A Barbaric Proposal - Chapter 54
Sir Henton attempted to escape, but the seven families immediately sent their men in pursuit of him. He ended up being caught and the result was the loss of his life.
That’s when Klimah’s suffering started.
But hearing this, Rienne only felt more confused.
[Rienne] “Did Prince Fernand manage to escape? Or did he die as well…….?”
[Black] –‘I only remember the pattern I saw on the gauntlets of those who killed my father.’
Black said he watched his father, Henton, die right in front of his eyes. Did Henton attempt to escape with his family along with Prince Fernand, but he was caught by the Kleinfelders and died in front of his youngest son, instead?
[Klimah] “I don’t know about that. I was home with my mother at the time.”
[Rienne] “I see…….”
Sir Henton must’ve not been able to help his entire family escape Nauk. The only one he had with him at the time was his youngest son.
[Rienne] “So what happened after that?”
[Klimah] “The Kleinfelders came…..and then…..”
The treason plotted by the seven families was a covert plan.
They worked in tandem while the king was out hunting, leaving his body to be eaten by wild animals. No one would’ve realized that the king was not torn apart by the fangs of a wolf, but rather was stabbed to death instead. The knights meant to accompany him also perished that day.
Sir Henton, who survived and managed to get Prince Fernand away, ended up becoming an enemy of the seven families, which eventually put Klimah and his mother in danger.
But for some reason, Linden Kleinfelder spared them.
Klimah ended up living in hiding, tucked away from the eyes of the other six families by the Kleinfelders. In return, they made Klimah their errand boy. In order to secure Klimah’s unwavering loyalty, they kept his mother hidden away.
His mother was both a hostage and his motivation.
[Rienne] “It must’ve been very difficult for you.”
Rienne spoke quietly, the words coming from her heart.
This was why, despite killing thirteen people, Klimah did not appear as a villain in her eyes. Before he was even an adult, he fell into the hands of wicked people, forced to act as their hands and feet before he even knew the difference between right and wrong.
[Rienne] “I do not wish to punish such a person. Especially not someone who carries the name of Henton.”
Because now, Henton was a name just as precious to Rienne as Arsak.
[Klimah] “Th, then…..”
There was a flash of hope in Klimah’s eyes.
[Klimah] “W, will you save……my mother?”
[Rienne] “Of course. The seven families are the ones who have done wrong. They are the ones who should be punished.”
[Klimah] “. . .”
With those words, Klimah suddenly quieted. The hope in his eyes died, replaced only with conflict and confusion.
[Rienne] “You can trust me. I know your brother.”
[Klimah] “…..I’m sorry?”
[Rienne] “He’s a very important person to me, so the same goes for his family.”
But Klimah’s mouth just hung agape.
[Klimah] “But how……? My brother died that day.”
[Rienne] “No, he’s not dead. He returned to Nauk. But he doesn’t know the rest of his family is still alive.”
Rienne thought he might cry again.
As if what he was hearing was impossible to believe, he grabbed his head, like he was physically pushing back the urge to cry.
At that moment, Rienne was filled with the urge to give him an affectionate hug, soothing him to stop crying, and telling him they should greet his brother with a happy smile.
[Klimah] “My brother……is dead.”
But Klimah wasn’t crying.
The way he was holding his head was more akin to fighting back a returning memory.
[Klimah] “My father killed him. He knew if he stayed alive, the seven families would kill him instead, so it would be better to die by his hand.”
[Rienne] “No…..that’s not true. Your brother is alive. He seems very alive to me, at least…..”
[Klimah] “He put Prince Fernand’s clothes on him and stabbed him in the heart with a sword. Then he put the sword in my hands…..and told me to make his face unrecognizable. I did as he said…. Even though my mother tried to stop me….My brother, he……”
Klimah’s hands trembled.
But seeing him in that state, Rienne was no better. Her whole body was shaking beyond her control.
[Klimah] “There was so much blood….on his face……”
When Linden Kleinfelder went to the home of Sir Henton, what he found was a sobbing Klimah, holding the body of a boy wearing Prince Fernand’s clothing, who was just the right size with a mutilated face. Next to him was a bloodstained blade.
