Read at Watashi wa Sugoi Desu!
Chapter 04: The Second Prince and the Marquess’ Daughter
“Your Highness, may I have a sweet?”
“Do as you like.”
“Then I shall kindly take one.”
I chewed on one of the madeleines that had been placed on the table. Jeez, I really couldn’t do anything without eating something sweet.
I was against this meeting with the second prince exactly because I didn’t want things to turn out like this. With all these surprises giving me anxiety, I couldn’t ease up on my performance at all. And yet… Because of that sly fox…er, I meant Father, I had been found out by the black-hearted prince. Even though I had told him to throw that card away.
That’s right. I was the true identity of the “Lia” for whom Prince Edward was searching. Seven years ago was when I had first started acting outside my home. On this occasion, His Highness had gone into the city without his guards. He was in disguise, of course, but his appearance was very clearly that of a noble boy sneaking outside for the first time. Everyone could see that. I didn’t consider myself very patriotic, but even I couldn’t ignore my kingdom’s prince in potential danger. I got close to His Highness under the premise that I was the daughter of an innkeeper in the capital and stayed together with him until the knights showed up. Naturally, I concealed the fact that I was myself a noble. During that time, I played a game of poker with His Highness and lost. As such, I conformed to the trend of that time: I’ll listen to one thing you say as a reward for beating me. “I don’t have anything in mind right now to ask of you, though,” His Highness had said, so I had had no choice but to hand over a signed note saying “Proof that I will listen to one thing you ask.” I was a novice at that time, and in retaliation for having lost at poker, I said those words in the most informal way I could, completely inappropriate for dealing with royalty. After I parted with him, I regretted it immensely.
At any rate, I worked hard after that encounter. I concealed my true self whenever I interacted with others and decided to act the part of a perfect lady. I spent several years distancing myself from His Highness so that he wouldn’t see through my inexperienced acting and realize who I was. I discarded every little thing that I had written to avoid being discovered through my handwriting and changed the way I wrote. But my efforts were in vain; I lost to His Highness’ tenacity and my family’s betrayal.
I washed down the sweets with the tea, slightly cooled now, and accepted my fate. When I glared at Prince Edward, I stopped performing my role as the “perfect lady” that I had kept up for so many years. I was currently the true Julianna.
“It is true that I am the ‘Lia’ that Your Highness has been searching for. It has been a while. How would you like me to greet you now?”
“No need for greetings. Your curtsy before was enough. Also, call me Edward.”
“Then, Lord Edward. About that scrap of paper…it was signed by Lia, not by me, Julianna. Therefore, that scrap is nothing more than mere letters written on a piece of paper.”
“You just acknowledged being ‘Lia.’ So, am I not correct in thinking that you, Julianna, are Lia?”
“There is no date written on that scrap, yes? Seven years have already passed. It was merely the scribblings of a child. Wouldn’t you say that the offer has already expired?”
“Even a child should be held responsible for what they have done, wouldn’t you agree? Besides, you mentioned a lack of a date. That would mean that there is also no expiration, right?”
I guess I really can’t nullify the deal… Jeez, this is completely one-sided. Upon seeing how suddenly I had changed my attitude, Aide Silas and Captain Kiel were wearing shocked expressions. Since I was no longer acting as the perfect lady, I didn’t bother to address their surprise.
I openly let out a huge sigh and pressed Edward.
“So, what does Lord Edward desire from a marquess’ daughter?”
In my mind I added Though it’s probably not anything good. Edward put on his beautiful, “ideal prince” smile. Oh, the dark-hearted brilliance it gave off… I could only see it as a demon’s smile.
“Become my pawn, Julianna.”
Both his tone and face belonged to the “ideal prince,” but his words were those of a savage.
“I don’t want to.”
“You have no right to reject. You understand, don’t you?”
No matter how much I struggled, I could not escape… It was important in life to know when to give up. I sighed.
However, I would only listen to one thing he asked.
If it was like that…I would wager my pride and play the part of a pawn.
# # # # # # # #
“And so, concretely, what will you have me do as your pawn?”
