Return from the Hunt
The barbarian child looked up at the sky, still processing what had just happened. It didn't take him long to notice the blood pouring out of his throat though, and his eyes widened.
Was he really going to die? Was his life going to end on his first big hunt? What about his Ma? What would she do if he died? She wouldn't really be kicked out of the tribe, would she? She'd freeze to death if she was. No, he couldn't die… He… Couldn't…
The boy's mouth flopped open and closed like a fish gasping for water and his chest contracted to yell out a cry for help, but nothing but blood gurgled where his voicebox had once been. He gurgled several more times, then his arms, once outstretched to the heavens, collapsed beside him and his eyes glossed over.
The white wolf nearby was still chewing on his throat.
"Such a shame… Too bad the wolf king decided to take him out early--" Legg shook his head and finally let go of Leguna's wrist. "--He could've become an amazing warrior. Too bad he didn't pass his trial."
Leguna let go his shadow knives and they dissipated like dust thrown into the wind. He turned to Legg and saw the regretful expression on his face. Leguna sensed a mocking in the barbarian's expression he hated, it made him furious.
Damnit you f_cking barbarian! He was just a child! What the hell kind of a king are you to not just stand by and watch such a promising child die, but to go and stop someone else who was willing to help, from doing so?!
Leguna was furious on the child's behalf, despite their lack of familiarity.
"Why?" the word crept out of his mouth with a murderous intent he'd seldom displayed before.
"Why what?" Legg asked, sincerely puzzlement on his face.
"Why did you stop me?" Leguna asked, his whole body trembling with the effort to restrain himself.
"He was being tested," Legg repeated, "The ancestors teach us…"
"Screw your ancestors! And f*ck your trials!" Leguna roared, glaring at Legg's eyes, "It's only a stupid hunt! A. hunt. He's just a child! It's bad enough you don't want to get involve, but you stopped me from helping as well!"
"His death can't be blamed on anyone but himself," Legg replied calmly, "He let his guard down and failed his trail."
"You better believe I'll kill you if you mention gods-damned trial one more time!" Leguna screamed. "Let me repeat. This is only a hunt, not a trial! Why couldn't you have given him a chance? Are you barbarians all that inhuman?!"
Legg felt angered from those words as well. He approached Leguna with his towering body. His shadow alone was enough to cover the slender Leguna. "Even though we're barbarians, we're human too. We are humane."
"Then why didn't you save him?" Leguna asked without backing down.
"Because he wasn't…" Legg paused and rephrased, "Because even if he survived from your intervention, he would still commit the same mistake of letting his guard down in future. It's better to let him die now to save the tribe's food. Only the physically and mentally strongest warriors are fit to survive in our tribe."
It was at that time when Leguna felt that he had misunderstood something. He had forced his values in the human realm on the barbarians. Over here in the northern highlands, human life wasn't worth that much at all. Was that how they had always viewed the world?
"And I think you got something wrong," Legg said, "The trial I mentioned didn't refer to this particular hunt. Our ancestors teach that the life of every barbarian's is a trial. Everyone will eventually fail it. The only difference is how long we persevere."
Leguna turned quiet. He realized that no matter how many files he read on them, he still hadn't truly gotten the essence of the barbarian people.
He abhorred Legg's methods from the point of view of humans. In fact, he looked down on them. But when he looked at the guards around Legg, he found that each one of them were at least of the high order. Two of them were of the 16th stratum.
If any one of them had joined in, the hunt would've been so much easier. However, they were completely unmoved from the deaths of their own tribesmen. He recalled Legg mention that they were only there to observe the hunting party and wouldn't interfere no matter what. Leguna didn't think Legg was joking back then, but he didn't think he meant it that thoroughly and mercilessly either.
Is this the difference between our peoples? Leguna thought. Nevertheless, he didn't interfere in their tribal matters.
The hunt lasted four whole days. Leguna made it back to the settlement during the afternoon of the fourth day. Almost one-fifth of the members of the hunting party was lost, but they gained quite a lot from the hunt as well. They had bear meat, wolf meat, rabbit and so on. Legg explained that the hunt ensured that the tribe wouldn't be lack of food in the next ten days.
Even though it was heartening news, not all of the settlers were glad about it. Leguna could see quite a number of barbarian women or children tear up in despair after they weren't able to find the men they were waiting for.
The food and corpses were claimed at the same time. Leguna didn't really care how they rationed the food. Instead, he paid attention to how the settlers acted when they claimed the bodies of the ones supporting their families.
He looked at the child's incomplete corpse and imagined how his family would react.
The one who went to it was a thin woman. She was much thinner than the other barbarian women and stood up to him.
It surprised him quite a bit that the woman could be considered a beauty by human standards, She sported a head of lush, black hair. Though it wasn't washed often given the environment they lived in, it was properly groomed and the luster on the surface appeared quite attractive.
As for her facial features, while they weren't as amazing as Annelotte's, they struck a fine balance. It was quite rare for him to see a woman he considered beautiful among the barbarians.
His clothes also looked quite different to the others. It was quite common for the women to bare their bosoms. Leguna could see quite a lot of well-rounded and full chests with a casual look around.
In the beginning, he felt rather stimulated by that sight, but he got used to it in time.
However, that particular woman didn't bare her chest like the others. She dressed rather conservatively and even had her blanket on. She understood that only by keeping warm could she conserve heat and leave more food for her child.
But now, all the food in the world was useless to him.
Her body shook when she saw the corpse, but she didn't bawl like the others and only touched his head quietly with a slight smile as tears rolled down her eyes.
Leguna felt that he couldn't leave it alone. He quietly approached her and said apologetically, "I'm sorry, I wanted to save him…"
It only occurred to him halfway through that he was speaking in common tongue. Apart from Legg, most other barbarians only spoke Dosrakian.
He scratched his head and looked around to try to find an interpreter.
But surprisingly, the woman replied in the common tongue that was even more fluent than Legg's. "Thank you."
"You speak the common tongue too?"
"I… my mother was a human. She was abducted during one of the tribe's raids," she explained.
"I see…" He now understood why she was so petite. She wasn't a pureblood barbarian. He looked at her furtively before bowing.
"Sir, you…" Even though Leguna appeared rather young, he seemed like the leader of the humans to her.
"I could've saved him, but I didn't do it," he said.
"You are not to blame, Sir. My child must've been brave then, right?"
"He was! He was a magnificent warrior! But…"
The woman wiped her tears away. "That's enough, thank you."
After she said that, she left with her son's corpse and didn't turn back.
Leguna tried to call out to her, but he didn't know what else he would say. He could only let her leave.
"You want to help her out, kid?" Arikos said as he scooted over.
"I wouldn't mind. It's not a big deal for me anyway," he said with a sigh.
"Then, get up earlier tomorrow," Arikos said as he patted on his shoulder, "I think Legg will invite you to participate in the function anyway."
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