“No, it’s fine.”
She finally answered him, and Kasser stared at her with narrowed eyes.
“Are you certain?” he asked.
Eugene replied with a terse nod.
“Yes, don’t banish her from this palace,” she said with more certainty, this time, ignoring the ever-prolonged stare the king was giving her.
It was clear to her that this, Marianne, was an important person to the king, and for him to refuse to grant the wish of the queen before indicated a strong connection with her.
“Am I hearing you right? You no longer wish for her disappearance?” he asked once again.
And once again Eugene nodded. “Yes.”
The room was suddenly filled with silence.
“All right, if you say so.” Kasser nodded, but never took his eyes off of her.
This made Eugene feel more uncomfortable, she wished that he would finally leave her alone, better yet, allow her to be dismissed already.
What if I make more mistakes that would make him suspicious? She thought, worried that she’d give herself away any moment now.
“It’s rude not to look at the person you’re conversing with.” Kasser pointed out with a narrowed gaze. “Look at me.” He demanded. “You’re acting like a criminal as if you’ve done something wrong.”
Gulping in trepidation, she slowly raised her head and met the king’s gaze head-on. She soon schooled her expression back to cool the indifference.
Deep inside, she was gawking at the sheer beauty the king naturally possessed. If they were back in her world, the real one she was supposed to be in, she could say without a doubt that people would pay a fortune just to look even remotely similar to him. He was that exquisite.
Now that she could see him up closer than before, his eyes seemed even more striking. The vivid blue glinted against the light in the room, shining like a crystal-clear sky.
Still, this man was a killer, her thoughts warned. Despite his outward appearance, a monster lay hidden underneath that flawless skin.
She soon shook away her wandering thoughts when she caught him sending her a smile or a smirk should she look closer. She could feel her eyes begin to narrow as she blatantly stared at him, her imaginary shackles rising, anticipating something to go wrong.
“Did you have a change of heart while I was away from the castle?” he asked, tilting his head to the side, unashamedly still looking at her.
In retaliation and not one to be pushed around, Eugene gave him the most pleasant smile she could muster despite her wildly beating heart.
She thought her chest was about to burst.
Of course, he is still Jin Anika’s husband. Any change in her, he would surely notice.
“Yes.” She replied, hoping it sounded confident. “I want to change.”
Kasser perked up, genuinely curious.
“I want to make a difference for good. That is all.” Eugene finished, her breathing tensing ever slightly as the blue eyes continued to scrutinize her. Examine her as if he could see what she was hiding with those sapphire orbs of his.
Indeed, the king’s eyes were somewhat different. The mere sight of him made her feel as if he could read her mind in great detail. Pull apart everything in her thoughts that make her, her.
“Is this the cause of your sudden change then?”
“What do you mean?”
“Don’t pretend that you don’t know,” he said, his irritation seeping in his tone. “Our contract.” He finished and Eugene froze.
What contract? She thought frantically. None of this was making sense. This wasn’t in the plot at all!
“Whether you believe it or not. I didn’t tell anyone about our contract.” Kasser continued, oblivious to her tumultuous thoughts.
What contract? Eugene, come up with something, please! She racked her brain, but nothing came to mind. This was certainly not written in her novel!
“It has been three years since we made the contract, three years since you came to this castle.”
Eugene didn’t even know the original owner’s age, but it could be estimated that the king was at least three years older.
“What exactly is your point?” She finally responded with something that was neutral enough… enough to sound like she knew what he was talking about, but still uncertain what he was trying to tell her. “Tell me so I can finally get on with it.”
“Do you mean to keep your promise?” he asked.
Eugene could hear he was growing skeptical.
“Yes, I will keep my promise.”
“That’s the most pleasant thing I’ve ever heard from you,” he said enthusiastically.
Eugene found herself frowning once again at his tone.
“I don’t mean to be sarcastic. Don’t be upset.” He added, noticing her unpleasant expression.
Eugene knew only one thing for sure. The relationship between the couple seemed bad. His expression and tone towards her was not the way a man acts towards his loved ones.
Well, that’s a relief!
Eugene was glad about this. It was best he didn’t have affection for her so that he wouldn’t take her sudden change seriously.
I have to figure out why Jin married the king. There must be an important reason.
As far as she knew, when she created the queen, she was just… there, designated with the role of the villain.
Kasser, on the other hand, had been expecting more resistance in their conversation. Surprisingly, his wife seemed subdued and agreeable this time.
He understood that this wasn’t Jin Anika’s domain. She needed extra care, time to acclimatize to the changes around her. Their ways were not her ways after all, the marriage did not change that.
The first of many wishes was marriage. A formal acknowledgment of their relationship. It had to be perfect for the public to see.
Banishing Marianne was the only wish he had ever countered.
But this wasn’t all. As a queen, she was basically just a figurehead. She wanted the wealth, the luxury, and all the benefits from being queen, but none of the obligations that came with it.
Whatever political sway she had, she used it all to her own advantage, no regard to the people at all. With it, she began to instill fear into the very hearts of their subordinates. She was criticized and discriminated against even by the courtiers for ruthlessly disposing of several maids.
His main goal with the lunch invitation was to remind Jin Anika of their agreement. She was yet to provide him the heir she had so promised.
“I had anticipated resistance, to be honest, which was why I had lunch take place in my parlor.” He continued. “It’s a refreshing thought, reaching an agreement without disagreements.”
And then he smiled.
It wasn’t the first one he’d smiled, he probably hadn’t realized it, but Eugene could see the difference. It was the first genuine smile he sent her way.
“No need for pretenses,” he said, “You’ve been different lately.” He spoke his thoughts.
Eugene could only give him an awkward smile, she hoped it didn’t turn out to be a grimace.
“Let’s stop. Is today the last day of the month? I’ll go tomorrow,” he finally said.
Eugene felt something go off in her mind…
Tomorrow? What does he mean?
She panicked and missed the moment to respond naturally. This set Kasser to doubt her as he continued to stare at her, his sapphire orbs raking over her as he observed her. Eugene shook her nerves away as best as she could, smiling as naturally as she could with her current state of turmoil.
“Of course, Your Majesty.” Eugene forced out in response.
Fortunately, her unresponsiveness didn’t seem to bother Kasser. Eugene quietly breathed out a sigh of relief as they both continued the remainder of their meal.
Soon they both came out of the parlor and went their separate ways without further acknowledgment of what had transpired. Not that much had happened anyway.
Eugene quickly headed to her chambers, while Kasser went to his study.
He sat on his desk, musing about the queen. He was so lost in thought, he hardly paid attention to what he was doing, the piles and stacks of papers left unattended.
The lunch with the queen was certainly not what he had expected. Everything about her screamed differently; her expression, her poise, even how she responded. The more he recalled, the less she resembled the woman he once thought he knew.
And the more he thought about it, the stranger the feeling in his gut was.
It was as if she was an entirely different person.
Gone was her wicked smiles, the fake laughter. What was presented to him a while ago was a very awkward Anika—but, for the first time, she seemed very much… human.
What happened while I was gone?
Whether or not she had truly changed, or was only putting up a believable act, Kasser couldn’t let his guard down. He must be absolutely certain which was why he knew he needed advice from someone he trusted the most.
It wasn’t long before Chancellor Verus stood before him.
“You haven’t reported everything to me, have you?” He was quick to cut to the chase.
“Yes, Your Majesty,” the man said so in a remorseful manner.
Kasser narrowed his eyes.
“What happened in my absence?” He demanded.
Frightful of the king’s short patience, Verus quickly answered, making sure to answer as briefly and swiftly as possible.
“Your Majesty, the stone gate was opened a few days before you returned.”