“I don’t think he would harm me and besides, I have yet to touch him…”
Eugene could feel Kasser’s eyes on her. While he kept looking at her without even blinking, she thoroughly avoided it by training hers on the horse and the horse alone.
Sure enough, a gruff voice hurriedly interrupted her. “I am just concerned, as this animal is not a normal horse.”
“Yes, I can tell. No ordinary horse would have a pair of horns sticking out of its head. I just wanted to see it up close.”
By now Eugene was certain this horse was a Lark. But that didn’t diminish her curiosity or invoke fear. If anything, she wanted to know more about this feral creature.
Seeing how she’s deliberately avoiding his gaze, Kasser was dissatisfied. Since there was no subtle way of resolving it, he decided to address it directly.
Eugene had to swallow the ball of nerves in her throat before answering. “Yes?”
She tilted her head upwards, his scrutiny now impossible to disregard. Their eyes met and Kasser instantly felt better. All the dissatisfaction from earlier had disappeared. His stiff face eased.
This walk was a spur of the moment thing for Eugene. And this was her first time in the garden. To an extent, she was aware of the challenges surrounding the active period and with that could vaguely discern how hectic Kasser’s schedule could be. In other words, this royalty should have been buried behind a mountain of work without a moment to spare. And yet, he was standing right before her, in this garden, at this time of the day talking about his pet. However, up until now, he hadn’t supplied any explanation to his abrupt appearance. So, this time she decided to address it.
“Am I not allowed to go near him?” Her eyes widened for a fraction. “Does he bite?”
“No, he doesn’t, but…”
The queen had never shown interest in Abu before she lost her memory. It wasn’t just her; it was everybody. People feared Larks as much as they feared death. Needless to say, they avoided him like plague. As for Jin Anika, she had her set interests, which did not include Kasser let alone Abu.
Does she think Abu is an ordinary horse?
Kasser wasn’t sure how much of her memory was lost. At first, she only seemed to be struggling to remember her recent past and the people around her. But now she seemed to have forgotten even the most basic things like her minimum to nonexistent interest in anything but ancient books.
Although he was baffled about the things she did not remember, Kasser was still pleased with how she was taking an active interest in Abu. In a corner somewhere, it felt like she was taking an interest in him. It left a warm feeling within.
He held a tight grip on Abu’s mane, to prevent him from attacking Eugene before gesturing to her to come forward.
“You can come closer now if you want to.”
Zanne had yet to recover from the sight of Abu. Seeing how the queen was boldly meeting the dangerous beast, and all alone, her courage had long bid her adieu. Presently, this loyal being was standing still in her place, feet firmly nailed to the ground in fear.
However, her mistress was a stark contrast. As if she was waiting to hear those very words from Kasser, she drew closer and did not stop until she was only an arm’s length from the beast. It was only now that she realized what she saw up until now from a distance, was an illusion. This majestic creature was unlike any other in form, stature, and attitude.
Ah, this animal is bigger than I thought.
Whether it was her original world or this, Eugene had never seen a horse from this close before. She knew even less about them. That said, although she had no idea how big a horse was supposed to be, she was sure that Abu was a tad larger than the others. She marveled at this gorgeous creature. She wished to know more about it.
“What is his name?” she asked.
“Abu? How adorable.” She slowly stretched her arm and gently stroked his nose. “He is very soft. Aren’t you a good boy, Abu?”
Her admiration for Abu reflected on her face and without warning, Eugene broke into a brilliant smile. Her eyes were gleaming with mirth and pure fascination.
Kasser was blinded by her radiance. Never had he seen her thus. He just couldn’t take his eyes off of this beautiful woman. He wondered why he was noticing her beauty only now. He was remorseful.
Well, this was at the human end. The beast was no less intrigued.
From the time he had spotted Eugene, Abu had been on high alert. While the naive her was admiring him, this clever one was assessing her. Although he did not want to break his vow to his master and hurt her, that was not the only reason keeping him from doing so. He was curious about her, the way she was first surprised and then charmed by his presence, he too was. So when she was approaching him, he was in anticipation too. When his master gripped his mane so she could come closer, he was excited. And when her soft hands touched his nose…
So right now, upon noticing his master’s enthrallment, Abu decided to take the reins in his own hands. He suddenly blew his nose with a snort, startling Eugene into jumping and pulling her hand back.
But as well-behaved as he was, Abu immediately licked her palm as if in apology. Caught off guard, Eugene let out a muffled cry at the tingly sensation. The two looked at each other, but only for a brief moment.
Then, the horse slowly inched closer, rubbing his snout against Eugene’s hand, watching to see if she’d recoil again or accept his affection. Accept him…
Eugene’s eyes lit up and she took a brave step forward. Encouraged, Abu now rubbed his snout against her face.
Her pure and delightful laughter filled the quiet garden air, her glowing face was equally enchanting.
“He’s a very gentle boy, Your Majesty.”
The king stared at Abu, perplexed by his actions. It was no secret people were never fond of Abu. And Abu had always been more than willing to let them know the feeling was reciprocated. Never had this beast been soft. Nor had it tried to ingratiate itself with anyone.
Kasser was also confused by the compliment given to the beast. He would never call Abu a gentle creature, but rather, a very mischievous one. Abu often pulled rude pranks on people, finding pleasure in the fear that spread on their faces as he growled. Unleashing terror, giving a damn, and putting his status as the king’s steed to full use- this was characteristic of Abu.
But what was transpiring before his very eyes, had him wondering if the beast was suffering from a memory loss too.
With every passing second, Abu seemed more bonded to Eugene. He buried his face in her hair and let her rub his mane with her small hands. He would sniff her hair, lick her cheek, and go back to burying his face in her hair. All the while, his horse was acting so out of character. To say nothing of him being treated like thin air. Kasser was irked.
When he could not stand it anymore, he clenched his hand tightly and pulled Abu’s mane, forcefully turning his head away from Eugene. Abu glared daggers at his master, who in return, ignored him and talked to Eugene instead.
“What brings you here today?” he asked.
“I just wanted to take a walk outside. It’s a beautiful day today.” Eugene looked around as she replied. She seemed to melt into the nature around her, while at the same time, glowing to outshine it.
Kasser pulled again on Abu as he started to rub against Eugene once more. Abu blew out of his nose in annoyance. He was acting rather strangely. Kasser did not understand why he was so friendly to the queen. In the past, they would treat each other with disinterest and live in their own world, never crossing into the others’.
But today, it seemed like they were bosom buddies. And this was the first time they had ‘met’. Kasser could not put a finger on this bizarre turn of events, but if he were to decisively say what was that one thing that might have triggered this phenomenon, it would be her loss of memory.
He continued to watch her silently and reminded himself of the old queen. What was before his eyes was nothing like that old one. As he delved deeper into his musings, at one point he felt his body stiffen. It was that recurring fear within.
What would happen when Jin Anika regains her memory?