Taking a deep breath, Eugene tried to calm herself down. Although she spent the last few days organizing her questions for Adrit, she still felt that she’d bombard him with her questions.
With many of them unanswered, there were no words to describe her frustration. For a long time, she had thought no one could answer her questions. However, Adrit was here now, in front of her.
“I have a lot to ask you. Can you answer all my questions?”
“I will tell you everything I know.”
Eugene asked, worriedly, “Are you sure? I thought that your rules dictated that you are not allowed to speak of such things?”
She was afraid that she’d be forcing Adrit into a disadvantageous situation. Based on her understanding, closed groups often had stricter and crueler laws than the norm.
“If it’s something that would cause you great trouble…” she hesitated, “You don’t have to say it.”
Although it would be frustrating, there was no immediate danger coming her way. It would have been a different story if it was a matter of life and death. However, that wasn’t the case. As much as possible, she did not want to put someone in danger for the sake of what she wanted.
Adrit’s eyes shook with his head down.‘If it was this person, wouldn’t it be alright?’
Adrit heard Eugene’s words now, and he believed that whatever he said, the queen would accept the truth.
Kasser looked at Eugene with a strange gaze, showing his discomfort. He knew how much she waited to see Adrit. During her journey to the Holy Land, she mentioned the wanderers several times.
He had asked her, a bit stiff, “Why are you so worried about him?“
She had turned red, embarrassed, “…To be honest, rather than worried, I’m more hopeful that he would answer my questions.”
She smiled sheepishly and continued, “Since I helped him, won’t he answer me truthfully?”
He couldn’t help but kiss her then, her smile making his heart skip. On the last night they spent in the desert, the bolts were completely released, and the next day, he struggled to soothe her after she wandered all day.
The meeting she had hoped for had come true. Now, he found it curious that she cared for the wanderer more than her greed.
Was this truly the woman who married him three years ago?
When Kasser first met Anika Jin, he accidentally witnessed a scene just before entering the banquet. In an empty hallway, he witnessed Anika slap another woman on the cheek. It was a strong blow, with the woman’s body shaking. In contrast to Anika’s great beauty and gorgeous banquet dress, the woman wore a simple servant’s outfit. He thought that the maid had done something wrong.
If only he knew that that great beauty was Anika Jin and that she’d become his wife.
Later that day, he thought that the maid probably didn’t do much wrong. Knowing Anika Jin, she lacked tolerance for the small mistakes of others. Does a person’s fundamental character change just because they lost their memory?
What surprised him is although she already recovered some of her memories, there was still no trace of her past self.
Snapping Kasser out of his thought, the wandered replied to Eugene, “There is no precept that we cannot speak of such things.”
Kasser put his suspicions behind.
Eugene asked, “Even for the technique?”
Adrit nodded, “Yes.”
Eugene’s eye widened, surprised. She thought it was an important secret that they had to take to their graves.
“Then why not tell me? No one’s yet to hear your voice.”
“Usually anyone who wishes to hear us wish to acquire the technique.”
He paused for a moment, eyes looking at the ground. “Even if we say that no one else can use this technique, they don’t believe it.”
He stared, eyes lost for a moment, “As more of us were tortured to confess, our tribe agreed that it would be best if no one would speak of it. Anymore.”
It was silent for a moment, and Euegene couldn’t help but think of it as tragic. She was not surprised that human greed would push the wanderers of the cliff, but it still left a bitter taste in her mouth.
“Why can’t anyone else use that technique?”
Adrit explained the technique inscribed on his body.
To be precise, the tattoo itself engraved on his body was not a technique, but a magic tattoo on his body made through a technique. And there was an important prerequisite for this magic to work: a certain bloodline.
A long time ago, only the descendants of those who first put such magic on their bodies were able to take do so as well. Since the wandering tribes maintained their inner society, it was unlikely that an outsider would have had a wanderer’s lineage.
Even if it possible, the witchcraft left a horrid tattoo on one’s body. And so, it was unlikely to be used by aristocrats who valued aesthetics. If it were so to happen, they would choose to evacuate to the Holy City.
Adrit then finally addressed the fatal problem with this spell.
“To activate this magic technique, a person’s life is required as a medium.”
Eugene blinked at him, stunned for a moment. “…Life? Does that mean that a person must die for the technique to be activated?”
Kasser frowned while listening to the conversation between the two. Assuming that Adrit’s words were true, they had to remain silent.
There must have been a madman who tried to experiment with such witchcraft even after listening to the condition of ‘acting on bloodline’ and a ‘human sacrifice’.