Klimah lost most of his mind that day. Linden Kleinfelder must’ve realized how broken he was, and saw some use in him as an errand boy.
[Rienne] “Then…..then the person who ran away……”
[Klimah] “Wasn’t my brother. My brother is dead.”
[Rienne] “Prince Fernand…….”
Rienne bit her lip tightly.
If she didn’t, the sound of her trembling jaw would’ve been so loud, it could’ve deafened someone.
[Black] –‘Henton. That was my name just before I left this land.’
So…..that’s what he meant.
He meant that when he left Nauk, he was masquerading as the second son of the knight, Henton. And the marriage talks between them happened before then.
Back when he was still a prince.
[Black] –‘For me, you are the closest thing I have to a home.’
He meant that literally. Because the place she was occupying was once his home. The home that he wanted to come back to. The place that he needed to be.
And he didn’t wish to destroy anything in the process, which was why he decided to leave behind any desire he might’ve had for revenge.
Was that how his mind worked?
Rienne felt like she could understand Black, even just a little bit more.
[Rienne] “Still, my thoughts don’t change. Sir Henton saved Prince Fernand, so he is like a savior to me as well. And as the family of said savior, I will help you and your mother. Please allow me that.”
[Klimah] “……? But why?”
Looking up at Rienne, Klimah’s voice was filled with confusion. Rienne closed her eyes, breathing deeply.
[Rienne] “Prince Fernand is my fiancé.”
[Klimah] “H, huh….?”
Klimah’s eyes were shaking to no end. Seeing his reaction, Rienne felt her blood run dry, her mind becoming anxious.
[Rienne] “What is it?”
[Klimah] “Oh, what….? I just don’t understand…..”
[Rienne] “Lord Tiwakan is Prince Fernand. If he is not your brother, then that leaves only one person he could be……”
[Klimah] “But….you are an Arsak, Princess.”
A river of goosebumps fell along Rienne’s spine.
Perhaps her heart always had an inkling of doubt the moment Klimah mentioned the ‘seven’ families.
Presently, there were six families who had the power and motivation to commit treason in Nauk—Kleinfelder, Ellaroiden, Burey, Serquez, Armendaris, and Rosadel.
But one more was needed to make seven.
And there was one family who benefited the most from the coup. The family who ended up taking the throne of Nauk for themselves.
The Arsak family.
Rienne violently grabbed her head, suddenly understanding what made Klimah do that same thing. She wanted to make her head stop spinning, everything becoming like a jumbled mess in her mind.
She held both sides of her head, a quiet and pained moan escaping from between her lips, but in her head, it was so much louder—like the roar of a lunatic.
That man’s enemy.
It was always me, never anyone else.
The person who deserves to be killed by him.
It was always me…..
* * *
[Rienne] “. . .”
Rienne blinked slowly.
It was cold, dark, and dry where she was. She couldn’t tell what time it was.
[Klimah] “You’re awake.”
Klimah’s voice echoed out, and that’s when she realized she must’ve lost consciousness.
[Klimah] “I wasn’t sure what to do…..so I just stayed here…..”
His voice was quiet, almost like it was crawling out of him, but it was enough to instantly remind her of what they’d just talked about.
That was that man’s name.
And what should she do now that she knows that?
As Rienne kept silent, Klimah seemed restless, quietly clenching and unclenching his fists, like he was centering himself. He wasn’t crying any more.
[Klimah] “Then….Should I take you back to the castle now……?”
And now that things were settled, he’d apparently finally decided to end his time living as a servant of the Kleinfelders.
That came as a relief to her, but thinking about that didn’t bring out any feelings in her.
[Rienne] “…….Why did you propose to me?”
[Klimah] “….W, what?”
[Black] –‘The reason why I proposed was because I didn’t want you to be taken away by someone else.’
The answer Black had given her once before popped back up in her head.
At least that all made sense now.
Nauk, her, even the throne—all of it was supposed to belong to him in the first place.
[Rienne] “So all you had to do was propose. Then, after we were married, you could take control of everything.”
[Klimah] “…..I’m sorry?”
