Yang: [...You know, I tried. I really tried. But no matter what I do, or don’t do, things just never turn out the way I hoped]
I find myself ranting in the middle of a crowded and busy mess hall. Almost every bench was occupied by men, big and strong men ranging from youngest 15 and oldest 40 years of age from what I could tell. Only the table I am currently sitting in has free seats available, that is if I am willing to share.
The table was not alone. There was but one occupant other than me, though he seemed to be the quiet kind that barely cared. At least that is what I thought since his expression, or the lack thereof barely conveyed his thoughts and personality.
In terms of appearance, he was a man of short stature to the extent that if we were to stand side by side, he would barely reach my belly button. I could tell based on the way his legs were dangling far above the ground when he was seated on the bench. Although I am not any better, my legs could never touch the floor when I sat on any chair, this world or otherwise.
Of course, this would not be unnatural if he isn’t a “man”. In this Fantasy world, there is perhaps one more race I could think of that would fit his description. One that is synonymous with our Elf maid back in the Granhart’s.
Yang: [...If you really are a dwarf, wouldn’t my thoughts just now be considered rude?]
I was slightly glad that my words could not be understood by the residents of this world. I would offend fewer people back home too if that was the case.
Now comes the big question: How did I end up ranting to a dwarf in the middle of a mess hall (from the looks of it) when I was just touring the city with Jyn, Eliss and Anna?
Yang: [Well you see, it all began when the two guards brought me through the Matha entrance...]
Once past the entrance, the two guards effortlessly threw me into what appears to be a carriage drawn by a few horses, before slamming the door shut with a “clank” the likes of metal hitting one another. I was about to make an aggressively-worded comment on their rough treatment towards an other-worlder such as myself but stopped the moment the carriage began to move.
With iron bars stretching from the ceiling to the floor, what I was thrown in was no carriage
It was a moving prison cell.
I clasped the iron bar tightly, desperately tryting to break free but no matter how much I shook them, the bars remained firmly sealed to the wooden floor and ceiling that they were bound to. All that rattling only served to increase the number of annoyed grunts coming from the guards that were driving the horse-drawn cell.
Pleading might have instilled more sympathy but that is only if they understood me. Instead, I decided against it since it might only irritate them further to my disadvantage.
The only thing I could do other than pacing around aimlessly in the cell is to stare helplessly outside. The horse-drawn cell was by no means fast so I got to take in quite a bit of the environs in the Matha Biquadrant.
Unlike the carefully and neatly lined-up two-storey houses along the streets of Sagar Biquadrant, the buildings in the Matha Biquadrant are few and far in between with no clear arrangement relative to one another. Instead, most of the space was occupied by what appears to be training grounds with mannequins of varying sizes standing as targets for different types of training. Occasionally, men in light armour could be seen hacking and slashing at them with various types of weapons and arms.
Oh boy oh boy oh…
I immediately bit my lips as hard as I could before I could let myself finish the thought. Blood began to flow profusely through my teeth and down my throat.
Now is not the time to lose my cool when there are still others around.
The situation is still evolving.
All the more the need to keep a level head.
Before I could slap my own cheeks to clear my mind, it would appear that the moving cell finally stopped and that we had reached our destination. The two guards came in and began to drag me off as if they have been training that motion for their entire lives.
Yang: [I would be more than happy to walk by myself without you manhandling me, you know?]
Of course, the guards would not have understood what I had said. Yet, I felt that it was necessary to voice my dissatisfaction aloud so as to vent whatever denial I might have.
Through a building and past a series of rooms, they finally stopped in front of one that isn’t significantly different from the others and threw me inside. I would not say that I have gotten used to being thrown around like a ragdoll but it was still rather disheartening to find myself being able to expertly stick the landing after being thrown.
After the guards locked the room behind me, I was left to my own devices, or so I thought. At the middle of the room was a partition made out of iron bars and a table that stretched through the iron bar partition and into both sides.
In a sense, I was merely transported from one prison cell to another.
Your honour, I was framed! I did nothing wrong and had always been a lawful citizen, Tawouest or otherwise!
This must be what it felt to be wrongfully accused.
????: [*Cough cough*]
It took a while before I realised I was not alone in the room. Seating on the opposite side of the table guarded behind the iron bar partition was, most likely, an old man. I couldn’t see any of his facial features due to the dim lighting of the room but I guessed he’d be an old man since that would be the most suitable kind of character for this interrogation scene. He barely had any presence, to begin with.
I quickly sat myself down on my side of the table before the old man began to click his tongue in annoyance.
Old man?: [***********, *?]
He began talking but like all others that spoke before him, I understood not a word. There came a point in time that I managed to sieve them all out as if they were background noise in a cafe.
