Seven Days as a Villain - 7
The fated Seventh Day.
I awoke with the morning sun shining in on me, feeling very refreshed indeed. When I looked down at myself, the bodily fluids left smeared on me from last night had been cleaned off, like the whole thing had been a lie. The bandage on my head had been changed out for a new one too.
If not for the pins and needles running down my hips, I would have thought that being embraced by Tristan had been a dream. For all his passionate desire, Tristan hadn’t left a single hickey or bite mark on me. I was a little irritated that he’d still had the presence of mind for that, but it was probably all for the better anyway.
There was no heat in the bed but my own.
It must have been some time since Tristan got out of bed. The mansion was completely silent, which told me I was the only one home.
I shifted the comforter and put my bare feet on the cold floor. My soles slapped against the floor as I walked, but now there was no one to reproach me for it.
I opened the closet and selected my plainest shirt and slacks to wear. I didn’t need jewels to decorate myself with, not today. I ran a brush through my hair – it didn’t even know what bedhead was – and my preperations were promptly complete.
Looking at myself in the mirror, one would probably think I was an upright, agreeable young man, if they didn’t know my personality.
I reached my hand out to the mirror and touched my face. Just a few days ago, before I remembered my previous life, I would have been dressing myself up just about this time of day, terrorizing my servants, planning out another scheme to kick Ambrose when he was down.
I’d done everything I could.
When I closed my eyes, the seme of the game flashed across the back of my eyelids.
First Prince Erik.
Second Prince Douglas.
They were the same as the characters in the game, but in this world they really lived.
And here, just like in the real world, their lives wouldn’t end when I stepped off the stage.
The sound of a carriage approached, and I opened my eyes. In the mirror was a noble villain flashing a fearless smile.
The front door was rudely beat upon.
When I opened it, the person on the other side flashed a look of surprise, obviously not thinking I’d be the one to greet them at the entrance to my own mansion.
It was a face that seemed familiar to me somehow. Probably one of the first prince’s guards. Several knights, apparently his subordinates, were jostling behind him.
“What business could you have here, showing up unannounced.”
“Uh, we have received orders from the first prince to take you with us, Your Grace, to the castle. Please get into the carriage.”
It was a bit much, just to pick up one nobleman.
I was powerless, couldn’t even swing a sword properly, and this is how they treat me. The first prince hadn’t even sent me a letter, apparently he didn’t want me to get away.
“There’s no point in your resisting… Excuse me?”
“I said I get it. Take me with you, presently.”
I slipped easily between the dumbfounded knights, opened the carriage door myself, and got inside. Unlike the carriage Brandon had prepared, the seats in this one had been made to be sat upon by royalty and titled nobility, and they were quite comfortable. I did think it was bad manners, but I crossed my legs and settled into the backrest just the same.
“Ah, um, Duke Addinson.”
“Is there an issue? I have no intention of resisting, as you see.”
“Uh, no, that’s not exactly…”
“Ah, do drive carefully on the way there. My injuries haven’t quite healed yet.”
The pure white bandage was still wrapped around my head. I don’t know how much they knew about the other day, but to a man, they all got distressed looks on their faces, like they were seeing something that was painful to look at.
Perhaps they really were being careful of my injuries, because the journey to the royal palace was incredibly slow.
Usually at the royal palace, I’d be brought to the audience chambers, but today I was led to a guest room.
At the center of the room was a sofa and matching large, low table, but apart from that the room was furnished simply. There was a vase.
I sat down on the sofa, as prompted, and a cup of brilliantly scented tea was placed down for me.
I took a sip, and it tasted entirely perfect, as it should, being served in the royal palace. It had been seeped for the perfect amount of time.
After a while, I was called by someone on the other side of the door, so I stood up.
When the door opened, there was the first prince Erik. Behind him were several familiar-looking people.
Among them was Bishop Ethelbert with a confused look on his face, and Knight Cedrick, grimacing as usual, probably because he was a guard.
In the game, Erik had entered the room with a supportive arm around Ambrose, but this time Ambrose wasn’t here.
I opened my mouth to give Erik an aristocratic soliloquy, but he interrupted me before I could get it out.
“You know why I called for you today?”
“Well, I believe you have some business with me. Unfortunately, you didn’t send any forewarning, so I can’t imagine what it is.”
