Chapter 37 Cheating Death – Choices (Part 1)
“Technological advancements? What did you mean?” the taller mare asked once again
“I meant like how Mana lamps were created and fire became unnecessary. Crystals that can heat up meals or baths, paper from trees through he process of mana, mana fabric machines for mass production of clothes.” Ava flinched after saying that last one after realizing she had momentarily forgotten the mare were wearing rags.
Continuing without letting an awkward silence fill the void “Refrigerators, elevators, long distance communication, electricity, power sources. Mana has been used to create wonders beyond the imagination of the people of the past.” Ava was running out of things to say, without realizing it she had never stopped to consider how much she took the basic things in life for granted.
“Yeaaaah. Basically the industrial revolution is what Ava is trying to get at. There was a period of time in our history when everyone was coming up with new and amazing ways to use mana. The advancements came nonstop or so I read.” Kaden said casually while trying to clear the path for the others with his knives.
Kaden had summarized what Ava had been trying to say with ease, surprising both Daichi and Ava.
“Oh uhm. Y-Yes, basically.” Ava nearly stuttered in surprise.
Just as Daichi was about to pull out his sword and have a “conversation” with the mare girls-
Kaden in a more polite tone “Yeah, actually I’ve noticed we haven’t just been walking in a straight line and have made lots of weird turns. Is there any reason for that?”
Hannah and Ava glanced at each other thinking the same thing “We should strangle him.”
Glancing at Ava and Hannah, Daichi realized that they had definitely noticed as well. It seems he wasn’t the only one on edge up to this point.
“We can sense mana. It is one of our gifts. We have been avoiding other things in the area.” the shorter girl answered Kaden without missing a beat.
That was big news to drop so nonchalantly. Glancing at one another, Ava and Hannah had surprised expressions and were on the same page. They were both feeling a little skeptical but happy if what they were saying was true.
“That’s amazing! We’ll be safe that way! We can avoid every danger then!” Kaden exclaimed in excitement.
Daichi narrowed his eyes at the backs of the girls in suspicion. Assuming they weren’t lying, which he was still on the fence about… Avoid all danger? Sure that was an option. The other would be having the ability to target whomever they wanted. Hunting would be a breeze if they were telling the truth.
Thinking to this point Daichi felt a little less uncomfortable. It would explain how they so easily found them in the trees and kept track of them throughout the day from such a long distance away.
“Is that how you found us?” Hannah inquired thinking along the same lines as Daichi
“Yes. You have more many than most of the creatures we’ve come across in the forest. It made us very curious.” the shorter mare answered while slowing down.
“Can you sense anything with mana then?” Daichi asked.
“More or less. It’s hard to explain our ability. It’s an inmate gift of our race.” the shorter mare replied
Stopping behind some shrubs. The mare pointed in unison past the shrubs that completely blocked their line of sight “There is a stream up ahead about 100 meters. There are 4 trolls resting there. Trolls are common in this forest. Very little mana.”
Surprised, Daichi stepped past the others and pushed some of the branches and shrubs out of his way to take a look. Sure enough the trolls were there, just as the mare had claimed.
Looking back at the group, Daichi gave them a nod of confirmation and looked back at the trolls longingly.
“What should we do? Should we go around them?” Hannah asked the others
“Yeah. Of course, why wouldn’t we?” Kaden looked at her questioningly
“Because this is a golden opportunity to attack the trolls and gain some experience. Not all of us mind feeling so helpless all the time Kaden.” Daichi said sounding harsher than he meant too.
Looking more surprised by what he’d said than anyone else there. Daichi thought to himself about how he must have been more winded up than he’d thought.
Then realizing how relieved he felt to simply say what he thought, a small window broke in his mind.
Daichi had been censoring himself for a while now in order to get along with the others better. Thinking about it, being liked more because he said less to nothing at all, might as well be meaningless.
“What the hell is that supposed to mean?” Kaden clenched his fists and spoke in a low tone
“It means that you keep wanting to avoid conflict in a world where the strong survive and the weak die. At some point something is going to want us dead, whether it’s because it wants to eat us or just because. How are you going to feel when you just sit there and watch Hannah die because you can’t do a single thing about it?” Daichi was barely finished before Kaden had taken a full swing at him.
