15. Rumours (4)

Fate was something fickle. There could be just one moment which set off a series of reactions.

This was such a moment.

The fall-out with the Crown Prince set off an unintentional faction war.

Did I mention before how Sophien was socially awkward? To be honest, I’m not sure. Sometimes I still get confused by her unchronological memories, what happened in the past, what happened in the future and what already happened in this timeline.

Regardless of this, in the eyes of the crowd Sophien was a pushover. She longed for affection but was afraid to let people close. In the end she never got any real friends but just something like a following.

These people approached her for their own goal. And since they saw through her awkward but loyal character, they manipulated her to their own advantage since once she accepted someone as her ‘friend’, then they could wield her name like a weapon.

This was one of the reasons why she was hanged for ‘her’ crimes in one playthrough. These ‘crimes’ weren’t all hers but nobody believed her claims of innocence. There was just too much forged evidence against her.

And it was exactly those people that initiated this faction war.

As the Prince mentioned previously, he already lost a few foolish nobles who belonged to his faction but after the news of our fall-out spread, he began losing support from some of his core players.

High-nobles who would inherit their families rank and responsibilities chose to observe the situation carefully before they would make a move.

Sophien’s ‘followers’, who had used her name to bully the Heroine, openly advertised the advantages of following the Duke’s daughter.

Selfish people gathered around to comfort me or suck up to me.

It left me baffled. Threatening the Prince’s position had been my goal but this… this was a much larger chain reaction than I expected. This country’s core players weren’t as unified as I thought.

You couldn’t blame me. In the future I saw, they always stood unified against the Villainess.

The Game System too seemed worried about the rapid development as it already sent me a second warning. Considering my bragging words how this would just be an obstacle in the Heroine’s love…

I rubbed my hurting head while continuing to listen to Ines’ report.

The rumours going around had intensified and were probably one of the main reasons for the situation getting out of control.

– 5 Reputation Points

– 5 Reputation Points

+ 5 Reputation Points

– 5 Reputation Points

More importantly, my Point Counter was driving me crazy with all these notifications! And this was only the effect of three days!

At the beginning, I didn’t notice any change. People murmuring after seeing me was an everyday occurrence, the same went for people approaching me. Everyone wanted to see and talk to the Villainess. However after my Point Counter started to go crazy I let Ines check out the atmosphere.

And this was what I got.

Completely divided nobles.

When I was talking to the Crown Prince, I thought I had already considered a lot however reality proved me wrong.

This wasn’t a game anymore.

This world had its own rules and living people even if they could still be reset by the Game System, I had to remember that the role of the Game System was something like a god here.

I had to remember that this world had its own politics and with this dispute, I had basically declared my own faction and everyone had to weigh their advantages and disadvantages from following me.

I sighed. It was a headache.

Right now, I was sitting on a small couch inside my chambers. Ines was still recounting the most unbelievable rumours she heard. She was much more at ease now than a few days before so I tried to figure out whether she could help me with this situation.

To get this situation under control, I would first have to gather information…

I contemplated a little more but didn’t really have a choice therefore I set down the tea cup in my hand and turned my full attention to Ines.

“Ines, that’s enough.” I stopped her.

She bowed her head like always, waiting for my orders.

“Thank you for being honest.” I therefore continued. “First of all, I will have to ask you for a favour, Ines. When I came back to the academy, I only brought you with me because you were the most familiar but how the situation developed, I will need a few more servants. I will give you a letter for my father. Please contact a messenger.”

“Of course, my Lady.” She answered like she already expected this. Maybe a little nervous but nothing serious.

Finding confidence in her attitude, I slowly lead the conversation to my main point. “As for the favour… Ines, I need you to go to the capital to get me more information. Of course, I will compensate you generously. Are you willing?” My hands shook a little. I had no alternative should she decline. I couldn’t leave here and there was nobody trustworthy in the capital.

She still stood stiffly but surprisingly enough there was no reaction whatsoever. Maybe she already anticipated my next move.

A low chuckle escaped my lips.

“Ines? You have to answer.” I hurried her. “There will be no punishment and I will call you back after getting all the information I need. You also have the right to decline.” I reminded her. I wouldn’t force anyone who had been good to me.

Ines looked up straight into my eyes. An uncommon move for her to do. “Understood, my Lady. I will gladly prove the trust you gave me. What am I tasked to inquire about?”

Relief overcame me and I smiled. “You just have to do what you did today. I want you to gather the sentiments of the commoners and low-ranking nobles and knights in the capital.” I said, noting down my words on a piece of blank paper.

“I will also have to ask you to find a reliable information Guild to inquire about the political situation in the capital. Which noble’s family belongs to which faction. Are there any divisions or dissatisfaction towards the crown by both commoners and nobles.

In short everything you can find out about the crown, the high-nobles and how the general public thinks and reacts. Got that? I will bear any costs for your trip and any other expenses you might have, do you understand what I mean.”

Bribery, getting acquainted with good information guilds, accommodation etc. I would bear the cost for everything.

Ines nodded again. At this point, it was evident that she had a clear vision of this world’s unspoken rules. She had known the dangers of that rumour better than me. She was perfect for this job.

“Also, buy yourself some nice clothes. I always see you wearing the same outfit. It’s a little distressing.” Some might call it a bribe but I genuinely wanted to give her something. She has been a great help already.

Besides, seeing how her stiff expression distorted in surprise might just become a hobby of mine.

After getting the response I wanted, I finalised the letter for my father as well as preparing the bribe money and notes for Ines.

This would be the first step towards resolving this mess.

I couldn’t make the same mistake twice.

It was just that time didn’t wait for anyone to be prepared.

