Chapter2: Knights, Grandmas and Dreamcatchers.
“…and then, the creator, Azulai cut open his palm. His dripping blood created the rivers and the seas. Not satisfied yet, He shed his hair upon the void, creating valleys and mountains. Pleased with his creation, Azulai flew over the lands and seas. Azulai’s dripping seed fell upon the earth, and sprang forth his greatest creation yet, mankind…atleast that is what the humans believe. Ofcourse, we the Elves know it to be a pile of rhistal shit. We all know that Riliadvael sang the world into existence…”
– The World According To The Elves, Caelwyn Silentleaf, 11287 A.C.
A sword was pointed at my face. A young boy of about 18 was staring down the length of the blade, with his left hand on the grip in a one-handed stance. Needless to say, he looked like he wanted to gut me. Not being to able to understand what he was saying didn’t exactly help my cause either.
“Err…” I raised my hands up.
That seemed to incense the kid. He sprang back and tried an overhanded chop at my head. Wtf? No Miranda Rights? is everyone in this world so murderous?
I tried to sprang and crawl back on my ass at the same time. Failing both, I ended up sprawling on by back in an awkward manner.
A sharp metallic sound rang out dangerously close to my face. Another blade had lightly parried the incoming sword accompanied with a sharp shout. I couldn’t see the wielder of the second blade, but I could assume it was someone who did not want me dead. Yet. I couldn’t turn my head as I was fully sprawled on the ground and frankly, too afraid to move. The person walked around me and asked me something. The owner of the second blade was a burly, well built man in his middle ages. He had a weather-worn face with a few days worth of auburn beard. He wore dark coloured leather jerkins and pants, along with metal gauntlets and a shoulder guard on a single shoulder. Both the gauntlets and the shoulder guard were too small to have any effect. In other words, he was showing off.
Heh? How did I know the pieces of armour were ineffectual?
The person spoke to me for a second time. By his tone, I guessed he asked me if I was okay. Either that or he asked me if I like baked pig intestines. I tried to thank him in six different languages, but none of them worked, probably because they were from Earth. I thought I was given the gift of Knowledge, so where is my language comprehension? The gods tricked me!
The man stretched his hand, and I pulled myself up holding it. I dusted my ass with whatever little dignity I could still muster and tried to walk off. The kid was still glaring at me with murderous hostility. The eyes of a killer…or your best friends eyes when you tell him in no uncertain terms that his waifu is shit(1). Oh yeah, I crack jokes at life threatening situations. Sue me.
The man took a stern tone towards the kid and probably scolded him. I just stood there trying to be as inconspicuous as possible.
Oi Ossan, aren’t you making things worse by scolding him? Won’t he just take this as a disgraceful insult and try to chop me up in secret?
The guy gave me a last hateful look and left as the older guy finished up his piece. He then motioned me to follow him. I followed him. I just hope this wasn’t a pickup attempt. You know how the stories go about saving the damsel in distress. I know, this is a forced joke but honestly, nothing made sense and joking to myself is the only way I could handle the confusing situations.
I had always felt isolated from the rest of the world. It wasn’t as if there had been some great tragedy or betrayal, even so I always felt disconcerted from the world in general. Before long I isolated myself from people and started to talk to myself. Often, when I went hiking or camping alone, I would talk to myself to fend off the growing sense of loneliness. I wonder why I would do that if I didn’t even like people? I wonder why was I thinking about this after such a long while?
Shikata ga nai. The old guy walked in front of me while I followed him behind, taking in the scenery. We walked across a wide, artificially leveled ground. There were a few guys sparring with each other using wooden or blunt metal swords. Was this a Knight Training Grounds?
Sloppy swordplay with wasted movements ,was what I thought. Wait what? How would I know that?
The people practicing on the ground looked at me with curious expressions, stopping their bouts. So I am the new animal in the zoo, eh? The Ossan gestured them to continue. Walking across the field, we came up to a long, two storied wooden building with a slanted roof. We entered a small room filled with different shape and sizes of glass jars. Sitting on a chair in the room was…the bipedal hippo I saw when I had woken up. Having got tired of lying down, I had walked out of the room when I was left alone for a long while to look around for a bit, and then the boy with the sword had attacked me.
The old guy talked with the Hippo for a bit. The hippo looked at me and smiled. Her lips curled up in a feral grin and those pillar like teeth flashed in what she probably thought was a charming smile. That was simply ghastly. Ever seen a Hippo smile? I wish you don’t have to. She then talked for a little while with the old guy and nodded. She made a weird gesture at me with her fingers. I didn’t know what to do, so I gave her a thumbs up.
The old guy motioned me to follow him again, and walked out of the room. I followed while turning back to look at the hippo for the last time. She was apparently engrossed trying to make a thumbs up with her fingers and examining it closely.
