AOH – Chapter 61

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CHAPTER 61: BURDEN OR RESPONSIBILITY?

ARIAL

TENT, IN FRONT OF DENTED SHIELD

1015 SEEDMONTH

I’m in my tent. The cold bites my skin like a winter kiss. I can feel it. My mind quickly remembering what happens.

How long was I out? How many hours, how many days. I start asking myself in confusion.

But I knew this is my tent.

Even now, when my eyes are closed my other senses work perfectly compensating the one that I’m not using right now.

This is the smell of my tent. The smell of candles and parchment, and new scrolls. This is my tent. But I also smell foreign odour. Medicines and herbs.

The pain…. I remembered. But what comes next…..that, appears to be blotted out from my memory.

The smell of the medicine is heavy in the tent, of herbs, of incenses and variety of other kind of medicinal properties that I smell, some I know and some I do not, while whisper and yelling can be heard, barely a whisper but slowly I can hear better.

Time to arise from my slumber and face the world.

‘Sshhh, the lord is opening his eyes.’ One of them says shushing the others.

And the whispers and yelling turns to silence.

And with energy that I can still expend, I open my eyes, slowly and with great effort while the pain washes over me, almost making me cringe with pain but I bear it in front of the other lords.

It is the hardest thing to do, to feign being well when you are ill, but no weakness must shine through or they will maw me like a lion preying on a deer.

‘My lord you are awake’ some exclaimed.

I try to flow the energy in my body but I found the path of energy is hard to penetrate. But it flows; only it is a restricted feeling

‘Praise the Light.’ Lord Sumersill said. It seems he have come from Northcour.

‘Lord Arial’ West said bowing while I could feel Lisa rushed towards my bed and hugged me tightly, tears streaming down her eyes.

‘WHY DID YOU LET ME WORRY! I THOUGHT YOU WERE DEAD!’ she said while looking at my chest with apprehension.

Then she traced her hand around the wound and looked at me, asking with her eyes whether I’m fine. I only nodded.

‘Did it hurt?’ she said as she realized she touched my chest the point which the spear Alderam throws.

It is now covered with bandages and healing nicely

I smile

‘It is fine,Lisa.’

‘YOU SCARED ME TO DEATH!’ Kyle said. I look at him with appreciation.

So this is how it feels to be cared about? It’s nice.

I never form many bonds in my timeline but I am grateful for the people I have met in this timeline, those who became my friend and companion, who have supported me, and in certain times, scold me properly when necessary.

‘You smile?’ He ask incredulous

‘How could I not?’ he shakes his head looking at my odd behaviour

‘How is the battle?’ I said.

Not the first question one should ask after just waking from a near death experience, but as their leader and those who led them here, it is my responsibility to bear

I know they are worried about me but I need to know what happen.

Have we retreat? Or did any significant victory have been achieved? Worries fill me but not of my own safety but my troops.

Kyle looked at me like he couldn’t believe what I’m saying.

‘THE BATTLE! You almost lost your life, dear friend!’

I ignore him.

I know Kyle spoke of this because he is worried about me, of his concern over my health, but my priority is towards the people that sacrifice their lives for me.

I could never forgive myself if after I collapsed many soldiers died in my place or decimated because of me.

His intention is noble, but I could not make him understand my position of a lord and the commander of the army.

‘The battle’ I said more forcefully and this time I turned to the other lord.

Kyle doesn’t like being ignored. Lisa grabbed my hand and looked at me.

‘Rest, Arial! Please just rest, Arial!’ She said looking at me with her red eyes, pleading sincerely, with eyes on verge of tears.

I smile a faint smile and shake my head.

‘I don’t think I can’ She cast her glance downwards as a sign of resignation of my stubbornness. I feel a little sorry but duty must come first in this matter.

‘Lord Paris, give me a report’ I said gesturing to the lord since I can see him. He hesitated to speak but he did his duty

‘We are still fighting my lord but for this past few days it has turned into a stalemate, our troops low on its morale while the enemies is still waiting reinforcement from the Verman which has been reported engaged in battle at Shanhai Pass in Vern. So right now we have the advantage of numbers, because the castle seems like it will succumbed to our sieging in any moment but the lack of morale and fighting spirit among the troops will prove to be difficult. Praise the Light that you have woken up my lord. Surely the troops will regain back their fighting spirit.’

‘Are they outside waiting to hear whether I die or live?’ I said noticing the clamour outside, some prayers for the Book of lights

‘I….yes my lord. They were waiting. And surely their morale will soar when they hear that you are alive and well, my lord’ he said with joy in his tone

I can feel the pain in my heart. I…the pain is tormenting, but I showed none of it to the lords assembled.

