Katie stood up as soon as the tea spilled on the table. She got a rag and quickly wiped it away.
“Thank you for the invitation, but I don’t know if I’ll be available on that day,” she said, avoiding Eugene’s eyes. “If that’s all, please leave.”
“Please listen to me Anika Katie.”
“I have nothing more to say to you,” the older woman insisted. She made a point of wiping the tea as vigorously as she could.
Eugene sighed. “I saw the commotion outside before I came into your shop.”
At that, Katie’s hand stopped.
“He’s your husband, isn’t he?” Eugene continued when she knew she had the woman’s attention. “Your son doesn’t look anything like him.”
Katie waved a hand dismissively. “A child doesn’t necessarily have to look like their father.”
“Right.” Eugene nodded. “But then why does he look like Kasser?”
She knew it the moment she laid her eyes on him. With those brown eyes and that hair, even his naive expression couldn’t hide the fact that he looked so much like her husband.
It made sense that, despite all the scandal connected to Anika Katie, people wouldn’t have guessed that the boy and Kasser were brothers. Being a king, people didn’t see his face and barely anyone knew what he looked like.
“They look alike because they’re both my sons,” Anika Katie told her. “Now, stop with all your nonsense and leave, Anika Jin. Do I need to drag you out?”
Eugene shook her head. “I don’t have any bad intentions,” she explained. “I know that Anikas can bear multiple children from kings. I met the Do King of Slan on my way to the Holy City. He had lost Anika Tea and blamed himself for it. She was pregnant with his second child.”
The older woman was still. “Who told you that?”
“Like I said, it was the Do King that told me.”
“He was certain that it was his child.”
Anika Katie collapsed onto the floor, as if she had lost all her strength. She looked bewildered.
“I had heard the news of Tea having her child four years after she left for Slan,” she said. “I had already borne a king’s child, so I was recovering. When I heard that Tea had given birth, I was hopeful that I would see her in the Holy City soon. Most Anikas go back four or five years after they have a child. I was looking forward to it, but I only got to see her twice.”
She remembered the day she met Tea in the Holy City after all that time apart. Unlike her, Tea seemed happy with the life she had. When Katie asked if they could come live together when they returned to the Holy City, Tea was apologetic.
“I don’t intend on coming back to the Holy City,” she had said. “Slan has become my home. My husband and child are there. But don’t worry, I’ll still come visit you.”
Katie was still in shock when she returned to the Hashi Kingdom. Husband and child? She was surprised that Tea viewed them as such. Although it didn’t change Katie’s mind about returning, it did give her a new perspective.
However, that all changed when she met with Tea again in the Holy City. This time, she was frightened.
“I’m pregnant, Katie,” she said. “I don’t know what could have happened. I haven’t even so much as spoken to a man that wasn’t my husband. But no one believes. Could I have somehow betrayed my husband and completely forgotten about it?”
She looked scared and confused. Katie promised she believed her, but she didn’t know if she did. It was a well-known fact that Anika could only bear a king one child. There were no exceptions.
Later that year, she learned about Tea’s tragic passing. It had happened after her visit, when she had returned to Slan.
Katie was silent for a moment before she looked up and told Eugene all about it.
“The second time we met, Tea told me about her pregnancy,” she said. “After that, she returned and died. Tea was a very timid person. To take her own life… it never seemed like something she was capable of doing. I always believed that someone must have pushed her in that direction, or maybe even murdered her and disguised it as suicide.”
Eugene nodded. “Do you think the Do King had something to do with it?”
The older woman did not respond.
“Anika Katie, I don’t believe that he could do such a thing,” she said. “He hasn’t forgotten Anika Tea. He truly loved his wife.”
Katie remained quiet. Eugene found it strange considering this woman had supposedly been living a long time with resentment towards the king. Unless—
“Do you suspect someone else?”
Katie flinched at that.
“If Anika Tea told the truth, then it’s the world’s fault for making a lie the truth,” Eugene said. She watched the older woman’s reactions carefully, then finally she said, “Sang-je.”
Katie looked at her in surprise. She glanced at the closed door as if she was afraid that someone had heard them.
“Anika Katie, I don’t think Sang-je has the purest intentions for the Anikas. He’s just using us.”
“You probably suspected the same thing,” Eugene continued, “That’s why you didn’t tell Sang-je.”
Katie looked at her in awe, as if she was amazed by all of this. “You aren’t afraid.” She gaped.
Eugene looked down and smiled abashedly like she had just been given a great compliment.
The older woman sighed. “In the beginning, I truly suspected the Do King,” she explained. “But when I ended up in the same situation as Anika Tea, I realized that something was wrong. I was afraid. I couldn’t tell anyone out of fear that they would threaten me. I couldn’t trust anyone, so I had to run away from the Holy City. Just so I could live. His Holiness…” she trailed off with a frown.