Right at the center of the path to the town square, was a huge tree standing out of nowhere. The road that was wide enough for two carriages to comfortably pass one another, looked seriously crammed with the giant tree claiming a majority. The leftover space was not even sufficient for one carriage.
This tree was unimaginably tall. Such was the thickness that it would take two able-bodied men to encompass it, the foliage so dense that one could hardly glimpse the underlying branches. It looked to be at least a decade old, but ironically it had never existed even until this morning. It had appeared out of thin air.
Kasser looked up towards the tree, he seemed severely upset.
He’d put up a fence and stationed guards around it to prevent people from approaching the tree. But despite these efforts, there were still quite a gathering, Kasser had had to push people aside to make a path to it just now.
Once the awestricken crowd became aware of their king’s presence, they voluntarily took a few steps back, respectfully forming a wider circle behind him. He noticed the crowd had grown from when he had first arrived.
Yesterday, three red flares had lit the sky after the sightings of a trio of grade purple Larks. The monsters had wreaked havoc at different locations in the city, but thankfully, despite the casualties, the damage was not widespread.
Larks in general triggered terror amongst the masses. But so far, they had been spotted on the other side of the city walls. Even if there were occasions when the monsters had breached the perimeter, they were timely contained by the authorities.
However, this incident had augmented the gap between the fear they felt when a Lark was spotted outside the city walls and when one appeared in the heart of their place of dwelling.
Usually, it would be a while before people took to the streets after a red flare. But this time, it was different. Excited, people were out of their homes early the next morning, seemingly forgotten all about the shock from the previous day. They seemed to behave as though the active period had ended, and there were no looming threats of Larks.
“Was that tree really a Lark?”
“It really was! There are tons of witnesses.”
“I heard about it too. Apparently, when Queen Anika touched the Lark, it immediately fell to the ground, and then it turned into that tree.”
“I heard that if you keep one of the branches of this tree as a charm, then Larks can’t attack you!”
“Is that true?”
The chatters, murmurs, and whispers of the people all made it to the king’s ears. Although the conversations were all mixed up in their excitement, most of them were saying the same thing, enabling him to draw his own basic conclusion.
General Lester, who had been one step behind the king, responded quickly. “Yes, Your Majesty.”
“It seems that there are false rumors spreading around. The idea that keeping a part of this tree would prevent attacks from Larks… you must prevent them from believing such a ridiculous notion.”
“Yes, Your Majesty.”
The rumor that the tree sprouted by Queen Anika could ward off Larks had already spread quickly throughout Haishi. Some even believed that the reason the Larks were not able to enter the Holy City was because of the tree in the town square.
But if that was the case, then someone would have already discovered a way to use Anikas’ Ramitas against the Larks. Even if it was prohibited by the Sang-je, the survival instincts of humans could not be denied.
And if it was true about the trees, then by now there would be nothing left of the tree in the town square because everyone would have broken off its branches.
Kasser’s mind replayed the events from yesterday. He had come as fast as possible to get rid of the Lark, but upon his arrival, all he had found was a tree that he had never seen before surrounded by all the guards and soldiers who were talking excitedly amongst themselves.
And the way that his vision had trembled when he had spotted Eugene lying unconscious at the foot of the tree, he could not quite explain. Even now, when he recalled that scene, his heart seemed to sink into his stomach.
“Your Majesty.” General Lester addressed him carefully. “Her Majesty… is she still…?”
A whole day had passed after the king had brought the unconscious queen back to the royal castle, there was still no word of her recovery. Kasser did not respond, only scowled.
Lester made a face as if he had been burned and kept his mouth shut. He had been attempting to ask for forgiveness on behalf of Sven and the other guards, but an ill-timed attempt would be likely to backfire.
The guards who had accompanied the queen on the previous day were all currently in prison. They were charged with disobeying the king’s orders to bring the queen directly to the castle.
It was true that they made a mistake, but to get rid of those guards over this small incident would be a great waste of their skills. Especially Sven who was so incredibly talented and of great character that even the king had taken a liking to him. Lester surmised that the king himself probably did not feel too happy about having to address Sven’s guilt.
Still, I had better not bring up the fate of the imprisoned guards until the queen awakens. Lester thought. Broaching the subject now will only make matters worse.