“Okay,” Eugene reassured him as she embraced his arm. If that’s all he wanted, then there was no reason not to comply. Though it was a cherished place, it wasn’t as if they could never return, and it was only for a few months.
“In return, we’ll share some tea, alright?” Kasser suggested, though he appeared somewhat uneasy, as if he had coerced her into it. She willingly agreed, and he found it endearing and beautiful. He gently slid a ring onto Eugene’s finger and planted a kiss on the back of her hand.
“If you’d like, anytime,” Eugene smiled.
Eugene linked her arm with his as they strolled together, a smile playing on her lips. It always astonished her how a man buried in the responsibilities of running a kingdom would occasionally utter lines of a typical playboy. She concluded that it was something she couldn’t explain, a facet of his character that was just part of who he was.
In the afternoon, Charlotte made an unexpected visit, arriving without prior notice. Eugene had been planning to summon Charlotte soon to express her gratitude for her assistance, so she warmly welcomed her.
It was evident that Charlotte had genuinely cared for Lima, as the latter had chosen to return to her previous dwelling, declining the accommodations Charlotte had arranged.
However, Charlotte brought unsettling news. She reported that Lima had suddenly begun experiencing contractions.
“But isn’t it still some time before the due date?” Eugene inquired.
“Yes, Your Highness,” Charlotte nodded. “She hasn’t even completed eight months yet.”
“Oh, my,” Eugene murmured.
It appeared that Lima had gone into premature labor due to the emotional turmoil caused by her encounter with Aldrit.
It’s my fault. I should have orchestrated a less startling meeting for them, rather than a sudden encounter like that, Eugene chastised herself.
Eugene hadn’t anticipated that Lima and Aldrit were distant relatives. She had thought that a meeting within the same clan would have brought solace to Lima’s heart and contributed to a healthier delivery.
Eugene couldn’t help but shoulder the blame for Lima’s early labor. Worries crept in about whether the medical facilities here were adequate and whether the prematurely born child would have a chance at survival.
“Please ensure a safe delivery. Summon the most skilled midwives and enlist royal courtiers if needed. Spare no expense on medications,” Eugene directed.
“Yes, Your Highness. I will exert every effort to allay your concerns,” Charlotte assured her.
“Thank you. And please keep me updated regularly on her condition,” Eugene requested.
“Yes, Your Highness. However, the roads are quite congested, so there may be a delay in receiving reports,” Charlotte replied.
“Congested roads? What’s going on?” Eugene frowned, puzzled. She hadn’t been informed of any such situation and briefly wondered if she was being shielded from unpleasant news due to her pregnancy.
“There’s a significant festival taking place right now,” Charlotte explained. “It’s the first time I’ve witnessed such a grand celebration in the capital. It appears that everyone has poured out onto the streets, Your Highness.”
Eugene furrowed her brow. “A festival as the dry season draws to a close? Shouldn’t everyone be gearing up for the active season and making preparations? And who is leading this festival?”
Charlotte appeared momentarily flustered and cautiously scanned their surroundings before responding.
“Your Highness… you granted a comprehensive amnesty and opened the treasury to distribute stored food and wealth to the impoverished citizens. The news of Your Highness’ impending heir has filled everyone with joy.”
This time, it was Eugene’s turn to be taken aback.
“Oh, I see. I wasn’t aware it had evolved into a festival.”
After Charlotte took her leave, Eugene sighed and fanned her face with her hand, her expression tinged with exasperation.
This man, really… spreading the news all over the place.
As time passed, Eugene’s attention became increasingly fixated on the commotion from the festival outside. Two hours had elapsed since Charlotte’s departure, and no further updates had arrived. Although Eugene was well aware that two hours were far from enough time for a childbirth, particularly one that was premature, she couldn’t suppress her growing anxiety.
“What’s happening?” she wondered aloud.
Eugene had been irritated by a persistent humming sound in the background for some time. It was noticeably loud, even for her heightened sensitivity. So, she summoned a servant.
“Can you hear that noise too?” she inquired.
“Yes, Your Highness,” the maid replied with a bow.
“It feels like it’s giving me a headache. Please, go and ask them to keep it down.”
“Yes, Your Highness.”
The servant hesitated, casting a glance at Eugene before withdrawing. Lost in her thoughts and not paying attention to the servant, Eugene failed to notice that despite the passing time, the noise not only failed to subside but seemed to be growing louder. Annoyed, she was about to call for the servant once more when she abruptly stood up.
Where is that noise coming from?
She furrowed her brow as she stepped into the corridor. Strangely, the anteroom, which had been sealed off, was quieter. The strange noise sounded even louder in the corridor, prompting Eugene to follow it down the hallway. Before long, Marianne appeared from around the corner.
“Forgive me, Your Highness.”
“Marianne, what’s happening? It sounds like shouting, doesn’t it?” Eugene inquired.
“Yes, indeed,” Marianne confirmed.
“Who could be shouting like that within the palace?”
“It’s not inside the palace… it’s beyond the palace walls.”
“Beyond the palace walls? And the noise from outside is reaching all the way here? And it’s not just one or two people?”