Chapter 23: Don’t play outside in the snow, please! part
“Snow! snow! It’s snowing!”
Yells ayumi with a big smile looking through the half-open door of the hut
“what!? are you for real!?”
Exclaims Luke trying to take a peek through the door. Hiraku, on the other hand doesn’t look excited at all.
“What’s wrong dear? you don’t look happy”
“Don’t you know what this means? It’s winter already and we haven’t finished the construction yet”
“perhaps it was too ambitious to try to build two cottages at the same time” says Helena
..... 𝐢𝙣nr𝙚a𝗱. 𝚌૦m
“Hey wait a minute, let’s see the positive side, one is almost finished”
Bob intervenes looking at the scenery outside through the crack in the door above Ayumi and Luke. Hiraku approaches and slams the door shut.
“Hey! I was still watching!”
Although they tend to keep busy during the day, at night there’s not much they can do. Now that they have a fireplace they can heat the interior and they have a light source, even so, the night hours are usually long and boring for everyone. Especially for Ayumi, who usually spends all her time in the settlement and rarely strays away.
“I’m sorry dear, but I don’t think this is the time for that, We got a lot to discuss”
Everyone sits in a semi circle near the fire waiting for Hiraku to start the meeting.
“As you remember, we agreed on holding this meeting today taking advantage of the fact that young Ryu left early today and probably won’t be back until tomorrow night. Since our goal is to decide what to do next, we can’t go to sleep until we sort things out”
Everyone nods solemnly at Hiraku’s words
“First I will present the issues we’ll have to discuss, we need to make a decision on whether to stay under the command of Ryu or not, for this I’d like everyone to present their opinion on how things have been going since we came to this place. Then we’ll to discuss about our supposed mission, if we fulfill it and how we’ll do it.”
Ayumi giggles when she sees that Helena is the first to raise her hand
“Since Ryu joined our group I feel like things have been getting better every day, plus I think coming to this place was the right call. Can you imagine what would have happened if the snow caught us still living in those horrible tents? Although you all know that I’ll support Ryu, you should know that I talked to him before and I told him that I would only agree with him being the leader if he took us to a settlement after winter. I say we follow him at least until then, so we can see whether or not we part with him”
Bob raises his hand next and clears his throat
“I think Ryu is the most skilled of all, he’s weak, very weak. Even so, I feel that he would be fine without us, but we would not be fine without him”
After Bob’s words, a deathly silence was formed in the cabin, you could barely hear the sound of the wind and the crackle of the fire in the chimney. Both Ayumi and Luke remain completely silent, Ayumi seems self-conscious about something while Luke stares at an empty corner of the room.
“Luke, I think we’d all like to hear what you have to say. After all, it was you who asked for this meeting.”
“No, before that... I’d like to give my opinion. You guys know how I behaved the other day and I’m not proud of it, as I’m the oldest I should be able to keep my composure but, as you know, there’s no point in hiding it. Difficult situations always get the better of me, but with Ryu’s help I was able to go much further than I ever imagined. First, he’s always calm even in perilous situations, we all tend to act before thinking and so far I’ve only seen him do that once, when the cat was being attacked by a jackal. Second, he always seem to be well prepared for situations to come, without his insight we wouldn’t even be close to ready for winter. And last, so far Ryu has been listening patiently to our demands and ideas, which is a great trait for a leader. I feel like we owe him a lot”
After her words, Ayumi sighs in relief as if a great weight had been lifted off her shoulders. Now everyone is looking intently at Luke, who seems to be hesitating whether or not to speak.
“Look, I don’t like that guy one bit. Yes, I agree that he’s been useful in many ways and that he’s helped us a lot, but also since we met him we’ve had nothing but problems. If instead of playing house we had done what I said from the beginning, which was to look for a city, we could have introduced ourselves as heroes there and started our mission already”
“Yes, just as I figured young Luke, that’s why I think this meeting is so important. Young Luke, I believe that without the help of the young Ryu, fulfilling our mission will be an absolutely impossible feat. The words he said that day I haven’t been forgotten them, have you?: ‘what kind of heroes are we that we can’t even survive on our own in the wild?’ Even jackals can do it and we can’t. I believe that our mission has already begun and that this is only the first step. If we hurry, the only thing we’ll achieve is that our lives here will be painful and short ones”
“I’m not saying that we have an alternative right now, I was just saying that we should have looked for people before. After all, our mission is to save humanity. We must not forget that we are summoned heroes with a great destiny ahead”
“Yes, yes, we have heard those fantasies of yours a thousand times. But in the end things are quite not as you imagined right? I mean, at the end of the day we didn’t show up inside a city and, so far, we’ve barely found any animals. Under these conditions we can’t do anything. The bottom line is whether or not is it worth betraying Ryu, so stop beating around the bush and just name a single reason why we shouldn’t take him as our leader even after we find a city”
Ayumi rudely interrupted Luke with these words that echoed in the cabin causing tension to rise in the group.