Outside the compound, a small dirt road led to a wide settlement that looked like a village. Oho, so it’s this template huh? The starting village setting. I was still trying to tackle this world like a JRPG. There were many one or two storied houses on both sides of the road, made of wood. Children played around, chasing each other . Some came near us, the Ossan ruffled the head of a child while the rest looked at me and tried to pull at my sleeves and pants. Come to think of it, I am still wearing clothes from my previous world. A faded black T emblazoned with ‘All Your Base Are Belong To Us’ (2) and blue pair of Jeans.
Thank You gods, for making me stick out in this world, even more than I already do. Then again, the ones I know would most likely select something black-green and robe-like. Praise The Sun!(3) that I was transported in these.
The village looked like one of those idyllic old Balkan villages. The women wore simple but colourful clothes, sort of long hemmed robes with wide sleeves. The men wore simple shirts and pants, in dull, dark colours. The people had a whole bunch of hair colours, blond, brown, black, you name it. The village looked prosperous and cheerful.
Everything was fine. But there was that. Yeah. The people were all looking at me, pointing fingers. Some young girls were giggling. Well, that can’t really be helped since I was new in town. The old man looked back at me with an apologetic expression.
We kept walking till we reached what was probably the outskirts of the village. There were few houses and people now. I could see a few waddling ducks here and there, except that they were scaled and had long lizard-ish tails. Trees and bushes grew along the road. The tress were both of evergreen conifers and deciduous varieties. Some even had fruits. Flowers bloomed in bunches along the wayside, red and blue, they looked like lilies back on earth, and were borne on bushes and thickets. An average village, except for the lizard-ducks. And triple horned pygmy cows. Yes, that was a real thing.
I was led up to a two-storied wooden house. The house looked old and a bit worn down. Warm sunlight fell on its porch. I could see colourful glass bottles hung on a row from the roof along the porch , accentuated here and there with dreamcatchers. Long-stalked flowers with the colour of fire bloomed all over the house’s modest garden. There were a pair of blue-tinged fir-like trees standing like sentries on the road leading up to the house.
The old swordsman hailed for someone loudly. After a while, sounds of someone shuffling heavily punctuated with sounds of wood striking on wood could be heard. The oval doors opened and an old lady came out. She stood at the door for a moment and looked at my face closely. Turning towards the Ossan, she pointed at me and asked something. After receiving an answer, she beckoned me closer.
I walked up to her timidly. Yeah, I decided to act timid and obedient. Can’t have alarming and aggravating people unknowingly after the fiasco with the kid earlier. The lady grasped my shoulder with her feeble and shaking fingers and kissed my forehead.
The way they greet each other here? Or was it a sign of affection?
The old wrinkly face was interspersed with smile lines and a crooked nose. A kind face, the kind of face that has known happiness and sorrows both and decided that the latter was irrelevant. She reminded of my grandmom who passed way when I was small. My face and body which were tensed till now, relaxed. Her height barely came up to my chest. I bent and kissed her forehead in return, despite of my earlier misgivings. I will call her Granny, because you can’t help but trust and love a person with such a kind and genial smile.
The granny was surprised and drew back. Did I make a mistake by returning her gesture? As soon as that thought crossed my mind, she broke out in a missing toothed grin and embraced me. Her grey hair shook with laughter. She even smelled like my Granny when I was small. She said something while smiling, even if I didn’t understand what she was saying, I knew that tone. The tone grandmothers around the world use when comforting their grandkids. I couldn’t reply anything except for a feeble ‘tadaima’. Even if this wasn’t my granma, for the first time I felt as if I was welcome in this world.
Hearing a loud bark behind me, I turned around and saw the Ossan make the same gesture the Hippo-nurse made, a sort of bringing all your fingers in a fist, with your palm outwards and then rapidly stretching them to their full lengths.
Probably the equivalent of a bye here. I did it back at him. He smiled genially and started walking back the way we came.
The granny led me back into the house while calling someone. She seemed to be asking for someone to come down.
Huh? The language skills seems to be getting better. Dokuro-chan(4) did say I would ‘easily learn’. So it does mean I won’t have the capabilities at first. Gotta learn it, but it will be faster
With sounds of rushing feet came down the prettiest girl I ever saw. When she moved, it’s as if river gushed forth.
Flowery diction? Nope. She had some ornaments in her hair. I later came to know that it was something call RiverSong Shells, magic shells found in rivers that imitated the tinkling of a flowing mountain river. Poets in this land must have had a hard time serenading their women what with all these magic items murdering all romantic metaphors and similes.
The girl seemed to be called Arin. The thing that you noticed first when you saw her were her eyes. The eyes spoke of starlight reflected on the depths of the river. Mischief created ripples in those eyes. I didn’t know it yet, but Arin meant ‘Dreamcatcher’ in their tongue. She had caught my attention alright.
The black haired girl was surprised at seeing me. She looked at me and started talking in a rapid-fire burst of words. I just looked at her sheepishly, overwhelmed by the sheer torrent. I looked at the grandma for help, she said something to Arin. She scrunched up her nose and looked disappointed.