I think I knew what this pain signify, what it is that rendered me so helpless but I could not show it.

I think I knew what Alderam did. It felt like it eaten around my lungs and my heart. I winced a little.

It is like my heart is beating in a tight cage made of steel thorns, scratching my heart and every time it beats, my heart feels like it being cut up, scratched with thorns and bleed profusely.

Did he really use that?

I can feel my fingers tremble of the realization of what happens to me and what Alderam have inflicted me with. I steeled myself. I shall show no weakness.

I need to shelf my worries and handle what I can.

‘This evening I will do some round around the barracks. Tell the other lords. I will not forgive lack of discipline.’ I intend to give one last rallying cry and restore their morale.

‘But my lord…, this could not do. Not in your condition’ I glared at him and the lord silence himself.

Lisa agree whole heartedly

‘You just woke up, literally from death. I felt your pulse when you were thrown off your house and I can’t feel your pulse. You were dead for a few second.’

‘And now I’m back to the world of the living. And, dear Lisa, I want to keep it that way. Is there no healer here?’ I gestured to Lord Paris again

‘Some were called from the nearby cities my lord and by the evening surely he will come here, after all I sent some of our best men to fetch the healer.’

I nodded.

I looked at my bare chest now scarred but bandage by poultice, and it seems it stopped the bleeding and helped with the healing.

‘Who did this then?’ I gestured to the herb poultice and the bandage around my heart. Whoever it is, it seems he has a basic understanding of medicine

‘Ser West did.’ Lisa said, her eyes glanced to West, an expression of gratitude. West, looking at Lisa, his face turns to red and just nodded his head.

‘Knowledgeable’ I compliment.

‘Survival, my lord. Knight Agnaris teach me that.’

‘Ah yes, Agnaris’ I said recalling the teacher in the Knight Academy who is very peculiar and who always keep an eye on me when I was there. I never understand his obsession with me.

‘Tomorrow I will lead the battle myself.’ I declared to everyone assembled.

‘No longer’ I said.

‘I will take that castle tomorrow.’ I said and some of them were whispering

‘Tell them to rest today, for tomorrow they will be led to victory. Now go do your duty’ I ordered.

But the lord hesitated to get out of the tent.

‘Do you all doubt my words?’

‘But my lord….wouldn’t it be better to rest?’ some lords advice

Lisa nodded. So does Kyle and West.

‘I will rest when this war is over. But enough of your words. Go. Eat. Sing. Be merry. Because tomorrow some people will not be here anymore. Tell them, for some of them, tomorrow will be their last days and tell them that they will be remembered. Tell them that. Give them comfort. Give them assurance, that they will return home. Go. Tell them. And tonight if you still do not tell them of such thing, I will tell them’

The noble lord knowing my personality to be headstrong nodded.

‘Get well, my lord.’

‘Get well, my lord .’

‘Keep strong’

They all said words of encouragement.

The rest went out but Kyle and Lisa is there. Waiting to talk with me. They are not a lord, but a Knight but none of the other lord dare reprimand them because they all know my relationship with them.

‘Are you sure you are alright, friend?’ Kyle said standing beside my bed.

‘I’m fine.’

‘You are divine, aren’t you?’ Kyle said suddenly and sarcastically

I laughed a little.

‘I was speared, thrown off my horse, licking my own blood in a muddy field, and you called me divine?’

‘Why not?’ He argued

‘Never before I have seen in battle someone who has been spear the way you did and survived to tell the story. I almost believed that you have leave us for the High Heaven when I looked at the way those spears stuck on your chest. My sister was sobbing uncontrollably, her eyes red with grief and she howls like a wolf that howls for the beautiful moon.’

‘I did not!’ Lisa said wiping her tears.

‘You did!’

‘I did no such thing!’ she insists

He snickered.

‘It’s not like it’s hard to prove.’ He said smirking.

‘West can attest to it, he even hold you up when you were paralyzed with grief when you thought Arial is dead, and many other Knights there also saw how you stay by Arial side every night tending to his wounds and changed the towels for him.’

‘We don’t know what to thought of your condition’ she said a little embarrassed with his brother revealing what happen. She glares at her brother.

‘Thank you, Lady Lisa’ I said grateful for what she has done for me

And she blushed. I rarely call her Lady Lisa.

‘It’s…It’s…fine. Re…ally. I mean….it is an honour…No..no..I mean it was my pleasure’ she said stuttering, tumbling on her words. I put my hand on her head and stroke her hair.

