Chapter 184

Chapter 184

After seeing the man out, Marianne went back to the office and approached Eugene. The queen had her back facing the door, standing in front of a birdcage that was placed on a shelf right next to the window. The cage housed a squirrel that was poised and waiting, jumping out of its’ coop the moment Eugene unlatched the opening. He scurried up the length of Eugene’s arm to sit on her shoulder.

“Your Highness, I’m currently looking for other storytellers. It will take me some time to locate them since they live as nomads.” Marianne said.

“Seems like he’s a well-known storyteller, a renowned one in his trade.” Eugene said as she turned to Marianne.

“I heard that he knows many bizarre tales and stories.”

“I may need to meet another person after meeting with his great grandmother. So you need to keep looking, but do not focus on that entirely.”

“Yes, Your Highness.” Marianne nodded.

Eugene lifted her left hand above her chest, palm up as the squirrel quickly scrambled down her shoulder to rest on her hand. It sat there looking at Eugene while waving his bushy tail excitedly. The Hwansu retreated back towards her shoulder when Eugene motioned her hand down, and she repeated the action with her right hand this time, wiggling her fingers slightly to signal the squirrel to move.

The creature was quick to understand, shuffling back and forth on her hands, making Eugene giggle softly at his antics. She stroked the squirrel’s head in admiration, the beast leaning its small head towards her fingers, as if prodding her to go on.

Marianne stood watching the squirrel’s movements, amazed to see how well the king’s Hwansu responded to the queen.

“The aides think that this squirrel is my pet.”

The squirrel’s birdcage became Eugene’s after the king brought it to her. She couldn’t imagine Kasser playing with the squirrel since he only summons Abu to hunt Larks. The cage was originally placed in the lobby, and Eugene didn’t want the squirrel to be left alone so she moved it inside her office, taking care of it for a while. The aides have no idea about the squirrel’s true identity since Eugene never told them.

“They would never be able to guess that this is a Hwansu.”

“It has red eyes and red horns. How can they still not know? The characteristics are so evident already.”

“They probably think that Hwansus look pretty exceptional.”

“Do they think that such adorable squirrel is not fit to be a Hwansu?” Eugene asked defensively.

Marianne smiled at her. “I wouldn’t have known if Your Highness didn’t tell me, and Hwansus are known to be obedient only to their masters.”

Eugene suddenly thought of Abu— the black leopard, sometimes taking the form of a huge horned horse, was famously known for being the Desert King’s Hwansu. He was unlike this small creature in front of her. However, she played with the formidable beast every day, and she wondered what Marianne would think if she saw a downsized version of Abu purring at her feet.

“What do you think would happen if it changes its’ master to me?” Eugene jokingly said. She was surprised to see Marianne’s expression fall upon hearing her harmless jest.

“Is that even possible?” Marianne asked in a serious tone, as if contemplating.

‘Does she think that I might steal the King’s Hwansu away from him?’ Eugene’s mood dropped, realizing that she might’ve sounded insensitive. She masked her emotions away and said, “It was a joke. The Hwansu would only recognize his first master as his only master.”

She knew that Marianne veered more towards the Desert King, since she raised the him herself and was originally his nanny. Eugene understood that completely.

“How is Molly?” Eugene asked, changing the subject as she placed the squirrel back inside its cage.

“She doesn’t do anything out of the ordinary, nor does she talk to anyone. And she does her job really well.”

Eugene took Molly under her wing to serve as one of her maids. She used to have Zanne only to tend to her, now she has two. Other maids were changed often as a precautionary measure for the queen who had lost her memories, the rule being mandated by Marianne. Eugene had to tell both the General and Marianne that Molly was someone who was sent in on purpose by the servants of Mara, with the intent of forming a connection with the queen.

She also told them to keep a keen eye and observe Molly as much as possible. Eugene rather found it difficult to place Molly close to her, despite needing to convince her that she trusted her. She decided to assign Marianne once again as her trusted servant, and had Molly perform basic tasks.

“While it is indeed the General’s job, please tell her to not make drastic changes about the procedures.”

General Sarah was shocked when she found out that someone, who had ill intentions towards the queen, had entered the castle. She was the one who allowed temporary help to tend to the palace, making her liable for the unexpected breach. She was so ashamed that she wanted to tender her resignation, but Eugene convinced her otherwise.

