Anxiety, relief, helplessness, fear… a myriad of emotions passed through the arms that held the lying figure. The feelings were unexpected to those involved, but they existed nonetheless.
Eugene’s confused orbs dart side to side, but her arms reflexively mirrored his… tightly holding him by the waist. For a moment the boundary between dream and reality was vague, but soon she awoke completely.
She let out a light laugh, she was momentarily surprised. Even before had opened her eyes fully, she had seen him and before she knew it she was nestled in his embrace. She felt good, wanted as if he seemed to say he wouldn’t let go of her.
Her heart was pounding but she knew not exactly why. The warmth that they were sharing, the sense of being needed… she hoped this moment would last longer, for now, she was certain it wasn’t an illusion. For the first time in her life, she who had never known what the sensation of touch was, who had nothing but awkward physical contacts with others, experienced how pleasant it all was.
Since her time in this world, she had indulged in physical intimacy. But it was the s*xual kind. However, what she was feeling now, was suffused with a sense of security she had never ever felt before. And deep down she was well aware it was all because of the man she was with now, because of the feeling he invoked in her… she liked him.
Eugene furrowed her eyebrows, it felt like something was piercing her heart. But she was more astonished by the words that came unbidden to her mind.
Like?! … This person… I like him?!
A small sigh slipped her lips, the throbbing only quickened.
So this is how it feels when you like someone…
It was a bittersweet feeling, painful yet pleasing. She didn’t shy away from it somehow, and boldly submitted to it. Determined to express, uncaring about the response that awaited her, she raised her arms and hugged him by the shoulder.
She was being held in an awkward posture, her upper body slightly raised. When she raised her upper body, her whole body rose. He gradually released her from his embrace after she sat up.
“Are you all right?” he asked softly, his gentle gaze never leaving her face.
“Hm?” Puzzled, she tilted her head slightly.
“Do you feel sick, or weird?” said Kasser, “Anything off, any symptoms as such?”
Eugene shook her head. “Nothing is wrong.”
Now that she took note, she found that his expression was a bit different. The exhaustion and worry on his face, the way he spoke to her as if he were looking at a sick person, she felt the urge to reassure him and she did exactly that.
“Really, it’s nothing. I’m perfectly okay.”
She then traced back to her last memory. After falling asleep under the Lark-tree, she was as soon transported into a dream. She had lost all semblance of time and when she woke up from it, she found herself her bedchamber, huddled in his arms.
Perhaps he was immensely surprised when he had found me unconscious? She could think of nothing else that could warrant such a reaction from the typically stoic king.
“How long have passed out for?” she asked, her voice hoarse.
“You woke up in a day.” The underlying relief in his tone was hard to miss.
“… Just one day?!” She was taken aback. “So the red flare was yesterday?” She reconfirmed.
Kasser sighed, looked at her with profound eyes that masked too well the undercurrents.
“Eugene.” His voice was very low.
Eugene replied in a drawl, feeling uncomfortable. “Yes…”
“I told you to go to the palace straightaway. I left you because I believed you would be safe.” He didn’t seem happy.
“… I wanted to be of help. I didn’t want to run away alone.” She hurriedly added. “The Lark didn’t hurt me. It’s all good in the end.” She felt that since it had all turned out well, there was no need to worry. The disaster had been handled and things were fine now.
“It’s not about the Lark.” He spoke solemnly. “You fell down… Don’t you know how dangerous a fall can be? You could have been crippled or killed!”
He couldn’t believe how flippant this woman was towards her own life, how could she have little to no sense of self-preservation?! Throwing herself willingly in the clutches of danger, just what was in that mind of hers!
Eugene had nothing to say about that. At that moment that she was bouncing off the horse, she admitted she was wreathed with a suffocating fear. If it weren’t for Abu, she would have been badly hurt.
“It’s all good in the end?!” He snorted. “There’s no need for such useless remarks. Are you saying that if you do some tricks on horseback, clap your hands and the results turn out good, you’ll just bet your life every time? Will that always ensure your safety?” He demanded, palpably incensed.
Eugene sullenly looked towards the man. She wasn’t scared at all even though he was seriously reprimanding her. In fact, she was filled with… excitement.
No, no, she hadn’t lost any screws. It was just that his words, although filled with ridicule and anger, warmed her heart. She was stranger to sarcastic scoldings and unprovoked verbal abuse, her family had seen to it that she lacked none of that. However, the sincere concern, distress, and despair that Kasser was glossing with his rebuke, was foreign yet fetching.
Eugene was surprised at herself thinking about including him in that category. True, under the societal norms, since he was her husband and by extension her family. But this was a contractual marriage with Jin Anika, one that she, Eugene, wasn’t even bound to.
Three years… if you help me maintain a formal marriage for three years, I’ll give you a successor.
Suddenly, a memory surfaced– it was a scene where she was talking to him. To be precise, Jin was talking to him.
What are you going to do after you have a baby?
I’ll… I’ll tell you later. I don’t think it’s a bad offer for a king. You need a successor, don’t you?
The scene changed.
Do you think I don’t know? The king tells her everything. I’m the joke here!
Don’t be ridiculous! No matter what you say, Marianne will never leave!
Kasser frowned, seeing that she was lost in thoughts.
“Eugene, are you listening?” he asked, calling her attention to him.