The flickering emerald eyes held an abundance of emotions that couldn’t be easily deciphered. Without attempting to interpret those emotions, Avel took a familiar seat next to the prince.
“…What is it?”
“Me? Didn’t I introduce myself before? I’m Avel Delaphion.”
“I wasn’t asking for your name.”
“This isn’t a place for the likes of you to enter.”
“Is that so?”
As her round head tilted, her smooth hair cascaded down over her left shoulder.
“I apologize. I have a poor memory.”
“Is this the prince’s exclusive area?”
The lips that had been delivering cold remarks were sealed tightly.
The Star Palace was implicitly ‘restricted’ to the First Prince, but the authority and rights belonged to the king. So, slapping the First Prince’s cheeks because a knight’s daughter was offended would be a forced and absurd accusation.
‘But the king can still allow it.’
The prince knew that fact, and Avel also sensed the ambiguous silence.
‘He probably can’t answer.’
He lives in a decrepit building with a garden that can’t be claimed as his own.
Instead of probing the prince’s sore spot, Avel decided to focus on her own agenda.
“I apologize for last time.”
“It wasn’t my fault… but because of me, well, yes, unnecessary things happened.”
She couldn’t blatantly say, ‘Your dad has serious anger issues and took it out on you.’
In response to that carefully worded apology, a furrow formed on the prince’s forehead.
“I don’t understand what you’re saying.”
“Okay. Anyway, I came back because I said I would.”
The prince tried to protect what little remained of his dignity, and Avel simply accepted his intention.
“Do you not understand the meaning of ‘leave’?”
“Ay, don’t just say mean things like that. Ta-da!”
Since there was nowhere else to put the gift, the package had been in Avel’s hands all along.
It seemed that only after Avel spoke did the prince recognize the object.
“What is this?”
“If I apologize, it needs to be sincere, right? This is an apology gift.”
“Actually, I don’t have anything to apologize for. So this is just a gesture of friendship.”
A small gift landed in the prince’s hand.
However, Avel’s painstakingly acquired gift remained untouched…
Thump, thump, thump…
It was thrown to the ground.
‘This was a high-grade tool that I couldn’t buy even if I saved up a year’s worth of allowance!’
Avel stood up from her spot and rushed towards the direction where the prince had thrown the gift.
Avel’s ended up rolling on the ground, covered in dirt and dust.
“Hey, hey, hey, wait!”
Struggling to find the right words, Avel approached with a distressed expression.
“No, you should have told me you didn’t want it. Why would you…?”
“You were trying to pass off something unnecessary onto me.”
“But this isn’t unnecessary! I put so much thought into choosing it!”
After brushing off the dirt on the surface, Avel moved her small hands to open the packaging.
‘Why is the string tied so meticulously? If they had a gift wrapping service, they should’ve tied it simpler!’
With feverish excitement, Avel ripped the knot apart and took out the tool.
“Phew, thank goodness.”
A green light twinkled at the center of the circular tool, indicating that it hadn’t been used yet.
“Prince, this is a one-time use item, so please handle it carefully…”
“Why should I?”
“How can I trust you?”
“Well, that’s a valid point!”
The most important thing between them was lacking.
They needed trust.
Avel had tried to bridge that gap with a gift, but her attempt to dispel suspicion had utterly failed.
She understood it in her head, but her heart felt different.
“How hard I worked to obtain this… Sniff…”
As she reminisced about the days she wandered by the riverbank every dawn, tears welled up.
‘I went through so much trouble to buy this!’
Brushing away her roughly cut strands of hair, Avel bowed her head.
“It seems today wasn’t the day.”
“I’m sorry for coming here without permission.”
His cold green eyes saw her head and the peeling skin on her palms.
Avel stood up confidently, as if she weren’t aware of the scabs on her hands and knees.
“That’s a high-grade tool. The warranty and usage instructions are inside.”
“A high-grade tool?”
“It’s not really dangerous. On the contrary, it will protect the prince from threats. I can even stake my nonexistent honor. Well, I’ll take my leave now.”
Her dry lips trembled for a moment while Avel tightened her boot laces.
