The queen met with her three aides, all of them seated on the round table situated inside her office. They were talking amongst themselves as they organized the first draft of her schedule for the dry season. People would surely say that the plan had been set way too late, if the itinerary were finalized just now since they are nearing close to the active period, which is exactly a week from today.
However, this was only the first draft, and she only managed to decide on a month’s program. This is the best she could come up with since there’s nothing like this for the past three years, and she basically started from scratch. The kingdom was unfortunate to have been ruled over by a passive queen for years.
Luckily, her aides were there to help in some affairs Eugene needs to take care of. They sorted out and read through old documents and even took notes of important things. They made sure that they’ve written everything down, spending countless days and nights hunched over books and files just so they could compile the relevant data accordingly.
Then, they took pride in their efforts as the queen read the first draft, satisfied how they’ve managed to do their job correctly.
Their eyes had deep, dark circles, but they felt reborn upon completing their assignments. They were entirely pleased, thinking that coming to work as the queen’s aides was the best decision they have ever made.
There were people who tried to sway them from applying for the queen’s aides position, saying that it would not do their careers any good since there’s literally nothing to do there. That notion came from the rumors that the queen lived a secluded life, even going as far as saying that she had mental and physical issues.
However, Sandy, Regina and Sandra didn’t mind one bit, and had resolved themselves to live a mundane life. The situation changed drastically when the Lark tree incident happened. Everyone grew envious of them, as they had the privilege to meet Queen Jin immediately after the incident.
They were also given the important task of creating a budget. Being able to review and distribute the budget to the different areas of the castle was a priceless experience in itself.
Despite being worn out from helping in creating the queen’s schedule, they were still excited nonetheless in building a new foundation for the future.
“Do we need to meet the head of the merchant group?” Eugene asked after reading the first draft.
“Yes, Your Highness.” Sandra answered quickly, prompting the other two to close their mouths.
“We wouldn’t be able to meet them all, but it is your responsibility to meet the suppliers for the castle, and resolve the differences.” The aide added.
Eugene was surprised to hear that it’s part of her responsibilities. ‘Their workload would increase if mine does, why does it seem like they’re keen about it?’ She asked internally. It is indeed the queen’s responsibility to plan and manage the castle’s budget, and to negotiate with the suppliers.
‘They really seemed eager to work, which is a good thing, I guess.’
Eugene thought that Sandra’s statement was valid enough, though there’s a little difference between Eugene’s viewpoint and her aides’. Eugene was not exactly sure about the full extent of her authority as the queen.
She thought that she shouldn’t be handling minor things like the palace budget when she could be doing exactly what the king does, thus lending him a hand in his hectic schedule. However, her aides really believed that they should stretch her authority as much as possible, taking it upon themselves to expand the queen’s power by asserting certain tasks.
The most bothersome situation the aides faced was when they had set the tasks, but the King shouldered the responsibility himself. The aides could not simply take back what was originally the queen’s, since doing so would mean that they are questioning the king’s authority. The officials that were stuck in the middle endured the most pressure, the aides even more so as they sent the official papers directly to the king.
However, the anxiety they’ve been feeling diminished quickly when the king gave his full support, allowing the queen full authority on everything she wants to do, whatever that may be.
Since then, the aides grew more confident and assured.
“Why isn’t there anything scheduled for this afternoon?” Eugene asked as she pointed on a specific date.
“We allotted that day specifically since His Majesty would be returning that day.” Regina answered.
“Return? Why? Where is he going?” Eugene asked as she lifted her eyebrow.
Eugene didn’t miss how the aides’ eyes widened upon hearing her question. She trusted them enough to tell her what she needed to know. “Explain.”
“His Majesty will go to the desert to perform a ritual, just like he always does on the first day of the dry season.” Regina responded.
Regina took her time explaining the ritual that was always performed during the dry season, and Eugene’s eyes flashed when she heard that the queen had accompanied him before. It happened on the first year anniversary of their marriage.
She had been trying endlessly to look for a way to go to the desert, for the sake of looking into Jin’s memories. And now, an opportunity presented itself in front of her, and she will not let it pass.
“Empty my schedule for that day. I will accompany His Majesty for the ritual this dry season.”
