“MY food… … source…!” Lilia makes a cute kid like growling noise. It’s like a bird chirp in ferocity in comparison to Dubhe’s growls in its intimidation effectiveness. Anyways, I’m pretty sure that was a Freudian slip. Good recovery. Not food, food source.
Either way, Dubhe looks a bit startled at Lilia’s growl and takes a step back. What? This dryad is like a kitten, listen to her. Seriously, how can you find that intimidating?
I sigh and put a hand on Lilia’s shoulder. “She isn’t going to kill anyone. She wouldn’t be talking to us otherwise. Other than causing panic, why are you here?”
“Lilia summoned me. That’s the primary purpose of what she did, anyway.” She stands motionless, but it seems a slight frustration is starting to seep into her words.
“And why torment us? You talk about us causing unnecessary death, yet say how worthless all of our lives are. What does any of it matter to you?” I feel a bit bold, I called it after all. She has no intention of killing anyone.
“Tch, it is you, after all. The Goddess said she’d revive you. You’re so troublesome. You’re disturbing my garden. Shoo.” She waves at me.
So this isn’t the Goddess I had met, but someone else. Gaia. So Gaia isn’t the goddess. From the sounds of it, she can’t interfere either. Or maybe I’m grasping at straws. Either way, this seems to be getting better for me by the moment. How much can I push here? “No, you shoo. You’re causing mental grief here. And where is the Goddess, I have a bone to pick with her.”
“You… Hm, You think you’re very clever. So Bold. You wish to challenge me? I may not be able to punish you directly, but I understand you well enough. Behold and silence yourself.” Lilia, and Dubhe both fall to the ground suddenly. Blood seeps from Dubhe’s mouth and eyes. Lilia starts unraveling into vines and leaves, both of which curl and turned brown.
I panic. “S-stop. I-I’m sorry, I’m listening. Where do you want me to go? You want me to leave? Stop hurting them. I’ll listen, please.” I fall to my knees and lower my head. Lilia and Dubhe are close enough, so I put a hand on each of their nearest hands.
“They will recover quickly. You will do well to remember this. I may not be allowed to touch you, but you eat, drink, and breath companionship. Every sane hume does. I will crush your soul. Do not question me.” I grit my teeth in frustration. Her words are cold. What a jerk. It isn’t even about holding power. She speaks purely from fact. I can tell she has years of experience doing so. I can tell I’m only a peon to her, and she exudes that from her words. An annoying, untouchable peon.
This must be what it was to feel oppressed by royalty back in the days of authoritarian monarchies. You may win a battle by being clever, but they will always win the war. I feel Lilia’s hand squeezing back at me. Looking over, I see her face smiling at me as she slowly pulls herself back together. You dummy, don’t smile at me. I gave up. I’m an overconfident weakling, and you could have died because of it.
“Now, I don’t actually want you to leave, yet.” I look up at Gaia, she continues, “I want you to understand what you did, and its ramifications. I don’t mind your… Unique… perspective. But if I let you wander around acting like this in every town, it’s likely that you’ll collapse this fragile world. Your very mind is a danger. It’s why the Enclave exiled you almost immediately. You very literally caused a large percentage of their population to fall into madness just listening to your thoughts.”
That… What do you say to something like that? My existence is causing people to fall into madness? What sort of solution is there for such a ridiculous claim? “O-okay?”
“Don’t misunderstand. No one is holding you responsible for that. It’s a disaster waiting to happen. Always has been. I told the goddess that before, not that she’d listen to me in her infinite wisdom. No, I’m more concerned with up here. This is my domain. You’re going to break it, and that angers me. Do you know how long 40 years is?” She keeps her words level and even… mostly. I can feel, somehow, that she isn’t trying to punish me. I feel unusually compelled to listen to her.
“Yes… Of course.” I had lived my previous life for just under 40 years, anyways. Usually, I can tell if someone is holding something over my head. She is instead expecting me to learn a lesson. This isn’t punishment, but a lesson, right. I need to temper my response and not get upset about this. It’s a bit like sitting in your bosses office after admitting that you made a mistake, and they are walking through how maybe you could have done it better.
“Did you know Mika is over 700 years old? The elder is well over 3000 years. Even Dubhe is over 90. Your age and experience are paltry by the numbers. Lilia… Well, let’s say being old isn’t everything. Both Lilia and Dubhe are mothers. Yet you lead the charge knowing nothing of this world. This isn’t the world you came from.”
She is right about many things there. Despite leaving my world and some of my fears behind, I’ve kept my morals the same. This certainly isn’t my world, and I certainly haven’t been trying to understand it. Well, maybe that’s a bit much. I have been trying to understand it, but only so much that I can be happy in it, regardless of what happens around me. I admit that I’ve been acting self-important, pushing forward for myself. That’s all we can do anyways. It’s not like we live long enough to truly understand each other.
Curses. That’s what she’s saying, isn’t it?
“I know you know. I can see your brain working. The only ones I can’t teach are those infernal Dryads. Maybe you can tell me how to get through to them. They are quite dense.” She chuckles.
I feel the tension drain from the air around us. I hadn’t even realized how suffocating the air had been.
“I won’t mislead you, you’re not the most intelligent of your race, let alone all the races. But your experience lends well to adaptation. That’s a skill that most alive on this rock don’t have.” I wonder if she is going to stop monologuing at some point and get to the end. Maybe that’s rude of me. My knees are starting to hurt from kneeling. Also, she is impossibly bright. It hurts my eyes.
“Dubhe. Stop pretending.”
Dubhe quickly got up from lying down and kneels with her head down before speaking. “Ma’am.”
“This man needs to understand this world more. Take him to your people’s library. Teach him about the races.”
“B-but…” Dubhe stutters and looks up in a bit of dismay.
“Don’t argue what you were going to do anyways. He killed your entire family. You have no choice in the matter. You have no suitors. Unless you’re to abandon your culture and people like this man you just killed here?”
“N-no. I would never. He has won my heart. I have no right to complain. Our laws are absolute.”
I don’t quite follow, but I won her by killing her family? Bearfolk are weird. Wait, that’s not the point here. There is something I don’t know about here that they are talking about. They are excluding words. I’m sure of it.
“Mooooooom, I don’t want to go hoooooooomeeee.”
Gaia sighed. Very loudly. “I’m going to regret this, the goddess will not be happy, but you are forbidden…”
She pauses for a moment.
“… From helping Tristain.”
Thanks for the support! I am in your care!
Inspections came back… decent enough to buy. So we will move forward! Looking at closing either the last week of October or the first week of November…