Old man?: [***********, *****!!]
Then all of a sudden, he began to scream and shout at me at the top of his lungs. I almost certainly felt the spray of his saliva as they flew across the table. You know, slamming the table won’t make me feel any more intimidated. I am already shaking in my shoes with maxed-out intimidated stats right here.
Old man?: [**********, *****. *****...]
However, just when I was expecting more outbursts from the old man, he instead continued to talk calmly as if all that screaming and shouting just now was a mere auditory illusion on my side.
People who can “switch modes” like him were always scary to me. Being so nice in one moment only to rage at you in the next. They are like Schrödinger's Cat, existing simultaneously in a state of calm and violence until you observe them by interacting with them. Furthermore, they are one step higher than the cat in their ability to switch back even after we have observed them. I would know since my mother is one of them…
Just when I was about to let my mind drift to the quantum superposition states of my mother’s emotions, I found myself suddenly feeling a sudden sense of discomfort, the likes of which I have never felt before. It is a feeling similar to being watched in all directions while you are naked. Not only were your outsides put on display for all to see, their stares felt so penetrating that even the insides were not safe.
No, wait. I did feel this before. In fact, just recently. Yet somehow, I could not recall it just then.
Old man?: [***, *****************. *,****, *********. ***, **, ****, ************. ************. **, ********, *******. ]
The sensation stopped as soon as the old man began talking. This time, he seemed to be giving out a huge chunk of information which sounded important since no one else had ever spoken such a long sentence ever since I was here in the other world.
As soon as he gave his exposition (I think), he shouted something out loud, directing not at me, but some other person or people that were not in the room. My guess would be the two guards outside that previously dragged me here because as soon as he had finished, they came into my side of the room.
I expected them to drag me off again to put me in my third and last prison. In fact, I even lifted my arms for their ease of carrying. Yet they simply stood at the door and gestured to me, almost even invitingly, to come out on my own accord.
Initially, I thought for sure that the reason was that they were forbidden from entering the room I was in, seeing as to how they threw me in instead of dragging me in. That theory broke down as soon as I stepped out of the room and they continued to guide and perhaps even ushered me away.
Old man?: [*******, *******.]
For a moment, I thought I heard the fleeting comment of the old man but the door closed behind me before I could confirm. Additionally, the change of attitude of the two guards was so jarring that I had yet to process that fact fully. Instead, I tried to be as cooperative as possible so as to not anger them somehow.
In the end, I was right that the guards were transporting me to my next location albeit not another prison like how I originally expected.
The place we had arrived at was similar to a small wooden cottage. It was rather far away so we had to get there via horse-drawn carriage. Of course, this time around, I wasn’t sitting in a mobile prison but a proper carriage aimed to transport people, not criminals.
Seeing the horses and donkeys that were been herded around the cottage made it seemed more like a barn house than a cottage occupied by people.
However, I was proven wrong the moment I stepped into the cottage: It does have its fair share of human inhabitants, specifically seven in total.
The two guards brought me into the cottage and guided me to what seemed like the living quarters of the place before handing me over to the residents of the place and departing for their duties.
I tried to thank them for their troubles for escorting me all this way though a little bit rough at the start but they wouldn’t even bat an eye. Like professionals on a job, they swiftly completed their task and swiftly adjourned afterwards without making any unnecessary comments. In a way, I find myself having a newfound respect for the people of Tawouest, specifically those of the Matha Biquadrant.
A little bit about the living quarters: There were a total of four double-decker bunk beds, making up a total of eight beds available to be slept on. Just like how the place was expected to be slept by eight people, there were eight medium-sized wardrobes to put their belongings too
Out of the eight beds in total, seven of them were occupied when I came in, which would make me the last official occupant of the place…
Wait a minute, how did I get swept by the flow so much that I so readily accepted the fact that I had enrolled into this ragtag group of men? In the first place, we aren’t even of the same gender! Aren’t we going further and further away from finding a way back home?
However, I couldn’t find it in me to voice my dissatisfaction. Primarily, it was because I knew that they would not be able to understand me. The other reason being one of the men, in fact, the one that was the most muscular and menacing out of all seven began to make his way over to me.
I say menacing because he emits this no-nonsense aura around him common around those types of serious commanders of the military. This was also when I finally concluded that the area the Tawouest folks called the “Matha Biquadrant” was essentially a military camp, with its vast expanse of training grounds. In addition, this was most likely where all the men of Tawouest were concentrated, as if forced into some form of universal conscription.
Trying to distract myself with useless trivia was ineffective as I found myself taking a step back for every step he inched towards me. The living quarters may be big enough to house four bunk beds and eight medium-sized wardrobes but it will eventually come to an end at some point. I found myself discovering the ends of the room rather quickly the moment I felt my back against the wall. All the while, the menacing man continued his approach towards me.
