Petra would no longer attempt to assassinate her.
The moment she was engaged to the prince, her safety would become an important diplomatic matter with Bjorn.
She’d found an unexpected shield.
Also, the marriage of a royal woman was like a trade.
Since the engagement had been decided quickly, Gaius and the king of Bjorn would have many details to negotiate.
It was common for an engagement to be broken, if the two parties involved couldn’t agree on the terms of the trade.
“You must cultivate and refine the qualities of a bride, so you can bring glory to the empire.” The emperor looked satisfied.
“Thank you for your care, Father.
But I have a request.” She bowed gracefully.
“I’d like to visit the Lishan Province, left to me by my grandfather, the late emperor.
Once I’m married, I won’t be able to return to it, so I’d like to be able to complete my duty as its landlord at least once.”
“It’s a dangerous province, though.”
“I’m afraid it’ll fall into ruin if I leave it alone any longer.
Plus, it’s the only land my grandfather left me that I still retain, and I feel strangely close to it.
If you give your permission, I promise to return before the envoy from Bjorn visits.”
The Emperor raised one eyebrow.
Pascal III may have left her with many other lands besides Lishan, but everyone present surely remembered that the Emperor himself had taken them away.
If he tried to limit her authority over Lishan in front of so many people, it was obvious that he would be branded as a father who was blind to his daughter’s property.
Of course, it wasn’t a false charge.
He looked at his daughter with a gracious and compassionate smile.
“As a father, my heart is torn that you are going to that dangerous place, but I can’t help it.
If you choose an escort from the Imperial Knights, I’ll allow it.”
Unlike Petra, who was always stiff and distant, his acting only got better as the years passed.
Apollonia bowed again, and withdrew.
She’d gotten what she wanted.
The banquet ended without a hitch.
Apollonia kept up a facade of kindness while dancing with all the aristocratic young men who were present, and in return was given a friendly greeting by everyone she met.
“Congratulations on your engagement, Your Highness!”
By the time Apollonia had heard the same words, then smiled shyly, about seventy-three times, she was finally able to get out of the banquet hall.
Of course, the banquet would last all night, but she had something to do.
“Ah, excuse my rudeness.
Your Royal Highness.”
It was her cousin, Gareth Liefer, who slapped her shoulder outside the door of the banquet hall.
He’d never treated the princess in the manner that befitted her rank, not since he’d been nine years old.
He was Paris’ cousin and best friend, so he acted as if he were a prince.
His golden eyes, just like his mother’s, were dull.
He must have drunk a lot of alcohol that night.
“Where are you going, cousin”
It was strange for Gareth to leave the palace, at a time when the banquet was far from over.
Crowds of people still circled through the corridor in which they stood.
“I’m going to get some fresh air.
I heard your engagement was decided”
His eyes gleamed when he looked at Apollonia.
They’d known each other their entire lifetimes, as he’d visited the palace often throughout his childhood, but his gaze at Apollonia had a different feeling from those of Petra or the emperor.
“You’ve become so beautiful.
Why would they send you away…”
He reached out to brush Apollonia’s face as he spoke.
He looked at her as though she were his prey.
Of course, he did that to any woman he met.
It wasn’t just her.
“My engagement with Bjorn is none of your business.
You’re just drunk.”
His face crumpled as she turned away from him, and hurriedly left the palace.
She looked back at him, and saw him leaning on another person as they headed back towards the palace.
She sighed, and headed to the Star Palace to keep her appointment with Sid.
Wait a second…
She hadn’t gone far when a sudden thought came to her.
The person who was helping Gareth… she looked familiar.
Her pale hair and small build reminded her of the maid she’d met in front of the emperor’s palace not long ago.