Giving in to my despair, I continued to eat the sweets. I was currently eating the macarons. The exquisite sourness of the raspberries was delectable.
“Do you like sweets?”
“I like them. Anyway, can you please answer my question?”
I shot a look that said Hurry up and spit it out, causing Edward to shrug his shoulders in exasperation. The office fell silent. I had no desire to make a fuss about this, so I continued eating the macarons. I had given up. He could do whatever he wanted.
The one who broke the silence was, surprisingly, Captain Kiel, who had been standing silently behind Edward.
“Pft, hahahahahahahaha! A~h, that’s hilarious. Both the lady and Ed are so interesting~”
“This isn’t something to laugh at, Kiel.”
“But, Silas, isn’t she amazing? I mean, even after seeing Ed’s true nature, she can still mix scorn and sarcasm right into the conversation, and she’s the ‘perfect lady.’ As if I could remain quiet!”
Captain Kiel continued to laugh, but Aide Silas looked distressed. I felt like I was being made fun of, so I raised an eyebrow. Aide Silas noticed this and quickly lowered his head.
“I apologize, Lady Julianna. Kiel and I didn’t think you were the one Lord Edward had been searching for, and so we acted impolitely. We also had to make sure that you had the ability to act as our collaborator. I apologize again.”
This person seemed like an upstanding man… He scored high points for calling me a collaborator instead of a pawn. Or rather, did he have experience with this sort of thing? I wondered if he was like the guardian here. It was well-known among the noblewomen that these three were childhood friends. Additionally, Aide Silas was the husband of Edward’s elder sister—the first princess, Lady Shelly. They were newly-wed. In short, the two men were brothers-in-law. I made a note in my mind that Aide Silas was definitely the guardian who worried over these other two problematic children.
“So, what must I do to be acknowledged by you gentlemen?”
“You’ve exceeded my expectations. There was merit in searching for you.”
“I think so too. There’s no one more qualified than you!”
“I also have no objections. As expected of a daughter from House Lewis.”
My question was answered by Edward, Captain Kiel, and Aide Silas, in that order. It appeared that I was receiving high praise… but that didn’t make me happy at all.
“Then, I will explain everything from the top. Lady Julianna, are you aware of the current divide among the nobles, splitting them into the royalist faction and religious faction?”
“Yes, if you’re referring to the general situation.”
The royalist faction vs. the religious faction was the greatest political conflict the Rowlands Kingdom was currently facing. First, the royalist faction was, as the name implied, nobles who swore allegiance to the royal family. Of course, this meant that House Lewis, one of the Pillars of the Royal Family, belonged to this faction.
Next, the religious faction was a group that had recently exploded in influence. They promoted the Church of Luwell in the Rowlands Kingdom. The Church of Luwell was a religion that treated greed as evil and sincerity as good and worshipped the immaculate goddess Luwell. It was a rather tolerant faith, preaching that the goddess will watch over and love you. However, this also meant that they offered a lot of freedom. The Church of Luwell had permeated deep into my country. The queen of their sacred land, the Holy Orvaler, was the present queen consort of the Rowlands Kingdom. So why was the Church of Luwell creating a political faction? The answer was related to their church in the capital.
Among their churches, the one in the capital had been the quickest to rise to prominence. For many years, noblemen who weren’t to inherit their family had dumped sums of money as donations into this church and become part of its clergy. As such, when one thought of the church’s higher-ups, it was the very picture of corruption. They flaunted their authority, and bribery ran rampant. The church in the capital became unrivaled among the other churches. While its upper echelon was mostly corrupted, many of the followers at the bottom were true believers of the faith. Moreover, the church functioned as an institution to train doctors and registered nurses, making it difficult for the kingdom to do anything to it. Taking advantage of this, the church in the capital formed a political faction, multiplied their supporters in nobility, and strengthened their political influence. This was the religious faction.
Aide Silas continued, “Is that so? Well, there are neutral factions outside of the royalist and religious factions, but…they’re opportunists who avoid risk, so they’re of no importance. Anyway, the religious faction has the side consort, Lady Bianca, on their side.”
