What kind of person is she in reality? Is she really the Princess Akshetra I had read about?
I did feel that this was how meeting an emperor would feel like. I gritted my teeth and supported myself by grabbing the hem of Kaichen’s sleeve. I hadn’t even started a fight with her and I already felt like I had lost.
“Happy birthday, Julius.”
“Thank you, sister.”
The two exchanged formal greetings with a friendly and benevolent smile. On the surface, it looked like they were just brother and sister who were on good terms. But the truth was, they were already in a battle against each other. After the greeting and wishes were exchanged, Akshetra glanced at me.
“Isn’t it time for you to introduce her? Countess Alshine, whom you two adore so much. I think I’ve waited a long time for this.” Even though her voice wasn’t that loud, Akshetra’s words had a huge impact.
She was the center of aristocratic power and the princess who is supported by the nobility. Her showing an interest in me changed the way other nobles viewed me in that banquet hall.
I was not a fan of receiving so much attention. I clenched the hem of Kaichen’s sleeve. A frightened mouse would have looked braver than me at that moment.
“I thought you had forgotten. I never… thought you would still remember.”
“No way. I have been looking forward to this meeting for so long. How can I possibly forget? Above all, if you look at the recent progress of Acrab, I have no choice but to be impressed. I guess you think I’m too out of touch with the times, Julius.” Akshertra’s words sounded like a jest at a glance. But what she meant was that she had eyes everywhere, and she knew everything. Hiding me from her wasn’t going to work.
Kaichen frowned at that. My mouth was dry. I looked at Kaichen and then at Julius, then back at Kaichen. It was inevitable. I took a deep breath, let go of Kaichen’s sleeve and stepped carefully forward.
I mustn’t be afraid. I can’t back down even if I’m scared. This woman… She is Julius’ enemy. Therefore, she is my enemy. She was the last boss that I had to defeat in order to succeed in what I had planned.
I lifted the hem of my dress slightly, bent my knees and bowed my head. “I greet the Imperial Princess. May the blue dragon continue to bless you.”
“The honor is mine. I am finally able to meet you, Countess Alshine. Till now, I only knew you from the rumors I heard.”
Princess Akshetra looked at me as though she was highly amused. “Please raise your head. I have been wanting to see you since that day two years ago.”
That day two years ago… Does she mean from when Acrab was under time magic or when there was an epidemic? Anyway, I couldn’t ignore the words of the imperial Princess, so I raised my head and straightened up.
Princess Akshetra was even more icy when close. Her smile didn’t reach her eyes. These were the eyes that trusted no one.
“It’s an honor that Princess has bestowed her attention to someone as insignificant as me.”
“If you, whom Julius and the Archmage cherish, are insignificant, then who in the world is significant?” she chuckled.
Why is she being like this? I was already so nervous. My body was stiff, and I felt awkward, more so than we had first arrived and had to make stupid conversation with everybody.
“You are too kind,” I said with an awkward bow.
“I’ve heard that the development of the Acrab has been remarkable. You seem to possess extraordinary capabilities.”
“It is all thanks to the teacher’s help.”
“That doesn’t matter. You are the lord, and you operate the land. No matter what unique management method you have used, you made sure your land has prospered. If you weren’t capable, that wouldn’t have been possible. Be proud of yourself.”
“I still have a long way to go. I will do my best to live up to your compliments.”
“The sudden change in these two years… Was there any other reason?”
“Wasn’t there rumors about Acrab’s Lord? Like being a drunkard?”
“I’m ashamed to say that I wandered a lot in the shock of the death of my parents. But after receiving Teacher’s help, I decided to live up to my role and do my duty.”
“Yes, I see. I guess the trigger was the influence of forbidden magic, after all.”
My lips dried up. It was just a normal conversation, but I somehow felt like she knew that the original Dalia had died, and I had possessed her body. Her eyes looked at me curiously as though she saw someone who wasn’t supposed to be here.