JohnWillStab formed the ball of crisp snow with his hands quietly.
“I’m… not certain this is a good idea…” Sonorch said, staring at John from across the snow-covered field.
“It’ll be fine!” John replied.
Sonorch slumped his shoulders.
“Look, I’m thankful for your unwanted help-…”
“You’re welcome!” John replied, cutting the man’s constant whining off.
The wind howled as John shot the man a reassuring thumbs-up.
“Trust me, I know what I’m doing!” John exclaimed, hoping his voice would reach the man through the snowstorm.
The old man’s face morphed, displaying a little more discomfort than before.
“Like I said, I appreciate your offer to help me get over my son’s death…” he began.
John observed his newly-polished snowball, seeing that it was the right size for what he had in mind.
Sonorch clenched his fists.
“BUT IS USING MY SON AS A BASEBALL BAT REALLY ALRIGHT?! THIS HAS GOT TO BE A CRIME!” he demanded, holding his son’s stiff, frozen corpse by the feet.
“Well, I was going to suggest you use it as a sleigh, but I thought you’d be against it!” John explained with a shrug.
“I’M AGAINST THIS TOO!” Sonorch cried, placing his son down onto the ground.
John clicked his tongue.
“There’s just no pleasing you…”
JohnWillStab folded his arms.
“The goal of this exercise was to show you that your son’s body is an object, not a person.” He explained.
“WHY A BASEBALL BAT?!”
“I thought it’d be the easiest to pull off… well, aside from using it as a sleigh…”
Sonorch pinched the bridge of his nose.
“Look, just stop, you don’t have to help me.”
John shook his head.
“I know, but I have a strong sense of empathy. So, I will.”
Sonorch raised both eyebrows.
“Empathy my ass…” he thought.
John scratched his snow-coated head.
“Alright, since using the corpse as a tool won’t work, how about we try another tactic!” he exclaimed.
“Another tactic? What exactly do you have in mind…?” asked the old man.
Back in the tower, Sonorch stared forward with a look of shock and borderline disgust.
He sat at an old, wooden table, beside him lay a bottle of John’s booze, opposite him stood another – in the centre of the table stood a candle.
“This is… too much…” he complained.
JohnWillStab spoke in a high-pitched voice as he puppeteered the corpse from behind.
“What do you mean, stranger? What is too much?” he asked.
The corpse now wore a crude wig made from sculpted snow, in a way, it resembled a helmet more than a wig.
John used the soot from the fire to attempt some sort of makeup.
John clicked his tongue, still talking in a high-pitched voice.
“Look, I’m not your dead son, I’m J-John-… Joan… JoanWillDead…?” he stumbled over his words, trying to come up with a name for this character he decided to voice.
The old man was speechless as John continued his in-character conversation.
“So, I’m JoanWillDead – what about you?” he asked.
Face with an unyielding silence, Sonorch conceded.
John moved the corpse such that its head now rested upon its arm, the movement was preceded by a sickening crunch.
“That’s an interesting name which I have never heard before…” Joan replied.
Sonorch cringed a little at John’s poor acting.
“So, what do you do for a living?” she asked.
Sonorch scratched his bearded chin, uncertain if he should share this information with a total stranger, not to mention a stranger who was playing around with his son’s corpse.
“Back on earth, I was a plumber…” he explained.
“My wife didn’t play the game so she wasn’t isekaid with me and my son…”
“My family didn’t get isekaid either, only my and some friends,” Joan explained.
“It’s not like I was all that close to my family,” she explained.
Sonorch looked down to his feet.
“Well, I guess that’s pretty lucky for you… I loved my family…” he sighed.
Seeing that Sonorch now referred to his family in the past tense, John knew he was heading in the right direction.
“Don’t you like it here in the isekai?” Joan questioned.
Sonorch gave his answer almost instantly.
“Of course not! How could I?!”
John was shocked both in and out of character.
“Well – the whole dead family thing aside, do you enjoy it?” he rephrased.
The man shook his head.
“You can’t separate it like that! Family comes before anything else for me!” he explained.
