Suddenly, the conversation turned back to Flora…
“Ah, but Anika Flora,” piped up one of them, as Flora turned to her, “Don’t you feel a little lonely without having Jin with you? I distinctly remember you both were close knit when you were much younger. Much like those two are right now.”
Despite being worded as though she expected Flora to affirm, her tone of voice implied nothing else but otherwise. None of the Anikas thought that Flora would even wish Jin was still around. After all, the Flora she was now was a confident, and well-spoken woman. But as kids, Flora used to trail after Jin, she was so quiet around the other Anika, so reserved…
As if she wanted to be anywhere else but with her. And the moment Jin left the Holy City, Flora finally began to express herself more, in her words, and in her thoughts. And to some, if not most, it was an unwelcome change.
“Well, the one thing that’s been certain is that as we grow older, our lives will eventually change.” Flora answered rather vaguely, “Besides, I don’t think any of us would have expected for Jin to just leave like that.” she answered, ending it with a pristine smile.
She’d learned after all, from following Jin around. She hadn’t wasted her time trailing after someone she was uncomfortable with. Anikas weren’t like the sharp-tongued people of the upper-class society. Like kittens, they always bared their claws out to the world.
But while Anikas were indeed special since birth, they still come from different families, with varying backgrounds. As Jin was born in a prominent, and wealthy family, Flora had been born from a family with much humble beginnings.
With Jin’s connections with many of the other noble families, she’d drag Flora around with her to every meeting. Flora knew it wasn’t Jin being nice, she was incapable to be so. But rather Jin used her like one would with an accessory. To draw attention to herself.
Anikas all inherently possessed an exquisite beauty, but even so, Flora had been identified as the one who was most beautiful. But whenever she stood next to Jin, all of Flora’s excellent traits became unnoticeable. She’d be nothing but a mere shadow of one who could command attention better than her.
If Jin was a splendid rose in the garden, Flora was but a subtle beautiful lily. The contrast between the two were evident whenever they stood side by side, and it made Jin stand out even more.
Even their personalities were opposites.
As opposed to Flora, who ever rarely would strongly express her own opinion, Jin acted like she had nothing in the world to be afraid of. She acted like she was a god, and looked down upon others. She did not hesitate to crush down those that got in her way, nor did she bother with the criticism of others.
With her strong personality, it catapulted her to fame. And thus the rose grew her thorns, or the butterfly revealed her poison nectar. Some would even go as far to say Anika Jin’s scent was that of a poison. But despite the obvious distaste people would have of her, none of them had the courage to be upfront about it to her.
After all, Jin had powerful people backing her. Not just the Sang-je, who showed a special interest in her, but she had parents who’d do anything for her. They were that wealthy and powerful. Which made Flora, who’d been dragged around by Jin everywhere she could, had a complicated relationship with the Anika.
They were both closer than the rest, yet still strangers at heart too. And so Flora thought that if Jin was going to use her, then she’d use Jin for her own gain as well. And as she followed the brazzen Anika, she too had begun to form her own connections in the upper-class society.
And then their relationship came to an abrupt halt the moment Jin had left to marry the Dessert King in haste.
She felt as though she was freed of her shackles, relieved Jin was no longer around. And she began to discover more things for herself, like her true thoughts and feelings…
Her utmost desire to erase Jin from her own life.
“It’s been quite a few years now, but it’s still such a shock. Who would have known that Anika Jin would marry a king?”
“Exactly. And the Desert King, no less! That’s the kingdom at the very end of the desert.”
The conversation went on for a long time, with Jin as the topic. Flora didn’t show it, but she felt uncomfortable with the knowledge that even now, she could never be fully freed of Jin.
Three years have passed, yet still…
She was the one that remained, yet people had still not forgotten Jin. And when they would talk about her, they would frequently show curiosity or, dare she say it, longing.
None of them know how insidious she truly is.
While Jin could care less how she would come across in front of most people, she’d always be on her best behavior whenever Anikas would begin to gather. She knew which lines not to cross, and the Anikas were the few who’d been spared of her cruelty.
For the other Anikas, all they had were baseless rumours, ones they couldn’t begin to even imagine, because Jin had always been a demure girl around them, and so they ignored it in favor they were only rumours of jealousy. It made Flora even more upset when the younger Anikas would even look up to Jin, thinking she was just confident.
It made her sick to the stomach.
“Everyone.” a familiar voice broke away from the terrible thoughts Flora was having. The chatter paused as they realized the two Anikas had finally arrived, and with them was a young girl, roughly ten years of age. They smiled as they gently brought the girl in front of them.
“This is Anika Margaret, she will be joining our gatherings from now on.” they introduced. The Anikas looked at her for a moment, before they began to give her a warm welcome.
“Anika Margaret! Welcome!”
“Nice to meet you, Anika Margaret!”