Chapter 146 – Warm words of hope (8)
There was a loud bang as the young man pounded on the desk with both of his hands. The veins on his arms were visible.
“I will never agree to it!” He retorted with bloodshot eyes. “Sifrid is still a child, and she’s Lady Sassa’s daughter. Are the men in our village going to trade a child’s life in order to survive? Can you really do it? Can you!”
His roars echoed throughout the Longhouse. Most of the men glanced at each other without answering the youth. Brynjar rocked his body back and forth with folded arms and said nothing. The Elder gave a soft sigh and raised his head, blinking his old clouded eyes.
“Who was that?” Brendel asked as his eyes went over to the direction of the Longhouse.
“Brother Thor.” The little girl said with her bell-like voice.
He nodded to acknowledge her words, and there was a short moment where no one spoke.
“…… That’s enough,” The thin middle-aged man shook his head and sighed: “You said too much, Thor.”
“Uncle Klarr!” The youth protested with clenched fists.
“Enough! We understand your point all too well— But we’re Senia’s citizens. Do you understand? This is the destiny we carry and the choices of life and death are not for us to choose. Do you not recall the villagers who froze to their deaths in the forest?”
The young man’s eyes widened slightly and he bit his lips. He trembled a few times before he blinked his red eyes: “Of course, my father…..”
“He sacrificed his life for yours.” The Elder sighed.
“Every one of us survived till this day because of the villagers’ sacrifices. You need to consider our circumstances, as well as the dead. They sacrificed their lives so we can live on, and we must not waste their efforts. Our folklore has a song dedicated to describe how our ancestors fought against the Dark Forest over generations, shedding blood and flesh and their lives for the sake of the Senia’s future. They did not sacrifice themselves to let us throw it all away for one reckless moment.”
Klarr paused for a moment, before he uttered the next few words one at a time. “Do you understand?”
A few men started tearing up upon hearing his words.
“I…… understand. But are we going to live on like this forever as cowards? Goddess Nia said we should not live just for the sake of living—” Thor wiped his eyes with chokes in between his words: “Should we throw away everything so we can live on?”
“At the very least we still have hope while we are alive,” Klarr shook his head: “If we are not able to see that day happen, then I hope your generation would be able to see it—”
“Elder, please make your decision.” He turned his head to the oldest man.
“…… Very well. We have reached a consensus to this discussion. However, none of us have the authority to send one of us to their deaths. I hope to ask for Sifrid’s opinions.” The Elder’s eyes were dyed with sadness.
“But there’s no precedent to ask for one’s permission.”
“That is because the people before us have been adult men or the elderly. They have made their decisions through their judgments and understood what they were doing.” The Elder’s head was bowed as he spoke.
“But Sifrid’s a child. What would she know about our customs? Are we handing our entire village’s fate to a child? This is a foolhardy decision!” Someone objected.
Most of the men’s glares were cold.
“And do you not feel any shame on relying a child to save yourself, even if we have no choice?”
“Your words are not wrong but it is also true we have no precedent for this, and Sifrid’s also the Elder’s granddaughter……” That small voice filled the room again.
The men took a moment to absorb his words. When Thor realized what that bastard implied, he walked over to him, grabbed his shirt and forced him to stand up.
“Yes, she’s not your daughter, so you can fucking send her off like it’s none of your concern. You cowardly bastard, you’re not fit to call yourself a Senia, get the fuck out of this sacred building now!”
He threw him across the floor like a sack of potatoes. The men near the injured person retreated away from him.
“W-what are you talking about, I’m just stating it as a possibility, that doesn’t mean it’s true…..” That man stuttered and groaned in pain: “And who’s to say there’s no possibility of that? Can you assure us that the Elder isn’t favoring his own kind? Are you the Elder?”
The old man stared at the cowardly man backing away from the ground as Thor lumbered angrily over to him. His fist was raised and ready to strike the bastard in front of him—
“Stop fighting!” A child’s voice pierced through the coward’s distressed whining and filled the room.
