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The Orc's Awakening c46

Chapter 46: The Talk with Layla


“ “ “ “ CHEERS!!!! ” ” ” ”


We clinked our mugs together as some of the ale and wine spilled into the air.


That night, we were back in the main hideout. Luz wanted to stay at Joe’s Forge, but I couldn’t just leave her there alone. Joe and his crew are currently digging a tunnel connecting their Lair to my workshop, and he should be done well before the morning. If she wants to work in the Forge, Joe will pick her up after breakfast tomorrow morning and take her back in the evenings. I’ll eventually build some method of transport in between the two hideouts, but for now, Joe will just carry her on his back.


I’ll go and join Luz tomorrow to get her settled at the Spider’s Lair too. It’ll be like her first day at her job, and she can take her lunch and come back home to eat dinner. We’ll all probably take our own lunches to eat with her too so she wouldn’t feel so lonely.


I remember how much it sucked to eat lunch at school alone…..Whether I did it in the cafeteria or somewhere no one would see, the loneliness always followed me wherever I went.


On the brighter side, with Luz around, we’ll get to make sack lunches. I explained the concept of how some of the lunches looked back where I came from, and Shana was pretty excited by the idea. For the girls, lunch on the go usually meant water in a canister and dried rations. With the stock in our food storage, they should have less depressing options and outcomes.


But that’s tomorrow. Right now, we sat at a large table with different kinds of roast meats, stir fried vegetable plates, and various soups and stews. There were baked potatoes covered in cheese too, and best of all, I experimented with Shana and Gramps to make things close to Ketchup, Mustard, and Mayo. The 3 Kings of Condiments for potatoes. Thanks to Gramps, we got the necessary ingredients. It’s a good thing that I loved Zombie Survival movies growing up, and one thing it emphasized was the importance of knowing how to make things from scratch. My mother was a professor of chemistry, so she was all about conducting experiments (it was never called cooking in our household), and I got to practice a lot. I did have another idea I wanted to try, but we ran out of time.


Ayse was crying tears of joy when she tried the sliced, fried potatoes with ketchup. I can’t blame her. It’s a match made in heaven. She was gobbling them down by the mouthfuls.


We also had other dinner guests as well. I wasn’t sure if calling Monsters “pets” would fly, but we made room for Ayse’ Bear, Shana’s Wolf, and with a higher ceiling, Noir’s Giant Hawk was perched on a branch eating some whole roasted meats.


It’s weird. Monsters by nature do not require food. We collect nutrition naturally from our surroundings to sustain ourselves, and this was the same for all the pets here.


Oh, and I finally got the names of the creatures and made a list so I can remember:


Night Wolf - Mr. Loafers (a.k.a. Wind Fang)

Warrior Bear - Terra

King Hawk - Star

Assassin Puma - Miss Muffins


I was surprised to find out that though the Monsters were sentient, they didn’t have a preference of what they call themselves. They might give slight distinctions between fur color during times of clan conflicts (Black vs. Gray Wolves), but otherwise, they said that they could care less. Mr. Loafers seemed to be the most knowledgeable, and he told me Beast Monsters rarely fight with one another, but more Humanoid Monsters like Ogres, Orcs, and Goblins tend to have more internal conflicts and wars.


I finally got the official categories of the Monsters too from Layla, but even she said names change over time depending on who is handling the archives. The problem lies in the fact that close observations of Monsters usually ends in mass casualties, and even if they defeat the Monster, the Monster’s body is swallowed into the ground making it difficult for further studies. Those who tried to hide away Monster's bodies for further experimentation usually end up meeting a grizzly end, so Monsters' corpses are treated as death omens.


It sounded like a game where the Monster’s bodies would get absorbed or disappear after they die, but apparently it’s due to [Earth Crawlers] - Giant Earthworm-like creatures that travel through the ground. It sounded like one of those B-Rated horror movie creatures, but according to Layla, they’re not considered dangerous. They will, however, retrieve the corpses of humans too along with the Monsters. For that reason, if there are any memorial graves setup, it will usually contain a symbolic item representing the deceased, but their bodies will have disappeared near the time of their death.


