During the dry season, the Sang-Je would send out messages through a knight to each and every kingdom. But the knight he had sent out to Hashi Kingdom then had received a particular order.
The Sang-Je’s eyebrow twitched as a gentle smile spread across his face. “Anika Heidi.”
Anika Heidi, whose name the Sang-Je just muttered was growing a plant out of her translucent seed that was placed on her palms.
Each Anika took their turn in holding the seed with their hands as Sang-je murmured each of their names to himself, his smile growing even wider. “Anika Denise. Anika Kasey. Anika Emily…”
The Sang-Je stopped as his brows knit together for a short moment, then smoothened out again as he nodded. “Anika Margaret. So this is Margaret’s Ramita.” The Sang-Je grinned from ear to ear, stretching out his face even more causing wrinkles on his face. The scent of the Ramitas, which he hadn’t smelled for quite a while, was so sweet and pleasing.
Then suddenly, he held his breath in.
“… Anika Flora.”
As always, Flora’s Ramita was outstandingly incomparable with that of the other Anikas. It is as if a gentle breeze was tickling his nose. Then the air suddenly shifted to a relentless wind, knocking his breath out of him.
“Hmm.” The Sang-Je tilted his head to the left. “How strange.” The powerful wind suddenly felt calmer than usual.
Ramitas never changes. But the Sang-Je decided to set the thought aside for now. It’s not like the translucent seed was one hundred percent reliable anyway. If one would compare the seed to a device, it would probably be closest to a ruler. Meaning to say that it could only measure up to a certain maximum, never exceeding more than what the ruler provides. And since Flora’s Ramita was much stronger than the seed could measure, it was expected that it could be unreliable at times.
The Sang-Je had been using the seeds as a barometer in figuring out the strength of the Ramitas ever since. Even though the Anikas used the seeds to rank themselves up by their levels, they paid no attention to the seeds’ origin— or where it came from.
There was only one Anika whose Ramita level the Sang-Je was not sure of.
Anika Jin. Jin was the only Anika to refuse the translucent seed, and it happened during her first attendance at the meeting.
Eugene probed around the castle, asking if there’s any maid with the name ‘Poppy’, and according to the staff records, there wasn’t anyone working in the Palace that bore such name. She asked Zanne too if the name was familiar, but she said that she had never heard it before. She even had the General check the records dating back three years to see if there’s anyone by the name of Poppy, but still, nothing. There was no way that the General missed it upon his checking since he is very meticulous.
Thinking hard for a solid minute, Eugene suddenly came up with an idea. “General. Do we keep track of all the temporary workers that we employed in the castle?”
“Older documents are usually disposed of.” The General said.
“What about in the past three years?”
“We may still have that record. Let me check.” The General said as he left the perimeters.
It did not take him long to check the records and when he came back, he reported with the news Eugene wanted to hear. “Your Majesty. There was a woman named Poppy who worked temporarily at the castle as per the records.”
According to the General’s report, Poppy had been employed as a temporary hire about two and a half years ago. The General’s demeanor was strangely stiff for someone who had acquired important information.
“Is this someone you remember?” Eugene asked her.
The General nodded. “Yes, Your Majesty.”
“Anything particular I should know about?”
“That person died before she even finished working here. She… took her own life.” The General explained.
“You mean she committed suicide?” Eugene did not expect that.
“Yes, but the circumstances were strange.”
Sarah was the one who explained Poppy’s sudden death. Poppy was hired to work for ten days, but she left the castle without informing her advisors on the fifth day. She disappeared in the morning and never came back.
The woman who had been sharing a room with her tried to cover for her at first, even taking upon herself to do Poppy’s share of work. But when Poppy still did not return to the castle, she had no choice but to report it to their advisor.
Sarah assumed that Poppy must have left the castle for some sort of an emergency. Considering that the wage for working at the castle was more than enough, there’s no reason for Poppy to just bail out, having already worked there for five days.
They sent a person to check on Poppy, and went to the address cited on her files. And from there, Poppy’s body was found dead, which was drowned in her own bathtub.
“I had a feeling that it was a murder disguised as a suicide, but in the end, no leads came up and the case was closed as a suicide.” Sarah explained.
“Suicide…” Eugene thought.
“I’m your master, right Tanya?” *Tanya means faithful servant.
As if on cue, Jin’s memories started to play out in front of Eugene, with Poppy bowing her head towards Jin “Yes, Master.”
“What can you do for me?”
“I would do anything my master wishes me to do.” Poppy said, with a voice sounding like in a trance.
Jin grinned as she fell into laughter. “Is that so?”
Hearing Jin utter those words with such venom made Eugene shiver all over. Even though it was something that happened in the past written in memory, Eugene found herself whispering the words ‘don’t do it’ over and over again, and she knew then that Jin was about to do something horrible.
“Prove me your loyalty so I can trust you.” Jin said.
“You said you would do anything I wish for?”
Poppy nodded. “Yes master. Anything. Just say the word.”
“Then take this path leading outside the castle and go home. Fill your bathtub with water, then go in and submerge yourself into the tub, all the way to your head. Hold your breath and only come out when I say so.” Jin said.