There were a few people lined up in front of the king’s desk. Kasser’s eyes moved up and down as he read document after document. He wasn’t able to rest at all ever since the day started due to the amount of work that needs to be done.
He had no choice but to get up in the middle of the night when he was notified of a signal flare. He managed to hunt down the Lark with ease, and he resumed office right after his morning pursuit.
It was always busy at this time of year. It was an annual occurrence and it is something that he is used to doing, but Kasser desperately did not want to be drowning in work right now.
Kasser is kneading his temples with one hand, unable to focus on the document in front of him as his mind drifts somewhere else.
It was his sworn duty to prioritize the kingdom more than anything else, but he’s pretty distracted at the moment, with thoughts unrelated to the work in front of him.
He remembered the sounds of his footsteps when he left the queen’s chamber this early morning. What he wanted to do then was to put off work, and cuddle with his queen instead. It is unlike him to be thinking such things, to be so emotional that he’s willing to postpone work, but he snapped out of his thoughts and went about his day, and be the Monarch that he is.
“What is it?” The king asked with an irritated tone. He thought that the chamberlain had brought more work for him.
“The queen is here to see you.”
Kasser did not expect that at all. He raised one eyebrow in confusion.
“It seems that Her Grace has something to discuss with you. I have escorted her to the reception room, should I bring her in?”
“Yes. Please tell her to come in.”
The king put down the documents he was reading and arranged them in a neat pile. The chamberlain then gathered all the officials lingering about the office and left.
Eugene went to the office as soon as the party left.
Eugene smiled shyly towards the king when their eyes met. She was suddenly feeling embarrassed for coming here out of the blue when the king had more important matters to attend to.
“Your Majesty, I apologize for bothering you at this busy time.” Eugene said
“There’s no need to apologize. I was about to take a break, anyway.”
Kasser stood up from his desk and led Eugene to the couch. She sat down as she observed the office. The place looked the same the last time Eugene went here when she took a peak at a Hwansu lizard. The office is minimal, with a few furniture pieces here and there.
“Tell me, does it make you uncomfortable when I visit you here in the office?” Eugene asked.
“I’ve never prohibited you from coming here, have I? Feel free to come here anytime.” The king assured her.
She thought that the king was being too considerate. She noticed the stack of documents piled on his table, and the long cue of officials waiting outside. It was a pretty busy day for the king, and Eugene was thankful that she was well accommodated despite the hectic schedule.
“I don’t see the little kid.” Eugene said.
“Little kid?” The king asked with a confused tone.
“It’s a name that I made up. By little kid I meant the Hwansu you brought from the repository.”
“It’s in the lobby near my bedroom. Do you want to see it now?” His brows furrowed significantly. Is it what she came for after all? The little pest?
“No. I didn’t come here for that. I wanted to ask you something, but it’s not important. You don’t have to answer me right away, okay?”
“What is the treasure trove?” Eugene continued “And why couldn’t I go there?”
Kasser frowned ever so slightly, barely noticeable. He assumed that Eugene remembered the treasure trove when she said that she regained some of her memories.
“The old you used to go there frequently.” Kasser said in all honesty. He also told Eugene that he did not want to mention treasure trove in fear that it’d stir up her memories.
“How often did I go there?” Eugene asked.
“I heard that you went to the treasure trove lots of times. Currently, there has to be my approval for the doors to be opened, however, the old you went to that place freely.”
“What did I do there exactly?”
‘I wish I could ask you the same question’, Kasser thought to himself.
“You used to say that you wanted to see the kingdom’s most valued treasures”, Kasser answered with a patient tone.
“That’s it?” Eugene asked, partly unconvinced.
“Yes, except for the day when you went out into the desert.” Kasser remarked. Eugene wanted to know more.
“So, the necklace that I took was the one that was kept in the treasure trove.” Eugene realized that Kasser didn’t question her further about the missing treasure. He’d rather hide the fact that the treasure was stolen, than to have the old Jin Anika back. She felt odd when she realized how much Kasser detested the former queen.
“Well, actually…” Kasser hesitated as he took a glance at Eugene and continued,
“That necklace is not the missing treasure.”
“What?” Eugene asked, clearly confused.
“Wait.” Kasser looked at Eugene with a nervous expression. He didn’t want her to think that he thought of her as a thief.
“Don’t tell me what the missing treasure is.” Eugene continued, “I think I might be able to remember.”
It never passed in Eugene’s mind that Kasser thought of her as a thief, anyway. There’s no need for Kasser to lie.
“I want to visit the treasure trove.”
Chapter 167 – The Giant Seed
Kasser complied with Eugene’s request, seeing that he has no reason to keep the treasure trove a secret to her anymore.
“There’s just something that I need to do right now, how about we go there in the afternoon?”
Eugene nodded, “Alright. Sounds good to me.”
As the afternoon rolled by, Eugene got ready, fully prepared to go outside the palace for today’s trek to the treasure trove. The chamberlain went to her chambers to pick her up, and Kasser escorted her towards an unfamiliar hallway.
Eugene didn’t think that the treasure trove was located inside the Palace. Looking at it now, Eugene realized that she had not explored the palace as thoroughly as she thought she did. She only went to areas that are familiar to her, never stepping foot on uncharted grounds. And she was only able to go around the palace with the maids leading the way.
