She could’ve been attacked by Larks! Kasser thought in frustration. His brows furrowed, fists clenched so tightly, his knuckles turned white.
Anika had always been sheltered, kept safe from any kind of harm or hardship. She would have been terrified had she encountered any Lark at all. But if she did witness, or encounter such horrific events, it would explain the sudden change.
If she did have such experience, her sudden change could be somehow validated. A near-death experience can certainly change a person, no matter how wicked they were to the core.
When one finds themselves clinging onto dear life, their life flashing before their very eyes, you would wish you could take back all your wrong deeds as you realize life could be so much more.
Kasser could feel the cold rage coursing through his veins at the thought of them.
Larks referred to the red-eyed devils that haunt Mahar. During the dry season, it falls into a deep sleep but when this time of peace is over, these monsters rush out of their resting dens and start roaming around, looking for prey. The active period is what the people call when Larks begin their hunts.
These monsters come in many forms—four-legged reptiles, gigantic worms, and many more. They also come in varying, yet giant sizes. Despite this, the one thing Larks had in common was their hostility towards humans.
If the queen and her party had been attacked by Larks, she would probably still be safe. It was widely believed that a Lark cannot hurt Anika because of where she came from; Seongdo, the Holy City.
But this was no more than just a vicious rumor, as no one had actually seen a Lark spare the queen from his appetite. And no one in their right mind would dare put the queen, Anika, into the desert in the active period simply to verify its authenticity.
None was that cruel.
Witnesses from so long ago had testified though, that none of these Larks had been seen anywhere near, or in Seongdo, Anika’s hometown and country.
But why did Anika go out to the desert in the first place? What was her purpose?
Kasser’s thoughts were only filled with a multitude of questions, one appearing after the other the more he thought about it.
The queen had recklessly escaped through the desert. But why? No one knew what went through the queen’s mind. What’s more unusual was that Anika was notorious for hating the desert she was forced to live in. She hated the coarse sands; she hated the endless heat.
Unfortunately, that was exactly what the Kingdom of Hashi was. The Desert Kingdom. And with harsh desert came an even far more dangerous foe in the form of Larks especially in the active period. But come the dry season, the desert was but a treasure.
Always at the end of the active period and the beginning of the dry season, the king would cross the desert to reach a small oasis situated at its middle. It was an altar for offerings; built on the oasis and as per tradition, the king must visit without fail.
He remembered the queen accompanying him once on one of his many trips to the altar. It happened around the dry season in their first year of marriage.
It was an unpleasant experience. There was no smile on her face that whole duration. She wanted to immediately return to the palace. She made her distaste for the desert so clear, he never brought her along any time after that.
And she never went back out to the desert.
“What did the queen do before she went out to the desert? Was there anything strange?” he asked one of the palace hands.
“There was none, Your Majesty. The queen went about her usual routine.”
Kasser huffed out in frustration.
“Summon General Sarah at once.”
“Yes, Your Majesty.”
No one, especially someone like Jin Anika, would go and do the one thing they hate for absolutely no reason. Kasser resolved to look more deeply into each and every activity the queen had before she escaped to the desert. And the general would be sure to aid him in his investigation.
When Eugene managed to return to her bedroom, she began pacing back and forth. During her conversation with the king, she knew absolutely nothing about what he was talking about. Not a hint or clue was revealed to help her. It didn’t matter how hard she tried to rack her brain, or in this case, Anika’s, nothing came to mind.
I may have her body and mind, but I don’t think I can manipulate them freely at all. She nervously thought.
She kept fiddling with her hands but knew she needed a change of tactics. After all, she couldn’t go about this passively, charging headfirst blind to what she was doing.
After further musings, she resolved to call for one of her maids, Zanne, one who was assigned to cater to her whims and needs.
“You called, Anika?” Zanne said softly as soon as she arrived.
When she had been summoned, she felt fear coursing through her veins. Blood drained from her face with the thought of the queen. She was utterly terrified.
Eugene had never experienced being so frightened of someone who held authority over them, but she could at least relate to her. She’d been exposed to a number of employers who were troublesome, even in modern society with all the laws protecting the workers. It was simply an unavoidable thorn. It was also why she wanted to ease the girl’s fright, even if ever so slightly.
“Come and sit.” Eugene sat down on the couch and beckoned to Zanne, patting the space beside her.
However, Zanne seemed all the more frightened. Her metaphorical shackles rising at the thought of going nearer. She was shaking… She was expecting the worst.
“H-how dare I sit down wi-with—” She stuttered, but Eugene interrupted.
“Sit down.” She ordered.
She hadn’t meant to make it sound like an order, but it came out like it. She was thankful that Zanne, did in fact, sit down beside her… Even if she was almost dangling at the edge of the seat when she did. She did her best to keep the farthest possible distance from her.
“How old are you?” Eugene asked her.
At first, Eugene tried coercing Zanne to relax by asking her personal questions, including her age, family, and when she became a maid in the castle. Despite her unwavering caution, Zanne was able to give brief and concise answers when she was asked.
It took a while, but soon enough her quick and short answers soon became longer, more in-depth, and Eugene could tell she was beginning to thaw the girl’s well-built caution due to fear. If anything, her tense expression was soon easing up, so she took it as a good sign.
Zanne was stupefied. She couldn’t believe that the queen remembered her name! This was not the first time she entered the queen’s chambers, but not once did she summon her by name. It seemed like a miracle.
“I want you to help me,” Eugene said, cutting to the chase and told her without hesitation.
Instantly, Zanne’s eyes widened. What help could she provide the queen?
“After I came back from the desert, I had a little problem,” Eugene said. This was a gamble on her part. One she wished would work out in her favor.
“My memory’s a little… messed up.” She finally admitted.