Polymath Redux Annex
Chapter 55 - The truth of Charlotte’s birth
“Zhiglov Balia?!” Yda screeched in horror and surprise as she immediately turned to Rena. “Wait, you’re actually talking about ‘that’ Zhiglov Balia?! When…?! How?!” From the tone of her voice it seemed to be a rather prominent figure, and not at all a good one. Rena’s face had turned deathly pale, from a seductive ice blue to a pale, paper blue, but more so it was Yda who froze with an expression of shock and terror.
“You know who that is?” although asking this would likely reveal a lot about his ignorance of this world, Mordred’s first priority was understanding the situation.
“Do I know who that is?” she parroted his question while her face contorted with disbelief. “How could I possibly not know? Or rather, I don’t understand how you don’t.”
Mordred replied with a shrug, “there is a complicated situation regarding that. Not something you need to know now, so start explaining.”
Past the look of dubiousness, she started to honestly illustrate why this person had been so significant. “Err… to put it simply, ‘Zhiglov Balia’ is the current Emperor of the Baliazoural Empire. You know, the very nation that Xagontetia is at war with?” She shook her head, “no, but… how is, why is Charlotte that man’s child? When did that happen?!”
As all the attention focused on Rena, she began to meekly flap her mouth; teetering on the border of wanting to talk but not wanting to revisit those memories. It was obvious that digging through those memories started to cause her actual, physical pain as she shrieked back in on herself into a foetal position. She buried her head between her knees and shook her head. Quietly letting out pained moans and hiccups. However, for the situation to progress any further this was a necessary evil. Even Yda, who would normally step in to comfort her dearest friend, made no movements.
After a few minutes, Rena had calmed down enough to talk. “I… it was shortly after the two caretakers of our orphanage left…” she began painfully as she clutched onto her clothes.
The story had been an extremely distressing one. After their caretakers had disappeared from their orphanage, she and the other children felt that they could no longer stay there. The truth was that with no income it became more and more difficult to maintain and keep everyone fed. Thus, as time went on the children left the place and try to make it through whatever harsh reality waited for them. A lot of the children that left eventually succumbed to the cruelty of reality and perished on the streets of Solaris. Some of them were lucky enough to find some brigand group to join, while others tried their hands at being mercenaries- however, most of them would die by the hands of monsters.
Rena and Yda were one of the lasts to stay behind. Yda refused to let go of the place they had called ‘home’ for so long. However, as time passed, Rena saw the unsustainable nature of their lifestyle and eventually decided to leave as well. At the time, she felt guilty for also leaving Yda alone, but there was no other choice. As part of the ‘Demon’ race, Rena had slightly higher magical affinity than some of the humans in the city and signed up to become a mercenary.
The world was not as kind as she had hoped it would be. She was eight-years-old at the time and although she could utilize basic magical attacks, her usefulness in combat was diminished by the fact that she was severely inexperienced. There was no party that wanted to take on the extra baggage of protecting a kid who could not lift their own weight. All the quests she found were too difficult for a child to do alone. In the first place, it was unsure if the requester would even properly reward a child for completing their mission.
Perhaps it had been due to hunger, but she came to the conclusion that if nothing was done, she’d starve. The main problem at the time was her inexperience, so that was the first thing she wanted to fix. By any means necessary she tried to gain this ‘experience’ in combat. Without even picking up quests, she ran past the city’s gates and rushed into combat against monsters that lurked around in the forest. Suffice it say, it did not go well. Even mere low-level Goblins were extremely dangerous, especially to a child who had not eaten properly in three days and had their concentration hindered.
At that time, she had been injured by a Goblin and was about to be taken away. Possibly for food or breeding, it didn’t matter which as she was on the verge of death. However, as she was about to meet her demise, she was saved at the last moment by someone. The person wore a cloak and had their identities obscured, but that person did have one identifier: he had a pendant that symbolized the Church of Xagon. He was a member of the Xagontetian Clergy. He had saved her and even offered her food.
Then the man offered her a job that if she accepted then she wouldn’t have to worry about food or shelter. Even back then she had never heard many good things about the church but she was out of options. The man who saved her seemed kind enough and the job he described didn’t really seem all that difficult either. Back then, she had completely ignored the possibility that this may have been some sort of trap and immediately accepted. There was no real choice since her other option would’ve been to decline and face death against the monsters in the forest or starve to death on the streets like the other orphans.
It’s obvious in hindsight now, but it was indeed a trap. The clergyman had secret ties with an underground slavery ring, and just like that all her basic rights were stripped just as fast as the clothes on her back. She was taken to various places and displayed around like a caged animal. It wasn’t just her, there were several more children of similar age and circumstances to her that were tricked into that place.
Corrupted nobles and merchants all leered at her with perverse and lustful looks on their faces. She was sold from person to person; passed around like the town bicycle. Beaten, sometimes left to starve, made to sleep in the cold often without clothes or a blanket. She was no longer a person but an object for her ‘owners’. Eventually, she wondered if she would’ve been happier if she refused back then and was killed by monsters. At least she wouldn’t have to suffer like this.