It might have been the food and ale, but we spoke, and I learned a lot about this world. Luz was stuffing her face the whole time. A few times she got food stuck in her throat, and I had to hand her her water to chug it down. She was skinny as a bone, so I hope this will help put some meat back on her body. We all ate till we were drowsy, and some went to bed and others laid about usually around the pets as warm cushions well into the night.


<<<<>>>>


I woke up in a dim room.


The dining room still had dishes and leftovers from last night’s dinner, and I felt a warm squishy brown pillow behind my head.


It was Ayse’ bear, Terra.


As he snored, the room rumbled with a low growl, but oddly, the sound was more soothing than terrifying.


I felt his stomach lift and sink with every breath, and…….surprisingly, his fur didn’t have that strong musky scent large creatures usually carry around. That was surprising for an animal of his size, but I guess us Monsters are Beast-"Like" Creatures and not ordinary beasts.


My arms were sprawled out when I noticed…someone’s blonde head right below my eyes.


Cold sweat dripped down my face as I recognized Noir’s hair.


She was laying against my chest.


Ayse was on my right side and…….Luz was on my left……


More cold sweat now drizzled down my face….


I think I remember how rowdy we got last night.


I think I remember Shana and Layla retiring to their rooms.


I, however, do not remember how all of this (pointing to the girls laying next to me) happened.


This isn’t good.


Well, no. This is AMAZING. I DREAMED and DROOLED to be in a situation like this back in my previous life, but that’s not the point.


I’m trapped.


I’m trapped on all sides.


My mask is off, and I can’t get up.


It’s still very early in the morning (I think), so I should still have some time before the girls all wake up.


If Layla or Shana walks in through that door…….


I’m majorly boned.


I’m boned more than an army of Skeleton Warriors on the march.


Noir: “Mmmm……”


Orukus: “!!!!!”


I flinch as Noir mumbles something, but she’s still asleep.


My heart froze for a few seconds and now it pounds so loud, I’m scared that it will wake everyone up.


I. Must. Escape.


THINK, ME, THINK!


There must be a way!


The main obstacle is Noir. If I can move her over, I might have a chance.


Luz and Ayse both grip my sides, and I can’t move my arms much.


It’s over.


As I feel Terra, the bear, breathe, I try not to think of what would happen when morning arrives.


It was then that an idea struck me.


Will it work? I’m not sure, but I’ll have to try.


I gently….very gently hold Ayse and Luz in my arms.


As I balance Noir on my body, I inched and wormed my way upwards towards the top of Terra’s stomach.


We were all lying with our backs against him, but Terra is like a huge pillow. It might be possible for the girls to latch on to bear as I make my escape.


It was a pain trying to wiggle my way up to Terra’s soft stomach without moving the girls much, but I did it.


Once I was there at the summit of the bear’s large stomach, Ayse rolled away towards Terra’s chest, I deposited Noir to my side, and gently unhooked myself from Luz’ arms.


I’m free.


But this is getting out of hand. I’m going to have to do something very soon, but for the time being, I escape with my gear and armor.


<<<<>>>>


Breakfast was delayed that morning. I debated whether I should go back inside to help Shana clean up when Layla came out.


Layla: “You’re awake early.” Orukus: “(snort) As are you.”


Layla: “My body seems to naturally wake up when morning comes.”


Layla lets out a dissatisfied grunt, and looks toward the morning light slowly coloring the skies orange and yellow.


Layla: “Looks like breakfast will be later today.” Orukus: “(snort) well, after all that partying last night, I’m sure Shana could use a break. Are you up for a game?” Layla: “Yes, let’s…” It’s starting to become part of our morning routine. There’s a creek nearby where Layla likes to meditate, and I made a cupboard that holds some board games I made.


Layla is what you would call a tactical genius. I’ve joined a few online communities and bailed after a few times, but there’s a certain vibe that planners and thinkers give off.


I like to play to win but more to have fun, and I’ve learned over the years that in order to win, you have to put in a lot of study, work, and practice ー all words I loathe. I might do it for a month or so, but I always lose interest in the end. I get bored in the end and start making a slew of excuses after a while.


[What’s the point?]


That was the one question I could never answer.


No matter how many hours I poured into a game, someone was willing to pour in more.


