The Orc's Awakening c36
Updated: Sep 23, 2021
Chapter 36: [FLOW] Awakens
I was out for a few days. ONLY A FEW DAYS!
I glance around the simple room of hardened soil covered in vines and roots. The room is brightly lit and comfortable, but that's not the point!
This must be a dream - a nightmarish dream.
Why else would we be living in what appears to be THE [Watcher’s] den?
Yes, there are many [Watchers] in this world, but the Treant's infamy is LEGENDARY.
He appears in the FIRST chronicles of written history and for CENTURIES, he’s butchered countless lives DAILY.
We’re in HIS den?!?!
I fall backwards and flip back on the bed.
…...unlike a prison cell though, it’s more comfortable than any bed I’ve laid on……
STOP, LAYLA! FOCUS!!
REGARDLESS, everything’s changed.
I check the note Noir passed to me.
Just one word, but it made my heart hit the bottom of my stomach.
Various shards of memories of the past sequence of events swirl inside my mind, as pieces snapped and connected together into one coherent picture.
It was all there. The evidence, the warnings, and signs of danger - ALL OF IT. All of it was present before me, but it all came together too late.
I failed my team.
The women in the [Seekers'] camps.
The girls in the orphanages.
The children I swore to protect….
Tears overwhelmed me as I gasped for air.
I can't remember the last time I cried. Was it when Kyle disappeared? Or Juuls?
With a handful of friends from the academy, we were going to change everything. We arrived together at the [Seeker’s] campsite with starry eyes and unbreakable dreams and convictions.
But one by one, my friends disappeared until only one remained.
I grasped my chest in harsh pain as the last piece of the puzzle fell in place.
The one cornerstone I counted on against all odds. Noir warned me that he was no longer the same man I knew from childhood.
He changed. Something changed him to the point where I could no longer recognize him. His manners and demeanor were more stiff, more cold, and more distant. I thought he just had more on his mind than usual. He still….at least on the surface...supported me...
The ring inside my inner pocket felt heavy.
[Will you marry me?]
It was the last thing he gave to me before that incident happened…
What shocked me was his eyes that night - eyes that no longer saw【me】. He only saw a pawn, maybe even a trump card, but regardless, only a single piece of the board for his game ー that was all I was to him now ー nothing more.
He became obsessed and dangerous to cross, and I tiptoed cautiously around him in the last few weeks, hoping that whatever he was going through was just a phase.
Maybe I should have said yes that night. At least then the girls wouldn’t be in this predicament.
Maybe I could have slowly helped him change back to the way he was…...no…...I know now ー I now【know】that I would have just watched him dissolve into his obsession and watch him helplessly be absorbed into that darkness until nothing of【him】was left….
The【FLOW】of his actions, his thoughts, his decisions, and the myriad of possibilities made by the people around him, formed one path. Like following a single bead of water drop from the sky, sink into the ground, flow into the river, and back into the ocean, I could now【follow】the events that transpired. It was like tracing a single piece of thread through a tangle of knots and webs.
My [Gifts] before would not have enabled me to see things so clearly.
I think of the Orc and the fortress, but I quickly dismiss the thought.
It was a dream.
None of that was real.
I could still close my eyes, and I would be washed over in a sea of blood. As disturbing as that image is, I would be washed ashore to the land where my fortress used to stand. Every stone crumbled and disappeared. Nothing was left.
It was as if the whole place was [Reset] just like the cities did when the Monsters' hordes came during the nights.
But it was peaceful there.
My soul was at peace here.
I quickly turn the attention back to my surroundings. The "actual" world..... about the events that happened before we came here.........yes, there is still things I don't understand.
I don’t know what he wanted….but I do know the price he was willing to pay for it…..
The following night ー the night before we arrived at the King Arachnid's Lair ー the children were taken.
Anger flared and my skin burned at the thought.
My head pounded with the rapid change of emotions.
Layla: “I should go wash up….”
I stepped off the bed and walked towards the bathing room Shana told me about.
Instead of a tin tub, there’s an actual bathtub here like you would find in the Cities.
A bath? Here? In the middle of the Man-Eating forest?
I open the door.
I rub at my eyes.
Yes, I must still be tired.
I see a giant Bear in an unbelievably large bath with Ayse. The bear has a small towel on its head, and Ayse is dozing off on the edge of the tub.
She perked up when I came in.
