Aye, I’m actually committing to something! I’m growing up as a person!
This is also a rather lengthy chapter, since it seems I can’t actually write in the casual way, so fuck it, I won’t even try to. Aah.
CHAPTER II – THANS
“In her arms he soaked, and found the peak of his soul.” – Unknown, Year 301 of Moon-Lyn Calender
Having won over the invaders, Eon’s position within the Dusk Village climbed even further up, at least in an abstract sense. People around him revered him as a God, and even started offering him women to please him. Although reluctantly, Eon refused. If someone was to look at the entirety of his character, they’d probably find only one redeeming quality: Eon was the type to look for one, and one alone. Not the one as some would put it, but simply someone he could see himself spending the eternity and beyond with.
After reassuring them multiple times that it wasn’t because the women of Dusk Village were ugly, they finally seemed to have give up.
A day after the battle ended, Eon had asked people within village to volunteer for the guards. Over fifty had applied, but Eon accepted only the youngest ten, ranging from sixteen to twenty-three in age. However good it is to have great military force, it’s pointless without any backing, after all. He quickly formed Guard’s Order, and had commenced a building operation just outside the walls for the Guard’s Headquarters. After he had suggested they build it with refined stone, builder’s faces seemed dumbfounded, as if he said something completely out of this world. I probably shouldn’t mention buildings made out of glass then, he thought, holding back an arrogant smirk. Although he wasn’t a constructor or architect in his previous life, he had acquired enough knowledge for a primitive barracks made out of stone. After teaching masons and craftsmen the techniques, they quickly threw themselves at work, promising that the base would be done within a week’s time.
He appointed Hawk as the Guard’s Commander and Lye as his second in command. Although Eon knew Lye was far better versed and seemed like a better choice, he lacked the most important part of being a leader: charm. He’d rarely talk or smile, so the chances of him inspiring troops was rather low. On the other hand, if he did suddenly shout ‘Yer bastards let’s go and fight’, it’d have tenfold of an impact. Eon also arranged for the two of them to train with the recruits and teach them in the basics of the sword fighting, while also asking the two young guards to join him late every night for some private lessons from him.
After doing so for two weeks, Eon’s level reached eight. Even though Lye’s was also eight and Hawk’s was seven, their stats were a tenth of Eon’s. At first he thought it must be because of the race, but he no longer thought so. After all, Lye’s strength was at eleven, while Eon’s was one hundred and twenty. Even if, within game’s logic, these were supposed to be NPC’s, that’s just terrible balance in his book.
Foundation for the Headquarters were built, alongside the first walls. Progress was slowed down because only four to six people were able to construct it. He knew that, if he’s ever to expand this small village that barely has one hundred habitats, he couldn’t wait for them to simply procreate at the pace of a rabbit. One night, after the practice had ended, Eon had begun asking Hawk and Lye simple questions.
“Where did those bandits come from?” he was curious mainly because they had to come from somewhere. And that somewhere might have more people he could use.
“Ah, it’s a village beyond the forest,” Hawk replied, curly smile on his face appearing just as he thought about the defeated bandits. The three they took as prisoners were so terrified of the Clay that they’ve been working like animals for the past two weeks, hoping to gain some favor with him. “Than Village.”
“Do you know the population?”
“Should be around ours I think.”
“Pack some stuff for tomorrow,” Eon said commandingly. “We’ll be paying them a visit.”
“Eeh?!” Hawk suddenly exclaimed, surprised. “Villagers did nothing, my Lord! We don’t need to punish them too!”
“Do you want to take their place?” Eon said mostly jokingly, since Hawk’s overexaggerated reactions amused him, but Hawk’s face suddenly turned grim and he immediately fell to his knees, head glued to the earth. “Do as you please with them my Lord. I’ll help you with tying the bastards up.” words flew out one after another, in a rather monotone tone.
“We’re departing at the breach of dawn.”
“Yes, my Lord!”
Of course Eon had no intention of punishing them, even if they did instigate the bandits. After all, needlessly killing possible workforce is the stupidest thing one can do. He’d rather have twenty reluctant workers than twenty corpses to decorate his name with. Dead have no value, it was as simple as that.
Before departing, he had left some further instructions to the villagers behind. He ordered some women to go and look for specific set of herbs, some poison-coated, some with healing properties, and to store them in the village’s storage, in separate boxes. He further instructed builders on how to continue, and asked of woodcutters to increase their production. He also taught blacksmith about sickles, since they seemed to have still used hands to pluck out weed, and told him to also start building large quantities of iron-enforced straw bags. Looking at the river peacefully flowing, he knew that if they could expand that far off, the productivity of the small village would skyrocket.
