• Chonky ChonkTranslator

The Orc's Awakening c38

Updated: Sep 25, 2021

Chapter 38: The Orc and Layla


The moment she spoke to me was like having someone slip large ice cubes down my back.


Fully awake now and my brain and heart racing, I didn’t know how to respond to her comment.


Layla: “What? Cat got your tongue?”


She sat on a flat rocky surface next to the creek in a meditative posture - legs crossed, back straight, and hands resting on her lap.


I involuntarily moved my hands to my mask to see if it was there. It was.


Layla would be the least forgiving out of the four, and I’m sure she knew about my “escapades” (no matter how innocent) with Ayse.


Orukus: “(snort)......sorry, not a morning person….”


Layla: “Indeed….”


But she didn’t move from her spot. She just sat there and continued to keep her eyes closed.


Orukus: “(snort) What are you doing?” Layla: “What does it look like?”

Ugh, honestly, small talk with this girl is impossible. Every comment she makes has a tangible pointy end sticking out and prodding me.


Orukus: “(snort) Meditating?”


Layla: “How astute of you.”


And our conversation ended.


…………..uhhhhhhhh…….should I leave?


But something tugged hard inside of me and made me hesitate to leave things the way they are.


She is a sister to Shana and Ayse, and I don’t want to be the point of contention or division between them.


Is there anything I can do without angering or annoying her?


I decided to take a chance.


Inside of the forest, my voice reaches Gramps, and he helps me gather some materials as I craft quickly. Fortunately, this is one of the easiest things to ever make.


I walk carefully….VERY carefully towards her. I don’t ignore the fact that her…..black kitty is up in the treetops watching me carefully and letting off a low growl.


But I approach where she’s sitting and sit beside her on the cool stone as I lay out the board and stones.


Layla: “..............what do you think you’re doing?”

Courtesy from Gramps, I also have a steaming pot of tea and two empty cups on tea plates.


It’s a square board with 19 parallel lines running vertically and horizontally making nice neat squares. Besides the board are two bowls with black and white circular stones.


Orukus: “(snort) It’s a game. I heard you’re the smart, thinking type so I figure you’ll be the best out of the four to play against me.”


Nothing against Ayse. But…….she doesn’t strike me as the sit-down-and-play-a-board-game type. Shana might like more simple games with a deck of cards. Noir looks like the gambling type.


…….and that leaves Layla. If I was to guess, she’s the strategist of the Party - the deep thinker and planner.


Layla: “And why should I play……..this……..with you?”


Orukus: “(snort) The rules are simple. You alternate placing the stones where the lines meet. The goal is to secure territory by connecting stones together. The catch is that stones can be captured if you get completely surrounded.”

I demonstrate a few scenarios with the stones to show her.


Orukus: “(snort) And even if you’re surrounded, if it takes two moves to completely surround the stones, your stones are safe. Suicide moves like placing a stone inside a territory where it would be automatically surrounded is not allowed. We’ll use the timer here.” I pull out a simple sand timer. I don’t know how much sand is in there, but I’m guessing it’s roughly 2-3 minutes or so. The sand is divided half and half right now. I can’t make a digital countdown timer, but this should do.


Layla: “Again…...why should I entertain you?” Orukus: “(snort) You don’t have to. I figure you would enjoy a challenge.” Layla: “You……..you think you can beat me?”


Orukus: “(snort) Easily. I won’t lose to a first-timer. This game does take some brains, but…...I guess if you don’t want to lose….” I place my black stone in a corner and flip the timer.


I let the sand drizzle down slowly as I pick up the tea pot and pour myself a cup and sip. I turn away from her to listen to the creek and the wind blow through the trees. I never knew just sitting in nature could feel so serene and calming. It’s nothing like the concrete jungle (typical metropolis) that I grew up in.


I ignore the low, threatening growl I hear up high somewhere….


Sheesh….like mother, like daughter…..


The sand continues to run as Layla glowers at me, but also watches as the timer keeps running out.


Orukus: “(snort) I won’t force you to play. But if the timer goes out, I guess this round will be my wiー”


I hear a stone snap down onto the board. The sound was like a woodpecker’s tap that echoed throughout the woods.


