“Go ahead. We made this beer. Try it!” Uncle Akbu raised his beer glass.
“Hey! This is more like it!” Gehenna said, “It turns out that you hid such a great beer! Brothers, let’s drink!”
“Sure!” With beer, the mood lightened up.
Gehenna and his men spurred everyone to raise their glasses. The air was filled with the smell of wheat beer.
It wasn’t common to see beer in this world.
Much less to see one who knew how to brew beer.
But that was human’s wisdom, human’s godly weapon.
“Let’s have some too!” Joey and Sia toasted Blue Feather and the other men. After having gone through a war together, they seemed to have grown closer.
“I shall help to grill corn!” Xiao Ying ran to Fat-Two happily. She’d effectively become the only girl there.
“Come on.” Ah Zong raised his glass smilingly at Ghostie in the water bucket. Ghostie took a sip before he immediately furrowed his eyebrows and buried his face into the water.
“Hahaha!” Ah Zong laughed. Xiao Ye nudged Zi Yi gently and beckoned for him to raise his glass in a toast to Ah Zong but he refused.
Xiao Ye shrugged and continued to drink with Ah Zong.
Everyone was blending in together. The mood was great.
Only Moto and the other young men remained still. They were no longer afraid but they were still on high alert. Their expressions were vague under the dancing flames. They seemed to be pacing back and forth between their present reality and the unknown future without a direction. Their blank expression showed how lost they were. They seemed to not know how to face their future.
“Akbu, Noah City will depend on you to protect it now.” Mason raised his glass to Akbu. Their past made him feel complicated and emotional.
Akbu knitted his eyebrows and let out a heavy sigh. “I heard about what happened in the past from Pelos. If I were you, I would have made the same decision. Here!” Akbu and Mason’s glasses clinked.
Seeing that, the other uncles raised their glasses too. They melted their hatred away with the beer in the glass.
Raffles suddenly stood up and walked towards Uncle Akbu. “Uncle Akbu, I am Raffles. May I ask if my parents are here?”
Akbu looked surprised. “You are Raffles! Everyone, come and see. This is Raffles. He is so grown up now!”
Everyone surrounded Raffles, while Raffles seemed to become more anxious under the firelight. He was in a hurry to search for his parents. When Sis Shirley had returned to Noah City, he’d known that any news about his mother was more likely to be bad than good,l because his mother hadn’t been among the women that Sis Shirley had brought back.
I was worried about Raffles too but I couldn’t do anything about it. I understood the helplessness of being unable to see your parents again. Hence, I hoped that Raffles’ father would be among the uncles.
Suddenly, Gehenna nudged me and pointed in Moto’s direction. “You are their King now. You have to show them a bright path.”
“I am not,” I disagreed. “I set them free. They don’t have to follow me.”
“It might not be a good thing for them,” He Lei cut in solemnly. He turned to look at me, his eyes shimmering with reflected flames. He smiled at me. “Bing, look at them. They are lost now. They need a person who’ll give them hope and direction. Do you think they will be able to survive here if you set them free? They were the Ghost Eclipsers’ slaves. They’ve been slaves for too long. The sudden freedom makes them feel lost. They are panicking and they don’t know how to live on."
I looked over at the dumbfounded young men. He Lei might be right.
“You can continue to lead them and help them become human again. You have the power to, Bing.” He Lei placed his hand on my shoulder to reassure me. “If it wasn’t for you, how could it be possible for us to sit here with Gehenna and his men and have a drink together?” He Lei took a glance at Gehenna who was drinking happily.
I thought for a while as I watched the dumbfounded young men. They held their glasses expressionlessly. They didn’t eat, drink or speak. Even the bonfire couldn’t give them warmth or the ease to chat happily like the rest of us.
“Go ahead.” Gehenna patted me. “You need a troop too. Take them in first.” Gehenna chuckled.
Having made a decision, I stood up and walked towards Moto and the young men.
When they saw me walking towards them, they became anxious again. They put down their glasses and stood up hastily, huddling close to one another. Scrambling up from where they originally sat in a circle, they stood before me. It was Moto right at the front again.
At least they were responsive now, unlike earlier when they’d behaved like puppets.
Looking at their insecure and anxious expressions, I felt sad for them.
Like Gehenna had said, their superpowers weren’t weak yet they were like tamed beasts who instinctively feared the animal trainer wielding a whip.
They could have been arrogant beasts but instead they cowered like their claws had been cut and they could only hide in the bushes.
Margaery had used her bloodiness and massacre to rule. She had ruined the fighting spirits of these young men. No matter how powerful they were, they were only slaves who obeyed commands.
I looked at them and raised my glass. However, my gesture of raising my glass shocked them. As if they were afraid that I was going to kill them.
Their instinctive fearful response put a heavy weight over my heart.
I retracted my hand as though I was dealing with a bunch of frightened deer.
“I am Ice Dragon. I am considered your King now…” I said. Their eyes shot open and they watched me in terror. They slowly lowered their heads as the fear vanished from their faces. Instead, they began to kneel down before me expressionlessly like slaves.
I was instantly stunned when they knelt down.
Seeing the other young men kneel down, Moto, Eletta and Juye’s eyes became empty. Moto who had been the most rebellious also lowered his face and looked at the dancing bonfire blankly.
“You said that… You are setting us free…” he muttered softly but didn’t shout. Clearly his arrogance had been removed from his bones. He was merely displaying the behaviour of a slave resigned to his fate.
I nodded faintly. “Yes, I said that before. If you want to be free now, I will grant you freedom. Do you want to be free?” I asked softly. I asked the young men who were taller than me.
They didn’t lift their faces. No one replied. They only leaned against one another. The younger ones were hiding behind the older ones, who shielded them.
There were so many of them but none of them stood out and said they wanted to do.
“Moto, do you want it?” I asked Moto because he was the only one who’d resisted slightly. He was also the only one who had the courage to talk to me.
Moto became lost and stared at the bonfire blankly.
“Can you survive here? Can you protect yourself? Do you know what you want?” I didn’t receive any response to my questions. There were only similar dumbfounded faces in front of me as though I was talking to a bunch of puppets.
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