Common Sense of a Duke's Daughter Chapter 66
Duke’s Daughter 66: Witnesses
“Will the two witnesses please introduce themselves?” (Iris)
I stepped back and let the two people who walked in introduce themselves.
“… Hello. My name is Danban. I was the administrator at the chapel in this city.”(Danban)
While there are many small chapels for citizens to pray at, there is only one official chapel in the capital city. The one Danban was referring to is that singular official chapel, otherwise known as the Church Headquarters which lies in the northern part of the city. If someone mentioned that they went to the capital city’s chapel, this would be the first one that comes to mind.
“I was the pope’s hands and feet and worked as such for 20 years… Oh, yes. The sale of the chapel in Armelia was in my name. I was ordered to do this by the pope and then, for some strange reason, after 20 years of service, I was expelled from the chapel.” (Danban)
“Hello, your Majesty. I am Lenin. I worked in the same chapel with Danban. My role was to inform the Armelia territory of the sale of their chapel. I swear I did only what the Church asked of me, but… I was banished from the Church only a few days ago. I only did as they instructed, but, somehow, I was charged with the crime of falsehood. I still have a copy of the instructions and letter I sent to the Armelia fief. If there are doubts about my identity, you can ask others here to vouch for me, as I am very familiar with many of these faces.” (Lenin)
After the testimonies of these two witnesses, the audience grew noisy. I felt that we now hade the upper hand.
“I am sure many of the priests present in this room can vouch for their identities; some, I am sure, are even friends with them.” (Iris)
Rather than asking the priests a question, I reaffirmed the facts.
Many priests had eyes wide with surprise at the sight of the two witnesses, and immediately began to evade my gaze.
“I have presented evidence and witness testimonies. With this, I have fully presented my case, your Majesty. What is the verdict?” (Iris)
Lady Ellia bit her lips at my question. She was trying hard to find some way to refute my claims, but, unless she can provide the same quality of evidence, anything she might say from here on out will only serve to weaken her argument.
The pope’s, Wilmotz’s, face was beet red with fury, but there was nothing he could say either.
“Well, I think this marks the end of this inquiry meeting. We have all reached a unanimous conclusion… Is that not right?” (Queen Dowager)
The Queen Dowager spoke for the first time of this meeting. Like myself, no one could speak against or refute the claims of the Queen Dowager. Her question was less a directed question and more a rhetorical one confirming that the inquiry meeting would come to a close.
“Iris Lana Armelia, the royal family of this kingdom hereby declares you absolved of all crime in this matter and you are indeed a noble worthy of the name Armelia, one of the leading families of aristocrats in our country.” (Queen Dowager)
This proclamation signified the conclusion of the proceedings.
“Thank you. Thank you very much for your words, Queen Dowager. However, I have one request: Would it be alright to proceed with this inquiry meeting?” (Iris)
“Oh my… Is there still something to be addressed?” (Queen Dowager)
“Yes. It is about who will take responsibility for conducting such a despicable act.” (Iris)
Lady Ellia knitted her eyebrows together in a frown.
“The decision has already been made. There is no need to continue to pursue this matter. Isn’t it pointless to continue this meeting any longer?” (Ellia)
“There is reason to pursue the matter further: we must find the true culprit who caused such an uproar and unrest for the citizens of this kingdom.” (Iris)
As I finished my sentence, I raised my head to look directly at the pope.
“Members of the house of Armelia have served as the prime ministers of this country for generations. We have been loyal and influential in our positions. I am proud of our house and its role. For someone to sow suspicion and distrust in our house… We must determine who has dared to do such a thing.” (Iris)
Several people glanced away. This was what I meant earlier when I said that everything would come around full swing.
“Your Majesty. To leave such an incident unresolved in this way will encourage and open the window for other countries to belittle us and citizens who have been negatively affected by this heinous act will not have the justice they deserve; it will sully the face of the nobility. It is our duty to find the culprit and bring them to justice.” (Iris)
Isn’t that right, Pope Wilmotz? I did not say it aloud, but it was implied when I stared directly at him.
“It is as you say. What is your opinion on this matter, Ellia?” (Queen Dowager)
The Queen Dowager prompted Lady Ellia for her opinion but her mouth remained shut.
