As this painful thought crossed his mind, Kasser could only shrug it off.
Well, it wouldn’t be the end of the world.
He felt things would just return to the way they were before. She would return to being the same person with the same face and emotions-speaking and acting differently… indifferently.
But what was Kasser supposed to do with his heart that had just started to grow fond of her? He was flustered and couldn’t stand to mull on this any further.
“How are you feeling, by the way?” he asked, trying to strike a conversation.
“Any stomach or back pains?”
Is he asking about my period pains? Eugene wondered.
“Well… it differs from person to person. Some have a lot of pain and are confined to their bed. But I don’t usually have too much pain. You seem to be well informed on these matters..”
“Well, I was taught about it before,” Kasser said honestly.
“Taught? By whom?” Eugene was greatly surprised that this cold and unfeeling man before her was privy to the physical ordeals women were subjected to. But where did he learn this?
“What did Marianne tell you?”
“As a child, I was scolded a lot… whenever she experienced one of those.” Kasser told her sheepishly.
Eugene burst into laughter. She could imagine the king give short responses to Marianne as she scolded him, just like a mother would her child. Today, Kasser finally looked like a normal human being, not a domineering king.
A warm feeling spread within as Kasser watched her laugh. He felt a sense of accomplishment, even if she was laughing at him.
“If you don’t mind… may I join you for a walk?” He became a little bolder.
Kasser wanted to talk to her more, get to know her better. He did spend time with her, but that was at night. They had never had a proper conversation before. To be fair, who in a sane mind would engage in a conversation when in the throes of passion? By the time he was satisfied, she’d be exhausted. And no matter how much he wanted to, he could hold no conversation with a slumbering beauty.
But today was different. It felt like he had been presented with his very first opportunity to talk to her.
You are a little insensitive, Your Majesty, Marianne’s voice flitted past Kasser’s mind. He was determined to redeem himself.
“Are you not busy?” Eugene asked with concern.
Kasser instantly thought back to the pile of papers on his desk and shook his head. “Not really.”
“Very well, then. Let’s walk together.”
But before they even took a step, Eugene turned around to Zanne and instructed her to wait there. She didn’t want to hear his stiff manner of speaking whenever the staff was near. She hoped she’d see more of the real, unguarded Kasser.
The two walked in an awkward silence not knowing what to say until Eugene mustered the courage to break it. She decided to talk about what was troubling her mind.
“Your Majesty, about the help I offered to the missing servants’ families…”
“What about it? Is there more?”
“No, I just wanted to thank you for it,” Eugene said, sincerely.
Kasser looked at Eugene, trying to understand her, searching her face for truth. “Well, it was your doing, not mine.”
“If you had not allowed it, then it wouldn’t have been.” Eugene smiled as she said, “And I thank you for that.”
Kasser did not know how to react, so he continued to stare ahead. It was the first decent conversation they were having and a walk at it, so he was finding it hard to calm his heart.
Eugene let out a soft laugh when she noticed that he was embarrassed. She decided to cut him some slack and changed the topic.
“What lovely weather!” She remarked.
Not even a month had passed since she first rose from the desert sand under the hot sun. The kingdom wasn’t placed in the middle of the desert but at the edge, and the weather was completely different from what she had experienced in the desert. She knew that the weather changed between the active and dry periods but didn’t expect the difference to be this huge. Those days, it was as warm as a late summer period.
“Does the weather change this much in other countries, too?” she asked.
“Mostly, yes. Flack, for instance, has a drastic temperature difference like us.”
The Kingdom of Flack was the southernmost of the Holy City. It was a place surrounded by snowcap mountains. The Kingdom of Hashi was situated on the opposite side.
“Have you ever been?” she asked.
“Do you plan to ever?”
“I don’t think so. I’ll never have a reason to go in my life.” He answered pensively.
Eugene’s novel opened with the Desert King walking on heavy snow to arrive at the Kingdom of Flack. The Desert King went there to be sure of the queen’s authenticity. He needed to be sure she was not a doll controlled by Mara and he had to do it in person.
When he arrived, he learned that it was Jin Anika, the queen herself, who’d led the death of numerous people of the Kingdom of Hashi many years ago.
“Is there anywhere else you’ve been?” Eugene continued to press.
“I have been to Sloan.”
The Kingdom of Sloan was between the Kingdom of Hashi and the Holy City. He must have meant he walked through the kingdom.
It was obvious when you thought about it. During the active periods, the king was bound to the kingdom, protecting it. But he didn’t look like a person who would put off his work and go on trips during the dry period.
I wonder if I’ve distracted him from work.
In Eugene’s novel, the story revolved around the Holy City, but the king hunted down Jin Anika and visited all five kingdoms. It was a classic adventure novel. The readers would beg the characters to sit and wait at a single spot, rather than scampering about and venturing to different places.
“Do you want to visit different kingdoms?” Kasser asked, curious after Eugene’s questions.
Kasser soon realized that he had never thought about what she was interested in before. They had never talked about it.
“I don’t really want to now.” Was Eugene’s response.
Now? What did she mean about now? Did she mean that she may want to later?
There was no “later” between the two. The contract with Jin Anika lasted until she gave birth to his child. After that, they had not arranged further promises. When he signed the contract with her, he wasn’t interested in where she intended to go after the birth. He highly assumed that she would leave the child behind, just like his mother.
But this was all in his mind, and he never thought to ask her explicitly. Initially, he knew what her reply would be. But now, he wasn’t so sure of what she might say. But he was sure that she could change her mind after her memory came back.
“Oh, what lovely weather!” Eugene raved again. “It’s a shame that I can’t walk around during the day because of Larks.”
“… you think about leaving the palace?”
“No, it’s fine. I won’t sneak out, so don’t worry.” Eugene assured him.
“If you would like to leave the palace, you can do so at night.”
“Really?” Eugene’s lips tugged into a huge smile. Kasser’s hands shook a little.
“I never said you couldn’t go outside.”
“Well, I assumed so because it’s the active period.”
Kasser shook his head. “Nobody is restricted during the active period. Only the desert is off-limit.”
“So I don’t have to ask for your permission?” She reconfirmed.
“Only if you promise not to climb over the walls.”
He was alluding to what Jin Anika had done a month ago and Eugene pouted a little before breaking into a small smile. It was interesting to get to know Kasser. He was strict, but he could loosen up, too.