Once the two had finally made it to the outer edge of the crowd, the royal escorts began moving and joined them immediately on sight.
Perhaps it would have been easier making their way through the crowd escorted by their guards, but the queen was also a major aspect of why the crowd was over eager to gather. They wanted to see her in person, and being surrounded by the guards would defeat the purpose.
Before she even got on the carriage, Eugene turned around and took one final look around her. Her eyes skimmed through each of the guards with her, but noted not one of them was someone she recognized. She thought it strange, especially since she hadn’t seen Sven, or any of the other guards she was familiar with since they’ve left the castle.
She finally went in, and sat down, before the carriage finally moved. Once in the privacy of the carriage confines, Eugene turned to Kasser.
“Your Highness, the guards with me on that day,” she began, “Were any of them injured?” she asked with worry.
“No.” he replied, and Eugene felt the relief slip into her frame as she finally relaxed.
She made a mistake that day. She’d given them orders to evacuate the citizens, but hadn’t given them any orders what to do after that, and thus had given them a half-command.
“Then, where’s Sven? I haven’t seen him.” she added.
“We’re looking into choosing a new group of escorts for you.” he informed her. And Eugene whipped her head towards him in surprise, her eyes widening.
“It would be better for you to choose those with actual formal training in being a royal escort. Your original escorts had never even had any escorting experience before.” he explained, and Eugene felt dismayed.
So it was just as she thought. Her lack of orders she had given that day had caused them troubles, and as a result, Kasser thought it would be better to replace them.
“Did Sven refuse to escort me any longer?” she fretted, but Kasser dismissed her worries.
“Whether or not he remains to be your escort is no decision of Sven.” his tone made Eugene feel cold, as if he no longer wanted to discuss the topic. Immediately she recalled his furious statements from yesterday…
‘You fell off your horse! Don’t you know how dangerous it is to fall off of your horse?!’
Sven had been the only one present when Eugene had fallen off of her horse. So the only way that Kasser could know about what had happened was if Sven had told him about it, because Eugene certainly hadn’t told the king.
Her falling from the horse was not even Sven’s fault. She knew that it had been a dangerous situation, additionally, he had disobeyed the king’s orders to return immediately to the castle, but that was because of her own insistence. She felt a cold dread settle in the pit of her stomach.
“Your Majesty. Is Sven being punished?”
Kasser did not respond. But his silence was a resounding yes to her ears. Eugene could not bear the thought of Sven being punished because of her own faults.
“Your Majesty. Sven didn’t even do anything wrong. I was stubborn. Sven did his best to try to discourage me from doing what I wanted. Even the other guards were only obeying my orders.” she pleaded. Those guards had had no other choice. If they had ignored her direct orders in favor of following the king’s orders, they could have received punishment for disobedience.
Kasser finally looked at her as she pleaded, but he remained silent as he stared her down. For the first time since they got close, Eugene felt a crippling fear of him.
She was painfully reminded that this is the King. In a society with a caste-system as theirs, being king gave you boundless authority, far beyond the highest power the world Eugene came from had. With his word alone, a man could either live or die.
She felt a sudden empathy for Sven and the other guards.
Back in her own world, she had been chased down by loan sharks for money that she had never even seen before, and she had lost her job because of her gambling-addicted brother who had made a scene in front of her company building.
To live a life that was completely controlled by others against your own will…
It was truly demeaning.
She shuddered at the thought that she might become the reason that these people with so much potential ended up having no future.
“Please, I would rather that you punish me instead. The fact that innocent people would have to take on the punishment for my own wrongs… it’s too awful.” she continued.
Kasser let out a small sigh.
When he saw her expression as she said the words ‘too awful’, she looked as if it was too much for someone simply trying to protect those that they cared about. It resembled greatly the expression of someone who detested extreme injustice.
To be completely honest, he himself had been hesitant to give the order to put the guards in prison. And now that the queen had awoken in good health, he hadn’t any intention of giving them a harsh punishment after that. He had only been meaning to end it with just a short probation and changing out the queen’s official escorts.
But if Eugene herself was going to be so stubbornly opposed to the idea, then was there even a point to punishing the guards at all?
“So what is it that you want, then?” he sighed out, and Eugene blinked before thinking about it.
“Have you already ordered their punishment?”
“Not yet. They’re on probation.”
“Then probation is enough. Give them back their positions. And I would like it if they could keep escorting me as well.” she told him. Kasser seemed to be mulling about it for a while, before he finally sighed.
“Alright.” he agreed resignedly.