Chapter 68 Funeral
The funeral was held within an area south of Border Town, on the edge of the wasteland.
To call it a wasteland wasn’t correct. Van’er didn’t know when, but one day someone had built a small stone fence around this area. Since then, no one showed any interest in the piece of land. The wall was covered with thick snow, and when observed from afar it looked like it laid under a coat of silver. Although the wall wasn’t high, it was easy to step over it. Whenever Van’er saw this wall, he couldn’t help himself from thinking about the city wall – they both had the same color and shape.
Until now, he had only heard from the traveling merchants about such a ritual. When an important member of the aristocracy or royal family died, the deceased’s family would go to the
cemetery together. There they would play some sad music, and everyone would be
allowed to mourn the dead until the coffin was buried underground. The greater the deceased’s noble status was, the greater the funeral would be.
Even after their deaths, they still get better treatment than us commoners, thought Van’er enviously. He asked himself, what will happen to my body after my death? Will they just dig a hole at the edge of the forest and throw me into it? Also, no one knows when the Months of the Demons will end, so there will be no guarantee that no demonic beast will come and dig out my body to eat it.
To the people of Border Town, death wasn’t something unknown. In particular, each winter when they were forced to live in Longsong Stronghold as refugees and live in shacks, many of them died of hunger and cold or died of diseases and injuries. That was already the norm. Nobody had the time and power to grieve for the deceased, the question of where to get the next piece of bread to eat was much more important.
But today, His Highness actually wanted to hold a funeral for a soldier!
I heard he unfortunately fell during the pursuit of the mixed species, his head was bitten off along with half of his body.
Van’er knew this unlucky guy, he could be considered as one of the known faces of the old district. No one knew his real name, everyone just called him Ali. Van’er knew that Ali left behind a wife and two children; the older one was around six and the younger one had just learned to walk.
Under normal circumstances, the family would be finished now. The widow could still find a new man to live with, but what man would also take in the two stepchildren? Because of this,
many children were thrown on the street to let them fend for themselves. Most of these children would then go to a bar to attract customers and sell their flesh and die from strange diseases in the end.
But His Highness really seems intent on honoring the promises he gave during the militia recruitment. When a soldier falls during the war, his family wouldn’t only get his full payment, but also extra compensation. What had His Highness called it? Van’er had to think for a moment. Ah … yes, he had called it a pension. And the money his wife gets is
actually five gold royals! In addition, His Highness will provide them with enough food and charcoal every month, which means that even if his wife doesn’t go to work, she will have enough to care for herself and her children. Well, it could be that these are only empty promises, but at least the gold royals are real. He had seen how His Highness had given the money to the Chief Knight, who later gave the money to Ali’s wife.
Hell, could it be that I’m a little envious of Ali? No, no. Van’er shook his head again and again, trying to expel this stupid thought. With my talent I don’t have to sell myself so cheaply to care for my wife … after all, it is most likely that she will become someone else’s wife then.
After giving out the money, His Highness gave a short but captivating speech. In particular, the phrase “while protecting his loved ones and the innocent, we will always remember him,” made the blood burn hotter within him. So that was the way it was, he thought, no wonder that in the recent days apart from bread and silver royals, I always thought to follow a greater goal – at least during this winter, we will be able to survive by relying on our own power instead of hoping for the Longsong Stronghold’s charity.
The last part was the burial. Ali’s coffin was let down into the previously dug pit. Then, the Chief Knight made all the militia members line up in front of the grave. Regardless of whether they were from the first team or the replacement, everyone had to step in front of the grave and throw in a shovel of earth into the grave. While queuing, the 200 hundred militia members stepped into their already all too familiar four columns. When it was Van’er’s turn, he suddenly felt that the shovel had become somewhat heavy as he
took it. He could feel that all the members around him were watching every movement of his, making him slow down.
When he finally stood to the side, Van’er could see with his own eyes that the next person in line was now under the same pressure he previously felt.
The tombstone was a rectangular piece of white stone, and there were also some words written on it, but he couldn’t read them. Ali wasn’t the first one who was buried in this place. Next to his grave stood another similar tombstone, covered by snow. When Van’er was leaving, he saw the other new Vice-Captain Brian standing in front of a stone, slowly pouring a pot of ale on the tombstone.
Van’er couldn’t help but think, if this becomes my last destination, it wouldn’t be so bad.
“Your Highness,” during the return back to the castle, Carter suddenly began to talk, “what you did… “
“Was inappropriate?” continued Roland.
“No,” Carter thought for a moment, but in the end he only shook his head and answered, “I don’t know how to say it, but I think no one has ever treated his employees like this – they have neither a title nor a family background, and most of them don’t even have a last name.”
“But in the end, do you think what I did was right?” asked Roland once more.
“Well…” Roland smiled and laughed, he certainly knew that this kind of ceremony had a strong appeal to Carter, who was also always fighting for and protecting him. When people start to think who they are fighting for and why they are going to war, such a ceremony could be good motivation. For Carter, this change had an even greater meaning, now this kind of honor wasn’t just a privilege for the nobility. During these times, the common people could already get the same training and teaching the nobility got, but now the civilians could also receive the honor of defending their homeland. The doubled sense of achievement was
Of course, the introduction of the public funeral was just the beginning, Roland thought, he still had many ideas that could be used to enhance the collective sense of honor, such as
using flags, playing military songs, establishing a heroic example and so on.
It wasn’t possible to produce such spirit out of thin air. Roland would only to be able to increase their sense of belonging step by step and always instilling the idea, until it gradually took effect. In order to ensure that the pension project was set in motion and reliable, Roland had arranged all of it by himself. Within the Town Hall, he had set up a group of people who were responsible for the payment of the food and charcoal.
The further along Roland got on his way of upgrading Border Town, the heavier the pressure became on his shoulders. Even so, it seemed that the mining project and upgrading the people’s living conditions was on the right track. With sufficient grain reserves, so far no one had starved or frozen to death. Compared to other towns and cities, this seemed to be a miracle, even in Graycastle, some people had to die during the winter. Even knowing all this, Roland thought that Border Town was still lacking in many places.
His goals were much higher than this, but his range of operation had already reached his limit. His Assistant Minister Barov and his more than a dozen apprentices who he had brought with him were now controlling all the financial and administrative management of Border Town. If Roland wanted to further expand the department, just recruiting some management staff wasn’t possible. Roland had already asked Barov if he still knew some protégées colleague or favorite pupils, but the answer he got poured cold water on him:
“Even if I knew some, they wouldn’t want to come. After all, Your Highness should know what kind of reputation you have right?”
Well, that sounds kind of reasonable, but it was really depressing.
When they were back in the castle backyard, Nightingale emerged out of the fog immediately giving Wendy, who was standing in front of the shed, a warm hug. Lightning was walking around the unfinished steam engine, looking at it, but when she saw Roland, she immediately pestered Roland to assemble and install the autonomous machine.
Seeing all this, Roland thought that all his hard work was worth it.