“I’m at fault, Your Highness. I have no excuse for it. I’ll make sure to double check everything so something like this will never happen again.” General Sarah said in a firm voice, determined to prove herself worthy of the Queen’s trust.

Eugene was worried that Rodrigo would grow suspicious if such procedures were changed abruptly.

“I’ll keep an eye out. You don’t have to worry.” Marianne told her in an assuring tone.

Eugene nodded. She trusted Marianne well enough, especially when she spoke with certainty.

Just as they were conversing, a flare suddenly burst with a loud bang, making the two women flinch at the noise. They were not at all surprised since yellow flares had been pretty common these past few days, and blue ones would burst whenever the King goes to the site. It was a peaceful time during the active period since only a few had been injured, and lightly at that too. Eugene looked up, her eyes widening at the smoke that scattered all over the sky.

“It’s a red flare!” Eugene was suddenly reminded of the day when she faced the large rat Lark. She remembered how the soldiers caged the Lark in with lances but failed miserably. No one died in front of her that day, but she was told that there had been casualties in other areas. She can’t keep still, thinking that there might be people out there injured, or worse, killed.

“I have to go.”

“Where are you going, Your Highness?”

Eugene ignored her question as she hurriedly walked past Marianne. She stopped in her tracks as she realized that even if she ran towards the direction of his office, the king would’ve probably jumped over the castle walls on Abu’s back by then. Marianne approached Eugene’s still form. “Your Highness.”

“What happens when Larks appear everywhere, just like the last time?” Eugene asked.

“That rarely happens, Your Highness.”

“I can help His Majesty if there are a lot of them.” Eugene said in a firm voice.

The queen looked like she was ready to head out, but Marianne would not allow her to leave the palace. “There has been only one flare, please wait and trust His Majesty.”

Eugene did not move from where she stood as she stared at the sky. It only took a few moments when the blue flare burst, but she felt like she had been waiting for days. Eugene inhaled deeply, realizing just then that she’s been holding her breath all this time.

“I have an idea.” Eugene murmured, looking at the sky as the smoke slowly evaporated.

“I can follow him right after he arrives at the site when a flare lights up. If there are multiple flares, I can go out there and help. It would be difficult to do that for all flares, perhaps I can do that solely for the red ones…” Eugene said, looking at Marianne as she gauged her expression.

Marianne looked conflicted, like she wanted to tell Eugene how absurd her idea was. Choosing her words carefully, she said “Your Highness, you have to protect the castle, especially when the king is away.”

“Well.. That’s right.” Eugene reluctantly agreed. She knew that she had to assume full responsibility over the palace when the king is nowhere present. There are times when Eugene needs to be reminded of her role as the Queen, and the responsibilities that came with it.

“You said that a red flare only bursts two or three times during the active period.”

“Yes. That’s what the records say.”

“Then it’s settled. I would only go during those times.” Eugene stopped short as she contemplated on her decision. “I have to discuss this with the King, and ask for his opinion.”

“Your Highness.” Marianne said in a gentle voice, hesitation evident in her tone.

“It’s alright. Speak.” Eugene prodded her to continue.

Marianne took a deep breath before she proceeded. “Please listen to what I’m about to say, as I’m saying this out of loyalty. I understand your intentions completely, but I’m afraid that this would bring no good. It will be seen as a violation of authority.”

“What do you mean?” Eugene asked.

“His Highness hunts Larks so that innocent civilians won’t get hurt. It’s what he does best. And the king’s authority should not be violated in any way.”

Eugene did not understand what Marianne was implying. She would appreciate it if the baroness would make her point across, instead of dragging it like this.

“Whose authority would I be violating when I go out to hunt Larks?”

Marianne became silent, making Eugene stare at her upon realization.

“Is it.. His Majesty?” Eugene almost snorted. “Baroness, His Majesty would never… He is..” Eugene stopped upon seeing Marianne’s stony expression.

“Your Grace, I’m afraid to speak such things with you, but you have drastically changed after you lost your memories. You always act as if by instinct only, and you don’t think about the consequences of your actions. It would be a much peaceful household if you would just take it easy. However, you stand in the middle of this kingdom, where your goodness could easily be misinterpreted, and you know full well that misunderstandings always start from trivial matters.”



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