Dreamweaver Chapter 44
Day 2 since entering the gnomes’ warren…
Something curious happened today…
Our camp of refugees still isn’t organized yet. The gnomes are putting pressure on us to have a better organizational system so that we can work with them well, be effective, streamline the process of working with them to only having to explain things once, and be accountable. Of course I can’t rush this since two key players were involved in wanting a king.
I discussed this with Asakura in secret. She still seems to be insistent on following me around as ‘my assistant’, despite her earlier objections to a relationship. Of course it was like the events of the previous day had never even happened. The mask on both of our faces also gave no hints, though her eyes lingered on my face for a while almost expectantly…We came to the following conclusions after working it out together.
Was she hoping I’d bring it up or not? Sometimes it’s hard to tell.
Our meeting notes were as follows;
-The gnomes will not wait for us to fix our lives forever. They don’t want us dependent on them in case things don’t work out. They’d treat us like adults because they had to and will not baby us. In other words they were going to pick a deadline for how long we could stay, which worried me greatly.
-The gnomes didn’t have infinite resources. They would be more likely to help us if they perceived it was profitable to do so, but want us to understand they have costs to run their colony too. The others needed to understand this concept, and that the gnomes wouldn’t have the patience our parents would.
-Asakura reminded me of the power of money to reinforce my position. The gnomes would easily recognize me as the human power structure because I was working out with them the ‘rent’. I should push this advantage, she reiterated to me more than once. I can point out to them that the others can’t deal with the ‘rent’.
-The others wouldn’t like everything we did no matter how good it turned out. There would always be some complaints and I needed practice deflecting these kinds of activities and practice with not letting it get under my skin.
-I could start meeting with the gnomes automatically and distribute needs and to do lists to our people right away while bringing in other sub-leaders slowly as we gained support to mitigate complaints.
I was once again reminded that Asakura was a great asset that I needed to try to continue to win her over. As an adviser she helped me to see some details I hadn’t considered when dealing with issues. In spite of recent events, she wasn’t tied down to me and that loyalty wasn’t cemented in my camp yet. Since she was this smart she could possibly even think of how to live on her own. Luckily things were going well but I couldn’t take that for granted.
The fact that she could be this smart meant she could think for herself and act on her own. Also lately I’d noticed she didn’t always spend all her time with me, though most of it was. I wonder what she did when she was on her own.
“But what about voting? Will I be seen as a tyrant if I’m not put in office by a vote?” I asked.
She thought about it, but shrugged, “In the end it’s better to start right away and work out the details rather than having mass hunger and desperation creating crime and potential for anarchy. If people as a whole are desperate, then they’ll make desperate voting decisions as a group too. They will start to feel the effects over time of those things much quicker than their desire to vote, and that will help them to be more emotionally grounded too. Then we can add the other things like letting them have more say in how it will work. A vote right now would capitalize on their depression and desperation anyway. The problem with living in a chaotic world is it breeds chaos in the people from them thinking crap like only the strong should survive and other nonsense.”
“Eh? But isn’t it also true that the majority of people are going to be thinking that only the strong survive and lead?” I shot back at her.
“The problem with that concept is it teaches society to be immoral and to take things by force living like parasites. Those types of people won’t want to work if they can have someone else do the work even with a golden opportunity thrown right in front of them. You suddenly can’t have a society or stability if more than half the population wants to do crime or wants to do things that are considered corrupt or evil. If a society persists for a period of time under the half the population being wicked scheme then it’s only a matter of time before they start destroying each other, for ‘profit’,” she countered.
“Are you sure about that?” I wasn’t opposed to her thinking but wanted to be sure.
“World War I, World War II, any kind of genocide is based on the fact that people either chose to go for profit at any cost or they were too powerless to stop or just watched. There was also the slowly eroding of their consciousness by not being blinded to ignoring the suffering and pain of others,” she patted me on the shoulder. “Sorry being a leader isn’t easy.”
Dang, she was right. “Zombies don’t count as genocide, if you want to argue theory…but with orcs it’s harder to tell,” I said cheekily trying to play around with her.
“True, but what about orcs?” she asked.
“Yeah, that’s a tough question,” I replied. I scratched the back of my head. Tough questions gave me a headache.
In fact she might have said that because of what Akira had asked a few days ago regarding wondering if killing orc babies was wrong. I’d had a bit of time to think about it.