“Feigning innocence, I see. Obviously, it’s about Ambrose.”
A smile still on my face, I tilted my head as if to say I didn’t have the slightest clue.
“Ulysses, you’re been harrassing Ambrose every day. It’s absolutely unacceptable. Therefore, Ulysses Addinson, I am annulling my engagement to you.”
The room was abuzz at those words. Reactions among those present varied, with some looking surprised, some looking scornfully at Erik, and some not reacting at all.
As I’d expected, Ethelbert’s eyes flew open in surprise, and Cedrick stayed expressionless.
“I won’t accept that, Your Highness. You can’t just break off our engagement at your own discretion.”
“Is it because my partner’s a commoner? That’s not your only crime. Bring her here.”
One of the guards brought her to the front of the crowd, a woman who’d once served the Addinson household. I knew her face. I’d once beaten her with a whip and put her out of the house. She’d been quite fat when she worked as a servant, but the woman standing before me now was much thinner than I remembered. Sunken eyes turned to glare at me.
“Do you remember this person?”
“You demon! He struck me with that whip over and over, smiling the whole time! My back still has the scars!” she shouted in a high-pitched tone, interrupting me. Ethelbert called out to her, trying to calm her down, but the agitated woman kept hurling abuse at me non-stop.
It was hard on the ears, so I glanced at her, and she let out a little yelp and went quiet for a bit.
“Ulysses, is what this person says true?”
“It is true.”
The room buzzed again at my admission of guilt.
“With all due respect, Your Highness. This person attempted to steal your engagement ring from me.”
In this country, couples wore rings with gemstones the color of each other’s eyes. Erik had a ring with a purple stone, and I had one with a green stone, as engagement rings.
It was true that I’d purposefully “put it away” in a rather obvious place, but it had still been the woman’s choice to steal it.
If you commit the crime of theft in this country, your hand is cut off so you can never steal again. And if what you’ve stolen belongs to an aristocrat, you can’t avoid a serious punishment.
Just a whipping was getting off too lightly.
Erik knew it too. The only one here not aware of the gravity of the crime was the woman herself.
Erik seemed to be giving it some thought, and then glanced back at one of the noblemen waiting behind him.
“How do you intend to explain this, then?”
The nobleman unrolled some official-looking papers, and carefully read out my income and expenditures in managing my lands.
Fortunately, the one he was reading was the one I’d added a few details to. I’d made it consistent with the one I had in my pocket.
“Aren’t you collecting a bit too much in taxes? And spending a bit too much. What on earth are you using it for?”
“I’m not sure the taxes are what you’d really call too much. It is land that I’m in charge of, but the income of our residents does vary a bit. So the taxes we pay aren’t all the same. The higher the income, the higher the taxes paid.”
“Alright, what about your spending?”
I flashed a strained smile, deliberately flustered about what to say. Perhaps thinking himself in the superior position, the nobleman smiled sadistically and started to open his mouth.
But it was Ethelbert, who’d been watching from the sidelines so far, who interrupted him.
“Perhaps I can explain about that.”
Ethelbert stepped forward with a dignified bearing. I shook my head to stop him, but he looked like he’d resigned himself to the worst, and turned to Erik.
“I believe that what you may be calling excess spending is perhaps his donations to the church.”
“A donation, this much money?”
Ethelbert nodded quietly.
The money I’d donated to the church was basically all allocated to the orphanage. And this was just by chance, but the priests’ wages were covered by my donations as well.
The church was built on donations, and almost all of those donations came from aristocrats. Of course the commoners made small donations as well when they came to pray, but that was really just whatever they could afford.
The aristocrats of this country however, seemed to be the type of nobles who were were acutely aware of the plight of the lower classes.
Many of them thought that if they had money to spend on an orphanage, they’d rather enrich their own pockets.
Therefore, for many aristocrats, donations to the church had a strong element of performance.
“Lord Ulysses was keeping it hidden, but I can’t say nothing in a situation like this. If this doesn’t allay your suspicions, I don’t mind if you audit the church.”
The church was an independent organization in this country, not connected to politics.
For the royal palace to audit the church was unprecedented. Ethelbert was saying he was willing to go that far to protect me. I imagine it was my long years of donations and trust, along with a distrust of Erik’s thing with Ambrose, that made him go so far.
I bit my lips as if to say that my secret had been exposed, and how awkward.
