It was Theodor. After that, I saw Molli, the nanny, tutor Viat, and some maids and servants chasing behind him. I slowed down my horse.
The horse snorted and lowered its speed, then walked slowly with its long legs before stopping in front of the approaching little figure. I jumped off the horse, and with one knee on the ground, I spread my arms toward Theodor. The child snuggled into my arms and hugged me. The soft baby scent warmed my heart. Right then, the black horse went neeeigh! I held Theodor in my arms and introduced him to the fascinating horse.
“Say hi, Theodor. From today, this is mother’s horse.”
Theodor’s little hand waved left and right. The black horse put its face on Theodor’s cheek and purred. They said it was rough and wild but how can it be so docile?
Theodor’s giggles and smiles were so cute that I couldn’t help but kiss him on his plump cheek. One cheek was caught by the black horse and the other was caught by me. Theodor closed his eyes and wrinkled his nose, chuckling.
“Your Highness! What would I do if you ran out of class like that?”
It was Molli who sharply rebuked Theodor. Behind Molli, Viat was panting for breath and bowed his head. Nodding lightly and glaring at the nanny who hadn’t even said hello to me yet, I asked Theodor,
“Does my son know how to ride a horse?”
“Of coush, I, the Gwand Pwince, wiv be the future lord of the Shlezen Castle.”
“Oh, then, as the Grand Prince, can you escort mother to inspect the estate?”
“Yeep. Theodod wiv do his best.”
Theodor clenched his right hand and hit his chest, telling me to believe in him. I said, nodding at my black horse.
“The Grand Prince will ride in the front, and I’ll ride in the back.”
Theodor’s eyes widened.
“Theodod has never ridden with anyone befod.”
“Mom will take you safely.”
“Your Highness the grand duchess, the grand prince has his schedule,” Molli said. Theodor, held in my arms, felt nervous for a moment and looked up at me with his lips curled.
‘Don’t be nervous, just trust this mother.’
“It’s a given. I’ve looked through the schedule and curricula that you guys sent. This morning’s class was ‘Grand Prince’s etiquette’ class led by you, the nanny. And including management of the estate? So then… let’s call it a field trip.”
Molli’s mouth gaped at my words.
“Viat, wouldn’t it be possible to replace the afternoon estate management and administration classes with today’s inspection?”
“That’s right, Your Highness.” At my question, the corners of Viat’s mouth rose. ‘Oh, it’s been a while since I’ve had a break.’
Only Molli stared at me quietly. Considering whether to say something or not.
“Good. Well then, that’s it.” I raised my chin proudly and beckoned him to leave.
“Then I’ll get going.”
No wonder, Molli didn’t back down easily. Theodor gently wrapped one hand around my neck and rested his head on my shoulder. He was scared even though he was the grand prince.
I glanced down at her, who was a little taller than me and frowned.
“What about you?”
“I’m the nanny.”
“I von’t need a nanny?”
“But to take care of little things–”
“Didn’t he say he doesn’t need you?”
“Are you ignoring the Grand Prince now?”
Molli’s eyebrow raised at my sharp question.
“The grand prince is going to escort the grand duchess. It’s an official inspection.”
“. . .!”
“So don’t you dare intervene.”
I firmly drew a line. She may be the archduke’s woman, but I needed to make sure that everything about the grand prince was in my hands. I turned my back on her and continued talking to Theodor.
“Then, Theodor, I should name this horse, what could it be?”
At my query, Theodor put his index finger on his cheek and tilted his head, and looked at the black horse for a long time.
“Defense means ‘protect.’ Like Theodod, pwotecting stepmother, Defense will do his best, right?”
At Theodor’s words, Defense nodded its head as if it had understood him, and went neeeeeigh~!
* * *
Inside the Grand Duchy of Karikas.
Clip- clop- clip- clop-!
‘Who is it? Who would cross the territory in such a loud beat?’
It was rare in the peaceful estate. The hoof of a horse that made the earth shake. The unusual sound of a woman’s voice cutting through the wind. There,
Even the loud shouting of knights.
Gerard pushed the book he was reading to the side and moved to the carriage window.
A familiar horse passed by the carriage. It was ridden by Ariel.
‘I ordered you to assist Sinclair, so why are you riding?’
Gerard leaned his face toward the window a little further in wonder. But right outside the window, Theodor’s face was visible.
Gerard frowned, trying to figure out what was happening. Theodor turned to look at him and raised his hand to greet him. He was perplexed by Theodor’s expression, bright as if he had the whole world.
‘Did that dark, sober, child always shine like that?’
And Sinclair, sitting behind Theodor’s back, glanced at him and gave him a haughty nod.
All of a sudden!
“Watch out, madam!”
Gerard banged his head against the carriage ceiling.
Gerard grabbed his head and sat down. He wanted to nag Sinclair that it was dangerous, but even the escorts had already passed by.
Gerard looked out of the wagon and watched them as they moved away, bewildered. Yesterday morning, he was sorry to hear that she looked unhappy even in the eyes of a child, so he went to Sinclair and heard her speak the whole time. About how prepared as grand duchess she was. To boost the Shlezen Castle, convenient and safe new artifacts, and the future of Theodor. She spoke until the vein in her neck popped out. She said that she would visit the Shlezen Orphanage, which was run by his mother-in-law, Stephanie, during her inspection of the estate.
And after a few days of hard work, he thought of sleeping late and going to the academy and returning in the afternoon.
‘Anyway, my wife doesn’t even sleep. Furthermore, not even by wagon, she’s riding loudly around on a horse, even with the grand prince!’
Looking out the window, the estate people were working in the field with their backs straight and bowed politely at the noisy sprint. Sinclair raised a hand and greeted them gracefully. She was an unpredictable woman. Weaker than anyone else, that woman gets up in the morning without any problem and works like cast iron even if she suffered from a fever the night before. A woman who ran away out of rebellion against her father, Michael. A woman who couldn’t even remember even if she was carried away by a dreadful fog. A cold-hearted woman who was detached from even her own death. A woman who bewitched a demon, and also bewitched Theodor. A woman who didn’t respond to magic. An everyday troublemaker.
He couldn’t help but admit he was attracted. A strange creature discovered for the first time in the Empire, in the whole world. Unknowingly, he pulled himself from the carriage and followed the river up the hill to trace the disappearing party. Among them, only Sinclair with pure white skin, running like a goddess on a black horse with a fluttering black mane, stood out. It was the first time. The whole world disappeared and only one person was caught in his sight.
At that moment, why did he recall the sensual body and fair, beautiful skin he saw on the wedding night?
Was this why he decided to be with her until they died? Her body, her mind, her life. He wanted to know everything. This side of him was unfamiliar.
A desire to keep her from leaving by any means necessary rose.