Read at Watashi wa Sugoi Desu!
Chapter 16: As Nobility, As Royalty
I was guided to an inn catered towards commoners. The elderly woman sitting at the front desk handed over the room key without the slightest change in expression once Prince Edward curtly stated, “Room 104.” From the looks of it, this inn might be Prince Edward’s secret hideaway.
I followed wordlessly after Prince Edward, who walked with familiar steps. Perhaps because it was just barely approaching dusk, the inn was silent.
“Here it is.”
We opened the wooden door and entered room 104. The interior was exceedingly average. It was a perfectly ordinary twin room with a double bed, table, and sofa set.
Turning the lock, Prince Edward sat on the sofa. Crossing his legs and leaning lightly against the backrest, he was the picture of arrogance. The fact that his status warranted such arrogance was even more infuriating.
After he said so, Prince Edward patted the seat next to him on the sofa. I unhesitatingly sat on the single sofa chair on the opposite end. It didn’t matter whether or not it was the seat of honor because this was no tea party between nobility and royalty.
“Are we done with our performance?”
“Yeah, there are no customers in the adjacent rooms, and the inn itself is more or less my property. There is no need for concern.”
“Understood. Then, I shall take it that the farce has been concluded.”
“I wouldn’t mind continuing it. It was rather interesting, after all.”
“I humbly refuse. By the way, may I ask one thing?”
“What are you doing without a single escort? Are you an idiot?”
“An idiot…heh, hah-hahaha.” Prince Edward laughed at my words.
“It’s no laughing matter!”
You’re the second prince, aren’t you?! I glared. Even as he met my gaze, Prince Edward was laughing. I was unable to fathom what was so amusing about it. Could it be, an unusual kink… that my own country’s royalty had that sort of inclination invoked an indescribable feeling. I was not going to think deeply into it.
“Ah, forgive me. It’s not that I was overly confident in myself. I did have escorts. What of yourself, the daughter of a marquess—Julianna Lewis?”
“I, too, had an escort.”
My maid, Mary, I wanted to say but swallowed back. Even so, an escort whose presence I failed to notice… had he perhaps taken in some assassin or other under his wing? As expected of the second prince.
“Heeeh, that is greatly interesting.”
I had heard that the second prince’s martial prowess was on par with that of the Knight Order. I did not wish for him to probe into the identity of Mary—an escort who could remain undetected even by such a figure.
“Your Highness, I shall serve the tea.”
I stood from my seat, heading for the shelf that held the provisional basic tea set. Top-class tea leaves in a commoner’s inn… Well, it was only this room. I had very nearly let out a sigh. Striking a match, I lit a fire under the water heater.
“That’s the newest model of portable water heater invented by the Iris Merchant’s Guild. I’m impressed that you’re familiar with its usage.”
“Iris Merchants’ Guild may be a commoner’s guild, but it was apparently founded by a member of the nobility a few years ago. Such tremendous growth within a short period of time… Do you not think so too, Julianna?”
“Surely we are not here today to play mind games with each other, Prince Edward. If you will not be conducting the exchange of information regarding the infiltration, please send in a substitute who will.”
“My, my. Apologies for putting the princess in a bad mood.”
That theatrical tone was irksome. The water came to a boil just then, so I opted to ignore the sadistic prince in favor of heating the pot and cups with boiling water. Throwing out the water in the pot, I then mixed the tea leaves and hot water in and steeped them. Steep for too long and the tea would become bitter, so caution should be exercised. I had the experience of acting the part of multiple maids, so I was rather confident in my tea-brewing skills. I finished by pouring the black tea into the warmed cups. Ta-da, a personal masterpiece! I loaded the cups onto a tray, then placed them in front of Prince Edward and myself.
“The tea is hot, so please allow it to cool a little before drinking,”
“To think that a noble lady would be able to make tea.”
“Oh dear, do you perhaps dislike noble ladies who are capable of waiting on others?”
“Nay, that is not the case.”
“That’s a pity.”
As I spoke, I looked at Prince Edward, who was sporting a serious expression. It seemed we were finally getting down to business.
“I’d like to hear about the Sabbath.”