“Well it depends on if they are demons or have the potential to be innocent maybe? Well let’s get to work, we have a lot of people to help today.” I probably didn’t sound very confident but that’s OK. I was being honest.
She stopped me right before we ended the meeting, “you know you have to remember that you are working against the clock on this. At some point these people will be so desperate that they will consider crime being more attractive to work once their hunger and desperation get high enough,” she said.
“Is that what you say when you were trying to be a police officer?” I asked.
She nodded. “Most people don’t start out being criminals, but just can’t handle the patience to wait for an honest opportunity. They or someone in their family might even be in need. Then they get tempted by an opportunity that has short term gain and long term consequences. They keep repeating that while all the consequences are building up and eventually forget what they were even fighting for. The ultimate destruction is losing your identity, not your life.”
“That’s deep,” I agreed.
“But true,” she replies.
But a few good things happened today too.
We then moved to the treatment area the gnomes had provided. It’s a big portable field hospital tent that they’d purchased from dwarves a few years ago. It’s also big enough to have nearly twenty cots in it, plus room for different medical staff to move around in.
They weren’t rich enough to have a luxurious private space for everyone. But there was adequate support and it was maintained well and clean. We roamed over each of the different areas to figure out where to start. We also weren’t alone and the gnomes had their own field medics doing treatment separate from my own.
Of course there are both gnomes and humans in this tent, though mostly humans from our group. There are no other humans in the gnome colony besides our group it was confirmed.
I am getting my skills up slowly. Apparently there is a bonus effect on the heal if it’s poured into the body through a poultice or other medicine over the wound. I found this out by accident.
It’s still frustrating that I haven’t been able to resolve the blue screen system and its hieroglyphics yet.
Although the tennis champ girl was fine, the crushed arm kid was not for their check up visits. She of course didn’t say she was fine and was still in a lot of pain but she looked like she’d survive and heal up right.
That was another thing I’d learned today too. I had to figure out the difference between people that thought they were dying but actually weren’t and people that were really truly in peril of losing their life. Without realizing it, my having Asakura talk to me privately to work out these types of cases and determine priority was helping us get closer together.
Suddenly I found out I was sitting next to her as we discussed the group’s problems.
Asakura suddenly got closer as we were trying to evaluate the progress of the patients.
She sat close enough that suddenly I felt a bit self conscious. Was my hair looking OK? I had a comb in my pocket that I’d ended up bringing when brought to this world more out of out of habit of carrying it than preparation, but it had a few broken teeth in it. I was suddenly also worried if my teeth looked clean and I’d tried to brush them in the spring as best I could without a real tooth brush. I wasn’t dirty and kept up my routine but suddenly Asakura was only inches away from me.
I was also trying to block out the images of her chest bouncing around from the spanking incident last night.
I was trying to concentrate on what we were working on. It was difficult…
What made it hard to figure out too was because we didn’t have paper we didn’t have a way of figuring out if the patients were improving or succumbing to their wounds slowly. We weren’t able to adequately record measurements from previous days and compare with how they were doing now. It wasn’t effective to just look at the wounds it seemed since some people were stronger than others and there were surprises.
Like I hadn’t expected tennis girl to come visit us for some heals when she was supposed to be in the clear for living.
Asakura was trying to explain an idea for seeing if the gnomes had chalk and maybe we could get some sort of flat rocks or unused cave walls to write on for things that we needed to remember. But my mind was swimming…I was trying to not let my mind wander, really…but it was like super hard.
Ever since the spanking incident Asakura had to be really careful with her clothes. Thanks to Rina she didn’t have any top buttons, though most of the bottom buttons were only forced open and not directly torn off. But we didn’t have a sewing kit, so she had to just try to unsuccessfully keep her shirt closed as best she could and keep her nipples covered with lots of cleavage showing.
Its made working with her very distracting.
We still didn’t have access to a lot of places to buy supplies so we had to make do. So Sensei had arranged to get and use some gnome overalls, but her boobs were too big to completely fit in and be hidden by the overalls which had a thin front chest flap. The front bib portion only came up so far; it was grossly too short, so it didn’t cover much at all. And because the gnomes weren’t used to making clothes our size and gnome women didn’t really tend to have big chests, this further complicated our problem. They also had ended up making the women’s and girl’s overalls with being a shorts hybrid type so they could save material to have enough for everyone. Thus male overalls had the pant legs end at the ankles while women’s versions ended a few inches below the bottom of the hip.
