With the king leading the hunt against the Larks, it usually left a hole in the line of command to those left in the palace.
The battle against the Larks was a never-ending war, and the absence of the king was so frequent, it threatened the stability of their kingdom. That was why someone was appointed, in the king’s absence, to take over the chain of command.
This type of system existed in the world of Mahar. There was no bribery, no amount of treasures that could buy the throne. For the throne existed solely for the existence of the king—irreplaceable and unchangeable. The Six Kings of Mahar were the ones who held absolute royal authority over their kingdom until their last breaths.
This type of culture had its benefits. Namely, because of this, the king didn’t have to worry about someone usurping him from his position whenever he’s off to fight the war.
Some kings would be absent for months on end, hunting for Larks, and nothing else. Others would even bury themselves in the social activities in the Holy City.
But that was where the similarities ended. While the other kings were confident to leave their own duties, the rulers of Hashi were not. From generation to generation, their kings had always had full control over what went on in their state of affairs, and the chancellors were the ones who assisted them.
In the Kingdom of Hashi, nothing went on without the king knowing about it.
At the end of their latest dry season, Verus had been humiliated by the queen’s disappearance. Thus, in this active season, with the prolonged war against the Ant Larks, he had taken it upon himself to monitor each and every movement the queen made.
He even went as far as placing spies all over the palace to report to him any changes, in hopes of preventing the last humiliation from happening again.
As he waited for Sven to return from his investigation, Verus opted to organize the piles of documents he had just finished reviewing. He grabbed a rather large pile of stacked papers and went on with putting his seal.
Grumbling beneath his breath, he sighed as he continued to stamp each document with his seal. He did it almost every day that he didn’t even think about it and went about it robotically.
“Larks outside attacking, the queen inside doing who knows what. Sigh.” Verus pinched the bridge of his nose, “On top of that, I even have all these papers to worry about.” He grumbled.
His breath stuck in his throat as he was reminded of something—the known unfortunate case with queens.
The queens, even those before them, had died early. Most chose to spend their last days residing in the Holy City, and not in the kingdom.
The only fortunate thing about them dying was at least they lived long enough to provide an heir for the royal family to continue the bloodline, despite their passing.
“Such a tragedy.” He mused to himself, his hand pausing in stamping the letters. Verus had found the question plaguing him many times before.
Why was it that the queens of the Kingdom of Hashi never lived long enough to see their child grow?
And with that, launched a long and arduous research on his behalf. Soon enough, he reached the conclusion that due to the king’s Praz, and the Anika’s Ramita, there was a certain rejection along the way.
These conflicting natures, during the pregnancy, was too much for the queen’s body to bear, that they’d eventually die.
It was a satisfying answer, Verus thought, and his curiosity was sated.
From the six kings, it was clear to him now that those who resided in the west possessed powerful Praz. And for these kings, an Anika was always chosen as their queen.
The common variable was that these kings might have strong Praz, but none of them could particularly handle it very well.
“I sincerely hope a descendant will soon be underway.” He muttered to himself, his fingers twitching. “Then the queen won’t be around for much longer.”
An hour later, Sven swiftly returned from his investigation. Along with his arrival, was a surprising turn of events.
“With permission?” Verus asked, frowning, “Under whose authority?”
“Her Majesty the Queen, Lord Chancellor.” Sven answered him. “She had ordered for the gates to be opened, to allow a servant girl to go home to her grandmother.”
“What is she up to again?” Verus frowned, whispering to himself.
When he had found out that the queen had sneaked out of the palace, and attempted to cross the desert, he had lost whatever little faith he had with Jin Anika.
“And this is all you’ve gathered?” he asked him.
“Yes, Lord Chancellor.”
“Then go back.” He commanded. “And this time, investigate more thoroughly the queen. I want to know her purpose, what she does, who she meets.” He leaned closer. “And you don’t let her leave your sight, understood?”
“Understood, Lord Chancellor.”
“You may go.” He told him, and Sven bowed and left as quickly as he came.
When he was alone once more, Verus plopped back on his seat and clicked his tongue in frustration.
The queen may have thought she’d fooled everyone, even the king, but he wasn’t as naive as everyone else. He’d find the truth and expose her to everyone for the liar that she was.
The thing about Larks was that they only attacked whenever the sun was up. Come sunset; they’d cocoon around themselves, forming a rock-solid armor that was impenetrable as protection.
Not even the warriors could break through it, despite using all their strength against the dormant Larks. And though kings could break it with their Praz, it spelled more trouble than leaving them alone.
By the time morning rolled in, these broken pieces of the Larks would turn into new ones. This was the reason no one hunted Larks when they were asleep. It was more trouble than it was worth.
Not to mention that these Larks who have rested up all night would be full of energy the moment they woke up. Unless the warriors were able to destroy the Lark’s core itself, this whole process would only repeat itself.
A never-ending cycle.
And unlike the Larks, a human’s endurance couldn’t hold out for so long. They got tired and couldn’t replenish their numbers as quickly as the monsters could.
Most of all, these monsters didn’t have any other targets but humans. Only humans. And unlike humans, these beasts had nothing to lose.
It would go on for days. One day turned to two… then two turned four… and so on.
The prolonged battle against the Ant Larks seldom ended.
By the second day, another green flare was released, which meant the first line of defense had been breached. By then, everyone had already joined in and managed to prevent the Larks from breaching the walls further.
But there weren’t many battle cries heard outside the fortress wall. No matter how intense the battle became, there was always an eerie silence.
For there was no fighting, only the sight of a dried-up bloodied field.