Kasser glanced through the cage briefly. The little one was rotating the wheel playfully.
So, Abu is the Hwansu that the servant was talking about, thought Kasser.
“Don’t mind him. He will be back before sunrise”.
Being in the desert, Abu often disappeared at night.
Whenever Kasser came to the desert for a ritual or for inspection, it was only the warriors who accompanied him. Other than those companions of the King, nobody would know of the situation.
The attendant bowed his head in apology and the King looked displeased.
“I apologize for making a fuss over nothing, Your Majesty”.
The servant was in charge of managing the vehicles. He realized his frivolous mistake in hurrying away without paying attention to his surroundings.
The King spoke, “I could not tell you in advance. You do not have to worry about the Hwansu’s whereabouts”.
“Yes, Your Majesty”.
The attendant excused himself. He again thought of Abu, who was probably exploring the landscape in excitement. It had been a long time since Abu had the luxury of a wide open landscape, so his enthusiasm was understandable. This ritual would take a long time to complete, so he had brought his work along. He dealt with them whenever the schedule allowed him, and yet the work never seemed to end. He knew he had been dedicating less time to work than usual, but this was to be expected during the active period when his attention was occupied day in and out. The King reassured himself that he had not spent any time in vain during the last active season.
Any time spent with her was never a waste.
Kasser forced himself to pay attention to the documents he had abandoned earlier. He put down all the ones he had already read, and picked up a new one to peruse. He was yet again distracted by someone at the door.
“Hm, what is it?”. Kasser frowned.
It was a report from Verus. The report had arrived breathtakingly early, right before the ritual procession left the city. Although the matter was not urgent, it had been included in the documents carried by the attendants because the report had been specifically sent by the chancellor.
“Is Pides back?” The King asked. Verus had believed that the King was aware of the matter, but Kasser had not heard back from Pides.
Knights never acted alone of their own will. Every word and action of theirs symbolized the will of Sang-je. On another occasion, he would have thought that Sang-je had eyes on his kingdom and intended to interfere. However, it was something else this time.
“Did he hear about the Lark tree?”
If Pides heard a rumor on his way to the kingdom and had gone out of his way to confirm it, it could not be considered a problem. It was indeed a miracle of the gods that this one Anika was caused under the jurisdiction of Sang-je.
“It is a good thing I mentioned it in the response”.
Kasser worried greatly about what to say in his reply to Sang-je. If he mentioned the lark tree, Sang-je would surely call upon Eugene. He wanted to pretend that he did not know, but it was only a matter of time before the rumor spread to the Holy City. Kasser considered it imprudent to cause a problem only to get caught in the middle of it.
He decided to write about the lark tree in the most restrained of words. It will be ten to fifteen days before Pides arrives in the Holy city.
“By then Sang-je will have both my response and the report from Pides”, he explained himself.
For the next month or so, the knights sent by Sang-je will continue arriving. Kasser felt the weight of his burden. He continued to look down at the table, lost in thought. His arms remained crossed as if he was protecting himself from unseen forces. He relaxed after a while.
“I have to go along”.
When he had emptied his castle to go to the Holy city, he stopped to think of the many reasons that may present an issue. He shook his head, as if dismissing those thoughts. He just could not let her go along.
It was suspected that if she went to the Holy City, she would be gone completely and would not return for a while. He would not be able to see her for at least a month. He was not confident he could survive that long, let alone a day or two.
He made his decision and picked up his documents again. He had to take care of all this accumulated work tonight itself. As soon as he had done that, he heard a little noise from the cage, presenting Kasser with yet another distraction.
He peeked into the cage and laughed. The little one was now spinning the wheel again, but it would not spin. Instead, it fell to the ground due to the pin that held the wheel in place. The wheel had been put in by Eugene.
Kasser pitied the little one. The little boy is not a hamster after all. Seeing it trying so hard to spin the wheel left Kasser speechless. He stood up to help. He approached the cage, an arm extended towards the cage’s door but stopped midway. He felt his Hwansu.
“Abu? Perhaps it is him”.
Kasser went straight toward Eugene’s tent. As soon as he had lifted the draped curtain that guarded the entrance, he noticed the black beast on the bed. Abu looked up toward Kasser while being held by an asleep Eugene.
Kasser clenched his fists and grinded his teeth. He struggled to hold back his frustration. He could see that Abu adored Eugene and followed her around adoringly. He could also see how wee she treated Abu. Yet, Kasser disliked the idea of Abu sharing Eugene’s bed. Even beasts should have areas they cannot access.
Abu left Eugene’s arms and leaped to the floor, pacing around Kasser. The King glared at Abu with his steady and unrelenting cool gaze. Feeling the brunt of Kasser’s glare, Abu whined and stopped pacing. He sat down like an obedient and submissive pet. Without another word, Kasser pointed to the doorway. Abu obeyed and scurried out.
The king took a moment to calm down, and then approached the bed quietly. His eyes softened as he watched her sleep. He covered her with a blanket, struggling against his desire to touch her. He gave in, caressing her hair.
Eugene moaned in her sleep, and slowly opened her eyes. Kasser scolded himself in his head. Despite his best efforts, he had woken her up.
“Where is Abu?”, she asked immediately.
“I sent him out”.
“I fell asleep holding him. He was so warm”.
“Are you cold? I will have them put more wood in the fire”.