Asakura ended up having to use her blouse with no top buttons tucked in under the overall bib portion, which were already too low, with her chest almost spilling out of both clothing pieces. Of course she’d closed the blouse the best she could but over time it would get pushed open through natural forces at work, and chest pressure, not to mention the missing buttons. The cleavage was exposed directly but not a lot of the more hidden parts were showing. But the problem was now enhanced by all of her legs being displayed openly from using the too short ‘shorts overalls’ and not being able to use her previous skirt with it.
She seemed to shy away from other people because some of them outright stared. I tried not to and made an effort to look her in the eye most the time instead of look down. Plus, I was the only safe person to be with in her eyes, so she’s around me even more than before.
Asakura…so not fair to tempt someone like this.
It was impossible to even think when around her like this. And I couldn’t even stand up right now without her seeing other problems that were unintended.
“Hey are you listening?” I realized she’d tried to get my attention on something.
Oh crap. I wasn’t even paying attention. My ears burned in embarrassment.
What do I say?
“Hmm. Actually let’s take a quick break? I need to clear my head all this stress is worrying me,” I suggested.
“I’m sorry. Is there anything I can do to help?” she leaned forward. NO! That was the wrong reaction, since she was the cause of the headache. Since she was leaning forward they were starting to hang out more and more skin was showing. But a lot of skin was already showing before she’d leaned forward so if she does it anymore I’ll see two pink things.
Arggh. Concentrate on other things. Don’t stare! No!
“I’m good. Let’s continue in five minutes. I’ll splash water from the spring on my face,” I replied saving face.
After a few minutes we came back to go over who needed the most help. Sensei has also fixed her blouse a bit more to keep things contained. But it won’t last long. Of course nothing is said or implied about it, by either of us.
The guy with the crushed arm had been feverish since yesterday and we’d gotten to his wound pretty late. His arm was covered in a poultice over where the gnomes had tried to fix the bone splinters yesterday, and so were the other three people with heavy wounds that I had to start on today. I alternated one heal each in a three hour span, and then took a nap alternating each.
It also takes guts to see people suffering like this. I can hardly stand it and wanted to leave but I knew if I did the kid would die. Somehow that helped me to keep going and not lose my lunch. They all seemed to just barely be hanging in there.
It was at this time that we discovered the poultice effect giving a bonus.
Also I noticed that while I haven’t learned how to heal for more effect per heal; I have been going up in the number of times per day I’d been able to do it. But it’s still a very low amount. This concerns me still, since it takes so much to get someone the help they need and to have it really affect enough area to do well.
I need to get strong enough that I can be able to hold my own in battle like Akira or having enough presence like Kenji’s supposed zombie pack. So far to go still…will I end up just being a support? That bothers me somehow.
Then I found out something else interesting.
The gnomes do have a few earth children among them, but I didn’t get a straight answer from Steve on this on what exactly they can and can’t do. It was slipped to me by accident by one of his assistants. Was he not going to tell me about how gnome’s magic worked then?
This wasn’t any surprise since they would’ve needed them to be able to patch the hole in the den. But it was the first time I’d gotten actual names and the possibility of meeting them mentioned. Of course Steve went over the names so quickly I couldn’t spell or pronounce even half of them.
I couldn’t contain my excitement. He reassured me things would work out and to keep trying to good as a healer.
But I didn’t have the luxury of seeming too anxious. If I looked too greedy in pursuing it they would surely put a price tag over it.
After a late lunch a few hours later I met with Steve and discussed it again. He seemed to think it’s a good idea and after dancing around over it agreed to try to set up a meeting with one of their three earth children. Because earth children are something sacred to gnomes I can’t rush or push such a meeting on the spot. He has to act as an intermediary and appease them first. It also seems there’s some kind of status chasm between the earth children being on a higher tier than the normal gnomes, despite their idea of a communal equality.
But is Steve trying to get something out of this? There had to be a cost right? I still didn’t know a lot about the gnomes yet. Why can’t I just meet and talk to them directly?
Especially since it’s true that the gnomes are still distrustful of us; the gnomes’ religion prevents them from turning their back on genocide and encourages them to help others it seems. Of course it’s always done in a way that is compatible with their communal type of living. What little I can piece together from them from Steve it sounds like they have some kind of Dwarf God who promises the gnomes that they will have a part to play in both them and the gnomes one day becoming one people and not too as they prove their souls to him.
