“I bet they all had distinctive black hair and eyes. And they all were girls, am I right?” Eugene said, knowing that Aldrit was talking about their kind, the Anikas.
“Yes, Your Majesty.”
Eugene was now deep in thought. As she fell silent, Aldrit looked down, his shoulders tense. It was a bold statement — to say that the highest noble in this world was from the lowest of sinners.
“Then I guess that makes you a distant relation of mine, right?”
“I beg your pardon?”
Aldrit quickly raised his head up and blankly stared at Eugene, shocked by her words. Kasser then filled the whole Great Hall with his laughter.
With no sign of stopping, Eugene called him out with a hint of warning.
To appease her, Kasser tried to hold in his laughter, clearing his throat unnecessarily. Still, his shoulders were heaving as he started to snicker instead. In contrast to his joyous laughter, he gazed at Eugene with great intensity.
Eugene felt her cheeks warm, embarrassed under his gaze, as he watched her the same way he would in their bedroom. To tell him off, she pouted slightly.
“While it may have sounded absurd, you don’t have to laugh in my face.”
“I wasn’t laughing in your face,” Kasser took a moment before he spoke, still snickering. “It was just very amusing.”
Truly, Eugene’s unbiased remark amazed him. Before she lost her memories, she was quite the prideful Anika. But now, she acted nothing like the Anikas who usually had their noses in the air.
Aldrit had just offered an insult to her kind. Those with the noblest blood would have thrown a fit by now. At best, they would have already stormed out of the room.
He grinned at Eugene. “I’d never laugh in your face. I love your absurdness.”
Quickly, Eugene turned her eyes away as if she did not hear anything. She grumbled to herself about how silly Kasser was getting day by day. But then, a flash of the night they had on the last day of their return journey from the Holy City made her blush.
“Yes, Your Majesty,” Aldrit dropped his eyes back to the floor with a startle. While it already crossed his mind, the two of them really seemed close without reservation. He had thought that the nobles maintained formalities even when married. He was amazed that the king and queen were not any different from the lovers he had seen in his tribe.
“According to what you just said, Anikas are descendants of those ancient sorcerers. Then, why is it that you and your tribe, who come from the same root, are now in such a terrible position?”
Never in his wildest dreams did Aldrit ever thought that he and his tribe would be acknowledged as people from the ‘same root’ by an Anika. Bewildered, he answered her.
“It may be a little excessive to say that we share a common root, as the sorcerers had already divided into their three respective groups by then.” Aldrit continued. “Anikas were born from those who focused their studies on death and resurrection.”
“With the birth of Anikas, the sorcerers were forgiven and accepted by the people. As only Anikas could…” He paused, unsure of what to utter next.
“Only Anikas could bear child of Kings.” Eugene finished his sentence for him.
The king, with his supernatural powers, must have exerted his influence on the people. Eventually, they trusted him and his power to protect and reign over them.
Still, reproduction was an instinct. Anikas, who could bore him a child, must have been the one thing he could not give up on, even if that meant turning his back on the people. But having an heir to the king was also equally crucial to the people, for the king’s bloodline was necessary to fight off the larks.
As both interests coincide, they must have realized that they had to forgive the sorcerers and accept them as one of their own.
This meant that the Kings and the Anikas were the warriors this world created for itself.
Eugene had never been religious, incredulous at the existence of a god. But now she felt like she could define that the world’s will, which engages with each other like a giant cogwheel — the great order — as the power of god.
“Only the group in which Anikas were born from was fully forgiven by the people. They were the only sorcerers that became a part of the new kingdom when all the others collapsed due to the larks.”
Although only one of the three groups was chosen by God, the others were also saved, in a way. While they remained unforgiven, the people did not hunt them down. The two groups were pushed out from the world and made choices of their own.
Aldrit’s ancestors, the greatest sinners of all, decided to receive their punishment by never taking root anywhere in the world — to live as wanderers.
On the other hand, the group of sorcerers who focused on finding a way to see into the future decided to forever live in hiding. They sealed their magic from the world, to repent for their sins of aiding and abetting. But keep their identity as sorcerers, they preserved all their knowledge, passing them to their future generations.
Meanwhile, the group of death and resurrection became assimilated with the people. As time passed, they forgot about their roots.
As Adrit finished, the hall fell into utter silence. Pondering over the words of Aldrit, both Eugene and Kasser were unmoving. After a moment, Kasser voiced out a doubt he had been brooding over the whole time.
“There is something I find very strange.”
“What is it, Your Majesty?”
“You never once mentioned Mahar as you spoke.”
While Aldrit had mentioned ‘god’ a few times, it did not sound like he was referring to Mahar as the one and only god. He had termed it like a metaphor for ‘the absolute’.
Eugene asked, “Did people refer to god differently then, and not as Mahar?”
“In ancient times, Mahar was the word referring to our world.”
Aldrit, feeling as if he were walking on eggshells, answered with little conviction, “Yes.”