“What did you say? I don’t think any of us are naive enough to believe that’s a good idea. More than that, i think young Ryu might be the one to leave us and we need to find a way to convince him to stay with us instead. That day, when we fought the jackals, he acted as bait for us to fight, he could have abandoned us and we could have easily lost a member”
“Convince him you say? What’s so special about him that we heroes should get on our knees to beg him?”
But after Luke’s words, all it took was a look around for him to realize that everything they had right now was thanks, directly or indirectly, to Ryu, so he decides to resign himself.
“Okay, let’s cut the ceremony short. I agree. Ryu will be our leader until we vote again. Although it weighs me, I have to admit that he saved my life. Maybe when we get to the city we can give him some financial compensation and finally be able to separate from him”
“Young Luke! what you’re saying is the answer to all our problems!”
Hiraku celebrates intensely
“Up until now, my biggest concern has been that young Ryu may decide to leave us at any time. But if we offer him financial compensation as soon as we assume our role as heroes, we won’t have to feel bad about being a burden to him. Besides, saving humanity is our mission, not his, it would be unfair to ask him to risk his life with us for no reason”
“That was my point dear, we’ve all been talking about whether or not to betray Luke since we joined him. I know that’s because we decided not to trust humans of this world in order to avoid problems, but that was decided before we even met him! we shouldn’t even talk about betraying him, if he wanted us killed all he has to do is go live somewhere else and we’re done for”
“Ok then it’s settled, when he comes back we’ll offer him a substantial pay, a fair share equal to ours. If he agrees he’ll be in charge of leading us up until we get to civilization, and we’ll pay him as soon as we can”
Everyone’s spirits light up in an instant, most of their conversations never reached practical solutions and ended in votes where neither party was satisfied. Now that they had finally made up their minds, all the doubts that plagued them dissipated into thin air as if they had never existed.
Helena was satisfied thinking that she wouldn’t have to separate from Ryu anytime soon. Both Bob and Ayumi were grateful to him, so offering him a reward sounded pretty good. Luke, who proposed the idea, is now looking forward to the moment when he can deliver a bag of gold to him and get rid of the annoying antagonist of his heroic story. Lastly, Hiraku, who was carrying the weight of all the members’ concerns, finally found some peace.
The next day, with renewed energy, the group gets up at their usual time. Bob and Hiraku leave to check the state of the buildings, Luke goes away to look for firewood, but Ayumi and Helena stay inside the cabin.
Ayumi lights the fire again preparing to boil water. As soon as she gained the ability to manipulate rocks, many of the tasks were greatly facilitated. She was able to create a stone kettle that can be hanged inside the fireplace to boil. Removing it from there is complicated, to avoid burns she holds it with wooden tongs and places it on a flat rock on the floor just in front of the fireplace.
“Ayumi, I’d like to make fur clothes, I think I can make thread using the fur of jackals, but I need a needle that’s strong enough to pierce the skins”
“And what do you expect me to do? we don’t have metal... Oh! imperial stone! Yes! sounds perfect!”
After eating some mochi accompanied by black berry juice, Ayumi starts playing with a small piece of imperial rock trying to shape it into a needle. If Ryu were with them, he could use his observation ability to tell her when she managed to create something good enough to be called a needle.
Since this is not the case, they have no choice but to try again and again.
Unfortunately, as much as Helena tried, she was unable to craft a thread strong enough to hold the skin together. With the practice that she has making plant fiber clothing, she already knows that the fiber is quite fragile and would not be good enough for the task. She tried different methods until she finally gave up, the same thing happened with Ayumi, since most of the needles she managed to make were either not able to penetrate the hard skin or they broke easily.
But the morning is long and Ryu would not return anytime soon. Both wanted to show results to feel useful for the rest of the group, but even more, Helena wanted to show Ryu how skilled she is. For this reason, both devoted themselves to their work with care.
Before noon Helena finally had an idea, since the skin is so hard and difficult to pierce, if they somehow managed to cut long strips of skin, she could use them as thread. After commenting this to Ayumi, her task also became a whole lot easier since the needle didn’t have to be small.