‘Don’t be so nervous Lisa. Just say, you are welcome.’

Her cheeks turn red.

‘You are welcome, Arial’ and as she said it she cast her glance away from my eyes.

Kyle then told me about my condition when he found me

‘The other lords felt your pulse and it is erratic. The only thing we can do is depend on the medic supply division but they mostly specialised in treating wounds, not what you have which seems to be a bit of poison coated in the spear but fortunately the recovery of your body is magnificent. The moment I removed one of the leftover steel that splintered off from the spear from your body, your body quickly heal itself. They said it must be because of your internal energy protecting you, making your body to fight for live.’

‘Is that so?’

The pain strike again. More intense than the last time. I winced again. And it felt like nothing I ever felt

Is it ‘that’?

I hope not. But somehow, I need confirmation.

‘Help me arise from this bed.’

Lisa held me up as I clothed myself.

‘Kyle, can you tell the armorer to create a new armour for me.’ He looked at the corner of the tent, looking at my shattered armour and breast plate.

‘Much obliged, friend.’

‘Do you want your rubies too?’ Lisa said.

‘My rubies?’

‘Yes, it scattered when your armour were spear by that madman’ Lisa said.

‘How did you get it?’ I asked in amazement

‘The soldiers all a searched 7 of the rubies and they found it and offer you prayers to each rubies for your safety.’

I laughed.

‘Who know I’m so loved!’

‘You have always been loved, Arial. Only you are so dense that that such love is ignored and abused by your recklessness and you veracity to burden everything alone.’

‘Is this the time to talk about sharing again?’ I said.

She smiles a bitter smile.

‘What makes you think of that?’

‘I had this talk before with Helia. She said to share.’

‘And did you share it?’

‘Can you keep a secret?’

‘Depends on the secret.’

Stubborn! Why do I always meet stubborn girls? It seems I surrounded myself with headstrong woman, and encountered many woman who is as headstrong as me. The Blue Hair girl comes to my minds.

‘I did not share with her.’

‘Why? Didn’t you love her?’

It’s not a question of love, dear Lisa. I want to say. I smile and looked at the tent, trying to find the right answer.

‘It is because I love her, I did not share.’

‘Isn’t that selfish?’

‘Maybe. Or maybe it is the considerate things to do. Some things should not be known.’

‘You lie then?’

‘Did I?’

Then I coughed

‘Arial!’ she said alarmed. I gestured with my touch that I am fine.

I continued.

‘She will understand my need to lie, IF I lie. Behind words are other things Lisa: motivation, value, nuance, dialogue. It will not be the end of the world for I only lie to her about what she did not have to know and one lie did not invalidate every truth I ever share with her. It is an ink dropped in the vast sea. One inconsequential lie. Not saying that I lie to her. Merely not telling’

She just silences herself. But then it seems like she is about to ask me another question so I ask her first

‘Since you are questioning me then let me ask you a question in return.’

She stands beside me as she helps button up the shirt.

‘Have you never lied? Never once hide things because there are things that are not supposed to be known. A secret only you know. Your dirty little secret, you never want anybody to get a wind of?’ I asked

And she choked.

‘I…I’

‘See?’ Then I sighed a deep relieve.

‘But I prefer that you lie sometimes, rather than speak the truth all the time. I could never trust anything of secret to such person.’

‘I’m not a liar’ she said defiantly

I raised my eyebrows.

‘Then what are you? You are surely not an honest person, if by honest definition, you have never lie.’

“I…..I just don’t always say what I feel!’ and she looked at me, like the words meant something more.

‘Why not, Lisa?’

‘Because I…because I…fear to hear the truth and maybe I am afraid the truth will hurt the people I care.’

‘My point exactly. Truth hurts’ I said like I won the arguments

She looks at me and then she said.

‘So do lies’ she said and she looked at me.

I nodded weakly

‘So do lies’ I said.

‘PERMISSION TO ENTER’ one of the messenger shouted from outside.

‘Enter’ he enter and kneeled.

‘My lord it is good to see you well’ the messenger said seeing me have begun to move from the bed.

‘It is. Now what news you came to deliver?’

‘Yes, my lord. The healer is outside’

‘Tell him to wait in the nearby tent as I clothed myself and wash my face.’

He nodded and went outside to relay my orders.

‘You have to undressed when he examine you right?’ Kyle said looking at me trying to dress myself up.

‘Why bother with clothing?’

‘Manners Kyle, manners. We both know what he came to do, yet it is our duty to show him respect, and I intend to show it, as long as I have the energy and capacity to show it’

‘A lords manners’ he said snorting.