Eugene hesitated to finish her question.
Adrit replied in a cool tone, “Our elders in the tribe usually act as the mediators.”
The elderly, who deemed their lives were soon to end anyway, were willing to sacrifice themselves for the future of their tribe. However, there have been cases where the wandering tribe could not help each other at the right time. Such was the case when one gave birth during the active season, unable to meet other tribes.
“I was born that way. My mother was premature and gave birth to twins. Since it was the active season, it was unclear when the larks would appear,” Adrit continued. “My mother had to choose between her two children.”
Eugene stared at Adrit with a heavy gaze, pressing a hand to her chest. Her heart ached, and she couldn’t help but sigh. What drove them to desperate situations like this?
“Then the magic… What does it exactly do?” She asked after a moment. “His Highness said that Abu does not recognize you as a person.”
Adrit nodded. “Larks attack when it detects a human. One of the effects of this magic is that it does not stimulate a Lark’s aggression.”
“Does it work for all Larks?”
“I think so, yes.”
The Turtle Hwansu passed Adrit’s mind.
‘Were you the human that was sneaking around here?’ The Hwansu clearly recognized Adrit, while he lived within his territory during the active season.
“But it doesn’t seem to work for very powerful Larks. The Hwansu of the Holy Land sensed me.”
Eugene’s expression brightened.
“It must have been a tremendously strong Hwansu. It was so clever that I felt like I was talking to a person. I don’t think that turtle will cause any problems in the future, but His Majesty was concerned,” she glanced at Kasser. “Are you still worried, Your Majesty?”
After a moment, Kasser responded, “A Hwansu is still a Lark. And how does one believe in a Lark?”
“You are being too much. Abu listens, so how could you say that?”
“Abu is my Hwansu, so he’s an exception.”
“Well… Don’t forget your promise to go back to the Holy Land with a long schedule in the next dry season,” Eugene said.
She wanted to take her time to get to know the turtle Hwansu, but the time was cut short the last time. She had to come back.
“If you’re really worried, we’ll discuss it. That turtle isn’t a child who can’t speak.”
“That… my queen.” Adrit then stepped in, carefully, “That Hwansu wished for me to pass a message to you two.”
“Oh my goodness. what message?”
Adrit felt guilty at Eugene’s upbeat voice and recited what he had heard. He also added his guesswork, that the turtle was most likely a king’s Hwansu in the past.
Eugene and Kasser faced each other at the same time and turned their gaze to Abu, who was lying on his stomach.
Eugene swallowed a question she wanted to ask Kasser. She wanted to talk about it in a place where Abu wouldn’t hear them.
“Is death and extinction an expression for me and His Majesty?”
“Who is death?”
“The queen is death, the king is extinction.”
“Why the hell are we painted in such a bad light?”
“The two of you…”
Adrit snapped his mouth shut. He got up from his seat and got on his knees.
“I’m afraid that what I’m about to say will you two angry. It has to do with the reason why we became wanderers… and it may confuse your values.”
Kasser looked at Adrit, and spoke, “Sometimes, there is knowledge that is better to remain hidden. Is this such knowledge?”
Adrit hesitated for a moment, before saying, “…Yes.”
Kasser continued to look at Adrit silently. She held her breath and glanced at her husband. Not having been born and raised here, she was confident to face any shocking story. But Kasser was different. He sat at the top of this world, was built by this world.
Kasser was conflicted. Somehow, he understood that there’ll be no turning back once he listens to Adrit. Whatever Adrit had to say, Kasser felt that it would overturn the universal truth of this world. He couldn’t conclude that everything Adrit would say would be true, but should he still listen?
A part of him wanted to turn away, to be a coward instead.
Feeling Eugene’s stare, he turned to her, meeting her eyes. She gazed downwards. Seeing this, he felt that his pride as a man was above that of his cold-heartedness as a king. He didn’t want to be cowardly in front of her.
This was a big deal, he knew. In his heart, he knew that the most important thing to him was this kingdom and people. But if he had to choose between those two and the woman in front of him, he would not be able to answer.
He replied, with a small sigh.
“…I will listen.”
* * *
Adrit began to explain the origin of the tribes.
In the distant past, the current wanderers were called shamans. They used magic to create miracles or to read the future. Their bloodline had a special talent to amplify the effects of magic, with the use of different techniques.
To preserve these talents and to strengthen their privileges at that time, they married within their bloodline.
Adrit was most embarrassed to explain this. The fact that their tribe once ruled the world and was part of the privileged class, enough to rival the present royalty — it could be considered as abusive, beyond displeasure by the present monarchs.