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Chapter 57: The Two Girls
Only five days remained until the Dragon God Festival.
I accompanied Julieta as she moved from the hilltop mansion to the Sacrificial Priestess’ room in Palcemith castle. It had been arranged for me to join her there.
Julieta, who had already received sufficient guidance on the Sacrificial Priestess Ceremony from Malacia, gladly entertained the nobles and vassals who requested an audience. The people who rushed to the royal castle were impressed to see Julieta bow her head to all regardless of status, and by her sincere desire to help His Highness the Crown Prince. However, they could do nothing but sigh.
“Ahh…why did a young lady with such a beautiful heart and body have to be chosen as the sacrifice?”
“Lady Julietta was originally the Dragon Priestess…Lady Nasha, who is now the Crown Prince’s fiancée, was originally the Sacrificial Priestess, wasn’t she?”
“…His Highness the Crown Prince changed his mind. He unilaterally annulled his engagement with Lady Julieta, and forced her to take on Lady Nasha’s duty of being the Sacrificial Priestess.”
“What injustice… is this the kind of person who will lead our kingdom?”
The rumors were everywhere in the castle. Being the “truth,” they could not be stopped.
Furthermore, Nasha’s arrogance hadn’t decreased even after things had come to this point, hastening the fall of the Crown Prince’s bloc. I purposefully did not give a hand, simply observing the situation with fascination, but even I felt a little uneasy with the Crown Prince’s thought process. It isn’t so easy for a leopard to change its spots, is it?
In response to the recent rebellion, Crown Prince Vikram and his fiancée Nasha had made a vow in the Shrine to change their behavior from then on, saying that they would strive to make the Kingdom of Palcemith prosperous. Regardless, within a few days word spread that Nasha had traveled to the capital incognito to buy a new dress by a famous designer that was on sale in a high-class salon exclusive to the nobility. Even I wasn’t sure how to feel about it when the Crown Prince did not censure her at all. It wouldn’t be fun if they led themselves too quickly down a path to self-destruction, and I wanted them to give me a break.
I was walking down the corridor of the castle, lost in thought, when I spotted Vanellope holding several books at the end of the corridor and stopped. With her back straight today too, Vanellope was devoting herself to her job as the internal administration assistant as usual. I really wished Nasha would take some lessons from her.
“Hey, you! Wait a minute!”
Just as I was about to call out to her, from the other direction across the hallway, a shrill woman’s voice was raised at Vanellope. I went silent immediately and hid behind a garish statue.
“Do you need me for something?”
As expected, when Vanellope stopped momentarily with a blatantly annoyed expression on her face, it was Nasha Laturi who faced her, approaching while breathing hard through the nose, her heels clacking.
“Of course I called you because I needed you for something! Hey, you there. What are your intentions?”
“What do you…mean?”
“I heard that you tried to seduce Vikram. How shameless!”
Vanellope’s utterance just now was more of a sigh than an interjection.
It seemed like this wasn’t the first such exchange.
Nasha Laturi, do you have too much free time?
I had heard that she had thrown up her hands at Queen training and had given it up at last.
“I have said this many times, but I have only been serving as the assistant to His Excellency the Prime Minister to repay His Highness’ kindness. It is the duty of a civil servant to submit documents requiring His Highness’ approval to him. I’m already quite swamped with the accounting documents; how would I find time to seduce His Highness? Who told you that I was seducing His Highness the Crown Prince in the first place? We must clear up this misunderstanding at once so I can explain my side of the story.”
“…I-I won’t tell you! All you have to do is shut up and listen to me. Do you understand that you’re living only out of kindness from His Highness and me? Just one word from me could sentence you, the daughter of a rebel, to hard labor!”
“My, my, what scary words.”
I rose nonchalantly from the shadow of the statue and stepped in between the two girls.
Vanellope gave me a silent bow, then, briefly placing the mountain of books in her hands on the floor, she gave me a beautiful curtsy. On the other hand, Nasha maintained her imposing stance and glared at me with a hostile gaze.
…As I looked at her, Nasha seemed to have put on a ton of weight in the past half-year. Given the early preparation of her wedding dress, would she be able to alter it sufficiently to wear at her size?
“Miss Nasha. I don’t want you to misunderstand, but you are still only a commoner. You can be here because of your position as the ‘Crown Prince’s fiancee.’ Originally you would not have even been able to speak to Vanellope, the cousin of the current Crown Prince and the niece of the late king, of your own volition. If you are to become a member of the royal family, you must vow to remember this from here on.”
“What…are you! Impossible—once I become the queen there will be no one with a status above mine…!”
“…There might not be any in this kingdom, however, when you are interacting with the leader of a neighboring country, you will still need to cultivate some hospitality and refinement. Do you intend to embarrass His Highness the Crown Prince?”
Clenching her fists, Nasha’s lips quivered as she realized that her chances of success were pretty low even if she continued to speak. Taking her maids along, she retired deep in the hallway, her heels clacking once again.
“…Creeps me out.”
Vanellope muttered after waiting for Nasha’s figure to disappear out of sight.
“Is *that* really the next queen? It will be the end of this kingdom.”
“…That worries me too.”
I took the pile of books from Vanellope’s hands and started walking on my own, judging that she was probably on her way to the archives anyway. Casting a glance at Vanellope as she rushed to my side, I pointed at the scenery outside the window. The flowers swayed in their bed as the wind blew through the clear blue sky. The weather in Palcemith was typically mild today.
“Our country is under the protection of His Grace Kharis, and we rarely encounter calamities thanks to his blessings. This may be one of the reasons why our ability to manage crises tends to be poor. Even when we notice a problematic issue, we take it lightly, thinking that things will resolve by themselves.”
“I understand that Lord Anderheim perceives Lady Nasha as a calamity.”
“You understood the smallest details, huh? …That is why we need [poison] at times. A little [poison] is always good medicine. If a central figure understands that, the state will be safe.”
Catching my gaze, Vanellope muttered incredulously.
It seemed like she had caught my intent.
“…I don’t like it.”
“Does a traitor’s daughter have a say in this?”
“I’d still like to stay out of this one. Aren’t Lord Morino and Sir Jolga here?”
“Their roles are different. Morino is too young to be effective. Jolga will take the kingdom’s darkness in a different direction than you.”
Amethyst eyes hidden behind round-framed glasses twinkled.
“What would you do if I were to take power and try to destroy the country?”
“I would not do anything. That in itself would be interesting, after all. However, is this not the country where your beloved Julieta will continue to live?”
As I grinned, Vanellope had the expression of having swallowed a bug in front of me.
“…You really are heartless.”
“Hah, I’ll take that as a compliment.”
“…From today onwards, I’ll try looking for anything that’s good about the Crown Prince.
“You’re right. That’ll save you a lot of trouble later on.”
Opposite, Vanellope shrugged her shoulders and sighed.
As I pictured the awaiting future of Palcemith, my heart raced.
…Sorry, little girl.
I didn’t want to tell you directly because it would have poured cold water on your worries, but the future you have in mind and the future I envision were a little different.
Some things could take on antithetical meanings when viewed from two different perspectives.
That was shown by the final form of the revenge I had built.
Here’s the second chapter, as promised. Go support me on Patreon onegai, the last chapter of the novel should be upped there pretty soon.
All hail editor-sama Evelet for her super quick editing