The voice was calm and strong all at once. It was low, but too high to be a man’s voice.
“Please come… Alber.”
After she spoke the words, Eugene didn’t hear anything for a moment. She rubbed her hands together nervously as she looked around. Then, at the top of the bridge, light seemed to rip through the sky, like a seam had just burst and was now enveloping everything with light.
And just as suddenly as it had appeared, the light pulled away. Before Eugene, there was now a woman wearing pure white clothes with hair so long that it brushed against the floor.
I assumed she would be older. The women looked to be only a few years older than Eugene herself.
The lady wasn’t looking at her, instead she was facing the sunset with a smile on her face. The sky was still the same color it had been earlier, it was like time hadn’t passed at all.
“It’s beautiful,” Alber murmured as she looked around. Even if it was just a dream, she couldn’t remember the last time she had seen something as breathtaking as this. She had lived in darkness for so long that she had been certain that her eyes could no longer see beauty, but now she knew that wasn’t true.
She turned to Eugene, a smile so kind that it didn’t seem like it belonged on a young woman’s face. When she spoke, her voice was gentle. “You look like her.”
Eugene blinked. “Sorry?”
Alber shook her head, still smiling. “There’s no doubt that you’re Lesa’s grandchild.”
Lesa had been the name of Eugene’s maternal grandmother. She realized that Albert was probably a lot older than she looked. Maybe it’s because we’re in a dream, she thought. She must look much older in reality.
“What was my grandmother like?” she asked hesitantly. She was no longer so wary of her, Alber’s connection with her grandmother lowering her defenses.
The older woman sighed. “She was intelligent and thoughtful,” she said. “A very lovely child.” She looked at Eugene as if she was looking at Lesa herself. The girl looked so much like her grandmother. She looked around them once more and asked, “Where is this place? It doesn’t seem like the Holy City.”
Eugene glanced around too. “This is the palace. It’s the Hashi Kingdom’s palace.”
“The Hashi Kingdom? Where the desert king rules?”
Alber nodded and turned her gaze back to Eugene. She regarded her intently. “I made you dream today so that I could meet you.”
“Oh.” Eugene nodded. “I knew it was no ordinary dream.” She supposed that she had dreamed of the Hashi Kingdom because of how she considered it her hometown. Before she left the Holy City, she had wondered why people referred to it as the center of the world, but when she got there, she didn’t really need to wonder much more.
Perhaps it was because she had gotten so used to life in the big city with its tall buildings and busy streets, but when she returned to this calmer castle, she felt more comfortable. It was her home.
“Come sit, please,” she said, motioning for the older woman to take a seat at the table.
When Alber moved, it seemed more like she was floating than walking. After she sat down, she didn’t say anything. She just looked up at the sky. There was something so sad about her even if she looked happy. Like she was both all at once.
Eugene cleared her throat. “I heard you have something to tell me.”
The older woman sighed. She didn’t know where to start. Or how it would end. There was no end to it, it seemed. But it was more important that she said what she could than try to say everything.
When she noticed the conflicted look on Alber’s face, Eugene tried to start the conversation herself. “I suppose I don’t really know why I’m here. But I felt like I needed to meet you,” she said. “I think the blood of our ancestors led me here.”
Alber smiled. Perhaps this conversation would not go to waste, not with how attentive the younger woman was being.
“Well, maybe we could start with whatever questions you have,” she said. “You ask, I’ll answer.”
“Is there a limit? Can I ask as many questions as I like?”
“You can. Don’t be afraid to ask.”
Eugene smiled. Maybe this really was her chance to clear things up. She had so many questions and so little answers, perhaps this would help her see things as they truly were.
“I heard that you’re a senior member of the Muen family,” she said. “So, you’re a Muen by blood?”
“Then would you know the relationship between the Muens and the ancient tribe? Can we see the future?”
Alber was taken aback. She had expected lighter questions, easier things. She was shocked by Eugene’s willingness to take the risk and ask these kinds of things. “What—how did you…”
“Is that how you entered my dream?” Eugene pressed. “Is the ancient knowledge of magic still being passed down today?”
The older woman’s emotions had worn out the longer she lived. She knew that if she didn’t wish to go insane, she had to restrain herself from extreme emotions. The joy and sadness that mixed within her was calm compared to the way normal people felt.
But now, Alber could feel her heartbeat quicken. No, she told herself. Calm down. Magic bounds her to Sang-je and, if there were any changes in her emotions, he would know.
“Do you know something about the Muen family?” she asked, trying to remain calm.
“No,” Eugene told her. “They never revealed to me that I was related to them by blood. They never told me anything, this is my first real contact with the Muens. I heard what I know from Adrit, the gypsy.”
“You don’t know him?”
“This is the first time I’m hearing about him.”
Eugene was flustered. She wondered how it was that Adrit had known so much about them and yet they didn’t even know him. “He said he was a descendant of a faction of the Lark tribe,” she said. “The gypsies wander around repenting for their ancestor’s sins.”
Alber’s lips parted at that, then she sighed and closed her eyes. “I see.” She nodded. “The gypsies… they live that way.”
Why doesn’t she know their name? Eugene wondered. They had been called the gypsies for a long time, Kasser had told her so. Even during the reign of the last generation’s fourth king, they had already been called gypsies. They must have been around for a few decades at least.
The Muen family’s power was immense, and information was no hard thing for them to come by. It was strange to know that this simple name was something they didn’t know.
Maybe the gypsies don’t wish to be known by those who can see the future.