Well, it appears the oil drum matter is finally sorted, so I can put it out of my mind for now. Eugene had been quite concerned about how Fire King Riner would handle the oil drum situation, but when she read his letter, a sense of relief washed over her. It was as though she had just unloaded a heavy burden.
Eager to express her gratitude, she questioned, “Why did you come here in person when you must be swamped with duties? You could have sent someone. Thank you.”
Kasser, whom Eugene had expected to rise promptly, seemed to hesitate for some unknown reason. Perplexed, she inquired, “Is there something else?”
“Would you care to join me for a leisurely walk? We could also enjoy a spot of tea,” Kasser proposed.
Eugene offered an apologetic smile and responded, “I’m not certain. I have prior commitments. I’ve arranged to meet with some merchants. It appears they wish to establish an alliance among businesses run by mistresses, and there doesn’t seem to be a clear leader, so I arranged this meeting.”
Kasser fixed his gaze intently on Eugene, then reclined on the sofa, resting his chin on his hand. “You declined my lunch invitation yesterday as well.”
It wasn’t the first time she had turned him down. Just the day before, Eugene had rejected Kasser’s lunch proposal, citing a prior engagement with noblewomen.
She chuckled and admitted, “Oh… you’re right. It seems our schedules just don’t align these days, do they?”
Despite her cheerful demeanor, Kasser couldn’t shake his unease. He had anticipated returning to the kingdom and having Eugene all to himself during his stay at the temple, but something had changed, making it increasingly difficult for them to spend time together.
The issue wasn’t solely his lengthy absence and accumulated work; those could be postponed or managed efficiently. The problem was that it always seemed to be Eugene who couldn’t make time when he tried to do so.
Whenever he dispatched a messenger to inquire about the Queen’s whereabouts, the response remained consistent: “Her Majesty is in an audience.” She seemed engrossed in meetings during the day, leaving her nights for sleep. For several days, all Kasser had seen was her peaceful, slumbering countenance. He couldn’t recall the last time they had locked eyes and shared a meaningful conversation. Kasser’s discontent had been quietly amassing within him.
“At this juncture, what truly matters is your peace of mind and sufficient rest. However, as of late, your days have been overly hectic,” Kasser voiced his discontent, veiling it behind a seemingly rational pretext.
Eugene defended herself, saying, “I’m not overexerting myself. I’m simply attending to necessary matters.”
“You meet anyone who asks to meet you, and there’s no end to it.”
“Of course, I don’t meet everyone. I only meet the people I need to meet.”
“I’m worried about you.”
Today, Eugene sensed an unusual firmness in his tone. She studied him closely, pondering if he was growing angry. When their eyes locked, his expression, though restrained, appeared stiffer than usual. His lack of responsiveness and uncharacteristic emotional reactions prompted Eugene to turn introspective.
I have indeed been quite occupied lately, she conceded to herself.
As of yesterday, Marianne had subtly voiced her concerns, causing Eugene to acknowledge her own missteps. Seeking understanding and support from those around her had become her top priority.
“Kasser, I understand your worries. But on that day when I stood on the castle balcony, something inside me changed. I felt a renewed determination to give my all in everything I do. In the days to come, I hope people will remember that I wholeheartedly served as their queen,” Eugene explained as she gently fanned her face.
She blushed slightly and added, “It’s a bit embarrassing to put it into words.”
Kasser sighed softly as he observed her flushed cheeks. How could he possibly find fault in someone aspiring to be an outstanding queen? As the king of their kingdom, he wholeheartedly embraced and supported his queen’s newfound resolve. However, as her husband, who simply yearned for her happiness, he couldn’t help but feel a pang of sorrow that his occasionally whimsical wife, who was not alone or in need, carried this burden.
“If you ever feel weary, please take a break. Even if you have plans, you can always reschedule. Your health is of the utmost importance,” Kasser insisted.
Eugene assured him, saying, “I promise not to overexert myself. This is just until the end of the drought season.”
Kasser inquired further, “Will the meeting with the merchants run late?”
Eugene replied, “It won’t be concluded today. Today, I’ll be exchanging pleasantries.”
He probed, “And what comes after that?”
Eugene evaluated Kasser’s mood and then rose from her seat to sit beside him on the opposite side. Her mischievous smile triggered a sense of foreboding in Kasser.
“I’m heading out. I’m going to meet with Count Oscar,” Eugene declared.
Kasser’s brows furrowed, and he began to express his surprise at not hearing about this plan earlier. However, he swiftly checked himself. It dawned on him that he couldn’t possibly have been informed. The prior day had seen only a brief encounter with Eugene in the morning, and a meeting that commenced in the late afternoon had extended well into the night. By the time he had returned to their bedroom, she was already fast asleep.
“Are you meeting with the wanderer?” Kasser inquired.
Eugene nodded, explaining, “Yes. Once the active season commences, it becomes unpredictable when I’ll be able to see her.”
Eugene had only received updates about Lima and her baby through Charlotte; she had yet to meet Lima in person. Eugene had postponed their meeting, having heard that, in this world, there were no formal restrictions akin to the “37 days” taboo that existed on the other side. Nevertheless, she found it awkward to meet a new mother who had recently given birth.
But the inevitable could no longer be postponed. The drought season would conclude in a day or two, at the latest. During the active season, the king’s official duties often took him away from the palace, necessitating the queen to oversee its affairs. Consequently, the queen’s casual outings had become inconvenient, and access to and from the palace was now under strict control.
“What about an escort?” Kasser inquired.
Eugene considered it for a moment before replying, “I’m planning to go quietly with Sven.”
Kasser’s determination was palpable in his gaze as he insisted, “No. You should embark on an official outing.”
Eugene initially resisted, deeming it too cumbersome, but she read the unwavering resolve in Kasser’s eyes and ultimately conceded with a simple, “Alright.”