“I believe this is your first time meeting with Anika Margaret, who has only recently joined the gathering after having a lucid dream.”
“Nice to meet you, Anika Margaret.” Eugene greeted her warmly.
“It’s a pleasure to meet you too.” Margaret returned the greeting in hushed tones. And after staring at Eugene’s face for a while, she muttered sheepishly.
“You look really beautiful today, Anika Jin.”
Eugene let out a pleasant laugh at her compliment. In fact, after having met Anikas with a perverse disposition up until today, she couldn’t help but like this young, naive Anika. Not only that, but her hatred for Anikas seemed to be fading, as she reasoned that the others must have been as young and naive as Margaret in the past.
“Thank you. You look stunning today as well.”
Anikas exchanged puzzled looks as there was something different about Anika Jin from before, though no one could put their finger on it.
“Anika Jin, I’ve heard there will be a banquet to welcome your visit to the Holy City… And that the Arse Manor will serve as the venue… ”
Casey paused sheepishly before continuing. It was, in fact, an expression of her open interest in the banquet.
With a nod, Eugene replied. “The precise date is still up in the air, but the invitations will be delivered to this outbuilding. Everyone here is welcome to come.”
Since not every Anika was able to attend the nobles’ social gathering, the Anikas’ faces instantly brightened.
Because of the differences in their upbringing, those who were born into ordinary families had fewer opportunities to interact with the noble born. Many Anikas did indeed feel relatively deprived, given the stark contrast between reality and the ideal life they perceive and experience as Anikas.
The moment Eugene announced that every Anika was invited, the hall burst into life as her words quickly swept the room. The Anikas who spoke with Eugene were also beaming.
However, not everyone in the room was in favor of the Anikas’ acclamation. In fact, the strong sense of self-worth that Anikas are known for made them sensitive to comparison or the presence of someone in a superior position among them. Even Flora, who is renowned for her powerful Ramita, wasn’t favored by everyone.
“However, Anika Jin, I’m curious if you’re aware that before you even arrived, there’s a rumor about you circulating in the Holy City.” It was Denise, who threw the wet blanket into the lively atmosphere.
Flora raised the corners of her lips as she brought the teacup to her lips. Someone has brought up the subject without her having to intervene, just as she anticipated.
“There are far too many rumors about me in Holy City. ” Eugene responded noncommittally as she put down her tea.
“Will you address the rumors that have been made about you?”
Eugene smirked before casting a silent glance Denise’s way. Denise caught Eugene’s eye, her eyes showing a clear waiver. A cold sweat started to form on her back as she recognized her error in assuming from Jin’s subdued expression that her inflated pride had crumbled after she married the king.
“I can’t help but feel like I’m being questioned. Whom do I owe the explanation to and why?”
Denise felt a lot of pressure when she heard others joining Eugene in their comments.
“… I sincerely apologize if my inquiry offended you. Even so, I have to inquire about the veracity of the lark tree rumor… because, like you, I am also an Anika.”
Silence has descended upon the hallway without anyone noticing. In fact, everyone in the room, including the older Anikas who were conversing with one another while standing or sitting in various locations throughout the hall, had stopped speaking and was paying attention to what Denise had just said. There is no denying the fact that Anikas are most curious to learn how much Ramita their fellows have. Moreover, it seemed that no one in the room clearly knew the strength of Jin’s Ramita.
Eugene could sense the questioning looks directed her way, pleading with her to respond. Being questioned by everyone was an unfamiliar experience for her because nobody she had spoken to while accompanying her mother to various gatherings had ever asked her about the rumors.
‘Was it because they were sophisticated women? No, considering how rumors frequently pique people’s curiosity.’
However, when Eugene realized the obvious difference between this gathering and the others she had attended, she couldn’t help but sigh internally. Without her mother as a shield, she was truly on her own today.
Eugene lifted the teacup, her expression unwavering since she wasn’t the least bit agitated. She was, on the other hand, grinning triumphantly inside.
She had been informed that the widespread rumor regarding her having the lowest level of Ramita is widely believed to be true. Indeed, sje inquired perplexedly to Arthur, who had informed her of such information.
[Isn’t the level of Ramita supposed to be kept a secret?]
[It is a secret, an open secret, in fact.]
[Do you mean there’s someone leaking the information?]
[To my surprise, it is Anikas who is to blame. They appear to be able to learn about each other’s levels during their gathering although I have no idea of how they do it.]
Eugene heard that from Arthur and it immediately brought her back to the previous time Sang-je had given her the transparent seed. Sang-je was undoubtedly a jerk if he had been using the seed to measure and grade the Anikas based on their Ramita levels. If that is the case, it would imply that despite his claim that he cares about all Anikas equally, he had actually been managing them according to their levels.
Eugene was actually relieved that someone had brought up the rumor about the lark tree because she had planned to learn more about the seed at today’s gathering.
“I’ve already received a reprimand from His Holiness regarding that issue. I acknowledge that it was careless of me to give people fodder for rumors about Ramita, the holy power. But I don’t regret doing it. You all have no idea what it’s like to live during an active season when larks emerge from hiding because you never leave the Holy City. I couldn’t just sit there and watch the monster attack people right in front of my eyes.”
“So… the rumor was true after all. Does this mean you truly transformed the lark into a tree?”
Someone inquired after she summarized Eugene’s explanation.
Eugene then nodded in response to her question.
At once, the entire hall erupted in high-pitched exclamations.
“How does a lark feel when it is touched?”
“How did it change into a tree?”
“Is it true that larks in real life resemble beasts?”
Soon, Eugene was bombarded with inquiries. The majority of Anikas have never seen a lark and have never needed to use their Ramita because they have spent their entire lives in the Holy City. Therefore, their fervent reaction to such an extraordinary experience wasn’t unexpected.
People immediately turned to Flora after a calm, but firm voice broke through their frenzied conversations.
“He has stated that Ramita should be used with extreme caution because it may result in a decrease in the water level.”
Flora was disgusted as she watched Jin lie with a straight face. How could she be so shameless as to claim she had actually turned a lark into a tree?
“However, I suppose you do have a strong Ramita if you were able to transform a lark into a tree. I was unaware of it because you never once brought it up.” There was venom in Flora’s voice.