Had tension gripped her throughout? A rush of relief surged through Eugene, followed by laughter. Though only a few days had passed, the absence of his embrace had been deeply felt.
“Is this the border?” she asked Kasser.
“No,” replied Kasser. “You were a bit late, so I decided to come search for you.”
His hold on Eugene tightened, his hands tracing tender patterns on her face before placing kisses on various spots, then drawing her close once more.
“Why didn’t you ride Abu? Is the saddle uncomfortable?” he asked.
“No, it’s not that. Abu’s back was swaying quite a bit. I got motion sickness, so I had to disembark.” Eugene leaned against him, a hint of playfulness in her demeanor. “I’m so sleepy. I could just collapse and doze off right here.”
“Well then, let’s ride Abu. Oh, wait, you mentioned motion sickness.”
Kasser pivoted, lowering his posture, signaling for her to clamber onto his back.
Eugene chuckled bashfully and promptly mounted his back without hesitation. Kasser hoisted her gently and set off walking. Despite their situation of fleeing, their journey took on the air of a leisurely date, kindling a sense of delight within Eugene.
“The day you left, did Sang-je say anything?” Eugene inquired.
“We didn’t cross paths. They informed me he was in the prayer room, engaged in his devotions.”
“Likely he wasn’t at the palace.”
This implied Sang-je had sought out Alber. The thought of Alber in the clutches of the monster sent a pang through Eugene’s heart. In the midst of outlining her escape plan to Kasser, she abruptly drifted off.
As Eugene leaned against him, her weight shifted completely onto Kasser. The comforting warmth of her body pressed against his back alleviated his apprehensions. At last, all the pieces seemed to fall into alignment.
As he awaited her arrival at their predetermined spot, restlessness had consumed him. Fearing potential complications, he was on high alert, unable to unwind. Yet, when he heard Abu’s call, he hastened toward the sound. It signified Abu’s proximity, allaying his apprehension about Eugene’s solitary presence alongside the leopard.
Kasser, typically not lavish with praise, cast a glance back at Abu and remarked, “Well done.”
Without their two Hwansus, this endeavor would have met with failure. As if he didn’t hate his owner’s praise, Abu responded with a subdued cry.
Eugene fixed her gaze on the bonfire, a beacon of light against the backdrop of the dark desert.
Where is this? Is this some kind of dream?
Beside the crackling flames, two figures occupied the scene. One person sat and consumed a meal, while another reclined with their back to the fire.
“Your Highness, it’s been five days. Shouldn’t you just give up on that guy?”
The peculiar tableau she had observed just before departing the mansion seemed to extend into this strange setting. She studied the young man’s visage intently, though the obscurity of the night and the flickering firelight made discerning his features challenging. Yet, it didn’t strike her as a face she was acquainted with.
The youth turned his attention to the individual reclining nearby, addressing them anew.
“How do you plan to apprehend a guy who remains motionless in the water? Even if His Majesty the King intervenes, it appears impossible.”
“Yes, Your Highness.”
“Only five days have elapsed. It’s premature to abandon hope.”
The young man identified as Yog emitted a sigh. His demeanor and tone seemed less formal than one might anticipate when addressing royalty. Their interaction appeared that of close friends rather than constrained by rigid hierarchies.
“Our food supply is running out now.”
“Even though there’s an oasis right in front of us, we can’t find any food.”
The youth toyed with a twig, prodding at the bonfire before continuing cautiously.
“But, Your Highness.”
“If you remain here a bit longer, the warriors may well arrive.”
The individual who had been reclining abruptly straightened. At the sight of the young man’s face illuminated by the fire’s glow, Eugene was roused from her slumber. Her vision flickered as she directed her gaze toward the dawn sky. Steadily, Eugene rose from her supine position, having been cocooned in the black leopard’s fur, her form curled in slumber.
It’s not Kasser.
The young man bore a resemblance to Kasser, but he was not Kasser.
The gift of foresight…
After Alber’s message was conveyed through the warrior’s voice, Eugene had reached out to the Muen clan through Charlotte’s great-uncle to comprehend the significance behind “reading fragments of the future.” This quest had led her to glean insights about the clan’s ability to foresee the future.
The elder cast a spell to see the future.
That explained Sang-je’s absence.
Possibility… A future that may or may not come true…
Eugene drew in a deep breath, grappling with a sense of being overwhelmed. She had glimpsed fragments of the future—foreseen possibilities directly intertwined with the seer himself.