Decent Burial

Author’s Note: All of humanity never likes being in Hell. And by the way, a place filled with lots of fire and brimstone isn’t Hell’s only form…

Once, there was a kingdom which had just overthrown its tyrannical king and his allies. Led by a renegade general, the kingdom managed to defeat the tyrant’s forces. Few among the enemy, including the tyrant king, were left alive in the end of the decisive battle. As the citizens wished to truly show how cruel the tyrant was to his subjects, the tyrant and his remaining allies were sentenced to death by hanging, followed by the criminals’ bodies being left hanging in a corner of the kingdom for the citizens to publicly disrespect. No protests were openly voiced, and the leader of the rebellion simply did what he thought was right. The rebel leader was crowned king, and it seemed like the kingdom chose a proper ruler.

Still, it was not like there were no people who disagreed with some of the new king’s actions. A few months after the rebellion’s end, the new king had met such a person, and that meeting did not end with that person becoming an enemy of the kingdom.

That person was a mere servant, a youth who seemed faceless.

“Your Majesty, may I request permission for something that I would like to do?” said servant asked while he knelt on one knee and looked at the red carpet beneath his feet.

“If you have come to me to ask permission for something, then it must be a grave matter,” the king, who was still in his prime, said with his deep voice and a raised eyebrow. “Look up, servant, and tell me what it is that you would want permission for.”

The servant immediately did as he was told with a calm and serious expression.

“You may not wish to hear this, Your Majesty, but I wish to give a decent burial to the tyrants, even if they did deserve their sentence.”

The servant’s rare red eyes never looked away from the king’s blue eyes, even if the nearby soldiers and advisers whispered to each other about the insanity that they had just heard.

“Your Majesty,” an adviser in a white-and-gold robe quickly whispered with gritted teeth, “The public will be in an outrage if they hear this servant’s madness! I beg of you, please do not let him–”

The king raised a palm at his adviser’s face. The tall and armored king stood up, silently looking at the calm servant, and then at his agitated allies inside the silenced room. He closed his eyes to think more deeply.

After some time, the king opened his eyes. He locked eyes with the servant, and he said:

“I will not allow it. The public will be outraged if I allow you to do such a thing.”

The soldiers and advisers breathed sighs of relief upon hearing the king’s declaration, but before they could go drag the servant away…

“Is it alright if I keep their graves hidden from the eye of the public, then, Your Majesty?” the kneeling servant asked, still showing no sign of a crumbling composure. “If I cannot bury them in the local cemetery, then is it alright if I bury them somewhere where their families–if they still have such hiding within the kingdom or somewhere outside the kingdom–can visit without disturbance from the public?”

Many eyes around the king twitched at the servant’s statement. The king’s eyes widened, and his mouth slightly opened silently. He raised his hand to stop any advisers and soldiers from whispering in his ear as he looked with wonder at the bold servant in front of him.

“Why do you wish to do such a thing, servant?” the king asked after several heavy moments of silence. “You are aware that the public may construe such an action as supporting the cause of the tyrants if I ever allow it, correct?”

“Yes,” the servant replied. “I am aware of such a consequence, Your Majesty. I do not support the evils that the tyrants had done, but I still wish to do it.”

“Then why do you wish to do it, servant?” said the king.

The servant closed his eyes, took one deep breath, and opened his eyes again before answering.

“I feel as if they still deserve some respect, just like any other person, Your Majesty, even if it is a little amount, even if it is just in the form of a decent burial or a prayer for them to rest in peace.”

The red-eyed servant with black hair and tattered brown clothes stood up, never taking his eyes away from the king’s eyes, and then he continued with a voice that echoed through the large and silent room.

“If you did something that you thought was right, but ended up being hated by your subjects because of it, would you beg for forgiveness and a second chance at life, even if you do not deserve it, Your Majesty?”

Around the king and the servant, fists clenched and hands began grip tightly on their metal weapons…but only for a short while…a short while before the king took a deep breath and gave his answer.

“Yes,” the king answered. “I would beg for forgiveness and a second chance at life.”

Eyes widened and mouths half-opened around the king, for this king had once told them in a party–and he was fully sober during that time–that he would accept death wholeheartedly if he committed a fault that deserved a death sentence.

“If they do not give you forgiveness and a second chance, though,” the servant added, “What will you do, dear king who wishes to do what is right for the kingdom?”

Heavy silence permeated the room as the king went deep into thought again. Then, as the stunned allies looked at their king, he let out an answer while his eyes looked back at the stunned eyes and his mouth made a small frown.

“I will admit it: I have lied to you, my dear subjects. I do not fear dying, but I do fear dying sadly and sinfully.” And then he looked back at the servant. “If they do not give me forgiveness and a second chance, then I shall keep on begging for forgiveness, a second chance, and a lesson on what sort of king I should be, all while I try to keep death away from me. I do not want to accept a death sentence. I want happiness for my kingdom, but I want happiness for myself as well. I want every one of us to be happy.”

The king paused and released a deep sigh and closed his eyes for a few seconds. Then, he let his vision move around the room while he followed up his answer.

“And I will admit this, too…Alone, I am weak. No matter how much my subjects exalt me, I am still a human who can make mistakes and cannot live and be happy alone, just like them. We may have been made aware of that many times, but sometimes, our pride obscures that fact.”

No clenched fists or hands tightly gripping their weapons responded to the king’s statement.

“And I think that I now understand more about why you wish to give those executed men a decent burial, dear servant,” the king, with a bright smile, said to the servant. “You wish to show them what true happiness is and how they were supposed to gain it, even if they are already in the afterlife, am I correct?”

The servant nodded with a smile. “Yes, Your Majesty.”

“Then go forth and give them a decent burial, but do not bury them in the local cemetery so that the public will not be outraged. Inform their families about the burial, tell them that they have my condolences…and tell them that I wish to have some friendly dining with them.”

The red-eyed servant who was a foot shorter than the king knelt on one knee and looked at the ground in respect again. “Thank you very much, Your Majesty. I shall take my leave and follow your orders now. And before I forget, Your Majesty, I would like to say that I now feel more honored serving you.”

“Your appreciation is accepted with great gratitude, servant.”

And so, the strange servant left the room.

After watching the servant leave the room, the king approached a soldier.

“You,” said the king with a gentle smile. “Call my most trusted general. Tell her that I need to talk to her about finding the families of those who were executed at the end of the rebellion.” The king suddenly paused and raised his hand to keep the soldier from running immediately. “No, tell her that we are going to find the families of our enemies in the civil war and have a friendly dinner with them.” And then he smiled even wider. “All of them.”

“Yes, Your Majesty!” the soldier declared with a smile and a bow, and he left quickly.

Meanwhile, the rest of the allies in the room were filled with awe. The king saw his allies’ expressions, and he kept on smiling.

“Well, we will need to tell the public about this eventually, but we should do it while keeping the potential damage to a minimum,” the king said without any visible trace of nervousness. “Guide me well, my dear soldiers and advisers! And prepare my knighting sword! I’m going to be knighting that strange boy later…”

“Yes, Your Majesty!” the allies loudly said in unison. “We shall do what our honorable king asks of us!”

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