Roel Ascart stared at Alicia in confusion, having yet to wrap his mind around the fact that he was a dessert for the three ladies before him.
As for Nora and Charlotte, they widened their eyes in disdain upon hearing Alicia’s words.
The instinctive human behavior when introduced to a set of rules was to obey it, but there were simply some people in the world who liked searching for loopholes to exploit. Alicia was one perfect example.
To summarize: This child has no scruples!
We’re celebrating this shared victory, so why in the world must you go in the opposite way and think about swiping him away before graduation?
But now that I think about it… it actually makes sense too!
Nora and Charlotte immediately noticed the blind spot in their current plan.
There was nothing wrong with the solution Roel proposed, but the problem was that he needed time to attempt to control his bloodline. To use an analogy, it was like they were on a carriage that had barely started moving.
The good news was that the carriage had a clear destination and an estimated arrival time, and it promised them a paradise where they could freely feast on the delectable dessert named Roel. Everything looked rosy for them.
But here came the question: Why should I share a carriage with the others?
The carriage was small and squeezy, but the roadside ditch was wide and spacious. Why not push some of them down out of the carriage and into the ditch so as to free up some space? If they managed to push everyone else off, they would be able to monopolize the dessert at the end of the journey!
Charlotte and Nora’s eyes blazed with fighting spirit. The light and joyous atmosphere that Roel had created through his long speech was shattered just like that.
Roel noticed the unusual atmosphere too. He looked at the three smiling women beside him, and for some reason, he felt a shiver running down his spine.
W-why are they looking at me like this? Did I say something wrong?
He was unable to comprehend the situation.
Meanwhile, the three women were busy hatching their plans. All of them were experts when it came to the subject of Roel Ascart, and that was why they knew his biggest weakness—lack of self-awareness in relationships.
It was not that he had a low EQ. On the contrary, he was fairly good at sensing emotions. What he lacked was the ability to discern romantic relationships. Or perhaps, his threshold to consider something as a romantic relationship was much higher than other people.
Nora and Charlotte had braved through crises with Roel whereas Alicia had grown up together with him. There was no doubt that all of them shared a deep bond with him, but somehow, it felt like they were still a step away from becoming his lover.
It was just a question of who would be the first one to take the final step to the top. As long as they could reach the endpoint ahead of the others, they would be the final victor. It would grant them the decisive upper hand needed to eliminate all other competitors from the race.
What? You’re asking why can’t we share? Are you kidding me?
Love is war! The winner takes it all!
Years of fighting had taught these three women how cruel the battlefield of love was. In fact, they had begun contemplating whether it was a good moment to strike right now…
Roel is in his most vulnerable state ever right now, both in body and mind. If I could win him over right now…
The atmosphere was slowly becoming a little unnerving.
The first one to make a move was Alicia. She grabbed Roel’s hand while looking at him with eyes brimming with affection.
“Lord Brother, it must have been hard on you. You have always been competent in everything you do, but all of a sudden, you’re stuck in this small body. You must be feeling helpless.”
Roel was surprised as to what had come over Alicia, but the latter looked at him insistently, determined to get an answer out of him. He let out a soft sigh before nodding in admittance.
Alicia’s eyes drooped down sympathetically in response. She squeezed his hand lightly, as if trying to transfer her energy to him.
As expected of my little sister. She cares for me the most.
Roel was moved by the encouraging gesture. On the other hand, Alicia was delighted to see that it was working. She continued looking at Roel with a melancholic look on her face as she attempted to persuade him with her most sincere voice.
“Lord Brother, let’s go home. I’ll do everything I can to protect you.”
Those two words accompanied by Alicia’s melancholic expression dealt a critical strike to Roel.
Home is the harbor for the heart, a sanctuary in times of distress. Given Roel’s current state, it did make sense for him to return home.
Roel thought that there was some sense to what Alicia was saying, but Nora and Alicia sharply sensed that things were proceeding in a disadvantageous direction for them.
“Wait a moment!” Nora interjected furiously.
She marched forward to grab Roel’s other hand while directing a sharp glare at Alicia. She could see right through this scheming wench.
Protect him? If anything, you’re a fox in the henhouse!
It was worrying for Nora to leave Roel in the Ascarts’ manor even when he was in his normal condition, let alone now that he was in a vulnerable state. To let him return with Alicia now was as good as delivering him into the lion’s den!
Not to mention, it was Alicia they were talking about here! That woman was despicable enough to even overdose him on life force; what else would she possibly not dare to do?
It was almost certain that Roel would be eaten clean within three days if he were to leave with Alicia!
“Alicia, do you take me for a fool? Don’t think that I’m unaware of what you’re thinking!”
