I head back home to get another shirt and put Ed‘s in the dirty pile, before returning to the market. Thank Arthur for waiting so long and when I notice there is not even a single missing item, I offer him 5 arrows of his choice as thanks. There was another 2 hours of daylight left but I wasn’t in any mood to haggle so I packed up my remaining items and went home.
As I opened the door, I found Marg and Elsa playing with some dolls they must have bought. Last year both my Grandparents passed and Marg has moved in with us after selling the house. She is now 17 years old and has started to look for a husband. Since she has saved a small fortune for her dowry, she has started looking at the business men and their sons who come to Oakbridge from The nearest town, Bushburn, which has a population of several thousand, about twice that of Oakbridge if you include the farms nearby. The markets are the ideal places to meet these suitors, and when the kids got to sleep she and the other teens will meet at the bonfire circles to sing, dance and have ‘romantic’ encounters in the bushes and behind trees.
I join them in their playing for the next hour or so when Ed comes through the door, his head held low.
“Marg could you give us a bit of privacy, I need to have a talk with Ed and Elsa, please” I ask her. Perhaps realising the atmosphere, she agrees and goes to the other room.
When we were alone, I stand up to face the 2 of them. “when dad left us, I made him a promise.” that got their attention as they both look up at me. “I told him that while he wasn’t here, I would look after this family. I swore it to him, to the gods and to myself. So that as long as I was alive you would always have someone to love you, to protect you, and give you kick when you go down the wrong path.” As they listen tears start to appear. I haven’t told them about that, and we hardly talk about dad, but we still remember and miss him. “I love you both very much, I hope you know that” tears have gathered in my own eyes now, but I have no intention of wiping them.
“I know Ben, I know. I’m sorry I stole and pushed that guy, I j-just... no, I'm sorry.” Ed mumbles, I almost thought he was going to make excuses, but it seems a few hours of thinking has let him realise his faults.
“me too, I love you too” Elsa says as she hugs me first and then hugs Ed, trying to comfort us both. I move towards them and embrace them both. As the relief of Ed’s incident being resolved, I can’t help but think of Elsa. She hasn’t had troubles like Ed and is in fact a complete angel, lots of friends, kind and hopefully with Ed’s reform, 2 caring big brothers who will help keep her that way. The only danger is she will get spoiled and weak. As we hug, I notice that unlike Ed and me who have calluses, muscle and strength, she is soft and squishy in every way. It’s fine for the moment, it’s not like I want her to start getting into fights and become some tomboy, but when she gets older, she will need to get married.
Neglecting the selfish thoughts of rage that appear whenever i think of someone marrying my precious baby sister... there are all sorts of dangers that are associated with being a peasant daughter. Although as a peasant we have a lot more freedom than nobles when it comes to picking our partners, such as families don’t get to decide who they marry. While the parents will always have an effect on the daughter’s decision and usually provide the dowry, they have no legal jurisdiction to force or betroth their children to one another. The only downside to marriage is that they’re stuck with each other till one of the them dies.
Mum was lucky, not because dad died, she and dad loved each other very much, but that she was an independent money maker. From mine and her income, we made more than enough that she didn’t need or want another spouse, and lucky for me because she had offers. It seemed I underestimated mum’s reputation in town.
Since my qi was given to her, it changed her slightly. Although she didn’t gain any noticeable strength, but she did lose baby weight quickly, gain colour to her face and her hair became glossier. Combined with her fuller figure from several successful pregnancies and her original decent looks she became the belle of the village. She was originally about an 8 in the village and maybe 6 in a large city, but now she would be an 8 in the city and an easy 10 in Oakbridge. Add in her cooking skill, a decent dowry and you have the perfect wife.
Elsa has inherited some of mums looks and will definitely become a little beauty, but even if she has her pick of the men there are still dangers. I’ve seen several couple in the village that started happy ended with the wife being bullied or beaten. Fortunately, I haven’t seen anyone beaten or stabbed to death, but it does happen every decade or so just in this small village.
And that’s only the physical danger of a bad marriage, not even counting the thousands of peasants that die every year to starvation, disease or miscarriage, all because they lacked the money to pay for food, medicine or a proper midwife. If I continue with my hunting, I could eventually earn enough to support this entire family throughout the rest of their lives. Multiply that number by 3 for each of our spouses and children? I could live in those woods hunting every day and I would still only barely get by.
If I want Elsa to have a safe and happy life there are 2 options. The first is give Elsa the ability to live independently. If I turned Elsa into a warrior queen, and I can, teach her academics and send her to live in a large town or city then not only would she have a large choice of suitors to choose, but also the ability to survive on her own and turn anyone who tries to take advantage of her into her bitch.
The second option is a background. I never planned to stay in Oakbridge my entire life and intend to explore at the very least the north if not the other parts of the kingdom. If I want to make money while travelling my best bet is to become a sell sword. Sell-swords are basically mercenaries that do jobs that may involve violence. While a normal solitary sell-sword might not earn much money, a skilled one that’s also in charge of a company of other sell-swords does. There are at least a dozen companies in the north alone who could pull together 50 or more men and the largest from what I hear is the Cragmen, who are 300 strong. There are rarely any jobs that require so many men outside of war so most of the time so they are mostly split up on different assignments and will instead have a headquarters in one of the cities, but they are basically minor lords to a lot of people. Some lords can’t even field 50 men in their worse years, and will invite large company leaders to dine with, and even marry their second daughters to them so they can have some assurances in war time.
I have no intention to be one of the most powerful men in the North, but if I can gather 2 dozen men together under my banner, I could easily intimidate any would be suitor so long as they're not a lord and even then, they’d think twice before laying a hand on Elsa.
As I think over my options, I have decided it would be foolish to put all my eggs in one basket, so I will instead do both. I will make sure Elsa learns some self-defence techniques and knows how to read and write, while I will continue my cultivation and become a sell-sword. Although the qi in this world is lower than the old, I started cultivating 6 years earlier than my previous and all the tricks and skills i knew have been remembered. If I wanted to, I could have become a 1st tier cultivator at 6 and become the strongest 6-year-old on the continent. Instead I chose to put off my ascension in order to form a stronger base than in my last life. This way although the qi is weaker, I will be able to draw it in at afaster rate and where previously I would be lucky if I ever reached 2nd tier in this world, with y new foundation I should have a similar cultivation speed to that of my previous life. In fact with the clearly weaker organisms in this world I could probably reach the 3rd tier without any of the injuries that I suffered, and could live free and undeterred for a century or 2. Of course this is all very hypothetical and dependent on me not doing anything stupid like surrounded by an army or challenging knights before I am fully grown.
When mum finally got home, Ed and I told her what happened. She shouted at Ed for a good 15 minutes before hugging him and me. We then sat down for dinner with lighter hearts and full bellies.