For the next two years she had spent her life in such misery and torment. As an outlet for violence and lust for horrible men and women. Somehow, she had ended up in the Baliazoural Empire, still as a slave. Her situation never improved, she was still used and sold until she had ended up in the Emperor’s bedroom. The only thing she could recall was the strange birthmark he had, the same one that Charlotte has now: a red cross upon a circle. It is because of this she knew that Charlotte was the Emperor’s daughter.
She became pregnant with Charlotte at the age of around ten. After she no longer became useful, she was sent to the dungeon with no hope for freedom. There were many slaves just like her. All of them equally degraded to a lifeless husk.
It was there, however, that she met a certain woman. About fourteen or fifteen, her name was ‘Yurievna’, ‘Yuri’ for short. During her time in the dungeon it was this young woman that had cared for her, almost like an older sister or mother. They bided their time, suffering in that cramped place until one day an accident occurred. A small fire erupted in that place, which caused all the guards to abandon their post and give the captives an opportunity to escape. There were some slaves that were so broken that they didn’t even budge at the inferno and accepted their fate, Rena was also one of those, but thanks to the efforts of Yuri, she managed to run away.
Once the fire was contained, the guards immediately gave chase. A lot of the slaves were caught, some were even killed on the spot. After several months on the run, Yuri and Rena somehow made it close to the Xagontetian borders. They persistently chased after them even for so long. It became obvious that the reason they were hunted down to this degree was because Rena had been carrying the emperor’s illegitimate child. Yet, before they could finally cross the border and find some semblance of freedom, a small complication arose. Rena was about to give birth to Charlotte.
With no other choice, Rena and Yuri escaped to a nearby cave. It was there that Charlotte had been born. Since they had stopped for far too long, the pursuers surrounded the area and the possibility of escape seemed impossible. With no other way, Yuri volunteered to turn herself in to serve as a small distraction to give Rena and the now newborn Charlotte to escape. Rena protested against doing that, but Yuri smiled at the end. She gently patted the crying Rena’s head and told her to ‘never look back and continue running. You have to live, not just for yourself but also this child, right?’
After that, she had somehow passed the border into Xagontetia and lost the pursuers. Even though it was hard to just keep herself alive, she tried her very best for the sake of Charlotte. She resorted to stealing and begging just to get by. Eventually, she met back up with Yda and they settled on getting the orphanage back and turning it into an inn.
When the story had finished, a heavy mood had overtaken the place. Yda rushed over and embraced Rena with tears in her eyes. She continuously apologized, saying she “didn’t know anything.”
“Damn those bastards,” Padan cursed as he crossed his arms. “but wait, if that’s the story then why have they only just moved in to retrieve the kid? If they were that desperate, they should’ve tried much sooner.”
Mordred shook his head as he answered, “what are you talking about? It’s not like they’ve been dicking around all this time. Haven’t they tried to invade country for a while now? They probably tried to send spies to locate the kid, but it probably wasn’t progressing all that well.”
“That’s why they escalated the situation to war?!” Yda shouted back. “Or rather, are you saying that this entire war was caused by Charlotte? But that doesn’t make sense! It’s clear now that the church has had ties with the Empire for a while, so why didn’t the church tell them sooner?”
Mordred remained silent for a brief moment before answering with a sigh, “this is what the bishop meant by ‘we should be grateful that it was him’. That guy knew but didn’t sell Charlotte out. He continued to hit you up for cash as to not stir suspicion. After all, nothing is more attention grabbing than a corrupt clergyman doing the right thing. He even went out of his way to destroy other local businesses to cover it up.”
“But if he tried for so long to keep that kid’s whereabouts a secret, why stop now?” Padan asked.
“Guilt… or so that’s what he told me when I asked 'nicely'. He said the war cost too many lives and that giving the Empire what they initially wanted, Charlotte, would appease them to cease this war.”
“So, that means… if we do nothing and let them take the kid to the Empire, the war will stop?”
“… It’s a possibility, but considering what I just heard about the current Emperor, that doesn’t seem likely. He’ll probably intensify the invasion now that there’s nothing to hold him back.” At Mordred’s comment, a small silence filled the room. "At this point, it'd be more beneficial for this country to continue hiding Charlotte."
“Holy shit, doesn’t that mean the bishop’s actions until now was for the sake of the kid? So he was the good guy all along?! Even with this incident, he only caved in because the war has been progressing for too long… right?” a complicated expression invaded Padan’s face. “He chose to sell out a single child, for the lives countless soldiers.”
“I don't know if he was telling the truth or not- perhaps he really just wanted the money- but most of the time, there are reasons for why people commit evil.” Mordred took a deep breath as he withdrew a small red crystal from his inventory. “But you know, justified or not, everyone must take responsibility for their actions.”