Chapter split into two(2) pages
Kaldia‘s Budding Spring – Part Seven
The face of the woman called Nadje was somewhat familiar to me.
Upon attempting to drill further, she had initially responded with a blank expression, and had then adopted one more aligned with confusion. She had nevertheless offered me a bashful smile and ushered me into her home.
It was an odd feeling. Apart from the small children and region soldiers, there weren’t many people who were willing to come into contact with me and not even wince.
“Just what happens to be the issue? Do you have some sort of business with me?”
“Yes, Nadje. About that…”
The Village Chief was decent enough to be the one to explain things to her. With him treading on glass, it only served to make me feel all the more awkward. Thanks to his input, however, it was much easier to evoke a change in Nadje’s reactions as lent an ear.
When asked of her relationship with Gunther she grew a bit embarrassed, but was still frank in her admission that she pined after him while still being somewhat wary of me. But her somewhat calm demeanour disappeared the second the Village Chief decided to ask about the marriage registration, almost as if shattered.
“Eh… Mr. Gunther and I… Marriage? Huh… What?”
The wheels in her head seemed to stop turning about halfway through, and the Chief and I turned to look at each other. The girl herself was supposed to be at the very centre of the issue, but she didn’t seem to have an inkling of what had happened. It was fairly obvious that there was no subterfuge mixed with her bewilderment.
… Which meant that the one we should be asking was probably her father.
The marriage laws of Arxia differed, depending on the region. The new laws passed down by Earl Terejia and I stated that the two parties to be wed were required to allow the village they willingly lived in to act as a sort of mediator, a place where they would whip up the marriage registration contract. Both parties would sign said contract, and it would have to be submitted to the lord of the lands.
Before the laws were revised, however, any laws concerning matrimony had been based off of aristocratic conduct. The agreement needed for a marriage was not to be between the two parties concerned, but rather between the Lord and the acting father or guardian of the would-be bride.
“Village Chief, exactly who was the one to request the marriage registration?!”
“Come to think of it… It was Nadje’s father. I… I’m truly sorry, I appear to have been lacking in my review…”
“Not at all. A parent can act as a default proxy for their child. There’s no reason to fault you over what happened at the time of registration.”
That really wasn’t the core of the issue; that lay more in the fact that Nadje’s name had been signed into the registry. If Nadje was really unaware, then that meant it had been forged… and that whoever forged it would have to be confronted by the law itself.
“Um… What… What should I do…?”
Having grasped the basic outline of the situation, Nadje’s face had gone pale. I gently laid my hand onto her shoulder and assured her that everything would be fine.
“You’re not to blame for this incident. In fact, since you were the one whose signature was forged, I’d consider you more a victim than anything else. I can’t say for certain whether it was Gunther, your father, or perhaps both; in any case, you have the right to wish for the punishment of whomever it was that made the forgery. It should never be wished on you.”
Well, the father’s punishment was not something I could give at my own discretion. Rather, it would most likely be decided through a lengthy talk within the household itself.
Nadje’s response to my explanation was an expression that made it rather a clear whether she had understood or whether she hadn’t, followed by a nod. Well, I supposed it was all good and well, provided she understood that things wouldn’t get too far out of hand.
“For now, I’d like to speak to your father…”
It was high time to break the ice.
Just when I realised that Rashiok’s head had suddenly risen from sleep, ears perked, the pitter-patter of scurrying feet went from the corner of the room to the entrance door.
“Hey Nadje, you there – Woah! Rashiok?!”
Rashiok jumped, front legs aiming for the shoulder of Gunther, who had rather conveniently decided to drop in just then.
It was needless to say that Gunther, having no way to defend himself or to avoid, was toppled to the ground.
Rashiok let out a joyous cry, and Gunther, still befuddled, slowly picked himself up and saw all of us gathered inside the house.
“Huh? Why’re you… the brats… wait, Village Chief?”
“Aaah, Gunther. You came at just the right time. Sorry to do this during all this confusion, but there’s something I want to ask you… actually, before that, you have a snow snake in that bag, right? Mind selling it to me?”
With a barrage of demanding coos, Rashiok dipped down against the bag that hung down Gunther’s back. That mirrored the reaction common to being presented with Rashiok’s most beloved delicacy; the snow snake.
With a rather unusual expression of foolish bewilderment, Gunther murmured his acquiescence and pulled a snow-white serpent out of his bag. Huh, it was still alive, too. Considering that it was still hibernating, it would probably fetch a pretty penny.
Snow snakes had a penchant of becoming scarce once the snow had melted. While I didn’t know whether it was true what was said about them, namely that they dined on the snow itself, they nevertheless descended the Amon Noor alongside the snow. They normally disappeared before the snow had the chance to do the same. A little flavour was lost in those specimens that were occasionally found during spring, but they tasted delicious once fattened up.
“Rashiok, don’t tell me this is how you always get Gunther to give you food.”
I tried to hammer it into the Wolf Dragon as it partook of the snow snake, tail wagging in sheer delight. Rashiok’s ears drooped down sullenly, and I could see Gunther giving a strained grin from the corner of my eye.