“I’m not okay with this.” I’ve declared it, now how do I express my feelings.
“Husband, these are not humes, nor dragonfolk, nor bearfolk. They are orckin.” It hurts that she’s taking their side. I’d rather she defend me, but I also don’t want her to lie.
Mika jumps in as well. “You’ve said it yourself, he’s a criminal. There is nothing wrong with taking his children.”
Like hell there isn’t. “Just because he’s a criminal, doesn’t mean his children are. You of all people should know how it is to be born different from those around you! You shouldn’t have to suffer because of your parents!” I may have yelled. No I definitely yelled.
“RWAAAAAAAAAAAH.” Otsu’s roar is deafening.
I sit down. Otsu backs off, and Mika turns away. Did I really just make her cry? It sounds like she’s sobbing. Goddess help us. If that’s all it takes…
“We don’t see the issue of eating any of,” Dubhe pauses before continuing, “their children. She is an orckin. He is a criminal.”
“And their children may be neither of those! Also, deep down, we all are the same! Why does everyone insist on eating each other?!” This has driven me nuts since coming back from my visit to the Goddess. I mean, when in Rome, but this is no longer Rome. This is now my home.
“Husband.” Melsy. “They are a burden. How will they pay for their keep? Why must we continue to feed them, if we get no benefits?”
That. That is a good question. If we let them go, they will likely hang around and try to either assault us or our kids. If we take them far away before releasing them, Brenden will be able to easily find his way back. The orckin… who knows. So, what do we do with Brendan? Gaia doesn’t want us to kill him.
I look around. Everyone except the orckin and Brendan is sitting or standing in a circle. Even the children are here. We need to set a good example for them. Most of them won’t remember this, but it likely will affect their lives. I don’t think they are all waiting on a decision from me, but I am the outlier.
“Daddy.” One of the Dryadites hands up a fruit. It’s a Gaia Tree fruit. I’m not sure where they got it from, but these are delicious.
“Thank you.” I pat her on the head before taking a bite. I savor the flavor. These are, indeed, the most delicious thing in the new world here. Even more delicious than Dragonfolk meat. The juices just fill the mouth, and it’s somehow an impossible mix of sweet, sour, and uami. Absolutely delicious.
“Food Source Tristain, you eat the flesh of your own children.”
I look down at the fruit. Then to my daughter, still standing there.
“Am I delicious, Daddy?”
Are you serious?
“This…was a part of you?” I ask her.
“Yes, Daddy.” She smiles like it’s the most natural thing in the world. I look up to Lillia. I feel a bit light headed. Suddenly this fruit doesn’t seem that tasty. It’s like ashes in my mouth. The taste is gone.
Swallowing what is in my mouth, I try to put words where food just was. What do I say? I didn’t know? I’m sorry? Did they plan this out to trap me? On the one side, I feel trapped by the world itself. If everything has the same genome, then if we eat each other, that’s cannibalism, right? If we don’t, then we will eventually die. There are nuts, mushrooms, bugs… Theoretically, we could subsist for a long time on those things.
Well, Melsy doesn’t need to eat. Honestly, I could probably go weeks, if not months as I am now. These runes really are a blessing. My children, though, they need more nutrition than the small amount bugs or plants can give.
How do you reconcile taking from another, to feed your own? For some reason, I am back at my dream, the one I keep having about being some sort of shape. Do I roll? When I do, what did I take from the other side? Do I really deserve to live more than those others? Do my children? (Editor’s Note: I think a better question would be: Do you deserve to live less?)
I didn’t notice her approaching, but suddenly Lillia has her arms around me. She is so soft, so comfortable. I don’t know how she does it. Somehow her skin is leaves, but it’s still cushy, supple, and soothing like skin.
“Do you know what Gaia Trees are?” She whispers in my ear.
I don’t know. I didn’t ask the Goddess. I could have, but I didn’t.
“In the beginning, there were too many of us. Gaia made a mistake. She didn’t follow the Goddess’ plans.” She continues whispering, holding me gently. I can feel her breath on my hair and lobe. “Each dryad was paired off with another, their other half. One became a Gaia Tree, holding up the sky above, and holding down the Enclave below. The remaining, a Guardian of their other half.” Her voice finishes, quivering.
I pulled away. Looking at Lillia, her face is scrunched in a frown, tears coming down her cheeks. It’s clear that she’s doing her best to hold it together. I pull her back in an embrace. I didn’t know. How could I? So, she left her other half to come with me. The fruits everyone eats from the Gaia Trees, both in the Enclave and in the small encampments at each tree, those are from dryads then?
So Gaia Trees are dryads. Or the other way around?
At the end of the day, it’s the same problem for us, though. Do we eat the children of the Orckin? How do we handle Brendan? How do we reconcile with ourselves? How did Lillia reconcile with Gaia? Lillia left the one she cared about the most to be with me, to find happiness. How do you choose your own happiness over that of others and not let it drown you? How do you reconcile when someone does that to you?
I hold her tighter. Oh, Lillia, I had no idea. I’m so sorry.
Author’s Note: Thanks for the support! Sorry for the delay. Broked stuff is Broked good. I still have a bit of leeway, but if i schedule chapters, I’ll forget to write more when they auto-post.