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The Orc's Awakening c31

Updated: Sep 21, 2021

Chapter 31: The Orc and Shana


Shana: “Are you okay, Mr. Orukus?”


Orukus: “(muffled groan) (no)”


I was laying on my bed in a full body cast that made me look like a swelled, mummified pumpkin with stubby limbs and head.


After that incident with Gramps, I dropped off Noir with Ayse, and I almost escaped.


…..almost........


I thought heroes could escape out of all danger, but apparently, I had to endure some plot twists.


I don’t know if it’s his age that makes him so grumpy and cranky. I mean, it WAS an accident after all.


Regardless, the old man pretty much beat me to a bloody pulp, broke every bone in my body, and I swelled up like a balloon. He basically stopped short of turning me into a smear on the forest floor. By all means, I should have died, but this porky body is amazingly resilient ー too resilient in fact. I'm half-convinced that I'm immortal.


My body automatically heals normally (especially with Bino, the [Blood Sprite] now), but apparently, there are ways to make the injury linger longer when you face [Watchers] like Gramps. He said something scary along the lines of normalizing “pain and suffering” as part of your very being, but he wasn't able to make it stick permanently.


Still.......ow...............


Shana: “Mr. Orukus?”


Orukus: “(snort) It’s nothing.”


I’m starting to get the feelings back in my face as I twist and contort the muscles in my lips, cheeks, and jaws. Looks like I’m recovering faster than expected.


Orukus: “(snort) I should be okay in a few hours.”


Shana: “Really? It would normally take someone months to recover from injuries like this...assuming they don't succumb and die from their injuries first....”


I regain the feeling to one hand, as I wiggle my fingers.


Orukus: “(snort) See? I’m starting to feel better already.”


Shana: “You really aren’t human in many ways….I’m a former ‘medic’ of my party, and I’ve never seen someone so adept at healing injuries, and you’re telling me that you can heal yourself...”


With a strained smile, she shook her head in disbelief and then chuckled to herself.


She's such a sweet, kind girl. If she was my neighbor, I would.......no.........I had a friend like her once. I beat away the sad memories.


Not human in many ways, huh?


She probably meant that more figuratively than literally, but it still made my heart jump. She shouldn't be able to see my face still, and it's so swollen underneath the bandages anyways, that you wouldn't be able to tell WHAT I am in the first place.


Orukus: “(snort) There’s no Healers where you come from?”


Shana: “There are skilled surgeons and doctors in the City States, but none out here on the edges of the [Watchers’] territories. All the [Gifted] ones are kept safe, and the Ungifted like myself are sent to the frontlines with nothing but a single dirty roll of bandages and our dubious home-made remedies and medication we forage and make ourselves, and their effects are….superstitious at best.”


Orukus: “(snort) Sounds…..difficult….”


She made herbal remedies sound like a god-send.


I cringe as I guiltily peek and reflect back at my previous gluttonous lifestyle. It was better than being on life support. I had food, internet, and my lonely misery to keep me company, but it was nothing as intense as what Shana was describing.


Shana: “You really don’t know? A [Seeker] has a seal of death placed on their lives. We ‘seek’ freedom from the [Watchers], 'seek' new territories we can build cities, or 'seek' a hope beyond this world if we pass on to death.”


Orukus: “(snort) I started in this forest, so it’s all I know…”


Again, not a lie but…...I still feel guilt for concealing most of the story….


Shana: “Really?! Then you’re one of the very few who survived. Most only last days, weeks if you're very lucky.”


She picks up a knife that was hanging on my porky utility belt.


Shana: “It’s amazing you crafted such...ouch!”


She found the edges sharper than she expected.


She got a deep cut on her finger, and blood was starting to dribble down her finger and hand.


Orukus: “(snort) Here, let me see…”


I gestured for her to bring her cut finger to my wiggling finger, and as I placed a finger on her cut (making her wince), I sent Bino, the [Blood Sprite], to close up and mend the wound.


Having millions (?), billions (?) (I don’t know, they’ve multiplied even more since I last checked) of tiny Blood Sprites the size of a blood cell are really handy for these kinds of wounds. They're working throughout my body right now, but I think Gramps did something to slow their progress significantly. I’m regaining the senses in my entire left hand along with my fingers, so they’re doing what they can.


Shana just stared wide-eyed and her jaws dropped as she touched her mended finger. The cut was gone and there was no scarring. Getting to it immediately was key to prevent scarring. Bino mended it closed and reattached everything on a molecular level so her finger showed no signs of the wound.


Sprites are effing amazing in this world.


Shana: “How…..”


Orukus: “(snort) Magic….”


Not like she’ll believe me but….


Shana: “.........could you…..could I…..? Could you show me how to do it….?”