Ayumi’s solution was a little different from what Helena expected. Even if they are heroines with great power, it was still not practical to use thin needles to pierce the skins since they would break easily. So, she simply crafted a stone awl and a stone needle.
The idea is to use the awl to punch a hole and then easily pass the needle through it, putting a lighter burden on the thin needle and more load on the awl. Satisfied with the result, now all that remains is to solve the problem of the thread. Although no matter how hard they tried, the imperial stone knives they had at their disposal were not sharp enough to cut a straight strip.
“Turns out we do need Ryu after all, surely his obsidian knife can easily cut the leather”
Disappointed and with nothing to do inside the cabin, they decide to go outside. Its still snowing lightly causing a small layer of snow. Ayumi excitedly jumps straight into the snow, realizing too late how shallow the snow was.
Helena laughs at her and this doesn’t seem to please Ayumi as she tries to gather enough snow to throw a snowball at Helena, but when she finally succeeds, Helena is nowhere to be found.
“You’ll see when I find you, little girl! I’ll teach you to make fun of your elders.”
Finding herself alone, Ayumi begins to survey the terrain while Bob and Hiraku struggle to complete the roof of a cottage.
The unexpected arrival of the snow was also too premature. Along with Ryu they planned the construction of a drainage system that would allow the use of latrines inside the cabins. The girls especially were quite excited about this, however the difficulty of every task increases exponentially with the presence of snow.
As soon as Luke returns to the camp, Ayumi approaches him
“hey Luke, how are you doing today?”
“what do you want grandma?”
“Grandma! what grandma? I’m going to...”
“I need your help to mark the ground in order to make the drain”
“I knew you wanted something, well, it can’t be helped... after all I’m indispensable to this group”
Luke says shrugging. This attitude deeply bothers Ayumi, why can’t he be more humble like Ryu?
The first step is to locate wooden stakes and use twine to tie them together. This allows not only to check that they are straight, avoiding jams, but also makes it easier to check the inclination.
Fortunately all every building has a floor made of logs, which gives them a certain height by increasing the slope, this is essential since if the slope is not enough, the waste will get stuck regularly.
As Luke marks the ground based on Ayumi’s instructions, she begins to join several stones together with magic and then changes its shape into a tube. The wider the tube, the more problems will be avoided in the future.
Although they are not sure if this settlement will be permanent, they’ll spend at least a couple months here anyway. So it is important to do things right, it’s much better to take a little longer to complete the task than to do it quickly and then have to solve problems on the go, or even worse, having to do everything from scratch.
Satisfied with the thickness of the tube, she begins to follow Luke’s path of stakes and twine. when she finally reaches it she realizes that Helena is helping Luke.
“Don’t get distracted Luke, it’s crooked, a little more to the left, yes, it’s fine there!”
“Okay, let’s go to the next one!”
Between the two of them the progress is much faster than Ayumi expected, so she then returns to the cabin determined to spend all her mana today trying to craft as many stone pipes as possible. The snow continued to fall all afternoon, although it didn’t seem like much, it eventually accumulated.
When afternoon came the sky was already almost completely dark, the sun didn’t seem to be able to penetrate the large number of clouds that floated in the sky anxious to spread their white mantle over the earth.
Every member of the group became aware of the dangerous situation as soon as it got dark, but Helena was the first to react.
“Ryu hasn’t arrived! We must go find him!”
Bob says with the intention of leaving immediately without even making any preparations, Hiraku stands in front of him to cut him off. The difference in height becomes noticeable, he would have felt intimidated if it weren’t for Bob’s soft character.
“Calm down young bob, we don’t know what situation they are in, Anne has an excellent sense of direction and if things get dangerous I’m sure Ryu will find a shelter for the night. Besides, even if they really are in trouble we can’t do anything, if you go to the forest in the dark and with this snow, the only thing you will get is to add another victim”
“But we must do something! It’s so cold! we can’t leave them alone” Helena exclaims desperately with her hands pressed firmly on her chest.
Without someone who could make decisions, they remained arguing without taking any action for a while until night finally came. After noticing the situation, they finally agreed to make a big bonfire on the shore of the lake, so they should see it from a distance, and another one in front of the settlement.
Thanks to the long stakes driven into the ground, it wasn’t difficult to find the way to the lake and they carried out their plan, building a pyre on the shore of the lake with some firewood.
It wasn’t until late at night that Ryu and Anne arrived, completely covered in snow, exhausted, their skin pale and their lips purple from the cold. Even Mochi was completely covered in snow.
They didn’t announce their arrival, they simply dropped their cargo near the entrance and came inside the cabin.
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