Dreamweaver chapter 38
We’re still deciding what to do as a group with the gnome elder.
Many are confused and desperate, meaning anything could happen.
At this point, I won’t let Asakura or Rina out of my sight.
The good news was I had an escape plan that I’d worked out with gnome right before this came up. We had told the others that there was an escape plan but not the details so people weren’t quite as freaked about the orcs trying to surround us. So we didn’t need to piss in our boots quite as much as before. We’d gone over it on the way back from negotiating with the orcs. But after that, what comes next?
Of course the escape plan wasn’t going to be for free…
That got me thinking; maybe what we really needed was an alternative choice for where to go after the escape plan worked out? But till now there wasn’t anything spotted.
“Eh? Before we finalize details on that, Gnome-san, you say there is a dwarf settlement near here? And how many days travel to the Yayoi city and to this dwarf settlement?” I asked energetically.
“Dwarves are like sturdy folk right?” Akira wondered aloud. Akira had also developed a habit of stroking his goatee beard. Was it like a racial tick or compulsion to do that?
“Dwarves? Those are like little men right?” Rina was trying to picture what we were talking about. Because she didn’t play games or read novels this was a new concept to her.
But maybe she was right. What if they were nothing like we’d read about?
“It seems like it’s a better deal than orcs, that’s for sure. Good job Shun! I knew you’d open up the road ahead!” Asakura cheered. She patted me on the back. Her hand lingered there for a little while.
Ah that felt good. I felt very shy all the sudden.
Suddenly all the boy students were looking at me very jealously. But they didn’t dare say anything for fear of losing faction with Sensei.
Gnome nodded but remained quiet. It seems he was studying us as much as we were studying him. That was alarming in a way because it showed how intelligent he was.
“Oh civilization? Can it really be true?” some of the others were getting excited. Suddenly there was a lot of noisy chatter again. Too much background useless comments too and people were all stirred up again.
But what can you expect? It was like the end of the world to these people so naturally they’d talk a lot and want to argue to get their way on whatever they thought would grant them survival.
We all wondered what it could be like. We’d struggled so far jut for an inch of ground and finally it seemed like a safe place might be up ahead…
I hadn’t thought of trying to get help from other creatures near us besides the Yayoi mostly because I didn’t know such things were possible. But if that were possible…perhaps new options were opening up. Until now I hadn’t considered that a group besides humans might have better opportunities than being with fellow humans too. It’s a natural tendency to think one’s own people are always superior to others, but now it was time to realize that was a false concept sometimes.
“Should we continue going towards the Yayoi city, now that we know its direction from here? Or should we look for this dwarf city? We need a place we could rely on for a home base,” I argued. The others agreed with this. They were even open minded about the idea that we might not be best on our own or leading ourselves. This also helped to promote the idea that having a king is a bad idea; which I wanted to remind them of any chance I had.
“Tell us about this dwarf settlement? They mine gold and stuff right?” Akira pleaded.
Gnome gave himself a face slap. “Silly humans. I forgot about the greed reflex inherent to your race,” he muttered under his breath.
“Uh, we don’t all want gold,” Asakura pleaded. “We just want a safe place to live and a comfortable place to live in, I think. We need a place to buy time and survive for a bit while we figure things out and to avoid the orcs.”
Gnome considered her words and then softened up. “I suppose that’s something righteous to desire…”
“It’s OK Gnome. We don’t want to take from others without earning our way and chipping in for the work,” I reminded him.
“Hm, good. Good attitude,” I heard him say to me.
While we all were gathered around one another we somehow ended up listening to Gnome. It was true we needed time for battle preparations still, but after nearly two full days of non-stop fighting people were on the verge of collapse and needed to rest while they listened to him.
Some of them were even too tired to worry about lying down on the dirt or getting their clothes or hair dirty.
Gnome seemed reluctant but finally relented seeing how desperate and wounded we look. He’d at first denied Akimoto from distrust but somehow I’d broken through his stern exterior, plus I think Rina’s pleading eyes helped. “Not sure if I’d normally recommend it, but you guys seem to be in such terrible conditions. You all look too young to fight and stay within orc territory. But working for dwarves may have some of its own issues,” He rubbed his beard.
“They can’t be worse than orc issues,” Akira reasoned.
