I Became The Pope, Now What? - Chapter 213
"Or, return to your husband, tell him everything, compensate him with all the wealth you two hold, and take the children. I suppose the kids are not even a year old, so this will hurt less. Ultimately, I do not wish to see the children suffering from your vile actions. If you die together, all fingers will point to a love affair—hence your husband will live in shame and doubt if the kids are even his. If you run away with this man, your husband might again kill himself in shame."
Sylvester tried to find an optimal solution for the two lovers. He didn't care about these two but did worry about the current husband and the kids. "Accept this, or die publically."
"B-But, my lord—where will we go after that? This village is our home. Won't the children starve?" Jenny, the woman asked.
Sylvester eyed her in disgust. "Should have thought about that before getting married and spawning children. This is a mess of your own making. If you feel you can not take care of the twins, then hand them to the Monastery—not here, but in a bigger Monastery, perhaps in a city."
Lady Aurora backed his advice. "Nobody needs to die if you do it right. But don't forget, those two kids are yours. If you leave them, forget reaching the arms of the lord after dying—you will forever be left in misery, wherever it is."
The couple looked at each other in confusion. But, of course, they wanted to live. So it took them only a short time to agree.
The woman responded. "W-We agree to do as you suggest, my lord. But what if my husband refuses to forgive me and let me go?"
Sylvester looked to the left and called two Crusaders randomly while addressing the woman. "Tell him to think about the innocent children and not orphan them. Plead him to be compassionate in the name of the lord. Rub your face on his feet if you have to, and do all you can to ask for forgiveness—both of you.
"These two Crusaders are to remain here and watch you confess everything. If, after all your attempts, he refuses to forgive you, then, as per the law, I am compelled to hand you over to the Monastery and get your two hanged. In that case, these two men will give the twins to the nearby city's Monastery."
Felix nudged them. "You were going to kill yourself anyway. So you have nothing to lose and everything to gain."
"Understood, my lord." The two weepingly agreed.
Sylvester didn't waste any more time and walked back into the carriage. "Other than the two Crusaders, all soldiers march out!"
The rest also entered the carriage, and soon the long march of the Crusaders resumed with an echoing hymn enough to shiver hearts.
"We wasted an hour on those two. Let's hurry up now." Sylvester spoke to one of the Crusade commanders near the carriage window.
As the journey began again, Isabella came to sit beside him and asked. "Why were you against letting the children be given to the local monastery?"
"Because the monasteries in the city have a higher oversight of the Holy Land. Let's say one day; those twins turned out to be highly talented. Then they'd be quickly sent to the Holy Land. But, in a smaller monastery, some cruel caretakers may show the talent as low in the documents and ask for extra funds from the Holy Land to provide a better upbringing for the kids. The kids don't get much, sadly. The money goes into the pockets—and eventually, the potential is wasted." Sylvester explained briefly.
Isabella appeared shocked by it. "This is new to me. I thought the faith was pure and true."
"Nothing as big as faith can be pure, Isabella. In an organisation this big, corruption is anything but common. But, one good thing is that it's much less than the corruption of nobles in comparison. Because while the faith often has to mingle with the people, the nobles are rulers and can easily brush off the commoners."
Why was Sylvester teaching all that, many in the carriage wondered. He was often talking to her about various things relating to administration and laws, and none would understand why. But, it was all a part of Sylvester's plan, for he wanted this girl to rise up and turn from a pawn to a player—under him.
"Then, how corrupt is the Gracia Kingdom?" She inquired.
Felix barked from the side. "About eighty per cent, I'd say. My uncle, who is a commander in the Headless Order, sends me letters. He tells how most nobles happily take bribes for ignoring certain low-level thief groups working in their towns or cities. All for a cut of their own.'
Sylvester agreed and parted some knowledge. "He's right. Rule one of being a ruler, Isabella—Always believe the other person is evil and corrupt. This way, if they turn out to be evil, you won't be shocked, and if they turn out good, your joy will be greater."
"That's a very… strange way of thinking," Isabella muttered and silently thought about it. "I hope my brother Daemon isn't as corrupt. He was always the smartest and the kindest to me. He should have been the King—I don't know why mother chose Harold."
'Oh? What's this? A silent civil war for the crown? Now this does make the Duke seem full of suspicion. After all, if the nobles revolt against the King, he will benefit the most.'
Sylvester's interest in the Duke peaked now. And if the man was truly as smart as Isabella was saying, then it was not hard to imagine.
All he could do now was hurry and reach the Duke's Castle at the eastern edge of the Ironstone Duchy.