“Then when did Mahar start to symbolize God?”
“I have yet to learn that knowledge, Your Majesty.”
“What about Mara?”
“I have not learned about that either.”
“Then what about death and destruction?” Eugene asked, motioning to herself and Kasser.
“We believe that the King has the power to put the larks out of existence, to lead them to their destruction. Meanwhile, Anika has the power to lead them to their deaths.”
“What’s the difference?”
“I apologize,” Aldrit uttered, ashamed, “I have yet to learn such knowledge.”
Eugene felt her hopes fading away. What she sought was neither the origin of the wanderers nor the birth of the King and Anika.
“Those spell marks on your body… To initiate them, you need the incantation, a medium, and a vessel, am I right?”
Aldrit nodded, “Yes, you are right.”
“Can you teach me some of the spells you know?” Eugene asked, a part of her hopeful. “It does not need to be grand.”
“Um..” Aldrit’s eyes began shaking, put on the spot. “I-I’m sorry but I do not know anything about the spells, Your Majesty.”
“What?” Eugene’s voice was sharp, raised with shock, as if she got stabbed in the back by someone she trusted. “Why? How can you not know?” Her voice rose. “You are a descendant of the sorcerers. What about those spell marks on your body?”
Aldrit shook, afraid of incurring the queen’s wrath. Still, he answered, “The only spell we wanderers can learn, and practice is the spell to avoid the larks. The knowledge that our tribe passes down is only the history and sins of our ancestors. And I have yet to learn the spell to avoid larks.”
She was stunned, feeling something crumbling away inside her.
Kasser, glancing at Eugene’s dejection, asked Aldrit, “you said that it was the other group of sorcerers that took charge of preserving the knowledge of sorcery. Will they know about the spells then?”
Eugene perked up once again, a small glimmer of hope in her eyes. However, this light quickly diminished with Aldrit’s reply.
Aldrit, still looking down, uttered, “That is what I’ve been told. But I’m afraid I do not know how to reach them.”
He felt the queen’s despair, making him feel restless. “Please forgive me for my ignorance, Your Majesty. I would have told you everything if I only knew.”
Eugene looked at Aldrit, her gaze softening as she recognized his sincerity.
“…Right. I don’t think you are lying.” She sighed, “But is there any chance you will think of something if you see an incantation?”
“I will only know if I see one, Your Majesty.”
Eugene then shot up from her seat, “I can show you one in the library. Let’s go right now–”
She turned her head towards Kasser, “Yes?”
“It’s already late. You can show him tomorrow.”
Surprised, Eugene turned to the balcony window. Without realizing it, night had already fallen, and she saw nothing but the pitch-black sky. She was deeply immersed in Adrit’s story that she became unaware of the time passing.
She took a breath and turned to Aldrit, “You must be very tired by now. I apologize that I bothered you for so long.”
“I am fine, Your Majesty.”
“No, it’s not alright. You should get some rest.”
After a moment, a servant came into the hall. Eugene ordered the servant to attend to Adrit’s every need as a private guest. Before leaving the hall, the wanderer deeply bowed before Kasser and Eugene.
Abu, who was lying on the floor quietly the whole time, crept close to Eugene as she called. “You did a great job too.”
She let out a small laugh when Abu rubbed his head on her hand as she stroked him.
Kasser then called out to Abu as he opened the balcony window. It was time for him to leave. The lark licked Eugene’s hand for the last time before leaving, with Eugene watching Abu’s back as he left.
After closing the window, Kasser walked towards her. She couldn’t help but smile, holding out an arm to reach for him.
As he reached her, Eugene held him, and whispered, “Thank you.”
It must have been a difficult decision for him to let a wanderer into the palace, especially when Sang-je made it clear that wanderers were birds of ill omen.
She was thankful. Thankful that she was able to talk with Aldrit, leading her to a vital clue, all due to Kasser. She was a step closer to finding out why Jin had stolen the national treasure and why she deceived her servants to the desert.
“Jin initiated the spell – why I got into this world.”
When she first arrived in this world, all she ever wished for was to live Jin’s life. But she bitterly realized that there is no limit to one’s desire, as Eugene was no longer content with living just as Jin’s shell. She made a new resolution, needing to know what that spell could do.
She wanted to stand in front of Kasser, not as Jin, but as Eugene. She wanted to look into his eyes without the slightest bit of guilt, and for him to truly see her.
As Eugene slowly descended into sleep, a crucial question suddenly crossed her mind. She quickly opened her eyes, pondering the important question she should have thought of earlier. What Aldrit told her today did not seem to match with their tribe’s current circumstances.
“Why is their tribe being hunted now?”
“I should make a note of this…” Eugene muttered to herself, unaware that she had let out her thoughts.
Suddenly, she let out a shriek as she felt her ankle bitten. At the same time, a rumbling grunt reached her ears.
“Are you going to keep doing that?” Eugene shivered as a low and husky voice breathed in her ears. “Aren’t you going to focus?”