“It basically matches what was written in the reports. To put it simply, the higher-ups of the church form the main body that holds the Sabbath, and the audience consists of members of the nobility. The nobles invited to the Sabbath seem to be sneaking into the church’s inner sanctum through an underground passage located in the royal capital’s cemetery. Moreover, they are using both noble and civilian children in the name of living sacrifices. The frequency with which the Sabbath is held is once or twice a month… In regards to this point, I am unable to confirm its accuracy.”
“Concerning what happens during the Sabbath, do the nobles really believe in the Devil?”
“If I may present my subjective opinion, Your Highness.”
“That’s completely fine.”
“Although there were those who spoke and acted in ways that pointed to an idolization of the Devil… On the whole, I believe they are not truly worshiping the Devil. It felt like they were satisfying their own desires, using the Devil as an excuse. Besides, if they truly wished to summon the Devil, they probably wouldn’t be holding the Sabbath in a church.”
“In other words, a form of entertainment in the pursuit of stimulus, huh—to stain their own hands with treason for the sake of entertainment; what a bunch of fearless braves.”
“I am sure Your Highness already understands this, but those people have no such awareness of their own sins. Were it me, I would never even think of going against a prince like you, who smiles as enchantingly as a devil would.”
“From someone who’s been running from me for seven years, it sure does sound persuasive.”
“Fufu, the East has an aphorism that goes, ‘Let sleeping dogs lie.’ Had it been possible, I would have wanted nothing to do with you even until the end of time.”
“That is quite unfortunate, seeing as I’ve already caught you—this tea is delicious.”
Prince Edward took a gulp of the tea. Caught up in his tempo, I took a drink as well. Mm, delicious.
“I’m glad it’s to your satisfaction.”
“Incidentally, it was said that they’d been concentrating their efforts on medicine at the church in the royal capital; what’s going on with that?”
“The number of people within the church is strange. Putting the sisters aside, the number of nurses, healers, and patients, interns included, don’t match up. There are roughly 20 nurses, 40 patients, and 40 healers. I feel that there is evidently a much higher number of healers than necessary in comparison to the number of patients.”
“I have the same opinion. In truth, they are making something other than medicine—a situation like so would be highly conceivable. Do we have any means to look into this?”
“There is someone with relation to the healers among my colleagues. I should think we will be able to investigate it to a certain extent using that as an entry point.”
I’d obtained the information from Miria that Anne’s lover was a healer.
“Understood. What of the indulgence?”
“In regards to that, the matter should also be resolved soon. Although a coincidence, I’ve been able to make acquaintances with the First Father. Seeing as I’d acted the part of a foolish yet subservient young lady, I believe it should be easy to further associate with him as Erin.”
“What do you think about the whereabouts of the indulgence?”
“If I were to speak my humble opinion, the benefits are likely being reaped by the upper echelons of nobility within the religious faction who are operating the Sabbath. Of course, the church in the royal capital itself is probably receiving substantial benefits as well.”
“At the current juncture, there’s also a possibility that royalty is involved, you know? After all, Consort Bianca, notorious for being an arrogant spoiled princess, is siding with the church.”
“Even if Consort Bianca has been receiving benefits, that is a recent occurrence. The ones gaining the most out of this are surely House Macmillan, who spearhead the nobles of the religious faction.”
House Macmillan. Their ancestor was the elder brother of the Hero King, Abel Rowlands. Even though they were one of the three families of dukes that existed in Rowlands, they were not part of the “Three Pillars of the Royal Family”, and in recent years, their influence within the castle had also been decreasing. In terms of noble rank, House Macmillan, who held the position of a duke, should theoretically be a step above. However, when it came to actual influence and family standing, House Lewis, who held the position of a marquess, was superior.
“It’s more or less as you say. It is a well-known truth that Duke Macmillan had established contact with the church in the royal capital from early on and subsequently formed the religious faction. Ah, yes… So this is a new piece of information that just came in today.”
“What is it?”
“Duke Macmillan’s daughter has been engaged to my elder brother.”
“That’s the first I’ve heard of it. Then, that means the first prince, Prince Douglas will become the next Duke Macmillan.”
In that case, the meaningless battle over the throne would also draw to an end.
“Nay, it seems that will not be the case. I hear that Duke Macmillan’s daughter will be marrying into the royal family instead.”
