Eugene finished reading the letter and hummed. The goal was clear and simple, there was no room for her to wonder what it could have meant. When she looked away from the letter, she turned to Kasser who was watching her intently. She handed him the letter for him to read.
As he looked at the letter, she took the pendant and studied it. He glanced between her and the letter in confusion. “Do you want me to get rid of it?”
“Not yet,” Eugene said, her still on the pendant. “Read it.”
Kasser was even more confused. It was clear that the letter was made to be kept a secret. The fact that the Muen family had taken enough lengths to make sure only Eugene read it made him wonder if he was supposed to even know of its existence. Still, she wanted him to read it and Kasser couldn’t help the pride that grew in him when he realized that she trusted him with a secret such as this.
While he read, Eugene worked on the pendant just as she had been instructed to in the letter.
Turn it twice to the right, thrice to the left, then press it.
The bottom of the pendant popped out.
Oh? she thought. Is this it?
At the bottom of the pendant was a small clear thing. As she swung the pendant left and right, the clear item swayed as well. It was like glue and water all at once. She kept the pendant in her left hand and started to lift her right index finger to touch the thing, but her wrist was grabbed before she could touch it.
“What are you doing?” Kasser asked.
Eugene turned to him. “The letter said that if I touch it—”
“I know,” he said. “I read it.” He wasn’t sure about the letter. It was too strange, there was too much unknown territory here. “You don’t know what that is,” he added. “How can you be sure anything you read was true? The Muen family—who you’ve never met—sent you a message through a child asking for your blood. You can’t just blindly do as they say without knowing what their true intentions are.”
His voice was hard, and Eugene couldn’t help but wonder if this was the first time he had been hard on her. She felt like he had been like this before, but she couldn’t remember. She put the pendant down and sat beside him, leaning into his touch.
Kasser scoffed. “It’s not a good habit to try and solve everything like this.”
Eugene looked up at him innocently. “What do you mean?” she asked. “I just feel good. I like it when you worry about me.”
He looked at her as she smiled at him and sighed. He knew what she was doing, but he also knew that he was a hopeless case when she looked at him like that.
“There must be a reason why the Muen family didn’t keep in touch with grandmother and mother,” she said earnestly. “The fact that they contacted me despite all that must mean that it’s urgent. I want to meet the Muen family anyway. I think I would feel a lot better if I could speak to the senior of the family.” She looked at him as he turned away from her. “I never met my grandmother, but I know how much my mother loved and respected her. I think that my grandmother’s relatives won’t do any harm.”
Kasser frowned. “They might just be approaching you because they heard the rumor about the lark tree,” he pointed out. “They might just want you because they think you have a strong Ramita that they can use to their advantage.”
She nodded. “Maybe. But I feel like I need to meet the senior of the Muen family. I have their blood; it seems right for me to know them. I’m choosing to believe in myself so I would really appreciate it if you believed in me too.”
She smiled as she felt his hand on her shoulder even if he was looking away. She moved her hand back towards the pendant and, taking his silence as an agreement, she picked it up.
It seemed like the bottom of the pendant automatically closed after some time, so she worked it again until it opened. She held it up and showed Kasser the clear liquid. “Do you know what this is?”
“No,” he told her. “I’ve never seen it.”
Taking a deep breath, Eugene nodded. “I’m going to do it now.” She touched the object and pressed it. It was squishy. Then, suddenly, the object wrapped around her finger. Her eyes widened. The clear item started to turn red until it was completely the color of blood. Then, it hardened and felt like it was pushing her finger. She pulled her finger back.
Kasser immediately checked her finger. It was pale. “That was odd,” he said, “to take blood like that.”
Eugene felt like it would have been better to be back on Earth at the moment. Taking blood would have been so much easier.
She looked at the clear liquid that now looked like her blood. It didn’t move now even as she shook the pendant. When she tapped on it, it was completely solid. It looked like a thick red jewel.
The next morning, Eugene sent gifts to the owner of Scan for inviting her. One of the gifts was a pendant.
“Anika Flora, what’s going on?”
“I’m asking for an audience with His Holiness.”
The priest frowned. He felt like her visit was quite odd. Flora was the most polite and obedient Anika. Normally the priests didn’t like Anikas, having used them as their subjects, but there was no priest that didn’t like Flora. If anything, they volunteered to meet with her.
Flora would always ask permission for an audience unless she was visiting Sang-je. She was different from the other Anikas who thought meeting with priests was their special privilege.
“If His Holiness has more pressing matters to attend to, I can wait,” she said.
“No.” The priest shook his head. “He’s in the prayer room but he didn’t leave any instructions so as not to be disturbed. I’m sure His Holiness will be glad to have you visit.” He then led Flora to the prayer room.
When they found him, His Holiness was focused on prayer, frowning.
As expected, Flora thought. Someone took the seed.
The seed was somewhere other than the palace of the cottage. It wasn’t where it usually was.