As she was leaving, Eugene summoned a servant.
“Is His Majesty back yet?”
“No, Your Grace.”
Before sundown, the king left the palace. He left quite often. The one thing that set Kasser apart from the other monarchs was that he did things on his own, rather than giving orders and delegating. He had never shied from his responsibilities. This enabled him to grasp the happenings better but kept him away from the palace most times, nonetheless.
Now that Marianne had laid bare the ‘nobleness’ of the nobility, Eugene’s heart went out for Kasser. He was that lone, selfless warrior, who refused to abandon his duties, his people no matter the adversity. How many put others before oneself? And how many of those were nobility, let alone a monarch? Indeed, he was truly worthy of being the king.
On the table sat an intricately carved small wooden box. After a moment’s thought, Eugene opened it and looked over the assortment of tea leaves within. Picking one, she handed it to the pageboy.
“Bring this to Lord Chamberlain, he is to brew the king a cup of tea upon his return.”
These tea leaves were a gift from Marianne. She’d said it was good for relaxation. Surprisingly, it tasted good and had cleared Eugene’s head after only a couple of sips. She was not much of a help in sharing his responsibilities, the least she could do was help him relax.
“Yes, Your Grace.”
Left alone, Eugene sat in front of her dressing table and started scribbling in her diary.
Ever since her arrival in Mahar, she had maintained this diary. Each day, she wrote down her day before going to bed. It was her secret diary, so she wrote in Korean. She felt safe that she could write in a language that no one could read in the Mahar.
At the beginning of her diary was a to-do list.
– Organize events for high society meets. Maybe some tea and biscuits?
After a while, she put away her diary in the drawer in the dressing table. As she stood up, she caught her reflection in the mirror.
For the first couple of days, every time she saw her, she would be surprised by the unfamiliar lady standing in front of her. But now, she had become the lady. Although she had grown used to this body, it was not without worries. Beset with mysteries, intrigue, and whatnot, most of her time in this world was spent in unraveling and conjecturing. But of all the unanswered questions, the one hounding her the most was also the simplest.
Jin Anika… If I am in your body, where did you go?
And where is my body?
Eugene meticulously retraced the moment she was summoned to the Mahar.
On that fateful day, back in her world, she was at the dead center of a game of cat and mouse. She was being chased by some moneylenders and their lackeys. After several near misses and thank gods, she had ended up in a cul-de-sac, trapped. She looked around her for an exit route in vain. Neither was there an open door for her to sneak into, nor a wall that she could climb over. She knew she was done for and resigned to her fate at the hands of her hunters.
It was in that moment, when all hope was lost, that she saw it.
At first, she was sure she was dreaming… A large black hole had appeared on the brick walls of the alley, it sure did not seem ordinary. The hole was pitch black, making it impossible to see its end. It was big enough to fit only one person. It felt like a gate to hell, beckoning her to plunge into.
An awestruck Eugene was shaken awake by the sound of footsteps from the corner of the alley. Before her was a hole, behind–her end. She wasn’t sure if this hole was real, where it led to or if it even had an end.
But she was sure of one thing- she couldn’t afford to be caught.
Whatever lay within that hole, she reckoned, was more acceptable than the fate that was awaiting her here. It was better for her to disappear into the unknown so her family wouldn’t have anybody to rip money off of.
She braced herself and without looking back set foot into the hole. Her life’s greatest gamble towards life, not death.
To her utter surprise, she didn’t violently plummet into the bottomless dark abyss, but floated comfortably. She didn’t feel any panic, only pleasantly closing her eyes and giving in to her surroundings. That was the last thing she remembered doing. As for the things that came after, she was absolutely blank.
After an unknown amount of time had passed by floating in the hole, she realized she hadn’t died or fallen into hell. As she’d wished, she went to a world where nobody knew her.
The hole… That was definitely the route. Maybe it’s a route only for spirits to pass?
The body might have perished in the hole.
Jin Anika, I don’t have anywhere to go. And if you come back, there is nowhere for you to stay.
At first, Eugene had planned to change the future for Jin Anika. Now, her desire to live as ‘Eugene’ grew more and more, and she no longer wanted to live for Jin Anika.
Eugene folded her fingers into a tight fist. She had so much power in her hands, but it all belonged to Jin Anika. Was stealing the powers of an immoral person justifiable?
Whether or not she felt guilty, she was going to hate herself every day for the rest of her life.
But I’m not in reality. This is a fictional universe in a novel that I created… No. How can this not be a reality when it is so real? Marianne and Zanne are each living their own lives.
She pulled her hair as her thoughts grew more and more complicated until she finally stood up.
There’s nothing I can do today. I’m just going to sleep and leave tomorrow’s worry for tomorrow.
Eugene stomped her feet and walked to her bed. She sat there as she uncovered the sheets, determined to have a good sleep.
It was a servant outside her doors. No one came to her doors at this time of the day, so she froze.
“What is it?”
The door opened and the servant stepped inside.
“Your Grace, His Majesty is here for you.”
“Yes, my queen.”
“Now, in my room?”
“Yes, Your Grace.”
This wasn’t his first time paying a visit without notice, but the last time was a special occasion, and his visit tonight was very late. But he was the king, how could she question or refuse him entry?
“Show him in.”
The servant left and Kasser entered moments later. He was still dressed in his full formal attire. He must have just returned to the palace. The two walked to the sofa and sat down.
“Did I wake you up?”
“No, I was just about to go to sleep. Is there a problem? What brings you here so late?”
Kasser couldn’t answer her question. He would’ve also liked to ask that himself, for he didn’t know why he came here either.
Earlier, as soon as he’d returned to the palace, he had gone straight to his office. For the last several days, he’d spent his nights finishing off his work and he planned to do so tonight as well.
While he was immersed in his work, the things that had happened inside the palace during the day were long buried in those piles of paper. He had dived so deep into the world of perusing and signing, that he didn’t hear the knock on the door and was jolted awake when the chamberlain stood before him with a tray in hand. Confused, he shot him a questioning gaze.
“Your Majesty, Her Grace sent you tea.”
This wasn’t his first time receiving a cup of tea. In fact, the queen had often sent tea or biscuits to him. It was a formal gesture. During the early times in their marriage, Jin Anika was pretty affectionate, sending her greetings every morning and night and at times, even delivering refreshments to his office herself.