I look to see that she placed a stone on the opposite corner and flipped the timer.


Without saying another word or making eye contact with me, she pours herself a cup of tea and sips.


I couldn’t help but smile a little.


We continue to exchange stones and before long, I see her hands tighten against her pants as she stares at the board with teeth gritted.


Orukus: “(snort) my win.”


I didn’t try to absolutely crush her. Besides, I’m not that good. I was an average player on the web, and I only played for fun. My porky brain is much better in this life than my previous though, and I was surprised by how fast I could calculate and simulate scenarios in my head.


But, I’m not that mean. I know some people who will go for your throat and crush their opponents from the get-go, but that’s not my style. I saw her make some fundamental errors common to beginners, but I didn't have to take advantage of that too much. I took enough territory to convince her that flipping the game would be impossible.


Orukus: “(snort) whelp, thanks for the gaー”


I felt a hand grab my wrist as I was about to put the pieces away.


Layla: “OーOne more game….” Orukus: “(snort) what?”


Layla: “OーOne more game…..please….”


She was looking downwards but her hand clutched my wrist.


Orukus: “(snort) you sure?”


She nodded without a word, and I reset the board, and gave her the black stones. I split the sand inside the timer evenly and started to let the sand fall again.


Orukus: “(snort) you can go first then.”


<<<<<>>>>


Layla: “GRRR!! WHY!!”


Orukus: “(snort snort snort) Hehehe...didn’t expect that did you? You left an opening here and rushed in to attack me. But now…..”


I place the stone where it would cut her life line off and leave a group of stones completely defenseless.


Layla: “NOOOO!!”


We must have played at least 10 games by now. I don’t want to brag, but I haven’t lost yet. I used to play online all the time, but I wasn’t this good. It’s scary how fast I can think and calculate stuff out now.

I don’t know why, but our trash talking started escalating around the 5th game. I kinda understand why those athletes on the basketball courts talk so much smack now. I feel like I’m playing the villain here, but I can’t say that it felt terrible.


“What are you two doing here?”


I heard footsteps approaching, and Shana came looking for us.


I’m ALSO going to ignore the Night Wolf besides her.


Shana: “Thank you, Mr. Loafers.” [I would prefer if you address me by my pack name, Wind Fang]


Shana: “But Mr. Loafers is more adorable and fits you well.”


[....................]


She pets the Wolf’s neck gently, and the Wolf sighed as he let the issue go.


YUP, NOT GONNA TOUCH IT. I shut all the questions popping up left and right and shove it into a box and leave it be.


Orukus: “(snort) What’s up, Shana?”


Shana: “I was going to say it was time for breakfast, but I see you’re in the middle of something.”


Orukus: “(snort) Yeah, it might be a while.”

Shana: “Sister Layla, would you like to come down for breakfast?”


Layla: “Wait! I think I can still turn this around! I just need more time!” Orukus: “(snort) Then you better hurry….Clock’s ticking….he he he he…”


I lean forward like a B-rated movie mafia boss and even under my mask, Layla could see my villainous smile and blue veins are surfacing all over her forehead as she holds up a shaking fist.


Shana: “Goodness, I’ve never thought I would see you two get long so well.”


Layla: “We’re not!”


Shana: “Yes, yes. I know, I knowー Here, I’ll bring your plates here.”


Orukus: “(snort) Thank you, Shana. Sorry to make you do that.”


Layla: “.......yes, thank you.”


<<<<>>>>


Before the timer almost runs out, Layla snaps a stone down on the board. An interesting move with multiple possibilities and outcomes. It’s tricky, but I won’t be fooled. I’m sticking to my original strategy and sacrifice a smaller group of stones of mine for her larger group. Muahahahaha….!!


Layla: “URGH……..!!”


To be honest, I thought she would throw in the towel, chop the board in half, and challenge me to a duel to the death or something, but she stuck it through. I think she’s the type to heavily emphasize the importance of fairness, rules, and regulations.


I’m using my porky intelligence, but that in and of itself is not cheating. I’m beating her fair and square, and she knows it.