But do the dwarves live like this too, or a bit differently? There seems to be some differences hinted but I don’t know enough yet or where to start asking. I don’t want to offend the gnomes by asking about differences between them and their brethren either. Bringing up differences in people can make them uncomfortable easily.
Genocide…it almost happened and would have happened to us if they hadn’t helped us escape the orcs. I think because we are our only language group here it could classify as genocide.
But it meant it was a fragile balance where one of them could easily say we betrayed that.
And later today I caught Akimoto yelling at one of the gnome children. I prevented anything from happening, but I should probably try to work it out…but how do I know which kid it is? Someone is going to have to keep an eye on him.
Later in the day though I was disappointed when Steve gave me the bad news; I received more rejection.
Steve, the gnome elder told me the earth children have turned down the chance for a meeting. They don’t feel that they can mentor my magic development.
This was a crushing blow to me. I had really thought they would. But I didn’t understand why and he couldn’t say more than this. I couldn’t help but feel bad about the turn of events, as I’d been hoping they might be able to help us move forward.
Asakura assured me it will be OK, but she looks worried too in her eyes. We walked back towards the field hospital tent but on the way I decide to go take a nap instead. Asakura goes to watch the gnomes work and help their weavers. She wants to see if they have something like a sewing kit to fix her buttons.
But later in the day I received even more disappointment.
While wandering the halls in an area I stumbled upon the earth mage mentor teaching gangster girl, Saiya. This was a good thing. They were practicing earth manipulation techniques of some kind. The mentor showed her how to do something with earth manipulation and stuff for training. But I was too far away to see how or why.
Naturally they also had their guard up and were keeping it secret. They stopped when I came around and while being friendly to me wouldn’t resume until I left.
But the fact that Steve told me they’d rejected teaching me but had accepted her was bad. Why would they reject even trying to give me some hints or help but help her when I had been the one negotiating with the gnomes in the first place?
How far could I trust them then?
Naturally I stayed in the shadows. It’s easy to be overlooked while staying in the dark places of these warrens.
But it got me thinking there might be things the gnomes know about a lot of other things. Like possibly the screens. The gnome said he didn’t know about them, but how could that be true? He had the language magic after all.
Was it a lie? What if he was concerned about a balance of power?
I shouldn’t trust him so easily. It was true he didn’t intend me harm but it is possible he might want an edge to promote gnome dominance. They were afraid of humans too.
Stupid. I should have considered that earlier.
If they feared us, then even if they were helping us of course they might hold back a little till we earned their trust.
At the end of the day I’d also approached the gangster girl to ask her if she could compare notes with me about the magic techniques. I was rejected. That surprised me. Before I could ask more or why she asked me to leave, her camp area firmly with other girls there. Naturally I can’t stay to argue even if I wanted to without looking bad.
How am I supposed to grow now? This makes me feel like an anguish inside so great it’s like I’m being consumed by acid on the inside. My skill needs mentor-ship in order to grow.
There would be a lot of things that wouldn’t work with each other since they were different elements, but there must be some types of commonality. I wondered like if there were ways to practice building mana and a mana pool. Also some things must be the same regenerating your mana, but I had so many disadvantages.
The day wasn’t too active. Mostly did training exercises in the day when I wasn’t resting up for heal spell spams. After dinner I was able to do some sparring training with the others including Yuriko, Akira, and Yumi.
But Sensei was missing. How strange. We’d made the arrangements to do sparring practice daily after dinner.
After sparring I was really sweaty and so I went to the springs area to bathe. Unfortunately these aren’t hot springs so I bathe quickly and then change my clothes.
As I’m headed back I pick up a faint sound. It sounds like crying.
After turning a bend I’m immediately surprised when I discover Asakura hiding in a rock alcove at a dead end I’d never seen before.
She’s hunched over and tears going down her face.
Sniff* sniff* she tries to wipe it away and cover it up.
“Hi, what’s wrong?” I said.
I try to be a bit serious rather than cheerful. I sit down next to her.
“Go away,” she said, trying to hide her head.
“Do you want to talk about it?” I asked.
“Please, let me help,” I said. I am careful not to upset her in my movements.
“No. Go away please.”
