Read at Watashi wa Sugoi Desu!
Chapter 10: The Rose That Does Not Wither
The sound of my footsteps echoed in the darkness. It has been three weeks since I infiltrated the church of the royal capital as Erin. Today was my first night shift.
Night shifts consisted of two people, one patrolled the wards and the other stood by in the night shift room. Martha had told me that it was a battle against sleepiness.
Today, I was partnered up with Anne. We took turns as we did the rounds, so Anne didn’t have to guide me in any particular way.
I was supposed to be making rounds around the wards… However, I found a suspicious passageway during my patrol. After I infiltrated the church, I looked around the area. However, I couldn’t find anything that looked like a Sabbath. It was during one of these “rounds” that I found this suspicious passageway. I had no choice but to check it out.
As I walked down the passage, I felt something strange. The walls had the same color as other hallways, but it was made of a different material. It was rough and felt like an old mud wall. Old walls in a building that was only recently built… Were these from the previous church of the royal capital? Or was it a mix of the old church and the new one? Huh, I don’t know. I’ve never acted as an architect before nor have I studied it…
But there must be something beyond this passage. I thought it was likely, so I tried to go on, but I felt someone’s presence. From the sound of their footsteps, I guessed it was an adult male.
Now, what should I do? Even if I wanted to run away, I wasn’t familiar with the structure of this passage, so I wouldn’t be able to escape.
“I’ve been very busy lately, for goodness’ sake. Well, the busier we are, the more money enters the church. Sabbaths for indulgences, so we’ve been squeezing money out of commoners and nobles alike… How delightful.”
Father Michael of the church of the royal capital was walking through the church in the middle of the night with a vile smile on his face. After a while, he saw the silhouette of a white figure and their shadow ahead of him. She was walking and held a lantern that gave off a faint, flickering light. Michael noticed that the figure was a young girl wearing an apprentice nurse’s uniform.
“What are you doing there, apprentice nurse? This is a restricted area.”
Michael glared at the girl with utmost caution.
The other day, there was a spy from the king’s side who slipped in too… Well, she must not be that talented to be found out so easily.
Michael was ready to cut her with a knife the moment she turned around, but when he saw the girl turn to look at him, he was rendered utterly speechless.
“Wa-aaaaaaaahhhhh… I finally found someone… Waaaaahhhh.”
The girl – Erin – was crying and even sniffling profusely. She was messily bawling her heart out. Michael immediately discarded the possibility that the girl was a spy. For now, Michael handed Erin a handkerchief.
“What’s the matter? Are you on your night shift patrolling this late at night?”
“Y-yes. Today is my first patrol… and while walking, I ended up in an unknown passageway and couldn’t get back.”
Erin blew her nose vigorously. She was not reserved at all.
“I see. This is a restricted area. Normally it would be punishable to trespass here, but you’re forgiven for today. I’ll walk you to the medical ward.”
“Thank you… Um, are you a priest, sir!?”
Erin was surprised that she had just noticed that. The rosary on Michael’s chest was special. Only the most senior of priests had permission to carry it.
“You’ve just realized that?”
“I’m sorry, I didn’t know you were a priest, and I even showed you such an embarrassing sight…”
As Erin said that, she looked up at him, and her face showed her respect. That was the face of a worshiper who unconditionally adored him because he was a priest. It satisfied Michael’s ego greatly.
She may look a little foolish, but she seems to be easy enough to handle. …Might make a good new pawn for me.
“I don’t mind. By the way, what’s your name?”
“My name is Erin! I’m a new apprentice nurse.”
“I see. Well then, Erin, the medical ward is this way.”
Priest Michael and Erin walked side by side to the hospital ward. When they reached it, Anne appeared with a surprised look on her face. She had been worried about Erin and was looking for her.
“Miss Erin! – Oh, and Father Michael?… Sorry for troubling you.”
“No problem. See you later, Erin.”
“Yes, thank you very much.”
With a respectful expression, Erin thanked Father Michael for his help. Satisfied with this, he headed back to the prohibited area.
“Oh my gosh, Erin. You’re either an idiot or a klutz to get lost in the hospital ward.”
“Heeeeiiiiiiii, I’m sorry, Anne!”
With clenched fists, Anne intimidated Erin with a smile. After that, while she endured pressure from Anne, Erin’s first night shift was over.
As soon as the night shift was over, I fell asleep in my room. The day after a night shift was usually a day off. I stayed in the dorm room for the whole day on standby and checked on the workflow of the matron, Ms. Catharia. The day passed in the blink of an eye, and soon, it was midnight. I was wrapped up in my blanket but could not fall asleep.
Suddenly, I recalled the incident from my first shift. After I heard the man’s footsteps, I decided not to run away but instead played the role of “Erin who had wandered off unintentionally.” I was surprised to find out that the man was a high-ranking priest. And then the man, Father Michael, handed me a handkerchief. It was made of fine silk and was not something a priest would casually offer to a sniffling girl. From this, I inferred that Father Michael was involved in the dark side of the church of the royal capital. He seemed to enjoy being worshiped and have his ego satisfied, so I played the role of a devout believer. I wasn’t sure if Father Michael was going to contact me in the future, but for now, he probably dismissed the idea of me being a spy now that I had entered the forbidden area (and made such a spectacle). The next step was to find out what was beyond that restricted area.
As I pondered all this, I heard the sound of a small stone hitting the window. I got up from my bed, opened the window, and was careful not to make any noise.
Then, a black shadow entered the room. The black shadow – a black-robed woman – took off her hood.
Who emerged from the darkness was a beautiful woman with caramel-colored hair and jet-black eyes. It was my personal maid, Mary.
“You’re late, Mary.”
“I’m sorry, my lady. Sneaking in took longer than expected. Also, finding your room proved to be a bit difficult.”
Mary’s eyes turned to the artificial salmon-pink roses by the window.
“I’ve already marked it for you too.”
“But I didn’t expect to find it in a poorly lit room hidden by a tree.” Mary said.
“Oh, a room hidden from view by a tree and single to boot… Isn’t this the best intelligence-gathering environment?”
“My lady, a lady – no, a pawn of the second prince – should not behave like she got the best environment for espionage in a place she has infiltrated.”
“Yes, yes. I’m sorry, Mary. Well? Do you have any useful information for me?” I asked.
“Yes. There is a possibility that tomorrow – today, to be exact – there will be a Sabbath at the royal capital’s church,” Mary answered.
“Are you sure about that?”
“Yes. I’ve been informed that there are some nobles of the church’s faction currently on their way here. Also, some of them are staying at their mansions in the royal capital,” Mary said.
“…There’s not a single sign of the nobility within the church. If so, is there possibly an exclusive entry point for them?” I asked.
“Then, I’ll focus on that and investigate,” she said.
“Please do. I’m going to try to infiltrate the Sabbath. I found a place that might be relevant.”
“Isn’t that… dangerous?”
Mary looked at me worriedly.
“There’s never a time when it’s not dangerous. Besides, we’ll just have to wait and see,” I said.
“Please be very careful.”
“Yeah, I know,” I said.
“Then, I’ll be back. Sweet dreams, my lady.”
Mary jumped from the window without making a sound after she landed.
“Well done, Mary.”
I closed the window while giving words of appreciation to Mary who had already vanished into the night.
Tomorrow was going to be a busy day, it seemed. With that thought, I went back to bed. I closed my eyes, and this time, I was able to fall into a deep slumber.