5. His Highness’ Friend
The next day, His Highness and I immediately went out to inspect the territory.
The territory of Arkhangelsk was originally under the direct control of the kingdom.
It was said that bureaucrats of the kingdom were being appointed as the governor-ruler of Arkhangelsk and were replaced after several year term.
That was because Arkhangelsk was once a pivotal land for the kingdom. It prospered as the kingdom’s premier port city with fur as its exported. It was heavily involve in trade with various countries.
Meanwhile, margrave was a high-ranking title that had considerable authority in the olden days. Therefore, the fact that Arkhangelsk still had a margrave was a remnant of the time when it was still a key part of the kingdom.
However, about 100 years ago, Arkhangelsk lost its position as a major port city. A huge port city called Elemeigrat was created North of Novgorod city.
Since then, Arkhangelsk had been declining.
“The port of Arkhangelsk freezes for two months during the winter, doesn’t it?”
While looking at the scenery of the deserted port town, I spoke to His Highness. He lifted his eyebrows in astonishment.
“You sure are knowledgeable.”
“I read it in a book.”
After all, reading was one of my timid and sober self’s hobbies.
I recalled reading in the travelogue of a famous explorer that the port of Arkhangelsk froze. The fatal weakness of port of Arkhangelsk was exactly that—it was rendered unusable in winter.
In addition to that, I had been studying a lot because I wanted to learn more about the territory before I left. I also brought some books that might prove useful in our endeavors.
Although my grades at the academy weren’t that exemplary, I liked reading books. I also thought that it might be useful for His Highness.
…To be honest, I also had another motive—
—I wanted to be praised by His Highness.
Well, I didn’t think someone as excellent as His Highness would go unprepared, so I didn’t know how useful it’d be.
However, His Highness smiled happily.
“As expected of Alisa. You used to enthusiastically read books in the academy’s library, didn’t you?”
“…That’s because I don’t have many friends.”
After admitting that, I became embarrassed and proceeded to lower my head.
Even in an academy where aristocratic children gathered, a duke’s daughter had a fairly high status. My classmates were scared of me and avoided me as a result.
In such a position, I thought that humans were divided in two. One was a person who compromised between his status and his surroundings, someone who was steadily on the rise before finally standing on top of others.
However, if one was strong, gorgeous, and better than others, then he could make many friends, create an entourage, and be respected.
My sister, Elena, was that type. She had become a leader amidst the female student body through the glitz and dexterity befitting that of her stature.
On the other hand, I was the exact opposite. I was the daughter of the duke, someone who was also known as the crown prince’s fiancée. Everyone stayed away from me. Many of those who did try to approach me only wanted to take advantage of my position.
I was afraid of stares I received from my surroundings. Afraid of being swept away, I built a wall and chose to be lonely.
I didn’t even think about changing that.
Therefore, I always spent my time reading books at the academy. I was sure His Highness was aware of that.
…I wondered what His Highness saw in such a gloomy girl?
I looked up at His Highness.
His Highness… was smiling gently.
“I only have a few friends, too.”
“There were a lot of students around me, but most of them were trying to take advantage of my status as the prince. They never considered me a friend.”
“I don’t think that’s the case…”
“It is. After it became decided that I was to be sent away, they started to distance themselves. If it’s a real friend, then I only have one. However, I can no longer meet him easily.”
His Highness spoke with a lonely tone. Then, he showed a grand smile.
His blue eyes stared at me with appreciation.
“But Alisa chose to follow me—therefore, I’m not alone.”
My heart bounced sharply.
Yes… I chose to follow him.
That was my own choice.
It was because His Highness needed me.
“I’m also not alone because I have His Highness.”
I was surprised at what I had just blurted out and started blushing.
Even if no one else was there, I still had His Highness, and he had me. It was very encouraging, it made me happy.
His Highness smiled joyfully, and after a little hesitation, caressed my hair.
His touch was a little firmer than yesterday. At the same time, it was gentle enough to reassure me.
However, there was something that worried me.
While being patted by His Highness, I asked him.
“Your Highness said that you only have one real friend, who is that…?”
“Are you concerned?”
There was nothing that I wasn’t concerned about when it came to His Highness. After thinking that, I realized that my thoughts were centered around His Highness. The realization shocked and proceeded to embarrass me.
If that friend was a female, I’d definitely be very jealous.
…What if there was a girl from the academy who had strong bond and was intimate with His Highness?
No, even if the other party was a male student, I’d still burn with envy.
However, His Highness’ answer was unexpected.
“My brother, Mikhail, is my only friend.”
His Highness had a distant look as he named the second prince, the one who had robbed him of the throne, as his only friend.
***T/N: ..They are both complementing each other… this is nice, I love this kind of relationship…