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Chapter 9

Strolling along the hallway of the Kremlin Palace, I could remember vividly all the events that took place in its five enormous reception halls. My family used to host elegant banquets and official ceremonies numerous times in here. Terem Palace could also be seen from one of the arched windows.

Among the seven hundred rooms, one of them I recognized by heart. My hands pushed open its grand double door and then I stepped inside. The richly sculpted antique desk was set by the window. It had a large globe on one end and was usually littered with maps and papers.

Behind it was a great curve-legged chair made of dark wood and painted in gold. I walked around my father's large office, taking in the unforgettable surroundings and recalling the day when I had burst into this room with my brand new China doll and asked my father to come and play.

There was a tall portrait of him on one of the walls. He was dressed in a handsome military uniform with gold medals hanging from his breast pocket. His hands were placed over the hilt of a golden sword in a military fashion, his eyes were dark and shiny, and his mustache was groomed and curved. Beneath the frame of the portrait was a golden plaque, which read: 'Nikolai Alexandrovich Romanov'.

I tore my eyes away from it then walked towards the wide desk and sat down on the heavily crested chair. I picked up a fountain pen and a blank piece of fine paper, which had the emblem of Russia printed at the top of the stationery. Taking a deep breath, I set out to write a letter that addressed to the Kaiser, Wilhelm II of Germany.

After the Great War, a number of monarchs were resurrected and they were back to rule their former empires. It was little to no surprise that the Kaiser also reclaimed his power. He was one of those who were driven by greed and vengeance. For a moment, I wondered why I was brought back along with those unsatisfied deceased.

The Kaiser and my father were second cousins. Fully aware that I still had German blood in me, it was best to steer clear of any future conflict. With this family tie, I aimed to draw my uncle's attention by asking him to stop pursuing the unimaginable. Although I had an inkling that the Kaiser would laugh at the petty piece of negotiation I was writing, I still had to acknowledge the merit of proper diplomacy.

Once the letter was finished and precisely stated, I folded the paper up and put it inside an official envelope before sealing it with the Russian crest on the molten wax.

I pressed a button on the intercom and asked for Victor to come and see me. A moment later, the vampire secretary appeared. He walked up to the desk and bowed.

"Grand Duchess," he greeted. I held out the envelope to him.

"Send this to Berlin," I said.

"Grand Duchess, what about the Council?" Victor asked with concern.

"I dismissed it," I said. "They think they have found the solution, but they don't know the consequence that goes with it."

"So how are you going to deal with the matter at hand?" he asked. "Currently, we cannot afford to have more than one problem at a time. The Hunters are growing strong and one of the most powerful nations is cultivating mischief. Japan is also backing the German Empire now. I'm afraid that we can't prevent this in time if we don't take action soon."

"I know," I said. "That's why I wrote to the Kaiser to ask him to reconsider his stand as our Allied."

"What if he doesn't listen, Anastasiya?"

"I have my other plans," I said and took out another piece of blank paper. My hand expertly formed the first cursive letterhead. Victor stood by, watching me work on the statement patiently. A long while later, I produced two similar sealed envelopes and handed them to Victor again.

"If the Kaiser doesn't respond, then you send these to Versailles and Buckingham," I said. Victor gave me a slightly puzzled look, but then he nodded, taking the letters from me. I stood up from the desk.

"And if all else fails, Russia will take her stand."

~*~

When I returned to my chamber, Claire practically threw herself at me. Her shirt was undone, her hair looked wild and her body glowed.

"Your Highness!" she coaxed and kissed my neck. "Where have you been? I was waiting for you."

"What are you doing here?" I asked and pried her tangled hands off me. Walking further into the room, I found Lyra laying on the couch, completely naked. She looked exhausted and dazed as if she was high. When the girl saw me, she tried to cover herself with a duvet. Her face blushed bright crimson.

I turned to look at Claire who grinned black sheepishly.

"Your sister just fed on her earlier this morning." I scowled at Claire. She simply came over to hug me from the side and leaned in to kiss my cheek.

"I didn't feed on her," she said. "I was just having fun with her. You can't blame me, Anastasia, since you took so long to return."

"I had a meeting," I grunted and turned to walk towards the bedroom. I didn't know why I was annoyed at such a mundane thing now.

It was like a need to protect those weaker than me had returned, if not completely but piece by piece. But I didn't want that anymore. I didn't want to feel anything again.

For years, I had trained myself to shut off my emotions and detach my heart from people. Yet now, not only had I defended the human's rights against the Council but I was also irritated by Clair's abusive behavior towards a human girl I just met.

Coming back here was a mistake. All the stress started to collect around my temples. I rubbed my forehead and went to pour myself a glass of wine. I emptied the drink in one swoop and exhaled.

"Forgive me for enjoying her without your permission, Your Highness," Claire's voice spoke softly in my ear. Then she wrapped her arms around my body from behind and stroke my stomach sensually. Her nose buried into my neck again.

"Why are you here, Claire?" I said.

"You said Estella and I can go to see a play with you tonight, no?"

I shrugged, feeling her hands wander further down my belly. A rising heat began to stir up from within my core. Claire nipped softly on my neck as she unbuttoned my pants and slipped her nimble hand inside. I let out a sigh as she caressed the area between my legs.

"Estella has picked out the best dress for herself," she said. "But I don't have anything to choose from."

I chuckled.

"So you want a party dress?"

"No, not just a party dress," Claire whined. "I also want to look good for you."

"You want to look good for people," I pointed out, which caused her to squeeze me a little.

"But you wouldn't want your friend to dress in rags, would you?" she said.

I took her hand out of my pants and turned her around.

"Alright, what do you want?" I said, still holding on to her waist. Claire's face lit up. She smiled and leaned in to kiss my lips.

"May I borrow some of your royal attire?" she said with pleading eyes. "I hardly see you wear them anyway, and I've heard the Russian imperial gowns were beautifully made by the best tailors in all of Europe."

I pursed my lips as if to consider her request.

"Please, Anastasia, please?" Claire coaxed as she kissed my chest and collarbone pleadingly. I giggled and pulled her onto the bed with me.

"If you can make me come more than once, then you're free to choose any dress you want along with some of the jewelry to go with it," I said as I rolled on top of her. Claire dropped her jaw in delight.

"Oh my god! Really?" she said gleefully. "Oh, thank you!" Then she pushed me off of her and got back on top of me. I smirked as she proceeded to take off her clothes and mine. I watched her round breasts bounced out of her black lace lingerie.

"And you won't be disappointed," she said in a sultry voice and leaned in to kiss me on the mouth. Our tongues wrestled against each other. Claire started rocking faintly into mine.

From the corner of my eyes, I saw a small slender figure standing by the door. I turned my head to find Lyra looking at us from the living room. Claire followed my gaze and when she saw the girl, Claire sat up but didn't stop riding me.

"Would you mind closing the door for us?" she said with a slight smirk dancing on her lips. Lyra obediently nodded. Her face flushed as she stole a glance at me before she pulled the door close.

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