Chapter 36 – Doubts
“Did she really like books this much?” Mumbling to herself, Eugene looked around as she walked deeper.
The interior was of a hexagonal structure with a settee and a table in the center. She walked along the bookshelves that lined the walls, not paying mind to the titles. It seemed a very prosaic setting, a den of a typical bibliophile until something caught her eye.
One of the walls of the bookshelf had a slight depression. On a closer look, it turned out to be a dent–a split, like a door.
A secret space?
Eugene’s heart pounded. She snooped around to see if there was a lever or some mechanism to open the door but found nothing.
Throwing caution to the wind, she daringly pushed the discovered entrance wider. She thought it might be locked, but like a revolving door, she was able to push it with a scraping sound.
Beyond the revolving door was a small room, its walls were also filled with books.
Her eyes soon fell on a book that stood out. Walking to it, she reached out a hand to pull it out, drawing specks of dust as she did so. To her utter surprise, the book was too heavy and didn’t budge until she yanked it with both hands. As soon as she got it out of the bookshelf, her body staggered downwards.
Why is it so heavy?
Book in hand, she left the small room and walked to the table near the settee where she placed the book of unexplainable weight. Sitting down, she took a careful look at the cover.
The cover was made of leather with a precious stone resting on it. The inside felt too exquisite to be a plain paper.
Is it made of parchment1A parchment paper is a stiff, flat, thin material made from the prepared skin of an animal and used as a durable writing surface in ancient times.?
The use of paper was common in Mahar. But the books here were rather small and light because the printing technique was more advanced. So, the book that Eugene was now looking at, must be a very old book.
She remembered what Marianne had said earlier. The queen’s hobby was collecting old books.
A book like this would be very expensive.
It was now understandable why she kept them in a separate small room. Her curiosity unsatisfied, she retraced her steps to the small room and ran her gaze across the thousands of books packed within this tiny space.
These were all colorful old books embellished with jewels and written in gold. A layer of dust had accumulated on them as if they were untouched for some time now.
As Eugene’s greedy eyes marveled at the shelves of old books, they caught a glint of something. It was the shiny head of a cow with two horns drawn on the back of a book.
She swallowed hard, retrieved the book out of the small room. Flipping the cover, the picture of the front page came into view, and Eugene took in a deep breath.
The ox with two horns stood on its two feet like a human glaring at her; in its one hand was a bolt of lightning and the other, a long, red whip.
Returning to the small room, Eugene then picked out a few more books dealing with “Mara” from among the old books, before bringing them back to the table. Sitting down, she sifted through it.
Is this a dangerous book?
The little room was a little sloppy to serve as a secret place. Anyone who entered the study would be able to find these books.
Her brows furrowed.
These expensive old books in the small room could be bait.
Looking at the tens of thousands of books that filled the wall, Eugene had an epiphany.
Could Anika have hidden her most important book under the guise of an ordinary book?
“Your Majesty, the queen is in her study.”
Kasser took his eyes off the papers he was reading and looked up.
“Yes, Your Majesty.”
He waved his hand with a slight nod. The servant bowed and retreated to a distance. He looked down again at the papers, but the letters were no more decipherable.
Earlier that morning, in only a simple carriage, Marianne had entered the palace. After only a perfunctory greeting to Kasser, she’d gone straight to see the queen.
All morning, he couldn’t concentrate fully, all the while struggling with a pile of documents. His mind, all along, kept thinking of something else… wondering what the two were doing. Therefore, to give himself peace, he had finally sent a servant to spy.
Her study… How could I have completely forgotten about it?
He sighed. The robbery at the treasure trove had greatly diverted his attention from Anika’s study. If there was a place the queen was deeply attached to, it was her study.
No. He shook his head. I should have considered her study in the first place.
Except when she ate and slept, the queen spent most of the day in her study. There was no way one could describe her daily routine without mentioning that place.
The queen worked hard on collecting old books. Even though he didn’t care about it, he had only stumbled upon the queen’s hobby during his biannual inspection of accounts.
The queen’s spending was huge, to Kasser’s surprise, who was aware of the dizzying unit. But he had always refused to be involved or intervene in this affair of hers.
With a solid expenditure history and the kingdom’s ample finances, he was able to afford to spoil her that much. The price of his efforts would be priceless after all–his successor…
Looking around the study might bring back her memories…
He burst out into a fit of bitter laughter. It was funny that he actually believed the queen’s unilateral claim that she had lost her memory as if she were innocent. Now she could, perhaps, be lying or pretending to not know even though she’d already regained some of her memories. And even if the memory loss was genuine, she may recover in a few days or months.
He wanted to believe her yet would constantly doubt her. This was because there was not even the slightest bond between the two to which trust could possibly foster.
There was nothing between the two, just the parties involved in the contract. Really nothing.
“And besides, regardless of her condition, she is still the queen”
Marianne had spoken those words without mal intent. But Kasser had interpreted it as ‘people don’t change.’ Then the present queen could, despite her abrupt change, remain vicious secretly and was only using her loss of memory to cover up her vile plans.
Without her knowing, Marianne’s words rather spiked Kasser’s alertness.
But after sleeping with the queen, he had mixed feelings. Sleeping with her was ‘unwanted but had to be done’, but why was he seeking it? He was intoxicated by the queen’s charm, and nor did he know when he would sober up.
He didn’t expect the first night of their three years of marriage to make him feel so agitated. It felt as if he had fallen for the woman.
A loud sound from afar pulled him from his thoughts.