Not caring much about it, Daichi watch the punch coming and let Kaden hit him.
Turning his head to lessen some of the damage Daichi stumbled back a few steps and licked lip and stared back at Kaden.
Staring at Kaden, he was a little surprised to find him looking disappointed, possibly ashamed instead of angry.
“He didn’t mean what he said. We should definitely avoid danger when we get the chance” Hannah tried to step in and ease Kaden
“I didn’t sign up for this. None of us signed up for this. I don’t care if this doesn’t mean anything to you, but it means something to me. To US.” Kaden looking down at the ground spoke in a barely audible and soft voice.
Pushing the nail in even further, “You didn’t. None of us did, but here we are.” Daichi simply stated.
Finally lifting his head but looking defeated. Kaden stared at Daichi and held his gaze.
“Do you even care when you kill someone? Do you even feel scared, or sad? What do you feel?” Kaden spoke softly.
Daichis left eye twitched for a moment. Daichi took a deep breath and paused for a moment to think about that question.
“I feel nothing. Then I stop and I think about what I just did and a little piece of me feels happy. Happy that I’m one step closer to being in charge of my own future, my life, my death.” Daichi spoke while holding Kadens gaze.
Opening his mouth before closing it. Kaden hesitated before carefully saying what he was thinking, “I think about how unfair it is. I’ll protect my sister, I’ll protect Ava. I’ll even protect you. I just don’t see why I should look for other people and kill them just because the gods have decided we should.” waving his arms, and tearing his gaze away from Daichi.
Kaden looked around them, gesturing at their environment. “They did this, and now what? We have to play their game? I think you’re taking the easy choice.”
Staring at each other, neither looked away.
Hannah and Ava were considering what they were saying but were left with at a loss for words.
Neither of them could say a thing because neither of them had a better answer.
“You kill those that are weaker. That’s the law of the world. It’s how it’s always been.” the mare spoke up in unison breaking the silence.
Glancing at the mare, Daichi finally looked at them with a less suspicious gaze and asked them point blank “If we chose to hunt down creatures in this forest. Would you help us? Would you help us find the right targets and help us hunt them down?”
“We don’t mind.” the shorter mare answered for the both of them.
Looking at Ava and Hannah, Daichi posed the question he’d just implied “So what are we going to do. It’s clear what my position is. I want to get stronger. Kaden is right about us being forced into a shitty situation, but I disagree about us having a choice. Our choice is to try to play by different rules and die or kill and get stronger. Only the strong have a say in how their fate turns out.” still glancing at the girls
“Do we hunt or avoid?” Daichi asked.
Hannah was looking at Kaden who was managing to look defiant and defeated all at once.
Feeling upset at her inability to make him feel better… She knew that what she was thinking would only further upset him.
Deciding against what she actually thought they should do… Hannah couldn’t help but want to ease Kadens suffering.
“I say we avoid the creatures we can while we can.” Hannah said softly and then glanced at Ava.
Looking a little surprised by Hannah’s answer Ava regained her composure.
Looking at the others, she considered her options and weighed them in her mind. Against her better judgement, she replied with the answer that scared her most “I think we should hunt while we can. We’ve been lucky we haven’t run into anything really strong yet… If we did we wouldn’t make it. So now we have a chance to hunt in a relatively safe way… I feel that if we turned this opportunity down we’d regret it later.” Ava answered.
Feeling a bit in turmoil by the strange turn of events. Daichi looked at how divided the group was. This was the worst scenario they could be in.
Feeling disconnected from them. He turned to the mare, “Well, since Kaden decided you would make wonderful companions. What do you think? If you’re with us, obviously you should get a say in what we do.” Daichi asked with one eyebrow tiled up feeling half amused at the entire scenario they happened to find themselves in.
“We should hunt. Hunting in a larger group is safer.” the mare responded together
Amused by the mare and Kaden’s crestfallen expression Daichi came up wth a new plan in his mind.
He didn’t trust the mare but that didn’t mean they couldn’t be useful. They would hunt, and he would take the opportunity to watch them fight. He’d keep some trump cards in the deck, but he’d make use of this opportunity.