“Yeah, but that’s just it. Dwarf issues are orc issues. They are like oil and water and naturally oppose each other. It’s like cat and mice in a way except that there’s a shitload of the mice and they are as big as the cats and breed quickly. So if you get involved with one, you get involved with the other somehow,” he contested.
“Ah, I hadn’t thought of that,” Akira replied while we listened.
“So even the good choices here have some consequences to them,” Asakura said lightly.
Then he explained how dwarves and gnomes are nothing alike and completely different species. Apparently a lot of both species get pretty offended if you mix them up or lump them together he said. The risk of offending them on this could make us lose opportunities, he warned.
Of course the way he described it made them sound even closer together, though we could see he was pretty sensitive about it. In fact his being overly sensitive about it was why it had actually been brought up since it had nothing to do with the conversation.
He also explained how great builders they were and could do incredible feats of engineering and lived in massive fortresses tall enough for tall ogres to walk through and that could house thousands of people in them for the purpose of defending their people and helping them to protect their crafts and mines. He described great big huge castles with lots of towers made with polished marble and durable rock for several minutes while we listened in awe.
It sounds amazing!
Other creatures have few advantages like they did because of the long term preparedness scheme ingrained in the dwarves as part of their racial heritage. He believed also that was why dwarves endured and were one of the first races to be born in this world even while many others had become extinct.
“Can we go see that Shun? It sounds really cool,” Rina whispered in my ear.
Sensei was also excitedly slapping me in the back to confirm.
They sounded really interesting. I couldn’t help but want to meet them more than ever. Gnome seemed to be explaining it like they were hard to work with, but in the end he made it sound like the safest place around…
In the end we started to work through a plan. It took some prying and reassurance from us but finally he relented and began to spill more information. After all the sooner he got rid of us the sooner the orc threat would leave trying to search his hill.
Gnome confirmed a few other details to us. It’s also great that dwarves don’t usually take slaves, but don’t interfere with slavery that’s brought in from other countries domains as part of their treaty with the humans and other groups. This was exactly what we were looking for. We could build up a good foundation possibly if we had an opportunity to gain a way to live and trade.
But there’s a catch.
They only take in orc slayers and allies to help them in their war against evil. This is because dwarf craftsmen are obviously on a higher level in both technology and quality anyone else coming to their city is never going to find work in such trades. After all why would they buy inferior products? They would only be able to do things dwarves can’t do or things that it gives the dwarves a big advantage to have other people involved with, and stuff like farming. Anybody that doesn’t do those sorts of things isn’t on their list of allied forces permitted in their city gates.
They also pursue orc warfare and other evil creatures ruthlessly. So dwarves like mercenaries from other races but other than that, there are almost no options.
Would the others feel despair at being something like a lowly farmer I thought while listening to Gnome. It didn’t exactly sound like a way to attract mate potential.
He described it as a four day journey on land. But the journey to the Yayoi settlement was only like six. That meant we had to make a choice, in addition to the orc problem.
It was when we finally learned how close both settlements were that people started to calm down about the prisoner of war trade option. In fact people started to have hope now.
The way gnome described it, he said we had a chance to gain wealth and even have property but the dwarves would work us to death he said. That’s why him and his clan didn’t go work for the dwarves right now, who were paying handsomely to protect their vast wealth and profitable mines. They’d had offers to go work there and fight for them as fighting craftsmen. Surprisingly that led me to find out that the gnomes here are some kind of clan that does contract work as scouts.
So they’d decided to split from the dwarves because they specialize in scouting for new mining opportunities and not for scouting for military use. They didn’t want to only do only military contracts. Though the gnome elder knew about and was good at fighting, he didn’t like having all the young people in his clan entirely devoted to war before getting them married off and stabilizing the future of his clan first, he explained.
He had a responsibility to ensure the growth and survival of the clan before securing wealth which takes precedence over accumulating vast sums of dwarven wealth, he added.
Of course he didn’t know Japanese work to death any way. Might as well get something for it, while we’re already at it? But the Yayoi option was tempting me too. We still didn’t know the full extent of what both could offer and that made it harder to decide.
“But are dwarves open minded about accepting other races,” I asked him. “Will we be just second hand citizens and live with a sub-par standard of living if we are with them?”
