Eliseline's grasp loosened considerably.
"Since you know that we're blood-related, why do you still dare to insult him in my face? There were other ways you could confirm our position."
Savine couldn't say that it was because it was satisfying. After all, she was supposed to be emotionless.
"It's my gift to you. A chance."
Eliseline frowned and made a questioning noise.
"Have you heard the saying? Hard times create strong men, strong men create good times, good times create weak men, and weak men create hard times. The current situation in Fest is probably the most difficult. But why is it so? It's because people of the same ilk as the bishop allowed it to happen."
Eliseline's face turned dark instantly. "Don't comment on what you don't know," she growled.
"I am God's Chosen," Savine said. "Think of my words as God's teachings. I'm not lying, after all. The quote and this knowledge, I learned it from God."
Seeing that Eliseline was willing to listen, Savine continued.
"Us commoners like to think that nobles and Magi have it easy, but the truth is… the responsibility and pressure a noble faces is not something anyone could shoulder. Most are unable to take care of their own lives properly. But a duke must shoulder the lives of thousands.
"Naturally, their education must be harsh and without blemish, so the duchy doesn't find itself on the path of ruin. But look at your bishop. A stain on Fest's glorious image, an eyesore among the followers of God, a shame of the high and mighty noble blood, and a waste of air and water," Savine let out some of her true anger.
"But I can't blame him completely," Savine sighed. "Who let him grow like this in the first place? Of course, it was his parents. It was the former duchess, who fostered and fed the demon in her cradle. It was also the former duchess who chose the wrong side in the civil war and was one of the contributors to its unfortunate demise.
"I've heard from the merchants. The clash between the two sides in the Sovereignty was not something light. Their causes both justified, and the members involved were equally numbered. The people expected the Sovereignty to suffer through decades of war, but unexpectedly, the situation resolved in only two years," Savine smiled widely. "I wonder whose fault is that?"
It was none other than the Fest duchy's incompetent and utterly useless Grand Duchess. She boldly snatched responsibility over the 1st army's supplies, reminding everyone of her Duchy's rich and arable lands. The others agreed, knowing her words to be true.
The Duchy did have rich and arable lands, but only a meagre amount of it was actually cultivated. Even if the people wanted to cultivate more land, it was impossible for them to do so due to the 70% tax rate the Duchess imposed on farmers.
Of course, the Grand Duchess, who enforced these taxes herself, was unaware of that. Her only worry was how to better indulge herself. And because of the Fest Duchy, the 1st army ran out of food after only six months of warring. Even if they had reserves, great armies were things that functioned similarly to a watch. Many different cogs and wheels were necessary to keep it working, and when one of them malfunctioned, the whole thing fell apart.
It wasn't wrong to say that the Fest Duchy was one of the leading causes of their loss in the civil war. And the Duchess was the one who allowed all this to happen.
"The Grand Duchess paid for her mistakes with her life. It wasn't even the winning side that cut off her head, it was the remainders of the losing side. After the war, the winning side didn't even bother to punish Fest Duchy that hardly. You only needed to pay off some money, while all the other losers' families were executed. You all became the laughingstock of the whole Sovereignty."
Savine continued on, as if she already narrated the duchy's failure out loud. It was inevitable for Eliseline's head to be constantly reminded of her duchy's blemish.
"But, it's not completely without positives," Savine said. "After the Grand Duchess's death, the brother she despised oh-so-much for being better than her took control over the duchy. I'm sure you're a dozen times clearer on how differently the duchy is operating now."
The meaning behind Savine's words were obvious. Thanks to the late duchess's death, there was finally a chance to start from the scratch, the right way.
And coincidentally, Sylvester was the late duchess's son.
It wasn't impossible for him to ruin the hard work the current Duke was putting in.
"Do you now understand what gift I've given you?" Savine asked. "It's a chance for you to ruin your relationship with the bishop. A chance to amputate the rotting limb from the duchy's healing body."
"You…" Eliseline looked angry from her heart, but she did not speak.
But she didn't look truly angry. It was more of an act.
Savine tilted her head.
'Was the merchants' story flawed?'
That could be the only explanation. Savine smiled. Well, it was to be expected. The truth would always be something else.
Ignoring her little discovery, Savine continued talking in her soft, coercive tone.
"I don't mind becoming the target for his hate. The harassments and difficulties, I will bear them all. I know he will not sit still. And I know he won't stop at mere bullying."
Savine paused, looking into Eliseline's eyes with calm conviction. Seeing it flicker, she continued softly.
"I only ask you one thing. Come to my side when he goes too far. When he finally decides to take a stab at my heart, stand beside me and condemn the murderer."
A long silence ensued. Savine wasn't worried, she had no doubts in her words.
Soon enough, Eliseline removed her blade from Savine's neck.
Savine got up by herself, rubbed her neck a bit and smiled warmly at the high priest, showing no sign of hostility nor wrongly accused.
Silently, Eliseline pulled out a magical contract with all the conditions that Savine mentioned. Seeing that nothing was out of place, Savine cut her forearm slightly and smeared the blood on the paper.
With that done, Savine returned to more normal subjects.
"I believe you were going to teach me noble mannerisms?"
"You don't have to look so troubled. I'm an excellent student, I'll learn everything ten times as fast as your expectations."
"In that case, here's your first lesson. Bragging about yourself is a considered unbecoming of a woman."
"This young lady understands. I've come from beyond the borders of the Sovereignty and I hope I don't make too many people laugh at the joke that I am."
"That's too self-condescending."
"This young lady understands. As a guest from the Magicracy, I am honored to have come to the Great Fest Duchy."
Eliseline's face contorted.
"You speak too much nonsense."
"This young lady understands."
"Stop with the 'This young lady'. No one says that here."
"Now onto your posture…"