It was the first time the entire family had gathered at the Arse mansion. Enoch and his wife and son were there and so was Arthur. Eugene had met Enoch’s wife, Rene, at the mansion before, but it was the first time she was meeting her nephew.
While dinner was being prepared, Eugene decided it was time for her to meet her nephew, Leos.
He was born four months ago. In their world, they believed that a child who survived the active season would grow up without any problems. That was why Leos and his family hadn’t gone out in the last four months and they tried not to see anyone other than family.
Eugene was sitting beside the child’s crib and she couldn’t stop herself from going giddy at the sight. She had never seen such a pretty child before. He was like a doll. He would squirm while lying down but still manage to smile whenever his eyes met Eugene’s.
“His smile is beautiful,” she said. “He seems so timid, though, doesn’t he?”
Rene nodded, grinning as well. “Yes, he is,” she agreed. “Would you like to hold him?”
“Of course.” And, with that, Rene picked her son up and handed him over to Eugene.
“Your arms must be really strong now,” she told her sister-in-law. “He’s a lot heavier than I thought.”
“Yes, he is,” Rene said. “I suppose he’s eating well.”
As Eugene found a comfortable position to hold Leos in, she realized that the baby was giggling in her arms. She wouldn’t have known it, but Rene felt strange watching her. It made her feel uneasy handing her son over to her sister-in-law. She wished she hadn’t offered in the first place.
Rene had married Enoch not long after she came of age. They had met through a mutual acquaintance and there was no passion or love between them, but she couldn’t complain because her husband was kinder than what most wives had to deal with. His parents were also good people who treated her well.
But there was one thing that had always bothered her.
Rene had heard that her sister-in-law favored Enoch. Originally, she thought that they were just like normal siblings who cared about each other. Besides, her sister-in-law was a gorgeous Anika, so she assumed she was a good person.
However, as time went on, Rene began to feel uncomfortable every time she had to face Jin. She found that the woman would spit her words at her and try to make her as uncomfortable as possible by showing her hostility through her eyes. It hurt Rene even more when she heard that the Anika would constantly go behind her back and bad-mouth her.
If she had the guts to do it, she would have raised her concerns about Jin, but she couldn’t really complain when she didn’t have any solid evidence about the woman’s hostility.
She would try to subtly tell her mother-in-law about how she thought the Anika was treating her, but all the older woman would say was that Jin wasn’t obligated to be overly-kind to her. They weren’t friends, Rene just had to deal with her feelings like an adult.
If she told her husband about it, she knew that he would have held it against his sister. And, as much as she wanted to ease the tension, she didn’t want to cause problems in the household.
This was why she wasn’t too happy when she heard that Jin—after leaving to go and get married—was coming back after three years away. She would make all kinds of excuses to avoid visiting the Arse mansion when she knew Jin was there, but when Dana said she wanted everyone over for a family dinner, she knew she had no choice.
Rene was incredibly nervous when Jin pulled her aside to speak in private. She expected the woman to say vile things to her, to hurt her as best as she could—but all she got was an apology.
Bowing sincerely, Jin spoke, “I know I mistreated you before,” she said. “I’m sorry. I don’t expect to be forgiven just because I apologized, but I promise it won’t happen again.”
Rene, being a naturally soft person, wasn’t one to hold grudges against people. She forgave Jin as soon as she heard the woman’s apology. Still, that didn’t erase the years of hurt she had experienced because of how she had been treated.
This was why, now that she watched Eugene hold her son with a flustered expression, she couldn’t help but feel the urge to take her child away.
“Leos’s face looks strange,” Eugene said, peering down at the child. “He looks like he’s about to cry.”
Rene looked at her son and nodded. “It looks like he’s hungry,” she said. “I’ll send for the wetnurse.”
The other woman smiled as Rene took her son into her arms. “Well, I suppose I’ll give him some privacy,” she told her. Still smiling, Eugene tapped her nephew’s cheek with a finger. “Enjoy your meal,” she said. “Don’t forget about your auntie.”
Eugene took her leave, meeting up with Kasser outside the nursery.
Watching her go, Rene looked down at her son, swaying him back and forth. “It seems like your auntie wants to become a mother too, doesn’t it?” She thought about how beautiful the Anika and Kasser’s child would be and couldn’t help the feeling of happiness that overcame her.
Outside, Eugene and Kasser made their way to the drawing room.
“He’s adorable!” Eugene squealed. “I finally know what it feels like to see someone so adorable that you wished you could bite them.”
Kasser nodded at his wife’s glee. He mostly agreed with her words, but, honestly, he didn’t understand what all the fuss was about. The only thing he found fascinating was the fact that Leos, someone so small and weak, would someday grow up and play his role in society.
Maybe it’s because Leos is her brother’s child? Kasser wondered. Maybe that’s why she’s so enthralled by him.
He didn’t have a sibling so he had no idea what that would feel like in its entirety. Perhaps there was something special about how a part of the blood that flowed through Leos’s veins was the same as the blood that flowed in Eugene. He would never know how she really felt.
But he did know how to respond to his wife’s excitement. “He is a beautiful child,” he agreed. “What kind of child do you think we’ll have?”
Eugene turned to meet his eyes and smiled. “Well, their father is such a handsome man,” she said. “So, the child will probably be very beautiful.”
Her husband was about to respond, but he stopped himself. He realized he didn’t want to talk about having an heir just yet. The idea of having a child was almost a taboo subject for the two of them, but she spoke about it like it was the most normal thing in the world. He stared at her, as if trying to gauge whether or not she actually wanted to talk about this.