I am surprised by how rapidly she’s improving though. I don’t doubt that she would be one of those child prodigy professionals if she was born in my previous world.


I might fall into the trope where the villain ultimately loses in the end.


BUT. NOT. TODAY!!


I respond to a series of ferocious attacks and feints from her, but I lay down my stone with a hard <SNAP!> in a position that would determine the winner of that round.


Layla stares at the stones for a moment, and then lowers her head.


Layla: “..........it’s my loss.”


Orukus: “(snort) Thank you for the match.”


Layla: “........thank you for the match.”


It’s a common courtesy and etiquette said before and after a match is over. I find the sportsmanship practice to be beautiful - one of the few things I appreciate about my culture in my past life. We started doing it after the 1st match was over.


The large cat drops down from the tree and rubs her body against Layla as she buries her face into her fur. Long, loud purrs resonate as the cat lays next to her.


I do feel a pang of guilt for not letting her win, but she’s too sharp. She’ll know if I go easy on her or let her win, and she would be more offended by that than anything else.


I pick up my breakfast plate that Shana left for me. It’s gone cold, but I still enjoy it thoroughly. Better than stale cereal, leftover chips, and flat soda after I wake up in front of my computer.


After a while, Layla lifts her face from the cat’s body. Her eyes are slightly reddened by the tears, but I’m not going to point it out. She’s holding a fork and started finishing her breakfast plate. As a general rule, mocking someone while they hold a sharp object, especially when they are adept in fighting with blades, is a terrible idea that leads to unnecessary bloodshed ー most importantly, when that spilt blood will be mostly mine.


I finish my plate and take a long sip of tea.


Layla: “Why…….?” Orukus: “(snort) hm?”


Layla: “Why the game?”


I think about that for a long moment and take another sip of tea.


Orukus: “(snort) I don’t know honestly. I really did want to find someone to play against. But I figured that it would give you something else to think about.”


Layla: “........like what….?”

Orukus: “(snort) There’s many kinds of board games that I’ve played, but I enjoy this one because once you get to a certain point, you can start feeling your opponent out.”


Layla: “......?”


Orukus: “(snort) well, there’s players that are easily goaded. Players that are timid. Players who don’t like to think and players that overthink. There’s a lot to tell about a person with how aggressive, defensive, or safe they play. Stuff like that…..”


Layla: “..........you wanted to get to know what kind of person I was…..”


Orukus: “(snort) You’re Shana’s and Ayse’ big sister. Yeah. We’re all sort of in the same boat stuck out here in this forest. I might as well try and do something to get to know you better before you cut my throat.”


Layla looks up at me for the first time. Her eyes were more curious than angry, more pensive than sullen.


Good God, she has a beautiful face….


Those few seconds felt like an eternity, but she sighed, stood up, and her cat followed as she walked away.


Layla: “Could we maybe play again tomorrow?”


That……..really caught me by surprise.


Orukus: “(snort) uh……..sure? Anytime. We can play again the same time tomorrow.”


Layla: “...........thank you…………”


And she walked into the forest and disappeared.


<<<<>>>>


<Layla’s Perspective>


I couldn’t sleep much that night. In fact, I couldn’t sleep at all.


The ground kept rumbling as Ayse and that….man….were…..for crying out loud, WHAT ARE THEY DOING?!


I was about to go complain when I hear Noir’s voice.


Noir: “(sigh) those two….they’re at it again.”


I’m a little shocked to hear her voice in my bedroom, but realize that she opened a small hole between my room and hers. Our beds sandwiched the wall, and her voice carried well through the hole she made.


Noir: “Don’t worry about them. I know Ayse said something about being Bond-mates, but it’s like watching two boys wrestle for fun. I don’t even know if she knows how to have fun with boys.”


Layla: “Noir……..” I rest the back of my hand against my forehead and sigh. Ayse may not be the most eloquent, but she’s not stupid.


Noir: “I’m kidding…..maybe I’m just a little jealous that she’s getting all the attention.”


Layla: “.......?”

Noir: “I mean, seducing men to get them to help us was my role back at camp and when we were sent to the cities. There’s not a whole lot of anything here to do that anymore.”