Confused, Klimah pointed a finger at himself, shaking his head, but Rienne was entirely unperturbed by what he was doing, merely talking out loud to herself.
[Rienne] “But why did you act…….like you wanted me if that was the case?”
[Black] –‘At that point, more than anything, all I wanted was a home.’
Maybe that was true. That’s what he told her when she still wasn’t sure if he was sincere in saying he was passing up his chance at revenge.
He could destroy Nauk at any moment he wished, but he didn’t.
[Rienne] “Is it because you just wanted a home to come back to and rest…….So you wanted things to stay like this?”
[Klimah] “. . .”
Klimah sat still, listening to her quietly. He only realized now that Rienne was only talking to herself, not him.
[Rienne] “You never once lied to me…..aside from your name.”
And his reasons for lying about his name were the same as his reasons for not lying about anything else.
[Rienne] “I guess you really didn’t want me to know.”
Because he knew….she wouldn’t trust him if he’d given her his real name.
He must’ve thought she would stick with the six families, terrified of the Tiwakan and anxious about when he might kill her if she knew. Having the mercenaries in the castle like that would be like keeping a poisoned viper in her home.
Yes. That was probably why.
If that was the case, then everything made sense now.
And maybe it was true that he desired her and thought of her as someone he wanted to treasure. Maybe he was being honest when he said he would do his best to protect her.
Yes. She wanted to believe that…..
[Rienne] “I’m going back to the castle.”
Rienne lifted herself up off the ground.
She did so with so much vigor, it was hard to believe she was lifeless and drained just a minute ago. Standing up on her own, she looked down at Klimah, still sitting on the ground.
[Rienne] “I meant everything I said. I have no intention of punishing you for your sins.”
She had no right to punish anyone. She was someone with Arsak blood running through her veins—the blood of those who killed King Gainers and stole Prince Fernand’s crown.
……….And now that she was thinking about it, there was another person who lied.
The other person who claimed Black’s name was Henton. The old beggar from the front of the Temple. He knew something, too. He must’ve lied for the sake of Prince Fernand.
Rienne smiled bitterly.
He tried telling her the truth at first, but then suddenly lied to her right at the end. That could only mean that man had intervened in the middle, busying himself with trying to conceal the truth.
And this would probably continue to happen in the future.
So long as he had things to hide, these small little cover ups were bound to continue. Not like she was any different—lying to him as she was.
It was possible the two of them would live like this for the rest of their lives.
But even if that was the case, Rienne intended to keep Black’s secret.
And it wasn’t because she was afraid of how the six families would react if they heard of Prince Fernand’s return.
It was because she knew he wanted her to remain ignorant. And if that’s what he wanted, she was content to play the fool for the rest of her life if it meant keeping their relationship the same.
[Rienne] “Hide like you’ve been doing up until now. It won’t be for much longer. In the meantime, you needn’t follow the Kleinfelders’ orders any more, even if someone delivers them to you.”
[Klimah] “What about my mother?”
[Rienne] “I’ll take care of her. Once your mother is safe, I will send you a message. Then the choice is yours. You may leave Nauk if you’d like, but if you wish to remain, I will prepare new identities for you. I will not let anyone know of your name.”
[Klimah] “But, is that possible….? I still….have so many sins……”
[Rienne] “That is my cross to bear. They are sins that never would have happened had the Arsak family not done what they did.”
When she came to that conclusion, her head unexpectedly felt more at peace.
[Rienne] “Tell me how to get back to the castle from here. I will go alone.”
[Klimah] “You need someone to show you. The road is dark, and navigating it is like a maze.”
[Rienne] “Is that so?”
But allowing Klimah to get too close to the castle would be dangerous.
[Rienne] “Tell me in detail, so they cannot find you. That would be better. You, as a servant, never took the Kleinfelders orders, and as such, never kidnapped me. That is what everyone must believe.”
[Klimah] “But it would be too dangerous. You might get lost……”
[Rienne] “That is my problem as well.”
Though the daughter of Arsak may not bleed as that old beggar said, she still had far too many sins to bear.
Rienne left that place, walking down that unfamiliar road back to the castle, her heart and soul unfathomably heavy.