Apollonia didn’t ask Uriel again if he would agree to serve her.
Instead, she visited him often to chat, and offered him a comfortable bed and plenty of delicious food.
Soon after Uriel’s recovery, Apollonia came into his small room and sat down next to him on the bed.
She didn’t put up any protective barriers like she had in the past.
She held out her hand.
On her palm lay a small purple flower.
“Why are you…” Uriel asked when he saw the flower.
It’s just pretty.”
The beautiful silver-haired boy smiled.
She couldn’t tell if it was sincere or not.
Apollonia saw his relaxed expression and decided to get straight to the point.
“Take me to Lishan Province.”
“I need an escort.
You’re extremely skilled, and I know you won’t hurt me.”
“I don’t know if my track record is trustworthy enough for that…”
He was silent for a moment before continuing.
He was following Apollonia’s order to speak respectfully better than she’d expected.
“Would it really be okay to take someone who tried to kill you as your escort”
“Well, it’s not like I can accept just anyone for the job.
After all, you are Liefer’s most skilled knight.”
Uriel was shocked to realize it, but Apollonia was sincere.
She was the type of person who valued the future rather than dwelling on the past.
“And if I refuse”
“I’ll kill you as promised.
I’ll even let you choose between death by poison or blade.” Her answer was harsh, and as she spoke the purple flower in her hand wilted and lost its color.
“But if you have to die, please die for me.”
She waited a moment to see if Uriel would respond, then continued.
“For now, I’m not asking to become your lifelong master.
I just have something I need you to do for me.”
“What is it”
“It’s not something you need to know yet.
However, if you succeed, I’ll ask Sid to teach you all the swordsmanship he knows.
Think of it as your payment.”
“What if I fail”
“You’ll have to accept Sid as your teacher, even if you don’t want to.
It’s a terrible punishment.”
It was a joke, but Uriel didn’t laugh.
Instead, he leaned towards Apollonia and stared at her.
Apollonia was reminded of his striking beauty.
A hint of turquoise gleamed at the center of his sea-blue eyes.
It was so subtle that she might’ve missed it had she not been staring right into them.
What did the imperial red eyes and shimmering blonde hair even matter, when the orphan boy who resembled a god stood right in front of her.
“You really want to keep me alive.” His voice interrupted Apollonia’s thoughts.
“Why do you think so”
“You’re trying to give me pieces of hope one by one, as if soothing a child.
The offer of swordsmanship… the food… the suggestion to take me outside… and the flower.”
His gaze moved from Apollonia’s eyes to the purple flower.
“I know exactly what you’re trying to do.”
She tried to hold a poker face, but he’d figured out everything.
What he was was right.
Apollonia decided to discard the illusion and just ask him.
Continuing to deceive someone was only something Petra or the emperor would do.
“So, did you see the hope”
His sea-like eyes moved back to her face.
This time, the glance was accompanied by a small smile.
He rose slowly from the bed and moved to stand before Apollonia.
“You have the blood of Liefer, but you’re different from them.”
He slowly leaned forward and took the flower from her hand.
Looking deep into Apollonia’s wide eyes, he carefully grabbed her fingertip.
The moment he was close enough for his warm breath to caress her cheeks, Uriel knelt to one knee.
“…Are you sure”
“I’ll go to Lishan.”
His red lips sank gently to the back of Apollonia’s hand.
“I’m so glad to hear that.” Apollonia seemed to be avoiding his gaze, almost as if she were being shy.
Uriel couldn’t take his eyes off her.
“Live for me.” He remembered what she’d said over the barrier.
“If you have to die, die for me.” And she’d said the same thing only a few minutes ago.
Maybe, he thought, it would be nice to do what she asked.
The person who’d redeemed him and granted him his freedom.
The reason to live and the reason to die.
Perhaps, the ending of his boring life was coming near.