“Huh?” Zanne looked incredulous.
For a moment, she thought the queen was playing with her. But judging by Jin Anika’s somber face, she was truly serious. She was having trouble remembering.
“I especially have mixed memories of people. So I’m going to ask you some questions. Don’t tell anyone about this conversation. Swear to me,” she said.
Zanne shakily nodded.
“Yes, of course, Lady Anika.”
“I remember her name, but I don’t know what kind of person she is. Um… Marianne. Do you know her?” she asked.
When the name came out of the queen’s lips, it brought dread to Zanne. She gulped tensely. “Yes. I—I know who she is.”
“Will you tell me everything you know about her? I think I’ll remember when I hear information concerning her.”
“Yes. Lady Marianne was the former chief general.” Zanne finally answered.
Displaying such genuine curiosity, Anika had prompted the young woman to tell her everything she knew. The words kept flowing out of her mouth without fail, explaining to the best of her abilities everything she knew about the former general.
She knew so much because Zanne idolized Marianne. She had looked after her when she was so young, hadn’t condemned her for her mistakes, nurtured her, and guided her until this day. She looked up to her, and it pained her greatly when Marianne had to step down from her position.
As she listened to Zanne, Eugene couldn’t help but be swept away by the girl’s obvious adoration. Eugene was also in awe as she listened more about who this wonderful woman was. She sounded so remarkable!
“Lady Marianne was an excellent chief general.”
When the words slipped her mouth, it was as if something came crashing down, and Zanne clamped her mouth shut. She fell to the floor in fright and knelt, her forehead touching the hard floor, begging for pardon for her words…
“Forgive me, I didn’t mean to offend Lady Anika!” She pleaded.
Eugene, on the other hand, was taken by surprise at the sudden change of mood. Not until she remembered her conversation with the king that is.
Jin Anika hated Marianne. She mused before her brows scrunched up in thought. But why?
She was still dumbfounded at the sudden change in the maid’s tone and words, Zanne furiously regretted admiring Marianne in front of her. The maid’s former confidence was gone in an instant.
With her current information, Marianne was a woman of character and tremendous abilities. But these words were only coming from Zanne. If Zanne had been tricking her, she would’ve blundered. But she hadn’t and didn’t look like the type to kiss one’s shoes for the benefit of it. She obviously believed and held Marianne with high regard.
“It’s all right. I told you to speak. Come on, sit down again.” Eugene tried to ease the young woman.
Zanne got up and sat on the sofa once more. Her hand was on her chest as if to calm her beating heart.
“Did I hate Marianne that much?”
“I, – I don’t know.”
“It’s all right. What happened between us?”
“I really don’t know. I’ve never seen you two together.”
She wanted to ask for more details but cut it short as soon as a loud ruckus was heard outside her chamber doors.
Both girls immediately turned their heads in the direction of the doors. The shouts and calls were muffled, but they could make out a few of the things being shouted…
“Please calm down, Your Grace!”
The door opened with a bang. With so much force that cracks appeared at its hinges, along with where the door hit when it swung.
When Eugene saw Kasser coming in, she got up from her seat in absolute surprise. The king was livid. If anything, he looked like he was about to kill her on the spot. His eyes glared at Eugene, making chills travel up her spine.
“Your Majesty, please calm down…” The general who trailed behind him pleaded.
“Get out!” The king commanded in a snarl.
“I have something to talk to the queen. Everybody, out!”
Everyone flinched at his tone of voice. General Sarah looked at the king and queen alternately with her misty eyes, then she bowed her head and withdrew from the room.
Zanne, who was still around, quickly followed the general in hurried steps. When everyone went out and the doors closed, Anika’s chamber was engulfed in tensed silence.
Kasser clenched his teeth; he was steaming with so much anger he couldn’t control it. It seeped through his voice, it made Eugene want to tuck tail and run as far away as possible.
He called in people to investigate the queen’s whereabouts on the days before her disappearance. According to reports, the queen’s routine was monotonous. She was almost confined to her study every day. But there was a place where Anika would stop by every few days—it was the royal treasure house.
As a treasure house, it was only natural to post guards to guard it strictly from anyone who wanted to enter it. Within its walls lay the rarest treasures available to the Kingdom of Hashi. The treasure so rare, no price could ever match it. And with Anika as queen, its access was easily available to her.
However, the treasure house was rarely opened. The securing warriors banned entry and exit from the treasure house except when taking out treasures for national events or regular inspections. Yet, the queen demanded free access to the place whenever she liked for just a simple stroll.
“A woman likes beautiful things and the same goes for me. Give me your permission. The treasure comforts me. I see it as a reminder of Seongdo.”
Unlike Seongdo, Hashi lacked cultural facilities to see. The queen’s eyes, familiar with the culture of the grand and eventful Seongdo, were always left unsatisfied. She demanded that a treasure house would be a spectacle and was best fitting for her.
The treasure house of the Kingdom of Hashi was quite famous. Word was that the pillars were made of jewels, solid gold in different sizes.
This was not entirely true—this rumor was exaggerated. The Hashi’s treasure house pillars were not made of jewels, but stone. Such imaginations could only be applied to the treasure house of Seongdo.
The queen promised not to touch the treasures and admire them with her eyes only. At the beginning of their marriage, Kasser couldn’t refuse his wife’s request and conceded.
“All right, but you can’t take anything out of this treasure house.”
“Don’t worry. As I said, I’ll just look at it.”
Since then, the queen had been constantly in and out of the treasure house at least once every two or three days. She didn’t touch anything as promised and the regular inspection of the treasure house was all right.
As time passed, the queen’s entry into the treasure house became less and less of a concern. Now no one cared about the frequent opening and closing of the treasure house because of the queen. In the beginning, Kasser would call an official to inspect the treasure house thoroughly, but he had not done so for quite some time.
He couldn’t believe that Anika would betray him like this.
The one with the biggest fault was naturally the official who neglected the inspection. However, the vast treasures it held were over tens of thousands. It was impossible to expect him to be able to inspect the treasure house every two or three days.
After finding out the frequency of visits to the treasure house, Kasser quickly took off to inspect the treasures himself. If it had only been a piece of gold she stole, he could have overlooked it. But no, it was the kingdom’s national treasure she dared take from them!
When he entered the treasure house, his sight was immediately drawn towards the empty spot on which the treasure used to stand. Embarrassment and shame quickly washed over him. He had failed his kingdom. He had failed his people. He had failed his ancestors.
A queen stealing her country’s treasures! Ha! This was a first in the entire history of the Kingdom of Hashi!
“Was this your plan from the beginning?! When you asked me to open the treasure house, was this what you intended?!”
As Kasser approached quickly, Eugene backed away in surprise. Her leg tripped over the chair leading her to stumble back, but Kasser caught her flailing arm in just the nick of time and prevented her fall. He yanked her arm towards his chest and looked down at her bewildered and frightful eyes with intense rage.
With their faces a couple of inches away from each other, Eugene could hear his ragged breaths as he continued to seethe, speaking to her through gritted teeth.
“How dare you do this? What do you take me for? Where did you put it? And why did you go out to the desert?!” He demanded.
Eugene could only hope he wouldn’t kill her yet.