“Next time, I’ll come again!”
As if she had never experienced rejection, Avel waved her hand at the prince as she left.
Her innocent smile was as lovely as a cherub’s.
Anyway, that was just on the surface.
* * *
“Oh, my, is it delicious? You eat so deliciously.”
“Ywes, it tasted gwood.”
“My son isn’t like the other kids. So this is new.”
“I heard that the Second Prince is unusually mature for his age.”
Beverages and desserts served to the king were clearly different in appearance.
The supreme ruler of the country laughed as he piled macarons and cookies in front of the knight’s daughter.
“What do you like the most?”
“They’re all delicious, so I can’t choose.”
‘Why am I acting like this?’
The tea time with the king was undoubtedly a coincidence.
‘Ah, what should I do?’
Avel, who failed to win the prince’s favor with a gift, was not only worried about that.
‘Next time, we won’t be able to meet at all, right?’
Meeting the black-haired Prince in the same place was a stroke of luck.
It would be impossible to execute the plan slowly if the prince was always in his bedroom.
“Huh? Dad! … Your Majesty?”
At that moment, she never expected to come across the king on his way to the greenhouse.
“Excuse me for a moment, Your Majesty. Vel, what happened here… Why is your hair like this?”
“I wanted to cut it myself.”
“And your knees?”
“I wanted to become a dung beetle, so I rolled around a bit.”
“Where did you roll so that you ended up like this?”
“I rolled quite vigorously. I’m fine!”
While staring at the strange child, the king smiled kindly and made a suggestion.
“The weather is nice. Are you going to leave the child by herself?”
“I’m not an austere ruler. Bring your daughter along.”
And so it happened.
Dane, who was initially flustered, regained his composure.
He seemed familiar with conversations with the king and responded well, even to dull jokes.
Apparently, the king is also rather laid-back.
“I’ve noticed before, but your daughter is quite lively.”
“She’s so unpredictable, so I worry a lot about her.”
“Her bright appearance is quite lovely. I didn’t realize not having a daughter would be so regrettable.”
‘If you regret it that much, why didn’t you have one yourself?’
Although he seemed quite fond of her, she couldn’t find a reason to like a person who was trying to slap his own child’s cheek.
‘Well, it’s normal for people to find me cute.’
Apart from that, it wasn’t bad to have the king’s favor.
After all, he was still the First Prince’s father.
Avel shook her feet, which never touched the ground, and smiled brightly.
‘This old codger is completely enchanted by my charm.’
The king’s stern gaze melted away at her innocent smile.
“How did you come to this palace without your father?”
“I walked here.”
“Haha! All the way here?”
“Yes, I have strong legs that my father passed on to me.”
“Indeed, you are his daughter! Well, do you want to see something you haven’t seen before?”
Her prepared excuse was silenced.
‘Wait a moment.’
Avel, whose body was faster than her mind, quickly turned her head.
‘Could this be an opportunity?’
She couldn’t pretend to be lost forever, and she couldn’t go to the Star Palace.
She naturally laid the groundwork, coming up with a new excuse.
“When you brought me here last time and I got lost, I remembered the garden.”
“I’m talking about the garden near the Star Palace, Your Majesty.”
“Oh, yes. The trees were so tall and lush that they left an impression on me. The serene atmosphere was also nice, and I wanted to see it again!”
“Oh, by any chance, was it a place I shouldn’t have gone? If so, I apologize…”
“Mmm, no. It’s not such an extraordinary place. Don’t worry, child.”
“Really? Then, can I visit there anytime?”
‘And while we’re at it, bring your abandoned son along.’
It was a request that went beyond being the daughter of a commoner knight.
Dane contemplated for a moment, trying to dissuade his daughter.
“Avel! What is this-“
His deep green eyes seemed to be lost in thought.
Read up to  advanced chapters on my ko-fi page. 2 release per week. Thank you for reading! If you enjoy it, consider supporting the author by buying the raws or opening up the chapters, also rate it well on NU. (ᴗ͈ˬᴗ͈)ꕤ.ﾟ