Book 4 Chapter 348

Offering Care

Leguna's cry was carried forward by his impetus and sounded much louder than usual. Even in the noisy chatter, all the barbarians were startled to hear him.

"What's the matter?" Legg asked, puzzled.

"Aren't you embarrassed?!" Leguna ignored the barbarians' quips and pointed at the confused barbarian woman. "What's the meaning of this?!"

"There's no meaning. It's a tribal custom. We're just carrying it out."

"To hell with your customs!" Leguna cursed as he looked up at Legg, "Look! Look at them! A helpless woman and a child who's only learned how to walk! Are you really willing to abandon them?"

"Oh, she's been able to walk for a year. She's not just learnt how to do it," Legg answered calmly.

"That's not the point! Why are you driving them out?"

"The weak can't survive here. They are nothing but a burden, so they must leave."

"Weak?" Leguna laughed and looked at Legg. "So you were born powerful? Were you a mid-order warrior at birth? I'm amazed! So you were never a little boy who needed someone to protect him? Were you never four, like that little kid?"

"That one is weak, even for his age," Legg answered, his voice patient, like that of a schoolmaster teaching a stubborn pupil, "he's already four, but he's only been able to walk for a year. He's weak even by your lax human standards. He'll never survive here."

"Is that why you're abandoning them?" Leguna asked, sweeping disdain over Legg and the other barbarians, "I'd heard you respected the powerful, but I didn't think you earned that respect by stepping on the weak."

"That so?" Legg asked, his voice still that of the schoolmaster, but this time listening to a naughty child.

"This isn't strength! This is weakness! Only the weak bully the weak. The truly strong don't have to put down the weak, they protect them instead!"

"Whatever you say," Legg sighed, this time the schoolmaster that had given up on a dumb pupil, "We don't really care about strength per se. We care about surviving. Strength helps us survive, so we care about it. Our strength, that is. But if strength is what you describe, then we don't care for it. Your strength will not help us survive, it will kill us all."

"So you'd abandon anything for survival?" Leguna hissed.

Legg actually took a moment to consider Leguna's question this time, then nodded.

"You can try and keep everything else in the world, but if you die, none of it matters. You can only have something as long as you're alive, so survival comes before everything else. You'd understand if you'd lived here."

"Don't lump me in with the likes of you. Maybe I don't understand what it's like to live here, but I've had my fair share of hardships. I've had to fight dogs for my food on trash heaps! But even then I understood that there were things more important than survival. If you lose them, you might as well just die, because you're not really alive in the first place! And yet you'd willingly give those things away. No wonder humans won't put you among them, you really aren't human. You're just backs of flesh walking around waiting to make a mistake and die."

Legg's eyes flashed with a hint of fury, but Leguna was ready for him. He'd beat sense into the barbarian king today, but the flash came and went without Legg taking action.

"You speak well--" he said after several moments.

"Huh?" Leguna's jaw dropped slightly.

"--But you can talk as much as you want, words won't keep us alive. We will not change for your words. These two--" Legg pointed at the woman and child, "--Can find no one to support them, so they will leave."

"You!" Leguna's struggled against his ribs.

Legg didn't pay anymore attention to him, however.

"@#( $(@$…%(@("

Leguna didn't know Dosrakian, but he could more than guess what Legg was saying. The woman's eyes didn't react, she'd clearly known and resigned herself to her fate. She bowed to Leguna, nevertheless, then turned and left with her child.

Leguna stared at the two figures for a couple moments, then grit his teeth and shouted.

"Wait!"

"What? You want to say something else?" Legg asked, impatience finally colouring his voice.

He'd done more than his duty as host to be patient with the little brat. He'd fought him before, and the brat had survived, which made them friends by barbarian custom, but even friends only deserved so much consideration. He might also be Hocke's envoy, but even they also only had so much rope.

"They don't have to leave if someone is willing to take them in, right?"

"That's true for women, but not children, especially not in his case."

"Why not?"

"The child must at least have the potential to become useful to the tribe. There is no chance of that happening with this one. He has to be able to become a warrior to be useful to the tribe, but he will never be strong enough. Women can do with doing chores in the settlement, but men must go out and hunt, he can never do that."

"That it?"

"Yes."

"Great. Then since you won't take them, it's fine if the humans do, right? They won't be eating from your stores after all, now would they?"

"Humans? You want to adopt him?" Legg asked, his face a massive question mark as if the thought itself was beyond his comprehension.

"There a problem? We'll take him and his mother in. They won't be a burden on you, we'll sponsor everything they need."

"Nothing like this has ever happened before," Legg said as if considering something deeply troubling.

"If there is no precedent, then just make one. What is the harm in letting someone else take what you don't want? Why would it be a problem for us to take them in right now? I'm sure you wouldn't say a word if we took them in a day or two after they'd left the tribe."

"Hmm…" Legg pondered for a long time.

He personally didn't have a problem with the humans taking the two of them off his hands, but he didn't want to create a precedent that might incentivise barbarians who couldn't continue to live with the tribe to go to the humans and turn on their fellow barbarians. It might seem simple at face value, but the matter was far more far-reaching, complex, and serious than the brat made it out to be.

"I don't care what you decide, honestly," Leguna said when his patience had run out, "They're under my protection now--" He turned to the two. "--Come with me. I'll take care of you."

The woman hesitated and her eyes darted to her little boy. His eyes were completely ignorant of what was going on.

He was innocent of whatever the grownup world was doing, she decided, then accepted Leguna's hand.

"Good!" Leguna smiled happily.

"They no longer have a home in the tribe." Legg reminded, though he didn't put up a fight Leguna's actions.

"What? She used to have a home, right?"

"It never belonged to her. Every home belongs to the tribe. It lets families stay in them at its pleasure as a reward for their continual efforts to contribute to the tribe. The house in which she belonged will be given to a young barbarian and his wife."

Leguna stared at Legg for a long, frustrate moment, then sighed.

"Fine, they'll stay with Ari--"

"Don't you dare! I'm done cleaning up your messes! You deal with this yourself!" Arikos snapped.

"Then…" Leguna hesitated again, his eyes darted to the rest of the convoy, but none of them met his gaze.

"They're not wild beasts! Are you terrified of them or something?!" Leguna asked.

"It's not about being afraid of them. They might as well be bunnies for all it matters. You have to take responsibility for your actions," Arikos answered.

"Fine! They can live with me!"

Legg stared at him for a long, pregnant moment, then announced the outcome of the debacle in Dosrakian. Leguna could see the approval and disapproval in the eyes of the crowd, the latter was far more numerous than the former, and he took note of it.

Leguna gave them a disdainful smirk and turned to leave.

"Hey," Legg stopped him.

"What?" Leguna asked.

He turned back to the barbarian, whose eyes were staring at a nearby rock, though Leguna knew he had to be looking at him.

"Thank you."


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