The carriage started to speed up.
“I do wonder about something,” Eugene said. Her brows were furrowed in thought. “I know Kkoma sent you a signal to go to me, but you did seem to come awfully fast.”
She turned to Kasser as he looked away and remained silent. She could already tell that something was up.
“It would take you much longer to get to the palace if you came from home,” she continued. “Were you already out?”
“I had something to take care of in these parts,” Kasser mumbled.
“You never mentioned having something to do before.”
That’s when he decided he needed to change the subject. “Did your talk with Sang-je go well?”
Eugene’s eyes widened. He followed me! He might have been a king, but he was also incredibly transparent. It was clear that, not only had he sent Kkoma to come with her, he had also made sure that he was nearby in case anything happened. It was silly though because Sang-je had a reputation to uphold, there was no reason for him to do anything out of the ordinary now. If she faced any dangers, they couldn’t be too extreme. Still, Eugene couldn’t help but appreciate just how much Kasser cared about her.
She decided to drop the topic and answer his question. “It went mostly according to plan,” she told him. “We’re going to talk again after a cycle.”
“A cycle?” Kasser frowned. “He’s really keen on turning you into a priestess, isn’t he?”
Eugene waved it off. “We have a lot of time,” she said. “We can think about all that later. Besides, the situation might change before I even get to talk to him about it again.”
Kasser couldn’t help but let out a disgruntled huff. Is his true form a snake? Snakes were creatures that naturally brought on a sense of fear and disgust in humans. It was common for larks to take the forms of snakes for that very reason. And Kasser had beheaded many a lark that took the form of a snake. One cycle? I’ll slice you up long before then.
When he had heard Alber’s story from Eugene, he wasn’t as shocked as he probably should have been. It hurt his pride knowing that he had been played by a monster, but it wasn’t like Sang-je could do much. Kasser had been told that he couldn’t even leave the city, and the Hashi Kingdom was too far away from the Holy City for the monster to matter anyway.
But if he was going after Eugene, then that was a different story. How could that monster even think about going after her?
“I’ve been meaning to ask,” Eugene said, “Are you friends with the Fire King?”
“Friends?” Kasser scoffed. “We met once, a long time ago. He came to our kingdom to hunt down a lark.”
“And I was told that he was disturbing our kingdom’s peace in the process of hunting,” he said. “So, I went to meet him. It sounds absurd now that I think about it, but when we met, he told me that we should fight. He would leave the kingdom regardless of the outcome.”
“So?” Eugene was invested now, and Kasser wasn’t giving her much.
“So, we fought and he left as promised.”
“Don’t hold out on me. How did you fight? With Praz?”
Kasser looked at her curious face and let out a sigh. There was no way he could refuse her information. “It was before either of us were kings,” he said. “Our Praz was unstable and it would’ve been dangerous to use it. So, we decided that we had to fight with our strength.”
“Your strength?” Eugene pretended to punch the air. “Like that kind of fight?”
He frowned, clearly ashamed of the memory. “It was like a dog fight,” he said. “I think we fought for three days.”
At that, his wife burst out laughing. She couldn’t imagine fist-fighting someone like that. She recalled their interaction earlier and realized that they must have earned each other’s respect after all that. People do get close when they fight.
Now that I think about it, it was Kasser who made the first move earlier. If the Fire King had made a fuss over that, the situation could have blown out of proportion. But he had backed off instead. He must have held some kind of affection for Kasser to do that.
“Who won?” she asked.
“We both got tired, so we just decided to end it.”
Eugene’s heart warmed at that. He was her husband, but he was also a king. She loved him, but she always felt that him being a king affected their circumstances. The truth, however, was that he was a normal person too. He could hurt and he could cry. Being a king has nothing to do with him feeling the way he does.
“Why was he holding you anyway?” Kasser asked suddenly. “When I arrived, why was he holding you?”
When Eugene didn’t answer, he pressed.
“The Fire King seems a bit out of touch with the world,” she told him.
“It’s because all he does is hunt. So, why was he holding you?”
“Well,” she said slowly, “Before he knew that I was married to you, he proposed to me.” She looked at Kasser’s darkening expression and quickly added, “But you came just in time and it was all resolved. Don’t do anything crazy, okay?”
He looked unconvinced but he shut his mouth and nodded anyway.