Pretty girls could wait. First things first. I pointed my fingers towards my mouth in what I assume would be an universal language. You can’t blame me, I got killed once and almost killed 3 more times all without dinner. I was hungry.
I was led to a low table. Not a Kotatsu-low low but just lower than normal tables. I was given a couple of thin, circular bread like food with a side dish of … What is this? Potato? Atleast the parallel world had potatoes. I ate a bit of the circular bread. The wheat grains were coarse. And the potatoes didn’t taste like potatoes. Dammit.
Someone snapped their fingers. Looking up, I saw Arin reach her hand towards by bowl. She picked up a bit of the bread, used it to wrap some of the not-potato dish and ate it.
Oh. So that’s how you eat it.
She then proceeded to pick up another piece, then another. Before she could take any more, I shielded the bowl and glared at her. She returned my glare, then widened her eyes before breaking into a breezy laughter. Her hair sang the song of flowing waters with her laughter. I unintentionally smiled while digging into my food. Seemingly, bullying of the new kid done, she left.
While eating, I looked around me. The interior looked like a normal log cabin like those in Canada or States except the absence of modern appliances. There was a bookshelf, but few books. The house was fairly large, with bottles hung all over. What’s with those fucking bottles? There were a lot of earthenware and cheap China on the wooden shelves. An open space adorned the centre of the room, not covered by the wood floor. I could see soil beneath.
I sat and thought of what was needed to be done. I needed information first and foremost. For that language comprehension was needed. I could understand the broad nuances now, but it was nowhere even near rudimentary comprehension. I wondered what I needed to do to learn it.
Those fucking gods could have made this easier.
After I was done with my eating, I went to find granny. I saw her making stick latticework for supporting plants in the garden. I tried to help her. Might be that listening to someone talk would help me understand the language better.
The granny was surprised to see me try and help, but after I botched up a few times, she sternly took the tools from my hand and called Arin. She asked her something while pointing at me. Arin looked at me compassionately. Then she pulled me up from my crouching position and pulled me towards the gate.
Wait what? They were kicking me out for this? Shiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiit.
I have been picking clovers for some hours now with Arin on the vale beyond the village outskirts. I say clovers because they look like it, but all of them are 4 leaved and the size of my palms. Apparently the granny asked her to take me along so I don’t meddle with her gardening. The whole while, Arin kept talking to me. Of course, I didn’t understand a single word of it. I did try to gesture that I didn’t understand, but she just laughed and kept talking. Is this one of those high-energy genki girls?(5) They tire me out.
Suddenly, Arin pointed at something near my feet. What now? There was a clump of very beautiful white magnolia like flowers near my feet.
She wants those flowers?
I plucked them and gave them to Arin. She looked at me incredulously. Then she hit my foot with all her might. Fuck. You done messed up, son. I wish I had a Babelfish(6)
I plopped down on the grass in sharp pain, holding my feet when I noticed something. A sixth finger on my feet. It was a leech like insect sucking up my blood. Arin had tried to warn me about it by pointing. When I didn’t understand, she drove her feet down to squash it, she failed though.
I pulled the leech apart from my feet. The sucker had sharp suckers. When I looked up, Arin was smiling at me holding the flowers.
Flowers never hurt, I thought to myself.
We rested under the shade of a huge tree. Arin’s basket was full, our collection done for today. I laid back against the tree trunk, looking up at the sky. The unfamiliar sky was the same azure as on earth. A broken belt of rocks stretched from one horizon to the other in a narrow slanted belt. Two planets were visible in the sky apart from a blazing sun.
Arin was still looking at the flowers. I picked up one white flower and planted it on her hair, black as midnight. She looked up startled and touched the flower in her hair. Then her eyes widened. Arin’s face broke into a shy smile and she told me something. I didn’t need to know the language to know what it meant.
I looked up at the sky again , it really was as azure as the one back home.
(1) I believe you know the famous meme.
(2) Reference to the famous translation faux pas in the 1998 Video Game, Zero Wing and the even
more famous memes that use the line
(3) Reference to Solaire and the hugely famous meme from Dark Souls.
(4) Reference to the titular character from Bludgeoning Angel Dokuro-chan/Bokusatasu Tenshi Dokuro-chan. Basically, Rigel is referring to Astria, equating her with Dokuro who kills/mutilates/cleaves/beheads/executes the MC for no apparent reason, multiple times each episode.
(5) Reference to the slang-term used in Japan to describe a type of people who are overly energetic and enthusiastic to the point of exhaustion. A link for better comprehension. And yes, that is a real thing in Japan among real people. Not just anime.
(6) Reference to the insanely famous and immensely good British Radio/Tv/Book series ‘The Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy’. The Babelfish is a fish that you can insert into your ears to help yourself understand any language in the Galaxy.
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