Gnome was helpful on this and soothed my fears immediately. Then I found out there are several dwarf sub-races and they sometimes have different views, but this group of mountain dwarves didn’t have any problems working with other races as long as we didn’t steal anything or show dishonesty. But they believed in work after all.
Gnome got serious then warning me dwarves view thieves as bad as murderers and to be very careful working with them because of it. “But as long as you show you can be valuable to them in some way, they have an open mind,” he concluded.
But would people like Rina with disabilities be able to fit in without being preyed upon? That was a tougher thing to ask. It might not be good to ask such a thing in a group discussion because it may trigger some kind of discrimination.
We found out that though gnomes are long lived, this gnome elder was one of the only ones surviving of his generation that he’d known of for several hundred miles around because so many creatures had died in the fighting between the humans and the orcs.
That made me think twice about the offer to fight for dwarves…and wealth. It wasn’t out as a decision, but I had to think about long term consequences and what I really wanted first. We might not live as long as the dwarves so would we be considered fodder to them? How would that work out exactly? The way gnome described them it seems like the dwarves were successful, but that they would put dwarves first.
Everything was so complicated all over again.
But as soon as people heard they could make some decent money working for dwarves they got pretty excited. In fact they were blinded by the idea throwing all caution out the window it seemed for the chance for wealth. They liked money after all. In fact I had to calm them down. They also liked the idea that dwarves knew how to do good masonry and had walled towns that were well done and well protected.
Some of them wondered if dwarves were similar to Japanese in some respects. Eh? What a strange idea to have brought up.
Orc money would probably take a hit trading with dwarves, I realized thinking about the money we still had in the demon box. So I’d have to probably see if there was a way to mitigate the damage of that problem too. They probably hated them more than humans so, how would that work out?
We took turns resting and doing guard duty that night.
Naturally I took first watch so I could use the demon box uninterrupted. These new developments could open up a lot of possibilities now that I had more of an idea what to ask and discuss with fox girl and Sunghee.
But then there was another surprise. As the others were still awake…
Yumi appeared again, after her long absence right before everyone got to sleep.
I was relieved. I’d noticed she was gone, but I couldn’t do anything without exposing Rina and Asakura to danger to look for her.
“Where the flying freak where you?!” Akira roared in anger.
“Hey, be quiet!” Yuriko chastised him. Both she and I noticed that Yumi had the look of someone traumatized. She sort of shuffled into camp submissively. She wasn’t a submissive person.
Something is up...
“Uh, not helping,” Asakura reminded him, pushing him away. She turned to Yumi, “Uh, are you OK?”
Rina put her arm around her while we looked at Yumi’s dazed look.
We were really upset at her for disappearing until we got a look at her. Now I could only pity her.
She was all bloody and her clothes all dirtied up but still intact mostly, except for a slash up the side of her skirt exposing most of one side of her leg all the way up to her waist and her part of her underwear. Her uniform dress jacket had the sleeves torn to shreds and long slashes on the back from some weird attacks that looked too savage to be orcs. She also had the white school blouse she had on now missing a sleeve.
Yumi sighed and then wiped away a bloody nose. She had one of her eyes all bloodshot and red like she’d been hit or something on that side of the face and a split lip. She wouldn’t say anything but just sort of stared into space and hugged Rina while staying close to me.
I had to keep an eye on her wounds and help her calm down emotionally too. After that she calmed down.
Finally she told us what happened, because we made her. Everyone was demanding where she’d been all this time. A few of them were afraid to ask how far things had gone in her being attacked, but we could see it in their eyes and on their faces.
But for her to survive on her own this far was a testament to the power of the defender job’s energy shield.
It seems that right after she’d chased off the pervert away from Rina, Kenji’s zombie minions had tried to snatch her away after ambushing her near some tall boulders that were a perfect hiding spot. They had thought it was the best chance to grab her when she didn’t realize she’d gotten farther away from us than we liked when trying to punish the boy that was trying to look down Rina’s shirt awhile ago.
He hadn’t anticipated that the energy shield she used would let her be able to keep his minions at bay and that she might actually escape.
Yumi described to everyone while crying how scared she was about almost getting carried off but then used her energy shield to avoid being grappled and taken away. But the zombies were able to work as a pack, and she couldn’t get them off right away so it’d delayed her being able to reach us. She almost lost, and was hanging on by the skin of her teeth but lacked offensive power when suddenly a smaller group of orc scouts found her engaged to the zombies.
