“The Celestial Festival,” Kasser mumbled to himself. He scoffed. It was obvious that Sang-je was up to no good, so he had to make sure he kept a few tricks up his sleeve as well.
It didn’t seem like Sang-je had been paying much attention when Eugene mentioned her Ramita in the past. Kasser had always been optimistic that they would be able to return to their kingdom on schedule, but it turned out that he was wrong.
Though he never paid much attention to the religious festivals the Holy City hosted, he knew about the Celestial Festival. It was the only festival that Sang-je personally hosted.
Once, a noble from the Hashi Kingdom who had been able to witness the Celestial Festival claimed that he actually believed in God after seeing what had happened there. He had been the furthest thing from religious prior to that event.
“I’ve heard that, on the day of the Celestial Festival, they open the Holy City’s palace up to the public,” Kasser said. “Of course it isn’t entirely opened up, but people actually get to enter it.”
Eugene nodded. “It seems like a huge festival.”
Her husband looked at her grimly. It was clear that she did not understand what all this entailed. Her attendance at the festival was not a decision for her to make.
The Celestial Festival was the embodiment of Sang-je’s dignity. If he ordered a king to attend, the king would only be left with two choices: to go or to sacrifice all their people to Sang-je’s wrath. Kings tended to delay their departure to their kingdom in those cases.
Before Kasser could say another word, an attendant announced that dinner was ready. They had no choice but to put off their conversation until after the meal.
After everyone had trickled into the dining room, Patrick shared a few words about how special it was to have everyone gathered before the meal. He looked around at his children with a proud look on his face. He found it wonderful to see all three of his children grow up with two of them married, their partners right beside them. He had always thought the dining room was too big, but suddenly, it seemed full. He hadn’t even eaten yet, but he already felt satisfied.
Dana’s gaze, on the other hand, lingered on Eugene. She still couldn’t help but feel amazed knowing that the daughter she had lost had been found and was there to share that wonderful moment with all of them. Although Eugene was a woman grown now, she still looked like the child she had once been to her mother.
“Jin, how are you feeling?” she asked. “I heard that you’ve been experiencing a pretty bad heartburn these past few days.”
Everyone’s attention turned to Eugene. Though she was caught off-guard by the question—she wondered why Kasser hadn’t told her that this was the excuse he had given his family—she managed to answer without missing a beat.
“I’m fine now,” she reassured her mother.
Dana shook her head and sighed. “I was worried when I found out that they wouldn’t even let the messenger see you.”
“I didn’t want you to panic. I looked a lot worse than I actually was and I thought that, if someone saw me in that state, they would put too much effort in helping me when I didn’t need it.”
“Well, I heard you haven’t completely recovered,” her mother said. “I had them prepare a meal for you that will be light on your stomach. That’s why it took them longer to cook it.” She looked around and gestured for the server to bring Eugene’s meal. “The meal is plainer than what you’re used to, but I hope it will be fine.”
Eugene offered her a smile before glancing at Kasser. When did he tell mom?
She realized that he must have said she was experiencing heartburn to excuse her sudden absence. That meant that she wasn’t supposed to be able to eat any food that would upset her stomach, which was why they had to prepare a special meal just for her.
As she ate, Eugene tried to stop herself from smiling. Although he wasn’t much of a sweet talker, she always knew that he cared for her in small ways like this. It almost felt like it was his way of confessing his love.
He’s never actually said it though.
Neither of them ever mentioned “love” to one another, but she never doubted that what they felt was love.
When dinner was over, Dana called Eugene to a more secluded spot saying that she wanted to talk about something.
“What is it?” Eugene asked. “Is everything okay?”
“More than okay,” her mother assured her. She pulled a jewelry box out of a drawer and placed it on top of a coffee table. The box was as big as her hand. “This is where we keep family heirlooms and antiques. I’m not quite sure what it’s made of, but I do know that it’s a few hundred years old.”
Carefully, Eugene picked up the box and examined it closely. It was made of worn leather and the corners were frayed. It didn’t look so precious, but the way her mother handled it seemed to indicate that it was.
“You asked me to tell you everything I could remember about your kidnapping, right?” Dana said. “Well, I found this while I was looking for something yesterday. When she took you, the nanny stole this as well.”
“Is it valuable?”
Dana shrugged. “Probably to a collector,” she said. “The knight that found you brought this when he came. He said that it was right beside the nanny’s corpse, so he assumed that she had taken it as well.”
When the nanny was found, she was already dead. They had always thought this was strange but, after what she had learned from Alber, Eugene had started to come up with a reason why that had happened. She was beginning to think that the nanny had been sacrificed for magic.
“What’s inside?” she asked.
“What about when it was stolen? Did it have anything then?”
“I’m not sure,” Dana said. “But it probably didn’t have anything important. The only value this box has is in its age, and that doesn’t necessarily mean that we used it to store anything. When the knight brought it, I saw our family’s symbol, so I assumed that it had been taken from us. But it wasn’t like anything valuable had been missing.”
Eugene carefully lifted the box. It was light in her hands. “Can I take it with me?”
“Really? Isn’t it a family heirloom?”
Dana laughed. “No, it’s not. It wouldn’t even matter if I just got rid of it.”
“Thank you, Mom,” Eugene said.
“Don’t even mention it.” Her mother waved a hand dismissively. “Now, I actually ordered a few things for you. Why don’t you try them on and see if they fit?”
Eugene couldn’t help but sigh. “Fine.”
For the next hour she spent trying clothes on, she wished she could just leave.