“No, it is okay. You are here”. Eugene patted the empty space next to her. She smiled sheepishly, peeking up at Kasser through her long eyelashes. She heard him take a deep breath. Immediately after, he swooshed down for a kiss. His lips touched hers and his mouth seemed ready to swallow her whole. She felt his tongue inside probing around, exploring every inch. It was a moment before he lifted his lips away from her, and yet it felt short compared to his usual kisses that were so persistent and greedy.
Kasser spoke, out of breath. “I am guilty of waking you from your peaceful slumber. I’ll stay by your side until you fall asleep again”. He tucked himself under her blanket and lay beside her. Eugene rested her head on his shoulder and her arms held him close. She snuggled up to Kasser, basking in his warmth. Even though this bed was smaller than her bed at the castle, she thought it was spacious enough for a single person.
However, with a large man like Kasser, it seemed small now.
Eugene closed her eyes and tried to sleep. Kasser was warmer than the little beast and the fire that burned in the furnace.
Kasser snuck in under the blanket and laid next to her. Eugene laid on his shoulders and dug deeply in his arms and pressed against him. Even if it was smaller than the bed of the royal castle, she thought it was spacious enough for one person, but it was full when she laid down with a large man. Minutes later, she was more awake than drowsy but she kept her eyes closed. She could not shake aside her confusion at being cuddled with. Why would a man who only cared for pleasure act so soft all of a sudden? Why had he chosen to shorten his kiss and hug her like this?
Eugene opened her eyes. Kasser, noticing immediately made eye contact with her. As she studied him, he kissed her eyelid gently.
“Everything is okay, sleep”, he murmured.
“Are you not going to sleep yourself?”, she asked.
“There is some work pending. I have to go finish it”.
“Is it related to recording the path?”
“No, not that. I finished that earlier today. It is something else”.
It was not a lie, but it was not the truth either. There was nothing urgent or important enough that required his immediate attention. It was just an excuse to leave her tent. Had he not been suspicious of Abu being here with her, he would not have come in the first place. He could not control himself around her, and he did not like that. He wanted to touch her whenever he saw her, and he wanted to hug her whenever he touched her. Besides, he had to be considerate of Eugene too. She had been tired from moving around all day. She had longer to travel tomorrow than she had done today. He wanted to ensure she was well rested.
Eugene did not know his thoughts. She just felt sorry for him. She knew his work never left him even after leaving the castle. Only read at keopitranslations, the original site of this translation. Please, if you are reading this elsewhere, it was copied ruthlessly, uncaring of the time and effort the team had put in these chapters. She whispered, touching his cheek with her fingers,
“You barely slept last night. If you do not sleep well tonight either, your health will suffer”.
“I can handle not sleeping for a few nights.”
“I know you have the stamina, but you are human too. If you continue ignoring your health, you are going to fall sick”.
“…I am human too?”
“Yes, you are human. Are you not a human?” Eugene teased.
Kasser grinned at her and strengthened his hold around her. He hugged her and whispered, “You are right”.
He was born a crown prince and grew up to become king. That was his only identity. Kings and princes with superpowers were bound to be special, and it was lonely being special and different. From an early age, Kasser had noticed the disguised fear in the gaze of who those who interacted with him. It was there even in the eyes of his mother who had given birth to him. Kasser had come to accept that he was different. He could not imagine another destiny except that of being a king.
It was only Eugene who brought a different kind of ambition in him. With her, Kasser wanted to be a man. He forgot all about his status as a king in front of her. He knew he too provoked a deep desire in her to become a complete woman for him.
Her breaths became consistent, and he realized she had fallen asleep. He closed his eyes as well. All his plans of getting back to work were forgotten. He fell in a deep sleep without ever intending it. The morning came, and a maid came in to wake them up. It was then that Kasser realized how well he had slept next to Eugene.
Rodrigo left the capital for a while to avoid the surveying knights. He did not go far though. He had a lot of work to catch up on and he cursed “Mahar’s dogs” who were proving to be an obstacle.
“I have to cash this out soon and put off the fire that is burning at my feet”, he muttered to himself impatient. He touched the jewels in his pocket, ensuring they remained there.
“Elder”. Rodrigo heard a voice call outside, making his hands go back into his pockets.
“Come in”, he responded.
A young man with a frail physique came in and bowed his head.
“Did you manage to acquire any information?”, Rodrigo asked impatiently.
Shortly after meeting the queen, Rodrigo ordered an investigation into what Tanya Eli had done to the queen and what had caused her death. When he had heard of Eli’s death through the brother, he was annoyed at the thought of having to bring in a new Tanya. He had not thought about finding out why she died.
“The family knew nothing.”
Rodrigo clicked his tongue in disapproval. He took out a small jewel from his pocket and tossed it on the table.
“Look further. Do not spare any cost.”
“Yes, elder.” The young man lowered his head in a bow so much that his body was folded in half and went out with the jewelry thus.
“Rodrigo”, another voice called out momentarily.
Rodrigo, who was struggling to dispose of the jewels without getting in trouble, raised his head with rapt attention when he heard this pure voice ringing in his head. He looked around, clasping his hands in relief and joy.
“High Priest. Where are you?”
“If you lower your gaze, you will be able to see the messenger I sent you”.
Rodrigo immediately crouched on the floor and searched every corner. He found a little red-eyed rat coming out of a tiny hole in the wall. The rat did not try to escape at the sight of Rodrigo. Instead, it crawled to him and climbed his knees. Rodrigo gently picked up the messenger and placed him in front of himself. Without hesitation, he bowed down flat on the floor in respect.
Like every single time, the high priest rarely ever revealed himself. Most of the time, he sent messengers in the form of various animals such as rats and lizards. Unremarkable animals, animals that would go unnoticed.