Although Kenji was enough of a pervert to try to kidnap her, he was still way too delusional to let the orcs get her either and somehow she’d gotten out alive without being pushed down by the orcs while the two groups were cannibalizing each other.
“Guess you know to not go off on your own now,” Asakura said meekly trying to not offend her.
Yumi nodded, “it was stupid and I was overconfident. Sorry Rina, sorry Shun also, for making you guys worry. Don’t worry though I wasn’t raped and I don’t have any orc shit in me.”
“Ah thank …” Akira was interrupted by Yuriko clamping her hand over his mouth so he could preserve his dignity.
“I don’t get it. I thought Kenji was obsessed with Rina, not Yumi,” Akira said, a bit too loudly. At the mere mention of his name Yumi flinched quite a bit. Still, she assured us that the mana shield helped her avoid most of the damage, but just had totally terrified her.
“Well, it makes sense if you think about it. Yumi has been Rina’s guard with Shun this whole time. Plus Yumi is about as pretty as she is. And she has combat ability, even if he favors Rina. So he thought probably something along the lines of get rid of her would open the door to snatch up Rina. Like ripe for the taking mentality or something like both of them going together like a package deal,” Asakura said to explain it to us.
“That’s awful,” Rina looked like she might puke.
“You have no idea how scary that was!” Yumi sobbed into Rina’s shoulder. Her tears seemed real.
“So that means he’s probably still close by watching us,” I said, making the others shiver.
Damn you Kenji…
“Kenji must die,” Akira said with finality.
“I agree but the problem is we don’t know where he’s hiding. If he’s still got a few minions and has evaded the orcs he’s more powerful than we thought,” I reply.
“We thought the orcs snatched you for awhile,” Asakura said empathetically.
And now we knew why Akimoto thought Kenji was with us earlier. It was starting to make sense and now we felt stupid for not seeing it sooner. The crow Summoner told him that he was near us the whole time but hadn’t understood he’d been stalking us looking for a chance to steal women and nobody had even known it this whole time.
I’d have to ask Yumi how many zombies he had total and how many of those were women later when she was calmed down more.
Perhaps the Crow Summoner not understanding clearly what he was saying might have had to do with his getting used to the perception of how crows see things and how it’s different from how humans see things?
Also did the signal processing also go through the crow’s brain before sending it to his brain?
That might be part of the confusion too and why we’d not realized what was happening.
Of course all of the other survivor students all heard about this too. Now Kenji is on the ‘Kill on Sight’ list and everyone in the survival group knows it. But they were also terrified of him and knew it’d be suicide to engage him alone. He also has at least three zombie minions, which we know off. But that might not be his entire force. We couldn’t accurately predict how many he might have. What if the ones he’d used to engage Yumi were just the only ones close by at the time?
We kept hearing a Kenji must die saying among the others. Yumi was also popular.
New rule; women don’t go anywhere alone now. Be it buddy systems or in gangs they made the rule up themselves.
You would think that would make things better, but actually…
It’s uncomfortable now.
After hearing that Rina, Yumi, and Asakura are all practically tied to my hip. Everyone is afraid of getting kidnapped now. But it isn’t fun being this way. I can’t get anyone to be alone with me to have real one on one time or talk without everyone hearing it. So I can’t really talk to Asakura very well to advance whatever is there, because Rina and others will hear it. I also can’t talk to Rina without the rest of them hear it and it’s like being smothered in some ways.
The new girl Eri that had joined us for the ogre fight is now hanging with Akira and Yuriko. She has freckles and isn’t bad looking…but isn’t really great looking either. She seems to follow Akira around like a puppy, even though Yuriko seems to be trying to scare her away when his back is turned.
She had first claim on him so…
At first I wondered if Eri was very stable emotionally since she was the only one that had survived out of the four original people that had joined us at the time we fought the first ogre. However, after we talked to her a bit, it seems she didn’t know them very well. She was sad they died, but didn’t even know their names yet.
I hope she lives.
Thankfully Akira is now strong enough that he doesn’t seem to be affected by having less sleep and volunteered to guard us for a bit while I rested up.
But the plan is, we’d have to be up in six hours to match the orcs then.
Of course the secret plan I’d worked out with Gnome is pretty good I think, though I won’t like giving up some of my money for its payment.