Read at Watashi wa Sugoi Desu!
Chapter 17: The Red Rose Blooms In Everlasting Darkness
A moonless, pitch-black sky. Due in part to the quietness of the church’s interior, a creepy atmosphere permeated what seemed like never-ending darkness. Only the echo of one’s own footsteps could be heard along the corridor, devoid of even the faintest human presence.
This place was a forbidden zone within the church, a place where only a select few were granted permission to enter. It was neither a holy sanctuary nor any such grandiose place. It was a place that existed for the sake of those deeply connected with the inner workings of the church in the royal capital, thus aptly known as the forbidden zone.
Michael held the rosary hanging around his neck in hand. An exquisite, beautiful rosary made of silver and crystal. It was something that had been passed down through generations of the priests who stood at the pinnacle of the church in the royal capital—the First Fathers—and anyone who gazed upon it could almost feel a divine aura emanating from it. Inheriting the rosary was proof of being a faithful apostle to the goddess of purity, Luwell. But to Michael, it was an attestation to his way of life.
What even is a faithful existence who leads believers by example? How laughable. Things like these are easily settled with money. It’s an era in which even human lives can be bought with money, to say nothing of the seat of God’s apostle. Fuh, fuhaha, someone like me is faithful, they say? What a wonderful world.
Someone who was not born the eldest son of a noble family must establish their own standing in the world. Born the fourth son of a low-ranking noble family on the verge of crumbling, Michael too was certainly no exception.
Thrown to the church almost as soon as he was old enough, yet still barely considered an adult, Michael lived his days in disgrace. The noble’s son who assumed an important position by way of a hefty donation or the commoners who were loved and respected by the believers—they all looked down on Michael. If only he had the donations then, if only he had the money then, it could have been him looking down on them.
As a priest with an aristocratic background, Michael had been able to achieve considerable standing. However, be it the noble-born priests or the commoner priests, as they were incompatible existences, a divide continued to exist between the two within the church in the royal capital. Nevertheless, a turning point arrived for Michael. It was an encounter with Duke James Macmillan. Michael, after gaining his support, advanced in the blink of an eye. Seeing the ones who had thus far looked down upon him suddenly change their tune at the sight of money was entertaining. In five short years, Michael managed to climb all the way up to a position as the youngest First Father. Capitalizing on Michael’s position, Duke Macmillan, who had thus far brought together nobles such as those who stood against the king and those who were blinded by their own greed, established a large faction known as the religious faction.
But Michael had no interest in noble factions like the religious faction. Oh no, what arrested Michael’s attention was money, and drinking in the sight of humans drowning in their own desires.
The deepest, innermost section of the forbidden zone. Michael arrived before the thick, black door that was his destination. Today, he had received a summons from Duke Macmillan. The duke should not have been informed of the black cat intruder…was what Michael thought. He might be stripped of his current status if the duke were to discover that he had been unable to deal with the intruder. Although it was easy to attain status with money, Michael knew well that losing said status was a simple matter, even without money. Because that had been the case for the people he had personally kicked down. Such were things like status and power that, from the moment one obtained them, losing them would become an exceedingly frightening thing. Powerful yet obscure, things that easily intoxicated humans—Michael was aware of that much.
Having steeled his resolve, he knocked on the door and heard Duke Macmillan’s voice call, “Enter!”
“Please excuse me.”
Concealing the anxiety in his heart, he proceeded past the black door. There were already three people within the room, which contained decorative furniture that one could tell at first glance were of the highest quality.
The first was Duke Macmillan. A man with white streaked through his brown hair, letting off the sort of intimidating aura unique to nobles. He was also notorious for being a dispassionate man who would unhesitatingly discard even his allies if they could serve him no purpose. This man was the one who had devised and executed the sale of indulgences at the church in the royal capital, the Sabbath among the nobles, and so on. An ambitious man who, for better or for worse, truly embodied the definition of a noble, so Michael thought.
The second was Side Consort Bianca, who had been coming to and from the church ever since a few months ago. Despite being a lofty and ridiculously self-conceited woman, true to the rumors of her being an arrogant, spoiled princess, she at least had her influence going for her and had now become the church’s biggest contributor. The funding in question was likely taken from the royal treasury. At present, having fallen out of favor with the king, it seemed that she was receiving a stipend from him. However, given that she had been spending money like water back when she had been in the king’s favor, it would appear that she was highly dissatisfied with the current situation… What a foolish woman, unable to comprehend the extent of the mercy she had been granted. Although it was rumored that she had recently gotten all eager over making her own son the king… such matters were irrelevant to Michael.
The third was…a young lady he had not seen before. Wearing black mourning clothes, the dark red irises that occasionally peeked through her black veil brought out the lady’s unconcealable allure. An immoral sort of beauty, Michael thought.
Quite ill-suited to being a member of the church, though I too am among their numbers.
As Michael was enraptured by the lady in mourning clothes, the lady enunciated in a silky voice.
