Abu swiftly ascended the rough and jagged mountain terrain. Although the mountain’s elevation wasn’t particularly impressive, scaling it without a defined path in the dead of night meant enduring a sleepless vigil. Yet, the darkness posed no obstacle for Abu, unlike the creatures of the night. His progress to the summit was so swift that Eugene couldn’t help but wonder, Has he already arrived?
Upon reaching the summit, Abu pivoted in a circular motion before adjusting his orientation, allowing Eugene to peer down the edge of the cliff. A shiver ran down Eugene’s spine as she envisioned the sheer abyss below.
“One misstep here, and not even your bones would be discernible,” muttered Eugene.
At a slight distance beneath the cliff’s precipice, lights flickered in a consistent pattern. These torches were affixed to the wall, their even spacing delineating the wall’s contours. The mountain was encircled by this fortification wall, forming a protective barrier.
Navigating the cliff and traversing the wall on this treacherous night was an unfeasible task for anyone. Even in the daylight, it would prove arduous. Any attempt to cling onto the cliff would be instantly spotted by vigilant guards. Thus, the rocky mountain’s sheer cliff acted as an innate defense mechanism. This is why the fortification on this side of the wall was comparatively vulnerable.
With the gate unbarred, entrance and exit were unrestricted. Nevertheless, exploiting alternative means, such as scaling the wall, carried severe penalties.
Even in the broad light of day, sentinels patrolled the wall encircling the mountain. Post-sunset, security measures escalated further, creating an impenetrable defense.
The density of guards conducting patrols along the wall was so substantial that while traversing its length, one could easily discern the distant figures of other guards ahead. Nonetheless, upholding constant vigilance in a time of peace proved challenging. A while back, the guards had developed covert practices within their ranks. The night patrols came with a decent stipend, so some resorted to submitting false names in order to pocket extra earnings.
In instances where a task required ten individuals, if nine participated, inevitable gaps emerged within the patrol area. Consequently, these gaps were relegated to the patrol of the cliff-side wall. While other areas underwent regular monitoring, the cliff-side wall received sporadic attention.
Eugene’s aspiration to flee the city hinged on scaling the wall. This endeavor would have been implausible without the aid of her two familiars. The means by which Eugene managed to exit the city remained inscrutable. Logically, it was inconceivable for a Hwansu of the king to comply with commands issued by anyone other than their master.
Drawing in a deep breath, Eugene steeled herself mentally and tapped Abu’s neck.
With Abu’s movement, Eugene crouched, tightly clutching the creature’s fur with both hands. A fleeting sensation of weightlessness enveloped her as her body left the ground, prompting her to grit her teeth. Abu launched off the cliff’s edge. Each contact of Abu’s paws on the jutting rocks of the cliff elicited inward screams from Eugene. The experience resembled that of a roller coaster suddenly ascending while in the midst of a descent, the force of gravity coursing through her being. Were it not for her secure hold on the saddle, she might have been flung off.
She likened it to a carnival ride, yet the comparison fell short. The oscillating sensations between weightlessness during the descent and the forceful leaps upward churned her stomach.
Abu descended the cliff’s wall, its surface etched vertically like a plateau. Maintaining his pace, he surged toward the city’s fortifications. His acute senses extended, questing for any human presence. Luck favored them as no one lingered nearby. The perceptive creature comprehended the necessity of stealthily surmounting the wall without arousing attention.
With a powerful thrust, Abu launched himself off the ground and alighted on the wall’s surface. Immediately, he converted it into a foothold and sprang once more. Astonishingly nimble for his imposing size, Abu scaled the wall with remarkable agility, traversing its breadth.
At a certain point, Eugene sealed her eyelids shut. Amidst the encompassing darkness, this simple act steadied her queasy stomach.
Once more, Abu either descended or propelled them upward. Eugene clung to Abu’s fur with an unyielding grip, although aware that leather straps bound them together. The quivering of her body subsided. Eugene cracked her eyes open slightly and lifted her upper body.
Abu decelerated and eventually halted. Eugene surveyed their surroundings, straining her eyes to discern amidst the obscurity. A level expanse came into view.
“…Have we managed to cross the wall?” She mumbled before breaking into a broad grin.
“You did it! We’re out—escaped the city!” Her arms extended, Eugene embraced Abu’s neck warmly.
“Bravo, Abu. You’ve performed splendidly.” Her voice resonated with exhilaration, her face radiant.
“Now, it’s time to reunite with your master.”
Anticipation for her impending encounter with Kasser ignited anxiety within her. Initially urging Abu to rush forward, she promptly halted him again. Her body’s residual tremors, a reminder of the gust that had flipped her earlier, obstructed her from settling down.
“This won’t work, Abu. Let’s take it slowly.”
Eugene’s tone exuded gentleness and reassurance.
Nonetheless, even the gradual, swaying motions grew increasingly arduous to withstand. Despite swiftly adapting to horseback riding upon her arrival in this world, the supple undulations of a leopard’s back proved considerably more challenging.
After several unsuccessful attempts, Eugene opted to fully remove the leather straps and dismount from Abu’s back, choosing instead to walk beside him.
How much time had passed since they began walking? It felt as though her feet were aflame. Having been on her feet since the afternoon, navigating the banquet hall tirelessly, the weariness had taken hold. The expenditure of energy had mounted as the day wore on.
While her stomach had settled somewhat, remounting Abu was out of the question. After unfastening the straps, she lacked the means to resecure them on her own. Kasser had emphatically cautioned her against riding Abu without a specialized saddle.
Coaxing Abu to transform through mere words proved futile without a horse saddle. She harbored no intention of mounting a horse, even one as unique as Abu, without the proper equipment.
“Abu, we still have quite a distance to cover before reaching your master, right?”
The rendezvous point she had arranged with Kasser lay near the Dicus border, adjacent to the realm of the Dark King. Roughly two hours’ ride from the city gates, this location was frequently perceived as part of the Holy City enclosed by its walls, though its dominion extended towards the borderlands—a sort of uninhabited buffer zone.
Eugene shook her head, dispelling the drowsiness that encroached upon her. Even as she walked, the urge to sleep was overwhelming. Suddenly, Abu emitted a soft cry. Eugene turned her head gradually to observe Abu.
Was she caught in a waking dream due to her overwhelming sleepiness? Eugene found herself gazing blankly at the man who materialized before her. It was only when his sturdy arms enfolded her that reality snapped into focus. It was real.