If I wanted to reach the top, I would always run into a group of players that would stop me cold. And in a few games where I crept up the rank ladder, it just felt……...pointless.


No matter how much I won certain battles, I always ended up in my room.


Alone.


Unwanted.


Unfulfilled.


Layla: “? It’s your turn.” Orukus: “!! (snort) oh, sorry.” I place my piece on the board with a <clack> as the stone hits the wooden board. I really like this sound.


Layla: “Hey.” Orukus: “? (snort) yeah?” Layla: “What are you going to do with the girl?” Orukus: “Pfft!”


Gramps came by and set down some hot tea for us, but I spew it in the direction of the creek.


Orukus: “(cough cough…..) (snort).....what do you mean?” Layla: “Don’t play dumb. She’s a vulnerable girl with a broken past. She’s willing to call you [Master].”


Here, Layla whacks her piece on the board a little harder than usual, and looks at me questioningly.


Orukus: “...........(snort) you’re worried that I’d take advantage of her?”

I place my piece down in response to her move.

Layla: “..............” She sips her tea and looks towards the creek.


Honestly, she’s not wrong. Every porky sense in me wants to know what it’s like to be with a girl. There’s a deep rooted longing that aches to know what that’s like.


……….but more than anything else, I don’t want to make them cry.


I can still hear my mother’s sobs after every messed up relationship.


And frankly, I’m no different than the guys that broke her heart. It's a line I never want to cross.


I want girls.


I lust after them.


But can I…...really…….make them happy?

And now, I’ve been downgraded to a different species ー an enemy of human kind.


Thankfully, unlike my previous life, I was able to give the girls food and shelter.


But I guess it doesn’t change the fact that……….I don’t know what I’m doing or why.


I mean, sure, I got my gear, and it made me feel like a hero.


But in the end, this mask is just a disguise. It hasn't really changed what lies underneath.


Hero? A Pig Hero? I imagined myself in tight spandex with my gut hanging out. I know there's some genre's out there with side characters like that, but the authors are rarely kind to those guys.


Is that what I really want to do? Is that why I'm here?


I’ve been so busy just surviving and meeting people’s needs, that when I stop to think about it, I'm completely lost.


It would be so much easier if there were enemies to destroy and a world to conquer. Or even bad guys to fight.


[Why am I alive?]


It's a question I've been asking myself all my life.


[What do I want to do?]


I've just been distracting myself in front of that computer. Now, there's nothing to distract me ー no place for me to hide like before.


The more I think about it, the easier it was to get swallowed by the thoughts.


[Who am I?]


[What am I?]


[Why am I?]


[............you are who you are - never more, never less. Never forget that.]


Gramps, I don't know if that helps me any.


I envy the girls. They seem so sure of themselves. They all seem so certain.


They all seem so【alive】........


Orukus: "(snort).....I'm not sure, but I just want to help Luz get back on her feet."


Layla: "...............just that?"

Orukus: "(snort)......just that."


What else can I do? Or rather............what else can I do that won't mess her up?


Layla: ".......that's very noble of you."


There was a hint of suspicion in her tone.


Orukus: "(snort).....what can I say? It's what a Hero does."


It was Layla's turn to now spew her tea at the creek.


Layla: "(cough cough)......come again?"


I blush at the words that came out of my mouth.


Orukus: "(snort)....erhmmmm, you know......it's what a Hero does......."


I mumble the last words under my breath.


Layla looks astonished at me and remained speechless for a long while.


Layla: "............hero?"


She almost whispered those words to me.


I nod embarrassingly.


Layla: "..........MMPH......."


She seemed to choke on something as she placed a hand over her mouth.


Her shoulders were shaking.


Is she okay?


Layla: "......GGPHHHHHH.......MMMMMKKKK......KUH..........ERGH..........."


She bowled over onto the ground with both her hands covering her face now, and the back of her feet with kicking furiously.


....................it sor~ta~ reminded me of the time when Gramps saw me in my armor the first time..........


Was she laughing?


I placed my piece down, but the timer ran out on her end, but she continued to giggle ー yes, giggle on the ground. She tried to hold back from laughing outright, but she seemed to be practically dying as she shook and convulsed. And by the time she calmed down, she would glance up at me, and it would start all over again.