Ironstone Duchy was the most prosperous Duchy of the Gracia Kingdom and usually the seat of power of the Crown Prince. The Duchy boasts the most income in all, as it holds the most fertile lands, mines, mountains and gold.
Years ago, a great battle was fought between Gracia and Riviera to hold this land when the Gracia Empire was breaking apart. Since the Duchy rested beyond the Gold River, it was easy for Riveria to attack and control. But the Gracia family knew that if they lost it, they'd lose a massive chunk of their agriculture and industrial output.
So, the bloodiest battle between two families was fought, dubbed the Battle of Ironstone. It resulted in 80,000 dead, 100,000 permanently wounded, and 110,000 minorly injured. Only after three months and Gracia's marginal victory, both families recognised the boundaries.
But, the damage was done as even until now, the losses had not been recovered, for they were too great.
As they reached the Duke's Castle, Sylvester and the rest took their horses and rode at the front of the army. Since the Duke was also a Crown Prince, the level of wealth and power was expected to be much higher than the likes of Duke Grimton.
It was visible from the town sprawling with activity outside Duke's Castle. Guards were at all times patrolling it. The same guards stopped them as they were entering the town.
It was understandable. They couldn't just let an army of a thousand enter so casually. So, Sylvester went to explain, along with Lady Aurora.
It didn't take them much, and they were allowed to enter. But they could only bring fifty Crusaders along. The rest had to make a camp outside the town. It was an agreeable term, as Sylvester's goal was only to meet the Duke.
"People seem prosperous," Sylvester commented, looking at the activities and clothes of commoners.
Isabella took pride in it. "Of course, it's my brother. He was the best during mother's rule, as he was the Master of Finances. But Harold dismissed him after taking the throne."
'He has the money and the motive.'
Soon, they made their way to the castle. It was huge and rested at the edge of the cliff, beyond which was the Blood Sea. The cliff was steep and high enough to grant a great defence from the east side.
Meanwhile, on the west side, it appeared the castle was secured behind three layers of walls. Each was as high as thirty feet, made of stone blocks, with walkways on it that were heavily patrolled.
Between each wall were a deep moat full of black water and beastly crocodiles. To cross each wall, one must pass through a thick metal gate, and then cross the drawbridge.
After crossing the third wall, they were greeted by a beautiful sight, as the colossal castle stood on grassland with flowers here and there. The castle had beautiful engravings, pointy tops, and greenish stones, with vines and leaves covering every inch of it. The castle screamed that it was the key property of the Gracia family.
The castle appeared to have five high towers, each going at least six hundred feet. Then there were dozens of smaller towers. All of them were beautifully and symmetrically placed to seem pleasant.
"Your family certainly knows how to build castles." Sylvester complimented Isabella.
She was happy to be seeing it. "This is my first time seeing it! It's so beautiful and mighty!"
They soon reached their destination and stopped in front of the massive twin gates made of dark green metal. They dwarfed the guards standing in front of it.
They were slightly open, and a few people came out.
One of them appeared to be the Duke himself, as he supported long, elbow-length silky blonde hair and an abundance of complex clothing under a silky green cape with gold embroidery.
Behind the man was a gorgeous woman: tall, with an hourglass figure. She had black hair, extremely pale white skin, and black eyes, and she also wore a tight, silky, black gown that charmed her figure even more.
"The guards were quick to inform me, Lady Tenth and Lord Bard. I welcome you to Ender Castle, my humble home. I am pleased and blessed by your visits." The Duke warmly spoke, swaying his muscular arms around.
'Hmm… why do I smell lies already? What's there to lie about? He's annoyed by our visit?' Sylvester was already alerted.
"And this is my wife, Lady Artemis—the love of my life." The Duke also introduced the beautiful woman.
Lady Artemis moved forward gracefully and greeted them by giving her gloved right hand to Lady Aurora. "It's a pleasure to meet you, my lady."
She then turned to Sylvester and looked into his eyes with utter confidence and a look of superiority. But her thin lips were curved into a kind smile, alluring enough to make all not notice the hidden meanings.
Sylvester also reciprocated and stared into her black eyes, showcasing his look of apathy, which was best to make one understand they were insignificant to him.
"Greetings, Lord Bard. I'm quite an admirer of your written hymns. I hope to be blessed by your soothing voice." She extended her hand.
"Pleasure is all mine, my lady." Sylvester kissed the back of her hand.
"W-What?!" He blurted suddenly.
"Any problem, my lord?" Lady Artemis inquired, her tone appearing amused.
As he straightened himself, he kept a plain smiling face, but his instincts screamed. 'Good god! Why from her? Who is she? What is she? Why this strong bitterness—why death?'
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APE TOGETHER STRONG!