“Was someone mean to you? What’s wrong?” I said.
“I don’t want to talk about it,” she said.
I put an arm around her shoulders.
“Hey stop that,” she protested. But she doesn’t push me away.
I keep my arm there. I’m not pushing myself on her after all. I’ve just got my arm around her while being parallel to her both facing forward next to each other. I’m not promoting any bad contact, or aggression but just comfort.
I pat her lightly on the back and shoulder.
“We all cry sometimes,” I said.
“sniff*, sniff*” she’s pretty upset.
I stay there for awhile still and just pat her shoulders a bit with my arm still there.
After a little while she stopped looking uncomfortable and even seemed to like it.
“You want to tell me what happened?” I said.
“Saiya said I’m fired as a teacher,” she said emotionally.
“She said what?! What for?!” I’m surprised.
“She used the Rina misunderstanding to say that I wasn’t fit to help lead and unfit as a teacher. Now she’s going to take my spot and Yuta’s as the next king candidate,” she tried to not sob. “She used those lies and she’s got the gnomes support. When she did it a lot of the girls believed her.”
“I thought we’d put an end to this king nonsense. Besides which she’s a student not faculty either. Anyway this isn’t school anymore and school has no authority here,” I shook my head.
“It’s not fair!” she said.
“I’ll have Yuriko give her a black eye maybe?” I suggest.
“Would Yuriko really do that?” She asks curiously.
We both consider it. “Yeah, I think she would. She’s a hands on type and she’s been leading Akira around by the nose so much he doesn’t even realize it. Yeah she could do it,” my head nods genuinely.
She giggles. “That’s kind of funny. He doesn’t notice?”
I picture it in my mind, tapping my chin. “I think that’s how it is. She’s kind of subtle about it, and lets him do what he wants most the time. But you can see that if she wants something he does it.”
She shook her head no. “No. That would just escalate. Since she’s got earth magic that wouldn’t be good anyway since she’d not know when to de-escalate.”
“Come here,” I said.
“What? What do you want,” she said.
“You need a hug,” I said.
“Tch, I don’t need a hug. I need revenge against this world *sniff*,” she said. She wiped another tear.
“Yeah, when you cry you need a hug. Hugs feel better than revenge,” I said.
“You are just saying that to get in my pants,” she said.
Option 1: I could say…Yeah is it working?
Option 2: But you still need a hug.
That can’t be my only option. Think. Think. Think…
“If your mom were here she’d definitely give you a hug. So you need a hug,” I said.
She gave me a hug finally. But then she just started crying while doing so.
It was deep and tight. She then began really sobbing then and couldn’t stop. She didn’t say much but just held me for a long time. I think I wanted to cry too. We both wanted to go back to our world I think. But that wasn’t possible. We were also dealing with all the bad things we’d just seen.
We just stayed like that for about an hour innocently.
Or rather, trying to be innocent.
I also felt sad for Rina. She’d probably cry to when she realized what had happened to Asakura Sensei because of her actions.
Fox Girl seemed tired in the dream pocket and didn’t talk to me though she did summon a few orcs. Perhaps it was her way of fighting back. She only did about a dozen orcs to train with me before sending me off to sleep. I was probably with them less than two hours.
I couldn’t help but feel she also tricked me to occupy my time instead of search for a way to go visit Sunghee. I’d have to think about this some more.
But strangely enough I didn’t enter the demon box dream pockets during my sleep.
When I get up in the middle of the night and rise from my groggy sleep to try to figure out what happened. I want to sleep still anyway because it’s too early. But I have to figure this out. Over and over I had to go over this trying to figure it out.
Was there a reason?
Was it because I’d been upset a lot today?
What were my thoughts before going to bed?
I went to sleep and just tossed myself on the tent ground pretty much.
Ah that’s probably it.
I had been assuming I’d always enter a dream pocket state instead of making a conscious effort to do so. Because I had just assumed everything would be fine my body and mind thought I’d just wanted to sleep normally. Also in smaller naps that weren’t full on sleep I didn’t seem to enter the dream state either.
Not good. I’d have to make a more conscious effort next time.
But I believed this hypothesis was true. Tomorrow night I would be able to confirm it. Before bed I had to have a clear concrete firm thinking of locking into the idea of going into the dream state.
Probably…something about this idea seemed to be right on but I can’t prove it yet.