Road to Negotiation
“Papa, you said that you need Leah’s help, but why is it not Leah that’s going with you? Why are you taking them along?!” fumed Leah, arms crossed.
I smiled helplessly and stroked Leah’s head: “Papa still requires Leah’s help. Leah is the most important; however, Leah and Papa don’t know their language, which is why Papa needs someone who can help Papa communicate with them. That’s why Papa needs the boy.”
The boy’s leg hadn’t completely recovered yet, but he still had to travel with me, unfortunately. While the journey from the imperial capital to the South was decent, once we reached the area around the port to get to the South, the path was awfully soft. The military had to sail to the South from the port, carrying their soldiers, weapons, foods and steeds multiple times. As a result, the relaxing road became a pain to travel on. A number of places had become mud pits. We were fine. Howbeit, I was worried about his leg deteriorating. Fortunately, the soldiers guided us when they noticed our carriage; they even organised a ship for us when they were working under the pressure of ship availabilities and time limitations.
The South was different to how I remembered it. The little houses had been crushed. The green plants were hacked to avoid ambushes. The road also looked shabbily repaired then immediately used after it was damaged. I didn’t know what became of Melissa, but my intuition told me she was fine. Needless to say, presumptions are presumptions. Because the place was likely occupied, they might’ve gone after the businessmen and businesswoman, too. In any case, my goal wasn’t to visit her.
I didn’t know what to say when I saw the boy eagerly peering in the direction of his home, yearning to return for one reason or another. It makes one wonder: do all invaders miss home? If they opposed tyranny to escape a life their life under a rule of tyrant, then it was no longer that. It had become pure invasion and desire for conquest. Sisi didn’t occupy the South. Only a few explorers went there, not to mention that they weren’t affiliated with the government. That was the reason Sisi didn’t plan to hurt the South. Although there was a sense of justice when they attacked, it became a desire to invade for land in time.
Despite having been driven back, if we didn’t completely resolve the issue, then it’d become a repeat of fending off elves. If humankind wanted to expand, they had to head south because north wasn’t going to cut it. In order to head south, the dispute needed to be quelled.
“See? You were driven back,” I taunted, sights on the horse carriage in the rear. I admit to feeling proud of the win.
Why not use it to dampen this boy’s pride a little?
The boy scoffed, “It doesn’t matter. We’ll be back. It was only once. You, however, will never set foot on our lands!”
“Don’t be so certain. I’m going there right now. Didn’t we agree that you’d help me in exchange for going home? Surely your family would be happy to see you again; it wasn’t easy for you to return. You know how many mothers are crying after your defeat?”
“Death is inevitable in war. Our people were always aware of the consequence. We’re not cowards; we can handle death. A warrior’s soul will return to God’s arms when they die.”
I didn’t want to debate philosophies of death with the boy. I grew more and more excited the closer we were to the South. Feeling antsy was a side effect of thinking a lot that I had. I had a moment to myself. “You’ve never mentioned your family. You have to tell me where to take you when we land, right?”
The boy responded with silence for a change. When he finally opened up, he did so whilst touching his face: “I’m from an ordinary family. There’s nothing special. I know my address, but what’s it to you?! Just send me there, and be done with it! Why do you ask so many questions?!”
“Papa was kind enough to help you! How can you be so rude! Papa has always been helping you! Had it been somebody else, you’d be dead back there!”
The boy lowered his head after Leah reproached him. His sister promptly bowed to me on her knees. I interpreted it at as an apology. I wagged my hand to motion for her not to mention it.
The girl can’t speak. The boy refuses to speak. Your homeland is one odd place.
I had two possibilities in mind. One, based on the mannerisms of the two, I could rule out the possibility of them working as assassins for a living. There was no chance they were normal citizens. Only nobles would have access to the best training and equipment. They, therefore, were very likely to be children from an aristocratic family. They might feel that it was disgraceful for children from an aristocratic family to be sent back. That would explain their reluctance to tell me. The other possibility was that they were orphans who were taken in as throwaway soldiers. With no family, they couldn’t answer my question. My question had nothing to do with my goal; I was just curious. Since they didn’t want to share, I didn’t ask.
I poked my head out to see the people who were hung. I recognised many of them. Those businessmen weren’t as lucky as they thought they’d be in the end.
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