Read at Watashi wa Sugoi Desu!
Chapter 37: The Poisonous Flower Laughs
The day after the Knight’s awarding ceremony, the first prince of the Rowlands Kingdom, Douglas, visited Duke Macmillan’s residence, which wasn’t very far from the Royal Capital.
One would think that, with the stir it caused in the social circles, prince Douglas would have come because of his engagement to Isabella, Duke Macmillan’s only daughter. However, there was no affection between the two of them. It was a purely political marriage that ignored both of their wishes. That in mind, the prince had not visited to see his beloved fiancée. He visited for one, and only one, purpose: to break off the engagement.
“Duke Macmillan, I want to break off my engagement to Isabella.”
“That is impossible. This engagement was originally proposed by Side Consort Bianca. I can’t dissolve an engagement that had been proposed by the royal family on my own, even if I’m a Duke. If you want to dissolve the engagement, you must persuade your mother.”
Side consort Bianca may have been a member of the royal family now, but her birth family was a viscounty with little power. In contrast, she was someone who spent money extravagantly. In the past, she squandered it as if she wanted to empty out the national treasury. Later, when she was abandoned by the king, she gained a reputation as the ‘Arrogant Former Mistress’. She had contributed nothing to the kingdom and virtually had no power.
With that circumstance, the side consort became obsessed with gaining power and wealth above all else. She would have never spared a thought to break off the engagement between Isabella and Douglas. After all, their union would have led to an influx of money into her coffers, and a chance for her son to become king.
Having known all of this, it was clear that Duke Macmillan had no intention of breaking off the engagement from the start.
“Is that all? I have a meeting with the supporters of the Royal Capital Church soon.”
“Supporters… it’s about Indulgences, is it? I’m hearing talk these days that if you don’t buy one, you’ll be punished by the goddess Luwell.”
“Many commoners are ignorant. If the clergy say black is white then it will be so. Thanks to them, sales are booming. Side Consort Bianca and Your Highness will soon get the benefit, too.”
“Isn’t that… going a little too far?”
“Your Highness, weren’t you the one who told me that you would do whatever it takes to become king? Have you forgotten? There is no such thing as a clean and innocent king. It is how they handle the dirty work that reveals a ruler’s qualities. If that is too much for you, then becoming king is nothing more than a dream.”
“…I haven’t forgotten.”
Duke Macmillan’s smile deepened in satisfaction at Prince Douglas’ response.
Long ago, he remembered, he carefully approached the prince, a boy whose spirit had been warped by a horrible mother and a brilliant younger brother.
Back then, he gave prince Douglas the words he wanted to hear the most: ‘yes, you are fit to be king’. After he gained the prince’s trust and made him a member of the religious faction, he placed the prince as its figurehead.
Prince Douglas, who was even younger than he was now but still had some emotional maturity about him, recognized that the Royal Church’s ways were not right, but could not afford to break ties with Duke Macmillan.
“That’s good, because forgetting that would be a breach of the contract. You must do your best for the nobles who have joined Your Highness’ faction. You will be king, after all.”
When he was a boy, Duke Macmillan had Prince Douglas sign a contract. It stated that the sale of indulgence and other matters would be made under prince Douglas’ name. If anything were to happen to the Royal Church or Duke Macmillan, prince Douglas would fall with them. The duke also passed on most of the profits from the indulgence sales to the prince.
It was an undeniable fact that prince Douglas had benefited from the indulgence sales.
However, if prince Douglas found out that the Sabbath took place in the Royal Church, he would have told the King without any thought of self-preservation… so Duke Macmillan took prince Douglas’ character into consideration and concealed all information about the Sabbath while he made sure side consort Bianca wouldn’t tell him anything about it.
“Your Highness, we have enough money and connections. It’s only a matter of time before you push Prince Edward aside and you will be next in line for the throne. I only wish that you will be a good king.”
“Then we will put the plan into action soon. I’ll be in touch with you shortly regarding the personnel.”
“I’ll leave that matter to you, Duke Macmillan. So, about that engagement we were talking about earlier… if I can persuade Mother… can it really be done?”
“Yes. When Your Highness becomes king, you may have any lady you desire as your queen.”
Duke Macmillan knew that prince Douglas had an infatuation with Julianna but — Julianna is leagues away from a brat like you. You just have to be useful as a puppet king.
“Do not forget. Well then, I’m sorry for barging in on you so suddenly today, Duke Macmillan.”
“No, don’t worry about it. Your Highness is always welcome.”