Mom. Sou. Rou. Dad. I’m sorry that your daughter and sister had never really made you all proud. However, I may really be gone for good this time around. For my last words, I would…
????: [...* poke *...]
Yang: [HEY, WHERE DO you think you are poking...]
While I was about to prepare for my last rites, I felt a finger poking at my cheeks, as if humiliating me for my fear and anxiety. To make matters worse, I found myself shouting back at the perpetrator initially only to soften to an inaudible murmur the more I realised the one poking was none other than the menacing man.
As if to further rub shame into my face, four out of the seven others in the room began to laugh out loud as if having seen a comedy routine take place in front of them.
The first one seemed like an old man but unlike the one that I met in the interrogation room just now, he could be clearly seen and was in no way as commanding. Instead, he was very skinny, to the point of being all skin and bones. That was no exaggeration, he was so skinny that every part of his ribcage could be seen pressing tightly against his skin as if he was a walking skeleton.
Another man that was laughing seemed to be missing his right leg from the thighs down. A single crutch could be seen placed on the right side of his bed. There was another who had the hood of his cloak fully on yet I could still clearly see his body slightly shaking from trying to hold in his laughter.
The last guy was pretty normal, like the face of a guy you can see in any crowd and will soon forget the moment you look away. In fact, I had already forgotten what he looked like.
From what I could see, the only ones not laughing were the perpetrator himself and another man that was rather plump in nature. Instead, the former barely changed his expression while the latter only looked on and smiled with the warmth of the summer breeze that was reassuring, to say the least.
I was sure I saw the seventh guy when I stepped in but could not seem to locate him anywhere.
The laughing went on for an unbearably long while but eventually died down when everyone continued to do their own things. Yet, I still find myself backed against the wall with the menacing man only an arm’s length away from me.
Just when I was wondering how long this would continue, he finally spoke… no, he was about to speak but cut himself short. Instead, he resorted to gestures and pointed to an empty bed, then at me.
Yang: [Oh, you trying to say that that is for me?]
I repeated his gestures and he immediately nodded in confirmation. Hey, maybe we could communicate after all, me and the residents of this world.
The bed we pointed to was the lower one of the bunk bed. When he tried to show me my wardrobe adjacent to my bed, I caught a glimpse of my upper bunk mate poking his head out of curiosity. He seemed like a normal kid in his 15s but one glaring feature in his countenance was a large bundle of bandage cloth that covered the majority of his face in order to cover his left eye. Maybe he should try for an eyepatch? The cloth seems like a pain to wrap around…
When the menacing man, no, he no longer seemed as menacing now that I knew he was just trying to get my attention in order to guide me. In fact, the moment I came to this realization, his actions almost even seemed kind, like a big brother to his fellow younger siblings.
Aniki! I will call him that instead.
When Aniki finished showing me the wardrobe filled with items, big or small, he began to call for the small group of eight to come together and make our way to the mess hall.
Before we left, he took a good look at my face before heading back to the room to take out a piece of scroll. Opening it revealed a complex diagram of sorts that I would not even try to decipher. However, I had an inkling of what it fundamentally is: A magic circuit.
He then began to close his eyes and concentrated hard on the diagram. As he does, the complex network of lines and curves on the magic circuit began to glow in a blue light.
The moment he opened his eyes, the blue hue on the scroll was gone. Nothing wrong happened to him or the immediate environs. I was the target of the magic he cast, or should I say, the recipient? For miraculously, the wound on my lips that I bit on just recently had completely healed up as if it was never there to begin with.
Seeing that I was fine, he began to lead the way without even giving me the opportunity to thank me. The walk to the mess hall was so long that by the time we reached there, the smell of food became so alluring that I could not stop drooling. Aniki was kind enough to show me the process of obtaining food from the mess hall but by the time we all had our food in our hands, the seven of them immediately went their separate ways.
Left alone, I almost have to scour the entire mess hall to finally chance upon the empty table that was seated only by one lone dwarf.
Yang: [... So, that was my story. Any thoughts?]
Yang: [I thought so. Anyways, thank you for at least listening. You’d make a good listener...]
Just when I was about to think of new conversation topics, I felt myself being pulled from the back. It was the plump man from the living quarters I just came from.
He seemed to be saying something but immediately cut himself short the moment he seemed to remember something. Although his face was still smiling, his tone sounded anxious as if he was rushing to go somewhere.
At the next moment, as if he had run out of time, he began to drag me by my forearm and began to run as fast as his weight could allow him to.
I am beginning to hate the me that is getting more and more used to being dragged around from one place to another.