“Greetings, First Father Michael. My name is Cardia Remington, formerly Baroness Remington. On this occasion, I have become an ally to you all. I shall be in your care.”
Baron Remington’s former wife—the lady who had been the target of rumors among the social circles a few years back, Michael recalled. Although she had eloped from her actual family, House Wyler, which had been embroiled in a succession struggle, by finding sanctuary in the church, she had found herself married to a baron twice her age a few years later.
At the time there had been rather amusing rumors abound, such as that she was gunning for the inheritance or that it was a marriage of love that transcended age. The previous year, which marked a year and a half since the marriage, it was said that the baron passed and the previous wife’s son succeeded as head of the family.
Whatever the truth was, it had nothing to do with Michael. Another foolish golden goose had appeared… That was all.
“Cardia is my friend and compatriot. She’s been helping me push for Douglas to be king since before. Moreover she told me that she’s willing to provide the Sabbath with financial support!”
Side Consort Bianca’s glee-filled, high-pitched voice rang out. She was probably filled with the anticipation that her own riches would increase through former Baroness Cardia’s financial support. And former Baroness Cardia was probably also indulging in her own pleasure using the fortune left behind by her husband.
What nasty women. Michael scoffed inwardly.
“I prefer to watch rather than to participate. Hence, I am lavish when it comes to monetary support… I look forward to a fun show, Father Michael.”
“Your wish is my command.”
For a split second, former Baroness Remington’s dark red gaze on him seemed to send a shiver down his spine, but Michael concluded it was just his imagination.
“Michael, you were summoned today regarding none other than the Sabbath and the indulgences.”
So the time has finally come, thought Michael as he braced himself, forcibly exuding calm as he looked towards Duke Macmillan.
“Yes, what about it?”
It was alright, the fabrication of evidence on the trespasser and the silencing of the mercenaries were carried out perfectly. The duke should be unaware.
“The indulgences and the Sabbath are valuable financial resources of the religious faction. Therefore, I’ll be entrusting their management to you.”
“I am not in a position to focus solely on matters concerning the church in the royal capital, you see… I will likely become even busier henceforth. As such, I wish to ask this of you, who have been acting as a reflection of my will in faithfully governing the church in the royal capital.”
“I humbly accept. But, for the Duke to become even busier from now on… is there something going on?”
“Hoho, preparations for crowning Douglas as king are complete! With this, the position of queen will belong not to that iron-masked woman from that small country, but me!”
“The engagement between my daughter and the first prince has been arranged. It will be announced publicly at the Order of the Royal Knights’ medal awards ceremony and the evening party that are soon to be held at the castle… Following that, Julianna and I will marry, become the first prince’s guardians, and stage a coup d’etat. I believe that the country will go through a huge change with this.”
“I didn’t think that such a pleasant thing would come of it. Hoho, I’m looking forward to it.”
“I’m here to assist, to the best of my humble ability. However, speaking of Lady Julianna, as the treasured daughter of the noble House Lewis, which spearheads the royalist faction, will it be possible to incorporate her into the religious faction?”
Michael knew that Duke Macmillan was obsessed with the daughter of Marquess Lewis, hence he had no intention of throwing a wet blanket over the matter of marriage, but he did wish to avoid the destruction of the religious faction.
“There’s no need to worry about that. For a good while now, I have had a spy planted within House Lewis… in such a position that they may as well know every move that man makes. Furthermore, I have worked towards nudging Julianna to harbor hate for her father and House Lewis since a young age… Worrying is unnecessary.”
“My apologies for my foolish question.”
“No matter. Then, let us write up Cardia’s new contract and renew Michael’s existing one.”
Duke Macmillan presented two contracts. One was passed on to the former Baroness Remington, and the other was placed before Michael. The contents of the contract were of the Sabbath and the sale of indulgences being entrusted to him. The duke had it written down in contract, deterring the act of betrayal by cementing the awareness that both parties were mutual accomplices. He signed it without hesitation, then handed it over to Duke Macmillan. A glance to the side revealed former Baroness Remington also smoothly writing her name on the contract.
Once the contracts were complete, Duke Macmillan summoned the maids who had been on standby in another room, ordering for wine to be brought forward. Wine was poured into four crystal clear glasses, then handed out.
Duke Macmillan raised his glass.
“To the revolution of the Rowlands Kingdom— Cheers!”
He brought the wine to his lips without hesitation.
With this, we have once more become accomplices. I did not know what would become of this country in the near future, but— Surely it would be us, the stalwart supporters of the kingdom, upon whom the goddess of purity Luwell would smile.
Michael let out a sly grin as he got drunk on fine wine and the glorious future in store for the church of the royal capital.
Apologies for the late update. Due to my busy life, and my writing not flowing as I desired, the update was delayed. I’ll do my best to update the next chapter quickly.
Those who are unfamiliar with Lady Cardia, who made an appearance in this chapter, may refer back to Chapter 7. The number of characters has been increasing as well, so I’ve been thinking of publishing a glossary.
Next chapter will shift to the protagonist’s POV.