~ Chapter 105: The royal slave (Part 2) ~
Scratching the back of my head, I tried to ask “I hope I understood this correctly, but Kalderan, are you trying to say that Ildea didn't assume her role as a Princess?”
The man replied with a short nod.
“What? That's not true! I...” Ildea stood up and rebuked his words, but Kalderan silenced her with a glare.
“If you really wanted to act and assume for yourself all the responsibilities of your role as a Princess of this kingdom, then from the very moment you did that, you would have looked into ways to protect it from outside influences, to improve the lives of the people no matter if they were nobles or not, to exercise your rights and power over those who willed to use them as their own. Tell, me, princess, when was the last time you exercised the authority and rights of title and didn't let others decide for you?” he narrowed his eyes at her, piercing her with his gaze.
Ildea remained silent for a long moment, her fists were clenched and her eyes staring at the ground at her feet. She was upset, but she didn't reply, maybe she didn't know how?
While their showdown took place, I listened to Kalderan's arguments, and indeed, I found them resonating with something inside of me. What he said brought a tinge of pain to my chest, but I didn't know the reason behind it.
“T-That may be true... but... the others... when father's personality changed and...” she tried to speak, but her words were marked by the weakness and hopelessness she felt at this moment.
“Those are excuses not actions. Don't blame others for your lack of will and desire to act for your own good. A wise man once told me that's it's easy to point the blame at someone, but it's damn hard to look in the mirror and admit your own mistakes. The more you try to find blame in others, the harder it will be for you to accept the current situation as it is and then focus solely on finding a solution.” Kalderan broke eye contact with her and then looked down at his guns.
When I saw this, he reminded me of a man who didn't preach theory from a book but rather from his own bitter experience.
“Ildea, I think, he is right, and although it sounds unfair, you know he said the truth. But you know?” I showed her a soft smile “I don't really think it matters what you thought and how you saw things until now. You are a human, you grow, you learn, you adapt. Whether you made a mistake now or not, it doesn't matter. Like Kalderan said, focusing on the solution is the best thing to do.”
Well, it was easy for me to say all of that, but when it came down to it, both me and Ildea had to put it into practice. I wasn't any different from her in this matter. Rather, I couldn't even put a single role on my list which I wanted to assume in this life. Sure, I knew sometimes what I wanted to do and what to gain or achieve, but a role felt like it was something else.
Seeing how Ildea didn't reply, Kalderan let out a sigh and then told us “If you don't know what roles to assume for yourself, try thinking about what roles there are and what roles other people assumed for themselves. Well, if you don't care about it, you can just ignore me, it matters little to me.” he shrugged.
“A role... I never thought about what role I can have in my life just what my role was in the politics of this country. As a Princess, I don't really think I have that much liberty to choose... The moment I return to mother's side, my ability to do anything will be little to nothing.” as Ildea continued to speak, the tone of voice slowly turned into one of impotence and sadness.
I wasn't the only one who noticed this. Kalderan furrowed his brow in displeasure and tossed her a glare.
“Were you that brainwashed by the nobles in your palace that you can't see that right now you are neither a noble nor a Princess? You are like us now, a commoner who can die on the side of the road and have everyone ignore them as they walk past them. The reigns, the chains that bind you, the lack of freedom you mentioned, where is it out here, in this place? Where are those rules that restrain your morals and ethics?” he asked, albeit in a mocking tone of voice.
Ildea didn't receive the backtalk very well, she glared at him as though she was about to rip his head off, but then, something happened. The look in her eyes softened and then she looked down at her own two hands. Her lips trembled and parted, whispering some words that not even I could hear. She then let out a sigh of submission and looked back at Kalderan.
There was a deep sadness in her eyes, and the words she spoke gave off a terrible loneliness “They aren't here... There are no chains, no ropes, nothing... I'm free, yet still in my cage.”
“Whether you want to get out of it or not is your choice, Ildea, not ours. You will always be free to make your own choice, it's just a matter of whether or not you're conscious of the choices you have.” Kalderan told us.
“Risha not understand anything... Risha lost...” the woman said as she looked at us with spiralling eyes.
I gently patted her on the head and then told her “There. There.”
Tamara wasn't even paying attention to us anymore, she was chasing bugs in the nearby shrubs. If anyone had a lesson about freedom to teach, that was this little innocent relliar.
“We should stop talking about this...” Ildea said as she looked away and held her right shoulder. “But thank you... You gave me something to think about. I never thought anyone would have the courage to tell me something like that and yes... right now... there's nothing left of my nobility.”
“Hmph!” Kalderan crossed his arms at his chest and broke eye contact.
These subjects were a bit heavy to talk about without a good pint of beer and maybe one or two bottles of țuică. As they say, when a bit tipsy from the heat in their stomachs, men would tend to debate matters of philosophy, politics, science, and women, of course.
Well, that was what my father said at least, I never got the chance back on Earth to get drunk with my friends from High School.
Although the subject soured our mood, we continued on our road towards Mathias. We were still at a fair distance from the town's gates, but I could already spot several travellers waiting in line to get the clear from the guard.
“Imagine if they had the concept of a passport.” I said at one point.
