Shaar carried Julia into the bedroom in her house and placed her on the bed. Soythe quickly brought a cup of warm water to be poured into her mouth.
They looked around the room--- it was very simple--- the metal-wrapped corners of the wardrobe, wooden table and chair were rusty, but the room was kept spick and span. The people living here must work hard to keep it that way, and like being clean.
The only things that signified the homeowners’ identities were the long warrior’s sword hanging on the wall and a few horseshoes tossed in a corner.
Julia took a long time to regain consciousness. After she woke, she merely spaced out staring straight at the ceiling, giving no response when Soythe called her a few times.
Shaar gritted his teeth, pulled Soythe away, stood before the bed and knelt on one knee, whispering, “Madam Julia, Kevin was a hero, he died a brave man, and he saved my life! Your husband is the bravest, noblest man I’ve ever met!”
He put the sword and helmet at the head of the bed.
At this point, Julia finally moved, forcing herself to sit up but she ignored the objects and merely grabbed the bloodstained lambskin paper and opened it frantically.
After reading for a moment, tears flowed out of Julia’s eyes, her hands clutching the lambskin increasingly tightly until the sheet crumpled into a ball. She sobbed softly, her shoulders trembling.
Shaar might have felt better if she wailed hysterically but she was holding back her grief, weeping ever so gently. Every sob seemed to stab right into his heart like a sharp knife.
He approached Julia, comforting her, “I know this is very upsetting news and it’s a huge blow but I…
“Say no more,” Julia looked up suddenly, her face streaked with tears and drained of colour, her voice hoarse but filled with strange determination, “Say no more.”
She finally looked straight at Shaar.
“I am a Rhodelian woman, and as a Rhodelian woman, my mother, my grandmother, my great-grandmother all had to face matters like this, when their husband, brother or father died at war. This seems to be the fate of a Rhodelian woman!” Tears continued to flow. “But I never expected that despite not marrying a Rhodelian man, my husband still entered the Rhodelian army, and I did not know I would have this fate too.”
She barely supported herself with her arms so she would not collapse, her face drenched with tears.
“Kevin… Kevin still didn’t know that he was about to be a father… The last time he returned home was more than half a year ago and I only found out I was pregnant after he left… I… I couldn’t tell him in time… I was too afraid. I knew he was about to go to war on Primal Wildfire Plains, I… I was too afraid to tell him, I worried he might be distracted in battle… I wanted to keep it secret, to only tell him after the war… I…”
Shaar’s other knee fell to the ground. He knelt before Julia, reaching out to grab her hands tightly. The muscles on his face twitched as his heart ached. Gritting his teeth, he said, “Julia… Kevin was not my brother, he was my brother! He saved my life! Since the moment he died, his blood has become mine! We are merged forever! We are brothers! Blood brothers!”
Finally, Julia could no longer contain her grief, wailing hysterically.
Julia cried for two whole hours, then her sobs gradually faded. Luckily, Tatara had the idea to say, “Madam, please take good care of yourself, you’re carrying a child…” This seemed to be more effective than any comforting, for Julia rubbed her face upon hearing this and stopped crying.
The few of them sat in silence for a while until Julia forced a smile. “You all are Kevin’s battle partners… It’s quite late out, you must be hungry. I’ll get you some food…”
Would Shaar ever let her work in this state? Frantically forcing her to lie down, Shaar and Soythe rushed to the kitchen at the back to make some hot rice porridge and carried some over to Julia. She forced herself to eat a spoonful and could not seem to eat anymore but she glanced at her belly, frowned, then gritted her teeth and finished her porridge.
“Thank you.” When the lady finished her porridge, she rested for a while and regained colour in her face, no longer scarily pale.
Then, Julia endured her pain to ask Shaar questions, requesting for Shaar to tell her how Kevin died in battle. Shaar did not dare explain to detail in case it triggered more pain, only briefly describing the situation then helped Julia lie down to rest.
Shaar took out a cloth bag and placed it on the table. It was very heavy, filled with golden coins.
“This is compensation from the military… His battle partners all contributed some too. You must take this, we…”
Actually, the hillbilly lied.
There were at least three hundred gold coins on the table. The military compensation was actually very little and while everyone else did contribute, they were all soldiers without much savings so it only totalled up to seven or eight gold coins. General Aldrick had contributed fifty more gold coins, privately passing his contributions to Shaar. While he was a general, he was not extremely rich either.
As for the rest of the money, Shaar had taken out all his savings to make up to this amount. He had also gained some good connections from the local officers, and so could give a little more.
Julia refused the money but Shaar replied determinedly, “I know you don’t want it! Because even all the money in the world can’t replace a life! But please do not refuse this, for this is a gesture of kindness from everyone! Take it so we can have some peace in our hearts, at least we will be able to live with ourselves!