Curiosity gripped Sang-je when he encountered this unusual lark. He wondered if larks, like humans, could form their own kind of society. Sang-je himself was a unique subspecies among his kind. He had actively sought to learn from humans, and although he had encountered many larks, none had resembled him. So, he pondered the idea of creating one if it didn’t exist already.
The lark, who wholeheartedly believed Sang-je to be their parent, had an endearing side. Sang-je had taught the lark well, and as it grew, its intelligence flourished. Sang-je had envisioned using the lark as a kind of shadow companion.
However, one day, Sang-je made a startling discovery. The lark had secretly formed its own faction, hidden from his watchful eye. It was a realization that shook him. If the lark harbored different intentions, it could be even more dangerous than humans.
“When he fled, I should have scoured the world to find him and eliminate him, no matter the cost,” Sang-je reflected. He hadn’t anticipated that this situation would become such a persistent nuisance.
“Your Holiness, I have come as you called,” a priest’s voice resonated from beyond the door.
“Come in,” Sang-je replied.
The inner chamber’s door swung wide open as Sang-je spoke. The entering priest bowed respectfully.
“I am here to publicly announce the cancellation of the Celestial Festival,” Sang-je declared.
“What?” The priest raised his head in astonishment. Rumors had already spread about the high stakes of the festival, with the city’s fate hanging in the balance. People had erected tents and gathered in the central square, eagerly anticipating the event. Moreover, never before had the Celestial Festival been canceled.
“I have stressed the significance of this Celestial Festival repeatedly,” Sang-je continued. “That’s why I specifically designated the person to preside over it. Only when the form is preserved can the essence be realized. If the form crumbles, and we can no longer connect with God, how can we proceed with the Celestial Festival? Go and convey my decision to everyone.”
“…As you command, Your Holiness,” the priest replied with a troubled expression before departing. Alone in the chamber, Sang-je let out a cynical snort. Both Anikas had publicly declared their participation in the Celestial Festival beforehand, so canceling it in this manner would undoubtedly spark public outrage, and blame would be assigned for the festival’s disruption.
The inhabitants of the Holy City, the only place shielded from lark threats, couldn’t escape the looming fear that the grace of God might vanish. They took great pride in the divine favor they received.
Even though Jin was no longer present in the Holy City, the Arse family would find themselves in a difficult situation. It wouldn’t be a blow significant enough to shake them to their core, but it would serve as a form of release in some measure.
“If Anika Jin won’t come willingly,” Sang-je murmured with a wicked glint in his red eyes, “then I’ll have to bring her.” A sinister smile tugged at the corners of his lips.
Eugene tossed and turned in her sleep, stirred by an unusual sensation. She tried to shift, thinking it was just a misplaced pillow, but it clung to her, gently enveloping her body. Confused, she reached out to explore the object. It had contours, feeling soft yet firm, like a chin, a nose…?
Hearing a soft chuckle, Eugene opened her eyes and discovered her husband, Kasser, who had returned without her noticing.
“When did you get back?” she asked, still groggy from sleep.
“Just a little while ago,” Kasser whispered.
“The sun hasn’t risen yet. Go back to sleep.”
Eugene closed her eyes and mumbled, “How was your trip?”
“I’m not sure yet. I need to look into it more.”
As she started drifting back to sleep, a memory from earlier in the day resurfaced, and she chuckled. The echoes of the song she had heard still lingered in her ears.
“Something incredible happened earlier,” she said, her words disjointed due to sleepiness.
Kasser, curious about the vague details he had heard, asked, “What happened?”
“They were worried about me, so they came here to sing…”
Eugene tried to explain, her logical narrative struggling to emerge amidst her drowsiness.
Kasser couldn’t help but smile as he gazed at the disheveled Eugene. With gentle fingers, he brushed her forehead and traced her slightly furrowed brow. Though he had only been away in the desert for a day, it felt like an entire month had passed. The urge to rush back to the kingdom tugged at him relentlessly. Yet, seeing her peacefully asleep on the bed a moment ago had filled him with an overwhelming sense of happiness.
Eugene, still fighting sleep, murmured, “Why hasn’t the Count sent any news yet? Is she still in labor?”
“If it were news from the Count, she was here a while ago,” Kasser said.
Eugene’s eyes flew open, and she sat up abruptly. “What are you saying? Did she give birth?”
Kasser nodded. “Yes.”
“How is the mother? Is the baby healthy? When did you receive the news? I explicitly instructed them to inform me.”
“It’s good news, so there’s no need to disturb your sleep. The mother is well, and despite being born prematurely, the baby is healthy.”
Eugene couldn’t contain her joy and hugged him tightly around the neck. “I want to go see them. Oh, but is there a customary waiting period after the birth, when visitors should refrain from coming for a while?”
Kasser replied, “If both the mother and baby are healthy, there must be no restriction.”
“Still, it wouldn’t be proper to visit right away today, would it? I should plan to go in a few days,” Eugene contemplated.
Kasser remained mostly silent, quietly pondering whether this news could bring such unbridled joy to his wife. He kept his thoughts to himself, though. Instead, a subtle awareness settled in his heart—his wife’s impending childbirth was taking on a newfound reality through the birth of another child. A shadow of uncertainty crept in.
As he held Eugene in his arms, Kasser wished for a smooth and healthy delivery for his wife, much like the wanderer’s child born that very morning.