Chapter 372.1

Katie observed the Anika girls engaged in various conversations, paired up in twos. Despite the distance, she couldn’t discern the details, yet the general tone hinted at a spectrum of emotions—complaints, laughter, and casual chatter. It was apparent that the gravity of the current situation had eluded most of them.

In stark contrast, Katie had immersed herself in the complexities of life beyond the palace walls, exposed to a different reality. News of the city’s lockdown and rumors of merchants facing adversity had reached her ears, adding a layer of seriousness to her understanding. Just when the weight of these concerns pressed upon her, a messenger arrived, casting doubt on Sang-je’s ostensibly benign intentions.

Yet, Katie found herself isolated in her apprehensions. The other Anikas perceived the palace as an impregnable sanctuary, indifferent to the potential repercussions beyond its confines.

Reflecting on the loss of her friends, Katie couldn’t shake the ominous feeling that Sang-je’s interference might have led to more unnoticed, unjust deaths. A shiver ran down her spine at the thought.

Sighing, she shifted her gaze and noticed a lone Anika in tears. Upon entering the palace, Katie had witnessed the same Anika being restrained by a priest, her anguish palpable. Overhearing whispers nearby, she learned of a family illness that kept the distraught Anika from complying. Initially surrounded by a few sympathetic peers, the weeping girl now stood abandoned, the others seemingly oblivious to her persistent cries.

Speculating on the reluctance of others to console the inconsolable, Katie grimaced. Witnessing the lack of genuine support reminded her of her own past shortcomings, and a pang of shame washed over her.

Witnessing Ann’s tears stirred a deep sense of pity within Katie. She could empathize with the profound worry that accompanied concern for ailing family members. Imagining herself in Ann’s shoes, with a sick child in tow, Katie knew that her own heart would have shattered. Moved by a surge of compassion, she rose quietly and approached the weeping Anika.

“Calm down, Anika Ann. If you continue crying like this, you’ll only exhaust yourself,” Katie offered gently, extending a supportive hand. Ann, puzzled by this unexpected gesture from someone with whom she had never even exchanged formal greetings, looked up.

“If your family is unwell, the worry must be overwhelming,” Katie spoke with genuine concern, her eyes conveying sincerity. Ann, in turn, tightly grasped Katie’s offered hand.

“My mother… she’s in a very critical condition. Unconscious, and they say if she doesn’t wake up within a few days, it might be the end,” Ann confided, her voice tinged with sorrow.

“Have you informed the priests about it?” Katie inquired, her concern deepening.

“I’m compelled to stay in the palace by His Holiness’s order, and I can’t leave. I requested a knight, but no one…” Ann’s voice wavered as she spoke, choking on her words. The concern for her mother intertwined with the harsh reality of neglect she faced for the first time in her life, fueling a sense of self-loathing.

The disparity between Sang-je’s claim of equality among Anikas and the undeniable reality hung in the air. Ann couldn’t shake the feeling that if she had been born into a wealthy and powerful family, her plea for help wouldn’t have fallen on deaf ears. Despite the facade of equality, everyone within the palace walls knew the truth—they just chose not to acknowledge it.

Katie empathized with the profound shock that Ann was grappling with, drawing parallels to her own troubled youth marked by a persistent sense of inferiority.

“Let me see what I can do,” Katie asserted suddenly, a newfound determination welling up within her. She felt an urge to break free from the shackles of external manipulation that had governed her life thus far. For the first time, instead of running away, she resolved to take charge and find a solution.

“I’ll make an effort to find a solution,” she declared.

“How?” Ann inquired, her eyes reflecting a mixture of hope and skepticism.

At that moment, a priest entered the room, catching Katie’s attention. It was the same priest who had reprimanded Anika earlier about the towel. Witnessing Anika receiving the towel from the priest with a semblance of satisfaction, Katie decided to seize the opportunity.

Turning on her heels, Katie followed the departing priest and addressed him, “Reverend.”

“Yes, Anika,” the priest responded, though his smile lacked warmth. Katie, momentarily unsure how to proceed, recognized that her situation was not much better than Ann’s. If she were to request help for Ann’s mother, the priest might offer a perfunctory response without genuine concern. Then, a clever idea dawned on her.

“Could you please convey a message to the Arse family for me?” Katie proposed.

“The Arse family?” The priest’s eyes widened momentarily, and confusion clouded his expression. It was as if he questioned, ‘How do you know about the Arse family?’ 

Katie adopted a poised and somewhat imperious demeanor as she addressed the priest.

“I am the mother of His Majesty, the Fourth King.”


“Are you aware that an Anika from the Arse family is married to His Majesty, the Fourth King? Therefore, the Arse family is connected to me through my son. I wish to inquire about the well-being of the mother of Anika Ann, who is currently unwell. I seek assistance from the Arse family.”

The priest’s expression shifted subtly. Despite the decades that had passed since the scandal involving Katie, it remained so widely known that ignorance of it was virtually impossible. The divorce decree by the previous king had severed ties between the Hashi Kingdom and Katie, making her attempt to claim a connection through her son quite audacious.

After a momentary hesitation, Katie continued, “You once advised me to speak up if I encountered difficulties. Since my sudden arrival at the palace, there may be occasions when I need to seek assistance from the Arse family. Could I rely on you as a contact?”

“If you are facing difficulties, I shall certainly assist you,” the priest responded.

While the priest may have taken a circuitous route, he saw the opportunity to establish a connection with the influential Arse family as a worthwhile endeavor.



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