“Sigh. What do the priests of the Church think of this matter?” (Queen Dowager)
The queen let out a small sigh at Lady Ellia’s lack of response and locked her gaze on the priests of the Church.
Many opened their mouths to speak but promptly closed them in the end.
The Queen began to rub her temples as she gazed coldly at the priests.
“I do not know why so many of you choose to remain silent. Unlike Iris, none of you have presented me with any evidence to support your side and claims of innocence. Two priests were exiled from the Church, a noble was excommunicated, and now our country is in a state of turmoil. But all I have seen from your side were attempts to purge witnesses, destroy evidence, and frame a long-standing ally of this kingdom. Now, who will take proper responsibility and present their arguments?” (Queen Dowager)
“… Apologies, your Majesty.” (Ralph)
Priest Ralph stood up to speak on behalf of the Church. Everyone turned their attention to him.
“Your Majesty. With regards to this case, we, the Church, will conduct a full investigation and will take upon ourselves responsibility for this incident. This was entirely our fault.” (Ralph)
“Of course, a detailed investigation is a given. However, given that the Church is surrounded in a veil that masks its workings even to the nobility, how do we know that the Church will not simply repeat its mistake and push the blame onto these two individuals? Will you properly investigate the truth?” (Queen Dowager)
The chilling glare from the Queen sucked the air out of the room and pierced the hearts of the priests present. She is even better than Father at intimidating people.
This veil of mystery is more than just a metaphor. The Church has rooted itself deep within the center of the kingdom. No matter how powerful a noble is, they are not allowed to enter the Church’s headquarters. The religion is also deeply rooted in the hearts and minds of the people. Thus, if they wanted to instigate a revolt or even a coup, they have the ability to do so.
… I won’t let you escape this time. I will pry open the chink in your armor. I have to separate the second prince’s faction and the Church today, otherwise something like this is bound to happen again. In particular, I need to take down the pope and separate the connection between Van and Edward.
“Of course, your Majesty. I will not let history repeat itself. I may be a priest, but I am also a citizen of this kingdom of Tusmeria. Even if the person who is responsible sits in the highest seat of the Church, they will be brought to justice.” (Ralph)
“Oh. How reliable… Even if they find that the culprit is yourself?” (Queen Dowager)
“Of course. We will hand over all documents related to this incident and have all priests and members questions by the investigators of the royal family. We will receive the punishment decided upon by the royal family themselves as dutiful citizens of this kingdom.” (Ralph)
“… Priest Ralph, it is not your place to make that decision…!” (Pope)
Upon hearing Priest Ralph’s declaration, the pope began to object.
But his objection was quickly interrupted by Priest Ralph’s icy glare.
“Yes, I am aware of my position, but this is the only thing we can do, your Holiness. The debt must be repaid and we must give the accounting documents to the daughter of the Duke of Armelia. I am sure you are aware of that, your Holiness.” (Ralph)
“Please look into the eyes of the people standing before us. As of now, our innocence is held in doubt and the trust they have placed in us has been broken. The only way to regain said trust is by allowing the other side to properly investigate this matter and for us to receive our due punishment.” (Ralph)
“… It is as he says. I applaud you, Priest Ralph, for your courage and resolve. Because of your sincerity, I would like you to lead the investigation team of individuals of my choosing and to find out the truth behind this incident.” (Queen Dowager)
“I will devote myself to accomplish this task with every fiber of my being.” (Ralph)
The priest lowered his head to receive the duty in response… As expected of an actor and actress with acting skills on par with god.
“No! Your Majesty! Something like that cannot be handled by him!” (Pope)
It was Pope WIlmotz who objected to the Queen’s decision.
“Why are you shouting?” (Queen Dowager)
The Queen asked him as she pierced him with her gaze.
“Apologies, your Majesty. But please rethink this decision! Please allow me compile a proper team to investigate this incident, and I will make sure they report to you directly every day. I will even lead this team to ensure that there is no corruption.” (Pope)
“No, Pope Wilmotz. It is as Priest Ralph said. No one here trusts in the Church’s personnel anymore. I am asking Priest Ralph, as he is even prepared to face justice head on if he were named the culprit. I respect his resolve in the face of such a possibility.” (Queen Dowager)
“That is…” (Pope)
“There will be no further objections. Priest Ralph, I look forward to your work.” (Queen Dowager)
“It will be my honor.” (Ralph)