Sorry was a bit late
The home works were starting to pile up a bit. I had to clean them out before writing again.
Oh, by the way, I found out that the main character from Botsuraku Youtei Nanode looks exactly how I imagined Ajax :P except for the blue eyes.
***July 6th, 965 A.F.***
Typically, if I have nothing to do, I just go and find something to eat. It is in the nature for dwarves. No matter how much I have eaten, dwarves can almost always cram in some more food. However, I was in no mood to eat at all so I will need to find some other things to do.
I walked down the main road, randomly looking at stores built along the street. You would expect the streets to be filled to the brim with people since it was the capital, but the surrounding was pretty quiet. It was high noon, and everyone retreated to their houses to escape the intense heat from the unrelenting sun. Even some of the stores were left unattended while the owner hides from the heat in the depth of their cool backroom.
There wasn’t much to see. Too many stores were closed for it to be exciting. I walked into one of the few stores that were still opened. They were selling clay potteries. The owner sat at the back of the warehouse, cooling himself off with a fan made of stiff feathers. When he saw me walked into the store, he stopped fanning himself and stared daggers at me.
“You break it you buy it, kid.”
I understand everyone can get cranky during the heat, but it’s no way to treat a potential customer. I resisted the urge to role-play as Link in the pottery store. I know when I am not welcomed in the through. Without saying a single word, I went back on the road.
It seems that I wouldn’t be able to enjoy myself by shopping around while the sun is still high in the sky. Since pleasure is out of the picture, maybe I should attend to business first. Even though it is a week early, it might be beneficial to get acquainted with the people who I will be doing business with. Having a goal set in mind, I headed deeper into the capital city.
When the dwarves built the entire town, they had one word in mind: defense. The Dwarven Capital was a natural fortress built right beside the mountains, forming the city into a semicircle. In the center of the town was the castle of the Royalties straddling over a river which separates the city into the north and south quadrant. The river was fed by a gigantic waterfall that was right behind the castle which could be seen even from where I was a standing. The sight from up close must by breath-taking, though I doubt I would have the chance to see it. That part of the city is closed off for royalties only like the “Forbidden City” in China.
The inn that I stayed, The Prancing Bear, was near the gate in the northern quadrant. The place I was heading towards was near the middle section of the city. I would have been completely lost in the town if it weren’t for the directions given to me on a piece of paper from Mayor Tom. I estimated that it would take about an hour to get there.
After taking a quick look at the directions, I quickly hid it back in my pocket. This is the city after all. All types of people exist here. I don’t want to look out of place and attract unwanted attention. If I looked lost, criminals would pick up on that and target me. Though I am confident that I can get out of any trouble, it would be better if I avoid getting into trouble in the first place.
The long walk was happily uneventful. The only annoying thing was the constant heat and the waterfall-like sweat from my back. I had to stop at a restaurant midway to rehydrate myself. I could have summoned the water inside my ring, but that would mean exposing the ring. I’d rather be safe than sorry.
When I reached the place, I was astonished. I didn’t know what to do. I stood at the front gate to the property staring inside. Seeing that I was staring at the building, a passerby made a comment.
“Fire started last night, and the place was burned down last night. I heard there weren’t any survivors. If you have business with them, contact the adventurer’s guild. They might be able to help you.
“Thank you for the information.”
I looked back at the burnt remains of the estate. Not an inch was spared from the merciless flames. This news sets all of my plans back. How unlucky could I be? RNGesus hates me so much.
Should I head back to Caedona and discuss it with Tom or should I stay in the city and try to find new buyers contact myself? Either way, I will need to stay here for a week before heading back. It would be too suspicious for me to head back one week earlier than the schedule. Tom might think I am up to something if I head back now.
Just as I made up my mind about heading back to the inn, I heard a noise coming from the blackened remains of the house. It was so faint that I could have mistaken it for wind passing through an opening. A part of me want to leave right away, but the other part wanted to go in and investigate. On one hand, the damaged house might collapse anytime soon. On the contrary, I got nothing to do, and I might be able to find something of value that wasn’t burnt.I decided to flip a coin to figure out what I want to do.
“Heads I go in, Tails I leave.”
