Chapter 54 – A Mere Pawn (1)
The Kasser before her now was completely different from the character she had created in her novel. There, he was a self-righteous man, used to giving orders rather than asking for opinions. A true royal- cold, unfeeling, and ruthless. He was valiant and decisive.
But the man she was looking at seemed… attentive, a bit shy even and clumsy at small talks. That sheepish grin, how he avoided her gaze after mentioning his ‘lessons’ from Marianne and his willingness to join her on a walk, were a stark contrast to the nonchalant sovereign she had come to know these past few days. But then again, what had she seen besides his virility.
Do not forget, he’s not what he appears. There are more sides to him that he has yet to reveal.
As she cautioned herself, Eugene took several peeks at the man next to her. Compared to the first lunch they shared, they seemed to have grown immensely closer. When she counted the days since they’d first met, she was amazed at how fast she’d become intimate with him. It was rare for her to get along with someone this quick. Perhaps the time they spent touching each other’s body had helped them develop their relationship quickly.
“Well, I can’t allow you to go by yourself. You must bring a guard with you.” Although Kasser’s tone wasn’t curt, his words were firm. He seemed concerned about her safety, and she understood.
“I know that, of course.”
As if on cue, a loud, BOOM thudded right then. The pair instantly looked towards the clear blue sky where a yellow mist was starting to spread.
Ah, the sword… Kasser furrowed his brows as the scene of one of his retainers rushing to his office with his sword in hand flitted past his mind. It was just that he wasn’t in the office; he was here, in the garden. He had to leave immediately to fetch his sword. But it would be better to have them throw it off the balcony.
Kasser gestured to Abu to transform. He had been dutifully following the king and queen all this time. Eugene thought he acted more like a pet dog than a horse. She was amused by his docile side.
Thrusting his head back, Abu started to shake his body in wide motions. He started to expand–his long neck and snout shortened, his legs thickened. The small horns by his ears protruded to reveal a much larger one.
Eugene held her breath while she witnessed the black horse transform into a black panther. There was no trace of a horse in the garden; only a huge panther with paws big enough to cover her face stood before her. It looked fierce yet majestic.
Kasser hopped onto Abu’s back, only to realize his mistake. Most people were horrified upon witnessing Abu’s transformation for the first time.
In his haste to get to the wall, he had overlooked the most important factor–his companion. He nervously looked over his shoulder, wondering how he should assuage her fear. But all he saw was a woman clasping her hands in front of her chest, in complete awe.
As much as he was surprised at the sight, he was relieved. In some corners in his heart, he even felt… a little proud. However, he quickly collected himself. He realized, since he’d to rush off, he had to leave her behind all alone. There were no servants walking past the garden, no one to protect her, and walk her back to the palace.
“Stay here,” he said. “I’ll send a servant to you right away.”
“Don’t worry about me. Just go.” Eugene’s answer was firm in the hopes of sending him off quickly. “I know my way through the palace. I’ll bring myself to safety. Now, go!”
With a brief nod, Kasser gently kicked Abu’s ribs, signaling him to take off. With only a couple of leaps, Kasser and the beast were already far from Eugene.
Eugene couldn’t stop her jaw from dropping. Shivers went down her spine as Abu’s transformation flashed past her eyes, again and again. She knew about the spirit beast of the Desert King. In her book, the king’s spirit beast was a black panther. However, she had never characterized it to transform from a horse into its spirit form much less depict the actual transformation. She had only ever mentioned it briefly. The Desert King always summoned his steed with a whistle. And in this world, it had a name- Abu.
She’d only set the relationship between the Desert King and his spirit beast as a master and subordinate. But the fact that the animal had a name meant that there was more than a tight bond between the two. Here, she had even borne witness to it–when Abu had obediently followed them around the garden and Kasser had gestured to him after the yellow flare.
Not a word was exchanged, yet the master and beast were in perfect synchrony.
Why is it different from my novel? She couldn’t help but wonder why only select details remained true to how she had created it. This was a thought that kept troubling her for a while now. She had thought she was in control of this world, but it turned out she didn’t know everything about it.
The lady in the portrait had her hair tied up high in a bun, as in the Mahar, only those who were unmarried did. It was more of a tradition, rather than a legal obligation.
“This is Countess Moriel.” Marianne introduced the lady in the portrait to Eugene.
“I think you have mentioned Countess Moriel before, haven’t you Marianne?”
“Yes, I have, Your Grace.”
The lady in the portrait appeared to be in her mid to late twenties. She had very sharp features; a very slim face with almond eyes, resembling a cat’s. Her thick red hair caught Eugene’s eyes. She’s very pretty. Her hair must bring her confidence.
The people of Mahar had brown hair, so many envied those with colorful hair. Not only did they find their own hair dull, but they also looked at colorful hair like that of nobility and yearned for it. In a hierarchical society, people looked up to those in the upper echelons. Even so, they never bothered to dye their hair.
In Mahar, one’s external features were the most important factor that showed one’s identity. On the ID card each person received once they reached adulthood, their hair and eye color were noted with great precision, as every shade of brown had different names.
Hence, the hair color the people of Mahar were born with symbolized their destiny. Hair dying was illegal. Only criminals who wished to hide their identity would dye their hair. Therefore, hair dye wasn’t even invented, let alone sold.
Eugene had never written her novel in such detail. These were Marianne’s teachings. As she continued to learn more and more about Mahar, she felt more and more distant from the world she had created. It was a world designed with an infinite amount of intricate details, which in Eugene’s eyes, was far too much for one person to build. She didn’t regard herself as a creative genius.
She believed this wasn’t a fabricated world, but that it existed somewhere in the vast universe–even before she had written the novel.
For all she knew, all this time, she only stood as a pawn in the game the original queen had instigated.