“I will take my leave, then.”
Duke Macmillan’s expression was one of mockery as he watched prince Douglas enter his carriage and leave.
“You shall always be a good little fool, prince with tainted blood.”
“You shouldn’t talk about the prince that way, right? You never know who might be listening.”
As Duke Macmillan muttered to himself, a woman called out coquettishly behind him. He turned to look, and there stood a bewitching beauty dressed in mourning clothes and wearing a black veil.
“Cardia… you came.”
It was the former baroness Cardia Remington, a widow of just 20 years of age, and a supporter of the Royal Church.
“Well, well, well. What a terrible thing to say when you’re the one who called me here. And I discover that the First Prince, — the talk of the town! — here. I even waited so quietly to not disturb you…”
“Apologies. I’ll have a room ready for you immediately.”
“I appreciate it.”
As the servants prepared the room, Duke Macmillan and Cardia started their discussion.
“It’s surprising that you’re not really unsettled, Duke.”
“Fufu. I’ve heard rumors that the young lady of Marquess Lewis and Prince Edward are in love. I was looking forward to it, you know?”
“What an awful hobby,” Duke Macmillan remarked sharply. Despite their short acquaintance, Duke Macmillan knew there was no need to pull pretenses in front of Cardia.
“What a bore. Shouldn’t you ask me, ‘Why do you know that I want the daughter of Marquess Lewis?!!’…?”
“I wouldn’t be surprised if you knew something about it.”
Cardia provided Duke Macmillan with valuable information as well as funds. The information ranged from trivial to important secrets, though apparently, she only gathered information on matters that interested her.
To be truthful, I have no idea what this woman is thinking.
Even if she was suspicious, Cardia’s ample funds and valuable information were things Duke Macmillan could not let go of. Above all, there was little possibility that Cardia would betray him, now that they had signed a contract and stood in the same boat.
“Let me put it another way, then. Why is the Duke so calm about it?”
“It doesn’t matter who Julianna loves. That pest of a second prince, Marquess Lewis, and the king will be gone soon. You can’t marry a dead man, can you?”
“Oh, my, how scary. I wouldn’t want the Duke to be my enemy.”
“Even if you say that… you look like you’re having a lot of fun.”
Cardia had pretended to tremble and rubbed her arms with some exaggeration, all the while a lustrous smile graced her mouth, which the veil failed to conceal.
“The Duke is interesting, after all. I chose right.”
“From my point of view, Cardia, you are the more frightening one.”
“That’s not a word I’d use to describe a member of the religious faction.”
“But it pleases you, doesn’t it?”
“Yes, it does. I do prefer the interesting sort. In any case, so long as the Duke amuses me, I’ll spare nothing to support you.”
“Then I shall ask you to sign this.”
The Duke Macmillan presented a contract, its contents stated that she would provide additional funding for the Royal Capital Church. The amount noted on it was not something an ordinary noble would be able to supply.
The former baroness of Remington, whose noble origins traced back to a wealthy merchant, was why she could afford it.
“The Duke is meticulous. Ah, so scary and interesting.”
“I am honoured by your compliments.”
Cardia took the contract and smoothly signed the contract without a hint of hesitation. When she handed it back to him, he tucked it away in one of the drawers in his desk.
“Speaking of, Duke. Do you know anything about the lovely rat in the Royal Church?”
A rat — that meant a spy.
Duke Macmillan listened intently.
“Yes. The second prince is fond of such pets.”
“I see. What are the features of the rat?”
“Who knows? I certainly don’t.”
“Cardia, just tell me already.”
Duke Macmillan let out a sigh and glared at Cardia. She laughed in amusement.
“The rat is skilled at transforming. While they’re a cute little mouse, they can also be a lion or a frog! What an interesting child.”
“So, they’re an outstanding rat. How troublesome.”
“I can guess what the rat has changed into now, though.”
“The rat will be a woman anticipating to live in the Royal Church in the long term. They infiltrated the Church three to four months ago. Now, let’s hope the Duke uses this information interestingly, hm?”
“It’s not going to be as interesting as you want it to be. We’ll just get rid of the rat as soon as we find them.”
“Hmm. Will you at least check the body? And let me know what you think of it later. That’s the price for giving you this information.”
“Fine. By the way, the next Sabbath will take place in a week’s time. Will you participate?”
“Of course. But I’d rather watch the nobles going into a frenzy than take part myself.”
“You have good taste.”
“I am honoured by your compliments.”
“See you in a week.”
“I look forward to it.”