“Then what about the largest body of water an Anika can see?” Eugene probed, refusing to leave it at that. “Surely you must have an idea? Tell me, a lake? A river, perhaps?”
“Jin, I already told you.” Kasser sighed, rather helplessly. “There is a limit to what I know.”
Eugene frowned and sighed exasperatedly.
“I understand that I need to see the Sang-je if I want the answers to my questions. But I don’t want to see him.” She murmured. “Is there really no other way?” she asked him, pleadingly.
Kasser frowned, shaking his head in utter defeat.
“I don’t understand,” he said, “Why don’t you want to see the Sang-je?”
“To see the Sang-je, I would need to go to the Holy City.” She answered as if it were all the answer he needed.
“And you do not want to go to the Holy City?” he asked in confusion.
Eugene sighed. She didn’t know how to express herself at the moment, nonetheless, she tried.
“I’m still getting used to my surroundings. I think leaving the kingdom and exploring new places will simply be too overwhelming.” She stated her reason.
Kasser found himself inwardly rejoicing at this fact. Instantaneously he nodded in approval, wracking his mind for ways in which she could seek the knowledge she wanted without having to meet the Sang-je, or going too far. One that would bring the least ramifications to his kingdom.
“How about meeting another Anika?” Kasser suggested.
Eugene perked up.
It was perfect!
“Who?” She gasped, leaning forward in her eagerness.
“The princess of the Kingdom of Sloan.” Kasser replied.
Eugene nodded enthusiastically, suddenly remembering a specific man.
Yes, she remembered now! When she wrote her story, there was a character in his fifties, much older than most kings in her story. He was the King of Sloan, King Richard.
King Richard was wise and gentle yet firm. It was because of this character that she was able to further her story, otherwise, all the five kings would have only wanted to fight one another, and then her story would be just about wars.
The thing that set King Richard apart, was that he refused to take part in any conflict. He was older than them, and thus saw the younger kings’ clashes akin to children quarreling over toys.
As for the other five kings, they held great respect for the wizened old king, even seeking out his wisdom, heeding to his advice, especially when it came to their petty squabbles. He was the sole reason none of the fights between the other kings ever turned into war.
Honestly speaking, it’s King Richard who should be hailed as the hero of Mahar. Eugene felt the more she thought about the story she wrote.
Richard had a grown-up son, but princes could not take part in the battle with the Larks. The prince’s Praz would only fully develop when the preceding king died, and they’d finally ascended the throne. Until then, their powers would never reach their full potential and thus be useless on the battlefield.
Should the prince die, the Kingdom of Sloan would be in grave danger.
That’s why the prince would always assume his father’s throne whenever the king would be out for battle. She remembered never giving any of the kings any formal role in the story, they’re only ever mentioned in passing.
Richard’s son would be a good man, without a doubt.
“If I do agree to meet them, does that mean I have to visit the Kingdom of Sloan, myself?” she asked.
Kasser nodded. The Kingdom of Sloan was not far from Hashi, so he didn’t find it a hassle.
“You may go and visit them,” said he, “Or you could invite them over to Hashi.” He suggested.
“I think I’d rather invite them over.” Seeing him nod in agreement, she asked out of curiosity, “When did the Prince of Sloan get married?”
“Then, the princess’ age…?”
“She is two years younger than you.”
Eugene said nothing else, still looking a bit lost as her brows furrowed.
“Is there a problem?” Kasser carefully asked.
“I think… I might know her. I mean obviously, I don’t remember clearly,” Eugene said nervously, backtracking a little.
Anikas were known to be born every couple of years. But there was a period when no Anikas were born for a long time. The first Anika to be born after that period was Jin. So Jin and the one born before her were 10 years apart.
The Holy City held a huge celebration in the year Jin was born, after all, it had been many years without the birth of one. Moreover, in the year Jin was born, another Anika was born, making that two Anikas within a year.
Those two Anikas were Jin and Flora.
Flora, the protagonist. What does she look like? Eugene couldn’t help but muse.
And though Anikas had always been treated with utmost respect and care, none received as much love and interest like Jin and Flora did. It was even rumoured that even the Sang-je would send them his regards every morning before starting with his morning duties, which was very different from the treatment the succeeding Anikas’ received. They’d been easily neglected and not much care nor love was given.
If the princess were two years younger than Jin, the two would have spent their childhood together in the Holy City.
“Were you two friends?” Kasser asked curiously.
Jin wasn’t your average wicked woman, she was the wicked woman. She would have spent her days in the Holy City as the queen bee and enjoyed harassing others, even in her youth, even when the said victims would be fellow Anikas.
Flora wasn’t someone that Jin could bully easily, so an Anika two years younger than her would have been the perfect target for Jin to torment.
“I don’t think she would accept the invitation. We… didn’t exactly get along, at least that’s what I remember.” She told him weakly, Kasser nodded in understanding.
“Well… I-I think I could have been mean to the Princess of Sloan back in the days in the Holy City.” She finally blurted the truth.
Kasser chuckled. “How bad could you have been? The princess is also an Anika, just like you.” He pointed out.
Eugene shrugged. “I don’t know. Maybe gossip, or bullying.” She mumbled as she thought. When she looked up, she could still see the amusement glistening in the king’s eye. A sudden realization befell her.
He wasn’t taking me seriously!
Wow, he really doesn’t have any tact, does he? She huffed in thought. He may have a tough exterior, but he wasn’t cruel. He was practically caring. He didn’t talk as any lover would; didn’t treat her how husbands should, but he hadn’t done anything untoward either.
Upon that note, she found herself smiling.
In her novel, Kasser had as many flaws as much as he had strengths. Whenever he opened his mouth, he’d spit out harsh remarks that made others uncomfortable. He’d simply tear down their pride like paper walls, and would feel no remorse, especially when they were wrong.
But the Kasser in front of her wasn’t offensive at all. He wasn’t that kind of person right now.
The character in her novel and the man that sat across the dining table were very different. So different, that suddenly, she felt like Kasser was much farther than he actually was.