“What's a 'parshcort'?” asked Risha who tilted her head at the strange word.
“A document that identifies you as a legal resident in a certain country. Usually, you would be required to carry it with you wherever you went, but on this continent there is no such thing. Most people either use a Guild Card or the word of mouth from a travelling merchant.” Kalderan explained.
“Hm? It doesn't sound like a bad idea. Maybe we could make something similar to a Guild Card or make the Guild Card mandatory for everyone?” Ildea pondered.
“Wouldn't that be a waste of noble money?” Kalderan mocked.
“I'm starting to suspect that maybe you don't like me?” Ildea narrowed her eyes at him.
“Nah, not you, just those high and mighty nobles.” he smirked.
“Are you mocking me?” she asked.
“Do you think of yourself as a high and mighty noble? Oh, what a surprise!” Kalderan remarked.
“Enough, children, you can bite your heads off after we get settled in the inn.” I told the two.
“What?” they both glared at me now.
“We're almost there.” I pointed at the town.
Mathias was like a copy of Soldra, with tall sturdy walls that protected the people living inside from the dangers lurking outside. From what I could see, there were a lot more guards patrolling the walls of this town. There were almost as many as you would find in a small city. When compared to a city from Earth, I could only imagine it being as big as half of Sinaia or a quarter of Brașov, but I could be wrong. It has been a while since I last saw a map of Romania.
The only actual places I could really compare them with were Tomeron, Andromeda, and Drakaria, but the difference between those three and this town were huge. The dragons built tall structures filled with a sense of strength and superiority, while those built by human hands felt as though they had been struck by a heavy wave of depression. There was no energy in them, no desire to expand, no traces of development. The peasants roaming around the town looked as though they were going to fall and die any second now. The nobles didn't even bat an eye at them, and the relationship between men and women was deplorable, the latter didn't have much to say in the matters of the first. Then again, that last one was more or less a standard for human civilisations in this world.
While I was pondering about this stuff to relax my mind after being bombarded with Kalderan's philosophy, I noticed a carriage approaching us at a high speed. It was of the same model as the one the merchant from our previous mission had. The only difference laid in the color, this one was dark-brown instead of black.
Another slaver? Did I pass by them last night without noticing? I wondered as I couldn't quite remember seeing them on our way here.
We took a step back and allowed the hurried merchant to reach the gates.
As soon as he reached Mathias, I saw someone wearing a black robe with gold thread on it jumping out of the carriage and beginning to argue with one of the guards. The other travellers looked annoyed by this, but they were still too far away from us to understand what was going on.
“I wonder what happened?” Risha asked when we were at about 50 meters away from them.
“I think there's a problem with his paperwork.” said Kalderan.
“Probably. Oh, look! The guard's making him take out all of his slaves.” I pointed out.
The merchant was clearly furious about this, but the one who made him do it was smiling. He was enjoying this.
It was understandable and the merchant probably approached him with a bad attitude. Anyone would be annoyed by something like that at such an early hour in the morning, especially when considering the fact that there was no such thing as coffee in this world. Or it had yet to be discovered by some wandering explorer.
“Those are some pretty good slaves. They will fetch a good price.” commented Ildea, but the rest of us remained quiet.
I looked at the poor souls dragged out of the carriage. Chains bound their arms and legs, preventing them from running away, and a heavy metal collar laid heavy around their necks. Most of them looked around with empty eyes, as if they had lost all hope, while the others retained their rebellious souls.
Most of them were humans of different skin colors and different builds. When looking at them, it made me wonder for a moment how you would call a black-skinned individual when there was no Africa or America to tie them to, maybe black variant? Anyway, among the humans were also two dwarfs and one elf. Those three wore better clothes than the others because they were more expensive, if I were to give my two cents on it.
Still, what came as a surprise for me was the last slave to be pulled out of the carriage.
His eyes still held an undying will and the fierceness of a soldier ready to step on the battlefield. His big body and chiselled muscles were a sign of the fact that he had been fed properly, and his dark-brown scales still retained their healthy shine. With a long tail ending in needled spikes, and a pair of wings folded on his back, this man was without a doubt a full-fledged dragon in Awakened form.
“Wait here for a bit.” I told the others and then walked up to the dragon.
I looked straight into his eyes, and he didn't flinch at all. He was strong, not a pushover.
“Who are you?” I asked in the Eastern Draconian language.
“...” he didn't reply.
In his eyes, I definitely wasn't a someone he could trust, but maybe there was a way to do this.
Looking to my the other slaves, I saw that none of them was paying attention to me, then I looked to the merchant. That man was still arguing with the guard, pointing at his documents as if they were supposed to mean something.
When I turned my gaze back to the dragon, I closed my eyes for a moment and when I opened them again, they were the same as his, slit. The sudden change took him by surprise as he parted his lips and furrowed his brow.
“Who are you, dragon?” I asked again in the Easter Draconian language.
“Coshun... Coshun Seyendraugher.” he replied.
“What?” I blinked surprised when I heard the name.
“I said that I'm called Coshun Seyendraugher.” he repeated himself with a low growl.
Note from the author: Thank you for reading this chapter, I hope you enjoyed it! Oh, and be sure to check out my other stories too!
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