She whispered and mumbled the last part, but I caught what she asked.


Huh? Could I?


I dunno.


My body was still mending, and I may not have been thinking very clearly.


I held out my bandaged hand out to her.


Orukus: “(snort) I can at least show you how I do it.”


She paused for a moment, but with some determination and caution, she gently took my left hand.


<<<<>>>>


<Shana’s Perspective>


I don’t know what happened between Mr. Orukus and Sir Tree, but Sir Tree informed me to go check-in on Mr. Orukus after a while.


To my shock, I found Mr. Orukus bandaged head to toe so thickly that he could have been mistaken as a single ball of bandages.


I shouldn't say this, but he looked adorable like that. He was round before, but now he was extra round with stubby wubby arms and wegs......


!! I snap myself out of it.


I couldn’t make out what he was saying at first, but eventually, his words became clearer.


Did Sir Tree and Mr. Orukus have a disagreement?


Though I was shocked to see Mr. Orukus in this state, it was odd.


Normally, anyone else who was hurt this bad would have death hovering over their beds. Any [Seeker] in the same position would have been left to be taken by the Fields, Forest, or Mountains. We would lay out our wounded or dying, and once they were left unattended, they were gone. Just….gone…


But for Mr. Orukus, being in a crippling, critical, death-certain condition was nothing more worrying than a splinter in his finger. He was relaxed, he was cheerful, and he was recovering. His hand had already started to recover while we were talking. He made the job of a “medic” completely moot and unnecessary. Not that I could have done anything for him. In the [Seekers], I was trained as a “medic” insofar as they needed someone to bandage light wounds and carry the wounded back to camp if necessary. I could never lift any of my sisters, so that tells you how highly my instructors regarded me ー which is to say, not at all. But I was no different than thousands of other medics before me. Our positions were….symbolic. It was where the least [Gifted] were sent and only hovered by a hair above working at the brothels - especially for most girls like myself. And most medics are treated no differently than the girls there….


Dark memories began bubbling back up through the cracks, and I had to hurriedly turn my attention to something before it completely took over me.


I took up one of Mr. Orukus’ knives. It was unusually heavy. The metal gleamed with an unnatural shine, and it…..had this aura around it that resembled Mr. Orukus in some inexplicable way.


Without any thought, I placed a finger on the edge, and it instantly cut open a deep gash.


Ow! That was careless of me. I’ll have to clean and tighten that up later and hopefully, it’ll close on its own. It’s frustrating how useless I am even as the Party’s “medic”. I might as well rescind the title and call myself the errand girl, servant, or slave. Not that my sisters will really let me.


Orukus: “(snort) Here, let me see…”


Mr. Orukus wiggles his finger in a come here gesture. He pointed to my finger and then gestured to come over again. I didn’t understand it at first, but I think he was offering to look at my cut. A man unable to move in bandages was offering to take a look at my small injury.


_| ̄|○ I'm hopeless.


There was no use trying to save a pride that never existed. I relented and placed my finger into his left hand.


【Warmth】touched my finger briefly.


The wound closed.


There were no scars.


It happened so fast, so instantly, that all I could do was stare at my finger with no cut in sight.


No bandages.


No stitches.


He only touched it, and it was healed.


Not even the most [Gifted] Doctors of the biggest City State of Midland could do anything remotely close to that.


Shana: “.........could you…..could I…..? Could you show me how to do it….?”


Words just tripped over itself in my mouth as thoughts raced and collided ungracefully in my mind.


It was terrifying.


It was amazing.


And it felt………….right.


I wanted to........if I could...........I.........


Orukus: “(snort) I can at least show you how I do it.”


Mr. Orukus gently opened up his palm again for me to take his hand.


There was a moment of hesitation. It was one thing to have him look at a cut finger. It was all together another thing to place my hand in another man’s hands.


Fears welled up from the darkest corners of my past, and a panicked terror screamed at me to run out of the room in the back of my thoughts.


But the place Mr. Orukus healed still felt warm. It throbbed but not from pain. It throbbed because my heart began thudding hard against my chest and sent the tremors throughout my entire body. My breath was shallow from the excitement and adrenaline.


..............should I?


Or rather...............can I?


I hesitated for a moment, but I remembered my sisters….how bruised and injured they were…..I could do nothing…..Sister Layla’s still not awake…...and how utterly and cruelly helpless I was to do anything for them.


.......................no more.


If there’s a chance…..if there’s even an insignificantly small opportunity for me to do something….to be someone more…..I need to at least try…..if anything, for my sisters who risked their lives to shelter and save me all this time….


I reached out and touched his hand.


<<<<>>>>


It’s hard to explain what happened next.