The dirt road led them straight through the forest. Although it was still early, and the sun had barely inched from the East, the rarity of the trees had the whole path illuminated. On the way, he managed to hunt some deer and a few rabbits, hoping to finally eat something else other than damned vegetables and low-quality meat of dying boars. The path through the forest was barely ten kilometers long, and they arrived at the forests’ end before the sun even reached midway point. Lye and Hawk, meanwhile, barely managed to carry two deers and six rabbits in-between them, already at the last breath. The Than Village was, really, just beyond the forest, merely a minute away. Unlike Dusk Village, it didn’t have any defensive walls, and the village seemed to be primarily about agriculture. He had noticed at least four large fields being worked over with various tools that blacksmith back in Dusk never even heard of. How can this be? This large of a difference in technology between villages that are barely apart?
As soon as they entered the village, the chatter and noise emerged, and people began scattering about as Eon walked by. Of course, it was the first time any one of them saw a Fallen. Most believed them to be a mere fairy tale or, at best, a myth of the eons long gone. Eon ordered Hawk and Lye to find a suitable cook to prepare for the feast tonight. Looking around, there didn’t seem to be anyone who was willing to talk to him. At least, they could have appointed him to the Elder, if they had one. Damned idiots.
At last, a girl, barely twelve in age, stepped in front of him. Her height barely reached his waist, and she looked up at him fiercely. She had fiery, brown eyes and brown hair, tied up in braids. She wore simple cloth over her chest and torn jeans that barely reached her knees, walking barefoot.
“Who the hell are you?!” she exclaimed in the deepest voice she could, yet it still came out as a whining cry of a baby, after which she slightly blushed, but never looked away. Chatter increased and it looked as if some people were ready to jump in and take her away, but no one dared. Looking around, Eon realized that none of these people were above level three, which nearly had him crying.
“Me?” Eon crouched down, wry smile on his face. “I’m the Demon Lord of course. I came here to gather up some kids for diner.” although Eon noticed a brief flash of terror cross girl’s features, she quickly recovered, surprising even him. Her mental fortitude or, more likely, her sheer stupidity was rather admirable.
“T-there aren’t any kids here, so scram!”
“I will if you take me to your Elder.”
“Hmph. And why should I do such thing?”
“So you have an Elder?”
“A-ah, I – I mean –”
“Jane, it’s okay,” man’s voice, coming from the back, was rather coarse, leading Eon to believe its holder to be rather old. He gave the girl one last smile and turned around. Behind him was a rather short man, back bent, wearing one piece of brown cloth, gray in hair and beard, wrinkled all around. “I am Elder of this village. What business do you have with us?” even at his old age, whilst probably knowing who Eon was, he displayed unrealistic ferocity. He truly cared about this village, Eon concluded.
“No need for the hostility Elder,” Eon smirked. “I’m here to simply propose a deal, is all.”
“Hm? And what would that deal be?”
“I have brought some meat that your cooks should be preparing by now,” Eon declared. “I haven’t eaten anything since last night, so let us delay our discussion until our bellies are full.”
“Or I could just massacre every single one in this village, and cook it myself.” Eon added in a dead-serious tone. The chatter died out and turned to deep silence, turning previously curious faces into ones covered in sheer terror.
“We can banquet in the Elder’s Hall,” the man said after a lengthy pause. “I can make the preparations.”
“No need,” Eon rejected the proposal quickly. “We’ll banquet under the stars.”
“As you wish.”
Eon retreated outside of the village while they prepared for the feast, knowing that people probably wouldn’t be able to work with him around. Hawk and Lye joined him shortly after, they themselves realizing that villagers were absurdly wary of them.
“Ah, my Lord,” Hawk sighed as he sat down. “What did you do?”
“Hm? Absolutely nothing.” to a stranger, this innocent smile filled with fluff is also filled with honesty, but both Hawk and Lye had learned that their Lord is a rather … spectacular person.
“Whatever,” Hawk murmured. “So, what do you plan on proposing during the feast?”
“Are you trying to stop me Hawk?”
“Not again …”
The feast was prepared rather quickly, barely three hours after they begun. To pleasure of the trio, which were starving to the point of their stomachs releasing sounds that more resembled piteous cries for help rather than growls, tables full of meat were ready when they went back to the village. Almost everyone seemed to have gathered around, still keeping their distance from the three strangers. Four deer and fifteen rabbits in total should be able to feed everyone according to Eon’s calculations. He quickly dove in and started rampantly eating. The meat was tasty, and they even used some spices as well as side-dishes, probably trying to gain his favor. After the first round, Hawk, Lye and Eon were the only ones to have touched the food. Deciding that this is getting tiring, Eon got up and wiped his mouth.
“So you are ready to discuss, then?” Elder asked.
