Abu was so small, Eugene couldn’t get enough of his adorable form while she tickled him by his belly. It seems to her she’s the only one who bore fondness towards a Hwansu, since for the people here, Larks could never be the object of cuteness..
Abu was a well-known Hwansu that symbolizes the king. Hence, people would expect him to look huge and strong, but no one would see Abu now and feel the dignity of the king.
‘Kasser was the most respected person in the whole kingdom, and he would surely take offense if his own Hwansu looked far from intimidating.’
Eugene remembered his face when he first saw Abu in a smaller state. He was clearly displeased.
‘He didn’t say anything to me but.. Was he disappointed?’ At that time, Eugene didn’t think that Abu’s appearance would greatly affect Kasser’s mood. She thought everything was okay since she got his permission to go and play with Abu.
‘How inconsiderate of me.’ Eugene pondered, thinking how it was completely insensitive of her to just dismiss Kasser’s obvious distaste. And suddenly, a fleeting thought came to her, making her sigh in relief.
‘Was it because of that?’ A few days ago, Eugene threw a joke. She jested, “What if the little one changes its master?” Marianne was not amused though, taking Eugene’s words a little too serious. ‘Marianne seemed distraught about what would happen if the Hwansu did change its owner.
Marianne considered the king’s position, thinking that he might feel distressed should the Hwansu be taken away from him. However, that assumption seemed more like it was Marianne’s personal disposition rather than the king’s own, especially with Marianne’s devotion towards him.
Marianne feared that the exchange might lead to conflicted reactions between the queen and the king, so she repeated her advice once again, telling Eugene to rethink her actions and its consequences.
For several days, Marianne’s words resonated to Eugene, making the queen frustrated and disgruntled.
‘It’s true that I need to be careful.’ Eugene agreed. She didn’t believe that Kasser would think badly of her intentions, but it’s better to slow down and rethink things, before everything goes out of hand. Eugene knew that being a queen came with many responsibilities, and one of her duties is to make sure that she and the king maintain a cordial relationship. Added the fact that there are many people surrounding the royals giving advice, whose words might provoke the severity of the situation.
“Abu.” Eugene said as she removed her hand that was petting the leopard. “I’m going to tell you something important, so you need to sit down.”
Abu, who was lying on his back on the floor, picked up his ears when he heard Eugene’s words. He then shifted his body and sat obediently on his buttocks, giving Eugene his undivided attention. Eugene had to resist the urge to hug him upon seeing his attentive, round eyes staring up at her.
“Let us promise one thing. When you become small and be friendly with me, you have to make sure that no one sees it but us, okay? Well it’s okay in front of your master, too. Anyway, don’t be like this when there are other people present, got it?” Eugene said sternly.
Abu stared at her dumbfounded, as if he’s asking Eugene the reason why he needs to control himself, or he doesn’t understand at all. Eugene then came up with a more detailed explanation, “Abu. I want others to think that you are a big and strong Hwansu. But no one will take you seriously if they see me hugging you while you are in your smaller state, since people usually look down on small animals. Do you understand?”
Abu whimpered in understanding. He knew that the size of a Hwansu is important not only in the human world, but also in the world of Larks. Everyone had this concept inside their heads that the scale of a Hwansu is equivalent to the size of its strength.
The smart lark understood that Eugene was only looking after him. He tilted his head to the side while looking at her, seeming like he’s asking her to go on. Seeing Abu look at her like that made her stretch out her hands and pulled Abu into her embrace.
“Look at this adorable guy. Abu, why are you so cute?” Eugene cooed as she rubbed the leopard’s head with her cheeks repeatedly, muttering childish remarks while pinching and squeezing lightly at Abu’s limbs. Abu let out an annoyed cry, looking downright uncomfortable from Eugene’s antics. While he enjoyed Eugene’s fondling most of the time, it can be quite annoying if it gets too much.
A small but fat forefoot pushed at Eugene’s face, wanting space from her clinginess. She giggled and sat Abu back down on the ground.
She straightened her back, slightly stretching it from side to side as she let the wind caress her face. It’s a pity to return to the palace with such lovely weather outside. She looked down at Abu, smiling fondly as she asked. “Abu. Let’s take a walk, shall we?”
Abu’s tail came up, waggling it excitedly. The black leopard followed Eugene as they strolled together side by side.
Sloan kingdom came to ask for a concession. During the active period, agreements were settled in advance between the two countries that border each other. They worked out the issues regarding Lark hunting and the protection of its civilians. This kingdom was the only country that borders Hashi kingdom.
It was a regular and an orderly procedure, nothing extraordinary. Kasser only needed to stamp his confirmation seal onto the papers. After imprinting his signature, he kept his hold on the papers absentmindedly, suddenly reminded of the promise he made with the queen. She told me to invite the Princess of Sloan. It’s time to send an envoy.
Kasser looked up abruptly from his preoccupied state. ‘Abu?’ He thought, feeling a subtle touch on his nerves. It seemed like Abu was calling for him. The king and his Hwansu had the ability to signal each other through nerves, and it only doesn’t work when they are miles apart. Abu never called him, until today. ‘What’s happening?’