The second splash in my open war with the Crown Prince came from none other than my new brother Cato Alma Rubien. At this point you could call this incident a cat fight rather than a political struggle.

At least my brother had enough tact to visit me in my dormitory rather than confronting me in front of a crowd. One point for the Rubiens I guess.

He came to me one day after sending Ines off so no one could announce his presence. My knights had long since returned to the Dukedom.

One had to frown at his insolence to just barge into my room. What would he do if I was changing clothes? Besides, how did he come into the girl’s dormitory anyway?

I guess there was no point in thinking about it, as the heir to the Dukedom there were too many people who wanted to suck up to him.

“Sophie! Haven’t you played around enough? I really gave you enough time to think about your mistake so how about you finally retract your statement. The Crown Prince has been really troubled by your stubbornness this time. Haven’t you vented enough?” He asked me seriously, ignoring the papers in my hands.

I was reviewing Sophien’s notes on magic but it could have also been something important like one of the reports father sent concerning the traces of cat-eyes. A headache began to form itself but I chose to ignore his offence.

“Brother, long time no see. How about we sit down and talk?”

I pointed to the little couch on which I previously instructed Ines.

Come to think of it, I never had the time to really introduce my accommodation here.

My room was very large but because the academy had to stick to the equality rule, it was only one room divided in several areas with the only exception being the bathroom. Once one entered, one could immediately see the large windows on the opposite side.

In the front was an area similar to a reception room on the right. Two small couches stood opposite of each other near the wall with a tea table in between. Behind this reception was a small working area with a grand desk and other necessities to form a perfect learning environment, this was where I was sitting right now.

Behind me was my large king sized bed with the bloodied dress still beneath. It had been so hectic that I simply forgot about it. It stood closely to the windows so you could view the stars at night in case one couldn’t sleep.

The door to the bathroom was beside my dressing area which presented the largest area of the room consisting of a large closet and a walk-in wardrobe.

This place also had the most free space but since it was near the reception area and the entrance, most visitors would stand there uncomfortable.

My brother on the other hand stood there as if it was his room.

Thankfully, he continued to comply with common sense and followed me to the reception area.

“First of all brother, please knock before you enter. We aren’t kids anymore.”

To be honest, I already hid a small thorn in this statement as it were similar words he always preached to an eight year old child.

Yet this brother of mine wasn’t as easy to provoke as the Crown Prince.

“I’ll remember it but you are changing the subject. Stop fussing around and apologise to the Prince, do you really want to estrange the relationships between the Crown and our Dukedom? We stood beside the Crown for such a long time. We are his core supporters so you can’t just willfully kick a fuss like this.” He used his hands to stress out his words and looked earnest all in all. Just when you listened closely, he didn’t ask for ‘Sophien’s’ opinion even once.

To him, it was an established fact that ‘Sophien’ was in the wrong.

Likewise, I never got a letter asking for my well-being after news spread of the assassination attempt.

Both men, her supposed fiance and her brother didn’t even notice the abnormal behaviour of ‘Sophien’ or maybe I just played my role too well. Whatever the case, I sat here listening to a one-sided conversation. It was hard to swallow back a yawn.

“Brother” I interrupted him when he was pausing to breathe. “Please consider letting me handle this myself. There are facts you do not know and I wouldn’t involve the Dukedom, you can rest assured.”

When the Crown Prince’s conduct made me furious, my brother’s behaviour was expected so I just listened disinterested.

“What are you saying? Are you talking about the rumours concerning the assassination attempt? Even our father hasn’t found the culprit so why are you blaming the Prince?

Really, you are a piece of work. Don’t take his meetings with Ellen to heart. I talked to her myself and there is no need to be wary of her. This is just pure friendship” He smiled but there was an undeniable contempt in his eyes. Didn’t know whom it was addressed at.

“Again brother I reassure you that I am not throwing a tantrum and will handle this matter with care. There are many reasons contributing to my decision so please trust me.” It was a shame that I had no servants right now. I would have liked to take a sip of tea to water my throat from constantly repeating myself.

“Sophie!” He banged his fist against my small tea table making it vibrate.

I feared it might break.

“This isn’t something to be selfish about. If you don’t clear our name tomorrow then I will have to prove our stance myself. Don’t let it come to this. I can’t believe you still haven’t grown up. You are supposed to become the Queen!” His face mirrored the face of the Duke, blue hair, sharp features and red eyes like blood. However while the Duke’s face mirrored a thoughtful expression, Cato’s face showed suppressed fury.

He really thought he was doing this for ‘Sophien’s’ own good, disregarding her opinion had already become the norm in his perception.

“I understand brother, then we will have to move separately on this matter. Feel free to reveal the position of the Rubien Dukedom. You are its successor but please do not intervene further or we will come into conflict, brother.” Ah! I wanted tea.

“Sophie!” He brought my thoughts back to the present by repeating his action of intimidation, aka hitting the innocent table.

I couldn’t fathom why he had so much wrath for his own sister, even their father was fairer despite his apathy.

“It is late already, please leave for now. I don’t want you to get a reprimand for visiting the woman’s dormitory at night.”

His face turned beef red and he stood up abruptly. “Sophie! What vulgar things are you implying? I can’t recognize you anymore.”

This was implying something?

Cato stormed towards the door. “Think clearly about what we discussed Sophie. I will see myself out.”

‘No you are fleeing dear brother.’

“Understood. Thank you for your concern regarding the assassination attempt on my life.” I told his fleeing self and for one moment I swear, I saw him freeze.

Did you just remember? You were talking nonsense about it just moments ago.

“Goodbye brother.”

Having said a proper farewell as Sophien’s substitute, I closed the door. From now on I wouldn’t treat him as a brother just like he didn’t treat Sophien as a sister.


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