She waved a casual hand.
With the same hand, she points back at the bear resting…no SLEEPING inside the tub lazily.
She points back at herself.
The bear groggily wakes up for a split second to lift its paws to acknowledge me and then goes back to sleep.
Ayse began dozing again. Her cheeks are a rosy red against her well tanned skin.
I push the door closed.
I pinch the bridge of my nose with one hand and exhale slowly looking down.
I must be extremely exhausted or dreaming to see such hallucinations. Maybe the Orc fed me hallucination shrooms?
Layla: ".......some fresh air might do me some good."
I walk out of the underground den, and see Shana outside.
Layla: “Hey Shaー”
I choked suddenly on my words.
There was an enormous pack-leader class Night Wolf right in front of her.
I almost screamed at the top of my lungs when I heard Shana say, “Lie down.”
The Wolf obeyed and laid on the ground. A tray with assorted cooked meat piled up high was next to Shana. She threw him a large steak that the wolf swallowed whole.
[Daughter Shana, I really don’t think…]
Shana made a gun with her finger and fired it at the Wolf’s belly.
With a short sigh, the Wolf begrudgingly laid on its side to play dead.
My mouth opens and then closes.
It opens again to try and speak and closes once more.
I repeat the exercise until my jaws hurt.
I got it. I understand now. I must have died in the King Arachnid's Lair.
Yes, that makes sense. I don’t know why there are [Monsters] in Heaven, but that’s the only explanation that makes sense.
Layla: “Noir! Great! Look! Ayse and Shana are….”
Wings spanning several arm lengths flow outwards as Noir lands on the ground on the back of a Giant Eagle.
…….et tu, Noir?
The Eagle looked annoyed, but it gave a curt nod and flew off as soon as Noir jumped off.
Noir: “You’ll have to forgive him. He gets nervous near the ground.”
I pinched the bridge of my noise and then proceeded to rub my temples with both hands as I crouched low to the ground and let out a low groan.
I must have lost my mind. This is what it must be like to go insane. The world now made less sense, and I'm seeing one hallucination after another.
Noir: “Layla, you okay? Did you get out of bed too quickly?”
Though concern permeated her words, something snapped inside of me.
Layla: “NO! I’m not okay! There’s a freakin’ bear in the tub with Ayse, and our dear Shana is teaching a Night Wolf 5 times her size tricks!”
Noir: “Really? Can she make him hold the treat on his nose?”
Layla: “THAT’S NOT THE POINT!!”
I let out a shriek as I scratch at my head frantically, my hair flying wildly everywhere.
Layla: “And you come swooping down from the sky and…!! ….and…!!”
Noir leaned in close, her face almost touching mine. She rested her forehead on mine, and we both closed our eyes.
My heavy labored breathing became quiet.
Noir: “You see, right? You feel it too, right?”
I shake my head.
Noir held my cheeks with both hands.
Noir: “It’s OKAY. We’re okay now.”
She gently puts her arms around me to hug me tight.
I try to push her back but give in to feel her warmth.
Layla: “This can’t be real...none of this can be real…”
Noir: “I know...it’s all too good to be true…I still don’t believe it myself...”
Noir: “What does your heart tell you? What does your gut feeling say?”
I look straight into Noir’s blue eyes.
I see the open sky in them - a freedom she longed for so many nights - a wholeness in each breath as she breathes.
I don’t mean physically...but something much deeper…something much older and at the center of her being…
A silly, irrational thought. I’ve read the medical reports. Underneath the skin are organs and blood - nothing more. There is nothing to indicate a soul or spirit there. Just blood and organs...
...........….how wrong I was to believe so…........
I look over to Shana. She’s rubbing the stomach of that massive creature with no fear - our Shana - finally living without fears or worries. I can’t see her wounds anymore. Not physical ones. But large gaping wounds in her mind that bled her hope and festered and bloated it into despair. Wounds that sapped her strength and crippled her courage. Wounds that tore through her innocence and left her with nothing…
All her life, she was being dragged down by her fears, worries, and scars.
Now her【path】was clear.
Tears flowed freely down my cheeks.
Tears that did not carry any grief or remorse - just relief - pure, sweet relief.
I don’t understand.
I don’t understand what’s going on.
I don’t understand any of this…
I just know that finally...............my sisters are okay.
Noir places a hand on my shoulder and wipes my eyes.