The two remained silent for several seconds.
Much to John’s surprise, it was Sonorch who asked the next question.
“Don’t you miss you family?” he asked.
John made the corpse’s head turn to the side, placing its thumb and index finger below the chin as if it was pondering something.
“Well, for me personally, the isekai is a dream come true, so if anything, I’d be more upset if my family tried to get me out.” He explained.
Sonorch stared at John blankly.
“I guess we have pretty different approached…” he concluded.
“I can’t agree.” Joan shook her head.
Sonorch raised an eyebrow.
“I have people close to me, like a non-blood-related family!” he explained.
A smile spread across John’s face.
“Well… what if one of them died?” Sonorch asked.
John’s smile didn’t fade.
“Well, I could be sad for a while…” he began.
“I mean, no amount of alcohol, sitting around depressed or strongly-worded letters directed at a certain god would bring him back,” John explained with a dishonest laugh.
Joan folded her arms.
“As heartless as it sounds, all you can do is go out and meet people!”
Joan grabbed the bottle of alcohol and poured it into her mouth, most it out just spilt back out.
Sonorch looked down to his feet and nodded.
“You’re right… It does sound pretty heartless…” he agreed.
Joan clasped her hands together.
“So, how exactly did you freeze time anyway?” he asked.
Sonorch looked down to his feet, avoiding eye contact with either of the two corpses.
“It’s an auxiliary class, the Galaciomancer.” He explained.
John cocked his head.
“You have an auxiliary class too?” he asked.
“Too?” Sonorch questioned.
“Neverminded that! What else can you do?!” he asked excitedly.
Sonorch smiled awkwardly.
“Well, in order to gain the Galaciomancer class, you have to already be an ice user – so the class is mostly stat and spell buffs…”
“Oh…” John was severely underwhelmed.
JohnWillStab put the body down.
“How about a short break?” he asked, before he snatched the bottle from the body’s hand and drank from it.
Sonorch prepared more soup with he decided to share with John, it was a fairly simple recipe.
First, you took beef or whatever fantasy equivalent you could find and rubbed it with salt and pepper.
Next, you cut it up into pieces about the length of the first two segments of your middle finger.
Sear the sides of the meat in oil and deglaze the bottom of the pot with white wine or beer.
Drop in some chopped spring onions, parsley, celery, regular onion, carrots and potatoes.
Let the vegetables fry for no more than two minutes before adding the potatoes, preferably cut into pieces no bigger than the first segment of your thumb.
Alternatively, rice could also be used.
Add a crushed clove of garlic and optionally some nutmeg.
Lastly, pour in the water or stock and let it boil until the potatoes are cooked.
Once the potatoes are done, let the excess water evaporate until you are left with a sauce-like consistency.
Add a tablespoon of butter and a teaspoon of flour, then mix.
Cook for a few minutes to get rid of the raw flour taste and serve with buttered bread.
“Do you just keep a kitchen’s worth of food on you at all times?” John asked eating the under-salted stew from a wooden bowl.
“I used to want to be a cook before I got married,” he explained.
John dipped the thick slice of buttered bread into the light brown mixture.
“Guess working as a cook doesn’t pay well…” he remarked.
Sonorch laughed for the first time since he met John.
“Seriously! We cook for dozens of people at the same time whilst maintaining a clean, efficient workspace and working with arbitrary legal restrictions!” he complained.
John lifted both eyebrows in shock.
“Sounds pretty rough!” he agreed.
Sonorch breathed a sigh, a faint smile appeared on his face.
“Yeah… it was… still, it was back-breaking work which I don’t regret a single minute of!”
He turned to face John.
“What about you?” he asked.
John scratched the back of his head awkwardly.
“Well… I was… an… online content creator!” he explained, his words were deliberately vague.
“You were a pornstar?” Sonorch asked.
John would have spat the stew out in shock is it wasn’t the only food he had in a long while.
“Of course not! I streamed games! Strategy games specifically!”
“I guess that doesn’t pay well either…” he remarked.