This went on for quite some time.


I mean, it was annoying, but it was also equally amusing to see her break down like this. She was the calm, cool type, and right now, for the first time, she just let herself go.


I should go help Shana clean up.


Layla: "URKUKUKU....WAIT! I'M.......SORRY........MPHHHHKUKUKU.......IT'S JUST........"


She reaches out to hold my hand as I tried to get up and leave. I was more surprised by the gesture. Even through the gloves, I could feel how soft her hands were.


She took a few slow deep breaths, but something seemed broken inside her. I hope she didn't go crazy or something.


Layla: "........mmmphhhh.....fwew.......mmmmkukuku......(deep slow breaths).........okay, fwew, it all makes sense now.......! That's why............! But still..............!"


She got up and stumbled across as I caught her in my arms.


She shook there and continued laughing to herself, and I was more confused than ever.


She caught her breath finally and wiped a tear from her eye.


She looked at me through my mask into my eyes.


Layla: ".........so now, I know what to call you."


She continued to giggle as she talked, but there was no condescension in her voice. It was honest. It was merry. There was relief in her tone.


Layla: ".......you are.....[my Hero]...."


She lifted my mask up and kissed me.


<<<<>>>>


<Layla's Perspective>


There are no Heroes in this world. There are those who are [Gifted], those with power, and maybe even some who do heroic deeds, but they are not [Heroes] in the truest sense.


No one could break the Monster's hold on us.


No one could stop the cycle of death.


No one was supposed to save our lives.


But here is one ー albeit a plump, clumsy man ー no, not even a man. A boy trapped inside a hideous Monster's body. Only God knows how that happened.


But my salvation did not come through a knight in shining armor like the stories.


My destiny was not changed by someone handsome, powerful, and rich.


My world was shattered by a mere boy ー a mere boy who never grew to be a man ー a foolish one, a lazy one, someone trapped on the bottom rungs of society.


He was everything opposite of what I would have ever hoped or expected ー yet he exceeded all my expectations.


The irony. It still makes me laugh. But it all makes sense now.


[Truth] can seem so silly when you cross the bridge to meet it.


Whether you call it destiny or happenstance, to me, it doesn't matter which any more.


Because the cycle of【death】was broken.


Like a small rock that derailed an entire train of carriages, I saw how he stopped the【FLOW】.


That is my [Gift]. That is what I can see ー the chain of events, the possibilities, and the conclusions. 【Death】that was set in motion was stopped by this man ー by one of the men that I detested and loathed from the bottom of my heart.


[Hero]. How appropriate. A nonsensical word that meant nothing before, and now it means everything to me.


Before now, words like [enemy], [man], [schemer], [evil-doer], [conspirator], [monster], [philanderer], [seducer], [lecher], and similar words swam about as I tried to understand him. None of those words fit, and it was frustrating because he simply did not fit any categories of this world.


He was different ー simply different. And he destroyed the foundations of this world that chained me to it.


That's why when he said [Hero], it all clicked. It all came together. The great joke of this universe was too much, and I will be laughing about this for the rest of my life.


And when the word changed to [My Hero], the final piece fit ー it snuggly snapped into place. A different world now fell into place around me.


Who could ever understand the change that overcame me?


Who could ever comprehend the pure【joy】that found me?


He was so frail.


He was so scared.


And yet he was trying to be brave ー to do what he could, and he did much more.


He was trying to a [Hero].


He was [My Hero].


I naturally stumbled into his arms. All the pain, confusion, doubts, and suspicions snapped and disintegrated. When the darkness of the night passes, and the light of day revealed the【truth】before me, my past hatred crumbled, my bitter anger was so brittle that it broke like a dried out twig, and I could laugh. I laughed to my hearts content.


It felt so good to be able to do so.


He was so scared.


He was so afraid.


That's why I lifted his mask. The mask he desperately hid underneath. The Orc underneath was.....not a pretty sight. And the【boy】underneath that mask was not any better....


Hence the【joy】.


Hence the【laughter】at the pure and unblemished【irony】.


I kissed the【boy】underneath.


..........as a show of thanks. A simple gesture of gratitude.


No matter what now, he would be [My Hero], and I would be here for him.


And the world around us continued to turn.


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