Noir: “Well, now that you feel better, I just wanted to point out that you’re the only one without a companion.”
She takes out a red flower - an Amaryllis I believe - a festive flower popular in the Winter times ー and places it in my hair.
Noir: “Keep this with you. It’s from the Treant...calm down, I know. But we all have one, and I haven't seen anything suspicious, or I wouldn’t be giving you yours. Besides...."
Noir takes her yellow flower and sets it on the ground.
Noir: “General, gather up the rest of the troops.”
The Yellow Flower suddenly turned humanoid but standing no taller than my pinky, it saluted at Noir. Four other creatures of the same height varying in their elements - Earth, Water, Fire, and Wind - appeared….as…..tiny people? No, they were humanoid, but that was about it.
Layla: “Are those fairies?”
Noir: “I’m not sure. They just appeared that way, but they’re really handy. I named the flower General, the brown one Colonel, the blue one Captain, the white one Sergeant, and the red one Private.”
They each turned around and saluted at me as their names were called.
I poked the earthy one in the belly, and it jiggled with laughter though it didn't make a sound.
…...they don’t look dangerous….
Layla: “Are you sure it’s safe to keep these ...[Monsters](?) by you? They could turn on you if the Treant wanted them too.”
Noir: “Maybe. But for the time being, they’ve been nothing but helpful.”
Still suspicious, I feel the flower on my hair and take it out to look at it.
The pedals closed in and shuddered for a moment, before it opened up into the shape of a butterfly. It was a single color of crimson, but the designs, patterns, and details of its wings were dazzling as it shifted and changed even as it flew.
The butterfly..........one of my most favorite creatures.......
It fluttered around me and landed back on my head and turned back into a flower.
Noir: “Aww!! That’s so pretty!”
It really was. As I drew my hand near it, it transformed into a butterfly. I touched its wings but it felt so light, it was like pushing at air. The wing was slightly damaged from my touch, but with a quick shake, it restored it to its original shape.
Strange….and beautiful.... It almost made me forget that it was a gift from the Butcher of Humanity.
Part of me wanted to crush it at the memory of my friends’ deaths, but doing so wouldn’t bring them back either.
Noir held my hand gently.
Noir: “If you need anything, that butterfly should be able to help you.”
I thought about what she said. There were no deceptions in her tone of voice or the way she said it. She wasn’t trying to hide her motives or sway my own judgement so she can guide me in the direction she wanted me to go.
Sigh........I've been playing politics for too long..........my habits is proof of it.
Her words were just that - unblemished and plain.
Noir: “And if you want another companion like ours, I would hurry.” I raised a single eyebrow at Noir.
Noir: “All the cute ones might already be taken.”
I walked aimlessly down the forest path like a lost girl.
What am I doing here?
Ayse has a Bear, Shana has a Wolf, and Noir has an Eagle….
[Monsters] as pets…..
The [Seekers] camp would flip on it's head and then roast us in fire pits as heretical witches.
There was too much to think about - too much I didn’t understand - too much that was now out of my control.
I watched things never change for the better and only get worse. I was never graced with the power to change it either - but now the world moved like a summer storm, like a sudden mudslide, it crushed all of my world views with unforgiving speed and reshaped my world as I knew it by removing all of its foundations.
An [Armored Gorilla] came out of the brush and looked at me.
I picture it in my mind. All the majestic creatures behind my sisters and….the Gorilla ー beating its chest, scratching its bum and picking its nose.
Layla: “NO….....” I would never hear the end of it from Noir.
I shoo it away with a wave of my hand and continue walking.
Offended, it <ROARS> and charges at me.
The flower on my head bursts into countless scarlet butterflies, and fills the air around me in a wide circle. The world turns crimson dark.
Suddenly I could [feel] him coming.
Time pauses for a brief second.
In my mind, I stood on a blank, flat plain of pure white. My fortress was gone. All of my defenses were gone. But even more perplexing was the sense that I did not feel any less vulnerable or defenseless.
I could see everything that was coming.
I saw the beginning, middle, and end as if it was all one whole picture. The picture wiggled, shifted, and moved, but it【FLOWED】in one movement.
When one of the pieces moved, it moved other pieces aside.
The Gorilla's body hit the butterflies, and I felt it tingle and break. The butterflies splatters and hisses with steam, but it doesn't affect the Gorilla.
They landed all over the Gorilla, and now I could capture its location.
