I take a deep breath and smell the air around us. I can taste the sweet flavor of Gaia Tree fruit in the air, even though it’s still a ways away. The odor of sweaty bodies, as well. And then the smell of the fluffy bearfolk male I am riding to top it all off.
Not too far away, the arbitrator is fussing about something.
She has been quite upset for some time now. We were going to settle down into a town for a good number of cycles. A ‘year,’ as she called it. This was to give my, at the time, unborn child time to acclimate to the world before traveling. As soon as we got there, however, Gaia told her to get right back traveling to another Gaia Tree. Also, don’t forget Mika, so said Gaia. Why am I so important?
It’s been quite the journey; now that it’s almost over, I reflect a bit on how I got here. The last several tens of cycles, I was forced to stop walking for the majority of the time, and rode in a cart. Then, in route, my son was born. He was… a surprise to everyone. Including the arbitrator. She seemed to understand why I was brought along after he was born. He is much stronger than a normal child. Well, a normal hume child, at least.
“Nanook, don’t squirm so much, you’ll hurt me. Then Mommy wouldn’t be able to feed you as well.” He’s also a very smart child. I’m not sure he understands what I’m saying, but he at least responds to my tone. It makes me think that he learned in the womb, like most children from the enclave.
I’m happy that he’s so strong, and smart. Otherwise, I don’t know what I’d do, with all this traveling. It’s hard for a newborn. Otsu’s help is always exceptional, as well. As soon as my son was born, he’s done everything he can to help me. Including letting me ride on his back. He’s a wonderful friend.
He’s also been a wonderful surrogate father for Nanook. When we stop for breaks, and I need some time to myself, he’s always there to watch my son. To think I used to fear bearfolk males. They’re just big, cuddly, fluffballs of warmth and affection.
“Otsu, can we stop for a bit? I would like to eat something.”
He huffs in annoyance as a response. Such a coy guy. He always acts like everything is such a big deal, but in the end, he does all he can without asking for anything in return. Such a good friend.
“Nanook. There’s nothing left. Take a break and play with Otsu while I eat, okay? Mommy ’ll be right back.” I delatch Nanook, and slide down Otsu’s side. Otsu sits on his rear, back upright, and puts his front paws out to hold my son.
In a way, I wish Otsu was Nanook’s father… But that can’t happen. I can’t forget the day I conceived Nanook. It still haunts me some nights. Even now, the thought of it… I feel unwell.
Otsu notices my mood and pats my head after cradling my son in one of his giant, fluffy arms.
He’s such a good person. I wish him nothing but happiness. I’m just disappointed that it can never be me to bring him that.
I wander my way towards one of the large food carts at the back of the caravan. It seems like there are more carts of random goods than what we started with. Specifically, clothes and building materials. I wonder what is going on? I’ve been a bit busy, so focused on my son. Too busy to really keep up on the recent happenings.
“John! Can I get something?” I call out to the person in charge of food, he just waves at me, annoyed that I bothered asking. It helps to be polite. I learned that early on after joining. That doesn’t mean that everyone appreciates it, though. Either way, asking for food outside of mealtimes is the polite thing to do. Otherwise, it could be considered ‘stealing.’ (Editor’s Note: I mean, stealing is rarely polite)
Although, I doubt anyone would consider that as theft. People don’t eat unless they’re hungry. Surely people wouldn’t take food otherwise. Even more so, what would they do with it? Just thinking about it makes me wonder why the rules like it are even in place.
I pull out some bearfolk jerky. It’s delicious with the way its salted before smoked. Much better than those Tristain made. That said, It seems odd to be eating one of Otsu’s kin… But he does as well sometimes. Apparently it isn’t so odd in their culture. Something about the strong being the only ones fit to live.
It’s a bit scary to think about it in those terms. In the enclave, everyone was fed, everyone was fit to live. Even if you did get hurt… which, I can’t remember ever happening to anyone, surely you’d be well taken care of.
Thinking while I chew about how bizarre this world is, the other odd part about this jerky: it apparently comes from old bearfolk who are likely to die soon anyways, and want to serve a greater purpose. Becoming food for the arbitrator seems to be a great honor for someone who is going to die soon.
I guess… Maybe.
I can’t understand the logic. It’s just too foreign. So much of this world is just too strange to come to terms with.
It has even taken me a long time to be able to understand that Tristain really wasn’t a terrible person. My short stay in that town went a long way in clarifying that. That doesn’t mean I didn’t hate him and blame him for a long time.
The arbitrator, though… She helped me see that it didn’t matter what he did, eventually, the outcome would have been much the same. I suppose it’s much like this jerky. Eventually, the bearfolk will die, and something will eat it. If it gets a say in who or what, isn’t that good?
If I was going to experience this world… completely unaware of what I was getting into, if it is my choice, then who can I blame but myself?
Like this jerky – er, bearfolk – I get to choose whether I become something delicious in the end, or bitter and rotten.
I guess I can respect that Tristain allowed me that choice.
Thanks for the support! I am in your care!