Larks, which take the form of seeds when they are asleep, usually awaken when their active period begins, which usually falls during the summer, when their surroundings are dry and warm. However, it is possible for them to remain as seeds even during this period if they are submerged in distilled water or oil.
For that reason, during such a season, the storehouse keeper kept the seeds in bottles containing either water or oil in order to act as a seal and deter the growth of the seeds. Since the Larks would awaken if the distilled water surrounding them evaporated and the required amount of water fell short, the water levels had to be monitored daily.
“Was anyone hurt?” Kasser asked.
“Only minor injuries, Your Majesty.” One of the soldiers responded
“Are all the workers gone?”
“Yes, Your Majesty. They’ve all been dismissed. There’s no one in the storage house now.” Kasser nodded at this information and then turned to address the soldiers with him.
“We’ll go in when the sun sets.”
“Yes, Your Majesty.” The soldiers responded in unison.
As of the moment, the Larks were running amok inside the storage house. The safest course of action was for them to first check the location of their cocoons once the sun went down, and then get rid of them all at once by morning.
The interior of the storehouse was structured like a hive, with numerous rooms stacked on top of each other. Normally, the rooms would be connected through an opening like a pathway; however, in this structure, every connecting hallway was obscured by steel doors.
There was a control mechanism developed in cases of emergencies, which allowed all of these doors to be open at once, freeing the passages between rooms. Each of these doors was just big enough for a single person to crawl through. The doors were also embedded with a smaller door which was used as an escape route.
Once darkness had completely fallen over them, the storehouse manager operated the device in order to raise the steel doors. The entrance to the storehouse was the last of all the doors to open.
The king, upon seeing this, began to lead the party. He and his soldiers carefully entered the premises.
“This way please, Your Majesty.” The storage house manager called out as he assumed the position of the guide and stood in front of the group as they stepped deeper into the building.
The interior structure of the storage was rather complex. All the rooms looked similar, that the totality seemed to form a maze so that even if the Larks did break out of their seeds, they would not be able to find their way out easily. It was deliberately designed this way for security.
Not only could those high-grade seeds be traded for a high price, but they were also very difficult to acquire, and so it was essential that they were well guarded to prevent even thieves from stealing them.
“It’s the next room, Your Majesty.” The storehouse manager informed Kasser and they slowly rounded up the corner.
As soon as they entered, Kasser’s foot knocked against an empty bottle and sent it rolling across the floor in a loud manner. He clamoured to pick it up in order not to cause more disturbance. His expression hardened as he raised his head and looked around.
There were not just one or two bottles scattered around them.
“It looks like the blasted creature really went on a rampage.” Kasser muttered under his breath, looking at the disheveled room.
It seemed as though the Lark, trapped in that room, had struggled to get out quite violently, knocking over other bottles and causing the seeds inside to break open, awakening even more Larks. They supposed that many Larks had been roused like this as well. They may be up against more larks than they’d initially thought.
The soldiers began to spread out in groups and searched in all directions to find the cocoons of the Larks. They thoroughly swept all corners of the storage house and conducted the search for a long time, and yet even after hours of labor not one of the soldiers raised their voice to announce that they had found one.
Kasser and his men were growing frustrated at their lack of progress.
“Your Majesty, there are no cocoons to be found.” One of the soldiers finally reported to Kasser.
“What? You have found none? Then that would mean…” Kasser sucked in a breath. “As soon as the steel doors were opened, the creatures must have escaped from this room and made their way towards where the most high-grade seeds are kept. Let’s go there immediately!” He commanded the storehouse manager to lead them to the next room urgently.
“Yes! This way, Your Majesty!” The manager picked up his speed as if he was being chased and led the party out of the room.
The king and his soldiers raced off in the direction the manager dashed too in an almost panicked state.
Verus stood with his arms folded for a long time. He was lost in deep thoughts that he did not notice that darkness had come.
Although it was the peak of his usual working hours, and that he should be busy attending his work by now, after speaking with Marianne yesterday, he found himself unable to focus.
He had decided to meet with Marianne with the dual goal of obtaining information from inside the palace and finding out about the development between the king and queen. But the meeting had been far from his expectation.
As someone who had lived in the palace for decades, Marianne could be considered a veteran and was deeply accustomed to the ways of her noble stature. The way she carried herself was so unlike that of Verus. What came easily to Marianne was difficult for Verus, who was intelligent, but lacking in experience, to deal with her.
Verus was taciturn and struggled with expressing his intentions clearly. While Marianne had devoted most of her years in service to the royal family and was incredibly loyal to the king. His clumsy attempts at negotiations would be ineffective with her–she was far too rigid.
That was why he had tried to plan in advance, to predict where the conversation might head to and prepare various questions and answers that he might give to her response.
However, he had had no idea that Marianne might come and find him without warning the very next day after he had sent an errand boy to her. She had caught him off guard and he did not even have a chance to mentally prepare himself for their meeting.
The conversation with Marianne, though predictably, did not go as he had imagined it would be.
He had not managed to obtain any useful information from her as he had hoped. On the contrary, it seemed to him that the queen, having caught him by surprise, was the one who got the information off of him instead.
He had not been able to think straight at all so he must have slipped.
Verus sighed as he recalled yesterday’s conversation with the queen.
“The queen would like to meet with you, Lord Chancellor.” The errand boy had returned to tell him.
“… For what reason does Her Majesty…?”
Before Verus could continue the errand boy cut him off and responded.
“My lord, only Her Majesty will be able to tell you, of course.”
After Marianne had left, he had been unable to guess the reason for her sudden visit, no matter how he had racked his brains for an answer. In the meantime, Verus decided to keep his distance from the queen.
He only had the chance to meet her at formal events, and even then he only greeted her out of duty, not making any particular attempts at interaction beyond that. He was the type of person who preferred to focus on his work over social relationships after all.
Although the position of a chancellor was a political one and in this line of work, social interaction was unavoidable, he only developed relationships that could benefit his position and limited his interactions with important people if he could.
From the moment he had heard the news from the king that he would be marrying, he had decided not to get close to the queen. While the queen was someone who had the potential to strengthen his political standing, she could also end up getting him caught up in something messy.
Verus was a man who liked things to have clear beginnings and clear endings. He detested ambiguity. Involvement with other people, however, most often became complicated and unpredictable affairs arose from them which he did not fancy getting caught in. He had no energy for the mess that came with relationships with people.
Despite his preference for distancing himself from the queen, if Marianne asked him to meet, he was in no position to refuse her.
But the queen had not only never summoned him – she had never summoned anyone at all.