They dissolved into its head, and now I could sense its decisions.
They dissolved into its body, and now I could focus on the way the joints moved and where it looked......
I could see the <entire sequence of its movements> now. The whole area was filled with butterflies flying everywhere as it covered every inch of the air around us.
Even more curious, I could see how <my movements> would change the flow of the actions and sequences.
If I didn't move, a fist that would have splattered me swept through the air as it tried to side-swipe me.
Many sequences of my【DEATH】flashed before my eyes.
This is what the Gorilla saw as the outcome in its mind.
And I realized that physical vision is all about expectations.
Your brain will tell your mind to see what you only want to see.
I【saw】how the Gorilla <thought I would act> which played a big part in its decision making.
In my mind, I played out several different【FLOWS】of sequences.
Like watching a few shadows of myself, I moved my body differently than those shadows that would have gotten hit or hurt, and moved outside the reach of its fist.
I chose the exact【sequence】where to the Gorilla, I simply disappeared from his view even though I was right in front of him. Since I moved differently than what he thought I could do, I simply ceased to exist in his mind for a split second.
In this【flow】, the Gorilla would be helpless.
His swipe wasn’t visible to the human eye.
But you didn’t have to see it if you already knew beforehand where it came from, where it was going, and where it was ending.
I changed the <sequence of events> again by tapping the exact moment his elbow was going to pass by me.
From here, a chain of events was triggered.
With mechanical speed and precision, I pushed his passing elbow in a certain angle, and his elbow and forearm now flew back at his chin at the perfect angle. It nicked it lightly and shook the head.
The light impact sent vibrations up throughout his brain, and the Giant 8 foot Gorilla stumbled to his knees dazed.
I grabbed it by the head and stared straight into its eyes.
I’m not taking a Gorilla back with me. It was my final warning.
Chills ran down the Gorilla’s spine as blood visibly withdrew from his face, and it turned ghostly white.
It nodded dizzily, but stepped back and clumsily crashed back through the forest.
I continue walking only to feel frustration build up as I go.
A Giant Centipede.
I felt my butterflies burst and scatter around me again.
A Giant Horned Poisonous Toad.
I grabbed the Giant Armored Scorpion by the tail as I swung over my head and threw it out of sight.
I saw bats, snakes, naked mole rats, giant rodents, insects of all kinds, and lastly…
A Zombie-Fungi Giant Mudfish.
It’s body was mostly covered in fungi that moved the dead, rotting corpse of a hideous large, bloated, and decaying muddy fish that wouldn’t have been cute even while living.
Layla: “Fu……..fu fu fu fu……..is Noir behind this……..?”
A menacing chuckle gurgles from my throat as I imagine somewhere in the distant sky Noir bawling and laughing hysterically on the back of her Great Eagle. I'm 99% sure that dot in the sky is her, but it will take too much time to send my butterflies that far.
A visible <SNAPPING> sound echoed through the forest - the sound of my patience breaking. The butterfly lined in red flaming lines fluttered to land on the creature, and a burning pillar of fire rose from the ground to touch the sky in an instant with a “NOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!” bellowing from my throat.
Only a blackened patch of earth remained as even the ashes were burned away.
I huff and puff and lay on the ground.
The leader of the Four Blossoms, and alongside my sister’s majestic beasts is their fearless leader leading an army of grotesque looking critters at her command.
Layla: “Maybe I should have taken the Gorilla.”
Every other option since has been getting noticeably worse.
That’s when I saw two eyes flicker in the treetops.
It’s fur was jet black that melted into the shadows.
It’s tail flicked and waved curiously as it peered at me.
It’s long and elegant feline legs lying against the tree.
An Armored Black Panther.
Before I even knew what I was doing. I landed and sat directly in front of it on top of the same branch and stared into its face. Its fur stood on its edges as it puffed out and yelled a nasty <MEEOOORRRWWW HISSSSSSSSS?!?!?!> - unbecoming of a creature of its size and class, but it couldn’t be helped. I couldn’t help it.
The air is suddenly tainted in crimson colors.
I found an <acceptable flow of events> and nothing could stop me now.
My large, hungry, empty black eyes gazed back at it as I grabbed it by the scruff of its neck and pulled it close to me.
It foamed in its mouth and passed out, but I dragged it back to the [Watcher’s] Den by its neck.
Cute companion acquired.