I couldn’t hide my shock.
The current king had three consorts: the queen consort, Lady Dahlia, and two side consorts, Lady Claudia and Lady Bianca. The queen consort, Lady Dahlia, was known as the “Consort Who Supports the Kingdom” while the side consort, Lady Claudia, was known as the “Consort Who Supports the People.”
And finally, the other side consort, Lady Bianca…was known as the “Arrogant Former Mistress.” Lady Bianca was originally the daughter of a viscount. Back when she worked as a maid in the royal palace, the king fell in love at first sight. Although she was slightly egotistic, the beautiful Lady Bianca won the affection of the king. Eventually, she went from a mistress to an official consort. From that moment on, Lady Bianca’s ego escalated. She had mountains of dresses and jewelry made for her and held parties every day to show them off. It went without saying that the kingdom’s finances suffered, and the treasury was on its way to bankruptcy. Additionally, after giving birth to the first prince, she began to ridicule the queen consort despite being in a position where the two of them were supposed to support the king together. On top of that, it was customary for the son born from the queen consort to become the king of the Rowlands Kingdom. Her insulting the queen consort practically everyday with “You’re just a princess from a small nation” and “You only produce girls” was well known. Fortunately, the queen consort, Lady Dahlia, was a magnanimous person, so this didn’t trouble her. As you would expect, however, Lady Bianca’s self-centered behavior eventually reached the king’s ears… As a result, he lost his affection towards Lady Bianca. Having become fed up with Lady Bianca, the king then sought consolation from Lady Claudia, the daughter of a baron and a devout follower of the Church of Luwell. Lady Claudia wasn’t especially beautiful, but she was a kind-hearted, gentle, and sincere individual. She proactively did charity work and despised excessive indulgence; she was the complete opposite of Lady Bianca. Lady Claudia became an official consort, Lady Dahlia gave birth to the second prince, Lord Edward, who became first in line to ascend the throne, and Lady Bianca fell from grace. Taking into account that Lady Bianca was the mother of the first prince but not officially married to the king, she was ridiculed as the “Arrogant Former Mistress” and not seen as an actual consort.
“If it wasn’t the devout believer, Lady Claudia, who joined the religious faction but Lady Bianca instead, then you can understand the state of corruption happening in the church in the capital… Now, I will enter the main issue.”
“The other day, we received a report from our spy who infiltrated the church, saying, ‘The Sabbath will be held underneath the church in the capital.'”
“Sabbath… Are you referring to a devil-worshipping ritual?”
“Precisely. The spy who gave us this report…has been eliminated. This also appears to have intensified the church’s vigilance.”
From Aide Silas’ story, I could imagine what they wanted me to do, but…I frankly wanted to be wrong. I suddenly realized something and threw out a question.
“Could it be that the one the church is most wary of is… Lord Edward?”
After I said that, Edward and Captain Kiel looked at me as if they had spotted something interesting. I would have liked for them to stop looking at me like that. It was unpleasant.
“That’s right. They’re most on their guard against me. Anyway, what do you think, Julianna?”
“Just before, when Aide Silas had the maids leave the room, one of them turned around and looked at us before she left. At first, I simply thought she loved gossip, but…based on Aide Silas’ story, I believe that she might be a spy from the religious faction. Furthermore, her eyes…were suspicious for someone looking at her master.”
The phrase “Servants should be like air!” was hammered into servants’ heads to prevent them from unnecessarily standing out. Likewise, it was deplorable to do something like monitor the one you were supposed to obey. Based on how these three men looked right now, it seemed that I was correct in judging that the maid was a spy from the religious faction. I wondered if the fact that they let her go despite knowing meant that they were letting her move freely for now. Should I be glad that the quality of the maids working in the royal palace hadn’t actually dropped?
“You’re amazing, miss. I didn’t notice at all until Silas told me.”
Captain Kiel shot me a carefree smile. I was a little happy. Caught in the mood, I ended up smiling, causing Edward to make a suspicious-looking face. Was he displeased by my smile? Why should he care?
“For this reason, Julianna, I want you to infiltrate the church in the capital and gather information.”