At first, there were two people….no, rather two【bodies】in the room.


I saw myself standing there holding Mr. Orukus’ hands, but it all looked wrong….no, different. There were things floating around us.


Was that air?


It was transparent, but somehow, I saw clouds moving and swirling around the room like a turbulent storm cloud during a thunderstorm - but it was silent...it was massive…...it was…..beautiful.


My body looked strange as well. There was so much happening all at once. On a closer examination, my outer skin looked dry and dead like the barks of a tree, and things wriggled, danced, and interacted all around my skin. It was kind of disturbing to be honest.


It was like going to Midland during a seasonal festival and watching rivers of people come and go, buy and eat, laugh and watch….but multiplied that by hundreds….no more than that.


My head swirled as information began cramming into my skull as my eyes watered and blinked several times. My eyes somehow traveled underneath my skin, and everything went dark. I saw all colors of the rainbow, shapes I’ve never known to exist, inhuman cities that I never would have believed to exist…..in a single moment, I was taken from the tips of my fingers throughout my entire body to the edges of my toes and ends of my hairs.


I saw my body in parts and as one - separate…. but united. It was more complex than any Engineering machine I’ve seen at the City States….more vast than all of the human territories combined….as vast as all the stars in the skies….or even bigger. All of that…..in just a single human body…..


I was thrown into a maelstrom of knowledge. It was too much. As if I was dropped in the middle of an storming ocean, I bobbed and thrashed to desperately keep my head above water, but the waves were too high, the storm too strong… I was plunged into darkness, into its depths…..


It was only the tip of the iceberg….as if someone just told me just the first letter of the alphabet and nothing more. Even that much…..was enough to crush me.


<<<<>>>>


The room was gone.


I awoke this time in a bleary city.


It was 【awful】.


It was 【cruel】.


It was exactly how I saw the【world】whenever I closed my eyes.


Everything was a shade of gray or black. 【Darkness】 consumed the streets and buildings….or at least, what remained of the buildings….. There was not a single 【whole】 structure here.


Everything was 【looted】, 【ravaged】, and 【destroyed】…….just like me.......


Everything was savagely【violated】and left to die…….


It took me a moment to realize that I knew this place.


It resembles all the towns I’ve visited - my hometown included.


It was a myriad of my【past】and【present】….and possibly【future】…..all mixed into one giant heap that resembled a crumbling 【labyrinth】that was my life…...or was this my grave?


Where was Mr. Orukus?


Did I faint? Am I dreaming?


No. For a dream, it was surreal, but.......


This was all【ME】. Every part of this world represented a piece of that was【ME】. If I didn't know any better, I would have said that I was taking a look at my own【SOUL】.


But how curious. My【SOUL】and my【PHYSICAL BODY】were separate.........no, they weren't even from the same【world】.


I 【SAW】my body. Mr. Orukus helped me see and inspect every single aspect of it.


This infinite【LABYRINTH】was nowhere inside that body of mine.


Then...............where am I?


Did I...............really 【DIE】?


I thought【DEATH】would feel...........different. I thought I wasn't supposed to 【FEEL】anything after I died.


But in this 【LABYRINTH】of my life, 【 I 】 【FELT】【EVERYTHING】.


How could words ever describe this pain? This realization? My language is too primitive, too elementary and incapable of even starting.


Humans feared death.


But those who were tired of living, feared life more.


But I can say this from experience now.


【DEATH】was worse than【LIVING】.


And I was 【TRAPPED】in 【DEATH】.


There was no escaping this 【LABYRINTH】.


[Seekers] are taught to continue “seeking” after death, but we are not told “what” to “seek”. It’s a laughable doctrine, but it’s the only thing that gives us hope.


But if 【DEATH】ー real, unadulterated, unmitigated, and unrestrained 【DEATH】awaits us.........where is 【HOPE】? What 【HOPE】could possibly be there?


Is this it? Is this what awaits me after I physically die?


I'll forever be trapped in my own【SOUL】?


An eternal prisoner of my own 【BEING】?


【Despair】only made the halls of the labyrinth darker, the broken structures more menacing as shadows stretched out and threatened to take me.


I wasn't alone here.


【TERROR】overtook me at the realization, but before anything could take me......


A 【warmth】permeated the air.


It drifted from above.


A warm draft suddenly disturbed the musty scent of my 【grave】.


I didn't realize how cold it was underground until the【warmth】touched me.


I suddenly longed for more.


I wanted more.


I wanted to feel the warm touch of 【LIFE】once again.


I silent howl and scream for help escaped my lips, but did not disturb the air. No matter how much I screamed or cried, no sound came out.


I pounded the doors with my fists, but I couldn't even disturb the dust clinging to the doors.


