It was like the heat slowly cooled off, after a wave of an affair. Eugene sprawled across the bed as she received Kasser’s kisses, marking his way from her instep to her calves.
Eugene then thought that maybe she’d gotten used to such sensual touch. Otherwise, it was hard to believe that her mind actually wandered off in the middle of his caresses, however gentle they may be. Eugene did a double take as she realized this wasn’t her first time being warned for her mutterings.
Her eyes wavered as Kasser quickly crawled up her body, pressing his weight against hers and looking down right on top of her. He didn’t seem like his usual self. And his vexed eyes seemed to signal danger.
Eugene gave him an awkward laugh, but it was not enough to unfurrow his brow.
“Don’t you want to do it? Am I making you do it against your will?”
“No, of course not.” Eugene flustered at the sight of him who seemed quite cross with her. As Kasser did not show it, Eugene never realized how his frustrations had been building up inside him for a while.
Throughout the whole return journey from the Holy City, and even after they came back, all Eugene had in her mind were about the wanderers and of the hwansu that took the form of a turtle. Knowing of her obsession with her old book collections before she lost her memory, Kasser tried to understand that her interest in the incantations was likely related to her old hobby.
He tried his best to listen to Eugene’s every word. But to tell the truth, he wanted to have a different conversation with her – something sorely about just the two of them. He longed to have the most private and trivial conversations with her.
He was peeved at her interests in wanderers and some unknown Hwansu, as such interests kept interrupting his time with her.
And at last, at this moment, he felt the sudden outburst of the emotions he had been bottling up inside him this whole time. Although he knew well that it was childish of him to get emotional over such things, he was unable to calm down anymore.
Eugene called out to him, gently, “Don’t get angry, please?”
“I am not angry with you. I just…”
Kasser couldn’t think of the rest of the sentence, the feelings he had buried deep inside coming up to the surface. But he couldn’t think of a word that could clearly define what he felt. Was it resentment? No, it’s something different from that. Loneliness… yes, it was loneliness after all.
He felt like he was the only one who was getting restless. His mind was filled with confusion as he couldn’t find a way to define his feelings for her. Such feelings urged him to see her, to touch her, even if she was already in his arms, right before his eyes. He was confused, as he didn’t understand.
Eugene was already his wife, his woman, that everyone acknowledges. Why was he still discontent with that? Was it because their relationship had been untrue in the beginning? But he had already told her that he wanted to start over with their relationship. He couldn’t figure out what more he had to do to straighten out his feelings.
“When are you going to tell me?”
Eugene, who was caught off guard by his words, failed to keep her face straight.
And when Kasser saw her pupils dilate at his words, he felt like he finally got a clue to his ambiguous feelings. Although he didn’t know what it was yet, he sensed that Eugene was hiding something important from him.
Kasser was afraid that her secrets would later become a wall that would come in between them. It made him realize that what he felt wasn’t loneliness, but fear.
“Tell you… what?”
“Whatever it is.”
Eugene was the one who first turned her eyes away from him. Kasser, looking into her shivering eyelashes as she closed her eyes, felt his lower stomach pulling and twinging inside him.
He felt like he was losing his mind, as he suddenly felt an irresistible impulse to shove his upset other self into her flesh, enough to bring tears to those eyelashes of hers. He felt like he had become a lunatic, left only with his instincts.
There was no way to make someone talk when they did not want to. And pressuring them to speak would only make them lie. And the same goes for people’s feelings. But if it was only her body, he felt like he could have her wholly to himself. Her eyes opened up right before Kasser became ferocious with his surging emotions inside him.
Eugene then drew in a deep breath as she felt the lump in her throat. From Sang-je’s letter which she had burned up, the purpose of this marriage, of her true identity, there were just so many things which she had kept from him.
Eugene shuddered as she realized that Kasser was only feigning ignorance about her secrets. It made her feel like she was being thrown out to the square with only bare flesh.
“Just… give me some time.”
Kasser’s nerves had calmed down at her words as she did not give him the worst answer he had expected by playing innocent.
These rapid changes in emotions had made him realize again that it was already too late for him to change the way he feels for her now.
Eugene held out her arms at him and wrapped them around his neck as he leaned his upper body to hers. And as Kasser lifted his body, so did hers.
She was now sitting on Kasser’s lap, as he sat upon the bed. They both then clasped each other to their chests.
“I promise… I will tell you everything once I am ready to.”
Eugene then relaxed her arms around his neck and leaned back from him. She felt sorry but was also thankful to the man who had just nodded ingeniously at her when she asked him to wait for her indefinitely. She felt like she had become a bad woman, taking advantage of his innocence.
She pecked him on his lips as he answered. And as she knew that he had a soft spot for her when she smiles while looking into his eyes, Eugene then gave Kasser a sweet and genuine smile from the bottom of her heart as she stared into his eyes. Her beauty had never been more so at this moment, but a part of her felt like she was being somewhat crafty.
“I will really concentrate this time.”
“You don’t have to push yourself if you don’t feel like it.” Although his way of speaking was still stiff, she could see that his eyes and face had already softened. It was not very hard for her to read his feelings from his face now and that got her a little worried, as he was a king, but on the other hand, she had this overwhelming urge to kiss him.
“I am not pushing myself. Besides, I am not a person who would be forced to do it. Instead, I would have kicked you long ago.”
Kasser chuckled at her words, now with a mischievous glint in his eyes.
“If we start over now, you might have to give up sleeping tonight. Are you sure you still want to do it?”
Eugene gave a small nod, but as soon as she realized that she had made a mistake, she quickly shook her head at him as she knew from experience that he was not bluffing.
“You can’t take your words back now.”