“Don’t you think…this is rather much for having lost at poker?”
“I’ve waited seven years. It’s only natural that I incorporate the accumulated interest as well.”
Was he a crooked moneylender? No matter how I struggled, I had no right to reject him.
“I have one thing that I would like to confirm. I am still a daughter of House Lewis. I must discuss the matter with my father.”
“If you’re referring to Prime Minister Lewis, then I have already obtained his consent.”
“He immediately gave us his consent though?” Kiel agreed.
That sly and patriotic fox! My father, Gerald Lewis, was a staunch patriot. He was capable at his job but incompetent as a person. Perhaps he had judged that I was capable enough to infiltrate the church. Still, to secretly sell off your daughter… I decided I would refuse to talk to him, as child to parent, for the time being.
“Would I be correct in thinking that I will receive no support from you three gentlemen during my infiltration?”
“Yeah, we would like to avoid alerting the religious faction.”
“In other words, I’ll be separated from you three…while using whatever I have in my possession to infiltrate the church in the capital… Don’t you think this is too reckless?”
“You’re not capable of that?”
Edward scoffed. This bast— Ahem. I had become slightly enraged, but I pulled myself together and calmly reconsidered. I closed my eyes and lost myself in my thoughts. Edward and his people couldn’t make any big movements. The religious faction wouldn’t expect an outsider such as myself becoming a pawn here. There wasn’t just the infiltration plan to think of; I needed to consider how I would pass on the collected information and plan an escape route for the worst-case scenario… The question was whether the pieces in my possession would allow me to do all of that…
“…I am capable. However, the infiltration schedule and decisions on the scene will be done by myself. Is that fine with you?”
“I don’t care.”
Edward nodded, looking satisfied. His face had completely transformed into that of a villain in my eyes.
“I merely have to investigate the situation around the Sabbath, correct?”
“Yes, that’s the majority of what we require of you,” Aide Silas answered. “And, if you have the opportunity, we would also like for you to find where the money the church gains from selling ‘indulgences1‘ to followers has gone, Lady Julianna.”
“When do you think you’ll infiltrate?”
“I will need time to arrange the role I will be using to infiltrate… At the earliest, it will be in two weeks.”
“Understood. Then we can at least prepare the communication method you’ll use on our side.”
“Thank you very much.”
I stood up and bowed to Edward.
“I apologize for the numerous disrespectful acts I have demonstrated towards Your Highness. Please forgive me. Do what you feel is appropriate for my punishment.”
“I was the one who told you to drop the act. Both the ‘perfect lady’ and your true self were quite amusing, so I won’t punish you. As long as we’re not out in public, feel free to act as yourself before me.”
“You have my utmost gratitude. Then I shall take my leave. If I stay here too long, the spies may become suspicious.”
“Yeah, good luck with the infiltration.”
“Give it your all, miss!”
“Lady Julianna… I deeply apologize. Please do your best. I will also do all that I can…”
Only Aide Silas, who spoke last, had an extremely grave look on his face… Was it my imagination? I stopped before the door and turned around with a smile.
“Lord Edward, I have acted in a variety of roles up until now. However, among them, I have never performed one that resembled a ‘tragic heroine.’ I would like to play one one day.”
Both Edward and Captain Kiel looked confused at what I was trying to say. However, Aide Silas must have sensed my unrest and turned pale. Fufu, it was too late.
I threw the door open and ran off. When I did, a maid, who was in the hallway, rushed over and asked, “What is the matter?”
“P-Prince Edward…took me for another woman…and compared the two of us… E-even though I adored him… What should I…”
I broke down into tears. Upon seeing me tremble, the maid extended her arm and supported me. Her eyes were filled with sympathy.
“Are you okay, Lady Julianna?! For now, I shall take you to another room.”
She supported me as I pretended to struggle just to walk. With this, no one would notice that Marquess Lewis’ daughter and the second prince were collaborating. Well, there were other methods, but…this was the simplest. I kept my laughter in my head.
Since I would be risking my life on this stage, I would be allowed to get back at him this much, no?