“And then… I want to start over.”
The air stilled, a heavy silence engulfed the man and the woman who were looking into each other’s eyes. The pair of hearts was anxious, but the orbs were perfectly serene, not once betraying the turbulent undercurrents.
Kasser was impatient, the pounding in his chest was driving him into a frenzy. How would she respond? Would she agree? Or was he in for a disappointment? And if it were the latter, he certainly didn’t know what to do, because for the first time the King of Hashi was clueless.
On her part, Eugene spent a few breaths in incredulity. At first, she thought she had misheard but subsequently, the doubt morphed to fear… She was afraid to interpret his words exactly as she heard them. She didn’t want to presume under the influence of her own emotions and misunderstand, she was sure she wouldn’t be able to handle the repercussions. She took a deep breath inwardly and decided to seek confirmation, there was no other recourse to this.
“By starting over… you mean, with me?” she asked, gingerly, not once averting her gaze.
“Who else is here besides you?” Came the sarcastic response.
For some reason, she felt that the man was avoiding the subject. She didn’t know why, but she was now more determined to be direct.
“Starting over with what?”
However, in the fleeting moment between asking the question and looking at his expression, Eugene realized she had asked the wrong question. She must seem overly naïve, or worse pretending to be naïve.
“What I’m trying to say is…” Eugene started, but instead of finishing, she let out a sigh. She closed her eyes and opened them again. “I… thought you didn’t like me.”
Kasser was visibly surprised. “Did I treat you so terribly that I made you think that way?”
“No, no!” Eugene hurriedly shook her head.
She then lowered her face into her hands, seemingly embarrassed and at a loss for words. She felt as if she had suddenly become very stupid. Her confused thoughts entangled themselves and sent her mind spinning, she was neither able to explain herself nor think of the right response.
Kasser had been nice to her, his words and actions were measured and scrupulous. However, to her, his niceties were simply the natural product of a well-educated and well-bred nobility. Or that they were simply a means to achieve his end goal of gaining a successor.
But, she didn’t think he was someone who was so set on his goal that he would go so far as to fake his own feelings to achieve it. Every time she had gleaned a bit as to the kind of queen Jin had been, she had inadvertently ended up learning more about the kind of person King Kasser was. He was not emotional, had patience, and evinced humanity from time to time. He was loved and respected by his subjects and subordinates, and for his young age, he was quite the sagacious monarch.
Every time her thoughts had leaned towards the fact that he was a good man, Eugene had forced down her wavering feelings and tried her best to remain unemotional. She didn’t want to embarrass herself by investing too much into this precarious bond that was built on mutual gains rather than feelings, for all she knew it could be unrequited and a delusion on her part.
It was not that she was overcautious or pessimistic, but because she knew he only saw her as “Jin Anika,” and the only thing he wanted from her was his successor.
“Before I lost my memory. Um … I heard that our past three years of marriage did not exactly go smoothly.”
“That wasn’t because I disliked you, it was …” He trailed off.
He looked at Eugene’s face and tried to recall the queen’s appearance from before. But he couldn’t remember anything at all. Even until just recently, he had been comparing her previous appearance to her current self and thinking, ‘How could a person change so much?’. But lately, for some inexplicable reason, he had stopped thinking of her previous self altogether.
“It was that I didn’t know what kind of person you were.”
He didn’t believe that two different persons could exist inside of one body. So even in her past self, some of her present self must have been existent. It was just that he didn’t know about it.
Eugene had had no idea that Kasser had gone through such an inner turmoil on his own. So his statement seemed very sudden.
Could it be? Was this perhaps because of the time when she had refused to sleep with him a while ago?
“Your Majesty,” she said carefully, “I won’t break my promise to bear a successor to you.”
At this, Kasser looked at her with some surprise, then upon realizing what she meant he frowned and let out a bitter laugh.
“You’re saying that all I’m doing right now is just trying to convince you to bear my successor? It appears that your trust in me is absolutely at rock bottom.”
He understood where her thoughts stemmed from, and could he fault her for that? Nevertheless, he was unresigned to it.
Eugene felt she was on the verge of tears. She really didn’t mean it in that way, but the more she spoke, the more she made it seem like she thought of him as a bad man.
“But, but you must admit it is strange. The suggestion of ‘starting over’ sounds like you’re saying to just forget everything that has already happened so far. But even in the past as well as the present – I’m still myself.”
Eugene had no intention of denouncing the preexisting past of ‘Jin Anika’ from this reality. She knew it would be a delusion on her part for if she were to live in this body, she would have to accept this body’s past. The best that she could do was to right the wrongs as best as possible.
Taken aback, Kasser muttered to himself, ‘Is that so?’ and fell deep in thought for a moment. Then he spoke.
“If that’s how it sounded, then I’m sorry I misspoke. But….” He paused, seemingly lost in thought again. Then, nodding to himself as if he had made up his mind, he continued.
“Still, there’s no better phrase than ‘starting over’ to express what it is that I mean. I want to talk about my relationship with you, the one who is sitting here right now. I’m not sure if I can include your past self in this conversation, though.”
“Isn’t this when you’re supposed to say that you care for me regardless of my past or present, or something emotional like that?” Saying so and seeing Kasser fall into serious thought once again, Eugene burst into laughter. “How can you split a person into two? Who am I now, then?”
“You are Eugene.”