She chuckles, but pangs of deep pain and guilt flood my conscience. It was me who sent her on those errands. They were dangerous, treacherous undertakings that could have gotten her killed, but she maneuvered like oil on water and kept herself alive this whole time. Ayse would only end up killing the politicians we needed to sway, and Shana is out of the question. I had to uphold my public image, and the task fell to Noir to “convince” men in power to our cause.


All of that…….went to waste. I put her through all of that for nothing. At the epitome of our Party’s journey, at the summit when everything was about to change for the better, the rug was pulled out from beneath us.


I knew it would be risky.


I knew going into that cave was a terrible idea ー that things were not adding up.


But they took the kids…..they took MY kids…...I couldn’t let anything happen to them….


Noir: “Anyways, are you feeling okay?”


Layla: “.............I don’t know honestly……”


I pet the large black fur ball laying next to my bed ー a [Giant Armored Panther]. She purrs at my touch and rolls to its side. I didn’t know that they could retract their armor outside of combat. If the bed was bigger, I would have her sleep next to me. A [Monster]. The slayer of humanity. They will not wipe us out, but they won’t allow our population to grow beyond a certain limit.


Like a bird in a cage, a fish in an aquarium, we are being monitored…..we are under constant surveillance….


At least, that’s one theory. The [Stewards] are one religious group that promote the [Monsters] as “Stewards” (hence the name) or “Guardians” which is similar to how the nomadic Plains civilizations sees the creatures. Because the [Watchers] would send their armies, there are no wars between cities. There are no wide-scale epidemics. Food and resources are plentiful because the “Stewards” provide for us. They have sent messengers to proclaim their intentions of peace to the [Watchers], but ironically, and good riddance, the messengers never come back.


There are, of course, anti-[Monster] groups that constantly scheme the annihilation of the [Watchers] in each of their known areas. There have been Holy Crusades, armies gathered to burn down the forest, bury the swamps, and carve down the mountains. For two thousand years of recorded history, we have tried again and again, and we have yet to prevail once.


That is who is next to me.


Layla: “(sigh)............” Noir: “A lot on your mind?” Layla: “Yes…..too much in fact…..”


Noir: “Always the thinker and planner….(chuckles)....I know I’ve said this to you more than once, but…..you think way too much.”


Layla: “What else is there to do?”


Noir: “.......I picked up painting and sewing again.”


Layla: “Really?”


Noir: “Yeah, I never thought I’d see the day.”


Layla: “I’m sorry, Noir. I’m sorry for everything…”


Noir: “Don’t. We both agreed to do what was necessary. I know what you were trying to do, and I was the one who agreed to stick with you. You don’t have anything to apologize about.” Her voice was irritated, almost angry at my apology. But I didn’t know what else to say to her other than those words.


Layla: “(sigh) I need to get some fresh air.”


Noir: “Want me to come with you?” Layla: “No…..I think I need some time alone…..”


<<<<>>>>


I walked out of the [Watcher’s] den. I saw the shadows of what was probably the man and Ayse in a distance field lying down together. They were both asleep, and didn’t stir at all. Noir was right. They were like children. It was too dark to see them well, and I had no reason to strike the man down…..at least, not yet.


I walked past the field towards the sounds of water, and found a creek with shadows dancing all around from the moonlight.


It was beautiful. It was too peaceful. I couldn’t believe that I was deep in the Man-Eating forest with no armor, no weapon, and a [Monster] at my side. Miss Muffins insisted on coming with me, and I didn’t mind. I named her Miss Muffins, and I’m not sure how much she really liked the name, but I thought it suited her just fine. Her cute underside of her paws reminded me of freshly baked muffins when it's pulled out from the oven on the baking sheet.


I sat down on a large flat rock that sat high. It’s been a while since I meditated. We were forced to do it at the academy, but once we got to the [Seeker’s] camp, there was just never enough time or even a good time.


I sat with my feet crossed, straightened my back, and relaxed…


I was immediately taken back to that pure white plain with the bloody ocean underlying beneath.


I don’t know what this place is….


There used to be a fortress when that man infiltrated and held open the gates. I didn’t even know this place existed until then.


