Chapter 29 - At Sword Point
“Your future will be decided by the Lord, but today’s supplies will be given free of charge, so please, take these with an easy heart. What’s there to gain from squeezing the hungry and powerless anyway? So for today at least, make sure your children do not starve.” Edna calmly explained.
People began to move in unison when told to keep their children from hunger. Parents were more concerned with their children’s stomachs than their own. They had to immediately tend to their kids’ needs regardless of the ingenuity of Edna’s words. To put it more frankly, despite their fear of Eli, they were going to end up dead either by his sword or by starvation.
The wheat piled up in the warehouse was brought out. Rowell and the women were to make bread while the men put the materials she specified on the cart. Seeing that the castle was serious in supplying them, everyone rushed to load the goodies onto the cart. When Edna asked how many mouths to feed each of them had, whether they owned land, or if they had any other talent, their voices gradually grew louder and their bustling movements grew steadier.
Those sounds floated into Eli’s ears as he leaned against the railing and watched. Frowning, his mind was filled with doubts about Edna. These people were now buzzing with such activity he couldn’t believe they were the same ones he saw yesterday. Nothing was worse than starving to death. They could not break their tenacious will to live even if this was their last feast. The persistent struggle to live did not only manifest on the battlefield.
“She must be there somewhere, still in her short clothes. I wish there was at least some damn fabric to save her ducal dignity.” Eli unknowingly mumbled to himself, looking for Edna with his arms crossed over his chest.
Suddenly, absolute silence reigned. Everyone who saw Eli froze on the spot. It was all due to his imposing height of 190 centimeters and sharp, cold eyes. Eli tightened his mouth as if enjoying the atmosphere, scanning the hall with a cold gaze for Edna.
She then appeared, puzzled by the abrupt silence. Today she wore a short and blurry violet-colored dress, with her hair tied tightly up. She was looking straight ahead with bright eyes, and Eli felt a different air from Edna as opposed to yesterday. It compelled him to unconsciously stare at her.
Feeling the stinging gaze on the nape of her neck, she looked up at the second-floor railing and met Eli in the eye with some slight embarrassment. She swiftly climbed the stairs, approaching his side to say, “I’m sorry, I woke you up. I tried to be as quiet as I could…”
“The noise can be heard all the way from town. What are you doing?”
“I was doing what the Lord allowed me to do yesterday,” she replied.
“Have you already looked around the castle? How do you know what’s in it and where it is?”
“Rowell helped me. Are you hungry? I’ll tell them to prepare a meal.”
In truth, she specifically got Rowell’s help to avoid Eli’s suspicion, even though she didn’t need it. Eli turned around and grabbed her wrist as she was about to go back downstairs.
“What’s the matter?” Edna asked, looking at his cold, expressionless face which betrayed no emotion, but his eyes were as sharp as if they could see through her soul. It was a gaze that made her body instinctively shrink.
She swallowed dryly and tried to carefully take his pulse. She was very familiar with this gaze: those were suspicious eyes, waiting to pounce on her every blunder. She lived under those same watchful eyes for 16 years. She couldn’t tell whether Eli was capable enough to see through her or not, but she felt exposed even though she was adept at the art of concealing.
Eli held her arm and craned his head over her shoulder then shouted, “Go ahead and move as the madam instructed. I’ll close the gate if you procrastinate.”
Hearing Eli’s words, people began to move again. But this time, they were scared witless and did not even dare breathe. Edna sighed lightly and, putting her free hand on Eli’s, which was still tightly latched onto her arm, she calmly said, “You must be hungry. I’ll prepare your meal.”
Eli wondered at what exactly Edna said to talk these people into displaying such willingness to live overnight. He was burning to find out what she was hiding, even if he had to resort to threats. As his eyes deepened further, Edna’s pupils dilated as if she had come to a realization.
At that very moment, Eli made a decision. He would no longer keep his suspicions about her bottled inside. Eli grabbed her by the arm and dragged her into the room. Seeing Edna being dragged through, the people in the hall froze again and exchanged silent conversations with their eyes.
‘Is something wrong?’
‘Is the lord against his wife giving us supplies?’
‘So what do we do now?’
Their anxious eyes intertwined in the air.