Chapter 8 – A Queer Deal (1)
Jin Anika knew her charms and talents just as well as she knew how to use them to her advantage.
When he had first seen her, she had smiled rather wickedly as she had surrounded herself with countless men, from all walks of life, on her birthday.
Kasser did not mean to be part of those men that had flocked towards her. At first glance, she had not seemed suitable enough for a life in the desert, and Kasser had quickly deemed it to be a futile attempt. However, she had approached Kasser herself and had struck a queer deal with him, including a rather strange suggestion.
“Help me maintain a formal marriage for three years,” she said to him, “and in three years, you shall have your successor.” She finished, and Kasser hummed in thought.
“Why me?” he asked her, and she just gave him another mischievous smirk.
“I don’t think you are interested in me,” she said, “It’ll make the three years of marriage a lot easier.”
“Why do you need a fake marriage?” He insisted.
“I’ll tell you when the deal is done without any trouble.” She replied.
“And what will you do after the baby is born?”
“I’ll tell you that later too.” she said, “It’s not a bad offer, don’t you think my king?” She purred at him. “After all, you need an heir sooner or later.”
And with that, he had struck the deal, and all Anika needed to do was to bear him his heir, for only she, her kind, could give birth to a child that could inherit his abilities.
Ever since before, the four kings had always dealt with the struggle of succession. There came a time when the kingdom was put in jeopardy with the lack of successors to the throne. Fortunately, it was abated when Kasser’s father had him; but even then, he was already in his fifties.
The Kingdom of Hashi was the farthest from the Holy city where Jin Anika came from. To reach it, one must cross a perilous mountain range, which meant only a few people would ever take such roads which ultimately resulted in less diverse people, and cultural exchanges, and lesser new blood to the current population.
Due to its isolation, Hashi’s culture had become frugal. Despite it being a luxurious, splendid, and aristocratic in nature, its culture remained undeveloped. It became a desolate periphery for the aristocrats residing in the castle who only lived for the joy of pleasure.
The ultimate goal the king needs is a successor. And for that goal, that dream to become a reality, he must take Anika to bed.
Anika, descending from the Holy city, led a rather affluent lifestyle, and it was common knowledge that people of her kind refrained from traveling to the distant Desert Kingdom.
As per what nature demands, Kasser would get older, and it was only a matter of time until things would be too late. He was already exhausted at the thought of searching far and wide for a way to produce an heir. It’s like his father all over again…
So back then, he figured it was a good deal. However, as time went on, he was beginning to have doubts about whether or not he was dealt with an easy solution or tricked.
Before, at the start of their marriage, his mind was filled with thoughts on whether or not she was going to keep her promise, her end of the deal. But now, considering Anika’s corrupt nature, he was filled with a different kind of concern…
Would the child that would grow inside her be fit as my successor?
Whenever anyone would ask if he had any problems, he would always remain vague. As if it was an automatic response to deny any form of help at all. But for years, he always had a gut feeling something was not right, but still, he chose to ignore it.
It’s been three years.
Spinning on his heels, he made an about-turn and began pacing once again.
Three years since they’d entered an agreement. Three years since they’d promised each other. Sooner or later, he would find out what it was that Anika planned to get out of with such a strange proposal to him. And whether or not she would really uphold her end of the deal. But to do that, he must make up his own mind, too.
The late afternoon meeting lasted longer than he thought. There were barely any breaks at all.
It was a chaotic meeting in summary. Although he had called for the meeting, it was not a formal meeting in actuality, and therefore there was no actual arrangement followed. There were too many participants this time, so many it was enough to fill up the entire conference room, which was by no means small. It consisted of not only the high-ranking officials but also those from the working-level officials, who’d yet to climb up the social ladder and improve their status.
Anyone who was anyone was also speaking; sometimes some would do so out of turn. They’d give out opinions without respect or remorse to the chairman, to the king. This type of meeting was certainly unique only to the Kingdom of Hashi, seeing as social status should not be barriers in their culture.
Despite their declining culture, the Kingdom of Hashi was tightly knit. They were more united than that of any other kingdom. Their isolation in terms of geography and environment had played a huge part in this-sort of like a quasi-state. Their belief was strongly rooted in the saying: we can survive only when we unite.
Those were the words that cemented their unity.
The meeting lasted till morning. Twice a year, this meeting would be held, always after the dry season had ended. This was in preparation to pave the way for thorough planning of activities that would be held in the next couple of months.
“It seems to me, there are still some creases yet to be smoothed out,” he said, “Let’s adjourn the meeting for now.”
And with that, the king had brought the meeting to a close.
For the people who stayed up late till morning, they all looked pale. Soon people trickled out of the room peacefully. Too tired to put up such a fuss.
It was not until everyone had finally left the conference room, did Kasser plop back on his chair and glance over the scattered records left behind in the room. Flipping until the last page, Kasser let out a sigh and pinched the bridge of his nose, before pressing his fingers to his temple.
He had traversed the desert for nearly a month. And as soon as he came home, he was met with a meeting that lasted until morning. He sighed, although his endurance was clearly different from that of his subordinates, he was still only a human, he was still capable of being exhausted, and feeling drained from those events alone.
The general soon approached him, with some servants in tow.
“Your Majesty, I have your bath ready.” They bowed respectfully.
“All right.” He finally rose to his feet.
“Would His Majesty like to eat first?” the general asked him.
Kasser paused, mulling over his choices and his own body…
I need sleep more than I do rice.
“Is the queen eating now?” He asked them instead, averting the question…
Yesterday, when he left the queen’s bedroom, he had ordered her to eat, but he’d yet to know whether or not she took it to heart and actually ate some sustenance for her body.
The general couldn’t answer him right away, her eyes widened in momentarily. She was taken aback. The king had never asked about the queen before, not even once. Not even to follow up on the queen’s condition. Ever since they had married, she had a feeling they were only ever invested at the beginning of the marriage, a honeymoon phase. After that, the king left the queen alone to her own devices.
“I beg your pardon, Your Majesty.” She bowed in apology. “I’ll check on the queen.”
Fortunately for him, Kasser had not blamed the shock the general was experiencing. His request came out of the blue, and was out of character, even for him.
However, it seemed to him that even the courtiers had noticed just how dry the relationship between the king and his wife actually was.
Despite having stepped down from her post, Marianne still took it upon herself to instill the discipline she had helped mold into the king. Even to this day, her influence remained strong. So, out of respect, despite the many things the courtiers wanted to say, they held their tongues as it would be rude, especially when it came to the relationship of the king and queen.
Although the credit also partially went to the queen’s excellent acting. Always appearing quite coquettish towards her husband, even under scrutiny in the public eye, helped convince the people their relationship was fine.
For a while, Kasser had hesitated.
It is time to talk to her.
He finally made up his mind and turned to the general.
“I’ll have lunch with Jin.”