I open my eyes, and I am back in the forest. I close my eyes and with a deep breath, I return to the white plains.


There was nothing here now.


No fortress.


No weapons.


No traps.


Miss Muffins meowed and appeared much smaller - so small in fact that she fit right inside my lap.


The flower in my head shuddered, and countless crimson butterflies began flying all about the flat white plains.


As they flew, the ground and air shifted wherever they landed.


Soon, I heard the sound of the creek, and like a rough painting, I saw a creek being drawn, as they flew and landed a little farther and farther each time. It soon flowed out from a distant land and flowed past me to past the horizon. It was like someone was painting each of the rocks as it passed through and then the next to the creek came to view.


The butterflies began diving into the water.


I soon saw tiny fish swam inside and crabs danced along the bottom.


Dragonflies hovered over the water, and disappeared as they flew off.


The butterflies now outlined trees and nested deep into the soil.


The water seeped into the root of the trees as it was carried up its large trunk, and the forest drank from it gently.


Blue mist carried out from the stream and floated out into the air, eventually touching the clouds which were then carried into large groups. In the horizon, the rain poured down near the mountains, as the water journeyed back to the stream and then to a distant river and then to the ocean.


It was all connected. <It all【FLOWED】together>. My body could also absorb the water as it circulated through my body - nourishing it.


It was one continuous and complicated【flow】that returned in place and started again.


The world was all connected together.


The light over the horizon hit my eyes as I opened them. I must have been here for several hours already. I continued to close my eyes, when I felt footsteps appear in my serene painting. It was a picture of a boy in fact. He leaned over to drink from the creek.


Ugh......nevermind.......it was that man.


Layla: “Enjoy your night?”


I kept my eyes shut with annoyance, but my image was now tainted with slight crimson as my anger and annoyance colored the landscape.


UGH, I wish he would just go away.


To my surprise, he ignored my wishes completely and came near me to sit down beside me.


Miss Muffins let out a dangerous growl, but I will handle him myself.


I turn around to see a strange board and white and black stones. I think I recall seeing something similar in the cities, but I never learned how to play it. It was a leisurely activity for those in the upper echelon to pass the time.


What was he thinking?


[Easily. I won’t lose to a first-timer. This game does take some brains, but…...I guess if you don’t want to lose….]


A childish provocation. Does he think I’ll be goaded so easily?


[I won’t force you to play. But if the timer goes out, I guess this round will be my wiー]


My hand moved on its own. I snatch up a white stone and slam it down onto the board.


For a moment, I surprised myself, but I quickly flipped the timer before the sand ran out.


There was something about losing to this man that just didn’t sit well with me.


At the Academy, NO ONE could outsmart me on the battlefield. I don’t care if it’s a board game. The rules are simple and straightforward. How hard could this possibly be?


<<<<>>>>


I lost.


I. LOST.


My mind went blank. Granted, this was my first time to play this game ever. But….but….


Orukus: “(snort) my win.”


Excuses aside, the words struck home, and I almost felt tears well up in my eyes. I fought the tears back furiously, and tried to keep my emotions under control.


Ever since I came here, I've been more emotional than usual. It's been getting harder and harder to keep my complexion cool and unreadable.


Orukus: “(snort) whelp, thanks for the gaー”


He tried to put away the stones, but I grabbed his hand.


Layla: “OーOne more game….” Orukus: “(snort) what?”


Layla: “OーOne more game…..please….”


I can’t believe I even said please...but I couldn’t leave things as they are.


I think I got the hang of the game. There won’t be a second loss.


<<<<>>>>


<SNAP!>


The clear sound of the wood echoed through the forest as the critical group of stones on the board was trapped and would die.


That’s………..the game……….


Layla: “..........it’s my loss.”


Orukus: “(snort) Thank you for the match.”


Layla: “........thank you for the match.”


It was an etiquette he said that was done between the players of the game. Though I found it annoying to thank him, I found the practice oddly appropriate.


Each stone was like a soldier. I was their commander. There are no ranks on a true battlefield. Every stone held the same weight as any other. It was up to me to lead them in a way that would ultimately gain enough ground to declare a victory. The concept was oddly refreshing.


