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Misa hadn't actually spawned very far away, and it took only a minute or so of walking for her to reach the walls of her village. She felt her heart tightening as she approached — there were guards stationed near the gates of the village. Those guards had been the first ones to...

"Name and purpose, miss?" a guard asked as she approached. Misa recognized him immediately; it was V'karro. How strange was it that she'd remembered him not too long ago, and now she was seeing him again? The old guard that had taught her about skills, once upon a time...

He'd probably saved the delvers' lives, even if he didn't know it. It was because of his training that she'd spotted anything at all.

For the first time in a long time, Misa reached back into her memories, trying to place what she remembered of him. He had always been kind to her. He'd always wanted a daughter, apparently, but he never really had the opportunity — and while he wasn't a replacement for her father, he'd always been like an uncle to her.

V'karro now was as kind as she remembered. Most guards were more suspicious of people they regarded as newcomers. What made her hesitate was the fact that she didn't know whether or not he would recognize her, and she didn't know which one she preferred.

She'd been so much younger when this had happened.

"...It's me. Misa," she eventually replied, her voice rougher than she intended. Part of her wanted to pretend like everything was normal — but she couldn't. She couldn't stop remembering that very same face, covered in blood, stiff after death had taken him.

She tried to wipe the thought away. She wouldn't let it happen again. But V'karro saw the change in her eyes, she was sure; the guard's eyes softened a little more as he studied her.

There was something that might have been a flicker of recognition, but it seemed to disappear almost as soon as it appeared.

"...I'm afraid I don't know anyone by that name, miss," V'karro said apologetically.

Misa took a deep breath. She didn't know what she'd expected from the dungeon, and didn't know if it was worse or better that the orc didn't know who she was. "Sorry," she said. "I must've mistaken you for someone else. If you're not him, then you must be V'karro, right?"

"That's right," V'karro grinned at her; part of him seemed relieved that the apparent distress in her eyes had faded. "You've heard of me?"

"You could say that," Misa said with a chuckle. She didn't know how he could possibly expect anyone outside their little village to know who he was. They were in too remote a place, their adventurers barely strong enough to keep their village stable and connected to the system. But she saw the way he brightened at the thought that his antics might have spread some ways outside the village, and she didn't want to take that away from him. "That's not important, though. Can you bring me to talk to Orkas? It's important."

"The village head?" V'karro asked, raising an eyebrow, and shrugged when she gave a determined nod in response. "Well, if you're sure. He's been a bit grumpy lately, though, so you best be careful."

"I think I know how to handle him," Misa said with a light chuckle.

Her heart still ached. But a part of her was looking forward to seeing her father again.

 


 

Misa had spent so many years thinking about what she could have done differently — what everyone could have done differently. This was her chance to put it all into action.

The only wrench in her plans was that if the village didn't remember her, it'd be far harder to convince them to listen to her. They were all rather stubborn. So, first things first, she needed to convince the man whose word the entire village trusted.

The only problem was that Orkas had been her father, and he was... sort of an asshole. Sometimes. Not all the time, and mostly not to her — but to strangers?

Well.

"You're telling me that we're going to be attacked soon, and we need to prepare our entire village for it." Orkas' voice was disbelieving, and his arms were folded across his chest. He'd done much the same every time he reprimanded her. "You understand why this is hard to believe, right?"

"Yes," Misa admitted. "But it wouldn't hurt to prepare even if you didn't believe me."

"It might." Orkas narrowed his eyes at her. "Our village barely has any visitors; certainly not enough for me to believe that any outsider would know enough about us to ask for me right off the bat. The Kingdoms are very vocal about their desire to track down rare classes, and though we have always turned their emissaries away, getting us to prepare for some nebulous, impending disaster would surely reveal any trump cards we have."

Misa sighed.

Her father had always been paranoid about the Kingdoms. It wasn't his fault, really — he'd lost his older brother to Anderstahl, long before he'd joined this village. From what she'd heard, the man was a powerful warrior and Guardian, not unlike the class she'd eventually achieved; Anderstahl had taken him, and her father had never heard from him again.

He refused to believe he might be still alive. Arval, he said, would have done everything in his power to get back to him. A long time ago, Misa took his words at face value; now, she wondered how Arval would have managed to find him in the first place, considering everything he did to keep the village hidden.

Maybe her uncle was still alive somewhere, she thought suddenly. She'd never really thought about it — the memories of her home were too painful. But if Arval was still alive...

He deserved to know what happened to his brother, didn't he?

"Got nothing else to say?" Orkas' eyes were still narrowed at her.

"I don't have any way to prove that an attack is coming," Misa admitted with a frustrated glare. "And you've created a situation where anything I tell you could just be another lie used to try to get you to reveal your secrets. What else am I supposed to say?"