“Wha!?—Ahem. Duke Macmillan has no brothers and should have no other children but his only daughter, Lady Isabella. For her to marry into the royal family despite that… I don’t think Duke Macmillan has any spouses of noble status; could he be planning to end House Macmillan? Even though it’d be smooth sailing from here on out if that was the case.”
“I wish that were the case as well, but of course, such a ridiculous thing won’t happen. Firstly, on the subject of the engagement between my elder brother and Duke Macmillan’s daughter, Consort Bianca and Duke Macmillan were the ones who proposed it to the king, who endorsed it.”
“I don’t know if you were aware, but Lady Isabella is in love with you, Prince Edward. Especially your standing as first in line to the throne and the beauty of your appearance. I can’t imagine that self—I mean, slightly wilful, Lady Isabella would have agreed to it that easily.”
“Likewise, Julianna. I don’t know if you knows this, but my elder brother is rather fond of you, you know? Especially the added values that are your bloodline and your status as the belle of social circles. That is most likely why Duke Macmillan had the two of them engaged.”
“Has he still not given up, that perverted duke?”
My eyebrows unconsciously furrowed.
Duke Macmillan lost his wife quite early. Following that, he did not remarry and remained single. This would be the end of a heartwarming story if it was just because he could not forget his wife, but alas. He’d been sending in wedding requests since I was five years of age. I’ll say it again, five years of age. Political marriages were a norm among nobles, and it was not rare to be married to a man of more than 20 years difference in age. However, to form a lasting relationship with a duke’s family that had not sworn fealty to the current king meant nothing but demerits to House Lewis. Nevertheless, the reason Duke Macmillan persistently pursued the endeavor of making me his second wife was because he had his eyes on my looks. Yes, my looks. Duke Macmillan had apparently loved my mother, Elizabeth, deeply. That was why he desired me, who looked exactly like my mother. In other words, he wanted me to be my mother’s substitute, which, to a woman, was nothing but an insult.
“It appears that Duke Macmillan wished to take you as his second wife, then have my elder brother ascend the throne. However, now that my elder sister has married, I expect you, the marquess’ daughter who possesses the next most influential bloodline, would not be allowed to become the second wife of a noble capable of causing a political stir. Therefore, the king decided to approve their engagement instead.”
“That is to say… the king eliminated the possibility of a situation where I would be married to Prince Douglas, presumably in a bid to avoid a political fiasco.”
And if things were to go well, in the hopes that Prince Edward and I would get engaged.
“Indeed. You and your brother may be highly capable, but there have been rumors that your patriotic spirit is weak compared to previous generations of House Lewis, so it stands to reason that they want to tie you down to the country.”
“I, too, have a patriotic spirit. The previous generations of House Lewis were simply abnormal in their patriotism. Besides, I have no intention of going against my father’s decisions. If my father were to ask me to marry Prince Douglas or Duke Macmillan, I would do so.”
“Hoh… I’d heard that Marquess Lewis has a rocky relationship with his daughter and son, but you’re unexpectedly compliant.”
“I don’t know where you got the misconception from, but I love my father as is the norm… well, though I don’t know what Vincent thinks. Moreover, aren’t political marriages just part of noblesse oblige?”
“Julianna, have you ever wished that you weren’t born as a noble?”
“I can’t say I have. I’d like to ask Prince Edward in return, have you ever wished that you weren’t born as royalty?”
“I have not. Those around me seem concerned about the heavy pressure I may be facing as first in line to the throne, but I feel none of that. Since I’ve been born as royalty, all there is is to fulfill the role I’ve been given, and perhaps indulge myself in ways a member of royalty can along the way. Julianna, how about you?”
“I like sweets. Given that, if one was a commoner, there are those who would be unable to eat them. However, because I was born a noble, I’m able to freely partake in confectioneries. If I’m allowed to exercise such a privilege, I will fulfill my obligations as a noble. If I wanted no part of noblesse oblige, it would be better to run away altogether. Merely reaping the benefits of being a noble while failing to perform my obligations is the height of folly. That’s because authority is something that can only be correctly and properly asserted when one has fulfilled one’s due obligations.”
“It would seem… we are birds of a feather.”
“Regrettably, that’s indeed the case.”
