Suddenly she paused, hesitating over whether to say more or not. If she had spotted even a glimmer of suspicion in his eyes, she would have just glossed over the matter. But because he had shown only genuine curiosity, she found herself wanting to tell him what she knew.
She brushed aside her earlier inhibitions and chose to lay bare the knowledge she possessed.
“A new-born beast is like an infant in human terms. Like humans, beasts too age with the passage of time, becoming more intelligent as they grow.” She explained.
Kasser let out a gasp as though he had suddenly realised something.
“So that’s why Abu got so much craftier as the years went on!”
It was a strange thing to say with such a grave expression, and Eugene let out a small laugh.
“It seems I’m benefitting from your memory loss – even getting to hear forbidden information,” he said with a gentle smile.
Eugene smiled. She knew how hard it must be for someone of his stature, who had been drilled into seeing the world with the glasses of suspicion and doubt at every moment of life. However, now he had taken her words on face value. Nevertheless, she was grateful that he said only that without pressing her further.
“If it’s concerning Larks and beasts… I might remember more.”
The novel that Eugene had written had mostly been a story about the struggle between Larks and humans, and the six kings pursuing Jin, who had become the incarnation of Mara. To that extent, it had covered Larks in some detail. Since there were some notable scenes involving the kings handling the beasts, it had also described the characteristics of beasts quite comprehensively.
While people’s history here did not align with what she had written in her novel, she had not yet found any of her other knowledge of this world to be wrong. Somehow she got the feeling that it would continue to be the case.
“If it wouldn’t bother you to hear it, that is.” She added.
“What could possibly bother me? My concern is that you might reveal something you shouldn’t and regret it later,” he said.
Being an Anika was no less of a burden than being a king. And every prominent being was entitled to a few secrets, to say nothing of an Anika.
“I won’t regret it. I…”
Eugene fell quiet. The words ‘I want to tell you everything’ caught in her throat. She was afraid of how he might react if she told him that she was not really Jin. Then there was her whole transmigration thing, how was she to explain that? Right now, although she had the heart to tell the truth, the truth was so preposterous, that even if Kasser wanted to believe her, he wouldn’t be able to. Heck, she wouldn’t believe it either!
However, the matter of whether he trusted her or not was a problem for later. She had yet to figure out all the wrongdoings Jin had committed. In the future, if her crime was exposed, he was sure to think that she had been lying the whole time to cover it up. Why not? She would think the same, if she were in his position.
Oh, how difficult it is to completely trust another person!
Eugene did not think that she and the king trusted each other to that extent yet. No, they had a long way to go to reach the unconditional trust the books glorified, if there was such a thing in the world. But considering how she had arrived into this world, perhaps such a thing existed too?
“Kings are able to control the beasts. Do you not share information with other kingdoms about the beasts you possess?”
It was obvious to Kasser that Eugene was trying to change the subject. He was conflicted for a moment – he wanted to ask her what she was going to say. But he knew it would be useless to press her like that. Even he could make up a story to cover up something he didn’t want to reveal. And he didn’t want to be the recipient of one such information. So he thought it best let it go for now and fell in rhythm with her conversation, acting like he didn’t notice the change in topic.
“A king’s beasts are a national secret. It’s impossible that such information could be shared,” he said honestly.
“Then, there should at least be information you can get from inside the kingdom. Since all kings have beasts.” She countered.
The best recourse in dealing with the unknown was through sharing of information. Whatever knowledge one had about the beasts, no matter how little or insignificant, would come in handy.
“No one shares information about the beasts,” he said flatly.
Eugene was flabbergasted. She found it hard to believe.
“Your Majesty didn’t hear anything from the previous king?” she asked.
As much as it sounded terse, the fact was Kasser had never had any information from any king before. Even his father.
“Why not?” She couldn’t mask her incredulity.
Eugene was unable to understand. If he kept everything to himself until the day he died, who was he even keeping the secret for?
Since beasts and Larks shared the same origins, the more information one had about beasts, the better one would be able to understand Larks as well. If information was not passed down to the next generation, no matter how much time passed, the people of Mahar would never be able to understand what Larks were and would always spend the active season just barely managing to survive.
“Anyway, I hope there was not too much loss at the storehouse?”
Seeing that he had turned reticent over the subject, Eugene cleverly veered away. Since he didn’t want to talk about it, she wouldn’t prod either… just like he had done moments ago. Perhaps it was too heavy a secret, or maybe it was a boundary he didn’t want to cross yet, or cross with her… Whatever the case, it seems it wasn’t time yet.
“Only some of the yellow-grade seeds.” He drifted to his normal self.
“That’s good. And the beast?” she asked, curiously.
“The creature gave me a lot of trouble, so I brought it back…”
“You brought it back?!” Eugene repeated in astonishment.
“Since it’s a beast,” Kasser said, wondering about her dramatic reaction.
Kings were not able to tame an unlimited number of beasts. They used Praz to suppress the beasts’ instincts, but even a Praz had a limit on how completely it could control a beast.
A king usually got his first beast while still a prince. It was a kind of rite of passage to prove their worthiness to become king. Since their Praz was still unstable in their youth, their first beast was usually weak.
That was why it was common for them to tame another beast, a stronger one which better suited their tastes, after becoming king.
If a beast was not tamed after being subdued, it had to be killed. This was so because once a beast had been attacked by a human, it began to recognise humans as enemies. Compared to Larks, which were driven by instinct, beasts, were intelligent and far more dangerous. A beast left alive today could be a cause for massacre tomorrow.
The king in Eugene’s novel had had a very strong beast from the beginning, and felt that weak beasts were useless.
If he were the king from the novel, he would have killed it on the spot.
The man in front of Eugene now was far more laid-back than the king from her novel. It was thanks to this laid-back nature of his that he was able to accept Eugene’s memory loss and generously overlook Jin’s wrongdoings.
Of course, the king in the novel and the king of this world was in different circumstances. The heart of the king in her novel, who had been chasing Jin in pursuit of vengeance, was cold and unforgiving. His life experience could perhaps be blamed for his callous and cutthroat approach, but Jin Anika’s performance was not particularly prodigious either.
In any case, I prefer this king.