Read at Watashi wa Sugoi Desu!
Chapter 6: Speech is Silver, Silence is Golden1
“That’s a perfect example of how rushing into action can lead to one’s downfall.”
It had been a quiet morning in the dining room.
I glared at the man pinned down on the floor and picked up the silver spoon that had been dropped on the tablecloth. The surface of the spoon had turned black. It was the one that Princess Shirayuki had just used to carefully mix the aromatic soup contained in a silver dish.
The spoon in my hand was discoloured, and Princess Shirayuki let out a small shriek in surprise. Sigurd, who was standing by my side, struck and quickly knocked down the man, who had clicked his tongue and tried to pull out his hidden dagger, with the base of his palm. Lutora went on to check the man’s clothes, and a medicine bottle small enough to fit in one’s palm rolled out of one of the sleeves of the kimono he was wearing.
“I’ve heard that most of the utensils used in Hinoe are either made of lacquerware or porcelain. Don’t you know the role silverware serves?”
It had been more than two weeks since we had decided to take advantage of the farce that Hinoe had brought to us. As the Oswein house took care of Princess Shirayuki’s diet and Head Priest Malicia continued his treatment, her complexion began to improve.
In order to provide her with friends who were close in age, Cain and Abel were summoned from the temple as Princess Shirayuki’s playmates. When they were told that Princess Shirayuki, who was only one year older than them, had travelled from the distant land of Hinoe as an envoy of her country, they praised her with glittering eyes full of admiration, saying things like, “Amazing!” and, “So remarkable!” Due to their childlike honesty and friendliness, Princess Shirayuki quickly bonded with them and began to spend most of her time, aside from bedtime, with the energetic twins.
Only Yoimachi noticed that Princess Shirayuki, who was led about and played inside the mansion with the young children, had naturally (and gradually) shifted her range of activities away from her attendants. Before they knew it, Princess Shirayuki was always with the twins. When the adults, including the attendant, tried to approach, they were met with an “Oh?” It was a situation that drew one’s attention.
Wearing small Persian daggers, also known as “Jambiya,” on the belts at their waists, the twins would just smile with innocent expressions and say that they wanted to become apprentice knights when they turned ten. The small, curved blades were nevertheless splendid weapons, fully capable of killing.
First of all, the culprit had been surprised that others learned of Princess Shirayuki’s poisoning, and before they knew it, all the attendants had been removed from around the Princess. Feeling increasingly concerned that they would not be able to fulfil their secret mission, this was the result.
The silverware laid out in front of Princess Shirayuki was a beautiful, well-cared-for, new set that Rezeph, the head butler, had set up on the first day of her stay, as she was a potential future wife for his lord. The Princess let out an exclamation of admiration at the brilliance of the silverware when she first had laid eyes on it, while her attendants curiously picked it up to examine it, but the silverware itself wasn’t tampered with.
“Silver turns black like this when it reacts to certain drugs. A typical example is arsenic.”
I nodded back at Asagi, who was wide-eyed and pale, shielding Princess Shirayuki away from the table.
“As you know, it’s a deadly poison. It’s been used in poisoning for ages. This is because it’s relatively easy to obtain and transport.”
For instance, arsenopyrite was one of the most common examples. It was mined in large quantities in Japan for rodent control, and the method of extracting the poison from the ore could be practised by any individual with sufficient knowledge.
“Therefore, not only in the Kingdom of Palcemith, but also in other countries, the use of silverware for hospitality is proof of goodwill toward guests. However, silverware reacts with substances in the air and will gradually darken if left unattended. Hence, it is an important task for the butlers to maintain its beauty. Well done, Rezeph.”
“I am honoured, Lord Anderheim.”
Even when there was a commotion at the dinner table, Rezeph, who did not get flustered and stood silently by the window to block off any possible escape routes, smiled slightly at my words of appreciation and bowed his head respectfully.
“Well, the bottom line is that you didn’t do your homework. You should have figured out why Rezeph wanted Princess Shirayuki to use the silverware, and either given up on poisoning her and tried something else or prepared a poison that wouldn’t react to silver.”
“Well, do you have anything to say?”
I walked up to the man who was crouching on the floor glaring at me and forcibly raised his bloodied chin with the tip of my leather shoe. His handsome face was twisted with pain and shame, but I was sure he was prepared for something like this.
In response to Tokiwa’s grief-filled cry, the man, “Tsurara,” who had been one of the attendants in charge of protecting Princess Shirayuki, just clenched his teeth and closed his eyes in silence.
“I have nothing to say.”
“Go ahead and dispose of me.”
Tsurara must have felt the vibrations from his chin as my shoulders shook with my attempts to stifle my laughter. He reflexively opened his eyes and gulped as he looked up directly at my expression.
“Do they not interrogate prisoners in Hinoe? What a nice country.”
That, of course, was not the case. However, this highly loyal type of person would not easily break down under a bit of torture.
Then how can I get him to talk? Well, that’s one of my specialities.