At least, in the respect that we felt neither regret nor pressure about the circumstances of our standing and our birth, we were on the same wavelength. Ah, I hate it. This has nothing to do with disliking someone because they have similar traits to myself, okay? Nothing at all.
“However, I don’t think those around us are aware of our thoughts.”
“…Did Lord Linus mention something?”
“He seemingly wants Julianna to enter a marriage out of actual love.”
“House Olcott’s origins are that of a trueborn military family where one is expected to accomplish things through one’s own strength, so the concept of political marriage is unfamiliar to them. Furthermore, as they are of a patrilineal line, they tend to dote greatly upon female relatives.”
They probably mentioned something about me. I don’t really want to hear about it… Yep, let’s put an end to this topic of conversation.
“So, Your Highness. How should I telegraph my movements from here on?”
“For the time being, continue to infiltrate the church in the royal capital just as you have been doing so far. Now that the existence of the Sabbath has been confirmed, I’d like to ask you to focus on looking into the Sabbath participants.”
“Understood. Moving forward, I will proceed with the investigation concurrently with that of the indulgence and the healers.”
“Also, in regards to the award ceremony and the party to be held by the royal family in two weeks’ time, will you be attending?”
“I will. On behalf of House Lewis, in place of Father and Vincent.”
“Vincent, huh… What is he up to at the moment?”
“If Your Highness is not in the know, there’s no way I would be. Because he belongs to the Intelligence Division—the special division under the direct command of the royal family. Well, it’s probably a given that he’s not in the country.”
“Then, I shall be your escort at the party.”
“I respectfully decline.”
“Other noble ladies would be crying in joy at my invitation.”
“Please, do not lump us together. Besides, have you forgotten? Nobody must know of the relationship between the second prince and Marquess Lewis’ daughter right now.”
“Even so, I cannot imagine my ambitious elder brother and Duke Macmillan not attempting anything against you. In the worst case, they might forcibly make you theirs.”
Forcibly… in other words—
“They’ll aim for a fait accompli, is what you’re saying? Talk about the absolute worst, an action befitting of good-for-nothings.”
“What an awful way of putting it.”
“As a male, doing something without consent isn’t something to be praised, is it? … Although I have no intentions of making a mistake that would allow those two to pin me down…”
“That’s why I’m saying that I’ll escort you.”
“I respectfully decline! What will we do, if by some vague way or other, I end up becoming unofficially engaged to you?”
“I’m fine with that, though?”
I don’t get it. Why is this man smiling? One would usually become disillusioned after seeing the true me without all the acting. Inexplicable! Incomprehensible!
“R-Regardless, if Vinnie is present on that day, I’ll ask him to escort me! If Vinnie is absent, I’ll ask Uncle—Duke Olcott instead, so there’s no need for concern.”
My cheeks were warm and definitely reddened… it’s just because I was surprised. That’s right, just surprised. I even mentioned Vincent by my nickname for him, uwaaaaah. This man is merely toying with me, overreacting means playing right into his hands!
“That’s unfortunate. Well then, it’s about time I return to the castle. This room has been booked until tomorrow, so let your hair down to your heart’s content.”
Having said so, Prince Edward rose and headed for the door.
“Thank you for your consideration.”
Just as I breathed a sigh of relief, Prince Edward came to a stop, turning back.
“If I may ask a quick question, how do I put a halt to Julianna’s performance?”
“Hmm? If I were to be called by my real name in the middle of performing, I’d probably be turned off and stop with the act.”
“I see, now that you mention it, it was the same back when you were Lia. Well, may we meet two weeks later, Julianna.”
The door shut with a bang. I dived into the bed, wrapping the sheets around my person like a burrito.
“Stupid, idiotic, frivolous, sadistic prince… ah, I don’t know anymore. Arggghhh.”
I rolled around in bed in my burrito state, but my heart wouldn’t calm down. Ahh, I’m just going to sleep today! Get rid of the fatigue! And tomorrow, I’ll go on a candy binge before returning to the church in the royal capital!
With my mind made up, I closed my eyes and was quickly overtaken by sleep. Apparently the fatigue had been piling up considerably. Let’s just enjoy the soft, fluffy bed for the first time in a long while, shall we?
—Well then, good night.
My consciousness gradually drifted as I fell into a light doze.