He didn’t expect anything bad to happen inside the castle, but sensing Abu’s call for him had him worried since he never did that before. He laid the papers down onto his desk and stood up hastily, the chair making a screeching sound as it scratched the flooring. His servant approached him the moment he got to his feet, but the king shooed him away with his hands.
Kasser opened the balcony window, looking down from above as his eyes met with Eugene’s, who was watching from below.
While she was walking with Abu, Eugene wondered where the king’s office balcony would be from the countless balconies that were protruding out of the castle walls. Although she had already memorized the castle by now, seeing it from the outside is altogether different, since one won’t be able to make out the inner parts of the Palace just by looking from the outside.
When she asked Abu where his master is, Abu led her under the terrace of the office, positive of the king’s location. The balcony was pretty high up, and he wouldn’t be able to hear her voice if she calls for him. Not that Eugene was planning to anyway, since doing so wouldn’t be appropriate.
Eugene asked Abu to call his master and waited. Abu didn’t growl or anything of that sort. He just stared at the office terrace intently, and after a few moments, the balcony window opened and Kasser peeked his head out of the opening.
“Abu, that was amazing.” Eugene praised Abu and waved her hands towards the king. He stared at Eugene for a short moment then went back inside his office without saying anything. “He must be very busy.” Eugene said, smiling down at Abu. She looked up once again, her eyes widening at the sight above her.
Kasser was standing on the balcony railing as a blue snake slithered around his body, which guided him down from where they stood at the railing. They went down gracefully, and Kasser didn’t seem fazed by the pull downwards. He landed on the floor with a soft thud, barely making any sound.
Eugene was awestruck with the sight, despite having seen this for a couple of times already. The blue snake unwrapped itself around Kasser’s body and rushed to Eugene’s space quickly, making her step back as the snake faded and disappeared before reaching her completely.
“Are you okay?” Kasser asked the worried-looking Eugene.
“Yes, I’m fine. Why did it do that so suddenly though? Does your Praz not like my presence.” Eugene asked.
“No, it does that sometimes. Don’t let it bother you, alright?” Kasser assured her. ‘Not like her presence? Probably the opposite.’ Kasser recalled how Praz swam and played with the illusion of water she had created, clearly enjoying himself.
Ever since he became king, he had never lost control of Praz, until recently. He was frequently uncontrollable these days, but oddly enough, he didn’t feel any danger. He knew that he couldn’t blame Praz for jumping down here, since he was the one who’s excited to see her, even putting off the meeting that was already scheduled yesterday.
“Is there something wrong?” Kasser asked,
Eugene shook her head no.
“I heard Abu calling for me, though.”
“I made Abu call you, Your Majesty.” Eugene said sheepishly.
Kasser moved his gaze towards the wild beast in front of him. He looked at him attentively, as if trying to communicate with him through his eyes. He really thought that Abu would only call him if he were in danger or in a dying state, since Abu is pretty independent.
When he was a child, Kasser had seen another king’s Hwansu. The Hwansu didn’t leave the king’s side at all. The beast followed the king closely, refusing to leave his side even just for a second. With that thought in mind, he thought that he would be able to share a close bond with such a beast when the day comes that he gets one.
But the Hwansu he received maintained a set distance, only coming to him when called. It didn’t bother Kasser as much as he thought it would, and he realized that the distance served them well, since he knew that it would annoy him if the Hwansu were constantly by his side.
“I’m sorry.” Eugene said. Kasser shifted his gaze from Abu to Eugene.
“Because I made Abu do that. Hwansus only calls their masters for certain circumstances, right?” Eugene continued.
“It doesn’t matter. He does what he wants anyway.” Kasser said.
“Well, not only that.” Eugene muttered, turning her head to the side as she continued, “Since Abu is Your Majesty’s Hwansu, I wonder if I should treat it as such and keep my distance?”
Kasser laughed softheartedly at Eugene’s plight. He leaned in to her space and stole a quick peck at Eugene’s lips, making her feel flustered at the unexpected kiss. “I like the fact that you get along with Abu. You don’t have to overthink it. Just do what you normally do.” Kasser said with a shrug.
Eugene smiled at Kasser’s indifference. It seemed like it didn’t bother him at all.
After a short while, Eugene’s smiling face turned into a serious one as she pondered on her thoughts. She was trying to put her thoughts in order, trusting Kasser’s judgment more than anything else. “Molly came to me after meeting with Rodrigo.”
Eugene had already discussed with Kasser all the necessary steps and planning to meet up with Rodrigo, making sure to inform him of everything he needed to know.
“He wants to meet me as soon as possible.” Eugene said.
“In three days.”
“Three days.. Isn’t that too early?” Kasser asked, worry etching his voice. It bothered him that Eugene would go meet with Rodrigo without an escort. His mind shifted on its gears, trying to think of a way to keep his wife safe without hindering her from her agendas. There were no useful escorts for now since the warriors he had were entirely excluded. He wasn’t interested in what Eugene and Rodrigo would be talking about. All he really wanted was for her to return safe and sound.
Looking down, he spotted the black leopard lying with its paws under his chin, his mind coming to a full stop as realization crept in. He had a great idea.