Kasser watched her in silence. He sensed she was treading cautiously but did not know what to feel. Even so, he felt the need to explain, she knew not the workings of the palace after all.
“The royal household is meant to be managed within its purview.”
Eugene looked at him blankly as he continued.
“It also means only the royals are qualified to take up this responsibility. That makes only two people qualified for the job–you and I.”
“… Me too?” She was visibly surprised.
“These past few years, I’ve had my hands full dealing with things all by myself. Now, you’ve taken the initiative to fill in during my absence.”
“Hm, I know that.”
“So, do you want to manage it going forward?”
As she thought of his offer, Eugene’s eyes widened to their limits. It sounded like he wanted to hand over the management of the palace to her. But even before she answered him, she had a few doubts to resolve.
“Why… did you oversee everything by yourself?”
“You refused to do it, but you wouldn’t remember that.”
“You’re saying you’d already offered me the job before?”
“Soon after our marriage. Actually, these have always been the queen’s responsibility.”
“What would I be taking over should I accept?”
“A lot of things. It’ll take a long time to list out now, I can send you the details later. To put it simply, you will be the deciding power of the palace in my absence, just like last time.”
“Does that mean I don’t have to report things to you?”
“Besides a few exceptions, most reports will be something that you can approve on your own.”
It was not that Eugene did not understand why Jin Anika had refused to take up the job. Having more power meant more things on her mind. If all that Jin Anika needed was enough money to buy antique books, it would be easier to simply ask for a small fortune each time she needed it instead of being subjected to the tedium of managing affairs.
“But why, all of the sudden?”
Eugene wasn’t dense. She was well aware of the complexities in their relationship, some because of Jin Anika’s previous actions and others because of, but not limited to, the circumstances they were brought together. Entrusting required trust, the bigger the matter, the greater the need.
“This is not all of a sudden. As I said, it’s supposed to be your responsibility.” He tried his best to assure her.
“But you’ve done it all this time, so…”
Eugene searched for an appropriate word, upon failing to find one she sighed deeply. She was learning to speak eloquently these days and was finding it hard to express her thoughts in the required “refined” manner.
Marianne had occasionally pointed out her directness in speech. She’d advised her to mend her ways before entering high society. A noblewoman had to mind her Ps and Qs to say nothing of the queen. She’d been working on it diligently, but habits do not change overnight. And here, the demand was to change her innately.
She needed more practice. Right now, she couldn’t think of a way to beat around the bush and deliver her message clearly at the same time. In the end, she decided enough was enough and took the plunge.
“Your Majesty, please be clear with me on this. Are you trying to test me? Or are you actually trusting me enough to hand over the responsibility?
Kasser burst into unrestrained laughter. “You do like your straight-talk. If only everyone spoke like you.” He looked at her with smiling eyes, with a trace of indiscernible doting somewhere.
An abashed Eugene became pink. Never had she imagined that this king actually liked what his nanny hated: her manner of speech. So much for the values instilled!
She felt a tug in her heart at his abrupt answer. She smiled bitterly. “… You’re also quite direct yourself, Your Majesty.”
Kasser laughed again.
“Taking care of the royal household is important but minor at the same time. It’s very cumbersome for me to check every single tiny thing that goes on in the palace. A servant’s sick leave, for instance.”
Eugene wondered if he was trying to say that he needed someone to take care of his tedious work. If that were the case, she had been overthinking.
“Are you comfortable with leaving me to it when you don’t have enough trust in me?” She was still feeling bitter.
“Only one thing worries me, which is that you…”
Kasser paused, his smile faded. Eugene grew tense at the blue eyes gazing directly at her.
“… that you might claim you don’t remember this conversation.” He teased.
“I’m not that stupid!” She was miffed!
Ignoring her displeasure, he said, “I recently heard that a patient suffering from memory loss might forget recent memories once they recollect their past.”
Eugene’s eyes bulged at his words. Kasser was concerned another memory loss incident might occur again! Here she thought he was simply poking fun at her.
Her next words were carefully drawn out, to make sure she understood him correctly.
“Is it fine with you if I don’t regain my memories?”
She surmised he would avoid her question. However, he answered her question as if he had been waiting for it.
“I don’t want you to try too hard.”
“… Pardon me?”
“If you’ve forgotten things, you can relearn them. It might sound like I’m denying your past and I’m sorry to force this opinion on you, but…” He paused. “I don’t want to lie.”
Eugene was truly amazed. She believed that even with her changes, Kasser still couldn’t shake off seeing her as the previous queen, Jin Anika, no matter how much she claimed, ‘I don’t remember’. But it seemed it was she who was seeing through tinted glasses. He saw Jin Anika and Eugene as separate people and he had just made it crystal clear.
If she were indeed Jin Anika and had actually lost her memory, she would be confused by his words now. Surely, she would be ashamed of how horrible she was in the past. If she herself felt so, she couldn’t even begin to imagine what Kasser felt. But…
The woman he chose is me, not Jin Anika.
On the other hand, having expressed his heart, Kasser was feeling unburdened. But that didn’t mean he was not without regrets. He knew it was unbecoming of him to hope she stayed the same, even so, he felt comfortable with her not recovering fast enough.
When he had seen the queen’s seal on the reports, he was surprised. It took him some time to believe his eyes, after which, he had kept thinking about it all day long. And why not?
This queen, who had avoided taking any responsibility at all costs, had now come forward to assume her role, of her own accord. This wasn’t the same level of change as the way she talked. She had transformed into a completely different person… a better one even.
So, even if she happened to recover, Kasser decided to believe in the slight chance that she might not return to being the person she was before. Perhaps Marianne was right. Maybe she did need a long period for adjustment.
He and Jin Anika had started off on the wrong foot. He had dodged any and every problem he noticed in their marriage. He didn’t want to, nor did he try to get to know the queen. He knew in his heart, that he was equally responsible for the fiasco called marriage and up until she returned, he wasn’t the slightest remorseful.
However, now, his heart had changed. He trusted that their relationship could actually improve. He wanted to know her, trust her, and perhaps, even love her. As much as his change surprised himself, he was more surprised by how much he was looking forward to it.