Eugene rolled her eyes and marveled at the swiftly passing scenery, racing by on either side. It felt more like she was aboard a high-speed vehicle than cradled in someone’s arms.
After ascending the mountain path for a while, Kasser dispatched Abu to scout the surroundings ahead. Then, he broke into a run along the mountain trail, Eugene held securely in his arms. True to his assurance, there was no jarring or swaying, a rather astonishing feat. It was akin to watching a three-dimensional video glide by while seated in a perfectly stable chair.
The rush of wind brushing past her ears and the pulsing blue energy emanating from Kasser’s body were constant reminders that this was indeed reality.
Kasser maintained his unbroken stride for several hours. As evening approached and thoughts of dinner surfaced, he finally slowed down and came to a halt in an open clearing. He gently set Eugene down and inquired, “Feeling queasy?”
“Not at all. How about you?” Eugene replied.
“I’m perfectly fine,” Kasser assured her. “I should have attempted this earlier; it’s much easier than I anticipated.”
Eugene regarded him with amazement. “Can all kings do this?”
Kasser didn’t respond immediately. He had never tried this before and wasn’t certain what to expect. While traversing the mountains alone posed no significant challenge for him, carrying another person and minimizing the jostling might have proven more difficult. Nevertheless, driven by the prospect of meeting those who awaited him beyond the mountain range, he had decided to boldly attempt it. He had not, however, anticipated how effortlessly it would go.
My Praz has undeniably changed, he mused. Uncertainty had clouded his thoughts until today, but now he held conviction. His Praz had grown stronger than ever, and Eugene was the catalyst behind this transformation.
Eugene arched an eyebrow as Kasser gazed at her, offering no immediate response. Breaking the silence, Kasser tenderly kissed her lips and softly remarked, “It seems holding you grants me newfound strength.”
Eugene chuckled, well aware of his jest, yet he didn’t elaborate further. Perhaps, when the active season arrived, she would gain more clarity on the matter. They could discuss it more comprehensively then.
After their meal, Kasser embraced Eugene once more. When darkness enveloped the landscape completely, he hoisted her onto his shoulders and continued their journey over the mountain. As Eugene slumbered peacefully in his arms, he tirelessly navigated the rugged terrain.
The following morning, Eugene stirred to the sound of Kasser’s voice calling her. The surroundings had brightened, and he had ceased running. Throughout the night, whenever Eugene had glimpsed the world, it had been shrouded in inky darkness. She had listened to the rustling wind brushing past her ears and drifted in and out of sleep.
“Where are we?” Eugene inquired, her voice laced with drowsiness.
“We’ve crossed the border,” Kasser replied.
Her drowsy tone suddenly brimmed with energy. She had been leaning against his back, nearly dozing off, but now she straightened up. Kasser gently lowered her to the ground and explained, “We took an alternative route, so I sent Abu ahead. They should be arriving to meet us shortly.”
They didn’t have to wait long. Abu arrived first, followed shortly by a procession of several carriages.
Amidst the leaders of the procession, an unexpected and unannounced figure emerged. Eugene’s face lit up with a radiant smile as she hurried toward the newcomer.
“Your Majesty, Queen. I trust you are in good health…” Marianne began, her intention to offer a respectful greeting interrupted by Eugene’s sudden and warm embrace.
“How did you manage to come all this way? I’ve missed you so much. Seeing you makes me feel like I’m truly home.”
Caught off guard, Marianne stood frozen for a moment before hesitantly wrapping her arms around Eugene. Joy filled her heart, and her eyes welled with tears.
“You must have endured so much hardship, Your Majesty.”
“It’s you who endured the hardship,” Eugene replied earnestly. Although her words were heartfelt, Marianne took them as a polite exchange.
“For a lengthy journey, a lady requires an entourage. Yet, you arrived without a single attendant. I was quite distressed to learn of this. Please, come aboard one of the carriages.”
Marianne was fully focused on tending to Eugene, paying little attention to the king. Kasser observed the scene with mixed emotions. Marianne had always looked at him warmly, but now her attention was solely on Eugene.
“Baroness, did you bring the physician along?” Kasser inquired.
“Yes, Your Majesty,” replied Marianne.
Eugene interjected, “Let’s not delay our departure. Can’t the examination be conducted inside the carriage? If any treatment is necessary, it can be administered while I’m resting.”
“Your Majesty, won’t you risk motion sickness in the carriage? It might be wise to take a calming remedy and rest for a while,” Marianne suggested.
“I haven’t experienced any motion sickness since yesterday. Moreover, the carriage won’t jostle much now. I want to go. Aren’t you?” Eugene implored, looking at him earnestly.
Kasser, with a somewhat resigned expression, repeated the order. “Prepare for departure.”
He motioned to an official who seemed to have an urgent report to deliver, then issued additional instructions to Marianne.
“Summon the physician immediately and have the baroness accompany during the examination.”
“Yes, Your Majesty.”
While Kasser attended to the pressing report from the official, Eugene climbed into the carriage with Marianne. The carriage, specially designed for noblewomen embarking on long journeys, offered ample space to stretch one’s legs and recline comfortably.
“Marianne, do you trust the physician you brought?” Eugene inquired.
Marianne answered cautiously, her expression carefully composed. “I believe so… But do you have any specific concerns?”
Eugene hesitated before replying, “Well… I just hope the examination won’t be too intrusive. Can the physician determine if someone is pregnant or not?”
Marianne, initially puzzled, suddenly widened her eyes and clasped Eugene’s hands.
“It’s still uncertain.”
“My goodness, Your Majesty.” Marianne’s eyes filled with tears.
Outside, there was a stir of activity.
“Your Majesty, the physician has arrived.”
“Please, let him in,” Eugene instructed.
As Marianne acknowledged and opened the door, the physician entered the carriage. Shortly afterward, the carriage set off on its journey.