“Although inflicting physical pain is not a bad idea, it’s not as fun…Cain, Abel.”
I looked up and called to the twins who had been standing next to Rezeph.
“Both of you, escort Princess Shirayuki to her room. And remain on standby there until further notice. I’ll have breakfast delivered to you later.”
“Got it…Princess Shirayuki, shall we?”
“Don’t worry, Cain and I are gonna be there with you!”
The twins held out their hands to the Princess, and with some urging from Asagi and Yoimachi, the twins escorted her out of the room. After that, Lutora closed the door tightly so that no screaming would reach the room upstairs.
“Now then, what shall we do with you, I wonder?”
I pondered as I used the toe of my shoe to play with Tsurara’s jawline.
“You have nothing to say, so this is just going to be me speaking to myself.”
“You are a retainer of Sir Tokiwa.”
“Moreover, you’re in some way related to him by blood. Considering your age, I’d say cousins?”
“Don’t turn pale now, you little greenhorn. You thought you could just hide behind silence?”
It would seem that Tsurara was only a vassal of Tokiwa, not a spy like Yoimachi, who had received special training as a Kusa. Even though he was too sloppy in his poisoning plan, the fact that he had a dagger hidden in his pocket and hadn’t disposed of the poison bottle suggested that he intended to take all the blame. Then, he had planned to commit suicide after successfully achieving his true intention.
However, the poison had been discovered, and he was also physically restrained before he could commit suicide. As a result, it was the worst possible scenario for him.
“Oh, let me just tell you, in case you didn’t know, biting your tongue won’t be enough to kill you. At best, you’ll be writhing in pain, looking like a fool.”
“…Grand Lord Advisor Asbal.”
From behind Tsurara, who was as frozen as a frog being stared at by a snake, came the reserved voice of Fukagawa, who wore a pained expression. The muscular man locked eyes with me and bowed deeply.
“Please, have mercy.”
“You’re a smart person. I’m sure you have a vague idea… of why Tsurara deliberately did what he did…I implore you, could you let me check it, please?”
Fukagawa’s gaze fell on the table.
The silverware was laid out on it. It was poured onto the soup plate whose owner, the one who was supposed to drink it, had already left.
“It is impossible to know if Tsurara truly poisoned the soup without checking… Of course, you may already know this, but…let us check it out, please. We will not have any complaints about the results…in the afterlife.”
Looking at Tsurara, who called out his name in a small voice, a tearful smile appeared on Fukagawa’s fierce face.
“Although our masters are different, we are colleagues who ate and worked together. I don’t want you, who once fought side-by-side with me, to meet a…disgraceful end.”
To make him drink this soup laced with poison… Fukagawa was asking me to let him take his own life. That way, he would not be at the mercy of the enemy and would be able to give himself some credit for having taken his own life after erasing the evidence.
“…I see. We need to check, huh?”
I let out a snort and pulled my shoe out from under Tsurara’s chin. Ignoring his low moaning, I turned on my heel, walked up to the person I was aiming at, and sweetly smiled at him.
It wasn’t just the person I pulled away as if escorting him who was taken aback.
“This way, please.”
I led the young man to sit at the seat where Princess Shirayuki had sat. On the table in front of him was a silver plate filled with soup that was still faintly steaming.
Tsurara’s eyes widened as he realized my intentions, and wriggled under his restraints, shouting his master’s name.
Right in front of the shocked Hinoen guests, I grabbed Tokiwa by the back of the head and shoved his face into the soup plate with great force.
Jolga’s grabbed Fukagawa, who had almost reached for his waist reflexively, by the throat.
Tsurara’s screams echoed through the dining room as he watched his master’s entire face being submerged in the poisoned soup.
“S-Stop! Please stop!! Lord Tokiwa! Lord Tokiwa!!”
I loosened my grip and pulled Tokiwa’s face out of the soup. The young man was coughing violently, and his mouth was stained white from the soup.
“L-Lord Tokiwa…Lord Tokiwa!!”
The arsenic-infused soup that Tsurara had prepared slid down his lord’s throat. His actions were about to cause the death of his beloved master.
I threw a fleeting glance at Tsurara, who was wailing like a madman, and then plunged Tokiwa’s face into the soup plate once more. The contents of the soup that had been splattered by Tokiwa’s struggle turned the other silverware on the table black.
“No! NO!! S-someone! someone, please help Lord Tokiwa!!!”
Fukagawa’s body shook with anger, but neither the power in Jolga’s fingers nor Sigurd’s arms, which held back the flailing Tsurara, wavered.
“…Well then, Tsurara? Right?”
With Tokiwa’s face still submerged in the soup plate, I calmly looked down at Tsurara’s tear- and snot-stained face and smiled.
“Do you still have nothing to say?”
Tsurara’s wailing was losing energy as he continued, “…Ah, aah…Lord Tokiwa…”2
“If you don’t hurry, who knows what will happen to your master who is ‘checking’ the poison on your behalf?”