The place was, as expected, heavily guarded with royal guards lining up the corridor all the way to the stairs. It seems like this was the only path that leads to the treasure trove.
There was a set of doubled-arched doors waiting for them as they descended the spiral staircase. Guards were stationed in front of the doors too as they kept watch.
“Open the door.” Kasser commanded.
“Yes, your Majesty.” A guard unhinged the lock and loosened up the chains interlocking the opening. The guards pushed the hardware to the side as they pulled the door open. A woman wouldn’t be able to open this alone, Eugene realized as she saw the guards exert so much effort in opening the heavy door.
Then suddenly, memories started to fill her head as she appeared fascinated with the place slowly unveiling before her very eyes. The sight in front of her was so similar with the memory that she wasn’t able to distinguish one from the other.
‘What did Jin feel when these doors were opened? What exactly was she thinking?’ Eugene thought internally. She also realized that getting in touch with Jin’s emotions wouldn’t be good for her, but still, she wanted to know.
“Do you want to go alone?” Kasser asked her.
“No, let’s go together. I might need your guidance, Your Majesty.” Eugene said. She would need all the help she could get from Kasser.
Kasser and Eugene went inside. There was a long, wide hallway stretched out in front of them. And the sides were lined up with multiple doors, all of it leading to different rooms.
Eugene did not remember anything, nor did it stir up any memories. But the pathway felt somehow familiar as they went straight ahead, with Kasser trying to match her pace.
Reaching the end of the long hallway, Eugene stopped in front of the door and clutched the knob, carefully turning it in as she opened the door. She did it in a meticulous manner, and it was as if she was reenacting her actions from the past.
The memory stopped as soon as she entered the room. It was made more spacious by its’ dimly lit high ceiling.
She walked further into the room as she took in her surroundings. There was a statue placed on one side, stone tablets with carved inscriptions, and a few items that looked like animal horns.
At the sides of the hallway stood a wide enough space that could fit two people. And in that space sat a bunch of treasures with no barricade or storage box to guard them. One could touch the treasures by simply reaching their arms out.
The treasures looked random, no uniformity to its characteristics. They were significantly distinct from one another that the room looked like a storage room of some antique shop. These did not even look expensive. Eugene assumed that these were historical artifacts that are pretty significant.
Eugene suddenly stopped walking.
Where is it?
Eugene heard Jin’s voice as she was once again pulled back into Jin’s memories.
It’s supposed to be here. It has to be here.
Eugene followed Jin’s line of thought. To Kasser, Eugene looked like she was simply looking at all the artifacts, but her mind was elsewhere, focusing intently on Jin’s memories.
Eugene stopped, following closely to the place where Jin had stopped in the memory. Jin’s attention was transfixed on a sculpture of a pair of two hands cradling a dark, oval-shaped egg.
It’s here. I knew it would be here. Jin said in a trembling voice.
Eugene felt Jin’s intense emotions. She had heard Jin’s voice several times in her memories, but never like this- never with such honest, passionate feelings.
I found it. I finally found it!
Jin let out a scream of laughter, screeching with victory. The sound completely showing her overflowing bliss.
The flashback abruptly ended. She was pulled back to reality and she realized that the sculpture in front of her is different- it no longer held the dark, oval-shaped egg like the one in Jin’s memories.
“This is it.” This was the item that Jin stole and went to the desert with.
Eugene turned and faced Kasser, “Is this the missing treasure?”
“You remembered?” Kasser asked.
“Like I told you before, the memories I regained only contain bits and pieces. I remembered that I had such great interest with the object placed here, but I don’t remember why I took it, or when I took it. What is the object that used to be here?” Eugene asked, pointing at the sculpture.
“It was a seed.”
“A Lark seed? That big?”
“I’m actually not sure if it was a seed or not.” Kasser said as he scratched his head. He straightened his back and told Eugene the history of the national treasure.
A long time ago, there was an enormous Lark that had managed to find its way into the palace. Lark appearances were pretty common back then. With no walls barricading the kingdom, one can only depend on the palace to protect its civilians from the desert.
It was a known fact that the proportions of the said Lark are massive compared to the size of the palace. And Kasser really thought that this legend was overly exaggerated, because it was nearly impossible for a human to be able to fend off a Lark that huge. The Desert King at the time had been extremely lucky.
“It is a trophy signifying the victory back then.” Kasser said.
“I didn’t know that Larks leave traces. I thought…”
“Yes. They disappear without a trace. What I’m saying is that I’m not entirely sure of its identity.” Kasser explained.
Eugene kept her attention towards the sculpture. She wanted to see more memories, but nothing appeared before her anymore.
“What if it really was a seed?” Eugene turned her attention back to Kasser. Goosebumps erupted on her skin as she imagined how gigantic the monster it contains if it was indeed a seed. It was no doubt the biggest monster to have ever walked this world.
“There were speculations about it.” Kasser said.
Eugene nodded in understanding, “Meaning the Lark turned into a seed before it was completely destroyed.”
“There’s also a theory that says that the seed got its dark color from dried-up blood, making it an empty seed. It does make sense when you think about it, especially if the nucleus was indeed destroyed.” Kasser elaborated.