“What are you saying, Your Highness? I’m afraid I don’t understand what you’re driving at. I’d appreciate it if you could refrain from interrupting our family discussion here.”
“Have you forgotten that I am Roel’s protector? It’s my duty to ensure his safety!”
Nora spat out those words angrily at Alicia before she turned to Roel and smiled. Her ability to change her face on a whim was truly no joke. She intentionally released a hint of her holy mana that made her feel warm and amicable.
“Roel, I understand your wish to return home, but the Ascarts’ manor won’t be a sanctuary for you. The church can do much more to ensure your safety.”
Roel murmured thoughtfully under the angel’s devilish whisper. Seeing that his attention had been piqued, Nora doubled down on her efforts in convincing him.
“You’re in a vulnerable state right now and Uncle Carter isn’t in the Ascarts’ manor at the moment. The level of security at the Ascarts’ manor won’t be enough to keep you safe. Our church has an army of inquisitors constantly on standby, ready to be mobilized should you meet with danger. I’ll personally escort you to the Holy Capital to ensure your safety. Do you still remember the room you stayed in back at the Labyrinth Manor? What do you think about heading there?”
Nora disregarded Alicia’s opposition and made a counterproposal with a look of reminiscence on her face. It reminded Roel of the room where she had fed him sweets a couple of years ago, and it put him in a state of inner turmoil. He began to struggle between the two choices.
The Ascart Fiefdom was known for its military might. Under normal circumstances, no evil cultist would dare to enter its territory and cause trouble. However, it would be a different story if the evil cultists put their minds into eradicating him while he was weakened.
If so, it would indeed be much safer for him to seek refuge in the church.
“Lord Brother, don’t listen to her! That woman doesn’t bear kind intentions. You mustn’t forget her peculiar inclinations!”
“What are you saying? How could I possibly lay my hands on Roel when he’s already in such a state? Please watch your words, Miss Alicia!
Nora and Alicia glared at one another, neither willing to back down.
Meanwhile, Charlotte silently watched the fiasco with narrowed eyes. Her many years of experience in conducting business negotiations taught her the importance of assessing the situation before making a move.
She was aware that the Sorofya House had neither the strength of the church nor the warmth of the Ascart House, but neither of these was important. She didn’t have to compete on the same grounds as them. The key here was to throw out an offer that Roel couldn’t resist, and she happened to know one thing that would definitely capture his heart.
“10,000 gold coins per day.”
Those calm words instantaneously sparked a response from Roel. He slowly raised his head to look at Charlotte in astonishment. Nora and Alicia also halted their argument and turned their heads over.
“Charlotte? T-that… Shameless!”
“Do you think that money can buy you everything you want? Lord Brother won’t stand for such humiliation!”
I’m glad that you think so highly of me, but… I really do lack money.
Roel looked at the constantly increasing debt on his System and felt endless bitterness in his heart.
Meanwhile, Charlotte didn’t seem to feel ashamed by the criticisms of the other two ladies. Instead, she walked up to Roel and looked at him with her emerald eyes.
“Darling, do you remember the sweet wine we collaborated on? I wish to invite you over as our sommelier.”
“Yes, I hope that you can taste test our product before it officially goes on the market. I think that it’d be better if you personally take charge of the wine’s quality. Considering your position as a proxy fief lord and the fact that you’ll be working abroad in our Rosa Merchant Confederacy, I think that it’s only right for me to offer you a wage of 10,000 gold coins per day,” Charlotte calmly explained with a smile.
This pretext was important as it would undermine any claims that Roel had sold himself out for money. Pride and dignity weren’t to be cast away that easily, especially for a noble… though the truth was apparent to those present here.
Still, the offer tempted Roel. The debt that was constantly ticking up grated on his nerves, and he wanted nothing more than to rid himself of it as soon as possible.
I-I want to reject the offer, I really do. But she’s simply offering too much!
It was clear that Roel was moved, and this escalated the flames of conflict between the three women.
“The two of you are overstepping your boundaries! Look at the condition he’s in, it’s only right for him to return home and recuperate! Lord Brother, you mustn’t listen to them!”
“How many times do I have to say it in order to get it inside your head? I’m his protector! It’s my duty to ensure his safety! This is my last warning. Don’t force my hand!”
“How unseemly. Don’t you understand what give and take is? Darling, you should understand who is the one who truly cares for you now. Ah, did I mention that our wages are paid by the day?”
The three of them were getting more and more agitated by the moment. But before there was a conclusion to their argument, a dissonant voice suddenly drifted from afar into their ears.
“No, he’s mine!”
A black-haired woman had appeared behind Roel at some point in time, and she tightly wrapped her hands around Roel, as if claiming possession of him.