(Take with a grain of salt.)

 

“Really? You'll regret it.”

 

“I have no regrets.”

 

“Even after seeing this?”

 

I took out the small cloth bag I had been carrying and threw it to him.
He caught it in his hand.

 

“What is this?”

 

“What you need the most right now, more than anything else.”

 

He opened the cloth bag with a puzzled expression.
He didn’t seem to know what it was.

 

“Why did you leave the tax collection team two months ago?”

 

He frowned immediately, as if he didn't want to think about it.

 

“Do you want me to say it for you? Headache, back pain, and abdominal bloating.
Alternating constipation and diarrhoea.
No relief even when you have a bowel movement and your stomach aches all the time, right? You're the Captain of the mop.
What kind of knight are you? Do you get strangely nervous every time you get into trouble, huh Captain? Your nickname is '10 times a day', isn't it?”

 

“Oh, come on! No matter how young you are, isn't this too much?”

 

“This is irritating.
That's the best medicine currently available! Do you know how much money I spent to get this? Your salary as a knight is not enough! According to Sir Oliver, if you take it consistently for about a year, you will get better.
It's made from refining sap from elm trees.”

 

“Oh….”

 

He looked as if I had just offered him the world.
Bernard was suffering greatly from his terrible irritable bowel syndrome.
But he still hesitated for a moment, as if his pride was getting in the way.

 

“But this is.
Hmm.
Let me think….

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It had gotten some leverage.
So I unleashed another flood of vitriol.

 

“Are you going to let it dribble out every time you swing your sword on the battlefield? Are you going to take a crap every time you slash with your knife?! Now it's '10 times a day', but soon you'll probably be called '10 times a slice'.
Do you want to come out smelling more like poop than blood?”

 

“Oh really! Are you done? This is insulting!”

 

“Insulting? It's true.
Fix it if you don't like it! Do you think you're the only knight I could ask?”

 

Even after that small threat, he still seemed worried and continued to glance around.

 

Bernard frowned deeply and his countenance was very troubled.

 

In cases like this, it was best not to hang around.
I turned my back.

 

“Well, I don't want to beg either!”

 

One step.
Two steps.

 

“Okay.
I'll do it.”

 

I thought it would take three steps.
Alright!

 

I pursed my lips to hide a smile of satisfaction and met his gaze with the most benevolent expression possible.

 

“I’ll provide you with a steady supply of medication so that you don’t run out during my training.
Of course, I will also pay you.”

 

And that was how my strict weight loss regime started.

 

The only problem was, I hadn’t realized he wielded an axe as his primary weapon.

 

I trained with him for two hours every day.

 

I stretched for about 15 minutes, did strength training for about 15 minutes, and spent the remaining hour working on aerobic exercise.

 

After that, I learned the basics of handling an axe from him.
To be honest, I initially thought that 2 hours might not be enough, but this was like an unwanted bonus after the main workout was over.

 

I had such poor physical stamina.

 

After every day's exercise, I would go to the nearby barn located in the corner behind the mansion and climb onto the massive scale used to weigh livestock.

 

I had lost 10 kilograms in a month.
My cheeks seemed to be slightly slimmer, but it didn't show much.

(10kg = 22lb.**)

 

So I was now 92kg.

 

After I had completed all five laps, a servant came to me, having waited until my workout was over.

 

“His Excellency is looking for you.”

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“I….ha…
ha…”

 

“All of the Elias children have been summoned to the drawing room.”

 

Alright.

 

I gulped and caught my breath, wiping off the sweat that was pouring off of me like rain.
I sat on the ground with my head down thoughtfully.

 

What? What could it be?

 

Until now, Tara's father had never come to see me.
He was too busy, a high-ranking businessman who didn't seem to care about me.

 

Why has he summoned everyone?

 

After catching my breath for about 5 minutes, I poured water over myself and went to change my clothes.

 

In the private room by the entrance of the drawing room, a group of noble wives were gathered drinking tea.
I saw my mother there as well.

 

‘Cheer up.'

 

Tara's mother mouthed those words silently.
I felt refreshed every time I saw her.
She was always so innocent and bright.

 

Isabelle Elias was 36 years old, just three years older than I was just before I died in Seoul.
She was my mother in this life and Count Elias's third wife.

 

Tara's mother was very pure, despite the fact she must have been harshly criticized for birthing a daughter who was seen as a waste of space these past 18 years.
In a way, she was a stronger person than anyone else I knew.

 

When I entered the drawing room, the eyes of all of the family members already present focused on me.
It was as if they were asking, ‘Why are you here?’.

 

My grey-haired father sat in the centre chair, waiting for the room to fall quiet.

 

By just sitting there and looking out at us, he exuded a charisma and aura that could have overwhelmed any audience.

 

I sat down, and a moment afterwards he opened his mouth, “…You must all be aware of the official letters the Imperial Palace issued to each family, correct?”

 

An official letter? What official letter?

 

“Yes.”

 

The other siblings answered without hesitation, as if it was news they had already heard.
I was the only one who didn't know.

 

“The letter stated that they are recruiting new administrative officials, but I am sure you all know that they are trying to choose a family who will lend their power to the candidates competing to be the next Crown Prince.”

 

Oh no, it had started.
This was the moment where the Elias Family stepped onto the path leading towards their own destruction.

 

Editor’s Notes:

* The word used here to describe OGTara was originally a Japanese term”hikikomori”.
Hikikomori are people, usually young people, who have isolated themselves socially to an extreme extent and have essentially retreated from the world – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hikikomori

 

** 10kg = 22lb.
Also, quick PSA, losing this much weight in a single month is generally considered too fast and can be unhealthy!

 

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