A rhythmic knocking rang through the study. Sitting behind her desk, head buried deep in her document, Eugene was subconsciously waiting for the voice that usually followed the raps: Marianne or a maid.
“Queen, may I come in?”
Eugene looked up from the documents she was reading. She reflexively looked towards the door and called out.
She was still looking at the door when it opened. As the person walked in, their gazes met.
Walking in a couple of steps, Kasser abruptly stopped, still looking at Eugene who was slowly getting up from her chair.
“Did I interrupt you?” he asked.
“No, it’s okay.”
Eugene walked out to the front of the desk in the direction of the sofa.
“We’ll sit here…”
She tried to shake off the awkwardness. She didn’t know why she was suddenly so nervous. It was fine when she used to see him everyday but now that it had been a while since she last saw him, she felt more conscious around him.
I need at least a moment to prepare before meeting him.
She had been waiting for a maid to tell her the meeting had ended, never expecting the King to visit in person. Her heart was beating rapidly, eyes darted to every corner of the room but towards him. She didn’t know what to say or do.
It had been quite a few days since they had seen each other. And the things that had happened… he was quite looking forward to seeing her. Kasser was hoping for a welcoming response at the least.
And yet, when he saw Eugene feeling uncomfortable, he too felt uncomfortable. He had been sulking, as it bothered him that he had left without as much as a goodbye in his trice.
He remembered Marianne nagging him saying
You should put more effort, Your Majesty.
Seeing how things stood now, he couldn’t help thinking that perhaps, he was the only one who thought his relationship with the queen had changed a lot from the past.
Put in more effort to improve relations, the words were too vague.
He had never done this before, so he didn’t even know where to start. Affection and woman were a foreign territory to him. To say he was a dunce in such matters, wouldn’t be far-fetched.
“It looks like you were in the middle of work. Do you have a lot of work?” He tried to strike a conversation to ease the awkwardness, but was inwardly hoping she would say no.
“It’s not too much. I am getting an aide, so I was looking at candidates.” She could still feel her taut nerves.
“I see… an aide, they are important.” He was making a sincere attempt to keep the conversation alive.
“I’m still considering… Ah, Your Majesty! If you don’t mind, could you check them out and recommend one to me?” she said suddenly.
Without wasting a moment, Eugene quickly brought over the documents from her desk and handed it to him, as soon as she saw him nod.
She sat across him, looking as he went through the papers. Her nervousness from a while ago had faded. Now, her heart was pounding with a different emotion.
In the silent room, with nothing but the sound of sifting papers, Marianne’s words drifted to her mind.
“I never thought of him as someone easy.”
She started to subconsciously analyze her emotions. How she used to be in the beginning, and how she was now. She concluded that the tension she felt when she was with him was different from the general discomfort felt in intense situations. This was more like butterflies in the stomach than jitters.
Also, she discovered that she never worried about looking shallow around him as she did when she met the Grand Chancellor. Before the Grand Chancellor, she had to maintain a primp, proper and a flawless image. But with him, she believed that even if she did falter, he would not mind and instead help her out.
As Eugene realized part of her feelings, she discovered she was seeing him in a different light. She had begun to believe in him, unknowingly started to lean on him. And that, she was not averse to this, in fact, if anything, she wanted to deepen it.
“Did you manage to resolve the matter that took you to the storage? You said a seed cracked.” She looked at him curiously.
Kasser, who was flipping through the documents, lightly laughed. He raised his eyes full of mirth and said, “You are quick to ask.”
Eugene blushed and averted her gaze. In her daze, she had forgotten to even say a proper hello to him, whom she had not seen for days. She was apologetic and at the same time embarrassed.
“I went to look into it just in case, but it wasn’t a big deal,” he said.
“But, you stayed there for days though.”
“There was a bothersome incident. If it was a normal Lark, we could locate it after sunset and take care of it in the morning. But…”
There was a slight wrinkle on the king’s forehead as he was quickly browsing through the resumes. Out of the nearly twenty aide candidates, half of them were men.
“How many aides are you thinking of getting?” he asked, looking at her.
Three was a reasonable number. However, Kasser couldn’t help but mutter,‘Three?’
An aide was an extension of one’s hands and feet all along performing a range of duties. Running errands, arranging meetings, resolving things at the master’s behest, etc were just some of the things . Needless to say, these things required close interactions and would also involve a lot of time together. The aides would probably see the queen’s face all day until she got used to her work.
Three young men by her side all day…
Inexplicably, he began to feel sick as if he was suffering from indigestion. His heartbeat raced, he gripped the paper in hand tightly, and felt knot tugging within.
No one was clearer than him that it was none of his business whoever the queen brought in as her aide. She was well within her official rights, it was not his place to interfere. So, even though he was upset, he had no way to justify it.
“Who recommended these candidates?” he asked.
“The steward. He said that she only nominated the best people. Is there a problem with any of them?”
“…. no,” he said after a brief pause.
Kasser knew none of the candidates. The people that were talented enough to be remembered by the king, were already picked up and working. The criteria he judged these resumes were their work experience and family background. The origin of their families was just as important as their ability.
This was not because a nobleman was more competent than a commoner, but it was because a nobleman could get information easier through their personal connections. Depending on the job, the power to get information was more important.
However, right now, Kasser could notice nothing other than their gender and age. He knew that if it was the steward, he would not have recommended anybody with an ulterior motive, but he still tried to find some kind of fault.
Looking at the wrinkle between his eyes, it seemed like there was a problem with the resumes. However, she was more concerned with what he said a while ago than choosing her aide at the moment.
“By the way, what was the bothersome incident?” she asked.
“Hmm? Ah! I went in after sunset and the Lark’s cocoon was missing. So…”
Kasser found a familiar name among the candidates.
Remi Harrio? What’s his relationship to Count Harrio?
Count Harrio’s sons were notorious for debauchery. His five sons had inherited their mother’s beauty and were rumored to be outstanding even before they had made their official debut in social circles.
The quintet took turns playing mischief with damsels and cared for neither reputation nor ramification. As such, the count did not have a quiet day since they attained adulthood. There were few in the aristocratic society who were not in the know of the affairs of these scandalous brothers, as even Kasser, who had little interest in these matters, knew.
This man listed as one of the queen’s potential servants was, indeed, alarming news to the king.