The front door had been pushed open without anyone realizing it. Sifrid’s had balled her hands into fists and shouted with her eyes closed, pouring every ounce of effort to raise her voice—
“Stop fighting, everyone…..” She opened her eyes and tears quickly filled them before they spilled over. Her vision was blurry as she pleaded with pained eyes: “I’m sorry, father, grandfather…… It’s all Sifrid’s fault…..”
The room was silenced and only Sifrid’s soft crying remained.
Klarr got up at once and walked over to hug her: “We’re the ones who’re sorry! Sifrid, we should be cursed and abandoned by Goddess Nia for our actions—”
Brynjar suddenly hugged his head as he bawled loudly while the others looked at the situation in bewilderment.
But the Elder’s eyes went to the scenery outside of the house—
“I have allowed you to see something shameful, my lord.” He stood up and bowed slightly at Brendel.
Brendel’s trembling hand was on his sword. He had to grip it tightly in order to stop himself from making a rash decision.
The Elder made his way before the youth, his cane striking against the ground with each step. He looked solemnly at him as though he made a difficult decision: He knelt down and bowed with his head on the ground.
“My lord, I beg you to help us! I know we shouldn’t force this trouble onto you, but……” He said.
The youth looked at the weak before him.
Sifrid was mewling with stifled sobs, while Brynjar was half-crying and bemoaning his uselessness. Lament filled Brendel’s heart and he licked his dry lips, preparing to open them. But a hand grabbed his own all of a sudden. The youth turned around in surprise and saw a pair of dark eyes staring at him.
Amandina’s expression was determined and hurt at the same time—
She glanced at the sight before her and hesitated. She was almost swept away by the emotions until she nearly forgot what she was supposed to here.
“My lord.” She shook her head. The words and her actions stabbed through her heart like daggers.
“Are you here to persuade me?” Brendel asked.
Amandina did not reply and merely looked at him.
“Do you really the heart to hold me back?”
Amandina bit her lips and glanced at the scene before her. Each second she took, made her face paler as though blood had left it entirely. But her fingers grabbed onto Brendel’s wrists till they were white.
“Resent me for all you desire, my lord.” The dignified aristocrat’s daughter said: “I cannot allow you— I will not allow you to do this; My Lord, you know who you will face. Graudin, Madara, Randner, possibly the entire Aouine’s kingdom. Your enemies are nearly endless. If you agree to help them, the only conclusion for you is death—”
“I know that my lord doesn’t care about the foes before you. You are the bravest and most honorable knight I have ever seen, and I feel like I’m bearing witness to the birth of the high nobles described in the legends again. I once thought that they were mere fiction, but my lord has shown me that they all ring true……”
“But I care about your fate!” She shouted.
“Because of that, I will not watch you head to your death. Even if I am to bear all the hatred from the entire village and your men, I don’t care—” She raised her head and stared at him: “But I must stop you.”
Brendel stared back at her for a long while. This was the first time she spoke her mind so freely. He bowed his head.
“Thank you.” He said.
He closed his eyes and exhaled once before opening them again. He then gently removed her fingers, walked over to Sifrid, patted her head and left.
“My lord?” Amandina looked on in surprise.
The villagers were slightly dejected as well. They had observed his back and had their hopes diminished with every passing second after his shoulders sagged. Amandina’s words had pointed out of the dangers he would face, and they had no right to have a stranger become their sacrifice.
They were even thankful for the youth’s anger and sadness. He truly cared about them, and it was not sympathy or altruism, but empathy.
[Mother Marsha, Goddess Nia, have you not punished the Senia enough?]
“Let’s go, Amandina” He called out to her in a low voice without turning back.
She finally gave a small sigh of relief but when she looked at his back she found herself at a loss, as though she had buried something important with her own hands. She lowered her head and felt her chest throbbing.
Behind her was Sifrid’s soft sobs—