She couldn't tell him that this was a dungeon's test, could she? She had no idea how he'd take that. She couldn't tell him that she was his daughter, or at least the daughter of another version of him. She didn't even know what was different in this village. Was Orkas still with her mother?

"Then we agree that there's nothing more for you here," Orkas said with a derisive snort. "Tell whatever kingdom you came from—"

"I'm not from another Kingdom!" Misa exploded. "For fuck's sake, just listen to me and get everyone ready! We don't have time for this!"

"Not until you tell me the truth!" Orkas thundered at her, and Misa fumed.

"You wouldn't believe me if I told you!"

"Try me."

"Fine."

Fuck not talking about it. Misa had no idea if this was the right thing to do, but it was too late; the words were already spilling out of her mouth.

"All of this already happened, three goddamn years ago, and I couldn't do shit to protect it! Do you want to know how I felt when I woke up surrounded by the corpses of everyone I ever loved? Uncle V'karro's body was right next to me! You were dead in the fucking doorway, a pile of monster corpses in front of you! You killed every last shit that tried to get into our house and you died doing it, and it still wasn't fucking enough because mom was dead anyway! And now this stupid dungeon is making me relive this shitty fucking day, and I just want to fix it, and you won't fucking listen!"

Misa's chest was heaving. Her eyes were wet; she couldn't see her father's expression clearly through the film of tears in her eyes. She hated the fact that she was crying again, but she didn't know what she'd expected — coming face to face again with all these long-dead souls, looking and sounding exactly like the people she'd known for most of her life...

There was a long silence, broken up only by the sound of Misa's shuddering breaths.

"...I thought it was strange that your name was Misa," her father said softly, his tone suddenly quiet. The hostility was gone, replaced by a strange sort of distant pain. "That was what we wanted to name our daughter."

Misa didn't answer. She tried to get her breathing under control so she could, taking slow, shaky breaths. There was a dim realization that her father was saying something important, and she took it in slowly, wrestling her own emotions under control as he spoke.

"She was stillborn," Orkas continued. He didn't look at Misa. Instead, he stared into the distance, painful memories reflecting in his eyes. "Charise was never really the same after that."

Charise. Her mother. Misa was quiet for another moment as her breath steadied, and Orkas seemed willing to give her all the time she needed to calm down. When she did, she spoke with a quiet voice.

"How is she?"

"As fine as she can be." Orkas shook his head. "Some days are better than others. When you... when our child died, she would not stop saying that the world was wrong. That this was not supposed to happen. I thought it was mere denial; that she was speaking with the grief of a mother... and yet now you're here, telling me a story much along those same lines.

"And today, of all days, she woke, and told me that things would be better today. That the world was right again. I did not know what she meant, and I did not want to believe, when I first heard your name..."

Orkas' eyes hardened. "You understand, of course, that if you are lying about this, there will be consequences."

Misa nodded slowly. "...I wish I was," she said softly.

Orkas nodded. He stood abruptly, brushing his cloak to the side as he stepped around the table. "Daughter," he said, as if tasting the word. He placed a hand on Misa's shoulder. "...I wish I could be more of a father to you. But some truths are difficult for the heart to accept, and even if I completely believed you, I do not know you. This version of me never saw your childhood, was never able to help you grow nor make the mistakes that I am certain that I made.

"You claim this to be a simulation by a dungeon. I can only say that it does not feel that I am a mere simulation. Whatever this dungeon has done... Perhaps it is cruel, to give us both a glimpse of what could have been. Or perhaps it believes it is being kind. I cannot say.

"But for what it is worth..." Orkas' voice grew briefly rough, though he was facing away from Misa and would not meet her eyes. "I am looking forward to seeing who my daughter could have been."

Misa swallowed, feeling a lump in her throat. She would not cry a third time. Instead, she nodded, and Orkas gestured for her to follow.

"Come. I will prepare the village, and set up the traps as you outlined. But you should meet your mother."

 

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A note from SilverLinings

Writing this chapter was an emotional experience, but I think I'm pretty happy with it.

Tomorrow will be the last day of daily posts before I slow down a bit to a more sane posting schedule to build backlog and sort out all the elements of the next arc. It'll still be a fairly frequent posting schedule - I'll update on this again tomorrow. 

Patreon has an advanced chapter, but we're approaching the end of the month and I recommend waiting so you don't get double charged. 

As always, thanks for reading. Ratings and reviews help me out a ton (especially since I was hit by a couple of 0.5s yesterday, haha).

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About the author

SilverLinings

Bio: I enjoy writing in my spare time. I try to envision a world where people that act in good faith have the power to enact change.

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