely touched the tea.”
I looked down at my teacup and then at Jason. I still hadn’t touched it.
“I thought Princess Stella and I are pretty good friends.”
Although he said it with regretful mischievousness, there was a thorn in his words.
It was about whether or not I could trust him.
He looked at the surface of the teacup with empty eyes as he stirred his teacup with a spoon.
“…It’s a shame. Am I more suspicious than Princess Karen?”
He said flatly, as if he knew nothing about it.
“You’re telling me that I really leaked the location of a family member that the Princess really cares about to the Imperial family? Are you sure it’s not Princess Karen?”
“I didn’t come here unaware of the situation, so stop.”
I intercepted his words.
I wasn’t in the mood to play word games with him.
“She asked Karen first where Stella’s adopted family was. But Karen did not open her mouth. So the Empress sent Joseph to you. Joseph met you and asked you to inform the location of my adoptive parents, and you refused. But you quickly changed your mind. There are many possible reasons, but I’m here to hear it myself. Why did you do that?”
Jason just stared at me with an interesting look in his eyes, as if my anger was merely amusing and nothing more.
Struggling to contain my anger, I connected my words, letter by letter, word by word, to make it clear to him.
“I trusted you.”
“It’s such an honor…”
“I was a thoroughly chauvinistic person. I thought that you would be thorough in your dealings with me because I was of benefit to you. Your mercenaries that I hired will protect my family and I will be your major client. It was our deal.”
“You betrayed my trust and threatened my family. Did you really think that was a wise move? Did you really think your actions would pay off, businessman?”
At that moment, there was a little bit of Jason’s mask left on. It was broken.
He was a great man indeed, to be beaten down as an “entrepreneur” by an imperial princess.
If there was a food chain in the empire, he would be at the top.
There was no one on earth wealthier than him.
With his vast capital, Evanders created culture, interfered in politics with nations large and small, and was rarely without a hand in commerce.
Moreover, he monopolized the distribution business.
Evanders’ distribution network, like the veins of the human body, large and small, was stretched throughout the body of the empire.
Whether it was in the sunshine or in the darkness, he controlled all the business areas.
There was even a joke going around that If the sun and moon and stars of the empire are the imperial family, then the heavens are the Evanders family, who monopolized the capital.
I called him ‘businessman’ in a tone that showed no fear or respect of any kind.
Just as an ordinary royal family member would call his subordinates.
That was all the word meant.
He must be angry.
But can he be as arrogant with me as he is with the rest of the royal family?
I was expensive.
My influence and wealth would be very new to him.
He was a businessman.
That’s the word.
As I did so, I found a clue.
The reason why he changed his mind and told the Empress my secret.
“Jason Evanders, you’re…”
“I don’t know.”
Jason flicked his teacup. His throat rumbled faintly. When his teacup was placed in the perfect center of the plate, he asked with a blank look on his face.
“If I am what the Princess sees me to be, and if I am a businessman, why would I have done anything to offend you? In fact, wouldn’t it be more plausible to claim that Princess Karen confided in the Empress?”
He chuckled, amused.
“It must not have been me who could not have foreseen this would happen. Why would I dictate to the Empress the location of the family you care so much about, and lose your trust?”
He spoke calmly, as if he was speaking the obvious. Then he continued his words in a polite but sharp tone.
“I think it would be best if future visits are arranged at a mutually agreed upon time after the princess sends your letter to me. Of course, the princess is an important guest, but time is precious. Especially mine.”
He chuckled faintly.
“I’ll leave you to it then.”
His eyes bent with joy, as if he had won.
When he rose and turned, I opened my mouth.
“Earlier you said I was a businessman, and now you treat me like your dog?”
“No, sir. I’d like to make a bet. I bet my mine in Sutherland.”
I’d like to place a bet on my interest in a mine in Sutherland.
Karen once told me.
A bet on a mine in Sutherland was his only possession.
What if I try it out?
I was practically the mine owner now.
“Would it cost more than your ‘precious’ time?”
“My point is that you were the one who let it slip, not someone else. Of course you said that Karen did.”
Perhaps he wasn’t interested, but Jason sat down again.
Putting his hands together, he said shrewdly.
“Interesting bet. Then you must also tell me what the princess will get if she wins?”
“If you lose, you will have to kneel before me, businessman.”
I replied without hesitation. Betting on the best bettor in the Empire.
The victory was definitely mine.