“Ugh…L-Lady Amato…t-they were Lady Amato’s instructions…”
“…Lord Tokiwa’s mother.”
Meeting my gaze, the pale-faced Yoimachi quietly/calmly answered.
“To kill Princess Shirayuki when an opportunity arises and put the blame on the Palcemith kingdom…”
“…Ha, predictable to the point of boredom.”
But with that, we were able to obtain a “pledge,”
We had enough people from both the Kingdoms of Hinoe and Palcemith who had heard the blood-curdling testimony of Tsurara.
As soon as I relaxed the arm that was holding Tokiwa’s head down, I signalled to Sigurd to release Tsurara, on top of whom he had been laying. Tsurara’s handsome face was full of despair as he crawled over to his master’s body, lying unconscious on the dining table, while repeating his name over and over. Although it seemed that the poison was not yet circulating. The symptoms of acute arsenic poisoning were full-body convulsions, including difficulty breathing, and rapid multiple organ failure. One would not be able to catch their breath without difficulty and would suffer for a long time before dying.
“Please, please, please, treat Lord Tokiwa! It may not be too late!”
“Ha, how foolish.”
“Please! Please, I beg of you! I’ll do anything you want!”
I chuckled at Tsurara’s pleading while he clung, prostrate, to my leg.
“Whatever you need, anything at all! If you save Lord Tokiwa, I will devote myself entirely to you. No matter what it is, I will do it!”
“Hmm…well, alright then. Did you hear that—”
I gave a sidelong glance at the other four, who had fearful expressions plastered on their faces, and smiled.
“—my Hinoen guests? I accept.”
After jerking Tsurara’s chin, I tapped Tokiwa, who was still lying on the table on the shoulder. A small groan escaped from his stained lips, followed by a somewhat healthy-sounding snore.
“It’s about time you woke up, young man.”
“How unbothered you are.”
I grabbed Tokiwa’s chin and roughly lifted his face and then licked his cheek, which was smeared with white soup.
Not taking notice of Tsurara and the others’ frozen state, Tokiwa was awakened by the warmth on his cheek, and finally opened his eyes slightly.
“Are you awake? Fufu you’d better go and wash your face.”
Tokiwa tilted his head, unable to grasp the situation.
Staring at Tokiwa’s face, Tsurara’s whole body seemed to have lost its strength, knees planted on the floor and tears of anxiety flowing down his face.
“…I’ve been had.”
The first one to recover and glare at me was Fukagawa, still restrained by Jolga’s hand on his throat.
“So it was all part of your plan, huh?!”
I wiped a drop of soup near my lips with a finger and licked it off with the tip of my tongue.
“I told you that you didn’t do your homework, didn’t I? Poisons aren’t the only things silver reacts to.”
For example, hot spring water containing sulfur. That was another typical way to change silver’s colour to black.
After I had Rezeph prepare the silverware for Princess Shirayuki, I had him deliver hot spring water from the villa owned by the Oswein family to their mansion in the royal capital.
The reason why the silverware was only used for Princess Shirayuki was not only to detect poisons.
“I deliberately marked them as the ones that Princess Shirayuki would always use.”
In other words, I made it easy to figure out which dish to poison her with.
Knowing that the culprit would definitely make use of it made it easier to monitor. The servers did not miss the sight of Tsurara as he momentarily approached the silver platter, which had been filled with the soup after it had been poison-tasted while it was in the cauldron, and was about to be delivered to the dining room on a cart.
After Tsurara left, they removed the poisoned dish; poured hot spring water into the bottom of a different silver dish, which they had prepared separately; and carefully poured the soup on top of it. Then, with a casual look on their faces, they brought the soup to Princess Shirayuki.
Drinking a large amount of hot spring water would be harmful, but a small amount would not pose a problem. Once Princess Shirayuki, who had known nothing, stirred the soup with her spoon, the blackened silverware was revealed.
And so began this quite comical assassination drama.
“How can I put my honoured guests in danger, after all? If you come to us with a farce, then we will have to reciprocate with a farce of our own. However, I’m all about taking advantage of what’s available.”
National interest-wise, old man Toriichi’s knowledge was useful. But for me, if I didn’t ingratiate myself to the people at the heart of Hinoe, it would be difficult to fulfil my original objective.
Even though he had been deceived, Tsurara had pledged his loyalty to me. So using Lady Amato, who had been giving orders to him, as a foothold, there was a good chance that I’d be able to probe a little deeper into the inner affairs of the Sasaragi family.
“Well, anyways. It’s time to go to Hinoe.”
First, there was the remaining head of the giant serpent.
However, there was also the “uncomfortable feeling” that Lutora had and couldn’t shake off. If it turned out to be what I suspected, then…it would be like the eye of a typhoon that would shake not only Hinoe but also the Kingdom of Palcemith.
It’s better to have pawns.
Because one can use them as disposable pieces.
Evelet: Even better to have prawns. Because cats can use them as disposable species.