‘Is that a compliment or an insult?’ I asked Kyle

‘You never care about such things before.’

‘Before, I did not know.’

‘Now I know. Woe to the man that never change, constant, inflexible, Kyle. Woe to such man.’

‘I will never win if you spar with me with words.’

‘Then, don’t come unarmed’ I challenged.

He sighed in surrender.

‘Fine….Arial. Do take care of yourselves. I still do not approve of you taking to battle tomorrow but…who am I but a loyal banner men to your noble House. What does my counsel does other than irritate you?’

‘Do not say such hurtful words to spite me, Kyle. You are my friend, my brother. You must know that’

‘THEN LISTEN TO YOUR BROTHER!’

‘Brother!’ Lisa yelled

‘He needs to hear it Lisa.’ And Kyle approached me.

‘You have been pushing yourselves more than any of us. I’m 2 years older than you, yet I could do nothing for you. I’m 2 years older than you, but why does it feel like you are the older brother? You took no confidence in us, in the great burden your bear on your shoulder like a curse. I am heartbroken, devastated to see you in such conditions. You said you treat me like a brother but you rarely share your thoughts with me. How can you be the closest thing to me, like a brother you professed, yet I know nothing of your worries and trouble? Why…..even among companions, you look so lonely, wearing a mask of smiles while deep inside your heart you hold such sorrows? Tell me, BROTHER!’

I smiled

‘You have certainly been thinking a lot about me, Kyle. And judging from your expression, you too Lisa.’

She looked at me, and her gesture of denying is betrayed by her look of worries.

‘But as I said it to Helia, and what I said to Lisa, it is my burden to bear and I will bear it alone.’

‘You do not trust us?’ Lisa said

‘On the contrary. I trust you to let me handle my burden the way I see fit.’

‘You are stubborn’ Kyle said, looking at me.

‘And you too, Kyle. I am no more stubborn than you are. We are not that different, brother. I am surrounded by stubborn people. You ,Lisa, Helia, even West. It seems only the lords that I defeat are not stubborn. The irony!’

‘In which part of me, that I am stubborn?’ Kyle asked

‘My stubbornness lies in me, holding my burden alone, your stubbornness stems from your desire to press me to share it. You are young’ I said

‘So are you.’

I smiled.

‘I do not mean in that sense that young is determined by age. I mean in the ways of the world. One day, you will be faced with the same choice as I have, a burden as you so eloquently put, saddled upon you, and you will know, you will understand that that burden, is not for anyone to know, it is your burden, and you will relish from the fact that that burden is yours and yours alone, so does the pain that came from it. And you will insist in carrying that burden for yourself because you know…….you know that burden is tailor made for you, your own …. Quest. And Kyle you were wrong about one thing’

‘And what’s that?’ Kyle asked, looking at me, he tries to understand my words and he looked at me, this time waiting for the answer.

‘It was never a burden. You all believe that I was hiding some secrets, some sorrows I did not tell you about but to me, it is never a burden.’

‘What is it then?’

‘It is a responsibility, a duty, a charge I taken for myself’

And I know they do not know about my own designated mission that I take charge for, but they are my closest friend.

Lisa,Kyle ,Helia.

They are my precious friends, people that I bonded with in our quest and trips and all the fun and sadness we enjoyed and joined together in a group.

It would be weird if they notice nothing, if they sense nothing. They knew I am hiding something from them, they just don’t know what it is.

The reason I could not tell them is not because of my selfishness, it is because laws of time and space especially dealing with such untested magic, breaking every laws of magic, a magic such of this, I do not know their effects.

Telling them about some events, may very well, turns them into a causal factor of such events or change the very thing I want to change.

‘Duty? Duty,huh…humph. Fine. You will insist in your stubbornness and I will insist in mine.’

‘Just the way I preferred it Kyle’ and I smile.

Kyle could not help but grin.

‘Call the healer in’ I yelled outside.

‘I guess this is where I will leave you, friend’ Kyle said.

‘Get well, Arial’ Lisa said. She began getting up from the bed

‘Do not wear such a worry face Lisa.I will be fine.’

And the pain strikes again. This time more biting but I manage to keep a calm face until they are leaving.

The moment they leave the tent I staggered to the table around my bed. Huh,huh,I pant, with the feelings of every needle piecing me, slowly…..and painfully.

I know using internal energy would not help.

My answer and my suspicion will be lifted if I heard what the healer opinion, though I have a terrible suspicion of what I have been afflicted it.

And slowly the curtain opens bringing me a news that change my life ,for the second time.

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