“So, are you considering consuming Sang-je?” Kasser inquired, concerned that such an outcome would only exacerbate an already precarious situation. Both entities appeared to be among the most potent Hwansu in the world. Yet, the prospect of one devouring the other to absorb their power and give rise to an even more fearsome monster was a daunting proposition. Moreover, Mara, much like Sang-je, had a history of captivating and exploiting humans, raising the potential for him to become a second Sang-je.
“If that’s your intent, I cannot cooperate. I can’t employ a thief to chase away another thief,” Kasser firmly stated.
Eugene nodded in agreement. While Mara possessed valuable information about Sang-je, the risks involved were simply too great.
However, Mara responded without hesitation, stating, “It doesn’t matter as long as that wretch is obliterated.”
Kasser furrowed his brow, seeking further clarification, “Your words don’t align. If your objective isn’t to consume Sang-je, why do you harbor hostility toward him?”
“If I don’t strike first, he’ll inevitably strike at me,” Mara explained.
“Just that?” Kasser pressed for more details.
After a moment of silence, Mara revealed, “There’s a grudge.”
Eugene couldn’t help but chuckle at the notion of a grudge. In the context of the impassable differences between Larks and humans that Kasser had emphasized, this response appeared remarkably human.
“What kind of grudge is it?” Eugene inquired, curiosity piqued.
Mara’s response carried a dismissive tone, akin to that of a petulant child, as he replied, “Do we really need to delve into all those details?”
Eugene couldn’t help but chuckle at the nonchalant attitude. Everything was so distinct when it came to Sang-je and Mara. She realized that she felt strangely at ease, a sensation she had never experienced when encountering Sang-je in the Holy City’s Palace. Her conversations with Mara were unexpectedly enjoyable.
“Alright, moving on to a different question. It’s a bit off-topic, but is the current appearance of the mouse a result of illusion?” Eugene asked.
“No. This is a method of conveying thoughts using animals as intermediaries,” Mara clarified.
Eugene turned to Kasser and inquired, “Have you ever heard of Sang-je using this method to communicate through animals?”
Kasser shook his head in response. “No, I haven’t.”
“But could he have concealed it?” Eugene pondered.
“Well, there wouldn’t be any reason for him to hide it. Displaying such an ability would likely earn him even more reverence as a divine representative,” Kasser reasoned.
Mara interjected with a hint of satisfaction, “That rascal is incapable of such a thing.”
“Since Sang-je is supposedly a more powerful Hwansu than you, it can’t be his ability. Is it magic?” Eugene inquired.
“Could it be the ancient magic you once pilfered from the archives of the ancient tribe?” she pressed further.
The mouse appeared somewhat flustered, its eyes darting around nervously. Witnessing Mara’s surprised reaction, Eugene couldn’t resist a chuckle and remarked, “We may have more information than you’d expect.”
The mouse stared at Eugene for a moment before turning its head away.
Kasser intervened, saying, “Now that we understand each other’s intentions, let’s conclude our discussion for today.”
“There’s just one more thing I’d like to ask,” the mouse interjected, its gaze now fixed on Kasser.
Mara continued, “I’ve heard that my followers have been apprehended.”
“Your followers? You mean the priests? They were arrested as suspects and will face legal consequences,” Kasser clarified.
“Will they be executed? None of them have committed crimes grave enough to warrant execution. Occasionally, they may have acted overzealously without my orders, but that’s the extent of it,” the mouse explained.
Kasser regarded Mara with surprise in his eyes. He had anticipated that Mara, who had manipulated humans for his own gain under the guise of a false god, would make excuses for his disciples. However, his defense of them caught him off guard.
Upon reflection, Mara’s disciples had only faced discrimination and persecution for their social interactions, causing no significant issues. If they had been a nuisance, they would have been expelled from the kingdom long ago.
“They won’t be falsely accused of any crimes,” Kasser assured.
The mouse nodded in apparent satisfaction.
As Eugene and Kasser rose from the table, a knock sounded on the door from outside. Before Kasser could respond, the door swung open, and Aldrit entered, his emotions visibly turbulent. As soon as he crossed the threshold, he immediately prostrated himself before Eugene.
“I cannot quantify the grace I’ve received from the Queen,” he expressed sincerely.
While Eugene had engaged in a significant conversation with Mara, Aldrit had been catching up with his cousin. The life of a wanderer was always a precarious balancing act between life and death from the moment they left their refuge. Tears welled in their eyes as they reminisced about the challenging six years they had spent apart.
Aldrit firmly believed that without Eugene’s intervention, Lima would have suffered a miserable fate, and their entire tribe might have faced annihilation. He tearfully confessed that he had even contemplated abandoning the tribe for the sake of Lima’s unborn child. The mere thought of what Sang-je might have done to Lima had she been captured terrified him.
“Her Majesty saved me, my cousin, and our entire tribe,” Aldrit concluded with gratitude.
Eugene persuaded Aldrit, who still lay on the floor without moving, to finally rise, although it was a struggle.
“I’m the one who should be thanking you. You brought an important guest,” she graciously replied, downplaying the praise but secretly feeling a sense of pride.
Unbeknownst to them, time had passed unnoticed during Eugene’s conversation with Mara, and night had quietly descended. As they boarded the carriage, Kasser attentively attended to Eugene.
“Are you tired? Is there anything discomforting?” he inquired with concern.
“Not at all. Look at my eyes; they’re wide awake,” she assured him.
However, as the journey in the carriage continued, her initially alert and clear mind gradually succumbed to drowsiness. When the carriage finally arrived at the palace and came to a stop, Eugene had fallen asleep, leaning on Kasser.
“You’ve been through a lot,” Kasser whispered softly into Eugene’s ear, carefully cradling her to prevent her from awakening. He instructed that the bedroom curtains be drawn tightly to ensure she could enjoy a restful morning.