The aides were surprised at the sudden change of schedule, but they proceeded to modify the program according to the queen’s orders.
“That’s all for now. I appreciate your hard work. Let’s finalize this schedule and be done with it, and all of you should go rest. You look like you have not slept a wink.” Eugene said.
The three aides took a glance at the Queen before them, noticing the sweet smile directed at them.
“Thank you, Your Highness.” They all said simultaneously as they turned to leave the room.
Eugene slumped down on the sofa, stretching her arms above her head as fatigue crept into her slowly. Her whole body hurt from the day’s workload. ‘It hurts everywhere.. Is it because of my period?’
Eugene’s period started two days ago, which meant that she was far from being pregnant. She felt relieved when she saw blood smeared on her underwear that morning, since she was not ready to give birth and become a mother.
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She already had too many problems as it is, deeming her unfit to become a parent at this point. However, she was not concerned about the man who would serve as the child’s father, should she become pregnant. Kasser was a good spouse and she’s confident that he would be a great father too. Eugene palmed her stomach slowly, and she could not imagine having a baby inside her.
A series of knocks snapped her out of her reverie. She heard Marianne’s voice behind the door, righting herself up as she beckoned her to come in.
Marianne looked at the desk that was filled with papers before glancing at the sofa where Eugene was sitting on. “Do you feel unwell?” She asked Eugene in a worried tone.
“Just a bit tired. Nothing to worry about. What brings you here?”
“I brought the storyteller you requested, he knows all the hearsays out there. Is now a good time? I can bring him some other time if you’re already exhausted.” Marianne said.
Eugene shook her head. “I’ll see him now.”
Marianne nodded as she went out of the room, and brought in a middle aged man. He looked apprehensive, looking down at his feet as if he’s an offender.
“It was nice of you to come here. I called you to ask a few things.” Eugene spoke.
“I’ll tell Your Highness anything that I know of.” The man said timidly.
“I heard that you know a lot of strange, unusual things.”
“I just heard stories here and there.”
Eugene nodded at Marianne, who placed a small pouch in front of him. “Open it.” Eugene prodded.
With shaking hands, the man reached for the bag as he struggled to pry the pouch open. Carefully unfastening the clasps, his demeanor went stiff upon seeing the contents of the purse.
“That’s for the inconvenience of coming here. If you tell me what you know, I’ll give you the double of what’s inside there. Understood?”
The man clutched the pouch tighter while nodding his head vigorously.
“A spell, a dish, whatever it is. Can you think of anything relevant to these words? Tell me no matter how minor it is. However, I will not allow lies. You should be honest with me if you don’t know anything.”
Eugene told her of the three words she got from Jin’s memories, but she left out one of word.
He contemplated for a while and let out a resigned sigh. “I don’t know.” The man sounded apologetic, and Eugene understood completely. She did not expect she would get a clue so fast anyway.
“Whatever it is that you heard inside this room, you have to keep it to yourself. Okay? Kindly see yourself out.” Eugene said flatly.
The man nodded as he headed straight to the exit, but he stopped abruptly in his tracks and faced Eugene with an alarmed expression. “I remember something!”
Marianne shot him a warning look, chastising him with her eyes as he shouted. The man lowered his head in embarrassment.
Eugene glared at him. “I told you, I do not tolerate lies. Are you betting your life for the sake of having riches?” She asked pointedly.
“No, it’s not a lie. My maternal great grandmother was born a magician, and she definitely said something about a spell.”
“A magician?” Eugene asked, looking at Marianne who was equally confused.
The man went on, “There are those who look at other people’s fortunes with spells. While there are a few who have extraordinary powers, others are nothing but swindlers.”
Eugene understood the concept of the shamans, with the help of Marianne’s lengthy explanation.
“So what exactly do you remember?”
“I heard that word from her. May I be allowed a second chance after meeting with her?”
Eugene thought his request over. “May I meet with your great grandmother instead?”
The man scratched his head and told her that his great grandmother was nothing but a rude hermit, and she’s someone Eugene would not want to meet with. But she knew how greedy this man is as she went on, “I’ll give you more than what is in that pouch, should you bring your great grandmother to me.”
The man nodded in agreement, and told Eugene that he would do whatever it takes.