“Actually, it did… But I must have pissed somebody off because false accusations began to spread like a wildfire…” he sighed.
Sonorch cocked his head.
“Accusations? Like what?”
John breathed a sigh.
“Well, let’s see…” he began.
“I was called a cheater, scammer, liar and a pervert…”
“Then it was predator, groomer, thief and the good ol’ racist slash sexist combo…”
“After that things got even less coherent, I was accused of practising occult magic at least three times…” he admitted.
“One guy even edited my face into an old, world war two picture claiming that I was literally Hitler.”
“It kind of sucks having tens of thousands of people your trusted think you’re literally Satan on a whim…” he said blankly.
Sonorch looked at John blankly.
“I guess that must have been pretty hard on you…” he asked.
John shook his head.
“Nah, actually, my dad seemed pretty stoked when he heard I was a dark shaman.” He remarked without a hint of sarcasm.
“…Right…” Sonorch replied uncertainly.
After a few quiet seconds, Sonorch spoke again.
“I guess that means your father must be pretty happy that you can use magic and teleport around now!” he said, hoping to lighten the mood.
“I bet! Though he’d probably be disappointed I’m not some sort of wizard!” he replied.
Sonorch smiled as he looked to the corpse performing a hand-stand against one of the walls of the tower.
John saw there the old man’s gaze fell.
“His soul isn’t there anymore,” John said bluntly.
Sonorch couldn’t help but smile at John repetition.
“Yeah, you’ve been saying that for the last few days,” he replied.
John shook his head.
“No, I’ve looked inside.” He explained much to Sonorch’s confusion.
“What do you-” the man was overcome with shock as John tentacles came into view, like before, John could toggle their visibility one a per-person basis.
John used a tentacle to drag the body over to them.
“I’ve been looking through the body for a while now, I was hoping to find at least a piece of his soul, Bromy could heal the hole and I could pop the soul back in…” he explained.
“But it’s just not there…” he said plainly.
Sonorch saw the wriggling tentacles which manifested from John’s sleeves, they wriggled and writhed in the air like ethereal rags blowing in the wind.
“You… were trying to revive him?” Sonorch asked.
John breathed a displeased sigh.
“Yeah, feel free to call me a hypocrite… I guess I should have told you, but I didn’t want to get your hopes up…” he admitted.
The cave remained quiet as John moved the body back to its original resting place.
Sonorch turned to face John with a quivering smile.
“Thanks…” he began.
“For trying to save my dead son.”
“Don’t mention it…”
Later that day, JohnWillStab and Sonorch left the tower in search of a place to bury the dead body, after all, it would despawn after a few hours once the time unfroze.
After they dug through the snow eventually reaching grassy soil, Sonorch dug the hold and buried his son.
Not long later, the snow melted and the ice thawed as the spell wore off, it did so quickly, leaving behind now water.
Time didn’t return to normal until all the snow and ice was gone.
Leaving John and Sonorch behind.
“Well… I think I’ll get going…” John said, cracking his back and stretching his arms.
“Yeah… guess I should go find something to do… maybe I could get into cooking again?” he wondered.
“You do make really good stew!” he exclaimed.
Sonorch accepted the compliment with a smile.
The two went their separate ways, sharing one final wave of the hand as a goodbye.
“I’ll see you sometime!”
“Next time we meet you’ll have to pay for my food!” Sonorch yelled back.
And with that, time returned to normal.
Back at the L.F.T.O base…
Bonifacius flew out of his bed with the momentum from his charge sufficient to launch his armless self through the roof.
The confused Curstl fell to the ground, suddenly dragged down by the weight of Bonifacius’ armoured arm.
A scream could be heard from downstairs as Jordan’s brother was face-stabbed by the otherwise nonchalant Bromy.
Both Foxly and ♛ felt the sharp pain of their joints snapping into place from when John repositioned their arms and legs.
Alex began to scream in pain in unison with the Thief who didn’t even have the time to question where all the snow went.
Confused, Thal also began to scream, uncertain of what happened in the second between this and the previous moment.
Revenberry was the only one who remained unharmed.