Someone.


Please.


Anyone....


The ground shook. No, I was underground. Everything around me violently shook suddenly.


The ceiling of the 【LABYRINTH】, the【earth】above me........MY【GRAVE】, MY【TOMB】TORE OPEN.


It was as if someone took two inhumanly large hands, and grasped the earth and with one swift motion, swung the doors upwards and out.


Suddenly the dark skies were visible from where I stood again.


I didn't notice this until it was too late, but I must have been lured into the depths of the 【LABYRINTH】unknowingly.


And from the deepest depths of my grave, I looked up to see rain, a torrent of tormented, agonizing rain suddenly crack the skies as it flooded into my crypt.


As the water rose, panic crept in my thoughts as I had no way to escape. I would drown in my【sorrows】that were flooding in…...or so I should have…..


A woman, a being made of the sorrowful waters rose out of the water and gracefully swam up to me.


She wasn't terrifying or threatening. But having someone soaking wet swim up to you is still knee-jerking and scary.


She embraced me though......she was wet, but her touch wasn't cold.


No, the same【warmth】I felt before faintly resonated from her. It was so subtle that I could have been mistaken though.


We then quickly swam upwards towards the opening, and we both splashed out of the river that now flooded the labyrinth, and we landed on dry ground.


I looked around, but the woman was nowhere to be seen. Instead, there was a boy sitting beside the river.


He was…...round…..but well, not unhealthily round. He was just big boned maybe. The rain laxed into a drizzle, and he sat there watching the waters of the river.


I walked cautiously over to him, but he didn’t stir. He just continued to stare into the water.


Sitting down next to him, I looked where his eyes were set.


Inside the waters were 【memories】….


Lots and lots of 【memories】….


They were mine…..and they were his…..both of our【memories】converged in this river and flowed down in one continuous stream.


There were some from birth, some childhood memories I recognized, my parents….my siblings….some painful memories…..some nostalgic….


They all swirled together in a gentle stream.


In the depths, at the bottom of the river was the【labyrinth】 that was my life ー now completely abandoned and slowly eroding away by the currents.


It didn't take long.


Soon….it eroded completely until nothing was left. It was just carried off bit by bit into the current, and now it was so small that it became insignificant all together.


My entire 【past】, 【present】, and 【future】swept away….


What am I supposed to do now?


I sat there next to the boy, and he seemed to be intently focused on one part of the river in particular. I don’t know why but he was breathing harder, almost creepily, and it worried me.


I looked where he was looking and saw that it was one of my memories where…….EEEEEEK?!?!


It was a memory of me when I was bathing!!


I quickly covered the boy’s eyes, and though he protested, he didn’t try to get away from my hands.


I may not be anything close to beautiful as my sisters with any large curves, but still…..!!


This little pervert was peeping on me!!


That’s when I noticed the woman, a woman similar to that of the one that pulled me out of the water sitting next to us.


She quietly sat next to the boy, and gave me an apologetic bow. She was small and frail, more than myself, and her details were blurred even as I tried to look closer. The more closely I tried to remember her features, the more easily I forgot them.


Moments later, the sun broke through the clouds.


【Light】 touched upon the ground, and rays itself caused the ground to swell and green grass abruptly erupted and sprouted in every place the light touched.


The 【light】 spread to every corner of the world, and a gentle warm spring wind caressed my face and caused me to close my eyes for a moment.


When I opened my eyes, we were surrounded by flowers. Fields and fields of flowers surrounded both banks of the river. White majestic clouds soared over the blue skies, and an endless warmth welcomed and embraced me.


The world of【DEATH】was no more. Now, I just laid in a peaceful current of【LIFE】.


<<<<>>>>


Orukus: “(snort) Shana?”


My eyes snapped open as I realized that I must have dozed off holding Mr. Orukus’ hand. I couldn’t tell how much time passed, but he looked up at me from his bed with concerned eyes.


I look at my hand which was gripped tightly against his, and I feel my face flush red with embarrassment.


It felt warm.


It felt nice.


But......!!


Shana: “EーEXCUSE ME!!” I let go of the hand, bow, and hurriedly headed out of the room.


<<<<>>>>


<Orukus’ Perspective>


……………………..what just happened?


I took hold of her hand, and I was thinking that maybe I could show her Bino, the [Blood Sprite], in a non-Orc-shape, and then she went silent. I half-panicked thinking that she went into shock, and she suddenly snapped out of it in the next second.


She then suddenly panics, lets go of my hand, and runs out of the room.


…………….was holding my hand.....that gross?


[Hey, Mr. Hero! Can we shake hands?!]

[Sure kid]

[Ewww!! Your hands are gross!!]


_| ̄|○ Hero disqualified.


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