17. The Little Viscount’s Gamble
“Your Highness, and Lady Alisa, uhm, you may continue…”
The little viscount, Anastasia Prokofieva, who saw what we were doing in the prison, blushed profusely.
As His Highness and I were kissing on the bed, he looked ready to push me down.
His Highness and I stared at each other. We suddenly felt embarrassed.
In a hurry, His Highness stood up and sat upright on the floor.
I followed suit and sat down beside His Highness while tidying my clothes.
The two of us were kneeling side by side, as if being scolded by the young child.
…I never expect Anastasia to come to the prison.
“…I’d be happier if you continued.”
Anastasia murmured bitterly.
That just won’t do.
We’re sorry we can’t proceed with that kiss.
Even so, why did Anastasia come to the prison after we had been confined?
Apparently, she had brought no servants with her whatsoever.
“…Is there something you need?”
When I asked, Anastasia trembled in shock.
As she looked up at me with her golden eyes, she nodded.
Such a little gesture was very adorable.
I hope the children of His Highness and I will be as cute…
I imagined that, and when I realized what I thought—
‘—the children of His Highness and I…’
My cheeks naturally rose in temperature.
…N, now isn’t the time to think about that—!
With a serious expression, Anastasia bowed deeply.
“First and foremost, I’d like to apologize… It’ll come off as an excuse, but… the confinement of His Highness and Lady Alisa is purely enacted by George.”
I thought as much.
George seemed keen on benefiting from selling His Highness to the royal capital
Authority over the viscount’s territory and its management were both actually held by George instead of Anastasia.
In that case, I didn’t think Anastasia was responsible for this incident.
“Could it be, Anastasia came to help us?”
I asked with expectations.
However, Anastasia shook her head.
“I… came to make a very selfish request… I want His Highness and Lady Alisa to help me.”
His Highness and I stared at each other.
As of the present, we were held captive in the prison.
What kind of help would Anastasia require of us?
Anastasia looked down and said.
“I want you to remove George and become my new guardian.”
“Why would you want us to do that?”
“Since my parents died, George came to this land and did whatever he pleased. As a result, he sold off a lot of the Viscount’s properties, killed various villagers he disliked, and practically enslaved people to work in the mines so that he could profit from it. This territory… has become unreasonable.”
“…As I thought.”
From what I had seen in the rural areas, the viscount’s territory was desolate, and its people were suffering.
The cause seemed to be George.
“Moreover… I’m going to be married to George next year.”
Anastasia’s voice became quieter.
If George were to marry Anastasia, he’d be able to obtain the viscount’s territory.
He could do so much more than what he was capable of than as just her guardian.
There was also the fact that Anastasia was still 10-years-old. She might be cute, but she was still a little girl.
Yet, she was going to get married next year. It wasn’t because of love either, but merely because the other party wanted to obtain ownership of the viscount family.
I couldn’t just forgive her. She had allowed for the attempted murder of His Highness.
However, the most important of all was that George Prokofieva seemed to be a problematic person.
“George is unqualified to serve as a lord.”
His Highness stated that in a flash.
That was correct.
George only thought of himself and didn’t try to develop the territory. He did a lot of outrageous things, and he took advantage of Anastasia.
A person like George shouldn’t be the lord of this territory.
Then, what should I do?
“Do you have any proper vassals?”
Towards my question, Anastasia shook her head.
“All of the servants from the time when my parents were still alive either left or were removed. The only one remaining is… Balakirev.”
I was surprised.
From his cut-out appearance, Balakirev should be a vassal.
Although he followed George, he was an old vassal of the viscount family.
“Balakirev… is a strong man. He’s famous as a master swordsman in the East. When I was born, father made him a vassal.”
“Even though he originally served the viscount family, he’s currently at the mercy of George.”
“It can’t be helped. No one can go against George. However, Balakirev only pretends to obey him. In truth, he worries about the territory and me… He has also been rebuilding the territory as best he can.”
Balakirev didn’t appear to be a bad person.
However, that didn’t mean he’d just side with us.
He was one of George’s subordinates, and also the one who had locked us there.
Anastasia removed a long, white, package from the bundle she was holding.
After she had removed off the package, a longsword was revealed.
It looked quite old.
The brim of the sword had an angel-shaped motif.
Anastasia respectfully presented it to His Highness.
“This sword was given to the Viscount of Kholmogory by the Holy King. It’s proof of lordship over the Viscount of Kholmogory. I’ll leave this at Your Highness’ behest.”
His Highness seemed to be faltering. He received the sword and proceeded to unsheathe it.
Instead of appearing worn and old, the clear and radiant color of the blade was impressive.
“Am I to use this to defeat George?”
“Yes. It’s impossible for me to do it alone. But with the help of His Highness and Lady Alisa, I’m sure I can defeat him. If all goes well, I’d like you to take the place of George and become my guardian.”
It wasn’t a bad offer. His Highness and I would be able to escape from there. We would also eliminate George and remove various other potential threats.
If George was alone in his chamber, he’d be vulnerable. If George was removed from being Anastasia’s guardian, the viscount family would be able rebuilt with her as its leader.
Then, until Anastasia grew up, His Highness would rule the territory of Viscount of Kholmogory. That way, the iron from the Kholmogory mine could be exported via Arkhangelsk.
Nevertheless, His Highness looked at Anastasia with a gentle expression.
“Anastasia, may I ask you one thing? What makes you think that as a guardian, I wouldn’t do something as terrible as George is to the territory?”
Certainly, it was strange how Anastasia could trust His Highness just like that. They had just met.
Even if George disappeared, nothing would be resolved if His Highness were to do as he pleased to the viscount’s territory.
Of course, I knew His Highness wouldn’t do that.
But what makes Anastasia believe in His Highness so much?
“Because Lady Alisa risked her life to protect His Highness. As His Highness has someone who trusts in him, and that person is willing to go to such lengths for him, then he can’t be a bad person. Thus, I made my bet. I thought that I’d see it through.”
As Anastasia stared at me with her golden eyes, her expression was very mature.
“One day, I wish to also be able to meet a nice man. Just like how Lady Alisa met His Highness Alexander. Although, I may not be able to do that…”
I smiled and gently caressed Anastasia’s hair.
“I’m sure you will be able to.”
Anastasia trembled at first, but her expression soon softened in relief.
She had been alone all that time. As such, Anastasia must had been anxious. To come before us that day—it must had taken her utmost courage.
His Highness stood up, strapped the sword to his waist, and stared at me.
I returned his gaze.
His Highness had a dignified expression. His face was full of courage and elegance.
“Your Highness, what do you plan to do next?”
“I’m sure Alisa is confident that we’ll be able to escape, but I can’t just run away. Even if it’s difficult… I must defeat George with this sword. Then, I shall return to Arkhangelsk with Alisa.”
“I believe Your Highness can do it!”
“As long as Alisa is with me. Now, let’s fight.”
-My expectation: They are going to make a brilliant political strategy to corner George.
-Reality: “Here’s a sword, lop his head off.”
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