As soon as Kasser heard the sound of the flare, he looked up to the skies and immediately pulled Eugene into a tight embrace. It was not something he consciously intended to do, just that his body had instinctively reacted, and he did not question it.
The only thought governing his mind was to bring the queen to the safety of the palace at the earliest and unscathed.
“The carri-…. I mean release the horses from the carriage and bring them to me. Immediately!”
There were a lot of people around them to begin with. However, more and more people flocked towards the monarch, screaming in terror, because they thought that the safest place was beside their king. As such, the ranks demarcating the royal couple was quickly breached.
If they wanted to forcibly bring the carriage and push the frantic crowd away, it would result in many injuries. The people could as well as even hang on to the departing carriage for dear life.
“Yes, Your Majesty!”
The troops that understood the king’s orders moved without hesitance. A few of them ran towards the carriage and the rest yelled ‘Get out of the way!’ threateningly as they forcibly paved a way.
At the moment, the sea of people reacted to the hollers of the warriors and started to withdraw.
However, Kasser knew from experience that the most important thing right now was to leave this place as soon as possible. If the order began to collapse, then the king’s name would be the object of ridicule. Another time, a sleight of hand and the king would be on his way from here. Except, he was not alone right now.
Up until now, Kasser’s life had been dedicated to protecting only himself… this kingdom and the person inside of him. Never had he felt this desperate and impatient as in this moment… or the fear of being unable to protect the queen.
He tightly grasped the sword that one of his men had handed him. This was a special sword that could destroy the Larks. During the course of a day, a man was always tasked with protecting the sword, and as such, it would never leave the king’s side. It was especially so if the master stepped out of the palace.
But today had been a special case. The king was on a leisure trip with the queen. And it was the lull after the recent attack, things were supposed to be lax and it would be normal to be without the sword.
In hindsight, he thought it was a good decision to have brought the sword even on a casual outing with the queen, however, he deeply regretted leaving Abu behind.
I should have brought him along.
Eugene held onto his arms tightly as he embraced her. Her hands were pale, heart racing. Up until now, she had been neatly tucked into the arms of safety.
She’d watched the flares explode in the sky from inside the palace like a spectator of fireworks. No matter how much chaos erupted outside, inside the palace was always quiet and peaceful. Except for the momentary anxiety, things would fall quickly into normalcy.
Now, it was her first time ever being in the middle of the battlefield. Despite the fact that proactivity was a big part of daily life and that nothing should faze her in such circumstances, Eugene was very wrong about her ability to stay calm if Larks were to confront her. Right now, she wasn’t ashamed to admit she was afraid.
The terrifying cries of the people surrounding them only agitated her heart further. Some appealed and begged at the king’s feet, some screamed at the top of their lungs, and some wailed in desperation.
There was an intense flood of emotions tangible enough to feel at the surface of her skin. Eugene sighed breathlessly.
Who would be able to stay calm in the face of death?
Eugene realized she was like a flower blooming in a greenhouse. However, before Mahar, her life was like the weeds at the core of a beautiful garden. Sometimes she would scoff at the flowers in envy and resent that she could not be like them.
She took a sharp breath. Her neck tingled at the sudden sensation. She didn’t want to live like the weed she was in the past anymore.
I am Queen. As the queen, what should I be doing right now?
Kasser pulled her in even closer into his already tight embrace and whispered sweetly into her ears.
“Riding the horse proves to be a little difficult. I’m going to climb up first, you just hold onto me tightly.” Exerting his superpowers, he revealed his plan to escape.
Eugene recalled the past where she’d tightly hugged herself only to jump off the balcony and she urgently spoke.
“No, you can’t!”
She knew exactly what she had to do next. She had to send the king to the battlefield!
If the king helped the queen escape back to the palace with his superpowers, then the many witnesses would resent the king and accuse him of abandoning his people. Even if that wasn’t the case, the moral code dictated that safeguarding the subjects should be the foremost duty of a sovereign.
Right now, the crowd was inundated with horror. They were unable to make any logical judgements. Even if the king were to help the queen escape and come back, there would be more people who would be emotionally responsive.
Eugene had seen the way the king would diligently run around day and night in order to protect the kingdom. She couldn’t let all his hard work go to waste in just one moment. She didn’t want to bring down the reputation of the great king whom everyone respected.
“Leave, Your Majesty.”
“It’s a red flare. It’s different from the other ones. You are the only one who is able to resolve this matter.”
“My queen, let’s first get you to safet…”
“No, it’s okay.” Eugene interrupted him in midsentence, besides this was no time to bicker about that. “You know as well as I do, if not more, that you must go now.”
Eugene thought that there was no way that her resolve would go unnoticed by the king. When she saw his reaction and his inability to speak, she became more certain of it.
Another flare exploded up into the sky. Eugene bit her bottom lip at the sight of smoke from the red flare pervading the skies.
The situation was rapidly plummeting. Another flare fueled the flames of fear in the people who were already overwhelmed. The resounding shrieks and yawps of terror from every direction were jarring enough to momentarily deafen one’s ears.
Eugene pushed Kasser away with all her might.
“I said to go now!”
Kasser turned his head back and forth from the spreading red smoke to the woman in his arms, anxiety wreathe his stoic mien.
Eugene was glad that he didn’t leave even after coldly turning his back on her. She was more grateful that he was hesitating to leave her. This was precisely the reason she thought she could decisively let him go.
“I am not the one you need to protect right now. I am okay. I’m Anika. Larks won’t harm me.”
Kasser closed his eyes and opened them again moments later. His once shaken up orbs were now calm and collected. He quickly scanned his surrounding troops and finally fixed his eyes on Sven.
“Escort the queen back to the palace at all costs!”