“I can’t say much right now but I have a score to settle with His Holiness. I’ll tell you everything when the right time comes, just as I promised before. So, for now, I need you to turn a blind eye and let me take care of this myself. And if His Holiness asks you anything of me, don’t mention that I have a memory loss.”
Kasser, who was looking down at her in silence, gave her his terse nod. And when Eugene’s hand was withdrawn from his mouth at his nod, he promptly grabbed on and kissed her palm.
“Then promise that you would never engage in anything reckless. And also, that you would turn to me if things got out of your hands.”
Until not long ago, she had always pushed herself, thinking that there was no one she could turn to but herself in the world. Never in her wildest imagination did she imagine having a blind faith in someone she had only met with a few months ago, that he’ll always stand by her side, whatever the circumstances.
Such unconditional support was something that she had never once felt before in her life, not even from her own family. Feeling an ache in her chest by the overwhelming warmth of his sweetness, she beamed at Kasser, suppressing her tears from welling up.
It’s been so long since Aldrit wandered in the desert that he had already lost count of the dunes he crossed so far. Being held back for an entire day just to take shelter from the sandstorms which came blowing every now and then was a frequent event throughout his journey. Despite being surrounded by the same scenery in all directions, Aldit somehow managed to slog his way toward the direction of their hideout, without having lost his way in the middle of the desolate desert.
And that was all due to his inborn ability where he could instinctively distinguish the cardinal points of his surroundings. Being gifted with a sense of direction, he never seemed to lose his way.
That ability of Aldrit’s was considered to be special in his tribe because they were all destined to a life of endless wander, as a divine punishment for their sins. It was in fact regarded as one of the most important qualities one must possess to become the leader of the tribe.
To tell the truth, there was some information which Aldrit could not have told Eugene about, like the exact location of their hideout as well as his identity.
Aldrit was one of the candidates that were being trained to become the successor of the tribe and as he was indeed the most promising candidate among all, he was highly anticipated as the tribe’s next patriarch by the majority.
Standing on top of the dune, Aldrit heaved a sigh when he saw the boulder mountain, looming in the distance. He felt like he was home again at long last.
There was not a reason for him to not call the place his home, as it was the one and only settlement for their tribe throughout the world. Without realising it, his mind was soon overwhelmed by a sudden flurry of mixed emotions.
Now that the destination was clear within his sight, his fatigued body recovered its strength once again. Feeling recharged, he briskly descended the hill. He knew he still had a long way to go although it looked not far away from where he stood. It took him another half a day of walking to finally reach around the foot of the boulder mountains.
The mountain was indeed a boulder mountain as the word itself, with its boulders grotesquely worn over the eons by the sandstorm. It was a barren mountain in subdued gray color, without a handful of rich soil to be seen. Whenever he looked, it didn’t seem like a place for any living creature to inhabit.
After circling along the foot of the mountain for a while, he promptly came to a stop and flopped down to dig up the ground with his bare hands. It was not long before a crevice was revealed from all the sands which were collected over time, carried on the wind. And there was a space large enough for a human to enter.
He first threw his bag in and then entered headfirst into the crevice, which led to a cave inside. After lighting a torch with a flint, he walked deep into the cave through the passageway.
At the dead end of the cave, there was a mountain spring brimming over with water which looked no bigger than a well by eye as this was just an entrance. The spring’s depth was beyond measurable as it was in fact connected at the bottom to a seemingly endless underground lake.
After groping for the ground, he turned the nearby stone floor over with his hand. Having found a palm sized object which was round yet flat, he breathed a sigh of relief. As it was a sole object, if anyone from his tribe had gotten into the lake with it, he would have needed to wait until it was returned.
‘What could this be?’
A question was raised in his mind all of a sudden. The object enabled one to breathe underwater just by holding it in the mouth. Without it, there was no way for one to swim across the underground lake, all the way to the tribe’s hideout.
Holding up the object against the light for a better look, Aldrit slowly turned it around in his hand. The object was hard with a flat body, yet it had a thin rim around it.
‘I think it resembles some kind of scale in appearance.’, he thought to himself as he stamped on the torch to put it out.
Aldrit had decided to leave his bag behind at the thought of coming back for it later as he didn’t want his precious gift from the queen to be ruined in the water. With the object between his teeth, he took a deep breath and plunged right into the spring.