“Discuss?” Eon smirked, nearly bursting out in laughter. “There won’t be any discussion, I’m afraid.”
“I won’t let you lay a hand on this village!” Elder suddenly roared.
“I want all your women,” Eon suddenly exclaimed, rising his voice far beyond what a normal human is able to do. Deliberately letting the words hang in the air, he wanted to see the expressions of everyone around him. Confusion, anger, fear, hatred, pain – they circled from eyes to eyes. Even Hawk and Lye were left dumbfounded at his words. A second later, after getting the gratification of seeing their terrorized eyes, Eon continued. “And men to join with our village and move in with us.” his sudden monotone tone, and his hand that extended a thumb, pointing backwards of his shoulders, was far too much for Hawk. He fell on the floor laughing, and even Lye wasn’t able to hold his composure. Most villagers simply stood frozen, unable to process what had just happened. “Of course, you’ll be under my protection, and won’t be in any way looked at differently. You’ll be allowed to hold your traditions and religious rituals if you have any. It’ll simply be a single village with different folk, is all.”
“But … to suddenly abandon this place …” Elder muttered, finally recovering from the initial shock of the proposal.
“Ah, of course it won’t be immediately,” Eon smiled. “After all, we’re a rather small village and have nowhere to keep you guys. However, daily, you’ll be sending some men and women to help us expand and within a month, you’ll have fully moved in with us.”
“Still …” Eon sighed at their reluctance. Maybe he shouldn’t have been so harsh, making them distrust him so much.
“As I already told you Elder,” Eon said. “This isn’t a proposal. I have already cleared your fighting force, and have already declared my domain over this village. Whether you’re willing to accept these terms or not isn’t my concern.”
“Fighting force?” Elder suddenly looked up, confused. “What fighting force?”
“The ones from your village that repeatedly taxed my village beyond reason?”
“You mean you defeated Donald’s gang?”
“Huh?” even Eon now reeked of confusion.
“They weren’t our fighting force!” Elder quickly denied. “Those bastards would come almost every week, taking our food and drinks, sometimes even women! Are you sure you defeated them?”
“Of course he did,” Lye suddenly joined in, surprising everyone. “Do you think that a retard like him can stand up to my Lord? My Lord may look like he’ll eat your kids and deflower your women in a heartbeat, and he may find too much amusement in other people’s sufferings, but if someone dares touch what’s within his domain, he’ll slaughter them all. He may not love his people, but he’ll defend them. He may not look at us and see fellow living beings, and may from time to time give us a heart-attack, and may take best treasures for himself leaving us with leftovers, and may eat the best food and drink the best wine, and may order us around like a devil to work so hard our bones being to crack –”
“Lye,” young guard hadn’t realized he had gone on a rant, releasing what was truly within his heart. His deadpan face suddenly turned grim as he looked towards the source of the voice, as Eon stood above him, wicked smile on his face. “Is that how you truly feel about your Lord?”
“O-of course not!” usually calm boy suddenly jumped up and raised his voice. “I love my Lord! If Lord asks me, I’ll even lay in bed with him!”
“If you continue talking, the only thing you’ll lay in bed with will be your pain over losing the thing that makes it worth laying in bed with you.”
“M-my Lord, y-you couldn’t possibly talking about …”
“As you can see,” Eon suddenly turned to the crowd, among which some even began smiling. “I’m extremely loved by my people. And they’re still alive. So join me, and let’s end this charade.”
After a few more minutes of persuasion, mainly by Hawk who actually understood people, unlike Lye and Eon, Elder agreed. The plans of joining the two villages were set in motion, and just before Eon left the village to return and start making plans over there as well, Elder stopped him.
“I don’t trust you,” he said. “I don’t care whether you’re Fallen or an angel or a demon, I can’t put blind trust in you.”
“I’m not asking you to.” Eon replied plainly.
“But I trust your men,” he said. “If they say you’re worthy, then I’ll see you prove it. Here,” he suddenly took out a book underneath his cloth, a rather old and worn out one, and handed it over. “Although it may not be much, consider it a gift, as a formal thank you for accepting us.”
“Thank you,” Eon took it, smiling. “And stop worrying. You’re already too old for this, just die already and let me handle things.”
“If I could afford to, I would have done so ages ago.”
“Old people are stubborn everywhere it seems …”
Eon and Lye departed back while Hawk remained and would return tomorrow. The title of the book was Growth and Bottlenecks, and from the introduction he briefly skimmed over, it looked to be about concept of leveling. Within this world, game’s leveling system has been translated to the concept of ‘growth’, and it seemed like an interesting read that Eon had decided to read as quickly as possible. First step in his world-conquering plan has been set in motion, and he couldn’t help but smile at his own capabilities, creeping Lye out.