But besides that fact......


Layla: “Why…….?”

I needed to know.

Orukus: “(snort) hm?”


Layla: “Why the game?”


What was his goal? What was he scheming? What did he plan to gain out of this?


Orukus: “(snort) I don’t know honestly. I really did want to find someone to play against. But I figured that it would give you something else to think about.”


What? Something else to think about? Was he trying to manipulate me? To show that he was superior to me?


Layla: “........like what….?”

I had difficulty hiding my bloodlust behind the words, as I waited for his response, but his answer took the edge off my voice.


Orukus: “(snort) There’s many kinds of board games that I’ve played, but I enjoy this one because once you get to a certain point, you can start feeling your opponent out.”


Layla: “......?”


I don’t understand and tilt my head questioningly.


Orukus: “(snort) well, there’s players that are easily goaded. Players that are timid. Players who don’t like to think and players that overthink. There’s a lot to tell about a person with how aggressive, defensive, or safe they play. Stuff like that…..”


Layla: “..........you wanted to get to know what kind of person I was…..”


Orukus: “(snort) You’re Shana’s and Ayse’ big sister. Yeah. We’re all sort of in the same boat stuck out here in this forest. I might as well try and do something to get to know you better before you cut my throat.”


Was he serious? I found this man to be………..simple ー almost stupidly simple. He just wanted to get to know me. To the politicians and leaders of each power group, knowledge is power. Weaknesses lead to your demise. There would be constant word games, challenges, and subtle threats to establish dominance.


But this man played the one game no one else would dare to play. He wanted to know [me]. In exchange, I saw [him]. No one in their right minds would reveal their true selves if they wanted to stay alive. Honesty revealed weaknesses. But I [saw] his in plain sight. He revealed it to me.


During the games, he held no aggression against me. Like a reed swaying in the wind, he matched my moves and patiently waited for me to fix my mistakes until he was forced to finally make a move or the flow of the game would be ruined. Though in words, we bantered back and forth, his moves were gentle - a subtle answer to every one of my questions. He did not hide. He did not run. He faced me as only a fool would in plain sight.


How I envied that kind of fool. How I loathed people who would live honestly because ultimately, they and their families suffered for it. People will betray you. Trust was a luxury no one could afford. They will take what’s most precious to you and force you to forfeit your integrity ー and what’s worse, they did it just because they could. You had to be vicious to survive this world. You had to be merciless to protect what was your own.


But he was free from all of that. He was not concerned with his life here. Not that he wasn’t concerned about living. It’s difficult to put into words, but he simply【lived】. As a water droplet fell from the clouds and flowed down the rivers to the sea, he lived freely without concern. As a man could not stop the flow of water in the world, I could never truly do anything to him.


He was…….【free】………


And what’s worst of all…….he gave me the same freedom.


My chains were broken. My attachments to this world were wiped away.


That was why there was nothing in those white plains.


You can say that I was left with nothing.


But on the contrary, you could also say that I was left with 【everything】ー I could start over and build anew.


Because in the end, it was my grave he destroyed.


If 【death】is no longer a concern…..as long as I’m【alive】…..then maybe…….just maybe…...there is something more to be gained from this situation…… something I would have never gained otherwise…….


Layla: “Could we maybe play again tomorrow?”


The words just fell out. It was almost embarrassing how it just stumbled out.


Orukus: “(snort) uh……..sure? Anytime. We can play again the same time tomorrow.”


Tomorrow…..


There was……….something to look forward to tomorrow.....


Layla: “...........thank you…………”


I walked deep into the forest before I noticed the tears running down my cheeks.


It was not from losing.


It was not from worries or fears about the uncertainty of the future ー things that haunted me night and day before I came here. Even in the midst of success, I knew the day would come when everything would fall apart........and to prove my point, they did.


Regardless....


For the first time in a long time, I felt something I lost a long time ago.


I felt【hope】.


<<<<>>>>


CHONKY Notes LiT (Lost in Translation)


Go (English), "igo" (Japanese) (囲碁) (Weiqi - Chinese) (Baduk - Korean)


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