Please Answer Me - Chapter 34
“Have you heard the story?”
In the meeting hall were the elders representing the clan leaders, six of the eight elders had already gathered, and now they waited for the remaining two.
“I hear that Riga took the Basque chieftain’s daughter as his Rigaina.”
One of the elders nodded. “I have heard that, and there’s a lot of noise all around about it.”
He stroked his beard and clicked his tongue lightly. “He said he was looking for a way out, but I never thought he’d resort to this. How could he take the daughter of an enemy as his wife?”
“Indeed. How could Riga…”
“And what if they are of the same blood?”
At those grumpy words, another put a finger to his mouth.
“Hush, be careful, I hear that Krell badly injured his leg when he said something like that.”
“Alas, I have heard of that as well. Poor thing has to limp for the rest of his life, doesn’t he?”
“Yes, he would have been better off dead.”
Someone shook their head. “Krell’s been acting a little strange before. Whether you like it or not, he’s already a Riga, and hasn’t he often exhibited untoward behavior?”
“Yes. That’s why his father couldn’t be a chieftain. He can’t even protest when his son has reached that point, can he? It’s true that Krell did behave badly before, and it was done in a duly held ritual.”
“That must be heartbreaking, with only Krell as his heir…”
Just then, the door opened and a gray-haired old man stepped into the room.
Everyone stopped what they were doing and stood up to greet him, even if they were also elders, their demeanor was very polite to this one. He is the oldest of the elders, and though currently resting in the shadows, he is the maternal grandfather of the current Riga and the man who had defended the Quat tribe in the past.
“It’s been a while since we’ve seen each other, and you all have a lot to talk about, judging by the sound of your conversations, which can be heard all the way outside the door.”
Everyone flinched and fell silent at Calante’s words, and while they were busy wondering if they had said anything damaging, one of the elders spoke to him.
“Elder Calante, you have met Riga, haven’t you? What did he say?”
Calante smiled as he sat back in his seat. “He didn’t say much to me, either. As usual, he found the most efficient and quiet way to settle a problem.”
Calante glanced at the gathered elders. “In the end, he sacrificed himself for the well-being of the tribe, and if anyone wants this marriage less than anyone, it is Riga himself.”
At that moment, everyone fell silent. His words had silenced all the complaints up to this point. Who could complain if it was Riga who sacrificed himself to get married for the sake of the tribe?
“…hmm, that’s a pity, because I’m sure there are many girls here who were looking forward to marrying Riga.”
Realizing that they could neither kill Riga nor overthrow him by force, the clan leaders turned to become his father-in-law, for that was one way to make their own blood a Riga. There was also the expectation that becoming Riga’s father-in-law would bring them power and glory, much like Elder Calante does now.
In the meantime, however, Riga had been busy and kept postponing the marriage. Everyone had been secretly hoping that once this Basque thing was settled, they’d be able to talk about it in earnest, but instead, they’d been slapped in the face by a Basque girl.
Someone broke into a chuckle. “I see. Those of you with daughters of marriageable age will be more disappointed than anyone else…”
The laughter immediately stopped as Elder Perce entered the room. Predictably, his face was grim. As everyone watched in silence, Calante rose from his seat. He put a hand on Perce’s shoulder and asked with a worried look.
“Elder Perce, we were all waiting for you. How is Krell doing?”
Perce forced a smile. But it was a stiff smile. “He’s feeling much better, thanks to your concern.”
“Riga is very concerned, too. He’s been beating himself up a lot about how he should have been more lenient, even though Krell requested the ritual first. If there’s anything I can do to help, just let me know. I’ll do my best to help.”
Perce gritted his teeth, almost inaudibly.
Everyone in the room knew that what he had just said was a sneer disguised as concern, a warning, a reminder that Krell had been safe all these years because of Riga’s generosity, and that his current disability was self-inflicted, so don’t mess with him.
“I told you not to be rash! You fool!”
When his son returned two days later with severed ligaments in his leg, Perce blamed him again and again for his foolish behavior. Rashid may have been quiet, but he knew how to bide his time behind the scenes. Perce knew that the reason he had allowed Krell to act so brazenly, as if his place had been taken from him, was simply a way to build justification.
So Perce told Krell to keep quiet and bide his time. It was common knowledge that once Rashid was gone, the position would be Krell’s, and if he waited, his chance would always come. One day, when Rashid’s unclear birth would come back to haunt him, he could sway the Elders to replace Riga.
But how could he blow it so easily, this chance to settle this grudge that had been building up for so long?
His grip tightened. Twenty years ago, when Riga, the chief of the tribe, died suddenly, Perce, despite being Riga’s only brother and having noble blood, could not become the next Riga.
That’s because he was an illegitimate son. His mother, the daughter of the Anzu clan leader, had an affair with Riga, who already had a wife, and gave birth to Perce. Because of his illegitimate status, Perce had to watch his much younger half-brother ascend to the position of Riga.
But his one chance came when his half-brother crawled into the Basque land to rescue his woman and died. Trickle by trickle, arguments began to emerge that Perce should be made the next Riga to fill the suddenly vacant chieftain position. He was the one closest in blood to the previous Riga, albeit illegitimate.
However, Calante strongly opposed this.
“Let us wait, for the true bloodline is still in Rigaina’s womb.”
No one could deny Calante’s words. In the end, the discussion came together in his favor. The unfavorable origin of being an illegitimate child and Calante’s authority made it possible.
Then, unexpectedly, a second miracle occurred. The child Rigaina gave birth to happened to be a boy, but he was born with blue eyes. When Perce found out, he laughed like a madman for days. Funny how the grandson of Calante, the man who had insulted him all his life for not being a true blood, was born with those cursed eyes.
It didn’t matter who Rashid’s real father was. What mattered was that Rigaina had been kidnapped by a Basque chieftain and had given birth to a child.
He sent someone to the Basque land and learned that Rigaina had been thrown into a group of slaves. Everyone was shocked that the child could have been the seed of a slave, not to mention a Basque chieftain. Eventually, even the elders who had followed Calante turned against him. They could not tolerate someone of such lowly origins.
And so they voted in favor of Krell, Perce’s five-year-old son, as the next Riga. Perce was still an illegitimate son, but Krell was different. Perce became the representative leader of the Anzu clan in the absence of an heir and was now a powerful elder. Krell, a descendant of a former Riga and son of an elder, was far preferable to Rashid, who might be of the blood of a lowly slave.
Everything seemed to be going according to Perce’s intentions, until Rigaina’s sudden suicide undid his plans. The wretched woman traded her life for the position of Riga, frustrating Perce to no end.
Unlike Perce, who remained patient to the end, the grown-up Krell was unable to take it all in stride. The more Rashid gained ground, the more Krell’s impatience grew, and eventually, he returned with this accident.
Now, even if Rashid is gone, Krell can’t be the next Riga. There is no way someone who has been so mortally wounded could become a Riga.
“Let the meeting begin, then.”
Nevertheless, Perce pushed all his anger aside and focused on his mission.
There is a saying that a man gets three chances in a lifetime. He will wait for the last one.