“Is this true, Ulysses?”
I didn’t answer.
But my silence was the same as an affirmative answer. The only crime Erik could accuse me of now was this thing with Ambrose.
“I’m satisfied, Erik.”
The one who broke the tension in the air, surprisingly, was the king.
In the game, Erik annulled his engagement to me and that was the end of it. Not a single word about the king was ever spoken. The appearance of an unexpected character on the stage stopped my thoughts in their tracks for a moment.
“If you’re really prepared to stay with this boy for the rest of your life, I can draw it up.”
I wasn’t sure who had even raised that question.
I turned a full 180 degrees, still wondering how the king had suddenly come up with a plan like that.
Gordon, the thief who kidnapped Ambrose, is cut down during the rescue and dies in the game’s story. But this time, I stopped Tristan from doing it, and so he’d been taken alive.
The king must have noticed.
That I had realized the relationship between Erik and Gordon.
And as a result, Gordon’s existence, which he should have been putting to good use shaking off his position as prince, had become a noose around my neck.
Erik brightened at the king’s words and nodded his consent.
“Of course. My love for Ambrose is real. I swear I will love him the rest of my life.”
“There is one condition to my recognizing your relationship.”
“What is that?”
Erik tilted his head innocently, but I could anticipate the king’s next words. I clenched my fists and quietly closed my eyes.
“If you marry Ambrose, the throne will be inherited by the second prince, Douglas.”
That was what it meant to marry Ambrose, a commoner with no political influence.
The king never wanted Erik to take over the throne in the first place. There was no way he’d pass on the opportunity to make use of Ambrose, if it meant he could drive me away. I knew the truth of how selfish he was.
Besides, Douglas’ fiancee was the daughter of a family with the right lineage. She wasn’t short on the status she’d need to become queen.
It kept me away, and gave the throne to Douglas, all without cracking the facade.
The first prince was baffled by the king’s decree, but he still chose Ambrose.
So in the end, the king was the sole winner, huh.
“You have been accused of collaborating with bandits and being involved in the slave trade.”
I couldn’t avoid the conviction event.
I opened my eyes and muttered, “Have I now?”
The king probably knew better than anyone else how untrue the charges were. And now he was telling me to agree to it. If I didn’t, what was he going to do, physically seal my mouth?
If I just accepted the king’s will, I might at least be spared the worst of it. Officially, I might be locked up in some remote location, but perhaps I could be merely inconvenienced, and otherwise still treated as a noble.
I had one answer.
I answered the king with my eyes, showing my submission to his will. Perhaps that alone would be conveyed to the king.
The king narrowed his eyes, satisfied, and made most of the others withdraw, leaving behind Erik and a few guards. Ethelbert turned an anxious look towards me, so I smiled like I was relieved.
“Duke Addinson, is there anything you want, in the end?”
“… If I could, there is somewhere I’d like to go with His Highness, Prince Erik.”
Something like this wouldn’t be possible under normal circumstances. But the king must have been giving it some thought, because he gave me permission with an ironic smile.
It was Erik who was surprised by it.
“Are you sure?”
“Is it alright with you, Erik? I don’t think you’ll ever see Duke Addinson again.”
Erik’s eyes opened wide, as if this was the first time he’d realized it. Ulysses was a criminal, and not his fiancé, not anything, and he was a prince. Of course it wouldn’t be possible for them to meet.
With an expression like he’d bitten into a particularly bitter worm, he turned to me and inquired as to where I wanted to go.
“— To the tower.”
Fortunately, the carriage could get through the forest. Naturally, it couldn’t get close to the tower, so we had to walk, but it wasn’t too far.
It was hard to walk with my arms tied behind me and surrounded by guards, but that too was unavoidable.
We climbed the spiral staircase, just like we once had.
When one of the guards opened the door at the top, an enthusiastic wind blew in. Closing my eyes so my hair didn’t get in my eyes, I opened them again when the wind died down.
Keeping the guard in the corner of my eye – he was distracted by the beauty of the scenery – I called out to Erik.
“You and I looked out on this scenery together once.”
“I can still remember it, even now. You said this view was a gift for me.”
I heard him suck in a breath beside me, and I kept going.
“Did you read the letter?”
The letter I’d given to Tristan the day I’d regained my memories. Erik must have remembered it, because he got an awkward look on his face.
