The day of departure for Holy City was decided to be on the following day after having three days to make all the arrangements, counting from the very day Sang-je’s urgent message arrived at the castle. As the castle was to be left vacant in absence of both the king and the queen, the departure couldn’t be forwarded any sooner than that.
As time was tight with all the preparations to be made within, there was quite a commotion with people bustling in and out of the castle. Servants were hectic as they nimbly packed away for the long journey ahead while higher officials were too busy sorting out pressing state affairs which required urgent clearance from above. Both the king and the queen were very much occupied as well, as there were plenty of adjustments to be made to their official schedules as every state affairs would be suspended until their return to the castle.
Eugene handed the document back to her aide after she was done with the review.
“Proceed as planned while I am away.”
“Yes, Your Majesty.”
Sandy replied to Eugene. One of her three aides was to stay in the castle while she traveled with the other two and it was Sandy who had accompanied her in the last journey to the Holy City that volunteered to remain as she hesitated to be away from home for personal reasons.
“The indefinite postponement of the scheduled audiences is what gives me trouble the most. See that you prioritize the ones on the top of the list when they are rescheduled upon my return.
“I will see to that, Your Majesty.”
There wasn’t so much in Eugene’s hand that required her immediate attention as she was yet to officially administer the matters of state. So, she had managed to come to the end of her duties by noon, a day before their departure.
But as for the king, things were quite different as he had been working day and night for the last two days hardly getting a rest. It’s been days since Eugene had last seen his face as he had not been returning to their bedchamber even at nights. And to hear that he barely has the time for a proper meal, Eugene resented Sang-je for his abrupt summon as much as she felt sorry for Kasser.
‘How outrageous of him to summon a king on such a short notice when even a humble traveler needs time for arrangements to be made before setting out on a journey.’
However, her thoughts, there was something she was clearly mistaken about. It was only her alone who Sang-je had actually summoned in the first place. Eugene had no idea that it was Kasser who was straining himself like a horse without reins.
When Eugene was about to drop by her study as she still had plenty of time to spare before the departure, a servant came to her with a message.
“Your Majesty, a message from Count Oscar has just been brought by her servant.”
Eugene unfolded Charlotte’s message as she was handed over. It contained Charlotte’s request for an audience with her concerning their journey to Holy City.
Two days before today, Eugene had sent out six invitations and aside from one lady whose child was suffering from high fever, the other five had all agreed to leave with her for Holy City.
As there were tedious procedures in arranging the audiences in the palace, they have been exchanging messages with each other through the servants of their own instead. So, Eugene has never met with any of the ladies ever since their last meeting.
Although it was against common decency to request for a sudden meeting especially when the person holds higher status than the requestor, it seemed to be more than understandable in current circumstances.
“Send back my word by her bearer that her request is granted.”
“Yes, Your Majesty.”
After a while, Eugene called out to her servant to give her commands.
“Escort Count Oscar to the terrace upon her arrival.”
“Yes, Your Majesty.”
Eugene swiftly rose to her feet and left her office as she was fancying a cup of tea. And the terrace seemed like a better place to have a conversation with Charlotte rather than her office, as it would be easier to grasp her character under a relaxed atmosphere.
She never had the chance to find out about the count during her last meeting with the ladies. But when she had asked Kasser if he knew anything about the Chancellor’s wife on an off chance, she was told something very interesting about Charlotte from Kasser.
[I’ve heard that their families were on visiting terms for a long time, so they had known each other since a young age.]
[So, they had been engaged in their families since young?]
[I don’t think they were. As it seemed like their sudden marriage announcement had come as a surprise to both of their families.]
A romantic cliche about the two people who were once as close as a sister and brother, to realizing their feelings for each other had come right up to Eugene’s mind when she first heard their story from Kasser. She wondered if it was the younger one who took up the courage to confess or was it the elder who seized the opportunity. As the both of them seemed like the typical examples of highborn, it was unimaginable to think their marriage was actually for love and it made Eugene snicker, giving full play to her own imagination.
The terrace which stretches out to the inner court of the castle was her next favorite place to the linking bridge. As the bridge was not covered, it was hard to pass along it during the dry season because of the sun’s heat. Although it was not as comparable to the grand landscape on the bridge, the terrace was cool and much to its openness, she took a liking to the atmosphere the place gave off.
She was waiting for Charlotte’s arrival while sipping her tea which was brought to her by her servant when she turned around as a presence was felt around her. But to her surprise, it was Kasser who was coming to where she was seated instead of Charlotte. Kasser strode up close before her while she was still struck dumb by the king’s sudden appearance.