I took out a small copper coin from my pouch and flipped it. I caught the spinning coin mid-air. I didn’t look at the outcome, though, before putting it back in my pouch. It’s a small trick I learned on the internet back in the days. I use it to figure out what I wanted to do if I can’t make up my mind. At the last moments before I caught the coin, what I really want would be revealed to myself. I muttered the famous last words softly under my breath after I made up my mind.
“Alright thumbs up, let’s do this. Leeroy Jenkins.”
I looked around to make sure there were no one, I slowly pushed the gate, slipping into the property. I walked into the house so that other people couldn’t see me. Even though the weather outside was hot, the inside of the house was significantly warmer. The lingering heat from the fire hasn’t dissipated entirely yet. The interior house was charred black, yet the structure seems to be intact. The house must be built with some expensive material. Each step I took causes the wooden floor creak and moan loudly. I was worried that the floor I stepped on would give way and break so I advanced slowly.
I slowly made my way throughout the house. There were several charred remains I passed by, filling the air with the suffocating smell of burnt flesh. After seeing the remains, I was confident that this fire was not an accident. I could see that some of the limbs on the bodies were cleanly severed. This mean that this fire was not an accident at all. Even stranger is that there is no one investigating the fire at all. The fire happened last night according to the passerby. There should be at least someone here trying to figure out what happened. This could only mean one thing. Someone from the higher up decided to purge this household last night. I guess in a way; this is a blessing for me that it happened before I got into a business relationship with someone in this house.
Just as I was about to leave the house, I heard the wailing again. Now that I am inside the house, I could clearly tell that it was the sound of a crying of a child. Could it be a survivor of the purge? Even though I don’t like to play the hero, if it is within my ability, I would definitely save a child's life. I followed echoing sob down the basement. It doesn’t seem like the fire spared the basement. It was completely dark when I reached the bottom of the stairs. Not a single ray of sunlight entered the basement.
I cast a simple spell for lighting to search the whole basement, but there was nothing except the charred remains. I tried to listen carefully to find out the source of the crying but my effort was in vain as it echoed throughout the basement.
Having no lead of where the crying was from, my attention fell on one of the bodies. The room which the body resides in was strange. The door to the chamber wasn’t really a door, but a stone wall turned half way. It looks like that it was a secret room that the owner of the manor installed. If there was one secret room, there could be another.
Knowing what I am looking for, I diligently looked at all the bottom edge of all the walls. I slowly walked along the wall, carefully inspecting every inch. After a while I finally found it. On the floor was a semicircle etched into the stone. It was a mark clearly indicating that the wall was movable. Seeing that I have found the place, I knocked on the wall.
“Hey is anyone in there? Can you hear me?”
The crying stopped, and owner of the voice hesitated before answering my question.
“Don’t worry, the fire was extinguished already. It’s safe to come out.”
“I don’t know how to get out.”
“You don’t know how to open the door?”
“Alright, in that case, stand far away from the door. I am going to break it open.”
I looked around the basement. Digging around the rubble, I finally found a metal bar. Using the metal bar, I stabbed a the fake wall. The first few hits, I could hear the child screaming in terror. But afterward, the child calmed down and stayed silent. Painstakingly, I attacked the fake wall. Working in the lingering heat of the fire was intolerable. My entire shirt was soaking wet, drenched in my sweat.
After a solid half an hour of work, I finally made a hole in the wall big enough for me to crawl through. Like a giant rat, I squeezed through the hole and ended in a small room that was shielded from the fire. In the corner of the chamber was a small child, shivering in fear.
Author’s post note:
Thank you TUSF for that interesting philosophical debate about the story. I enjoy those type of things. It also forces me to re-examine my story in deep detail.
The debate forced me to revisit the idea of “self-awareness”. Originally, I just used it lazily to set Ajax and G.O.D. as a different being within the story.
I kind of want to be clearer than that, though. True “Self-awareness” of a program shouldn’t just mean that it knows about the outside world. It is a bit of too bland if I use that as an explanation. So what if a program knows about the outside world?
Instead, it should go further than that. I looked at the natural world for ideas, and it came to me. It’s not enough to know about the outside world, but also go beyond its program. When a program is self-aware, it can go against what its program tells it to do. This doesn’t just mean that it learn some new things and apply it. It can go “what’s 1+1? The answer is 3 and fuck you” even though it was never programmed to do so. So basically, the program evolves itself without ever told to do so.