Kasser whispered in a low voice, quickly overlapping his lips on hers in a flash. Eugene had a bad feeling that this would be a long night for her as she closed her eyes, feeling her breath taken away.
In the early afternoon, the coaches of the ladies who had received their invitations from the queen arrived at the palace. The six ladies who were invited were the respective spouses of Chancellor Verus, General Lester, and the Heads of each Ministry.
As the ladies seemed to have hastened their departures for early arrival, they all arrived at the palace almost at the same time. They exchanged warm greetings with each other as they got off from their carriages.
Although the ladies were from respective noble families, and their husbands as high-ranking officials of the kingdom, they did not have a choice but to stay in the capital instead of the Holy City during the active period. And as they were all in similar positions, they often held gatherings together, becoming acquainted with one another.
Lady Darlin, General Lester’s wife, went up to the lady who was just getting off her carriage as the last to arrive. Lady Darlin greeted her with a friendly smile.
“Count Oscar. Or perhaps Lady Ricksen? How should I call you today?”
Charlotte, who was Chancellor Verus’s wife, had a Count title she inherited from her father.
“Lady Ricksen, I guess. As I believe everyone came here today because of their husbands.”
Charlotte answered with a smile.
The ladies then nodded along with their significant smiles. When they first received their invitations from the queen, they couldn’t figure out what the gathering could be about, as today was their first gathering in the palace with just the six of them.
This was not the first time that the queen had hosted a gathering. She usually held them once or twice during almost every dry season to keep up to date with people. But everyone invited today was the ladies of social prominence who come and go to the Holy City occasionally, and the queen had never gathered the officials’ wives in private before.
“Has the Chancellor mentioned anything about our gathering today?”
Charlotte shook her head.
“Nothing in particular. So, I’m sure this is just one of the usual gatherings.”
Charlotte then recalled the conversation she had with her husband in the morning.
“I will be going to the palace this afternoon. Do you still remember what I told you about the queen’s invitation?”
“Yes, I remember. Have a safe trip to the palace.”
“Is that all? Don’t you have any advice for me?”
“I am just curious to know what kind of conversations you will have with the queen today. So please tell me about everything once you come back.”
Charlotte then thought to herself that her meticulous husband would have warned her if there was anything she needed to be aware of beforehand.
Due to her prominence in high society, Charlotte had attended a few of the parties hosted by the queen, unlike the other five ladies.
She only went as she was invited by the queen, but they were often dull. Whenever she would attend, she would just remain in her seat and hold her breath throughout the party without socializing. Because of this, she no longer received the invitation since last year.
Charlotte was from one of the wealthiest noble families in the kingdom. As she was the only child in her family, she was expected to inherit everything which belonged to her family in the future. Her mother was also from a noble family in the Holy City. So, although she had never paid a visit to the Holy City since she got married, she still had her influence in high society.
As her mother lives in the Holy City, she had heard about what kind of person Jin Anika was. That, along with a few rumors, Charlotte had regarded Jin as someone she did not want to associate with.
So, she never actually had any private interests in the queen. But recently, the queen has started to show her presence to the public. Not to mention the Lark tree incident, with the queen, who never really carried out external activities before, even visiting the Holy City.
Charlotte, who was now curious about the queen, had replied to the queen’s invitation letter to confirm her attendance as soon as she received it.
The ladies fell quiet as they saw someone coming towards them. Marianne lowered her head at the ladies, and so did they.
“I have never expected to see Your Ladyship again in the palace.”
The ladies felt the awkwardness in the air as soon as Charlotte greeted Marianne in her somewhat cynical tone.
It was widely known how the queen had regarded Marianne, who had led a secluded life for the last three years since her voluntary resignation, as an eyesore.
But as Marianne was now back in the palace, all sorts of wild speculations had spread once again. It was expected to be one of the hottest topics during this dry season the moment the nobles came back from the Holy City. But this title was given to the Lark tree incident.
Marianne replied with a warm smile on her face.
“I am much obliged to Her Majesty for having someone like me back in the palace. Please, come in. Her Majesty is waiting for you all.”
A faint smile crossed Charlotte’s face as she made her way to the palace. Marianne was not a person one could read just by a couple of conversations. The rest of the ladies then followed Charlotte, who was in the lead. As Charlotte stepped into the palace, the arrangement of furniture, the color of the curtains, and how they were tied, caught her eyes right away.
‘Is it because I haven’t visited for a while?… It looks very different from before. Could it be because of Marianne?’
Since Marianne was in charge of everything that went around in the palace for a very long period, almost every royal banquet held in the palace reflected her tastes in numerous ways. Charlotte sensed the difference right away as she had attended a few of the palace banquets from before.
Marianne eventually stopped at the Great Hall entrance and knocked on the door. After a moment, a servant came out to open the door for them.
“Her Majesty wishes for her guests to come in.”
Marianne spoke as she turned to face the ladies standing behind her.
“Please come inside.”
The ladies exchanged glances, as it was common for guests to wait for their host if the host held a higher status than them. They awkwardly stepped into the hall, as none of them had imagined that the queen would be waiting for them to come in. Eugene was sitting at the round table, big enough for seven people, and watched her guests as they came into the hall.
Eugene quickly glanced at their faces, while the ladies turned their eyes away in a hurry whenever they would meer Eugene’s. As she had already seen their portraits before, she was able to tell their faces right away.
While she did not have any memories of them, she felt a vague recollection of Jin’s memory when she saw one of their faces:
“It’s an honor to meet you, Your Majesty.”
“You must be Chancellor Verus’s wife. A Count as well, as I heard. You look a lot like your mother.”
“I have heard about Her Majesty from my mother.”
“Your mother once told me how she missed her daughter who never came to visit her in the Holy City since her marriage. It would have been great if we had the chance to meet with each other the time you visited the Holy City.”