“No, I had the maid throw it out, I didn’t read it.”
I took a few steps forward and leaned back against the railing.
The sun must have hidden behind a cloud, the sunlight that had pierced my skin until just a moment ago now weakened. There were plenty of clouds, but the day was inappropriately sunny for a conviction event. The refreshing breeze was almost hateful.
As the clouds floated away and the sun showed its face once again, I turned my gaze to Erik, who was standing just a little bit away from me.
“Prince Erik, I long for you, from the bottom of my heart.”
He called my name, but it was probably unconsciously.
I kicked hard off the ground, and got my weight on the other side of the railing. My body was pushed free from the tower, with no way of opposing gravity.
I heard the guard’s surprised shout, and smiled my most beautiful smile at Erik.
The clattering and swaying of a carriage echoed off the tower.
The seats on a carriage made for commoners are stiff, and this was the second time I’d been subject to such a poor ride. Maybe I should have had Brandon prepare a cushion.
“That was absolutely insane, Lord Ulysses.”
“If it wasn’t I probably wouldn’t have been able to escape,” I replied to Tristan, as he drove the carriage.
The spirit stone was real, just as Brandon had said. The impact of falling from the tower and hitting the ground had caused the spirit stone to activate.
When I’d leaned against the tower’s railing, I’d picked up the spirit stone left in one of the cracks. Luckily my hands were tied behind my back, so no one noticed me doing it.
This was the scenario I’d been sketching out since I learned the spirit stones were real.
I figured that when the conviction event happened, it’d be better to flee to another country, rather than be left in this country as a criminal. And so Ulysses Addinson had to die, once at least.
“Tristan, you are the best dog, you listen to orders very well.”
“I am honored to be so complimented.”
And I also needed a corpse to take my place.
“Did you know? The dyes used in the glasswork that’s all the rage right now are apparently harmless to human beings.”
“Is that so? I did not know that.”
“It’s all naturally derived pigments, or something like that.”
Thinking of a certain young man with the same silver hair as me, I took some of the dye I’d prepared beforehand out of its bag. If you apply the dye to your hair, it stains your hair a common brown color.
“How about it, does it suit me?”
Tristan glanced in my direction and muttered something about it not suiting me.
“So what are you going to do now, My Lord? We’re headed for the border, I assume.”
“Yeah, for the time being, we’ll go to the neighboring country. After that, to a merchant. I’ve got to find somebody to sell me a nationality.”
Enduring the swaying of the carriage, I stood up, and pushed with both hands on the seat of my chair.
I flashed a crooked grin at something that gave off a yellow-gold light.
“Brandon really did a good job. It’s thanks to him I don’t have to leave any of my assets behind.”
Stroking the hard surface with my fingertips, I put it back under my chair, satisfied.
“By the way, what was in that letter you gave to me, after all?”
“Oh, that’s was letter enumerating all my longing for Prince Erik. Had to play the praiseworthy fiancé to the end. He said he had the maid throw it away.”
Tristan said it was too bad, but his tone didn’t sound like it was really that bad.
But if that maid was one of the servants I’d recommended? Maybe it wasn’t very likely. But if she was, she wouldn’t throw my letter in the trash.
If he read that letter after my death, and clung to my faceless remains, then you might say my goal was achieved.
Speaking of things that were too bad, my only regret was that I wouldn’t be able to see Erik’s response.
And also, Ambrose knew I wasn’t involved with the perpetrators of that kidnapping. My engagement with Erik broken off, and brought up on false charges. He probably imagined I’d despaired of the world and wished to die.
And when he learned that he played some small part in causing it? He was such a good person, no doubt he wouldn’t be able to tolerate being the wrong-doer.
“Hey, Tristan. You don’t leave my side.”
“I’m not sure who you’re comparing me to, but I’ve been yours since the day you bought me. It’s up to you, Lord Ulysses, please don’t tell me you don’t need me halfway there.”
I replied with a genuine smile.
When I’d suddenly remembered my previous life, I knew I was a villain, destined to be condemned.
And after seven days of flailing, I couldn’t avoid the conviction event, and Ulysses Addinson died.
Still though, if I had Tristan by my side, Tristan who devoted his everything to me, I could keep on living in this world, even beyond the game.
Thus the story concludes.
Thank you for staying with us until the end.
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