Whoever conceals their true identity would react in one of the two ways when they find someone wandering around them. The first option is to flee the crime scene, and the second approach them with the intent to find out their purpose.
If Eugene could, she would’ve liked to bury all of Jin’s past mistakes, and hoped everything would be forgotten. However…
The reality wasn’t so simple.
The next day, Marianne came by to inform Eugene that she had a guest waiting to meet her, and it threw her into a surprise.
“I’m sorry.” She blinked as she looked at Marianne. “Someone is here to meet me?”
Marianne nodded. “Yes, Your Grace, there is an intermediary, called Cage, who wants to meet you. From what I gathered, his trade is of highly valued art pieces, as well as some hard-to-sell relics.”
Eugene frowned to herself as she heard this. “But why would he want to see me? Wouldn’t it be better for the king to be the one to talk to?”
She could sense that Marianne was choosing her words carefully as she responded.
“You’ve actually met a few times before.” She explained to the queen. “You even made some purchases with regards to some ancient books he’s knowledgeable of.”
Despite her initial confusion as to why such a trader would seek her out instead of the king, at the mention of these ancient books, she couldn’t help but let out a choked gasp of realization.
To Jin Anika, collecting these books wasn’t just a hobby. They could very well be the source of her insane knowledge on how to gain Mara’s power. With this realization, Eugene frowned as she thought of the bookseller, Count Wacommbe.
When the active season was over, it would be paramount to meet up with him to either clear up or verify her suspicions.
This person’s reactions are quicker and more direct than I would’ve expected, Eugene thought. She had planned to make a couple more visits around the inn before making a conclusion, but this was also as good as any opportunity to pick up the puzzle pieces. Did he somehow realize that it was I who was with the convoy yesterday? If so, how?
She hadn’t done anything to garner attention to her whenever she went out. She’d never spoken out, nor was her disguise distinguishable in the crowd. All she ever did was just look around in the market as she wandered around the inn’s perimeter.
And she was certain the guards who were escorting her would’ve missed anyone who had been following her. What’s more, she hadn’t received any word from them about this either.
“Did I meet with him often?” Eugene asked Marianne who only shrugged.
“I wouldn’t know, but perhaps we should ask General Sarah.”
With that, they sent out a servant to summon the general, and within a few moments, General Sarah had arrived. Eugene asked the same thing to Sarah.
“He usually visits once or twice during the dry season, but this is the first he’s done so in the active season.” Sarah reported.
“And you said I bought some information from him?”
“Yes, Your Grace.” Eugene remained silent for a moment, before realizing something.
“Then how come you didn’t tell me that when I was checking the ancient book purchase history?”
“Because none of those purchases were reflected since you’ve paid him off with your own fortune.”
“My own fortune?” Eugene looked at them with shock. “You mean to tell me, I have other wealth than the allowance I am given?”
Both women with Eugene exchanged glances before Marianne finally broke their silence. “My apologies, Your Grace, it seems I’ve missed something after all.”
“And given that they are your personal assets, Your Grace…” Sarah added. “We have no right to tell you what to do with it, nor an inkling to how much you actually have.”
Eugene nodded as she listened to their explanations. She figured if it was her personal account, then it won’t be labelled as hers specifically, but rather as something anonymous. If so, then it was perfectly understandable for Marianne and Sarah to have forgotten about that tidbit of information.
“These assets, are they the ones I brought with me when I moved to the kingdom?”
“Yes, Your Grace.” They chorused. The damper in her mood, which was caused by the unwanted guest, was suddenly lifted at the prospect of her having more money than she initially thought.
“Then how would I go about it if I wanted to check my purchase history on my personal assets?”
“You can always seek out help from the bank manager.” Sarah replied.
Eugene turned her attention to her. “And whenever I pay, the bank manager always takes it into account?”
“I don’t actually recall you paying him in actual money.” Sarah reminisced. “So I assumed you might have written a check instead, and he’d use it as he saw fit, Your Grace.” Eugene frowned.
Eugene would be sure to ask about that as well when she would finally summon the bank manager. And if Jin wrote out those checks with her signature, she should be able to know what it was and how to do it.
“Wait, if you never saw our transact, then how come you know so much about it?”
“Oh, I heard about it, from the maid that was with you whenever you did it.”
“Who is this maid…” Eugene trailed off, before she finally figured something, “Don’t tell me it was the one that went missing?”
“The very same, Your Grace.”
“And you swear you never saw us make the transactions yourself?” She double-checked.
Sarah shook her head. “No, Your Grace.”
“I see, thank you. Perhaps it’s time I talk with the bank manager. Is he available today?”
“Of course, I shall relay your message, Your Grace.” Sarah immediately responded and took her leave
As Sarah went to get the bank manager, Eugene found herself very lost in thought. For someone to actually seek her out, and one with a previous relationship to Jin, she couldn’t afford to miss their meeting. What’s more, she was certain this visit had an underlying purpose just waiting to be discovered.
And Jin met with him, accompanied by the maid that went missing. And she might have had her favorites but…
They had all gone missing.
Jin, as a cautious type of person, she would’ve never met this Cage person by herself. And it was a bit of a stretch to think that Zanne, the one maid Eugene usually sought out, was the one person she trusted and depended on completely. Eugene’s gaze shifted to her side.
The same could be applied to Marianne too, now that she thought about it.
When their eyes made contact, Marianne was the first to lower her gaze.
“Marianne, is this really the first time someone has come to visit me? You did not, perhaps, prevent a few others, and neglect to inform me of?”
At the accusation, Marianne’s eyes held steadfastly as she met the queen’s stare.
“Your Grace, I would never dare turn away any of your guests. Nothing of the sort has ever happened or ever will.” She defended herself and Eugene gave her a smile, but it did not reach her eyes.
It was unusual that for a whole month, no one had even thought about seeking out the queen. It was only now she was realizing just how isolated Jin had made herself to be. It was something to be admired, the way people managed to put up with her at all.
“Well then, I shan’t keep him waiting any longer,” Eugene finally said, “Let him in.”
Marianne obeyed swiftly. “Yes, Your Grace.”
When Marianne left, her impassive expression turned grim. She remembered telling the king once that they needed to find a way for the queen to recover her lost memories naturally, but whenever an opportunity to remind him would arise, she’d hesitate. Remembering the queen she was before…
Marianne shook the thoughts out of her head.
When Marianne entered the queen’s chambers once more, she was accompanied by a tiny man, so tiny in fact, he was dwarfed by the baroness. His hunched form wasn’t helping either, as it made him look smaller than he actually was. But as Eugene’s eyes landed on him, her fingers twitched in recognition…
That’s him! She thought in a mild panic. This was the man in her vision, the one she saw at the closed inn.