Just as Eugene finally got ready, she turned around and saw Kasser standing, waiting for her to finish with not a robe in sight to cover him up or hide his identity. A frown settled on her face as soon as she neared him.
“Where is your robe, Your Majesty?” she asked him. Kasser looked at her, then down on his attire.
“I don’t need one.” He told her confidently, and Eugene pursed her lips.
“I wore mine to hide my eyes, despite not being noticeable.” She pointed out to him. “Your eyes, on the other hand, can be easily spotted by just about anyone.”
“I can change my eye color whenever I wish.” He explained, and suddenly, closed his eyes for a moment.
When he opened them, Eugene’s eyes widened, and she let out a small gasp of surprise. No longer were his irises in a light blue hue, but a darker shade, almost the same as the people in the kingdom.
“In poor lighting, it almost appears brown,” Kasser remarked. “The people would be none the wiser.”
“How did you do that?” she asked in amazement as she stared at his eyes.
“I…” He cleared his throat when she drew closer than expected. “It’s through my Praz, quite difficult to explain,” he said.
Eugene stepped back, realizing just how close they were.
“Still, what if someone recognizes you… even when you change your eyes?”
“No one would be able to identify me.” He placated her.
Unconvinced, she prodded on. “No one in the whole city knows your face?”
Shaking his head, he asked with a smile, “Why do you think they do?”
“Well, you take such frequent visits out of the palace—” she began before stopping abruptly. It was then when realization dawned on her that despite the frequent visits the king made outside of the palace walls, none of the people ever did dare to look upon his face.
No one probably had the courage to even look at him in the eyes. And even if they did catch a glimpse of the king’s face, they couldn’t identify his face alone without his bright blue hair and eyes giving him away.
Even so, it still presented her with another conundrum. Even without the help of his eyes or hair, his face would still stand out in a crowd.
“Even if they don’t recognize you, you will still stand out from the crowd!” She exclaimed. “I very much doubt I would have a peaceful trip tonight. Not when everywhere we go, people will turn their heads our way because of you.”
“You should wear a robe.” She added after a moment’s hesitation.
It was at that moment she realized the room had grown silent—she slipped up. She hadn’t meant to sound like that, but to the others, she might have appeared to be ordering the king.
Contrary to her belief, the whispers of the servants around them were for a whole other reason.
She couldn’t see it, but from their point of view, they were having a very intimate conversation. One that was usually heard between married couples.
Despite not doing it just for the show, Eugene thought, having talks like this, like two friends, was completely normal.
The servants, as well as Marianne, stood around them, observing the couple. Amusement was evident in their eyes as they watched the exchange. They gave the impression they were closer than they actually were.
Fortunately, the tense silence was broken off by Marianne’s light chuckle.
“Your Majesty,” Marianne interrupted, “Her Majesty the Queen is right. It is an outing for her sake. It would be better for you to follow her suggestions.”
Eugene pressed her lips into a thin line, nervous if she somehow had offended the king through her request, but it seemed like there was nothing to be worried about.
Kasser sighed in resignation and then turned to a servant, ordering him to fetch his robe.
“Bring me my robe.” He commanded, and the servant bowed and went to get it.
“Yes, Your Majesty.”
Shortly after, the servant returned with a robe in hand. As Eugene stepped aside, she watched as they assisted the king, draping the piece of clothing over his shoulders.
She couldn’t help but feel something within her stir. It was an odd sensation, knowing a supreme ruler followed her order, even if it was a trivial matter.
When the robe was on, and the servants stepped back to give them some room, Kasser led her to the front of the gardens. There stood a man, and behind him was a coach, pulled on by a couple of horses, waiting for them.
From afar, Eugene noticed the man was fairly tall, and as she drew closer, she couldn’t help but recognize him. Once they stood in front of him, Eugene finally figured out he was one of their guides for the night.
“Sven.” Kasser called out, acknowledging the knight. Sven bowed down low to him, then to the queen, giving them his own greetings. When Sven straightened up, he introduced himself to Eugene.
“Germane Sven, Your Majesty.” He told her, “I shall be yours and the king’s escort tonight for any emergency that may arise. Rest assured; you won’t be able to notice me.”
It was a couple more moments until Eugene realized why he looked so familiar.
“Ah, of course, it’s been a while since we’ve met,” Eugene said, and Sven gave her a delighted smile.
Sven had been one of the people that first found her in the desert, the first one she saw in fact. He had also led the group of guards that took her back to the palace’s safety. Back then, she was certain they had mistaken her for someone else.
However, the fear of being left behind in the middle of the desert had overtaken her, and thus she had remained silent. She had kept her mouth shut until they reached the kingdom. Sven had also kept his distance during that incident, only speaking to her when necessary.
But he did take extra care of her, giving her the necessary food and water, as well as a comfortable bed to sleep on when they were travelling.
She remembered it like it was just yesterday, the fright of waking up to nothing but winds and sands and the searing heat of the sun. Soon enough she found herself surrounded by strangers and taken against her will.
Looking back at it now, she found his actions extremely comforting, and she was grateful for it.
“I forgot to thank you,” she told him, “For the last time.”
“You owe me no thanks, Your Majesty.” Sven assured her. “I only did what was expected of me. Here, let me help you up.” He offered her his hand, steadying her as she went up the coach.
Once both royalties were on the coach, they finally began to depart towards the city. As Eugene sat and watched them pass by the palace walls, she turned to Kasser.
“Is Sven the only one who will be with us today?” she asked him. She had seen no other warrior escorting them. Kasser turned to her and nodded.
He respected my wish regarding the guards. She thought to herself.
Their last discussion about the guards didn’t really reach a conclusion, so she had assumed he’d do as he wanted and bring a small group of guards. After all, he was quite adamant that they’d need more than just one.
She knew it’s not much to go on, but she felt extremely touched by the gesture. In her novel, the one she wrote, Kasser was a self-righteous man. Once he had set his mind to what’s right, there was nothing anyone could do to change it.
“Where are we first headed to?” she asked him.
“To the plaza,” he told her and gestured to the roads up ahead, “There are multiple roads to take to reach it, so you can choose which one we’ll take.”
When she had chosen, they did as she had asked and went down a particular path. The coach soon came to a stop, and Kasser stepped out first and then helped Eugene off right after. As soon as she stepped down, she gasped in amazement as the plaza came to her sight.
They had stopped by the corner, but from there, she could see the middle where a huge tree had grown. Its branches spread in an upward arch, with leaves big enough to provide shade. Its trunk so wide, it looked like it would take at the very least ten people to circle around it.
Around the trunk was an array of lamps, its bright warm lighting shining on the leaves, even under the pitch-black sky. When Eugene shifted her gaze to the floor, she saw colorful stones of various shapes and sizes covering the cement, like a floor mosaic.
It was then she realized the plaza was resembling something.
The Holy City.
She took another look around. She was sure the plaza was designed with the square of the Holy City as the motif. But it was merely an imitation as the size was smaller.
Yet, this brought her an eerie feeling, one that slowly managed to fill her.