Apollonia was still quiet.
She must have still been thinking about Adrian’s question.
In that silence, Adrian sensed Apollonia’s compassion – a gap in her stoic armor.
So without hesitation, she put her everything into that gap.
She pushed herself out of bed, and knelt in front of Apollonia.
“Let me stay by your side, Your Highness.”
“If you want me to die, I will die.
If you want me to live, I will live.
I will do anything for you.”
Apollonia laughed bitterly.
“You wouldn’t even allow your former owner to touch your body, but for me, you’re willing to live and die at my whim Did you really think I’d believe you”
Adrian raised her head and looked deep into Apollonia’s eyes.
She was sure now.
Apollonia wasn’t just a kind, frail princess like the rumors claimed.
She was as cold as Petra.
“You might regret it.
It’s dangerous to be by my side.”
But Adrian didn’t back down.
She wanted this more than she’d ever wanted something before.
“Even if I die because of you, I won’t regret it.”
“It’s only natural for me to hate one master so much as to not even give him the time of day, and love another so much that I’d take a bullet for her.
Your Highness, if Gareth had ever seen me as a person and not just an object to be used, even for a moment, I might’ve liked him more.”
Adrian knelt forward to one knee, and bowed her head.
A moment of silence passed between the two women.
Apollonia’s voice was low and hoarse.
Her emotions were churning inside her mind.
“Tell me about yourself.
Who is your family”
“I am the foster daughter of a viscount.
My foster father found me as an orphan and adopted me.
Although we were nobles, my father had to have another job, as our estate was small and barely earned any money.
We were treated as commoners.”
Adrian recited her family history as if she’d only been waiting for Apollonia to ask.
“One day, I caught the Duchess’ eye, and my father decided it was a good opportunity.
He sent me to the palace to work as a maid.
After I realized how Gareth treated me, it was too late to go back home.
They wouldn’t allow me to leave.”
“You said you couldn’t take your own life because of your family.
Where does your father work”
“He learned medicine, because it’s a noble profession that saves people.
You might know him.
Pedro Reese of Imperial Palace is my father.”
As Adrian spoke, Apollonia’s eyes widened, and she frowned slightly.
“Pedro Reese… I’ve heard of him.
Is he the one who’s working himself to the bone as a healer at the palace, at an age when anyone else would retire”
“Yes, my family’s poverty quickly drained our cash reserves…”
Apollonia nodded slowly.
“That’s good to know.
My aunt takes children from poor families who can’t oppose her.
That way, no matter how carelessly they’re treated as maids, there are no repercussions.
Gareth can get away with anything with the poor girls, and no one cares.
Apollonia laughed bitterly.
But a moment later, a smile spread across her cheeks.
She’d thought of something.
“Yes, Your Highness.”
“What do you think the Young Duke thinks of you”
As Apollonia explained the story about that terrible man, Adrian was bewildered.
She didn’t want to think about Gareth ever again.
“As you may know, he doesn’t even see me as human.”
Apollonia gently stroked Adrian’s hair, and reached down to grab her hand.
She pulled Adrian to her feet.
“I like you.
Adrian’s heart surged.
She was so happy that she could no longer feel the pain from her swollen face.
“I just came up with a way to get you out of the dukedom.”