But it was a useless territory.
The public order was terrible, and the land was barren.
The province had been left to fend for itself.
Without a way to communicate with the capital, it’d become a haven for thieves and bandits.
“It’s just like the rumors.
It’s an area filled with outlaws, and natural disasters happen often.
It’s a very dangerous place.” Sid had just returned from visiting the province.
“But Grandpa gave it to me.”
“Or maybe you still have it only because no one else wants it”
But Apollonia really did want to go there, and see it with her own eyes.
She hadn’t told anyone about this – even Sid – but her grandfather had told her a secret about Lishan.
His words rang vividly in her ears.
“The most dangerous place.
The impassable place.
A place no one can predict.
In that place, I hid a piece of the empire’s heart.”
Pascal III often said such things in front of Apollonia when he’d been alive.
Sometimes he’d hummed the words as a song, and sometimes he’d murmured them under his breath as if he were talking to himself.
But he’d never said those words in front of anyone other than Apollonia.
As if they were a riddle only for her.
The last time she’d heard those words… had been the moment before he died.
Gaius had killed her mother Elenia in front of her only hours ago, and she’d been hiding in her grandfather’s room.
He’d comforted her, and she recited the words back to him between her tears.
That was her last memory of Pascal III.
So it was important to see the land, even if it was dangerous, or the riddle turned out to be fruitless.
And if it was possible, there was a certain person she wanted to be her escort.
“Is the wizard ready” she asked Sid.
He’ll pretend to be one of my family members.”
Apollonia and Sid smiled.
After the coming-of-age ceremony, when she was free to do as she wished, she needed to find a way to confront the emperor.
If she succeeded in getting Uriel Biche, that would be the perfect start to her plan.
The princess’s coming-of-age ceremony was going to be a magnificent party.
Although it wouldn’t be as grand as it might have been, since she wasn’t in the emperor’s favor, it would still be quite lavish.
After all, she was the only princess in the empire.
It hadn’t been long since the Queen’s welcoming party, but the nobles who’d been invited didn’t want to miss out on the opportunity to impress influential people.
So it was no surprise that countless carriages galloped frantically through the palace gates on the day of her coming-of-age.
The chaos was a good thing for Apollonia, though, since she had to smuggle in a wizard.
“What a pity… I wanted to start the day by seeing Your Highness in your coming-of-age dress!”
Sid had been appointed to escort her to the palace for the ceremony, and he grumbled to her as they walked.
“It’s just a white dress with some lace.
“No, the dress itself doesn’t matter! What matters is how you look in it.
By the way, why am I so invested in a woman’s dress” he laughed.
“I’m wearing a dress now, though.
How is it any different”
“There’s surely no other woman throughout the empire as indifferent about her coming-of-age as you, Your Highness.”
Apollonia retorted that she’d been looking forward to her coming-of-age ceremony for months.
But Sid contradicted her.
“It’s different to be interested in becoming an adult than to be interested in the ceremony itself.”
He seemed like he had more he wanted to say, but he kept silent after that.
He left the Star Palace early.
He didn’t think Apollonia would listen to him anymore.
Of course, he didn’t forget to remind her to be wary of men before he left.
It wasn’t really a necessary reminder for someone who’d spent her entire life trying not to die
at the hands of her treacherous father, but Apollonia thanked him anyway, and sent him off.
The preparations were completed that evening, and Apollonia entered the banquet hall right on time.