At her answer, the emperor waved his hand in satisfaction.
Petra quickly left the study without saying goodbye.
As she walked to her carriage waiting near the front gate of the imperial palace, she raised an eyebrow.
There was a trace of a faint smile on her face.
It wasn’t because of her relief about Apollonia, though.
“I need to find Safiro.”
Before getting on the wagon, she whispered to her henchman.
“There’s someone that needs to be taken care of.”
Wouldn’t it be better if she just took care of it herself
Apollonia sat at her bedside, hugging her knees.
Her mind was crowded with countless thoughts.
Tomorrow, Queen Catherine Loenheim would disappear from the palace.
That was obvious; there was no way Petra would leave her alone, after what had happened.
Catherine’s only advantage had been her greed.
She had neither the ability nor the background to survive, so the battle was over even before she realized her opponent.
But now wasn’t the time to worry about others.
Apollonia recalled something that had happened 7 years ago, when she was 10 years old…
“I want to ride that, Mother.”
Gareth, Petra’s first son, pointed to Apollonia’s horse.
He desired her beautiful pony, with a snow-white mane that fell in waves covering its entire body.
Apollonia had been riding it ever since she had first learned horseback riding.
She refused to give it away, because the pony hated to carry anyone other than Apollonia.
Petra grabbed Apollonia’s shoulders with the same gracious smile she had used at the funeral.
She looked like a kind aunt who was taking care of the poor motherless princess, but the crushing strength of her hand gripping her shoulders seemed about to break them.
Petra whispered in a sharp voice.
“It’s okay if you don’t want to give it to him, Nia.
But one of your servants will be Gareth’s slave on behalf of that horse.
Because of you they’ll have a hard time.”
Her voice was frigid.
Her eyes stared deep into Apollonia’s.
“It was such an impertinent attitude towards Your Highness.
Please forgive Gareth, Princess.
Of course, how could you give away something so precious to another It would be terrible if your dearest friend got hurt in the hand of Gareth.”
Apollonia knew Petra was talking about her servant, not the pony.
She gave the pony one last loving brush, then handed the reins to Gareth.
The pony, which had not opened its heart to its new owner, was found dead in a forest full of beasts two days later.
One of its legs had been broken.
When Apollonia was 12 years old, Sir Kenneth, the leader of the imperial knights and Paris’s sword teacher, volunteered to teach her swordsmanship.
Swordsmanship was a valuable skill with great symbolic value among nobles, as theirs was an empire that was always on the edge of war.
The Emperor looked at Kenneth, then asked Apollonia:
“Do you want to learn”
When she nodded, Petra, who was standing next to her, protested worriedly.
“I’m worried about what would happen if we teach such dangerous things to the princess.
What if she makes a reckless mistake, or…”
She smiled chillingly at Apollonia.
“It would be bad if our precious princess got injured.”
The emperor simply laughed, then said gently, “Let’s think about it a little more.”
Ten days later, they sent Kenneth to the outskirts of the empire, under the pretext of exterminating the monsters.
He quickly lost half his soldiers in the fierce battles against them and left the country soon after with a debilitating arm injury.
Apollonia was 14 when Petra slapped her for the first and last time.
Paris and Gareth had destroyed the book left behind by her mother Ellenia, and Apollonia had thrown them out of the palace.
Apollonia’s head snapped to the right.
Her tears were filled with anguish and shame.
Yet it was her helplessness that outweighed her pain.
Alone with Petra in her huge bedroom, Petra threatened her with a clear warning:
“Don’t stand out.”
That evening, Gaius looked at her swollen cheeks and said nothing.
“Don’t ever think of keeping anything precious for yourself.”