Ten days into the journey, the procession was now at the Anotty Mountains, which was in fact a physical boundary standing between the Hashi and the Slan kingdom. On the far side of the road, the mountain range had started to open up upon them as they rode on, revealing a vista of nature as they got closer.
According to a rough outline of their remaining journey in his mind, Kasser expected another six days at least before they could finally reach the Holy City, as it occurred to him that it would take about three to four days just to ride past the mountains at their current pace.
‘We’ll probably arrive within 20 days… It’s just as I anticipated…’
Kasser, who was cantering on Abu, leading at the head of the procession, had caught sight of some human figures in the distance which he simply assumed as some other travelers on the road. Among all the different paths out there to cross the mountains, the road they had taken was relatively wider with gentle slopes, however a little detour was inevitable. But for the sake of the comforts of the ladies during the journey, they were left with no other options.
Slowly, as he got closer to the standing figures, he narrowed his eyes to examine their identity as his inner intuition warned him that there was something unusual about the party ahead. And before long, he was able to make out who the figures actually were.
He then promptly gave his signal to Sven who was riding right next to him. At his signal, Sven gave a quick nod as he pulled on the rein and soon faded from Kasser’s sight as his horse slowed to a trot.
Shortly, the formation of the warriors around the procession took a slight change with small forces of men dispersing further away to widely enclose around the lines of carriages, while some of them surrounded closely at the sides of the queen’s carriage.
However, Kasser continued to gallop ahead without slowing down. Although he found the encounter to be undesirable on their part, he knew the party held no threat to them as there were none other than Sang-je’s knights who would fully clad themselves in silvery armors along with their significant red clocks, in all places and at all times.
As the distance between the party and the marching procession began to close in, Kasser held up his hand and signaled the procession behind to slow down as he pulled on Abu’s rein. After Abu came to a complete stop, every horse and carriage behind them soon followed suit.
Sat on his saddle, Kasser watched Pides as he came up to him. When the distance between them was close enough to hold a conversation, the knight stopped and made his bow before Kasser.
“My greetings to the Desert King.”
“What an unexpected encounter, Sir Pides.”
“His Holiness had bid us to escort Anika Jin back to the Holy City in safety.”
It then came to Kasser’s attention that there were indeed more than ten of them in the party when he furtively casted his eyes towards the rest of the knights who were standing from a distance. He grumbled under his breath rather cynically, for it was a rare sight to witness this many knights moving as a group, as they usually carried out their duties in an independent manner.
“His Holiness may have worried unnecessarily. Or is it that His Holiness believes that I’ve not taken enough measures to ensure the safety of my queen when I send her away on a journey?”
“I beg your forgiveness for any misunderstanding caused. But His Holiness is only worried as much as he holds dear for Anika. So henceforth, allow us to escort Anika Jin for the rest of her journey.”
Kasser’s brows had furrowed for a moment before they were eased again as he let out a chuckle.
“I suppose you are mistaken, Sir Pides. I have not ridden all the way here just to see her off. I’m on my way to the Holy City as well.”
“I beg your pardon?”
Instantly, Pides’s head was raised out of surprise, but he was quick to lower his gaze.
“Let me make myself clear, Sir Pides. The queen will be escorted safely to the Holy City by me and my warriors and I don’t intend to delegate that authority to no one else than myself. However, I wouldn’t prohibit your party from joining the procession considering your service to meet us here all the way from the Holy City.”
“…As you command, Your Majesty.”
“Do you speak for your party of the knights?”
“Yes, Your Majesty. Your wish is our command.”
Swiftly swung off from his horse, Sven hurried himself to the king.
“Yes, Your Majesty.”
“Show Sir Pides to the queen. He will greet her as a representative of his party.”
As Sven led the way, Kasser fixed his eyes on Pides, who was going off with Sven. He even turned his upper body around to keep Pides within his sight with such a persistent gaze. If only sharp-sighted Verus were here to see his lord at the moment, he would definitely conduct a secret investigation into Pides right away. It was quite unusual for Kasser to be openly hostile toward someone as he rarely showed his feelings on his face. But as for now, he didn’t even make an attempt to hide his distaste in his eyes.
He was somehow bothered by Pides’ presence without reason. Pides, who’s known as one of Sang-je’s most trusted knights, had strangely gotten on Kasser’s nerves from the moment he brought in Sang-je’s personal correspondence to Eugene.
‘You were supposed to be in Holy City by now. Why even bother to come all the way again?’